Saturday, August 15, 2015

Brazilian Translations from Hilary Kaplan

Great translations of Brazilian poet Angélica Freitas, translated by Hilary Kaplan in the latest Granta magazine.

And a beautiful story from Gonçalo M. Tavares on life in Rio de Janeiro in Granta:
And that’s all there is to it: in Rio de Janeiro the average distance between humans is shorter. And that carries enormous consequences.

When I walk through Rio de Janeiro, I see moving human spots. It’s the only city, even in Brazil, where skin colour truly doesn’t exist. In other cities, when a white man and a black man walk side by side, even in strong and most excellent companionship, I see the black and I see the white. Not in Rio. In Rio, there are spots of people. After a spot of two, a blot of four, another of six, only with great effort will I be able to make out the colours (like an amateur art critic). Out of those spots come – and we realize this only with great effort, almost artificially – a black man, a mixed race man and a white man (for example).

The average distance between two people, then: the smallest in the world.
Read Tavares' story here
Read Tavares' story in Portuguese

And here are the two poems by Angélica Freitas, translated by Hilary Kaplan:

from "Artichoke":

the bearded lady simply didn’t feel

the need to discuss

every little everyday thing

Who can resist a poem with a bearded lady? Put that in your artichoke and smoke it.

Read "Artichoke" here

from "woman is a construct":

woman is basically meant
to be a residential complex
all the same
all plastered over
just in different colors
Geesh, I hope not!

Read "woman is a construct" here from Angélica Freitas, translated by Hilary Kaplan

Saturday, August 8, 2015

I Want the Plasma

Because no one can hold me back now. I can still reason—I studied mathematics, which is the madness of reason—but now I want the plasma—I want to eat straight from the placenta.
—Clarice Lispector from Agua Viva

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Água Mole, Cidade Dura - São Paulo Graffiti Art on the Drought

Graffiti artist Thiago Mundano has a show on July-August 2015 in São Paulo at the King Cap Graffiti Shop & Gallery about the water crisis in São Paulo and beyond. The show title, "Água Mole, Cidade Dura" could be translated as "Soft Water, Hard City." Many of his images are from the sertão, the desert-scrubland in the interior. The sertão includes areas which are devastated by the lack of water, causing agricultural workers to consider migrating to the cities as a result of the failure of crops. See the video Brief video of Graffiti artist Mundano

Canvases are so green, when his subject is the lack of green due to the drought.

This painting shows protesters holding up various signs related to the lack of water, imposed reductions in water use, and the hydroelectric plant crisis. One sign says: "Water isn't Merchandise."

A painting shows a cactus in the sertão with a faucet attached to it and a mug below. Behind, the land is dry and cracked. And in the distance, the city in horizon.

See the video Brief video of Graffiti artist Mundano

Read more in English on Mundano's art and the São Paulo water crisis

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Beautiful Bees at Full Belly Farm in Guinda, CA

Here's a pretty video on diversifying crops--varying hedgerows of flowers with different vegetables--in order to keep bees alive and healthy. UC Berkeley's Claire Kremen makes her point well when she asks, "You wouldn't want to have to eat almonds all day, would you?" She's referring to the fact that 80% of the world's almonds are grown in California, and bees are trucked the length of the state in order to pollinate crops. So many of them die along the way--increasingly more.

Instead, at Full Belly Farm in Guinda, depicted in this very pretty video, they choose to carefully plant hedgerows of beautiful, varied flowers that the native (non-imported) Californian bees can sip on for a varied diet, thus keeping them healthy and content.

I haven't seen this many bees up close in a while, and I found their little golden bodies truly entrancing and endearing as they slowly sip the painted flowers. I liked seeing Mark Bittman, New York Times food critic, who's usually opinionated to the point of abrasive, dumbstruck by his fellow buzzing creatures.

I have to admit that I also didn't know the definition of a pollinator, which Kremen gives: it's any animal--moth, bird--that transports pollen between the male and female parts of the flower. This sounds like such an important job! A golden monk's duty. Thank you, bees. Dare I say that the bees at Full Belly Farm look very happy? Yes, I can tell a bee's expression--can't you?

Watch the bees at Full Belly Farm video here

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three Seeds and the Imaginal Garden

Walking near Lake Merritt in Oakland early evening tonight, where I used to walk with my dear dog Golda. We had a routine where I'd park near the gym on Grand, in side streets a few blocks away. Before or after I'd go to the gym, I'd walk her in the residential streets surrounding. We savored those blocks together, and there was a particular house with a garden that we both looked forward to going to.

Tonight I walked toward that Dr. Seuss garden again, this time hollow without my friend. But I went there again in remembrance of dear Golda.

It is a dry hippie garden. That is, the garden is dry, not the hippies--drought-resistant. You know the sort, with no grass but colorful flowers in abandon, no particular pattern. The sort with no pretense but only welcome, that gladly encrusts a cast-off skateboard into a little shrine by cacti. A shrine for what, who knows, but one feels it is for good. Tonight I noticed new sea-green ceramic shards scattered artfully, but not too carefully, into the shrubs.

When Golda was still alive, on just one visit we happened to meet the owner, a nice British man with grown children. As we spoke, Golda lay patient in the shade of the cacti and the great trees. She felt a calm there. He said the skateboard had been his son's and became part of the garden when he'd stopped using it. When the owner regaled in his delightful British accent, he said that his wife had put up the Little Library. I thanked him for it, as well as for his colorful garden.

They'd started a Little Library on the curb, not the cabinetry-approved, sealed sort, but the turn-a-moldering wooden crate-on-its-side-atop-a-wicker-something sort. Golda and I had loved to browse the books, and here I'd found a Trail Runner's Guide to the SF Bay Area last year. I'd only started on it since I wanted to put off hours-long runs while my dear old dog still wanted her slow walks, where we both spent hours sniffing the air and shrubs.

When I walked by tonight, I admired the garden again and remembered how it was one of our destinations, the sort of place that feels tender, warm, kind, cluster-bursts springing vividly with imagination.

I turned my head and browsed the slanted handful of titles. I recognized the deep green spine of Beryl Markham's West with the Night. Hadn't I read that when it had come out? Not sure, I flipped through the chapters. One caught my eye, and a paragraph on seeds called to me:

"Look at a seed in the palm of a farmer's hand. It can be blown away with a puff of breath and that is the end of it. But it holds three lives -- its own, that of the man who may feed on its increase, and that of the man who lives by its culture. If the seed die, these men will not, but they may not live as they always had. They may be affected because the seed is dead; they may change, they may put their faith in other things."
--Beryl Markham

May we hold all three of these seeds, even those of the imagination.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Completist Streak

In the New York Times profile on the famous mathematician Terry Tao, the author notes that in college, Tao had a penchant for long runs playing the simulation game Civilization.

Now, though, Tao, a UCLA professor, has sworn off all such games--due, he says, to his "completist streak" which makes it hard for him to stop playing.

Now, there! I had thought I had difficulty stopping reading a story or article because of--I don't know, an obsessive tendency? An obstinate, hard-headed, stubborn, impractical bent?

But Mr. Tao has taught me that what I really have is a completist streak!

That sounds so much better.

It took a mathematician to solve that puzzle.

Thanks, Tao.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2 Poems in Drunken Boat: Orangutans in Sumatra, and an Oakland Lully, Lullay Carol

2 poems appear in the Union folio of Drunken Boat (thanks to editors Alvin Pang and Ravi Shankar).

One explores how palm oil plantations are affecting orangutans in Sumatra, and how Singapore palm oil companies are meshed with U.S. consumers' drive for palm oil as a transfats alternative. Read "Sita and the Orangutans Sumatra Sutra" here

The second poem I wrote in Oakland just before the holidays when the whole world seemed both stilled and streaming. Read "Lully Lullay" here

You may read both poems here

You can also Listen to the audio