Saturday, May 19, 2018

"Nights Like These"


I submitted the following story to the annual short story competition held by the Rota das Letras, AKA the Macau Literary Festival, at the end of 2016 or early 2017. Obviously, it wasn't selected. I've been sitting on it for a while, thinking I might submit it elsewhere, but that ain't gonna happen, so here you go, dear readers. I've got another one that wasn't selected that I'll probably put up soon as well.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading.
DAS


Nights Like These

Most evenings, Luís Gonzaga Gomes is too exhausted from a day divided between the Liceu, the library, the Leal Senado, or a half-dozen other organizations to do anything when he gets home, other than eat supper, listen to a record, and smoke a cigarette or two before putting in another few hours' work revising lessons, answering letters, writing articles, and reading.

But there are nights like these, when he lights the last of his cigarettes and thanks God not only for tobacco, but for running out of it, as it will force him to make a detour on the way home to buy more. Doing so will give him the opportunity to shake off the loneliness that haunts him from time to time, when he's surrounded by too many books and too much silence.

This loneliness, awful as it can be, isn't enough to drive him to despair, though it is discomfiting and gets in the way of his work. It took him a long time to learn to differentiate loneliness from solitude, and to figure out how to combat it, but now when the spectre of loneliness looms he stops what he's doing in favor of recreation, usually in the form of a long walk. If it's not too dark, he stops by the soccer pitches and hockey fields to watch others play. When there's no sport to be had or watched, he turns to his ever-growing record collection or the radio. If it's particularly late at night he sifts the static until he finds English programs from Hong Kong or tiresome propaganda from much closer. These latter broadcasts are hardly conducive to relaxation, though in their own perverse way they remind him of how fortunate he is, and how important his work is, for one of the reasons he does what he does is to remind this small sliver of the world, and hopefully that other slightly larger sliver halfway around the globe to which this one belongs, of the glories, intricacies, follies, mysteries, and truths that comprise the legacy of the Chinese, whether they live in the recently red mainland or here, south of the Portas do Cerco, under a foreign flag.

Once he's procured cigarettes from a street vendor, he resumes walking, in no hurry to get home. His thoughts turn slightly less inward to a project he has not yet begun, because it bears too much resemblance to an earlier endeavor— one he doesn't quite regret, but in which he remains disappointed, since in it he sees his limits as a writer and translator. He quickly abandons this line of thinking, which is no less painful than loneliness at its worst, and focuses on the old houses to his left, their pastel walls aglow with latent sunshine even as night settles over the city. It's an effect he imagines isn't found anywhere else in the world, though if asked he'd be the first to admit that this belief stems from a love of his home more than any objective study of light and architecture. Over the years he's been asked all sorts of questions by all sorts of people, in several different languages, and he's always done his best to answer them, or at least teach those who ask how to find the answer for themselves.
But as darkness seeps into the City of the Name of God, there is practically nobody around to ask questions. He counts it a blessing, remembering how crowded the streets were during and after the war, packed with refugees desperate for any scrap of charity or chance to start anew. He listens to the sharp sound of his new shoes against the old cobblestones, diluted echoes of the firecrackers of last month's lunar new year celebrations. Without the need to dodge other pedestrians, rickshaws, or automobiles, he moves freely and quickly, letting his feet, rather than his mind, lead him.

And so he finds himself in the vicinity of the Seminário de São José. He pauses to light a cigarette and leans against a high stone wall, careful not to get his suit dirty. The priests-to-be and their instructors are probably taking their evening meal or are at prayer, but he catches sight of a familiar figure leaving through the back gate and heading his way. In the thickening darkness the billowing white cassock and wispy, trailing beard lend the oncoming padre a supernatural air, diminished by his thick, black-framed glasses and satchel full of books and papers. 
 
“Senhor Gomes,” the priest calls out. His Portuguese bears the stamp of the metropolis, only slightly altered by decades in what may turn out to be Portugal's last overseas territory. He raises an arm and waves, the gesture somehow both lazy and solemn. “I did not expect to see you here. Where are you going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” Gomes says, moving his cigarette to his left hand so he can offer the padre a proper handshake. “How are you this evening, Padre Teixeira?”

“Tired,” the priest says, “and I didn't even have to teach today.” His long beard and thinning hair make him look much older than Gomes, despite being his junior. “Have you been doing research, Senhor Gomes?”

“Perhaps too much,” Gomes says, surprised at the hint of shame in his voice. “I needed a break, and it so happened that it was time to be going anyway.”

Padre Teixeira nods vigorously. “I know precisely what you mean.”

The priest isn't simply being agreeable. They've met in the city's archives and libraries more often than they have in church, and Gomes occasionally suspects that Padre Teixeira's disdain for attention and fame is not entirely honest. He doesn't doubt the priest's love of history or his devotion to God, but he's seen him at too many public events, and read too many of his books, to think that Padre Teixeira is as convinced of man's earthly transience as he claims. Then there's the matter of old-fashioned chauvinism: Gomes has heard that Padre Teixeira looks down on his Portuguese because he did not have the fortune of being born in Portugal. Nevertheless, Gomes overlooks such picayune details, because he and the priest are more alike than not, and both of them have a deep affinity for the city and its history.

“Where are you headed, Padre?” Gomes asks.

The priest shrugs. “To eat noodles, I suppose. I'm tired of bananas.”

Gomes smiles. Padre Teixeira lives on bananas and Scotch. “I won't delay your supper, then,” he says.

“Have you eaten?” Teixeira asks. 
 
“I don't have much of an appetite right now,” he replies. 
 
“I see,” the priest says. “In that case, go with God, and boa noite, senhor.”

The priest hurries off to slurp sopa de fitas among Chinese nonbelievers. Gomes finishes his cigarette and starts walking, unsure as to what to make of his brief encounter with Padre Teixeira.

He roams the labyrinth of streets along the Porto Interior, gloomy even in the full light of day and nearly impenetrable by night. The sound of Hong Kong pop music drifts from an open window above him, while an elderly Chinese couple argues behind the half-closed door of a shop selling pots and pans. It sounds like an argument they've had a thousand times, and Gomes smiles at the ritual of it. A confirmed bachelor, the closest he comes to this sort of domestic back-and-forth is with his sister or, more frequently, the cook, who likes to needle him for not marrying and having children. He ignores her now, having long ago explained that most of the time he prefers his own company, and couldn't imagine being as productive or able to indulge his myriad interests if he had a family to look after. Perhaps if he'd joined the priesthood his decision wouldn't raise so many eyebrows. The thought makes him grin.

When he reaches the waterfront, where the bustle of the day's maritime trade is giving way to nocturnal pursuits of varying sorts and legality, he turns north. The floating casino is packed with gamblers, and he can smell their clouds of cigarette smoke from the road. A trio of foreign sailors speaks a language he doesn't recognize and gawks at their surroundings. If Gomes were a betting man, he'd wager that they'll spend all their money by midnight, most likely in the brothels along Rua da Felicidade. He doesn't understand the appeal of gambling or prostitutes, and wishes that the city had a more salubrious reputation, but such things were woven into the social fabric long before his time, and he isn't one to pluck at the threads. 
 
After watching a steamer arrive from Hong Kong, he turns back toward the heart of the city. In need of a brief rest, he takes his time walking toward the Jardim Luís de Camões, where he finds a bench, catches his breath, and reties his shoes. Two men sit at a stone table nearby, playing Chinese chess in meditative silence, while a middle-aged woman reads the day's issue of Va Kio Pou aloud to a bird in a bamboo cage. Her eyesight must be amazing, Gomes thinks, to be able to read in near-darkness. A group of children runs by, too quickly for him to identify their school uniforms, and disperses with equal speed, each of the dozen boys and girls scattering in the direction of their homes and, presumably, the supper that awaits them.

Gomes looks at his watch and decides that he'd better get home soon. Before he goes, he walks up the hill to the stone grotto where the bust of Luís de Camões broods in shadow. Camões faces west, toward the Porto Interior and China beyond, but Gomes imagines that the poet's one eye is fixed, in an unchanging bronze stare that betrays none of the saudade that must have weighed upon his heart when he came here four hundred years ago, upon a much more distant Portugal.

It takes Gomes longer than expected to get home. He keeps letting himself become distracted by the city in its nocturnal form, stalked as it is by hungry ghosts of the past and present and lit by candles and casino neon. He wonders what the future holds for the Cidade do Nome de Deus, Não Há Outra Mais Leal, and how tomorrow's historians will view the rapid changes that Gomes sees taking place all around him. With his understanding of the city's past, he should know better than to worry, but something in the air these days gives him pause when he contemplates the city's fate. He knows what it is, of course, but prefers not to think about it.

From the street outside his house he hears the neighbors' son practicing the flute, and the man of the house periodically interrupting in disappointed, Chinese-accented Portuguese. Gomes hopes the boy improves enough someday to silence his father, who does not play the flute himself. Gomes unlocks the door, goes inside, and heads straight for his study. He loosens his tie and takes off his shoes before settling into the low-slung, long-armed rocking chair his grandfather bought from a Goan family. His feet hurt, his stomach is empty, and his perambulations around Macau have put him behind in his work, but Luís Gonzaga Gomes is no longer lonely. He is merely alone, alone as the solitary figure in the landscape scroll hanging on the wall, alone as he has always been and has always wanted to be.

 He lights a cigarette and closes his eyes.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Expanding Mind

A couple months ago I started listening to Erik Davis' Expanding Mind podcast. I've been a big fan of Erik Davis since reading Techgnosis in college; I sent him a copy of Axis Mundi Sum when it was published (I got a copy of his chapbook on Burning Man in return), and I've known about Expanding Mind for a while, so I'm not sure why I didn't check it out sooner. These days I don't worry too much about coming to something late, though, as it seems like I find things (or they find me) when the time is right—and conditions are certainly ripe for the fascinating, friendly, intense conversations Davis has with his guests.

Some time ago I noticed that I didn't seem as curious about the world as I'd used to be. A lot of things I'd been into, or wondered about, had fallen by the wayside. This is a typical developmental process, as we outgrow or discard some interests in favor of others, and with age we (usually) start to figure out that the world is too vast and complicated a place to keep tabs on as much as we might so desire, which forces us to reduce the scope of our attention. And yet I find this process, which I suspect is more conditioned than it is natural, rather stifling, since for most people it never stops. As wild and unpredictable as the world can be, humans are really good at ignoring it in favor of locking themselves into increasingly restrictive patterns, and through those patterns, we come to view the world and our existence therein as smaller, safer, more mundane, less pregnant with meaning, than they actually are, or can be. Which is perfectly understandable to a point—who doesn't want or need a reliable degree of safety, certainty, and comprehensibility?—but at some point the pattern tightens to the point of inflexibility, and you're stuck, often without even knowing it.

Erik Davis' conversations with folks on Expanding Mind are a wonderful way to break those patterns, as is his writing. His/their discussions of religion, psychedelics, science, high weirdness, the occult, music, pop culture, and all the ways in which such things intersect and intertwine are consistently thought-provoking, as well as thoroughly enjoyable. (As one of the guests on Expanding Mind recently noted, enjoyment is a crucial component of consciousness practices. If awakening, or clarity, or whatever, is nothing more than a chore, then why not stay mired in samsara?)

What I find especially valuable is that neither Davis nor his guests are credulous true believers: they may be practicing sorcerers, meditation teachers unaffiliated with any particular tradition, esoteric musicians, scholars of Gnosticism, or scientists pursuing the outer reaches of psychedelic research and therapy, but there's never that sense of "holy shit, these people are up their own ass" you might get on AM radio or Facebook. There's a healthy skepticism (not in that tired-ass Dawkins/Harris/etc. sense, mind you), intellectual honesty, and connection to modern critical frameworks that makes you eager to hear everything they have to say, even if it's completely fuckin' out there. And out there, caro leitor, is where it's at.

I mean, I find magic(k) fascinating, and I've been meditating for a decade now, but it's way easier for me to think about things like ghosts, egregores, 氣/qi, and hoodoo as psycho-social phenomena and practices with potentially tangible (and very real aesthetic) effects than to say "oh yeah, that shit is 100% real", just as I can look at more mainstream theologies and appreciate them without imbuing them with what, to me, is the mark of death known as certainty. Erik Davis is more or less on the same page, albeit far more informed, well-spoken, and cooler than yours truly, so if any of this sounds interesting, check out Expanding Mind and his writing, a couple decades' worth of which can be found at techgnosis.com

All right, dudes, that's it for now. I was going to get into some other stuff, like meditation, but I'll save that for another time. I gotta get dinner started, so I'll just sum up by saying that Erik Davis rules, and that I wish I'd run into him when he was at Rice, because having a beer with him at Valhalla would've been all kinds of rad.


"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." -HST




Your pal,
DAS




Sunday, March 25, 2018

15 years!

Yesterday marked the 15th anniversary of this blog. Never imagined I'd keep at it this long, though there were long dry spells in there, and I never figured it'd metamorphose into a blog mostly about translation. I wonder what the next 15 years hold.

Thanks for reading, folks, and keep supporting what's left of the old(ish) World Wide Web!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Cecília Meireles: "Canção Póstuma"


Bom dia, folks. I've got another Brazilian poem in translation for you. Along with the João da Cruz e Sousa poem I posted the other day, I read this during the event this past Sunday at the BAF, "O Brasil Secreto". The event went pretty well; attendance was good, and people seemed to enjoy the work presented. I look forward to doing it again in a few months' time.

Today's offering to the gods and muses of literature is by Cecília Meireles, one of Brazil's most widely known poets. I've got another translation of one of her poems in the works, so look for that in the near future, along with renewed efforts to practice my classical Chinese (via translation, of course).

Até breve!
DAS

Canção Póstuma
Cecília Meireles

Fiz uma canção para dar-te;
porém tu já estavas morrendo.
A Morte é um poderoso vento.
E é um suspiro tão tímido, a Arte...

É um suspiro tímido e breve
como a da respiração diária.
Choro de pomba. E a Morte é uma águia
cujo grito ninguém descreve.

Vim cantar-te a canção do mundo,
mas estás de ouvidos fechados
para os meus lábios inexatos,
atento a um canto mais profundo.

E estou como alguém que chegasse
ao centro do mar, comparando
aquele universo de pranto
com a lágrima da sua face.

E agora fecho grandes portas
sobre a canção que chegou tarde.
E sofro sem saber de que Arte
se ocupam as pessoas mortas.

Por isso é tão desesperada
e pequena, humana cantiga.
Talvez dure mais do que a vida.
Mas à Morte não diz mais nada.

Posthumous Song
Cecília Meireles
translated by D.A. Smith

I wrote a song to give to you;
however, you were already dying.
Death is a strong wind.
And Art is such a weak sigh...

It is a brief, timid sigh,
like that of everyday breathing.
The cry of a dove. And Death is an eagle
whose cry nobody can describe.

I came to sing you the song of the world,
but your ears were deaf
to my fumbling lips,
tuned to a deeper song.

And I am like someone who has come
to the middle of the sea, comparing
that weeping world
to the tears on your face.

And now I close the massive doors
on the song that arrived late.
And I suffer not knowing which Art
dead people concern themselves with.

That is why you are so desperate
and small, human song.
Perhaps you will last longer than life.
But you have nothing to say to Death.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

João da Cruz e Sousa: "Vida Obscura"


Last year I mentioned to Maurício, who runs the Brazilian Arts Foundation, that there should be some kind of Brazilian or Portuguese-language literary event sometime. This past November he put me in touch with some like-minded folks, and this coming Sunday, February 25, we're having our first public reading of Brazilian poetry in translation and short fiction in English by a Brazilian writer, along with artist Tony Paraná discussing his work. If you're in Houston, come on by, check out some Brazilian literature, drink a Topo Chico. The fun starts at 4 PM and wraps up around 5:30.

One of the poems I've translated for the event is by João da Cruz e Sousa, who I believe was Brazil's first black poet. I initially ran across his name on a list of Symbolist poets on Wikipedia, and after reading a little more about him I hunted down his collected works. Not only is he a fascinating figure—the son of freed slaves, a polyglot, and an abolitionist—but his poetry is quite good, and his prose poetry (or whatever the proper name for it is, if it has one in Portuguese) seems far ahead of its time. I look forward to reading, and translating, more of his work, which I don't think has received any exposure in English.

Enjoy, and maybe I'll see you Sunday.

Vida Obscura
João da Cruz e Sousa

Ninguém sentiu o teu espasmo obscuro,
ó ser humilde entre os humildes sêres.
Embriagado, tonto dos prazeres,
o mundo para ti foi negro e duro.

Atravessaste no silêncio escuro
a vida prêsa a trágicos deveres
e chegaste ao saber de altos saberes
tornando-te mais simples e mais puro.

Ninguém te viu o sentimento inquieto,
magoado, oculto e aterrador, secreto,
que o coração te apunhalou no mundo.

Mas eu que sempre te segui os passos
sei que cruz infernal prendeu-te os braços
e o teu suspiro como foi profundo!


An Obscure Life

Nobody felt your dull spasms,
Oh lowly among the lowly.
The world, drunk and giddy with pleasure,
was black and hard for you.

You passed through in dark silence,
your life chained to tragic duties
and arrived at the highest wisdom
humbled and purified.

Nobody saw in you the uneasy feeling,
hurt, hidden and terrifying, secret,
which your heart pierced in the world.

But I, who always followed in your steps,
know what infernal cross bound your arms
and how deeply you sighed!

Sunday, January 07, 2018

MMXVIII

Salvēte, dudes, and welcome to 2018!

This year (March 24, to be precise, a date I'll probably miss) marks the 15th anniversary of your humble Corpse's presence on the World Wide Web, at least in blog form, as blogs are understood today, or were in 2003. Whatever. The Internet sucks. Except when it doesn't.

Anyway, things are quiet on the cadaverous front. The usual stuff's happening: translation, hanging out with cats, cooking, meditation, reading, etc. I don't make New Year's resolutions, but this year I'd like to establish a habit of studying a little Latin and/or classical Chinese each week, and start assembling the skeleton of  a book about Camilo Pessanha. In the case of the former pseudo-goal, a couple dedicated hours per week should suffice; as for the latter, I first need to figure out what kind of book I want to write, then amass the necessary materials and, you know, start writing.


I'd also like America, shambolic mockery of democracy as it may be, not to be choked to death by the cowards, flag-suckers, bootlicking sycophants, capitalist vampires, fascists, and assorted other wretched fucks currently howling in a nightmarishly confusing chorus of glee and despair as yet another global empire enters its long, painful senescence and History grinds on (but, mind you, not necessarily Forward).

It'd also be nice if the rest of the world didn't have to fear nuclear (or, far more likely, since it's already happening, conventional) death at the hands of a certain idiot in the White House and his bargain-basement administration. (Christ, what would Hunter Thompson, who so despised Nixon, have thought of our current shitheel-in-chief? No wonder the good doctor cut out early.)

Then there's the desire for the planet itself not to be rendered uninhabitable by humans, courtesy of climate change and our species' addiction to short-term thinking, but I'm trying to not let my usual pessimism sink its claws into me too deeply, so I'll pass on thinking too much about that at the moment.

With regard to all these things, a dude can hope, but hope has never been, and never will be, enough, so, to paraphrase Laxmanrao Sardessai:

Avante, camaradas! Avante!


DAS


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

An overdue update.

Jesus, it's been a weird few months.

Even if you somehow leave out the grotesque, incompetent bevy of swindlers, Bible-thumpers, and authoritarian lickspittles that passes for the US government these days, and which is eagerly leading the charge toward a future that'll be as devoid of the aesthetics of a proper cyberpunk dystopia as it rich in the genre's inherent misery, 2017 has been a deeply weird, deeply fucked year for much of the world.

Since I last wrote, Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston and much of the Texas Gulf Coast. I was lucky to be spared, though for a few days there I spent a lot of time on the porch, sleep-deprived, rekindling my old smoking habit, watching the water creep up the steps. When the floodwaters receded, I put in some time with the Houston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, gutting houses that had been flooded and getting direct aid to folks who needed it- and still need it. This shit ain't over, and won't be for a long time. Houston DSA is still helping out, so if three months after the fact isn't too late for you to want to visit the link above and donate a few bucks, know that it'll go to those in need, which means folks that the state of Texas and/or the federal government hasn't gotten around to helping, assuming they ever do.

But even events as hellacious as Harvey, and the subsequent ruin visited upon Florida and Puerto Rico by its tempestuous siblings, are incapable of hindering the human race's drunken stumble toward extinction- though I sincerely hope we trip and fall face-first into some sort of late-species glory on the way there- and so here we are in the middle of November. Let's take stock of what your humble Corpse has been up to, and/or thinks about things.

With the first draft of the Santa Monica translation done, I'm working regularly on the Sita Valles translation. The weather here is typically schizophrenic, which is to say that it's never actually cold for more than a few days at a time. I've lived here most of my life now, and this still pisses me off. I went to the Texas Renaissance Festival this past weekend, something I haven't done since 1999, and had a great time. I've set aside the cigarette habit I was far too eager to take up again when Harvey gave me a rationalization to do so. I visited the city of Québec in September, where I ate a lot of delicious food, learned that I can read French passably (and speak it horribly), used H.P. Lovecraft's history/travelogue as a guidebook of sorts, and pondered the legacy of Europe in America.

I've read some good books, among them Vivian Gornick's The Romance of American Communism, Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow, and Philip Hoare's The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea. I continue to practice 形意拳 xingyiquan and 八卦掌 baguazhang, the two Daoist internal martial arts I started studying earlier this year. I spend a lot of time with cats, but never enough. The desire to write a novel about Macau and a book about Camilo Pessanha still floats around in my mind, ever closer to realization as ideas pile up and get written down.

Mostly, though, I'm just living. Not in the sense of getting by, but in the fullest sense of the word, replete with positive and negative aspects. The more time passes, the more I appreciate just living, and the more I understand how much that concept encompasses, especially when the world around you seems boring enough to make you scream, or when it's Accept-level balls-to-the-wall overwhelming.

All right, off to martial arts class. Catch y'all soon- hopefully not four months later soon.


微臣
史大偉



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Corpse lives.

It should be pretty evident, dear readers, that your humble Corpse has been bereft of things to say for the past couple-three months. The 千字文 / Thousand Character Classic project is as dead in the water as 李白 Li Po. When I can browbeat myself into writing heavy metal reviews, they're earmarked for Enslain magazine, though I haven't exactly been cranking those out, either.

Since I last posted, much of my time has been spent translating an 18th-century letter of complaint written by nuns of the Convent of Santa Monica in Goa. "Letter" is not really the word for a rambling and often repetitive document of 40-odd handwritten pages, mind you, but it's been a fascinating process, mainly due to the fact that working with the excellent dude who roped me into it has been fun, educational, and promising in terms of future collaboration. I've learned to read old Portuguese handwriting, delved into the lives of Catholic nuns (who were not there because their cruel parents decided to dump them at the convent door, as is so often believed), and I'm helping to make available to the world a document written by, and about, women at a time when women's voices were only fleetingly heard.

More recently, I've started translating Leonor Figueiredo's biography of Sita Valles, the Angolan communist executed after the grim events of May 27, 1977. Valles' parents were from Goa, which is why I first heard of her. Figueiredo's written a good book, and I think making it available in English will prove useful. I'll discuss this project, as well as the Santa Monica convent one, in further detail at a later date.

That's it for now, alas. I've gotta eat dinner and get to Portuguese class. Later this week, perhaps, I'll find some time to write some more. Later, folks.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Terrible Something

If in search of what's wrong with the world today- a phrase I despise, because the slightest brush with history shows us that the past is hardly laudable, but I'll stick with it for now-  one need not turn to the grotesque buffoon in the White House and his coterie of reactionaries, bootlickers, and bipedal leeches. An examination of one's immediate surroundings and internal state will suffice to demonstrate that the world around us is currently in the grip of something terrible, and that we ourselves are microcosmic hosts of whatever that terrible something is. Best not to look too closely, lest the contours and details resolve themselves and the terrible becomes overwhelming. Yet a failure to investigate is exactly what has led us here.

The terrible something devours minds, hearts, time, and space. It lends the grinning ghouls of the ruling class masks of respectability, and tells us they are true faces, trustworthy and wholesome. It bears down upon our souls, or whatever passes for them, and allows them to collapse under the weight of their very existence. It robs us of our days, which it feeds to the ravening demiurges of the economy and "progress," and fills our nights with a dreadful silence that is unconducive to slumber. It stalks the globe, snatching corners of heaven and earth from their rightful inhabitants and uprooting the human being from its surroundings. The terrible something does not live in the world, but dwells upon it, like an extradimensional horror might a threshold.


So: what is this terrible something? Is it capitalism, currently grinding its teeth, and us between them, as it attempts to force its way through yet another crisis? Is it the rot eating away the veil of democracy with which the West covers itself? Is it a spiritual malaise, some species-wide ennui and self-loathing immune to the pathetic variety of cures we have dreamed up? Or is it an absence of some kind, a void in our social relations, our collective lack of imagination coming back to haunt us from whatever astral graveyard we banished it to? Perhaps it's something else entirely, detectable only by what it doesn't do or where it isn't.

Me, I'd venture to say that the terrible something is all of the above and then some. It has probably always been with us. Maybe it simply is us, and we've contorted ourselves into such a mockery of being human that the terrible something has manifested itself fully.  I don't know what all this means, or how it can be combated, assuming it can be combated at all. I doubt it can be, at least not in the sense of pushing back against a defined foe, but we can study ourselves, stand in solidarity with our fellow humans, and dream, as the terrible something wends its way through our lives and settles into the cracks of the cosmos. It ain't much, but it's all we've got.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sleep - Jerusalem/Dopesmoker

After years of worshipping at the altar of the riff, I'm finally gonna see Sleep on Saturday. Sleep, dude. The dudes who wrote Jerusalem, AKA Dopesmoker, which received three different releases (so far) and all of which have commendable properties. Personally, the latest release, under the name Dopesmoker (the album's original title during recording), does a great job of highlighting the dynamic range of what skeptics, amateurs, and squares might call a boring exercise in repetition, but I still prefer Jerusalem, truncated as it is. The unity of sound lends to the religious/meditative quality that, I think, forms the backbone of the whole album.

I'd be willing to admit that my preference could be a matter of familiarity, but shit, I've spent a whole lot of time listening to this record in its various incarnations, and this ain't mere nostalgia. But it doesn't matter. All that matters is the riff, or rather the Riff, and Sleep has perfected it in our lifetime. A thousand other stoner rock or doom bands could write hour-long songs and none of them would approach the unwittingly orthodox masterpiece that is Sleep's Dopesmoker. This probably ain't the first time I've talked about this record, and I hope it won't be the last; maybe next time I'll have something more interesting to say.

Anyway, adios for now, folks. Get high, listen to Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, and act accordingly. Or don't, and just experience the music. It's your life, after all. Don't let some random dude tell you how to live it.