Saturday, May 29, 2004

from The Vocal Wall

‘That first sip of water made all the difference in my feelings towards humanity.’

--overheard in a café in Luang Prabang, Laos. April ‘03


What of Anguish?

…and what of the formalities conducted everyday instead of just getting to the point? We read somewhere that they were thinking of doing away with some of these formalities so we could arrive at the most logical point faster than usual. What was thought to be “usual” for us had actually been exhausted by our evolutionary processes just last year. It was time to move on past the clichés, traditions, and poses. If this upset an entire human possibility, so be it. Some things are meant to fall by the wayside. Even possibilities.


Golden Gate

Some were made of clay and some were made from wood (perhaps osier or another type of willow). Other figures that seemed to be frozen in movement resembled feathers with wooly tufts of down. A few were streaked with gull dung; almost all had seen better days. Out near the ocean the statues stood eerie and immobile to all who came upon them. “Here they are!” a child appeared from the surrounding woods, then five others. They pelted the figures with rocks and cans. A few of the others drifted away from the group singing quietly to themselves, one was whispering into his hands. A small boy of seven went into convulsions on a bed of pine needles the park’s custodians had swept up that morning. An older girl, who looked to be the ring leader, ran in circles around the figures flapping her hands on each side of her head. Her glasses had slipped to the end of her nose because of the perspiration and were beginning to fall. Still she ran and ran, oblivious to her decreasing ability to see properly. Out on the beach a few hardy types were braving the icy sting of a summer swim.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Above the Skyline

There’s something to a surface—a swell through extremities.

The particles foam up to the height of a spectacle, diagrams buckle under the heat, hands run along contours murmuring their symbols and likenesses.

Here a line promises entrances and exits, fulfillments of an impulse heralded by frequent excursions into the curve of twilight and the mulch of day.

Across this landscape of unlit temples whose holders design lips from clay, books from wax, fire from a tamed glance—is the vehicle we inhabit, teasing the horizon with a form of blur that mimics our station.

This place of mind declines with a series of tricks; comes about through them as well.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Suan Lumpini

Sunday morning at Lumpini Park:

Chinese kongsi, clans, and families meet for tea and calligraphy exhibitions. There are enormous kettles and hot water flasks full of tea on every table.

Old Chinese men sit on stone benches under date palms talking, spitting, looking off into space.

Ju-jitsu. Tai Chi. Rock ‘n’ Roll dancing in a red gazebo. Old women shaking their arms.

A large group of Hare Krishna followers sit on a blanket. They have a harmonium, hand drums, and various small cymbals. At one point their chanting becomes so energized that they all stand up and start dancing.

One young man performs a sword dance alone in a field.

Four young monks sit on a bench watching everything pass by.

The meeting place of various lives, philosophies, beliefs, and practices. None of them interacting specifically, but all sharing the same physical space.


Saturday, May 22, 2004

A Love Supreme

Just a few days ago the great jazz drummer Elvin Jones died. He was 76. I saw Jones play about 12 years ago when I started getting into jazz. He played with Ravi Coltrane, the son of Jones's old boss John Coltrane. They were simply amazing. The name of the group was "The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine"--and they really were a tightly focussed, well-oiled set of interlocking gears that a significant amount of improvisational power could be sent through. Jones's percussive abilities is/was devastating. He was grunting and mumbling while bashing away in some transfigurative ecstasy that, much like Glenn Gould's humming, was an apt vocal accompaniment to the flight the music was taking over the solid and soaring aural delights. Apparently Jones was playing up until a few weeks before he died, taking an oxygen tank up on stage. Total dedication.


Let's disappear into jazz. Why? Because jazz is a compound of the utmost strength, but also the utmost malleability. It is a sonic portrayal of the universe-- the universe up to what we can surmise, waveringly measure, or faithfully leap towards. Beyond that amorphous boundary is something that, I must admit, is beyond jazz. I'm not sure why I'm expounding on jazz, I hardly enjoy it. I like beyond jazz much more; though I have yet to hear what it sounds like. I can only describe what I'd like to hear within its chambers. Namely, the absence of notes, time, and tempo. Timbre is best when it has the ability to stroke the ear so let's go for one that comprises the emerald of percussion and the low frequency bass uses to grow those vines of endorphin and adrenaline that will ensure the composition takes flight. Reeds made from Egyptian ideas and the metal forged by enterprising blacksmiths would bring in a type of foreground that is much desired in order to temper the monolith of an under-occurring and infinite texture-- seemingly grey like an Eastern European train, yet easily made bright by a Mekong sunset.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Doyle and Chongnonsi

In the past several months I’ve become an enthusiast of Australian-born Christopher Doyle’s cinematographic work. So much so that I spent eight hours in a small theater listening to him talk and then screen a couple of his most recent films (“Hero” with Jet Li and Wong Kar Wai’s “In the Mood for Love” with the lovely Maggie Cheung—both of which seem to represent opposite sides of Doyle’s visual aesthetic—the claustrophobic to the panoramic) in January. I was turned on to his work through the Thai film, “Last Life in the Universe” which is in my Top 5 All-time Favorite Films. His work on that blew me away. He is a subtle master of color, but a true fanatic when it comes to light. He stretches the limits of “contrast” (see “Days of Being Wild”--the glare of the lamps and the bleached look of the film stock are marvelous). And he has absolutely no problem with natural light which makes for the required sense of moodiness WKW's films need. Here are some quotes of Doyle's from various sources that I especially like:

“Looking and sharing the pleasure of seeing is what my days have become filled with, what I've spent the last twenty years of my life trying to approach. It was this first provocative encounter with a new way of seeing the world that started me asking all these questions that have become my films.”

“I guess what you see here are associations, but not associations of a logical or pre-determined mind. They just happen, as much as possible by accident, by some uncontrolled and unconscious association between hand and mind. I try to interfere as little as possible, to let the colors and forms tell their own story, not mine. I don't want to impose any symbolic or conscious meaning on you or the works. I'd rather try to recycle all my accumulated images and ideas.”

“The creative process is a series of chances taken and possibilities revealed. Like a painter stepping back from a canvas in progress you have to be observant and detached enough to see where the work is going and just "go with the flow". The best expression I know of the process is by Frank O'Hara in his poem "Why I am not a Painter."”

“I've always wanted to Jam like a Jazz musician. We've gotten close to that in my work with Wong Kar Wai and William Chang, but this is even closer to the free interpretation and the spirit of Jazz. It just happens, and I notice that the less I think about it and the more chance and coincidence play in the event, the better the work seems to be.”

“All ART aspires to music.”

“If only film was jazz. If only we could jam: we get closer each film, my camera becomes more an instrument. On and off, different film speeds, frame changes in shot are my key and register shifts. I riff, you solo, we jam towards a free form that film can be.”

“Technique is only learned by accident.”


from The Journal of Silom Chongnonsi

Brow knitted for a few seconds, mild perplexity. She takes a bite and looks up as her friend speaks.

A transvestite with long black silken hair smokes languidly while watching passersby. She takes bites from a sandwich and sips coffee between drags on her cigarette, neck pushed forward but only slightly.

A Berlitz instructor, most likely English, eyes the refrigerator case decked out with bacon, brie, sliced tomatoes. He orders, “just a regular coffee.”

Leggy and mildly attractive young woman uses a napkin to clean her nose with vigorous little twists.

An Italian man with wandering hands drinks orange soda from the can as his companion feebly wards him off.

I became transparent. Even more so than usual.

He constructs phantasms, but has he ever seen a continental drift?

It’s black and silver with a place for a mouth to speak
it lies through its teeth and sets calamity upon all your houses

Empty bullet casings along the road.

A man wearing a raincoat enters a tavern and begins to sing. In a world without nouns and in a world with only the imitation of music.

Their restraint was admirable. Their reserve an unspoken code of morality. The delay of pleasure lasted until death. Inhabiting rooms of clashing floral patterns, sipping tea, collaborating on stories about heroes who surmount all difficulties. One of them whispered into a hole all of his desires and then covered it with grass.

He inhales the smoke of burning books.

The calligrapher pelts the garden with small pebbles. His wife was still asleep. He was bored, envious of gardeners. She is depressed so sleeps most of the day.

Once all his subjects had been depleted the photographer hurled his camera at the wall.

A recipe for broiled peacock was sent to me today.

Fuchsia and silk. Hair piled on top of her head.

A nostalgia for what? Only in certain instances could he recall a moment in his personal history that he’d like to have extended. There’s something about being a transient through life that appealed to him. Yes, he had addresses and jobs and relationships but like all things they passed away. The demise of one situation begat another. There were elements in the first situation that were seeds for the next movement. Everything had a certain evolutionary logic. If a tragedy occurred it seemed unlikely that it could ultimately bear fruit. Yet it always did in some way. Through tears came salvation. Through escape he found redemption. Occasional oblivion.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Nan Posted by Hello

The Man with the White Smile

Archimedes met Christ on the Road to Excess. He pointed out the various constellations to the Messiah, moving his right index finger along the Zodiac. He spoke about his military inventions: “engines of war” that kept the Romans out of Syracuse. He made mention of his treatise, The Sand Reckoner, but only when Christ began to match his pace. At this time Archimedes was over 300 years old, though he could still cut and chew his meat. Christ was unusually attentive. Of course the palace was still a ways away.

from Day Book IV by Vincent Blafard (trans. B. Lucas)


“It was all right to speed ahead into the desert leaving no trace.”

from The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles


from The Vocal Wall

Afternoon Delight

For just one moment imagine there was no gravity on Earth. The usually empty atmosphere quickly fills up with billions of humans, objects, oceans, animals—all life and non-life floating quietly in space. What an incredibly beautiful spectacle! How our endurances, our sacrifices, our preoccupations and worries, the transient moments of joy, the conflicts and nostalgias will weather in the airless is all too obvious. What would it take to set aside an hour every day to feel so untethered—yet not so dead? Shall we just keep on toiling in pockets of desperation, awaiting the paralyzation of spirit that would soon overtake us in our worldly lethargy, or would it be better to take that hour a day and use to our own advantage—creating a sweet groundlessness to perk up the midday meal?



The moment has come when all of my experiences—every instant of my life, every word said, every pleasure felt, every sadness endured (or not endured, thus bitterness), will merge and combine; every concentric idea, every sleepy ethic, every jubilation, every appreciation will merge and combine. Their intrinsic properties transcending their limitations of character in order to reach a state ripe with an infinite possibility of feeling, as well as the state where all illusions as to the permanence of emotion, the flux of time, and the insignificance of the daily news will be scattered into a cool, refreshing breeze, the kind most people would like to feel while on vacation.


Recent Soundtracks


A Negative for Francis-ROTHKO


& Recommended Reading

The Voice Imitator-THOMAS BERNHARD

Monsieur Teste-PAUL VALERY

Darkness Moves-HENRI MICHAUX



Were this a time piece
a quilt of remains…

the source of color in aspic
and its folds bordering on

the silence
of those remains

Time responds to us
with a bruise in proportion
to our depth

A rose of forgetfulness appears

feigning its sleep
as future mounts


with certain demands
time could be said to have

Outside opposites is the dance
of consolation

the sign of our fate

expectant, lush


scattered about gears

and the winding remains


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Selections and Provocations

“(…) the sweet facility of the sun in a crystal universe.”

from Monsieur Teste

My advice should be followed in only one subject: escape.


An epic’s tangle of resonant strings. Excursions into the outer edge’s proximity to transparency, of becoming a particle lodged in an eye. The mind drifts accompanied by toads and robins; white noise and gaps.


“His head is a sealed treasure.”
from Monsieur Teste


Tranquility, detachment.

“(…)the absence of trouble and doubt.”



Abandon thought to an existence based solely on sensation. One would have to be tough, uncompromising, and wealthy.


Living now in a low-tension culture he quickly recognized what an overly accelerated machine he had developed into, unbeknownst to himself for well on three decades. Not only accelerated in terms of physical speed (his legs are long; he is energetic to some extent), but also in how he beholds the world and the various concepts he has employed to navigate it. Or I should say, concepts that he had been immersed in without choice from the moment he was born. It was the difference he had experienced that enabled him to step outside of himself (in a way) in order to see what a bizarre piece of culture he had become. Somewhat fragmented; gentle but fractured, like a Grecian urn. What became most intriguing while this shock of difference was detonating and exploding every other day was the fact that all of his principles, ethics, definitions, meanings, idealisms were hoisted willy-nilly into the air. Or did they crumble? What was once a strong ego (though always secretly self-doubting and unsure) had begun to collapse. A ruin. What can one build out of the rubble of broken ideals, of questionable ethics, of the collapse of foundations one had grown to depend on. Habitual, critical thinking. Gross overextension of perception. The mismanagement of perception. An armor against the raw ugliness of reality in A________. Or was this all illusion, that nothing had seriously changed, that he was still left with these cultural weights and measures? The fact is that he can still consider this episode in his life in the same way he always considered these things: here or there. Perhaps it was the heat, the humidity, the distractions the new city provided him that pushed him into crises?


“Happy people have no reason to think; they live rather than question living.”

from Escapism by Yi-Fu Tuan

“A strongly analytical and critical disposition of mind, sustained over time, can lead to cynicism and despair. In the West this has not yet happened to a pronounced degree, and one reason is ironic: The same hard questioning that has corroded traditional covers has enabled Westerners to build a new one—the dazzling technological world that has its own great powers to shield, entertain, and distract. Still, in the course of the last two centuries, critical thinking has undoubtedly dented the modern person’s sense of what the world is really like, raised disturbing questions about the true nature of human relationships, including those long considered sacrosanct, as well as the true character of the relationships between, on the one hand, human beings, and, on the other, animals, plants, rock, the vast silent space. Would not these foundation-shaking queries be another reason, maybe the deepest one, for the vehemence with which the West is sometimes attacked? Besides its egregious faults of imperialism, racism, and speciesism that are generic to civilization, the West has allowed a way of thought to develop that is uniquely destructive of cultural covers and escape routes, not only other people’s but also its own.”




Tor scatters green syllable
through an itinerary
of breathing

in black circular days
readable leaves
cold spray tints from above

The peak was once here

As one eye is closed
one flow opens

neither in this region
or that
focuses on the end
what’s imperceptible


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Penang Posted by Hello

Recent Soundtracks

Future Days-CAN

Symphonic beauty. Tight percussion and subtle, but propulsive bass builds a foundation where birds, water, keyboards, and a plucked and fuzzed guitar can float. Damo sounds like he was singing through a shortwave radio transmitted from Saturn. "Bel Air" is a masterpiece.

I'll always recall the day I was walking around downtown San Francisco and found myself standing next to Holger Czukay while we waited for a red light. He had on burgundy pantaloons and was with U-she.


All Strange Beasts of the Past-THUJA

Twilight sounds emanating from plants and blue drapery. The 17 minute track on this album distills everything that THUJA has ever released on CD. Like confused Romanian gypsies traveling from an auto repair shop, to a rock hound's clattering den, to a savant's piano whispering. Strange, shimmering emerald forest/junkyard meditations on rust, broken stringed instruments, and the aforementioned rock hound's ultimate dream: stones have ears, too.

This Day called Today

One and a half hours from sunset. Room dims. A curry bubbles in the wok.
The approaching evening promises an excursion through a pulp paperback on Chinese triads, or perhaps the rambling exclamations of one Monsieur Teste might be even better?

"What a dramatist you would make," I said to him. "You seem to be watching some experiment going on beyond the limits of all sciences! I would like to see a theater inspired by your meditations."

He said: "No one meditates."

Teste. Testical. Sperm. Origin. A man unemcumbered by formal systems of ascertaining the world around him. A Nowhere Man that is wholly present. His territory is completely internal. Was Valery seeking to become totally transparent?

Something else:

Small Wonder

that I did
it became a posture
for most days
a heart-gleam
in turbulence
tropica assurance
for an island
of sand
and sags

Ancient writers
at daybreak
became for him
and me

An island
to burn
engulfed as
we were
by the creases
a map made
we had no clue
the river was
it was arid
and even drier
than that

A bubble
to house
a cosmos
for hero destinies
dental records
callous men