There are times when I look at this city from within itself and see nothing but a ghostly empire—luminescent, haunted, already fading. The views of grand palaces that dwarf Versailles; the limpid ponds and vigorous squirrels; the dancing sunlight; the autumn coolness in the air; the lethargic tourist families, collapsed on each other, eating hot dogs and ice cream, nestled under subway maps.
And something in me leaps a hundred years ahead, or back, and I become a traveller from a different time—some kind of cosmic voyeur. And to see leaves turn red from the tips as though dipped in blood, to hold chestnuts, smooth and fragrant, in the cool cup of my palm. And to watch an endless procession of persons marching past, all missing the view; I am alone here, hidden in the dappled shade, hidden in the notebook on my lap, hidden from the day and the night in this middle kingdom of evening.
1.) George Saunders’ article on Dubai, “The New Mecca.” Originally written for GQ, this essay alternates between gee-whiz appreciation for Dubai’s apparent perfection of the luxury industry (villas with private swimming pools, a seven-star hotel shaped like a sailboat, a theme resort built to replicate an ancient Arab village, complete with wind towers and 2.3 miles of fake creeks) and distinctly non-preachy, humanist concern with the wide range of issues connected to the flourishing city: class, racism, post-9/11 international relations, workers’ rights. Whenever I read a travel essay like this, particulary from a tony magazine, I pretty much expect the writer to hate the place they went and do a lot of hand-wringing. What I liked best about this essay is that Saunders has a good time, just by staying open. He talks to everybody; he’s not too self-conscious to take pleasure in a fun ride at a themed water park or in eating champagne and strawberries while watching a desert sunset. His trip leads him to feel, overall, positive about the human race. I guess you could argue he engages in some hand-wringing, but it doesn’t feel like hand-wringing, just genuine concern and curiosity. The essay appears in his collection The Braindead Megaphone; you can listen to an excerpt here. Continue reading
Some are of the school that you do not let stress show. Everything is dealt with internally. Convenient, but it results in an internal life, which involves struggle. And struggling alone, with yourself, sometimes feels like the definition of insanity.
How do we deal with this when it comes? I am the only one who looks out the window in to the garden on our street. Just now, leaning far out the window, with a soft, misty rain in the air, looking at all the empty windows. The stone ledge beneath my hand is wet but clean, for once, and I notice the difference in mood of the birds singing in the trees and bushes. I can tell they are resting; it’s evening conversation. Continue reading
God Wishes To Be Expected
the backyard is lush
rims of red in cups
and coffee from the morning.
The plants are hunting
inside themselves Continue reading
If only there were a little less technology. Continue reading
“The economists didn’t just single out the U.S. for criticism; 70% of participants said the response of governments around the world to the global recession has been inadequate. “The Europeans or Japanese don’t seem to be doing near enough to kickstart their economies,” said Nariman Behravesh of IHS Global Insight. “It could be we’ve done all the right things, but the rest of the world goes down the tubes.” (WSJ)
Even as the numbers rise, the numbers fall. As the numbers fall, so the numbers rise. On one side, too little is being done. On another, too much. Between all of them, I sense a fog disappearing, a growing perversity—as if, secretly, this was starting to look more like an opportunity than a disaster. Continue reading
Posted in Amnesia, Barack Obama, Buddhism, Capgras' Syndrome, Continuum, Crazy Ideas, Deconstruction, Derrida, Faustian Pacts, Manifestos, Political Philosophy, Psychotic Behavior, Quiet Elation, Smells, Sounds, The Good and The Bad, The Power of the Powerless, What is Meaning?
Tagged empires in the clouds
Today we will discuss how to get the most from your dining experience. It’s a difficult subject to explore, because everybody has different ideas and standards for what creates a positive experience. While there are certain factors—quality of the food, for instance—that are out of your control as a patron, you can maximize what a restaurant has to offer using a few basic principles. While this may sometimes—not always—result in spending more money, it will also, more often than not, dramatically increase your feeling of satisfaction. Continue reading
Posted in Adventures in Food and Drink, Cities, Drink, Fancy French Phrases, Food, imaginary landscapes, Loud Elation, New York City, Qualia, Quiet Elation, Smells, Uncategorized
Tagged Appetizers, Dessert, Maximizing Enjoyment, Rhapsodic Musings, Spending Money, Wine
The debate tonight was an inspiring experience for me, and I have found it, maybe out of a sense of perversity, to be a largely uninspiring period of time. It’s been so long that I’ve heard any public issue addressed in a reasonable, honest way, that when it happens I want to slap my hands and thank whoever is responsible for having the simple courage to say what is true.
This is the most important lesson to be learned. That it is possible to say things that are true, and that anybody can say them. Truth has its contexts, and it has its nuances, and neither the world of politics and business-the macro world-nor the even larger and more finely nuanced world of personal life-the micro world-can be helped by anything but a fire to accomplish something good.
The problem with saying something like that is that you, the reader, and myself, the writer, both immediately question ourselves, saying “Is that naïve? Do I have any fire to accomplish something good?”
You create effects of quality in all moments of your life. You experience the world-its breakups, its defeats, its sunrises and snowfalls-as good and bad. This simple acknowledgment, of the universality of complicated experience, signifies in any of us willing to step forward a fire to accomplish good.
Maayan told me about seeking “balance” in the visual design of her magazine. Continue reading
Posted in Amnesia, Barack Obama, Buddhism, Costa Rican Jungle, Crazy Ideas, Democrats, Faustian Pacts, Freedom of Religion, General Relativity, imaginary landscapes, Infinity, Manifestos, Mighty Mekong, Nature, New York City, Paradoxes, Please, Political Philosophy, Politics, Qualia, Quiet Elation, Smells, Sunrise, The Good and The Bad, The Power of the Powerless, The Spectacle, theory, Vertigo, Vietnam, What is Meaning?
Sunset over the Mekong, Laos.
Looking back over the trip in Southeast Asia, one of the lasting impressions I have is the beauty and power and mystery of the mighty Mekong. In northern Laos, I saw the beautiful limestone jungle cliffs rising out of the muddy Mekong. In southern Laos, I saw the powerful rapids at the supposedly highest volume “waterfall” in Southeast Asia. Other times, I relaxed in a hammock watching sparkling sunsets and lightning storms. In Vietnam, I saw how the Mekong Delta provides the silt-rich soil that is the nutrient for Vietnam’s rice basket. Everywhere I went, the Mekong was a central character shaping attitudes and lifestyles of the nearby residents. Allow me to share some more videos and photos and other impressions with you after the jump.
Day one we set out at 6 a.m. for Taleb, Abra Province.
Posted in Abra Province, Filipinos Are Some of the Friendliest People, Food, imaginary landscapes, Politics, Quiet Elation, Rice Terraces, sagada, Taleb, Travelogue, Trekking