Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Self-Propelled Island

Two Fridays ago, went gallery hopping with VM not in Chelsea, but on the Upper East Side. Saw a retrospective of David Hammons, the foremost African American conceptualist artist, at Mnuchin Gallery. The most striking work was his Basketball Chandeliers. Also saw portraits and landscapes by Jean-Michel Basquiat, including four paintings of cows and goats. We ended up at the Met, to look at Turner's whaling pictures, before having a drink at the gallery bar.


TLS April 8, 2016

from Pippa Goldschmidt's review of Jules Verne's The Self-Propelled Island, translated by Marie-Therese Noiset:

By contrast, in The Self-Propelled Island, published much later, in 1895, this optimism is tempered with a greater sense of realism; now technology is primarily an enabler of hubris. The novel is set in an apparent utopia; a vast island inhabited only by millionaires which floats around the Pacific, hardly ever needing to dock in its home country of the United States. Only the very rich can afford to live on this island and the initial descriptions quantify the financial value of all the trappings. From this, one might hope for a more satirical edge to the story, especially as it is told through the eyes of outsiders: four penniless French musicians kidnaped on the island and held, initially at least, against their will. Too quickly, however, they accept their loss of liberty and fall in love with the luxury on offer.

TLS April 22 2016

from "Acting on instinct: Dublin, Shakespeare and the 'radical improvisers' of the Easter Rising" by Declan Kiberd:

Men make the world, sighed Karl Marx, but not in conditions of their own choosing. Every so often, however, there is a rebellion not only against the authorities but also against the given conditions, whose ineluctability may no longer be taken as read. At such moments of extreme innovation, Marx added, people anxiously conjure up ghosts from the past. Just as Hamlet, on the verge of insurrection, summoned the ghost of his father, so did the French Revolutionaries of 1789 cast themselves as resurrected Roman democrats .... The immensity of the new departure seemed unutterable, most of all to those who wished to utter it--and so they soothed themselves, as well as their audiences, with images from the past. But, like Hamlet, they also had "that within which passeth show". Impulse-ridden, praisers of rashness, they sought to give voice to a desire so deeply buried within them as to be scarcely conscious of itself as such. They adopted the pose of insurgents, in order to find out what might happen next. 
The only way to be original was to go back to origins: reculer pour mieux sauter. The Irish knew that the classic texts of the past which they "quoted"--from Homer to Shakespeare--contained an intellectual surplus, indicating the contours of the future. Like all visionaries, their innovative intellectuals emitted the light by which they became visible; and they created the thinking according to which their actions would become comprehensible. And, at that point, when their success in changing things made them seem less and less original, they lost their high definition. As subsequent historical accounts adduced clear causes and gave the look of inevitability to what they had done, they began to seem derivative and dull, rather than the radical improvisers that they surely were.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

David Hare's The Judas Kiss

Watched Rupert Everett in David Hare's play The Judas Kiss last night at Bam Harvey, and thought he was mesmerizing. We were too far away to see facial expressions, but the posturing, the collapse, the eloquence, came together for a terrific effect. The production, directed by Australian Neil Armfield, was first presented at Hampstead Theatre in London in 2012. The play itself juxtaposes two very different halves. The first, taking place in a London hotel room, is frenetic, as Wilde faces the prospect of imminent arrest, and is urged by his lover Bosie to stay and fight the prosecution, and by his good friend Robbie to flee into exile. It climaxes with the arrival of the police. The second half takes place in Naples, after Wilde's imprisonment and release, and it has the sadness of the aftermath of sex. The erotics of the play's construction is deliberate, of course. The first half opens with interrupted coitus between the bellboy (a dishy Elliot Balchin) and the chambermaid (funny Jessie Hills); the second half opens with the satiated bodies of Bosie (a shouty Charlie Rowe) and his Neapolitan fisherman Galileo (Tom Colley beautifully naked throughout). Cal MacAninch was a fine Robert Ross. Alister Cameron plays the hotel owner Sandy Moffat with the right, and saving, touch of dignified service.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Make a home
of an old carriage house?
Make a tea house!


Over the scaffold
by the side of the girls' school
a big butterfly net

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Vicente L Rafael's Motherless Tongues

Thought-provoking essays on post-colonialism, neo-colonialism, translation, and the insurgency of language. Looking at the Philippines at the time of its Revolution, American occupation, and "People Power" II, and at the USA after 9/11, Rafael traces the attempts by colonial and neo-colonial powers to master translation in order to subjugate local populace. Each time he shows that the powers fail because of the insurgency of language, that which cannot be translated. Particularly interesting to me is the idea of the radical welcome that Revolution shows to the Other. Also fascinating is the failure of American schooling to eradicate Tagalog and other vernacular idioms and accents. The Introduction speaks eloquently of the suppression of other languages in order to speak and write in scholarly English. The final essays on Filipino scholars--Renato Rosaldo and Reynaldo Ileto--are appreciative of their achievements while remaining alert to their limitations. Of the latter's historical and autobiographical works, Rafael writes:

By contrast, the linguistic play evinced in Pasyon and Revolution between Tagalog and English, as I have suggested, speaks to the possibility of leveling hierarch. Rey gives a compelling explication in English of peasant movements as political projects intimately tied to ethical norms sustained by a messianic sense of history. But in doing so he also makes clear that the specificity of their thoughts and actions can be grasped only in and through Tagalog. The juxtaposition of the two languages, English and Tagalog, thus allows for the opening of worlds hitherto invisible to "us." The autobiography, however, moves in a different direction. Recounting life as a series of struggles against authority figures, the autobiography betrays an investment in hierarchy whether by way of a self commemorating an absence presence--the young "I," the silent mother--or a self overcoming the other that comes before it, in all senses of that word, whether it be a professor, another author, or one's own father. There is, then, the sense that autobiography forecloses the possibilities raised in Pasyon. The book speaks of a kind of unfinished social revolution evinced on the level of language and translation. The autobiography, however, deploys a gendered optic that conventionalizes the process of transformation, substituting social revolution with a narrative of generational masculine succession. (page 187)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Arts Entrepreneurship Awards and Haiku

Last night attended Fractured Atlas's Arts Entrepreneurship Awards at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in Tribeca. The five awardees worked in the different fields of Indian dance, independent theater, on-line sketchbooks, activist museum curation, and ... I did not understand what the last one was about. The most interesting idea was Flux Theater Ensemble's Living Wage ticket scheme. Tickets to their productions are free. They tell the audience the different budgets for paying actors and crew a minimum wage and a living wage, and people pay what they wish on their way out. They have had more audience and more payments since the launch of the scheme. SLF events in September will be free and open to the public. This makes the important point that everyone is welcomed. I'm thinking, however, of asking the audience to contribute whatever they can afford towards the writers' next work. They can make a donation on their way out too. Last week I also had the idea of giving the audience extracts of the writers' work before the event begins. This will give them a chance to read the writing on the page before hearing the authors, and so encourage greater interaction between audience and authors. Each festival program can hold an extract from a different author, so the audience can swap and talk among themselves too.


Looking down Park
all the way to MetLife
sparrow between spikes

I bow my head before the sun
the sun falls sprawling at my feet

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Now an E-book

Steep Tea is now available as an e-book around the world! The formatting looks a little wonky in the preview, but I've been assured by the publishers that the actual e-book looks good.

Last night, read for the NY Lambda Finalists' Reading at Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Good turnout. WL, WKN, YW, and AH came. WKN brought a friend who found my book in the Union Square Barnes & Noble. I especially enjoyed hearing Chinelo Okparanta read from her Nigerian novel Under the Udala Trees. I thought the audience was very attentive when I read "Attribution" and "Hub Caps as Big as Ashtrays." Wanted to distance myself just a little from the atmosphere of tribalism in the event, so stressed my Singaporean origins and biases.