esposito's box
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
  Tuwim, or why I like wikipedia
In my last Polish language post, I threatened inaptly to talk a little bit about one of my favorite Polish poets Julian Tuwim. Tuwim wrote many poems that could perhaps be comparable to Silverstein (in the the realm of children's poems, not the more erotic stuff). One of the best has a very good translation by Walter Whipple (a relative of mine) in "Locomotive."

Tuwim was Jewish, making his experience during World War II uniquely tragic. One cannot help but imagine the audience he lost when Milosz writes of him,
Noisy at the Picadore they did not guess
That laurels sometimes have a bitter taste.
Tuwim dilated his nostrils when reciting,
Shouted "Ça ira!" in Grodno or Tykocin,
And set the crowd of native youth trembling
At a sound belated by a hundred years.
He would meet his admirers who survived
Years later at a ball the Security Police,
Which brough a fiery circle to its close:

After reading this passage (especially in bold), I often imagined a potential movie scene: Julian Tuwim standing on his stage, speaking to a throng of admirers. Yet the scene is shot in time lapse, and as Tuwim grays, it eventually dawns on film viewers that the audience is diminished. The camera turns away from Tuwim toward his former audience to focus on rows upon rows of empty chairs. This brings the supposed dictum that there couldn't be art after the Holocaust into focus. As tough as lives can be, I don't suppose many dealt with the trials of Tuwim, who faced antisemitism well before the Third Reich's eventual genocide against Polish Jews. This is perhaps most evident in an unlikely source.

Wikipedia's article on Tuwim contains one of the best examples of why Wikipedia is at times worthwhile. I like the search engine best when it provides anecdotes and information completely unavailable in any other information/encyclopedia site (from my experience with Wikipedia, these types of neat insights are more likely in little visited or edited sites, like Tuwim's). In Tuwim's entry is the following anecdote:
At a party, sometime during 1930s, Adolf Nowaczyński, writer and columnist, known for his sharp tongue as well as nationalism and strong antisemitic views, proposes following toast:

“There would be no Polish literature without Mickiewicz, there would be no Mickiewicz without Pan Tadeusz* and there would be no Pan Tadeusz without Jankiel** — hurray for Tuwim!”

To which Tuwim replies:

“There would be no Polish literature without Mickiewicz, there would be no Mickiewicz without Pan Tadeusz, nor Pan Tadeusz without Jankiel. And there would be no Jankiel without dulcimers*** — hurray for Nowaczyński!”

*Pan Tadeusz — a 1834 epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz about Polish gentry in Lithuania during Napoleonic War
**Jankiel — Jewish innkeeper and musician playing on dulcimer in Pan Tadeusz
***dulcimers — in Polish, the name of musical instrument cymbały is a plural form of cymbał, which means, somewhat humorously but not vulgarly, a stupid person.

One of the recent developments in Polish historiography, especially through Jan Gross's landmark work Neighbors, is the recognition of antisemitism as a constant element of some aspects of Polish culture, even prior to German influence. Nazi control over Poland surely facilitated the massacres that took place during the occupation, but years of blood libel and the like allowed some Poles to become perpetrators of horrible atrocities. In Tuwim's anecdote, the antisemitism, even among the literary set, is apparent. Tuwim's wit in turning the insult back toward Nowaczynski presents him as a artist worthy of much admiration. In this case, Wikipedia's shortcomings are its strengths because a more typical encyclopedia entry would not have included this ostensibly random story out of history. Not knowing the source of the story nor able to vouch for its provenance, I guess one has to take it with a grain of salt, yet I am quite glad to be acquainted with it. Interestingly, but not surprisingly the Polish entry on Tuwim doesn't contain any kind of similar story, appearing more as a typical encyclopedia entry. Poland still is dealing with its past of antisemitism, and until it does, the bigotry will plague its present, but in those like Tuwim, Bruno Schulz, or even Isaac Basheevis Singer, the appreciation of Polish past intertwined with Jewishness is a moral delight.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
  Alpha, the moralist (Alfa, czyli moralista)
Czytam Idzie Skacząc po Górach przez Jerzego Andrzejewskiego. Kiedy cztery lata temu żona ze mną pojechaliśmy do Polski, kupiłem sobie książkę razem z wieloma innymi, ale dopiero zaczynam ją czytać. Nie jestem przekonany że ją polubię. Oczywisty jest że Ortiz w książce reprezentuje Pablo Picasso. I to mnie interesuje.

Jakieś student na uniwersytecie mógłby napisać artikuł na temat Picasso'a w produkcjach culturalnych, czytając Andrzejewskiego i odróżnijąc go od "Pablo Picasso" przez Modern Lovers. Jonathan Richman śpiewa w piosence że Nikt nie nazywał Picasso dupą jak szedł po lalkach. Wydaje mi się że wiele kobiet Andzejewskiego książki nazywałoby Ortiza czymś gorszym od dupy. Może machismo Picasso'a lepiej pasuje kobietom i normom Nowego Jorku niż niektórym w Francji książki.

W każdym razie, piszę o książce bo przypomina mnie że Andrzejewski był skupem Miłosza w jednym rodziale Zniewolnego Umysłu (The Captive Mind). W Andrzejewskiego nadziejach w obietnicy Kommunizmu, Miłosz widział słabości pewnego rodzaju artisty. Mniej znane jest to że Miłosz starał się pomóc Andrzejewskiemu pożniej jak wyjechał z Polski do Francji. Miłosz mowi o tym w listach jakie napisał do Thomasa Mertona. Także Miłosz polecał Mertonowi czytania tymczasowej nowej książki Andrzejewskiego Popioły i Diamenty. Z tego co pamiętam, Obydwaj woleli versję filmową przez reżyszera Andrzeja Wajdy. Jaki biedny, Andrzejewski. Życie to takie trudne. Ale tak było w czasach przesłego stulecia dla większości artistów Polskich. Pożniej, chciałbym coś powiedzieć o wielkim poecie Juliuszu Tuwimie. Nie tylko polski, ale też żydowski. Po wojnie zgubił podsłuchawki i jeszcze doświadczał powiększania nationalizmu polskiego który czasami spowodował antisemitizm.

Na razie, trzymajcie się.
Monday, August 28, 2006
  Bookeaters- David Byrne
Here is the video (not especially hi-fi) we made of David Byrne at the Bookeaters benefit concert. A good time was had by all, and Daivd Byrne and his band did an all-country set. This first song is There Stands the Glass.

If you want to see the Sufjan Stevens/David Byrne duet see here. But I liked the first song a lot so thought Byrne-ophiles might like to see it too. I wish I had more clips from the evening, but we only had our little digital camera which only does 3:00 of record time before stopping itself. It'd been perfect for a Ramones concert, but Stevens' opuses (or interestingly "opera" also works as a plural) "Chicago" and "Casimir Pulaski Day" sadly overshot the lengths of the camera's ability so I lost each song in the middle. And the readers (Jon Stewart, This American Life's Sarah Vowell, John Hodgman) you can just forget about. I'll happily give you a play-by-play if you wish, but it was a fun night, and benefitted a cause close to my heart and own recent experience (tutoring children in the spooky arts through Dave Egger's 826 Valencia). Enjoy.

Update: In his wonderful, wonderful online diary, David Byrne writes about Bookeaters. Apparently, "There Stands the Glass" was well liked by Sarah Vowell at an earlier show, which inspired Byrne to do the all-country set. Also interesting, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was one of Byrne's last three cd purchases. I would dig and furnish the arena myself to see David Byrne do "Road to Nowhere" with the Tabernacle Choir singing the lead-in part. Somebody, please make this happen for me.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
  In Persuasion Nation
One of my favorite authors of our age takes the übermasculine form of George Saunders, the living king of the short story, and his new collection In Persuasion Nation, comprising many stories recently published in The New Yorker and Harper's, perfectly encapsulates our headlong rush toward Cathcart-ism (Between Saunders and my recent immersion in Catch-22--taking these as apt representations of the times in which we live--I feel like sleep is the briefest escape into coherent existence). I cannot help but feel at times that my relative nonage contributes to the way in which I search pages and faces of elders to explain such times to me. As I grew up, the Cold war consisted of waving sticks at figment Communists. Then the 90s passed so innocuously during my putative formative years that the status quo for existence I have developed in my mind comparatively condemns so much I see and hear today. Bush and Republicans suffer most in these evaluations, but that doesn't excuse me, my friends, my religious co-confessors, and political allies from similarly not measuring up. If it seemed so effortless once, why not so anymore? What am I and millions of other people not doing right? Because of such thoughts and questions, I loved the following passage among the material the magnanimous Squadron Leader Saunders offers on the promo page for his new book.

A Press Release from PRKA

Now it can be told.
Last Thursday, my organization, People Reluctant to Kill for an Abstraction (PRKA), orchestrated an overwhelming show of force around the globe.
At precisely nine in the morning, working with focus and stealth, our entire membership succeeded in simultaneously beheading no one. At nine-thirty, we embarked upon Phase II, during which our entire membership simultaneously did not force a single man to simulate sex with another man. At ten, Phase III began, during which not a single one of us blew himself/herself up in a crowded public place. No civilians were literally turned inside-out via our powerful explosives....

The whole thing is worth reading along with Saunders' delicious satire of advertisement, material consumption, and all of us facile moderns. If you join the persuasion nation army, not only do you get this kind of boring arrangement of lexically-ordered typography but also posters and boss fake tattoos. As Saunders writes, "Join us. Resistance is futile."

Sunday, June 04, 2006
  Ithaca Festival Parade
Here is a picture of the Volvo Ballet. The ballerinas in the foreground were admirably devoted to the characters they were playing.

The Chainsaw dancers.

Ithaca trails anthropomorphized.

Friday, February 17, 2006
  Picasso shops for books.

Here's a pick of our skinny Mainecoon mix Picasso "Cassie." Mainecoons are known for their big tails, substantial mane, and dog-like disposition. Cassie plays fetch with a nonstop tenacity, and I believe in this picture she is searching the bookshelves for the little One bracelet she prefers for the game. (The One bracelet goes along with the Bono-led non-profit for resolving poverty in Africa, see if you can find it to help Cassie, and meanwhile sign up.) Ksiezniczka looked up quite a bit on Mainecoons upon discovering that Cassie comes from that illustrious heritage. She told me that Europeans quite like the Mainecoon, and if anyone wanted to breed them to sell across the sea, they could fetch a good price.

In other news, my friend Marshall has started a diary from Iraq, and it is very very good. It makes me glad he is a non-commissioned officer.
That's all today from your miserly wight.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
  Pink Martini
Księżniczka and I went to Binghamton Yesterday to see Pink Martini play there with the philharmonic. It was a pretty great way to spend Valentine's. China Forbes, the singer, has a fantastic voice, and that being the case, "Amado Mio" and "Sympathique" sounded great. The newer song "Anna" which featured a duet of sorts between Forbes and vocalist/percussionist/smart dancer Timothy Nishimoto was my favorite, from a 1950s Italian film of the same name, the version in concert didn't seem like it would have been out of place on the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack. If you check out their webpage above you can listen to songs from both the first and new albums. Good stuff, but seeing them with a symphony orchestra is also recommended.
However, both K and I remarked on how we were the only two people in the audience under 40. As such, we were glad we dressed up. The guy next to me was rocking out (albeit not priapically). Happy Post V-Day.
  This is about to get awesome!
First I hear that Batman is about to take on Al-Qaeda. And today I am reading that the Bush Administration has spent over 1.6 Billion Dollars on PR and Advertising campaigns. 1.6 Billion! It might be time to get back into comics.
It's cool, a multi-purpose shape, a box.


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