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night thoughts

I think about the countless deaths and births, all the laughs and the spit and blood and suffering and joy that has brought us here.
I think, or I pretend to think, since it is seems impossible to actually think about it without becoming certifiable. Certifiable, not as in what we do to letters we send halfway across the world.

I pretend I am in the middle ages. Just a little food each day, maybe some bread if I'm lucky. A twelve hour workday, because my master felt gracious today and told us all to go to sleep early. Next week, I'm heading out to some remote place called "Jerusalem" to fight for it. The priest is sure we'll win. God is with us.

Now I'm in the 20th century. Just a little food each day, because I'm on a diet. A twelve hour workday because the deadline has been pushed back again, the master schedule has moved. Next week, we are going to give a presentation to some hotshot bankers in new york. The CEO is sure everything will go as planned. We are the best.

It's not that different, then. We live longer, only to discover the limits of our own lives. Was it Graham Greene that said "we don't live longer, it just seems that way"?

Somehow we've managed to "advance" enough so that, with enough money, we can push away external threats to our lives, like famine or disease, so that we can pretend they don't exist, and then we can worry more freely about creating our own.

I think we need the fear.

I keep seeing these images of dinosaurs riding on SUVs and sunbathing on the beach, even as the asteroid crashes into them. A baby dinosaur playing with Dino-barbie, happily looking up at the strange sound that will end up consuming her and all the world.

I think about Death, and its sister word, Inevitability. Sister word, or sister concept.

I think about ribbons and tears, about what we are and why in the hell we keep looking for things that aren't there.

I feel stupid because I can't bring myself not to think about these things. I feel sorry for myself for thinking. Guilty. Then I feel guilty for feeling guilty about such stupid things. Millions of people are still starving. Then I feel guilty about feeling guilty about feeling guilty, and so on. I stop at some unknown point, when my brain isn't able to handle the recursive factor anymore and it gives up and I go back to being a helpless mamal surrounded by cement, blazing tungsten peering at me through the distorted glass of a light bulb. It looks at me, but I can't look back, or I'll go blind.

Being blind is bad, they tell us.

Pain might be good, for all we know. It might be our salvation, and some sick gene keeps making us think that we have to escape it. Maybe we should seek pain just as we seek happiness.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 13, 2002 at 10:22 PM

a bit of poetry

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Everything beckons to us to perceive it,
murmurs at every turn, "Remember me!"
A day we passed, too busy to receive it,
will yet unlock us all its treasury.

Who shall compute our harvest? Who shall bar
us from the former years, the long-departed?
What have we learnt from living since we started,
except to find in others what we are?

Except to re-enkindle commonplace?
O house, O sloping field, O setting sun!
Your features form into a face, you run,
you cling to us, returning our embrace!

One space spreads through all creatures equally -
inner-world-space. Birds quietly flying go
flying through us. O, I that want to grow!
the tree I look outside at's growing in me!

I have a house within when I need care.
I have a guard within when I need rest.
The love that I have had! - Upon my breast
the beauty of the world clings, to weep there.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 13, 2002 at 10:11 PM

life vs. art

Life imitating art (and then laughing about it): A Mob Case, and a Scene out of Hollywood

"[...] bugs planted by federal and state agents later recorded a reputed Gambino family captain and soldier laughingly comparing the scene to the movies and joking about how they had shaken up the 6-foot-4 Mr. Seagal, a martial arts expert who is a practicing Buddhist."

And yes, to top it off, it involves Steven Seagal, making it even more ironic. So the article implies that Seagal's movies had been bankrolled by the Mafia... maybe that accounts for their quality...


Reminds me of the "hollywood influence" that Vito Corleone exerts in The Godfather (through the unions). Interestingly, the term "Godfather" was never used in organized crime, Mario Puzo invented it, and it took its place in popular consciousness, without basis of fact.
Another thing that has no basis. Apparently Seagal's buddhist friends had advised him to stop making violent movies to avoid affecting his karma:

"Mr. Seagal's Buddhist advisers [...] drew Mr. Seagal a chart warning him that his violent movies and even his family members stood in the way of felicitous reincarnation."

Memo to the "buddhist advisers":

1) There is no such thing as a 'buddhist adviser'.

2) The violence in Seagal's films is even less realistic than Itchy & Scratchy in The Simpsons. The universe can certainly handle a bit of fake blood and makeup.

3) What the universe can't handle would be Mr. Seagal doing anything other than pretending to be a tough guy, speaking softly, and acting badly. Please don't push him to do anything stupid, like turn to drama or comedy. The shockwaves could anihilate all life in the solar system.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 13, 2002 at 9:56 AM

The coming plague

Recently I read The Coming Plague, by Laurie Garret. This is a non-fiction book, it provides a history of diseases in the past 50 years, in particular how the violent changes introduced in the environment and local ecologies (due to different factors such as World War 2, the expansion of agriculture, new pesticidies, new antibiotics) have accelerated the emergence of new and more virulent germs. She also talks about previous plagues, such as the Influenza epidemic of 1918 and the Plague in Europe in medieval times.

The book is not only good because of what it describes from the past, but from what it says about the future. By tracing the causes for the appearance of a new disease (of which we've had quite a few in the last half-century) she describes a pattern of emergence of new epidemics and the perils of half-baked (though possibly well-intentioned) interventions to "eradicate" certain diseases, since those efforts can backfire and expand the epidemic even more, in the process making the bug resistant to treatment, as it was the case with Malaria in the 60's and 70's. Despite being published in the mid-90's it hasn't dated at all. It also contains tons of references for further reading.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 13, 2002 at 9:26 AM

zelig

I just watched 'Zelig,' and it's amazing how good it is. Truly a work of genius. The theme of the movie, that of conformity and its risks (and the many subthemes such as the relation between conformity, the need to belong, and mass movements that supress individuality like Facism, is excellent. One of Allen's best movies.

At the beginning of the movie there are all these references to the "roaring 20's" and their aftermath, and you could easily replace 20 with 90 and it would apply perfectly to what we are living today. The parallels between our 'age' and that of the 20's/30's has been been documented, but Allen is be able to capture it with a few frames, a few words, a few photographs. Spareness without losing the message, the mark great art.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 13, 2002 at 12:24 AM

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