Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Forché's Child

In The Angel of History, Carolyn Forché uses repetitions, patterns, and tension as the pallet for her book length sequence of poems. The result is a cubist painting of the darkest parts of the twentieth century. It attempts to present the essential bits. Even human life is distilled to only what is important: “How incomplete a moment is human life,” (76). Forché dwells on humanity, but not through the perspective of a single life. This book is not about accuracy. It is about truth. Accuracy is always allied with perspective and there is little truth there, or, as Forché writes it, “the visual field has not a form like this,” (75). This hypothesis that accuracy, the visual field, “the agreed upon lie,” (3) has no truth, carries throughout the book in her attack on western media and the melding of characters and events through similar artifacts. The child is one of the primary artifacts, appearing on at least thirty-one pages.

“The child on my back, how was it ever kept from singing?” (65) Here, innocence couples implied threat in a theme that haunts the children of this book. It seems like Forché says, Wherever there are children, wherever human beauty and innocence, there the next tragedy. Thus the child plays the role of vanguard and rearguard and resistance fighter of innocence. It “thinks only of love,” (61). Its supreme innocence in contrast with the children running through fire, being killed, and hiding, is an effective means of poignancy and tension.

The child is also a mix of past, future, and to a smaller extent, the now. The scars the child receives remind the reader of scars in his own life. The fact that children get thirty-one pages of screen-time is another constant reminder to the reader of his own past. In the present, the child hardly exists, except for in the blank canvas of Forché’s son. However, the child will carry the scars it receives into the future. The child seems unaffected by the scars in the present. Perhaps it ignores the now on a conscious level, or perhaps it is desensitized, or maybe even too traumatized to notice, but the subconscious remembers its fear. In essence, Forché says, what we do to our children we do to our future. This thought must have been overshadowing her mind when she was writing this, having just birthed a son. But this mixture of past and future doubles the child's threat. By saying that we are ruining our children, and showing the depths that people go, Forché expands on the above by saying, if we brutalize our children, they will brutalize others. Or, this book is but one witness of a tragic cycle around since the world began. Therefore the child is something to both admire and fear. This admiration and fear, coupled with the implication of past, certainly seems to put the child in the position of Angel of History. But though the child takes on that burden at times in this book, I do not believe it is meant to be the namesake throughout.

The title, Angel of History, has two main connotations: history can save us if we let it and the angel that is no longer here. With these connotations, Forché says both, history can save us but we ignore it, and the church is no longer our hope. The church gets beat up in these poems, as does the western media. Often she uses one to beat up the other. Less blatant attacks include Forché and Ellie sitting in Hotel-Dieu discussing the Holocaust, but her rage really comes out in “Book Codes: II:"

the sign of the cross on an invisible face with the calm of a butcher
as if it bore witness to some truth
with whom every connection had been severed (76)

This attack on the un-attuned nature of the church continues when she says, “cathedrals [are] at the tip of our tongues.” But Forché places no hope there. The only hopes in this book are the children and the earth. Therefore, "the child on my back" has humanity, their burdens, and their future on its back. The book ends one poem later with an image of rebirth among ruin. The birth is directly attached to clouds and flies, but it also implies the child because of the heavy references throughout the rest of the poems.

Also in that final poem, "Book Codes: III," Forché attacks the western media for the last time. She says they tell

stories no more substantial than the clouds or what had been his face
for our having tried to cross the river caught between walls
one could hear a voice 'Bear the unbearable'
and the broadcast was at an end

you might relay the message the rivers and mountains remained (77)

This passage is a direct response to the closing line of "Book Codes: II:" "whoever can cry should come here," (76). This complete disillusionment with media, "that carnival of resistance," (29) is a theme throughout the book and serves to discredit adults as uncaring, unenergized, and satisfied to stagnation. This further places the burden on the children's shoulders.

The child is the second most repeated idea in the book, the earth being the first. The earth is merely the final ace, the last chance. The child is proactive and it can think, therefore it is by far the best hope, and the only hope in our time. The child plays a vital role to this book by contrasting the events around it but still being in them. Forché has created a masterful painting, and the child is one of the main colors and shapes.

I hope to take a much more in depth look at this book soon. I am merely scratching the surface here. But right now I don't have the time. Maybe over the summer I will.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Only In Sudan,

will organizing a genocide score you the post of State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs.

In a 94-page prosecution document filed with the court's judges, Luis Moreno-Ocampo singled out Ahmad Muhammad Harun, now a state minister for humanitarian affairs who was state minister of the interior, along with Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahman (also known as Ali Kushayb), a leader of the Darfur militia known as the Janjaweed, in a total of 51 crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Washington Post Article

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The World's Best Cigars

The top five Belicosos and Torpedos, in no specific order.

1. H. Upmann Vintage Cameroon Belicoso. Beautiful. My favorite size of this line. The Peruvian filler and the Cameroon wrapper mix beautifully with the Nicaraguan and Dominican tobacco to create a subtly powerful cigar that is always a good smoke. The only non-box-pressed cigar on the list.

Price: $6-$10 single. $135 box price.

1. Montecristo Number 2. The most bought and sold cigar in the world for a reason. The only Cuban to make the list. A very historic cigar and still one of the best shaped sticks out there. The DR is very good as well. (I couldn't find a picture of the box-pressed unfortunately)

Price: $11-$20 single. $300 box price.

1. Royal Jamaica Gold Belicoso. The spice! The Jamaican Tobacco tastes unusual to most smokers, but it is well worth it. The spicy flavors continue all the way through. A great full bodied smoke. This is the only Jamaican cigar I like.

Price: $6-$10 single. $90 box price.

1. Mayorga Gordito Torpedo. A Nicaraguan Puro that will blow you away when fresh. One of my first cigars and still one of my favorites. When aged, the edge is taken off, but they still taste stunning. The smallest cigar on the list.

Price: $3-$6 single. $50 box price.

1. Padrón Serie 1926 40th Anniversary Number 2 Belicoso. The longest name and the longest price. This cigar is good. VERY VERY good. I am not sure I agree with Cigar Aficianado rating it the best cigar of 2005, but it is definitely in the top five. Maybe even the top three. It is a complex smoke. The taste isn't quite spicy, but you get a full taste. One of my favorite cigars of all time, but by far one of the most expensive cigars out there.

Price: $20-$30 single. $510 box price. (No, I didn't hit an extra zero, it really is that much.)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Punctuation in The Angel of History

Angel mostly lacks punctuation at the end of lines. To some extent it seems purposefully disorienting. It mirrors the experiences and tragedies discussed, while mimicking the style of what she labels the carnival of resistance. The lack of punctuation allows us to insert commas and periods where we want/need them, giving the poem a meaning personal to each reader. Basically, we are condemned to freedom. I'm starting to see how the lack of punctuation opens this poem up. Without the constraint of commas and periods, it blooms, but only to an energetic and interested reader.

The reader is key. She turns the poem loose on us and says, make your own meaning. That is something I can appreciate: a poet who knows her role. To borrow a term from CvT, this poem is a mirror. The reader takes something from it the first time. The second time, after the reader has collected new experiences and knowledge, the meaning is not the same. No reading will ever be the same. She wrote those words. But since she published them, shared them with us, those words are just as much ours as they are hers.

This book is a concrete mirror.

And a risk.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Carolyn Forché's The Angel of History

This is a tough poem/book. It is a book-length series of poems. It is thin, only 62 poems, just a couple of them spanning more than a page and one a single line. She touches on the crises/disasters of Lebannon, Paris, Chernobyl, the Holocaust, El Salvador, Hiroshima, Women's treatment, and the CCCP invasion of surrounding territories.

Reading through the first time was disorienting. I was always confused. She alludes to all these conflicts and I had trouble picking up on when/where we were. But at the end of it I thought, that was a great book. It affected me very deeply but I had no idea how. This week being the four year anniversary of genocide in Darfur, I thought it appropriate to discuss this book in length, trying to find out how she made me feel so deep.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This Week Is The Worst Kind Of Anniversary

Four Years. Genocide ignored.

I've been waiting now, for four years on and have only just begun.

Nous tentons. Nous espérons avec vous, avec tout le monde. Bon chance mes amis.

Please help.

So, what's been going on since I last spoke of Darfur? This is the pocket size edition:

On January 11th a cease fire was signed. The government didn't care and has continued systematically bombing villages. The Janjaweed seems to have a renewed vigor and aid worker after aid worker has been killed or stolen. Also, just within the past two days the Janjaweed has begun massing. Nobody is saying about how many people, but everybody says the group is huge. The AU has a helicopter constantly surveying their further movements, but Janjaweed are coming out of the desert in droves to join this group. Nobody knows what it is all about yet, but based on their past actions, get ready for some more rape, bloodletting, slaving, et cetera.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Celebrity Crushes

Carla Bruni

Danica Patrick

Lady Brett Ashley

No, I'm serious. I love Brett. She's one of the coolest Hemingway characters. So complex once you dig under the surface. Her sarcasm and lust for life is infectious. I feel so for her though. She lacks luck in all but beauty.

Her and Jake became Lego figures though - that has to count for something. However, the figure doesn't quite follow Jake's assertion that she has curves built like the hull of a racing yacht:

Monday, February 19, 2007

Totom's With Boots

Mashups. Let's talk.

I too cringed when first I heard Eminem's "Sing for the Moment." I don't think I have ever quite recovered. But,

the way I see it there are four categories of mashups:

First off, you gots these ones that make the kids say, "Omigosh! I like, totally know those songs. It's weird hearing them together." Examples: "Boulevard of Wonderwalls" and the entire Beastles collection. (Yes, The Beatles and Beastie Boys)(Somebody save us)

Second, you got the mashups where you can't tell - it just sounds like mediocre rap with a crappy beat. Examples: The Kleptones, the Q-Unit, and DJ Dangermouse. You get some good stuff here though: Yoshimi Battles the Hip-Hop Robots and The Grey Album.

Third you have mix-tapes like Aphex Twin and CPI. Some truly great stuff comes out of here, but there is so much it's hard to find something original. I dig Poetry is for Fairies.

Finally you have the that actually sounds like music. Here we're seeing Gnarls Barkley, Legion of Doom, and J.L. of the Silence Experiments on Hotstop A+B. But one of my favorites is Totom.

Totom's With Boots, a series of Nine Inch Nails mashups, has the best bits of the first three categories and a stunning replay ability that propels it fully into the fourth and highest ring of mashup Paradisimo. This is actually music. It has fun parts, but it keeps moving along with great choices of background mixes that make me wonder how he came up with crossing Depeche Mode, Lee Hazlewood, David Bowie and others with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. It highlights many of NIN's strengths and influences through its good production and mixing. This is one of my favorite mashup albums.


i hope your clouds will take you home soon

may your photographs always show details

Sunday, February 18, 2007

David Leatherbarrow

I wish I knew how he pulls off being overly familiar and overly dramatic at the same time.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

There Is Never Any End To Paris

The final chapter. The last of so much and he breaks into a talent he never had before: poignancy. Twice.

1. I don't remember what stories I wrote there.

Understand this: the ECT lost that memory. Lonely, paranoid, depressed, his last bastion falls. He is scared in this passage. I am scared reading it. He looks scared in this picture. This is close to when he wrote it.

2. Then, instead of two of them and their child, there are three of them. First it is stimulating and fun and it goes on that way for a while. All things truly wicked start out from innocence. So you live day by day and enjoy what you have and do not worry. You lie and you hate it and it destroys you and every day is more dangerous, but you live day to day as in a war.

It was necessary that I leave Schruns and go to New York to rearrange publishers. I did my business in New York and when I got back to Paris I should have caught the first train from the Gare de l’Est that would take me down to Austria. But the girl I was in love with was in Paris then, and I did not take the first train, or the second or the third.

When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anybody else.

Ann said: I accidentally cried. I didn't mean to. I didn't want to.

I say this moment is breathtaking. And my favorite thing about it is the reader knows what’s coming, knows there will be a divorce and a second woman, but that knowing does nothing to shield him from the reality. Despite the lack of surprise, Hem found a way to recreate that scene with some of the power he felt in that moment, which is a stunning feat. This from a writer who always struggled with poignancy, who was rotten at it.

I didn't mean to. I didn't want to. It was an accident.

I just want to bring you down so badly.
In the worst way.
I'm gonna make damn sure.

Friday, February 16, 2007

One Month To Sebring!!!

And so much has changed in the off-season.

Oh man oh man oh man I'm stoked.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Let Me Try To Begin

I once said, "I am looking for something no one has yet found." I twice said it. I said it until I believed it. I said it until yesterday.

On my way home from class I realized everybody else is looking for the same thing.

My mind is against me.

I heard David and Dalibor speaking in class. I couldn't hear quite what was said. I didn't need to. Instead I studied myself. I studied the ideal they represented. I found it. Lacking? In some ways definitely. Close? Absolutely. There yet? For them, maybe. For me? Not. Not. Not.

I said it until yesterday, when I found another. The fact that truth is defined by logic and perspective needs to stop. There is no breath there. Euclid was right, in his own way. But for me he is oh so wrong. Axis? Who cares. They both constrict.

Truth Outside of Orientation

This speaks to me.
This screams deep inside me.
I am not sure.
I am not sure.
Even oriented I am still not sure.
I doubt it all.
I shudder to think that makes me closer than I was two days ago.
I think.
I hope.
I know.
Throwing a life or two at this.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I think I learned more than I can understand in a lifetime. But I am going to try.

It has been said he is like Shakespeare to Architecture students: not many people believe there is just one Dalibor. But last night I met him. Talked with him for a while. And yes, there is only one mumbling, squinty eyed, heavily accented Dalibor. I am in shock. Still.

Monday, February 12, 2007

My Favorite Of Not-Reznor Reznor

First and foremost the album that I have had on repeat for about three days now: ToToM's mashup, With Boots. Stunning. Free download. The songs "We're in this Blurred Line Together," "Another Spot in the Sun, Part 2" (with Pink Floyd) and "Only Fame" (with David Bowie) are amazing. The album does a great job of further elaborating on the poppy and the gothic influences evident in Reznor's work. Also, hearing Kool and the Gang repeat "Get down on it" while Reznor sings the chorus to "Only" is something I will treasure.

Jonny Cash. "Hurt."

"At the Heart of it All" by Aphex Twin. Off of 26 Mixes for Cash. At the time it was a great look at the electronic influences Reznor so prominently displayed on "Every Day is Exactly The Same." The song is still unbelievable. All the quirkiness of Aphex Twin with the raw beauty of Nine Inch Nails. I love it.

And finally, Reznor's remix of David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of American's." I like it and I like it a lot. Reznor has often said he has been majorly influenced by Bowie, and I like it every time they get together, although the concert going fans don't seem to - in 1995 the Outside Tour, which co-headlined both NIN and Bowie, was canceled early because nobody bought tickets.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

This Is Just Cool.

I Am Pulling Out All The Stops

and my paint brushes.

People always ask arch students when we do architecture.
Everything is architecture. It is all the same.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

My Most Recent Addiction

Four fives and a Jack. It's true: 29 is the meaning of life. Thank you Suckling.
Still haven't hit it though.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ownership In Poetry

No two people can read one poem the same way. Each reader reads a different poem. Each reader owns their version of that poem. Except for one poet. Billy Collins.

Though his poems usually allow for some contemplation in the final two stanzas, they are aimed so the reader will often understand only what the poet wants the poem to mean. Much of his work offers little difficulty for the reader trying to understand it. However, this legibility creates blunt, bland poems. The penultimate stanza too often becomes the corner of the poem, the place where the poet enters the contemplative realm. This repetition of form suggests a poetic stagnation or dependency on the familiar. His poems lack experimentation. This idea of ownership is one I have come on before in his work. I conclude that he is easy and enjoyable to read once, but hard to remember because his poems feature only one layer of depth. He ties the reader to his poems, and beats them with the hose of his repetitive structures, themes, and allusions, as well as his overly prosaic language. And when the poem is done, he takes it back and the reader leaves with nothing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Carla Bruni - L'excessive

Okay, I'll admit everything: I die every time I hear Carla Bruni. The album version of L'excessive - I swear I listen to it every single day. It is the textures, the simplicity, the emotion. When I heard she was doing an English album I flinched. I didn't go out and buy it on January 15. Now I realize I was wrong. Very wrong. The difference between her first album, Quelqu'un m'a dit, and her new one, No Promises, is night and day. She actually got better. Much better. I am blown away, absolutely blown away. There are reasons why it's number 27 on the world charts. I need it. Now.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Rule of Geometry

I heard this from a lecture by Ron Jelaco. He said he heard it from Peter Carl, who is completing a book called Some things are Sacred, Others are Not... which deals with this. Corbusier denied all of it.

What is geometry? Where can we find it?

These can be answered easily enough just looking at its axiomatic meanings (1 + 1 = 2 . Okay). But to figure out how to participate with geometry, understand it as the embodiment – more than the diagram – we need to take it from the instrumental and axiomatic meaning to the ethical and metaphorical meaning (1 Apple + 1 Bananna = 2 Fruits. Are they ripe? Do they small nicely? What kind of apple?).

Geometry is the way we tend to represent reality. It deals with spatial relationships, but it gets really hard to try and talk about it because it is an idea. It’s not something concrete. It’s not something you can look out the window and say, Hey! Geometry! Get out of my yard!

Why do we automatically jump to Corbusier? First, he was beyond smart. He was a complex thinker to the nth degree. Second, he set before himself the question, What meaning is embodied in proportion and harmony?

Corb found these three: geometry is math in its metaphorical dimension, geometry is l’ordinateur du form, and the axiomatic realities of geometry have nothing to do with the real world.

With Da Vinci, we recognize the familiar theme of defining man’s geometry, but Corb took his Le Modular slightly differently. Where the Vitruvian man creates his geometry, Corb’s extends beyond the body, forcing the latent space to begin to define the body. Said touched on this subject for most of his career, though he may not have know it. Corb uses his man and the golden ratio to design L'unité d'habitation in Marseilles. What we can see from Corb’s drawing of the modular man is the way he arrives at the golden ratio. He takes two equal squares and puts a third over the top to arrive at the same proportion as the golden means - he doubles the square.

Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France

The site reminded Corb of the seven weeks he spent studying the Acropolis. At the Acropolis he found the golden ration everywhere – the face of the Parthenon, the scale of the site and buildings, et cetera. Ronchamps is the fifth building on the site. First was a pagan sun temple, then a roman fortress, then a 4th century Christian church, then a later church that was bombed in World War Two. From the top of the hill you can see all four horizons. The program is difficult because the congregation is small, but every September 15th, thousands of people flock to it. It is the pilgrimage site of the Feast of Assumption. Corb overcame this by providing an altar outside.

Father Couturier asked him to design Ronchamp. The Catholic church was desperate to regain touch with society and they had decided to do it through the arts. Father Couturier is a very interesting guy.

Corb designed Ronchamp. It exhibits characteristics uncharacteristic of a Christian church or cathedral: a convex roof instead of a vaulted ceiling, a convex space behind the altar instead of a nave, it lacks many of the other common meditations with heaven the convex curves defy. It lacks a cross floor plan. The floor slopes down to the altar. It has no rose windows. Instead of delicately buttressed stone, the building uses bulky concrete walls and ceiling. After the plan and elevations were released, many of Father Couturier’s colleagues objected to his choice, saying Corb was not catholic, not even Christian, and was in some ways a vocal atheist. Father Couturier replied, “Corb is a veritable Christian, only 5000 years before Christ.” Of course this elated Corb, who later said that comment “means we’re getting close to pure form.” While designing the building, Corb oscillated seamlessly back and forth between his painting and his architecture and many of the forms come directly out of his Taureau series of paintings.

The building itself lies on a complex six-by-six grid. Most of the form’s relationships can be unlocked using just one grid, but adding the second square, then the third for the Golden Means, unlocks astounding geometry. The south-side wall cuts all project straight to a corner in the original six-by-six. Taking the first two square’s diagonals, finding where they intersect the third square, then extending a line along those two points finds the diagonal of Le Modular. Starting with parallel lines, the building begins to unfold, revealing itself on the grid. I will go no further but there is much, much further to go.

Corb never talked much about his church, and he was usually a shameless self-promoter. The one thing he did say is, “the chapel reveals itself to those who have a rite to it. That is to say, those who deserve it.”

(That bit about pure form is very interesting. This is a conversation Ron and A. had on this subject:

A.: The thing that I tried to do was react from what everybody else’s design factors were and make a building that evoked some emotional response.

Ron: How? You can’t do that. It can’t be purposefully done. Architecture does not affect emotionally – I’ve gone on record at several schools saying that. An architect cannot predict what effect his building has. It’s not in the program. Not today at least. It is a deep and complicated subject, but right now there is no Universal Truth in Architecture. I told you why I’m here, didn’t I? Didn’t I say something like that? I don’t think my generation has the capability to overcome the problems in architecture, but yours might. I wanted a hand in training the generation that might overcome the barriers. My generation is too enamored with architecture as a technology. There is so much good architecture out there that it makes me sick. I don’t think Corb cared about what people would feel coming into his building. Like we discussed, it was just Corb.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Risk

The Run
The Rush
The Rough
The Rake
The Rain
The Rail
The Rape
The Realization
The Rage

This is why I risk.
This is why I run.
A jar of seeds held tight to my side as I crash through the rough, the sugarcane, the rail of the narrow gauge.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A Degree Of Honour

Anastas Mikoyan:

"You Americans must understand what Cuba means to us old Bolsheviks. We have been waiting all our lives for a country to go Communist without the Red Army, and it happened in Cuba. It makes us feel like boys again."

For more, read Martin Walker's The Cold War.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Top Three Australian Bands Of The Last Three Years

1. Clann Zu (tie)
1. Architecture in Helsinki
3. Jet