26 April 2009


YouTube videoNumber of views
The Seashell and the Clergyman, Part 136,496 views
The Seashell and the Clergyman, Part 27,992 views
The Seashell and the Clergyman, Part 35,330 views

For more information about the film, see this post at Documents.

20 April 2009


The Brazilian band Os Mutantes created two versions of their song "Baby," one in Portuguese in 1968 and the other in English in 1971. Until today, I always assumed that the English version was a close translation of the Portuguese, just slightly different stylistically. Reading the lyrics to the English version alongside a translation of the Portuguese version (from the Luaka Bop website) gives a different impression:

Baby (1971)
click here to listen on YouTube

You know,
you must take a new look at the new land
The swimming pool and
the teeth of your friend
The dirt in my hand
You know,
you must take a look at me

Baby, baby
I know that’s the way

You know,
you must try the new ice-cream flavor
Do me a favor,
look at me closer
Join us and go far
And hear the new sound of my bossa nova

Baby, baby
It’s been a long time

You know, it’s time now to learn Portuguese
It’s time now to learn what I know
And what I don’t know
I know, with me everything is fine
It’s time now to make up your mind
We live in the biggest city of South America
Look here, read what I wrote on my shirt:
Baby, baby
I love you
Baby (1968), translated
click here to listen on YouTube

You need to learn of swimming pools
Of margarine, of Caroline, of gasoline
You need to learn of me

Baby, Baby
I know you do

You need to eat an ice cream cone
At the corner diner, to hang out with us
To see me up close
To hear Roberto Carlos’ new song

Baby, baby
It’s been so long

You need to learn English
And learn what I know
And what I don’t know

With me, skies are blue
With you all is cool
We live in the best city
In South America
You need to... you need to...
I don’t know, read it on my shirt
Baby, baby
I love you

Although I have no idea how this song comes across in Portuguese, in English the 1968 version is distinctly more emotional, more adolescent. The 1971 version sounds surreal and whimsical, the 1968 version more exasperated and simple. The tiny, tiny difference between "We live in the biggest city of South America" and "We live in the best city in South America" is a perfect example. Living in the biggest city in South America is chance, a randomish factoid, but living in the best city is full of possibilities, suggests a world or a life that's fresh and almost perfect. (For more thoughts on this song, see the interesting discussion in the comments of this post.)

Here is the English translation (from notbored.org) of the lyrics to "Panis et Circenses," one of my favorite Mutantes songs, and an example (in my opinion) of the band's more political side. Click here to watch a video of the band performing this song (YouTube).

I wanted to sing a song illuminated by the sun
I raised the sails to the wind
I freed the tigers and the lions in the yard
But the people in the dining hall
Are busy being born and dying

I demanded that a dagger of pure luminous steel be made
To kill my love and I killed her
At five o'clock on Central Avenue
But the people in the dining hall
Are busy being born and dying

I demanded that leaves of dreams be planted in the Garden of the Sun
The leaves know how to seek the sun
And the roots seek, seek
But the people in the dining hall
These people in the dining hall
But the people in the dining hall
Are busy being born and dying

05 April 2009


Note: This post must be viewed directly at Altarpiece, (click here), rather than through an RSS reader, because such applications often do not render background images.

Please be patient with the large images in this post. After some deliberation I opted to embed high-quality versions rather. I think the result is worthwhile.

The images below were captured in Google Earth from panoramas taken by the Opportunity and Spirit Mars rovers. Experiencing the panoramas in Google Earth has the advantage of better-simulated reality; the viewer can move dynamically through the picture in such a way that the true-color photographs of Mars have a more startling impact than can be achieved in these static images. One gets a sense of how wonderfully strange it would be to move around beneath a sky like dust and skin and olives, of how untouched the planet is, of how real it is as a location, and of how (somehow) absurd it is to stand there and snap a picture.

The text accompanying the images consists of excerpts from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, which can be read online in its entirety at Scribd.com. The sterility of Mars on the one hand, and the virility of Rilke's thoughts on the other... perhaps posting these two things together will mute them both, but the juxtaposition seemed so unlikely, even ridiculous and impossible, as to be somehow necessary.

Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent - ?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves ("to hearken and to hammer day and night"), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.

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Bodily delight is a sensory experience, not any different from pure looking or the feeling with which a beautiful fruit fills the tongue; it is a great, an infinite learning that is given to us, a knowledge of the world, the fullness and the splendor of all knowledge. And it is not our acceptance of it that is bad; what is bad is that most people misuse this learning and squander it and apply it as a stimulant on the tired places of their lives and as a distraction rather than as a way of gathering themselves for their highest moments.... If only they could be more reverent toward their own fruitfulness, which is essentially one, whether it is manifested as mental or physical; for mental creation too arises from the physical, is of one nature with it and only like a softer, more enraptured and more eternal repetition of bodily delight.
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Richard Dehmel: ... You have characterized him quite well with the phrase: "living and writing in heat." - And in fact the artist's experience lies so unbelievably close to the sexual, to its pain and its pleasure, that the two phenomena are really just different forms of one and the same longing and bliss. And if instead of "heat" one could say "sex" - sex in the great, pure sense of the word, free of any sin attached to it by the Church - then his art would be very great and infinitely important. His poetic power is great and as strong as a primal instinct; it has its own relentless rhythms in itself and explodes from him like a volcano.

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Whoever looks seriously will find that neither for death, which is difficult, nor for difficult love has any clarification, any solution, any hint of a path been perceived; and for both these tasks, which we carry wrapped up and hand on without opening, there is not general, agreed-upon rule that can be discovered. But in the same measure in which we begin to test life as individuals, these great Things will come to meet us, the individuals, with greater intimacy. The claims that the difficult work of love makes upon our development are greater than life, and we, as beginners, are not equal to them. But if we nevertheless endure and take this love upon us as burden and apprenticeship, instead of losing ourselves in the whole easy and frivolous game behind which people have hidden from the most solemn solemnity of their being, - then a small advance and a lightening will perhaps be perceptible to those who come long after us. That would be much.
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We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us. The fact that people have in this sense been cowardly has done infinite harm to life; the experiences that are called "apparitions," the whole so-called "spirit world," death, all these Things that are so closely related to us, have through our daily defensiveness been so entirely pushed out of life that the senses with which we might have been able to grasp them have atrophied. To say nothing of God. But the fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has as it were been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank, where nothing happens. For it is not only indolence that causes human relationships to be repeated from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before any new, inconceivable experience, which we don't think we can deal with. but only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn't exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being.

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