Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)

Astounding. Truly awesome. I can't blame myself enough for not having watched this earlier. The film can well be titled "The Pursuit of Happiness." This is to my knowledge the clearest filmic statement against consumerism made within the essentially consumerist framework of the cinema. I will come back to this film in detail one day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996)

This is a curiously charming crime comedy centered around the themes of innocence and silliness. The combination is of course disasterous, but heart-warming in many ways. Many little laughs guaranteed. It's like watching a school of half-witted dolphins doing their antics in sub-tropical waters. Only the setting is either Texas or Oklahoma, and distinctively American.

Monday, December 26, 2005

River's Edge (Tim Hunter, 1986)

Chilling and so American. First, because of the conflicts of ideologies. Each person is so idealist, clinging to one's own frame of mind, seeing no reality, making the world outside into one's self-righteous picture, following one's ideologic. Second, because of the immense presence of the river. This is the most real, the essence of the material world.

Kids' delinquency is disgusting and the portraits of broken families are regular staples for America, the sad. Not much hope or future in this culture. Dennis Hopper is superb in his portraiyal of SANE insanity. He is retrospective, believing in the need for a princile named hope. Only his hope is never held in common.

This is another 'dead body' film and it's strange it coincided with Stand by Me in 1986. Kids still talked about the fear of Russia then. How historical it now seems!

The only thing that makes you relieved in the film is that at the end 12-year-old Tim didn't shoot his brother Matt. It could have been worse, you know.

Excess Baggage (Marco Brambilla, 1997)

Apart from the cars' Washington license plates and Benicio del Toro's strange accent, this is a rather ordinary film. Christopher Walken is just regular, and Alicia Silverstone gives an impression of being a little chubby. This is surprising that it's only been two years since that marvelous Emma retelling, CLUELESS. Basically I enjoy any film. But this could have been better with a little something. Spices. Or some scenes with more water. Yes, some more splashes would have been fun.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Zoolander (Ben Stiller, 2001)

Ben Stiller directs and acts the main role in this funny film with a plot around a super model and the fashion industry. It's funny all right, but leaves us with a sense of doubt. The hero talks as if he cared about the sweat shop exploited by the fashion world in the third world countries. But the making of this film contributes to any change at all? Underpriviledged kids do appear at the end of the film, made happy apparently by the hero's good deed, but that is very little convincing. The assasination plan of the prime minister of Malaysia fails, but the very mentioning of the name Malaysia makes me uneasy. Is this kind of gag compatible with a tongue-in-cheek intention of activism? A subtle taste of disgust sticks to my tongue.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Flatliners (Joel Schumacher, 1990)

The story is nothing more than teenager's daydream (or nightmare) about the near-death experience, but the film is successful with three gorgeous actors: Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, and Julia Fiona Roberts. Julia Roberts in 1990 is the Julia Roberts of Pretty Womanand at the peak of her beauty. All of them are haunted by their own past guilt and seek atonements. In this probably the film strays away from what the young medical students wanted. The focus on what lies beyond becomes a given story for eneryone. But none of us want any instruction on the matter of life and death from the film, so maybe it's good for all of us. Enjoyable. But can't take it seriously.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Duplex (Danny De Vito, 2003)

This is a very funny comedy set in New York, starring Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller, directed by Danny De Vito. I didn't even know that Danny De Vito was directing, but this turned out to be actually quite good. The only problem is that each time I see Drew Barrymore's face I remember her as a child in E.T. and The Firestarter. The beginning sequence is cartoon and nicely done, too (like a movie in the mid-1960s).

The Chronicles of Narnia (Andrew Adamson, 2005)

Watched this with children. Very enjoyable film from the Auckland-born director (whose Shreks we loved) but also very Disney-like. You never see lions, polar bears, and beavers at the same time, do you? Yes, maybe in one location: the zoological garden! So this is a story based upon "zoo-logic," by which is meant that all the heterogeneous components are juxtaposed. Whatever. Tilda Swinton's witch is very attractive. The scenery is gorgeous.

The Road to Wellville (Alan Parker, 1994)

A very funny satire from Alan Parker on the cult of health at the time of Horace Fletcher and others. I don't know how much of this Dr. Kellog (Anthony Hopkins) character owes to a real person, whoever that is. But it captures a certain thread of American history in a very shrewed way. Interesting addition to the filmography of the master filmmaker.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998)

A gang comedy (but with a lot of bloody massacre in it) set in East-end London. To me it's fun for the language and accents of the characters. The story is as futile as any of bad Luc Besson's. "One of the most entertaining movies ever made," says THE SUN. You get the general idea. Some people may laugh out loud, for sure. The ending is cute and light-hearted, but only after those murderous gang activities. Bad guys are all killed. In fact, they exterminate each other, as if by some divine intervention. A team of rather stupid young fellows survive. A lone wolf kind of gang guy, with his little son, gets all the money (he in fact is the least repugnant of the bad guys). So the story goes, the good is at last rewarded, the bad ruthlessly punished. There is this bar owner who reminds me of somebody I know. He looks like Sting. And in fact he IS Sting. He seems to be in his most natural milieu.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)

I've heard so much about this film and finally I watch it, and it's way beyond my expectation. What a grim adventure of a story-telling! The reversal at the beginning flows seemlessly into the past. The man doesn't have any short-term memory. He thinks he keeps his long-term memory. But for him there is no telling if the memory is true or false, and as it turns out it's all his construction, rationalizing his behaviour. Inscription of letters, written words, are used to keep things in order. But what if the inscription itself is falsified? No écriture is ever reliable, even if it's on your own body.

Somebody like Severo Sarduy, or Roland Barthes himself, should have watched this. They would have cheered.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Meet the Parents (Jay Roach, 2000)

Everything-goes-wrong story played out by two great comic actors--Ben Stiller and Roberto de Niro. It seems that the role of Stiller was first intended for Jim Carrey; that would have been great, too. It was a laugh out loud for the whole family.


Looking at some of my recent students' lives after they graduated from the college, I am led to think about the relationship between the job and lifestyle. Incredibly cynical climate of monetaristic winners/losers dichotomy is rampant. Seeing my former students ending up as seriously underpayed, disposable temps on the fringe of the non-repentant, habitually-heavy consummer society is chilling. Andrew Ross's 1998 book REAL LOVE: IN PURSUIT OF CULTURAL JUSTICE might help me realigning my thoughts. The book is a collection of essays written over the period under the Clinton administration. Having lived in the US for most of the 1990s, I have overlooked many scorching issues. I need some retrospective inputs.

It is no coincidence that the rise of claims for cultural justice has occured at a time when a pro-scarcity climate of austerity is also being established. The result is a widely shared perception that this is one form of justice we cannot afford. It is time to debunk this cynical perception, oppose its punitive consequences, and urge that we meet the next challenges of history in the spirit of the culture-and-class coalitions that have too often eluded us. (5)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

A stunning masterpiece. The idea is built upon the locatability theory of memory, which is directly opposed to the holographic paradigm, and I don't think man can ever do anything even close to it. Still, it is very intriguing. By the end one is uttely confused about the events' chronology. Where was the beginning? Libido doesn't know nor care about time.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Envy (Barry Levinson, 2004)

A good comedy from the director of GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM. Ben Stiller and Jack Black join up as a funny buddy team, with Cambridge-educated, daughter-of-a-Hungarian-psychoanalyist Rachel Weisz and a very unattractive Christopher Walken as supporting casts. The main focus of the plot is an invention called 'Vapoorize' that makes dogs' turd evaporate in no time. How can it be? Well, absurdity is part of the story. I enjoyed it.

In general, I don't get used to things. (Mary Ann Caws)

In Japanese there is a phrase "shishuku suru," which means "to consider someone as one's mentor without actually having met this person." In this sense Mary Ann Caws, the foremost surreslism scholar, has been my such "secretly designated" mentor. Her memoir TO THE BOATHOUSE (2004) is a lovable autobiography of a super-intelligent yet shy and clumsy Southern girl's quest for the miraculous in the ordinary. Sincere, simple, and often elegant.

One thing I found out is that she consumes too much sugar! (Of course, to a certain extent, sugar high helps when one works intently in one's writing. In the long run it's bad for your health, though.) But here is a great quote:

I often start the day with a spoonful of ginger marmalade, preserves, really. The morning glory makes a fence of blue as I trundle my way to my office to write, after biking back from breakfast. I go past the guard, always smiling, past the yellow flowers tall in a massive vase: when I stop to sniff them, the other passerby stare. I suppose they are used to flowers. In general, I don't get used to things. (144)

Not getting used to things. This is the most elaborated definition of homo aestheticus!

It's Always Something Else (Walter Benjamin)

"It is an error to search Benjamin's work for stability in terminology. Nothing works devoid of context, performance. These are texts that must always be read anew, less for the referents they seem to preserve than for their Darstellung: here lives, works, theories, terms, are saved only like phenomena in ideas, only like stars in a constellation. Almost to the point, as Benjamin says of allegory, that all that is used to signify, 'the signifying props' in his writing, inevitably point 'to something else.' 'Any person, any thing, any relationship can mean absolutely anything else.'

Carol Jacobs, In the Language of Walter Benjamin, 7.

Postindustrial ruins

Here is what Cheryl Lester, a Faulkner specialist focusing on the Great Migration, has to say about the urban landscapes of her mind:

Like the sculptor Mark di Suvero, I developed a libidinal attraction to the corroded, crumbling, and demolished steel, brick, asphalt, and concrete I grew up with in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Buffalo. For these ruins are monuments to the disorientingly rapid shifts in the constitution of place characteristic of American industrial and postindustrial culture. (Philip Weinstein, ed., The Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner, 126)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

His trilingual education (George Steiner)

This is what George Steiner writes about his early linguistic education:

A minha educaçao foi completamente trilingue, num contexto sempre poliglota. A minha radiosa mamã costumava começar uma frase numa língua e acabá-la noutra. (Errata: Revisões de uma vida, 22)

His Jewish family was from Vienna, his father had a deep sympathy with Disraeli, and they chose to live in Paris. Hence, German, English, and French.

But what is more interesting is his vision of literary scholarship (or simply reading and writing) as a sort of "secular Talmud." Under a heavy influence from his father, the boy seems to have taken it for granted that to read is to memorize is to comment upon, and to read a text is also to read its commentaries by his predecessors.

Eu devia aprender a ler, interiorizar a palavra e o comentário, na esperança, conquanto fortuita, de que um dia pudesse acrescentar a esse comentário, à sobrevivência do texto, mais uma nesga de luz. (23)

An European child destined to be a critic!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hegel vs. Dostoevski

The more totalizing the theory, the greater the resentment that will be mobilized against it. This was the fate of the original 'end of history.' Hegel's dialectic, although conversant with slaves as well as masters, had no answer to resentment. The nihilistic passion of the Dostoevskian underground man shattered the crystal palace of Hegelian rationality. (Eric Gans)

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (Wes Anderson, 2004)

A delightful comedy, partly inspired by the life of Jacques-Yves Cousteau (or is it?), with a funny scientist-adventurer and his crew. Seu Jorge sings David Bowie's songs in Brazilian Portuguese through out, and this gives the film an ineffable Carioca quality. It's not particularly a great comedy, but is very enjoyable.

Bill Murray here portraits a father with dubious paternity; isn't Jarmush's new film, in which Bill Murray is the antagonist, also about such a theme? Strange resonance. Or is it a common fantasy of men in their mid-fifties?

Friday, December 09, 2005

This Unbearable Slowness

A great quote from Rosario Ferre in Steven Kellman's The Translingual Imagination:

"English makes me slow down. I have to think over what I'm going to say twice, maybe three times--which is often healthy because I can't put my foot, or rather my pen, in my mouth so easily. I can't be trigger-happy in English because words take too much effort."

I don't even have a trigger here. Darn it!

The World Island

Have you ever thought of Eurasia/Africa as one big island?

"In DEMOCRATIC IDEALS Mackinder defines the 'World-Island' as 'the joint continent of Europe, Asia, and Africa.'


Howard on Sontag

Here is what Richard Howard had to say about Susan Sontag:

"And ever since THE BENEFACTOR, even her means of fictive characterization has been THIS means, epigram or aphorism; concision is her antidote to what Hegel calls THE PROSE OF THE WORLD, her saving grace in a medium that is damned for its mendacity."

Hence Sontag's preference for Barthes, Canetti, Ciora, Pavese, Artaud, and even John Cage...

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (Ian Mune, 1999)

Until told by a friend I didn't know there was a sequal to Once Were Warriors (1994). Then yesterday I found at a local store this at a very "bon marche" price of $9.99! I bought it, I watched it, and I was moved.

Jake's selfish machismo completely shattered at the end of Once Were Warriors, after five years he hasn't changed much. But there are moments he begins to show changes. He is supported by other, more round-minded guys. Pig huntung in the mountain becomes a sort of initiation. Then at the end, he is rescued by a mysterious gang denier within the band of the gang. For the sake of fatherhood that is depicted ultimately in a very positive image.

What I like best about this is its ending. Abrupt, but well calculated. Very understating. Logically speaking, no future is bright for them, still we are left with an impression of hope. Anybody who liked OWW should watch this as well.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Birdy (Alan Parker, 1984)

War traumatizes. But even before any war begins, an individual's combat with the societal has been going on. Birdy relives his past in his own bird-like silence. Al talks Birdy out of his private silence in the way that only an adolescence buddy can. All the little episodes (especially those involving animals) revisited point at a way to recovery. With its sense of helplessness, this is a great work of art. Alan Parker's deeply compassionate creative power at its best. VIVA ALAN PARKER!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Santo, 1989)

This is a great study about fear--the fear of having to do routine things and the unpredictability pertaining to the daily life. Drug addicts want assurance from the promised land of the predictable, and the chemial never fails. Their use of drugs is a flight from contingency, hazard, of life. It's thoroughly an anti-adventure.

William Burroughs here is superbly crazy and very true to his own life.

The song that goes "Poor me, Israelite" has an enigmatic charm in it. (It's by Desmond Dekker and the Aces, the band of which I know absolutely nothing.)

I was imagining the director Gus Van Santo was Dutch, or something. But no, actually he is from Kentucky, of all places. (Then Burroughs is from Lawrence, Kansas.)

"Pressures of everyday life like having to tie their shoes," says Bob (Matt Dillon). The sentence epitomizes his state of mind.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Boyz n the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)

One can't help but associating this with such films as Colors, another LA movie, or the Brazilian Cidade de Deus. Of the three this is the most 'humanist,' with an explicit message at the end: increase the peace.

'Either they don't know or don't show or don't care about what's going on in the hood.' True, and the US still suffers, dies, and kills (home or abroad) as a negative legacy of the slavery.

Another 'must see' work regarding racially mosaiced US cities.

Higher Learning (John Singleton, 1995)

Another powerful piece by John Singleton on an absurd racial war on a fictive campus named after the first European invader of the Americas: Columbus. Tensions accummulate and the development of the story line is rather predictible, yet it's rivetting and it involves the audience straightforwardly into the agenda of the film: UNLEARN AMERICA. This is the kind of film that's a must-see on any contemporary campus, regardless of its location. An admirable work.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)

Full of flavours of the period 1970; but I can't believe it was a commercial success when first released in that year. The whole film is a series of stage plays that pretend to be popular existentialist yet overly so. The theme of dropping out of a prodigal son from a highbrow middle-class milieu could have been attractive to a certain group of people of a certain period, but looking back this moral side seems tepid. Of course Jack Nicholson is 100 percent Jack Nicholson; he can't be anybody else. The great merit of the film is its road movie aspect that unfortunately is not fully pursued. Two women hitchhikers are interesting, the lansdscapes of northern California (near Arcata?) into the Oregon dunes area are quite nice (could have been better, though). To me this could be made over into a much better version now. It may worth trying. And still I don't know what "five easy pieces" mean. Does he play the piano five times in the film? No, I think he played only three times, but I may be wrong.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Barton Fink (The Coen Brothers, 1991)

What a nightmare. Despite its facade, we need not think it's got something profound. The sequences follow the logic of the dream--inconsequential. No hidden meanings,etc. We simply don't know what happened and we will never know. Enjoyable throughout, but not to the degree of later masterpieces such as The Big Lebowski or The Hudsucker Proxy, nor the earlier joyous Raising Arizona.

Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach, 2002)

My main interest in this film was its heavy Scottish accent. I couldn't have understood it without subtitles. The story is too sad to recapitulate. What is this class thing and addiction that are going on? Everything's so futile. Only in the UK could a story be so hopeless. Ken Loach's films are to be discussed in detail in the future. For now, we remain depressed.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Big Lebowski (The Coen Brothers, 1998)

How can they make a film so funny and delightful? This makes you want to go bowling immediately! And I specify, 10 pin bowling. If not, the game doesn't mean the same thing here in NZ...

Hudsucker Proxy (The Coen Brothers, 1994)

This film really blew my mind. It's an unutterable masterpiece! The final 15 minutes or so is sheer Coen magic. A totally different time running, mythical, comic, and sublime. Tim Robbins is very funny and so is Jennifer Jason Leigh. Wow. Just keep watching it over and over again!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

About guardian angels

'A guardian angel comes when you are very young, and gives you special dispensation.'
'From what?'
'From the world. Yours might be luck; mine is money. Most people have a guardian angel; that's why they move slowly.'

(Jane Bowles, Two Serious Ladies, 10)

Billy Madison (Tamra Davis, 1995)

It's a good film to peek into the classroom atmosphere of a typical American grade school. Funny thing about Adam Sandler is that he's not terribly funny at any given point in time, yet he manages to give an impression of being funny. The lead role girl, Bridgette Wilson, is very seductive. The story is hilariously empty and the cinematography has nothing stunning. Yet I didn't think I wasted my time on it. It was rather fun, actually.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Commitments (Alan Parker, 1991)

This is such a lovable film that you wish it went on forever. But it comes to an end with the band members fighting one with the other, leaving us with a thick flavour of working-class Dublin. Their nice language has a "fuck" in each sentence. A habit I'll take up from now on, I fucking swear! It's so fucking shocking to my fucked ear, but I fucking get used to it. That little bit about the irish being blacks is so convincing. A lovely film that I can live with for the rest of my life. It's time to strike up a band!

The film makes me realize the NZ accent is heavily influenced by the Irish accent. I'mstill trying to get used to it!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Poetic Justice (John Singleton, 1993)

It's the real thing, as far as I can imagine. Her mother committing suicide, her first boyfriend shot to death literally in her arms, this Justice girl survives, all alone. Think about how much trauma she's been suffering. And she writes poems to survive. Janet Jackson can use some dieting, I agree, but the story is beautiful. Tupac is good, too, RIP. I particularly like the story's very understated ending. I mean, the director must have had to fight the temptation of making the story glorious and rampant. He resisted it to the end and opted for the ordinary. The cinematography is superb, especially at the coast. California. The farthest western coast of Africa!

The Constant Gardener (Fernando Meirelles, 2005)

I haven't read any books by John Le Carre. This film is based upon one of his books. One basic premise of a suspense story is its credibility, probability, plausibility. It should be "likely to happen somewhere." It exploits its resemblance to what we perceive as reality. This film treats such possible parallelism very well. It calls the audience attention to Africa and what is (supposedly) being done there by multinational corporations. It's as ugly as reality, our reality, is (supposed to be). The beauty of Kenya is astounding. It's captured through the director's Brazilian eyes. Which makes it all the more interesting. A great film, but I had difficulty following the story line. It leaves you dizzy, too, because of the camera's unstable point of view. Still, you'll enjoy it. Then, we are invited to come back to the real reality of Africa and Euro-American capitalism's continuing exploitation of the continent. A sad, sad story.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Intolerable Cruelty (Joel Coen, 2003)

With a bunch of people involved, the flavour of the Coen brothers is never lost. The final reversal of fortune after the pen-ultimate reversal of fortune after ... well, I get confused. Purely brilliant. Clooney and Zeta-Jones are both impeccable and one can't imagine anybody else in their roles after watching this. Isn't that the surest sign that the casting was just right?

The Ladykillers (Joel Coen, 2004)

Another delightful crime story from the Coen brothers. It's like a cross between O, Brother and Fargo. People get killed, but this time only bad (and funny) guys. Money gets stolen, but to no one's damage. And the old black lady in the end prevails. To hear her deep south accent offers solace to my ears. Two thumbs up and more!

Pride & Prejudice (Joe Wright, 2005)

A great study of the time, social structure, and mores. The main concern of a middle-class mother was how much each single man is earning per year and in which order he chooses the dancing partner at a ball. An utterly tribal and very bizarre custom that dominated the world middle-class in the following century. We are fortunate it came to an end!

Think about the time when the only career chance for girls was marriage. This class thing, which is only another name for the measure by wealth, is crude and disgusting. Everybody in the world should watch this... and the flip side of this class structure is colonialism.

But Jane Austin's genius remains.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Clueless (Amy Heckering, 1995)

What a surprising gem. It teaches you all you need to know about the Hollywood area teen brat jargon in the 1990s. They say it's based on Emma, by Jane Austen, but it's not all that pshychological. It's a comedy of moral and a study of the ethos. And I liked it very much.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jennie Trescars

I had a strange dream. Yesterday, a friend of mine told me that he had had a nightmare around 3 am and couldn't go back to sleep after. Maybe it had affected me.

In my dream a girl named Jennie Trescars appears. But no, only as a name. The story is essentially that an unkown guy tells me that there's a girl named Jennie Trescars without further explanation. I begin deciphering her name.

At first I think her name could mean "very scarce" or "very scary," taking the "tres" for the French word. Then I shift into the Spanish mode and think it could mean "three scars."

After this interpretation I conclude, without knowing anything further about the girl, that she must be a very scary person with scars. I don't know where the name "Jennie" comes from. But at the end I thought: so, this must be my nightmare for the day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Edward Scissorhands (Tim Burton, 1990)

After Beetlejuice I think I was prejudiced against Tim Burton. But this is a gem. The people in the suburbia are so well performed and plausible, starting from the Avon lady mother, Peg. The film has moments of laughter and suspension in equal doses and very well develops its story. A fantasy, whose culmination is Winona Ryder's Kim dancing under the scissors-made snow. It's seducingly beautiful.

There's Something About Mary (The Farrelly Brothers, 1998)

A delightfully stupid film about obsessions. What's fascinating is Mary's biographical displacements: Minnesota, Rhode Island, Princeton, Miami. It's so, what can I cay, American. Cameron Diaz is lovely, but not a moment to betray her Cuban background by speaking Spanish in Miami. The border terrier was horrendous!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, 2005)

It's a good film, for sure, but a little too good. Story of a daughter looking for her lost father, and a father rejected by his own daughter. They team up to pursue the world championship. The woman's childhood memory of her father and his german shepard is an obvious clue to her later fate. The boxing trainer reads Yates, and the Irish nationalism (beyond national boundaries) is moving, but it's not surprising. The man's dilemma is understandable but it relates very weakly to his religious questioning. The film never goes out of the horizon of expectation. A well-made film that never doubts itself and thus an essentially conservative piece. Nothing comparable to the Coen brothers!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The World's Fastest Indian (Roger Donaldson, 2005)

This is a film that shows the quintessential kiwi spirit. DIY, be outrageously megalomaniac, have no fear... All culminating in a moment of fulfillment beyond imagination in the beautiful salt desert of Utah. It's about a guy who began his travel in Invercargill and went through all intercultural comedies on the American continent. And the man is portrayed by the formidable Anthony Hopkins, who has learned his kiwi accent very well. A superb film from down under. I mean, HERE!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Babe (Chris Noonan, 1995)

This film created its own genre: a sheepdog-pig movie. As such, it's incomparably good! The taste is English (of my imaginary England) and it shows you how cute and smart-looking a pig can be. The question remains: after watching this, will you refrain from eating pork?

This is a problem I've been avoing for years since my childhood...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Raising Arizona (The Coen brothers, 1987)

What a brilliant piece! This counts easily as one of my all-time favouritse. It was released in 1987 and come to think of it I remember seeing its poster at the University Cinema near the U of Hawaii, Manoa, where I was then a graduate student in anthropology. Somehow I missed this one! Thanks god I could finally catch up!

Well, and that's probably for the better that I see it now. 1987 was my pre-Arizona days and I wouldn't have appreciated its landscape and such as I do in my post-Arizona days! A lovely, lovely film to be watched over and over again. Nicolas Cage is super. Holly Hunters got a great accent.

It's hilarious through and through.

Stromboli: Terra di dio (Roberto Rossellini, 1949)

It's so mythical. What's so mythical? The presence of the active volcano and the lights of the sea. And the most beautiful woman who's ever trodden on the white wilderness of the screen: Ingrid Bergman. She's just gorgeous.

The story is simplissima and not very impressive. No earlier points are pursued in depth. The character of the heroine is very shallow. Her past is only allusioned, and her stupidity (trying to survive only by manipulating men) remains on a lukewarm level.

What's so astounding is the scenes of tuna fishing and the irruption of the volcano. It's like watching an ethnographic film executed with finesse. Those gigantic tunas! Three times wow.

The main interest of the film, all in all, is Bergman's nordic beauty contarasted with the island's almost helenic, barren landscape. Rossellini himself didn't see any further, it seems. This is a Bergman picture show.

And on this island also there are many "Americanos," those who have been to the US, made money in New York and other cities, then came back to retire and wait for their passing. Seen from this perspective, this is also an immigration film. And no blond is ever integrated.

I enjoyed the film.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Stuart Little (Rob Minkoff, 1999)

Wacthed this with my children. We enjoyed it all right, but nothing exciting. What surprised me was that there was no hint of Night Shyamalan (he co-wrote the screenplay). Something could and should have happened!

Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)

This must be about the fourth time I saw this film through. It still gives me some feeling of, what, release from, what, some kind of stagnancy. The subject is not at all my genre, heavy hopeless down and out drugging and the fear of a very lunatic mate by the name of Begbie. Pettiness abound. Full of shit (no metaphor). And yet, and yet, it has its own serenity. I enjoy the Scottish accent (or is it?). The bit of speech about Scotland being colonized by the worst nation, England namely, is an impressive introductory material to be used in a university course on postcolonialism. It will remain watchable for some more time.

Monday, November 07, 2005

An ultimate irony

I saw a boy, 9 or 10, walking his little terrier. The dog was distracted by something on the road, sniffing. It wouldn't follow the boy. Then the boy said, pulling the lead: "Come on, man!"

As if.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Joel Coen, 2000)

Geez. There is no end to my stupidity and one of the biggest blunders of my life is that I have been overlooking this INCREDIBLE masterpiece! It's a sheer joy to watch this illusory south of the 1930s with thick Southern Drawl brimming and floating in down-to-earth melodies. If this was Mississippi, that would make it the most attractive state of the Mainland US. The music is great. Full of fun. You've got to watch it tonight. The under-the-water scene near ending is stunning.

I don't know how much of the depiction of KKK is true to the fact, but it was very interesting. Faulknerians of the world, unite and let's watch this film!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986)

I watched this masterpiece when it was released in '87 (I think) in Tokyo and then on a flight from Tokyo to Honolulu. It was pretty good then and after 17 or so years it still looks great. I watched it this time with my 15 year old son for whom already the age 12 is history, the object to nostalgically look back on. He loved it, too.

All the interactions among four boys (plus their elder-brother brats) are really hilarious and give good material to learn Americanism. The confrontation between River Phoenix and Kiefer Sutherland is good to watch and makes us all the more sorry for River Phoenix's premature death.

Of the four kids I always liked bespectacled "Teddy Duchamps" the best. My son is of the same opinion. "He's a bit like me," he says. Talk about heredity.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


It's Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) and fireworks are everywhere. Without any reason whatsoever to celebrate (neither pro nor con) the death of Guy, we nontheless did some firing into the rainy air. Not so impressive as what we do in Japan in summer.

My son told me about the phoenix in Harry Potter being named Fawkes after Guy and we discussed the author Rawling's attitude toward the conflicts between Catholicism and the Anglican church. This is the field of which I have no material at hand to discuss, sorry.

I only thought of the possibility that "Guy" in the early 17th century England could have been pronounced in the French way, like Maupassant. I'm not sure. It would make a Tough Guy a Tough Ghee.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Freaky Friday (Gary Nelson, 1976)

My friend Han-up said his daughters liked this film so much. I picked it up at local Warehouse and we watched it this evening. Well, it's reasonably good. The plot is around a super-natural quiproquo, or body exchange. The daughter is Jody Foster and considering this was released in 1976, hey this is the reverse side of her stunning Taxi Driver appearance.

But this film is all Disney and almost over-disneying that Volkswargen flic with what's his name, Herbie, no. 53! Unnecessary car chases and absurd destruction. Baseball is good to see from this hemisphere, and the middle-class mother smokes! This fact alone can tell us we are back in the 70s and the kids at school are exactly dressed that way.

So I liked it all right. Then I found out the one my friend mentioned was the 2003 Freaky Friday! The two are based on the same story but different screenplays. (The 1976 version was written byt the original author of the novel.) Well, it gives us a nice occasion for a comparative study of retelling!

Spanglish (James Brooks, 2004)

A charming film that is at the same time deeply disgusting, too. It must be hard to make such a contradictory and ultimately enjoyable film. What is charming is the presence of "matria" Mexico and Spanish (although the beautiful heroine is performed by a Spanish-born actress). The daughter-interpreter is hilarious! The husband of the employer family is very deftly done by Adam Sandler. But the most impressive of them all is the family's warm-hearted, chubby daughter. She is so good.

On the other hand, the film makes the Mexican experience in the US abominously stereotypical and the economic devide to be a matter taken for granted. Well, it's all about American dream, I guess. And how illusory it is.

It depicts a conflict between pure love / physicality that is so conforming to the illusory Anglo/Latino divide. I say illusory, but I may at any moment fall dupe to it. The mother-daughter relationship, the concealed machismo and Adam Sandler's well chosen "femininity" are both so schematic, but you might at some moments want to believe in them.

This makes the film a "romance," in the 90 minute-long airport-purchased gaudy covered paperback reading sense. Take it or leave it. But you can enjoy an evening if you decide to take it. Guaranteed.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fargo (Joel Coen, 1996)

My, my, what a story. Finally I saw this and its craziness was so arresting that 90 minutes passed in a zip. Minnesota is okay, but ah, North Dakota. It's chilling. And I thought I knew it!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Daddy Day Care (Steve Carr, 2003)

I love Eddie Murphy. I wish I could talk like him. In this family-oriented film again he is a full-throttle Eddie Murphy who tickles you to near-death of happiness. Children love it, too. We enjoyed a great after-dinner viewing. Angelica Huston plays a very serio-comical role that becomes her like none. This made me feel like watching Beverly Hills Cops all-over again. And maybe Dr. Dolittles, too!

Snow Falling on Cedars (Scott Hicks, 1999)

A great, ambitious film that takes as its frame the experience of the Japanese-Americans' internment during WW II. The whole story is set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, the region I deeply love, and superbly captured on the screen by careful locationing (seems like they went across the border into BC, too).

Actors are all fabulous. Yuki Kudoh is great, and so is super-charming Anne Suzuki (my son is crazy about her) who played her childhood years. Max von Sydow as the old lawyer is incredibly good, and Sam Shepard's appearance is a nice surprise. A gorgeous film by any standard. This makes me want to read the book which I have bought way back in Seattle without really looking into it. What a shame.

I've got to watch Scott Hicks's former work Shine, too.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)

Astonished. Look at the water, the leaves, and how the light is reflected on them. Computer animation has reached its maturity. I remember watching a series of short digital animation films at a festival at Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1988. Then we were all stunned to see then state-of-art works. And that was pre-history.

This is a monumental work. Mrs Incredible has an incrediblly charming voice, by the way. Holly Hunter is the one to give her the voice. A great family entertainment.

Says Miles

"I don't like a person that's comfortable where they are."

Miles Davis, talking to Quincy Troupe (in Miles & Me, p.33)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Firestarter (Mark Lester, 1984)

Again rewatched this grasping film after 21 years... I don't believe in any of the ESPs, but this story of pyrokinetics is beyond belief. It's arresting by the sheer power of fiery consumption. One problem is that with the strong characterization of Charlie in this film, I cannot ever see Drew Barrymore in any adult role without seeing the little pouting girl's "Back off! Back off!" Aside from those filmic retellings, Stephen King is one author to be seriously studied. Not only brilliant, he touches some layer of the universal.

The Indian Runner (Sean Penn, 1991)

Sean Penn's first feature-length work as a director, and it's a masterpiece. The story is crude and nothing convincing, but the cinematography, actors, architectonics, all point to the superb height he's aiming at. Quite moving. The story is supposed to take place somewhere in Nebraska. Cass County, it's called, and it's a coincidence that I was so agitated by the mountain town of Cass, South Island, Aotearoa-New Zealand, earlier this year.

The music is great. One remarkable thing is the appearance of Dennis Hopper as an incarnation of evil. Sean Penn, to me, is like a non-biological son to DH. The killing in the film was also a ritual patricide. And the film's over-all tone has something to do with DH's Out of the Blue.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bicentennial Man (Chris Columbus, 1999)

A curiously charming film mostly due to Robin Williams's always funny way of rendering his lines. The story itself doesn't have much appeal to me; a little forced, like all classic sci-fis. One single most memorable thing on the screen is the magnificent beach. It may be in northern California, but it looks more like Oregon to me.

Dogfight (Nancy Savoca, 1991)

A very good film to remember San Francisco in the 1960s by. "Dogfight" is a game played by marines on the loose, in which they bet on who gets the ugliest date to take her to the hard-drinking party. The next morning, they leave for the other end of the Pacific, then on to Vietnam. River Phoenix shows a remarkable performance with Lili Taylor, the "ugly", but equally a splendid actor. They end up making love before parting. The boy is sent to Vietnam, JFK gets killed, the guys remain in the combat zone for three more years, his friends get killed and then he comes home to SF, nowhere to go, but to Rose's cafe.

The ending is so understated it makes you cry. The whole film is accompanied by beautiful folksongs of the 60s. It shows the flip side of self-righteous counter-culture flower children. The wasted youth of little imagination, who were sent to fight, killed and injured, and with nowhere back home to call home. All in all a very accomplished film.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

On Miles (Quincy Troupe)

Here is a paragraph from Quincy Troupe's Miles and Me (U of Cal Press, 2000), p.2.

"Sometimes when he used the mute, whether on up-tempo tunes or slow ones, we knew we were hearing perfection. When he played muted ballads, it was as if he were tenderly kissing our feelings--then he would stun us with bright, rapid-fire bursts of notes that penetrated our souls. Miles not only soliloquized, he also had a "dialoging" style. It was like listening to him having a conversation with himself, with one of his voices imitating a fast-talking, sweet-rapping black street hustler."

A great style here. After finding this book, to my joy, priced at a bargain $10 at the Uni bookstore, I learned of Troupe's incident of resigning UCSD and California's first poet laureate in 2002. It was the immediate consequence of his falsification of CV; he actually didn't have a BA from a Louisiana college. But who cares, it only endorses the incommensurability of poets and educational institutions! He's got style, he can write. He knows music, and has passion to write thrillingly about it.

Professor or not, official poet or not, it's only writing that matters.

Magical Thinking

Here is a quote from Patricia A. Turner's book I Heard it through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture (U. of California Press, 1993, p.61. It's about some pranks done by the KKK to frighten blacks.

"For example, mounted Klansmen would remove false heads attached to the top of their robes and hand them to terrified blacks to hold. Another prank involved the Klansmen hiding oilskin bags beneath their robes and then, pretending to have an insatiable thirst, asking frightened blacks to bring them prodigious quantities of water, which immediately disappeared--right into the bags by means of a concealed tube. Such ostensibly harmless pranks were meant to serve notice to blacks that these mysteriously clad horsemen had supernatural powers."

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Raisin in the Sun (Daniel Petrie, 1961)

Watched for the first time the well-known African-American coming-into-consciousness play in its filmic version that made Sidney Poitier world-famous. The screenplay is also written by the original author Lorraine Hansberry. It's so theatre-like, but well-made and quite moving. Given the historical backdrop of the early 1960s, it's all the more interesting. A must see.

Now I am trying to build up a list of 15 or so African American films for a future teaching project. Have to watch them all anew, including the ones I have already in mind (such as Mississippi Masala). Any suggestions welcome.

Shakespeare Regional Park

Went this afternoon to the beach in Shakespeare Regional Park today. It's located 47 kilometers northeast of where we live. An easy drive in the sunshine. Local children were taking a dip--seemingly the first for them this spring. Downtown Auckland looked afar, and so did Rangitoto island, beautifully. Tranquility all the more intense because of the sound of the in-coming waves. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Round Midnight (Bertrand Tavernier, 1986)

This is a film I saw when it was first released in 1986, il y a déjà 19 ans. I liked it then, and I like it even better now. A moving masterpiece with Dexter Gordon's portrayal of a fictive New York jazz musician in Paris. Fictive, but it's a composite of real musician-expatriates. The sense of jazz that permiates the film is nothing but REAL. Lovely, lovable, loving. This will remain one of my all-time favourites.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wasabi (Gerard Krawczyk, 2001)

Finally I saw this action-packed movie which in fact is nothing more than a BD vivant, but enjoyable enough, thanks to Jean Reno. The story is excruciatingly cheap but who cares? The tempo is well measured and the inexistent Japan may look intriguing to the ever-orientalist viewers. The young Japanese actress Ryoko Hirosue, acting her own biological age, is super-charmante. And she learned her French well. It's fun on a rainy day.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

An Invisible Sign of My Own (Aimee Bender)

I am now at the last stage of translating Aimee Bender's first and so far only novel An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000). It took me more time than I expected but is deeply rewarding and satisfactory. I will skip explaining to you its storyline. But a paragraph like this near the end will give you the feel. It's so simple, understated, beautiful, and heartbreaking:

I don't want raisin ice cream to go out of business, she added, looking a little annoyed at me. I gave her another two dollars and told her to go back and get what she really wanted. She came back in a few minutes with a blob of chocolate fudge for herself. She still gripped the raisin in her left hand. The chocolate disappeared in a few minutes and the raisin drooled a line of dark purple down her wrist. (234)

Remember, along the stylistic axis of ordinary/extraordinary in the novel, this paragraph is situated definietly at the most ordinary. You'll be surprised by Aimee's almost violent style. But I wouldn't have loved her writing so much if it was not for such a calm, sad, soothing, ordinary occasional paragraphs such as this one.

Aimee Bender. A major American writer of whom I'm so pround to be a translator!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Unbreakable (Night Shyamalan, 2000)

In every film he shoots Shyamalan proves himself to be a master by his ambition, stylistics, and by spending enough time on each sequence. This film is no exception. Based on an all too easy comic-book manicheism of good/evil, he sustains the viewers' interest by his sense for texture. The story is unlikely, for sure, but comes out very plausible. Again Shyamalan himself makes his appearance--this time as a drug dealer at the stadium. My son pointed out Shyamalan's predilection for the raincoat. Quite true, it seems.

Bruce Almighty (Tom Shadyac, 2003)

When I turned the TV on last night a film was about to begin and I ended up watching it all through. It was Bruce Almighty. Not knowing much about the film I thought it was going to stink, but it was not, thanks to Jim Carrey's serious gag-making. He was hilarious and we enjoyed it.

A comedian needs to have kinesic articulation and motor-sensorial rapidity; this we see, for example, in the great Lucille Ball and Steve Martin. Jim Carrey is not doing bad at all. I haven't seen The Truman Show. I'll watch it soon. Not sure if I'd like The Mask, though. (It's funny how we hear and know about films without actually watching them. Prejudices, prejudices.)

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I watched "Nirvana: Nevermind", which is a title from Eagle Rock Entertainment's classic albums series. It's a "making of" kind of documentary DVD but is deeply moving with the producer explaining to us how they recorded the album and commetaries from two other surviving members of Nirvana who now appear as witnesses to the history they made. Highly recommendable. It convinced me that Kurt Cobain was one of the greatest rock singers of all time and a lyric writer at least as good as Jim Morrison.

It's funny because in 1991 I was strolling my son, then barely one-year old, in the shopping mall at Northgate, Seattle, when I saw "Nevermind" just released and getting attention. I didn't even bother to listen to it. (I didn't like the jacket photograph with the baby swimming after a dollar bill.) It took me all of the fourteen years and the growth of my son into his mid-teens to discover the miraculous quality of their music. My life has been full of detours, but this I am sure is one of the worst cases of my endless meandering!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Noi the Albino (Dagur Kari, 2003)

This film has a most unexpected deus-ex-machina--an avalanche. One of the most helpless endings I've watched in my entire life. The story takes place in a remote town in the north of Iceland. The sense of desolation is simply overwhelming. The mountain from the beginning looms ominous. Seventeen year old Noi live within a very small network of people. He is loved, but he is lost. No wonder. There is not much future imaginable in this town.

He rejects school, he rejects work. A desire for evasion is secretly burning but without consequences. When he finally tries to do something, he fails. And on that night, his entire "community" is destroyed. He is left with a toy viewer through which he dreams of Hawai'i. The end.

Oh, but Iceland. How can I not be intrigued by the country. I'll be there one day. One day, si dios quiere!

One thing of special interest. The rainbow hangs very LOW in Iceland.

Autumn or Spring?

I am having such difficulty convincing myself that this is spring when it's October. When the weather is brilliant and ladybirds flying it's easy, sure, but when it's raining like this, on and off, day in day out, with occasional torrential downpours? I am hopeless.

Saturday we had a thunderstorm bringing some serious hail batting the ground and our roof. It was fun, though. But after a while you think: give us sunshine already, this is supposed to be spring!

But one should not complain against the will of "the way of the sun." Oh, an eternal optimist I am. Listen to the rain falling like Jose Feliciano does. It's lovely beyond hemispheric prejudices!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Kurt Cobain

Watched a documentary on Kurt Cobain's life: The Early Life of a Legend (2004). Lamentably, the film couldn't use any of Nirvana songs. But it's very worth watching for anybody with even a tangent interest in the US Pacific northwest.

Cobain was a child of Aberdeen, Washington, and of nowhere else. The film so convincingly tells us this. A town in desolation, a town without so much as an H of hope. Yes, I've been there, back in the early 1990s, and I was curiously attracted by its atmosphere.

Particularly interesting in this documentary are interviews with Kurt's boyhood friends. There is a striking contrast between his grade school friends and his highschool friends! And extensive sequences where Charles Cross (Cobain's biographer) talks are riveting. This guy exudes intelligence. Rock historian as a first-rate intelectual.

Having lived in Seattle between 1990 and 1993, in the golden days of Nirvana, I was stupid enough to miss all their gigs. What kind of fool I was. Now I don't want to repeat this stupidity ever again in my remaining life!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rashomon (1950)

This morning I talked on how Rashomon (Kurosawa's filmic version) retold creatively Akutagawa's original short story "In a Grove." For this I watched Rashomon twice and still didn't like its overacting mise-en-scene, but its cinematographic splendor is undeniable, thanks to Kazuo Miyagawa, the cinematographer. It's amazing to notice how much light is distributed on each face to show or conceil the character's state of mind. Kurosawa's characters have their inner selves, and I don't know if it's good or not. But when taken as a principle, there is no arguing against the director's decision. It's a masterpiece, of a kind. Do I love the film? No, but for some flickering moments.

The setting is taken from Akutagawa's "Rashomon," and the plot from his "In a Grove." But it seems to me there is a third source that results in Kurosawa's heavy psychologizing: another Akutagawa short story, Kesa to Morito.

Of course all the construction by dramatic monologues comes from Robert Browning's The Ring and the Book, which according to some people is a masterpiece of English literature comparable only to Chaucer and Milton. I wish I could read it one of these days.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Music according to Yuji Takahashi

Music is very near to the body, but you can't tie it up. (Oto no seijaku, seijaku no oto, Heibonsha, 2004, p.144)

La musique réside tout près du corps, mais on ne peut pas l'attacher.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Nirvana, possibly

This morning (September 9, Japan time) at six thirty my father passed away. He had been bed-ridden for seven years and it was no surprise. Yet it came as a surprise. He was 85.

Having been born in the southern island of Kyushu, especially with his native village named "Big Wave," he could have loved the sea. He did love the sea, I beileve, but not to the extent to jump in and take a dip whenever he had a chance to do so. When we went to Waikiki together exactly twenty years ago, he didn't even change into his swimming shorts. But he enjoyed watching the waves.

During those seven years, he could not respond to others. He was awake, he was asleep, but no, there was no sign that he recognized us around. Even his grandchildren, who were all his purest joy. Or he simply didn't have the command of facial and verbal expressions. My mother took care of him almost single-handedly during all these years. She is now 78.

Yet I like to imagine my father, in his involuntary half-sleep, dreaming of his boyhood days on the warm western coast of Southern Kyushu. One goes out a hundred meters off the beach and "faire la planche," as Albert Camus once wrote. All you see is the blue of the sky. All you hear is the wave and your own heartbeat. You are alone. You become one with the elements.

What else could there be, if such wasn't our practical, cheap, absolutely happy nirvana?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

From Akutagawa to Kurosawa?

My friend Mike Hanne asked me to give a talk on the topic of "retelling a story." It's a very comparatist topic that no comparatist can avoid tackling from time to time. With available resources so limited, I have decided to follow Mike's suggestion to discuss Kurosawa's film Rashomon. This is just a very rough draft.

Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) is even today one of the most famous Japanese films ever made. It is well known that the film is a cinematic adaptation of a short story called “In the Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Kurosawa’s film is a retelling in other medium of Akutagawa’s story. But then, Akutagawa’s short story was already a retelling of at least two distinct and direct textual predecessors. One is a very short tale compiled in a vast twelfth-century Japanese collection of strange tales: Konjaku monogatari shu (Tales from Yesteryears). The other is a short story called The Moonlit Road by nineteen-century American short story writer Ambrose Bierce, of whom Akutagawa was a devout admirer. Akutagawa takes at least these two sources as a basis for his story in question, which of course has been thoroughly reworked and has every right to assert itself as an original, nodal story. Then Kurosawa takes Akutagawa’s as his starting point to create an ever fiercer version mainly by adding a fourth character to Akutagawa’s original triad of characters. What I will attempt to do is to compare the diegesis and narrative deployments of both Akutagawa’s scriptural and Kurosawa’s filmic tellings to better understand possible general problems of filmic adaptation and no less interesting extra-generic continuity of stories.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Arabia Deserta (C.M.Doughty)

One book I've been meaning to read is Arabia Deserta by Charles Montagu Doughty. T.E.Lawrence studied the book for ten years, and called it "a bible of its kind." The book of course is read for what it narrates, but also for its style. I am interested in conceptual writing, but at the same time if it was not for style I wouldn't bother to invest my limited time to any of those stacks of paper masquerading as books.

It's interesting to see Henry Green, the great stylist, talks so laudatorily of Doughty.

His style is mannered but he is too great a man to be hidden beneath it. It does not seem possible that future generations will be able to date one of his paragraphs, he seems so alone. His style is constant throughout, seems to be habitual, but, on analysis of this last, is found to vary with his subject. He is often obscure. He is always magnificent. (Surviving, Harville, 1992, p.96)

I can't recall if Chatwin somewhere talked about Arabia Deserta. But this is surely one book that's on the upper part of my must read list... waiting to be scrutinized for what it reveals on the level of lingustic arrangements and disjunctions.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Silliman's Blog

Poet Ron Silliman's blog is the most extensive one there is around.

I dream of writing up each day all the thoughts that crossed my mind during that day but it's a tall order. So I stick to my two cents each day. Flickering bits of thinking, snap shots of verbal landscapes, strangely recombined and arranged like a stone henge, surrounded by eye-less and ear-less moais...

The Butterfly Effect

The typhoon that caused flood in Tokyo yesterday is named Typhoon Nabi. Very aptly. Nabi means butterfly in Korean! Who named that anyway? And what a cosmic butterfly it is!

Let's Call the Sandman! (R.D.Laing)

I'm really fed up. I'm just tired of telling my children to go to bed every night, at 9:30 to my daughter and at 10:30 to my son. But if I don't tell them to quit whatever they are about and hit the sack they keep doing things, wide awake from their own inner caffein that their brains somehow manage to produce from scratch. They are probably fascinated by life.

I remembered having read a paragraph from R.D. Laing;

Sleeping and waking, eating, drinking, digesting, urinating, defecating and breathing are biological basics. These basics are deeply socially programmed. They are all subject to disturbance. A great deal of the disturbances doctors are asked to treat are socially conditioned disturbances of these socially conditioned, biological, organic functions. (Wisdom, Madness & Folly, 1985, p.25)

As a parent I am so violently representing the society to control their basic needs. And here, to control means to time; mostly by giving them time limits for such and such activities. How disgusting. How necessary. To shape them into admittedly "human."

Another quote from the same book:

She was nineteen, and a circus-horse rider. She and her horse fell. The horse rolled over her head and had to be destroyed. She was completely 'out' for several days. When she came round, she WAS a horse. She looked like a horse. She had horse's eyes. She neighed. She grazed on the grass outside the ward, naked, on all fours. After three or four weeks she turned into herself again, over the course of two or three days. I wanted DESPERATELY to UNDERSTAND this sort of thing. (p.87)

Well, well. I'd love to understand that sort of thing, too. When in fact did I become human? When did I quit that more comfortable life of mine as a dog?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Walking Backwards (Anne Carson)

My friend Yoden writes about the Canadian writer Anne Carson in his blog ( and quotes some wonderful short pieces called "short talks." I can't resist the temptation of copying one of them.

"Short Talk On Walking Backwards"
My mother forbad us to walk backwards. That is how the dead walk, she would say. Where did she get this idea? Perhaps from a bad translation. The dead, after all, do not walk backwards but they do walk behind us. They have no lungs and cannot call out but would love for us to turn around. They are victims of love, many of them.

Woof. Some strong stuff here. At least three instances fascinate me. Mother's prohibition quoting the custom of the dead, the narrator's reasoning by "bad translation," And the dead's having no lungs.

Anne Carson is a scholar of Ancient Greek (now a professor at the U of Michigan). No wonder she has such unusual association of things!

The Village (Night Shyamalan)

This evening my son began watching Night Shyamalan's THE VILLAGE (2004) and I kept him company. I was pleasantly surprised.

The film is a masterpiece! The plot is very mythical and the overall atmosphere rather folktalish, but rendered with subtlety and taste, a real craftsman's work. The reason why the people decided to isolate themselves is believable. It's impossible that the park rangers don't know about the existence of the village, but it doesn't put me off. The structure is so straightforward and convincing.

I am interested in Night Shyamalan's background. According to the biographical note, he was born in Pontdecherry, India, and raised in Philadelphia. Pontdecherry is one place I've been wanting to visit. This film offers a great material for a course in Anthropology for undergraduates!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Morningside for Life! (Bro' Town)

Watching a DVD together has become our family entertainment for the past week and what we watch, over and over again, is a local cartoon called BRO' TOWN. This is great. No other country has produced such a seriously hilarious and up-lifting immigrant / minority cartoon filled with contemporary issues. At first I thought it was something like Fat Albert's (Bill Cosby's) but it was not. It's much more in the vein of some Japanese classics such as Osomatsukun or Moretsu ataro (both of our great, incomparably great, Fujio Akastuka), tuned totally into the real-time real-life Auckland setting! You got to watch it to believe it!

And Wikipedia is great. They have an entry called Bro' Town and here is what it says (thank you whoever has written it!). Morningside for life! and Wikipedia for life, too!

(What follows is all quote)

Bro'Town is New Zealand's first adult-targeted animated series. It is set amongst New Zealand's growing Pacific Islander community.

Vale, Valea, Jeff da Maori, Sione and Mack live in the suburb of Morningside and attend the local college, St Sylvester’s, where their principal is a Fa’afafine and the PE teacher is legendary ex-All Black Michael Jones.

Vale and Valea (loosely translates to dumb and dumber) are two brothers, living in a single-parent household with their father Pepelo, a benefit bludging, occasional fork-lift driver with a love of beer, porn and gambling. Vale has a strong social conscience while Valea is more interested in girls, but both brothers believe in having a strong solidarity with their boys.

Sione is Vale and Valea’s best mate and fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man, while he constantly looks for ways to impress the girl of his dreams, sixth former Mila Jizovich.

Jeff da Maori lives with his mum and eight dads in a car shell outside the house. He was brought up in the country by his auntie but then moved to the city ‘for better tv reception and because the thieving colonialists stole our land’.

Rounding out the group is the softly spoken Mac who has definite gay tendencies and a knack for talking his way out of things but does stand behind his word eventually!

Produced by New Zealand company Firehorse Films and funded by New Zealand On Air, Bro'Town was made using three animation studios – two in New Zealand and one in India – and involved over 100 staff.

Each episode took up to six months to make and consists of 16,000 drawings, making it a huge undertaking for all involved.

This Blues Now Is Just Too Big (Andrei Codrescu)

For those of you who are concerned about the situation in New Orleans: read Andrei Codrescu's moving comment on .

This again is an instance of "écho-monde" (Glissant) that reflects the savage past of slavery (and so is Cidade de deus).

Kaze no tabibito (Travellers of the Wind)

For the Japanese magazine Kaze no Tabibito I have begun a seris of essays: the series title is Shasen no tabi (Transversal Voyages) and the first installment (which will appear later this month) is titled "Twilights in Fiji". I am still wondering about what to write for the next issue. Maybe on Tonga. But I am rather determined that I will pursue a thread that goes from one archipelago to another.

The island has been my favourite topos since childhood. I can't explain its fascination. Coziness that comes from smallness? But it can be suffocating, too. A temporary sojourner doens't know anything about the life on an island. Yet the constant presence of the sea and the wind, visually and audibly, is a sort of nirvana.

I am now re-reading Le Clézio's Voyage à Rodrigues (1986). On the island:

Le vent, la pluie, le soleil brûlant. L'île est semblable à un radeau perdu au milieu de l'océan, balayée par les intempéries, incendiée, lavée. L'érosion extrême de la mer a modelé ces roches jaillies des profondeurs, les a usées, polies, vieillies, et pourtant reste sur chacune d'elles la marque du feu qui les a créées. (35)

Extreme erosion by the sea. The phrase fits well with the blow holes on the southern coast of Tongatapu.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Toda a gente fica morrendo

Finally I saw Fernando Meirelles's CIDADE DE DEUS (City of God). Set in Rio's notorious favela, it's a story of incredible violence and touching sentimental education of a would-be photographer. It's based on a true story, it says, and this is plausible enough. The depiction is at times stunningly beautiful. The song that was used at the end of Walter Salles's Central do Brasil is again heard in the middle. I couldn't really tell which song was by Seu Jorge who is now performing in Japan (this weekend in Tokyo).

It's been 24 years since I spent a year in Brazil, in São Paulo. But already São Paulo is a world apart from Rio. And in Rio, there is a geographical combat going on... reflecting class, economy, ethos, and the degree of violence.

I am wordless about everything Brazilian...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


September already! Again this year I dind't have time to reread LIGHT IN AUGUST. There was Maori Expo at AUT downtown, but couldn't afford time to go. I'm working.

Le Clézio's VOYAGES DE L'AUTRE COTÉ finishes in a strong image of our ultimate voyage--that of Death. May be this is inevitable. Near the end there is this admirable paragraph which I quote in its entirety:

La vie existait toujours, mais c'était une autre vie. Ce n'était plus le sursaut des cœurs, les trépidations des pattes, les frémissements des antennes. Ce n'était plus la chaleur fermée sur elle-même, dans l'enveloppe de la peau. C'était au-dehors, toujours au-dehors, comme si toutes les portes et fenêtres avaient été ouvertes. C'était vaste et aérien, filant à travers les dédales des roches, ou bien plongeant la terre comme les coups de la chaleur. Cela ne respirait pas, ou bien c'était un souffle qui parcourait des milliers de kilomètres, en poussant les dunes grises. Cela ne voyait pas, ou alors c'était un regard d'astre, unique et qui ne cillait pas, qui rebondissait sur les facettes du sel. Il n'y avait pas plusieurs corps. Il n'y avait plus qu'une seule peau, rutilante, où affleuraient la pyrite, le fer et l'étain. (301)

Thus we go back to the state of minerals. Materiality prevails.

The Old Man With the Clear Sight of a Child

We tend to think, don't we, that surgery is the property of so-called modern western medicin. Of course it is not. In the pre-columbian Americas, as in other parts of the world, serious surgery has been practiced since antiquity.

Here is what I found interesting today:

Blindness was a curable disease before the time of Cuauhtémoc's Mexico. When it was a case of curing infections, herbs with magic powers were used. When it was a cataract case (n'ixtotoliculii), surgery was performed with a huitztlahvatzin (a porcupine needle) or the spike from a pitayo fruit. This operation required the cataract to be 'mature' and demanded a highly skilled medicine-man. Until a few years ago, this operation was performed by Mixtec medicine-man in Oaxaca.
When the operation was successful, the patient was pilixtli notechca meaning, the old man with the clear sight of a child. If, on the contrary, the eye became sick and infected in a hopeless way, the nixcaxini was performed: the removal of the eye with an obsidian blade.

Augusto Orea Marin in BETWEEN WORLDS: CONTEMPORARY MEXICAN PHOTOGRAPHY (Bellow Publishing, 1990), p.89.

But I can't convince myself to go through a LESIK (spell?) operation to recover my sight...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No more on the bayoux

New Orleans is under flood. 80% of the city is under water from Lake Pontchartrain. A million people had to evacuate. Coffins are floating. What gothic. What sourthern gothic. The city on the bayou is now swimming in the muddy water with all the crawfish and cat fish...

The causeway through Lake Pontchartrain is to me one of the most memorable spots on earth. I hope Andrei the poet is all right...

A League of Their Own (Penny Marshall, 1992)

Now I watched it. It makes me miss the US, to be honest. Living in another hemisphere, in the realm of rugby and cricket, baseball is something I miss most. Baseball is the greatest American invention, its only glory along with the civil rights movement. Only a couple of weeks ago I watched BIG (1988) with my children and really enjoyed it. This is another family film by Penny Marshall, the actress-director hailing from the Bronx.

I know I can watch it again, in French, and again, in Spanish, and so on and so forth, but the most unexpected scene for me came when the girls were practicing and a ball went astray and it was thrown back surprisingly hard by a by-stander. Obviously it was thrown by another, very strong-armed girl. She turned out to be black, and we knew that the league was all white and there was no way she could join. I'd give credit to Penny Marshall's judgment to include this bit of episode. However passing it may be, it leaves a strong impression.

Will watch it again, definitely! A very lovable film it was.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

On Polylingualism

At a local supermarket I bought a DVD on sale. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992), with Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna. What surprised me was the DVD's multilingualism. I have language options of English, Italian, French, German, and Spanish. So far so good. Then I have sub-title options of English, Greek, Italian, French, German, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Hindi, Turkish, Danish, Arabic, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Hebrew, and Spanish. This is paradise for an amateur linguist.

Back in 1984, I learned to read Portuguese in Barzil by watching American films with Portugese sub-titles day in day out. One of them was Racing With the Moon, with Sean Penn and Elizabeth McGovern. To me that film was a reading practice.

At least I can watch this DVD 5 times, each time with a different language. That's the aural part. Then some more times. That's the reading part. Wow.

It was priced at 9.99 (NZD). Talk about cost performance!

Do you speak Cree?

Watched a program called "Finding Our Talk" on Maori TV. Tonight it was about the Cree in Northern Quebec. Starting in the early 70s they began developping language teaching materials in Cree. Then in the early 90s the Cree School Board has decided to teach Cree in schools so that children may have linguistic continuity between home and school. It's better for them to stick to one language (in teaching math, for example) before taking up a second language, be it English or French. Today they have substantial teaching/learning materials in the language. Their own letters (I don't know how old they are) look so interesting.

The entire population of the Cree adds up to some 50,000 spreading over six Canadian provinces and Montana. Think about the geographical vastness! I don't think I'll ever learn the language, but I sincerely hope they keep their language going strong.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Fahrenheit 451 (Truffaut)

There are films that are so famous that you think you know a lot about it without really watching it. Then you watch it and you realize that you didn't know anything about it. Of course. Because a film is a self-generating presence. It exists only NOW and that NOW needs a screen and time to develop itself in front of your eyes/ears/body.

So I watched Fahrenheit 451 for the first time tonight! It's strange that I haven't had a chance to watch it when I am a fan of Truffaut! The film was interesting, all right. The plot was a little too forced, but still very interesting. And the famous final scene in the snow was moving enough.

Yet come to think of it, perhaps the hidden theme of the film is the quation 1 human = 1 book. Hmmm. It must be so. By abolishing the mémoire-aide in print, we go back to the age of orality. So the story is a double critique! Against the culture that abolishes books, and the culture in which there are too many books.

So in the realm of "book keeping," there is a constant struggle among the principles of "zero," "one," and "many." In my room everywhere books are accumulated like so many fallen leaves. Sometimes I have an urge to discharge all of them. Back to the zero stage. Then I pick up and read one book. And the one leads to two, and so on and on.

I enjoyed the film. At one point there is a boy who appears in the corridor of a school. Hey, I know who he is. That's Mark Lester! The star of my generation, I wonder where he is and what he is doing now...

Some quotes from Sam Rohdie

Here are some quotes from Sam Rohdie's PROMISED LANDS:

-The films are prismatic, faceted, like a gemstone, without a privileged surface. And all surfaces falsely reflective. (3)

-Bergson's writing exemplifies the thoughts he has of time passing and thoughts passing in time. His words permeate, leave ripples, traces like the traces of light, vibrations and tails of movements. His writing is crisp and sensual like Antonioni's images, clear, unstable, impermanent. You watch the image and the objects in it being transformed, fading in, becoming other. Bergson thought the movement of thought with a writing that moved accordingly. / It has the qualities of Proust and Kafka and Joseph Roth. (5)

-Bergson, when a student at the Sorbonne, had been employed by Albert Kahn as his private tutor. [...] Kahn was the son of a cattle dealer, a traditional Jewish occupation since the 1400s. He had no formal higher education. (6)

-Rodin did not like photography. In it nothing moved, he said. (8)

-When Kahn returned from Japan and China, he established a geographical archive of photographs (autochromes) and films, Les archives de la planète, a vast record of the world (72,000 autochromes, 180,000 metres of film), the necessity for which Kahn insisted upon because the world was disappearing, and disappearing in the instant it was being photographed as a consequence of technologies to which photography belonged. (9-10)

-Mourning is a condition of modernism. (13)

-Godard remarked that the cinema resembles sculpture and music. (15)

-Geography was photographic (visual) and photography was geographical (objective). (17)

-In Rouch's film COCORICO the main character, M. Poulet, travels in the West African bush in his ramshackle Citroën to buy chickens for sale in town. He returns with a few mangy specimens. Along the way he finds witches, liars, inventors, charlatans and bricoleurs like himself. He fords rivers on rafts, picks up hitch-hikers, dismantles his car, experiences magic, makes friends, listens to stories and sleeps under the stars. Like many of Rouch's films, this is a road movie. (20)

-I want to travel like M. Poulet, even to accepting some of the discomforts. (20)

Respiro (Emanuele Crialese)

No, I shouldn't have written the name of Maria in vain last night. The madonna surfaced with her grace from the water! This film titled RESPIRO (2002) is set on the island of Lampedusa, the southernmost Italian island closer to Africa than to Sicily. The beauty of the coast is out of this world (I mean Europe).

It's a story of a young mother who is a little off balance, and her teenage son and her fisherman husband. And about the sort of violence that permeates the islanders' everyday life. These are violences among children, from men to women, from adults to children, from humans to dogs. But not much to say about the story line, really. The light reflected on the rocks, the colours of the sea, and the strong wind make up all the charm of the film. Especially powerful are the scenes taken in the water. Some of the scenes (the heroine swimming all by herself, people's search for the heroine that they think is dead, and the final scene of retrieval/reconnection) are very memorable.

The central figure is Madonna. An exchange takes place between the statuette of Santa Maria and Grazia (the heroine). It ends the film in an eloquent silence, so to speak, and the villagers' deep sense of reconciliation. Who wouldn't cry?

In the future I may forget the names of the actress (Valeria Golino) who played the role of the heroine or that of the boy who played the son Pasquale. But Lampedusa will remain. And the dogs shot to death.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Viva Maria la mort!

And this evening again I saw Orphée (1949). The age of DVDs makes it so easy to watch a film over and over again. Something that was utterly unimaginable in my undergraduate days.

La Princesse (la Mort) is Maria Casares, la española. Her beauty is overwhelming. But she was born in 1922, which means she was only 26 or so when Orphée was filmed. A girl in her mid-twenties? Hard to believe.

So at the time of Enfants du paradis she was even younger... I have to watch it again. Then Dames du bois de Boulogne (1944?) by Bresson, too. I think Cocteau was involved in the production of this Bresson film based on a short story by Diderot.

I hope they have video cassettes or DVDs at the audio-visual library. We'll see!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Le bizarre incident du chien... (Mark Haddon)

I've been reading this novel called LE BIZARRE INCIDENT DU CHIEN PENDANT LA NUIT by Mark Haddon (Pocket Jeunesse, 2005) and it is of course the French translation of his THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME (2003).

At first I had no intention of reading it but I browsed at the Uni bookshop and it looked so inviting. I could even hear it whisper. Now I am halfway through and more or less convinced that this is a masterpiece! The hero-narrator is a boy with the Asperger syndrome. This fact is revealed gradually by his odd obsessions with order, numbers, colors, etc. But it's so convincing and you begin to experience a sort of parallel world lived by the boy with his own incredibly rich inner space.

Particularly entertaining in the novel are little bits of mathematical and scientific knowledge and problems. Deft. I am charmed by such magical ideas as:

Ou voir un nom et attribuer à chaque lettre une valeur de 1 à 26 (a=1, b=2, etc.), additionner les chiffres dans sa tête et trouver que le résultat est un nombre premier, comme Jésus-Christ (151), Scooby Doo (113), Sherlock Holmes (163) ou Doctor Watson (157). (p.56)

Or again something like:

Les étoiles sont le lieu où les molécules qui constituent la vie se sont formées, il y a des milliards d'années. Par example, tout le fer qui se trouve dans votre sang et vous évite d'être anémique a été fabriqué dans une étoile. (p.97)

Details, additional flavours, toppings, whatever you may call them, they give solid, rich, inviting, and rewarding substances made of words in novels. Pretending itself to be a young adult-oriented work, it actually is for everybody over 12. And you don't need to be strong in math!

Promised Land (Sam Rohdie)

I found a truly wonderful book written by the film critic Sam Rohdie: PROMISED LAND (bfi Publishing, 2001). Here is a short piece from a chapter called "Portraits."

Rosselini relates a story of visiting an Indian holy man when he was in India.
They sat together. The old man smoked cigarettes incessantly. He slowly massaged Rosselini's neck.
Rosselini began to cry, then he sobbed, out of control. (p.154)

The book has incredible amount of intertextual resonances with my own Columbus's Dog (1989), or so it seems to me. By the way they are written, by their écritures. May be this is a book I should translate into Japanese although I've been telling myself I'll do only French-Japanese translations in the future. Of French texts alone I don't have enough lifetime left to spend (Glissant, Le Clézio, Artaud, SJP, Césaire,...)

From Martinique to Nuku Hiva in the 19th Century

A surprising fact. At the time of the American Civil War, there was a boom for the cotton plantation in places with a suitable climate. The islands in the South Pacific were considered (without a solid basis) ideal for the cotton. On the islands of Marquesas, French plantation owners introduced as labourers Chinese, Annamites, and the blacks from Martinique. The boom didn't really take off. The plantations soon failed and the undesirable habit of opium smoking remained.

Whatever the result was, African genes took roots in the South Seas. Much earlier than I had vaguely imagined.

Orpheus oder Izanagi

A contemporary retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice myth with a serious twist by bringing in the ancient Japanese myth of Izanagi/Izanami (there are uncanny resemblances between the two myths) is attempted by Yoko Tawada as Orpheus oder Izanagi. With my reading knowledge of German so limited I have't read it yet. But again this is something that keeps surfacing in my work projects. Would somebody translate it in English, please?

Ferdinand Oyono

On browsing Judith Mayne's CLAIRE DENIS (U of Illinois Press, 2005) I came across Claire's words that her masterpiece CHOCOLAT (1988) was in a way a retelling of her teen-age memory of reading Ferdinand Oyono's UNE VIE DE BOY (1956). This is intriguing. I've got to read it. There are maybe two film directors that I'd like to discuss: Claire Denis and Tony Gatliff. More work on this later.

Cocteau's Orphee

I heard today Helen Sword's talk on various metamorphoses of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It was fascinating. Particularly interesting to me were, of course, Rilke and other poets who wrote on the myth from many different perspectives: H.D., D.H. Lawrence, Denise Levertov, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, Sheamus Heaney, among others. Each of them calls for a closer look. Then we saw some sequences from Jean Cocteau's Orphee (1949) which I have't seen for at least a quarter of a century.

At night I rerun the whole film at home. It's a masterpiece. It's quite faithful in tracing the original (whose original, by the way?) plot of the myth, with the Death and her chauffeur (Hermes the messenger?) depicted as humanly as possible.

This then will be the subject of an essay I'm asked to write on the subject of "l'invisible."

Homework: How is Cocteau's own drama of Orphee (1926) converted in the film retelling?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rohmer on Godard

Here is what Eric Rohmer said in response to the question: Qu'est-ce que vous avez pensé en voyant À bout de souffle?

... La modernité a très bien acueilli Godard, et Godard a très bien accueilli la modernité. Parce que, précisément, le déscriptif, le narratif, lui échappait. Ce fut son mal et son bien. Il a trouvé une issue tout à fait personnelle et qui d'ailleurs se prolonge maintenant, où l'histoire disparaît, encore plus que jamais.

Aldo Tessone, ed. Que reste-t-il de la nouvelle vague? (Stock, 2003, p.244)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Mon voyage polynesien

It's been a while since I last posted. Hard to keep one's promise (to oneself and nobody else--maybe that's the reason) to post at least once everyday. I've been meaning to make this blog a substantial theoretico-poetic commitment. But, oh, the road is far.

For the past two weeks or so I've been swimming deeply in the seas of a textual Polynesia, for the translation of La Polynésie française (PUF, 1995). It's essentially a little book of human geography; with many photographs (textbook-style) it reminds me of Tahiti, Moorea, and Bora Bora that I visited back in 1992. Oh how I wish I could go there again taking advantage of the latitudinal similarity (at least now I am based in the same hemisphere).

The translation is more or less finished. It will be published early next year in Tokyo. Tant mieux!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Quote of the Day

Today's quote.

"Artaud is always didactic."
---Susan Sontag

Let's Learn Maori

I opened a new self-teaching Maori language course in the format of a blog. Please check out:

(The language of instruction is Japanese, though.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Margaret loves Margarine

In my semi-awake state this morning I half-dreamed of the sentence: Margaret loves margarine.

There is no apparent reason. But I have always wondered why Margarine's [ga] should be pronounced [ja].

I looked up the dictionary to find the words' etymologies.

Margarine comes from the Greek "margaron," which means "pearl."

The name Margaret I assume is the Anglified form of the French Marguerite, which comes from the Greek "margarita," which also means "pearl."

And how about that big shellfish, that produces mother-of-pearl?

It's name is Pinctada Margaritifera. I can't tell what it means.

But the etymology, by definition, should go back beyond its Greek origin! Margaron, Margarita. In what part of these words is hidden the glistening, bewildering, rainbow-like color of the pearl?

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Toward Bouldering

My second attempt at climbing the gym wall. It's okay as long as I go straight up, but when there is an overhang, even a slight one (maybe 110 degrees?) it's impossibly difficult for my untrained body! But it's fun. Maybe next year I'll be bouldering in Boulder, Colorado. Who knows?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Rangitoto Island

It's only 20 minutes away on ferry from Devonport and it's a world apart! A dormant volcano with a beautiful silhouette, its coast is made of rugged lava, then as you go up higher the flora drastically changes. At the top you get a breathtaking view 360 degrees around.

It's an hour's walk to the summit, no sweat. What a wonderful hike it was.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Wild Seagulls

This morning when I was walking I saw three seagulls on the road, making menacing noises one to the other and seemingly in dispute. I thought to myself "Is this the mating season?" but couldn't tell which ones were males and which the female. I kept looking, and one of them suddenly looked at me and came flying low straightly toward me with its beaks open and making that menacing sound---to attack me! I swung my arm and it abruptly turned away, but I was rather shocked to see a seagull taking such an action toward a human. Hey, this is not Tokyo and you are not a crow, I said.

Later in the afternoon in the sky there were more seagulls flying, making THAT sound, squeaking, menacing. It looked like a battle, or simplysort of display, showing off, I don't know. But the seagulls looked so dangerous. And the light was bright and the blue of the sky was suddenly profound and looked as if we were already in Spring.

I will remember today as the first day of (possible) spring.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

No More Only Poem

This tells about the anxiety we all had to go through when we began writing:

Éclats du vent: chacun rêve, enfant, du Seul Poème. Être poète, le devenir, c'est peut-être épuiser ce rêve, l'avoir renié. C'est assurer un manque éternel, celui de la connaissance. Pour quoi le poète, cet inconnu, est en effet par son poème le connu dans sa totalité, son allure mêmes.

Édouard Glissant, Soleil de la conscience, 1956, p. 41.

Te wiki o te reo Maori

This is the Maori language week! Check out the website:

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Paul Ricoeur

Today at the book store I casually bought a copy of The Conflict of Interpretations. I don't know why, because I don't even need it any time soon. Then later, I learned that Ricoeur had died this past May. I didn't even know it!

His contributions to the theory of narrative is one thing I'll have to study seriously, in relation to my NARRATOLOGY AS PEDAGOGY project. Now let him sleep. The books remain.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Maori Phrase Book (1)

1. Nau mai, haere mai. (Welcome, come here.)

2. Ko Erana ahau. (I am Erana.)

3. Ko Mereana koe. (You are Mereana.)

4. Ko Timoti ia. (He is Timoti.)

5. Ko Hine ia. (She is Hine.)

Remember the set of ahau-koe-ia. Then the triangle of toku-tou-tona. My, your, his/her, respectively.

6. Ko Erana toku ingoa. (My name is Erana.)

7. Ko Mereana tou ingoa. (Your name is Mereana.)

8. Ko Timoti tona ingoa. (His name is Timoti.)

9. Ko Hine tona ingoa. (Her name is Hine.)

Some key questions.

10. No hea koe? (Where are you from?)

11. No Tamaki Makaurau ahau. (I'm from Auckland.)

12. Ko wai tou ingoa? (Who is your name?)

13. Ko Awhina Rawiri toku ingoa. (Awhina Rawiri is my name.)

Now some greetings.

14. Kia ora! (Hi!)

15. Kia ora! (Thank you.)

16. Kia ora!!! (Awesome.)

17. Tena koe! (Hello: to one person.)

18. Tena korua! (Hello: to two people.)

19. Tena koutou! (Hello: to three or more people.)

20. Tena koutou katoa! (Hello y'all!)

21. Haere ra! (Goodbye: to person leaving.)

22. E noho ra! (Goodbye: to person staying.)

23. Hei konei ra! (Goodbye: said by either.)

24. Ka kite! (See ya!)

25. Ka kite ano! (See you again.)

26. Ka kite ano i a koe! (See you again.)

27. Ata marie! (Good morning.)

28. Po marie! (Good night.)

29. Kia pai too ra! (Have a good day.)

Asking about conditions.

30. Kei te pehea koe? (How are you?)

31. Kei te pehea korua? (How are you two?)

32. Kei te pehea koutou? (How are you more than two?)

33. E pehea ana koe? (How are you?)

34. E pehea ana korua? (How are you two?)

35. E pehea ana koutou? (How are you more than two?)

36. Kei te pehea koe? --- Kei te pai ahau. (I am fine.)

37. Kei te pehea korua? ---Kei te pai maua. (We two are fine.)

38. Kei te pehea koutou? ---Kei te pai matou. (We more than two are fine.)

39. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te ngenge ahau. (I am sleepy.)

40. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te riri ahau. (I am angry.)

41. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te koa ahau. (I am happy.)

42. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te pouri ahau. ( I am sad.)

43. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te wera ahau. (I am hot.)

44. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hiamoe ahau. (I am tired.)

45. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te mauiui ahau. (I am sick.)

46. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te makariri ahau. (I am cold.)

47. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hoha ahau. (I am bored.)

48. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hiakai ahau. (I am hungry.)

49. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te hiainu ahau. (I am thirsty.)

50. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te matemoe ahau. (I am exhausted.)

51. Kei te pehea koe? ---Kei te matekai ahau. (I am starving.)

52. Kei te pehea koe? ---Tino pai ahau! (Very good.)

53. Kei te pehea koe? ---Ka nui te pai ahau! (Really good.)

54. Kei te pehea koe? ---Taua ahua ano ahau! (As per usual.)

55. Ahua pai. (Sort of okay.)

55. Ahua ngenge. (Sort of tired.)

56. Ko wai tou whaea? (Who is your mother?)

57. Ko wai tou matua? (Who is your father?)

58. Ko wai tou kuia? (Who is your grandmother?)

59. Ko wai tou koro? (Who is your grandfether?)


You know these words?
Those who take their vacances in July and August, respectively.
I want to be a Septembrien then!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ni rhetorique, ni syntaxe

And this truly extraordinary aspects of Eluard that Jean points out correctly:

Rien ne lui est plus étranger que la rhétorique, sous quelque aspect que ce soit. Rien ne lui est plus étranger même que la syntaxe, dans la mesure où la pure continuité des messages visuels et sonores s'y substitue à tout arrangement constructif de la phrase. (97)

No rhetoric, no syntax. And he continues to say:

La forme qu'elle affecte le plus volontiers est celle du simple énoncé. Elle nomme, elle dit, elle désigne. (ibid.)

Wow. How true!

Facilite, evidence

Another great quote from Eluard by Raymond Jean (96):

Les poèmes ont toujours de grandes marges blanches, de grandes marges de silence où la mémoire ardente se consume pour recréer un délire sans passé.

The reader's memory plays a great part in interpreting a poem, naturally. And the interpretation (as an addendum to the text of the poem itself) is a pastless, therefore unjustifiable, delirium. In this sense a poem is a mirror of the reader's mind, conscious and unconscious. What plays in the margin is the experience, and it presents itself as an unrepeatable, unique occurence.

What does a panophobe fear?

The answer is: everything.

I boght the local beer Tui (named after a species of NZ bird) and on each crown cap there is a little quiz. E.g.:

What does a panophobe fear?
A. Everything.

Where are the 2006 Olympics to be held?
A. Turin.

I find this fascinating. In the US there was a brand of beer called Red Dog that did the exactly same thing. These are trivia, for sure, but at the same time a kind of poetry of tous les jours. I think about the person who write this.

Are you afraid of everything? Poor pal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

And Her Name Is

Je t'appellerai Visuelle
Et multiplierai ton image.

---Paul Eluard

Raymond Jean writes: "C'est que, pour Eluard, Picasso est l'introducteur à la réalité par excellence." (55) Here is a great quote from Eluard (what he writes about Picasso):

Homme, femme, statue, table, guitare, redeviennent des hommes, des femmes, des statues, des tables, des guitares, plus familiers qu'auparavant, parce que compréhensible, sensibles, à l'esprit comme aux sens.

Eluard, the natural. It's a pity I didn't bring his two-volume Pleiades with me...

La vision chez Eluard

Monde des miroirs, monde des YEUX FERTILES, monde de la connaissance immédiate et de la nécessaire réciprocité. L'amour ne peut être que la reconnaissance du visible, parce que le visible est ce qui fonde la forme la plus directe, la plus riche et la plus accomplie de la communication.

Raymond Jean, ELUARD (Seuile, 1968), 51.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wilder's Statements

Thornton Wilder has an enviable bio. Born in Madison, Wisconsin (well, I don't particularly envy this), he grew up in Shanghai as the Consul-General's son. Then he lived in California, New Haven, Roma (where he studied Archeology). He has an M.A. in French lit from Princeton and taught some French and comp lit at Chicago. Then he worked as an intelligence officer of the US Air Force in North Africa and Italy. (By then he was a succesful writer, of course.) China, Romania, and Africa. Ezra Pound would have envied his life course.

Wilder was very unsatisfied by his contemporary theater. Here is what he wrote in the preface to OUR TOWN AND OTHER PLAYS (Penguin):

I believed every word of ULYSSES and of Proust and of THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, as I did of hundreds of plays when I read them. It was on the stage that imaginative narration became false. (...) I found the word for it: it aimed to be SOOTHING. The tragic had no heat; the comic had no bite; the social criticism failed to indict us with responsibility. (8)

And his belief in the concinuity of literary history (as history of creation):

The play [THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH] is deeply indebted to James Joyce's FINNEGANS WAKE. I should be very happy if, in the future, some author should feel similarly indebted to any work of mine. Literature has always more resembled a torch race than a furious dispute among heirs. (...) I am not an innovator but a rediscoverer of forgotten goods and I hope a remover of obtrusive bric-à-brac. (14)

I especially like the final sentence's "a rediscoverer of forgotten goods." This is the basic attitude of Poundian poetics, isn't it?

But then

Such a "No" at this kind of occasion means only the wish that no such brutality should enter one's life-space. It's sheer selfishness, the same kind that makes us blind to what is happening elsewhere.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


My trip to Tonga was fantastic and hilarious, but oh, London. On 11 September 2001 I was in London. In the following days people feared, and it was felt riding on a tube. That fear has now, after almost four years, materialized itself. Do not use death as an option. To live and let live is the only basis for our world. Do not kill. Do not.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

And My Joy Today Is

And my joy today is
that slice of blue
gradually revealed by the splitting,
dark clouds of winter.
The foothills of Sandia are now tinged red
as if by blood
by the lowering rays of the sun.
My visual field is blocked randomly
by the drops of crystallized water
their ambiguous purity.
A high-school friend of mine
is working particle physics there at the Institute.
What can his research be?
Destruction of the world, or the fifth sun?
‘Sandia’ means watermelon in Spanish.
In this dry, freezing north
wind on the New Mexico plateaus
looking at the mountain’s luminous, rugged surface
I imagine watermelon’s sweet, red pulp
and the summer when dogs sleep, languished
in rocky shades
and I smile.
My joy today is this blue sky of winter.
However hard I try, I cannot recall
how death smelled in that summer, and
my grandmother’s voice.

In-class Readings

We also read a lot in class. Some of the materials that Jen has chosen include poems such as Marianne Moore's "The Fish" and Elizabeth Bishop's "The Moose", or Garcia Lorca's famous, superb essay on duende. Each require more detailed commentary which I'll attempt in the future.

Finally, I'll post my work for Day 4 above.


Then we proceeded to write on an item--an abstract one--from the list, personifying it. Our time being limited (15 minutes rule here) I started in no time without a set direction, and failed to 'personify' it. But I saw some other possibilities. What I chose was "soundlessness".


Is there a difference between silence and soundlessness?

There is a big old fir tree in Siberia. After four-hundred years of tranquil existence, now it's falling down under the weight of acid snow. The area is remote, at least a couple of hundred kilometers in any direction from a human settlement. What sound do you think you hear? The answer is: no sound, as there is no human ear nearby to hear the tree fall.

One summer in the 1970s I found a swallow's nest under the roof of a neighboring store. There were young swallows inside, old enough to eat live worms whole, but not yet beginning to learn flight. When I approached, they all fell voiceless, an extreme silence. I felt sorry for them. Silence is a state of fear.

One winter day in the 1990s I was standing on the beach in Tofino, a town on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It's the town that you first see after a trans-Pacific flight Tokyo-Seattle. Ten-meter waves were rolling in from the northern Pacific, roaring, and it was dreadfully cold. Drenched by the splashes of the waves, I was exhilarated. I couldn't see far, I could hear nothing. In this resounding, monstrous breaking waves and typhoon-like wind, what I experienced was soundlessness.

Soundlessness is an altered state of consciousness.


Then Jen asked us to make a list of obsessions. I am not sure if one can bring one's obsessions into consciousness. But there are some recurrent motifs that do appear in what I write, especially when I'm writing off the top of my head. Here is a temporary list:

grand parents
bilingual areas, bilingual people
the US Southwest
islands (esp. Hawaii)
people in transition
tranquility, soundlessness
fear of death
contingency of existence
humidity / temperature
futile efforts
sacred mountains
sun, sunshine, shadows
rain, clouds
the passing of clouds
the sense of isolation

The Poetry Shed: Day 4

Warming up. I started from the word PAGANISTICS and began writing an acrostic of a sort. This is something I did in TAXI!, the webzine that Keisuke Dan and I co-published in 1997-98. The problem with spontaneous writing is it so often becomes repetitious. You are wading in the shallow pool of predictibility. Anyway, it went as something like this:

Probably the most difficult task in one's life is "to be pagan," leaving behind all the beliefs that as a child you were taught to believe.

Acknowledging all the gift that the world has given to you, but not by way of the social body you were born into.

Greek philosophy knew nothing about the brutal off-springs it had centuries later, who devastated the globe beyond the point of no-return.

Asymmetrical construction of sound and meaning is the source of momentum in any linguistic creation.

Neither/or---nobody, or the one who names oneself "nobody."

Island-oriented beings are sure to fail in the business world.

Spring is formed after some kind of fern, so I am told.

The tram is no longer in use as a means of urban transportation here; a shame.

Illocutionary discouragement requires redemption.

Crucify your credo to save your creativity.

Surprise your sense by sublimating your hesitation.

A series of automated aphorisms.