glum rock!

Devoto’s odd game of dodging out of the camera’s gaze when he’s not singing amuses the hell out of me tonight.

Vila-Matas and Auster: repeat performance

There are all kinds of great events happening this year, but what caught my eye was something on May 2nd, Enrique Vila-Matas and Paul Auster in Conversation. Eh? What the hell? Oh yeah, their first meeting happened back in 2007.

The details:

For years Enrique Vila-Matas and Paul Auster have been engaged in an extended literary conversation, spanning continents and several languages. And in the ingenious short story by Eduardo Lago, which borrows its title, Brooklyn Trilogy, from Auster, the two are even brought together as fictional characters. Two years ago, they met in person for the first time and discovered that they do, indeed, share many
common obsessions. Come eavesdrop on this continuation of that first live conversation. Moderated by Eduardo Lago, who will read from the short story that unites these two writers.

When: Saturday, May 2, 2009: 2:30–3:30 p.m.
Where: FIAF, Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street

Now i’m unsuccessfully looking for a report or recording of the 2007 meeting at the Instituto Cervantes. Why i’m bothering, i don’t know, as my half-hearted attempts to read Vila-Matas’ pieces that appear online are beyond pathetic.

I’ll convert all my currency to Argentine denominations

All of it is going to be worthless in several months anyway, right?

The article is actually about the head Argentina’s national football team being put on their currency, but this is the bit that interested me:

Whilst Maradona’s inclusion is not certain yet, the Central Bank are known to be considering using writers, Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, and Nobel Prize winners, Luis Federico Leloir and Bernardo Houssay.

Borgesian money! You know what would make this cooler? If this quote was included:

The flattery of posterity is not worth much more than contemporary flattery, which is worth nothing.

Plus, all counterfeit bills can be attributed to Pierre Menard.

Come on, riff on it. Still struggling for Bioy Casares references unfortunately.

first production of steel pushed back another 200 years

It’s in Turkey again. Things happened in Anatolia. The first known creation of steel alloy is now 4,000 years old. Here’s the article:

Tokyo (PTI): A piece of ironware excavated from a Turkish archaeological site is about 4,000 years old, making it the world’s oldest steel, Japanese archaeologists said on Thursday.

Archaeologists from the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan excavated the 5-centimetre piece at the Kaman-Kalehoyuk archaeological site in Turkey, about 100 kilometers southeast of Ankara, in 2000. The ironware piece is believed to be a part of a knife from a stratum about 4,000 years old, or 2100-1950 B.C., according to them.

An analysis at the Iwate Prefectural Museum in Morioka showed that the ironware piece was about 200 years older than one that was excavated from the same site in 1994 and was believed to be the oldest steel so far made in 20th-18th centuries B.C.

The ironware is highly likely to have been produced near the Kaman-Kalehoyuk site as a 2-cm-diameter slag and two iron-containing stones have also been excavated, Kyodo news agency quoted the archaeologists as saying.

Hideo Akanuma, an archaeologist at the Iwate Prefectural Museum, said the fresh finding led to a change in the history of iron and steel production, noting that such production was earlier thought to have begun in the Hittite kingdom dating in the 14th to 12th centuries B.C.

Lopate on the aphorism

The aphorism has a number of dialectical appeals.  It is a statement that moves in two directions at once.  It raises and resolves a paradox; it leaves behind an afterimage, like an op-art painting the clash of whose two colors produce a thrid on the retina.  The aphorism turns toward poetic condensation, thereby borrowing from poetry the associational leap.  Kafka’s plausible-gnomic style (“There is hope, only not for me”) fascinated Benjamin and Adorno, and their sentences at times seemed modelled on his ability to achieve uncannily disillusioned effects.

From his Notes on Sontag, just out from Princeton.

That “plausible-gnomic” tripped me up at first, but I’ve decided it refers to the structure (or a sort of progression from P to G, even) in the typical Kafka Aphorism.  Any other guesses?

Kadare on Kadare

From the Guardian:

There is no such thing as a political writer when it comes to literature, according to Albanian author and winner of the Man Booker International prize, Ismail Kadare.

“I am of the opinion that I am not a political writer, and, moreover,  that as far as true literature is concerned, there actually are no political writers,” Kadare said in an interview with Swiss press on Saturday. “I think that my writing is no more political than ancient Greek theatre. I would have become the writer I am in any political regime.”

The novelist and poet Kadare defected from Enver Hoxha’s Maoist regime in Albania in 1990, seeking asylum in France. The author of novels including The General of the Dead Army, The Palace of Dreams and Albanian Spring, Kadare won the inaugural Man Booker International prize in 2005, prompting a storm of criticism from some anti-communist writers, who took issue with his privileged status under Hoxha. Although some of his works were banned, others, particularly The Great Winter, praised the leader and the country’s split from the Soviets in 1961.

His international success as a writer, Kadare told NZZ, was a double-edged sword. “On the one hand it secured protection for me in relation to the regime, on the other hand I was constantly under observation,” he said. “What excited suspicion was ‘why does the western bourgeoisie hold a writer from a Stalinist country in high esteem?'”

This led to him being admitted to the Communist party in order, he said, to show the world, and Albania, that he was not a “bourgeois”, but a communist. “What should I do? Say no? That would have equaled destruction, a senseless victim. They would at some point have found a reason to condemn me as a French agent,” he said.

New Microorganisms Discovered In Earth’s Stratosphere

Hell yes! I stumbled onto this yesterday on the original source, but the site was such old-school HTML that it seemed like it could be a hoax, rather than an official Indian agency. Now the story has spilled over into Science Daily, which has seemed pretty solid through the years:

In all, 12 bacterial and six fungal colonies were detected, nine of which, based on 16S RNA gene sequence, showed greater than 98% similarity with reported known species on Earth. Three bacterial colonies, namely, PVAS-1, B3 W22 and B8 W22 were, however, totally new species. All the three newly identified species had significantly higher UV resistance compared to their nearest phylogenetic neighbours. Of the above, PVAS-1, identified as a member of the genus Janibacter, has been named Janibacter hoylei. sp. nov. The second new species B3 W22 was named as Bacillus isronensis sp.nov. and the third new species B8 W22 as Bacillus aryabhata.

The precautionary measures and controls operating in this experiment inspire confidence that these species were picked up in the stratosphere. While the present study does not conclusively establish the extra-terrestrial origin of microorganisms, it does provide positive encouragement to continue the work in our quest to explore the origin of life. ((Italics are mine.))

Now if we can see about those microorganisms on Mars…

“The Essenes are only a literary invention of a Utopian society…”

There’s a new book claiming that the Sadducees wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Essenes never existed.

No opinion here. I lean towards the Essenes exsting and writing the Dead Sea Scrolls, but being proven otherwise isn’t going to rock my world, like tachyons not existing and us being in a deterministic universe. Apparently it’s a pretty heated in certain circles though:

The debate has even led to the arrest of the son of one proponent of the theory that the Essenes did not write the ancient scriptures. Raphael Golb, the son of Norman Golb, a professor at Chicago University, was arrested in New York this month for allegedly creating online aliases and conducting a campaign of harassment against academic opponents of his father’s theories.

Father and son claimed that members of mainstream academia were trying to silence the professor. The younger Mr Golb reportedly accused his father’s critics of being anti-Semites trying to deny the link between the scrolls and established Jewish institutions.

That sounds nutty to me, as the Essenses were Jews. Next…