Caveat: what we see

“I believe that nothing can be more abstract, more unreal, than what we actually see. We know that all that we can see of the objective world, as human beings, never really exists as we see and understand it. Matter exists, of course, but has no intrinsic meaning of its own, such as the meanings that we attach to it. Only we can know that a cup is a cup, that a tree is a tree.” – Giorgio Morandi (Italian painter, 1890-1964)

picture

Natura Morta, oil on canvas, 1956.


Unrelated: what we don’t see…

“‘Why does God not show Himself?’ – ‘Are you worthy?’ – ‘Yes.’ – ‘You are very presumptuous, and thus unworthy.’ – ‘No.’ – ‘Then you are just unworthy.'” – attributed to Pascal

picture

Caveat: юу вэ юу вэ юув

There’s nothing like a bit of Mongolian nationalist heavy metal music to set the mood on a chilly January day.

What I’m listening to right now.

The Hu, “Yuve Yuve Yu.”

Lyrics.

Их л удаан идэж уугаад наргиж цэнгээд хачин юм бэ юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эцэг өвгөд Монгол гээд л цээжээ
дэлдэн худлаа орилох нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эргэж буцаад хэлсэн үгэндээ эзэн
болдоггүй андгай өргөдөг нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Эцэг эхийн захиж хэлсэн үнэт сургааль
үнэгүй болдог нь юу вэ юу вэ юув, юу вэ юу вэ юув
Ээ дүлзэн сөгд сөгд
Ээ лүндэн бууг бууг, бууг бууг
Дээдсийн заяаг удамлаж төрчихөөд унтаж
хэвтээд сэрдэггүй юм бэ юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дэлхийд ганцхан Монгол гээд л амаа
хаттал худлаа ярьдаг нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дээдсээр амьдрах заяанд төрсөн Монгол
түмэн нэгдэж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Дархан Монгол улсаа мандуулж өөд нь татаж
сэргээж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув, юу вэ юу вэ юув
Ээ дүлзэн сөгд сөгд
Ээ лүндэн бууг бууг, бууг бууг
Өвөг дээдсийн өвлөж өгсөн газар
шороог хайрлаж чаддаггүй нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Өтгөс буурлын захиж хэлсэн үнэт
сургааль худлаа болдог нь юу вэ юу вэ юув
Өнө л мөнхөд мандан бадрах чонон
сүлдэт Монгол түмэн тэнгэрийн тамгатай
Хөвчин дэлхийд нэрээ дуурсгах хүмүүн
тахилгат эзэн Чингис нартад залрана, нартад залрана
Ээ хар сүлд сэр сэр
Ээ хаан төр мөнх манд, мөнх манд
Юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Хачин юм бэ
юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Хачин юм бэ
юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ юу вэ
Ээ хар сүлд сэр сэр
Ээ хаан төр мөнх манд, мөнх манд

picture

Caveat: πoetry

I saw this at a blog I read, called JF Ptak Science Books. The guy is a dealer in old and rare books, with an emphasis on books related to the history of science and ideas. He often posts very interesting things.

He found a text of a poem published in 1905, which has an unusual constraint: each word in the poem has the same number of letters as a digit of the number π (3.141592653589793238462643383279), in order.

picture

The poem’s text:

Sir, - I send a rhyme excelling
 3     1   4  1   5       9
In sacred truth and rigid spelling.
 2    6     5    3    5      8
Numerical sprites elucidate
    9        7        9
For me the lexicon's dull weight.
 3  2   3     8       4     6
   If "Nature" gain,
    2    6      4
   Not you complain,
    3   3     8
Tho' Dr. Johnson fulminate. 
 3    2     7       9

Most definitely a bit of oulipisme-avant-le-lettre.
picture

Caveat: as fast as I can

I present a flashback to the mood of this blog 2 years ago – when I often posted contemporary songs I thought would resonate with my middle-schoolers.

I continue to believe Taylor Swift is one of the best songwriters of the current era in the pop genre.

What I’m listening to right now.

Taylor Swift, “The Man.” The context for this song, is, at least partly, her ongoing legal battles with the condescending record company execs who absconded with her intellectual property, and who are, perhaps not coincidentally, men.

Lyrics.

I would be complex
I would be cool
They’d say I played the field before
I found someone to commit to
And that would be okay
For me to do
Every conquest I had made
Would make me more of a boss to you
I’d be a fearless leader
I’d be an alpha type
When everyone believes ya
What’s that like?
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man
They’d say I hustled
Put in the work
They wouldn’t shake their heads
And question how much of this I deserve
What I was wearing, if I was rude
Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves
And we would toast to me, oh, let the players play
I’d be just like Leo, in Saint-Tropez
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again
‘Cause if I was a man
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man
What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars
And getting bitches and models?
And it’s all good if you’re bad
And it’s okay if you’re mad
If I was out flashin’ my dollas
I’d be a bitch, not a baller
They’d paint me out to be bad
So it’s okay that I’m mad
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man (you know that)
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again (coming at me again)
‘Cause if I was a man (if I was man)
Then I’d be the man (then I’d be the man)
I’m so sick of running
As fast as I can (as fast as I can)
Wondering if I’d get there quicker
If I was a man (hey!)
And I’m so sick of them
Coming at me again (coming at me again!)
‘Cause if I was a man (if I was man)
Then I’d be the man
I’d be the man
I’d be the man (oh)
I’d be the man (yeah)
I’d be the man (I’d be the man)

picture

Caveat: hay montes

Penas (Verso XXXIV)

¡Penas! ¿Quién osa decir
Que tengo yo penas? Luego,
Después del rayo, y del fuego,
Tendré tiempo de sufrir.

Yo sé de un pesar profundo
Entre las penas sin nombres:
¡La esclavitud de los hombres
Es la gran pena del mundo!

Hay montes, y hay que subir
Los montes altos; ¡después
Veremos, alma, quién es
Quien te me ha puesto al morir!

- Jose Marti (poeta cubano, 1853-1895)

This poem was recently brought to my attention because my friend Bob asked if I could provide some insight and translation for the poem, for a choral production he’s working on that includes this text set to music. It seems not that different from other things I’ve blogged, and given how sparse my blog has been intellectually, of late, I thought I might as well post what I gave him here.

It’s important to separate who Martí actually was from the mythical being he’s been made into by subsequent generations of Cubans of all political stripes. He was a classical liberal, and in an aesthetic school called “modernismo” -not exactly the same as “modernism” because of different circumstances. He spent a lot of time in the US during various exiles from Cuba, and was heavily influenced by US poets such as Walt Whitman. He was no communist, but he was aware of Marx and I believe may have interacted some with socialists and communists and anarchists in Europe – you take your allies where you can find them. He did believe in universal human rights as that doctrine emerged from the wake of the abolition movements of the 19th century.

I do believe this poem is political. He was fighting for Cuban independence from Spain, inspired by the liberal fantasies (ideals) exemplified to whatever degree of accuracy by the US, Mexico, Guatemala – all countries where he spent time. So what he’s saying is that the time for self-pity is over. Stop complaining and get up and fight for your freedom, fellow Cubans = fellow humans everywhere. That’s how I interpret it. There are mountains we should be climbing, now, battles to be fought. We’ll let God sort out later who was good and who was bad.

Versos was published in 1891, and Martí died while leading Cuban freedom fighters in Cuba in 1895. His political program was quite mature at that point, and it would be hard to read the poem any more innocently.

Here is my own word-for-word translation.

Problems! Who dares to say
That I have problems? Later,
after the lightning-bolt, and the fire,
I'll have time to suffer.

I know about a deep regret
among the problems without names:
The enslavement of men
is the great regret of the world!

There are mountains, and there's need to climb
the high mountains; later
we shall see, soul, who [it] is
that has set you, for me, to die.

The key word, of course, is penas. I prefer the translation “problems” – it feels contemporarily idiomatic. Penas has a very wide semantic field: “pains” “sufferings” “sorrows” “guilt” “sins” “problems” etc. Especially in the context.

We deploy the word “problems” in modern English similarly. Cf rapper Jay-Z, “I got 99 problems ….”

I almost chose to translate it as “complaints” – to emphasize the fact that the tone of the poem (to me) is a bit of “Get off your butts, people, and DO something!”

Other vocabulary worth comment: pesar. Also fairly wide. I prefer “weight” to “regret” but that doesn’t work with the intensifier “deep”. Perhaps “heavy weight” rather than “deep regret.”

As a syntactician, I love the double (in)direct objects in the last line (“… te me …”) – what Spanish grammar is famous for, in stumping linguists and being a fairly famous example of something characteristically difficult about the language.

picture

Caveat: Train Canon

I found this video, below, mildly entertaining in a weird way. I suppose I’m not feeling very productive. I’m still in a funk about the residency problem from Univ of Alaska, and meanwhile the stormy weather and my flu-thing are also keeping me from doing much useful otherwise. Recovering from my trip, I guess, and feeling like I shouldn’t have taken the trip in the first place – spending money I don’t really have and accomplishing very little.

picture

Caveat: the beauty of things is sufficient

It is a sort of tradition in this country not to talk about religion for fear of offending – I am still a little subject to the tradition, and rather dislike stating my “attitudes” except in the course of a poem. However, they are simple. I believe that the universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, influencing each other, therefore parts of one organic whole. (This is physics, I believe, as well as religion.)

[…]

The parts change and pass, or die, people and races and rocks and stars, none of them seems to me important in itself, but only the whole. This whole is in all its parts so beautiful, and is felt by me to be so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it, and to think of it as divine. It seems to me that this whole alone is worthy of the deeper sort of love; and that here is peace, freedom, I might say a kind of salvation.

[…]

I think that one may contribute (ever so slightly) to the beauty of things by making one’s own life and environment beautiful, so far as one’s power reaches. This includes moral beauty, one of the qualities of humanity, though it seems not to appear elsewhere in the universe. But I would have each person realize that his contribution is not important, its success not really a matter for exultation nor its failure for mourning; the beauty of things is sufficient without him.

– Robinson Jeffers (poet, 1887-1962)
picture

Caveat: 한국어영화

Having nothing better to do on the 15 hour transpacific flight, I happened to stumble across the fact that the Air Canada movie selection included quite a few foreign films – including 4 Korean movies.

I decided somewhat arbitrarily that transpacific flights should include Korean movies (such movies have been included, so often, in the past, because my most frequent transpacific carrier has been Korean Airlines).

So I binged on Korean movies. No comment with respect to quality – this is not, nor has it ever been, a movie review blog. You can find summaries and reviews elsewhere, better than anything I could write.

But I enjoyed watching them – a few hours of immersion in Korean culture, absent from my day to day life since last summer.

The movies I watched:

picture

돌아와요 부산항애 – a violent cops and robbers thriller where the two antagonists (cop and robber) are twin brothers.

picture

스타박스다방 – a comedy involving a guy starting a coffee shop in a small coastal village in Korea, where many of the characters die at the end.

picture

선명탐정: 흡혈괴마의 비밀 – an anachronistic comedy adventure involving vampires in Joseon Era Korea (1700s).

Caveat: Acute Malignant Optimism

My life here in Rockpit, Alaska, with my uncle Arthur has evolved some very stolid routines. One of these routines is that after dinner (which is always promptly at 5 PM), we watch TV for one or two hours.

Arthur chooses the programming. Some I like better than others. Recently we have been watching episodes of the 2001-2002 series A Nero Wolfe Mystery, based on the detective novels and stories by Rex Stout.

Arthur and I were watching the episode entitled “The Silent Speaker“. This line, “acute malignant optimism,” was used in that episode. There are lot of entertaining and interesting turns of phrase in the series, reflecting the unique voice of the original writing by Stout. I find it entertaining.

Arthur, who rarely reacts to the TV these days (much less than in my memories of the past), laughed out loud. I found it interesting that that was the biggest laugh I’ve heard out of him in a long time. It suited his character, I suppose.

We are suffering, here, of acute malignant optimism. What to do?

Caveat: Yáahl

Yáahl

Yáahl uu st'igáalaan, hal st'i'áwyaagaan.
'Wáadluu xíl hal tlaahláayaan.
Gut'iláa k'íit k'uts hal ts'asláangaan.
'Wáadluu sáng kwáan hal néilaan gyaan hal 'lagáalaan
Asgáayst hal xitgwáangaan táawk uu hal diyáangaan.
'Wáadluu, chíin kwáan gándlaay aa hal táagaan.
Hal sk'ísdlaayaan gyaan xitgáay aa hal jagíyaayaan.
'Wáadluu hingáan an sáanjuudaayaan.
Ahljíihl uu tl' hlgúujuu jahlíis gám 'láa'anggang.

This story is in the Haida language, which is the native language of Prince of Wales Island, where my uncle's home is and where I will be moving. Here is a translation from the same website where I found the story.

Raven

Raven got sick, he was very sick.
Then he made some medicine.
He boiled different kinds of tree roots.
Then he drank it for many days and got well.
Then he flew around looking for food.
Then he ate a lot of fish in a creek.
He got full and couldn't fly.
So, then, he just rested.
That is why it doesn't pay to be too greedy.

by Erma Lawrence
Original version published in: Xaadas Gyaahláang (1974), Society for the Preservation of Haida Language and Literature.

[daily log: walking, 3km]

Caveat: harta de sentir

Lo que estoy escuchando en este momento.

Control Machete – De Perros Amores. The video is weird, creepy, and borderline NSFW. That said, it's a scene from the eponymous movie for which this song is the title track.

La calidad de las letras disponibles en línea no es muy buena, e hice varios cambios y ajustes, pero todavía no son exactos. Parece que probablemente había mal entendido por lo menos algunas palabras. Específicamente, yo siempre he oído la línea del coro "atardece en ti" como "harta de sentir" – frase que igual incluso tiene su propio sentido dentro de la lógica de la canción. Tal vez la ambigüidad es intencional.

Letras.

Suficientes son los problemas de un solo día
Como para preocuparse del futuro (¿Cual?)
Olvidamos que para poder llegar al otro lado
Hay que empezar derribando el primero de los muros
Nos pasamos la vida viendo triunfos y fracasos
Conseguidos en tiempo pretérito
¿Cuantas veces se ha detenido el sol a mediodía? (¿Cuantas?)
¿Por que ya no quiere vivir más atardeceres? (¿Cuantas veces?)

El negro dejara de ser negro sin el blanco
El bueno dejara de ser bueno sin el malo

Rutina repetitiva que constantemente termina
Puede empezar de nuevo da fruto la semilla
¿Por que envejece por que tu piel se va arrugando?
El paso del tiempo una broma te está jugando
¿Sabes que la codicia puede dejarte en la ruina?
¿Quieres solucionarlo?
¡borrarlo de tu vida!
de perros amores
¡borrarlo de tu vida!
de perros amores
¡borrarlo de tu vida!

si alguna vez
si alguna vez
si alguna vez
si alguna vez

Amanece el alma
atardece en ti

Amanece el alma
atardece en ti

acción es en real voluntad
sensación, la velocidad
fé e ilusión orgánica
coincidencia armónica

No existe ningún borrador mágico
para borrar todos los errores cometidos
¿Que pasaría si las flores solo se marchitaran?
¿O solo se quedaran como botones?
Duele la realidad, duele
la fantasía solo se queda en los sueños
¿Que pasaría si nunca muero?
¿y no tuviera la oportunidad de nacer de nuevo?

Amanece el alma
(vuelve otra vez, aparece)
atardece en ti
(desapareces, te vas y vuelves)

Amanece el alma
(vuelve otra vez, aparece)
atardece en ti
(desapareces, te vas y vuelves)

Amanece el alma
(vuelve otra vez, aparece)
atardece en ti
(desapareces, te vas y vuelves)

Amanece el alma
(vuelve otra vez, aparece)
atardece en ti
(desapareces, te vas y vuelves)

[daily log: walking, 1km]

Caveat: para llevarme lejos

El viento en la isla

El viento es un caballo:
óyelo cómo corre
por el mar, por el cielo.

Quiere llevarme: escucha
cómo recorre el mundo
para llevarme lejos.

Escóndeme en tus brazos
por esta noche sola,
mientras la lluvia rompe
contra el mar y la tierra
su boca innumerable.

Escucha como el viento
me llama galopando
para llevarme lejos.

Con tu frente en mi frente,
con tu boca en mi boca,
atados nuestros cuerpos
al amor que nos quema,
deja que el viento pase
sin que pueda llevarme.

Deja que el viento corra
coronado de espuma,
que me llame y me busque
galopando en la sombra,
mientras yo, sumergido
bajo tus grandes ojos,
por esta noche sola
descansaré, amor mío.

– Pablo Neruda (poeta chileno, 1904-1973)

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Foki Afa Galande

What I'm listening to right now.

Heilung, "Krigsgaldr." This looks like part of some weird Scandinavian neo-Paganist thing. But it is interesting. I find these "back-to-roots" European nativist movements culturally intriguing, but feel it's regrettable the way they get coopted by various racist and authoritarianist ideologues. I have no idea what specific ideologies are associated with this Danish group, but if they turn out to be offensive, I offer my apologies in advance. I mostly just find it linguistically and culturally interesting, and would remark on the interesting coincidences with ancient cultures all over the world – these performers are not that different from e.g. efforts to recover or reconstruct Native American pre-contact cultures. I think the non-English parts, below, are no variety of modern Scandinavian, but rather intended to be some kind of "proto-Nordic" as recovered from some ancient runic inscriptions – that's what is linguistically interesting to me.

Lyrics.

Min Warb Naseu
Wilr Made Thaim
I Bormotha Hauni

Hu War
Hu War Opkam Har a Hit Lot

Got Nafiskr Orf
Auim Suimade
Foki Afa Galande

What am I supposed to do
If I want to talk about peace and understanding
But you only understand the language of the sword
What if I want to make you understand that the path you chose leads to downfall
But you only understand the language of the sword
What if I want to tell you to leave me and my beloved ones in peace
But you only understand the language of the sword

I let the blade do the talking…
So my tongue shall become iron
And my words the mighty roar of war
Revealing my divine anger´s arrow shall strike

All action for the good of all
I see my reflection in your eyes
But my new age has just begun

The sword is soft
In the fire of the furnace
It hungers to be hit
And wants to have a hundred sisters
In the coldest state of their existence
They may dance the maddest
In the morass of the red rain

Beloved brother enemy
I sing my sword song for you
The lullaby of obliteration
So I can wake up with a smile
And bliss in my heart
And bliss in my heart
And bliss in my heart

Coexistence, Conflict, combat
Devastation, regeneration, transformation
That is the best I can do for you

I see a grey gloom on the horizon
That promises a powerful sun to rise
To melt away all moons
It will make the old fires of purification
Look like dying embers
Look like dying embers
Look like dying embers

Min Warb Naseu
Wilr Made Thaim
I Bormotha Hauni

Hu War
Hu War Opkam Har a Hit Lot

Got Nafiskr Orf
Auim Suimade
Foki Afa Galande

Hu War
Hu War Opkam Har a Hit Lot

Ylir Men Aero Their
Era Mela Os

I found some vague gestures at translation, and will only offer that the part I used as this blog post's title, "Foki Afa Galande", seems to correspond to a meaning "land of shining meadows".

The official video of the same song released by the group is interesting, too.

Heilung, "Krigsgaldr."

[daily log: walking, 7km; children herded, ~∞]

Caveat: We all came out to Montreux

I recently learned that the famous classic rock song, "Smoke On The Water," by British rockers Deep Purple, was written about events at Montreux, Switzerland, which took place there in 1971 at the same time that the famous Russian-American author Vladimir Nabokov was resident there. It's interesting to imagine Nabokov and the members of Deep Purple interacting in a small French-Swiss town. Nabokov was of a different generation, but he might have been interested in rock music, given his fascination with other aspects of emergent pop culture.

What I'm listening to right now.

Deep Purple, "Smoke On The Water."

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn't have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

We ended up at the Grand Hotel
It was empty cold and bare
But with the Rolling truck Stones thing just outside
Making our music there
With a few red lights and a few old beds
We make a place to sweat
No matter what we get out of this
I know, I know we'll never forget

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky
Smoke on the water

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Party just for you

Childish Gambino (AKA Donald Glover) has a new song / video out. It's quite remarkable, and has received high critical praise from important media™. There is a detailed parsing of the video and song at Huffington Post, for example.

It's a rap song. It's also a dance composition. It's cinematography and poetry. It's also hefty, deep and dark social criticism. Make of it what you will. I'm impressed.

What I'm listening to right now.

Childish Gambino, "This is America." Is this America?

[Intro: Choir]
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, go, go away

[Bridge: Childish Gambino & Young Thug]
We just wanna party
Party just for you
We just want the money
Money just for you
I know you wanna party
Party just for me
Girl, you got me dancin' (yeah, girl, you got me dancin')
Dance and shake the frame
We just wanna party (yeah)
Party just for you (yeah)
We just want the money (yeah)
Money just for you (you)
I know you wanna party (yeah)
Party just for me (yeah)
Girl, you got me dancin' (yeah, girl, you got me dancin')
Dance and shake the frame (you)

[Chorus: Childish Gambino]
This is America
Don't catch you slippin' up
Don't catch you slippin' up
Look what I'm whippin' up
This is America (woo)
Don't catch you slippin' up
Don't catch you slippin' up
Look what I'm whippin' up

[Verse 1: Childish Gambino, Blocboy JB, Slim Jxmmi, Young Thug, & 21 Savage]
This is America (skrrt, skrrt, woo)
Don't catch you slippin' up (ayy)
Look at how I'm livin' now
Police be trippin' now (woo)
Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy)
Guns in my area (word, my area)
I got the strap (ayy, ayy)
I gotta carry 'em
Yeah, yeah, I'ma go into this (ugh)
Yeah, yeah, this is guerilla (woo)
Yeah, yeah, I'ma go get the bag
Yeah, yeah, or I'ma get the pad
Yeah, yeah, I'm so cold like yeah (yeah)
I'm so dope like yeah (woo)
We gon' blow like yeah (straight up, uh)

[Refrain: Choir & Childish Gambino]
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
You go tell somebody
Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your money)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Black man

[Chorus: Childish Gambino, Slim Jxmmi, & Young Thug]
This is America (woo, ayy)
Don't catch you slippin' up (woo, woo, don't catch you slippin', now)
Don't catch you slippin' up (ayy, woah)
Look what I'm whippin' up (Slime!)
This is America (yeah, yeah)
Don't catch you slippin' up (woah, ayy)
Don't catch you slippin' up (ayy, woo)
Look what I'm whippin' up (ayy)

[Verse 2: Childish Gambino, Quavo, Young Thug, & 21 Savage]
Look how I'm geekin' out (hey)
I'm so fitted (I'm so fitted, woo)
I'm on Gucci (I'm on Gucci)
I'm so pretty (yeah, yeah)
I'm gon' get it (ayy, I'm gon' get it)
Watch me move (blaow)
This a celly (ha)
That's a tool (yeah)
On my Kodak (woo, Black)
Ooh, know that (yeah, know that, hold on)
Get it (get it, get it)
Ooh, work it (21)
Hunnid bands, hunnid bands, hunnid bands (hunnid bands)
Contraband, contraband, contraband (contraband)
I got the plug in Oaxaca (woah)
They gonna find you like blocka (blaow)

[Refrain: Choir, Childish Gambino, & Young Thug]
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
America, I just checked my following list and
You go tell somebody
You mothafuckas owe me
Grandma told me
Get your money, Black man (black man)
Get your money, Black man (black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Get your money, Black man (get your, Black man)
Black man
(One, two, three, get down)
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, tell somebody
You go tell somebody
Grandma told me, "Get your money"
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Get your money, Black man (Black man)
Black man

[Outro: Young Thug]
You just a Black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a Black man in this world
Drivin' expensive foreigns, ayy
You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No probably ain't life to a dog
For a big dog

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: el mundo sí es así

My friend Bob asked me if I could help him make sense of the lyrics to this 18th century Mexican musical composition. Unfortunately I don't think I was much use. Anyway it was interesting to try, and interesting to see what was going on culturally in Mexico City in the 1700's.

What I'm listening to right now.

Manuel de Sumaya, "Sol-fa de Pedro," performed by Chanticleer.

Letra.

Estribillo
Sol-fa de Pedro es el llanto.
Oiga, el mundo sí es así.
Pues saben unir
los gorgeos de sus voces,
lo duro de su sentir,
del cromático explicar,
del blando y del duro herir;
qu'en el llanto dice Pedro.
He hallado lo que perdí
del sol la vez que lloré
porque me alumbró él a mí.

Copla 1
Vengan, vengan a oír,
verán el entonar en el gemir.
Vengan a oír del contrapunto
lo dulce y subtil al sol
la vez que lloré
porque me alumbró él a mí.

Estribillo
Sol-fa de Pedro es el llanto.
Oiga, el mundo si es así.
Pues saben unir
los gorgeos de sus voces,
lo duro de su sentir,
del cromático explicar,
del blando y del duro herir;
qu'en el llanto dice Pedro.
He hallado lo que perdí
del sol la vez que lloré
porque me alumbró él a mí.

Copla 2
Desde el ut la pena mía
me subió cuando caí,
a la perdida gloria
y a mí la gloria sin fin.

Estribillo
Sol-fa de Pedro es el llanto.
Oiga, el mundo si es así.
Pues saben unir
los gorgeos de sus voces,
lo duro de su sentir,
del cromático explicar,
del blando y del duro herir;
qu'en el llanto dice Pedro.
He hallado lo que perdí
del sol la vez que lloré
porque me alumbró él a mí.

– Manuel de Zumaya (compositor mexicano, 1678 – 1755)

[daily log: walking, 7.5km]

Caveat: Бу айыллыбыт / Арылы халлаан алын өттүгэр

Бу айыллыбыт
Арылы халлаан алын өттүгэр
Куордаах эттээх,
Куодаһыннаах уҥуохтаах,
Оһол-охсуһуу доҕордоох,
Иирээн-илбис энээрдээх,
Ириҥэ мэйиилээх,
Иһэгэй куттаах,
Икки атахтаах үөскээн тэнийдин диэн,
Анысханнаах арҕаа халлааннаах,
Иэйиэхситтээх илин халлааннаах,
Соллоҥноох соҕуруу халлааннаах,
Холоруктаах хоту халлааннаах,
Үллэр муора үрүттээх,
Түллэр муора түгэхтээх,
Аллар муора арыннаах,
Эргичийэр муора иэрчэхтээх,
Дэбилийэр муора сиксиктээх,
Ахтар айыы араҥаччылаах,
Күн айыы күрүөһүлээх,
Араҥас илгэ быйаҥнаах,
Үрүҥ илгэ үктэллээх,
Элбэх сулус эркиннээх,
Үгүс сулус үрбэлээх,
Дьэллэҥэ сулус бэлиэлээх,
Туолбут ый доҕуһуоллаах,
Аламай күн аргыстаах,
Дорҕоон этиҥ арчылаах,
Тоһуттар чаҕылҕан кымньыылаах,
Ахсым ардах ыһыахтаах,
Сугул куйаас тыыннаах,
Уолан угуттуур уулаах,
Охтон үүнэр мастаах,
Уһун уйгу кэһиилээх,
Сытар хайа сындыыстаах,
Буор хайа модьоҕолоох,
Итии сайын эркиннээх,
Эргичийэр эрэһэ кииннээх,
Төгүрүйэр түөрт тулумнаах,
Үктүөлээтэр өҕүллүбэт
Үрдүк мындаалаах,
Кэбиэлээтэр кэйбэлдьийбэт
Кэтит киэлилээх,
Баттыалаатар маталдьыйбат
Баараҕай таһаалаах,
Аҕыс иилээх-саҕалаах
Алта киспэлээх,
Атааннаах-мөҥүөннээх,
Айгырастаах-силиктээх,
Алыгыр-налыгыр
Аан-ийэ дойду диэн
Муостаах-нуоҕайдаах бэртэһэ
Туоһахтатын курдук,

The above is a fragment of a poem in the Sakha (Yakut) language, and is part of the Yakuts national traditional epic poetic oeuvre, Olonkho.

Obviously, I don’t know the Sakha (Yakut) language. On a really good day I command a few hundred words of rusty college Russian, at best.

But I like unusual languages. And I like poetry. And, if you accept the controversial Altaic hypothesis, perhaps Sakha is a very distant relative of Ancient Korean. Anyway, they’re sort of in the same cultural neighborhood, albeit a bit farther north, in east-central Siberia: today it is -41 C in Yakutsk, while here in sunny 고양시 we have a balmy -8 C.

I came across a translation of the poem on the blog of the philosopher and polymathic philologist Justin Erik Halldór Smith. Smith is currently a professor at the University of Paris 7 but he is a native of Northern California – like myself and, furthermore, he is of my generation, more or less – and thus he is someone whose occasional reflections on his youth in the green-hilled, hippie-infested comarcas of The City [San Francisco] have always had exceptional resonances for me. Anyway, his translation is strikingly good poetry, in itself, and, I presume, faithful to the original, given his scholarly abilities.

Under that primordial
shining and lucid sky,
where the two-legged, having
a mortal body and hollow bones,
knowing war and battle,
acquainted with strife and discord,
having a vulnerable brain
and a trembling soul,
must be fruitful —
with the cool windy western sky,
with the good generous eastern sky,
with the insatiable thirsty southern sky,
with the impetuous whirling northern sky,
with the shivering breadth of the sea,
with the heaving depth of the sea,
with the swelling abyss of the sea,
with the twirling axis of the sea,
with the unbounded reach of the sea,
with the revered aiy [nature spirits] who lie beyond,
with the radiant aiy [nature spirits] who guard,
with abundant yellow nectar,
with generous white nectar,
encircling us in the manifold of stars,
in the herds of countless stars,
in the traces of rare stars,
with the full moon accompanying it,
with the bright sun leading it,
with purifying roars of thunder,
with the smite of bolts of lightning,
with moistening cloud-bursts of rain,
with sultry hot breath,
with the drying out and again the replenishing of waters,
with the falling down and again the growing up of woods,
with inexhaustible generous gifts,
with origins from gently sloping mountains,
with gardens from earthen mountains,
with a hot and giving summer,
with the turning axis of the center,
with four converging sides,
with such high firmament,
what you tread on, will not give way,

what you rattle, will not lurch,
with such an unfathomable breadth,
what you press, will not bend,
eight-chambered, eight-sided,
with six circles,
with disquiet and worry,
in luxurious attire and ornament,
serenely peaceful,
always-existing Mother Earth,
shining like a silver buckle
on a horned hat with a feather.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: the testaments they told

What I'm listening to right now.

The Chainsmokers (with Coldplay), "Something Just Like This." The video is "unofficial," but cute and sappy. This was a song chosen by one of my middle-school CC classes recently. I'm letting them choose their own songs completely, now. It's going pretty well, actually.

Lyrics

I've been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
Achilles and his gold
Hercules and his gifts
Spiderman's control
And Batman with his fists
And clearly I don't see myself upon that list

But she said, "Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can kiss.
I want something just like this."

Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

Oh, I want something just like this
I want something just like this

I've been reading books of old
The legends and the myths
The testaments they told
The moon and its eclipse
And Superman unrolls
A suit before he lifts
But I'm not the kind of person that it fits

She said, "Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can miss.
I want something just like this.
I want something just like this."

Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Oh, I want something just like this
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo
Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo

"Where d'you wanna go?
How much you wanna risk?
I'm not looking for somebody
With some superhuman gifts.
Some superhero,
Some fairytale bliss.
Just something I can turn to.
Somebody I can kiss.
I want something just like this."

Oh, I want something just like this
Oh, I want something just like this
Oh, I want something just like this

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: What would Justinian have done?

I had a flu some weeks back, and I feel I have not ever really recovered.

This whole week I have slept at least two hours longer than my normal sleep time each night, which for me a reliable sign that something is amiss with my general health. Despite my occasional bouts of hypochondria, I don't think worry about cancer is well-placed, since just a few weeks ago I passed my semiannual inspection successfully. I'm just feeling unhealthy and consequently rather glum about life.

I should add to the above the fact my normally predominant escapist hobby – my geofiction – has been on indefinite hold due to a strong sensation of burnout with respect to what you might call the internal politics of the website where I was engaged in that.

picture

So I have been feeling adrift and painfully uncreative – allowing a possible exception for my daily effort at poetry, but with the caveat that even there, I am "depleting my reserves" rather than doing much that is new.

So what am I doing with my time, outside of work and sleep?

I have been reading history. Almost exclusively, and for many hours each day. I began, a few weeks back, with a curiosity about the Byzantine Empire, I have been wandering off wherever my interest leads: Sassanids (Persian pre-Islamic); Avars and Lombards and Franks and Visigoths; Khazars and Göktürks. It's notable that with the internet as it is today, one hardly needs to go out and buy books to pursue these eccentricities.

From this reading, I have only this generalization to draw: 

The world is always just about to end. There is nothing new under the sun.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: scrambling over the wall to the other side

Apparently Ursula Le Guin has died. 

I thought she might not. She seemed a forever type of person. But actually everyone dies.

She was a great writer. And a philosopher, though not in the conventional sense. I don't need to review her life or work – others can do that better than I can. But her writing has influenced me profoundly.

I was 12 years old when I first read the Earthsea series of fantasy books. And I really doubt that I have spent a single day in my life since then when that imagined world hasn't crossed my mind in some way or another. It's a visceral thing – I don't know that the philosophical and psychological ideas there were so impactful – though they're undeniably present in the books. I only mean that I imagined that world quite vividly, in reading those books. and so picturenow I think of it, much as one remembers a memorable trip, perhaps. For example, I think every day of the years I lived in Mexico, or the two months I spent in South America, or my one month studying in Paris, or my six months in Chicago. They were profound and memorable experiences, which shaped who I am. Likewise, the reading of those books, at that time in my life, left a similar type of indelible impression.

Her novel The Dispossessed had a more philosophical impact on me. I consider it a great philosophical novel. The "sci-fi" aspect is nearly irrelevant, except as a way to set the scene – the same story could have been written in a different way, set on Earth in some slightly altered historical context. I would put this book in my Universal Recommended books list.

[daily log: walking, 6.5km]

 

Caveat: Cthulupalooza

The internet wins the day. It turns out that H.P. Lovecraft's apocalyptically-themed poem "Nemesis" is a perfect metrical fit for Billy Joel's "Piano Man."

And then someone made it happen.

What I'm listening to right now.

Julian Velard, "Nemesis" – lyrics by H.P. Lovecraft, melody by Billy Joel. 

Lyrics – "Nemesis."

      Thro’ the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,
          Past the wan-moon’d abysses of night,
     I have liv’d o’er my lives without number,
          I have sounded all things with my sight;
And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.

     I have whirl’d with the earth at the dawning,
          When the sky was a vaporous flame;
     I have seen the dark universe yawning,
          Where the black planets roll without aim;
Where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge or lustre or name.

     I had drifted o’er seas without ending,
          Under sinister grey-clouded skies
     That the many-fork’d lightning is rending,
          That resound with hysterical cries;
With the moans of invisible daemons that out of the green waters rise.

     I have plung’d like a deer thro’ the arches
          Of the hoary primordial grove,
     Where the oaks feel the presence that marches
          And stalks on where no spirit dares rove;
And I flee from a thing that surrounds me, and leers thro’ dead branches above.

     I have stumbled by cave-ridden mountains
          That rise barren and bleak from the plain,
     I have drunk of the fog-foetid fountains
          That ooze down to the marsh and the main;
And in hot cursed tarns I have seen things I care not to gaze on again.

     I have scann’d the vast ivy-clad palace,
          I have trod its untenanted hall,
     Where the moon writhing up from the valleys
          Shews the tapestried things on the wall;
Strange figures discordantly woven, which I cannot endure to recall.

     I have peer’d from the casement in wonder
          At the mouldering meadows around,
     At the many-roof’d village laid under
          The curse of a grave-girdled ground;
And from rows of white urn-carven marble I listen intently for sound.

     I have haunted the tombs of the ages,
          I have flown on the pinions of fear
     Where the smoke-belching Erebus rages,
          Where the jokulls loom snow-clad and drear:
And in realms where the sun of the desert consumes what it never can cheer.

     I was old when the Pharaohs first mounted
          The jewel-deck’d throne by the Nile;
     I was old in those epochs uncounted
          When I, and I only, was vile;
And Man, yet untainted and happy, dwelt in bliss on the far Arctic isle.

     Oh, great was the sin of my spirit,
          And great is the reach of its doom;
     Not the pity of Heaven can cheer it,
          Nor can respite be found in the tomb:
Down the infinite aeons come beating the wings of unmerciful gloom.

     Thro’ the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,
          Past the wan-moon’d abysses of night,
     I have liv’d o’er my lives without number,
          I have sounded all things with my sight;
And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.

Here is another version – nicer implementation (more true to the darker spirit of Lovecraft), but incomplete.

[daily log: walking, 7km]

Caveat: Eiffelgators

Another picture in what seems to be turning into a series of student artwork inspired by my whiteboard cartoon alligators. There seems to be a sort of competition emerging among the youngest cohort of students, as to who can present me with the most elaborate drawing of alligators. These alligators are a "couple" (커플 [keopeul] a "konglish" borrowing into Korean) on some kind of romantic getaway to Paris, evidently.

picture

I like Yejun's work because it's actually rather sophisticated, in a technical way – note how she's drawn the screen of the "phone" (the 2010's version of what was once called a "camera") being used to take the picture of the alligator couple. She's got a reduced-size version of the scene being photographed, represented in a rather realistic way. This shows quite a bit of understanding of things like points-of-view and even perspective, for a 2nd grader, and exploits a conceit common to much great art: that of the "picture within a picture."

[daily log: walking, 7km]