Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"The western desert lives and breathes In forty five degrees" - Midnight Oil

I am typing up this blog post from Los Gatos, CA to let everybody know how it is going in the Buddhist Monastery were I was staying.

It isn't because on the 23rd they evacuated the place because of a three fires (that are now two fires because some of them have converged) that were surrounding the place. I am sitting at a friend's father's house drinking coffee, looking at a koi pond and thinking about taking a swim. Not exactly Buddhist meditation, I know.

Here was the clincher when they announced the evacuation.

Head Guy: "The fire service has called and we are not in eminent danger. However, this is a precautionary mandatory evacuation and if you chose to stay we need some information from you. We need your Next of Kin, your emergency contact information, and the name of your dentist.

(Cue the hushed uncomfortable laughter)

You also need to know that if you choose to stay you are in peril."

That was an easy decision to make. I left. Ergo, Los Gatos, pool, Koi Pond, Coffee. It seemed like a fair trade to me. When they said the bit about the dentist I was sold on leaving. I actually had a harder time trying to decide between Thai and Chinese food in San Francisco yesterday when I went to go and see the city.

Which leads to me to say: Five hours in San Fran and I am ready to move there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

"I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feel..." -The Cure

Echo Park photos
I took these pictures in Echo Park in Los Angeles. These are my favorites of a bunch.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Tae-Kwon-Leap is not a path to a door..." -The Frantics

Today I travel north from LA to Salinas and then from there on to Carmel Valley.

I am heading into a Buddhist monastery for two weeks. There will be an epic post on the other side of this experience.

Have a good two weeks.

Read One Hundred Years of Solitude. It might be the most beautiful book I have ever read.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Small talk will be just fine, Your voice is everything" -Frou Frou

Overheard at a Starbucks:

Two guys sitting in different sections of the restaurant having a conversation about books.

Young Guy: You know who I love, and I would say is the finest American writer: Joseph Heller.
Old Guy: Catch 22, I met him.
YG: Stop it you are going to make me jealous.
OG: I read a lot, I have met a lot of people.
YG: You know who else I like?
OG: *Shakes his head*
YG: Toni Morrison, I think she is the best American writer.
OG: The Bluest Eye. They did that over here. Did you see it?
YG: Where? Where did they do that?
OG: Over here. *gestures behind his head* at the Black Rep. They did it.
YG: Was that Toni Morrison?
OG: Have you read her?
YG: Just her criticism. She is one of America's finest. She invented the dual minority classification in literature. The concept that a character can be both black and also a woman. She is great I have read all her work.
OG: I like James Patterson, he is what I call four hour fiction. I can read one of his books in four hours. I read a lot. You wouldn't even believe it.

Meanwhile your's truly is sitting in a chair bearing witness to this exchange feeling like I somehow stepped into a Hemingway short story that got lost.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Now I wanna trigger your heart, There's something else besides a silvery part..." - Spoon

I have a new mission for the next twelve months. To devour everything that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has ever written. I want to eat his short stories, his biography, criticism of him,.back listings of some of his newspsper articles, interviews, fiction, non-fiction. All of it. Every shred. Because I heard somewhere that you have to be a pretty good writer to get one of those Nobel Prizes and my other understanding is that writers read a lot and end up incorporating what they read into what they write. Ergo, if I read a lot of Nobel Prize Winner, I will write like a Nobel Prize winners. It seems logical.

I just finished [i]Love in the Time of Cholera[/i] translated by Edith Grossman. This is a can't put it down book. I loved Ian McEwan's [i]Atonement[/i] by Gabo's book moved me.

I don't want this to turn into a book report, but I think I should summarize the plot of the book so that you, the reader, have a frame of reference. The book is effectively divided into three parts. Part one deals with the presence before the death of Doctor Juvenal Urbino de la Calle. He is a prominent physician and an important man in town. He teaches at the medical college, is the founder and president of the arts school, he has a very high station within the community. Dr. Juvenal Urbino is married to a woman Fermina Daza and they have been together since she was eighteen and he was twenty-eight.

Part II is a flashback that covers two-thirds of the book. It chronicles the lives of Dr. Juvenal Urbino, Fermina Daza, and a man named Florentino Ariza.

Part III picks up where Part I left of right after the death of Dr. Juvenal Urbino.

That is all of the plot that I am willing to give-up because this has become a book that a good human should read and if I spoil it for anybody then you won't read it, and I will have inadvertently made another crappy human being.

What I want to write about is the way the story comes together and some of the devices that Garcia Marquez uses during the telling of the story. The caveat to all of this is that I don't read spanish. I read a translation that was done by Edith Grossman. I have two understandings about this: the first is that Gabriel Garcia Marquez works very closely with his two translator (the other is a man named Gregory Rabassa) so that they really know the story and capture it; the second is that Grossman and Rabassa are as good as they get. But they are translators and at some point they have to have an effect on the story because you have different artistic visions.

First I think that the introduction of the characters is beautiful Dr. Juvenal Urbino is introduced investigating the death of his friend, a photographer and artist, who has killed himself, more over it has been planned for some time.

By the time Juvenal Urbino we understand so much of his practicality around emotion that Florentino Ariza becomes the perfect counterpoint.

The introduction of Florentino Ariza is the start of the second part and it introduces Fermina Daza as well. The beauty of Part II of the book is that Garcia Marquez hands off perspective beautifully. He will use anything to do it as well, a photograph, a hat, a letter, a flower, a song floating on the air from the cemetary. With seamless transition he hands the story back and forth between the characters and the reader is never left with that forlorn feeling of having been lost along the way. There have been points in books where point of view shifts and I have to thumb back a couple of pages to figure out where I went wrong or what I stopped understanding. That never happened in 350 pages. In fact, the only time flipped back was to make sure that I hadn't missed one of the most brilliant parts of the book: the parallel introductions of Juvenal Urbino and Florentino Ariza

The other thing that starts to happen in part II is that you really get introduced to the voice in the book that sees Love as a sickness. Ariza is infected with it throughout the story and it is this infection that makes the whole story possible. Whenever Ariza is stricken with love he develops symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of cholera but we learn about this manifestation very early and it becomes an interesting conceit throughout the book.

One of the best features of the characters is their hopeless devotion to a passion, for Juvenal Urbino it is the country. Fermina Daza is devoted to her outward appearance, and Ariza to a mythical love.

Now... I started this post a week ago when I finished the book and I have to say that I had a really hard time putting it together. I don't know why though except to say that it is hard to say why you love something. I was a little scared to dissect it too much for fear of breaking up the parts and robbing the story of its natural beauty.

In other news and I can talk about this BECAUSE IT WAS AWESOME! Stop what you are doing and go and see Incredible Hulk. If that means that you are typing on a computer grading papers, or making love to your spouse/partner while you read my blog (which is flattering but weird), or if you are just trying to get up the courage to go and serve hamburgers and cranberry and club soda's to the relentless customers at the restaurant; if you are working on a story about a man modelling, healing from broken hip, or moving into your new house; stop all of that stuff and go out and see INCREDIBLE HULK!

I am not kidding. This is not a joke. I have never been as serious about anything in my life. This is the summer of the action movie and Marvel Studios is bringing back intelligent fun movies that have layers of spectacle to them.

As you may have read in my thoughts on Iron Man, thank the g-ds that Marvel has taken over control of their movie names again. What a relief. Because they are able to give the fans of the comics a great movie without having to indulge in a forty-five minutes of back story.

I am not going to submit a "review" of the movie. I can't. But I will submit three things that happened to me while I was in the theater as evidence of The Incredible Hulk's AWESOMENESS!

1. When Lovely Wife and I sat down two guys with four toddlers came and sat down behind us. FOUR TODDLERS! I knew, in my heart and marrow, that this was going to be a catastrophe. I wanted to go and ask for my money back... But I didn't I stood up, leaving my righteous indignation in row C and walked back in the theater to row K.

2. I bit through the skin of my knuckles causing some minor flesh wounds but nothing to serious, doctor says I will be fine.

3. I made sounds that I haven't made since I was in the back seat of a Mercury Topaz overlooking the White Sands Missle Range on the east side of the Oregon Mountains.

The villians are awesome, the heroes are awesome, the graphics are awesome, the story awesome, the WHOLE THING IS AWESOME! See it.