Julio 12, 2011

The thing about cliche


I have no doubt that most of them, also, would like to be much better writers than they are, would like to have force and integrity and imagination enough of these to earn a decent living at some art of literature that has the dignity of a free profession. It will not happen to them, and there is not much reason why it should. If it ever could have happened, it will not happen now. For even the best of them (with a few rare exceptions) devote their entire time to work which has no more possibility of distinction than a Pekinese has of becoming a Great Dane: to asinine musicals about Technicolor legs and the yowling of night-club singers; to "psychological" dramas with wooden plots, stock characters, and that persistent note of fuzzy earnestness which suggests the conversation of schoolgirls in puberty; to sprightly and sophisticated comedies (we hope) in which the gags are as stale as the attitudes, in which there is always a drink in every hand, a butler in every doorway, and a telephone on the edge of every bathtub; to historical epics in which the male actors look like female impersonators, and the lovely feminine star looks just a little too starry-eyed for a babe who has spent half her life swapping husbands; and last but not least, to those pictures of deep social import in which everybody is thoughtful and grown-up and sincere and the more difficult problems of life are wordily resolved into a unanimous vote of confidence in the inviolability of the Constitution, the sanctity of the home, and the paramount importance of the streamlined kitchen.

Writers in Hollywood, Raymond Chandler 1945

When you open The Lost World you enter a strange terrain of one-page chapters, one-sentence paragraphs and one-word sentences. You will gaze through the thick canopy of authorial padding. It's a jungle out there, and jungles are 'hot' sometimes 'very hot'. 'Malcolm wiped his forehead. "It's hot up here."' Levine agrees: '"Yes, it's hot."' Thirty pages later it's still hot. '"Jeez, it's hot up here, " Eddie said.' And Levine agrees again: '"Yes," Levine said, shrugging.' Out there, beyond the foliage, you see herds of cliches, roaming free. You will listen in 'stunned silence' to an 'unearthly cry' or a 'deafening roar'. Raptors are 'rapacious'. Reptiles are 'reptilian'. Pain is 'searing'.

The Lost World by Michael Crichton, The War against cliche, Martin Amis

Junio 30, 2011

On Being Caesar


Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
Yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men: he loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music;
Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort
As if he mock'd himself and scorn'd his spirit
That could be moved to smile at any thing.

Such men as he be never at heart's ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.

I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd
Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar.

Mayo 30, 2011

The Journalist and the Murderer


Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns—when the article or book appears—his hard lesson. Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and “the public’s right to know”; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about earning a living.

Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer

Mayo 21, 2011

Anything else you worship will eat you alive


In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things -- if they are where you tap real meaning in life -- then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already -- it's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power -- you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart -- you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

(...) The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default-setting, the "rat race" -- the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

From a commencement speech given by David Foster Wallace to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College.

Mayo 15, 2011

The rotten names


Can't you see that when the language was new—as it was with Chaucer and Homer—the poet could use the name of a thing and the thing was really there. He could say 'O moon,' 'O sea,' 'O love,' and the moon and the sea and love were really there. And can't you see that after of years had gone by and thousands of poems had been written, he could call on those words and find that they were just worn out literary words. The excitingness of pure being had withdrawn from them; they were just rather stale literary words. Now the poet has to work in the excitingness of pure being; he has to get back that intensity into the language. We all know that it's hard to write poetry in a late age; and we know that you have to put some strangeness, as something unexpected, into the structure of the sentence in order to bring back vitality to the noun. Now it's not enough to be bizarre; the strangeness in the sentence structure has to come from the poetic gift, too. That's why it's doubly hard to be a poet in a late age. Now you all have seen hundreds of poems about roses and you know in your bones that the rose is not there. All those songs that sopranos sing as encores about 'I have a garden! oh, what a garden!'Now I don't want to put too much emphasis on that line, because it's just one linein a longer poem. But I notice that you all know it; you make fun of it, but you know it. Now listen! I'm no fool. I know that in daily life we don't go around saying ' a...'. Yes, I'm no fool; but I think that in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years.

Gertrude Stein at the University of Chicago

Mayo 12, 2011

Consider, for example, the state of Science [1829]

It is admitted, on all sides, that the Metaphysical and Moral Sciences are falling into decay, while the Physical are engrossing, every day, more respect and attention. In most of the European nations there is now no such thing as a Science of Mind; only more or less advancement in the general science, or the special sciences, of matter. The French were the first to desert Metaphysics; and though they have lately affected to revive their school, it has yet no signs of vitality. The land of Malebranche, Pascal, Descartes Fenelon, has now only its Cousins and Villemains; while, in the department of Physics, it reckons far other names. Among ourselves, the Philosophy of Mind, after a rickety infancy, which never reached the vigour of manhood, fell suddenly into decay, languished and finally died out, with its last amiable cultivator, Professor Stewart. In no nation but Germany has any decisive effort been made in psychological science; not to speak of any decisive result. The science of the. age, in short, is physical, chemical, physiological; in all shapes mechanical. Our favourite Mathematics, the highly prized exponent of all these other sciences, has also become more and more mechanical. [103/104] Excellence in what is called its higher departments depends less on natural genius than on acquired expertness in wielding its machinery. Without undervaluing the wonderful results which a Lagrange or Laplace educes by means of it, we may remark, that their calculus, differential and integral, is little else than a more cunningly-constructed arithmetical mill; where the factors, being put in, are, as it were, ground into the true product, under cover, and without other effort on our part than steady turning of the handle. We have more Mathematics than ever; but less Mathesis. Archimedes and Plato could not have read the Mécanique Céleste; but neither would the whole French Institute see aught in that saying, "God geometrises!" but a sentimental rodomontade.

Signs of the Times, Thomas Carlyle [1829]

Mayo 10, 2011

Rereading: Permutation City


Paul uncovered his eyes, and looked around the room. Away from a few dazzling patches of direct sunshine, everything glowed softly in the diffuse light: the matte white brick walls, the imitation (imitation) mahogany furniture; even the posters — Bosch, Dali, Ernst, and Giger — looked harmless, domesticated. Wherever he turned his gaze (if nowhere else), the simulation was utterly convincing; the spotlight of his attention made it so. Hypothetical light rays were being traced backwards from individual rod and cone cells on his simulated retinas, and projected out into the virtual environment to determine exactly what needed to be computed: a lot of detail near the centre of his vision, much less towards the periphery. Objects out of sight didn't “vanish” entirely, if they influenced the ambient light, but Paul knew that the calculations would rarely be pursued beyond the crudest first-order approximations: Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights reduced to an average reflectance value, a single grey rectangle — because once his back was turned, any more detail would have been wasted. Everything in the room was as finely resolved, at any given moment, as it needed to be to fool him — no more, no less.

Permutation City, Greg Egan

Mayo 07, 2011

If the television screen is going to watch you, rewire it


Si estamos, como parece, en pleno proceso de convertirnos en una sociedad totalitaria donde el aparato de estado es todo-poderoso; el codigo moral imprescindible para la supervivencia del individuo libre y verdadero será: engañar, mentir, ocultar, aparentar, escapar, falsificar documentos, construir aparatos electrónicos en tu garage capaces de superar los gadgets de las autoridades. Si la pantalla de tu televisor te está vigilando, revierte los cables de noche, cuando te permitan tenerlo apagado. Y hazlo de manera que el perro policía que vigilaba la transmisión de tu casa acaba viendo el contenido de su propio salón.

Repensando Newstweek como herramienta de insurreccion civil. Si quieren darle la vuelta a los cables, aqui esta el manual. Si solo quieren leer el texto de Philip K. Dick, jump!

Philip K. Dick, 1972

It is the tendency of the so-called primitive mind to animate its environment. Modern depth psychology has requested us for years to withdraw these anthropomorphic projections from what is actually inanimate reality, to introject -- that is, to bring back into our own heads -- the living quality which we, in ignorance, cast out onto the inert things surrounding us. Such introjection is said to be the mark of true maturity in the individual, and the authentic mark of civilization in contrast to mere social culture, such as one find in a tribe. A native of Africa is said to view his surroundings as pulsing with a purpose, a life, which is actually within himself; once these childish projections are withdrawn, he sees that the world is dead, and that life resides solely within himself. When he reaches this sophisticated point he is said to be either mature or sane. Or scientific. But one wonders: has he not also, in this process, reifed -- that is, made into a thing -- other people? Stones and rocks and trees may now be inanimate for him, but what about his friends? Has he not now made them into stones, too?

This is, really, a psychological problem. And its solution, I think, is of less importance in any case than one might think, because, within the last decade, we have seen a trend not anticipated by our earnest psychologists -- or by anyone else -- which dwarfs that issue: our environment, and I mean our man-made world of machines, artificial constructs, computers, electronic systems, interlinking homeostatic components -- all this is in fact beginning more and more to possess what the earnest psychologists fear the primitive sees in his environment: animation. In a very real sense our environment is becoming alive, or at least quasi-alive, and in ways specifically and fundamentally analogous to ourselves. Cybernetics, a valuable recent scientific discipline, articulated by the late Norbert Wiener, saw valid comparisons between the behavior of machines and humans -- with the view that a study of machines would yield valuable insights into the nature of our own behavior. By studying what goes wrong with a machine -- for example when two mutually exclusive tropisms function simultaneously in one of Grey Walter's synthetic turtles, producing fascinatingly intricate behavior in the befuddled turtles -- one learns, perhaps, a new, more fruitful insight into what in humans was previously called "neurotic" behavior. But suppose the use of this analogy is turned the other way? Suppose -- and I don't believe Wiener anticipated this -- suppose a study of ourselves, our own nature, enables us to gain insight into the now extraordinarily complex functioning and malfunctioning of mechanical and electronic constructs? In other words -- and this is what I wish to stress in what I am saying here -- it is now possible that we can learn about the artificial external environment around us, how it behaves, why, what it is up to, by analogizing from what we know about ourselves.

Machines are becoming more human, so to speak -- at least in the sense that, as Wiener indicated, some meaningful comparison exists between human and mechanical behavior. But is it not ourselves that we know first and foremost? Rather than learning about ourselves by studying our constructs, perhaps we should make the attempt to comprehend what our constructs are up to by looking into what we ourselves are up to.

Perhaps, really, what we are seeing is a gradual merging of the general nature of human activity and function into the activity and function of what we humans have built and surrounded ourselves with. A hundred years ago such a thought would have been absurd, rather than merely anthropomorphic. What could a man living in 1750 have learned about himself by observing the behavior of a donkey steam engine? Could he have watched it huffing and puffing and then extrapolated from its labor an insight into why he himself continually fell in love with one certain type of pretty young girl? This would not have been primitive thinking on his part; it would have been pathological. But now we find ourselves immersed in a world of our own making so intricate, so mysterious, that as Stanislaw Lem, the eminent Polish science fiction writer, theorizes, the time may come when for example a man may have to be restrained from attempting to rape a sewing machine. Let us hope, if that time comes, that it is a female sewing machine he fastens his intentions on. And one over the age of seventeen -- hopefully a very old treadle-operated Singer, although possibly regrettably past menopause.

I have, in some of my stories and novels, written about androids or robots or simulara -- the name doesn't matter; what is meant is artificial constructs masquerading as humans. Usually with a sinister purpose in mind. I suppose I took it for granted that if such a construct, a robot for example, had a benign or anyhow decent purpose in mind, it would not need to so disguise itself. Now, to me, that theme seems obsolete. The constructs do not mimic humans; they are, in many deep ways, actually human already. They are not trying to fool us, for a purpose of any sort; they merely follow lines we follow, in order that they, too, may overcome such common problems as the breakdown of vital parts, loss of power source, attack by such foes as storms, short circuits -- and I'm sure any one of us here can testify that a short circuit, especially in our power supply, can ruin our entire day and make us utterly unable to get to our daily job, or, once at the office, useless as far as doing the work set forth on our desk.

What would occur to me as a recasting of the robot-appearing-as-human theme would be a gleaming robot with a telescan-lens and a helium battery powerback, who, when jostled, bleeds. Underneath the metal hull is a heart, such as we ourselves have. Perhaps I will write that. Or, as in stories already in print, a computer, when asked some ultimate question such as, "Why is there water?", prints out First Corinthians. One story I wrote, which I'm afraid I failed to take seriously enough, dealt with a computer which, when able to answer a question put to it, ate the questioner. Presumably -- I failed to go into this -- had the computer been unable to answer a question, the human questioner would have eaten it. Anyhow, I inadvertently blended the human and the construct, and didn't notice that such a blend might, in time, actually begin to become part of our reality. Like Lem, I think this will be so, more and more. But to project past Lem's idea: a time may come when, if a man tries to rape a sewing machine, the sewing machine will have him arrested and testify perhaps even a little hysterically against him in court. This leads to all sorts of spinoff ideas: false testimony by suborned sewing machines who accuse innocent men unfairly, paternity tests, and, of course, abortions for sewing machines which have become pregnant against their will. And would there be birth control pills for sewing machines? Probably, like one of my previous wives, certain sewing machines would complain that the pills made them overweight -- or rather, in their case, that it made them sew irregular stitches. And there would be unreliable sewing machines that would forget to take birth control pills. And, last but not least, there would have to be Planned Parenthood Clinics at which sewing machines just off the assembly lines would be conseled as to the dangers of promiscuity, with severe warnings of venereal diseases visited on such immoral machines by an outraged God -- Himself, no doubt, able to sew buttonholes and fancy needlework at a rate that would dazzle the credulous merely metal and plastic sewing machines always ready, like ourselves, to kowtow before divine miracles.

I am being facetious about this, I suppose, but -- the point is not merely a humorous one. Our electronic constructs are becoming so complex that to comprehend them we must now reverse the analogizing of cybernetics and try to reason from our own mentation and behavior to theirs -- although I suppose to assign motive or purpose to them would be to enter the realm of paranoia; what machines do may resemble what we do, but certainly they do not have intent in the sense that we have; they have tropisms, they have purpose in the sense that we build them to accomplish certain ends and to react to certain stimuli. A pistol, for example, is built with the purpose of firing a metal slug that will damage, incapacitate or kill someone, but this does not mean the pistol wants to do this. And yet here we are entering the philosophical realm of Spinoza when he saw, and I think with great profundity, that if a falling stone could reason, it would think, "I want to fall at the rate of 32 feet per second per second." Free will for us -- that is, when we feel desire, when we conscious of wanting to do what we do -- may be even for us an illusion; and depth psychology seems to substantiate this: many of our drives in life originate from an unconscious that is beyond our control. We are driven as are insects, although the term "instinct" is perhaps not applicable for us. Whatever the term, much of our behavior that we feel is the result of our will, may control us to the extent that for all practical purposes we falling stones, doomed to drop at a rate prescribed by nature, as rigid and predictable as the force that creates a crystal. Each of us may feel himself unique, with an intrinsic destiny never before seen in the universe... and yet to God we may be millions of crystals, identical in the eyes of the Cosmic Scientist.

And -- here is a thought not too pleasing -- as the external world becomes more animate, we may find that we -- the so-called humans -- are becoming, and may to a great extent always have been, inanimate in the sense that we are led, directed by built-in tropisms, rather than leading. So we and our elaborately evolving computers may meet each other halfway. Someday a human being, named perhaps Fred White, may shoot a robot named Pete Something-or-other, which has come out of a General Electrics factory, and to his surprise see it weep and bleed. And they dying robot may shoot back and, to its surprise, see a wisp of gray smoke arise from the electric pump that it supposed was Mr. White's beating heart. It would be rather a great moment of truth for both of them.

I would like then to ask this: what is it, in our behavior, that we can call specifically human? That is special to us as a living species? And what is it that, at least up to now, we can consign as merely machine behavior, or, by extension, insect behavior, or reflex behavior? And I would include, in this, the kind of pseudo-human behavior exhibited by what were once living men -- creatures who have, in ways I wish to discuss next, become instruments, means, rather than ends, and hence to me analogs of machines in the bad sense, in the sense that although biological life continues, metabolism goes on, the soul -- for lack of a better term -- is no longer there or at least no longer active. And such does exist in our world -- it always did, but the production of such inauthentic human activity has become a science of government and such-like agencies, now. The reduction of humans to mere use -- men made into machines, serving a purpose which although "good" in an abstract sense has, for its accomplishment, employed what I regard as the greatest evil imaginable: the placing on what was a free man who laughed and cried and made mistakes and wandered off into foolishness and play a restriction that limits him, despite what he may imagine or think, to the fulfilling of an aim outside of his own personal -- however puny -- destiny. As if, so to speak, history has made him into its instrument. History, and men skilled in -- and trained in -- the use of manipulative techniques, equipped with devices, ideologically oriented, themselves, in such as way that the use of these devices strikes them as a necessary or at least desirable method of bringing about some ultimately desired goal.

I think, at this point, of Tom Paine's comment about or another party of the Europe of his time: "They admired the feathers and forgot the dying bird." And it is the "dying bird" that I am concerned with. The dying -- and yet, I think, beginning once again to revive in the hearts of the new generation of kids coming into maturity -- the dying bird of authentic humanness.

This is what I wish to say to you here, today. I wish to disclose my hope, my faith, in the kids who are emerging now. Their world, their values. And, simultaneously, their imperviousness to the false values, the false idols, the false hates, of the previous generations. The fact that they, these fine, good kids, cannot be reached or moved or even touched by the "gravity" -- to refer back to my previous metaphor -- that has made us older persons fall, against our knowledge or will, at 32 feet per second per second throughout our lives... while believing that we desired it.

It is as if these kids, or at least many of them, some of them, are falling at a different rate, or, really, not falling at all. Walt Whitman's "Marching to the sound of other drummers" might be rephrased this way: falling, not in response to unexamined, unchallenged alleged "verities," but in response to a new and inner -- and genuinely authentic -- human desire.

Youth, of course, has always tended toward this; in fact this is really a definition of youth. But right now it is so urgent, if, as I think, we are merging by degrees into homogeneity with our mechanical constructs, step by step, month by month, until a time will perhaps come when a writer, for example, will not stop writing because someone unplugged his electric typewriter but because some unplugged him. But there are kids now who cannot be unplugged because no electric cord links them to any external powersource. Their hearts beat with an interior, private meaning. Their energy doesn't come from a pacemaker; it comes from a stubborn, almost absurdly perverse, refusal to be "shucked," that is, to be taken in by the slogans, the ideology -- in fact by any and all ideology itself, of whatever sort -- that would reduce them to instruments of abstract causes, however "good." Back in California, where I come from, I have been living with such kids, participating, to the extent I can, in their emerging world. I would like to tell you about their world because -- if we are lucky -- something of that world, those values, that way of life, will shape the future of our total society, our utopia or anti-utopia of the future. As a science fiction writer, I must of course look continually ahead, always at the future. It is my hope -- and I'd like to communicate it to you in the tremendous spirit of optimism that I feel so urgently and strongly -- that our collective tomorrow exists in embryonic form in the heads, or rather in the hearts, of these kids who right now, at their young ages, are politically and sociologically powerless, unable even, by our Californian laws, to buy a bottle of beer or a cigarette, to vote, to in any way shape, be consulted about, or bring into existence the official laws that govern their and our society. I think, really, I am saying this: if you are interested in the world of tomorrow you may learn something about it, or at least read about possibilities that may emerge to fashion it, in the pages of Analog and F&SF and Amazing, but actually, to find it in its authentic form, you will discover it as you observe a 16- or 17-year-old kid as he goes about his natural peregrinations, his normal day. Or, as we say in the San Francisco Bay Area, as you observe him "cruising around town to check out the action." This is what I have found. These kids, that I have known, lived with, still know, in California, are my science fiction stories of tomorrow, my summation, at this point in my life as a person and a writer; they are what I look ahead to - and so keenly desire to see prevail. What, more than anything else I have ever encountered, I believe in. And would give my life for. My full measure of devotion, in this war we are fighting, to maintain, and augment, what is human about us, what is the core of ourselves, and the source of our destiny. Our flight must be not only to the stars but into the nature of our own beings. Because it is not merely where we go, to Alpha Centaurus or Betelgeuse, but what we are as we make our pilgrimages there. Our natures will be going there, too. "Ad astra" -- but "per hominem." And we must never lose sight of that.

It would, after all, be rather dismaying, if the first two-legged entity to emerge on the surface of Mars from a Terran spacecraft were to declare, "Thanks be to God for letting me, letting me, click, letting, click, click... this is a recording." And then catch fire and explode as a couple of wires got crossed somewhere within its plastic chest. And probably even more dismaying to this construct would be the discovery when it returned to Earth, to find that its "children" had been recycled along with the aluminum beer cans and Coca Cola bottles as fragments of the urban pollution problem. And, finally, when this astronaut made of plastic and wiring and relays went down to the City Hall officials to complain, it would discover that its three-year guarantee had run out, and, since parts were no longer available to keep it functioning, its birth certificate had been cancelled.

Of course, literally, we should not take this seriously. But as a metaphor -- in some broad sense maybe we should scrutinize more closely the two-legged entities we plan to send up, for example, to man the orbiting space station. We do not want to learn three years from now that the alleged human crew had all married portions of the space station and had settled down to whirr happily forever after in connubial bliss. As in Ray Bradbury's superb story in which a fear-haunted citizen of Los Angeles discovers that the police car trailing him has no driver, that it is tailing him on its own, we should be sure that one of us sits in the driver's seat; in Mr. Bradbury's story the real horror, at least to me, is not that the police car has its own tropism as it hounds the protagonist but that, within the car, there is a vacuum. A place unfilled. The absence of something vital -- that is the horrific part, the apocalyptic vision of a nightmare future. But, I, myself, foresee something more optimistic: had I written that story I would have had a teenager behind the wheel of the police car -- he had stolen it while the police officer is in a coffee shop on his lunch break, and the kid is going to resell it by tearing it down into parts. This may sound a little cynical on my part, but wouldn't this be preferable? As we say in California, where I live, when the police come to investigate a burglary of your house, they find, when they are leaving, that someone has stripped the tires and motor and transmission from their car, and the officers must hitchhike back to headquarters. This thought may strike fear in the hearts of the establishment people, but frankly it make me feel cheerful. Even the most base schemes of human beings are preferable to the most exalted tropisms of machines. I think this, right here, is one of the valid insights possessed by some of the new youth: cars, even police cars, are expendable, can be replaced. They are really all alike. It is the person inside who, when gone, cannot be duplicated, at any price. Even if we do not like him we cannot do without him. And once gone, he will never come back.

And then, too, if he is made into an android, he will never come back, never be again human. Or anyhow most likely will not.

As the children of our world fight to develop their new individuality, their almost surly disrespect for the verities we worship, they become for us -- and by "us" I mean the establishment -- a source of trouble. I do not necessarily mean politically active youth, those who organize into distinct societies with banners and slogans -- to me, that is a reduction into the past, however revolutionary those slogans may be. I refer to the intrinsic entities, the kids each of whom is on his own, doing what we call "his thing." He may, for example, not break the law by seating himself on the tracks before troop trains; his flouting of the law may consist of taking his car to a drive-in movie with four kids hidden in the trunk to avoid having to pay. Still, a law is being broken. The first transgression has political, theoretical overtones; the second, a mere lack of agreement that one must always do what one is ordered to do -- especially when the order comes from a posted, printed sign. In both cases there is disobedience. We might applaud the first as Meaningful. The second merely irresponsible. And yet it is in the second that I see a happier future. After all, there have always been in history movements of people in organized opposition to the governing powers. This is merely one group using force against another, the outs versus the ins. It has failed to produce a utopia so far. And I think always will.

Becoming what I call, for lack of a better term, an android, means as I said, to allow oneself to become a means, or to be pounded down, manipulated, made into a means without one's knowledge or consent -- the results are the same. But you cannot turn a human into an android if that human is going to break laws every chance he gets. Androidization requires obedience. And, most of all, predictability. It is precisely when a given person's response to any given situation can be predicted with scientific accuracy that the gates are open for the wholesale production of the android life form. What good is a flashlight if the buld lights up only now and then when you press the button? Any machine must always work, to be reliable. The android, like any other machine, must perform on cue. But our youth cannot be counted on to do this; it is unreliable. Either through laziness, short attention span, perversity, criminal tendencies -- whatever label you wish to pin on the kid to explain this unreliability is fine. Each merely means: we can tell him and tell him what to do, but when the time comes for him to perform, all the subliminal instrucion, all the ideological briefing, all the tranquilizing drugs, all the psychoterapy, are a waste. He just plain will not jump when the whip is cracked. And so he is of no use to us, the calcified, entrenched powers. He will not see to it that he acts as an instrument by which we both keep and augment those powers and the rewards -- for ourselves -- that go with them.

What has happened is that there has been too much persuasion. The television set, the newspapers -- all the so-called mass media, have overdone it. Words have ceased to mean much to these kids; they have had to listen too many. They cannot be taught, because there has been too great an eagerness, too conspicuous a motive, to make them learn. The anti-utopia science fiction writers of fifteen years ago, and I was one of them, foresaw the mass communications propaganda machinery grinding everyone down into mediocrity and uniformity. But it is not coming out this way. While the car radio dins out the official view on the war in Vietnam, the young boy is disconnecting the speaker so he can replace it with a tweeter and a woofer; in the middle of the government's harangue the speaker is unattached. And, as he expertly hooks up better audio components in his car, the boy fails even to notice that the voice on the radio is trying to tell him something. this skilled craftsman of a kid listens only to see whether there is distortion, interference, or a frequency curve that isn't fully compensated. HIs head is turned toward immediate realities, the speaker itself, not the flatuus voci dinning from it.

The totalitarian society envisioned by George Orwell in 1984 should have arrived by now. The electronic gadgets are here. The government is here, ready to do what Orwell anticipated. So the power exists, the motive, and the electronic hardware. But these mean nothing, because, progressively more and more so, no one is listening. The new youth that I see is too stupid to read, too restless and bored to watch, too preoccupied to remember. The collective voice of the authorities is wasted on him; he rebels. But rebels not out of theoretical, ideological considerations, only out of what might be called pure selfishness. Plus a careless lack of regard for the dread consequences the authorities promise him if he fails to obey. He cannot be bribed because what he wants he can build, steal, or in some curious, intricate way acquire for himself. He cannot be intimidated because on the streets and in his home he has seen and participated in so much violence that it fails to cow him. He merely gets out of its way when it threatens, or, if he can't escape, he fights back. When the locked police van comes to carry him off to the concentration camp the guards will discover that while loading the van they have failed to note that another equally hopeless juvenile has slashed the tires. The van is out of commision. And while the tires are being replaced, the other youth siphons out all the gas from the gas tank for his souped-up Chevrolet Impala and has sped off long ago.

The absolutely horrible technological society -- that was our dream, our vision of the future. We could foresee nothing equipped with enough power, guile, or whatever, to impede the coming of that dreadful, nightmare society. It never occured to us that the delinquent kids might abort it out of the sheer perverse malice of their little individual souls, God bless them. Here, as a case in point, are two excerpts from the media; the first, quoted in that epitome of the nauseating, Time, is -- so help me -- what Time calls "the ultimate dream in telephone service" as described by Harold S. Osborne, former chief engineer of AT&T:

"Whenever a baby is born anywhere in the world, he is given at birth a telephone number for life. As soon as he can talk, he is given a watch-like device with ten little buttons on one side and a screen on the other. When he wishes to talk with anyone in the world, he will pull out the device and punch on the keys the number. Then, turning the device over, he will hear the voice of his friend and see his face on the screen, in color and in three dimensions. If he does not see him and hear him, he will know that his friend is dead."

I don't know; I really don't find this funny. It is really sad. It is heartbreaking. Anyhow; it is not going to happen. The kids have already seen to that. "Phone freaks," they are called, these particular kids. This is what the L.A. Times says, in an article dated earlier this year:

"They (the phone freaks) all arrived carrying customized MF'ers -- multi-frequency tone signals -- the phone freak term for a blue box. The homemade MF'ers varied in size and design. One was a sophisticated pocket transistor built by a PhD in engineering, another the size of a cigar box with an actual coupler attaching to the phone receiver. So far, these phone freaks had devised 22 ways to make a free call without using credit cards. In case of a slipup, the phone freaks also know how to detect 'supervision,' phone company jargon for a nearly inaudible tone which comes on the line before anyone answers to register calling charges. As soon as phone freaks detect the dreaded 'supervision,' they hang up fast.

"Captain Crunch was still in the phone booth pulling the red switches on his fancy computerized box. He got his name from the whistle found in the Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal box. Crunch discovered that the whistle has a frequency of 2600 cycles per second, the exact frequency the telephone company uses to indicate that a line is idle, and of course, the first frequency phone freaks learn how to whistle to get 'disconnect,' which allows them to pass from one circuit to another. Crunch, intent, hunched over his box to read a list of country code numbers. He impersonated to the overseas operator, and called Italy. In less than a minute he reached a professor of classical Greek writings at the University of Florence."

This is how the future has actually come ot. None of us science fiction writers foresaw phone freaks. Fortunately, neither did the phone company, which otherwise would have taken over by now. But this is the difference between dire myth and warm, merry reality. And it is the kids, unique, wonderful, unhampered by scruples in any traditional sense, that have made the difference.

Speaking in science fiction terms, I now foresee an anarchistic totalitarian state ahead. Ten years from now a TV street reporter will ask some kid who is president of the United States, and the kid will admit that he doesn't know. "But the President can have you executed," the reporter will protest. "Or beaten or thrown into prison or all your rights taken away, all your property -- everything." And the boy will reply, "Yeah, so could my father up to last month when he had his fatal coronary. He used to say the same thing." End of interview. And when the reporter goes to gather up his equipment he will find that one his color 3-D stereo microphone-vidlens systems is missing; the kid has swiped it from him while the reporter was blabbing on.

If, as it seems, we are in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that'll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities. If the television screen is going to watch you, rewire it late at night when you're permitted to turn it off -- rewire it in such a way that the police flunky monitoring the transmission from your living room mirrors back his living room at his house. When you sign a confession under duress, forge the name of one of the political spies who's infiltrated your model airplane club. Pay your fines in counterfeit money or rubber checks or stolen credit cards. Give a false address. Arrive at the courthouse in a stolen car. Tell the judge that if he sentences you, you will substitute aspirin tablets for his daughter's birth control pills. Or put His Honor on a mailing list for pornographic magazines. Or, if all else fails, threaten him with your using his telephone credit card number to make unnecessary long distance calls to cities on other planets. It will not be necessary to blow up the courthouse any more. Simply find some way to defame the judge -- you saw him driving home one night on the wrong side of the road with his headlights off and a fifth of Seagram's VO propped up against his steering wheel. And his bumper sticker that night read: GRANT FULL RIGHTS TO US HOMOSEXUALS. He has of course torn the sticker off by now, but both you and ten of your friends witnessed it. And they are all at pay phones right now, ready to phone the news to the local papers. And, if he is still so foolish as to sentence you, at least ask him to give back the little tape recorder you inadvertently left in his bedroom. Since the off switch on it is broken, it has probably recorded its entire ten-day reel of tape by now. Results should be interesting. And if he tries to destroy the tape, you will have him arrested for vandalism, which, in the totalitarian state of tomorrow, will be the supreme crime. What is your life worth in his eyes compared with a three dollar reel of mylar tape? The tape is probably government property, like everything else, so to destroy it would be a crime against the state. The first step in a calculated, sinister insurrection.

I wonder if you recall the so-called "brain mapping" developed by Penfield recently; he was able to locate the exact centers in the brain from which each sensation, emotion, and response came. By stimulating one minute area with an electrode, a laboratory rat was transfigured into a state of perpetual bliss. "They'll be doing that to all of us, too, soon," a pessimistic friend said to me, regarding that. "Once the electrodes have been implanted, They can get us to feel, think, do anything They want." Well, to do this, the government would have to let out a contract for the manufacture of a billion sets of electrodes, and, in their customary way, they would award the contract to the lowest bidder, who would build substandard electrodes out of secondhand parts... the technicians implanting the electrodes in the brains of millions upon millions of people would become bored and careless, and, when the switch would be pressed for the total population to feel profound grief at the death of some government official -- probably the minister of the interior, in charge of the slave labor rehabilitation camps -- it would all get fouled up, and the population, like that laboratory rat, would go into collective seizures of merriment. Or the substandard wiring connecting the brains of the population with the Washington D.C. Thought Control Center would overload, and a surge of electricity would roll backward over the lines and set fire to the White House.

Or is this just wishful thinking on my part? A little fantasy about a future society we should really feel apprehensive toward?

The continued elaboration of state tyranny such as we in science fiction circles anticipate in the world of tomorrow -- our whole preoccupation with what we call the "anti-utopian" society -- this growth of state invasion into the privacy of the individual, its knowing too much about him, and then, when it knows, or thinks it knows, something it frowns on, its power and capacity to squash the individual -- as we thoroughly comprehend, this evil process utilizes technology as its instrument. The inventions of applied science, such as the almost miraculously sophisticated sensor devices right now traveling back from war use in Vietnam for adaptation to civilian use here -- these passive infrared scanners, sniperscopes, these chrome boxes with dials and gauges that can penetrate brick and stone, can tell the user what is being said and done a mile away within a tightly sealed building, be it concrete bunker or apartment building, can, like the weapons before them, fall into what the authorities would call "the wrong hands" -- that is, into the hands of the very people being monitored. Like all machines, these universal transmitters, recording devices, heatpattern discriminators, don't in themselves care who they're being use by or against. The scene of a street fracas where, for example, some juvenile has dropped a water-filled balloon into the sportscar of a wealthy taxpayer -- this vehicle, however fast, however well-armed and animated by the spirit of righteous vengeance, can be spotted by the same lens by which its superiors became aware of the disturbance in the first place... and notification of its impending arrival on the scene can be flashed by the same walkie-talkie Army surplus gadget by which crowd control is maintained when black gather to protest for their just rights. Before the absolute power of the absolute state of tomorrow can achieve its victory it may find such things as this: when the police show up at your door to arrest you for thinking unapproved thoughts, a scanning sensor which you've bought and built into your door discriminates the intruders from customary friends, and alerts you to your peril.

Let me give you an example. At the enormous civic center building in my county, a fantastic Buck Rogers type of plastic and chrome backdrop to a bad science fiction film, each visitor must pass through an electronic field that sets off an alarm if he has on him too much metal, be it keys, a watch, pair of scissors, bomb, .308 Winchester rifle. When the hoop pings -- and it always pings for me -- a uniformed policeman immediately fully searches the visitor. A sign warns that if any weapon is discovered on a visitor, it's all over for him -- and the sign also warns that if any illegal drugs are found on a visitor, during this weapons search, he's done for, too. Now, I think even you people up here in Canada are aware of the reason for this methodical weapons search of each visitor to the Marin County Civic Center -- it has to do with the tragic shootout a year or so ago. But, and they have officially posted notice of this, the visitor will be inspected for narcotics possession, too, and this has nothing to do with either the shootout or with any danger to the building itself or the persons within it. An electronic checkpoint, legitimately set up to abort a situation in which explosives or weapons are brought into the Civic Center, has been assigned an added police function connected with the authentic issue only by the common thread of penal code violation. To visit the county library, which is in that building, you are subject to search -- must in fact yield absolutely and unconditionally -- for possession without juridical protection, built into the very basis of our American civil rights system, that some clear and evident indication exist that you may be carrying narcotics before a search can be carried against you. During this search I've even had the uniformed officer at the entrance examine the books and papers I was carrying, to see if they were acceptable. The next step, in the months to come, would be to have such mandatory checkpoints at busy intersections and at all public buildings -- including banks and so forth. Once it has been established that the authorities can search you for illegal drugs because you're returning a book to the library, I think you can see just how far the tyranny of the state can go -- once it has provided itself with an electronic hoop that registers the presence of something we all carry on us: keys, a pair of fingernail clippers, coins. The blip, rather a quaint little sound, which you set off, opens a door not leading to the county library but to possible imprisonment. It is that blip that ushers in all the rest. And how many other blips are we setting off, or our children will be setting off, in context that we know nothing about yet? But my optimistic point: the kids of today, having been born into this all-pervasive society, are fully aware of and take for granted the activity of such devices. One afternoon when I was parking my car on the lot before a grocery store, I started, as usual, to lock all the car doors to keep the parcels in the back seat from being stolen. "Oh, you don't have to lock up the car," the girl with me said. "This parking lot is under constant closed-circuit TV scan. Every car here and everyone is being watched all the time; nothing can happen." So we went inside the store leaving the car unlocked. And of course she was right; born into this society, she has learned to know such things. And -- I now have a passive infrared scanning system in my own home in Santa Venetia, connected with what is called a "digital transmitting box" which, when triggered off by the scanner, transmits a coded signal by direct line to the nearest law enforcement agency, notifying them that intruders have entered my house. This totally self-operated electronic detection system functions whether I am at home or not. It is able to discriminate between the presence of a human being and an animal. It has its own power supply. If the line leading from it is cut, grounded or even tampered with, the signal is immediately released, or if any other part of system is worked on. And Westinghouse will reinstall it wherever I live: I own the components for life. Eventually, Westinghouse Security hopes, all homes and businesses will be protected this way. The company has built and maintains a communications center near each community in the country. If there is no police agency willing or able to accept the signal, then their own communications center responds and guarantees to dispatch law enforcement personnel within four minutes -- that is, the good guys with the guns will be at your door within that time. It does not matter if the intruder enters with a passkey or blows in the whole side of the house or, as they tell me it's being done now, bores down through the roof -- however he got in, for whatever reason, the mechanism responds and transmits its signal. Only I can turn the system off. And if I forget to, then -- I suppose, anyhow -- it's all over for me.

Someone suggested, by the way, that perhaps this passive infrared scanner sweeping out the interior of my house constantly "might be watching me and reporting back to the authorities whatever I do right there in my own living room." Well, what I am doing is sitting at my desk with pen and paper trying to figure out how to pay Westinghouse the $840 I owe them for the system. As I've got it worked out now, I think if I sell everything I own, including my house, I can -- oh well. One other thing. If I enter the house -- my house -- and the system finds I'm carrying illegal narcotics on my person, it doesn't blip; it causes both me and the house and everything in it to self-destruct.

Street drugs, by the way, are a major problem in the area where I live -- that is, the illegal drugs you buy on the street are often adulterated, cut, or just plain not what you're told they are. You wind up poisoned, dead, or just plain "burned," which means "you don't get off," which means you paid ten dollars for a gram of milk sugar. So a number of free labs have been set up for the specific purpose of anylyzing street drugs; you mail them a portion of the drug you've bought and they tell you what's in it, the idea being, of course, that if it has strychnine or film developer or flash powder in it, you should know before you take it. Well, the police saw through into the quote "real" purpose of these labs at one glance. They act as quality control stations for the drug manufacturer's. Let's say you're making methedrine in your bathtub at home -- a complicated process, but feasible - and so every time a new batch comes out, you mail a sample to one of these labs for analysis... and they write back, "No, you haven't got it quite right yet, but if you cook it just perhaps five minutes longer..." This is what the police fear. This is how the police mentality works. And, interestingly, so does the drug pushers mentality; the pushers are already doing precisely that. I don't know... to me it seems a sort of nice idea, the drug pushers being interested in what they're selling. Back in the old days they cared only that you lived long enough to pay for what you purchased. After that, you were on your own.

Yes, as every responsible parent knows, street drugs are a problem, a menace to their kids. I completely, emphatically agree. At one time -- you may have read this in biographical material accompanying my stories and novels -- I was interested in experimenting with psychedelic drugs. That is over, for me. I have seen too many ruined lives in our drug culture in California. Too many suicides, psychoses, organic -- irreversible -- damage to both heart and brain. But there are other drugs, not illegal, not street drugs, not cut with flash powder or milk sugar, and not mislabeled, that worry me even more. These are reputable, establishment drugs, prescribed by reputable doctors or given in reputable hospitals, especially psychiatric hospitals. These are pacification drugs. I mention this in order to return to my main preoccupation, here: the human versus the android, and how the former can become -- can in fact be made to become - the latter. The calculated, widespread, and throughly sanctioned use of specific tranquilizing drugs such as the phenothiazines may not, like certain illegal street drugs, produce permanent brain damage, but they can -- and god forbid, they do -- produce what I am afraid I must call "soul" damage. Let me amplify.

It has been discovered recently that what we call mental illness or mental disturbance -- such syndromes as the schizophrenias and the cyclothymic phenomena of manic-depression -- may have to do with faulty brain metabolism, the failure of certain brain catalysts such as serotonin and noradrenalin to act properly. One theory holds that, under stress, too much amine oxidase production causes hallucinations, disorientations, and general mentational breakdown. Sudden shock, especially at random, and grief-producing, such as loss of someone or something dear, or the loss of something vital and taken for granted -- this starts an overproduction of noradrenalin flowing down generally unused neural pathways, overloading brain circuits, and producing behavior which we call psychotic. Mental illness, then, is a biochemical phenomenon. If certain drugs, such as the phenothiazines, are introduced, brain metabolism regains normal balance; the catalyst serotonin is utilized properly, and the patient recovers. Or if a MAOI drug is introduced -- a mono amine oxidase inhibator -- response to stress becomes viable and the person is able to function normally. Or -- and this right now is the prince charming hope of the medical profession -- lithium carbonate, if taken by the disturbed patient, will limit an otherwise overabundant production or release of the hormone noradrenalin, which, most of all, acts to cause irrational thoughts and behavior of a socially unacceptable sort. The entire amplitude of feelings, wild grief, anger, fear, any and all intense feelings, will be reduced to proper measure by the presence of the lithium carbonate in the brain tissue. The person will become stable, predictable, not a menace to others. He will feel the same and think the same pretty much all day long, day after day. The authorities will not be greeted by any more sudden surprises emanating from him.

In the field of abnormal psychology, the schizoid personality structure is well defined; in it there is a continual paucity of feeling. The person thinks rather than feels his way through life. And as the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung showed, this cannot be successfully maintained; one must meet most of crucial reality with a feeling response. Anyhow, there is a certain parallel between what I call the "android" personalityss and the schizoid. Both have a mechanical, reflex quality.

I once heard a schizoid person express himself -- in all seriousness -- this way: "I receive signals from others. But I can't generate any of my own until I get recharged. By an injection." I am, I swear, quoting exactly. Imagine viewing oneself and others this way. Signals. As if from another star. The person has reified himself entirely, along with everyone around him. How awful. Here, clearly, the soul is dead or never lived.

Another quality of the android mind is the inability to make exceptions. Perhaps this is the essence of it: the failure to drop a response when it fails to accomplish results, but rather to repeat it over and over again. Lower life forms are skillful in offering the same response continually, as are flashlights. An attempt was made once to use a pigeon as a quality control technician on an assembly line. Part after part, endless thousands of them, passed by the pigeon hour after hour, and the keen eye of the pigeon viewed them for deviations from the acceptable tolerance. The pigeon could discern a deviation smaller than that which a human, doing the same quality control, could. When the pigeon saw a part that was mismade, it pecked a button, which rejected the part, and at the same time dropped a grain of corn to the pigeon as a reward. The pigeon could go eighteen hours without fatigue, and loved its work. Even when the grain corn failed -- due to the supply running out, I guess -- the pigeon continued eagerly to reject substandard parts. It had to be forcibly removed from its perch, finally.

Now, if I had been that pigeon, I would have cheated. When I felt hungry, I would have pecked the button and rejected a part, just to get my grain of corn. That would have occured to me after a long period passed in which I discerned no faulty parts. Because what would happen to the pigeon if, god forbid, no parts ever were faulty? The pigeon would starve. Integrity, under such circumstances, would be suicidal. Really, the pigeon had a life and death interest in finding faulty parts. What would you do, were you the pigeon, and, after say four days, you'd discerned no faulty parts and were becoming only feathers and bone? Would ethics win out? Or the need to survive? To me, the life of the pigeon would be worth more than the accuracy of the quality control. If I were the pigeon -- but the android mind: "I may be dying of hunger," the android would say, "but I'll be damned if I'll reject a perfectly good part." Anyhow, to me, the authentically human mind would get bored and reject a part now and then at random, just to break the monotony. And no amount of circuit testing could re-establish its reliability.

Let me now express another element that strikes me as an essential key revealing the authentically human. It is not only an intrinsic property of the organism, but the situation in which in finds itself. That which happens to it, that which it is confronted by, pierced by and must deal with -- certain agonizing situations create, on the spot, a human where a moment before there was only, as the Bible says, clay. Such a situation can be read off the face of many of the Medieval pietas: the dead Christ held in the arms of his mother. Two faces, actually: that of a man, that of a woman. Oddly, in many of these pietas, the face of the Christ seems much older than that of his mother. It is if an ancient man is held by a young woman; she has survived him, and yet she came before him. He has aged through his entire life cycle; she looks now perhaps as she always did, not timeless, in the classical sense, but able to transcend what has happened. He has not survived it; this shows on his face. In some way they have experienced it together, but they have come out of it differently. It was too much for him; it destroyed him. Perhaps the information to be gained here is to realize how much greater capacity a woman has for suffering; that is, not that she suffers more than a man but that she can endure where he can't. Survival of the species lies in her ability to do this, not his. Christ may die on the cross, and the human race continues, but if Mary dies, it's all over.

I have seen young women -- say eighteen or nineteen years old -- suffer and survive things that would have been too much for me, and I think really for almost any man. Their humanness, as they passed through these ordeals, developed as an equation between them and their situation. I don't mean to offer the mushy doctrine that suffering somehow ennobles, that it's somehow a good thing -- one hears this now and then about geniuses, "They wouldn't have been geniuses if they hadn't suffered," etc. I merely mean that possibly the difference between what I call the "android" mentality and the human is that the latter passed through something the former did not, or at least passed through it and responded differently -- changed, altered, what it did and hence what it was; it became. I sense the android repeating over and over again some limited reflex gesture, like an insect raising its wings threateningly over and over again, or emitting a bad smell. Its one defense or response works, or it doesn't. But, caught in sudden trouble, the organism that is made more human, that becomes precisely at that moment human, wrestles deep within itself and out of itself to find one response after another as each fails. On the face of the dead Christ there is an exhaustion, almost a dehydration, as if he tried out every possibility in an effort not to die. He never gave up. And even though he did die, did fall, he died a human. That is what shows on his face.

"The endeavor to persist in its own being," Spinoza said, "is the essence of the individual thing." The chthonic deities, the Earth Mother, were the original source of religious consolation -- before the solarcentric masculine deities that arrived later in history -- as well as the origin of man; man came from Her and returns to Her. The entire ancient world believed that just as each man came forth into individual life from a woman he would eventually return -- and find peace at last. At the end of life the old man in one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales "goes about both morning and late and knocks against the ground with his stick saying 'Mother, mother, let me in -- '" just as at the end of Ibsen's Ghosts, the middleaged man, regressing into childhood at the end of his life as he dies of paresis, says to his mother, "Mother, give me the sun." As Spinoza pointed out so clearly, each finite thing, each individual man, eventually perishes... and his only true consolation, as he perishes, as each society in fact perishes, is this return to the mother, the woman, the Earth.

But if woman is the consolation for man, what is the consolation for woman? For her?

I once watched a young woman undergo agonies -- she was eighteen years old -- that, just witnessing her, were too much for me. She survived, I think, better than I did. I wanted to console her, help her, but there was nothing I could do. Except be with her. When the Earth Mother is suffering, there is damn little that individual finite man can do. This young girl's boyfriend wouldn't marry her because she was pregnant by another boy; he wouldn't live with her or find her a place to stay until she got an abortion -- about which he would do nothing; he wouldn't even speak to her until it was over -- and then, or so he promised, he would marry her. Well, she got the abortion, and we brought her to my home afterward to rest and recover, and of course the son-of-a-bitch never had anything to do with her again. I was with her during the days following her abortion, and really she had dreadful time, alone in a poor, large ward in a hospital in another city, never visited except by me and a couple of friends, never phoned by her boyfriend or her own family, and then at my home, afterward, when she realized her boyfriend was never going to get the apartment for them she had planned on, been promised, and her friends -- his friends, too -- had lost interest in her and looked down on her -- I saw her day by day decline and wilt and despair, and become wild with fear; where would she go? What would become of her? She had no friends, no job, no family, not even any clothes to speak of -- nothing. And she couldn't stay with me after she healed up. She used to lie in bed, suffering, holding the puppy she and I got at the pound; the puppy was all she had. And one day she left, and I never found out where she went. She never contacted me again; she wanted to forget me and the hospital and the days of healing and bleeding and learning the truth about her situation. And she left the puppy behind. I have it now. What I remember in particular was that in the two weeks she was with me after her abortion her breasts swelled with milk; her body, at least portions of it, didn't know that the child was dead, that there was no child. It was, she said, "in a bottle." I saw her, all at once, as a sudden woman, even though she had, herself, declined, destroyed, her motherhood; baby or not, she was a woman, although her mind did not tell her that; she still wore the cotton nightgown she had worn, I guess, while living at home while she went to high school -- perhaps the same easy-to-wash cotton nightgown she had worn since five or six years old. She still liked to go to the market and buy chocolate milk and comic books. Under California law it's illegal for her to buy or smoke cigarettes. There are certain movies, many in fact, that our law prevents her from seeing. Movies, supposedly, about life. On the trip to San Francisco to see the doctor about getting the abortion -- she was five and half months pregnant, nearing what California considers the limit of safety -- she bought a purple stuffed toy animal for 89 cents. I paid for it; she had only 25 cents. She took it with her when she left my home. She was the bravest, brightest, funniest, sweetest person I ever knew. The tragedy of her life bent her and virtually broke her, despite all I could do. But -- I think, I believe -- the force that is her, so to speak the swelling into maturity of her breasts, the looking forward into the future of her physical body, even at the moment that mentally and spiritually she was virtually destroyed -- I hope, anyhow, that that force will prevail. If it does not, then there is nothing left, as far as I am concerned. The future as I conceive it will not exist. Because I can only imagine it as populated by modest, unnoticed persons like her. I myself will not be a part of it or even shape it; all I can do is depict it as I see the ingredients now, the gentle little unhappy brave lonely loving creatures who are going on somewhere else, unknown to me now, not recalling me but, I pray, living on, picking up life, forgetting -- "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," we are told, but perhaps it is better -- perhaps it is the only viable way -- to be able to forget. I hope she, in her head, has forgotten what happened to her, just as her body either forgot the lack of baby, the dead baby, or never knew. It is a kind of blindness, maybe; a refusal, or inability, to face reality.

But I have never had too high a regard for what is generally called "reality." Reality, to me, is not so much something that you perceive, but something you make. You create it more rapidly than it creates you. Man is the reality God created out of dust; God is the reality man creates continually out of his own passions, his own determination. "Good," for example -- that is not a quality or even a force in the world or above the world, but what you do with the bits and pieces of meaningless, puzzling, disappointing, even cruel and crushing fragments all around us that seem to be pieces left over, discarded, from another world entirely that did, maybe, make sense.

The world of the future, to me, is not a place, but an event. A construct, not by one author in the form of words written to make up a novel or story that other persons sit in front of, outside of, and read -- but a construct in which there is no author and no readers but a great many characters in search of a plot. Well, there is no plot. There is only themselves and what they do and say to each other, what they build to sustain all of them individually and collectively, like a huge umbrella that lets in light and shuts out the darkness at the same instant. When the characters die, the novel ends. And the book falls back into dust. Out of which it came. Or back, like the dead Christ, into the arms of his warm, tender, grieving, comprehending, loving mother. And a new cycle begings; from her he is reborn, and the story, or another story, perhaps different, even better starts up. A story told by the characters to one another. "A tale of sound and fury" -- signifying very much. The best we have. Our yesterday, our tomorrow, the child who came before us and the woman who will live after us and outlast, by her very existing, what we have thought and done.

In my novel, THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, which is a study of absolute evil, the protagonist, after his encounter with Eldritch, returns to Earth and dictates a memo. This little section appears ahead of the text of the novel. It is the novel, actually, this paragraph; the rest is a sort of post mortem, or rather, a flashback in which all that came to produce the one-paragraph book is presented. Seventy-five thousand words, which I labored over many months, merely explains, is merely there to provide background, to the one small statement in the book that matters. (It is, by the way, missing fom the German edition.) This statement is for me my credo -- not so much in God, either a good god or a bad god or both -- but in ourselves. It goes as follows, and this is all I actually have to say or want ever to say:

"I mean, after all; you have to consider we're only made out of dust. That's admittedly not much to go on and we shouldn't forget that. But even considering, I mean it's a sort of bad beginning, we're not doing too bad. So I personally have faith that even in this lousy situation we're faced with we can make it. You get me?"

This tosses a bizarre thought up into my mind: perhaps someday a giant automated machine will roar and clank out, "From rust we are come." And another machine, sick and dying, cradled in the arms of its woman, may sigh back, "And to rust we are returned." And peace will fall over the barren, anxiety-stricken landscape.

Our field, science fiction, deals with that portion of the life-cycle of our species which extends ahead of us. But if it is a true cycle, that future portion of it has in a sense already happened. Or, at least, we can on a basis almost mathematically precise map out the next, missing integers in the sequence of which we are the past. The first integer: the Earth Mother culture. Next, the masculine solar deities, with their stern, authoritarian societies, from Sparta to Rome to Fascist Italy and Japan and Germany and the USSR. And now, perhaps, what the Medieval pietas looked forward to: in the arms of Earth Mother, who still lives, the dead solar deity, her son, lies in a once again silent return to the womb fom which he came. I think we are entering this third and perhaps final sequence of our history, and this is a society that our field sees ahead of us which will be quite different from either of the two previous world-civilizations familiar in the past. It is not a two-part cycle; we have not reached the conclusion of the masculine solar deity period to return merely to the primordial Earth Mother cult, however full of milk her breasts may be; what lies ahead is new. And possibly, beyond that lies something more, unique and obscured to our gaze as of this moment. I, myself, can't envision that far; the realization, the fulfillment, of the Medieval pieta, as a living reality, our total environment, a living external environment as animate as ourselves -- that is what I see and no further. Not yet, anyhow. I would, myself, be content with that; I would be happy to lie slumbering and yet alive -- "invisible but dim," as Vaughn put it -- in her arms.

If a pieta of a thousand years ago, shaped by a Medieval artisan, anticipated in his -- shall we say -- psionic? hands, our future world, what, today, might be the analog of that inspired, precognitive artifact? What do we have with us now, as homely and familiar to us in our 20th century world, as were those everyday pietas to the citizens of 13th century Christendom, that might be a microcosm of the far-distant future? Let us first start by imagining a pious peasant of 13th century France gazing up at a rustic pieta and foreseeing in it the 21st century society about which we science fiction writers speculate. Then, as in a Bergman film, we segue to -- what now? One of us gazing at -- what?

Cycle -- and recycle. The pieta of our modern world: ugly, commonplace, ubiquitous. Not the dead Christ in the arms of his grieving, eternal mother, but a heap of aluminum Budweiser beer cans, eighty feet high, thousands of them, being scooped up noisily, rattling and spilling and crashing and raining down as a giant automated, computer-controlled homeostatic Budweiser beer factory - an autofac, as I called it once in a story -- hugs the discarded empties back into herself to recycle them over again into new life, with new, living contents. Exactly as before... or, if the chemists in the Budweiser lab are fulfilling God's divine plan for eternal progress, with better beer than before.

We see as through a glass darkly," Paul says in First Corinthians -- will this someday be rewritten as: "We see as into a passive infrared scanner darkly?" A scanner which, as in Orwell's 1984, is watching us all the time? Our TV tube watching back at us as we watch it, as amused, or bored, or anyhow somewhat as entertained by what we do as we are by what we see on its implacable face?

This, for me, is too pessimistic, too paranoid. I believe First Corinthians will be rewritten this way: " The passive infrared scanner sees into us darkly," that is, not well enough to really figure us out. Not that we ourselves can really figure each other out, or even our own selves. Which, perhaps, too, is good; it means we are still in for sudden surprises, and unlike authorities, who don't like that sort of thing, we may find these chance happenings acting in our behalf, to our favor.

Sudden surprises, by the way -- and this thought may be in itself a sudden surprise to you -- are a sort of antidote to paranoia... or, to be accurate about it, to live in such a way as

Mayo 05, 2011

Sobre el periodismo y la física cuántica


En sus consejos para el joven periodista publicados en Forbes, la bella Susannah Breslin apunta con astucia: Los viejos medios se mueren porque huelen a muerto. Alex Knapp, editor de tecnología en Forbes, le dice algo igual de interesante:

Por usar una metáfora de la física cuántica, los medios muertos son como el gato de Schroedinger. Tu metes la historia en la caja. Sale en la siguiente edición. ¿La ha leído alguien? ¿Le ha importado a alguien? ¿O se han leído sólo las tiras cómicas y el crucigrama? No lo sabemos, porque la caja está cerrada. Los medios en vivo y en directo es física cuántica. Los que observan (lectores) interactúan con el observado (autor), cambiando el resultado final (el artículo). Es el toma y daca entre observador y observado lo que marca la diferencia.

Suena apropiado, pero es un espejismo. Alex parece decir que la vida de un articulo es directamente proporcional a los números que genera, como si cada persona que lo haya pinchado, enlazado, twiteado, diggeado o gustado en el facebook lo hubiera leído, eso sin entrar en los detalles de cómo llegaron al articulo en primer lugar. Más aún, Alex parece decir que esos números deberían ser el compás del periodista y no la premisa de su profesión: hacernos a todos cómplices de todo lo que pasa en el mundo, tanto si nos gusta como si no.

El periodismo no es una rama del entretenimiento y no se puede juzgar la relevancia de un articulo por su taquilla. Para muestra, 100 botones.

Abril 23, 2011

How to map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit the space of death


We, the First Committee of the International Necronautical Society, declare the following:-

1.That death is a type of space, which we intend to map, enter, colonise and, eventually, inhabit.

2. That there is no beauty without death, its immanence. We shall sing death's beauty - that is, beauty.

3. That we shall take it upon us, as our task, to bring death out into the world. We will chart all its forms and media: in literature and art, where it is most apparent; also in science and culture, where it lurks submerged but no less potent for the obfuscation. We shall attempt to tap into its frequencies - by radio, the internet and all sites where its processes and avatars are active. In the quotidian, to no smaller a degree, death moves: in traffic accidents both realised and narrowly avoided; in hearses and undertakers' shops, in florists' wreaths, in butchers' fridges and in dustbins of decaying produce. Death moves in our appartments, through our television screens, the wires and plumbing in our walls, our dreams. Our very bodies are no more than vehicles carrying us ineluctably towards death. We are all necronauts, always, already.

4. Our ultimate aim shall be the construction of a craft[1] that will convey us into death in such a way that we may, if not live, then at least persist. With famine, war, disease and asteroid impact threatening to greatly speed up the universal passage towards oblivion, mankind's sole chance of survival lies in its ability, as yet unsynthesised, to die in new, imaginative ways. Let us deliver ourselves over utterly to death, not in desperation but rigorously, creatively, eyes and mouths wide open so that they may be filled from the deep wells of the Unknown.

Listen to the International Necronautical Society, with founder and General Secretary Tom McCarthy and Resident Philosopher, Simon Critchley.

[1] This term must be understood in the most versatile way possible.It could designate a set of practices, such as the usurpation of identities and personas of dead people, the development of specially adapted genetic or semantic codes based on the meticulous gathering of data pertaining to certain and specific deaths, the rehabilitation of sacrifice as an accepted social ritual, the perfection, patenting and eventual widespread distribution of ThanadrineTM, or, indeed, the building of an actual craft - all of the above being projects currently before the First Committee.

Marzo 16, 2011

My Kindle, sugar-coated cyanide


I'm reading a new book I downloaded on my Kindle and I noticed an underlined passage. It is surely a mistake, I think. This is a new book. I don't know about you, but I always hated underlined passages in used books. They derail my private enjoyment.

When somebody offers perception of what's important, something moronic, usually, which is why I always prefer buying books new so I could make my own moronic marks. But moronic or not, it was all between me and my new book.

And this thing on my Kindle is supposed to be new. And then I discovered that the horror doesn't stop with the unwelcomed presence of another reader who's defaced my new book. But it deepens with something called view popular highlights, which will tell you how many morons have underlined before so that not only you do not own the new book you paid for, the entire experience of reading is shattered by the presence of a mob that agitates inside your text like strangers in a train station.

So now you can add to the ease of downloading an e-book the end of the illusion that it is your book. The end of the privileged relation between yourself and your book. And a certainty that you've been had. Not only is the e-book not yours to be with alone, it is shared at Amazon which shares with you what it knows about you reading and the readings of others. And lets you know that you are what you underline, which is only a number in a mass of popular views.

Conformism does come of age in the most private of peaceful activities -reading a book, one of the last solitary pleasures in a world full of prompts to behave. My Kindle, sugar-coated cyanide.

Andrei Codrescu, mi nuevo héroe

Marzo 05, 2011

If you want your writing to be taken seriously


If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don’t marry and have kids, and above all, don’t die. But if you have to die, commit suicide.

They approve of that.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Marzo 03, 2011

Gran academia de Lagado: Arbitristas de estudios especulativos

El primer profesor que vi estaba en una habitación muy grande rodeado por cuarenta alumnos. Después de cambiar saludos, como observase que yo consideraba con atención un tablero que ocupaba la mayor parte del largo y del ancho de la habitación, dijo que quizá me asombrase de verle entregado a un proyecto para hacer progresar el conocimiento especulativo por medio de operaciones prácticas y mecánicas; pero pronto comprendería el mundo su utilidad, y se alababa de que pensamiento más elevado y noble jamás había nacido en cabeza humana. Todos sabemos cuán laborioso es el método corriente para llegar a poseer artes y ciencias; pues bien: gracias a su invento, la persona más ignorante, por un precio módico y con un pequeño trabajo corporal, puede escribir libros de filosofía, poesía, política, leyes, matemáticas y teología, sin que para nada necesite el auxilio del talento ni del estudio.

Me llevó luego al tablero, que rodeaban por todas partes los alumnos formando filas. Tenía veinte pies en cuadro y estaba colocado en medio de la habitación. La superficie estaba constituida por varios trozos de madera del tamaño de un dedo próximamente, aunque algo mayores unos que otros. Todos estaban ensartados juntos en alambres delgados. Estos trozos de madera estaban por todos lados cubiertos de papel pegado a ellos; y sobre estos papeles aparecían escritas todas las palabras del idioma en sus varios modos, tiempos y declinaciones, pero sin orden ninguno. Díjome el profesor que atendiese, porque iba a enseñarme el funcionamiento de su aparato. Los discípulos, a una orden suya, echaron mano a unos mangos de hierro que había alrededor del borde del tablero, en número de cuarenta, y, dándoles una vuelta rápida, toda la disposición de las palabras quedó cambiada totalmente. Mandó luego a treinta y seis de los muchachos que leyesen despacio las diversas líneas tales como habían quedado en el tablero, y cuando encontraban tres o cuatro palabras juntas que podían formar parte de una sentencia las dictaban a los cuatro restantes, que servían de escribientes. Repitiese el trabajo tres veces o cuatro, y cada una, en virtud de la disposición de la máquina, las palabras se mudaban a otro sitio al dar vuelta los cuadrados de madera.

Durante seis horas diarias se dedicaban los jóvenes estudiantes a esta tarea, y el profesor me mostró varios volúmenes en gran folio, ya reunidos en sentencias cortadas, que pensaba enlazar, para, sacándola de ellas, ofrecer al mundo una obra completa de todas las ciencias y artes, la cual podría mejorarse y facilitarse en gran modo con que el público crease un fondo para construir y utilizar quinientos de aquellos tableros en Lagado, obligando a los directores a contribuir a la obra común con sus colecciones respectivas.

Me aseguró que había dedicado a este invento toda su inteligencia desde su juventud, y que había agotado el vocabulario completo en su tablero y hecho un serio cálculo de la proporción general que en los libros existe entre el número de artículos, nombres, verbos y demás partes de la oración. Expresé mi más humilde reconocimiento a aquella ilustre persona por haberse mostrado de tal modo comunicativa y le prometí que si alguna vez tenía la dicha de regresar a mi país le haría la justicia de proclamarle único inventor de aquel aparato maravilloso, cuya forma y combinación le rogué que delinease en un papel, Y aparecen en la figura de esta página. Le dije que, aunque en Europa los sabios tenían la costumbre de robarse los inventos unos a otros, y de este modo lograban cuando menos la ventaja de que se discutiese cuál era el verdadero autor, tomaría yo tales precauciones, que él solo disfrutase el honor íntegro, sin que viniera a mermárselo ningún rival.

Los viajes de Gulliver, Jonathan Swift

Febrero 15, 2011



The woman knows there is someone else in the room with her without turning. She looks at the painting of Ulrike, one of three related images. The man asks, "Why do you think he(the artist) did it this way?" She does not answer. "I'm trying to think of what happened to them." She answers, "They committed suicide. Or the state killed them."

..."They were terrorists, weren't they?" He asks. "When they're not killing other people, they're killing themselves." He pesters her, asking her if she taught art. She didn't want to tell him that she is out of work and that she'd been there three straight days, staring at paintings made from photographs of the bodies of Andreas Baader, Gudrun Enssln, and a man whose name she could not recall. Then he asks her what she saw in the paintings. "At first, I was confused, and still am, a little, But I know I love the paintings now." "Tell the truth," he said then. "You teach art to handicapped children."

Todos los meses, la editora de ficción del New Yorker le pide a un colaborador que lea su historia favorita publicada en la revista desde su primer número, en 1925. En abril del pasado año, Chang-rae Lee eligió “Baader-Meinhof”, de Don DeLillo y yo, que no conocía el texto, lo escuché ayer y me gustó. Se puede descargar aquí.

Como introduccion: una mujer visita repetidamente la exposición de Gerhard Richter con los retratos de Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Holger Meins y Ulrike Meinhof, más conocidos como la Red Army Faction (RAF). Richter los pinta tal y como los publicó la policía en la prensa alemana, muertos en sus celdas. Alli hay un hombre que la empuja extrañamente a hacer una serie de cosas que no quiere hacer.

El título de la exposición de Richter, October 18, 1977, es el día que los cuerpos de Baader y Ensslin fueron encontrados en la prisión de alta seguridad de Stammheim. Holger Meins había muerto un año antes en la misma prision en una huelga de hambre y Ulrike Meinhof se había colgado. Todas las muertes fueron anunciadas como suicidios, aunque la izquierda alemana siempre defendió que los chicos habían sido asesinados. La policía declaró que Baader se había disparado a sí mismo en la base de la nuca, después de disparar a la pared y al colchón para aparentar un supuesto forcejeo. Irmgard Möller, la única superviviente de Stammheim, niega haber intentado suicidarse "clavándose un cuchillo en el pecho repetidas veces" en la mañana del 18 de octubre de 1977, o que hubiera un pacto de suicidio entre ellos.

La historia me gusta porque es el retrato robot de la típica narrativa newyorquina de los ultimos años: el retrato de un retrato de un retrato que expone y a la vez esconde la realidad. Y porque, a pesar de su falta absoluta de sentido del humor, el momento en que el le dice "dime la verdad: tu le enseñas arte a niños discapacitados" me hace llorar de risa.

Como nota final (completamente irrelevante para la historia de DeLillo), dicen que el gobierno alemán hizo trasladar los cerebros de Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin y Jan-Carl Raspe al centro de estudios neurológicos de la Universidad de Tübingen para su estudio. Lamentablemente, tanto los archivos como los cerebros han desaparecido.

La wikipedia dice que Otto, de Un Pez llamado Wanda, es una parodia de Andreas Baader.

Febrero 13, 2011

Filosofía del comedor


Comer aquello que la mayor parte de la gente no se puede permitir ha sido siempre crucial para el placer del gourmet. Durante cientos de años, eso ha significado comer grandes cantidades de carne. La carne de animales azotados hasta la muerte ha sido especialmente valorada durante varios siglos, debido a la teoría de que el sufrimiento y el trauma realzan el sabor,"El verdadero gastrónomo -segun un manual británico de maneras en la mesa- es tan insensible al sufrimiento como el conquistador".

Sigue leyendo The Moral Crusade Against Foodies, en The Atlantic.

Nota. Si les da grima esta imagen, sepan que es la misma grima que siento todos los dias viendo comprar, comer, cocinar y hablar de comida a la mayor parte de la gente que me rodea, inluídos mis padres, mis colegas y mis mejores amigos.

Febrero 12, 2011

Hay quienes creen que Benjamin se suicidó en Portbou


... y acuden a ese escarpado lugar en una peregrinación inútil, para leer un extraño y crítico epígrafe: una ironía más de las economías “veraneantes”. Bruno Tackels, no sin cierta audacia, afirma que de haber podido huir, Benjamin habría ido a América del sur “un lugar donde la catástrofe nunca ha prohibido la promesa de otro mundo” en palabras de Tackels. Pero también hay algunos mucho más osados que han asegurado -incluso dicen tener pruebas- de que Walter Benjamín sí logró escapar al horror para seguir buscando esa casa de sus sueños. Una casa en la que al fin poder despojarse del traje del errante. Esa búsqueda lo habría llevado a México, tras las pistas de Trotsky. Y aunque dicen que fue larga la travesía marítima y que durante el viaje llegaron las noticias de su asesinato por unos comunistas catalanes, esto no lo desanimó. Sino que muy al contrario le dio renovado ímpetu a ese deseo –ya frustrado- de reunirse con el pensador de la eterna revolución.

Dicen, que desembarcó en Veracruz y que antes de llegar a la ciudad de México, estuvo deambulando por muchos lugares. Atravesando pasajes desérticos, probando drogas inverosímiles, dejándose arrastrar hacia otras experiencias de la realidad. Y que sólo muchos años después, consiguió llegar a la ciudad infinita. Sus pasos de flaneur le condujeron directo a la casa de Trotsky en Coyoacán. Para entonces ya convertida en un museo del absurdo. A sus puertas y junto al custodio del museo -en horario de atención- se leía en un cartel: Cerrado. Pero tras mucho insistir consiguió entrar y al ver aquella combinación tan extraña: un museo que no es museo, una casa que no es casa, la reconstrucción absolutamente malograda de un refugio, un atentado, una muerte. Inmediatamente supo que esa podía ser la casa de su anhelo, ahí su eterno exilio, podía terminar.

Es el final de Consideraciones libres acerca del exilio / el destino final de Walter Benjamin, de María Virginia Jaua. Yo aun estoy leyendo la bellísima y delicadísima edición de los Archivos de Walter Benjamin que publicó el Círculo de Bellas Artes, junto con el Catálogo/Guía/Atlas de su exposición, que es la exposición en sí misma.

Hay fotos de la casa de Trotsky en Mexico, donde Adi Lavy

Febrero 11, 2011

Il Feltrinelli


Noche del 14 de marzo de 1972. En las afueras de Milán. Sobre el suelo, un cuerpo desmembrado. Con una de sus piernas a un metro de la cabeza. Todo apuntaba a que el individuo había querido instalar una bomba artesanal que, por error, explotó prematuramente. Sólo dos días después se supo que se trataba de Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, uno de los editores más importantes de Europa.

Feltrinelli era activista del Gruppi de Azione Partigiana (GAP), con el cual planeaba dejar Milán a oscuras gracias a esa bomba que le quitó la vida. Pero su vida no se agotaba en ello. Viajaba por Europa buscando manuscritos de Engels, Marxs y Lenin, y había fundado en 1954 una editorial que, entre otras cosas, se hizo famosa por editar "Doctor Zhivago". Era distinto a sus colegas, uno de esos raros personajes del siglo XX que podía estar una mañana en Cuba, con Fidel, y la semana siguiente en Nueva York, junto a Mick Jagger y Andy Warhol.

En El otoño de Herralde, por Antonio Díaz Oliva

Enero 18, 2011

The motion picture is like a picture of a lady in a half-piece bathing suit


"If she wore a few more clothes, you might be intrigued. If she wore no clothes at all, you might be shocked. But the way it is, you are occupied with noticing that her knees are too bony and that her toenails are too large. The modern film tries too hard to be real. Its techniques of illusion are so perfect that it requires no contribution form the audience but a mouthful of popcorn."

Raymond Chandler
Pic by Hilo Chen

Enero 14, 2011

The other side of i


We sail the seas and fly the skies and drive up and down all the roads, but the deepest caves, the cleverest caverns, cannot take us to the underground, tell us what goes on in that inner realm, however it happens . . . or whether, at the genetic center of the self, in pure birth earth, there is no need for action and all is over and nothing's begun: because we're in that fabled place where compacts of conclusion coalesce like veins of coal, compressed past the thought of further futures and consequently beyond each form of the past . . . -- that's what we really don't know and maybe motivates my burrowing -- if there's a bottom nature, and just what's what where the well ends, when we pass beneath its water, when we actually enter 'in' and find ourselves in front of n and on the other side of i.

The Tunnel, William Gass
From Clara Darling

Diciembre 24, 2010

La Cola tonta

Sabes cuando llegas al Lidle, Renfe o La Caixa y te pones en la cola y te das cuenta, al cabo de un rato, tu cajera se marcha para no volver, una señora paga con monedas de centimo, se atasca el papel de hacer tickets o te ha tocado la nueva? Eso es la cola tonta. ¿Sabes cuando la cola tonta se te cronifica?

Pues no eres tú, es Agner Krarup Erlang.

¡Felices compras navideñas!

Diciembre 22, 2010

Jaron Lanier: transparencia y poder

El tono me recuerda a veces al del presidente de la Shell ofreciendo té con galletas a los manifestantes que acampaban en su casa y hablando de cambiar el mundo desde dentro en The Corporation. Y no estoy de acuerdo con sus conclusiones, pero me gusta el articulo de Jaron Lanier sobre Wikileaks porque propone alternativas al increíble cheguevarísmo que rodea a Julian Assange.
En ese artículo, The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks, Lanier propone un ejercicio de aparente simplicidad para reevaluar nuestra fe en la transparencia por encima de todas las cosas:

If you are a fan of Wikileaks, you might have trouble seeing this, so you would do well to consider Wikileaks-like activities performed by people of opposing ideological persuasions. The comparison will probably enrage some Wikileaks supporters, but if you are one of them, I ask you to try it on as an exercise to test your own internal degrees of bias.

Two cases from the United States come to mind: In one, personal information about abortion providers was posted online, and an "X" was drawn over the information about a specific provider once that provider was murdered. In another, which occurred in Utah in 2010, vigilantes published personal details about undocumented Hispanic immigrants, in an apparent bid to encourage harassment.

La pregunta, por supuesto, tiene truco: para que exista la democracia, es necesaria la transparencia de las administraciones públicas, pero esa responsabilidad no se contradice en ningún momento con el derecho del ciudadano a mantener su privacidad. Pero a mí también me pone los pelos de punta saber que Julian Assange, concretamente Julian Assange, tiene la llave de todas esas cajas. Y, aunque no fuera Julian Assange, hasta Kanye West sabe que ningún hombre debería tener tanto poder.

Aquí está el resto del artículo

Nota. Lanier afirma que Wikileaks nació en un foro de John Gilmore, pero no he encontrado nada que lo confirme, sólo que JPB ha defendido el proyecto. ¿Alguien sabe algo más?

Diciembre 11, 2010

De Emerson a Winnie-the-Pooh


En 1962, el poeta y crítico Randall Jarrell publicó su ensayo "The Schools of Yesteryear." En él examinaba los libros de lectura Appleton Readers, en su momento los libros de texto más populares en los colegios norteamericanos, y allí descubrió que en 1880, el estudiante de quinto grado tenía que leer a Byron, Coleridge, Cervantes, Dickens, Emerson, Jefferson, Shakespeare , Shelley, Thoreau, Mark Twain y a "escritores más sencillos como Scott, Burns, Longfellow, Cooper, Audubon, Poe, Benjamin Franklin y Washington Irving."

Los de cuarto grado leían "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" de Thomas Grey y los poemas de Wordsworth.

Cuarto grado, como en cuarto de EGB: nueve y diez años de edad. Lo cuenta Michael Silverblatt en un texto que me mandó ayer Isaac.

En España, no me extrañará que incluyan esta maravilla en la lista de Cuarto de la ESO en lugar de los aburridos y desasosegantes Unamunos, Delibes y Barojas que leímos los de COU. Es la responsabilidad del sistema educativo español el generar adultos responsables, productivos y pagadores de impuestos, y para eso sobre todo hay que preservarles la imbecilidad.

Diciembre 08, 2010

Después de la masacre


"Wherever there is spilt blood to justify, acts of piracy to be consecrated, violation to bless, hideous trade to protect, you are sure to see him, that British Tartuffe, pursuing the work of abominable conquest on the pretext of religious proselytism or scientific study. His cunning and ferocious shadow hangs over the desolation of conquered peoples, tied up with that of the cut-throat soldier and vindictive Shylock. In virgin forests, where the European rightly inspires more dread than the tiger, on the threshold of the humble straw-huts that have been devastated, between the burned-out shacks, he appears after the massacre, like a scavenger, to plunder the dead the evening after the battle. A worthy counterpart of his rival the Catholic missionary who also brings civilization on the end of torches, and the point of sabers and bayonets."

The Torture Garden, Octave Mirabeau

Via Clara Darling

Noviembre 25, 2010

Gaze into the fist of Dredd


Gracias Quimicefa

Noviembre 20, 2010

Las cinco reglas de Anthony Lane


En la introduccióin de Nobody's Perfect, su recopilación de articulos publicados en el New Yorker, Anthony Lane nombra las cinco reglas que, segun él, justifican su jugoso sueldo como crítico de cine:

1) Nunca leas el material de prensa.
2) Siempre que puedas, vete a ver la película en compañía de personas normales.
3) Intenta verlo todo, hasta los documentales sobre transexuales suavos, independientemente del presupuesto y el bombo mediático.
4) Siempre que sea posible, escribe la crítica el día después de haber visto la película. Si no, espera 50 años.
5) Intenta evitar la técnica Lane para ver películas en verano*

Hoy que las volvi a leer me preguntaba si tendrán los nuestros alguna regla de ese tipo, como las tenemos los algunos periodistas para los temas resbaladizos, las instrucciones que te permiten aterrizar el avión cuando ya no ves nada.

*Nota a la regla nº5.

On a broiling day, I ran to a screening of Contact, the Jodie Foster flick about messages from another galaxy. I made it for the opening credits, and, panting heavily — which, with all due respect, is not something that I find myself doing that often in Jodie Foster films — I started taking notes. These went "v. gloomy," "odd noir look for sci-fi," "creepy shadows in outdoor scene," and so on. Only after three-quarters of an hour did I remember to remove my dark glasses.

Octubre 28, 2010

Sinestesia, a su pesar

Buscando una grabación, me acabo de encontrar con una anécdota en la que tres rusos de cierta edad mantienen una discusión típica de colegialas pre-adolescentes. Esto es;

Estaban Sergei Rachmaninoff y Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov parloteando sobre la manía de Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin de mezclar colores y música cuando, para su gran indignación, Rachmaninoff descubrió que Rimsky-Korsakov estaba de acuerdo con él y que defendía contra natura la equivalencia de ciertas notas musicales con ciertos colores. Pero, tras convocar al tercero y discutir largamente sobre el enojoso asunto, Rachmaninoff descubrió también que sus dos amigos no se ponían de acuerdo en qué nota correspondía a qué color: aunque los dos coincidían en que una D Mayor era claramente marrón dorado, Scriabin asociaba la E bemol Mayor con un rojo púrpura, mientras que Rimsy la encontraba indiscutiblemente azul.

A Rachmaninoff le pareció que la falta de acuerdo cromático entre sus colegas era un poco veleta y confirmaba su suposición inicial; que tanto Rimsy como Scriabin eran unos comeflores y que hablaban por hablar. Y así estaba la cosa hasta que Rimsy le recordó que cuando El caballero avaro -la opera que escribió Rachmaninoff sobre una historia de Pushkin- abre el baul del tesoro y las joyas que contiene brillan a la luz de la antorcha, ¡la orquesta interpreta en D mayor! Porque, querido Rachmaninoff -remató Scriabin- tu intuición ha seguido las leyes cuya existencia tu tratabas de negar".

He leído que los post-románticos rusos son como un intensivo de body building para las neuronas después de diez años de navegador. La grabación de Scriabin que buscaba, con Kun Woo Paik al piano, esta todavía aquí y quizá pueda salvarles también a ustedes.

Agosto 27, 2010

Nobody's business


I grew up pretty much as everybody else grows up and one day seven years ago found myself saying to myself--I can't live where I want to--I can't do what I want to--I can't even say what I want to. School and things that painters have taught me even keep me from painting as I want to. I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I wanted to and say what I wanted to when I painted as that seemed to be the only thing I could do that didn't concern anybody but myself--that was nobody's business but my own.

Georgia O'Keeffe

Agosto 12, 2010

Specialization is for insects


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

Specialization is for insects.

Robert A. Heinlein + Six month exposure at the Clifton Suspension Bridge by Justin Quinnell

via Clara Darling

Agosto 08, 2010

El otro Magritte


Agosto 02, 2010



[Antonio] Magliabecchi, librero del Gran Duque de la Toscana, era capaz de dirigirte a cualquier libro en cualquier parte del mundo, con la precisión de un policía metropolitano que te indica el camino a la Catedral de San Pablo o a Picadilly. Es sobre el que se cuentan historias sobre peticiones de libros en estos términos: De ese libro existe una sola copia en el mundo. Está en la Biblioteca del Grand Seignior en Constantinopla y es el séptimo libro del segundo estante de la derecha según se entra.

Sus habilidades eran, como son las de los grandes hombres, autodidactas. Tan lejos estaba el triste suelo en que vivió su primera infancia de la que sería su pasión en la vida, que sus padres ni se molestaron en enseñarle a leer, y su primer trabajo fue en la tienda de un verdulero. Si su talento hubiera bebido de las Ciencias Naturales, habría encontrado su camino allí, pero fue su felicidad y su fortuna el acabar trabajando en la tienda de un librero paternal. Allí encontró la educación que ningún batallón de la maquinaria académica le habría inclulcado. Devoraba libros, y la hoja impresa se volvió tan necesaria para la subsistencia como las hojas de repollo para las orugas que hacían las visitas no bienvenidas en su trabajo anterior.

Como aquellos reptiles verdulentos, también él asimiló el alimento que consumía, tanto que ya parecía haber sido comprimido al calor, encuadernado, acabado en tapa de mármol y colocado en la estantería. No soportana nada que no fueran libros a su alrededor y no dejaba espacio para ninguna otra cosa; sus muebles, decían por ahí, se limitaban a dos sillas, la segunda de las cuales era tolerada únicamente porque las dos juntas le servían de cama.

The Book-Hunter, by John Hill Burton (1882)

Magliabecchi falleció en 1714 a los 81 años, en el monasterio de Sta. Maria Novella. Antes de morir le pidió al Duque que donara su dinero a los pobres y sus libros a la biblioteca pública. En 1861, la Biblioteca Magliabechiana se unió a la gran colección ducal en el matrimonio que hoy se conoce como La Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Firenze, en la Piazza dei Cavalleggeri.

Tanto la Biblioteca como su contenido sufrieron un golpe fatal el 4 de noviembre de 1966, cuando Florencia se enfrentó a la peor inundación de una historia pasada por agua. De la primera registrada, en 1333, se cuenta que el río se llevó los cuatro puentes de la ciudad. En 1966, el Arno arrasó la ciudad con una ola de cinco metros de altura. Una de las fotos más impactantes de aquel año muestra los más de cien mil preciosos volúmenes de la Biblioteca Nacional flotando en el lodo.


El daño fue tan profundo que miles de originales se perdieron para siempre y muchos otros continúan en quirófano, esperando tecnologías que permitan su recuperación. Pero el salón de lectura fue finalmente restaurado a su gloria original y abrió sus puertas en 1990. El gobierno italiano ha llegado a un acuerdo con Google para digitalizar la colección y evitar futuras pérdidas.

MÁS: Some Old-Time Old-World Librarians, By Theodore W. Koch

Julio 30, 2010

Todas las familias dichosas se parecen, pero las infelices lo son cada una a su manera

dostoking.jpgLa manera de los Latin Kings esta noche fue una de gambas y otra de tortas en el descampado de Rubí, Barcelona, obligando a la Policía a intervenir con pelotas de goma y potentes gritos para evitar que los jóvenes se desgarraran literalmente a cuchilladas.

Qué bello, por cierto, ese literalmente.

Todo empezó a raíz de las discrepancias internas entre algunos miembros de la banda en relación a la figura de Fiódor Dostoievski, el célebre escritor ruso cuya influencia en Friedrich Nietzsche fue matizada, según parece, por un grupúsculo de disidentes partidarios del revisionismo literario y de un nuevo enfoque de la novela alejado de la sacralización del psicologismo. “Yo tengo full amigos latin de diferentes tendensias filológicas pero esta webada la disen porque nadie les para bola pobres…hijue… madre… perdon la palabra pero eso es lo q siento… Dostoievski es impresindible para entender el nihilismo son unos webones”, exclamaba uno de los miembros de la banda tras su detención.

Lean el resto en las páginas de sociedad del imprescindible El Mundo Today .

Julio 01, 2010

Efficiency and interest


The most important point is that our devotion to technology blinds us to the issue of what education is for. In America, we improve the education of our youth by improving what are called “learning technologies.” At the moment, it is considered necessary to introduce computers to the classroom, as it once was thought necessary to bring closed-circuit television and film to the classroom. To the question, “Why should we do this?” the answer is: “To make learning more efficient and more interesting.” Such an answer is considered entirely adequate, since, to the technological fundamentalists, efficiency and interest need no justification. It is, therefore, usually not noticed that this answer does not address the question, “What is learning for?”

“Efficiency and interest” is a technical answer—an answer about means, not ends—and it offers no pathway to a consideration of educational philosophy. Indeed, it blocks the way to such a consideration by beginning with the question of how we should proceed rather than with the question of why. It is probably not necessary to say that, by definition, there can be no education philosophy that does not address what learning is for. Confucius, Plato, Quintilian, Cicero, Comenius, Erasmus, Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Russell, Montessori, Whitehead, Dewey—each believed that there was some transcendent political, spiritual, or social idea that must be advanced through education. Confucius advocated teaching “the Way” because in tradition he saw the best hope for social order. As our first systematic fascist, Plato wished education to produce philosopher kings. Cicero argued that education must free the student from the tyranny of the present. Jefferson thought the purpose of education is to teach the young how to protect their liberties. Rousseau wished education to free the young from the unnatural constraints of a wicked and arbitrary social order. And among John Dewey's aims was to help the student function without certainty in a world of constant change and puzzling ambiguities.

What does technology have to do with finding a profound reason for educating the young?

Neil Postman: Deus Machina

Junio 21, 2010



Esta es la California donde es posible vivir y morir sin haber probado jamás una alcachofa, o sin haber conocido a un católico o a un judío. Es la California donde es fácil marcar el Tele-Ave-María pero es difícil comprar un libro. Este es el país en el que la interpretación literal del Génesis se ha convertido subrepticiamente en la interpretación literal de la Doble Indemnización*, el país del rubio de bote y los Capris y las chicas para las que todo lo que la vida promete se reduce a un vestido de boda blanco hasta los pies y el nacimiento de una Kimberly o una Sherry o una Debbi y un divorcio en Tijuana y un billete de vuelta a la escuela de peluquería.

Algunos Soñadores del Suelo Dorado, Joan Didion (1966)

*Una referencia intraducible: es un tipo de indemnización del seguro de vida americano que popularizó Billy Wilder en su clásido Double Indemnity, en españa traducido como Perdición.

Junio 20, 2010

Go warn the Children of God of the Terrible Speed of Mercy


Conoce a Los Hijos del Espíritu Santo en, from Routine Investigations.

Mayo 22, 2010

La fuente

I see the time approaching when we shall base modern history, no longer on the reports even of contemporary historians, except in-so-far as they were in the possession of personal and immediate knowledge of facts; and still less on work yet more remote from the source; but rather on the narratives of eyewitnesses, and on genuine and original documents

Leopold von Ranke, 1830

Marzo 13, 2010

Miguel Delibes, Rey de la Montaña

"Todos aspirábamos a ser escaladores y nuestro sueño inexpresado era coronar un día el Tourmalet en primer lugar. Recuerdo que en aquellos años adquirí entre mis amigos cierta fama de escalador. ¿Es que poseía yo, en realidad, algún don para escalar mejor que ellos? Yo siempre he sospechado que subir cuestas en bicicleta es una de las mayores maldiciones que puede soportar un hombre, escalador o no. Pero ante el repecho de Boecillo, con su pronunciado recodo y su empinamiento súbito, en la parte final, yo no me amilanaba, dejaba pasar a mis amigos primero y luego les rebasaba como si nada pedaleando a un ritmo loco, a toda velocidad:

-Claro, es que a Delibes no le cuesta -comentaban ellos.

Yo mantenía la superchería. Sonreía. Tácitamente les daba la razón, porque esa era la carta que me convenía jugar: fingir que no me costaba. Y con un muchacho al que no le costaba subir las cuestas no se podía competir. De modo que de acuerdo con mi manera de pensar, lo aconsejable para llegar a Rey de la Montaña era poner cara de palo, incluso esbozar una sonrisa, mientras la procesión iba por dentro. Aguantar, que no trascendiera al rostro el sufrimiento interior y la fatiga física, era una baza segura para que el competidor desistiera de alcanzarnos. Nada desanima tanto a un corredor como observar que el contrincante realiza con la sonrisa en los labios algo que a él le supone un esfuerzo sobrehumano. Ponerme la máscara fue el secreto de mi éxito como escalador: ni piernas, ni bofes, ni garambainas. A mí me costaba subir el repecho de Boecillo tanto como a José Luis Fando, el gordo de la clase, pero lo disimulaba y mis compañeros, al verse rebasados por un tipo alacre, que no se quejaba, a quien no le dolían los muslos ni se le aceleraba el corazón, se sentían descorazonados y se sentaban en la curva a charlar un rato y descansar, en tanto yo coronaba el cerro en solitario, de un tirón. Pero, al rebasar la cumbre, me tumbaba boca abajo a la sombra de una acacia y sujetaba el corazón contra el suelo para que no se me escapase del pecho. Luego, al llegar a casa, no podía comer, tenía que meterme en cama un ratito hasta que se me pasara el sofoco:

-Claro, es que a Delibes no le cuesta.

Llegué a pensar que mi impostura era la impostura de Trueba, de Ezquerra o del francés Vietto, en el Tour de Francia. El que sabía fastidiarse sin poner cara de fastidio, ese era el Rey de la Montaña"

Un recuerdo de Ander, visto gracias a Fogo

MÁS: Mi abuelo miguel de su nieta, Elisa Silió | Especiales en El ABC, El Mundo y El País

Marzo 12, 2010

El otro Delibes


De los obituarios que leo -algunos perpetrados sin cariño por becarios maldispuestos para el archivo de moribles- me quedo con el propio texto que dejó Delibes como introducción a sus obras completas y que publica hoy La Información.

Advierto que es tristísimo, y que a mí me afectó mucho más que la noticia de su muerte, hace unas horas. En él cuenta que murió como escritor hace doce años en la sala de un quirófano y que acabó como más temía, "incapaz de abatir una perdiz roja ni de escribir una cuartilla con profesionalidad". Y que el otro Delibes, el que le sobrevivió, se dedicó a la vida contemplativa.

Pero también describe a un hombre que dedicó su vida a su verdadera pasión, y lo hizo con verdadera pasión, hasta que ya no pudo. Ojalá pudiera yo, que me pierdo en la más minúscula de las efervescencias, decir lo mismo.

Después de El hereje
Aunque viví hasta el 2000..., el escritor Miguel Delibes murió en Madrid el 21 de mayo de 1998, en la mesa de operaciones de la clínica La Luz. Esto es, los últimos años literariamente no le sirvieron de nada.

El balance de la intervención quirúrgica fue desfavorable. Perdí todo: perdí hematíes, memoria, dioptrías, capacidad de concentración... En el quirófano entró un hombre inteligente y salió un lerdo. Imposible volver a escribir. Lo noté enseguida. No era capaz de ordenar mi cerebro. La memoria fallaba y me faltaba capacidad para concentrarme. ¿Cómo abordar una novela y mantener vivos en mi imaginación, durante dos o tres años, personajes con su vida propia y sus propias características? ¿Cómo profundizar en las ideas exigidas por un encargo de mediana entidad? Estaba acabado. El cazador que escribe se termina al tiempo que el escritor que caza. Me faltaban facultades físicas e intelectuales. Y los que no me creyeron y vaticinaron que escribiría más novelas después de El hereje, se equivocaron de medio a medio. Terminé como siempre había imaginado: incapaz de abatir una perdiz roja ni de escribir una cuartilla con profesionalidad.

No me quejaba. Otros tuvieron menos tiempo. Al fin y al cabo, setenta y ocho años son bastantes para realizar una obra. Le di gracias a Dios, que me permitió terminar El hereje, y me dediqué a la vida contemplativa. Las cosas que intenté no eran serias. Con mi hijo Miguel hicimos un libro sobre el cambio climático, en el que no intervine más que para hacer preguntas propias de un ciudadano preocupado, pero no aporté una sola idea. En Muerte y resurrección de la novela di a la estampa algo que tenía hecho para dar la sensación de que trabajaba, de que aún disponía de una vida activa.

Los optimistas que sobreviven a un cáncer suelen decir que lo vencieron. Yo no me atrevo a tanto. Los cirujanos impidieron que el cáncer me matara, pero no pudieron evitar que me afectara gravemente. No me mató pero me inutilizó para trabajar el resto de mi vida. ¿Quién fue el vencedor?

Y bien: cuando mi obra, dicho lo dicho, está concluida, y por tal la doy, veo con satisfacción que los prestigiosos editores de Círculo de Lectores y Ediciones Destino se ocupan ahora de recopilarla y reunirla en los siete volúmenes que van a configurar esta serie. Cada volumen, además, irá prologado por un destacado estudioso de mi obra. ¿Qué hacer sino sentirme halagado y agradecido? Si mi primera novela apareció en 1948 —hace ahora sesenta años— y la última en 1998, ha sido media centuria, la segunda del siglo XX, la que me he ocupado escribiendo y publicando libros. Y siempre con el beneplácito de mis lectores. También a ellos, y a cuantos ahora se asomen a las páginas de estas Obras completas, quiero agradecer sinceramente su benevolencia y fidelidad.

Marzo 05, 2010

La actualidad, los clásicos y yo


Dice Calvino en Por qué leer a los clásicos que todos los verdaderos lectores tienen un libro que es "su" libro.

Conozco a un excelente historiador del arte, hombre de vastísimas lecturas, que entre todos los libros ha concentrado su predilección más honda en Las aventuras de Pickwick, y con cualquier pretexto cita frases del libro de Dickens, y cada hecho de la vida lo asocia con episodios pickwickianos. Poco a poco él mismo, el universo, la verdadera filosofía han adoptado la forma de Las aventuras de Pickwick en una identificación absoluta.

Y que, muchas veces, lo descubres en la escuela.

Mi primera escuela fue El Tesoro de la juventud, donde vienen resumidas las grandes obras de Shakespeare, Dante y Dostoievski y que más tarde me leí enteras en cuanto descubrí la biblioteca de Canillejas. En esa época, de preguntarmelo, mi clásico habría sido sin duda La divina comedia, aunque ahora pienso que me gustaba su mitología sangrienta y que el cielo nunca me lo acabé, porque me parecía un tostón. Después, en el último año de instituto nos hicieron leer dos libros de los que, como hacen sólo los grandes, me cambiaron para siempre: Cinco horas con Mario y San Manuel Bueno mártir. Qué afectado y estúpido me pareció el monólogo de Molly Bloom después de haberme leído el de Carmen. Qué vacío y artificial me parecíó todo el realismo mágico sudamericano, el existencialismo francés y el Sturm und drang alemán después de visitar Valverde de Lucerna y su vida secreta y subacuática.

En mi primer año de universidad leí a los Adornos y a los Wigtensteins, que estaban muy en la pomada, pero a los 17 a mí sólo me importaban los iluminados: Genet, Nietzsche y Antonin Artaud, Strindberg y William Blake, Octave Mirabeau, Mishima, Los niños terribles de Cocteau, Ariel de Sylvia Plath. Me obsesioné con Rilke y con La tierra Baldía hasta aprenderme las dos o tres primeras páginas de memoria, aunque traducidas al español. Mi religión era el éxtasis o la nada. Me entraron aires apocalípticos y empecé a escribir poesía. Me colgué con Carson McCullers, con Flannery O'Connor. Me enamoré de una fan de Marguerite Durás y la dejé por un imbécil que citaba a Gonzalo Suarez pensando que citaba a Lord Byron. Un fin de semana tomé demasiado ácido y amanecí en las afueras de Toledo con un desconocido que pintaba retratos de puertas. Poco después me fuí un fin de semana a Londres y descubrí Charing Cross Road.

Es necesario decir que Charing Cross Road ya no es lo que era entonces.

Volví a Madrid seis meses más tarde con la maleta llena de simbolistas, modernistas, prerafaelitas y confesionales, me cambié de facultad -salté de Periodismo a Filología inglesa- y empecé con los japoneses. Si me hubieran preguntado por "mi libro" entonces, habría dicho Lo bello y lo triste de Kawabata, aunque hoy no me parece tanto. Leí En busca del tiempo perdido, releí a Dostoievski y a Shakespeare, con gran sorpresa de crítica y público. James Joyce ya no me pareció tan mal, pero tampoco tan bien. Poco después dejé la facultad, empecé a escribir por dinero y mi pasión literaria se desvaneció, salvo por la poesía.

Empecé a despreciar la ficción y a leer ensayo, historia de la ciencia, entrevistas, biografías. Me gustaron la Estructura de las revoluciones científicas y me enamoré de Walter Benjamin, redescubrí la ciencia ficción y me quedé con el Pynchon del Lote y el Arcoiris. Empecé a coleccionar datos, como todos los listillos de mi generación.

Cambié a los iluminados y suicidas por los reflexivos Wallace Stevens y Derek Walcott, que Antonio tan generosa y acertadamente me regaló. Volví a los presocráticos y me colgué con Parménides, convencida de que sólo él y Rilke habían entendido el Universo. Diez años más tarde, si me preguntan cuál es el libro que más quiero de mi biblioteca serían los cuatro volúmenes de El mundo de las matemáticas editado por James Newman, aunque hoy mi principal obsesión es Emerson y pienso que, de tener un libro, sería uno suyo.

Después de Londres, a los 20 años, trabajé en un café de Alberto Aguilera donde mis clientes matutinos eran los jubilados del barrio. Uno de ellos, que había sido dentista, recitaba párrafos de La Divina Comedia en italiano. Otro que era experto en nutrición infantil recitaba sonetos de Shakespeare, y el monólogo del fantasma de Hamlet, en inglés. Había un viejito que al segundo carajillo no sabía dónde estaba su casa pero que recitaba a Ciorán y su amigo, un borrachín sin oficio ni ex-oficio, se sabía de memoria las esquinas de Combray. Yo no se recitar casi nada. Hasta me da vergüenza leer en voz alta.

Dice David Shields que escribió Reality Hunger porque quería explicarse a sí mismo y a otros por qué había perdido el interés en la ficción. Mucho antes explicaba Ciorán que los afortunados que vivían en el éxtasis, de espaldas a la realidad, no lo eran tanto. "La actualidad -dice en el mismo texto sobre los clásicos- puede ser trivial y mortificante, pero sin embargo es siempre el punto donde hemos de situarnos para mirar hacia adelante o hacia atrás".

Para poder leer los libros clásicos hay que establecer desde dónde se los lee. De lo contrario tanto el libro como el lector se pierden en una nube intemporal. Así pues, el máximo «rendimiento» de la lectura de los clásicos lo obtiene quien sabe alternarla con una sabia dosificación de la lectura de actualidad.

Pero ayer, mientras leía Reality Hunger, me sentí tan reflejada en sus síntomas que he decidido eliminar de mi vida todos los libros, peliculas y canciones que no vayan a cambiar mi vida para siempre.

Porque, aunque la iluminación necesita de la realidad, si comparas la actualidad de Calvino con nuestra dieta de actualidad diaria, incluyendo TV, periódicos, conversaciones, Facebook, Twitter y youtube, es posible que Calvino estuviera hablando de realidad y nosotros, de otra cosa. Porque no quiero morirme sin tener "mi libro". Y, sobre todo, porque todas las generaciones producen cientos de ignorantes ilustrados como David Shields, pero es posible que los viejitos de mi bar sean los últimos de su especie y yo prefiero ser como ellos que acabar como él.

La foto es de Anna Wolf.

Marzo 01, 2010

La ficción


Hablando en general, pocas cosas entusiasman tanto a cierta clase de alumno de escritura que la noticia de que la novela de ficción ha muerto -con todos esos argumentos, personajes y dialogos vulgares, sentimentales, burgueses (y difíciles de ingeniar). Cuando la imaginación te falla es un alivio saber que ya no es un elemento necesario del oficio de escribir.

Walter Benjamin, Arcades

La foto es del gran Alberto de Pedro
El mural, de BTOYandrea (gracias eva!)

Febrero 17, 2010

All mankind is of one author


All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness....No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Como casi todo el mundo, conocía esta cita de John Donne por el final -Por quién doblan las campanas- precisamente por una apropiación que a su vez generó muchas otras, pero no sabía que era suya. La mencionaba Jonathan Lethem en su famoso ensayo sobre el homenaje y el plagio, The ecstasy of influence, que a su vez homenajeba a otro o, dependiendo, hacía un uso indebido de material protegido por Copyright, la pescadilla que no cesa.

De los problemas que ha generado la gran burbuja de la propiedad intelectual, el plagio es posiblemente mi favorito porque es el popular y, por tanto, el que más confusión genera entre nosotros, los de a pié. Aunque he escrito mucho sobre eso, como Pero plagiar es otra cosa o El derecho a pensar, ninguna anécdota me gusta más que la que cuenta David Bravo sobre el club de fans de Andy y Lucas ni ningún texto me ha gustado tanto como Algo Prestado, de Malcolm Gladwel. Y el de Lethem, que Ballardian me ha recordado hoy.

El artículo trajo cola. Después de publicarlo, Lethem empezó Promiscuous materials, un proyecto donde invita a desconocidos a producir derivados de (algunas de) sus obras con una licencia personal e intransferible cuyas restricciones son artísticas, no económicas: si hay película, será un corto; si es teatro, será un acto de menos de 45 minutos, etc. Después de leerlo, los editores de Make empezaron la sección Appropriation in Creative Practice, de la que sale la bonita apropiación de Lolita que ilustra el post.

Y, naturalmente, el homenaje de Lethem parafraseando la ansiedad de Bloom murió por el camino y muchos citan a uno pensando que citran a otro, como demuestra el artículo del NYT sobre el cineasta Arnaud Desplechin:

Artists who believe in the mystique of originality are often reluctant to reveal their inspirations. But the magpielike Mr. Desplechin revels in what the writer Jonathan Lethem has called the ecstasy of influence. "I didn't invent anything," he said. "Being a director is not such a grand thing. My job is just to show the audience what I love."

Fue lo que le pasó a John Donne con el homenaje de Hemingway. Curiosamente, el proceso es reversible: hoy nadie se acuerda de por quién doblan las campanas, pero su reflexión sobre la naturaleza del autor es más relevante que nunca.

Enero 30, 2010

The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age


The guilt must of necessity live too

Enero 12, 2010

Esta mórbida sed de soluciones


Todo cuanto se explica, en la belleza,
ni explica la belleza, ni es lo bello;
la parte que consiente en ser nombrada
resulta a su sigilo lo que el lastre
supone en el asombro de volar:
lo que al surcar el aire ya no importa,
lo que la gracia olvida cuando ocurre.
Lo bello es un recinto inexpugnable
que libra a la belleza de nosotros,
de esta mórbida sed de soluciones.

Extracto de El sol de la pereza, Carlos Marzal.

Foto robada de Kris Graves

Diciembre 13, 2009

Imbécil de la semana


Esta ha sido la Olivetti Lettera 32 de Cormac McCarthy durante 50 años. Y esto es lo que dice Glenn Horowitz, marchante de libros raros, sobre la Olivetti Lettera 32, que ha puesto en subasta en beneficio de una organización científica y vagamente tenebrosa de Santa Fe.

When I grasped that some of the most complex, almost otherworldly fiction of the postwar era was composed on such a simple, functional, frail-looking machine, it conferred a sort of talismanic quality to Cormac’s typewriter. It’s as if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army knife.

Mi parte preferida es la de "frail-looking machine". Y que le llama Cormac. En el New York Times.

Noviembre 24, 2009

Contra el mundo interpretado

Qué precioso y rilkeano texto publica Jose Luis Brea esta semana en Salonkritik. Es por esto que siempre envidié a sus alumnos y compadecí a sus detractores:

Qué caos de universo, qué turbulencia magnífica, estallada, como un mälstrom sin centro –o que tuviera cientos de ellos dispersos en los bordes de su mismo embudo, periferia siempre alejándose y siempre cayendo, agujero negro en el que ese torbellino de haces de luz sucumbe como por irradiación excesiva, luminosidad infinitamente entrecruzada, más eco y más presencia de la que vista alguna, mirada alguna, podría soportar. No, no intentemos imaginar cómo las cosas verían a las cosas, qué clase de imágenes serían ellas –para ellas- puras.

No: ellas nos necesitan –acaso necesitamos nosotros pensar que ellas nos necesitan- o nos aceptan al menos para poder llegar a ser por un momento imágenes, necesitan nuestra torpeza, nuestra mayor lentitud, nuestro limitado estar “en posición”, en ojo acristalado –mermados, en un lugar. Sólo como en ojos de animales –en localizaciones, arrinconada al fondo o al otro lado de esos micro-orificios -u ocelos- que producen foco, para lanzarlo en su otro lado a pantalla, podemos imaginar esa turbia vegetalia, ese ser magmático de todas las cosas como jardín acuático de las imágenes del mundo, de todo, de las cosas …

¡Quiero leer Una imagen es una imagen es una imagen (tres escenarios)!

Noviembre 19, 2009

What comes next


It seemed the kind of life we wanted.
Wild strawberries and cream in the morning.
Sunlight in every room.
The two of us walking by the sea naked.

Some evenings, however, we found ourselves
Unsure of what comes next.
Like tragic actors in a theater on fire,
With birds circling over our heads,
The dark pines strangely still,
Each rock we stepped on bloodied by the sunset.

Clouds Gathering, by Charles Simic
image by Richard Hamilton
From Clara Darling

Noviembre 16, 2009

Jorge Luis Borges: Del rigor de la ciencia

En aquel Imperio, el Arte de la Cartografía logró tal Perfección que el Mapa de una sola Provincia ocupaba toda una Ciudad, y el Mapa del Imperio, toda una Provincia. Con el tiempo, estos Mapas Desmesurados no satisficieron y los Colegios de Cartógrafos levantaron un Mapa del Imperio, que tenía el Tamaño del Imperio y coincidía puntualmente con él. Menos Adictas al Estudio de la Cartografía, las Generaciones Siguientes entendieron que ese dilatado Mapa era Inútil y no sin Impiedad lo entregaron a las Inclemencias del Sol y los Inviernos. En los Desiertos del Oeste perduran despedazadas Ruinas del Mapa, habitadas por Animales y por Mendigos; en todo el País no hay otra reliquia de las Disciplinas Geográficas.

Octubre 25, 2009

The Community

One Sutton Place.jpg

Remain quiet within the convention, and you are good, safe and happy in the long run, though you never have the vivid pang of sympathy on your side; or, on the other hand, be passionate, individual, willful, you will find the security of the convention a walled prison, you will escape and you will die, either of your own lack of strength to bear the isolation and the exposure, or from a direct revenge from the community, or from both.

DH Lawrence, Study of Thomas Hardy (1936)
El resto, en Clara Darling

Septiembre 20, 2009

Appetite for distraction


¡cheers V!

The perils of having a patron


None of the cruelties exercised by wealth and power upon indigence and dependence is more mischievous in its consequences, or more frequently practised with wanton negligence, than the encouragement of expectations which are never to be gratified, and the elation and depression of the heart by needless vicissitudes of hope and disappointment.

Every man is rich or poor, according to the proportion between his desires and enjoyments; any enlargement of wishes is therefore equally destructive to happiness with the diminution of possession; and he that teaches another to long for what he shall never obtain, is no less an enemy to his quiet, than if he had robbed him of part of his patrimony.

En plena posesión de sus facultades, Samuel Johnson acaba de cumplir 300.

MÁS centenarios: Brunel, Locke and Stephenson: the engineering giants who shaped our world

Septiembre 19, 2009

Los caminos del señor son cada vez más inescrutables


God Chose Me' to Defend Marriage

Raped at 13

OB: Podrías describir tu proceso poético? ¿Cómo se escribe un poema de Rachel McKibbens?

RM: Espero en callejones oscuros rezando para que me pase algo. Ningún buen poema está limpio de sangre. Tienes que tener una vida realmente chunga si quieres escribir algo que merezca la pena. Un montón de hijos ilegítimos y tatuajes moteros también ayuda. Si realmente quieres dejarles fuera de juego, sugiero tener una madre que te deje en un coche caliente con las ventanas subidas para irse a jugar al bingo en un nido de fanáticos.

El resto de la entrevista, en Latino Poetry (thanks Jessa!)

Mayo 21, 2009

El reino de las sombras

img-front.jpgLeyendo libros que se acumulaban en mi mesilla me he topado con un artículo maravilloso que debería haber estado en mi libro de autómatas, por razones que solo se revelarán durante la lectura del mismo. Maximo Gorky visita el programa de los hermanos Lumière en Nizhny-Novgorod, la feria rusa que organiza el empresario victoriano Charles Aumont y escribe un texto que publicaría tres días más tarde, el 4 de julio de 1896, bajo el seudónimo I.M. Pacatus: Anoche visité el reino de las sombras.

Anoche visité el Reino de las Sombras. Si supierais cuan extraño es estar allí. Es un mundo sin sonido, sin color. Allí, todo - la tierra, los árboles, la gente, el agua y el aire - está sumergido en un gris monótono… No es la vida, sino su sombra… Y todo ello en un extraño silencio en el que no se oye el chirriar de las ruedas, ni los pasos, ni las palabras. Ni una sola nota de esa intrincada sinfonía que siempre acompaña a los movimientos de las personas

Qué texto más iluminador para acompañar a Lo Siniestro de Freud.

Yo lo he leído en el Libro de Fantasmas de la editorial 451, una edición irregular pero atípica de Juan Sebastián Cárdenas con un bellísimo fotograma del Solaris de Tarkovski en la portada, Allí dicen que es la primera traducción al castellano, aunque yo lo he encontrado también aquí.

El texto completo (la Red tiene caminos misteriosos) lo podrán leer después del salto, con el programa que tanto impresionó a Gorki.

por Maximo Gorki (4 de julio de 1896)

Ayer viajé al reino de las sombras. Es una región inconcebiblemente extraña, despojada de sonidos y colores. Todo, la tierra, los árboles, las personas, el aire, el agua, está pintado en grisalla. Se ven ojos grises en rostros grises. Un sol plomizo brilla en un cielo gris, y las hojas de los árboles son de un gris ceniciento. La vida se reduce allí a una sombra, y el movimiento, a un fantasma silencioso.

Estoy a punto de verme tratado de loco o de simbolista, y me veo obligado a explicarme. Esto ocurrió en el café Aumont, donde mostraban el cinematógrafo, las imágenes animadas de los hermanos Lumiére. Este espectáculo me causó una impresión tan compleja y singular que, incapaz de pintar su infinita diversidad, me conformaré con evocar su naturaleza lo más fielmente posible. Apagada la sala, una imagen grisácea surge en la pantalla, como la sombra empalidecida de un grabado malo. Una calle de París. En ella reconoce uno, en una inmovilidad petrificada, coches, edificios, personas en diferentes poses. Todo es gris, incluso el cielo. Esta imagen trivial no despierta ninguna curiosidad entre el público, que ya ha visto representadas innumerables arterias parisienses. Pero, de repente, con una extraña vacilación, la imagen se anima. Los coches se ponen en marcha y, amenazadores, ruedan derechos hacia el espectador sentado en la oscuridad. Al fondo aparecen siluetas indistintas, que crecen a ojos vista a medida que se acercan. Delante, unos niños juegan con un perro, los peatones cruzan la calle zigzagueando entre los vehículos, los ciclistas pasan y vuelven a pasar. Todo es pura vida, urgencia, movimiento. Todo se mueve y luego se desvanece.

Pero esta actividad se pierde en un silencio extraño; no se oye ni el fragor de las calles, ni el eco de los pasos, ni el de las conversaciones. Nada, ni una sola nota de la complicada sinfonía que acompaña los movimientos humanos. En silencio, el viento agita el follaje color ceniza. En silencio, seres grises se deslizan por el suelo gris, condenados al mutismo eterno, privados por un castigo cruel de los colores de la vida. Sus gestos llenos de energía son vivos, hasta el punto de que resulta difícil seguirlos, pero la vida ha abandonado sus sonrisas, y su risa es muda, a pesar de la hilaridad que contrae sus rostros grisáceos. La vida surge ante nuestros ojos, apagada, sin voz, sombría y lamentable, con sus múltiples colores desteñidos.

Es un espectáculo terrible. Y, sin embargo, no es un teatro de sombras. Uno piensa en esas ciudades que un fantasma, una maldición, un espíritu maligno, han sumido en un sueño eterno. Parece que Merlín el Encantador nos enseña una de sus malas pasadas: ha hechizado una calle, reduciendo sus edificios imponentes, desde el techo a los cimientos, a un tamaño insignificante, empequeñeciendo proporcionalmente a las personas y privándolas de la palabra, y ha difuminado los colores del cielo y de la tierra hasta fundirlos en una grisalla uniforme. Después, ha cogido su creación grotesca y la ha plantado en una sala de restaurante con las luces apagadas.

Hay unos chasquidos, y todo desaparece de pronto. Surge un tren que, como una flecha, se lanza directamente sobre el espectador. ¡Cuidado! Abalanzándose en la oscuridad, se dispone a transformarle a uno en un saco de piel mutilada, lleno de picadillo humano y huesos rotos, y teme uno que destruya esta sala, esta casa donde abundan el vicio, las mujeres y la música, donde el vino corre a raudales, y no deje tras de sí más que ruinas y polvo. Pero, en realidad, no es más que un tren fantasma.

Marzo 24, 2009

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!!


Cuando le dije a mi padre que estaba escribiendo sobre Ada, me miró con desdén y me dijo entre dientes: ¿y no perderías menos el tiempo investigando a Mary Sommerville, que al menos hizo algo que se puede explicar sin metáforas? Después de dos años, me ha dado la razón: Ada hizo muy poco, pero lo que hizo fue tan importante, tan clarividente y tan necesario que merece la pena recordarla tanto como recordamos a su padre. Por eso hoy por fin se ha declarado el Día Internacional de Ada Lovelace.

La fiesta lleva reunidos a más de 1500 bloggers, varios periódicos avispados y lovelacianos. Y una servidora, que se ha enterado casi tarde, pero se ha enterado gracias a Honor, que está en todos lados a la vez y es tan bella y generosa por dentro como por fuera.

Por si los enlaces que incluyo no despiertan su interés: Ada Lovelace, nacida Ada Byron (Byron de ese Byron), escribió las primeras líneas de código para una máquna que no llegó a ver completada, la máquina analítica de Charles Babbage, en 1843, Ya entonces, Lady Lovelace llegó a imaginar lo imposible; que una máquina podría componer música, generar gráficos y convertirse en la herramienta más revolucionaria de la comunidad científica. Cuando el Departamento de Defensa americano desarrolló su primer lenguaje de programación, en 1979, lo bautizó Ada en su honor.

Desde entonces Ada se ha convertido en una verdadera celebridad, gracias a su intervención post-mortem en algunas novelas de corriente cyber/steampunk (Bruce Sterling, Neil Stephenson, Thomas Pynchon, etc) y, en ciertos círculos, en la Sylvia Plath de la programación, santo y mártir de la causa feminista. No para mi: sus cualidades -al contrario que las de Mary Sommerville- fueron cuidadosamente regadas y formidablemnete alentadas por todos aquellos que tuvieron un papel en su vida, desde su señora madre que la obligó a estudiar matemáticas para enderezar sus potenciales genes poéticos hasta su marido, que se ocupó del cuidado y la educación de sus hijos para dejarla estudiar con los mejores científicos de la época que acuñó la palabra científico, posiblemente la más brillante de la historia de Inglaterra. Y nada de todo eso la hace menos interesante sino más.

Como su padre, Ada Lovelace murió joven y enloquecida, después de vivir una vida de extremos y reinventar el lenguaje metafórico para hacer bailar una máquina imaginaria. Por eso y porque era bonita, inteligente y valiente, Feliz Día de Ada Lovelace a todos ustedes también.

Febrero 26, 2009

Si fuéramos humanos


El mundo es de quien no siente. La condición esencial para ser un hombre práctico es la ausencia de sensibilidad. La cualidad principal en la práctica de la vida es aquella cualidad que conduce a la acción, esto es, la voluntad. Ahora bien, hay dos cosas que estorban a la acción –la sensibilidad y el pensamiento analítico, que no es, a fin de cuentas, otra cosa que el pensamiento con sensibilidad. Toda acción es, por naturaleza, la proyección de la personalidad sobre el mundo exterior, y como el mundo exterior está en buena y en su principal parte compuesto por seres humanos, se deduce que esa proyección de la personalidad consiste esencialmente en atravesarnos en el camino ajeno, en estorbar, herir o destrozar a los demás, según nuestra manera de actuar. Para actuar es necesario, por tanto, que no nos figuremos con facilidad las personalidades ajenas, sus penas y alegrías. Quien simpatiza, se detiene.

El hombre de acción considera el mundo exterior como compuesto exclusivamente de materia inerte –inerte en sí misma, como una piedra sobre la que se pasa o a la que se aparta del camino; o inerte como un ser humano que, por no poder oponerle resistencia, tanto da que sea hombre o piedra, pues, como a la piedra, o se le apartó o se le pasó por encima. El máximo ejemplo de hombre práctico, por reunir la extrema concentración de la acción junto con su importancia extrema, es la del estratega. Toda la vida es guerra, y la batalla es, pues, la síntesis de la vida. Ahora bien, el estratega es un hombre que juega con vidas como el jugador de ajedrez juega con las piezas del juego. ¿Qué sería del estratega si pensara que cada lance de su juego lleva la noche a mil hogares y el dolor a tres mil corazones? ¿Qué sería del mundo si fuéramos humanos? Si el hombre sintiera de verdad, no habría civilización. El arte sirve de fuga hacia la sensibilidad que la acción tuvo que olvidar.

El libro del desasosiego, Fernando Pessoa

Noviembre 27, 2008

survival diary


Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealisable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable.

Primo Levi

Noviembre 20, 2008

Manolo Borja habló con El País

... y mintió, al menos, al menos una vez.

Octubre 29, 2008

The girl who wanted to be god


Cuando te ganas la vida en un periódico, suele ser malo escribir sobre alguien que te importa tanto desde hace tanto tiempo que podrías prepararle el desayuno sin equivocarte con la mermelada, el café o la cantidad de azúcar. Alguien que te importa como te importaba Michael Knight cuando tenías once años, pero sin la despreocupación de la infancia, que le quita hierro a casi todo y no es ridícula sino precoz y saludable. Pero justo antes de irme a BCN ocurrió que Bartleby presentaba la colección de poemas completa de Sylvia Plath, por primera vez en español. Así que lo hice. Jose Luis dice que es el comienzo más literario que he escrito jamás por dinero.

Sylvia Plath (Boston, 1932) publicó su primer poema a los nueve años, una cosa cortita "acerca de lo que yo veo y escucho en las calientes noches de verano". El último, Edge, lo envió al Observer el mismo día que se suicidó, el lunes 11 de febrero de 1963. Tenía 31 años, dos niños en el piso de arriba y el manuscrito de un poemario que empezaba con la palabra "amor" y acababa con "primavera", que dejó cuidadosamente atado sobre la mesa con instrucciones precisas para su publicación.

Ariel y otros poemas fue publicado por su marido el poeta inglés Ted Hughes en 1965, pero alteró el orden, añadió dos poemas y eliminó otros cinco, por motivos medio editoriales, medio personales. Hoy es uno de los libros de poemas más vendidos de la segunda mitad del siglo XX. La selección de Poemas escogidos, editada y prologada por Hughes en 1981 y en 1982, recibió el primer Pulitzer de literatura concedido a una obra póstuma.

El volumen que estos días publica Bartleby es la edición española de su Poesía completa, que conserva el prólogo de Hugues con dos añadidos sobre el original: las impagables notas del traductor, Xoán Abeleira, que señalizan y desentrañan la obra de Plath con un cuidado y rigor exquisitos y el Ariel original.

Aquí, el resto del artículo, apto para no plathófilos. Si lo hubiera hecho aquí, habría que oirme. Noten por favor que va acompañado de tres poemas que no estaban en Ariel (publicado hace años por Hiperión, en castellano) y que he seleccionado por razones pura y exclusivamente fetichistas; además de unas notas de su traductor, el poeta gallego Xoán Abeleira y un poema que escribió sobre Sylvia, muchos años antes de comenzar esta edición. Y fotos, porque no soy de piedra.

Vagamente relacionado, posiblemente interesante. Editores: la nueva generación es una cosa que organiza el Caixa Fórum el próximo 6 de noviembre dentro del ciclo de diálogos La edición se reinventa. La cosa es que a este último, dedicado al recambio generacional del mundo del libro, viene Lee Brackstone, director de Faber & Faber. ¡Faber & Faber! También estarán Marco Cassini, director de Minimum Fax y Julián Viñuales, director de Global Rythm Press. A las 19.30 h.

Julio 03, 2008

El hombre que soñó el mañana


Si un visionario es alguien capaz de anticiparse a los problemas y sugerir soluciones con décadas de adelanto, es indudable que Richard Buckminster Fuller lo era; desde el cambio climático a la desaparición de los recursos naturales y energéticos, nuestras grandes crisis sin resolver ya le preocupaban hace casi ochenta años. Fue además uno de los primeros en afirmar que el ordenador sería una herramienta que cambiaría el mundo.

Sin embargo, prácticamente nada de lo que este futurista utópico imaginó llegó a materializarse. La gran mayoría de sus proyectos, desde los coches con tres ruedas a los edificios ligerísimos transportados por zeppelins o ciudades submarinas, fracasaron estrepitosamente o nunca llegaron a ver la luz. Incluso los que sí tuvieron éxito, como sus célebres cúpulas geodésicas, parecen hoy reliquias olvidadas de otro tiempo, fósiles de un futuro que nunca se hizo realidad.

¿Por qué nos fascina entonces todavía su figura, y por qué se mencionan sus ideas una y otra vez en el trabajo de los mejores científicos, artistas y diseñadores de nuestro tiempo? Veinticinco años después de su muerte, el Whitney de Nueva York explora la vigencia de su legado en Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe, una ambiciosa exposición que intenta determinar cuánto tuvo de genio y cuánto de charlatán.

Sigue leyendo Buckminster Fuller: el hombre que soñó el mañana.

MAS: El decálogo de Buckminster Fuller

Mayo 23, 2008

I am nobody


Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

I am nobody, by Emily Dickinson
Foto, by Mortem Bjarnhof
Post, by Clara Darling

Abril 13, 2008

Parece ser que Juan Luis Galiardo tiene un problema con el juego

Contaban en el club Pickwik que Juan Luis Galiardo había pedido a la asociación de bingos y casinos que no le permitieran entrar en ningún local, para controlar una ludopatía incontrolable que le afecta malamente, al señor Galiardo.

Pero, como todos los adictos, una noche en un acto festivo -que, siendo quien es el señor Galiardo, acabó por ser el Festival de Cine de Málaga- la buena voluntad le faltó y, en un frenesí ludópata, le robó el DNI a Pepe Sancho, cogió un taxi y se fue a un casino de Marbella a gastarse la pensión.

A partir de aquí cito:

La señorita de la entrada, confusa, llamó al gerente del casino, que se dirigió a Galiardo:
-Señor Galiardo, no podemos dejarle pasar.
-Pero cómo que Galiardo, yo soy José Sancho, ¿no ve mi DNI?
-Señor Galiardo, le diré dos cosas. Una, usted no es José Sancho; dos, el señor Sancho también tiene prohibida la entrada en los casinos de España.
Cuentan que Galiardo volvió hecho una furia al hotel, buscó a Sancho y se puso a gritarle: "¡Pepe, qué estás haciendo con tu vida!".

Gracias Diego -¡compañero!- por descubrirme la anécdota y tan excelso blog, con su enfocadísima visión de la narrativa patria.

Marzo 28, 2008

Por un puñado de links


  • Larry Salander, galerista newyorquino, expresa sus dudas razonables sobre el mercado del arte contemporáneo: "Being with Rembrandt is like making love. And being with Warhol is like fucking".
  • Prada Prostitutes:
    But too much information has been the staple of books for girls ever since the first fictional confession of a period or a crush. These girls might be hookers, but otherwise they are as they have always been, their hookerdom a simple extension—psychologically unexplored—of that right to live and talk dirty which 1960s feminism conferred on the modern woman.

    Y dice que Jean Genet jamás creyó que la autora de Historia de O fuera una mujer porque ninguna mujer entiende el sexo degenerado. Qué bellísimo Genet y qué ingenuidad deliciosa. Pauline Reage escribió la Historia para calentar a un amante casado pero mucho más para calentarse sola. Pero Jean Genet es uno de los escritores más bellos de la historia de las letras y por eso no hay malicia ni contradicción. Hace unas semanas lo describí a un neófito como el Mishima francés y todavía me remuerde la conciencia. A las cinco de la mañana, yo debería estar callada mirando peceras en algún bar

  • Darkness vissible, William Styron habla de la fragilidad exquisita del suicida de la que nadie supo tanto como Sylvia Plath. It is like quicksand: hopeless from the start.
  • Y, finalmente, The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America es la descacharrante historia de cuando los comics acabaron con la juventud y la inocencia de toda una nación.

    Lo cuenta Louis Menand en el New Yorker y otros en el LA Times, el Washington Post y el Globe Mail.

  • Ilustrando, la primera parte de un foto ensayo: Slate repasa La arquitectura de Edward Hopper.

    Marzo 24, 2008

    She walks among us but she is not one of us


    las evas equívocas


    Se valen de su aspecto afeminado para explotar la ingenua vanidad de los tenorios de la campaña. Su procedimiento es sencillísimo. Se visten de mujer con elegancia. Hasta con chic. Transitan por las calles oscuras. Ven llegar a un incauto. Se le acercan. Le dicen que se han extraviado del hogar: ‘Estoy perdida, señor. Usted, que parece un caballero tan amable y distinguido, ¿por qué no me acompaña? Tengo miedo. Soy viuda’. En lo más profundo de cada caballero se oculta un sinvergüenza. ‘Con gusto la acompañaré, señora’, le contesta. Y la acompaña. Suben a un coche. Y mientras la falsa dama dulcemente solloza y suspira, le roba a su tenorio la cartera. Después, el donjuán se queja a la familia o a un agente: ‘Me han robado en el tranvía’, dice.”

    Así retrataba una nota de la revista Fray Mocho del 7 de junio de 1912 el accionar de una tan temible como pintoresca banda de delincuentes que conmovió a Buenos Aires en los albores del siglo XX: los travestis ladrones.

    Marzo 04, 2008

    All poets are liars


    All myth is an enriched pattern,
    a two-faced proposition,
    allowing its operator to say one thing and mean another, to lead a double life.
    Hence the notion found early in ancient thought that all poets are liars.
    And from the true lies of poetry
    trickled out a question.

    What really connects words and things?

    The Beauty of the Husband (via)

    Enero 29, 2008

    A Conspiracy


    … yes the “Allied” planes all would have been, ultimately, IG-built, by way of Director Krupp, through his English interlocks—the bombing was the exact industrial process of conversion, each release of energy placed exactly in space and time, each shock-wave plotted in advance to bring precisely tonight's wreck into being thus decoding the Text, thus coding, recoding, redecoding the holy Text…

    It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted . . . secretly, it was being dictated instead by the needs of technology … by a conspiracy between human beings and techniques, by something that needed the energy-burst of war, crying, “Money be damned, the very life of [insert name of Nation] is at stake,” but meaning, most likely, dawn is nearly here, I need my night's blood, my funding, funding, ahh more, more. . . . The real crises were crises of allocation and priority, not among firms—it was only staged to look that way—but among the different Technologies, Plastics, Electronics, Aircraft, and their needs which are understood only by the ruling elite . . .

    [Gravity's Rainbow, p. 521]

    Enero 10, 2008

    She was a servant

    Sontag por Cartier-bresson, 1972

    David Rieff habla de su madre, Susan Sontag:

    "My mother loved science, and believed in it (as she believed in reason) with a fierce, unwavering tenacity bordering on religiosity. There was a sense in which reason was her religion. She was also always a servant of what she admired, and I am certain that her admiration for science (as a child, the life of Madame Curie had been the first of her models) and above all for physicians helped her maintain her conviction -- and again, this, too, was probably an extrapolation from childhood -- that somewhere out there was something better than what was at hand, whether the something in question was a new life or a new medical treatment."

    Me gusta especialmente que utilice la palabra servant y la manera en que, como ocurre con los que son esclavos por amor, en lugar de humillar a su receptor, lo haga más bello que ninguna otra palabra en el mundo.

    Me recuerda a una película que vi de pequeña -una película muy mala, muy mala- en la que Nastasia Kinski le decía a un amante despreciado que la mayor ofensa se la hacía él a ella y no ella a él, porque al menos él había encontrado algo por lo que merecía la pena humillarse pero ella no, y esa era su miseria. Por suerte, a algunas nos queda Madame Curie.

    Enero 07, 2008

    The Future of Reading (A Play in Six Acts)

    Anthony Quayle, Arthur Miller, Mary Ure and Peter Brook.jpg
    De izquierda a derecha: Anthony Quayle, Arthur Miller, Mary Ure y Peter Brook

    Act I: The act of buying

    When someone buys a book, they are also buying the right to resell that book, to loan it out, or to even give it away if they want. Everyone understands this.
    Jeff Bezos, Open letter to Author’s Guild, 2002

    You may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the Digital Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove any proprietary notices or labels on the Digital Content. In addition, you may not, and you will not encourage, assist or authorize any other person to, bypass, modify, defeat or circumvent security features that protect the Digital Content.
    Amazon, Kindle Terms of Service, 2007

    Act II: The act of giving

    [I]f he lent her his computer, she might read his books. Aside from the fact that you could go to prison for many years for letting someone else read your books, the very idea shocked him at first. Like everyone, he had been taught since elementary school that sharing books was nasty and wrong…
    Richard Stallman, The Right to Read

    [Y]ou can’t give them as gifts, and due to restrictive antipiracy software, you can’t lend them out or resell them.
    Newsweek, The Future of Reading

    Sigue leyendo The Future of Reading (A Play in Six Acts)

    MÁS: El futuro de la industria del libro I y II

    Noviembre 30, 2007

    My Karma ran over your dogma


    Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.

    George S. Patton, 1933.

    Noviembre 10, 2007

    All things innocent


    I think of the nestling fallen into the deep grass,
    The turtle gasping in the dusty rubble of the highway,
    The paralytic stunned in the tub, and the water rising,

    All things innocent, hapless, forsaken.

    The Meadow Mouse, T. Roethke
    Installation by Esther Stocker

    Septiembre 16, 2007

    El futuro alrededor


    Con las estudiantes me siento más que bien, pese a que envejezco a cada gesto mío y a cada mirada suya. Me comentan y no escucho porque recuerdo que esta noche tengo que aplicarme el tratamiento anticaída, que algunas mañanas me rezongan los riñones y que los de mi quinta nos la pelamos mucho con Ginger Lynn, porque no teníamos el gusto definido y confundíamos la belleza con lo angelical. Porque la lujuria todavía nos quedaba lejos y a ojos vista no había más que una necesidad inmediata enturbiada por las cosas del amor.

    Luego, hace un rato, un maricón altivo y señorial va y me halaga en el restaurante, con lo cual se da un equilibrio cósmico y en definitiva me siento bien, mejor que con nadie, con las estudiantes. Porque son guapas, dulces y en apariencia maleables, aunque me da que tienen corazones de antracita, ignífugos, con mucho futuro no por delante, sino alrededor.

    Rubén, a veces mi héroe

    Agosto 23, 2007

    Instrucciones del Emperador Carlos V a su hijo Felipe

    Escoged buenas personas, desapasionadas para los cargos, y en lo demás no os pongáis en sus manos solas, ni ahora ni en ningún tiempo, antes tratad los negocios con muchos, y no os atengáis y obliguéis a uno solo, porque, aunque es más descansado, no os conviene...

    Agosto 22, 2007

    todos los caminos llegan a Bohr

    Sir Ernest Rutherford, presidente de la Sociedad Real Británica y Premio Nobel de Química en 1908, contaba la siguiente anécdota:

    Hace algún tiempo, recibí la llamada de un colega. Estaba a punto de poner un cero a un estudiante por la respuesta que había dado en un problema de física, pese a que este afirmaba con rotundidad que su respuesta era absolutamente acertada. Profesores y estudiantes acordaron pedir arbitraje de alguien imparcial y fui elegido yo. Leí la pregunta del examen: 'Demuestre como es posible determinar la altura de un edificio con la ayuda de un barómetro'.

    El estudiante había respondido: 'lleve el barómetro a la azotea del edificio y átele una cuerda muy larga. Descuélguelo hasta la base del edificio, marque y mida. La longitud de la cuerda es igual a la longitud del edificio'.

    Realmente, el estudiante había planteado un serio problema con la resolución del ejercicio, porque había respondido a la pregunta correcta y completamente. Por otro lado, si se le concedía la máxima puntuación, podría alterar el promedio de su año de estudios, obtener una nota mas alta y así certificar su alto nivel en física; pero la respuesta no confirmaba que el estudiante tuviera ese nivel. Sugerí que se le diera al alumno otra oportunidad. Le concedí seis minutos para que me respondiera la misma pregunta pero esta vez con la advertencia de que en la respuesta debía demostrar sus conocimientos de física.

    El resto de la historia la cuenta Manuel Calvo en La Insignia

    Mayo 10, 2007

    la peligrosa biodiversidad


    El deshielo en la Antártica ha hecho aparecer quince nuevas especies animales.

    Entre las especies nuevas está el grumo, que es una pantera asesina con el tamaño de un elefante, los colmillos de un elefante, la piel de un elefante y la trompa de un elefante. Bueno, ahora que lo pienso es un terrible elefante asesino. Un momento, voy a llamar a la Sociedad Europea de Zoología... He cometido un terrible error... Claro, si yo estudié física, no sé para qué me meto en estos embolaos... Bueno, ya llamaré luego, es igual. Lo que decía: el grumo es un animal asesino que se reproduce muy rápidamente y que seguramente invadirá África en unos dos meses y llegará a Europa en menos de medio año. Es probable que de aquí a 2009 todos los humanos hayamos sido devorados por este elefante asesino".

    No sólo el grumo es peligroso: "Sí, sí, sólo el grumo es peligroso --corrige Adenauer--, pero eso no quiere decir que las restantes catorce especies sean agradables. El timur es feo. Feísimo. Es como un mono gris que tiene siempre la nariz húmeda. Y cuando come hace mucho ruido, así como tcham-tcham. Y babea. Es muy desagradable. Da asco hasta matarlo, porque salpica mucho".

    Con ustedes, el humor de Jaime Rubio.

    Mayo 01, 2007

    Mortal lovers


    Mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step, for lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair.


    Marzo 08, 2007

    a mi me salen otros

    ¿A qué huele Madrid?
    Huele a mujer cara, a perra de lujo y a Juani, huele a cocina tosca, a cocina de barrio, a zona vieja.

    Alfredo Urdaci Dixit.. Está claro que lo repasó bien.

    Febrero 23, 2007

    un revival de hospitalidad sureña

    rett-snowball.jpgAyer el departamento me llevó a cenar a un restaurante sureño para que me familiarizara con los aborígenes y me agarrara una bonita indigestión. El lugar promete un revival de hospitalidad sureña, lo que significa que te llaman honey todo el rato y que hay más contacto físico del que resulta humanamente soportable, especialmente el que prodiga generosamente Mary Mac, que es la dicharachera dueña del establecimiento y la señora que sale en la foto cuando pinchan aquí.

    A cambio del magreo te dan té helado (¡el vino de mesa del sur!), rollitos de levadura, manzanas especiadas, magdalenas de maiz con mantequilla batida y unas verduras que ya no protegen contra varias enfermedades crónicas tanto cardiovasculares como del cáncer, como el cáncer de próstata y cáncer de colon sino que traen su propio survival kit en forma de bicarbonato gratinado por encima. Y en todos lados suena Billie Holiday, desde el aparcamiento hasta el lavabo. Lo confieso: me gustó. Cuando volví a casa sólo quería un lavado de estómago y cinco horas de Lo que el viento se llevó.

    Descubrí muchas cosas: además de la Coca-Cola, la CNN y Martin Luther King, Atlanta es uno de los grandes nodos del Hip-hop en América y todos los días hay conciertos interesantes. El resto de la noche me la pasé en una teahouse discutiendo sobre ciencia ficción, lo que sí es, lo que no es y el terror que están sembrando los departamentos de estudios culturales en el género desde que lo descubrieron a mediados de los 80. Me recomendaron una entrevista que le hicieron a Samuel Delany en la revista Science Fiction Studies, 1987: The Semiology of Silence.

    Febrero 18, 2007

    Ayn Rand habla de amor

    De la selección de enlaces para San Valentín de Blake Bell me quedo con esta entrevista de Mike Wallace a Ayn Rand en 1959. Si no saben quién es Ayn Rand, hay una gran entrada en la wikipedia. Dice que más individuos pasan a ser libertarianos por haber leído "La Rebelión de Atlas" que por ningún otro motivo. Por suerte para ella, felleció hace más de veinte años. De haber vivido más tiempo se habría arrancado los ojos con sus propias manos.

    Me gusta especialmente cuando Wallace le dice indignado: pero según su propia filosofía, ¡hay muy pocas personas en el mundo que merecen ser amadas! Y ella le contesta: por desgracia, sí.

    Febrero 08, 2007

    mi dios me ama

    poisons_unknown.jpgEl Mundo tiene un nuevo corresponsal en el bajo mundo de la droga: el hombre del saco.

    La metanfetamina, conocida como «ice» o «cristal», produce una paulatina deformidad del consumidor. Tras dos años, una chica de 23 parece una anciana. Destruye todo vínculo con la realidad. Desinhibe hasta perder la orientación sexual. El ice es la «droga del sexo» por excelencia. Sus efectos duran de seis a ocho horas. Un consumidor habitual deja de dormir una semana sin problema. Pero no se siente cansado. Las señales que envía el cuerpo al cerebro están bloqueadas. En el momento en que se ha pasado de un mes de consumo diario, el ser humano pasa a ser un títere (o un esquizofrénico). A los tres meses, si se opta por beberlo, el hígado estará destruido. Su rostro, en cualquier caso, lucirá lleno de llagas. En un año, habrá envejecido seis. En dos años, 12. Y así sucesivamente… Si no es aniquilado por el VIH, lo matará el envejecimiento prematuro.

    Eso, si no es aniquilado por el VIH. Le tengo que dar las gracias a mi hermano del alma por este momento inesperado de hilaridad mediática y por empezar un nuevo blog. Que te dure mucho y bien.

    nota #1. héctor en los comentarios:

    Lo que en España se llama cristal en la calle la mayoría de las veces es MDMA en polvo (con los mismos riesgos y efectos que las pastillas de toda la vida) y otras veces (pocas, pero cada vez más) es el cristal de verdad, que se conoce como crank en EE.UU y tiene los efectos devastadores que se describen en el artículo de Eel Mundo, y que ya es una plaga en el Medio Oeste americano y países como Tailandia...

    El mdma es metilendioximetanfetamina y el cristal (el de verdad) es metanfetamina y no es para tomárselo a broma.

    Normalmente se toma inhalado (como los chinos de heroína de toda la vida), es más adictivo que el crack y sus efectos físicos brutales...

    Otra cosa es el alarmismo del periódico. En un país como España lo que se llevan son las drogas recreativas, después de los años de la heroína casi nadie se atreve a tomar drogas destructivas de este tipo, pero nunca se sabe...

    Ah, y también tiene un uso concreto en el mundo gay que aumenta el riesgo de coger el sida: uno de los efectos son unas ganas y una capacidad compulsiva de follar.

    ¿Algún adicto entre el público? ¿Algún camello? No sean tímidos, es todo para bien. Y la petite no ha visto una droga en su vida...

    nota #2. No, Dildo de Congost no es mi hermano de verdad. Cómo me son.

    Enero 27, 2007

    Memento mori


    Memento mori es una frase latina que significa "Recuerda que vas a morir" en el sentido de "Recuerda que eres mortal". Suele usarse para identificar un tema frecuente, o tópico, en el arte y la literatura que trata de la fugacidad de la vida.

    La frase tiene su origen en una peculiar costumbre de la Roma antigua. Cuando un general desfilaba victorioso por las calles de Roma, tras él un siervo se encargaba de recordarle las limitaciones de la naturaleza humana, con el fin de impedir que incurriese en la soberbia y pretendiese, a la manera de un dios omnipotente, usar su poder ignorando las limitaciones impuestas por la ley y la costumbre. Lo hacía pronunciando esta frase, aunque según el testimonio de Tertuliano, Apologético 33, probablemente la frase empleada era "Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento!": "¡Mira tras de ti! Recuerda que eres un hombre" (y no un dios).

    También se usa esta frase para denominar a una costumbre de fines del siglo XIX y principos del XX; fotografiar a los seres queridos que habían fallecido, es decir a la fotografía post mortem de esa época. Se trata de fotos que implican un acercamiento de la fotografía a la representación de cuerpos muertos, a fin de ser recordados en los ultimos momentos.

    Hoy he descubierto en Wikipedia la categoría de Frases y citas latinas. La imagen es de la segunda parte de Yeogo goedam; Memento Mori.

    Enero 26, 2007

    hay conejos, y conejos

    beatrix-potter30.jpgAnthony Lane sobre Miss Potter, la película sobre Beatrix Potter con Renee Zellweger y Ewan McGregor:

    Why, one must ask, did McGregor take the part? I can only imagine that he received the script one morning, after a late night, saw the words "Beatrix Potter", asumed that he was being offered the role of his namesake, Mr.McGregor, fancied himself in a long white beard running past cabbages with a rake, mouthing Scotch oaths at departing vermin, called his agent to accept, and went back to bed. Not until later did he realize that he would be required to utter the line, "We shall give them a bunny book to conjure with."

    Only one man on earth can speak those words with a straight face, and that is Hugh Hefner.

    Como no puedo enlazarlo porque el artículo aún no ha llegado a la edición digital del New Yorker, les resumo: Lane compara a Potter con Jane Austen y da a entender que, si aun viviera, ahora estaría persiguiendo a la Zellweger con un machete. Both her life as a farmer and her work as an artist were a protest against the cute.

    Yo de Beatrix Potter sólo recordaba las pegatinas de conejitos que usaban las niñas de mi clase para poner su nombre en los libros. Si todo esto les ha despertado cierta curiosidad (o porque quieren a Anthony Lane tanto como yo misma) página 12 tiene una mini-biografía (también un rato endulcorada) y la Universidad de Ohio, algunos de sus cuentos más representativos.

    Enero 15, 2007

    el día que el presidente conoció al Rey

    Nixon admires Elvis cufflinks.jpg

    La delirante reunión secreta entre Elvis Presley y Richard Nixon ha sido desclasificada. Si les da pereza leer los originales, Javier del Pino lo contaba hoy en El Pais:

    Richard Nixon y Elvis Presley compartían obsesiones políticas del mismo signo y estaban sumidos, por razones bien distintas, en un declive personal que debía ser turbador para temperamentos tan egocéntricos como los suyos. Nixon se enfrentaba en Vietnam a la posibilidad de ser, según su expresión, "el primer presidente de Estados Unidos que pierde una guerra", y Elvis trataba de entender todavía por qué su notoriedad había sido arrasada por cuatro ingleses mal vestidos y su dichosa beatlemanía.

    Había, sin embargo, una gran diferencia entre ellos: Nixon era el más habilidoso de los maquinadores, un animal político depredador e inmisericorde; Elvis, en cambio, carecía de los sentidos del tacto y la mesura, confiaba en cualquier individuo y se movía en la dirección que le marcaban sus propios impulsos. Era, en definitiva, simple y caprichoso.

    Un día se encaprichó con tener en su solapa una chapa de agente federal de lucha antidroga. Aquel 21 de diciembre de 1970, Elvis se plantó en Washington.

    Diciembre 20, 2006

    En una nube


    In September, the magazine W announced that cocaine is again a fashionable vice.

    En W van que se matan: la cocaína ha sido el vicio de moda desde los años ochenta. Más concretamente, desde 1886.

    David Bravo: "eres un producto"

    Desde Operación Triunfo, que es el mayor icono de ese triste panorama musical, Jesús Vázquez ha dicho, refiriéndose expresamente a las descargas de Internet, que "robar música, robar estas ideas es un delito y además es acabar con ella". Resulta paradójico que este programa de karaoke caro que cada año lanza al estrellato cantantes que son absolutamente indistinguibles entre sí diga tener miedo a la copia.

    David Bravo: los reyes magos son los padres.

    Diciembre 13, 2006

    This Storm

    Antonio desencadenado:

    Pynchon es Dios hecho pluma; nuestra generación es la más importante de la historia, solamente por ser nuestra generación; la inmensa mayoría de lo que produce es basura (como todas), pero por ser la nuestra da más coraje; los blogs de Enrique, Pierre, er Juli, Ashley y Reg molan; también el de la dulce Susana; los noventa son la década más mejón de todas no solamente porque es la nuestra sino porque Pynchon publicó nada menos que dos novelas; Vineland y Mason & Dixon son esas novelas que uno abre por cualquier sitio y se siente en casa; pero no solamente de Pynchon vive el hombre: también está la Biblia; Slate y Salon son lo primero que leo, con el café y la tortilla mañanera/tostada con humus y aceite extra virgen de oliva por delante; el tipo que hace los blogs de Telecinco es un artista; en realidad, a mí lo que en realidad me gusta es releer a Shakespeare, como a otros nadar y coger la bicicleta; la revolución de los blogs no es tal, nunca lo ha sido ni nunca lo será porque no puede serlo: esto se demuestra con una sola cita de Benjamin (versión corta) o con 4.000 palabras (versión larga, que me da infinita pereza escribir y que si lo hiciera sin cortarme sería un rollo); odiamos a David; el diseño agrada, las ilustraciones más, viva lo friki si es con buen sentido; lo de la Industria cultural contra los ciudadanos y los ciudadanos contra la Industria cultural ahora es personal; la arquitectura está bien, pero mejor están las arquitectas. Etc.

    Hoy han sido seis enlaces de una tacada. Y lo que tal vez queda. El espacio para enlaces es limitado, el espacio para comentarlos también, pero si la frase se queda cortada no se crean que la voy a reescribir. Una ruina, un fragmento, un pedacito.

    No he dicho endemoniado por no joder la cita y porque, estos días, la que está endemoniada soy yo. Pero lo único que me duele, Antonio, es que me hayas dejado fuera. Para que veas que sé perdonar, te pongo una sola cita de Benjamin. Y que vivan el amor, Sensación de vivir y las arquitectas.

    Noviembre 21, 2006

    pa la gripe, pa las ratoncitas

    Para resarcirme de una gripe, un amigo me ha contado hoy la siguiente historia.

    Cuando era jovencito tenía con un amigo un puesto-máquina en el rastro. Hacíamos poemas automáticos, breatón y armandragón a cuatro manos. Yo me llevaba una remmington y, a todo el que pasaba y se paraba (normalmente la que se paraba, teníamos unas melenas infalibles, cristalinas, como de eno en el segundo de roxy), le escribíamos un poema perfecto. No te cuento los resultados del trabajo poético, pero nuestra remmington nunca fallaba. A diez metros (el contexto a veces ayuda), un viejecito cantaba sin parar su venta. Eran preservativos, y todavía en españa (habrás oído hablar de eso, de ese lugar y esa historia) no estaba bien visto ni venderlos ni comprarlos en mercados no sumergidos, ni tampoco llamarlos por su nombre.

    Su canción decía: "pa la gripe" "pa las ratoncitas".

    Septiembre 28, 2006

    vicios modernos


    "Puede que estos nombres no te digan nada, pero están mucho más cerca de ti de lo que piensas. Dos productos de una generación frustrada, medio-romántica, medio-mecanizada, que es muy posible que sea la última". En la conversación ambos se confiesan perturbados porque antes todo el mundo era de extrema izquierda y ahora los Sex Pistols son unos anarquistas de extrema derecha que se traspasan la carne con insignias nazis. Luego mantienen una amable disertación sobre los beneficios de la heroína. Efectivamente, como pronosticaba el Star eran genuinos representantes de una generación que iba a ser la última.

    Borja Casani habla sobre Alberto García-Alix y su Vicios Modernos en un especial en del Babelia pasado.

    Septiembre 17, 2006

    greil marcus: the mystery of the woods

    Hay al menos tres libros que cualquier amante de la cultura popular debería tener: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk; Love Saves the Day, A History of American Dance Music Culture y Lipstick Traces, A Secret History of the 20th Century.

    En Lipstick Traces, el mejor de los tres, Greil Marcus trazaba una línea paralela entre la revolución punk en la Inglaterra de los 70 y los movimientos contraculturales como el dadá en el berlin de 1918 o la internacional situacionista en el Paris de los 50*. Sólo por ese motivo merece la pena hablar de The Shape of Things To Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, su nuevo libro, donde analiza un fenómeno que en este lado del charco nos cuesta comprender: América. Pero no es la América sofisticada de Gore Vidal sino la América oscura y profunda de Twin Peaks. En The Three Penny Review adelantan un capítulo titulado Picturing America.

    On American ground Lynch's fantasy was likely a blind but coded reach back to the original American wilderness, to the woods the Puritans found waiting for them: "A Brief Recognition of New-Englands Errand into the Wilderness," as the Reverend Samuel Danforth titled an Election Day sermon in Boston in March of 1670. Danforth himself reached back to the town the Puritans founded, that place described by Winthrop forty years before, where every man and woman would have need of every other, or perish: "leaving your Country, Kindred and Fathers houses," Danforth said, "and transporting your selves with your Wives, Little Ones and Substance over the vast Ocean into this waste and howling Wilderness"—"a woody, retired and solitary place."

    Yo nunca he estado en los Estados Unidos. pero JL me dijo una vez: la gente se piensa que las películas de David Lynch son raras, pero no lo son. Es que América es así.

    *Lipstick Traces ha sido traducido al castellano por Damian Alou para la editorial Anagrama, colección Argumentos.

    Please Kill Me también y está a punto de ser reeditado (gracias David).

    Septiembre 08, 2006

    Marry, and you will regret it


    Do not marry, and you will also regret it.

    memoria 2.0

    En la historia de la cultura occidental, siempre ha habido un estrecho lazo entre la memoria y la escritura; de hecho, la raíz latina de la palabra "memoria" significa al mismo tiempo memoria y memoir (memoria biográfica). Remontándonos al siglo V, los poetas griegos e historiadores ya se fijaron en que la escritura tenía el poder de hacer las ideas permanentes, de alargar la memoria humana. Y, sin embargo, escribir también se consideraba peligroso para las operaciones de la memoria. En su Fedro, por ejemplo, Socrates le cuenta a Fedro una historia sobre el origen de la escritura. En ese mito, Theuth (Hermes), el inventor de la escritura, le va con el cuento al faraón Thammus, que alaba la ocurrencia pero rechaza lo que él llama "la receta de Theuth" para recordar, razonando que la escritura no es más que un truco que disfraza la apariencia de realidad. El rey advierte a Theuth que, por culpa de la escritura, los que saben olvidarán lo que saben y los que no saben aparentarán saber, convirtiendose en sabios aparentes en lugar de sabios de verdad.

    «¡Oh artificiosísimo Theuth! A unos les es dado crear arte, a otros juzgar qué de daño o provecho aporta para los que pretenden hacer uso de él. Y ahora tú, precisamente, padre que eres de las letras, por apego a ellas, les atribuyes poderes contrarios a los que tienen. Porque es olvido lo que producirán en las almas de quienes las aprendan, al descuidar la memoria, ya que, fiándose de lo escrito, llegarán al recuerdo desde fuera, a través de caracteres ajenos, no desde dentro, desde ellos mismos y por sí mismos. No es, pues, un fármaco de la memoria lo que has hallado, sino un simple recordatorio. Apariencia de sabiduría es lo que proporcionas a tus alumnos, que no verdad. Porque habiendo oído muchas cosas sin aprenderlas, parecerá que tienen muchos conocimientos, siendo, al contrario, en la mayoría de los casos, totalmente ignorantes, y difíciles, además, de tratar porque han acabado por convertirse en sabios aparentes en lugar de sabios de verdad.»

    Platón, Fedro. "Oralidad versus escritura". (Selección) | Memoria y escritura | Umberto Eco sobre la escritura digital

    Septiembre 04, 2006

    El diario a diario

    Un señor toma el tranvía después de comprar el diario y ponérselo bajo el brazo. Media hora más tarde desciende con el mismo diario bajo el brazo.

    Pero ya no es el mismo diario, ahora es un montón de hojas impresas que el señor abandona en un banco de plaza.

    Apenas queda solo en el banco, el montón de hojas impresas se convierte otra vez en un diario, hasta que un muchacho lo ve, lo lee y lo deja convertido en un montón de hojas impresas.

    Apenas queda solo en el banco, el montón de hojas impresas se convierte otra vez en un diario, hasta que una anciana lo encuentra, lo lee y lo deja convertido en un montón de hojas impresas. Luego se lo lleva a su casa y en el camino lo usa para empaquetar medio kilo de acelgas, que es para lo que sirven los diarios después de estas excitantes metamorfosis.

    El diario a diario es un cuento de Julio Cortazar. Podía haber sido peor.

    Diciembre 04, 2004


    Un hatajo de pobres diablos, con los codos raídos y los pantalones llenos de agujeros, que miran por la cerradura y que despiertan a la gente a medianoche para preguntarle qué opina de Fulanito o Menganita. Que roban a las madres fotos de sus hijas violadas en los parques. ¿Y para qué?. Pues para hacer las delicias de un millón de dependientas y amas de casa. Y, al dia siguiente, su reportaje sirve para envolver un periquito muerto.

    Hildy Johnson/Jack Lemmon en Primera Plana.

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