Archive for November, 2008
Remember the red rain of Kerala, India? A couple of times it’s come up on the blog. There is a newish paper out, titled, Unusual Autofluorescence Characteristic Of Cultured Red-Rain Cells. Okay, okay…
The red cells found in the red rain in Kerala, India are now considered as a possible case of extraterrestrial life form. These cells can undergo rapid replication even at an extreme high temperature of 300 deg C. They can also be cultured in diverse unconventional chemical substrates. The molecular composition of these cells is yet to be identified. This paper reports the unusual autofluorescence characteristic of the cultured red rain cells. A spectrofluorimetric study has been performed to investigate this, which shows a systematic shift of the fluorescence emission peak wavelength as the excitation wavelength is increased. Conventional biomolecules are not known to have this property. Details of this investigation and the results are discussed.
Yes. Exciting…. but… do remember that Godfrey Louis has been on this from the beginning, actually collecting the samples after the rainstorms. He’s the main proponent of this interpretation of the nature of these cells. As much as i want it to be true, it’s not independent research, even if every word of it is absolute truth.
Chris Hedges, whose books I haven’t read, writes an article that is certainly worth a read. Hedges popped onto my radar when he debated Hitchens on religion some time back. Hitchens blew him off the stage presentation-wise, but Hedges struck me as a thoughtful individual. And thoughtful he is!
Political leaders in our post-literate society no longer need to be competent, sincere or honest. They only need to appear to have these qualities. Most of all they need a story, a narrative. The reality of the narrative is irrelevant. It can be completely at odds with the facts. The consistency and emotional appeal of the story are paramount. The most essential skill in political theater and the consumer culture is artifice. Those who are best at artifice succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of artifice fail. In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek or want honesty. We ask to be indulged and entertained by clichs, stereotypes and mythic narratives that tell us we can be whomever we want to be, that we live in the greatest country on Earth, that we are endowed with superior moral and physical qualities and that our glorious future is preordained, either because of our attributes as Americans or because we are blessed by God or both.
The ability to magnify these simple and childish lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless loops of news cycles, gives these lies the aura of an uncontested truth. We are repeatedly fed words or phrases like yes we can, maverick, change, pro-life, hope or war on terror. It feels good not to think. All we have to do is visualize what we want, believe in ourselves and summon those hidden inner resources, whether divine or national, that make the world conform to our desires. Reality is never an impediment to our advancement.
The whole thing is worth a read. Neil Postman made a similar argument in his Amusing Ourselves to Death, written before the internet’s explosion.
Joshua Cohen, a young American author whose first novel/cadenza/jeremiad blew my mind last year, is (if wikipedia is to be believed) having his new book published by Dalkey Archive press. It is a match made in heaven (hopefully the correct one). I read his collection of stories published by Twisted Spoon early last year and immediately sought more.
He’s one to watch, a bright spot in an otherwise mostly moribund under-30 crop of US writer (exceptions apply, naturally).
Anyway, I stumbled upon this interview with Mr. Cohen today, and was delighted by his casual brilliance and old-soul cynicism. It is the same allusive, spiderish sensibility that lives in the books.
The closer, to begin, on Art:
The day that everybody became interested in art is the day that art would cease to exist: July 4th, maybe, whatever year sufficiently far in the future for me, for us, not to worry.
On form (and he’s speaking here of his A Cadenza for the Schneidermann Violin Concerto, but it wouldn’t take too much imagination to apply this to the novel in general):
This book is a cadenza because, if it is a cadenza, it has an audience already: everyone’s already seated, within the pages, ready for reading, or not. It’s a novel written with no requirement for readers, perhaps. It’s sold out, before it begins. I was fascinated by the form, or non-form, or anti-form, of the cadenza. It seems like a period of grace, of temporary insanity. It has its conventions, but it has no rules. It has its history, but it has no practical progress beyond the individual—again, the personality. It lives, and dies, by its nightly practice—always different, always the same.
FJO: What do you think someone with a background in contemporary music might get from this book that others would not?
JC: If you know “music,” or music theory, or instrumental practice, or score instructions in German, in Italian, you might get more of the esoteric joking, the insider punning—the vocabulary, the language. But in my experience, a background in music, as you put it, does not always translate to a background in, let’s say, biographical music: Knowing the technicalities of music is not the same as knowing the lives of musicians, of composers, and this book celebrates the life of music, musical lives, much more than it might observe theoretical thought.
The difference would be, perhaps, the difference between music and musicology. Or, maybe, the difference between what’s been called “program music,” and the actuality, or reality, of such a program. I like the sea, I like all seas, more than I like La Mer. I am more interested in Schoenberg than in dodecaphony, though dodecaphony is a part of Schoenberg, and though Schoenberg—as a person, as a mind—is at least a twelfth or so of dodecaphony.
This book is much more an analysis of death than it is a comparative analysis of the Requiem of, say, Berlioz and Verdi. Requiem, by the by, has no plural.
I’m back! It has been a long time since I’ve popped in here, and rather than providing a long-winded explanation which no one would care about anyway, I’ll leap back into the fray secure in the hope that the internet was somehow incomplete without my hastily-scrawled comments on fiction in translation, High Modernism, and anything else that caught my fancy.
-Bill (I’ll sign my posts until Badger fixes the titling app)
My old pal Damien has a song “Test Tube Jesus”((Yes, i oughta post it.)) Now it seems we might be able to clone Siddhartha, from a fragment of skull kept as a relic in a miniature pagoda unearthed in Nanjing, China.
It surprises me how earnest the story seems that this bone fragment could be from the actual historical Buddha. After all, with all of the fragments of the True Cross and mummified fingers of saints out there, how credible is this claim? The holy relic business was quite profitable back in the day.
The Millions post asking whether Roberto Bolaño was really a junky is fun. Apparently most of the story stems from a single writer’s interpretation of a short story must be autobiographical, then inserting that interpretation into a profile for The New Yorker.
Me? I don’t know. Zalewski’s assertion has a ring of some truth, both with Bolaño’s documented health problems and the feel of some of Bolaño’s writing, but
It’s amusing that so little is really known yet about a new literary star, at least here in the States. The language barrier between English and Spanish seems a lot more permeable than some others, so the dearth of concrete details of what Bolaño did and when, especially when he did weave so many autobiographical details into his stories, is outright weird. I’ve seen some timelines, but come on… some of you know where Dave Eggers had lunch last week.
Dumping the sprawling mess that was Fighting Against Making the Pie Higher into the archives of Orbis Quintus is something i swore to do years ago, but when i get around to doing it, always balk. Why?
Entries like this:
Sheesh! After reading this post on the Online Journal, it looks almost impossible that the dork Dubya Bush is going to be elected. I’m extremely relieved, but in reading this article, I’m also disappointed, in the same way that every time that a hurricane makes it into the Gulf of Mexico, I start rooting for it to hit New Orleans, as there’s no way that New Orleans will ever stay above water with the force of a decent hurricane cruising up the mouth of the Mississippi River. I don’t want people to suffer, and in good moods, i love that city, but there’s a wild streak in me that revels in the possibility of maximum chaos. Imagine Dan Quayle as the President, and then imagine him having an uncontrollably foul mouth and a bad temper. Wouldn’t that be a gold mine for every comedian in the world? Of course, the nation might not survive it….
Kick me in the face. Don’t be gentle. I’ll get no joy from it.
Serpents licked my ears!
It looks like I won’t be picking up that new translation any time soon. The Literary Saloon deflated all of that anticipation with a single post, first by noting that the three volume set will only be available in hardcover, and there are only 3,000 copies, then by pointing to a review that says:
This edition tries hard to avoid charges of exoticism or “orientalism” — you can feel the effort. It’s a workable and honest translation, but not a sparkling one. And it makes me wish that the reader could access the original material.
Bah. Gimme some old-fasioned orientalism if it’s an exceptional translation. The Muhsin Mahdi/Husain Haddawy version, which is a fun, readable translation, already proved that. Trying to excise the Western influences that masquerade as Eastern ones is just silly, as they had to go back to release another volume including stories that were deemed not official canon. Adaptation and innovation trumps reverence.
Nothing deep or insightful in this observation. Right now the press is aflurry with something else Obama is reading, that biography of FDR. (That book of poetry is of more interest to me.) Does that really mean anything?
Doesn’t anyone remember that Bush was reading the David McCullough biography of John Adams right before September 11th, mentioning that he and John Qunincy Adams have something in common?
How did that turn out?
Obama’s the man i voted for and continue to support, but it should be too obvious that any political biography mentioned by any politician is not a window into his soul, but a political prop.
Besides, wouldn’t the biography of heroic failure like Huey P. Long be more compelling and insightful? Plus, it would scare the shit out of the right people.