Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Disappointing Case of the Castaway Lego Men: NO REAL/THAN/YOU ARE

Stories about marvelous flotsam tend to drift into my in-box, which can make reading email resemble a sedentary form of beachcombing--not as pleasurable as the extravagant, outdoorsy kind, but fun nonetheless. This morning brings a doozie. According to BoingBoing, an 8-foot tall castaway Lego man recently washed up in Florida. When exactly, the blog post doesn't say. It turns out this is, at least, the second such sighting. An earlier specimen--same size, different color shirt--washed up on a Dutch beach at Zandvoort.

Florida's specimen is marked No. 9, so one wonders if there are 7 other Lego men out there, drifting on the waves. Did a shipload of these dudes tumble overboard? 

Appears not.  The castaways also bear a maker's mark identifying them as the work of a Dutch artists' collective called Ego Leonard. Why do I find this disappointing? What seemed a fabulous accident suddenly has the feel of a guerrilla marketing campaign. 

It is with disappointment that I share the greeting, presumably in the voice of a giant Lego man, posted on the Ego Leonard web site:
I would like to introduce myself:

My name is Ego Leonard and according to you I come from the virtual world. A world that for me represents happiness, solidarity, all green and blossoming, with no rules or limitations. 
Lately however, my world has been flooded with fortune-hunters and people drunk with power. And many new encounters in the virtual world have triggered my curiosity about your way of life.
I am here to discover and learn about your world and thoughts. 
Show me all the beautiful things that are there to admire and experience in your world. Let’s become friends, share your story with me, take me with you on a journey through beautiful meadows, words, sounds and gestures.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lethem, Dyer: "Absurdly Long Books on One Small Thing"

In BOMB, Jonathan Lethem interviews Geoff Dyer about his essayistic narratives, or novelistic essays, whichever they are, with special attention paid to The Missing of the Somme, newly released in the U.S., high on my wish list. And in passing they touch on Marclay's The Clock, Dickens, Wordsworth's The Prelude, laziness, "deep plumbing of consciousness." Lots of good stuff, but I'll highlight this:
DYER: . . . I like books that are about other books in some way. In terms of well-being or psychological health, certainly I’m extremely happy when I set out, either for an article or a book, to read and learn everything I can about a given person or subject, to completely immerse myself in it. I feel, at that point, that I have a purpose. When it comes to actually writing a book, that excitement and well-being would soon turn to boredom if it didn’t proceed in tandem with the creative challenge of coming up with some kind of form or structure that seems especially appropriate to that subject.
And this:
DYER: . . . I operate at a far lower level of energy and inspiration, but a higher pitch of desperation! Generally, I like the idea of short books on one particular cultural artifact as long as they don’t conform to some kind of series idea or editorial template. The madder the better, in my view. I like the idea of an absurdly long book on one small thing. I think we’d agree that the choice of artifact is sort of irrelevant in terms of its cultural standing: all that matters is what it means to you, the author. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Captain Tsubasa

Michael Paterniti's account of "The Man Who Sailed His House," which I recommended in an earlier post, is now up online. A favorite passage:
The roof is perhaps twelve feet by six, of corrugated metal nailed to wood beams, your raft at sea. Last night, you and Yuko slept beneath it, and now you perch atop it on the sea, above the goblin sharks and whatever else lurks below. Saltwater laps up the sides, and any sudden movement immediately sets it seesawing. Sit still, in the middle—and as time passes, let the contrite sea bring gifts from the dead. This makes you giddy, the gifts. First it brings a red marker. Then the torn pages of a comic book, a manga, its hero, Captain Tsubasa, kicking a soccer ball with superhuman force. It brings some sort of red container that used to hold paint. It brings a tatami mat woven together with string, a broken radio, and a white hard hat. All of which you fish out of the murk. The hat (To whom did it belong?) immediately goes on your head, the marker in your hand. You imagine the dead offering you these things from underneath the sea. Hunched over the ripped comic, you test the marker on the damp page and write the following words in the margin: On March 11, I was with my wife, Yuko. My name is Hiromitsu. Then you tear the paper, fold it, place it in the red canister, seal it, and with the string from the mat, bandolier it to your body. Resume your pose.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Avi Steinberg, In Search of Lost Worlds

On the web site of The Paris Review, Avi Steinberg has a smart and hauntingly illustrated little essay on the strangeness of the world according to Google Street Views. I especially like his closing thoughts:
One night, you locate a distant childhood intersection. You leave the street map and enter the scene, passing seamlessly from map to territory. But there are no goofy hijinks or bloody corpses there. No sublime horses. Just a bright, sunny street with uneven sidewalks, lined with parked cars—a place that once contained everything that you knew and needed to know, which once held the entire range of possible truths. Then you take a Google-step back, and suddenly it’s a bit less sunny and a bit more populated. You swing around to your left, and now the sky is overcast and foreboding. A step forward and a neighborhood man you once knew, who was pictured sitting on his porch a frame ago, has vanished. Now the sun is out again, but setting. This private territory, with its radically shifting light, its dreamlike angles, and its specters popping in and out of view—that odd combination of detailed recollection and ever-thickening fog—resembles the structure of memory itself. It’s like visiting a lost place. It’s not the grandest idea but, at certain moments in life, it’s the best we’ve got.