The Phoenix

phoenix“They have also another sacred bird called the phoenix which I myself have never seen, except in pictures. Indeed it is a great rarity, even in Egypt, only coming there (according to the accounts of the people of Heliopolis) once in five hundred years, when the old phoenix dies. Its size and appearance, if it is like the pictures, are as follows. The plumage is partly red, partly golden, while the general make and size are almost exactly that of the eagle. They tell a story of what this bird does, which does not seem to me to be credible, that he comes all the way from Arabia, and brings the parent bird, all plastered over with myrrh, to the temple of the Sun, and there buries the body. In order to bring him, they say, he first forms a ball of myrrh as big as he finds that he can carry, then he hollows out the ball, and puts his parent inside, after which he covers over the opening with fresh myrrh, and the ball is then of exactly the same weight as at first. So he brings it to Egypt, plastered over as I have said, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun. Such is the story they tell of the doings of this bird.”

Herodotus, people.

I haven’t kept up with the blog in about a year. I’ve been in mourning for a failed writing project and obsessed with photography. Like a beaten dog slinking back into the yard, I am slowly returning to the written word, and I resolve to keep up with my reading, viewing, and listening here in 2013.

Some scraps from the unpublished posts of 2012.

Open City, Teju Cole (2011) I’ve wondered what an American Sebald would sound like. Cole provides a useful and provocative redirection for the question. The ways Cole thinks through history, space, literature, memory, and tone are consistently provocative, but as in Sebald, the overall impression remains one of stillness. A deceptively simple novel. I want to read it again in a year.

I wanted to like HHhH more than I did; it seemed unnervingly slight, too playful. I enjoyed Martha Marcy May Marlene, which was amateurish but affecting. I had to switch off a number of movies for intolerable violence, including Savages and Lawless. This is unusual for me; either the violence is getting worse or I’m getting less tolerant or both. In Moonrise Kingdom I saw Wes Anderson beginning to imitate himself and it made me sad. Cronenberg’s Freud movie was stupid; I don’t think Cronenberg has one single thing left to say and as such his attachment to Delillo’s Cosmopolis makes a great deal of sense. Almovodar’s The Skin I Live In was awesome and irresistible. That one I could go on about. The superficial level of the film being “about” identity politics — you could certainly lead a rousing discussion about the performance of gender in the film with a room full of students — but what really fascinates me is its crazy structure and pacing, like a 19th century generational novel crossed with TMZ.

Plus a bunch of other stuff I’m sure, but like I said, in 2012 I mostly spent my spare time watching photography how-to videos on YouTube and wondering if I’d ever write another word. I’m going to try to keep up this year. I’ll also post some photos from time to time, I think.

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5000

I’m reading Don Quixote because Kundera can’t stop talking about it in The Curtain, a book I love.

I’m reading Geoff Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment. This book is extremely irritating for a lot of quite interesting reasons involving the notion of creative nonfiction as a genre, the question of expertise, ways of reading/seeing, and authority. But I’m not going to get into that here, for reasons soon to be explained.

I’m reading Color Correction for Digital Photographers Only for 20 minutes at a stretch, because it puts me to sleep.

I watched Chris Rock’s Good Hair, and that was totally fascinating.

I watched Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story and kept bursting into tears, which made me angry, because I should be doing something about injustice instead of crying about it while I eat pesto in front of the TV.

I’m not doing much about injustice, though I have been harrying my elected state representatives to pass HB-1 to get rid of Alabama’s punitive sales tax on groceries.

I’ve been taking a lot of pictures. You can see some here and here.

I’ve started a garden. It looks like this.

I’ve written some new poems. You can’t see those anywhere yet.

I’m reading and rereading Borchert obsessively.

What I haven’t been doing is writing on this blog, because it’s started to feel like a chore. So I’m going to set it aside for a while. I don’t think this is going to be much of a blow to my readers, of which there are, I think, probably only three or four anyway.

Nevertheless, I would like to say to those readers that I love them.

5000,

JB