I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Friday, August 31, 2007

human remains in my cubicle







I never liked August. Not a summer guy, so by August, I've just about had it.

This August was no exception. I got back from paradise, aka San Diego, on a Friday night. August 3rd. A day later, Sunday the 5th, I was awakened by the phone-- there was no staff in the exhibit I manage. I had to go to work.

The city is quiet and almost sort of holy on Sunday mornings. The streets are empty and everything has that clean, quiet look-- as if repentance itself has washed through and scoured everything from the sins of the weekend.

It takes me ten minutes to walk to my office. Every morning I pass the intersection of 20th and JFK, which crests a little rise, and where I once saw a man my age lying on his back in the street, looking at the sky, rescue crews milling around and looking at him with almost idle curiosity.

When I got to work, my first day back after six weeks, there was a human skeleton at my desk. The
skeleton was wearing khaki pants, blue moccasins, an employee shirt, and a Santa hat. And she had no arms.

It's not as weird as it sounds. There are a lot of odd specimens where I work. We are an educational institution. The skeleton is just another teaching tool. Her arms were borrowed to do comparisons to dinosaur fossils, and never returned to her.

But, though this isn't as weird as it sounds, it is exactly as disturbing as it sounds.

The skeleton, the dead lady, gets moved around our office.
She was in the lunchroom for a while. Sometimes she visits cubicles. She lives on a wheeled platform, suspended by a metal pole that ends in a screw that goes through her head. So, she is always upright, but shrugging, as if to say: Hey, I'm doing the best I can. Give me a break. I mean, Christ, I'm dead. She probably got wheeled into my cubicle while I was away, more for storage than for a prank. I've rolled her into empty cubicles myself, plenty of times.

Yet, though I have seen her many times, and, before I left for Clarion, had come to understand her almost as a silent co-worker-- her tense grimace expressing perhaps what all of us feel on occasion-- I was not prepared to encounter human remains on my first day back on the job.

Yes, the skeleton in the office is funny-- like the disco ball and the taxidermied snowshoe hares. But when I came back from Clarion, it hit me so powerfully that this is actually a dead person. It was a punch in the gut, seeing her at my desk, like discovering a crime scene. I recognized her at once as an omen-- or at the very least, just about the worst feng shui conceivable.

And sure enough, I did have a truly horrible month at work.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus - Bar Scene

I found this clip on Your Daily Awesome. Life imitates David Lynch.
My favorite quote from this clip?

"And then she got throwed back in the winda."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stan Robinson's point

















































Kim Stanley Robinson was a student at UCSD , both undergrad and PhD, and was one of the readers who selected our Clarion class. He had been a Clarion student with our first week instructor, Greg Frost. As I understand it, he was instrumental in bringing Clarion to UCSD for 2007. He came to see us our first day at UCSD. This bluff was a favorite spot of his, and he urged us to visit it. I took the photo above on our first trip.

We made many trips to this beautiful spot. I visited the bluff during Karen Joy Fowler's week, and twice with Cory Doctorow. Cory referred to it as "Stan Robinson's point."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

death of a master

This Playboy interview with Ingmar Bergman really sheds light on the man. Here's an excerpt:

BERGMAN: ...You know, I used to think that compromise in life, as in art, was unthinkable, that the worst thing a man could do was make compromises. But of course I did make compromises. We all do. We have to. We couldn't live otherwise. But for a long time I wouldn't admit to myself - although, of course, at the same time I knew it - that I, too, was a man who compromised. I thought I could be above it all. I have learned that I can't. I have learned that what matters, really, is being alive. You're alive; you can't stand dead or half-dead people, can you? To me, what counts is being able to feel. That's what Winter Light - the film of mine that people seem to understand least - is trying to say. Now that you've been in Stockholm in midwinter for a few days, I think you can begin to understand, a little, what this film is about. What do you make of it?

PLAYBOY: We're more interested in learning what you make of it.
BERGMAN: Well, it was a difficult film, one of the hardest I've made so far. The audience has to work. It's a progression from Through a Glass Darkly, and it in turn is carried forward to The Silence. The three stand together. My basic concern in making them was to dramatize the all-importance of communication, of the capacity for feeling. They are not concerned - as many critics have theorized - with God or His absence, but with the saving force of love. Most of the people in these three films are dead, completely dead. They don't know how to love or to feel any emotions. They are lost because they can't reach anyone outside of themselves.
The man in Winter Light, the pastor, is nothing. He's nearly dead, you understand. He's almost completely cut off from everyone. The central character is the woman. She doesn't believe in God, but she has strength; it's the women who are strong. She can love. She can save with her love. Her problem is that she doesn't know how to express this love. She's ugly, clumsy. She smothers him, and he hates her for it and for her ugliness. But she finally learns how to love. Only at the end, when they're in the empty church for the three o'clock service that has become perfectly meaningless for him, her prayer in a sense is answered: he responds to her love by going on with the service in that empty country church. It's his own first step toward feeling, toward learning how to love. We're saved not by God, but by love. That's the most we can hope for.
PLAYBOY: How is this theme carried out in the other two films of the trilogy?
BERGMAN: Each film, you see, has its moment of contact, of human communication: the line "Father spoke to me," at the end of Through a Glass Darkly; the pastor conducting the service in the empty church for Marta at the end of Winter Light; the little boy reading Ester's letter on the train at the end of The Silence. A tiny moment in each film but the crucial one. What matters most of all in life is being able to make that contact with another human. Otherwise you are dead, like so many people today are dead. But if you can take that first step toward communication, toward understanding, toward love, then no matter how difficult the future may be - and have no illusions, even with all the love in the world, living can be hellishly difficult - then you are saved. This is all that really matters, isn't it?

death of a master II

death of a master III

While I was away at Clarion, not reading the papers, Ingmar Bergman died.
I watched Fanny and Alexander when I was fifteen, which was the perfect age and the perfect film, for an introduction to Bergman. "Introduction" seems ridiculous, though, because that film is a world in itself. Many of the events in the film paralleled my own life. I still remember the room I watched it in and the way the light came through the windows. It took all afternoon; the video was on two tapes.
I minored in medieval studies in college and our professor screened Seventh Seal for us. The last scenes of that film go to a place so spiritual, eschatological, and so freakily transcendent, I don't know if anyone has equaled them. I had never seen anything like it and I still haven't.
Bergman's Magic Flute helped me finish my fiction thesis for college. I stayed up all night and I don't know how I could have done it without Bergman and Mozart.

For me the only artists who can get to that place of Nordic metaphysical starkness with Bergman are Andrew Wyeth, Isak Dinesin, and late Ibsen-- who influenced Bergman.
Maybe Caspar David Freidrich:




And of course Kierkagaard.

I feel like Bergman has left a giant hole in the world. He directed fifty films or so, and at least as many plays. He was so old, and so prolific, I thought he would never die. He was often parodied, and I guess a lot of people didn't get him. I'm struggling to sum up what I feel about him, but I keep thinking about the line Marlene Deitrich has in Touch of Evil: "What does it matter what you say about a man?"
Here's a quote from Bergman himself:
"I want very much to tell, to talk about, the wholeness inside every human being. It's a strange thing that every human being has a sort of dignity or wholeness in him, and out of that develops relationships to other human beings, tensions, misunderstandings, tenderness, coming in contact, touching and being touched, the cutting off of a contact and what happens then."
(from Ingmar Bergman Directs by John Simon).
I'm not sure that I will ever be able to commit in my writing as totally to a personal, idiosyncratic vision as Bergman did in film, and I feel sad and frustrated about that.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

talking to Peter in the San Diego Airport, palm trees outside


Peter told me not to come back to Philadelphia.
"It's not here any more," he said.

I was waiting to get on the plane, and getting a last look at the palm trees and white haze of San Diego out the window.

"Then where are you now?" I said.

"Tulsa," he said. "Calls are being rerouted to Tulsa. The Philadelphia Underground is in Tulsa. Philly's gone."

"What did you guys do with it?"

"We blew it up. They put this glass dome over it. Like the ultimate gated community. You couldn't get in or out of Center City. We just got frustrated, so, you know..."
"It's lucky you told me this before I got on the plane," I said.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Wilde on self-actualization, and a different take on Jesus

I was skimming Oscar Wilde for a quote I like a lot. He says something like, Every man is already the best self he can possibly be. I find that profound. Maybe it's obvious. If your disposition and circumstances allowed it, you would be more than you are. But as it is, you are the best self you can achieve.

I thought the quote was the Wilde's Soul of Man Under Socialism.
Did he really say it, or am I just remembering a Harold Bloom paraphrase? I didn't find the quote, but I found this one,-- Wilde's original take on the significance of Jesus.

"And so he who would lead a Christlike life is he who is perfectly and absolutely himself. He may be a great poet, or a great man of science; or a young student at a University, or one who watches sheep upon a moor; or a maker of dramas, like Shakespeare, or a thinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden, or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matter what he is, as long as he realises the perfection of the soul that is within him. All imitation in morals and in life is wrong. Through the streets of Jerusalem at the present day crawls one who is mad and carries a wooden cross on his shoulders. He is a symbol of the lives that are marred by imitation. Father Damien was Christlike when he went out to live with the lepers, because in such service he realised fully what was best in him. But he was not more Christlike than Wagner when he realised his soul in music; or than Shelley, when he realised his soul in song. There is no one type for man. There are as many perfections as there are imperfect men. And while to the claims of charity a man may yield and yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield and remain free at all."

Here's another one, Wilde says the perfect man is more marked by peace than conflict:

"What I mean by a perfect man is one who develops under perfect conditions; one who is not wounded, or worried or maimed, or in danger. Most personalities have been obliged to be rebels. Half their strength has been wasted in friction. Byron's personality, for instance, was terribly wasted in its battle with the stupidity, and hypocrisy, and Philistinism of the English. Such battles do not always intensify strength: they often exaggerate weakness. Byron was never able to give us what he might have given us. Shelley escaped better. Like Byron, he got out of England as soon as possible. But he was not so well known. If the English had had any idea of what a great poet he really was, they would have fallen on him with tooth and nail, and made his life as unbearable to him as they possibly could. But he was not a remarkable figure in society, and consequently he escaped, to a certain degree. Still, even in Shelley the note of rebellion is sometimes too strong. The note of the perfect personality is not rebellion, but peace."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

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