Featured Post


I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Saturday, April 30, 2022




I find the idea of having enemies silly

Where would I find one?

In alleyways of grief?

In forgotten childhood toolshed of twisted intentions?

What would I do with an enemy if I had one?

What enemy could harm me more than I have harmed myself?


What what I do with an enemy if I had one?

Plot slow revenge, steam open letters, 

booby trap my poems?


We could do harm to each other

by turns, or both at the same time

Anger, hatred, be careful when someone gives these gifts to you

They are not very good ones


And what of lovers?

They are easier to find than enemies. 

Not people to got to bed with

(Though there's that too!)

Or set up domestic arrangements

But anyone who will love you for a moment or two

Or deeply and long 

Thursday, April 28, 2022


 Here, from my google scholar alerts:

"At the end of the same decade, the Spanish poet Fernando Garcia Lorca visited New York between June 1929 and March 1930 during which he penned his famous  work of poetry, Poeta en Nueva York..."  

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A conversation

--I didn't want to say no to this article because I had never published an article in Poland before.

--What's so special about Poland? 

--Nothing. I just haven't published anything there before. I would publish in Sweden, Chile, anywhere they invited me.  

--Where have you published?'

--U.S., Canada?, Spain, UK, Italy, Australia...  

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Death of the Comendador

 The narrator of the Murakami novel is relatively passive. He reacts to things but is not the main driver of events. Menshiki is the instigator of most of the action, having the nameless narrator paint his portrait and then the portrait of the girl who may or may not be Menshiki's daughter. 

The common wisdom is that a protagonist should want something, and take action to achieve it, and then deal with the obstacles that arise. Here we don't know what he really wants. His wife has left him, and he has affairs with some women, but they are not what he wants, really. He perhaps wants to forge his own artistic style, rather than being a painter of commissioned portraits, but to do so accepts Menshiki's commissions.  It is Menshiki's money that permits everything to happen. 

A passive protagonist can work, but it is much more difficult to pull off. It doesn't feel satisfying, so something else must compensate. Verbal descriptions of someone painting are not wholly satisfying either.  There is something half-hearted about the whole novel. as though the author didn't know what he wanted to do in writing it.   

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

2 models

Here is outline of the next talk I want to give. Please invite me!  I will speak for food and drink. 

Two models of song

1) The classical model

The text comes first. Song is a musical setting of a previously written poem. 

The relation between music and words is fraught with tension. The composer in some sense is going against the poet. The text's own prosody is over-ridden by the music. 

2) The vernacular model 

The listener processes music and words at the same time, without caring which was written first. We don't think of song as a musical setting of a "poem." The words might come first, or the music; it doesn't matter too much. If we asked Cole Porter whether he wrote music or words first, the answer might be interesting, but it wouldn't really affect our understanding of his songs. 

The lyrics may or may not have a "literary" value apart from their union with the music. 

There is no fundamental tension between words and music. 


A third model: in vernacular settings of literary poems, we know the text comes first, and was chosen for its literary value. The inherent tension of the classical model comes into play again.  

Thus the classical model is more relevant, despite the vernacular character of the setting. This means that we listen to this kind of vernacular music differently than other genres. The poem is not anonymous, unlike a folk song. 

Consequences of this for Lorca. He arises out of a tradition in which the vernacular assumptions are operative, but settings of his work need to be heard more critically, with this analytical separation between words and music.  


Monday, April 18, 2022


 Vino, sentimiento, guitarra y poesía

hacen los cantares de la patria mía. 


Quien dice cantares dice Andalucía. 


Here is Manuel Machado celebrating flamenco. Wine, feeling, guitar and poetry form the songs of my homeland. Songs... Whoever says songs says Andalusia.  

What an utter mediocrity.  

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Hey Catalan publisher of Murakami

 It's Thelonious, not Thelonius.  

Friday, April 15, 2022

Lived experience

 All experience is "lived."  The added adjective is tendentious, as though to say that this particular way of seeing experiencing is sacrosanct. "Lived" puts a kind of frame around the word, a halo of reverence. 

More Murakami

 So the narrator, we don't know his name, but he lost his sister when the sister was twelve, he fifteen. He marries his wife, Yuzu, in part because he reminds him of the dead sister. He gets claustrophobia after seeing the sister in the coffin. 

The wife leaves him, and is involved with other men. The narrator wanders a bit, stops being a portrait painter, and then goes to live in the house of a painter who has dementia and is now in an institution. This is where he finds the Don Giovanni painting, painted by the painter with dementia. A man, with a youthful face but white hair offers him a great sum of money to paint his portrait, and he agrees. But meanwhile he hears, at night, a bell ringing on the property. He goes outside and finds the ruins of some kind of temple.  The rich man hires someone to help dig up the ruins, and they find an antique bell. Some kind of spirit has been ringing the bell, of a Buddhist monk (monjo).  

So the mystery of the painting, and the mystery of the bell. All these talismanic objects found in the house. The rich man might have a daughter (paternity is unclear) who is about the age the narrator's sister was when she died. Does the rich man have some hidden motive?  

I find the narrator telegraphing the sense of mysteriousness in a somewhat contrived way.  We have two unexplained objects. There is some idea that the painter with dementia spent time in Austria in the 1930s, and so there is some Nazi theme that's going to enter.  They are constantly listening the Germanic music, left there by the elder painter.  

I'm eager to see how it will pull all together: the incest theme with the Don Juan archetype and the historical guilt.  

In terms of the Catalan, the language has not disappeared for me yet.  I still am seeing the language, not seeing through it. Maybe that's why I like reading in this language?  Unlike other people (some other people) I like looking at language, not just through it. This harder to do the more one knows the language.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2022


 The novel by Murakami is the Death of the Comendador.  The painting that appears in the novel is a scene, painted in a Japanese style, of a scene from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.  This opera is adapted from the Spanish of Tirso de Molina (El burlador de Sevilla) and features the Don Juan archetype.  The narrator of the novel is a painter, who finds this painting and begins to study; he starts copying it in pencil sketches. Unlike the Japanese painter he is imitating, the narrator is a Western style painter, so this is a work of adaptation or translation:

No es pot dir que fos una feina d’«adaptació», però sí que havia d’interpretar el quadre i «traduir-lo» a la meva manera, i per fer-ho primer havia de copsar la intenció que hi havia en el quadre original. Dit d’una altra manera, jo ‌poc o molt—havia d’entendre el punt de vista d’en Tomohiko Amada com a pintor o la seva manera de ser com a persona. Fent servir una metàfora, havia de ficar els peus a les seves sabates. 

Murakami, Haruki. La mort del comanador 1 (Catalan Edition) (p. 99). Grup 62. Kindle Edition. 

You can't say it was a work of adaptation, but that I had to interpret the painting, translate in my own way, and to do it first I had to capture the intention that was in the original painting. Put another way, I a little bit or a lot, had to understand the point of view of Tomoiko Amada as a painter or his way of being as a person.  To use a metaphor, I had to put my feet in his shoes.  

Wifi travails

 My internet wasn't working too well. I got new router, then a new modem. It still wasn't working well, so they fixed the wiring into my apartment. I was nervous because I was going to give a zoom talk, but, ironically enough, the talk went great from my end, but the host was doing internet from home and could not be heard in her introduction of me. I spent more money on the equipment than I was paid for the talk.

Then, this morning, it cut out again, and I didn't have it most of the day. The technician came, and said the outside wiring needs work, so that will be done tomorrow.  Then, we will have replaced my equipment, the inside and outside wiring. I'm quite sure another problem with the connection will arise after that.   

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Public intellectuals

 I notice that the colleague is on a panel about how to be a public intellectual. I just reread her piece on Tolstoi and "me too."  I just don't get it.  Apparently Tolstoy is a "gender theorist."  

Monday, April 11, 2022

Vivid and not so vivid dreams

 A wolf carcass by the side of the road. I had seen it alive earlier. 


A vivid dream; I was in a well-appointed house, walking from one room to the other. I knew it was a dream, and was proud of myself for being able to create all the visual detail in my own mind, what the rooms looked like, the people, with clear features. I was telling them that, that they were my creations, then they started making fun of my pronunciation, because it was not high class enough. I laughed at them, because their examples of the vowels I was mispronouncing were not valid ones. 

I was happy to be in my dream house, and would wake up from time to time to look at the clock by the side of the bed, but I had the capacity to go to sleep again and resume the dream, repeatedly.  

Bird census

At the bird feeder and balcony, cardinals, doves, other usual suspects. 

Near the apartment, robins, starlings. 

At the wetlands, loons, ducks, geese, blackbirds, tree swallows, grackles.   

Another cardinal. Fox sparrows? (I think.) A bluejay.  Sandpiper (a new one for me).  A heron.  


 I am reading a Murakami novel in Catalan.  I get bored by fiction so I always read in languages I want to practice a bit; someone told me about a novel I hadn't read by him, so why not? I downloaded it on my computer. 

Anyway, I understand perfectly well all that is going on. When I tried to download the dictionary, the kindle app decided I needed a French dictionary rather than a Catalan one, but I understand all but a very few words. 

What I find difficulty getting is the tone. There is a particular voice in English translations of this novelist that is casual, a bit wry. From the Catalan I am getting a kind of affectless, dry realism. Maybe a native Catalan speaker would get the correct tone, but I am not. I would have to compare this translation to the one in English to see what is going on here.  The original might also have a different tone from other Murakami novels.  

Friday, April 8, 2022


 Graduate students will write "menciona" in their papers as almost as a default.  Foucault mentions that.... 

That will also talk about "académicos" when they are talking about anyone who has contributed to the field.  I don't know where they get these habits from. 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

La casada infiel

 After my talk, I got a question about "La casada infiel."  The questioner did not like the poem (nor do I). I pointed out that it is virtually the only Lorca poem with a heterosexual male speaker, and one clearly differentiated from Lorca himself.  He is at once the macho seducer of women and the honorable man, since he would not have seduced the woman (or let himself be seduced) if he had known she was married. Surely this is parodic?  

Dalí hated this poem, and I'm sure Lorca regretted having written it, because, well, taking the poem straight would have been more normal, except for those of us who are Lorca scholars or who like to question texts rather than taking them at face value.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

My colleague in Slavic wrote this

 reading Russian literature

What do you think? I'm not crazy about this type of articles.  It is well intentioned, but to me it seems like a mishmash.