One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Sunday, October 18, 2015

From Coetzee's "The Childhood of Jesus"


     'Well, in my opinion you are out of your mind, handing over your child to a stranger who for all you know has a dubious past.'
     'That's nonsense, Elena. Ines has no past, none that counts. None of us has a past. We start anew here. We start with a blank slate, a virgin slate. And Ines is not a stranger. I recognized her as soon as I set eyes on her, which means I must have some kind of prior know-ledge.'
     'You arrive here with no memories, with a blank slate, yet you claim to recognize faces from the past. It makes no sense.'
     'It is true: I have no memories. But images still persist, shades of images. How that is I can't explain. Something deeper persists too, which I call the memory of having a memory. It is not from the past that I recognize Ines but from elsewhere. It is as if the image of her were embedded in me. I have no doubts about her, no second thoughts. At least, I have no doubt that she is the boy's true mother.'
     'Then what doubts do you have?'
     'I only hope she will be good for him.' 

The Alderman Poses for a Portrait


Friday, October 16, 2015

Coetzee's "The Childhood of Jesus"

One Coetzee has led to another. I thought early reviews had said it was only so-so, but I recently read a review (can't remember who or where) that claimed it might be his best. That, and the fact that it's supposedly somewhat Kafkaesque (haven't read much, but it already feels like I'm somehow near The Castle), made me say, Let's give it a try.


From the beginning:

The man at the gate points them towards a low, sprawling building in the middle distance. 'If you hurry,' he says, 'you can check in before they close their doors for the day.'
     They hurry. Centro de Reubicacion Novilla, says the sign. Reubicacion: what does that mean? Not a word he has learned. 

Final "Clips" from "The Good Story"

I'm not sure about all the psycho-babble (Coetzee seems skeptical at times, at other times he plays along), but The Good Story was certainly an intelligent read. The final clips I share are from Coetzee on teaching (in this clip he's reporting on a talk given by one of my film idols: Juliette Binoche) and from Coetzee on Sebald's Austerlitz (first brought up by Kurtz).


     I recently happened to hear a talk by the actress Juliette Binoche during which she said (courageously, it seemed to me) that when she makes a film, her relationship with the director needs to be an erotic one -- if not, the work will suffer. She hastened to add that she did not mean that they have to go to bed together. But the actress has to be ready to give herself up to the director, to be at one with his vision; and vice versa. She did not elaborate further, but whether consciously or not she was clearly recalling Plato's position on the relationship between teacher and acolyte: that the energies tapped into in teaching and learning are those of Eros.


Thank you for introducing Austerlitz into our discussion. Sebald didn't like to call his books novels, but Austerlitz is clearly a novel and, what is more, one of the major novels of recent times. In the context of Sebald's life I see it as a work in progress, a project in coming to terms with history that was not yet completed at the time when he wrote its inconclusive last pages. Thus I see the book as more troubled than you do, and certainly not confident about offering us wisdom or guidance.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Coetzee and Kurtz @ Bucks

Still dark when I got to Bucks. The sun was rising when I left. Mostly bikers crossing @ 7th and Park; started seeing runners near the Colorado Lagoon and then Marine Stadium. Anyway . . .


Excerpt  from The Good Story (Coetzee is speaking/writing):

I relate our whole discussion to an essay by the philosopher Thomas Nagel that has acquired near scriptural status, called  'What is it like to be a bat?' Nagel's crucial move is to distinguish between two forms of the question: What would it be like for a human to be a bat? and What is it like for a bat to be a bat? In its first form, he says, the question is answerable; in the second form it is not.
     I disagree with Nagel. I think that by a strenuous effort of sympathetic projection one can reach a flickering intuition of what it is like for a bat to be a bat. But this does not amount to the claim that one can have intuitions of what it is really like for a bat to be a bat. In Nagel's terms, the only true, real knowledge one can have of what it is like to be anyone or anything in the world is a form of knowledge of what it is like to be oneself. Other such knowledge may be true, but its truth is the truth of fictions. This includes knowledge of what it is like for a neonate to be a neonate.

Long Beach Marathon 2015

Early @ Bucks, and then pretty much (except for dodging the barricades)  my usual "short walk." Saw enough to prove I was there, and the heat was already starting to climb.
Stay hydrated!




Bridge Building #1: Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project

Years ago, as a kid (21), I always wanted to design a bridge. Unfortunately, the only gig I had as a civil/structural engineer (got bored and moved on after 2.5 years) was designing pipe supports @ Fermi II. Oh, well, watching a bridge go up is a close second to building one.



Saturday, October 10, 2015

Historical Landmark (West Adams, LA)

Kind of a mini-scavenger hunt. We bagged this one. Was Christian Science, now it's something else (New Age, I guess). Got to look inside too.







Augenrund 113

Think it was Thursday.

Monday, October 5, 2015

R L Swihart @ "A Bad Penny Review"

Two new poems -- "Both/And" and "Help me build this o so exquisite bridge" -- are up at A Bad Penny Review.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Bioluminescent Friends 2: Glowworms


Help Anyone to Get Beyond This Point . . .

Arabella will try (I can certainly try!), but I have to stop reading here and save her response for another time (lessons and miles before I sleep).

Coetzee & Kurtz: "The Good Story"

The full title: The Good Story: Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy. Not really looking for answers -- just interesting discussion (to interact with here or in my head) and perhaps a little good writing.

Nabokov's The Eye (another text I've overlooked all these years) is coming next.


The text of The Good Story is basically a back-and-forth between Coetzee and Kurtz. I just finished King, Queen, Knave (certainly good enough to deserve the label: NABOKOVIAN -- and certainly deserving of a reread some day), and have just started The Good Story (I had the e-version pre-ordered).

First excerpt (from a link in the daisy chain by Kurtz):

     So the truth which psychotherapy is based upon, or at least my version of psychotherapy, is always dynamic, provisional and inter-subjective. It is contained within the terms of a relationship, which aims to reflect upon internal experience to help the patient to live as fully as possible in the world. It is also based, I think, on a belief that we can only know and understand ourselves fully through others -- through the way we experience others and ourselves in relation to others, and the way others experience us.
     This is what I read your book Summertime to be about.

Second excerpt (from the end of JMC's response to the Kurtz link above):

     Where one would go from here I am not sure. On the one hand I am alarmed by the prospect of a world in which people's notion of liberty includes the liberty to reconstruct their personal histories endlessly without fear of sanction (fear of the reality principle). On the other hand, if an individual who is deeply miserable can be cheered up by being encouraged to revise the story of their life, giving it a positive spin, who cold possibly object?
     In the first case the truth seems to me to matter, finally. We can't all simply be who we like to think we are. In the second case the truth seems to me to matter less. What is wrong with a harmless lie if it makes us feel better? (Example of such a lie: After we die we wake up in another, better world.)
     Help me to get beyond this point. 


Walking in the Rain: Bolsa Chica State Beach

The rain changed things a bit. It was raining when I got up (6-ish), so I decided to drive to Sunset Beach's Starbucks and finish King, Queen, Knave. Took my time, finished the book and started on a new one: The Good Story (co-authored by Coetzee and Kurtz). Then, instead of my usual: the bird reserve, I circled behind the Jack in the Box, and found lots of free parking (news to me). From there I walked a few miles along the biking/walking path in front of the fire-pitted strand.






Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nabokov and Net

Nabokov: Literary Hitchcock

Excerpt from King, Queen, Knave:

The other day as they were having ice chocolate there, Martha counted at least three foreigners among the crowd. One, judging by his newspaper, was a Dane. The other two were a less easily determinable pair: the girl was trying in vain to attract the attention of the café cat, a small black animal sitting on a chair and licking one hind paw rigidly raised like a shouldered club. Her companion, a suntanned fellow, smoked and smiled. What language were they speaking? Polish? Esthonian? Leaning near them against the wall was some kind of net: a bag of pale-bluish gauze on a ring fixed to a rod of light metal.
     "Shrimp catchers," said Martha. "I want shrimps for dinner tonight." (She clicked her front teeth."
     "No," said Franz. "That's not a fisherman's net. That's for catching mosquitoes."
     "Butterflies," said Dreyer, lifting an index finger.
     "Who wants to catch butterflies?" remarked Martha.
     "Oh, it must be good sport," said Dreyer. "In fact, I think to have a passion for something is the greatest happiness on earth." 

Bioluminescent Friends: Glowworms @ Colorado Lagoon

I know: pretty lousy. Less than 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. More lagoon light than bug light. Will perhaps try again tomorrow (some said we'd missed the fireworks, but I think a big part of it is my camera -- not so good).

Unexpected Guest

Charlie was interested. We were on our way to see our bioluminescent friends: Glowworms.