Friday, December 26, 2008

The Witness

In a stable lying almost in the shadow of the new stone church, a man with gray eyes and a gray beard, stretched on the ground amid the animal odors, meekly seeks death like someone seeking sleep. The day, faithful to vast secret laws, continuously displaces and confounds the shadows in the wretched stable. Outside stretch the tilled fields, a deep ditch filled up with dead leaves, and the tracks of a wolf in the black mud where the woods begin. The man sleeps and dreams, forgotten. The bells calling to prayer awake him. In the kingdom of England, the sound of the bells is already one of the customs of the afternoon, but the man, while still a boy, had seen the face of Woden, had seen holy dread and exultation, had seen the rude wooden idol weighed down with Roman coins and heavy vestments, seen the sacrifice of horses, dogs, and prisoners. Before dawn he would be dead and with him would die, never to return, the last firsthand images of the pagan rites. The world would be poorer when this Saxon was no more.

We may well be astonished by space-filling acts which come to an end when someone dies, and yet something, or an infinite number of things, die in each death—unless there is a universal memory, as the theosophists have conjectured. There was a day in time when the last eyes to see Christ were closed forever. The battle of Junín and the love of Helen died with the death of some one man. What will die with me when I die? What pathetic or frail form will the world lose? Perhaps the voice of Macedonio Fernández, the image of a horse in a vacant space at Serrano and Charcas, a bar of sulfur in the drawer of a mahogany desk?

-Jorge Luis Borges, 1957
(Translated by Anthony Kerrigan)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I ripped these off from Dave at Via Negativa, whose site you should check out today because his postcards from a conquistador are exquisite.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nochebuena (Christmas Eve)

It is impossible, in these singular dates of martyrology, to not be moved by the Roman Pontiffs, last representatives of the heroic age. And if we compare a Leo, a Pius or a Benedict to the crises of our lives, there’s not agnosticism enough to repress a wave of sympathy for them. Under the goofy stare of Pope XIII’s, we open our own eyes to the blaze of the sun. The wide and rural forehead of Pope X oversaw our understanding of acrid forbidden fruits. And Pope XV, the ornithologist, with the doddering senility of his spectacle frames, weighs us down with black eventuality: that of the Pope of death. But our breath is stilled under him, or under his successor. We feel that his blessing falls on these December celebrations with the ominous sorrow of the year 1000, between the astrologers’ conical caps, the ethereal marvels, the leprosy, the bellicose hunger and the saffron manes of the Barbarians.

The Boy, sprout of Psalms and of Bathsheba -“she who was of Uriah”- lies in the stable like petal in wheat. His hand, barely reaching out, all the way from Bethlehem sweeps away the myths, both the subterranean and the celestial. Juno, who skated across the rainbow, is lost irreparably. The heart of councils and proconsuls is emptied of its cult, overcome by an incredulity that was, through nobility, certainly less obtuse than that of the subscribers to the “Red Library.” And our household Christianity, on the other hand, pales in comparison to the transmigrant instinct of the Magi.

-Ramón López Velarde, 1923

Monday, December 22, 2008

huzzah for sabotage!

well folks, I think at this point it's safe to say that December is shaping up to be a pretty spectacular month for monkeywrenching. a week ago the clattering of sabots was heard the world over when Muntadahr al-Zaidi pitched both his shoes at our own valedictorian in chief in the middle of a press conference.

Shoe 1: “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, dog!"
Shoe 2: “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!”

I bet that by now everyone’s seen the footage, but just in case.

then, just this last Friday, Tim DeChristopher walked into a federal oil and gas lease auction in Salt Lake City and ordered the lobster. about $2 million worth. I won’t try to summarize the story beyond that. it’s just too beautiful so you’ll have to check out the Salt Lake Tribune, New York Times and KSL articles for more details (and video). also, see my brother’s blog for a nice catechism on the subject.

Al-Zaidi and De Christopher remind us of both the elegance and desperation that make for the finest acts of sabotage. now they’re going to need some pretty good lawyers. you can follow up with Tim and his progress in this direction over here at one Utah.

btw, here are some related sundries.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008


all twisted metal
and the money?
a thousand? more?

and then maintenance
arranges the most
absolute trade mark:

after that Monday
another tenant makes
a tattered memorial.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

kids, screens, ARCADIA, IMMERSION

children photographed while playing video games
by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, 2000
part of the installation ARCADIA
...let’s see, 2000; that's like post Rygar-Lemmings, circa Doom-Grand Theft Auto? pretty good, right?

then, just recently the New York Times published this slide show of photos by Robbie Cooper.
and the youtube video is definitely worth seeing.

last month's article in the Telegraph is pretty good too. Sam Leith even makes a nice comparison to early silent reading, maybe a reference to St. Augustine’s shock upon walking in on St. Ambrose reading silently to himself. he also gets into Cooper’s set up, which is sort of borrowed from Errol Morris’s Interrotron technique.

here’s Robbie Cooper’s blog.

related posts: about toys, fire in the fish tank

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

thanks for:

the hard wind and rain that finally blew into town on All Souls Day, ripping through all the corrugated plastic campaign signs on the roadsides, throwing them into the streets and passing cars

the nopal cactus that the Palmerin family has been lovingly cultivating for us

eight years with my lady, for how well she cuts my hair, and how she tells me when I’m full of crap

the local Wal*Mart, for showing at least a simulacrum of conscience and foresight, now selling some reusable shopping bags, sweatshop t-shirts with trees printed on them, a Bill Nye “eco-logical” paper recycling kit, and for having recently painted the store façade a more fitting desert-storm tan

Obama – Biden

car passed inspection

the disgruntled employee of the Holliday Inn in Henderson NV, who, having caught wind of her immanent firing, stuck it to her bosses by booking my family with the super-discounted employee rate. so punk rock

my little girl, her developing talent of honking people’s noses, her excitement with ants, and how she broke into this last time the congregation sang “All Creatures of our God and King”

cheap rent on a warm duplex in November

acorn squash and black beans

Friday, November 21, 2008

how the animals get to the zoo: a book report

so yeah, lately I’ve been putting together school applications again –round 2- and figured it was a good time to brush up a little on colonial, postcolonial theory and so on. wanting to start somewhere easy, I went to Ash’s library where I found this nice slim volume from 1964. with the possible exception of Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” I doubt colonialism has ever found a more succinct treatment. alright, have a look; I’ll get back to work.

some. related. posts.
this just in: Derek sent me some pages from a pretty ballistic little children's book which you can see over here - Do you know what I'm going to do next saturday? Well, sir...let me tell you!
I'm sure you'll agree it's a preferable alternative to renewing the elementary school library's subscription to Soldier of Fortune for next year.

Monday, November 10, 2008

the moustache as civil disobedience, public nuisance and token of perfect smugness

this is my cousin Malcom (left) in a picture taken a couple weeks ago during a trip through Munich. my uncle and his family are living and working in Lugano, Switzerland and they periodically send us updates on their adventures, including photos. like a blog.

it was so good to get this in my email the other day, for several reasons. I had actually gotten up early just that morning to make 5 gallons of hot chocolate, and then schlepped it sloshing into work in a huge cooler. hot chocolate should never be a hassle but somehow this was.

also, behind a figleaf of reduced state education budget, they've started firing people here too. lots of people. since we work off of a grant that I write every year, our little outfit should be OK, but it still sucks to watch this happen to so many other people I like and respect, many of whom have been here 20+ years. I don't know if people are organizing yet but there’s quite a bit of fallout still to come.

and aside from this, things have been pretty hectic. would you believe that I just allowed my Saturday to be spent giving a presentation to a boardroom full of people (yes, their Saturdays too!) on a 9 volume set of white 3-ring binders called USOE Standards for Adult ESOL? 4 hours of driving for a 5 hour meeting, to which I contributed just 1 hour. yeah, I know!

so anyway, I'm now wearing a moustache. thanks, Malcom, for helping me regain my bearings here. we'll see how long it lasts.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

3 calaveras*

poor Joe Biden, died this afternoon in the middle
of an ice cream cone. he was halfway through
the thing and smiling so simply.
CNN seemed determined he finish it
with all America watching. and the cameras
still rolled, the text crawler still scrolled
something about Acorn. he clutched
his chest, then the railing. the NASDAQ
leaped so slightly, the Dow impassive.

what a mess on main street
somewhere in the pro-America
lower forty-eight, Sarah Palin
gunned down by a helicopter-full
of timber wolves? her glasses,
nicked discreatly from the scene
by a passerby, fetched a handsome
sum on eBay.

yesterday morning at dawn
local celebrity, millionaire,
zealot, village idiot
Superdell Schanze flew
his motorized hang glider
into a beautiful cirque of granite,
lone peak, like one of Kerouac's
roman candles, mad to be saved
mad to be governor, mad
to be loved, and famous and armed.

*"The calavera (skull) is a typical Mexican satirical style of poetry. It originated between the 15th and 18th centuries, but grew in popularity at the dawn of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The calavera poem is typically associated with Day of the Dead, and it became a journalistic genre at the end of the 19th century during the regime of Portfirio Diaz. The fliers that circulated during those times included angry verses against the dictator Diaz, and his cabinet members. Throughout Mexico, calaveras were also dedicated to working class people, always with a hint of sarcasm and humor at the inevitability of death. Today, calaveras can be written about anyone."
a little more info here.

hey! write your own and post it here, please.
(I mean once you've already gone and voted, that is.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

dia de los mUErtOs (2) - el muerto quiere camote

these photos are from a few years ago, mostly:
prints by José Guadalupe Posada from Aguascalientes
Diego Rivera's Alameda mural featuring an apparition of la Catrinarelics and ruins in Mexico City (zócalo and anthropology museum)
and the Rafael Coronel museum (masks) in Zacatecas

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Great Basin NP, NV w/ TR

As a young man in the fall of 1858 he had left for the Deseret Territory and taken a job in the Beehive-shaped charcoal ovens. It was only his third week when, one day, having climbed atop the cone, his bootheel melted and he found himself tumbling helplessly into the scorching furnace…. When he finally awoke, after what had been to him a long and dreamless sleep, it was to the rumble of a freight train no more than a rod from where he lay. He found himself whole and his limbs without injury. And when the train had passed he looked up into the quiet sky and blinked at what seemed a white stylus of a bird, drawn across the blue.

We found that, in an unprecedented compromise between extreme conservationists, under-funded and lazy parks service personnel, and people who were just in a hurry to get somewhere else, wilderness had now been made available for a small fee from a vending machine just outside the park.

Lehman, brother

so little depends upon a rusted and beaten wheelbarrow left by miners in a field of white stones.

Once the craft had departed, and the column of flame had been carried away on the wind, the creature emerged awkwardly from its yellow pod. Then, raising its long, fleshy blue ocular trunks, began to survey its new surroundings.

Sunday morning in a forest of bristlecones, several of which have been around since the Iron Age. and they’re like, “‘iron age’ eh? sure, you can call it what you want, I guess.”

some more photos here