Friday, June 25, 2010

Cymbal #32:: Posthistory/Immortality

Out on the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean, history has no meaning. Oh there's history. There's probably more history in any five square miles of the coastline than a thousand archaeologists in sunhats could uncover with toothbrushes and sonography in lifetimes. But that's not what I mean.
History plays no active part in the life of people here. Every second stone may have been laid by Herod or Alexander the Great, and Napoleon might have docked anywhere, but it matters not. What matters is the day-to-day, the quotidian, but unlike the quotidian in New Delhi or in New York or in London, there is no relevance of politics or finance. Neither the high priests of finance nor the high priests of temples enter into it.
The right music for these places is Tame Impala's psychedelia, the beautiful sensual drone like the wash of warm water, soft like sand shifting under your feet.
Tame Impala - Glass Half full of Wine - 2008

 There are the governing rhythms of the day, like the bubble of the sheesha at dawn in Alexandria as the fishing boats set out, gliding over the temples of Ptolemy, which are now sunk. Everywhere, breakfast is bread and cheese and olives and oranges and thick sweet black coffee. When the sun is high, the sea is blue like lapis lazuli is blue and the houses along the coast are white like sugarcubes. There is the glint of wineglasses in the afternoon, and the smell of anis and sugared deserts. In the evening, the sun falls into the ocean like a red iron disc and there is music. Time passes in long beats, like the contraction and expansion of jellyfish.
Tame Impala - Solitude is Bliss - 2010

 In parts, there is a gilding of modern life over the same rhythm. The fall of the same red hot iron disc is mirrored in a millions sunglasses on hundreds of beaches. Like the same jellyfish, beach umbrellas shut and are stacked away by immigrant labour. The water of the Mediterranean loses its transparency and shimmers like a shield. The yachts come back into the harbour. In one of these cafes on the marina is Francis Fukyama, sitting across from Keith Richards, evaluating the continuum of the eternal present.
Tame Impala - Sundown Syndrome - 2009

 Move here. Run in the morning. Eat organic and low fat food, fresh orange juice, skimmed milk. Drink in moderation. Stay active. Don't work more than forty hours a week. Wear white linen. Wear suntan. Surf and parasail on weekends. Pay your taxes. You'll never die. You'll never grow old.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cymbal #31:: The Paths of Jean Valjean

When your friend and mine, Jean Valjean, left the town where he was born (it would be too much to call it his home) on that morning, the sun had not yet risen. It was for the better, anyway, as the streets were empty and he would avoid the eyes of those who were not strangers. His limbs were stiff from sleeping in the cold stable, and the void in his stomach was crying out for sustenance. Ignoring it he walked on, past the gates of the city, which had just opened to let out all those whose long day in the fields had begun.

Gil Scott-Heron - Your Soul and Mine - 2010

At dusk, at the crossroads, the abandoned crossroads which lead to the four towns which lead nowhere, Jean Valjean sat for a long time on an old cenotaph and thought about the things he had done and that he was running away from and that he was leaving behind. He thought about the things he was leaving behind and how they were the result when you subtracted what he had done from what he had been given. All the time, his belly cried for bread.
Bat for Lashes - Trophy - 2007

He slept fitfully, unsure of the direction he would take in the morning. But if you wait long enough at crossroads, the world of spirits will take notice of you. The earth under him shifted and he woke. He sat up and watched in mute astonishment. From the intersection of the two mudbeaten paths, a flaming eminence rose. Its body and face were consumed with a tall and fierce fire. Each of its four arms held something. At the end of one arm was a whip with three tails. Another arm held a dagger and a blindfold. One held two ears of corn tied together. The last held the bridle reins and spurs of a horse.
Slowly the spirit rotated till its arms were aligned with the four paths. He did not tell me, nor did he need to tell me, which arm had pointed in which direction.
Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here - 2010

When he rose in the morning, the earth of the crossroads was undisturbed. He looked long at the purple mountains to the south. But then he shouldered his bag and went back the way he had come, back to the town he had left the morning, to see if he could add to what he had left behind.