words written in the week of
January 23rd to January 29th
in previous years.
This was 8 years, 2 months, 16 days ago

letters from palestine, 3.5 years ago

August 12, 2011

it is 3:40 am

I just got home from this party that some guys invited me to

I am tipsy. I am in my room and the other guy who I share the room with is asleep. he snores gently.

outside the window the morning adhan prayers ring across the valley from the minarets of each mosque. it is everywhere. the sound bounces off of surfaces, valleys, buildings, and so all I hear is a cascade of prayers, layering over each other, allah becoming all-all-ah-all-ah-all-all-ah, reverberating and repeating. it is night, after all, but after morning, and I imagine people praying towards mecca, eating and starting their fast. reverberating sounds. it is wonderful wonderful wonderful. I will try to send it to you.

I met this architect tonight who is working on a project dealing with an old train to mecca; apparently there used to be trains going straight to mecca, a multi-day trip, and so I imagined these families, religious individuals, getting on a train and watching the world swoop by to the destination of their faith.

I came back from this house party that these journalists work at -- they work for this newspaper called the palestinian monitor, and they write two articles a week and stay at this apartment for free. big, spacious. couches everywhere. a typical house party, except with expats from all over the world, and I chatted and said hi, met a few other photographers, editors, dancers, doctors, and suddenly I felt like I was at dean st, with all the fluidity and ease and comfort it gives me - and perhaps you are there now and some aspects of it are annoying you now, but all I can remember is the ease, the ease it has given me and that I take inside.

I was thinking about you today in a bus.

I guess you're curious about how things are and what it's like? it's hard to describe. having been here now things are slippery and they slide and I am not sure what meanings things are. everything is laced with politics. and that is not bad, but that is just present everywhere, which makes things complicated, but people are relentlessly curious and kind. the other day I jumped into this sweets shop (think baklava and its cousins) to ask if they had any good places to eat food nearby. the dude at the counter calls down a different guy, and so this young spry guy, Mohammed, jumps down. he has a perpetual grin and after he gets what I ask he thinks for a while and then bounds out of his shop to show us. I say - no, it's okay - but he insists, so we wander around a little. he finds a place, but the people I'm with don't like it. So I say that we'll head back home, and he understands. In the meanwhile we talk and I learn that he goes to a great university nearby, and he doesn't like his bullshit summer job, and all of a sudden with the word bullshit he suddenly becomes even more alive.

he says: want any sweets where I work? so I say sure, and go in and have some stuff called knafeh, which he packages up for me -- and he's sort of hoping that I can stay there, I can tell. but I smile and so - I'll have it to go, so how much is this? - and he sort of shakes his head smiling as if he forgot something, or as if he's suddenly interested in the wall behind me -- that is to say a too-deliberate 'naaah, you don't have to pay'. and I say naaaah, cmon! but he runs around ignoring my money with a grin, and I smile, and he smile, and so I decide to just come back later (which I did.) but suddenly I feel like I am in korea.

I keep on thinking of Korea. there's no place that I've been that made me think about Korea [this much].

ther ewas something else I wanted to stay but I am

--

I wake up having read what I wrote last night and it's all a little sleep-hazy delirious and now it's all a little awake-hazy delirious

August 27, 2011

I'm sorry that I haven't been writing back so much. I don't know why but it's hard -- not hard to talk to you, but hard to know what to write, because while I want to talk to you about everything, it's strangely hard to know what to talk about.

I have these encounters and I know not how to parse them and I am still thinking things over.

I'm sorry that I was so sharp about gaza - I just remember being so quick so affirm that no no I wasn't going to such a dangerous place, and I didn't know that it came across as a retort. I'm really sorry if I did.

sometimes when I travel (like last summer) I travel alone and it's a little hard and I don't talk with people that much and all these words sort of marinate and coagulate into this sticky thing that I can then take out and put onto paper. and for some reason this time we're working on a project and so all my waking hours are either spent wandering, talking, or working, and so it's like that sort of stickiness is gone, or not so much there.

I don't know what to say. there are a million different things going on. I say I'm going to palestine! and a friend emails me and says: are you back from the west bank? and I don't know if that's a political statement or not, to not use the word palestine but the neutral region designation, because if it is it's so in the most silent kind of way and it scares me a little to confront someone that way, silently. is that a statement? and this is not just like a pro-choice pro-life abortion fight, but this deals with religion and nations and senses of belonging and spilt blood and people holding guns to people's heads, and in that light it's hard to talk about, because there's depth in these angers. I went to tel aviv, where all these protests are, and this film crew interviewed me with a camera and a light and a boom mic, and asked me what I thought, and I surprised myself by being super neutral, I said I was just thinking, just sussing things out without judgment.

afterwards they left I thought to myself: well what do I think? and I am still trying to answer that question.

I am sorry. it is strange, this feeling of not being able to write about something. and because everything here is about this something, it means that it is hard to write about everything. so I know what you mean about it being hard about talking.

This was 10 years, 2 months, 10 days ago

sometimes it's like a really quick laugh that appears out of nowhere, like,
ha-
and ends really quickly and abruptly, and I imagine the little graph of amplitude going 'blip', little puffs of explosions almost visible like breaths in a past winter's breath.

it's almost as if there is more to be said, now more than ever.

once almost falling over out of pure joyousness, once

* * *

can you believe it? can you? I am made out of flesh and blood; I am a being, I am here. some days I am tired. some days I am less tired. my shoulders are twisted into knots. I am young and I am excited, most days, and I take the subway up and say hello to the city's arteries.

every day, lately every single day I ask myself: "how am I going to live my life?" and I ask this, again and again, and sometimes I think of being fourteen and walking across a really windy field, and I still ask these questions and they will never go away, nor will I have any answers, nor will the answers mean anything, really, so in the end it's just me asking over and over, thinking to myself. how will I live my life? with what steps will I want to take? how will I jump from place to place? how will I situate myself, how will I want to move, what trips will I take, how will I travel, what people will I talk to, which letters to write? incessant questions dominating the day-to-day to-day. it's just me looking straight ahead walking, a lot of walking these days, walking along (streets / avenues / blocks / steps / corridors / through doors, under trees, beside cars) and thinking about, well, you know, the stuff I would be thinking about, of course. and in the midst of this feeling my body, my being.

* * *

it is so exasperatingly impossible to communicate sometimes, and the more things move the less I know and the more I know, and it's really because I'm just always trying to express what's on the tip of my tongue, at the end of my grasp, it's really just a kind of taste in my mouth that I want to desperately try to express, like this, I'd like to say while gesturing furiously and gesticulating in fury and getting nowhere, and I can try and it can be fun for the moment, until the inexorable nonporousness of these boundaries becomes too sobering to even talk and then we all circulate in these cells, doing dances like honeybees, loops, figure eights.

in the end if there's any lesson I've learned is that old adages are always true, in some sense of the word true. mistakes have consequences, and they break things irrevocably. some things are undoable. even old, noble trees can die suddenly. everything ends at any point. and so when someone says "mistakes are okay", it's not because mistakes are any less of a mistake, it's that in the context of a shattering ineffable one-way direction that you've just stepped into, there's still space to have things be okay, hopefully, Okay, whatever that okay means.

* * *

sometimes also I imagine being a parent and being worried that you messed things up, which is horrible, I can imagine, because it's so true, because really there's nobody to say "it'll all be alright" because it won't be, you know, it's just going to be okay, not alright al-right all right, but just o-kay.

I feel that by the time one becomes a parent one would understand the immense, almost soul-breaking responsibility, and the responsibility is only as intense as the knowledge of how bad you could fuck up, you know, you could really fuck up in rearing your kids, and it will just have been that, laid bare on a simple table and just that just that. what you'll have left is just to have messed up the thing you would have cared about the most.

these dreams I had about trees, about things growing and healing; they're just that, myths, dreams, these images, oh, oh. oh don't you know, you know, oh oh. just that, myths, dreams, these images, you know. oh-oh. oh-oh. there's one song for tomorrow, but this one's for today, you know. oh-oh, oh-ohhhh.

This was 13 years, 2 months, 16 days ago

really don't. I guess what I mean is -- how is it possible to be impermeable, to not have the things that you think and talk and read be seeping and oozing out through your pores? I don't get this internal segmentation and delineations, how it's possible, how it may be desirable. We are in the business of self-censorship, of words running back up and choking things that really want to come out, want to say, arguments that I think inside and curl around and sort of vegetate, mental kidney stones, clogged arteries.

This was 14 years, 2 months, 15 days ago

Godel's Incompleteness Theorem seems to reappear roughly a generation later in Derrida's essay "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences", partially in response to Claude Levi-Strauss:

...Now, ethnology -- like any science -- comes about within the element of discourse. And it is primarily a European science employing traditional concepts, however much it may struggle against them. Consequently, whether he wants to or not - and this does not depend on a decision on his part - the ethnologist accepts into his discourse the premises of ethnocentrism at the very moment when he is employed in denouncing them.

And a bit later:

It is a question of explicitly and systematically posing the problem of the status of a discourse which borrows from a heritage the resources necessary for the deconstruction of that heritage itself. A problem of economy and strategy.

Gently disregarding the terminology of economy and strategy, what we really have here is a structure working to undermine itself through the nature of its own structure. This really brings to mind Douglas Hofstadter's anecdotal explanation of Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, by giving the metaphor of a genie as a sufficiently strong axiomatic system. This genie is able to grant any wish, and so the two protagonists (the Tortoise and Achilles) ask for the wish: "I wish my wish would not be granted." This is a paradox and 'typeless wish', as Hofstadter calls it in his anecdote, and an example of an true yet unprovable construction within this axiomatic system. (And as as a result, the Tortoise and Achilles are ejected outside of the genie's world.)

Derrida talks about a 'rupture', presumably about the "destruction of the history of metaphysics". I haven't finished the essay yet, but initially he talks about a parallel between a criticism of ethnocentrism and the destruction of metaphysics, as an event that occurs when about this said 'rupture' occurs. Apparently the rupture coincides with the recognition that the center of a structure (read: the founding logic of an axiomatic system) began to be thought not as a "fixed locus but a function". This is the limit: after this, my parallels begin to break apart.

But anyways: what's interesting here is the focus onto a structure that, despite its origins, attempts to move beyond the fixed locus, and seeks to define a new center that is based on a method of function. The (dumbed-down) Incompleteness Theorem is the statement that any strong axiomatic system cannot be both consistent and complete, specifically because of the qualities of its strength. Compare this with "a discourse which borrows from a heritage the resources necessary for the deconstruction of that heritage itself".

Looking at this from a probably non-mathematical point of view, it's interesting to think of a mathematical structure that attempts to move beyond an axiomatic system, and a set of given logical laws, but instead focuses on the function and method of operation. Perhaps a system of mathematics in which the fluidity of logic is the meta-axiom itself?

And speaking of fluidity-change as a meta-axiom, a meta-rule on which the rules of the system is derived, Nomic is a great example, introduced widely by Hofstader's column in Scientific American, itself by a philosophy professor named Peter Suber. Here's the quote on wikipedia:

Nomic is a game in which changing the rules is a move. In that respect it differs from almost every other game. The primary activity of Nomic is proposing changes in the rules, debating the wisdom of changing them in that way, voting on the changes, deciding what can and cannot be done afterwards, and doing it. Even this core of the game, of course, can be changed.

- Peter Suber, the creator of Nomic, The Paradox of Self-Amendment, Appendix 3, p. 362.


later addendum: To be specific, the above (a re-centering of a structure) is what derrida is talking against, or rather, talking about in contrast to the rupture he speaks about. More on this later.

This was 14 years, 2 months, 16 days ago

I think the reason that I like bags so much is that they embody portability, sufficiency, movability, dynamism. Bags fold inwards, and a closing of a bag is a snapping shut, a wrapping closed, and these distinctions created between the outside and the inside, the private and the public, are tactile and tangible. Bags consist of straps and a container; the ability to be carried and the ability to carry, both carrying and the carried, active and passive. The bag carries the private and is carried by the individual; it's a bridge of sorts, connecting between that which is distinctly private, and that individual whom navigates through gradients of private and public, connecting the realm of private-vs.-public with private-into-public.

Here are some ideas:
- a bag for which the closure is the opening: the opening folds over, becomes a closure.
- a bag that is like a sort of 보자기 or furoshiki -- the material used to carry the bag is the same material used to carry its internals.
- a bag that is, by nature, open to the public, transparent and open to the elements, made of a rigid mesh: a bag that does not fulfill its original mission or intent.
- a bag that disappears or deforms when it is opened, accessed
- a bag in which the handles of the bag are the bag itself - the bag is a flattened torus - the bag itself is a requirement for portability.
- a bag that opens when it is carried, closes when it is put down. permeability and access only through movement.

This was 15 years, 2 months, 9 days ago

I'm supposed to leave this room, go out now, so I'll jot this down quickly.

after an year this separation of connotation and sense has taken place, lately sensations have been me and this looking-upwards, high skies, closed streets-kind-of-a-thing, music beating on the lonelier scale, depth-er scale, that kind of thing. for some reason I can't get away from this image, this idea, a catchy beat rooting hold, some strong pull.

---

here's an excellent idea, inspiration courtesy of carl sagan.

idea: collaborative commercial dodging through peer-to-peer-shared algorithmic detection : algorithm consisting of approximate hashes (as to counteract cable inaccuracies).

--

seeking: high skies, emptier streets.

This was 15 years, 2 months, 15 days ago

What I really meant was,

Did you expect for anything to change? Did you think that New York would have missed your presence, somehow slipped by and leaped ahead, marked twelve notches and grown buildings ahead of you? When you came back and stood in the subway for the first time again, did your eyes catch on new ads, older ones that you remembered, tried to discern some kind of elusive atmospheric subtlety in crowd movements, perhaps more caution in the wind, or a different protocol operating inside handshakes, holding-the-door-opens, street crossings?

Or did you stay and expect things to stay the same and for you to have grown just a smaller amount, stepped out of gates, pulled bloated bags between doors and stepped out onto high skies but narrower streets, lower buildings, the water towers and doormen operating in parallel constants while you had left and you were gone -- and you, having come back, being taller and firmer inside? The rest being smaller and less formidable this time?

Was there any of that? Movement and having left or having stayed and the change thereof and the brooding thoughts upon a slipperiness instigated by a geographical change, time lost, lost, left, a return but not a regain... these kinds of things?

But no. Look, there, trains shooting overhead on arches harboring invisible arrows upon undrawn free-body diagrams -- a bridge -- in transit moving between action and reaction, reconciling staying and leaving, push and give. On top of that train cars move sideways, a lateral escape from the crush of gravity and the push of terrae and bridge. The three of us walk uptown regardlessly.