From Simple Men:
Ned: I want adventure. I want romance.
Bill: Ned, there is no such thing as adventure. There's no such thing as romance. There's only trouble and desire.
Ned: Trouble and desire.
Bill: That's right. And the funny thing is, when you desire something you immediately get into trouble. And when you're in trouble you don't desire anything at all.
Ned: I see.
Bill: It's impossible.
Ned: It's ironic.
Bill: It's a fucking tragedy is what it is, Ned.
Last night I saw Kronos Quartet at the Chan Center. The highlight of the night was the premiere of Nunavut, a collaboration with Tanya Tagaq, an Inuit throat singer best known for working with Bjork on her latest album. (A close second highlight-wise was Sigur Ros' Flugufrelsarinn, which was quite beautiful.)
Tagaq has an astounding voice and physical presence, and the piece had an improvisational air - unlike the rest of the performance, the members of Kronos performed standing up and without sheet music, as Tagaq approached each in turn for a call-and-response movement. I believe this was a deliberate echo of the traditional form of Inuit throat singing as described in the evening's program: "Inuit throat singing is ... more closely associated with vocal games or breathing games. Two women usually face each other-one leads, while the other responds." (This should be familiar to those who have seen Atanarjuat, which contained a traditional example of throat singing.)
Luckily, instead of attempting to describe the performance in further detail, I can tell you to tune into In Performance on February 23rd, as the concert was recorded by the CBC and will be broadcast in its entirety.
Did you know there was a Rothko Chapel? I guess that's one reason to visit Houston.
I'm not an abstractionist... I'm not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I'm interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on. And the fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions... the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are moved only by their color relationships then you miss the point.
If you're not sure why this is a surprising thing (well, it was to me anyway) for Rothko to say, here's a sample of some of his paintings.
While Atanarjuat was based on a 4,000-year-old oral tale, The Journals of Knud Rasmussen is based on detailed accounts kept by the 1920s Danish ethnographer/explorer Rasmussen (played by the Danish actor Jens Jorn Spottag) and his companions, who travelled in the Arctic and chronicled the dramatic impact of Christianity on what was then called the Eskimo way of life.
The heart of the epic tragedy is the story of Ava, the last great Inuit shaman and his beautiful and headstrong daughter, who struggle to survive and adapt as their world evolves (or devolves, depending on your perspective).
William Gass is a wee bit of a grump:
But if the comforts of mere enumeration are shallow and illusory, so are most comforts. ... [T]he top six illusory comforts are: a Sports Car, a Winning Team, Confession, a Savings Account, a Marriage License, a White-Collar Job, a Ranch House in the Suburbs.
From the essay I've Got a Little List, collected in Tests of Time.
Also, from Were There Anything in the World Worth Worship in the same collection:
Were there anything worthy of worship, then, we should ignore it; look at it, if we must, cockeyed; keep clear; never let on; invent no curses which employ and preserve its name; await the time when the vines of all our lives will grow over and hide it so it may lie safe like a city left empty and forgotten, silent inside us, solely in the deeps of us, so we might wonder about it like some wonder about Atlantis and, lost and alone, so it may remain worthy of worship, and a star shining in the midst of our dirty earth.