24 May 2009

a bird which died advised me to / commit flight to memory.

Forough Farrokhzad's short documentary The House is Black can be viewed at UbuWeb.

Leprosy is chronic and contagious. Leprosy is not hereditary. Leprosy can be anywhere or everywhere. Leprosy goes with poverty. Upon attacking the body it deepens and enlarges wrinkles, eats away the tissues, covers the nerves with a dry shield, dulls sensitivity to heat and touch, causes blindness, destroys the nasal septum, it finds its way to the liver and bone marrow, withers the fingers, it clears the way for other diseases.

Leprosy is not incurable. Taking care of lepers stops the disease from spreading. Wherever lepers have been adequately cared for, the disease has vanished. When the leper is cared for early, he can be treated completely. Leprosy is not incurable.

The filmmaker, Forough Farrokhzad, is considered one of the most accomplished modern Iranian poets. Though her mastery of poetic form in Persian is probably difficult to translate into English, free translations capture something of the spirit.

Two excerpts from "Another Brith" (click here to read the whole thing):

Life is perhaps
a rope with which a man hangs himself from a branch
life is perhaps a child returning home from school.


I will plant my hands in the garden
I will grow I know I know I know and
swallows will lay eggs
in the hollow of my ink-stained hands.

"The Couple":

Night comes
and after night, darkness
and after darkness
and breathing and more breathing
and the sound of water
which drips drips drips
from the faucet.

then two red points
from two lighted cigarettes
the clock's tick-tock
and two heads
and two lonelinesses.
Much more of Forough's poetry, occasionally with Persian audio of the poems available, can be read at http://www.forughfarrokhzad.org/.

"I believe in being a poet in all moments of life. Being a poet means being human. I know some poets whose daily behavior has nothing to do with their poetry. In other words, they are only poets when they wrote poetry. Then it is finished and they turn into greedy, indulgent, oppressive, shortsighted, miserable, and envious people. Well, I cannot believe their poems. I value the realities of life and when I find these gentlemen making fists and claims--that is, in their poems and essays--I get disgusted, and I doubt their honesty. I say to myself: Perhaps it is only for a plate of rice that they are screaming. "

07 May 2009


From a Planet Earth segment (imperative to watch in HQ):
Its infected brain directs this ant upwards. Then, utterly disorientated, it grips the stem with its mandibles. Those afflicted that are discovered by the workers are quickly taken away and dumped far away from the colony.

The fungus is so virulent, it can wipe out whole colonies of ants. There are literally thousands of different types of cordyceps fungi, and, remarkably, each specializes on just one species.
Cordyceps sinesis, for example, specializes on the caterpillar of a type of ghost moth found in some parts of China. Other types of ghost moth, susceptible to other types of cordyceps, are found in Tibet, where their medicinal use may have originated.

Photo by David Gerrard
According to Wikipedia, the Chinese name for caterpillar fungus means "winter worm, summer grass." The medicinal use of the fungus became well-known in connection with the success of Chinese athletes at the 1993 Beijing Olympic Games.
Today the most common way to prepare the caterpillar fungus is to stuff a duck with the caterpillar fungus then after boiling the duck in hot water, patients drink the liquid. It sounds unpleasant, but Vivian reports the aroma is pleasant and the broth tastes sweet. The caterpillar fungus is reported to have many benefits as a traditional medicine. Some consider the benefits to be similar to those of another valuable Chinese tonic, ginseng. Traditional Chinese medicines like the caterpillar fungus and ginseng are bought in Chinese drug stores. The price varies from $27 to $53 a pound depending on quality. The fungus fruiting body has been removed in the most expensive grade. Caterpillar fungi are also used as gifts. A large gift box costs about $400. [As of 1998.]
In addition to its aesthetic, medicinal, and shock values, cordyceps has a considerable metaphorical value, which is explicated by Arthur Schopenhauer (whose aphorisms are available to read in their entirety online) by way of another example:
The brain may be regarded as a kind of parasite of the organism, a pensioner, as it were, who dwells with the body: and leisure, that is, the time one has for the free enjoyment of one's consciousness or individuality, is the fruit or produce of the rest of existence, which is in general only labor and effort. But what does most people's leisure yield?—boredom and dullness; except, of course, when it is occupied with sensual pleasure or folly. How little such leisure is worth may be seen in the way in which it is spent: and, as Ariosto observes,how miserable are the idle hours of ignorant men!—ozio lungo d'uomini ignoranti. ...And if there is nothing else to be done, a man will twirl his thumbs or beat the devil's tattoo; or a cigar may be a welcome substitute for exercising his brains. Hence, in all countries the chief occupation of society is card-playing, and it is the gauge of its value, and an outward sign that it is bankrupt in thought. Because people have no thoughts to deal in, they deal cards, and try and win one another's money. Idiots! But I do not wish to be unjust; so let me remark that it may certainly be said in defence of cardplaying that it is a preparation for the world and for business life, because one learns thereby how to make a clever use of fortuitous but unalterable circumstances (cards, in this case), and to get as much out of them as one can: and to do this a man must learn a little dissimulation, and how to put a good face upon a bad business. But, on the other hand, it is exactly for this reason that card-playing is so demoralizing, since the whole object of it is to employ every kind of trick and machination in order to win what belongs to another. And a habit of this sort, learnt at the card-table, strikes root and pushes its way into practical life; and in theaffairs of every day a man gradually comes to regard meum and tuum in much the same light as cards, and to consider that he may use to the utmost whatever advantages he possesses, so long as he does not come within the arm of the law.
Twelve-foot high wax busts of Schopenhauer afflicted by several varieties of cordyceps fungus, which fungus he termed the Will, can be viewed in an upcoming conceptual exhibition.

01 May 2009

Spiders' Legs

A person steps into the shower, adjusts the shower curtain. A large spider is seen to scramble in every direction away from the falling water. The person's face displays mild surprise at the spider's appearance. While performing routine activities of the shower, the person uses one big toe to deflate air bubbles in the clear bath mat. The toe deflates bubbles only in places where black specks, the decaying corpses of previously deceased spiders, can be clearly seen. The person's face registers mild irony as the now half-dead spider finds a small opening through which to crawl under the bath mat. As water impedes the spider's progress on all sides, the person uses the toe to help the spider through the rubber doorway. These words are spoken: "There's no hope for you."

An alternate title for this post:
ungeheuren Ungeziefer

For some reason, the tall, empty room where [Gregor Samsa] was forced to remain made him feel uneasy as he lay there flat on the floor, even though he had been living in it for five years. Hardly aware of what he was doing other than a slight feeling of shame, he hurried under the couch. It pressed down on his back a little, and he was no longer able to lift his head, but he nonetheless felt immediately at ease and his only regret was that his body was too broad to get it all underneath.
Hiding places there are innumerable, escape is only one, but possibilities for escape, again, are as many as hiding places.

How blest am I
In my just censure! in my true opinion!
Alack, for lesser knowledge! how accurs'd
In being so blest! There may be in the cup
A spider steep'd, and one may drink; depart,
And yet partake no venom (for his knowledge
Is not infected), but if one present
Th' abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known
How he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides,
With violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the spider.
(The Winter's Tale, II.i.36-45)

For more on this topic, see Story from North America by Kristen Lepore and Garrett Davis.

(Kristen Lepore's other films are available for viewing on her website.