Archive | Book Crush-Book Reviews RSS feed for this section

HERE (barnacles & footnotes)

15 Mar



OK,I found the graphic novel HERE by Richard McGuire on Friday and read it cover-to-cover-3-times-since.

HERE is a close-up of the life of a corner of a house. Through this tight focus HERE travels through vast time: generations, civilizations and epochs. A living room, the same room 10 years later, the same room 50 years later. The wallpaper and furniture change. Life is punctuated with babies, dancing, arguments and confusion. Dinosaurs roamed there, a beast slept right where the rug is now. Native Americans lived there. Water will pour through the window one day and the land will be covered by deep-sea. In HERE life on earth in the form of plant, animal, sea creature, dinosaur, generations and civilizations of human and post-human life …  are the equivalency of short-lived barnacles on this living beast.


The language of visual storytelling in HERE teaches you how to read it from page to page while simultaneously teaching you what the possibility of a book can be. There is poetry and mystery in its use of omission and deep clarity in its repetitions. (There is even a Benjamin Franklin telling us, “Life has a way of rhyming events.”) The construction of the book, the overlapping windows of images, reflects the way photos and memory work. The function of image also resembles the way our brains operate somewhat like a computer desktop with documents from different time periods simultaneously open and taking up a varying amounts of space on the screen: each representing its own wormhole or thread.

I haven’t met anyone yet who has read HERE and so I crave discussion. But check out how Chris Ware describes it: “It was the first time I had had my mind blown. Sitting on that couch, I felt time extend infinitely backwards and forwards, with a sense of all the biggest of small moments in between. And it wasn’t just my mind: “Here” blew apart the confines of graphic narrative and expanded its universe in one incendiary flash, introducing a new dimension to visual narrative that radically departed from the traditional up-down and left-right reading of comic strips. And the structure was organic, nodding not only to the medium’s past but also hinting at its future … A book like this comes along once a decade, if not a century.”


McGuire’s depiction of the eventuality of a post-human earth is vivid and peaceful and beautiful. I’ve been studying the 5 mass extinctions as well as the likelihood that we are currently experiencing and participating in a 6th. And it calms me down just like McGuire’s images do. But it does have the effect of creating a kind of pop-up or obsessive footnoted experience in almost every situation. Even in something as benign as this Emily Dickinson poem:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

“Frog” has always been the perfect word here. There is nothing more perfect in the english language than the word “frog” placed right there by Emily …  unless you are reading this in 50 years when there are no frogs. Frogs will be rare green things (or gone). Never observed in nature. Ribbits and croaks will be heard only in recordings made by endangered species reserves and filed under, “mating-songs-to-no-one” by the last male frogs of each species. So a future reader will need a footnote about frogs and Dickinson’s intention there. (A footnote too for the reader of Tyger, Tyger.)

There is a common cognitive shift that occurs among astronauts who have viewed earth from space called “the overview effect.” When they leave earth, they can truly see the reality of it. They don’t see countries and the conflicts among people. They see an unlikely rock with life on it, floating in vast space, protected by a tremendously thin atmosphere holding it together.

With HERE there is also a cognitive shift, but its the inverse. HERE is an imagistic series of footnotes upon footnotes of the present moment: “the footnote effect”.

Armitage & ch-ch-ch-changes

18 Feb

holy shit this country needs its next generation.

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through



reposting this Simon Armitage poem.

this language exercise is always very clarifying to me: substitute the flower words with any noun, like “balloon,” “donut,” toad,”chemical weapon”, “explosive” and “AR-15” and count the dead bodies at the end of the poem to determine what is a weapon of mass destruction.

The Killing Time

Meanwhile, somewhere in the state of Colorado, armed to the teeth with thousands of flowers, two boys entered the front door of their own high school and for almost four hours gave floral tributes to fellow students and members of the staff beginning with red roses strewn among unsuspecting pupils during their lunch hour, followed by posies of peace lilies and wild orchids. Most thought the whole show was one elaborate hoax using silk replicas of the real thing, plastic imitations, exquisite practical jokes, but the flowers were no more fake than you or I, and were handed out as compliments returned, favors repaid, in good faith, straight from the heart. No would not be taken for an answer. Therefore a daffodil was tucked behind the ear of a boy in a baseball hat, and marigolds and peonies threaded through the hair of those caught on the stairs or spotted along corridors until every pupil who looked up from behind a desk could expect to be met with at least a petal or a dusting of pollen, if not an entire daisy chain, or the color-burst of a dozen foxgloves, flowering for all their worth, or a buttonhole to the breast. Upstairs in the school library, individuals were singled out for special attention: some were showered with blossom, others wore their blooms like brooches or medallions; even those who turned their backs or refused point-blank to accept such honors were decorated with buds, unseasonable fruits and rosettes the same as the others.

By which time a crowd had gathered outside the school, drawn through suburbia by the rumor of flowers in full bloom, drawn through the air like butterflies to buddleia, like honey bees to honeysuckle, like hummingbirds dipping their tongues in, some to soak up such over-exuberance of thought, others to savor the goings-on. Finally, overcome by their own munificence or hay fever, the flower-boys pinned the last blooms on themselves, somewhat selfishly perhaps, but had also planned further surprises for those who swept through the aftermath of bloom and buttercup: garlands and bouquets, planted in lockers and cupboards, timed to erupt either by fate or chance, had somehow been overlooked and missed out. Experts are now trying to say how two apparently quiet kids from an apple-pie town could get their hands on a veritable rain-forest of plants and bring down a whole botanical digest of one species or another onto the heads of classmates and teachers, and where such fascination began, and why it should lead to an outpouring of this nature. And even though many believe that flowers should be kept in expert hands only, or left to specialists in the field such as florists, the law of the land dictates that God, guts and gardening made the country what it is today and for as long as the flower industry can see to it things are staying that way. What they reckon is this: deny a person the right to carry flowers of his own and he’s liable to wind up on the business end of a flower somebody else had grown. As for the two boys, it’s back to the same old debate: is it something in the mind that grows from birth, like a seed, or is it society that makes a person that kind?

Ai Wei Wei

21 Sep

This is going to be the movie of the year:  Human Flow is an expansive global look at the lives and voices of refugees across 23 countries.


5db473324be84b8f5bffc2f3685f002b_original.jpgAi Wei Wei will be in New York this fall! with a citywide installation!  Good Fences Make Good Neighbors. Description below from the Kickstarter:

“In response to the worldwide plight of migrants and refugees, divisive immigration and border control policies, and the global rise in nationalism, the exhibition, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, will be installed at 300 + sites spanning dozens of New York City neighborhoods in all five boroughs.

Adapting security fencing in a variety of unexpected ways, Ai Weiwei’s artworks will appear at street level, rise from rooftops, emerge between buildings, be affixed to lampposts, frame bus shelters, and seemingly grow out of the urban infrastructure.

Major site-specific sculptures will be installed at iconic locations including Central Park, Washington Square Park, and the Unisphere, while more discrete 2-D and 3-D interventions — including posters with images collected from the artist’s visits to refugee camps around the world — will be installed across New York’s five boroughs.”

Tralfamadorians, Dogs & Vonnegut

21 Sep

“Billy Pilgrim says that the Universe does not look like a lot of bright little dots to the creatures from Tralfamadore. The creatures can see where each star has been and where it is going, so that the heavens are filled with rarefied, luminous spaghetti. And Tralfamadorians don’t see human beings as two-legged creatures, either. They see them as great milliepedes—“with babies’ legs at one end and old people’s legs at the other,” says Billy Pilgrim.”

Slaughterhouse-Five, Chapter 5


“You ever put a full-length mirror on the floor, and then have a dog stand on it? Trout asked Billy.


The dog will look down, and all of a sudden he’ll realize there’s nothing under him. The dog thinks he’s standing on thin air. He’ll jump a mile.”

Slaughterhouse-Five, Chapter 8


“How—how did I get here?

It would take another Earthling to explain it to you. Earthlings are the great explainers, explaining why this event is structured as it is, telling how other events may be achieved or avoided, I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”

“You sound to me as though you don’t believe in free will,” said Billy Pilgrim.

*     *   *

“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”

Slaughterhouse-Five, End of chapter 4


“I don’t think any artist knows why he does anything. It’s not that rational. This stuff comes pouring out of us.”

“I sit there, this person named me, and this stuffs starts coming out. And I write it down. But my wastebasket is full.”

Vonnegut,  2005 interview


14 Sep


Excerpt from an article from The World Sunday Magazine, March 8, 1896 re: free electricity & energy with the mechanics of a kind of tuning fork or autoharp interplaying with earth&atmosphere.

“The scientist-electricians who have for years been trying to master the mystery of electrical earth currents with which the ground beneath your feet is filled, are on the threshold of success. The success of the experiments they have under way means much to them, but vastly more to the people. It means that if Nikola Tesla succeeds in harnessing the electrical earth currents and putting then to work for man there will be an end to oppressive, extortionate monopolies in steam, telephone, telegraphs and the other commercial uses of electricity, and that the grasping millionaires who have for two decades milked the people’s purse with electrical fingers will have to relinquish their monopoly.

Nikola Tesla has discovered the secret of the electric earth currents of nature, and they will be adapted to the use of man. He has succeeded in transmitting sound by the currents that make an electric riot of the earth. The transmission of power will follow. His experiments reduced to commercially practicable uses will be able to tap the electric currents of the earth and make them serve the purposes of industry and of trade just as a well digger over on Long Island taps water or a Pennsylvania miner opens a vein of coal. The mighty electrical energy that has been stored up in the earth for ages will be harnessed and made to move the machinery of men.

Electricity will be as free as the air. For the privilege of its use legislatures will not have to be bribed or men corrupted at the polls, and public boards will not have to be seen to bestow exclusive franchises upon corporations organized to use public property for purposes of private gain, and make the people pay the original cost of their investment and excessive charges for service in order to squeeze dividends out of copiously watered shares.

Monopolies for purveying steams power too will be forced to capitulate to free electricity, for with the latter manufactures will only have to connect their dynamos with the earth currents to set their machinery in motion. The successful adaptation of Tesla’s discovery will administer a death-blow to the most galling slavery that has ever yoked the activities of men to the treadmill of monopoly. Tesla is the wizard who is going to emancipate modern industries from the shackles of corrupting, dividend-grabbing, monopolistic corporations.”

… this & electric car discovered in the late 1800’s. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but …

Sanskrit Love Lyrics

8 Sep

IMG_8220If you discover your friend has a copy of sanskrit love lyrics, ask if you can take (not borrow) it. 

Below lyrics translated by P. Lal.


She must have sucked the moon dry

She must have sucked the moon dry

This lady of ravishing breasts who rouses desire—

He wanders in cold and circular symmetry,

She glows with a sinuous and sensuous fire.




No love game for these lovers

No love game for these lovers; all night

Two secret grievances corrupt delight.

Too proud to bend. Will hewill she

Make the first apology?

Their looks foretell that by dawn

War will cease…meantime, the night is gone.



When she comes in from the rain

When she comes in from the rain
make-up ruined

blue sari clinging to her breasts

sculpting her lovely figure,

lucky is the lover

who helps her change her dress.




“Were you lying on champaks in the garden?”

“Were you lying on champaks in the garden?

Your breasts are red with their pollen.”

“Very clever! But these, begging your pardon,

Are thorn marks—

I went gathering flowers that had fallen.”


The War in Reverse

24 Aug

Billy looked at the clock on the gas stove. He had an hour to kill before the saucer came. He went into the living room, swinging the bottle like a dinner bell, turned on the television. He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie backwards, then forwards again. It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.


The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, the German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

*     *   *

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating nightand day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody again.

America fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn’t in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed.

from: Chapter 4, Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut