Friday, December 25, 2009

A Day In/Is The Life

1. From "Saturday," by Ian McEwan, (2005)

"He closes his eyes. This time there'll be no trouble falling towards oblivion, there's nothing can stop him now. Sleep's no longer a concept, it's a material thing, an ancient means of transport, a softly moving belt, conveying him into Sunday. He fits himself around her, her silk pyjamas, her scent, her warmth, her beloved form, and draws closer to her. Blindly, he kisses her nape. There's always this, is one of his remaining thoughts. And then: there's only this. And at last, faintly, falling: this day's over."

2. From "A Day in the Life," by The Beatles (1967)

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke, and I went into a dream
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


1) The Lacemaker, by Johannes Vermeer, c.1669-1671

2) Louis Vuitton advertisement, c. November 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A nervous wild thing

1: From “Dictation,” by Cynthia Ozick, 2008

“From the alley below her bedroom window — the flittering panes that sheathed her in a dusky mist of almost-light — Lilian heard a sharp clatter: a metal trash barrel overturned. The fox again, scavenging. A sly fox out of a fable, a fox that belonged in a wood—but there are sightings of foxes in the outlying streets of London, and once, coming home in the winter night from her mother’s, she had glimpsed a brown streak under the lamppost; and then it was gone. And another time, in the early morning — the woman and the animal, both of them solitary, two stragglers separated from the pack, transfixed, staring, panicked into immobility. The fox’s eyes were oddly lit, as if glittering pennies had got into its sockets; its ears stood straight up; its white tail hung low, like a shamed flag; its flanks trembled. A nervous wild thing. It twitched the upper muscle of its long snout—she saw the zigzag glint of teeth, the dangerous grin of ambush. How beautiful it was!"

2: Wes Anderson on Fresh Air, Nov. 23, 2009

“Meryl Streep, she told me that she had a moment just before we started recording this where she saw a fox on her doorstep in England, and the fox looked up and saw her, and they just stared at each other for five minutes. And she sort of had this sort of mesmerizing moment with this animal, and she said she sort of thought about that.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No horror, no misery, and no childhood

1. "Halley's Comet" by Stanley Kunitz

Miss Murphy in first grade
wrote its name in chalk
across the board and told us
it was roaring down the stormtracks
of the Milky Way at frightful speed
and if it wandered off its course
and smashed into the earth
there'd be no school tomorrow.
A red-bearded preacher from the hills
with a wild look in his eyes
stood in the public square
at the playground's edge
proclaiming he was sent by God
to save every one of us,
even the little children.
"Repent, ye sinners!" he shouted,
waving his hand-lettered sign.
At supper I felt sad to think
that it was probably
the last meal I'd share
with my mother and my sisters;
but I felt excited too
and scarcely touched my plate.
So mother scolded me
and sent me early to my room.
The whole family's asleep
except for me. They never heard me steal
into the stairwell hall and climb
the ladder to the fresh night air.

Look for me, Father, on the roof
of the red brick building
at the foot of Green Street --
that's where we live, you know, on the top floor.
I'm the boy in the white flannel gown
sprawled on this coarse gravel bed
searching the starry sky,
waiting for the world to end.

2. from "The Old Country," by Ethan Coen

"I never met Michael Simkin's parents, though I have a vivid false memory of his father standing on the open lot upon which their house is to be built. His hands are on his hips and a pith helmet shades his eyes; he is directing the operations of a backhoe as it digs a trench for the ball return. Though I remember it now, years later, it is something I could have imagined only then. In the beginning there was fear, a deep shadow that goes with the gaudy colors of early youth. It shades Michael's father's face as he stands unmoved while around him heavy machinery roars and the earth trembles; it makes a monster of Slim the Talmud Torah goy; it dwells in the narrow creaking staircase of our own little home. Some forget that darkness, and the silence, and the chaos inside. But despite what Scripture says, it will never be banished, for without it there would be no horror, no misery, and no childhood.”

3. Trailer, "Where the Wild Things Are"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The good old days

1) From "Learning to Fly," by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1991)

Well the good ol' days, may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn

2) From "Ultimate," by Gogol Bordello (2007)

There was never any good old days
They are today, they are tomorrow
It's a stupid thing we say
Cursing tomorrow with sorrow

3) Ecclesiastes 7:10

Say not thou: 'How was it that the former days were better than these?'
for it is not out of wisdom that thou inquirest concerning this.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The process never ends

1) A Dream, by Jorge Luis Borges, from July 6, 2009 issue of The New Yorker

“In a deserted place in Iran there is a not very tall stone tower that has neither door nor window. In the only room (with a dirt floor and shaped like a circle) there is a wooden table and a bench. In that circular cell, a man who looks like me is writing in letters I cannot understand a long poem about a man who in another circular cell is writing a poem about a man who in another circular cell . . . The process never ends and no one will be able to read what the prisoners write.”

2) The (Multi)verse(s), from Radiolab, August 12, 2008

In this episode of the program, Brian Greene says that if the Universe is infinite and if the particles that form the Universe are finite, then our world and everything we know about it must repeat endlessly and in endless variety. Just like a finite wardrobe can only me mixed- and matched a finite number of times before it must repeat.

He goes on to hypothesize about multiple universes contained within a single system. He compares it to Swiss cheese: the universes are the holes and the system is the cheese. In this model, everything is expanding — both the universes and the substance between the universes. But the system — the “cheese” — is expanding faster than the speed of light, meaning: faster than anything can travel. Therefore, no matter how fast something moves through the “cheese,” it can’t cross the distance from one universe to the next.

In this model, each universe is contained and finite, while the system as a whole is pervasive and infinite. Because our universe is finite, we would theoretically be able to know everything there is to know about it. But we would never be able to know whether the other universes we assume are out there are really out there.

Monday, May 18, 2009


1) “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by William Carlos Williams, (1962)

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

2) from “Hand in Glove,” by The Smiths, (1983)

Hand in glove
We can go wherever we please
And everything depends upon
How near you stand to me

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Look see the sights

1) from “Souls on Fire,” (1972) Elie Wiesel quoting the Baal Shem Tov

“The man who looks only at himself cannot but sink into despair, yet as soon as he opens his eyes to the creation around him, he will know joy.”

2) “From the Morning,” by Nick Drake, from “Pink Moon” (1972)

A day once dawned, and it was beautiful
A day once dawned from the ground
Then the night she fell
And the air was beautiful
The night she fell all around.

So look see the days
The endless coloured ways
And go play the game that you learnt
From the morning.

And now we rise
And we are everywhere
And now we rise from the ground
And see she flies
And she is everywhere
See she flies all around

So look see the sights
The endless summer nights
And go play the game that you learnt
From the morning.

Monday, April 20, 2009

As above, so below

1) “Powers of Ten,” Charles and Ray Eames, 1977

2) Log Lady Intro, “Coma” Episode 9, Twin Peaks, 1990

"As above, so below. The human being finds himself, or herself, in the middle. There is as much space outside the human, proportionately, as inside.

"Stars, moons, and planets remind us of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Is there a bigger being walking with all the stars within? Does our thinking affect what goes on outside us, and what goes on inside us? I think it does.

"Where does creamed corn figure into the workings of the universe? What really *is* creamed corn? Is it a symbol for something else?"

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Creator's Pride

1) From "The Laboratory," by Wislawa Szymborska

Tell the Boss,
and let him come see for himself!

2) From "The Tyger," by William Blake

Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Surely/ Surlily

Fine Point (12-22-2008)
by John Updike

Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel’s defeats—
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
by Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.

We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely—magnificent, that “surely”—
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my lif
e, my life, forever.

from “Dialogue” (1929)
by Martin Buber

I no longer know how from that I came to speak of Jesus and to say that we Jews knew him from within, in the impulses and stirrings of his Jewish being, in a way that remains inaccessible to the peoples submissive to him. “In a way that remains inaccessible to you”— so I directly addressed the former clergyman. He stood, I too stood, we looked into the heart of one another’s eyes. “It is gone,” he said, and before everyone we gave one another the kiss of brotherhood.

final verse of “Sugar Baby”
from “Love and Theft” (2001)
by Bob Dylan

Your charms have broken many a heart and mine is surely one
You got a way of tearing a world apart, love, see what you done
Just as sure as we’re living, just as sure as you’re born
Look up, look up - seek your Maker – ‘fore Gabriel blows his horn

from screenplay for “Doubt” (2008)
by John Patrick Shanley

FATHER FLYNN: There are those of you in church today who know exactly the crisis of faith I describe. And I want to say to you: Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Swelling the Rout

1) To an Athlete Dying Young, by A. E. Housman (1867)

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.

2) Ex-Basketball Player, by John Updike (1954)

Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage
Is on the corner facing west, and there,
Most days, you'll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.

Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps—
Five on a side, the old bubble-head style,
Their rubber elbows hanging loose and low.
One’s nostrils are two S’s, and his eyes
An E and O. And one is squat, without
A head at all—more of a football type.

Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
A county record still. The ball loved Flick.
I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.

He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,
Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,
As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
But most of us remember anyway.
His hands are fine and nervous on the lug wrench.
It makes no difference to the lug wrench, though.

Off work, he hangs around Mae’s Luncheonette.
Grease-gray and kind of coiled, he plays pinball,
Smokes those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphates.
Flick seldom says a word to Mae, just nods
Beyond her face toward bright applauding tiers
Of Necco Wafers, Nibs, and Juju Beads.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

St. Sebastian

1) St. Sebastian, Andrea Mantegna, 1480:

2) April 1968 cover of Esquire, designed by George Lois:

3) Screen shot from 1991 music video for R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," directed by Tarsem Singh:

4) Cover of Modest Mouse's 2004 album Good News for People Who Love Bad News:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Can it be this sad design/ Could be the very same

1: Scene from “The Wheel,” first season finale of "Mad Men"

What is the benefit of that thing?

Uh… it sells projectors to people who already have them?

Yeah. The wheel. Stacks. You store your slides in it and it’s ready to go.

I took pictures for the paper at Wisconsin; the machinery is definitely part of the fun. It’s mechanical.

What’d you take pictures of?

Girls, mostly. You could go up, and ask them their names afterward, like you were going to put it in the paper. And some other stuff. Artsy-craftsy stuff. They gave me hell about it.

Artsy, like what, like: relfection of a tree in a pond?

Uh, worse. I did a whole series that was just handprints on glass. You know the way it fogs up around your heat? Take it off, take a picture.

Black and white, I suppose.

Of course. I was always fascinated by the cave paintings at Lascaux. They’re, like, seventeen-thousand years old. And then bison get all the attention, but they are also all of these handprints, tiny by today’s standards, with paint blown all around them.

Signature of the artist.

But I thought it was like someone reaching through the stone, right to us: I was here.

Don bobs his head, falling asleep.

Are you okay?

That’ll be all.

2: From “First Impressions” by Judith Thurman
June 23, 2008 issue of the New Yorker

“Peoples who practice shamanism believe in a tiered cosmos: an upper world (the heavens); an underworld; and the mortal world. When Clottes joined forces with Lewis-Williams, he had come to believe that cave painting largely represents the experiences of shamans or initiates on a vision quest to the underworld, where spirits gathered. The caves served as a gateway, and their walls were considered porous. Where the artists or their entourage left handprints, they were palping a living rock in the hopes of reaching or summoning a force beyond it. They typically incorporated the rock’s contours and fissures into the outlines of their drawings—as a horn, a hump, or a haunch—so that a frieze becomes a bas-relief. But, in doing so, they were also locating the dwelling place of an animal from their visions, and bodying it forth.”

3: Chorus of “The Caves of Altamira” by Steely Dan

Before the fall
when they wrote it on the wall
when there wasn’t even any Hollywood
They heard the call
and they wrote it on the wall
for you and me, and we undersood

Friday, February 13, 2009

In a ca-a-a-fe, or sometimes on a crowded street

Review of “Jasmin et Cigarette”
by Chandler Burr

For Etat Libre d’Orange, whose store is north of Hôtel de Ville in Paris, Antoine Maisondieu has performed a masterful trick. With Etat’s creative director, Etienne de Swardt, he has taken two radically dissimilar concepts and balanced them so that they are perfectly integrated and astonishingly distinct. The first is a fragile, delicate jasmine (stripped of the dirty indolic heaviness that the flower usually leaves behind). The second is a pitch-perfect cigarette. Not the stink of a filthy ashtray. (That, says Maisondieu, an ex-smoker, is "disgusting”) This is the smell of an elegant Frenchwoman in a cafe whose grayish-white plume mixes with the chic jasmine fragrance she just sprayed on. His perfume is named Jasmin et Cigarette, and it is the quintessential French combination: allure and toxicity, loveliness and poison. I asked Maisondieu how he did it. "It’s simple,” he said with a shrug. "We all know how to do a jasmine: Egyptian and Indian jasmine absolutes, some Hedione” — a molecule that adds light to a perfume — "some benzyl acetate for softness.” He paused. "The cigarette was a bit more complicated.” He used to love unfiltered Chesterfields "in the soft box, which have a slight apricot.” So he used hay essence, tonka bean (a flavoring in tobacco), maté from South America, galbanum (a raw green) and sage. The result is a masterpiece: one hears laughter in the cafe, with the faint sound of music from somewhere else.

“My Cherie Amour”
Stevie Wonder

Scene from “Ocean’s Twelve” 
with Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Monday, February 09, 2009

Melody Chain

1) Cab Calloway as Koko the Clown singing “St. James Infirmary Blues”

2) Young woman lip-synching to Mates of State cover of Randy Newman song “Beehive State”

2.1) Young girl watching You Tube video of young woman lip-synching to Mates of State cover of Randy Newman song “Beehive State”

3) Bob Dylan singing “Blind Willie McTell”

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Be seeing you!

1) From “Free for All” Episode No. 4(?) of The Prisoner

“Good morning! Good morning! Any complaints?”
“Yes. I’d like to mind my own business.”
“So do we. You fancy a chat?”
“The mountain can come to Mohammed!”
(Hangs up phone. Door opens.)
“Everest, I presume?”
“I’ve never had a head for heights.”
“How’s Number 1?”
“At the summit.”

At 42:15, after Number 6 wins the election and becomes the new Number 2, he walks out to meet the citizens of village. They stare at him blankly, and the beneath the scene we hear, "For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow/ The Bear Went Over the Mountain."

2) Ending of “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro

Fiona was in her room but not in bed. She was sitting by the open window, wearing a seasonable but oddly short and bright dress. Through the window came a heady warm blast of lilacs in bloom and the spring manure spread over the fields.
She had a book open in her lap.
She said, “Look at this beautiful book I found. It’s about Iceland. You wouldn’t think they’d leave valuable books lying around in the rooms. But I think they’ve got the clothes mixed up—I never wear yellow.”
“Fiona,” he said.
“Are we all checked out now?” she said. He thought the brightness of her voice was wavering a little. “You’ve been gone a long time.”
“Fiona, I’ve brought a surprise for you. Do you remember Aubrey?”
She stared at Grant for a moment, as if waves of wind had come beating into her face. Into her face, into her head, pulling everything to rags. All rags and loose threads.
“Names elude me,” she said harshly.
Then the look passed away as she retrieved, with an effort, some bantering grace. She set the book down carefully and stood up and lifted her arms to put them around him. Her skin or her breath gave off a faint new smell, a smell that seemed to Grant like green stems in rank water.
“I’m happy to see you,” she said, both sweetly and formally. She pinched his earlobes, hard.
“You could have just driven away,” she said. “Just driven away without a care in the world and forsook me. Forsooken me. Forsaken.”
He kept his face against her white hair, her pink scalp, her sweetly shaped skull.
He said, “Not a chance.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

You Can Always Come Back, But You Can't Come Back All The Way

1) Home Is So Sad
by Philip Larkin

Home is so sad. It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of the last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft

And turn again to what it started as,
A joyous shot at how things ought to be,
Long fallen wide. You can see how it was:
Look at the pictures and the cutlery.
The music in the piano stool. That vase.

2) From Act 1 of “The Cherry Orchard”
by Anton Chekhov

LUBOV. [Looks out into the garden] Oh, my childhood, days of my innocence! In this nursery I used to sleep; I used to look out from here into the orchard. Happiness used to wake with me every morning, and then it was just as it is now; nothing has changed. [Laughs from joy] It's all, all white! Oh, my orchard! After the dark autumns and the cold winters, you're young again, full of happiness, the angels of heaven haven't left you. . . . If only I could take my heavy burden off my breast and shoulders, if I could forget my past!

3) My City Was Gone
by The Pretenders
(slightly different example)

Well I went back to Ohio
But my family was gone
I stood on the back porch
There was nobody home
I was stunned and amazed
My childhood memories
Slowly swirled past
Like the wind through the trees
Ay, oh, oh way to go, Ohio

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Like the Hodge Conjecture?

1) Commercial for the Knowledge Generation Bureau

2) "What Do Women Want?" by Daniel Bergner

“I feel like a pioneer at the edge of a giant forest,” Chivers said, describing her ambition to understand the workings of women’s arousal and desire. “There’s a path leading in, but it isn’t much.” She sees herself, she explained, as part of an emerging “critical mass” of female sexologists starting to make their way into those woods. These researchers and clinicians are consumed by the sexual problem Sigmund Freud posed to one of his female disciples almost a century ago: “The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?”