Saturday, June 25, 2011

Way? Weiwei!

In a surprising move, China has released Ai Weiwei.

Asserting that Ai had confessed to "tax evasion" and has promised to pay what he allegedly owes, and suggesting also that an unnamed health condition that Ai suffers from contributed to the decision, the Chinese authorities freed Ai last week. Further, four of Ai's associates (his driver, accountant, studio assistant and designer), detained at the same time,  have now also been released.

China, not known for its impartial justice system nor its lenience in handling so-called 'dissidents' and perceived enemies of the state, insists the releases did not come as a result of international pressure (as many of those who contributed to that pressure following Ai's detention aver). According to Chinese officials, China's "judicial sovereignty" was never at stake.

Regardless of why the decision to release Ai and his associates was made, the huge international uproar at his detention some three months ago certainly took China by surprise.

Ai's future is uncertain, however. He has been barred from using social media, he cannot discuss his case with the media or comment on it in any way, and he cannot travel abroad. So while he is no longer physically incarcerated, it remains to be seen to what extent China manages to control his Art.

In addition, as Britian's The Independent points out, it's important that the west remembers "... the other 1,426 individuals known to be languishing in Chinese jails for political or religious reasons." The international furor over Ai's detention was an admirable and sustained response but, the paper warns, those concerned for China's other dissidents cannot become complacent.

Jerome A. Cohen, writing in the Wall Street Journal, condemns the Chinese judicial system and states that "This was no ordinary tax case but a politically motivated investigation designed to silence an increasingly popular critic."

(Stencil image from the Drains to Bay Stencil Gallery)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

David Foster Wallace, Interview

Check out a previously unpublished interview ('A frightening time in America...') with David Foster Wallace at The New York Review of Books blog.

Interestingly, despite the basic absence of references to food in DFW's fiction and despite the fact he seemed to indulge in fast food with little remorse (see David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself), in this interview at least he seems pretty cognizant of the problems of modern meat-focused agriculture, proposing that the method employed in the US in raising livestock is "one of the great unspoken horrors of modern capitalism." Among other things.

It's a wide-ranging and intelligent interview.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Vocabulary from The Pale King*

The Pale King is a labyrinth, a meandering path with no promise of destination or purpose, a journey of farce and ennui. Not to mention interesting words. Such as the following list of vocabulary words I didn't know the meaning of that I jotted on the blank rear fly leaf of the 1st edition hardcover (April 2011) from Little, Brown. I started writing them down after reading a couple hundred pages so this in no way represents all the words in the book that I didn't know.

word - page #

banausic - 229
perdurance - 231
peplum - 234
guilloche - 255
swivet - 258  (footnote) (later on pages 411 & 41(footnote))
logorrheic - 259
impetigo - 263
tonsured - 275
baize - 274
costive - 277
anodyne - 280
celadon - 282
blebular - 286
diffraction - 292
preterite - 292
pemphigold - 300
amortized - 303 (footnote)
nancing - 314
empaled - 320
otiose - 336
recondite - 338
muumuus - 357
caliumoid - 362
obtundated - 365
caul - 368
eremia - 383
dextrorotated - 395
dyspnea - 395
inedia - 402
ephebe - 412
neotenous - 412
appositive - 414 (footnote)
defilade - 422
cathexes - 427
intubatory - 444
semion - 445
monopsony - 481
hypoxic - 515
clonic - 516

* This blog entry created while listening to Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" from the Captain Fantastic album (1975). 'Irrelevent' Chris Fogle** would certainly know the song well, though whether he would have liked it or not, I'm not sure. Probably not. He probably would have dismissed it at the time because of its ceaseless airplay and popularity. But twenty years later after it had largely been forgotten or was simply ignored when considering, for example, Elton John's greatest singles from the 1970s, he would probably have recollected the song with a sentimental pang and a warm spot in his heart, bringing back, as it did for me, memories of 8th grade dances, shy love, birthday parties that evolved into awkward and hesitant make-out sessions in darkened living rooms with brown shag carpeting and vinyl bean bag chairs. "Butterflies are free to fly, fly away, high away, bye bye"

** "I remember feeling the actual physical feeling of hatred of most commercial rock -  such as for disco, which if you were cool you pretty much had to hate, and all rock groups with one-word  place names. Boston, Kansas, Chicago, America - I can still feel an almost bodily hatred. And believing that I and maybe one or two friends were among the very, very few people who truly understood what Pink Floyd was trying to say."
~ pg 162