Dog's Dinner

"You're not loved because you're lovable, you're lovable 'cause you're loved."

Monday, September 26, 2005


One of my favorite scenes in film-- the scene in Triple Cross (Terence Young, 1967) where a wizened, bearded Trevor Howard tells a cynical, flippant Christopher Plummer that "The private war of Eddie Chapman has come to an end" and persuades him (sort of) to commit himself to helping British intelligence-- takes place in a museum-- the British Museum, I suppose it probably is-- among prehistoric mollusks. (I think it may well have been inspired by the foreign spies meeting in the aquarium in Hitchcock's SABOTAGE.) Is that why I like museums? Anyway, except for zoos I think I love museums best of all, more even than movies. Here, minimally revised, an e-mail I wrote yesterday to my good friend Jon about one of our local museums:

There's actually a quite good museum in Katowice (35 min. train
> from
> Gliwice, big transpo hub and not known for any kind of beauty)
> which is
> showing, until the end of this week, an exhibition of Dali's
> illustrations,
> as well as a group of Polish replicas of Western European cave
> paintings
> flanked by actual detritus from central European caveman
> culture-- little
> "Venus" fetishes with big breasts, earrings made from bones and shells, etc. and real mammoth bones. The Dali
> was what
> drew me 2 weeks ago and I was quite favorably impressed-- the
> illustrations for
> Alice in Wonderland, Carmen, Don Quixote, and Chretien de Troyes'
> Quest for
> the Holy Grail have the occasional melting clock, skull crawling
> with ants
> etc. but without the teutonic pedanticism or academic rigor of his paintings-- some of
> them actually
> looked like Miros. Came back today and found it a little less
> revelatory
> however. Actually I think the most interesting part was "Dali's
> Goya," where
> D. defaces prints/lithographs/gouaches/whatever of Goya with phalluses
> including
> huge noses and tongues bending over Goya's squat, stocky figures, or with pastels (reminding me of Welles's
> supposed
> near-last words: "Keep Ted Turner and his goddam crayolas off
> 'Kane'!")
> and/or weird titles such as "Heisenberg's Law" or "Dali and
> Cezanne get in a
> fight with Francois Millet" or something. Interesting palimpsest
> after being
> shocked and convulsed by the real Goya in Berlin last July.

********************** ADDENDUM ***********************

Actually, the most likable parts of the exhibit, which I typically forgot about, were some multimedia photocollages of the type made famous by Joseph Cornell. Darkness.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

No Boundary

That was the title of a tao-of-physics type book by Ken Wilber (or did he write the Tao of Physics?) that I believe I once saw the shaman warrior prince Joern Kiewning reading in my parents' house in the spring or summer of 1989. (For those who know him, my mother just got in touch with Joern: he's doing great, living in Germany's oldest city, Trier, with a beautiful wife and child, doing a job that he likes.) The gist being that we're all one I guess. I try to believe that sometimes, but other times ruptures seem inevitable and even good.

For example the other night sitting in a park here in Gliwice with two friends, another German, a mathematician, bicyclist and quasi-vegetarian named Philip, and a fellow American and non-vegetarian, an English teacher called Richard Lee Jackson, both of whom play guitar. We had agreed to meet and have a "jam session," the two of them teaching each other some blues licks and Dylan songs on the guitar, me singing occasionally. We had met before in the same park (Mickiewicz Park, which almost sounds like "Macarthur Park" dunnit) to the tune of cataclysmic artistic and popular success (two Greek girls sitting on a bench said we sounded good), without the faintest hint of the horror to come.

So the second time around, before our even having fully settled ourselves on the green, a sallow thirtysomething chappie mildly in his cups saunters over, indicates his blonde wife (on the same bench where late the Greek girls sat) and child in pram and asks if we could "play something." Yes, I tell him, we came here to play. (Philip and Richard, despite valiant efforts, are still a little dodgy in the realm of Polish language.) We tool around with a couple songs-- Philip does a bluesy reworking of the Beatles' "Ballad of John & Yoko." Another intrusion by the sallow one, this time to ask if we know any Polish songs. Sorry, we don't. A third time, still politish, to ask if we (actually they, the guitarists) can find the chords to some crappy pop song that his wife will sing. We agree, with some tremors of hesitation. Philip and Richard try (a bit half-heartedly, the realization dawning belatedly on Philip and me that this may not be a good idea, Richard's inborn cynicism having guided him from the start) to find some chords for the Polish pop song she sings in a squeaky but not terrible voice. She proposes an Abba song, nobody knows it. "My Heart Will Go On"? Sorry, not in our repertoire. Finally a compromise is met-- Richard works out the chords for "Sto Lat," the Polish birthday song, to which one and a half of us (the half being me, the one being Richard) know the words.

So from there everything just deteriorates and we sit there trying to fend them off as they try to invite us to their home for coffee, then when that doesn't work she wants us to figure out some songs by a group called "Kelly Family" (it's a Swedish group, and of course Sweden is in near Germany, and they speak a Germanic language, which English is too, right? so we must know their music-- actually she didn't say that, but perhaps that was her reasoning) or play "My heart will go on." And by the way, her father was a singer, so she can help us if we want to make it big on the music scene. Gradually, as the husband's language gets fouler and he periodically "threatens" to leave and make his wife leave, the wife begs for our attention with the dead-eyed hysteria of the junkie or the religious fanatic. "We have no-one to hang out with! Not even a drunken bum who hasn't a sou will hang out with us." Finally, we leave, and find a better park across the way.

The ugly other face of the famous Slavic warmth and hospitality. No boundary. It's been said, and I agree, that in the West we have too much boundary. But then, some kind or degree of boundary is needed.