October 13, 2015
October 10, 2015
She sits and reads with the inevitable resolve of a child who has no notion of boundaries and pays no attention to the physical form of what she absorbs. Not just books alone but anything and everything she can get her hands on: every minuscule speck of life itself around her is fair game; it all speaks directly at her and she needs to reply. At first sketching a mental image of the authors, imagining their voices, their demeanour and their lives. Placing herself there as a real semi-fictional character in a fictional semi-real life seems to be the only way to do so, but they’re not listening.
Suddenly without filter and with the same resolve words of reciprocation rush out of her. She starts to write directly from her open heart (or mind, but she can’t tell the difference nor does she care to) straight to the paper in a rush to carve it somewhere before it fades, not stopping for a second to review or reread: the real visible words on the paper are sufficient gratification. There is more to read.
She sits and reads a little slower now. The lives and the sound of the voices of the authors are inexorably fading into the distance as the text itself stubbornly pushes to the surface demanding to be heard, constantly reminding her that once it’s been written it belongs to the author no more, that the words are now the reader’s. She spots structures, plot, progression, rhythm and melody in the words. She spots herself.
Hesitant, suspecting that she’s trespassing upon forbidden territory, she begins to write with the same purpose of letting the words go as either a donation to others or else a balm to herself. She even writes a book as if she was building a house, recruiting help and opinion on every single brick, wall, window sill and floorboard and every poppy in the garden that surrounds the house is named and accounted for. She watches this house grow and change as people move in and out and the garden blooms and withers with the tragedies of other lives, now insignificant for not being hers anymore.
She sits and reads very slowly and meticulously. Unlike before, her eyes go back and forth in the text thoroughly absorbing every single word and every word becoming a part of herself. She discovers the infinitely recursive depths of perception, one infinitesimal laceration after the other and feels humbled and inadequate and in need of an answer from herself alone.
And so she writes slowly and deliberately. She suspects it but hasn’t yet fully grasped that while it seems she’s still writing from her heart (or mind, but she can’t tell the difference nor does she care to) even when building larger structures, the very slowness of the act has become a strict and sometimes cantankerous editor who makes the words linger in her mind arguing with each other, some cuddling in shining sentences others placing entire paragraphs of safe distance between them.
She sits almost immobile now, maybe not reading at all.
Every word has become a whole book, every paragraph a whole encyclopedia and every book a whole life, revisited, molded and reimagined over and over again. Her writing has now become both excruciatingly slow and surprisingly fluid. It has become a mental life of its own where the writing down of words is but a distillation of a whole universe into the very essence of her where no alternatives exist, just the exact words. As if there is no choice but to wait for them, until infinity if need be, as if slowing down to near immobility and abandoning time has finally given her the space to read everything and write everything or maybe just the one thing.
But it’s not clear if she’s reading or writing at all anymore.
On her face there is just the vaguest hint of the peaceful smile of someone who’s finally discovered that there was never anything else she could do.
October 10, 2015
I’m pretty sure I want to watch this.
October 9, 2015
Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me, 5
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you — I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.
October 7, 2015
Gould tocou durante duas horas, directamente para dentro das pessoas, com emoção. Tinha tantas notas nos dedos que, quando tocava, o seu esforço não era fazê-los mexer, era refreá-los, para que não tocassem tudo de uma vez. Tocar, para ele, era impedir os dedos de se mexerem. Muitas vezes pensava assim na música: um dó sustenido que poderia ter sido, um fá que quase se pronunciou, um si que lhe ficou preso na unha, um lá bemol que tropeçou. Era como a vida, como as pessoas que, ao escolherem ser alguma coisa, rejeitam todas as outras, uma infinidade de coisas, uma enormidade que lhes fica pendurada nas unhas, nas dobras dos pensamentos, nos cabelos espigados. É assim que se faz uma música, e é assim que aparece uma imagem no espelho, bem definida, recortada por tudo o que não somos. Gould tocou derramando-se.
October 5, 2015
Ich bin ein Teil von jener Kraft, die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft.
Mephistopheles, in Goethe’s Faust
September 25, 2015
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2013)
I want to know exactly how many of your skin’s goosebumps would fit under my finger.
Applying pressure where it is softest, very lightly of course (after all, it is important to not scare the papillae away), moving the tip of my index a fraction of a millimetre above that dimple at the very end of your back, upwards so slowly that it would take a lifetime to reach the base of your neck.
I wonder if you’d close your eyes, sigh softly, and surrender.
I could finally count them, then.
September 21, 2015
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in 2014)
I know exactly bugger-all about poetry.
It’s not that I haven’t tried, I have very often and very hard, too: after all how could I resist the temptation, led on by a high-school teacher’s remark, that reciting poetry was the surest way to impress girls? So and in step with was being discussed in class I attacked Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud and all of the poètes maudits with unparalleled determination: all my other ploys to dazzle girls having met with various degrees of failure, poetry couldn’t conceivably fare worse, I thought.
I could already picture my then unrequited crush on her veranda hopelessly swooning at my declamation of the Fleurs du Mal under the full-moon. I was going to be Cyrano, damn it, and without stupid Christian de Neuvillette, too.
Sadly, reality intervened: no matter how much I read I invariably rebelled in anger after a few pages, jumped from my chair, paced the room furiously, yelling the by now familiar, for-fuck’s-sake-get-to-the-fucking-point-what-in-god’s-name-are-you-trying-to-say-make-it-stop-it’s-making-my-head-melt-oh-hell-yes-I’ll-have-another-drink-or-ten-et-meeerde litany. Also and to add to my despair, try as I might, I couldn’t memorize a single verse.
I had no problem with the poets themselves, mind you: their biographies were fascinating. After all, how many drug fiends, gun runners, absinthe drunkards, runaway criminals and suicidal maniacs does it take to make me take notice? Not many and there were plenty of those.
The fact is that Roxane looked very distant now.
It is true that I may have been an arrogant little twit back then and simply didn’t have the tranquility and wisdom that may have been needed to fully appreciate the rhythm, flow and music of the words. Today, as time has changed me into a much bigger arrogant twit, poetry doesn’t anger me as much and I do read some of it with great pleasure. Always careful, always on the look-out for the signals that are going to make me boil again and sufficiently wise as to simply put down the book should I feel attacked again.
Not that I understand it any better, though. Some of it stuck much like the many other passages from authors who aren’t poets and often for reasons that aren’t especially noble. I can quote Verlaine’s first stanza of the Chanson d’Automne for instance (les sanglots longs/des violons/de l’automne/blessent mon cœur/d’une langueur/monotone) but the explanation couldn’t be more pedestrian: it is prominently featured on the movie The Longest Day. And by the way can you spot the apparently arbitrary separation of sentences and how irritating that is? Right.
Perhaps the word “poetry” has a very specific connotation in my mind, one which doesn’t correspond to what it is usually understood to mean; Shakespeare, to me, isn’t classified under “poetry” for instance. Not even his sonnets, which, incidentally, have served me well with many a Roxane. Or a few. Well, at least one. Who would’ve thought that one day I’d softly whisper into some beautiful ear, …Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved? And yet I did, and the words worked wonders.
My high-school teacher who I’ve now come to realise must have been an incorrigible romantic failed to tell me about the most important fact about wooing your love interest with poetry: namely that in the dance of courtship it is equivalent to the thermonuclear solution.You don’t simply pull out the verses for no good reason and offer them trivially: for one your ammunition is limited (trust me, it is) and then the effect is lost if it is used too often.
You could always use your charming struggles with poetry, instead. I’m told that it works extremely well.
September 14, 2015
(originally published on my now defunct Medium page, sometime in late 2013)
We met by coincidence on a lazy Viennese afternoon, but I still have no idea who Eduard Kosmack was.
While exploring my new surroundings I came across a museum of modern art right next to where we lived. There was no elevation in any of this, no thirst for art, no sublime sharpening of the inner vision. The truth is simply that I was out of cigarettes and the museum’s coffee-shop was the only establishment open on Sundays. As it turns out it didn’t sell cigarettes either.
There were two enormous paintings downstairs: one by Roy Lichtenstein and another by Warhol (the Orange Car Crash, maybe?), which promptly made me forget why I was there to begin with. I had never seen so closely anything quite like it. I had heard about both painters, had read about them and seen their work in books. I even knew a little more about Warhol due to a slightly alarming teenage fixation with the Velvet Underground but this was different. There was texture and dimension, there was light pouring in from the majestic bay windows of the palace, there was space!
I must’ve run up and down the stairs of the three floors of the museum hundreds of times that day. So much so that when I finally came out of it, exhausted and lighthearted, I had to sit down on a bench on the Fürstengasse to try and catch my breath and catalogue everything I had just seen.
It was of no use. All that was left was an incomprehensible and chaotic blur: giant photorealistic paintings danced in my mind to the music of deconstructed pianos while fat ladies had tea and Picasso watched mockingly as Jasper Johns painted a perfect target, ever so patiently. Moderns, Nouveau Réalisme, Fluxus, Pop-Art, Actionism, I did remember the labels but that was about it. Despite my unavoidable compulsion to devise a meticulously organised mental library I couldn’t say who went where or why anymore.
Nor could I believe that I lived a few hundred meters from such an exhilarating pandemonium for that matter—it was inevitable that the Palais Liechtenstein should become my surrogate living-room for the next few years. I enjoyed every single corner and wall of it seemingly becoming an integral part of it and it of me to the point of knowing most of the staffand every single piece exhibited by name. I was a jealous visitor too; only when truly forced to it would I share the palace with someone: I couldn’t bear the prospect of a real voice disrupting the conversation in me. Mine.
Despite my increasing familiarity with the collection there was always one single very clear image that kept creeping back, calling me. It wasn’t a painting of striking dimensions (around 1m x 1m), by comparison with some others and it hung modestly in a smallish isolated room on the very last floor, as if put there to be discovered by the worthy alone and ignored by the others.
What caught my attention first were the eyes.
It was a portrait of Eduard Kosmack, by Egon Schiele, but I didn’t know that then. I just felt his eyes, looking at me, only at me, waiting.
The very first time that I paid any sustained attention to it, it made me uncomfortable and vaguely angry. After five minutes I made myself leave and promised to not give it another thought.
Which didn’t last for very long.
I couldn’t let go of Kosmack’s uneven eyes, the awkwardly and simultaneously defensive and defying position, the writhing of the hands, the face, as if cut into shape by a knife. He was waiting. He was waiting for me. He was waiting for me to ask him something. He was waiting for me to ask him something or to answer a question I didn’t know how to ask. I hated it to the point of having to come back again and again just to look at the one portrait, ignoring three or four floors of joyful, pensive, mischievous, and flirtatious accomplices.
With time we became accustomed to each other. Those initial sessions of five minutes turned into more minutes and then into dialogues where time wasn’t a consideration anymore. I sat in front of him as one sits with a friend and we talked.
I asked him about his city, told him about the apparently unsolvable paradox of being, at the same time, fascinated beyond words by my new habitat and yet absolutely terrified at having been once again uprooted and transplanted somewhere. Of having become the battlefield of the memories I had left behind and those that were now forming, asking me for a ruling, as there seemed to be no place for both. Of new and old friends. Of both the pettiness of some days and the grandiosity of others. Of ups and downs. Of love and hate and indifference and sorrow and joy.
Through it all he was patient. “Slow down”, he seemed to say, “breathe”.
And as time passed my respiration grew even and my compulsions slowly gave room to a quieter contemplation both defying and defensive in pose, hands not writhing but impregnable, relishing at the prospect of, first of all, waiting.
Some days (like today) I miss Eduard.
September 11, 2015
(that’s, I hope, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Pärt”, who was born on this day, in 1932)
Für Alina is the music to youth exploring the world and probably the quintessential illustration of Arvo Pärt’s tintinnabuli style.
Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers – in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises – and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.
September 2, 2015
When people concentrate on the idea of beauty, they are, without realizing it, confronted with the darkest thoughts that exist in this world. That, I suppose, is how human beings are made.
Yukio Mishima — The Temple of the Golden Pavilion
Yukio Mishima committed suicide at the age of 45, a seppuku he planned meticulously for at least a year.
August 30, 2015
Tiny bits of information cross your path at all times and it is mesmerizing to realise how their apparently disparate voices can combine in the most beautiful seemingly random counterpoint. It may very well be that it is not random at all, that there is some higher order of wisdom involved, but I’m not a religious person; I’ll leave at our own inner search for higher grounds.
All this because, for no particular reason, I was looking at how Mozart’s works were listed and classified. Ludwig von Köchel published his Verzeichnis (German for List) in 1862, hence the K525 for the Serenade No. 13 in G, (Eine kleine Nachtmusik), or sometimes KV525 (as in Köchel Verzeichnis). Of course many other works were discovered after that but musicologists tend to revise Köchel’s work instead of proposing a new numbering system.
Really slowly now:
It so happens that Köchel also catalogued the works by a Johann Fux, composer and teacher of the late Baroque.
Fux is mostly known for his treatise on counterpoint called Gradus ad Parnassum (or Steps to Mount Parnassus) meant to teach the mathematical relationships of intervals as proportions between numbers and how they can translate into smaller and bigger half tones. In my (surely incomplete) understanding, it tries to establish a few ground rules on how create harmonically interdependent relationships between voices that have no common rhythm or pitch, the foundation of my beloved ricercares, fugues and canons.
That Haydn used Fux’s work obsessively to the point of recommending it to Beethoven or that Mozart’s father Leopold should have taught his son from the book or even that it was part of Bach’s extensive library of theoretical works was to me an obvious and marvelous surprise.
I am fully aware of my tendency to bore people to death with my wonder at how we all reach for an absolute, at our process of climbing the steps to Mount Parnassus, sacred to Apollo and home of the Muses of poetry, music, and learning (and incidentally the reason why Paris’ Montparnasse got its name) but can’t avoid being once again drawn into the warm and welcoming arms of the gorgeous melody of life: not only can we better ourselves, it also seems that we have no choice. We just need to listen and start climbing very slowly.
The voices we hear are all part of us and of something which is larger than us.
We are larger than ourselves.
Here’s a marvelous visual rendering of one of Fux’s exercises illustrating the conspiracy of mathematics, music and graphics to etch the counterpoint in me:
August 29, 2015
I didn’t know that Wes Anderson had shot the short Hotel Chevalier a whole year before The Darjeeling Limited and that it somehow ties in with the film. This is the perfect occasion to admire his manic obsession with detail, geometric composition and camera movement (not to mention the always superb Natalie Portman of course.)
I had written the opening scene of Darjeeling, and then I wrote the short. Then I asked Jason and Roman if they wanted to work with me on the script. As we got going, I realized that Jason’s character in the short was the same character in the feature, and I started linking them together. And then we made the short a year before we shot the feature.
When it was all done, I didn’t want to incorporate the short into the movie. But I couldn’t decide how I wanted it to go. I wanted to play the short in front of the movie, but not always. Sometimes I preferred to watch the movie without the short. It became a puzzle to me. So in the end I decided that I would like to have the movie open in America without the short, but I would like people to have access to it if they want to see it first. So we put the short on iTunes. After a month, I’d like to feel it out and maybe add the short back to the feature. And it’ll definitely be on the DVD. Different people will see it in different ways, but I like that because they both stand on their own. At the same time, the feature kind of requires the short. Ideally, I wouldn’t mind if people watched the short and went to the movie the next day, or later that afternoon. I don’t know if they’re made to go right from one into the other.
Wes Anderson interview — The Boston Phoenix
Do yourself a favour and watch this in in full-screen and high definition.
August 29, 2015
Sad but hopeful. Or perhaps the other way round. Or not.
Animation by Hannah Jacobs and Lara Lee, based on a short piece of writing by Alain De Botton. With thanks to Luís for the inspiration.
August 28, 2015
In der Liebe suchen die meisten ewige Heimat. Andere, sehr wenige aber, das ewige Reisen.
August 21, 2015
August 19, 2015
Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures—and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection…
Lawrence Durrell — Bitter Lemons
Departures always hurt.
Departures are the unavoidable pain, the secret ingredient which ferments the superior balm.
Departures sound like this.
August 18, 2015
For keeping safe until the leaves start to fall.
I’ll need it to remember the the warm bright water and the afternoons when everything but the crickets seems to have surrendered to the heat of velvet lazily dressing the landscape and even the sounds, a world suspended where a minute such as this is both an eternity and its refreshing shadow.
A story waiting to be told.
August 14, 2015
I love that Max Richter describes SLEEP as “a manifesto for a slower pace of existence” (and it is intended to send the listener to sleep) and am really curious to listen to all eight hours of it, assuming I don’t fall asleep midway but then again that is exactly the purpose.
This isn’t something new in music, it goes back to Cage, Terry Riley, and LaMonte Young, and it’s coming around again partly as a reaction to our speeded-up lives – we are all in need of a pause button
I also love that I know next to nothing about Richter — aside from his Vivaldi Recomposed of which I’m not sure to be a fan (the jury is still out on that one) — but the few details of his biography I’ve read this far (peppered with names like Future Sound of London, Roni Size, Tilda Swinton, Sigur Rós, Arvo Pärt and Haruki Murakami) announce a brilliant new exploration.
The release date is September, 4th (a one hour abridged version will also be available)
August 10, 2015
I am nothing lately
but unkissed parcels
a thousand acres of flesh
to be touched.
Tyler Knott Gregson — Chasers of the Light