imaginary outfit: a break in the weather




When I went outside to walk the dog this morning, I was startled. The air was cool, actually cool, and for a moment, it felt like I was stepping across the edge of one season into another, though as I walked down the street, past the neighbors’ clumps of yellow rudbeckias and lacy daras, I felt a creeping clamminess, the lingering trace of the month’s mouth-breather humidity, and I knew any thought of fall was wrong, too early; wishful. The ground was littered with branches and leaves (I dreamt of thunderstorms) and the water had pushed the old pine needles and dead leaves into serrated ridges, a ghost flow-trace. The dog was happy; he is almost always happy. We walked toward the river, high and brown after the rain, as we always do.

I’ve had a strange feeling this summer, like going back in time, and haven’t quite understood why, because my face keeps getting older and my kid’s legs are longer and the flowers are going to seed, and that time is passing is very clear. But I finally placed it. It’s the same feeling I had when I was about 15, when my world was very narrow and deep because there were not many places to go, and I went to those same places all the time and saw the same people and did the same things, and the only things that changed were the books I read or the songs I listened to and the thoughts passing through my mind. And at the time, I was mostly confident that it was a temporary state of being, that my life would eventually get bigger, but I was also a little afraid that maybe there wasn’t anything else, that this was it, would be it, in fact, forever. The same small things over and over again. It was a peculiar state of suspense, and I felt very alive when I was in it.

And I suppose suspended is a good way to describe it, my life, two-odd years into this pandemic, which maybe sounds sad, except that it is actually exhilarating. I’ve finally slowed down enough that some mysterious inner gyroscope has recalibrated, or whatever it was that thrummed with anxiety and what’s-nextness, and I find I just am where I am. And today, the air was cool, and there were delicate mushrooms, pleated inkcaps grey as stormclouds, poking up on the grass-seeded slope by the bridge where they laid the new sidewalk, and the dog was happy, and there wasn't much to do except pay attention.

*

 



odds and ends / 7.21.2022











*

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Bouquet of wildflowers, 1906.

*

Still from Eric Roehmer's La Collectonneuse (1967).

*

Found snapshot from Square America.

*

Bruno Munari, from From Afar It Was An Island. Via mudimakes.

*
EFFECTS: What’s a vibe?

PELI: A vibe is an intuitive representation of a language that is suitable for the compressed representation of a field of phenomena bound by a structural affinity that expresses a shared generative process.

From "VIBE COHERENCE: An Interview with Peli Grietzer," Effects Journal.   

“What’s it called,” Dale said, “when you have one of those bloody great blinding flashes of insight that changes the way you look at things?” 

I said I wasn’t sure: a few different words sprang to mind. 

Dale twitched his paintbrush irritably. 

“It’s something to do with a road,” he said. 

Road to Damascus, I said. 

“I had a road to Damascus moment,” he said. “Last New Year’s Eve, of all times. I bloody hate New Year’s. That was part of it, realizing that I bloody hated New Year’s Eve.”

Rachel Cusk, Transit.

*

One of the things I hate, I mean that I fucking detest in books, is when people have revelations. Who ever really has a revelation? And when people do have revelations, they’re always completely risible. And when they have them, they should be portrayed as risible, and they need to be skewered because the whole concept of revelation is absurd.

Adrian Nathan West interviewed by Jamie Richards at The Rumpus, 2/7/2022.

*

I thought that some of it was true and some it was not, but the real truth was how such things allowed someone to talk about you, or what you had done or why you did it, in a way that unraveled your character into distinct traits. It made you seem readable to them, or to yourself, which could feel like a revelation.


Jessica Au, Cold Enough for Snow.

*

Making up dystopias is often just a process of outsourcing. It reassures certain people that the bad scenario is fiction, and that it’s happening somewhere else in space or time. It’s no accident that aesthetics of dystopia often happen to resemble news depictions of the developing world. A lot of dystopian fiction is kind of an imagined prophylactic for the privileged—the idea being that if we could just anticipate it, maybe we can prevent it or control it.


Elvia Wilk, in conversation with Clare L. Evans and Leon Dische Becker for Broadcast

*

The Earth is littered with phone masts, the sky dotted with satellites, and our beautiful opposable thumbs are ruining themselves, scrolling away, all so that people can share thoughts on groceries, social media trends, total strangers worth insulting, and the latest annoying acronym. Never has there been such a universal admission of the imbecility of the human species. And to accommodate this inane babble, the internet now consumes much of the electricity on Earth and semiconductor plants drink up all the water—water that should be reserved for nicer plants like redwoods, bluebells, buttercups, and marijuana.


Lucy Ellman, "My Study Hates Your Study." The Baffler, March 2022.

*


*
How does your head look to your eyes? Well, I'll tell you. It looks like what you see out in front of you because all that you see out in front of you is how you feel inside your head. It is easy enough to stand still; the difficulty is to walk without touching the ground. Why do you feel so heavy? It isn't just a matter of gravitation and weight; it is that you feel that you are carrying your body around. Common speech expresses this all the time—life is a drag, I feel I am just dragging myself around, my body is a burden to me. To whom? To whom, that's the question. You see? And when there is nobody left for whom the body can be a burden, the body isn't a burden, but so long as you fight it, it is. It's like saying, you know, to feel the feelings—it is a redundant expression.

100,000 stars.

'walking in the sun'

glance to the sun














Edmund Kesting, Glance to the Sun (Blick zur Sonne). 1928.

*


I thought it peculiar that the sun, the quintessential giver of life and warmth, constant in our lives, symbol of enlightenment, spirituality, eternity, all things unreachable and ephemeral, omnipotent provider of optimism and vitamin D… and so ubiquitously photographed, is now subsumed to the internet – this warm singular object made multiple in the electronic space of the web, and viewed within the cool light of the screen.
*

From Barbara and Michael Leisgen's series Mimesis, ca. 1970-1971. Via stopping off place.

*

Photo of Nancy Holt's Sun Tunnels by Jason Shepherd. Per Dia Art Foundation:
Sun Tunnels marks the yearly extreme positions of the sun on the horizon—the tunnels being aligned with the angles of the rising and setting of the sun on the days of the solstices. Today is the summer solstice, where the sun will set centered through the tunnels, and the sun will remain nearly center for about 10 days after.

*

Eugène Atget, Pendant l'Eclipse. Ca. 1912, printed later by Berenice Abbott. Gold chloride-toned print. Courtesy of Yale University, New Haven, Conn.

*

First photograph of the sun: daguerrotype made by Louis Fizeau in 1845.

*
Slowly wheeling, like the rays of a searchlight, the days, the weeks, the years passed one after another across the sky.

Virginia Woolf, The Years

odds and ends / 5.27.2022












*

Henri Biva (1848-1929), Villeneuve-l'Étang embrumé. Oil on canvas.

*

Félix Bracquemond, Margot la Critique, 1854. Per The Met:
Here Bracquemond rendered a veiled criticism of critics. The squawking magpie holds a plume and straddles a globe ... Bracquemond underscored his commentary with a reference to Ovid’s description of magpies in "Metamorphoses", citing in the lower margin: "Raucaque garrulitas studium que immane loquendi," which translates to "their hoarse garrulity, their boundless passion for talk."

Skull of a crowned athlete, ca. 300 BCE. Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos, Crete. Per The Greek Reporter: "Inside the mouth, a silver coin was found as a token to Charon, who in Greek mythology was the ferryman of Hades who carried the souls of the newly deceased to the underworld."

*

Poem by Florine Stettheimer, in the collection of the Beinecke Library.

*

Nik Gelormino's prototype for a anti-extraction beehive for Cactus Store.

*
As usual, what “we” could be presumed? Numbers spiked and dropped; outrage and numbness set in. Imaginations stopped trying or got massively creative. Many of us burst into demands for an economic and procedural reboot of safety, security, and community, which included defacing the image of the police as the ideal local military. Meanwhile, mental health crises that faced life as well as death expanded into a pandemic with their own structural bases, their own hotlines, their own everydayness, and their own appearance as intimate partner violence and as police actions, where qualified immunity protects them from the consequences of spraying out their own roiling emotions onto other vulnerable bodies. Like dust bouncing off a trampoline, active counter-dominant solidarity on multiple and conflicting fronts induced pervasive and desired atmospheres, with their uneven rhythms of efficacy. The inconvenience of other people became a pragmatic political topic: With whom can you imagine sharing the world’s sidewalk? What do you do with the figures of threat and dread that your own mind carries around?


Lauren Berlant, from the introduction to The Inconvenience of Other People.

*

About the hermits’ lives, little is known. They appear rarely, and only then to those with the eyes of faith, yet their presence in these forests is undisputed. They might accept an offering of dried chickpeas or a handful of roasted barley left in a clearing, but mostly they subsist on leaves, bitter roots, and prayer. They wear shabby clothes, unkempt beards, dreadlocks. Only the holiest of them achieve a state of invisibility. When someone manages to see them and attempts to take their picture, it is said, their image will not appear in the photograph. A hermit might live in a particular forest for years, going about his hidden work of intercession, and then one day someone walks by a juniper tree and discovers a pile of his bones.


Fred Bahnsen, "The Church Forests of Ethiopia: A Mystical Geography." Emergence, 1/11/2020. 

*

For her, fixity and separateness are deadening specters. The very act of naming arrests and asphyxiates true freedom: as she warns, “don’t identify yourself with your description of yourself.” Dualisms which others might see as contradictions or mutual exclusivities—self/other, individual/collective, moral/theological, earthly/cosmic, work/art—manifest for Howe as uncannily interpenetrative possibilities. She is one of the twentieth century’s great epistemologists, principally through her refusal of discursive tidiness and her magnification of such concerns through indeterminate lenses. Thomas Aquinas thought it a grave failure to confuse knowing and believing. Howe’s is a corpus entrenched in unknowingness.

Jamie Hood, "The Irreconcilable Fanny Howe." The Baffler, 5/16/2022.

*

Reading about a young girl wandering through shipwrecks and dodging American soldiers in The Prowler, I thought of a professional wrestler adjusting their story to allow more truth into the performance. That sounds off, frankly, considering how restrained and briny [Kristjana] Gunnars’s writing is. But what feels similar is that alternation between calling attention to the scaffolding, and then leaping from it. The leap is always real, even if the wins and losses are imaginary.


Sasha Frere-Jones, "The Scent of Light." 4Columns, 5/20/2022. 

*

"I found myself wondering if there’s a difference, anyway, between the things we read and the things we do. Reading is an experience, if an artificial one, constructed and simulated—but then so are many of the others we go out in life to achieve in vaguely artificial ways."

*
Very early on in my “career,” an editor said to me, “You do something that we don’t really do here. I noticed that in your sentences, the word that comes next isn’t exactly the word you’d expect to come next.” And I remember thinking: of course it fucking isn’t. Otherwise why would I write it?

Tobi Haslett, interviewed by Jessica SwobodaThe Point, 5/17/2022.

*
Let’s hope that—at least—we can be in touch through words. I 
remember many beautiful moments in your study, with leafless trees 
outside 
or spring trees.

Adam Zagajewski, writing to Jonathan E. Hirschfeld, quoted in "Without Irony," Hirschfeld's tribute to Zagajewski in PN Review 263, Volume 48, Number 3, January/February 2022.

*
I watched the trees gradually recede, waving their despairing arms, seeming to say to me: ‘What you fail to learn from us today, you will never know. If you allow us to drop back into the hollow of this road from which we sought to raise ourselves up to you, a whole part of yourself which we were bringing to you will vanish for ever into thin air.’ And indeed if, in the course of time, I did discover the kind of pleasure and disquiet which I had just felt once again, and if one evening—too late, but then for all time—I fastened myself to it, of those trees themselves I was never to know what they had been trying to give me nor where else I had seen them. 

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Volume 2: Within a Budding Grove, trans. by C. K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin.

*


*

No guns for men.

'our moloch'

Few crimes are more harshly forbidden in the Old Testament than sacrifice to the god Moloch (for which see Leviticus 18.21, 20.1-5). The sacrifice referred to was of living children consumed in the fires of offering to Moloch. Ever since then, worship of Moloch has been the sign of a deeply degraded culture. Ancient Romans justified the destruction of Carthage by noting that children were sacrificed to Moloch there. Milton represented Moloch as the first pagan god who joined Satan’s war on humankind:
First Moloch, horrid king, besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents’ tears,
Though for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud
Their children’s cries unheard, that pass’d through fire
To his grim idol. (Paradise Lost 1.392-96)
Read again those lines, with recent images seared into our brains—“besmeared with blood” and “parents’ tears.” They give the real meaning of what happened ... That horror cannot be blamed just on one unhinged person. It was the sacrifice we as a culture made, and continually make, to our demonic god. We guarantee that crazed man after crazed man will have a flood of killing power readily supplied him. We have to make that offering, out of devotion to our Moloch, our god. The gun is our Moloch. We sacrifice children to him daily.


Garry Wills, "Our Moloch." The New York Review of Books, December 15, 2012. 

*

Firearms deaths are a fixture in American life. There were 1.5 million of them between 1968 and 2017—that's higher than the number of soldiers killed in every US conflict since the American War for Independence in 1775. In 2020 alone, more than 45,000 Americans died at the end of a barrel of a gun, whether by homicide or suicide, more than any other year on record. The figure represents a 25% increase from five years prior, and a 43% increase from 2010.


BBC: "America's Gun Culture in Seven Charts." 

*

The evidence couldn’t be more plain. Other countries haven’t entirely eliminated mass shootings, but they have enacted reforms that helped turn them into rare, aberrational events, rather than the everyday occurrences they are in this country. Is it any wonder that much of the rest of the world considers us mad?

*

For over a decade now, the data has shown that commonsense gun laws prevent gun violence—but only in the states with courage to enact them.

*

Melt the guns,
Melt the guns,
Melt the guns,
And never more desire them.
 

*
Edited to add: 
Reading My Tealeaves also has email addresses posted—you can send messages to disrupt the NRA conference scheduled in Texas THIS WEEKEND.

'their owner, the rain'


On November 21, 2021, the artist Gala Porras-Kim wrote a letter to Jane Pickering, director of Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology: “I am interested in objects suspended from their original function or purpose by being stored and displayed in institutions solely as historical objects,” she began. This could easily describe any number of the millions of objects held by the museum, but Porras-Kim’s focus was on the Peabody’s collection of thousands of artifacts found in a major sinkhole: the Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The Maya peoples understood the site as a portal to the spiritual world and deposited jade, ceramic, gold, shell, wood, copal, and textile objects, along with human remains, into the cenote as offerings to Chaac, the Mayan rain god. The vast majority of the Peabody’s collection was dredged from the cenote between 1904 and 1911 by Edward H. Thompson, an American diplomat and self-styled archaeologist who gained access by purchasing surrounding property and then employed various forms of subterfuge to smuggle the artifacts into the United States. In the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution, a lawsuit during the 1930s and early ’40s to repatriate the collection of cenote objects ultimately proved unsuccessful. For Porras-Kim, however, “human laws” are but one framework for assessing the value of these centuries-old items. As the artist notes, “Their owner, the rain, is still around.”


Martha Buskirk, "The Ethics of Dust.Artforum, March, 2022. 

*

Edward H. Thompson, Men working at the cenote at Chichen Itza. Collection of The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.