Monday, December 10, 2007

Quote of the Day XI

Viel Arges gibt es heute zu fürchten. Doch das besondere Grauen, das ein Spuk auslöst, ist selten geworden. Nur wenige können sich einer unheimlichen Erfahrung rühmen, so beliebt sie auch als erzählte ist. Das Leben verläuft dieser Art geheuer, Ausnahmen lösen sich meist in Schein oder Betrug auf. Auch der Rest ist häufiger trüb als schaurig.(...)
Wie anders brachten die alten Dinge aufs Fürchten, wie zogen sie es an. Das winklige Haus, das kleine Öllicht, die vielen Schatten: der Spuk liegt nahe. Niemand weiß heute mehr, wie dunkel die Nacht ist, außer im Wald, und auch da fehlt die meilenweite Einsamkeit früherer Zeiten. Wo bleibt ein Irrlicht neben dem Scheinwerfer des Autos, das auf der Landstraße jagt; was ist die Totenuhr im Gebälk sobald der Bauer sein Radio auf London eingestellt hat. Der Klabautermann ist obdachlos, seit das Segelschiff verschwunden ist, ein Kobold gar hinterm Gasherd oder der Zentralheizung ist nicht unheimlich, sondern lächerlich und geschmacklos. Kauzgeschrei, Türknarren und Knirschen von Sargdeckelschrauben hat sich mit recht auf den schlecht beleuchteten Horrorfilm zurückgezogen. (...)
Gewiß, auch die neue Technik hat das 'neue Mittelalter' nicht verhindert, worin wir stehen (und das erst jetzt das finstere genannt werden kann): ein SA-Überfall zur Nacht nimmt es mit dem besten Grauen auf, und der Judenwahn oder Bolschewikenwahn, der die Nazis wiederum beunruhigt, ist vom alten Hexen- oder Teufelschreck nur stofflich verschieden. (...)
Es gibt heute bedeutend echtere, nähere Grauenwelt als diejenige des Schauerromans, der unter der elektrischen Standlampe gelesen wird. Und dieser Graus geht nicht weniger ins Mark, weil er diesseits statt jenseitig ist, weil er an Teuflisches glauben läßt, ohne im mindesten noch Glauben an den Teufel nötig zu haben. Das ist der Spuk, der trotz elektrischer Stromflut übrig geblieben ist, ja sich ihrer bis zum Jupiterlicht über Fratzen bedient, die auch am Tage nicht verschwinden, bis zu geladenen Stacheldraht um sehr irdische Höllen. Also schafft die Technik doch nur den illusionären, nicht den einwandfreien Spuk bis jetzt fort, nämlich das Infernalische aus dem menschlichen Abgrund selber und in einer Welt, deren Technik das Urböse geradezu ungeahnt elektrifiziert hat. Es gibt auch eine Nacht und eine Fülle neuer Schauergeschichten in ihr, die erst recht Nacht bleibt, weil zu sehr bloß Glühbirne, zu wenig anders glühendes Licht darin funkt, nachdenkliches.

Ernst Bloch: Technik und Geistererscheinungen (1935)

Friday, November 30, 2007


My iPod is depressed. There is no other reasonable explanation for spells of utter darkness in his shuffle mode. I got on the train yesterday minding my own business, feeling pleasantly neutral towards the world, when the iPod started playing Leonard Cohen's 'Anthem' followed by Tom Waits' 'Dead and Lovely' and 'Christmas card from a hooker in Minneapolis'. This was odd as normally some classical piece would interrupt any such assemblage of blue songs. Anthony and the Johnsons came on next with 'My Lady Story' and I was suddenly anxious to hear where this was going, when the iPod launched into a tearful homage to Diamanda Galas, starting with 'My world is empty without you' and 'Let my people go'.
Needless to say that when I got off the train in Ochanomizu thirty minutes later, I felt somewhat suicidal. So drained of energy in fact that I could not even face wresting control back form the evil shuffle mode. Be warned!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quote of the Day VII

Tous les imbéciles de la Bourgeoisie qui prononcent sans cesse les mots 'immoral, immoralité, moralité dans l'art' et autres bêtises, me font penser a Louise Villedieu, putain à cinq francs, qui m'accompagnant au Louvre, où elle n'était jamais allée, se mit à rougir, à se couvrir le visage, et me tirant à chaque instant par la manche, me demandait, devant les statues et les tableaux immortels, comment on pouvait étaler publiquement de pareilles indécences.

Baudelaire: Mon coeur mis à nu

Friday, March 23, 2007

Being an Anthropologist

Ethnography always starts with an act of humility. They know something that you would like to know. You want them to tell you for free. They often don’t understand what you want to know, or your concerns seem utterly alien to them. Being an anthropologist must be one of the most awkward jobs in the world. You are superfluous, a supplement if you are lucky. I f you are not, your presence is obnoxious, getting in the way of things, disturbing. In Japan, the socially necessary politeness alleviates direct allusions to your status of incompetence, but however long you stay here, you will always be a marginal figure. A supplement. Sometimes vexing, sometimes interesting, sometimes even funny, but never essential to anything.That is probably why living here makes one so prone to depression. You are a foreigner and people will treat you as a guest. You’ll be kept at a distance and no matter how hard you try, you will always be marginal. You just don’t matter in the big schemes of their things. That is why it’s so easy just to stay in bed. You’ll be excused. After all, you are foreign.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Quote of the Day III

He 'd told his parents he'd quit teaching in order to pursue a career in writing, and when, more recently, his mother had pressed him for details, he'd mention the Warren Street Journal (a Monthly of the Transgressive Arts), the name of which his mother had misheard and instantly begun to trumpet to her friends Esther Root and Bea Meisner and Mary Beth Schumpert, and though Chip in his monthly phone calls had had many opportunities to disabuse her he'd instead actively fostered the misunderstanding; and here things became rather complex, not only because the Wall Street Journal was available in St. Jude and his mother had never mentioned looking for his work and failing to find it (meaning that some part of her knew perfectly well that he didn't write for the paper) but also because the author of articles like 'Creative Adultery' and 'Let Us Now Praise Scuzzy Motels' was conspiring to preserve, in his mother, precisely the kind of illusion that the Warren Street Journal was dedicated to exploding.

Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tokyo Landscape VIII

Its entrance examination time at the Tôdai and everybody is nervous and offices close at odd hours and library opening hours are arbitrary, so I took refuge in the Maison Franco-Japonais in Ebisu, just one station from Shibuya. It has a very calm and spacious library with a high ceiling and a huge panorama window on Roppongi Hills (you can see it in the back on the pics).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

At the Doctor's

We are often told that 60% of our body is made up of nothing more than water. Over the last two weeks I came to the painful conclusion that my body is made up of 60% mucus. The condition responsible for this is called acute sinusitis and involves all sort of cavities in one's head no one ever understood the use of. Apparently they are simply made to hold mucus and to inflict pain through pressure on the brain, the eyes, the nose and the teeth, which, summed up, is a striking argument against 'intelligent design'. But I digress. After secreting enough slime in various shades of green and brown to supply a whole zombie film shoot single-handedly, I decided to see a ear/nose/throat specialist. Now I am not fond of doctors at all and the total loss of control that a visit to the doctor implies here in Japan made me very reluctant. My fears were soon to be substantiated.
I was waiting for about an hour in a line mostly made up from Japanese mothers with their small children. The line lead up to a bench already inside the doctor's room. There was just a milk glass screen separating the patients being treated and the patients waiting. Milk glass generally makes me nervous because the intention to hide something while being bright and seemingly friendly is so obviously inscribed into it. Nor was I put at ease by the fact that all the children that had been calmly playing or reading started screaming as soon as they disappeared behind the milk glass screen. The doctor's voice kept repeating 'Oh it's nothing', 'I'll be over in a minute' or 'What's for dinner tonight?', words that to every child in the world immediately conveys the message that there will be inevitable pain to be suffered. Then it was my turn. Beyond the screen was a sort of a dentist's chair surrounded by large machines and instruments that were state of the art perhaps in 1956. The doctor, a friendly looking elderly gentleman with glasses greeted me in a mix of Japanese and English and upon hearing that I was from Switzerland assaulted me with the inevitable German phrases that all doctors of his generations had had to learn ('Ich bin Alleinherrscher'). I never know what to say on these occasions. Before I even considered an answer I was propped into the much too small chair and the still smiling doctor started thrusting a succession of frankly intimidating things up my nose, down my throat and into every other hole in my head. This is the worst thing about Japanese doctors: You are expected to absolutely let him do whatever he pleases. There is no explanation whatsoever and when my hand in a reflex grabs his arm to prevent him from making me sick all over him, he exchanges a startled look with the attendant nurse. The other unfortunate tendency of Japanese is to believe that the more painful a course of treatment is, the more effective it will heal their illness. Not exactly much encouragement for doctors to be gentle, I always found, and when he says 'this will hurt a bit' I literally jump out of the chair under the profusest apologies and make a quick getaway. Not without a recipe for antibiotics, of course.