August 31, 2008

Blue Brain Project, Jackson Pollock

Blue Brain Project is one of the most ambitious projects of neuroscience: "the first comprehensive attempt to reverse-engineer the mammalian brain, in order to understand brain function and dysfunction through detailed simulations".

Detail of Jackson Pollock's #8 (1949)
Oil, enamel, and aluminum paint on canvas
Neuberger Museum, State University of New York

August 28, 2008

Spaziergang in Zehlendorf

Last evening I walked to my videoclub. These are the spots I saw.

A crane, of course! And next to it an erotized fountain.

Kafka's last place in Berlin.

The museum which conserves the car of Eisernen Gustav (Time's article of 1928).

The first railway in nowadays Germany connecting Berlin and Potsdam (1828).

The place where Friedrich Wilhelm I (the heroe of Hegel's father) received the protestants who had to leave Salzburg because of the catholic bishop in 1731.

The only octogonal church I know (1768), and the small cementery attached to it.

A milestone on the road constructed by Friedrich The Great to connect his Berlin Palace with Sanssouci, his summer palace in Potsdam (one Prussian mile = 5,325 m) .

A bizarre Japanese fight training center.

One of the last fixed public telephones (this year 10,000 are being taken away, because mobiles make them useless).

West Berlin Ampelmännchen | East Berlin Ampelmännchen (stamp)

The little forest where a fox lives, and where I once saw a boar.

August 27, 2008

I feel like attending a real university

I was checking the Language Center of the Humboldt University for the next term, and the offer impressed me. Take a look:

12 alte Sprachen
Altarmenisch | Altirisch | Altgriechisch | Altkirchenslawisch | Altpersisch | Avestisch | Gotisch | Ivrith | Koptisch | Latein | Sanskrit | Vedisch

41 moderne Sprachen
Amharisch | Arabisch | Bahasa Indonesia | Bulgarisch | Chinesisch | Dänisch | Dari/Persisch | Deutsch | Englisch | Französisch | Georgisch | Hausa | Hindi | Irisch | Italienisch | Japanisch | Katalanisch | Ladinisch | Lettisch | Litauisch | Mongolisch | Norwegisch | Okzitanisch | Paschto | Polnisch | Portugiesisch | Rumänisch | Russisch | Schwedisch | Serbisch/Kroatisch | Slowakisch | Sotho | Spanisch | Swahili | Tadschikisch | Tibetisch | Tschechisch | Ungarisch | Uzbekisch | Vietnamesisch | Weißrussisch

Julee Holcombe, Babel Revisited (2004) | Bruegel The Elder, Tower of Babel (1525-1530)

August 25, 2008

Beijing 0

Since Los Angeles 1984 I recall watching a lot of Olympic Games every fourth summer (my oldest Olympic impression is the pole vault, not the rocketeers). My record was Sydney 2000: I watched an average of 8 hours per day, perhaps even more.

But this time I watched ZERO seconds of the Olympic Games. Nothing, absolute nothing, not even in YouTube or any other online videos. I just kept reading the usual newspapers which I always read.

I talked about boycotting the Games, and I did it. Because I don't either like the repressive government of China nor the attitude of Occident towards China: being "ecnonomically affraid" of them, but supporting them, and making them stronger. It's nonsense, a contradiction. Absurd. For example: compare these numbers: 14,901 residents were relocated to make way for Olympic venues, according to a Beijing municipal official. But a human-rights group says that 1,500,000 people evicted to make way for Olympic venues and infrastructure. (Yes, unfortunately I don't know the source: I read it here, where you can read some other interesting numbers.)

It's stupid to get impressed because they are "so successful". At what cost? Athletes are preselected very soon, trained for years at the governement's expenses, so that they can achieve the most gold medals in order to impress us. And people do get impressed.

But suicide is top-5 in the death causes in that country. There are for instance one suicide and eight failed suicide attempts every two minutes in China. Obviously there are many reasons to attempt suicide, not only government's role.

Liu Xiang's story is a good hint to understand how things work. Or Cao Lei's (I really think that the Party put pressure on the father's decision of not telling her that her mother had passed away).

C'est ça!

August 22, 2008

Notes for a "History of the scepter"

In many cultures, staffs with a curved upper end were used to catch animals by their legs or horns; they are still used so today.

In Egypt, two scepters developed from them: the Heqat, an emblem of authority, and the Was-Scepter, which had a religious aspect as well. In the Near East, curved staffs primarily had a ritual function: a loosy curved staff (Gamlum) in the hand of the rulers, priests and gods was used in incantations. A strongly curved staff (Kalmus) is, in the case of Hittite rulers, also an allusion to ritual functions. The Etruscans adopted the strongly curved staff from the East. It seems to have been primarily a staff of command, including --as in Orient-- priestly functions. A point at the upper end could have served as a help for dividing up the sky of the earth.

For this purpose, the augurs in Rome used a staff very similar in shape, the Lituus. It was used to distinguish the various regions of the sky while foretelling the future from the flight of birds. Its introduction was attributed to the first mythical Roman kings, Romulus and Numa Pompilius. The augur's staff indirectly became an emblem of authority on a coin of Sulla; it shows that Sulla was in possession of the command of the army and was thus entitled to do the reading of signs (auspicia) himself at the start of a campaign. As a member of the four highest orders of priests, the Emperor Augustus used their emblems in order to underline his supreme authority in questions of cult. Later emperors followed his example: the augur's staff remained associated with the emblems of rule.

In this form, the Christians adopted the curved staff. Together with the mitra and the ring, it is part of official insignia of bishops and abbots in the Roman Catholic Church. It therefore combines a leadership function with a priestly one. So, in a figurative sense, it has become a shepherd's staff again.

More interesting information here, hier, ici.

August 19, 2008

Two conversations with Germans

We are at the Station Schlachtensee and want to get back home. It seems that soon it will begin to rain:

- A: So, we can walk back home, or we could wait here, take the train just one stop, and then walk home.
- Me: Good. Let's wait for the train.
-A: But I think that it takes exactly the same amount of time to walk than to wait+train+walk.
- Me: Good. Let's wait then.
- A: But... Haha... I got it: "Mexican lazyness".
-Me: Whatever...

* * *

I take out the old newspapers, go to the corner, and put them in their paper-container. Bad luck! The neighbors who live there are just coming back home, they stop the car, and he looks really angry. She even stops the engine in the middle of street instead of parking. It seems to me that he comes from East Europe. She has stepped already out of the car and waits there. She looks calmer.

We discuss, I apologize, and then I promisse to never ever again do such criminal acts like taking advantage of their paper-container. He calms down and goes. But she is not that calm, and still has something to say:

She: So, let me guess: you come every now and then to put all your garbage in our containers, no?

Me: Not at all. Just sometimes [like 3 times per year] I bring old newspapers, and that's it.
She: You know that no German would ever dare to do something like that?
Me: ...
She: So don't get surprised if people complain about you, foreigners living here.
Me: Sure, all of us, all foreigners, are terrible people.
She: We are not enemies of foreigners, but just don't get surprised if people complain.
Me: Whatever...

Foto: Diane Kruger by Brian Adams (Hear the world campaign)

August 18, 2008

Hipograph: Aristotle, Hegel

Both the Book Lambda of the Metaphysics and the Phänomenologie des Geistes end with two literary quotations:

ouk agathòn polukoiraníe: eîs koíranos éstw
(the rule of many is not good: let one be the ruler)

Homer, Iliad 2, 204

aus dem Kelche dieses Geisterreiches
schäumt ihm seine Unendlichkeit
(Hegel modified it: aus dem Kelch des ganzen Seelenreiches | schäumt ihm - die Unendlichkeit)

Friedrich Schiller, Die Freundschaft, 1782.

BTW: if you attend a Ph.D. Kolloquium in Berlin's Humboldt Universität you'll see Hegel's desk.

August 13, 2008

Tenochtitlan 487

Hace 487 años terminó el sitio de la ciudad-isla de Tenochtitlan. 13 de agosto de 1521. El santoral indicaba a san Hipólito, y esa misma tarde Hernán Cortés mandó poner la primera piedra de la primera iglesia, y celebraron allí mismo una misa sobre un altar improvisado. Luego, la iglesia se llamó San Hipólito. He aquí dos fotos tomadas por Guillermo Kahlo.

A San Hipólito lo torturaron y mataron amarrándolo a unos caballos. Por eso, y también por su nombre (si es verdad la historia de los caballos y no un mero artificio etimológico) es el patrono de los caballos. Huelga decir que es también el patrono de México-Tenochtitlan.

Hipólito estuvo eventualmente en desacuerdo con dos Papas y encabezó a un grupo contrario. Quienes gustan de exagerar un poco lo llaman el primer Antipapa. La verdad es que luego se retractó. Fue también un escritor de la talla de Orígenes, aunque en nuestros tiempos menos conocido porque la mayor parte de su obra no nos alcanzó. Acaso su proyecto más ambicioso haya sido esa historia narrativa del mundo, desde la Creación hasta sus días (234 a.D.), un proyecto que siglos más tarde intentaría también Victor Hugo.

August 12, 2008

Behlín's car art, my Belef (aka Tinnitus) T-shirt

For the BMW car art collection here.

For the Belef festival here.

August 4, 2008

100 páginas de "100 años"

Pasé ya la centésima página de "Cien años de soledad", que no había leído antes. El balance: negativo. Esperaba más, no un cúmulo de aventuritas superficialmente narradas y una multiplicación de personajes. Cantidad a costa de profundidad.

1. Lo óptimo es el inicio, qué duda cabe: "Muchos años después, frente al pelotón de fusilamiento, el coronel Aureliano Buendía había de recordar aquella tarde remota en que su padre lo llevó a conocer el hielo." Esta frase es inmejorable y es la promesa de una gran novela. Denota simultáneamente el presente, el pasado y el futuro. No soy especialista, pero no es arduo conjeturar que se han escrito muchos ensayos y acaso algunos libros sobre estas dos líneas y media.

23. Una frase perfecta, que es, como dice M, "una pequeña antropología": "Todavía no tenemos un muerto, dijo él. Uno no es de ninguna parte mientras no tenga un muerto bajo la tierra". De alguna manera me ha dado elementos para comprender mejor las festividades en torno a la muerte de México. Y párale de contar. A partir de aquí, todo va empeorando...

30. "Eran primos entre sí". Pleonasmo, redundancia innecesaria porque nada aporta. Sobra "entre sí".

73. No sé si sea una frase que tomó prestada a Borges (el último verso de El amenazado es perpetuamente glorioso: "me duele una mujer en todo el cuerpo") o si es una frase (relativamente) común o frecuente en Sudamérica: "La imagen de Remedios, la hija menor del corregidor, que por su edad hubiera podido ser hija suya, le quedó doliendo en alguna parte del cuerpo". Y como si esa frase no fuera suficientemente clara, la destruye acto seguido: "Era una sensación física que casi le molestaba para caminar, como una piedrecita en el zapato".

Un poco más adelante, pasando ya la centésima página:

112. Una contradicción, y también una imposibilidad: "Había naufragado y permanecido dos semanas a la deriva en el mar del Japón, alimentándose con el cuerpo de un compañero que sucumbió a la insolación, cuya carne salada y vuelta a salar y cocinada al sol tenía un sabor granuloso y dulce". Espero que esto mejore, porque ando impaciente por acometer ya la novela de Ivo Andric que tengo aquí esperando...

(Tomo las referencias de la edición conmemorativa a cargo de la Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española).

Fish market impressions




August 2, 2008

Boros' bunker

After some months of waiting, finally came the 2nd of August, i.e. the day of my appointment to visit Christian Boros' bunker. This guy bought the (during the Cold War so called "Banana-bunker" and in the 90's the "Techno-club-bunker") and moved in. On the top, he built an exact copy of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavillon.

The collection is awesome, despite of a couple of works which I didn't like at all, or I reject as truly artistic (Santiago Sierra's documentation of some of his actions is a shame on its own). A lot of Olafur Elliason and some other artists whose names I just couldn't retain (most of them I didn't know). But I liked this a lot:

The Vietnam girl's interactive "Fountains" with water, cups and Duchamp's banks.

This marvelous lamp.

This sick guy by some Holland artist, which makes guests of the hotel who see them through the window and don't know what all this is about to call Reception.

This drawings by Elliason (or one of his relatives? ... not sure): he sat on a boat and didn't move the pencil, but the sea itself moved the table and the paper. This is somehow the visual version of Zadar's sea orgel.

Another Elliason work: light projected to a screen through a mirror and steam.

"For whom the bell" is the first work, and somehow it repeats Kandinsky's idea of "seeing" the sound of music. The bell moves with increasingly speed, but since it lacks of clapper. Nonetheless, due to it's velocity, you're able to hear the air waving in the inside rim. Fantastic!

August 1, 2008

Faye Wong

Tonight I'll stay at home watching again Chungking Express. Faye Wong is awesome! I can't help it...

Tarantino likes the movie as well...