Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29th

happy Christmas.

listening to Hiroshima's "One Wish," Jackson C. Frank's "Dialogue (I Want to Be Alone)", mystery folk, Orange Crush, The Orb's "Aubrey Mixes: the Ultraworld Excursions".

reading Basho.

Friday, December 5, 2008

i think it's kinda funny to post my final paper for my children's literature class.

The Indian Bunny, the Noble Savage:
A critical reading of Ruth Bornstein’s Indian Bunny

In Ruth Bornstein’s Indian Bunny, published in 1973 by one of the stalwarts in modern children’s literature, Scholastic, we find the short story of a yellow bunny who decides to run away and become an Indian (if it were published today, it might be called Native American Bunny). This charming children’s book yields interesting readings upon closer examination from a critical-theoretical perspective. This paper presents a reading of Indian Bunny, wherein the text is seen as setting up a binary opposition between nature and civilization, with the bunny functioning as a human traversing this divide. One may see Indian Bunny as involving a variation upon the 19th century romantic conception of the “noble savage”, and depicting a kind of idealized return to nature.

Indian Bunny is composed of 27 pages (32 including titles, dedication and copyright information) and generally, up until the last few pages of the book, each page with text has one sentence or less (often the sentences are fragmented across a two page spread). In the latter half, we find three instances in which two sentences are found on one page. The illustrations are similarly economical, with no more than one visual scene per illustrated page, with four two-page spreads and one spread which contains a continuous line running across both pages, showing what appears to be a single wooded scene but which features the bunny in two different places (picking up a feather and then walking into the woods with the feather on his head) .
The whole text of the story is told in the future tense, “I’ll climb a tree and look far out” (Bornstein no pagination), “I’ll gather round stones to mark a place”, etceteras. The bunny describes various adventures to be had in nature, finally going to sleep in his tepee, an owl flying by and wishing him goodnight. The minimalist, childlike nature of the illustration of the book, and the seemingly casual and straightforward way in which the story unfolds gives the book a charming, off-the-cuff feel, as if this were composed on the fly for a small child at bedtime, which may very well be the story’s origin. Bornstein herself has authored several children’s books involving animals, such as The Dream of the Little Elephant, though she is not as well-known or prolific as some of the bigger names in children’s literature.

Approaching Indian Bunny from a critical-theoretical mindset, one can find in this text, as in others, a multitude of paths and approaches from which to yield theoretical readings. This paper aims to address some of the striking tropes to be found upon a closer examination of the text. An interesting demarcation is set up within the first few pages of the book, a binary dichotomy of the sort that Jacques Derrida attacks in the body of theory loosely known (accurately or not) as “deconstructionism” – a divide between the bunny and the natural world, between some sort of civilization and the wilderness – a “dialectical polarit[y]” between “culture vs. nature” (Richter 821).

The bunny decides, with no reason given, “Good-by, I’m going to be an Indian.” The bunny then sets off to follow the river, “along a hidden forest trail”, and proceeds to engage in conversation with a tadpole (“he’ll tell me how he turns into a frog”). What is this bunny leaving? Are we to assume he lives in a city or house, as in children’s classics like Runaway Bunny and countless other anthropomorphic animal books? The bunny walks biped throughout the book – the bunny is very much a human in bunny’s clothing (or fur, if you like).

The most interesting instance of this dichotomy is when the bunny walks a “hidden trail to the place where the animals meet”. The bunny then proceeds to watch from behind a tree various animals (bears, bison, raccoons, skunks, snakes, frogs, etceteras) congregated together. The bunny is hiding – why? Presumably because, if his presence were known, the animals would scatter or perhaps become angry at his intrusion. In the two page spread following this animal meeting, the bunny “silently steal[s] away” as the sun sets, looking back at the animals and moving away in the trees, trying to leave undetected. Reading this, we feel nothing is out of the norm here – were a human to come upon such a fantastic (albeit improbable) gathering of forest animals, he or she would certainly try to remain hidden for fear of disturbing or irking the animals. Yet the bunny is a forest animal, unless it were (as it is) an anthropomorphized animal, or rather, an animalized human. The dichotomy is set up and confirmed, between the civilized and self-aware (the bunny) and the wild and natural (the rest of the animals). The bunny, in becoming the Indian Bunny and donning his feather and doing his deer dances, is a civilized human escaping into the natural .

Of relevance here is the idea of the “noble savage”, popularized by, among others, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Loosely described, the concept behind the “noble savage” revolves around the notion that human beings in a state of nature, unsullied by civilization, are purer and freer, happier and less inhibited than those formed under the restrictions of civilization and society. Thus, Native Americans and other indigenous non-European peoples living in conditions considered “primitive” and “natural” (by “civilized” observers) are thus romanticized as being closer to the earth and the way man is supposed to be, as being of a more noble and hardy nature than those raised in the cities. This idea has come under criticism in the 20th century as a kind of pandering racism, as a patronizing reversal of the stereotype of the violent, animalistic savage, just as offensive and intrinsically prejudicial ( no pagination). This idea still holds sway with many, and the 1960s saw many subscribe to a back-to-nature romanticism which may very well be seen as an update of the same 19th century attitudes out of which the concept of “noble savagery” was borne. The Indian Bunny could be seen as a kind of variation on that same desire to return to an idealized, idyllic natural state – the desire of the city-bound to flee into the woods.
Of relevance here is the idea of intertextuality, wherein a single text contains within it references to a vast field of other texts, situating itself in a world of texts – “[e]very text builds itself as a mosaic of quotations” (Kristeva quoted in Harmon 279). This critical trope is not relegated purely to “serious” or “grown-up” literature, as William Moebius affirms in his essay: “[t]he phenomenon of intertextuality is more common in the picturebook than might appear” (Moebius 147).

Indian Bunny, on its surface, appears to have no explicit references to other texts, and indeed, there is nowhere any direct or indirect allusion to specific texts. However, the story of Indian Bunny is founded upon the cultural idea of Indians (Native Americans) and their perceived close relationship with nature.
Several of the signifiers within the book are based upon direct allusion and deployment of tropes founded in the cultural icons of Native Americans (that is, the texts and conceptions which form the culture of Native Americans within the collective mainstream culture of America). The bunny dances “a deer dance” – a playful allusion and variation on traditional Native American rituals. The bunny comes upon “a feather the eagle has floated down” directly to him, and places it on his head (fastened with a string or band whose origin is unaccounted for). Thus, the bunny becomes the Indian Bunny. Then the bunny goes deeper into the natural world, “follow[ing] the hidden trail to the place where the animals meet”. At the end, the bunny makes a fire, beats a drum, and goes to bed in his tepee (all signifiers of “Indian”-ness).

The realization that all these external references and cultural signifiers are contained within a children’s book, and that these signs are expected to be (and presumably are in most cases) easily recognized and understood by very young readers (or, perhaps more accurately, listeners) points to the relatively complex degree of cultural literacy possessed by a young audience.

In the second to last page of the book, an owl flies by, and says, “Good night, little Indian Bunny”. The owl acknowledges the bunny as “little Indian Bunny,” thus signifying a kind of successful integration of the bunny into the land the owl lives in. Thus the bunny has successfully made his way into the natural world and become a kind of variant on 19th century Romanticism’s “noble savage”. He has traveled from the unseen but implied world of civilization, to the natural world, traversing from one end to the other of a binary opposition. Unlike many children’s books which feature flights to other lands and worlds, the main character does not have to return home, as Max in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are or the Pevensie children in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia must. The Indian Bunny, rather, migrates to the natural world and stays there at the book’s conclusion, which may be seen as reflective of and consistent with the same kind of romanticizing mindset behind the “noble savage” and an idealized return to nature.

Anonymous. “Noble Savage” Wikipedia article. 30 April 2006. .

Bornstein, Ruth. Indian Bunny. New York: Scholastic Inc, 1973.

Bornstein, Ruth. The Dream of the Little Elephant. New York: The Seabury Press, 1977.

Harmon, William. A Handbook to Literature Tenth Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.

Moebius, William. “Introduction to picturebook codes.” Word & Image 2:2 (April-June 1986): 141-158.

Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends Second Edition. Bedford/St. Martin’s, Boston. 1998.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

la sacre du printemps

excerpt from the wikipedia entry on Stravinsky's Rite of Spring which i have been listening to lately...
The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. At the start with the opening bassoon solo, the audience began to boo loudly due to the slight discord in the background notes behind the bassoon's opening melody. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually degenerated into a riot. The Paris police arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance, and Stravinsky himself was so upset on account of its reception that he fled the theater in mid-scene, reportedly crying.[5] Fellow composer Camille Saint-Saëns famously stormed out of the première (though Stravinsky later said "I do not know who invented the story that he was present at, but soon walked out, of the premiere."[6]) allegedly infuriated over the misuse of the bassoon in the ballet's opening bars.

Stravinsky ran backstage, where Diaghilev was turning the lights on and off in an attempt to try to calm the audience. Nijinsky stood on a chair, leaned out (far enough that Stravinsky had to grab his coat-tail), and shouted counts to the dancers, who were unable to hear the orchestra (this was challenging because Russian numbers are polysyllabic above ten, such as eighteen: vosemnadsat).[7]

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008




caffeine + sugar = deliberate obscurantism?

David Lynch ate at lunch at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank every day for 7 years. He had a shake every day, apparently claiming that one day he would have the perfect shake. He also said that the combination of sugar and caffeine (from his chocolate milkshakes and coffee) gave him ideas for a lot of his films.

baby needs a brand new pair of eyes

From the very first day that you were born
to the very last time you waved and honked your horn
had no chance at all to watch you grow
up so sadly, beautiful
up so sadly, beautiful

(the replacements)

What I'm "Reading" Right Now

C.S. Lewis - Perelandra
John Porcellino's comic adaptation of Thoreau's Walden
Christopher Butler - Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction
Stan Lee/Steve Ditko - Amazing Spiderman
Ed. Richard Lewis with Photographs by Helen Butfield - The Way of Silence: The Prose and Poetry of Basho
Ruth Nichols - A Walk Out of the World
I.O. Evans - Jules Verne: His Life and Work
Sei Shonagon - The Pillow Book vols. 1 and 2
Tom Wolfe - The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby
James K.A. Smith - Introducing Radical Orthodoxy
Italo Calvino - If On a Winter's Night a Traveler
The Bible
Ed. Richard Lewis - Still Waters of the Air
Poems by Garcia Lorca, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Antonio Machado.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


In euery daunse, of a moste auncient custome, there daunseth to gether a man and a woman, holding eche other, by the hande or the arme, whiche betokeneth concorde.
- The Boke named The Governour
Devised by Sir Thomas Elyot, Knight
(to whom T.S. Eliot is related and quotes in his Four Quartets)

Artists I'm Interested in Right Now:

Alex Katz - American pop art. His piece Varick is a picture of a single strip of lighted windows (6 in number) in the top left corner of the canvas, the rest of the canvas being a deep black, apparently an image of a high rise office building at night, evocative of a tiny outpost of "Civilization" in a sea of darkness...

Yuri Smirnov - Russian bookplate illustrator. A soft, gentle surrealism.

Monday, November 24, 2008

this past week

griffith observatory.

wayne's world-themed surprise birthday party.

listening to Boards of Canada driving through the Valley with Brie at twilight.

looking at a Dutch-styled architectural oddity (with stained glass windows) looking very incongruent in the middle of Van Nuys.

dressing like an Indian for a Thanksgiving party with church friends.

biking near a Frank Lloyd Wright Mayan-inspired house in Pasadena on a sunny Saturday morning.

"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen".

Manual's new ambient LP, Confluence.

Phase IV, a rather terrifying 70s science fiction film.

writing. drawing. thinking. praying. biking.

3 John Christopher books read.

nearly finished with a book on Postmodernism.

Starlight Crest.

hiking at Rubio Canyon.

my roommate shoving a holiday catalog at my face and yelling for me to "eat it".

up the airy mountain, above the gilded hills of arcadia, on a thursday morning.

needing God's love.

thankful for many blessings.

listening to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in rapt awe.

tearing up looking at a sloth.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Til the night closes in

I realize that my favorite love songs are the ones where Death is never far away in the background, an ominous, black spectral-cloud, hovering above the lovers picnicking on the grass. The Grim Reaper standing with his sickle watching teenagers make out...

Monday, November 17, 2008

an "annihilating intimacy" of noise

This is from an interesting article on the meaning (or interpreted meaning) of noise in modern popular music by Torben Sangild - NOISE - THREE MUSICAL GESTURES : Expressionist, Introvert and Minimal Noise . It contains a quote about My Bloody Valentine, from a NME review of Loveless.

All of “Loveless” is suffused with an apocalyptic, pre-orgasmic glow, the sound of an annihilating intimacy. My Bloody Valentine music is a smelting, melding, crucible of love in which every borderline (inside/outside, you/me, lover/beloved) is abolished. Instead of the normal perspective of rock production (bass here, guitar there, voice there, with the listener mastering the field of hearing), My Bloody Valentine are here, there, everywhere. They permeate, irradiate, subsume and consume you. (Reynolds, 1991).

My Bloody Valentine, Sangild asserts, uses noise not as a Dionysian explosion of ecstacy, but as a gesture of boundary-blurring intimacy, a "de-centering of subjectivity". "De-centering of subjectivity". That seems a very vague term, certainly open to multiple interpretations - in which subjectivity ceases to be the subjective viewpoint of one person (myself) and rather merges with another's? or a de-privileging of my viewpoint into a more blurry, floaty view encapsulating many different views?

I'm not sure, but it's an interesting article.

I saw My Bloody Valentine a month or so ago, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The concert was, apparently, around 132 dB loud at least, louder than the loudest concerts on record. You could feel your hairs on your arms vibrating. You could feel the bass deep in your chest. It was like being inside a cave during a mining disaster. I think the most shocking thing was seeing a few imprudent (to say the least) concertgoers without ANY hearing protection, despite the fact that earplugs were passed out for free at the door. Nearly 20 minutes of immersion in a cavern of unending rumble and sheer noise. It was pretty amazing. I didn't really feel driven into an altered state or anything, as some said is the effect of the noise. It certainly didn't feel angry the way most noise is used in rock - it felt more like being in a big cavern or at the bottom of the sea, while a storm rages overhead. It felt intimate; though the noise certainly seems de-personalized, it didn't feel de-personalizing, the way some avant-garde music affects me. However, a lot of my memories on the show are colored by the anticipation of seeing Kevin Shields, and the joy of watching it with my friend Justin, who is definitely one of my favorite people. During the noise part, he would tilt his neck back, eyes closed, mouth agape. That's how shoegaze should be, I think.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Did the Captain of the Titanic cry?"

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

excerpt from T.S. Eliot's Choruses from the Rock

Friday, November 14, 2008

Consensus Science

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period. . . .

I would remind you to notice where the claim of consensus is invoked. Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2. Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It would never occur to anyone to speak that way. . . .

Michael Crichton, excerpt from "Aliens Cause Global Warming" lecture at CalTech

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Current 93 and Bibio

Current 93 Interview with Wire:
It's getting late and Tibet sees me to the door. Outside silence reigns in the moonlit street. "What permeates life completely, I believe, is The Inmost Light," Tibet concludes. "The secret glory, this is whatever you want to call it, the presence of Christ in everything. It is there and if we don't find it before we die then we're doomed. We must find it, we must, it's the only thing we're made for, to try and get even just a glimpse of the glory that lies behind everything that's hidden from us. The world seems to be disappointing and full of suffering, because we just can't see what's shining behind it all. And it's the only thing which is important. Although there is that incredible transcendence at the same time - although that is a reason for great joy and a feeling that there is something, there is more that just this - at the same time if we miss the chance to get it, that's it: we don't get second chances."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

some stuff i'm listening to

I'm listening to -

Steve Roach - A Deeper Silence
ambient music pushed to its 1-track, 74-minute sometimes inaudible, environmental and immersive conclusion.

Keith Canisius - Ferris Wheel Makeout
what a great title for a shoegaze album! this is the guy from denmarkian shoegaze band Rumskib, and this album is pretty rad. Jonas Munk from Manual did some production on it apparently. and it's. totally. legit.

Low - Trust
alan sparhawk is pretty rad. so much space. so much meaning packed into every word, the phrases becoming more and more rife with deep (and multiple) meanings with every repetition.

Glen Campbell - The Moon's A Harsh Mistress
What an amazing song. Jimmy Webb should be named an American cultural treasure. His songs are SO legit. I read that he became a Christian (or more passionate about his relationship with Christ) a while ago, and I'd like to hear the songs that came out of that. His stuff has such a depth of sadness, the soundtrack to lives lived in the heartland of America - sunsets, fields of wheat, lonely truck drivers, threadbare apartments, warm nights on the porch with friends and cheap beer, lost dreams, the smell of stale cigarette smoke in a dead-end bar, country music bleeding from the AM radio in the fading hours of a late afternoon...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Three Reflections on Nostalgia

Natsukashii is a hard to translate Japanese adjective, referring to nostalgia for the past - but not simply the past, but soemtimes referring to an idealized past that never really was...

From an interview with the Canadian comic artist Seth:
Am I nostalgic? Can you feel nostalgic for an era you never lived in? I am interested in the time before I was born, but I feel the most nostalgia for the era of my own childhood. The 1960’s and early 70’s was the last vestige of that old world… elements of it were still hanging around everywhere. I didn’t think about it much as a child, but now I realize those old businesses and products and movies etc. that were lingering into the time of my childhood left a deep impression on me. All that stuff seems very sad to me. I’m not really a nostalgic type so much as a melancholic. I spend a lot of time alone, and most of it is spent in a fog of self-pitying melancholy. It sounds pathetic, but it is so true.

When there is no hope for a future (or for any world beyond this current one, dominated as it is by the inexorability of decay and the merciless march of time), many must turn to an idealized past - sometimes quite conscious of the artificiality of this constructed view of the past - to find some semblance of safety, of home, and, I would even argue, of the Eternal we are built for.

Glen Campbell sings "Southern Nights", inflected as it with a sweet kind of sadness.
Glen Campbell is so wonderful.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oh, Zizek, you crazy diamond!

I watched a documentary on Slavoj Zizek, the rather flamboyant and controversial philosopher-literary critic-academic. He's honestly laugh out loud funny. Anyway, here's a quote I stole from James K.A. Smith's blog (, as he in turn quotes Zizek, speaking of traditional marriage as a dynamically counter-cultural commitment:
What if, in our postmodern world of ordained transgression, in which the marital commitment is perceived as ridiculously out of time, those who cling to it are the true subversives? What if, today, straight marriage is 'the most dark and daring of all transgressions?'" - Zizek, "The Thrilling Romance of Orthodoxy," in Theology and the Political: The New Debate

A praise of traditional marriage by Slavoj Zizek, self-proclaimed Lacanian-Marxist, and an academic known as "the wild man of theory" (!)

Speaking of which, I kinda think that Lacan is ridiculous. There is a scene in the movie where Zizek is watching Lacan extolling his philosophy on French television, and Zizek talks about how phony the whole thing is (the form of Lacan's lecture, that is, not the actual content thereof). It is interesting that Zizek calls himself a Lacanian and yet offers constructive critique of Lacan - I think it is quite sensible that he feels free to critique Lacan and remain within a Lacanian framework. I sensed some sort of tentative binary being hinted at, wherein Derrida and Lacan are seen as two opposing camps within post-structuralism. Seems kind of funny, especially given post-structuralism's professed deep aversion and violent deconstruction of "Western" binaries.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

so it begins

(monk by sea by caspar david friedrich)