Friday, December 21, 2007

some recent films

Brand upon the Brain! (G. Maddin, 2006)
Jagdhunde (A.-K. Reyels, 2007)
Viaggo in Italia (R. Rossellini, 1953)
American Gangster (R. Scott, 2007)
Auf der anderen Seite (F. Akin, 2007)
(A. Kechiche, 2003)
Senso (L. Visconti, 1954)
Sous les Toits de Paris (R. Clair, 1930)
Aelita (Y. Protazanov, 1924) - with live theremin!
Across the Universe (J. Taymor, 2007)


It is a bad idea to use the exclamation point in an email to strangers when communicating information to them or correcting their mistakes.


A good scholar has to be a good schlepper.

I use three libraries on average: the University of Basel library, the Kunstmuseum library, and the Bibliothek für Gestaltung. I have been known to use the libraries of the History seminar, the Sociology seminar, and the Philosophy seminar. I once had to use the library of the Kunsthalle and I have an appointment to visit the music library of the Paul-Sacher-Stiftung (for the original English edition of a late book by Kracauer).

Come January I will have moved six times in six years, once across state lines, twice across international waters, once across international borders, and twice within the same township. This does not include the temporary residences taken up in the summer months.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

a truce

I find myself making peace with the same things over and over again. A tepid peace, not a "forced reconciliation." My awareness that I've laid down my arms and called a truce always comes after the fact, as if there were some hidden negotiator that acted in my name while I continued to scream against the sky, wake up late, and resolve to rewrite the course of my life. This peace yields routine, a habit, a ritual that is often productive on paper but rarely so in the larger scheme of things. And that's when the wars begin anew. When I start to think, "what is all this even for?"

I have thought a great deal about people who appear to sabotage themselves and people who are experts at adaptation. I find myself outraged and insulted and envious of those who are masters of adaptation, who have made this tepid peace their home. When I think about them I direct my rage against them, all the while asking, "why do I do this? To them, to myself?" By persistently returning to the enigma that is the habit that allows us to go on, to be successful, to be productive, I cannot work or read or promote myself or play the adaptation game. But the adept adapters do not want to hear my war cries. They have made their peace. They are one with their negotiators, and I am left with the rubble.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

a scene

There's a scene in a movie that is quite familiar to us all even if we have never seen it: a modest house by a beach (the ocean is the Atlantic, of course), wooden siding, weathered paint, a leather armchair and afghan throws in warms colors and browns, a screened-in porch with a white wicker couch that serves as a daybed or the cot when the children are visiting the summer. It is winter, or at best, autumn - low season, the beach is deserted. And here is where a person - an intellectual - comes to think, to do some serious writing (if they happen to be a writer, which they always are). There's a dash of neurosis, maybe an ornery but wise husband, a troubled mother or sister, and lots of memories - always memories. There are walks by the waves (with or without a dog but always with thick sweater, cowl-neck optional). Here, there is no traffic or television, there's a local fisherman or hardware store owner who exists to point out directions and underscore how alien our protagonist is in this retreat despite property ownership. A retreat less for creativity and more for oblivion.