The Flâneur's Archives

Archives from The Flâneur's Arcade (2007-2017)

Category: Second Thoughts

Archived


Rue de Paris, temps de pluie (1877)
Gustave Caillebotte

Well, no sooner had Photobucket disallowed hotlinking to my blog images than Google discontinued their Picasa photo hosting service. They essentially retired it to make way for Google Photos, where I find I have less control over my material. It is unclear to me now where my material are actually stored, and I am also no longer able to obtain direct, permanent links to images.

This would still have been fine if Web Albums, the app I use to upload photos from my phone and link them to this blog, continued to function as usual, but after a phone unlocking procedure, where I had to reset the hardware, I could no longer log in to my account from Web Albums and access my photos. What’s worse, Google Photos only generates shortcut links that do not directly refer to the image file. This effectively disallows you from embedding the image directly on your blog or website. You can still share it via email, SMS, or social media, but you cannot embed the images.

It seems like these photo hosting services are trying to fence in your information within their domains or pay walls. It is a pity, as a lot of web authors like myself rely upon these resources to generate new content. What I love about the web is the preponderance and proliferation of amateur (non-specialist, non-professional) content, and the ability to mine existing web content to generate new content (within the bounds of fair use). It makes for a richer, deeper, more varied Internet. The continued push for consolidation and legitimization of web content will eventually lead to its ossification, much like what happened to the legacy media of newspapers and magazines.

It was my intent to maintain this site as a photoblog using Google’s photo hosting service, after Photobucket cut the hotlinks from my regular blog articles, but it seems like that will not be possible as well. In this light, I am turning this site into an archive of a decade’s worth of blogging since 2007, when I began–nearly 200 entries of sometimes pretentious, sometimes pompous, but always opinionated writing.

I will be restoring the image links (slowly) by transitioning to WordPress’ in-house photo service, so that the site will finally be completely self-contained. I am splitting my photoblogging, microblogging and new writing (or re-writing) into different WordPress sites:

Over time, I have settled into these three genres of photoblogging, microblogging, and proper writing, but doing all three in a single site has just become unwieldy, and also produced uneven results. So part of this major change also comes from my need to restructure.

I have enjoyed this “arcades project” for the last ten years, following my intellectual interests wherever it led me, striving to be a flâneur, both as amateur and dilettante: an amateur in the original French sense of “lover,” and a dilettante in the positive Italian sense of “one who delights.”

And the delights continue to beckon.

Displacement

The Global Soul, Pico Iyer Kyoto Lantern Festival
(Source: Ty Johnson’s Flickr Photostream)

December 2004: I picked up the other day another book by Pico Iyer called The Global Soul–Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home, which begins with an account of the burning of their house in California. In the last chapter, “The Alien Home,” he writes:

The homes we choose in short, deserve a tolerance we might not extend to the homes we inherit, and in a world where we have to work hard to gain a sense of home, we have to exert ourselves just as much as to sustain a sense of Other. I choose, therefore, to live some distance from the eastern hills of Kyoto, which move me like memories of a life I know I had… Thus Kyoto is unclouded for me by the routines of paying bills and cleaning clothes.

Strangely, I find this my very attitude towards writing–that I have to live some distance apart from it, that is, to work other than as “writer,” so that its enchantment is continually renewed, and that every act of writing, like Pico Iyer’s trips to Kyoto, are always a pilgrimage (“to see the lanterns in the autumn temples, leading up into the bamboo forests, as into another life, or hear the temple bells ringing…”). Bernardo Soares, one of Pessoa’s many selves wrote similarly of Rua dos Douradores, the nondescript street in Lisbon where he lived and worked as a clerk in a trading company:

And if the office on the Rua dos Douradores represents life for me, the fifth-floor room where I live, on the same Rua dos Douradores represents Art for me. Yes, Art, residing on the very street as Life, but in a very different place. Art, which gives me relief from life without relieving me of living…

I still have “to work hard to gain a sense of home” here in Houston, but have, meanwhile, found two steadying qualities in Pico Iyer’s travel writings: an honest voice and an eye of compassion.

Rua dos Douradores The Book of Disquiet, Fernando Pessoa
(Source: viagem nunca feita)

November 2006, Flight CO 3037 from Houston, TX to Jacksonville, FL: The plane is beginning to taxi from gate 71A at Terminal B of Bush International. It is still raining outside. The sky is already black but there is a golden sheen on the wet tarmac from the fog lights. Not as dreary as the drive to the airport from the city university: everywhere silver-grey, dissolved and ambiguous. Even the sharp edges of skyscrapers downtown are rubbed out and smeared by dripping fog.

Fogged. That’s how I feel right now despite striving for some sort of closure by returning to Houston for Thanksgiving, despite seeing for myself what I was in any case expecting to see: how this world, which until a few months ago I seem to be irrevocably enmeshed with, persists, abides, thrives. There is both familiarity and strangeness. For while I perceive the same objects, the same forms, I have begun to regard them with the spectacles of one who no longer belongs to this place.

There is a sense of detachment and displacement, as one who regards past feelings and sensations in the tranquility of the present. It is the regard of the passerby, the non-participant and uncommitted, the foreigner and outsider. Then, there is a sense of irrevocable loss, as when a bull charges into the china shop setting off infinite bifurcations of infinitesimal events. There is no redeeming lost time, for meanwhile the Universe has further expanded into nothing, further cooled down on its way to a slow heat death.

Orpheus and Eurydice, Rodin And then without warning
the god stopped her and with pain
     in his voice
uttered the words: He has turned
     around
–,
she didn’t understand,
     and answered softly: Who?


          ~R.M. Rilke (trans. E. Snow)

Orpheus and Eurydice, Rodin, 1893 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

At dinner with Imee and Chaitanya, with Faith and Chris, I noticed that I have begun to regard them as part of the past, or at least as not belonging to my present. They have begun to seem like those ghostly figures that memory magnifies and distorts, a shell of their former substance. Rilke’s Eurydice, startled and bewildered by the living Orpheus, receded rather into shadow. This however is not a final “death,” for surely, even as my plane races through this dark stratosphere, we may still meet, the circuit of our lives converge even as it splits, our disjointed presents synchronize. I believe this will not happen, but it is my hope.

As the night sky becomes clearer around me, and as the patches of sparkling lights below ceases to be Texas and becomes Louisiana or Mississippi, as we leave the fog of Houston for fair-weather Florida, I contemplate what manner of closure I achieved in returning one last time to Houston (for it is probably a while before I go back). Although it is not a clean break (can closures be such?), I have been afforded one last look, and, unlike Lot’s wife, allowed safe passage out.

That backward gaze is for the place I felt most at home in all America. Somewhere there is a house at the end of a tree-lined road. There, a magnolia tree stands in the front yard. Inside, the house is almost empty, except for essential furniture. Housepainter’s tools are strewn everywhere. At the backyard, there is a green pool with autumn leaves. The house seems deserted, but it is not.

There my gaze stretches furthest back. There my tears turn to salt.

The Leaves Are Falling

High Street, Urbana, IL Yellow

Leaves have finally turned color! I had been waiting for this all summer, not having lived north enough before to see the four-season cycle. The streets are covered in opulent gold and red, and gleam in late afternoon light. Color changes first at the fringes. It is not so much the production of yellow, as the retreat of green–the disappearance of chlorophyll–that light-harvesting molecule that transforms air into the trees’ very substance. Now, it is shutting down operations, one-by-one dismantling its photosynthetic accoutrements, until a mere black skeleton remains of a once dazzling fullness–a naked stick to stand up to winter.

Reds and purples also appear, at the right conditions, as excess sugars of winter hoarding are transformed by light into color. An occult conjunction of moisture and weather, the onset of spring, the end of summer. No two autumns are thus ever alike.

Red Nevada Street, Urbana, IL

Autumn to me was, for a long time, merely evoked by Rilke’s poems in The Book of Images. Ostensibly religious, these perhaps belong more properly to his earlier monastic and meditative work, The Book of Hours.

Herbsttag

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Autumn Day

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your long shadows on the sundials,
and on the meadows let the winds go free.

Command the last fruits to be full;
give them just two more southern days,
urge them on to completion and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Who has no house now, will never build one.
Who is alone now, will long remain so,
will stay awake, read, write long letters
and will wander restlessly up and down
the tree-lined streets, when the leaves are drifting.

(trans. Edward Snow)

“Who is alone now, will long remain so…” This line has always puzzled me. I did not understand why it should be so, that is, until I saw how ice in winter obstructs travel, and thus reunions. Autumn is the time to wrap things up before we are locked into the dead of winter. The restlessness in the poem, evoked by the flurry of leaves, is that before an impending stasis.

Autumn Leaves Garden of the Gods

Herbst

Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.

Autumn

The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
as though above were withering farthest gardens;
they fall with a denying attitude.

And night by night, down into solitude,
the heavy earth falls far from every star.

We are all falling. This hand’s falling too–
All have this falling-sickness none withstands.

And yet there’s One whose gently holding hands
this universal falling can’t fall through.

(trans. J.B. Leishman)

This poem is one of my very first introductions to Rilke, and it remains one of my favorites. I remember first reading it in Filipino in Fr. Roque Ferriol’s ethics class. Without being overt as the first (“Lord: it is time…”), it is nonetheless a more steeply religious poem. Falling leaves (“as from withering heavenly gardens”) also embody a metaphysical disarray. Unlike the first poem, however, which ends in a foreboding disquietude (before death?), here, there is a steadying transcendent force: a great Hand that gently catches all the falling. Yet this is not made out of any rational assurance; the last stanza rather states a beatific inversion that can only be uttered from the depths of religious experience.

Related Links:

Huling Gabi Sa Gainesville

Sa wakas, tapos na akong magbalot. Binaon ko ang mga aklat ng tula at nagbisikleta patungong downtown; nagbakasakaling ngayong hapon ay di uulan. “Garage sale!,” sigaw mula sa porch ng isang tahanan. Hindi ko ito pinansin, hanggang may sumunod na sigaw: “Ted!”. Iyon si Maria, ang kaibigan kong Russo na may mapulang buhok. Tingnan mo nga naman. Lumipat na siya ng tirahan matapos ang semestre, at di ko na akalaing magkikita pa kami. Ngayo’y heto at nakapagpaalam pa ako sa kaniya sa bisperas ng aking pag-alis.

Sarado na ang Volta kung saan sana ako magkakape. Umikot-ikot ako sa Hippodrome, sa Harry’s, at sa may bandang Gelato Company. May taga-roon na umiikot-ikot din at nagpapatikim ng kanilang gelato na dati kong dinadayo. Sa huli, nagtungo ako sa The Top, kung saan umorder ako ng Pesto Gnocchi: may sundried tomatoes daw at roasted pine nuts. Hindi na sana ako oorder ng inumin pero half-off daw ang Chardonnay sapagkat happy hour, ngiti ng waiter. O sige na nga. Huling gabi ko na naman ito sa Gainesville, at ako’y medyo nalulumbay.

Ganoon pala ang gnocchi, sing lambot at lapsa ng bola-bola sa ginataan. Hindi ko nagustuhan; sanay ako sa pastang al dente. At ang pangalawa kong kopita ng Chardonnay ay hindi rin pala half-off, bungisngis ng waiter, sapagkat lampas na raw ng alas-siyete. Leche.

Subalit hindi ko na makuhang ganap na mainis. Magaan na ang aking loob, umiikot ng kaunti ang ulo sa alak. At higit pa: nabigyang-aliw ng mga tula ng mga kaibigang nasa malalayo.

Na Naman

Hatid na naman ng hangin
Ang hangaring makapiling
Ang pinakamalalapit
At, lalo pa nga,
Ang pinakamalalayo sa atin.

Ganito rin daw ang simoy
Nang magningning ang tala
Dahil binitiwan ng isang dalaga
Ang matamis niyang oo
At ang kaniyang supling
Sa atin ipiniling.

(Rofel Brion, mula sa Sandali)

Himig

Kay bait ng ulan.
Pinaliliguan ang lahat ngayong umaga.
Tinatagos ang nagpapatagos.
Pinupuno ang nagpapapuno.
Dinidilaan, hinahaplos
lahat ng masasapo.
At ang ayaw bumigay
tahimik lamang na iiwan
upang tumungo sa masisidlan.

Kay bait ng ulan.

Subalit kailangan ko pa ring
paniwalaan
     tutuyuin ako ng sikat ng araw
     kinahapunan
     kinabukasan
     kinabukasan.

(Beni Santos, mula sa Kuwadro Numero Uno)

Ganoon Lamang

Ganoon lamang pala:

Tiklupin ng isa-isa
ang iyong mga damit,
isilid sa maleta.

Sumulat ng paalam
sa munting papel,
lagdaan ng pangalan.

Buksan ang pinto
at langhapin ang hangin,
humakbang palabas.

Ipinid ang pinto
nang walang lingon-likod,
lumakad nang lumakad.

Ganoon lamang.

(Rofel Brion, mula sa Sandali)

Oo nga, Rofel: ganoon nga lamang.

At napawi tuloy ang lumbay ng isa pang muling paglisan.