Sunday, February 27, 2011

The End of Art?

...Two hours later, he announces that his work is done. I am extremely pleased, as the piano has not been tuned for a couple of years, and was sounding a bit wobbly.

'It's a fine instrument,' he affirms. Sitting at the piano stool, he takes a deep breath and launches into an array of pieces, demonstrating the incredible warmth of the sound. He plays 'Rhapsody in Blue,' then 'Maple Leaf Rag,' then a couple of classical pieces that are probably by Rachmaninoff or somebody else from the past. It is amazing. The room fills with sound -- wonderful, incredible music. The Toddler stands transfixed and spellbound, a broad smile beaming across her face as if this is the most fantastic thing that she has ever heard in her life.

I am a bit pissed off by this. I play her the piano all the time and she has never once stood transfixed or spellbound or with a broad beaming smile. He has probably slipped her some sweets or something. I wait for him to finish and then show him out the door.

When he has gone, I pull the Toddler back into the piano room. I play all my specialties, the theme song from 'Minder' and the song that Iggle Piggle sings. But there is no beaming smile. The kid is tone deaf and it is a disappointment to me.
-- Johnny B, Nov 10, 2008, at the Private Secret Diary
I include that quote for several reasons. First is because I have had a somewhat recurring dream that I have gone to The Piano Teacher's house and needed to sightread music I've not looked at for these past five years. It is embarrassing and mortifying and obviously has something to do with the fact that her last words to me were: "I don't care if it's not with me, please promise me that you'll keep taking music lessons. you have a gift, and it'd be a shame for you to lose it."

Oops. Cue guilt. He ought to enter, stage left, accompanied by Shame and Lost Opportunity, after the Chorus of Might have Beens.

Second is from a note I've been meaning to write - which is in response to that weird and heralding cry for the 'end of art,' and for the end of time, and the whining sob for beauties passed ago:

No. Wrong. False.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ecce homo

It snowed again last night, heavy, petulant teardrops from a black and starless night onto the falsities of this entombed curtain of an existence. It snowed - as I mused then - post-ironically, belatedly, when snowfall could feel romantic and yet so untoward and banal. "Black night/White snow/Wind, wind!/A man could hardly keep his feet.
Freedom! Freedom!
Hey, hey, without a cross!
I suffer from frequent nightmares. If they don't come every night, it's at least five times a week. I can't describe what it means to see harrowing visions for just under half of my existence, conscious or no. My dreaming mind is a dick; it knows just what buttons to push, and does so. All night. [Every/Almost every] night. Consider that.

Once I woke up, 3 am, the dark night when the empty bed feels like a frozen grave, and heard a girl crying. Must I admit to hallucination? Or just that I'm a coward? If I were the man I wanted to be I would have saved Katie Genovese. Maybe I'm another apartment whisperer. Sometimes I feel like it must be so.

Sometimes it feels like that nexus of bundled contingencies that is, in Agnes Heller's reckoning, the postmodern individual, points in too many concretized, yet transient, options: a, b, c, ... aleph-one. Is there a tightrope? If there is, it swings. My foot treads as heavy and misguided as the snow falls.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The other shoe to drop.

I don’t believe in the triumph of this visual epoch’s technologies. The photo camera and the videomaker are in their heyday, but it has not always been and it will not always be so. Someday we will write, and we will describe not just external and internal impressions that are not that which we so desire, but are the obsession itself.

People. So many people on the street, and so quiet where I sit. I’m glad I can’t hear the thoughts inside each head – this quiet pretense at solipsism – and they become one blur of rushing water. The tide ebbs and flows, a blonde –black haired – man – woman – blue – eyed – tiny polka-dot bikini.

When my twin nephews see the camera they get excited. They can't yet recognize that this apparatus snaps representations that might later become the iconography of their soul, but they're attuned to the power structure of the camera. It is a shiny object that makes noises. It is a an object in the hands of someone whom they know.

Perhaps more importantly, the camera signifies a near-frantic period of participation in the child's minute-to-minute existence. When the camera appears, fingers will poke, and toys materialize, and voices coo. "Smile! Hey, Teddy! BOOGITYBOOGITYBOOBOO! BOO!"

The camera - which can create the artificial representation of existence - is surrounded by a praxis of artificial love and desire.

"The camera loves her."

"She loves getting her photo taken."
"She hates getting her picture taken."

(Never: "She is indifferent about being photographed.")

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We were both pre-coffee.

No liquid crack was harmed in the makings of this conversation.
The Animus: Should I have hot chocolate or coffee?

ShadowG: It can go either way.

Animus: ...I realize that.

ShadowG: Gah that's not what I meant. I meant: 1) You should enjoy hot chocolate because you'll be at my place for the next week, where it is banned in favor of coffee, or 2) You should enjoy coffee because you'll need to get your tolerance for it up before you get here.

Animus: Hot chocolate flavored coffee? That's just nasty. We are in-- I'm having a brain fart. The right word isn't 'agreeance' -- OH. Agreement.

ShadowG: In *favor* of coffee. Favor. Also: wow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Three Easy Pieces

I submit for your consideration three separate pieces, three separate years, three Valentine's Dayses.

First, this anecdote I found in my journal from February 14, 2009 (I spent Valentine's Day finishing chapter 1 of the thesis).
I just went to get a coffee, still in a rage. Walked into Zeke's.

Andrew to himself: "Fuck Valentine's Day. If I see Cupid, I will slap him square in the penis."

Cashier lady: Happy Valentine's Day!

Andrew: [momentarily flabbergasted. Can he say 'slap him in the penis' to a cashier?]"
The proceeding are excerpts from the journal entry dating to Valentine's Day, when I nursed a champagne hangover in Prime Star in Kitai-gorod, Moscow. It explains why:
Thursday (2/12) Briullov and I went to Arte-Grim to get masks. I got a demure and typical Zorro mask of black velvet, and a plasticky green flat-top Savannah hat. Briullov got into a fight with the saleswoman, who had told him the mask he wanted was, "Of course, a woman's mask." Not the right thing to say to Briullov, obviously. He, then, not even looking at it, said: "I'll take it!" He ended up with a different one, but the dynamics of the exchange were amazing: the saleswoman, trying to help this 'boy without taste,' was caught between professional duty (what should be a position of power) and the male-female dynamic (where, in the stereotypic context, she would not have as much bargaining influence).

...Like any situation, we almost didn't even get to our destination [on Friday, the 13th, a multinational Carnival hosted at an embassy], because the employee at the security checkpoint wouldn't check our names against her list, although we all had passports and could tell her precisely which number was ours: the physical tickets were inside, at the party. Finally a Stalin look-alike (played by a German) came over. He and Briullov's Realtor spoke to each other through triple-paned glass in accented English.

Let the awkward drinking begin. I never lost myself, but it hurts my organism to think back on the party itself because there was no point where I stopped drinking. I would finish champagne if I wanted to get on the dance floor, run away from an awkward situation by going to help myself to another drink...

The other day I said 'autoportrait' to Sasha. There's actually something logical about that mistake even on top of it being an Anglicism of the Russian. We have autobiography, after all. Autopilot.

...There were a lot of great costumes (Briullov discusses the gendered implications of who was wearing what kind of costume here), including cowboys and Arabs (never by US citizens; apparently the new cowboys and Indians), a man who looked like a bondage star, a Hitler's Youth Organization candidate who unintentionally dressed as BFlow, a Merman king, a mouse in a trap, a cat, a bird, a Viking, three tigers, and a queen.

Ugh, my head. Thousands of dead juice bottles strew the floor around me, and I still feel light-headed.
Valentine's Day 2011, and The Animus gets into town the 16th.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I can't shake a feeling of hopeful euphoria

Consider the following news articles written directly after Mubarak's resignation.

Consider blow-by-blows in twitter accounts such as Nick Kristof's.

Euphoria! Excitement! Hope!

Let's just take this at face value and say: populism has succeeded, for at least a moment. Who knows what will come of Jan 25 in the future, for Egypt, for the Middle East, for the world. But at least, now, there's hope that the 21st century will not be defined solely by 9/11, by American Imperialism, by hateful and spiteful rhetoric against "medieval" or "anti-Christian" values.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I need a John Deere cap after all these venatic metaphors

I have meetings with multiple professors in the next couple of days. Meeting with professors is always fun. Professors. Meeting. Eek.

Not for the nervousness it now sounds as if I might suffer. No. Rather - meeting with some people is like dancing a waltz, or shooting a fat, lazy pig at point blank with a sniper rifle. It's easy. You're in, you're out, you're gone.

With others, meetings go like the dance chimpanzees perform when they've made a particularly good hit with the poop they've flung. They go like trying to shoot a chicken pumped up with equal parts acid and PCP from a distance of 30 meters. With an air rifle.

Meetings with my undergraduate The Professor went something like the latter. I once met with the woman when she was high on painkillers. We had quite the soul-revealing conversation. Another time she'd had a reaction to shellfish and arrived with hives and drugs and God knows what else. The Professor was - and is - a trooper.

But even scheduling a meeting with her can be astonishingly difficult. Once in Moscow, I trudged a kilometer to her house in six inches of fresh snowfall before she picked up, said, "Oh, you're up already? I thought you'd gone out partying last night," and sent me back to my hotel for another two hours.

Senior year of undergrad, we were to meet in the library to discuss my thesis. I got to the library, saw I had a missed call from her, and rang her cell.

She said, "I can't find any parking in T-Lot. Come over here and we'll figure things out."

In my mind - which, I'll grant, likely has little to do with the actual event that transpired - the call was along the lines of Dane Cook's heist monkey.
Our meeting took place down at BNG, where I tried to ignore the barista on whom I'd nursed a crush for the past two and a half years. That's neither here nor there. After commenting on an article I was writing, The Professor looked squarely at me and soberly inquired, "When are you going to write your memoirs about Russia?"

A fair question, I suppose. A part of me hopes I'll never have the chance to write memoirs about Russians, to use that seed about meetings with frantic chimpanzees. Not because I don't want to be famous, an established member of some community in which I'd be granted a small space to shoot my mouth for a hundred pages or so and - gasp - expect people to read it.

No. For reasons that still must remain a surprise. At least until I see what style meetings I shall undergo.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Like a Behavioralist Sex Joke

Let's consider Harry Potter.

Spoilers, and all that River Song jazz.

(Must I trace a genealogy of my thought? I was contemplating the phoenix and the void.)

Dumbledore's pet phoenix, Fawkes, perpetrates his self-immolation in Harry's presence in Chamber of Secrets, when Hogwarts was filled with suspicions that Harry was a Dark Lord.

Harry was also considered a Dark Lord because he could speak Parseltongue.

In general, we readers were meant to realize that Fearing the Protagonist is Evil™ is a very naughty thing; in fact, one should never bully anyone. FtPiE™ is prejudicial and wrong and, obviously, Harry is never punished for being a Dark Lord (even though he does really creepy things involving casting so-called Unforgivable Curses and making Draco Malfoy's skin blow up - we forgive our white middle-class heteronormative hero the unforgivable).

But here's the thing (and, I must admit, the complication that makes more ambiguous that whole forgiving-the-Unforgivable bit). By Order of the Phoenix it's become a major plot point that Voldemort knows of the mental connection he has to Harry. In the words of a Doctor Who character, "A door, once opened, can be traversed both ways."

Even more importantly, in the grand unveil to the "Is Harry going to die at the end of book 7?" rumors (the answer, again, ambiguous: "Yes...but no..."), in Deathly Hallows we learn that the aforementioned door to Voldemort is a mental demon-construct (and Horcrux) that must, itself, die.

So, not only was there a temporary telepathic connection to the Dark Lord (which postdated the initial FtPiE™), but, indeed, there was a demon-construct colonizing Harry the entire time. (I use "colonize" intentionally.) Which means that some part of "Harry" was, indeed, a Dark Lord. Which means the FtPiE™ was correct; the prejudicial assumptions of all the Hogwarts studentry were, in fact, vindicated by Rowling's own plot points.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Am a Bird Now, by Antony and the Johnsons

Consider the phoenix. Its mythologic value is meant to come from its rebirth, its eternal flame --it is the sun, always abandoning us to the fear and loneliness of the night, always returning from its slumber. It is a positive, comforting image.

How did we forget, post-apocalyptic-minded that we are (for the American man-cockroach shall survive the End of Days with nuclear family at his side) that a phoenix has to die before it's reborn? It is immolated; it subjects itself to the wretched end we gave to heretics and the "sinner."

The phoenix, therefore, represents a darker premise/conceit of the modern conscience. It tells us that no matter the self-destructive behaviors we employ, we can have redemption-through-suffering. Indeed, to this firstworldproblem state of mind, the self-destructive behavior must reach the phoenix fire before it can get better.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Et la nuit continuait

Briullov made me a mixtape.

We listened to said mixtape last night, the last night before he had to go back to New York, and drank manhattans. Many Maraschino cherries died.

Mika came on, and Briullov started to laugh. He said, "I love this music video. Half-man, half-woman."

I said, "What?"


We watched it. He said, "Mika really doesn't know how to dance, does he?"

He said, "He just kind of...makes weird poses. But he rocks it, so it seems like he's dancing."

We looked at each other for a moment, the lamplight reflected in ice and liquor refractions. We turned the song on again.

We made weird poses, and we rocked them.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In a glance

stare blank silent spaces
poison cat eyed subjective intelligence
refusal ironical poetical animal,
always with "-al"
archaeologically doomed fluidity

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Maybe I look good in green, ok?

Consider these selected quotes from Francis Ford Coppola.

First of all, it's interesting that he colludes [or the ellipsis means to insinuate that he conflates] the idea of intellectual property (and plagiarism) and material property (and copyright infringement. I understand the point of the former, and would certainly need to think about it more. Is imitation/mockery the most sincere form of flattery? What about so many examples where artists begin their career specifically by creating the OPPOSITE of what they see the current masters doing? Inasmuch as they still exist within a spectrum of analysis (self-defined by the very praxis of choosing to REACT), I wouldn't call that plagiarism. Nor do I think most authors would love to be told they were plagiarists.

Onto the latter. FFC certainly posits an interesting question. I've tried to describe the same when I talk about how I perceive hipsters, today, take the Bohemian ideal (a perfect artist trapped in poverty) and drive it to [past?] its logical extreme (an imperfect/BAD artist trapped in poverty). We don't have to touch upon that right now. What I mean to say is: yes. I agree. FFC's ideas resonate with me.

But does that mean they're right?

Imperialism and colonialism were political ideals that existed until not too long ago -- their death is far younger than the death of the formal patron structure he references -- yet I would never want them back.

Obviously that's hyperbolic. Nevertheless, what I mean to imply is that his argument for LA LONGUE DUREE is problematic because it fails to account for the simple fact that this IS the life artists live right now, this IS a capitalist society, we ARE looking, at the end of the day, for more than intellectual glorification [ideally]. Despite alarmists denunciations on the "death of art" and the "death of modernity" and the "death of publishing," there are more books published every year. You can't seriously tell me that Stephanie Meyers expects Twilight to be the intellectual genesis for a Balzacian revolution.

Dear God, I hope it won't be the intellectual genesis for a Balzacian revolution.

Do I sound like Ayn Rand?