How Nobel Is Mr. Zimmerman?

Bob Dylan, awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, has decided to ignore the honor. Wow! I mean, right!? Everybody Must Get Stoned! screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-9-37-24-amBob Dylan excuse me, I mean Mr. Robert Zimmerman, is like a god! Literally so. The man just shrugs off what everyone else on this planet accepts, all of those pathetic dogs: Alice Munro, Jose Saramago, Gunter Grass, Pablo Neruda, Samuel Beckett. imagesCome on, Robert Zimmerman is so much more gifted, right? Waiting for Godot? As if. Blindness? Huh? The Flounder? Come on! What are they going on about? All you have to do is listen to Robert:

She speaks with a stutter and she walks with a hop
I don’t know why I love her but I just can’t stop.

The great thing about all of this is that Robert is sticking it to those elitist royals in Sweden. Sticking it to them! He’s speaking out on behalf of his downtrodden American brethren – so many ignored over the years – leaving us in glorious silence to consider his lyrical awesomeness:

I know all about poison, I know all about fiery darts,
I don’t care how rough the road is, show me where it starts

Or maybe it’s actually bigger than that. Maybe Robert is gone. Hasn’t everyone else died this year? Maybe they’re covering that up until Robert can figure out how to reincarnate. I mean, if anyone can pull off the Lazarus gig, it’s Robert fuckin’ Dylan Zimmerman.

Ice Friday: Saramago’s “Death Interrupted”

A letter from death in Jose Saramago’s 2008 novel Death with Interruptions:

One day you will find out about Death with a capital D, and at that moment, in the unlikely event that she gives you the time of day, you will understand the real difference between the relative and the absolute, between full and empty, between still alive and no longer alive.
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And when I say real difference, I am referring to something that mere words will never be able to to express, relative, absolute, full, empty, still alive and no longer alive, because, sir, in case you don’t know it, words move, they change from one day to the next, they are unstable as shadows, are themselves shadows.

My Holiday Malaise

A certain malaise descends on me at this time of year. 20140917_183324It is not so much the growing dark – although I am sure that plays a part – so much as the descent into the ‘holiday’ season, a time of year synonymous not for giving and family but for greed and accumulation. 20141122_154013Human nature does not have a positive connotation for a reason; it just isn’t good. We take and hoard until we can almost forget what we really are, even if is for just the briefest of moments. 20140922_161653We say things and make promises, actually believing some of the profundities we claim…. but there is nothing of substance, just the shell of something half-built, the world always the same as before. 20140921_125707The slogans and liquor wear off and we are as we started, creatures who want more.

Aeschylus, Shakespeare and Saramago have had a few things to write about this, but in the end they’re just words, like these, read and discarded on the road to the next thing, the next electronic gadget.

Solar-bikini-powered ipod

Solar-bikini-powered ipod

And so, yeah, I can feel a little low – as Black Friday et. al. approach – and dream about the darkness in Greenland, being alone with the aurora borealis and nobody else.greenland northern lights

Jose Saramago Updates “Cain”

Cain and Abel were, according to the Old Testament, two sons of Adam and Eve.
20140627_134848Cain is described as a crop farmer and his younger brother, Abel, as a shepherd. Cain was the first human born and Abel was the first human to die. 20140627_134224Cain committed the first murder by killing his brother. Interpretations of Genesis have typically assumed that the motives were jealousy and anger. 20140627_142100Jose Saramago offers a different story in his final work, Cain, stating that Cain killed Abel because he couldn’t kill God. 20140629_143653Saramago’s Cain states: Our god, the creator of heaven and earth, is completely mad.

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Only a madman unaware of what he is doing would admit to being directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and then behave as if nothing has happened, unless of course it’s not a case of real, authentic madness, but evil pure and simple.20140629_170419

(Photos: Istanbul, a 2600-year-old city of 14 million people and many old things.)

Six Great Heroines of Fiction

It’s a challenge to think of a heroine who isn’t passive, either loving from afar or loving too hard.

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

And while these passionate characters are to be admired, they tend to limit us in our view of what it is to be a woman of substance. Where are the heroines to rival Odysseus, Atticus Finch and the Cat in the Hat? cat_in_the_hat-300x591I offer you my Top Six.

6. Joy Adamson (Born Free) joyadamsonThe co-protagonist of the Born Free series, along with Elsa the Lion, Adamson is more outspoken and independent in the books – to say nothing of real life – than offered on film.

5. Hannah Arendt  (Hannah Arendt) hannah-arendtThe 20th-Century philosopher, as portrayed in Margarethe von Trotta’s 2013 film, is intimidating, uncompromising and could smoke anyone under the table.

4. Gloria (Gloria) gena-rowlandsGina Rowlands’ portrayal in John Cassavetes’ 1978 film, a modern-day Fury, is striking in her combination of anger and sentimentality.

3. Chihiro (Spirited Away) senEven after her parents are turned into pigs and her name is stolen, Chihiro wants to help everyone, including the evil witch.

2. Clytemnestra (Agamemnon) Guerin_Pierre-ClytemnestraWhile it may be true that she has the blood of her husband and Cassandra on her hands, Aeschylus makes it clear that she has her reasons.

1. Doctor’s Wife (Blindness) blindness2008-012The only hope offered in Jose Saramago’s post-apocalyptic parable is a woman willing to sacrifice herself for the good of everyone else. Imagine that.

Apocalypse Survival: We Must Change

We must change.” So pronounced President Obama at a memorial service on Sunday for the families of victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. obamaHe is right. There is no doubting that. We are an extremely violent species with an unconscionable past. And we must change that. But can we? Is there really any way to do this? My money is against. The fourth stage of accepting the oncoming apocalypse is a day on which depression, reflection and loneliness dominate. This is supposed to be a long period of sad reflection, but you’ve only got the day. You realize the true magnitude of your loss, and you isolate yourself on purpose. William Basinki’s The Disintegration Loops is ideal for this state of mind. Created in Brooklyn on 9/11, these CDs document the disintegration of sound on reel-to-reel tapes. loopsThere are five CDs in all, but Disintegration Loop 5 is 52 minutes well worth trying. Michaelangelo Frammartino’s Quattro Volte evokes a similar feeling; it is a film with a disintegrating narrative of sorts, using an old shepherd, a baby goat, a tree and smoke, in that order. quattroIt’s a remarkable film for contemplation. Jose Saramago’s Blindness is far more harrowing, starting with a plague of white blindness that gets worse and worse and worse. It is next to impossible to put down. blindnessPresident Obama concluded his speech with the following: “We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we are powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” What are you prepared to do? Genuinely. What? It’s something to think about and act upon. We must change.