His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com


between accident and event

parsing anomie in the early hours

what falls out in the process


"This almost audible sound: detachment striking against inertia." -- Jalal Toufic, Distracted.

Densissimus imber: the sound produced by the falling rain.
I confuse content with words; I confuse words with content. This, then. I am various. I discount the unified, first-person singular. I'm 20-40% off.



Today is the anniversary of Virginia Woolf's birth. Also the date on wch I first started writing here. It started as a sort of challenge, a suggestion from a friend. I thought I'd try writing from the anniversary of her birth to her death. It's gone on.

"But according to Montaigne, one is various. I can't lay down a rule for my feelings."
-- Virginia Woolf, Diary, 12 January 1924


Wrote a page. Felt dissatisfied with it. Began crossing out. Crossed out an infinity of pages.

By listening to one's emptiness, it becomes space needing, yet unable, to throw up itself. It becomes time vomitting iteslf. It becomes stillness.

For a long time now, I've been working in silence. That is, during all that period, I talked only in quotations.

-- Are these ruins?
-- Yes. Why do you ask?
-- They keep on disintegrating, into ruins.

- Jalal Toufic, Distracted
[my selection, ellipses elided]


Terrible writing this morning, wch I will preserve for a bit, I think, because I seem to accidentally make a point somewhere. An embarrassment, a semi-public notice that I shd work harder. Writing from too little to too much coffee and with the clarity & concision of a shotgunner. “Point,” somewhere, indeed.


Sunday, I saw Mikio Naruse’s When a Woman Ascends the Stairs. My strongest impression: Hideko Takamine’s delicacy of expression. The light shift in attitude from the scenes of her work as a bar hostess and her voice-overs as she walks through the brightly lit, albeit b/w world of the Ginza district. The deliberate, but slow and natural pacing; a bit of melodrama here and there. I saw little touches of Ozu, to my limited, biased and alien mind -- similar in period, some actors in common; the city and the bars being the only real points of congruency -- in Ozu, the bars provide a rare place for conversation that advances the narrative, whereas in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, it’s the primary setting. Whether it’s the conventions of the period (Naruse, Ozu), or the director’s choice to NOT say things and suggest through ambiguous spaces (Hou, K. Kurosawa, Hou, Godard, Resnais, Ozu) -- the movies I dearly love work by evocation rather than through direct statement.

On absence.
Perhaps where I began writing this morning, it was because I have been thinking about Ozu’s use of space. So taken with his compositions, camera structures, I never gave any thought to the space beyond the frame. Interview with Kiyoshi Kurosawa talking about his own movies, trying to make the space beyond the frame press in, trying to make it present, and reading, recently, about how -- esp. in Hou -- how important the space beyond the frame is.
I realize that with the mention of Ozu that off-screen space is something I’d never really considered, wch makes me wonder what I DO consider. Ozu’s perfect use of space, the rhythm of cutting -- a frame, a house space delineated by screens so that the film screen is divided neatly into thirds, with a ground-line of a table forming a horizontal line 1/3 of the way from the bottom, a clock, say, positioned in the top third -- and within such basic form, such exquisite balance. Intercutting within the scene, structure is maintained through the position of objects in the margins: a shelf on the left casts a large shadow; in a reverse shot, longer focal length, the edge of a pale screen along the edge, in the same position contrasts the shadow, echoed, smaller in the right. (And what he does with color in Floating Weeds!)
I shd note: Naruse’s use of cinemascope and the space that the format creates along the edges -- with the action more or less centered, the margins almost always seem open by the dimensions of the screen. (And what relief to see Cinemascope employed -- not for extravagant landscapes that overwhelm you -- but used to show the claustrophobic interiors of bars).
On Naruse
On Hou

flotsam and jetsam 

I suspect, or rather I know, that I can be easily seduced by form; or rather, I’m taken in where the form has cracked or slipped. I can think of many movies where content is shifted or broken by a temporal shift, or where the rhythm and balance of a large structure is broken by some “fatal flaw.” [How romantic, I know -- I’ll probably write about fragments next]. Flaw or deliberate break, or swerve: Millennium Mambo’s frame of a ten-year retrospective point of narrative view, the repeated trip to Japan-- flashback or repetition?- does this exceed or fall within the narrative window? Or the scenes in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Café Lumiere, like soap bubbles; an overall chronological sequence is involved, but one scene could easily be switched with a proximate one. After a certain point, the movie could end at any given time. (Not to disregard or discount the final scene, the sense it makes and its formal beauty, a clear nod to Ozu, but it’s almost superfluous. Or the final scene in Goodbye South Goodbye; it means everything and nothing; it’s there -- perhaps -- because the movie has to end somewhere. [...And where does it end? I’m thinking of the way the credits creep into the end of Last Life in the Universe or In Praise of Love; the screen eventually goes black, but where does the thread start to slip and fade? How long do I carry the movie with me? Alternately, when does it grab me, when does it begin? In Last Life in the Universe, the screen goes black and the title appears a full half-hour into the film]. Perhaps only in retrospect. Broken forms and extended middles.
A facile and easily expressible example is

The Weeping Meadow is an expansive film: epic in scale and small in its gestures (even if melodramatic). Or shd I say micromelodramatic -- there’s no character development and all major action takes place off camera. Years pass and the period is only indicated by a one-line reference in the following scene; no explication, no simple “three years later.” A grandiose scale of construction (I accidentally typed “constriction”) and a 30 year sweep of time. Eventually, when the principal character enters a dreamy, “forbidden zone” -- the scene of a former battlefield -- this after over 2 1/2 hours -- I thought it could break and segue into a remake of Tarkovsky's The Stalker right then and it really wouldn’t matter -- so great is the discoherency, the mix of film languages. A “god-awful” movie, as a friend noted. But one that -- were it a little shorter, a little less flawed -- I would have liked so much less. But -- that being said -- I couldn’t quite justify recommending it to anyone.
I’m thinking of a remark Rem Koolhaas made, back when he was generating ideas rather than buildings, and considerably less celebrity -- about a sense of “Bigness” that transcends scale, so that any individual element is both lost within it and can yet be considered separate. At least that’s how I remember it. The partial memory, when I write the words are rife, flies on a corpse [that metaphor, I feel, is unworthy, obvious]: remnant, trace; phrase rather than paragraph, word rather than line. It’s these that draw me, I prefer the book to be blank and remain a beautiful notebook, I like the stray thread I find on my jacket, unlike the way a bird might find a stray thread for a nest; I collect paper clips from the sidewalk and fail to construct imaginary narratives about what papers they held or how it came to be there. It’s a piece of metal thread, wire twisted into two almost-circles, folded into itself. Is that enough? I woke up this morning in a cold room and looked at the beginnings of light outside. Is that enough? Is it enough?

Bigness devoid of content: I’m more interested in the way the Pound’s Cantos break apart, the way Zukofsky’s A was completed out of sequence, than the actual content of the work. Oh, a canto here, a passage there.. On the other hand, in my estimation of a work, content (presence or reference) can overtake any other considerations. Anything that involves clocks, typewriters, silence, Joan Fontaine, or Irene Dunne. Watching Millennium Mambo, or Vertigo, simply for the recurring thematic music.
Or, on the other hand,

Constantly distracted; various books half-read, partially read. I don’t know, for example, if I should try to finish The Education of the Stoic today, or follow through with the other day’s idea to re-read The Waves. Or dig into Woolf’s diaries again. Or Carole Maso. (Or continue w/ Jalal Toufic’s Distracted, wch I started reading -- again -- yesterday, simply for its title). Or Sarraute. Pinget. I imagine I’ve come to resemble a Pinget character, or a character in a Pinget narrative: repetition, repetition, misdirection, minor details change, it wld be a mistake, alogical, there’s That Voice’s half-erased chalkboard; Someone’s search for a missing piece of paper -- & my bad handwriting; unreadable notebooks. A pile of index cards.... Writing, I think -- to leave everything half-finished, so that when the inevitable comes -- struck down in a crosswalk by a speeding car, say -- if there’s any circulation of posthumous work, whatever current project would be like the rest, like a notebook, fitting easily with the others. An “impossible” “body” of work. I flatter myself, of course.


I think I shd read something 19th c. on ruins; what was the romantic perspective, exactly? Did they envision what the ruins once were -- was that the charm?-- or the broken object in itself, aside from any contemplation? Were they struck by a sense of horror at the idea of a Greek temple as it actually existed -- in perfect harmony -- and brightly colored, no less?

a minor note on usage:
Regarding shipwrecks: the material intentionally set afloat in order to preserve it is referred to as jetsam; the material that rises to the surface after the ship goes down is called flotsam; material washed ashore, be it flotsam or jetsam, is wreck.


between gesture and event 

the rain again; the rain, again;
a muddy field and white sheets in the wind.



“This is how the dawn is no new beginning, and the new year brings the return of the old, untransfigured and obdurate.” -- from Spurious. Although clear this morning; laid back in bed and saw a roundish moon slip into the frame of the window. And then creeping cold in the room, and thin light. Two cigarettes and the last of the coffee.
Misdirection is the technique magicians use to focus your attention on a particular action or place while the “trick,” the object, the real source of attention is being performed. Writing here, I wonder -- is it a form of misdirection? Does it distract or remove me from the real work, some other, perhaps more pressing task at hand? This is expressed badly and I question every use of the words: real, attention, work, object, task, focus. The work performed or presented in this marginal public space becomes, or is WHAT, exactly?-- Sometimes the germ of an idea, or its residue? What’s moving subconsciously behind the backdrop as I write these words? What am I not reading, seeing, thinking.
Thinking; to think nothing of writing.
That last sentence, at least, can be read multiple ways.



It's about time you started thinking
About the black dog on your back
Said it's about time you started thinking
About the rerun which is your life
Moveable backdrop

The backdrop shifted and changed
And this was The Fall

-- The Fall, "Backdrop"
I wrote of the real, of levels of the real. The Real. As suspect as something precious.
The memory of a sky-blue glove left behind.


The Scratch as Genre 

Some years ago my friend B. executed as series of drawings, beginning with an inked piece of hair which was laid on the page to generate a random sort of S-curve or wavering line, then inking it over and adding a line, sometimes interrupting it; sometimes a dot or a random drop of ink. In Chinese calligraphy, there’s an effect or style called “Flying white” -- produced in reaction to the preciosity of the then prevailing style: old and worn out brushed were used, so that the line often contained gaps where the paper beneath could be seen. Inspired by this, I think, and intrigued by thinness and the tangentiality of the trace, an affinity we share, B. ceased to ink over and began using half-dry pens, anything that would make a stressed or failing mark. [The stutter is the plot. -- Charles Olson on Melville, cited by Susan Howe].
Deliberately concentrating on something else, half-looking at the page, even (though entirely disinterested in automatism), B. began to make errant gestures, half-formed things. [Draw a line. Another makes a composition. -- Richard Serra]. A broken line, thus two lines -- does that constitute a composition? Memory, intention, conversation: can an idea really ever fully deliver on its promise? Or is what’s useful, what truly extends the work, is the gap itself, the capacity to misread? (Less is more -- & absence everything?) B. eventually taking the drawings and reducing them on a photocopier: not only did the electrostatic transfer of toner condense the line, but fainter portions were lightened or lost. But what to make of these drawings? B. admitted their failure -- they couldn’t very well be framed; the most interesting thing about hanging them on the wall was to draw attention to hairline cracks in the wall. As objects to hold, they were interesting in their suggestion -- liminal, not subliminal. The only extant drawing from this series, I believe, was one done at night when a moth bounced from the lampshade onto the page, scattering a fine dust from its wings. A broken line, and dust. There are precious things, but fleeting. I dreamt of B. last night. Best not to concentrate on them too much. The precious is always suspect.

The scratch as genre
“The trace the finger leaves is its own genre: how minimal can a genre be, defining itself still as a category? Must a genre contain something? Could it function as the simplicity of unthickness so that it neither encloses nor states anything other than
I want to contend that the scratch -- that paltry, parsimonious, and totally proud sub-genre of the trace -- represents the height of performance strategies, the completion of a desire for thinness and the elegance of a streak, and, at the same time (perhaps most important of all), the ultimate degree of violence condensed. I want to defend this genre of the minimal against all encroachments of the massive sort, against the intrusive thrust of logic and all the modes of memory. I want to pretend, even, that this oddly satisfactory, strangely subversive genre has given up toeing the already now epic line, forsaken, with some regret, the making of a precise point, to make, in the wake of Derridean restyling, of a trace of triumph, in the lowly, sometimes subliminal scratch.”
--Mary Ann Caws, The Art of Interference: Stressed Readings in Verbal and Visual Texts (Princeton University Press, 1989), pp.36-37.

To extend this, it may be useful to contemplate the scratches and pits that appear in film as discrete elements (The winding lines and pock marks that appear on the film leader at the beginning, a pre-scription, pre-facing the inscription of the text-image; the crackles and pops of the sound channel providing an aural analogue. A re-inscribing, reminding us of the written / rewritten nature of the medium, the film always in translation, recurring in the fade-outs, intertitles, and other "blank" spots w/in the film). Susan Howe’s writings on Emily Dickinson, esp. her examination of Dickinson’s unique orthography & penmanship and her insistence that Dickinson can only be read in facsimile are germane. (See Howe’s My Emily Dickinson and The Birth-mark). There is, of course, an obvious distinction between accident and intent in these examples, offered merely as suggestions to develop the notion of the scratch. (Thinking about genre, I digress into its margins, [or the margin that scratches into the frame]).
Allow me to vent a mild note of displeasure at the blogosphere's overabundance of links to those bastards at amazon.com, the LCD of the "book business." Great, if you want to buy an Ove-Glove or Segway scooter to go with your Oprah book club selection. I'm reading Pessoa's The Education of the Stoic right now; far better to buy it from the publisher, don't you think? Small Press Distribution provides an incredibly valuable service, a real lifeline for publishers, retailers, and readers.
Abebooks is an international resource for used and out-of-print books, and these days it keeps many of the smaller stores in business. Stores such as Powell's are expanding to offer an alternative to chain stores such as Barnes & Chernobyl -- wch at least is limited to books, DVDs and music. You want to buy crap like this, go to Amazon.


two or three things 

to be done with description?-- or effect?
This is a post. "This" is something else entirely.
to be done with description?-- or effect?
D. writes to say that "rain is general." I think it's specific, and as general, as a mood. And after 24 consecutive days of it, it has a physical, and almost specific, presence. Specific gravity. The other day, gre-white sheets of it interrupted the view. This morning, after the blue of the dawn washed out, a light rain precipitated, revealed a yellow cone of light under the streetlight.
A paraphrase from 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her: "What is an object? Perhaps it's a link, what allows us to move from subject to subject." The object that is a speck of dust, an eye or an

I drink from a teacup, a gift from Japan. Its surface is layered in cracked grey and clear glazes; mica-like sheets of color-non-color, crack over crack. It’s like looking into a frozen pond, surface-not-surface, depths obfuscating levels of the real.



The other night, riding the bus, streetlights casting light and shadow through the glass onto the page,
streaks and beads across my hands, arm, face: the scene. Rain, again, this morning. Thinking about a photograph; how the film in the camera produces the negative; what you record is the reverse / inverse of the image / scene.
The photograph is at two removes, at least. Film stock coated with beads of emulsion; what isn't "essential" (or rather, what is purely essence or evanesence: what fails to register) is rinsed away in the washing of the negative. And light is cast, focused onto an emulsion-coated paper wch reacts and is subsequently fixed. Recollecting earlier the image of the dirty bus window, streaked by rain and precipitate, and the image it cast. And rain again this morning, each drop reflecting and refracting light, each drop a fluid lens, mirroring an ever-expanding world, accelerating toward the ground. Thinking that at the center of every raindrop is a speck or bead of dust.

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