Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Power Of The Novel

"It is quite possible--overwhelmingly probable, one might guess--that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology."
--Noam Chomsky

Currently listening to...

..."Good Day Today" by David Lynch.
Yes, the director.
Yes, it's good.

Lynch has always been involved with the soundtracks for his films. I quite liked the song he did for INLAND EMPIRE.

"I've always loved sounds and so I built a studio where I can experiment with sound, and gradually I started experimenting with music. I'm not a musician, but I love to experiment and try to make music," Lynch said in an recent interview for the release of this single.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Just watched...

...Ang Lee's delightful TAKING WOODSTOCK.


Sweet, charming, and intimate despite the huge subject, TAKING WOODSTOCK is a film not about Woodstock but the characters and events around it. We follow Eliot Tiber, a young man who lured the organizers of the Woodstock Festival to the White Lake area of New York after their initial location fell through. Demetri Martin plays Eliot with a lovely restrained sense... Eliot is trapped both at his family's motel, and trapped in the closet, hiding his homosexuality. His dour, stingy parents played by Henry Goodman and the amazingly talented Imelda Staunton (compare this performance to her turn as Dolores Umbridge in THE HARRY POTTER films) keep him psychologically bound. But when the exhilarating chaos and hippie-freedom of Woodstock comes to town, their lives loosen and expand.

Some reviews I read complained that Ang Lee did not show any of the music. But that is not what the film is about. There is a perfectly good documentary of the festival, so no need to recreate it. The film is about the reverberations and spirit of the festival spilling over and changing people's lives.

The film's style does now and then split the screen into thirds or quarters, and wash out the colors in an imitation of the documentary; these effects evoke the feeling of the period very well. Set and wardrobe details complete the look and feel.

Recommend? Yes. Sweet and fun.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Just finished reading...

...ORYX AND CRAKE by the utterly brilliant Margaret Atwood.


An absolutely horrendous vision of the end of the world as we know it, ORYX AND CRAKE simply takes what already exists in our world currently and follows its logical course of events to a nightmarish end. Snowman tells the story of his life, his best friend, the girl they loved, and the their crossed and twisted paths that lead to the end of mankind.

The genetically modified plants and animals that populate this story are nearly as sad and upsetting as the end of our species. Interestingly, the one that upset me the most was the Chickie Nobs--a featherless chicken blob without legs, a beak, eyes or even a brain or head. It looks like a sea anemone and grows chicken parts at the end of stalks. It seems entirely plausible that some large company (either food or genetics) would genetically modify a creature to produce more food without the pesky living creature getting in the way. Terrifying.

Margaret Atwood's visions of the future always scare me: THE HANDMAID'S TALE is yet another take on a possible future we are headed for with the crazy Radical Christian Agenda forcing everyone to live like we are in the Dark Ages. Atwood's imagination and power over the scenario are always breathtaking. Her writing style seems effortless and creates a book like white rapids: you get in the boat and hold on for the ride.

Recommend? Oh, yes...yes. Might as well see now what the future is going to be... so you can duck when you see it coming at you.

(PS: Starting part two of the story, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD, next.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Currently listening to...

...the hard, cruel, breathtaking "Eighties" by Killing Joke. The rage we felt during the 80s is sure coming back: be prepared for more ugliness from the descendants of Reagan and Thatcher...
It's quite disheartening to see how little has changed in nearly 30 years. There was a moment of brightness in the middle of it all, but that seems to have faded as though it never happened. All the characters are still here--it's just that new actors have been cast in the old roles.
"Push, push...struggle" indeed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

One Step Closer To Anti Matter

CERN Makes and Traps Anti-Matter, Mystery of Science

In an article in the journal Nature, CERN said it had produced anti-hydrogen atoms -- the opposite of a hydrogen atom -- in a vacuum and kept them viable for about a tenth of a second: "Long enough to study them," it said.

Some 38 anti-hydrogen atoms have now been trapped long enough for scientists to take a look at them in their quest to understand what happened to anti-matter after the Big Bang explosion that created the universe.

"For reasons that no one yet understands, nature ruled out anti-matter," Jeffrey Hangst, a spokesman for the "Alpha" experiment, said in a statement. "This inspires us to work that much harder to see if anti-matter holds some secret."

(Reporting by Laura MacInnis)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eight years ago today...

My Mom As A Young Waitress

You don’t know how pretty you are.
Harried, hurried, scared,
brushing aside a lock of strawberry
blond hair with the back of your hand
on the way to the kitchen,
your first day at a new job,
at Your Host Restaurant in Rochester,
trying to be fun, bubbly, outgoing,
worried about doing a good job.
I sit in this red padded booth,
years before I will be born,
and see a young girl, innocent,
coming toward me, stopping at my table,
smiling, pad and pencil ready, asking,
“Can I take your order?”
I look up into your
sparkling soft blue eyes,
and smile back.
I want to say,
“You’re so lovely.
And you’re sweet.
You’re perfect,
just how you are.
You should like yourself more.
Everything’s gonna be okay.
You’re gonna have what you
always wanted. And it will be
a boy.”
I want to say,
“Hi Mom, I miss you so much!”
In my silence, you ask,
“Sir? What can I get you?”
“Uh… a bowl of tomato soup
and a tuna salad sandwich, please.”
I eat, watching you wait on the
other customers. When I am done
and paid, you happen to pass me
as I approach the door.
You smile and wave:
“See you again, soon!”
I say, “Yes…
Yes. You look for me, okay?”

©JEF 2006


"Her Absence Filled The World" by William Kentridge

Saturday, November 20, 2010


“It’s too long ago now,
to be undone.
A second or a year,
once gone is gone.”
--Tracey Thorn

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010


"The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost."
--Arthur Schopenhauer

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


“Here comes the gun, there goes the flash,
Once the bullet leaves, it’s never coming back…”
--David Sylvian

"Weeping Woman, Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France"
Photo by JEF

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nine years ago today...

My Father Did Not Come Home

I wonder what you were like,
what you did before I was born.
Did you speak, laugh, cry?
After I was wrapped in a blanket,
I came home
but you didn’t.
You sent your soul
in another direction and you
came hollow, indifferent.
What were you afraid of?
What was it?

While I was growing,
you practiced invisibility daily,
willed yourself to become
to disintegrate,
to turn into vapor.
When I reached out,
my hand went through you.

You didn’t come home
and you continually
left without me--
the boat was ready,
you set sail that night,
but when I asked,
“If I hurry and pack,
can I come with you?”,
you were overcome with
an inexplicable
to leave

You mastered the maddening art of
invisibility; prepared to take that final step,
you became an
empty space,
a void.

Desperate, eternal
my need,
your escape.

©JEF 1992—2010


Monday, November 15, 2010

BEAUTY: Painting--Christer Karlstad

Norway's Christer Karlstad paints haunting, evocative images of abandoned amusement park rides. They speak to a sense of nostalgia, of the loss of childhood and innocence, and of decay and an ominous encroaching sense of inevitable destruction.


Beauty: Art

"The Caretaker of Reality"

If anyone knows who created this superb work, please let me know so I can give credit.

UPDATE 6.17.11: I am so happy I have figured out who painted this gorgeous creation. It is by Julie Heffernan and it is titled "Great Scout Leader III."

"Messages From My World"

Messages From My World

These bulletins, these updates in short bursts,
I am transmitting them all back.
You may receive them
through static on the radio
or as a ghost image on television,
superimposed over the news.
They may come to you like
dreams or visions or you may
hear voices like Joan of Arc.
Do not be alarmed. Instead,
just let me tell you that
I am of this world but
not in it. I was born into
the space between the spokes,
shot out into that small wedge of
nothing that is within the wheel,
caught, spinning and spinning,
banging back and forth but
not really part of the wheel.
Let me tell you that, today,
I am boiling even in this cold and
my soul sounds like a xylophone.
A man almost as old as my father
called me sir today and
years from now, I’ll remember
walking, nodding to passers by, hovering
in places I’d never been before
and never went back. On my death,
I’ll see my life as a long string of
unknown places, independent, alone.
So I continue outward, no luck, no logic.
The farther out I go, the less I remember
home—I look in my rear view mirror
and see it all shrinking into the distance.
The longer I’m gone, the more I find
there’s nowhere to go and nothing to know.
When I was born, I was shot from a sling and
I’ve been hurtling through the world ever since,
mapping out new territory, getting lost, then
finding my way again so I can
guide someone else when they’re lost.
I’m pedaling backward uphill and
someday I’ll return to the
starting point, I’ll come back home and
there’ll be cake and champagne for everyone.
Until then, stay tuned to the following messages…

©JEF 1998

Saturday, November 13, 2010

One Step Closer To Dark Matter

Astronomers have created a new, incredibly detailed map of dark matter by using the Hubble Space Telescope to peer through a huge cluster of galaxies as if it were a cosmic magnifying glass.
Though invisible, dark matter makes its presence known through its gravitational tug on normal stuff. Scientists now calculate that dark matter could make up 80 percent of all the matter in the universe.
The new dark matter map could reveal secrets not just about dark matter, but about its equally enigmatic sibling, dark energy. This is the name given to the perplexing force that is pulling against gravity, causing the universe to balloon in size ever more rapidly.
The dark matter map was created with observations from the Hubble telescope of a large galaxy cluster called Abell 1689, located 2.2 billion light-years from Earth. This cluster is famous as a stunning example of gravitational lensing – a phenomenon predicted by Einstein that happens when massive objects warp the space-time around them, causing even light to travel on a bent path when it passes by.
When astronomers look at Abell 1689, they can see distorted pictures of the galaxies that lie beyond it in our line of sight: As those galaxies' light travels from them to us, it passes through Abell 1689 and is bent and magnified.
By studying this so-called lensing effect, scientists can deduce the mass that is causing the warping.
Astronomer Dan Coe of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and Edward Fuselier of the United States Military Academy at West Point teamed up to apply a new mathematical formulation to Hubble observations of Abell 1689. The result is the most accurate, detailed calculation so far of the cluster's mass distribution, including the mass that can't be accounted for by the visible matter – meaning, the dark matter.
"The lensed images are like a big puzzle," Coe said. "Here we have figured out, for the first time, a way to arrange the mass of Abell 1689 such that it lenses all of these background galaxies to their observed positions."
Above: the new map of dark matter

12 November 2010
01:29 pm ET

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some Day Here On Earth

It happens all the time in heaven,
and some day it will begin to happen again on earth...
that men and women who are married,
and men and men who are lovers,
and women and women who give each other light,
often will get down on their knees
and while so tenderly holding their lover's hand,
with tears in their eyes,
will sincerely speak, saying,
"My dear, how can I be more loving to you;
how can I be more kind?"


Sunday, November 7, 2010


I discovered a new (to me) artist tonight. Algora is from Madrid, Spain and combines folk with electronica to great effect. His voice is lovely and goes down so easy and smooth.

I have been listening to these songs all night. They are from his 2007 debut release, "Planes de Verano."

"Viaje a San Francisco" ("Trip to San Francisco")

"David" (a beautiful song of unrequited love)

His newest collection, "Galimatias," was released this summer.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Halfway Through Autumn

Today is the halfway point in this quarter of the year. Winter is coming!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Currently listening to...

...the enchanting, dream-like "All The Big Trees" by Jónsi and Alex, while I drift off to sleep...


I Had That Dream Again



We are all still slightly groggy.
My father is outside repotting plants
that we took with us
when we fled to Dreamland.
But the only pots they have here
are Jadeite and they
chip and crack and split
when my father fills them with dirt.

I also brought my pet mouse, Ricky.
I would never leave him behind.
But he’s not in my hands
or in the house.
I can’t see him scurrying along
the baseboards or across
the living room carpet.
He escaped with us intact
but now he is gone and
I don’t know if he’s alive.

Outside, next to the house,
I call him. It is dusk and
the light is dim but out of the
shadows, I see him running
to me in a zig-zag, a flash
of fur, a crazy
rush of happiness.
I pick him up and pet his head.
Maybe things will be
better here after all.

©JEF 2000

Currently listening to...

...Morrissey's brilliant, kickass "Ganglord." The sound is thick, substantial and serious and I love it.

"Ganglord, there's a clock on the wall
making fun of us all.
Ganglord, the clock on the wall
makes a joke of us all."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BEAUTY: Ceramics--Lisa Clague

Working in clay, Lisa Clague creates stunning figurative pieces of profound beauty. Her marvelous anthropomorphic/ zoomorphic forms are infused with an hallucinatory sense of fantasy, and a slight sense of dread and fear.


BEAUTY: Men--Eyes Part 1

The eyes have it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Día de los Muertos 2010

Today is Día de los Muertos, a joyous, upbeat holiday originating in Mexico but now widely celebrated here in the United States. It is a day to celebrate and remember ancestors and departed loved ones. Altars are created in homes that feature pictures of dead loved ones along with favorite objects and food they liked when they were alive (called ofrenda or offerings), decorated sugar skulls, imagery of skeletons and calacas (a figure of a skull or a skeleton), colorful paper cut-outs, candles, and copious amounts of marigolds.

Above: Ofrenda on a home altar
Below: Examples of calacas

Families go to cemeteries to tend to family plots, gravesides and tombs. There is a carnival-like atmosphere in Mexico as huge crowds descend upon cemeteries to hold all night vigils and cook food not only for themselves but also for the spirits of the departed who can visit this earthly realm one night a year. Old women sit in chairs by the graves while children run and play tag, musicians play and sing, and people sit and talk with family members.

Above: A grave in Ocotepec, a town near Cuernavaca.

In the United States, the largest Día de los Muertos celebration is held in San Francisco. A street parade with drumming and dancing attracts thousands of people who dress up in traditional skull face paint and costumes. The video below is a nice clip of the street parade from 2008.