Messages From Afar

Over the hills and far away...

Often we receive requests* for information about the historic Alamut:

Dear sir/madam

Please send a picture of Alamut castle to my e mail or post address. I do appreciate your help and I am looking forward to hear from you as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,

Shahram Nafisi MD

* Sometimes in languages we need to have translated, such as this request from May 1999: Dajcie nam obrazek zamku alamut. Kochamy was assasyni! (Give us an image of the castle of Alamut. We love you assassins!)

Brion Gysin on Alamut castle (previously published 18 Sept 1999):

Uh ... presumably ... ummmm I've written a piece which has gotten lost; I've sold it to a collector instead of getting it published ... it wasn't a very good piece, it was funny ... essentially not a very funny subject ... but, uh, I made a pilgrimmage to Alamut, the castle of the Assassins ... uh, in the summer of 1973 -- and I know less than when I started ... that's it ... I know less than when I started ...

And Close By

Yesterday I received a month's extension from the tax department to file my 'value added tax' declaration. What a relief! Today I resolved to use my Palm III to organize my life more efficiently -- especially to organize all my to-do's -- and spent half of the day installing Palm OS 3.5.2.


Two Dreams

Jean Cocteau once said: "One of the characteristics of the dream is that nothing surprises us in it. With no regret, we agree to live in it with strangers, completely cut off from our habits and our friends."

I don't agree with this. I've recently been surprised by two dreams

occuring several nights ago:

I was on the phone with someone I knew. Deep involved in discussion. As I spoke my eyes roamed around the studio -- across the familiar books on the shelves -- the paper on the floor -- the couch -- the kitchen -- the table -- the desk -- the window -- everything was seen and at the same time not seen -- outside: the crane -- the water -- the boats -- the other houses across the way -- this was simply an establishing shot -- here I am -- here's my house -- everything's fine...

A minute later. He was the one now doing the talking. My eyes kept wandering around. I glanced again at the window. I looked outside. And -- then -- stopped... dead. The view had changed. Crane -- water -- boats -- other houses -- were gone. In their place were gray flat roof tops. Very normal roof tops. But roof tops which did not belong outside of my window. My mouth was filled with cotton wool. My ear was stuck to the phone. He was doing the talking. I could not speak. I could not say anything. I just stood there. Dumbstruck and horrified.

dream occurred last night:

I stood again at the same window. Staring at the view outside. The tide was higher than I had ever seen it before. The water had risen so much that it completely covered the dock and the floats and had overflowed into the surrounding streets. A raging current had been carved out of the wall at the left end of the little harbour, a roaring cataract composed of a series of waterfalls and whirlpools. Everything was being sucked in that direction. Boats, large and small, men in canoes. The smaller craft were tipping over immediately and dumping their screaming occupants into the torrent. To presumably drown. The larger boats were spinning back and forth as they dribbled down the falls. Stern becoming bow and then turning again to take the next drop sideways. Down they went, big and small, hulls grinding and smashing against the rocks.

I stood for a long time, up at my window, hands clasped behind my back, watching -- fascinated, as the entire scene unfolded before me.

And today, as I record this, I am reminded of a line in Maldoror:

"The distressed ship fires off her alarm gun but slowly, majestically, founders."

(The sentence is found near the end of chapter of 2. Lautréamont uses the line as a sort of refrain. In the space of a page or two he repeats it 4 times.)


Life is Good

According to Jessamyn:

"I screwed up and didn't go to a library yesterday because I was too busy sitting around the chick bathhouse steamroom, sending mail to Antarctica, and discussing anarchist utopias over beer and french fries. I may limit my library intake to four per week this month." (02.02.01)

According to Fred:

"A long time ago I had this idea that I might get rich by starting a Chinese restaurant menu proof reading service but then I realized that grammatical and spelling errors lend an air of authenticity to the exotic experience of eating Chinese food." (31.01.01)

According to Caterina:

"I love words so much that I want to eat them. I love colors so much I want to eat them." (04.02.01)

And life is good according to me too. Cause in a little while I'm going to bake and eat some of the most delicious cookies known to man... (Scroll down to the bottom of the 23.03.00 Alamut entry for my sister-in-law Jane's recipe and don't forget the part about eating them right out of the freezer...)



Now playing: Curtis Mayfield, There's No Place Like America Today; Pigeonhed, The Full Sentence; The Dandy Warhols, Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.

Gratitude goes out to Mr. Lira for steering me clear of powerpoint. (I don't know what I was thinking... I definitely was feeling attracted...)

And gratitude goes out to the wonderful Miss Turner for sending me this link to A. A. Bronson's Negative Thoughts site, part of A.A's current show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. (For those of you who don't know, A. A. Bronson is the sole surviving member of the art group 'General Idea.')

"In one of these workshops we lay on massage tables with a masseur at our head and a masseur at our feet. We were invited to participate in meditation and visualization as follows: we imagined walking down a flight of stairs. We counted the steps (I think there were eight) and then we went with whatever followed. The steps were amazingly vivid, cut straight into the earth, the edges of sod exposed at either side. I came to a door, and opening it, proceeded down a few more steps into water. Beneath the water I was sucked feet first into a tunnel. I flew down the tunnel, twisting this way and that, until I shot out into a vast and smoky cave. Below me I could see Tibetan monks in saffron robes laughing and talking; some of them were chanting to each other. I knew the monks couldn't see me, but I felt at home there. I was describing all this to my two masseurs: somehow I was in both worlds at once, although the visualization was intensely vivid. One of my masseurs asked permission to speak, and suggested that this was a place I had left long ago. I began to cry, sobbing violently. I was hit by a sense of extreme loss. I knew he was right. I longed to return."

If you only have a little while to spend here, I recommend clicking through A. A.'s stand-alone Looking Glass project.

The pull quote above reminds me of the Christos Procedure (aka Christos Technique), a technique for breaking up the 'body-image', which I came across a couple days after we filmed my first NDE experiment. (I'm thinking about using it in conjunction with the 'K' next time.)

Two papers on the Christos Procedure by Alastair McIntosh:

A Commentary on the 'Christos' Technique (1978).

The "Christos" Procedure: a Novel ASC Induction Technique (1979).


The sun is shining. I'm seriously behind with my Palm to do list, I haven't even started on my 'value-added' taxes, but no matter what, I'm going to eat tomatoes and ricotta for lunch.

As I wrote a friend this morning, I believe that Jessamyn's 3rd answer answers most of our own questions (about what we are doing), most of the time. To wit:

"Sometimes it's interesting, sometimes it's not."

But then again: can we stop worrying enough to accept this?

(HEY! It's all interesting to me! Really it is!)

Virginia Woolf (who eventually did drown herself in the river Ouse) talking to her friends about her own indefatigable interest.


As a matter of fact, I like communicating in public with all my private friends. This is my weblog, and like it or not, it exists principally as an instrument of my pleasure. So here's a little syllogism which I'm posting especially for my friend Stewart (also known as Hey Stewart! -- maybe you can collect syllogisms just like Demian (aka is collecting dangling participles? This syllogism was composed (for you) by Vladimir 'Pale Fire' Nabokov:

"Other men die; but I
Am not another;
therefore I'll not die.

Meanwhile, the task of formulating a reply to Sylloge's Getting On With It post (reflections on long-now thinking?) is rapidly sinking to the bottom of my deep to do list (as fresh items get pushed on top). My suggestion: if you haven't already done so, read the post for yourself and see if Stewart's story gets as much of a rise out of you as it got out of me.

Reference: my own innocent Getting On With It entry.

Experimental Stichomancy

(OED: Divination by lines of verse in books taken at hazard.)

(Link to Free Online Stichomancy Readings via Rag. Thanks!)

Question: Will I die?

Answer: You choose a copy of On the Nature of Things by Lucretius from the library and opening to a random page you read the following...


This terror, then, this darkness of the mind,
Not sunrise with its flaring spokes of light,
Nor glittering arrows of morning can disperse,
But only Nature's aspect and her law,
Which, teaching us, hath this exordium:
Nothing from nothing ever yet was born.
Fear holds dominion over mortality
Only because, seeing in land and sky
So much the cause whereof no wise they know,
Men think Divinities are working there.
Meantime, when once we know from nothing still
Nothing can be create, we shall divine
More clearly what we seek: those elements
From which alone all things created are,
And how accomplished by no tool of Gods.

(Stuff deleted...)

Lo, the rains perish which Ether-father throws
Down to the bosom of Earth-mother; but then
Upsprings the shining grain, and boughs are green
Amid the trees, and trees themselves wax big
And lade themselves with fruits; and hence in turn
The race of man and all the wild are fed;
Hence joyful cities thrive with boys and girls;
And leafy woodlands echo with new birds;
Hence cattle, fat and drowsy, lay their bulk
Along the joyous pastures whilst the drops
Of white ooze trickle from distended bags;
Hence the young scamper on their weakling joints
Along the tender herbs, fresh hearts afrisk
With warm new milk. Thus naught of what so seems
Perishes utterly, since Nature ever
Upbuilds one thing from other, suffering naught
To come to birth but through some other's death.

The full text.

Question: When will I die?

Answer: You choose a copy of The Compleat Angler: Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation by Izaak Walton from the library and opening to a random page you read the following...

But, Gentlemen, though I be able to do this, I am not so unmannerly as to engross all the discourse to myself; and, therefore, you two having declared yourselves, the one to be a lover of Hawks, the other of Hounds, I shall be most glad to hear what you can say in the commendation of that recreation which each of you love and practice; and having heard what you can say, I shall be glad to exercise your attention with what I can say concerning my own recreation and Art of Angling, and by this means we shall make the way to seem the shorter: and if you like my motion, I would have Mr. Falconer to begin.

The full text.

(Hermeneutic challenge: You tell me what YOU think this means...)

Question: Will I ever have sex again?

Answer: You choose a copy of The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson from the library and opening to a random page you read the following...

He took me to his back door, whence, as from every point of Calistoga, Mount Saint Helena could be seen towering in the air. There, in the nick, just where the eastern foothills joined the mountain, and she herself began to rise above the zone of forest - there was Silverado. The name had already pleased me; the high station pleased me still more. I began to inquire with some eagerness. It was but a little while ago that Silverado was a great place. The mine - a silver mine, of course - had promised great things. There was quite a lively population, with several hotels and boarding-houses; and Kelmar himself had opened a branch store, and done extremely well - "Ain't it?" he said, appealing to his wife. And she said, "Yes; extremely well." Now there was no one living in the town but Rufe the hunter; and once more I heard Rufe's praises by the yard, and this time sung in chorus.

The full text.

(Oh sheesh. I give up...) (where we were two years ago today).


Spoilerphobia. So far I've succeeded in NOT READING the many excellent things that folks are saying about 'Shadow of the Vampire.' (Oops. I just noticed that not everyone shares the same good opinion. Good thing this... nevertheless... given my particular interests...) I suspect I'm going to like It. I wonder, did it play at the Rotterdam Film Festival? If it did no one said anything to me about it.

Our secret national shame: by the time most good American movies get to this country they've turned morphed into deep inventory pumpkins.

As it happens, my favorite movie line of all time remains, 'Take me away from all this death' from F. F. Coppola's Dracula. I haven't seen fit to (ab)use it recently but I used to mutter it around this site all the time. As some of you may recall. (A Google search for 'Take me away from all this death' on Alamut returns 11 pages.)

Stichomantic Antics

(Unlike yesterday, this is completely DIY, ie. taken from a book on my own desk. With no particular question in mind.)

That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
When heaven and earth shall pass away,
What power shall be the sinner's stay?
How shall we meet that dreadful day?

(From Sir Walter Scott's version of a 13th c. rhyme.)


Godspeed You Black Emperor! Lots of differing opinion when it comes to their latest double CD, Lift yr. Skinny Fists like Antennas to Heaven!. But bombast or not, rehash of Branca or not (at art school circa 1984 I used to swear that Glenn Branca was god and his symphonies the future of music) GSYBE! does have exquisite taste when it comes to selecting voice samples AND Sophie's violin/viola does rock a normal human being's sense of sadness to the bone. Go ahead and listen to the second track of the first CD of this double set and then tell me it is not so.


Hello? No sorry I can't... I have got to get some work done.

Yeah, that's right... Work...

Relentless Pounding

H. L. Mencken: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Shellac: 1000 Hurts (pleasing some of the people all the time).


Some notes I prepared for the talk that I'll give this afternoon in Utrecht (which I may end up not even using).


Yesterday in Casco I spoke about the 'Democracy of Self' and the 'Democracy of Death,' deciding to leave the notes I prepared for the after-party. I also showed the movie. Afterwards there were one or two questions about democracy of self and a lot of questions about the movie.

It was very nice seeing Jouke face-to-face again. On my way home I realised how much water had passed under the bridge since I last physically saw him.

There are so many good ways for us to stay in contact.

Instead Of

Life Balance: time management software for palm devices. I am totally attracted to technology that promises to fine tune the balance between stress and freedom -- order and chaos. Life management porn. I love it but at the same time realise it's another smokey red light to beware of.

Okay, I'll start organising my life tomorrow. No, no, I can't do it tomorrow. Thursday then...


A year ago today (aren't anniversaries great?) I wrote an entry on weblogs as a minefields ending with this sentence by David Chess:

"A memory machine should not mean but be."

(Paraphrasing Archibald MacLeish: "A poem should not mean but be.")

Erich Fromm: To Have or to Be?


Today would have been her birthday.


Looking for the lyrics to Norwegian Wood...

I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn't it good Norwegian wood?

I came across a site dedicated to collecting 'misheard lyrics and song paradies.' This reminded me once again of Gadamer's hermeneutics, and the idea that it is possible to make good use of confusion. That confusion can be positive. That it is okay to misunderstand things. (That misunderstanding can be more truthful than 'the truth.')

"Normative concepts such as the author's meaning or the original reader's understanding represent in fact only an empty space that is filled from time to time with understanding."




I got hold of some vanilla beans but I still had to dig out my copy of Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses to find out how to coax the dark beans into extract...

Split a vanilla bean lengthwise, set in a glass jar, cover with 3/4 of a cup of vodka. Cover and let steep for at least 6 weeks. As you use the extract, add more vodka; the bean will stay redolent and continue oozing flavor for some time.

(Reading further.)

Hmm. Looks like Ms. Ackerman is able to titillate us with her fertile imagination...

It was in 1518 that Cortés first noticed the Aztecs flavoring their chocolate with ground-up vanilla pods, whch they called 'tlilxochitl' (black flower) and prized so highly that Montezuma drank an infusion of it as a royal balm and demanded vanilla beans in tribute from his subjects. The Spaniards called the bean vainilla (small sheath), from the Latin 'vagina'--the bean's elongated shape, with a slit at the top, must have reminded the lonesome Spaniards of what they were missing. There would have been many boisterous jokes about Montezuma stirring his chocolate with a little vagina.

...while simultaneously warning us not to confuse the territory with the map...

Marshall McLuhan once warned us that we were drifting so far away from the real taste of life that we had begun to prefer artificiality, and were becoming content with eating the menu descriptions rather than the food.

Jouke on NQPAOFU:

make things up, re:concile

...get a self job, re:verse priorities, write a life before its biographies analyze paralyze you, rule being over meaning, and fuck duck public opinion. Avoid grid blog.

(This after my phone rant to Jouke where I said to him: ketamine=weblogs. Being is turning into meaning. Everywhere. Why?

And confessed--to him and 2 others on the phone today--that all the synchronicity is starting to scare me a bit.)


(Renée writes)

Finally, in reflecting on our phone call and the significance of the man with AIDs. I was on the bike thinking about it further and perhaps I mix things up a bit:

There is a difference between the loss of life and death. The man sitting next to you in the hospital was losing his life. He was standing at the doorway of a sensual, social and spiritual loss. You seem to be busy with death from an essentialist perspective.

Occasionally I mix your almost rocket scientist approach with the more spiritual aspect of a human life constituted by its relation to others. I guess death without loss of life is another uncharted territory to be conquered by explorers while the loss of life is the area of poets. I guess you are an explorer.

Below I have pasted the poet... John Donne *it was sort of good for me to understand the different perspectives... by the way, the explorer mind is also connected to Faust... hopefully this is not too chaotic of an email... I am super rushed...

Forbidding Mourning
(John Donne)

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls, to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
"The breath goes now," and some say, "No:"

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears;
Men reckon what it did, and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refin'd,
That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begun.


Photo: John McColgan (via Jouke Kleerebezem, via David Chess etc. etc.)

(Jessamyn writes)

You know, I have a disagreement with my friends about what Norwegian Wood is about.

I kinda thought that when the girl left him in the morning (after making him sleep in the bath) that he burned all her furniture...

Other people think it's a love song.



(Messaging with Caterina)

A: It was only when I got to the gym that...
A: I noticed that I'd been holding my breath for days.
A: Funny how stress makes us hold our breath huh?

B: When what we need most is some air.

A: Yeah.
A: I'd sure like to understand why this is so.

B: Could it be protective...
B: from the viewpoint of evolutionary biology?
B: Don't breathe, so as not to be...
B: discovered by predators?
B: Keep still... Don't move...

Later I realised that breathing is the most promiscuous thing that I do. Hell, breathing is probably the most promiscuous thing that anybody does.

Just noticed that the first entry this month was: messages from afar.

Abuddha's Memes:

"To list what I don't now have - clear vision, phone, computer, transportation, etc. ad nauseum - would be to unduly focus on lack (glasses notwithstanding). I live in the most interesting of times, in an area replete with clean air, untainted water, and space as few on our earthship enjoy. The challenge is to pay attention to what is, not project/imagine too much isn'tness, and to enjoy the strawberries."


As I was saying to Cesare on phone:

"These organizations print way too many fucking things. Why do they print so much? It seems every time I sit on a panel or jury or guest teach or lecture somewhere I'm given another bag of books and catalogues. Which they've published. God knows why.

"I guess it's their way to prove that they exist. Something for them to leave them behind when they make their studio visits. To send to the government when they apply for new grants. I get it in the mail. Their annual reports. Their reports of exhibitions which I've never seen. Exhibitions which I never want to see.

"And of course I have to say thank you. And add it to my bookshelves. Why are they doing this to me? Their information weighs me down. It completely strangles me. Why don't they realise I don't care for their fucking shit?"

(Supply 100. Demand 0.)


Breathing: last year's air.

Noah's Bark
(or language is a life raft and Noah's ark is worse than his bite.)

"Man is faced with the task of being responsible for his existence. His being-in-the-world is primordially disclosed to his concern. But under the shadow of death, existence as such is anxiously felt as too massive and overwhelming to be concernfully accepted in its totality. Consequently we shy away from the immensity of being and the immenence of death and fall into a preoccupation with particular entities within the world.

"In this way we flee from our essential being into the illusory security offered by external situations composed of discrete things. Our concern becomes that of manipulating and organizing entities in such a way that finally, so we hope, our anxieties and fears will be able to come to rest in an utterly secure world."

Forbidding Mourning
(Adrienne Rich)

My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.

They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.

I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control.

A red plant in a cemetery of plastic wreaths.

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.

To do something very common, in my own way.

Above left -- a message from Stephen Batchelor's Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism. The phrase "and fall into a preoccupation with particular entities within the world" makes me think of smokey red lights.

Above right -- a message from Nina who linked to A. Rich's poem because it had the same title this one and then provided the necessary errata on Geegaw.


The Smilin' Buddha

The canonical smokey red light (original photo S. Butterfield).

[Venue notes: "Legendary punk club, now defunct. Was located at 109 East Hastings St., Vancouver B.C. Capacity was just over 100."]


Acquired taste is the best-tasting-taste.

Smokey Red Lights

"I was dreaming," Ella said. "I saw a smokey red light, a horrible light. And yet I kept moving toward it. I couldn't stop."

"Yeah," Runciter said, nodding. "The Bardo Thödol tells about that. You remember reading that; the doctors made you read it when you were--" He hesitated. "Dying," he said then.

"The smokey red light is bad isn't it?" Ella said.


Smokey Fragrance

Between coffee and tea -- and grabbing my arm and warning me to prepare myself "for a major boudoir experience" -- R.T. introduced me yesterday to a true local wonder, the parfumerie of Annick Goutal. And what a wonder it is -- for outside of Goutal's shop in Paris, known amongst the connoisseurs as 'the jaguar of the Parisian perfume houses' -- the franchise in Rotterdam appears to be 'a world premiere' (and wonderful too in its quite un-Rotterdam-ish decadence).

Anyway, I think I was the alibi that got R. T. into the shop -- for once inside it turned out that she was secretly lusting after a bottle of Eau du Fier, which she, without hesitation, bought for herself. I decided to sit this round out -- for the time being just content to watch -- and was happy enough to walk out with a handful of samples.

Eau de Fier, by the way, is an amazing scent, one that may roughly be described by the words 'lapsang souchong' (though they certainly do not do it justice). Officially it was concocted for men -- Goutal actually designed it for her husband -- but it's smokey fragrance most certainly compliments either sex.


Des Esseintes and his perfumes. From the novel A Rebours by J.K. Huysmans, the book that Arthur Symons once called the 'Breviary of the Decadence':

"Years ago he had trained himself as an expert in the science of perfumes; he held that the sense of smell was qualified to experience pleasures equal to those pertaining to the ear and the eye, each of the five senses being capable, by dint of a natural aptitude supplemented by an erudite education, of receiving novel impressions, magnifying these tenfold, coordinating them, combining them into the whole that constitutes a work of art. It was not, in fact, he argued, more abnormal than an art should exist of disengaging odoriferous fluids than that other arts should whose function is to set up sonorous waves to strike the ear or variously coloured rays to impinge on the retina of the eyes; only, just as no one, without a special faculty of intuition developed by study, can distinguish a picture by a great master from a worthless daub, a motif of Beethoven from a tune by Clapisson, so no one, without a preliminary initiation, can avoid confounding at the first sniff a bouquet created by a great artist with a pot-pourri compounded by a manufacturer for sale in grocers' shops and fancy bazaars."

J. K. stands for Joris Karl, born in Paris in 1848 from a French mother and Dutch father, died in 1907. Here's a short bio of his life and work.

Previous Alamut entries quoting A Rebours (Against the Grain): the bejeweled back of a tortoise (Aug. 98) and Pheromonic Fix (Oct. 99).

To add to my list of potential pilgrimage points:-- the house in Fontenay-aux-Roses which served as the model for the house in 'A Rebours.'


Double-entry bookkeeping may be the key to Western Capitalism but with all sorts of business obligations and deadlines looming it looks like it was a bad idea choosing this moment to buy a new double-entry bookkeeping program. In Dutch no less. Who did I think I was kidding? This is definitely going to take more than a couple of hours to learn. (If I was smart I'd quit right now and go back to Filemaker Pro. At least for the time being.)

Later. Still trying to figure the new system out.

I've been searching for pages which explained some of the basic principles. Ironically, the best explanation I've found is in the GNU cash manual.

After stopping for the day I find I have to laugh at myself.

Another opening. Seems like half of Amsterdam has turned up for the occasion of the Meschac Gaba/Wild Zone opening at Witte de With. Not everything is interesting but I'm extremely impressed by the stark pensiveness of the video piece by L. A. Raeven (L. and A. Raeven).

From the exhibition flyer:

"The twin sisters L. A. Raeven often feel like oddities in Dutch society because of their extremely thin appearance. In their work they try to lay claim to their personal territory with the aid of media and fashion strategies by creating a subculture in which they are the standard."

Intellectual Cannibalism

Richard Rodriguez on claiming (Alamut, 11 February 1999):

"My rewriting of the Indian adventure... was not only to move the Indian away from the role of victim but to see myself in relationship to Pocahontas, to see myself as interested in the blond on his horse coming over the horizon. It occurred to me there was something aggressive about the Indian interest in the Other, and that you were at risk in the fact that I was watching you, that I wanted you, that I was interested in your religion, that I was prepared to swallow it and to swallow you in the process.

"Maybe what is happening in the Americas right now is that the Indian is very much alive. I represent someone who has swallowed English, and now claim it as my language, your books as my books, your religion as my religion...

Alamut, 23 March 1998: "Organization, classification, taxonomy, lexicography -- methods to create new maps that bring new territories into being. We believe this is what the old Icelanders meant when they used the phrase, 'Land Nám' (land making, claiming, taking; the sanctification of new land by mythologizing it)."


Casco, Utrecht. Attended four more lectures in the series 'Democratic Design.' The speakers this time were Rob Schröder (television maker), Jan van Grunsven (artist), Pauline van Mourik Broekman (publisher and editor of Mute Magazine) and Siebe Thissen (publicist-philosopher).

(It was wonderful seeing Pauline again. We rapped non-stop, a kilometer-a-minute, throughout dinner. I can't remember when we last met. Pauline says it was 6 years ago. Oi!)

Starving and Stuffed

I am going to take yesterday's words back. In retrospect the phrase 'stark pensiveness' does not adequately describe L. A. Raeven's work in Witte de With. While the word 'pensive' properly means 'plunged in thought and melancholic' (similar to the Dutch: peinzen) -- I've always used it (apparently incorrectly) to mean a certain 'pins and needles' quality. Self-absorbed, yes, but I also mean edgy and nervous.

The more I hear about these twin sisters (and I heard more today) the more interested I become. Their self, their standards, their will, their norms, their center of 'narrative gravity' seem located somewhere outside of their individual bodies, somewhere between the two of them. Their order is not for everyone. (Again proving that order is entirely relative.) They have turned into a dyadic cyclone. Their life, work and world, a subculture for two.

Order and Disorder

Order as statistical unchanging-ness (by nature or by effort). From William Poundstone's The Recursive Universe:

"Most of the ideas about disorder can be illustrated in a familiar context. Take two offices, one orderly and one disorderly. Both contain the same set of objects: telephone, desk, chair, typewriter, plant, pencil sharpener, etc. Imagine that you must explain the difference to someone who has never seen an office before and has no idea what any of the objects are used for. In what objective sense is the disorderly office different?

"Boltzmann was faced with much the same problem. Familiar notions of order and disorder are mostly aesthetic. All members of our culture have seen enough interiors to recognize messy ones... Boltzmann chose to define order in terms of the number of ways that a system may be arranged. The more possible arrangements, the more disorderly the system.

"A very orderly office worker has a place for everything and keeps everything in its place. If you inspected the office from time to time, you would always find the same arrangement. In a very disorderly office, on the other hand, any object may be anywhere at all. There are many possible positions for each object and an even greater number of arrangements for the entire office. If you inspected the office periodically, you would not find the same exact arrangement twice.

"Boltzmann's definition is statistical. To determine whether an office is orderly, you must observe it a number of times to judge how many possible arrangements it has under its occupant. Nothing can be determined from a single visit. But the definition is totally free of any aesthetic bias.

"Suppose that the person inspecting the offices comes from a culture where chairs are turned on end, telephones are left off the hook, and all the furniture is piled in the northwest corner of the room. By coincidence, he finds just such an arrangement on his first visit to the office we think of as disorderly. He might suspect that this office is the orderly one and that the other -- which looks to him as if a hurricane hit it -- is the disorderly one.

"After a few visits, though, he would be able to identify the offices as we do. The disorderly office would almost certainly be in different arrangements on subsequent visits. He would conclude that it had no special order and that the arrangement he saw on the first visit was just a fluke. The orderly office would always be in the same arrangement. Whatever he might think of that arrangement, he would conclude that someone was taking pains to preserve it."


I keep telling myself that things are going well.

More L. A. Raeven: IDEAL INDIVIDUAL ref: 1020.


J. K. Huysmans. Aesthete.

Three Jewels

realised while reluctantly sorting receipts and invoices.

(1) 'And' searches can be fun! A Google search for 'body without organs' AND 'Hua-Yen Buddhism' turned up Technoculture and the Religious Imagination. The author, Erik Davis, also has some interesting things to say about Richard Barbrook vs. the 'California Ideology', an issue which Pauline van Mourik Broekman and I discussed on Sunday.

(2) I finally have a good (and crystal clear) idea what to do for the NUON project.

(3) The most amazing quote by Milorad Pavic (from his Landscape Painted with Tea) was found on a piece of paper:

"Why introduce a new way of reading a book, instead of the one that moves, like life, from beginning to end, from birth to death? The answer is simple: because any new way of reading that goes against the matrix of time, which pulls us toward death, is a futile but honest effort to resist this inexorability of one's fate, in literature at least, if not in reality."


Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.

January 2001

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