Archive for:April, 2007

Fly Boy: Pink Cross

April 8th, 2007

from the C64 game Zaga

If I thought it wouldn’t kill me to land just anywhere, I would. But the ground’s treacherous, pure fields of colored energy. I know if I tried to step out onto it I’d disintegrate.

My body’s been in this cockpit for so long that I don’t know where it ends and the chassis begins.

But then there’s the Pink Cross. The only place I know that’s safe to land. When I see it coming, from around a corner, I get so excited, I get so relieved. I say to myself: “This time I’m going to rest there, really rest there, make a home. No more roaring of the copter engine. Quiet and harmony. Maybe find there’s soil underfoot, plant something. Maybe I’ll dismantle the copter, use its pieces to build a device, something that’ll let me safely walk the energy-fields. Maybe there’s even someone else like me I’ll run into. Who, like me, was once a maze-roamer, who has finally touched down to start a new life. There it is, I’m going to land. Thank god. I’ll never fly again.”

The truth is, I never stay for more than an hour. I look around, get bored.

I don’t even bother getting out of my seat.

The stillness makes me nervous. The silence too.

[posted by: C Way at 10:41 PM]

[file under: ABOUT ART ||| Ekphrasis]
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Saratoga Springs: The Business of Faith-Healing

April 8th, 2007

“Habitual Costiveness,
Depraved appetite,
Calculous and nephritic complaints,
Cutaneous eruptions,
Some species or states of gout,
Some species of dropsy,
Scrofula,
Amenorrhea,
Dysmenorrhea.”

That’s from Saratoga Springs’ 1821 advertising literature. It’s a list of maladies supposedly cured or alleviated by the the famous spring waters of that NY state resort. I read about this in the Atlantic Monthly a few issues ago.

So my first reaction, of course, was: “Bubbly mineral water, that’s all. Snake-Oil.”

Then I got to thinking about it. If enough people believe it, does that make it true? I’m used to hearing, and saying, ‘Hell no.’ What if the answer was ‘Yes’? In matters of faith, I believe it is.

I think a kind of psychic energy accrues around the hoped-for phenomenon, the faith-healer or faith-healing object, whether it’s a spa, a river, a shroud, whatever sacred or magical site or relic or person is supposed to confer health or powers or miracles, and that the more hope and yearning is focused on it, the more potent becomes its very real psychosomatic effects. Buzz swells around the faith-healing object in proportion to the people who swear by it, and the likelihood of people having real, empirically-knowable results from an encounter with the faith-object increases.

Put another way, I have no problem believing that some people visiting Saratoga Springs in 1937 really did have their indigestion alleviated, their skin conditions helped. I’ve known people that were so agitated and nervous as to send themselves to the hospital. You have too. There is no limit to the havoc the mind can wreak on the body. And conversely, no limit to how it can help.

It’s all too easy to lambast these kinds of things as pure evil-hearted humbuggery. And there’s a lot of it around, I’m not saying there isn’t. But a lot of it, if only psychosomatically, has worked. What the Saratoga founders did — and what most well-meaning and inspired faith-healers do — was to strike a wellspring — not of magic water, but of Need. They found a nexus of yearning on earth, tended it, cultivated it, marketed it, marshaled the psychosomatic evidence to its efficiency, and created a phenomenon. I don’t know how many people really came away from Saratoga springs over the last 200 years bettered and more healthful. But I’m not willing to say it was all a gigantic sham. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people returned in a better frame of mind and body. It might’ve been expensive. But what kind of price do you put on health? Especially a diminished “Depraved Appetite”?

But when does it get ugly? When does it turn devious? I believe the answer is — following William James in his “Varieties of Religious Experience” — when the “fruits” of religion are no longer there to consider, i.e., when the empirically-knowable benefits disappear. Only then can we start to call out the faith in question — like the faith in the healing powers of spring water — to be false.

 (Read More . . .)

[posted by: C Way at 8:50 PM]

[file under: Non-fiction & Essays]
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On Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’

April 1st, 2007

With McCarthy, it begins and ends with the language. Here, in his latest novel, the language is, as usual, stark and beautiful, shot through with unforced poetry.

McCarthy’s in familiar territory with “The Road”, depicting a bleak and unforgiving landscape with sustained, repetitive passages, chord swells in a dark minimalist music by Glass or Gorecki. The subject matter is apocalypse — either nuclear or coming about from some kind of natural catastrophe (it isn’t made clear which) — and its lifeless, gray, withered aftermath.

But there’s beauty here amid the smoking rubble. It isn’t so much that McCarthy directs our attention to the rare blue flower in the forest of ash; to the last sparrow on earth perched on the burned branch. More often the beauty in the novel comes from the ash, from the rubble, and from how McCarthy imbues it all with haunting poetry:

“The soft black talc blew through the streets like squid ink uncoiling along a sea floor and the cold crept down and the dark came early and the scavengers passing down the steep canyons with their torches trod silky holes in the drifted ash that closed behind them silently as eyes.”

McCarthy re-animates this collapsed world through the sheer force of his language and detail. This is how language becomes a redeemer in the novel, as much as the main character’s love for his son, as much as anything can be said to offer redemption against such a blighted backdrop. In a dead sea of mud and ash, McCarthy’s fertile (but never fervid) prose is the raft, its own inventiveness and abundance and steadfastness being the garden growing from the choking blitz-dust.

But even outside of his badlands comfort zone the writing is gorgeous. He spaces his prose generously, lending the work the look and feel of some kind of ancient epic poem (a fortunate decision, since it aligns nicely with blog-era readers’ preferences). Then there’s the sudden silver veins of philosophical insight that cut through the narrative: gnomic utterances, prophesies, lamentations. Perhaps most striking is the dialogue between the father and son — it’s nothing other than true : that’s the only word that fits here, that captures their effortless, genuine language.

Speaking of the Dad/Son relationship in “The Road”, there’s never been a relationship in any novel of McCarthy’s quite like it. There’s been mentors and guide figures aplenty in his novels, sure: like the old man in the Orchard Keeper, or Suttree himself as mentor to his kid sidekick (the one who, most memorably, fucks melons in gardens at night); and then of course there’s the unforgettable Judge in Blood Meridian (though that cunning, treacherous Satan stand-in is a “guide” only in the sense that he leads people places (usually to butcher them)). But there’s been no one who guides, teaches, leads with the kind of ferocious love that the Dad in “The Road” shows his child. It’s the softness, the give, the counterpoise of yield that McCarthy’s works of steely, fearless thrust have never had. It’s the rope over the void.

And in this book, there’s a lot of fucking void.

Finally, the book is, if one chooses to receive it as such, a spiritual one, resonating with voices speaking in between his sentences, in the spaces between paragraphs. The anonymity of the characters and setting give it a wide-open glassiness that lets lights from other times, other books, other realms to shoot through. And the abundance of detail keep it from being too obviously allegorical. This book can be a house for the spirit or a home for the senses and heart, ideally all at once. It can punch and spire through clouds and it can root down into the firm rich soil.

[posted by: C Way at 8:52 PM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY]
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The End of the World

April 1st, 2007

end of the world

Title: “The End of the World”
Artist: Unknown

There you’ll be, watering your vegetable garden when everything will go still, the ground will shake, the sky will go white, orange, and then red, you won’t have time to take a breath, only to mouth a name, call out a curse, or make amends with whatever you hold to be divine.

For months now this piece has been the single most haunting image I’ve found on the net. I’m obsessed with it. I love it deeply, more than I should, more than is seemly. Everything about it seizes my optic nerve, tugs at my mind’s cord: from the small man’s inscrutable expression to the way the image bleeds in maroon blotches, in some places looking like tears.

[posted by: C Way at 8:03 PM]

[file under: ABOUT ART]
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An Interview with Cobalt Hinnock

April 1st, 2007

I had the rare opportunity to interview Cobalt again the other day. He was back from a gig at the Golden Thumbnail and we were hanging out at the park, sitting next to each other on a bench and eating salad, watching some ants eat.

ME: I liked your show, seriously.

COBALT: I know, I could tell. Everyone did. You can tell by the faces.

 (Read More . . .)

[posted by: C Way at 7:02 PM]

[file under: Music]
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