Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Dingo the Crazy Heater

Dingo as you know is the wild dog living in the Australian outback. I haven't seen one alive though. I'd love to when I get a chance to spend a night somewhere in the middle of the island-continent.

Recently my friend Kan Nozaki translated Christian Gailly's very jazzy French novel: Un soir au club. In it appears a cat named Dingo, which I automatically took to mean the wild dog, but I was wrong. In French it means "the crazy one", coming from the adjective "dingue," which comes from a tropical disease that causes a very high fever.

I have given my former books titles with "dog," "wolves," and "coyote" in them. Logically, the next book will have a dingo in it, if not a chihuahua or a French bulldog. But I don't know. So far I haven't had much interaction with dingoes anywhere, not in Australia nor in Paris!

In my anthropology course I assigned last week reading of Marvin Harris's Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture (1985). Some people hate Harris, but I find him very readable and fun, even when I don't agree with his ideas. In it he talks about how Australian aboriginal treat dingoes. They go out and catch a litter of puppies, killing their mother dingo, then take them home and pet them until they grow up. There is a very practical purpose for keeping them: they are good to sleep with when it's cold. Hence the name of a pop group I grew up listening to in the seventies----Three Dog Night.

When dingo-puppies grow up, they are dismissed from the heating role, and go back wild. Or sometimes they are eaten like Hawaiian poi dogs. How sad. They reproduce in the wilderness, hunted, and the next generation puppies are again captured to serve as living heaters.

Even more interestingly, the aboriginal used mixed-blood dogs for specific purposes. Crossbreeds between the dingo and the hounds (the greyhound, wolfhound, elkhound) were used to hunt kangaroos. Those between the dingo and the welsh corgi (my, my) were used to hunt smaller preys (of course).

Dingoes as heaters, watch dogs, friends, and occasional delicacies. If it's possible one day I'd very much like to keep and raise a puppy-dingo. Not for eating, but!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Talking Da Kine

Over the weekend I was so hungry for HCE, or Hawaii Creole English, and came across this site: How for talk conversational pidgin. It's at http://www.extreme-hawaii.com/pidgin/vocab/. The beauty of it is that you can actually listen to the sentences!

I don't pretend I'm from Hawaii or anything, but it gives me a sheer joy to listen to all these recorded sentences. Maybe to me learning English was but a process to reach the universe of Pidgin!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Pidgin and Literature

Gave a talk last evening in Kyoto on Pidgin (Hawaiian Creole English) and literature. It was set in the context of a series of lectures on the Japanese diaspora sponsored by Ritsumeikan University. I began by giving examples from Bradajo to give the audience a rough idea of what Pidgin is, then moved on to discuss Japanese-American writers such as Milton Murayama, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Garrett Hongo, and Lee Tonouchi. I've already written on Hongo in my book Coyote Reading. But I think I owe each of them a chapter in a future project.

Bradajo is not an AJA, but grew up in Kauai and was one the first poets to write in HCE. I met him last year in Honolulu. Talking about him in front of a very serious audience, suddenly I wanted very much to see him again. We should invite him to Japan.

And the expression AJA. Discussed with Yutaka Yoneyama, the Americanist, about the use of the term. Yoneyama says it's seldom used in the mainland, whereas in Hawaii it once was a very common term. Need to look into this.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Asian Field (Antony Gormley)

Everybody goes "WOW!" Everybody between the ages of 3 and 81 and over. That's Antony Gormley's fabulous exhibition Asian Field. Gormley (1950-) is from London and his ongoing project is an adventure in collective collaboration. He brings in people, this time from some villages in China, to make terra-cotta statuettes of no more than 6 inches tall----and more than 200,000 of them! His show in Tokyo is now taking place in a high-school gym near Roppongi. The floor is flooded with these cray people, all looking at you with their hollow eyes. Humorous, breathtaking, laughable, and infinitely moving. Definitely one of the best art exhibitions of my life! When you see it, you'd feel like thanking Antony for bringing this vision into its materialization. Wow. This should go on in other places, with other people, toward other audiences of the silent cry of joy!

Friday, November 19, 2004

No More Grammatical Fears (Jack Kerouac)

The only Jack Kerouac book I have read through so far is The Dharma Bums. I read it about 15 years ago out of my curiosity not about Jack's prose style but about how Gary Snyder was modified into a fictional character. I liked the book, but Jack's other books such as Lonesome Traveler remain unread somewhere in my store-away boxes.

I had a copy of On the Road in my undergraduate days but couldn't read it. The style bored me or I couldn't get any grip on it when I tried. Then yesterday, I came across a recorded version of it and began listening to it and suddenly it clicked. Hey, this may be a piece of cool writing... the CD is read by Matt Dillon. His voice and rendering ring so true and fit the rhythm and style of the book's self-generating soul. I can't say I can thoroughly follow his reading; my ears are not very keen. There are words that I miss out like a bad fielder. This happens with me all time. But there is a flow with which I can drift my consciousness that becomes alert on hearing a series of unexpected words. It's absorbing, and the narrative's beginning is fascinatingly filled with a sense of longing... for CREATION.

He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so-much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me and I knew it (for room and board and 'how to write', etc.), and he knew I knew (this has been the basis of our relationship), but I didn't care and we got along fine---no pestering, no catering; we tiptoed around each other like heart-breaking new friends.(...) "Man, wow, there's so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even BEGIN to get it all down and without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears..." (10)

To write is to fashion oneself is to move around is to live is to be influenced is to influence is to confluence is to converse is to cry out is to write. And again and again. This yearning for beginning is overwhelming. Maybe this time, almost at the age of Jack's death, I will read through for the first time in my life this sloppy-looking, eternally young book for the road.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Strange Days on Planet Earth

Monday evening, I saw a magnificent program on TV: Strange Days on Planet Earth, produced by National Geographic. How a storm in the Indian Ocean can blow sands off the Sahara to the Caribbean to cause the islands' children's asthma. It's really a planetary poiesis.

Where are we heading at? What planetary imaginary can help the bios to survive? This is a program I want to show in my cultural anthropology course at Meiji (this semester our subject is the environment and cultural materialism) but my video player/recorder didn't run properly. I'll have to wait for the video to come out on sale.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Memoraphilia (Akiko Tobu & Tjebbe van Tijen)

My friend Akiko Tobu's new book of photography is at the final stage of its production. It will surely be published in December. The book's title is Memoraphilia, and it's a series of photographs following the daily private life of the Dutch media artist and archivist Tjebbe van Tijen. You can take a glimpse at his artistic activities at http://imaginarymuseum.org/.

But Akiko's photography focuses more on Tjebbe as a person who lives, thinks, forgets, thinks about forgetting, thinking forgetting, and living loving. It's a surprisingly fresh album, filled with tender lights, warming colors, and a sense of quietude after turbulent years.

Tjebbe is also a seasoned essayist. I was fortunate enough to translate his essay "The Arts of Oneself: Eighteen Observations on Personal Memorabilia" for this volume. Talking about how one's memory and anti-memory is organized using different props, the essay makes its readers rethink and examine how they move about in their own lives using their own (each respectively) arts of forgetting and of remembrance finally to shape their own selves.

Akiko's first book The Hotel Upstairs was well received last year. It told stories and hidden beauty that filled a rather run-down apartment hotel in San Francisco. Here comes another surprise from this former-painter-turned photographer. She constantly teaches me another way to look at ordinary people's extraordinary lives. Ours, that is.

When I write, language remembers (Helene Cixous)

My Derrida-Khatibi essay now appeared in Mirai No.458. It's title is "Maghreb Boys Learning French." As I was writing, the name of another writer from a distant shore, the same side with Derrida and Khatibi, was flickering in my mind. Helene Cixous. I could easily change the title of my essay to "Maghreb Boys and Girls Learning French." Then my friend Doug Slaymaker (U of Kentucky) reminded me of a book, The Helene Cixous Reader, and the preface she wrote for it.

Doug read it as he was traveling from Lexington to Missoula with Yoko Tawada last March. Now I read it and it fills me with courage. Un courage exophone, si l'on peut dire...

Cixous writes:

Language englobes us and inspires us and launches us beyond ourselves, it is ours and we are its, it is our master and our mistress. And even if it seems to be native or national, it happily remains foreign to those who write. Writing consists first of all in hearing language speak itself to our ears, as if it were the first time. (xix)

We think we speak the English, or French, of today. But our English or French language of today is of yesterday and elsewhere. The miracle is that language has not been cut from its archaic roots----even if we do not remember, our language remembers, and what we say began to be said three thousand years ago. (xx)

When I write, language remembers without my knowing or indeed with my knowing, remembers the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, the whole of literature, each book. (xxi)

In my essay I wrote that "the logic of exophony is that of a borrower, not that of an owner." We borrow, not really knowing what we borrow. Each word is already a practical mnemotechnics. This is the kind of logic that every writer discovers, sooner or later. But didn't the Maghreb boys and girls born in the 1930s especially become aware of this fact at an early age? That's what I surmise and I think it's got to be true.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Columbus's Dog (1)

It's April 1, All Fool's Day today but what I am going to tell you is no lie: I'm leaving tomorrow. Off to Brazil. Good bye. First I'll fly to Honolulu, then to Los Angeles, on to Miami. There I'll receive a one-way airticket to Sao Paulo. What shall happen after that, I have no idea. I wanted to see you even briefly before hitting the road, but it's too late. Hope to see you again someday somewhere. Keep going strong until then. Good bye. In Tokyo it's so cold today and my head is aching like a glass bell. It's a counter attack from the cold and winter coming together. But tomorrow I'll be in Honolulu, my lovely, my town of heart. I'm so glad and thrilled I get chiles in my spine. Good bye. From there on, it will probably be like an endless summer. I saw a film today; it's called Nostalgia. The story is set in Italy and how wonderful a film it was. A Russian poet, an interpretess, Russian and Italian sounding together. The overflowing water, a maniac use of dogs. The dog is an important company for remembrance. I like all the films with dogs in it. For the moment, to me, that is the only criteria of a good movie. I also saw a preview of Godard's Prenom Carmen. Only by seeing this preview you can tell that it's as exciting as any film. But it's too late now, I can't see it. I don't know when, and where, will I come across the film on the show. Will somebody guarantee that they show Godard in Brazil, too? Good bye. If you get a chance, please do watch it. And when you watch it, give out some extra clapping and shouts for my sake.

Columbus's Dog

Columbus's Dog (1989) is my travelogue to Brazil, written for the most part in 1985 after I came home from a year in Brazil and the Caribbean, then retouched in 1988 for publication. It is my first book. It consists of 80 fragments, which I will translate in installments here on this blog. It may take some time to finish. Aux amis passes, presents, et futurs.