- Considerations of "Modern life"
- Creative writing
- Joie de vivre
- New York City
- The law
So there I was, going through the education history of a special education child, trying to develop a case theory when suddenly, Kanye West bursts through the scene with this revelation:
“My Girl A Superstar All From A Home Movie”
No, seriously, sit with it for just a second. Let’s lift the negative connotations of a reductive approach for just a second and appreciate the purity of the this simple and clear truth.
All the complaints ever uttered about Kim Kardashian revolve around the utter nonsensical state of celebrity. Why is this broad famous?
And Kanye, just comes through, with that nugget of matter of fact. However negative the message or characterization, the moment is still poignant – she’s described in one line. Not even described, just she’s there in one moment. Everyone knows what and who he’s talking about through allusion even. I mean I am probably completely alone in this but I really have been appreciating that for the night.
I sat there, like wow, how many people can be referred to with such specificity and clarity in an one line allusion? If that line had to be about you, what would it be?
This morning, I felt, for the very first time, a sentimental pang of longing for US of A. If my naturalization was only ceremonial, then this moment of spirited fierte had truly ushered in a new era of citizenship (OR, perhaps, the moment only proved that as an outsider, only having been far removed from the daily systematic prejudices, disenfranchisement, and other such defects and impurities, am I able to identify with and value other American virtues, such as respect for traffic rules, for ex. But, that’s an aside. Another aside, today, my coworker, in one of those very very real, truth in jest moments, said to me, ah, but your case is quite dramatic, because you are nothing. You are not Chinese and you are not American.)
Anyway, so my point was that I felt so American that I took a detour from my morning Americano run from Costa for a Starbucks Iced Coffee. That is major, because I do protest and detest Starbucks in New York, but I was weak and hoped for half and half. Alas, I was to be disappointed on all counts.
And then, tonight, after trekking across 20 blocks in heels (that is nearly 20 street crossings with no guarantees from traffic lights), I came home to this: “That legislation, the Team USA Made in America Act of 2012, was duly introduced into the Senate and referred to committee on July 16.”
This actually happened? like, real senators sat around contemplating Olympic uniforms? Has the US become so utopian in the 2 months I’ve been gone that uniforms are now pressing matters?
On the one hand, it is moving to see the expediency of a political system when it is so moved and so compassionate about a cause. On the other hand, this is what they chose to dedicate that efficiency to?
I am not sure which is more terrifying: the gun toting Americans or the ever growing idiocy, each new layer of which never ceases to surprise with new delights. This is just as petty as Obama exploiting the American sentiment of resentment against China by harping on Romney’s off shore investments as if it embodies an enemy of the state. Not because the opacity of Romney’s actual position (flip flopper that he is) on anything should not draw ire and that he should not have to answer for his hypocrisies (on so many issues), but to use that fact as a platform is to perpetuate ignorance. It’s wrong. Especially from Obama? Why play into that game, bro?
“I’m not a foodie, I just like what I like,” she says. “Yes, I know, it’s just like hipsters saying, ‘I’m not a hipster.’ ” (The cliché cracks her up.) “But it’s like when my boss says, ‘Oh, you’re such a foodie.’ I’m like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don’t want to be lumped in with Yelp.” – Young Foodie Culture via @Davidchang
I’m not taking offense because of the narrow exception of myself and a handful of Yelp friends whose reviews are merited not only for their candor but also for the writing itself. I have a problem with people who so emphatically dismiss (or worship)a group of people without exception or clear basis. While I’m not a cheerleader for team Yelp, I can’t deny the undeniable place the site has established for itself regardless of the deteriorating quality of its reviewers (o, it can be personal). This influx of “foodies” seem to take that aversion to new heights, effectively establishing a hierarchy of a sort of authenticity (oh, exploring new foods is a personal hobby, it’s a part of my identity. It’s inherent in my being; I didn’t need an external incentive like a forum of expression.) Well, having your rhetoric memorialized in a publication like New York Magazine closes every inch of that gap – the magazine’s perspective and identity being informed by what everyone else is saying. Plus, the obvious fact here is that your reference to Yelp in that context renders your whole shit reactionary and derivative – as if not being a Yelper is supposed to validate and legitimize you, as if the restaurant owner who replied to my review with: nyt gave us 2 stars, is supposed to render my review invalid. To you I say: who you? Seriously, like who are you to tell me that you know better just because you’re not on Yelp? The problem isn’t “Yelp”, sure it provides a medium for people who delight in an imaginary audience (hi!), but really, you’re both drawn by the same force and your self-branding as a non-foodie food lover who likes what you like follows the same rhetoric. It’s the same whether you use your hands or a toy; you’re still just getting yourself off.
Food is a basic and subjective concept the quality of which anyone can discern (some might choose to be more or less discriminating). That sort of faux denial laced of a self-congratulatory tone (oh, I’m a hipster without the shackles of a label). Spending your money on pickled lambs tongue, because it’s a new frontier and soon to be item du jour is not “liking what you like”, and you, Diane Chang, are a sucker. This is not about the ridiculousness of your chosen lifestyle from my point of view (I mean spending a quarter of an income that’s described as modest is pretty bad finances, but I probably spend more on worse things like dresses I never wear), I could care less about how you spend your money. Buying into a marketed commercial movement all the while coloring yourself as an exceptional instance is delusional, as if a label is your problem.
Have never read anything by Jhumpa Lahiri, but this was magical and sums up how I feel about books and writing. A good sentence – like a really perfect combination of words – just makes me feel so good, and they can be found anywhere from blogs to judicial opinions. I savor a good sentence as a small piece of wisdom. Also, this should be read with this. (omg, it’s a reading pairing! Like wine and cheese!)JHUMPA LAHIRI
In college, I used to underline sentences that struck me, that made me look up from the page. They were not necessarily the same sentences the professors pointed out, which would turn up for further explication on an exam. I noted them for their clarity, their rhythm, their beauty and their enchantment. For surely it is a magical thing for a handful of words, artfully arranged, to stop time. To conjure a place, a person, a situation, in all its specificity and dimensions. To affect us and alter us, as profoundly as real people and things do.
I remember reading a sentence by Joyce, in the short story “Araby.” It appears toward the beginning. “The cold air stung us and we played till our bodies glowed.” I have never forgotten it. This seems to me as perfect as a sentence can be. It is measured, unguarded, direct and transcendent, all at once. It is full of movement, of imagery. It distills a precise mood. It radiates with meaning and yet its sensibility is discreet.
When I am experiencing a complex story or novel, the broader planes, and also details, tend to fall away. Rereading them, certain sentences are what greet me as familiars. You have visited before, they say when I recognize them. We encounter books at different times in life, often appreciating them, apprehending them, in different ways. But their language is constant. The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.
They remain the test, whether or not to read something. The most compelling narrative, expressed in sentences with which I have no chemical reaction, or an adverse one, leaves me cold. In fiction, plenty do the job of conveying information, rousing suspense, painting characters, enabling them to speak. But only certain sentences breathe and shift about, like live matter in soil. The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace. Style and personality are irrelevant. They can be formal or casual. They can be tall or short or fat or thin. They can obey the rules or break them. But they need to contain a charge. A live current, which shocks and illuminates.
Knowing — and learning to read in — a foreign tongue heightens and complicates my relationship to sentences. For some time now, I have been reading predominantly in Italian. I experience these novels and stories differently. I take no sentence for granted. I am more conscious of them. I work harder to know them. I pause to look something up, I puzzle over syntax I am still assimilating. Each sentence yields a twin, translated version of itself. When the filter of a second language falls away, my connection to these sentences, though more basic, feels purer, at times more intimate, than when I read in English.
The urge to convert experience into a group of words that are in a grammatical relation to one another is the most basic, ongoing impulse of my life. It is a habit of antiphony: of call and response. Most days begin with sentences that are typed into a journal no one has ever seen. There is a freedom to this; freedom to write what I will not proceed to wrestle with. The entries are mostly quotidian, a warming up of the fingers and brain. On days when I am troubled, when I am grieved, when I am at a loss for words, the mechanics of formulating sentences, and of stockpiling them in a vault, is the only thing that centers me again.
Constructing a sentence is the equivalent of taking a Polaroid snapshot: pressing the button, and watching something emerge. To write one is to document and to develop at the same time. Not all sentences end up in novels or stories. But novels and stories consist of nothing but. Sentences are the bricks as well as the mortar, the motor as well as the fuel. They are the cells, the individual stitches. Their nature is at once solitary and social. Sentences establish tone, and set the pace. One in front of the other marks the way.
My work accrues sentence by sentence. After an initial phase of sitting patiently, not so patiently, struggling to locate them, to pin them down, they begin arriving, fully formed in my brain. I tend to hear them as I am drifting off to sleep. They are spoken to me, I’m not sure by whom. By myself, I know, though the source feels independent, recondite, especially at the start. The light will be turned on, a sentence or two will be hastily scribbled on a scrap of paper, carried upstairs to the manuscript in the morning. I hear sentences as I’m staring out the window, or chopping vegetables, or waiting on a subway platform alone. They are pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, handed to me in no particular order, with no discernible logic. I only sense that they are part of the thing.
Over time, virtually each sentence I receive and record in this haphazard manner will be sorted, picked over, organized, changed. Most will be dispensed with. All the revision I do — and this process begins immediately, accompanying the gestation — occurs on a sentence level. It is by fussing with sentences that a character becomes clear to me, that a plot unfolds. To work on them so compulsively, perhaps prematurely, is to see the trees before the forest. And yet I am incapable of conceiving the forest any other way.
As a book or story nears completion, I grow acutely, obsessively conscious of each sentence in the text. They enter into the blood. They seem to replace it, for a while. When something is in proofs I sit in solitary confinement with them. Each is confronted, inspected, turned inside out. Each is sentenced, literally, to be part of the text, or not. Such close scrutiny can lead to blindness. At times — and these times terrify — they cease to make sense. When a book is finally out of my hands I feel bereft. It is the absence of all those sentences that had circulated through me for a period of my life. A complex root system, extracted.
Even printed, on pages that are bound, sentences remain unsettled organisms. Years later, I can always reach out to smooth a stray hair. And yet, at a certain point, I must walk away, trusting them to do their work. I am left looking over my shoulder, wondering if I might have structured one more effectively. This is why I avoid reading the books I’ve written. Why, when I must, I approach the book as a stranger, and pretend the sentences were written by someone else.
Jhumpa Lahiri is the author of “Unaccustomed Earth,” “The Namesake” and “Interpreter of Maladies.”
A “reknowned” American artist currently has an exhibit at a not obscure New York gallery featuring exactly the type of tacky appropriation everyone imagines when they think of “counterfeiting”. Yet, he’s getting press, because 1) people did not “know” what they were knocking off 2) the word “counterfeit” was never mentioned. The two justifications clearly counteract each other as: no reason to think what they were doing was wrong if they had no idea they were knocking off something.
This comes a week after NYPD arrested a man who sold designer goods in papier mache for “copyright infringement”.
Isn’t it convenient? This could turn into a thesis on the cultural bias of copyright, non?
The design protection bill is faulty for many many reasons and more symbolic than anything else. Just based on the column, there are several issues aside from the obvious resistance from layman who doesn’t understand the concept of intellectual property right.
1. if the standard of the law is substantially identical rather than substantially similar, most if not all of the McQueen dresses are only protected in theory as their designs are truly unique. They would not be protected in reality since any lucrative copies would do away with a lot of detailing and would therefore not be substantially identical. It’s a shame, because his is one of the few instances where a creation would be knocked off for a truly unique piece rather than an exploitation of the name attached or the fame of the piece (which are lucrative because they’re easier pieces to knock off and more accessible anyway). Primary example is the featured dress of the article. When are we going to stop fronting about its being McQueen and just admit it’s a Badgley Mischka masquerading under another name? On the flip side, many of McQueen’s creations doesn’t even need protection, because they’re just not accessible (aside from those lobster claw jawns that inexplicably got knocked off.
No matter how viable it is in terms of profit recovery or any sort of commercial protection (rather than the abstract idea of property, which doesn’t provide any sort of measurable benefit/gain), for the sake of justice, I guess, symbolically, there should be some protection, just not for the kind that will end up being protected by the bill. Money is power, eh?
J’ai tant rêvé de toi
que tu perds ta réalité.
Est-il encore temps d’atteindre ce corps vivant et de baiser
sur cette bouche la naissance de la voix qui m’est chère?
J’ai tant rêvé de toi
que mes bras habitués en étreignant ton ombre
à se croiser sur ma poitrine
ne se plieraient pas au contour de ton corps, peut-être.
Et que, devant l’apparence réelle de ce qui me hante et
me gouverne depuis des jours et des années,
je deviendrais une ombre sans doute.
O balances sentimentales.
J’ai tant rêvé de toi
qu’il n’est plus temps sans doute que je m’éveille.
Je dors debout, le corps exposé à toutes les apparences de la vie
et de l’amour et toi, la seule qui compte aujourd’hui pour moi,
je pourrais moins toucher ton front et tes lèvres
que les premières lèvres et le premier front venu.
J’ai tant rêvé de toi,
tant marché, parlé, couché avec ton fantôme
qu’il ne me reste plus peut-être, et pourtant,
qu’à être fantôme parmi les fantômes et
plus ombre cent fois que l’ombre qui se promène et
se promènera allégrement sur le cadran solaire de ta vie.
I’m reading a book named after this famous Robert Desnos poem. It’s kind of a historical fiction, kinda Marguerite Duras-esque. Totally a little cheesy but kind of geeked out over it, I just spent all morning on wiki.
plein de souffrance.
An aspect of 2046 that’s always confounded and fascinated me is how Tony Leung spoke Cantonese while Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi spoke Mandarin. Or really just scenes where two parties in a conversation are speaking to each other in essentially different languages. I have always always wondered why or what the point of it is, because I’m sure it’s not just that that’s what the actors’ native dialects are (I am almost certain Tony Leung can manage the few lines of Mandarin his role would’ve required, however feeble the attempt might have been).
I never looked this up, of course, because, actually it never occurred to me that I could do that until just now when I thought about writing this post.
So, but, anyway, yesterday was a friend’s birthday and a guy from our section posted on her wall in Hebrew (birthday girl is Chinese, I assume he said something like happy birthday), and she replied thank you in Chinese. This made me think of this schema of communication which sounds so disjointed. Then it occurs to me that this may not even come up for a non-Chinese speaker, though, the dialects truly are so distinct that I think it should be fairly apparent to anyone watching Wong Kar Wai (assuming you’re not just a fetishist).
But so what if it’s not an issue for anyone else? What if people could really communicate like that? There is no language barriers, everyone just understands every nuance of every other language.
Although, the neutralizing effect of removing language barriers would probably also just remove these nuances. There would also be no native language, which I can’t even imagine. Man, is that how monolingual Americans feel? Native language and only language; ride or die.
So then, why 2046?