Wednesday, October 26, 2005

WOMAN: I was created of Nu and Wa, the sister and brother whose union marks the beginnings of the human race.

NARRATOR: (Sage Chinese accent) She is sometimes described as having a human head but the body of a snake or fish. Bi-zarre.

WOMAN: Having the head of one species and the body of another may sound bi-zarre to you, but if you think about it with the Chinese part of your brain, it will be easier for you to understand. You see, it is very difficult to imagine a goddess with bound feet. Can you see me as a two-year-old goddess held down on a bed with cotton in my mouth to gag my screams while my foot is bent inwards into itself until the tender arch snaps and breaks? And can you see me, lovely ephemeral creature that I am, unwinding the stinking bandages from my feet once a week, to squeeze out the pus and cut away the dying flesh? But for many years, you couldn't be a lady without bound feet, and can you imagine a goddess that isn't also a lady? So, the solution... if you have the body of a snake or fish you can still have a beautiful face and be a lady without having bound feet.

--- Ovidia Yu, The Woman in a Tree on a Hill

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

As a management consultant, I've visited my share of offices that send out confused signals. Not too long ago the window office, walnut desk and leather chair were nearly as important as the salary in reflecting executive status. In this carrot-and-stick model, only the champions earned leather and wood. But I know firsthand that lots of folks rebel against that work model. I still remember the day I interviewed at the consulting division of one of the big accounting firms. Great people. Reputable firm. Reasonable salary. It all looked pretty good until I asked to see what my office space would be like as a new associate.

First, my simple question about space flushed out the truth about lifestyle. Suddenly, I heard that you travel so much you don't really need a desk, which was a different story than I had heard earlier. Second, I got a clear signal about how they valued new associates. Not only did I not get a desk, I didn't get a filing cabinet or even a drawer. Where would I store my files and things? I'd share a gray sheet-metal utility shelf with another associate, my portion marked only by my name scribbled on a piece of masking tape. Maybe it wasn't quite rational that I turned down the job offer partly because of a gray utility shelf, but the space had communicated a lot about the firm's culture, and I wonder how much talent was fended off over the years because the "body language" of the firm said, "New associates don?t matter."

--- Tom Kelley (with Jonathan Littman), The Art of Innovation

Monday, October 24, 2005

"I assume you've read some of Kafka's stories?"

I nod. "The Castle, and The Trial, 'Metamorphosis'. Plus that weird story about an execution device."

"'In the Penal Colony'," Oshima says. "I love that story. Only Kafka could have written it."

"That's my favorite of his short stories."


I nod.

"Why's that?"

It takes me a while to gather my thoughts. "I think what Kafka does is give a purely mechanical explanation of that complex machine in the story, as sort of a substitute for explaining the situation we're in. What I mean is..." I have to give it some more thought. "What I mean is, that's his own device for explaining the kind of lives we lead. Not by talking about our situation, but by talking about the details of the machine."

--- Murakami Haruki, Kafka on the Shore
(trans. Philip Gabriel)

Friday, October 21, 2005


LESLEY: Are we so difficult for you?


LESLEY: Do we seem so wrong? (Pause from Grace. Lesley laughs gently) In London, whoever came home first would get dinner. Whoever was later would do the dishes and take out the garbage. Ellen would work late just to avoid dinner duty. On Saturday mornings we would clean house, do the laundry, lug grocery bags up five flights of stairs. On Sundays, we would fight over the weekend paper, have friends over for dinner, run out of paper napkins. Earthshaking, wasn't it? But you know how it is already.

GRACE: Yes. And you know that's exactly why it's so difficult.


--- Eleanor Wong, Wills and Secession

Thursday, October 20, 2005

From space, astronauts can see people making love as a tiny speck of light. Not light, exactly, but a glow that could be mistaken for light - a coital radiance that takes generations to pour like honey through the darkness to the astronaut's eyes.

In about one and a half centuries - after the lovers who made the glow will have long since been laid permanently on their backs - metropolises will be seen from space. They will glow all year. Smaller cities will also be seen, but with great difficulty. Shtetls will be virtually impossible to spot. Individual couples, invisible.

The glow is born from the sum of thousands of loves: newlyweds and teenagers who spark like lighters out of butane, pairs of men who burn fast and bright, pairs of women who illuminate for hours with soft multiple glows, orgies like rock and flint toys sold at festivals, couples trying unsuccessfully to have children who burn their frustrated image on the continent like the bloom a bright light leaves on the eye after you turn away from it.

Some nights, some places are a little brighter. It's difficult to stare at New York City on Valentine's Day, or Dublin on St. Patrick's. The old walled city of Jerusalem lights up like a candle on each of Chanukah's eight nights. Trachimday is the only time all year when the tiny village of Trachimbrod can be seen from space, when enough copulative voltage is generated to sex the Polish-Ukrainian skies electric. We're here, the glow of 1804 will say in one and a half centuries. We're here, and we're alive.

--- Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated

Friday, October 07, 2005

To all who wrote, thank you.

Cleanse my heart, give me the ability to rage correctly. -- Joe Orton