Variation on the Word Sleep

Thursday, August 11, 2005

It's been ages since I've posted anything...

... but I think that'll change. It's hard to think what to write, and it's even harder to accept that something is good enough to post -- despite the fact that I have no audience. I have a few ideas though. Let's see if I can manage to get them into a form I feel okay about.

Monday, January 31, 2005

The Power of Fiction

Started re-reading The Neverending Story yesterday having just read one of Ende's other books Momo they're both incredible. The depth of meaning and the stress on the importance of fiction, imagination, and the dangers of adulthood as defined by consumerist society is really amazing. Here's a quote from The Neverending Story. Atreyu has just found out that as the inhabitants of Fantastica (the realm of fiction and imagination) dissappear into the nothing which lack of human belief has created -- they go to the human world, but they arrive not as people or characters, but as lies. Here Gmork the werewolf explains it to him:

'If humans believe believe Fantastica doesn't exist they won't get the idea of visiting your country. And as long as they don't know you creatures of Fantastica as you really are, the Manipulators do what they like with them.'
'What can they do?'
'Whatever they please. When it comes to controlling human beings there is no better instrument than lies. Because, you see, humans live by beliefs. And beliefs can be manipulated. The power to manipulate beliefs is the only thing that counts. That's why I sided with the powerful and served them -- because I wanted to share their power.'
'I want no part in it!' Atreyu cried out.
'Take it easy, you little fool,' the werewolf growled. 'When your turn comes to jump into the Nothing, you too will be a nameless servant of power, with no will of your own. Who knows what use they will make of you? Maybe you'll help them persuade people to buy things they don't need, or hate things they know nothing about, or hold beliefs that make them easy to handle, or doubt the truths that might save them. Yes, you little Fantastican, big things will be done in the human world with your help, wars started, empires founded...'
For a time Gmork peered at the boy out of half-closed eyes. Then he added: 'The human world is full of weak-minded people, who think they're as clever as can be and are convinced that it's terribly important to persuade even the children that Fantastica doesn't exist. Maybe they will be able to make good use of you.'(my stress)

Fiction and lies are opposites -- the less we engage in storytelling and experience the possibilities for growth which come with it the more susceptable we are to lies and propaganda -- control. The book is crammed full of details such as this. At base it's about the incredible power of fiction to promote human growth. This further reminded me of a moment in A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu when Proust talks about the power of fiction. He suggests that other humans are opaque to us. We can only percieve them through our senses and so we can never really know them. When reading a novel we create the characters within us and experience them and the whole range of emotions in a compressed way:

And once the novelist has brought us to this state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid and more abiding than those which come to us in sleep, why then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which only we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the most intense of which would never be revealed to us because the slow course of their development prevents us from percieving them.

This is the importance of fiction and imagination. Ende brings us to that state while simultaneously commenting on it's importance. Bastian the fat, bow-legged child is transformed by the power of both reading and telling stories -- the one thing that humans can do which the inhabitants of Fantastica can not is invent new stories and names for things. It is our ability to create which makes us special and yet so often we squander it. That is what Momo is about, the dangers of being caught up in the adult world: the dangers of not "wasting" time, of taking success in any form too seriously, of forgetting how to listen, and of losing sight of the beautiful gift which our time is. There's a beautiful moment when one of the Men in Gray, in an effort to seduce Momo to their way of life, shows her a beautiful robotic doll which can talk to her. She refuses it because she would rather invent games with her friends:

'What!' exclaimed the man in gray, raising his eyebrows. 'You modern children are never satisfied, honestly! Lola's perfect in every detail. If there's anything wrong with her perhaps you'd care to tell me.'
Momo stared at the ground and thought hard. Then she said, very quietly, 'I don't think anyone could love it--her, I mean.'
The man in gray didn't answer for some time. He stared into space with eyes as glassy as the doll's. At last he pulled himself together. 'That's not the point,' he said coldly.

The point according to the men in gray, who manage to seduce almost everyone to their cause, is simple:

'All that matters in life,' the man in gray went on, 'is to climb the ladder of success, amount to something, own things. When a person climbs higher than the rest, amounts to more, owns more things, everything else comes automatically: friendship, love, respect, et cetera.'

How many times a day to we hear that. The end result for those who listen to the men in grey is that they work harder and harder, and become more and more successful, but what they gain in material success they sacrifice in time. They become shells of people so lost in their work that they have no time to create, no time to connect, no time to love. In both books Ende is warning us. We must read, we must create, we must imagine, we must love -- these are the only things that really matter. Sad that they were both published in the 70s and are all but forgotten (Momo is out of print and The Neverending Story has been overwritten in the cultural milieau by a movie which evidently undermines it's very point -- Ende went so far as to sue, but lost). We could use another reminder of the power and necessity of fiction.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Shows for Spring

The holidays are thankfully over and the frigid hand of winter is removing itself from the throat of collective Minnesota which means that bands are going to begin venturing to town again. Here's a short list if anyone is interested in going to any let me know.

February 12th Low with Pedro the Lion at First Avenue 6pm 12$
The Great Destroyer, Low's new album is in my humble opinion their second best, and while not upbeat it is a bit more rocking than previous efforts. This is their last North American show for a while as they rush off to Europe where they have more of a following.

February 17th Sage Francis at First Avenue 5pm 12$
Sage's new album is really good, and from what I've heard he puts on a great live show. We could all use a little of his style of politics I think.

February 22nd and 23rd Modest Mouse at First Avenue 22$
I can't decide if I want to go to this or not. I really enjoyed them last time, but 22$ is a lot, and last time it was a pretty short set. Of course it may be a moot point as I don't even know if tickets are still available.

March 5th Kid Dakota with Lateduster at 7th St. Entry 8pm 6$
I just recently discovered Kid Dakota through the song 10,000 Lakes which I got on a mix. It's a good song and his most recent album is pretty solid. Lateduster make solid instrumental jazzy rock.

March 8th The Futureheads at the Fine Line 8pm
The Futureheads make catchy electro-brit pop stuff. It might be a bit much to see both them and the Bloc Party as they are very similar, but how often do we get multiple good British bands coming through town.

March 10th and 11th The Holdsteady at the Triple Rock 9pm
Formerly some members of Lifter Puller, now in New York and still witty and fun. I definitely want to make it to at least one of these shows.

March 19th Hood at the 7th St. Entry 8pm 8$
This is the show that shocked me the most venuewise. Hood's album Cold House is amazing -- pretty unique but if I had to compare it with anything I would say Kid A. Their upcoming album is also good, and a chance to see such a good band in the entry is amazing.

March 29th Mono at the 400 Bar 7$
I saw Mono last year when they were supposed to open for Fly Pan Am. They put on a great show and their guitars go up to 11. They really do. I didn't think a Japanese band would be back so soon. Now if they could just bring Polysics with them.

March 30th Bloc Party at TBA
See above about the Futureheads. I suppose I'll go to whichever is more convenient and cheaper -- or maybe both. They should both be fun shows.

April 9th The Decemberists at the Fine Line
I like the Decemberists fairly well although their sort of historical posing sometimes rubs me the wrong way. I've heard they're great live though and any band with accordian is fine by me.

April 23rd M83 with Ulrich Schnauss at the Triple Rock 10pm 10$
This is really exciting M83 sound like My Bloody Valentine with more keyboards and Ulrich Schnauss makes beautiful almost classical electronica. They're both European and this is M83s first time and probably last time for a long time in the Twin Cities.

April 23rd British Sea Power possibly playing somewhere in the Twin Cities
I desperately hope this happens and that I can go to this before the M83 show. BSP are a really good band, who evidently are astoundingly good live. I have a recording of one of their shows and it blows my mind when I listen to it. Plus they have foliage and stuffed birds and things on stage.

April 28th Animal Collective at the Triple Rock 9pm 10$
Sung Tongs was one of my favorite albums from last year and these guys are really crazy and fun. Meow... Kitties. It promises to be entertaining.

April 30th of Montreal and Tilly and the Wall at the Triple Rock 6pm 8$
Yet another show where I really like both bands. Both Satanic Panic in the Attic and the Sunlandic Twins are really good albums, and judging from the albums of Montreal have a good sense of humor. Add to that the fact that Tilly and the Wall have a tap dancing percussionist and you have a recipe for a brilliant show.

May 13th Deerhoof at the Triple Rock 6pm 8$
Sometimes a bit annoying to actually listen to these guys put on a crazy, fun, show. Last time I saw them was at a music and movies in Loring park. The drummer is incredibly talented and the lead singer is cute and crazy.

Hopefully I'll be able to add to this list as the weeks pass.

Monday, January 24, 2005

This is New Radio

The Current.
Exciting to hear commercial free non classical music. Should be good for the local music scene as well. I particularly liked hearing these tracks in a row:

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues
Radiohead - Subterranean Homesick Alien
The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
That's some good DJing.

Friday, January 21, 2005


Adapted from an email to a friend:

spring from the strangest stimuli. We were driving out to Steve's sans music. I was trying to think of a song to sing and randomly the song "Rocketship" by Dylan Hicks (who has retired from making music and is now a writer for the City Pages) popped into my head. I could still remember all the lyrics. I'm not sure if you remember the song, but it's quite sad -- I remember the first time I played it for you. You started crying in that quiet way you had. I wasn't expecting it.
Humming the trumpet solos I arrived at the third verse:

Put me on a DC-9
from United Airlines
and call it a day
wave there
at the terminal
stand there looking beautiful
and slowly walk away

It suddenly opened this telescoping memory of all the sad airport goodbyes I've had and their beauty. Intertwined and mixed -- a mosaic of different airports, times, hugs, tears, and selves, and from them a distillation of the quintessential sad farewell made beautiful by the passage of time. Made beautiful by the fact that I felt all those things. I have those memories.

Within the space of singing a song to myself -- in a car with people who had neither heard it nor known me during all the moments flowing through my head -- I had recaptured for a moment the beauty of those goodbyes. No, I couldn't have recaptured it, because I hadn't known it at the time. I had discovered that beauty for the first time.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Random Personality Quizzes

It turns out that those random personality quizzes people are always forwarding around are by no means a product of the internet age. In fact here are two that Marcel Proust filled out at parties. One when he was 13 (1890)and one when he was 20 (1897 obviously).
Apparently the questions haven't changed all that much. I'm tempted to send the one he filled out around as an internet experiment. I would magine that few of the answers would be similar -- and not just because they would be full of mispellings and emoticons.

Here are some of my favorite answers from when he was 13 :

What is your idea of earthly happiness?
    To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater

The quality you most admire in a woman?
    Gentleness, naturalness, intelligence

I can definitely get behind both of those. I'm not so sure about this one though:

Who would you have liked to be?
    Since the question does not arise, I prefer not to answer it. All the same, I should very much have liked to be Pliny the Younger.
Um. Yeah that Pliny the Younger -- now there's someone I wish I could've been. Er... he was so um... historical and stuff.

The 20 year old (1897) one is even more interesting:

Your most marked characteristic?
    A craving to be loved, or, to be more precise, to be caressed and spoiled rather than to be admired
The quality you most like in a man?
    Feminine charm
The quality you most like in a woman?
    A man's virtues, and frankness in friendship
What is your dream of happiness?
    Not, I fear, a very elevated one. I really haven't the courage to say what it is, and if I did I should probably destroy it by the mere fact of putting it into words.
What is your favorite flower?
    Hers - but apart from that, all
What are your favorite names?
    I only have one at a time

Sounds like someone is a romantic (not exactly shocking). Here though, we have direct evidence that Proust was a player:
What is your favorite occupation?

I think we can all agree on that. Finally evidence that people saw these questionaires in the same light in the 1890s as many of us do now:

What is your present state of mind?
    Annoyance at having to think about myself in order to answer these questions
Hear hear.
I'm going to go send off one of the ones Proust filled out to see what kind of responses people give.

Friday, January 14, 2005


I wish I could run into the person who broke into my car last night. I don't want to hurt them or anything I just kind of want to ask why?
It was 7 pm outside the triple rock. They first tried to go through the duct taped quarter window, but probably upon setting off the alarm they decided to break the passenger side window. They failed miserably at getting the stereo out, but managed to completely destroy it in the process. On the coldest night of the year they broke a passenger window and the stereo and didn't benefit in the slightest. Why?
The people at the Triple Rock were fantastic though. The person had hit several cars and the owner came out with duct tape, cardboard, and a plastic bag to rig something to get us home. I could laugh on the way back -- Julie desperately trying to hold onto the bag and cardboard which were flapping in the wind. She had to peek under them at every intersection to let me know if cars were coming. Laughter is in a sense the only option. What's done is done -- might as well enjoy yourself in the aftermath.