what the cost, the pace of progress?

I haven’t read this, but it looks intriguing…
Izaak VanGaalen, reviewing the book on Amazon writes:

“Siegel opens his discussion with a scene in Starbucks where everyone is sitting speechless – if not on cellphone – in front of their laptops. Everyone is trying to achieve “connectivity” with the World Wide Web. What Siegel sees is disconnectedness and isolation. Social-networking sites, for example, are a contradiction in terms. They are asocial and atomizing. How can members of Facebook and MySpace have thousands of “friends.” What are the consequences for real friendships? Siegel asks all the pertinent questions, even though he doesn’t have all the answers.”

Naked Lunch at 50

From Grove Press:
Fifty years ago, Olympia Press in Paris issued a book that redefined not just American literature, but American culture. Naked Lunch, the U.S. edition of which soon followed from Grove Press, is one of the most important and influential novels of the twentieth century. An unnerving tale of an addict unmoored in New York, Tangier, and ultimately a nightmarish wasteland known as Interzone, Naked Lunch’s formal innovation, formerly taboo subject matter, and tour de force execution has exerted its influence on the works of authors like Thomas Pynchon, J. G. Ballard, and William Gibson; on the relationship of art and obscenity; and on the shape of music, film, and media in general.On the fiftieth anniversary of its first publication, Grove Press is proud to issue a special slipcased hardcover edition featuring the restored text, faithful to Burroughs’s original composition, as well as an insightful afterword by David Ulin, book editor of the Los Angeles Times.

Handmade books: Pictorial Webster’s

Pictorial Webster’s by John M. Carrera, Quercus Press letterpress

Link to the Pictorial Webster’s book page on Quercus press site.

Here is a video of the process…. Extraordinary!! 
(Thanks to Tom Reichert for forwarding this to me)

Pictorial Webster’s: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

Walpurgisnacht approaches

Dracula, First Edition 1897

Actually Walpurgisnacht is in the spring, but in is the same spirit as our All Hallows.

And in celebration of All Hallows I’ve been thinking about some of my favorites.

Dracula is one of my favorite novels not matter what genre. 
There is an interesting short story that gives a chilling bit of back story. The short story Dracula’s Guest was posthumously published. It was, according to most contemporary critics, the deleted first (or second) chapter from the original manuscript. Here is a great excerpt:

“As I looked there came a cold shiver in the air and the snow began to fall. I thought of the miles and miles of bleak country I had passed and then hurried on to seek the shelter of the wood in front. Darker and darker grew the sky and faster and heavier fell the snow, till the earth before and around me was a glistening white carpet, the farther edge of which was lost in misty vagueness. The road was here but crude and when on the level its boundaries were not so marked, as when it passed through the cuttings; and in a little while I found that I must have strayed from it, for I missed underfoot the hard surface and my feet sank deeper in the grass and moss. Then the wind grew strong and blew with ever increasing force, till I was fain to run before it. The air became icy cold and in spite of my exercise I began to suffer. The snow was now falling so thickly and whirling around me in such rapid eddies that I could hardly keep my eyes open. Every now and then the heavens were torn asunder by vivid lightning, and in the flashes I could see ahead of me a great mass of trees, chiefly yew and cypress, all heavily coated with snow.
I was soon amongst the shelter of the trees, and there, in comparative silence, I could hear the rush of the wind high overhead. Presently the blackness of the storm had become merged in the darkness of the night. By and by the storm seemed to be passing away: it now only came in fierce puffs or blasts. At such moments the weird sound of the wolf appeared to be echoed by many similar sounds around me.
Now and again, through the black mass of drifting cloud, came a straggling ray of moonlight, which lit up the expanse and showed me that I was at the edge of a dense mass of cypress and yew trees. As the snow had ceased to fall, I walked out from the shelter and began to investigate more closely. It appeared to me that, amongst so many old foundations as I had passed, there might be still standing a house in which, though in ruins, I could find some sort of shelter for a while. As I skirted the edge of the copse I found that a low wall encircled it, and following it I presently found an opening. Here the cypresses formed an alley leading up to a square mass of some kind of building. Just as I caught sight of this, however, the drifting clouds obscured the moon and I passed up the path in darkness. The wind must have grown colder, for I felt myself shiver as I walked; but there was hope of shelter and I groped my way blindly on.
I stopped, for there was a sudden stillness. The storm had passed and, perhaps in sympathy with nature’s silence, my heart seemed to cease to beat. But this was only momentarily, for suddenly the moonlight broke through the clouds, showing me that I was in a graveyard and that the square object before me was a massive tomb of marble, as white as the snow that lay on and all around it. With the moonlight there came a fierce sigh of the storm, which appeared to resume its course with a long, low howl, as of many dogs or wolves. I was awed and shocked and felt the cold perceptibly grow upon me till it seemed to grip me by the heart. Then, while the flood of moonlight still fell on the marble tomb, the storm gave further evidence of renewing, as though it was returning on its track. Impelled by some sort of fascination I approached the sepulchre to see what it was and why such a thing stood alone in such a place. I walked around it and read, over the Doric door, in German:
On the top of the tomb, seemingly driven through the solid marble — for the structure was composed of a few vast blocks of stone — was a great iron spike or stake. On going to the back I saw, graven in great Russian letters:
There was something so weird and uncanny about the whole thing that it gave me a turn and made me feel quite faint. I began to wish, for the first time, that I had taken Johann’s advice. Here a thought struck me, which came under almost mysterious circumstances and with a terrible shock. This was Walpurgis Night!”  —Bram Stoker

Read the whole short story here.

Walpurgisnacht is derived from various pagan spring customs. Bonfires were built to keep away the dead and chaotic spirits that were said to walk among the living then.

Walpurgisnacht gets its name from Saint Walburga (or Walpurga), a woman born in what is now England in 710. Saint Walpurga traveled to Germany and became a nun at the convent of Heidenheim in Württemberg. She was made a saint following her death in 778 (or 779), and May 1 is her saint day.

In Germany the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, is considered the focal point of Walpurgisnacht. Witches (Hexen) and devils (Teufel) allegedly gather on the mountain (also called the Blocksberg), which is often shrouded in mist and clouds, lending it a mysterious atmosphere that has contributed to its legendary status. The tradition of the witches gathering on the Brocken was immortalized in Goethe’s Faust: “To the Brocken the witches ride…” (”Die Hexen zu dem Brocken ziehn…“)

In its Christian version, the former pagan festival in May became Walpurgis, a time to drive out evil spirits—usually with loud noises. Bonfires were built to keep away the dead and chaotic spirits that were said to walk among the living then. The bonfires reflect the holiday’s pagan origins and the human desire to drive away the winter cold and welcome spring. This is followed by the return of light and the sun as celebrated during May Day.

A new sequel to Dracula has been written by his great grandnephew Dacre Stoker and screenwriter Ian Holt titled The Un-Dead. The Un-Dead was Bram Stoker’s original intended title for Dracula.
The book is already receiving mixed to negative reviews.

Ghosts of the Salem Witch trails

Original edition of The House of the Seven Gables

A few years back I picked up some cheap paperback classics and Hawthorne’s House of the Seven Gables was one. 

I was supposed to have read The Scarlet Letter in High school, but I did not actually read it… I remember being bored to tears…. and we were shown a video production of the title from which I was able to glean enough info to pass the assignment without actually doing anything. 

I routinely cheated myself in school like this… but as an adult went back to some of these things to see what I missed. …Gables seemed more interesting to me as it was supposedly a classic ghost story and so I read that first.

It took me some time to adjust to it. 
The novel is told in great detail and the plot moves at a glacial pace, compared to contemporary work, but this doesn’t hurt the story as much as it sets it up. 

We forget the pace of life circa 1851 when the novel was published, and it is impossible to fully appreciate it unless you open yourself up to a good SLOW read… 

Once I got recognized this I started to really appreciate the rich details given to the characters, the layers of the plot aand savored the extraordinary use of language and skill at storytelling.

the challenge of slowing my mind down enough to have patience with a story like this was formidable. I became sharply aware of how much my attention span has eroded. 

For younger readers this book will be almost impenetrable, and insufferable, as with my own Scarlet Letter experience in High School.

I had to keep a good dictionary by my side as I routinely ran in to words that I had never heard before. Half the fun for me was learning so many new and interesting words.

I would read the book out on my front porch in the early evening after work. And really looked forward to sitting out there and getting lost in it.

I found the book a wonderful story, with a glimpse into a lifestyle long vanished and mostly forgotten. It was a wonderful rewarding experience.

Interestingly, wikipedia notes that 
“the novel was an inspiration for horror fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft, who called it “New England’s greatest contribution to weird literature” in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature. Seven Gables likely influenced Lovecraft’s short stories The Picture in the House, The Shunned House and novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Hawthorne himself observed “the wrongdoing of one generation lives into the successive ones and… becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief.”

In Praise of Slowness

Arianna Huffington has a new book club
The first choice is an interesting one: In Praise of Slowness.
“The deeper I got into the book, the more I realized that I had had a towering example of the joys and benefits of slowness right in front of me for most of my life: my mother.

As I wrote in a column shortly after her death in 2000, she and I had an unspoken deal: hers would be the rhythm of a timeless world, a child’s rhythm; mine was the rhythm of the modern world. While I had the sense every time I looked at my watch that it was later than I thought, she lived in a world where there were no impersonal encounters, and never a need to rush.

“The last time my mother was upset with me,” I wrote, “was when she saw me talking with my children and opening my mail at the same time. She despised multi-tasking. She believed it was a way to miss life, to miss the gifts that come only when you give 100 percent of yourself to a task, a relationship, a moment.”

Read more here. 

Is Reading a Lost Art?

The Los Angeles Times book editor David L. Ulin explores the shifting tides of how we read and asks is reading a lost art?

“Such a state is increasingly elusive in our over-networked culture, in which every rumor and mundanity is blogged and tweeted. Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know. Why? Because of the illusion that illumination is based on speed, that it is more important to react than to think, that we live in a culture in which something is attached to every bit of time.”

“…We live in time; we understand ourselves in relation to it, but in our culture, time collapses into an ever-present now. How do we pause when we must know everything instantly? How do we ruminate when we are constantly expected to respond? How do we immerse in something (an idea, an emotion, a decision) when we are no longer willing to give ourselves the space to reflect?

This is where real reading comes in — because it demands that space, because by drawing us back from the present, it restores time to us in a fundamental way.”

“try to make a place for silence.”

What kind of space would you make for reading?

Thoughtful piece.

I always like the idea of making a space for reading… ideally, having a room for it…
a comfortable space filled with books and art, and space where you could allow yourself to slow down and slip out of daily responsibilities and concerns and immerse yourself in a good book.

Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker?

Outfest, Los angeles’ annual GLBT film fest is underway.

Our first screening was “Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker”. Check out this engaging documentary!

Kathy Acker was a controversial experimental novelist and postmodernist sex-positive feminist writer. Her radical ideas continue to resonate through the culture and inspire artists and writers all over the world.

It was great to see an appreciation of her after all these years. She died of complications of Breast cancer in 1997.

The book that launched her career

Her Last Novel

Collaboration with The Mekons

More links on Kathy and her work including an interview with William S. Burroughs and R.U. Sirius.

Celebrating Allen Ginsberg

I recently finished reading Bill Morgan’s Biography of Allen Ginsberg I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg.

Everyone called Jack Kerouac the “King of the Beats,” but really it was Allen. None of it would have been possible without Allen Ginsberg. It was he who tireless fought to have his fellow writers published. Without his constant insistence, Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso and others would very likely never have been published, or at least not in such a way as a movement formed around them and Ginsberg.

Ginsberg was at the forefront of so many ideas that came to shape the culture in the decades ahead of his creative critical mass Howl.
Ginsberg fought to have drug use decriminalized, he was among the first to bring Eastern ideas like yoga, meditation and chant from India to the popular culture in a prominent way, he was involved in anti-censorship campaigns and created and funded a foundation dedicated to supporting writers fighting censorship, he was involved in the earliest protests against the escalation of the Vietnam conflict, he work was among the inspiration that ignited other artists of the 60’s like Bob Dylan, and the Beatles. Using chant he helped to quell a potential riot during the violent conflicts surrounding the 1968 Democratic convention, he participated in the first “summer of love” event, and the list goes on. He was a seminal figure in American letters.

The Allen Ginsberg Project maintains an online archive of his writing along with lots of photography.

“The weight of the world is love. Under the burden of solitude, under the burden of dissatisfaction.”—Allen Ginsberg

Allen researched and a report titled Smoking typewriters on FBI harassment of the underground press during the 1960s and 1970s published as part of City Lights The Campaign Against the Underground Press: Unamerican Activities. Ginsberg spent years researching his suspicion that the CIA “was deeply involved in drug smuggling and dope dealing.” He tried to convince the New York times to investigate, but they didn’t believe him. Eventually in 1978 Ginsberg received a letter of apology from NYT publisher C.L. Sulzberger when It was exposed that the CIA had indeed been involved.

Photo ©Lisa Law

Allen had been writing poetry for thirty-five years in the belief that
“only art could serve mankind, only art could justify the sufferings and thoughts of a lifetime. Not Business, not comforts of the body, not construction of skyscrapers, not physical architecture—but only creations of the spectral mind transmitted generation after generation, century after century to ennoble the efforts of the human body.”

“He spoke to all people as if they were future Buddhas, honestly and openly, heart to heart. …in fact, Ginsberg’s conversational ability was perhaps his most remarkable quality, aside from his literary talent.”

“…many well known figures sat at Allen’s kitchen table at one time or another. Every day Allen Scrubbed the table and used it to display his most recent books or his newest photographs. Then he would prepare soup for his guests or wash dishes and talk with friends over a cup of tea.

“Poets are Damned… but See with the Eyes of Angels.”—Allen Ginsberg

A lifetime of reading

A comfortable reading room of ones own.

Since the economy when south I have had a lot more time for reading. I welcome this.
I love to read, and to discuss books and ideas with people.
One day I hope to have a large comfortable reading room (like the one above) to read, relax and host small gatherings for conversation and debate.

I decided to compile a list of great books. A very general list of great works that everyone be aware of and should consider reading or at least grazing through at least once in their lifetime.

When I was younger I had a very difficult time appreciating classic texts. It is much easier now. I have a much more open mind and have infinitely more patience. Both required to fully appreciate a wide range of achievements.

In 1990 I spent a year reading Joyce, Dostoevsky, Baudelaire, and Genet. It was a serious challenge but very worth it. I was exhausted at the end of it.
I had to take a long break to absorb all that I had read, and after a long break and then lots of underwhelming new fiction, I started interspersing classics with contemporary works. That was a much better way of approaching it. Much contemporary work pales next to the classics and Gives me a deeper appreciation of those early achievements. When I run across a new work that stands out (and they are everywhere) I can see the influence (direct and abstract) of many works that preceding them woven in in subtle ways.

It’s impossible to connect with every book, but every so often I have extraordinary experience. A few years ago I read Nathanial Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables. What a revelation! (Not for the impatient, though) I found that I had to keep a dictionary close and on average would run across one to two words every few pages that were fantastic… and that I had never run across. It was a delight to discover new words (useful ones too) in additional to enjoying the wonderfully told story.

I rooted around the internets and compiled a list of my own. It’s very incomplete and subjective of course, but a good starting point, and perhaps useful to someone else.

this list includes titles I’ve read with many more I haven’t.
The recent works are all arguable… I wanted to add a ton of others but focused mainly on older established works that continue to engage and provoke.

Please feel free to share with me titles you think should be included.

The list is composed most recent to least.

Thomas Pynchon—Against the Day
Joan Didion—The Year of Magical Thinking
Cornel West—Race Matters, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism
Susan Sontag—Regarding the Pain of Others, [collected essays]
JM Coetzee—Disgrace
Vikram Seth—A Suitable Boy
Don DeLillo—Underworld, White Noise
Salman Rushdie—The Satanic Verses
Toni Morrison—Beloved
Alice Walker—The Color Purple
William Gibson—Neuromancer

Thomas Pynchon—Gravity’s Rainbow, The Crying lot of 49, Vineland
David Foster Wallace—Infinite Jest
Samuel R. Delany—Dahlgren, Times Square Red, Times Square Blue
Yukio Mishima—Confessions of a Mask
, Runaway Horses
Noam Chomsky—Manufacturing Consent, Understanding Power
Howard Zinn—A Peoples History of the United States
Edited by Ralph Young—Dissent in America: The Voices That Shaped a Nation
Bertram Gross—Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America
Gabriel Garcia Marquez—One hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera
Philip K. Dick—Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Kurt Vonnegut—Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions, Sirens of Titan
Frank Herbert—Dune [1-6]
Jack Kerouac—On The Road, Visons of Cody,
J.D. Salinger—The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories
William S. Burroughs—Naked Lunch, Cities of the Red Night
Allen Ginsberg— Howl, Kaddish (Collected Poems)
Malcolm X—The Autobiography of Malcolm X
C.S. Lewis—The Screwtape Letters
J.R.R. Tolkien—The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit
Upton Sinclair—The Jungle
Aldous Huxley— Brave New World, Island, The Doors of Perception
George Orwell— 1984, Animal Farm
Ralph Ellison—The Invisible Man
Herman Hesse—Siddhartha, Steppenwolf
Jean Genet—Our Lady of the Flowers, Miracle of the Rose, Prisoner of Love
Jean-Paul Sartre: Nausea; No Exit, Being and Nothingness
Max Planck: Origin and Development of the Quantum Theory
William Faulkner—Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying

F.Scott Fitzgerald—The Great Gatsby

Naguib Mahfouz—The Cairo Trilogy
T.S. Eliot—The Wasteland, The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock
D.H. Lawrence—Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Women in Love
Honore Balzac—Old Giriot
Franz Kafka—Metamorphosis, The Trial
Joesph Conrad—Heart of Darkness, Nostromo
Virginia Woolf—Night and Day, A Room of One’s Own
James Joyce—Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Dubliners, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake
Albert Einstein— Relativity
Thomas Mann—Death in Venice, The Magic Mountain

Oscar Wilde—The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Importance of being Earnest, Salome
Bertrand Russell—Problems with Philosophy
Bram Stoker—Dracula
Mary Shelly—Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
Marcel Proust—In Search of Lost Time
Anton Chekov—Uncle Vanya
Walt Whitman—Leaves of Grass
Henri Bergson—Intoduction to Metaphysics
Fredric Nietzche—Beyond Good And Evil
Henri Poincare—Science and Hypothesis
William Blake—Song of Innocence, Songs of Experience
The Diary of Samuel Pepys
The Brothers Grimm—The Complete Fairy Tales (Vintage Edition)
George Bernard Shaw—Pygmalion
Henry James—Daisy Miller, Washington Square, Turn of the Screw
William James—Principles of Psychology

Mark Twain—Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Leo Tolstoy—Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Resurrections, The Death of Ivan Ilych
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Representative Men, Essays, Journal
Henrik Ipsen—A Doll’s House, Peer Gynt
Fyodor Dostoevsky—Brothers karamazov, Crime and Punishment
Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary; Three Stories

Ludwig Wittgenstein—[collected writings]
Herman Melville—Moby Dick
Nathanial Hawthorne—The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables
Alexis de Tocqueville—Democracy in America
Soren Kierkegaard—The Essential Kierkegaard
Edgar Allen Poe—[collected writings]
Karl Marx—Capital, Value Price, and Profit, The Communist Manifesto
H.D. Thoreau—Civil Disobedience, Walden
Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol
Charles Darwin—Origin of the Species

John Stuart Mill—On Liberty, A System of Logic
US founding Documents—Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the U.S.
Jane Austen—Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice
Hegel—Philosophy of History
Goethe—Faust, Poems
James Boswell: Journal; The Life of Samuel Johnson
Edward Gibnon—The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Immanuel Kant[collected writings]
Jean Jaques Rosseau—Origin of Inequality, Political Economy
David Hume—Concerning Human understanding, History of England

Henry Fielding—Tom Jones
Montesquieu—Spirit of Laws, Persian Letters
Jonathan Swift—Modest proposal, Gullivers Travels
Isaac Newton—The Principa
Johannes Kepler—The Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Concerning the Harmonies of the World
Jean Racine—Phaedra
John Locke—Concerning Civil Government
Moleire—School for Wives, Tartuffe

John Milton—Paradise Lost
Descartes—Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy
Shakespeare—[collected writings]
Cervantes—Don Quixote
Montaigne— Essays
Machiavelli— Prince
Chaucer—Canterbury Tales

Dante—The Divine Comedy
The Quran
The Bible
The Torah
The Bhagavad Gita
Joesph Campbell—The Power of Myth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Lucretius—Nature of things
Aristotle—Complete Works
Plato—The Republic
CiceroOn the Republic, Rhetoric [collected writings]
Hippocrates—Ancient Medicine

Thucydides—The Peloponnesian War
Euripides—Medea, Trojan Women
Sophocles—Oedipus Rex, Antigone
Aeschylus—Persians, Agamemnon, Prometheus Bound
Homer—Iliad, Odyssey

Only Breath

I’ve been reading The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks.

Whereas in the past my attempts to develop a deeper understanding of Islam has been difficult, I found an opening through the writing and philosophy of Rumi.

Rumi was born Jalaluddin Balkhi, September 30, 1207, in Balkh, Afghanistan which was part of the Persian empire. One of the most beloved and read mystical poets in America and all over the world.

Granted Rumis Sufi origins are considered heretical by some sects of Islam, many, many more are inspired by the universal message of the work.

An interesting article last year in SF Gate quotes Rumi as saying:
“From love, thorns become flowers,’ ” Naini says. “Rumi teaches that even if the Devil falls in love, he becomes something like (the angel) Gabriel, and that evilness dies within him.”

I have been really moved by the candid, sensual, deep wisdom of the poems. Perhaps mostly because of his emphasis of our shared connections and how to strengthen them.

This poem in particular has lingered in my mind:

“Only Breath

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu

Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East

or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not

composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace

of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two

worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being.


Painting of Sufi Dervishes by Jean-BaptisteVan Mour

Rumi also founded the sufi Mevlevi order, famous for their ceremonial Whirling dance.
The Mevlevi, or “The Whirling Dervishes”, believe in performing in the form of a “dance”, a music ceremony called the Sema.

The Sema represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to “Perfect.” Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth and arrives at the “Perfect.” He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, so as to love and to be of service to the whole of creation.

According to some modern proponents the Sufi philosophy is universal in nature, its roots predating the arising of Islam and the other modern-day religions; likewise, some Muslims feel that Sufism is outside the sphere of Islam. The chief aim of all Sufis is to seek the pleasing of God by working to restore within themselves the primordial state described in the Qur’an and similar to the concept of Buddha nature. In this state nothing one does defies God, and all is undertaken by the single motivation of love of God. A secondary consequence of this is that the seeker may be led to abandon all notions of dualism or multiplicity, including a conception of an individual self, and to realize the Divine Unity.

One of the words to which the term ‘Sufi’ is related is the Greek Sophia, meaning wisdom; wisdom is the knowledge acquired from within and without. Therefore Sufism is not only an intuitive knowledge nor is it only a knowledge acquired from the outer life of the world. Sufism in itself is not a religion nor even a cult with a distinct or definite doctrine. No better explanation of Sufism can be given than by saying that any person who has knowledge of both outer and inner life is a Sufi. Thus there has never in any period of the world’s history been a founder of Sufism, yet Sufism has existed at all times.

Having seen the Whirling Dervishes in person I can attest to the deeply moving quality of witnessing the ceremony… If you ever get a chance don’t pass it up!

I know there have been many arguments over the quality of the translations… I have noted several comments by people of Persian descent who take issue with Barks translations of the original Persian texts, with examples (though they do not indicate if the alternate translations are there on or from another source) so I would recommend exploring other translations as well.

I also ran across a recommendation on amazon to read Idries Shah The Sufis for a broader understanding.

March of the Ebooks

which one reads books?

I posted recently about the “end of print” and the coming wave of ebooks and the anticipation of an inspired online reader…. looks like I’m not the only one…

Check out

In that vein, listen to Terry Gross (Fresh Air) as she talks with John Yemma, the editor of The Christian Science Monitor, on the paper’s decision to suspend it’s print edition and their future business model.

“My idea of a writer: someone interested in everything.” —Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag photo by Peter Hujar

“There is nothing, nothing that stops me from doing anything except myself.” —Susan Sontag

Here is a review of the just released first volume of Journals of Susan Sontag at npr.

Susan Sontag reborn Journals and notebooks, 1947-1963

an excerpt from Publishers Weekly’s description of the book:
“The first of three planned volumes of Sontag’s private journals, this book is extraordinary for all the reasons we would expect from Sontags writing—extreme seriousness, stunning authority, intolerance toward mediocrity…”

I can’t wait to dive into this!

Jesse Burke

New monograph of photographs by Jesse Burke, Intertitdal available from Decode Books.

Burke’s artist statement:
“I photograph my life and the lives of the men in my social and family circles in an attempt to understand the origins of our ideas about masculinity. As the author, I interpret a specific culture and mythology. I am most drawn to the moments that are representative of the vulnerability or emasculation. I examine male bonding and peer influence, masculine rites and rituals, homosocial desire, physical exertion, our connections to one another and the landscape we share.

Read an interview with Jesse Burke by James Wagner for Platform Gallery (Seattle).

“As young boys growing up on the shores of New England, Jesse Burke and his friends would spend days exploring and sifting through the rocks and shells of the intertidal zone—the area of land that exists between the high and the low tide marks. In his photographs in Intertidal, Burke explores the complexity of masculine identity, which is in many ways analogous to the intertidal zone. His images capture those moments “in between,” with the idealized notion of manhood on the one side and actually being male on the other. His photographs of men and their landscapes hint at sweetness, but they also embrace the heroic idea of masculinity. Burke is drawn to the tension of vulnerability (be it a rupture or physical / emotional / metaphorical wound) and grit (“no pain / no gain”); to the space between strength and tenderness. Sometimes these images capture the fleeting moment between events. Sometimes they capture the concrete event itself. Always, the photographs are working in the ambiguous space of the intertidal zone.”

“I am most drawn to the moments that are representative of vulnerability or emasculation; where there is a presence of a rupture or wound, be it physical, emotional, or metaphorical. I pinpoint those moments in our lives. Sometimes it is a fleeting moment between events. Sometimes it is a concrete object. Regardless, I see a world where blood and sweat mix with sunsets and snowdrifts. A world where we can run through the woods like young boys, without fear of consequence, only to fall and scape our knees, and bask in the utter satisfaction of pain.”

Jesse Burke Solo exhibition at Humble Arts Foundation

Print is Dead, Long Live Print!

David Carson,THE END OF PRINT, 1995,
Neville Brody is responsible for saying Carson’s work signaled
“the end of print” (Creative Review, may 1994)
Johannes Gutenberg and his masterpiece edition of the King James Bible,
made in 1455 C.E.
Gutenberg invented moveable type, thus ushering in the era of print as we know it.

This whole business about “The End Of Print” or “Print is Dead” has been going on now for over a decade.
For the most part it’s all a big philosophical conceit.
To be more accurate you could say: traditional media is being transformed. The future of books and newspapers and magazines is in electronic media. Print on paper will no long be at the forefront in the presentation and innovation of ideas. Print forms are now for collectors and appreciation.

Ideas are still ideas. Ideas keep coming.
In the past ideas were formally presented in print form for examination and contemplation. The electronic media transformation has simply freed us from that formality. I have no doubt books and print will still be used to formally present ideas, but now there are many other ways, and the forum of the internet allows many more voices.

Ideas and knowledge that were once buried in libraries and special collections can be revealed with a few keystrokes.
This is truly revolutionary. We should all be thankful.

When Brody said Carson’s work signaled the end of print in 1994, he was talking about the next development in the ongoing digital revolution of that time. I’m sure he foresaw the transformation to electronic media, but Carson’s work was more about breaking rules and experimenting with legibility and the expectation of linearity in print forms. Carson was the beginning of the end of that linearity that Brody spoke of.

But now, in 2008 we are really seeing that wave of transformation really taking shape. We are approaching the real turning point, one in which the shift (for most mainstream purposes) to electronic media for viewing content will be a permanent shift (as long as we still have electricity).

As a print designer, as an artist we can no longer afford to have a singular skill set. Interactive media is upon us. it is now expected, and quickly becoming the standard. To be competitive now a serious designer has to know Dreamweaver/CSS, Flash as well as InDesign and all the traditional design principles from Jan Tschichold as well as the deconstruction of those priciples by Brody, Carson and others. The new design paradigm is dynamic, chaotic, and interactive. It is not linear, but employs the best of those traditional principles.

I love books. I have nothing against electronic media, except a bit too slow to accept I need to learn all that additional software. For many purposes I think it is a welcome change. but, I wil always want my books. I have surrounded myself with them. I forgo just about everything else except food and music to keep building my library. A thorough Knowledge of the past is the best way to be prepared for the future.

We will continue to see print magazines, traditional books and newspapers. Slowly, though, we will see less and less traditional media and more electronic only media.

The real turning point will come when someone (Hello! Apple, are you listening!?) comes up with a device that truly emulates the experience of paper, is easily on the eyes, is portable, flexible, wireless, can hold vast amounts of digital data (and a lengthy charge) and is connected to the internet. Most importantly a device that feels like a book, but isn’t as delicate (or heavy) as a laptop, and captures the imagination of the public like the ipod did for music.
(Amazon’s kindle is not that device. While an important innovation it is the equivalent of the early 80s era Compaq computer.)

When said transformative device emerges, the print industry will shrink dramatically. It wil survive in a much smaller form. It will specialize and become more and more of a collectors market.

In a way this is fine as it makes books special again.

Looking back at Raygun, it’s important to note that it was a product of the digital revolution in design, and Carson with his extreme experiments had created a magazine that was literally illegible. For a commercial magazine, even a pop culture magazine, this was truly remarkable. And it captured the imaginations of a lot of young artists.

Contray to populate belief, evolution happens very quickly. In nature as in culture.
Raygun was pure evolution. The internet itself is the real evolution. Social networking sites, google YouTube and the blogosphere were merely the result of our culture adapting to it.
I remember back in 1993 when I first picked up Raygun. I literally trembled with excitement at that experiment, recognizing it as an enormous paradigm shift, and while some people mocked magazines like Raygun, I knew it was a glimpse of the future. So did a lot of others.

Since then the internet has been the vehicle that is reshaping of our culture.

Finally, the dialogue about “The End Of Print” has matured. Its moment is only now arriving. Almost every week brings the news of another newspaper folding or magazine abandoning it’s print version for a web only edition.

Gawker has an interesting ongoing thread called PRINT IS DEAD that explores tha
t debate.

Also, here is an interesting piece on Fast Company with Jeff Jarvis Former editor of Print Magazine.
a highlight:

“I’ve argued on my blog that in our post-scarcity world, distribution is not king and neither is content. Conversation is the kingdom, and trust is king. Perhaps your value is not just editors or articles but the community that gathers around them. I’d love to hear the wisdom of the crowd of New Yorker readers now that they, too, are writing.”

Ultimately this is a good thing for all of us. We are no longer limited by a lack of resources, we all can at relatively negligible cost by comparison get our ideas out there in a dynamic way….”

The great digital revolution is not without it’s pitfalls… such as weeding though all the fake stuff for facts and truth….
It also threatens to dilute journalism to petty commentary. Here’s a thread on that concern on gawker.

Fluxion magazine 1997-2008 (so far)

My little art and culture zine, Fluxion, was conceived as a print publication.
Realistically though, I have no resources to sustain a print magazine… perhaps a few copies via Print On Demand, but otherwise it just isn’t practical. I look longingly at art publications like SF Camerawork, Esopus, The Believer, and wish for my little publication to live alongside.

It is now possible to view the content of entire magazines online. (I am currently restructuring the issue archive to this new standard) I can distribute pdfs with paypal and even sell a limited collectors edition for those who want something physical. Trees are saved, there is less waste and the content is always available.

While I should be excited, I find myself very sad. I fear a whole generation of photographs, magazines, literature, and all the process that goes into it, all potentially lost. Lost because it no longer exists as a physical object. We now live by the tyranny of the delete key, or the failed hard drive, or electromagnetic disaster. Nothing is perfect.

Maybe I’ll feel different when that magic ePaper viewing device is born…..then again, maybe not.

Go wild

Emmet Gowin, Drainage Ditches in a Low Agricultural Field, Savannah River Nuclear Site, SC, 1992,

Corporate Monoculture is the demon engine of civilization.
That idea is based on the John Zerzan essay AGRICULTURE: DEMON ENGINE OF CIVILIZATION From Adam Parfreys excellent Anthology APOCALYPSE CULTURE.Here is an interview clip of Michael Pollan debating with Hugh Grant, the CEO of what I consider the most evil corporation on the planet: Monsanto. Michael Pollans’s argument is brilliant!

Paul Cezanne, Still Life 1883-87
Monoculture, the primary philosophy of agribusiness giants like Monsanto, offers a grim future for life on earth with it’s goals of seed control, profit driven high yields of genetically engineered clone crops, industrial food use, and chemical enhancement. There is overwhelming evidence that Monoculture is depleting the soil and the chemical runoff destroying life in the rivers and oceans. We now have over 150 large dead zones in the sea where no life can no longer exist because of low oxygen and high algae levels. Their hold on American Agriculture began in the 1970’s and really gained prominence during the policies of the Reagan/Bush Era.
By 2000 their corporate stranglehold was worldwide, but a counter movement has been building from the grass roots level and has been gaining momentum ever since…. Slow food. While not a solution to long term global food shortages, it provides a small scale approach for some, today.The slow food movement, is a reaction to the overwhelming shift in the last 25 years toward fast food and food products over traditional whole foods. The slow food movement has lead to many other off-shoot movements aimed at reestablishing sustainable farming practices, more humane treatment of animals, and well being and rights of workers.
Wikipedia describes the Slow Food movement as founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy to combat fast food.
“It claims to preserve the cultural cuisine and the associated food plants and seeds, domestic animals, and farming within an ecoregion. It was the first established part of the broader Slow movement– which is a is a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace.
The Slow Food movement incorporates a series of objectives within its mission, including:

  • forming and sustaining seed banks to preserve heirloom varieties in cooperation with local food systems
  • developing an “Ark of Taste” for each ecoregion, where local culinary traditions and foods are celebrated
  • preserving and promoting local and traditional food products, along with their lore and preparation
  • organizing small-scale processing (including facilities for slaughtering and short run products)
  • organizing celebrations of local cuisine within regions (for example, the Feast of Fields held in some cities in Canada)
  • promoting “taste education”
  • educating consumers about the risks of fast food
  • educating citizens about the drawbacks of commercial agribusiness and factory farms
  • educating citizens about the risks of monoculture and reliance on too few genomes or varieties
  • developing various political programs to preserve family farms
  • lobbying for the inclusion of organic farming concerns within agricultural policy
  • lobbying against government funding of genetic engineering
  • lobbying against the use of pesticides
  • teaching gardening skills to students and prisoners
  • encouraging ethical buying in local marketplaces
Jan Davidsz. Heem,Festoon of Fruit and Flowers c. 1635-84

I first learned about the slow food movement in the Utne Reader in the early 90s, but it wasn’t until I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and later Michael Pollan’s superb The Omnivore’s Dilemma that I really began to aggressively change the way I thought about and shopped for food. I was particularly struck by the philosophy of William Salatin and his Polyface farm.
Polyface farms, featured prominently in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a leader in the sustainable farming movement. Owned and operated by William Salatin and his family. Salatin has been a tireless advocate of sustainable foods and farming practices. His common sense philosophy, mostly recovered from intense research and his own experience on the farm has been an inspiration to a new generation of farmers.

His philosophy according to his website:
“TRANSPARENCY: Anyone is welcome to visit the farm anytime. No trade secrets, no locked doors, every corner is camera-accessible.

GRASS-BASED: Pastured livestock and poultry, moved frequently to new “salad bars,” offer landscape healing and nutritional superiority.

INDIVIDUALITY: Plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.

COMMUNITY: We do not ship food. We should all seek food closer to home, in our foodshed, our own bioregion. This means enjoying seasonality and reacquainting ourselves with our home kitchens.

NATURE’S TEMPLATE: Mimicking natural patterns on a commercial domestic scale insures moral and ethical boundaries to human cleverness. Cows are herbivores, not omnivores; that is why we’ve never fed them dead cows like the United States Department of Agriculture encouraged (the alleged cause of mad cows).

EARTHWORMS: We’re really in the earthworm enhancement business. Stimulating soil biota is our first priority. Soil health creates healthy food.”

All of this made me think of Henry David Thoreau and his best known book Walden. Which I have never read but am now very curious about.

Photo of the location of Thoreau's cabin

Photo of the location of Thoreau’s cabin

I grew up in suburban Virginia. My parents always had a garden and always shared food with neighbors and relatives and received food from them as well. My Mother cooked constantly and when I was young she prepared food much the same way as her Mother did, with ample amounts of animal fat. Needless to say the flavor was incredible. By the early 1980s though, my Grandmother had passed away and my mother had radically changed the way she cooked. Gone were the animal fats, and homemade cookies and time consuming recipes from scratch. Worn down by many things she switched to boxed foods for desserts and snacks, though she still did a fair amount of traditional cooking, and much of the food came for the family garden.
I was oblivious. I wanted fast food and hostess cupcakes and the like, and mostly rejected the whole foods put in front of me. Years later I deeply regretted this, but it’s what kids do, and with all the advertising and branding I was hooked.

By the time I moved to California, I was seriously interested in reversing this trend. Ever since I moved away form home I found that I liked to cook and surprisingly I like to cook from scratch when time allows. Living in a big urban center makes time a constant issue but slowly I have been making my way toward better eating and cooking, using better ingredients. We have a fantastic farmers market in Hollywood too with lots of organic vendors to choose from.

My friend Sandy Masuo is a culinary genius and I have learned so much from her. She prepares food the way my Mother did when I was young, even more so, and the astonishing flavor and quality is impossible to ignore. She is constantly educating me and I find I have a endless appetite for food knowledge.
Food Network and Alton Brown are also favorites.
My goal is to make and share as much food as time allows and to use organic foods and meats, form farms and shops that use sustainable practices.
Sharing good food with friends and loved ones is one of the most enjoyable experiences one can have. Oddly enough, these experiences have given me the strongest sense of “family” I have yet had.

Living in Southern California, It is not easy finding farms using many of these practices, but Pollan’s books did get me started in a big way. After doing some research I did find a wealth of information and resources. Some of my favorites include:

Local Harvest: A complete guide local organic foods and farms all across the country.

Sustainabletable: Offers information on sustainable agriculture involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.

Eat wild Offers comprehensive, accurate information about the benefits of raising animals on pasture, direct links to local farms that supply all-natural, delicious, grass-fed products, A marketplace for farmers who raise their livestock on pasture from birth to market and who actively promote the welfare of their animals and the health of the land.