Thursday, June 30, 2005

Raul Midon

Check this out!

I casually watched the late night David Letterman Show and BOON, my mind was totally blown! Raul Midon, a blind singer song writer from Nuevo México. He's out of this world.

This is a REVELATION as big as one brought to me by Kelly Joe Phelps a decade ago.

Singers, guitarists, hear this.

Voice (Naoko Tamura)

Une amie m'a envoyé du Japon un nouveau livre de photos: VOICE par Naoko Tamura. Les images sont souvent flous, c'est l'impréssion pure des lumières qui s'aiment, mais ce sont des lumières qu'on ne peut jamais voir que dans la photographie. On les rencontre sans cesse, sans doute, mais on ne les voit pas. C'est l'objectif qui intervient pour éclairer l'existence même des lumières latentes.

Le livre est préfacé admirablement par écrivain-photographe Jean-Phillippe Toussaint. Sa perspicacité désigne correctement tant la quotidiennité que l'intemporalité des photos de Naoko. "Ce sont des photos brouillées, presque floues, fragiles, légères et fugaces," écrit-il. Que c'est vrai! Tout de même, je ne suis pas d'accord quand il ajoute: "ce sont des photos féminines." Il ne s'agit pas de féminité aucune. Il faut dire: c'est plutôt la vision qui cherche une autre manière de recevoir le don de la lumière.

Here, There, and Everywhere (but only in the US)

My, my. Have you seen this?

This site is truly amazing. I could locate all the buildings I have lived and worked in the US. If you look at a golf course, you can strategize how to attack each hole avoiding all the sand traps, etc.

What an unknown world we live in.

This Apocalyptic Sunset

Isabel Allende begins her memoir MI PAIS INVENTADO (2003) in this fashion:

Nací en medio de la humareda y mortandad de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y la mayor parte de mi juventud transcurió esperando que el planeta volara en pedazos cuando alguien apretara distraídamente un botón y se disparan las bombas atómicas. Nadie esperaba vivir muy largo. (11)

This fear culminates for the people of her generation in the Cuban crisis. Many have seen in those days each sunset with a feeling of apocalypse now. The fear was held in common.

What about us? We seem to believe we are well aware about the atomic destruction. Soit. But what about this unpredictable fluctuation--of the world's temperature?

Those who study ancient ice cores are concerned. Like tree rings, they read the record of global temperature "over a quarter million years." When it changes, it changes in DECADES. Who can say we are not living such a decade of radical change?

I am concerned. The summer in Tokyo has been becoming unbearably hot over the past decade. I am lucky to be out of it in the cool southern winter. Wright quotes Richard Alley as saying:

"[H]umans have built a civilization adapted to the climate we have. increasingly, humanity is using everything this climate provides... [and] the climate of the last few thousand years is about as good as it gets." (52)

Wright's chilling remark follows:

"Droughts and unusually hot weather have already caused world grain output to fall or stagnate for eight years in a row. During the same eight years, the number of mouths to feed went up by 600 million." (ibid.)

Dear Northeners. How can you be NOT apocalyptic when your sweat is flooding your floor like that?

Isomorphism of Institutions

The Post-Columbian invasion of Europe into the Americas has brought about this miraculous fact. After such a long separation (if we stand by the very plausible "out-of-Africa" theory), human cultures have developped quite similar institutions.

Ronald Wright writes:

Amazingly, after all that time, each could recognize the other's institutions. When Cortés landed in Mexico he found roads, canals, cities, palaces, schools, law courts, markets, irrigation works, kings, priests, temples, peasants, artisans, armies, astronomers, merchants, sports, thetre, art, music, and books. High civilization, differing in detail but alike in essentials, has evolved independently on both sides of the earth. (ibid., 51)

Quite true, and we can only conclude that all the institutions were invented as logical supplements and protheses of the innate abilities of the human as a species.

Our bodily conditions essentially the same, our positions in sexual intercourse, for example, are basically the same across cultures. But then I have a question. Why the positions in giving birth so varied, and in modern Western-style hospitals such unnatural a position is forced upon labouring mothers-to-be? This needs some discussion.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Are You Among Us? (Ronald Wright)

The Neanderthal had a distinctive skull. "[A] long, low skull with strong brow ridges in front and a bony ledge across the nape of the neck, the Neanderthal 'bun' or 'chignon'" (22). So writes Ronald Wright in his A SHORT HISTORY OF PROGRESS (Text Publishing, 2004).

Where have they gone? One theory says that they (homo sapiens neanderthalensis) were killed off by us, homo sapiens sapiens. If it were truly the case, it would be "the first genocide," as Wright puts it. He quotes the anthropologist Milford Wolpoff: "You can't imagine one human population replacing another except through violence." (25)

But could there be some "inheritors," following the scenario depicted by William Golding in his novel THE INHERITORS?

Says Wright: "I also have personal evidence that Neanderthal genes may still be with us. A few modern people have telltale ridges on their heads. I happen to have one--a bony shelf across the back of the skull that looks and feels like the Neanderthal bun. So until new findings come along to settle the matter, I choose to believe that Neanderthal blood still flows, however faint, in the Cro-Magnon tide." (26)

Genocide may be in our genes. What we need to counter such an agressive nature is the power of fiction.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Use of the National Anthem

I usually don't like anything national. I'd rather have my individual anthem. But last Friday when I went to the local elementary school, I was so impressed by the national anthem of Aotearoa/New Zealand. Children sang them bilingually, first in Maori then in English. Many of them are foreign-born. In fact, a third of Aucklanders today were born overseas.

And they learn Maori in this fashion.

E Ihoa Atua
Onga iwi matou ra
Ata whakarongo na
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai
Kia tau to atawhai
Mana akitia mai

The strength of OFFICIAL bi-culturalism.

Sugar Blues, Historically

Finished reading Peter Macinnis' BITTERSWEET: THE STORY OF SUGAR (Allen & Unwin, 2002). A very readable book on how sugar shaped world history. Sugar canes came to be cultivated in New Guinea only 9,000 years ago. Counting by the biological generation, it's about 400 generations.

"Without the combination of blades of volcanic stone, rich soil and ferocious rain, the discovery might have taken longer--but it is enough that somebody found that small pieces of cane poked into the ground would sprout and grow more sugar cane--and it would be easy enough to learn this in the wet season, in a land of rich and sticky volcanic soil." (XIX)

Thus began the plant's history of global migration.

Sugar played an essential role in the infamous triangular trade that ignited the European-led modernity. The other face of this trade is, of course, slavery.

"Risky or not, the triangular trade made many people rich. Lewis Carroll, baptised Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, had a middle name that honoured his great-grandfather, a slave trader. Edward Gibbon could afford to write his histories because his grandfather had been a director of the South Sea Company, a slave carrier. The Vicomte de Chateaubriand's father was a slave captain, and later a slave merchant, but nobody thought the less of Chateaubriand as a liberal and a man of letters. John Locke, the philosopher, was a shareholder in the Royal African Company, another slaving concern, even though he wrote: 'Slavery is so vile and miserable a state of man, and so directly opposite to the generous temper and courage of our nation, that it is hardly possible that an Englishman, much less a gentleman, should plead for it.'" (115)

The East India Company, that produced sugar not by slave labour but by hired labour, claimed the following:

"[...]the cost of a West Indies sugar slave's life was 450 pounds of sugar. It was said, in tones of moral outrage, that 'a family that uses 5 pounds of sugar a week will kill a slave every 21 months.' To rub the message in, the company told consumers that eight such families, in just nineteen and a half years, would kill 100 slaves with their sugar consumption!" (118)

The cane traditionally grown by "setts" (cut pieces of two or three joints) was called "Creole" that made a long journey out of New Guinea to Persia into the Mediterranean then across the Atlantic. There was no genetic diversity. Then Bougainville found a variety called "Otaheite" in Tahiti in 1768.

"This was the cane which Cook used to make beer soon afterwards. Bougainville took samples to Mauritius (then called Ile de Bourbon) in 1768, where the cane was namded 'Bourbon.' Around 1780, someone named Cossigny (...) brought more of this cane to mauritius and Réunion, and cane from Java reached these islands at about the same time. By 1789, the new canes had reached the French West Indies." (143)

So it took the variety 21 years to travel from Tahiti to the Antilles!

Sugar also made an unexpected figure to travel, too.

"In 1893, the 24-year old Gandhi left a lucrative law practice in Bombay to work for the rights of the Indian sugar workers in South Africa, where they were made to feel that they were remarkably second rate, and needed a firm and knowledgeable representative." (154)

And finally, what concerns the fate of Fiji:

"The first Indian indentured labourers arrived in Fiji in 1879, and by 1916 a total of 68515 had arrived. A number of these Indians were repatriated, found no place for themselves in India, and so re-emigrated to Fiji, where their descendants remain today." (154-5)

How have we, collectively, moved around, lived, and died for the most dangerous substance in human history! And I, everywhere I go, I encounter the traces of the sugar industry. Even now I live within a stone's reach from the Chelsea Refinery. I am HAUNTED by sugar!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Le vent est notre seule pensee (Le Clezio)

Voy leyendo si lentamente el libro de Le Clézio; hay muchas frases memorables que cada vez yo quedo sin palabra...así, por ejemplo:

Le vent nous a libérés de la terre, et il nous emmène n'importe où, dans un pays où il n'y a plus de maisons, ni de rues. Il nous emmène dans un pays où règne la vitesse. On voyage cent cinquante ans ainsi, et quand on reviendra tout sera changé. (185)

Nowhere Man

It's a nice little surprise to find the song "Nowhere Man" in Le Clézio's Voyages de l'autre côté. It's the song, as you may remember, I used in the background of my "Nowhere Everywhere."

Mais on a quand même pu trouver, sur un poste très lointain, The Beatles qui chantaient Nowhere Man, et c'était bien. (166)

L'homme de nulle part, l'homme de partout.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Virtual Afterlives

An old aquaintance of mine from college days passed away last month. It was a suicide. Left is his homepage, where he had written very readable series of columns on Macintosh computers. He had his own one-man company, minding all the computer-related trouble-shootings. I'm not sure if anybody's going to take the trouble of closing his page down.

Francisco Varela, whose El árbol del conocimiento I translated in 1987, died in the year 2000. His homepage at the University of Paris (Jussieu) is still there. Will he live on in this manner, in his secret digital niche in the vast cyberspace?

We leave traces, and although immaterial, those traces survive our bodily existence into quasi-eternity.

What is life if not a series of traces?
What is death if those traces tenaciously remain?

In Florida

And things are repeated. This time it's a 14-year old girl in Florida. Do sharks communicate way beyond the imaginable distance?

In Vanuatu

Vanuatu is one place I've been thinking about visiting. Then on Friday my friend Mike told me that they would go to Vanuatu for a holiday next week. We talked about a 7-year old NZ girl who had been killed by a shark on Thursday.

What makes us so sad is the sheer absurdity of the accident. The girl was swimming from her parents yacht off the coast. A local school teacher took a canoe and went out to their yacht telling them not to swim in the area because of the danger of sharks. The kind man repeated the warning twice. Then ten minutes after the second warning, the girl's left leg was bitten off.

In most cases just about everything, local knowledge helps. There was no reason that the shark should attack the child. From the newspaper article, I learned another thing. Don't swim near the black-sand beach, which seems to attract sharks. I think of Kalapana on the big island of Hawai'i. And the little hammerhead shark I once saw just near Magic Island in Honolulu, across the street from Ala Moana Shopping Center.

Whatever we may feel toward them, perhaps sharks don't even recognize that humans are humans.


The best part of living in Arizona was to have hummingbirds hovering around. Looking back, it was just like dream. Now I have kererus, native forest pigeons, around the house, and they are so nice to look at when they make a fuss in the branches, but don't have the sense of pure, intense life that only hummingbirds can offer.

This from yesterday's paper:

"US researchers found that hummingbirds manage to hover for long periods by supporting 75 per cent of their weight during their wings' down stroke and 25 percent on the up stroke. / Other birds support all of their weight on the down stroke for slow flight and short-term hovering, while insects produce equal amounts of lift on both the down and up strokes."

The problem is: how did hummingbirds develop such skills? Do we know ANYTHING AT ALL about what evolution is?

There are two things that can drive you crazy. The nature of the universe and that of evolution.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Most Famous Aucklander of My Life (Bruce McLaren)

Driving in Auckland I came across a street named Bruce McLaren. I said to myself, wait a minute. Is this THAT Bruce McLaren? (This is becoming a pattern.) The answer is yes, it is that Bruce McLaren, the F1 King.

At one point in my life, he was my hero. My age was still in the single digit. It was the time of Bruce & Denny, when the team McLaren dominated the racing world. I remember very well the day I read of his death during the test driving accident in the paper. I was in the sixth grade. It was in 1970.

I lost interest in motor car racing right after that time and although I knew very well that Jackie Stewart was a Scot, I didn't even once pay attention to McLaren's nationality. Kids always have blind spots.

It's so nice anyway to find out one's lacune in knowledge. Now I can say for sure. Bruce McLaren is the most famous Aucklander of my life!


Aujourd'hui il y a 21 ans, Michel Foucault est mort. C'est maintenant le temps d'anamnèse. Souvenons-nous de sa passion.

Friday, June 24, 2005

At Sunrise

A new school hall was dedicated today at the primary school nearby, and there was a Maori blessing ceremony this morning. A Maori elder, in fact a young man, came to chant and give prayer while leading a group of people around inside the new building. He urged us to touch the building's frames and walls and to wish good luck on each touching. Maori people share the Asian feel and respect for trees. It was an impressive ceremony.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The word "suga"

Some hip-hop African Americans these days use the word SUGA for sugar. Don't think this is a modified form of sugar. The word is Yoruba and probably older than the English word sugar!

In Samoan, when you address a young female, you say SUGA. Typically an aunt calling her niece, etc. Once a huge Samoan young woman looked at me and said, "Suga!" to which I responded "What?" She looked puzzled. She was addressing past me to her niece, about 6 years old, playing on the roadside.

In Portuguese, well, I don't like it. SUGA is a form of order: "Suck." Isn't it disgusting? I have to turn my semantic ear deaf.


An example of synchronicity.

This afternoon I was browsing books at Borders downtown and when I was about to leave the store for the ferry, a hardcover new book attracted my attention. GILEAD, by Marilynne Robinson. Is this THAT Marilynne Robinson? She is one of my all-time favourite authors, with the single novel HOUSEKEEPING. It's a work of sheer perfection and desolate beauty. Naturally I took up Gilead from the shelf and confirmed that this MR was that MR. The book was published in 2004 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize 2005.

Of course I wanted the book but being a hardcover edition it was rather expensive and I had already other books to buy. I gave up and headed for the ferry terminal, wondering what that title could have meant. Gilead. Is that a name?

At home in the evening my daughter was looking for a story by Hans Christian Andersen. She needed one for her ESOL assignment and she said she wanted The Tin Soldier. The Steadfast Tin Soldier or The Brave Tin Soldier, whatever. I googled "the tin soldier" and could retrieve a translated text in no time. On printing it out, I noticed something. The location of the text was . I looked at the site further and found out that it was a site dedicated to the memory of a son by his surviving mother. And the youth's name was Gilead. R.I.P.

I don't think I have ever encountered anybody by that name, in real life or in books, but the site is from Israel and I surmise that the name is Jewish. Is that a Jewish name then? I don't think MR is Jewish but her Gilead too must be a name, probably male, and presumably the book's hero or its subject anyway. A rare name encountered twice in this manner in a matter of several hours is something difficult to wave off.

I ended up by ordering a copy of MR's Gilead.

Then after reading the story aloud to my daughter, I was reminded of the almost chilling dark passion that filled HCA's stories, and remembered that the short story "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt" by Aimee Bender had a distinctive resonance with The Brave Tin Soldier. Another personal coincidence for me.

Where does the name come from?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Going into the CBD of Auckland by ferry, one of the first linguistic signs you notice is Mercure, yes of the hotel by that name. I've never stayed at any Mercure hotels and it means little to me as it is. But on a day like this, when a mountain of things are on your mind and you don't know what to tackle first, the letters look into your petty self with an illuminating honesty.

Mer, cure(s). This sea, gently supporting you on the boat, cures. The wind and the waves cure. Cure you of whatever strangeness you carry inside.

Then I step off the boat afresh from the salty mist.

Serpents Above, Violet Flowers (Gozo Yoshimasu)

Gozo Yoshimasu's new collection of poems is entitled TENJO NO HEBI, MURASAKI NO HANA 天上ノ蛇、紫のハナwith the English translation "Serpents Above, Violet Flowers" (Shueisha, 2005).

Astounding as ever. His recent experiment of mixed-character writing has reached its extremity and is still going strong. No translation in the usual sense is possible. But the book is brimming with extraordinary, multilingual poesy. One gets an impression of looking at a group of shooting stars somewhere near Santiago de Compostella, or incessantly falling purple flower petals of the Jacarandas in São Paulo.

His references to the people around him continue. Is this poetry conceived as a form of collective testimony? Maybe so. Still, I have this dream--that one day the author erases all the proper nouns in these poems and send these pieces back to the a-historical or para-historical realm of anonymity.

It would be gorgeous.


Whenever I see the word "accordion" printed on a page, I think of "hearsay," by the association that the word looks like a cross between "according to" and the French "on" (unspecified person).

My mind is usually astray in this manner.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Let's Talk Kiwi

Hubbards is a local manufacturer of breakfast cereals. In each box is contained their funny newsletter, which actually make a good read while eating BUGS 'N MUD (cocoa-coated puffed rice), for example. This morning I learned some Kiwi English expressions. I copy them from their Hubbards Clipboard Issue 75:

A bit of a dag--someone who's funny
Anklebiter--a small child
Bach--holiday home
Cheerio--goodbye; small sausage
Carked it--died
Dreaded lurgy--sick
Good on ya mate--congratulations
Hard yakka--difficult task
Kiwi--flightless bird; New Zealander
Wrap your laughing gear around that--eat or drink something
OE--overseas experience
Pack a sad--get angry
Rattle your drags--hurry up
She'll be right--it will work out okay
Smoko--morning or afternoon tea
Tiki tour--side trip or scenic tour
Wop wops--a back country place

Another funny thing is that the mayor of Auckland seems to be (so I heard) the owner of this company!

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Tiger Killer (Michael Campbell)

The Maori professional golfer Michael Campbell just won the US Open beating Tiger Woods. Wow. Following the Indo-Fijian Vijay Singh, another Southern Pacific star is born in the game by the sea. There will be a riot this evening in Aotearoa!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Treaty of Waitangi

The Treaty of Waitangi is the beginning of the country known as New Zealand and is at the origin of the current dual statedom of Aotearoa/NZ. The discussion around the treaty has been going on for a century and a half, and is today even growing stronger. New Zealand, in its efforts of self-redirection, cannot avoid working this out.

Now you can get a set of three booklets: The Story of the Treaty, The Journey of the Treaty, and Timeline of the Treaty, free from I've already oredered a set.

For anyone who is even tangentially interested in the first-nation issues around the world.

Jaufre Rudel

From time to time I can't deny the incredible convenience of the internet. I came across the following lines on reading Le Clézio's VOYAGES DE L'AUTRE COTÉ:

Lanquan li jorn son lonc en may
m'es belhs dous chans d'auzelhs de lonh
E quan mi suy partitz de lay
Remembra'm d'un' amor de lonh:
Vau de talan embroncx e clis
Si que chans ni flors d'albespis
No'm platz plus que l'yverns gelatz. (66)

As a former French-major, I could guess it had to be some trouvadours songs, but that was it. Then I typed in "lanquan li jorn" and voilà, almost miraculously, its translation appeared! Here is a version by Professor Malcolm Hayward (now retired) of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

When the days grow long in May
and birds sing sweetly far away,
when I'm cut off from there,
I remember her who's far away
and walk with eyes which grasp the ground,
for neither song nor hawthorne flower
please me more than frozen winter.

Read them side by side, read them aloud, cherish them. In this immaterial medium space, the lyric beautifully lives on.


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Excavation of the Past

Here is something I don't even remember having written, and it's only seven years ago. In what strange cities have I been wandering?

From owner-postcolonial@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU Sun Mar 1 12:15:17 1998
Date: Sun, 1 Mar 1998 09:14:10 -0800
From: (Keijiro Suga)
Subject: Re: seeking research help

In response to Sarmistha Banerjee:

Sander Gilman's The Jew's Body is very relevant to your work: the
construction of foreign body/national body politique, and the role that a
supposedly foreign desease plays.
Keijiro Suga

La logique d'une pensée, c'est l'ensemble des crises
qu'elle traverse. ---Gilles Deleuze

Walking in strange city. Strong winds make walking difficult.
I wonder how I can plan my route to get the wind behind me.
---W. S. Burroughs

Hisao Nakai's insights (autour de Les gouttes de temps)

Hisao Nakai (1934-) is a very well-known Japanese psychiatrist and to me, more than anything else, the author of SCHIZOPHRENIA AND THE HUMAN back in the early 80s. A Japanese friend of mine gave me a copy of his recent book of essays: Toki no shizuku. Les gouttes de temps! It's a real miscellany in which you occasionally come across very interesting ideas.

Just as examples:

1. When the Mongolian empire attacked Japan for the second time in the late 13th century, the invading army was defeated by the typhoon and washed ashore. The mongolian commanders were killed, but the Chinese foot-soldiers were admitted the status of exile-colons and began to live in various regions of the Japanese archipelago. The number approached 100,000. This must have amounted to several percent of the whole Japanese population at that time.

2. The strain of psychiatry focused on therapy (dynamic psychiatry) has been developped by those who were born on the fringe of mountains and plains. Freud was born at the edge of the Moravian forest; Adler is from the western Hungary, Jung is from the northen Switzerland, yet both from the bordering areas of mountains and plains.

3. In Japanese society, up until the WW II, a father often enunciated at home the kind of moral propagated by the government. He was not to speak up his own opinion. Even if he had his own, to tell that to children could cause them a future alianation from the society. This discretion made the pre-war Japanese father reticent; he was forced to speak on behalf of the society.

4. In the Edo era, the commoners could read "sosho" (script-type handwriting) but had hard time reading "kaisho" (block-type handwriting). [This is something tout-à-fait contrary for us.]

5. A person with the S (schizophrenia) affinity had an advantage of being a good semiotician. The ability to read signs was higly appreciated in hunter-gatherer societies. With the advent of agriculture, the appreciation for this ability diminished, and the person with the S affinity may become prone to [mental] illness. Still, the leaders of the society cannot do without such an ability to predict the weather or the natural fluctuations and catastrophes. Rain-dancers and magicians are often the other faces of the king. This ability, needless to say, is indispensable for a medecin.

Nakai is in many respects stimulating and even entertaining, but there is something that puts me off, too. Am I being over-hostile to psychiatry? Well, partly, yes. But maybe there is something deeper than that... His piece on the essayist the late Atsuko Suga is brilliant. It teaches me how I have absolutely NOTHING TO DO with the culture of the hanshin area, the area that stretches between Osaka and Kobe. I don't even have a local admittance to that culture...

Friday, June 17, 2005


My daughter belongs to the team of Tuataras at her school. What then is tuatara?

"The tuatara lives only in New Zealand on a few remote offshore islands.

"Its lineage stretches back 225 million years and it is truly a survivor from the Dinosaur age.

"It is not a lizard but classified as Sphenodontida. The only other Sphenodontidans are fossils and the tuatara is often referred to as a living fossil.

"It has teeth and powerful jaws and feeds on insects, snails, lizards and even small sea birds.

"The word tuatara comes from the Maori language and means spiny-back."

The above comes from a miniature plastic model tuatara she bought at the museum.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Naja Naja

This morning I was absorbed in re-reading, for the first time in many years, that lovely story of Naja Naja by Le Clézio (Voyage de l'autre côté). Here is an extraordinary vision of the vision that became light itself:

Mais là-haut, dans le disque du soleil, c'est comme si on habitait dans un œil. On ne regarde rien, absolument rien, puisqu'il n'y a rien à voir. Et la lumière blanche est dans la tête, elle est entrée par le corps et elle ressort par les yeux. Naja Naja a des yeux noirs qui lancent des éclairs. Elle voit en même temps que le soleil, et ce n'est plus nécessaire de voir quelque chose. Elle VOIT, tout simplement. Elle est à l'intérieur du regard, elle voit ce qu'elle voit. La lumière n'éclaire rien. C'est de la lumière pour la lumière, qui va et vient sur elle-même, sans faire d'ombres, sans rien montrer. (55)

My translation:

But high up, in the disc of the sun, it's as if you lived in an eye. You see nothing, absolutely nothing, because there is nothing to see. And the white light is in your head, the light enters through your body and goes out by your eyes. Naja Naja has black eyes that throw lightnings. She sees with the sun, and it's no more necessary to see something. She SEES, simply. She is within the gaze, she sees what she sees. The light doesn't light up anything. It's light for light's sake, that comes and goes for itself, without making shadows, without showing anything.

I'm hooked.

16 June 2005

Happy Bloomsday!
Don't forget to raise a glass of Guiness for Jim Joyce, wherever you are!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Maori Television

It was really fortunate of me to have come to Aotearoa this year. Maori TV opened in 2004 and just celebrated its anniversary. It's great to have a full te reo Maori (the Maori language) channel and the Kanaka Maori (the native islanders) in Hawaii would be understandably envious. What's so great about having a channel is that it's counted as ONE. I don't know how many people are working at Maori TV, but being ONE it can compete with any US or UK based transnational networks.It's just like the great fiction of the Olympic Games. I only watch Maori TV here.

TV is a great source for learning a language. My social relations being so limited, I will probably end up speaking TV-Maori. But then, my English in the first place was media-educated. Even my Japanese was largely media-educated. (Neither of my parents spoke the NHK Japanese--the counterpart of the BBC English; and I grew up in different places in Japan where the local accents were utterly different one from the other.)

Thank you folks at Maori TV.

The Time of Solidarnosc

This is the kind of episode that I want to remember Foucault by:

One of the minibuses was carrying printing equipment and books as well as medical supplies. There were five passengers: Michel Foucault, Simone Signoret, Bernard Kouchner and two other doctors from Médecins du Monde. The five were a cheerful band and sang as they made the long drive to Warsaw. Their repertoire included songs associated with Piaf and Montand and, to his companions' surprise, Foucault knew all the words. Unfortunately, he could not sing in tune. (139)


What's so strange about Foucault's life trajectory is this: his early years of super-human askesis led to the flamboyant, almost baroque style of thought in his earlier works. His post-etats-unian pursuit of pleasure (drugs and sex, but no rock'n roll) led to the peculiarly flat, archaic, dry tone of his latest years.

Somebody should have taken him out to the wilderness.

Near-death (Foucault's)

In an experience of near-death, maybe something chemical does take place. I didn't know about Foucault's having had a traffic accident. Here is what Macey writes:

In July 1978 he had been struck by a car as he crossed the rue de Vaugirard. He was flung into the air and landed on the bonnet of the vehicle. Shards of glass were embedded in his face and head and he spent over a week in hospital. Five years later he told a Canadian interviewer that his immediate reaction was a fatalistic acceptance of imminent death, but that it soon gave way to a 'very, very intense pleasure'. It was a beautiful summer evening and the near-death experience became 'one of my best memories'. The pleasure may have been intense, but Foucault spent the next year suffering from bad headaches and bouts of nausea. (131)

Noboru, an architect friend of mine, once told me of his own experience of being hit hardly in the head with a baseball bat and fell unconscious. He actually went through a surge of flooding images from his past and the feeling was exhilarating. Is this the brain's reaction to counter the damage?

But, no, a Parisian rue is not my ideal place to 'crever'. I'd prefer a Tongan coral reef!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Menudo Morning

At Countdown (the local supermarket) I found tripes. I decided to make some menudo, one of my favourite recipes.

First you re-cook the tripe for an hour with salted water. Drain.

Put chopped onion and beef broth (packed this time; I could have gone for soup bones but it would have taken two to three more hours) and water. If you have, some beer as well.

I was forgetting. Garlic essential.

Some dried red chilles.

Oregano and cumin mandatory. Bayleaves also recommended.

Here in NZ they don't have hominy. What to do? I put some shell-shaped pasta.

Cook for half an hour.

Salt and black pepper to taste.

This reminds me of Tucson, Arizona, which is culturally Mexican (or Sonoran, to be precise).

Menudo is for breakfast. We all have two helpings.

The same kind of soup is called "tripe a la Caen" or something in France (that dates from the time of Rabelais), and there is an exactly same type of soup in Hungary (I know this from an exquisite Montreal restaurant).

Now we are full of energy to explore local bushes!

Friday, June 10, 2005

And the answer is...

Michel Foucault. David Macey has again written a superb biography, this time unlike the Fanon a slim, neat volume of 160 pages (Reaktion Books, 2004). The book is "passionant." There are enough AHA! moments to keep your mind alert. In fact, it happens every two or three pages. Here is an example:

Just before Lent 1952, Foucault went with the Verdeaux to visit a clinic on the shores on Lake Constance in Sweden [this must be "Switzerland"]. It was run by Binswanger's follower Roland Kuhn and was the scene of a curious yearly ritual. The inmates spent much of the spring making large and elaborate masks for themselves and the staff. On Shrove Tuesday they processed through the neighbouring town of Musterlingen, led by a giant figure representing Carnival. Staff and patients were all masked, and were therefore indistinguishable from one another. When they returned to the hospital grounds, the masks were taken off and the Carnival figure was burned with great ceremony. Georges Verdeaux filmed the procession for research purposes and there is something very eerie about his silent home movie. (37-38).

Such a foucauldian scene! The image is haunting.

Guess Who?

It's silly to explain somebody's writing, or thinking, from his biography, but it's almost as silly to consider it thoroughly irrelevant. Apart from this "somebody," even separated from this person, a biography can always be interesting because of its details. Now I will delete a name in the following paragraphs. They are all taken from this single name's bio. Who can it be? Can you guess?

(1) [X's father] did seem to savour the macabre. He once took the surrealist painter Andre Masson, whom he had met through a mutual aquaintance and who became his patient, to see the corpse of a child with a curious lesion that exposed parts of the brain membrane. Masson was inspired to make a sinister whirling drawing which he gave to his doctor. For years it hung on the wall of X's study.

(2) Asked what he would like as a reward for passing the concours, X immediately asked for German lessons.

(3) X always devoted his Augusts to his mother. [...] X's visits to Le Piroir always coincided with the gherkin harvest and one of his self-appointed tasks was to scrub the little vegetables before pickling them in vinegar to make the year's supply of cornichons.

Surrealism, German, cornichons. And inevitably a color of existence arises, irreversibly, from these mere three elements.

Biography is inescapable. But he may have preferred it to be altogether abolished. One's wish seldome comes true. One's biography is, after all, a sort of void left out in the space by one's leaving this life shared more or less with uncontrollable others.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Ten Years After

4 November this year will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Gilles Deleuze. Can't believe it's already ten years! I remember very well the moment I read the news in my Tucson, Arizona apartment. Astonished, I cried: NO! And my son Azusa, then 5, came out of his room and said: "Daddy, I hear a cry of anguish!"

Anguish it was. If it were not for Deleuze/Guattari, I would not have changed my major to French when I was 20... And one thing led to another, me voila. I still owe them IMMENSELY and the only way to recompensate is to write on them. To write WITH them. And in this possibility of RECREATING their arrangements of enunciations, a decade is but a second, and the validity of their thought, their THINKING, is only measured by its actuality HERE-NOW.

D-G lives on.


Went to Shakespear Regional Park. There is a nice secluded beach and from there you can see the entirety of Auckland, about 40 km away. The weather is surprisingly nice and calm. No other human in sight... I go look for them. Who are they? Hermit crabs! I see the shallow tide pools and make myself completely still. Juts under the water, something moves. There you go. Minuscule hermit crabs hurrying out of my presence. I keep catching them and soon the number is a dozen. I place them on a rock. Here a race begins. It's utterly fascinating! Next time I'll get everything ready to keep them at home. Then come here again for a mass deportation! But then, what do I see in hermit crabs' lives? AM I ONE OF THEM?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hey, it's illegal in Arizona!

Some dumb laws are really dumb they take your breath away. Here are some examples in the land of Saguaro cacti, where I spent three years of my irretrievable life.

In Arizona:

Hunting camels is prohibited.

There is a possible 25 years in prison for cutting down a cactus.

When being attacked by a criminal or burglar, you may only protect yourself with the same weapon that the other person posseses.

You may not have more than two dildos in a house.

It is illegal for men and women over the age of 18 to have less than one missing tooth visible when smiling.

Not bad, eh? I'll take a better look at these examples from other US states.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Logosphere

Logosphere is Barthes’ term for the current state of language as a medium, its whole body. His essay on Brecht is again superbly brilliant, and on rereading it I am infinitely enlightened.

What about this concept of “reinventing quotations”?

In Marxism itself, Brecht is a permanent inventor; he reinvents quotations, accedes to the inter-text: “He thought in other heads; and in his own, others besides himself thought. This is true thinking.” (213)

Yes, I know that feeling. I have even been practicing it, but look at this formula! How couldn’t I have said it as simply as this?

Over maybe twenty years I have used the term logosphere, forgetting where in Barthes’ text I first learned of it. According to Barthes:

[The] logosphere is given to us by our period, our class, our métier: it is a “datum” of our subject. Now, to displace what is given can only be the result of a shock; we must shake up the balanced mass of words, pierce the layer, disturb the linked order of the sentences, break the structures of the language (every structure is an edifice of levels). Brecht’s work seeks to elaborate a shock-practice (not a subversion: the shock is much more “realistic” than subversion); his critical art is one which opens a crisis: which lacerates, which crackles the smooth surface, which fissures the crust of languages, loosens and dissolves the stickiness of the logosphere; it is an EPIC art: one which discontinues the textures of words, distances representation without annulling it. (213)

Now, this shock, this shaking-up, takes shape as the audience (or readers) become aware of signs as signs. The usual transmission of meaning is disturbed, disrupted, and each sign is thickened into opacity. The Brechtian epic theater puts a stop to any NATURAL flow of meanings and emotions. The Barthesian theater, played not on a framed stage but a larger amorphous stage of linguistic circulation, also aims at making the people conscious about the unnatural pretension of words-signs to communicate. The logosphere is made up of logos plus material. It is by stressing on this material aspect that logos becomes unnnatural, suspect. Our stage corrupses. Then we realize anew that we know nothing about this strange phenomenon called "communication."

Monday, June 06, 2005


To see a sheepdog show is a most exhilarating experience. Sheepdogs in New Zealand are devided into two categories: the huntaway and the good-eye herding dog. The huntaway barks and runs very fast, it gathers sheep and drives them on their route. The good-eye remains silent, keeps its eyes on sheep and moves around rapidly, occasionally giving them snaps on the neck or back, and leads them into a corral.

Working dogs are brilliant. For the first time in years I had a chance to play with two nice huntaway puppies (they are almost established as a breed, but in fact are crosses between the German shepard and the Border Collie). Nothing can beat such a moment of pure joy!


Visited over the weekend two lakeside towns: Rotorua and Taupo. Of the two Rotorua is more touristic, with spas scattered around and geothermal activities quite strong. Taupo has a larger lake, very clean and serene with a strong wind. I like Taupo much better. From there I could see the snow-capped Tongariro. The roads are fantastic. But looking at all the meadows with sheep, cows, and sika deers (yes, they are the Japanese shika, bread to be consumed as venison), one is constantly reminded that this island has gone through the total destruction of forests in only 150 years where Europe took 2000. Sad, sad landscape...

Today 6 June is a public holiday in NZ (Queen's Birthday). But in Australia and the UK, this is celebrated a week from now. Why this shoud be so I don't know. Anyway, happy birthday to Elizabeth (or Liz, Eliza, Beth, whatever).

Friday, June 03, 2005

Drugged Writing

Nobody can make a writer look as attractive as Barthes does with Michelet. On reading what Barthes writes on Michelet, you would want to run immediately to the library and check out a Michelet that is nowhere to be found. Here is an example:

[H]e describes WHAT HE DOES NOT SEE, not AS IF HE WERE SEEING IT (this would be a banal instance of poetic clairvoyance), but as if the storm’s reality were an unheard-of substance, coming from another world, perceptible to all our organs except that of sight. This is a veritably drugged perception, the economy of our five senses being disordered within it. (200)

What kind of drugged writing is this! I’m dazzled. Move away, Burroughs. Barthes is rough, and he's got 'art' in his name.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

On Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto is a volcanic island whose beautiful skyline looks so attractive and inviting from our side. I haven't been there but would very much like to visit, maybe in spring.

Today I went to the Auckland Museum and learned about so-called "Rangitoto baches," old holiday homes on the island. They are now under protection by a trust, and their home page says:

"The bach communities on Rangitoto Island were built in the 1920's and 30's and consist of private holiday dwellings and boatsheds as well as communal facilities such as paths, swimming pool, community hall and tennis courts. Built by families, using the scarce resources of the Depression era, the buildings demonstrate the 'kiwi' do-it-yourself, jack-of-all-trades attitudes of the times."

Here is something so exhilarating. An aspect of the US of H.D. Thoreau still remaining in the early twentieth century, perhaps?

Some baches are still there, weathered, but strong. I'll come and see. And touch. And think. There is nothing like some actual object that helps us to fill the gap of our memories, and when they are made of wood, their emotional charge is sometimes overwhelming.

Wooden objects are haunting.

Xenoglossia revisited

Gave a talk yesterday on 'xenoglossia,' it's basically the same as my paper last autumn in Sydney. The only new aspect is that I introduced the distinction between xenoglossias of the first order and the second order. The former is xenoglossia per se (the direct use of foreign words); in the latter case foreign words are translated, seemingly, but charged with a strange light that their foreigness is all the more apparent. It is this latter case that matters much in translation.

What else can I say? Some more work needed on this.