I just spent a lovely day visiting Nokogiriyama ("Sawtooth Mountain") in Chiba learning why it is very important to check your camera before you take it out. I've had an indestructible smudge on my polarization filter for about a year, but since it never affected my shots, I let it go. This week I decided to buckle down and snag a new filter, but went for a UV filter to see what the difference was.
The difference, I discovered, is that UV filters make your blue skies look like they're made of neon goo. The weather was lovely, and every sky shot turned out like junk. However, I also learned that a UV filter will give you some decent shots in low light since it doesn't halve your light intake like the polarization filter.
Damn. The skies looked really nice today, too.
The waterspots on the sunset shots are fun—there was 40-knot gale smacking me in the face.
I just finished reading Day, and with it, Elie Wiesel’s complete Night Trilogy.
Night is a memoir, a description of Wiesel’s year in Auschwitz. Reading it I struggled not to weep on the train. The story was most piercing not when it hammered, but when it tapped. To read of infants thrown into the fire was horrifying, but it seemed almost like an item to be checked off on the list of perfect horror, a sin to be catalogued, not felt. But the gradual stripping away of layer after layer of humanity, until these people crawled over one another like naked rats in a box, and knowing that these had once been ordinary, conscientious human beings, and that given a slight change in circumstance they would be again—that was the true, unrelenting current of terror. How little it takes to turn us into animals. How reasonable it can be to become one.
Dawn is essentially a one-act play. A man waits for dawn, when he will execute another man in reprisal for the government’s execution of a third man, and as he waits, the room is filled with the ghosts of all the people the soon-to-be executioner has known and lost. He believes they have come to judge him, but in truth, they have only come to watch. The dead are a part of him. Here there is an echo of the Trial, which posited that we suffer the judgement of others only if we feel ourselves to be judged.
Day lays bare the superficiality of a book I read with a shrug last year, Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle. Both are about men living in a state of total convalescence, but Day tears through level after level of the psychology of suffering, while The Gargoyle is merely satisfied to drone on about medical details before unravelling a wearied storyteller gimmick.
Reading Day, time after time I said aloud, “Yes, exactly.” Yet what right did I have to understand a Holocaust survivor? My suffering has always been in my mind. Wiesel’s had been real, and continues to be so. Did I have any right to feel that I understood what he described?
Here are some extracts that struck me with particular force, not only because they were powerful, but because they are uncannily akin to transcriptions of my own ideas and understanding.
I just finished reading Elie Wiesel's Night—a dehumanizing experience, but a novel that must be read and felt in order to gain admission to the human race.
There is so much modern-day hyperbole about what might make a person or a politician equivalent to a Nazi, and this singular book puts it all starkly into perspective: There is no such thing as a modern-day Nazi. What occurred under Hitler was so horrifying that even a whisper of real similarity, perhaps even the modern-day horrors of genocide as it now occurs, while worthy of every attention and reproach, cannot, by simple dint of systematic dedication, compare to what occurred in Europe: An entire society mechanically devoted to the desruction of a people by the basest torments conceivable, with methods continually adapted as each torment was explored to its utmost and every result applied universally.
"At every step, somebody fell down and ceased to suffer."
'"I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people."'
It doesn't matter if every last detail in this book is not accurate. In aggregate, it represents a waking nightmare.
As I read through the foreward (I always do this last) and pondered what I had read, the following thought developed in my mind. Perhaps it is unrelated. Perhaps it is prophetic.
Jesus Christ was a Jew who suffered under Pontius Pilate and died to absolve Man of his sins. Two thousand years later, the entirety of the Jewish people suffered under Adolf Hitler and in six million cases died. This time they did not suffer and die to absolve Man of his sins, but to permanently tattoo those sins to his soul.
Is it possible that the entirety of the Jewish people, not as individuals, but in aggregate, became a new Messiah—though once more, not the one they were waiting for? And might their collective message, that hideous proof of humanity's unfathomable capacity and even lust for bestiality, and of the horrifying consequences of the one eternally unforgivable sin of indifference, survive another two thousand years? Or will it already be forgotten? Christ is remembered because he promised us that everything will be okay. But the Jews of Europe assured us that no, everything is not. We must look into ourselves and kill something that can no longer be allowed to survive. We must become greater than what we have been so that this can never occur again.
The Holocaust is like a fresh imprint of Original Sin. Rather than seek knowledge of life, Man now sought knowledge of how to peel humanity away. The system was perfected, and those who have lived since are guilty for having been born to those who did not give their lives to stop it. Every fist, every foot, every inch down to the last eyelash of humanity should have been hurled at Nazi Germany in order to bring the experiment to an end.
And what became of those who survived? At the end of Night, it is clear that nobody who walked away could remain entirely human. It is then stunning to read the opening pages of Dawn to find that some of those who emerged went on to commit acts of terrorism against the British authority in Palestine.
Actually from a few days ago, but back in my mind now. This will eventually end up in one of the poetry sections.
Why Can't You Be Like Everybody Else?
There are 6.9 billion people
Who think like everybody else.
I want to think like me.
*Think act dress walk talk laugh smile cry feel draw write suffer perceive the world LIVE*
This afternoon, I finally buckled down and got a proper hybrid bike.
When I moved to Tokyo from Shizuoka, I relied on a miniature folding bike I'd won as a door prize at a friend's wedding. It lasted a few months, until one handlbar snapped off in my hand while I was 2 km from my apartment, and I still somehow managed to ride it home. After that I reverted to using my ex-girlfriend's old mama-chari (granny bike), which she'd left in my possession.
Back in Shizuoka, I always used to chide my ex for being so slow on those massive wheels as I churned like a hamster on the mini-bike (my own mama-chari had already been ripped off after being left unlocked outside a karaoke joint). Being forced to ride the beast myself, I finally understood that I'd been completely unfair. The thing weighed about two tonnes, and had only two gears: agonizingly slow, and flat tire. I gradually took to walking whenever possible.
The typical mama-chari is hooked up with integrated baskets and mud covers on everything, so when it gets a flat, changing the tire is a punishing affair involving half a dozen bolts of different sizes. When the old neanderthal burst yet another tube a few weeks ago, I finally decided I couldn't be bothered to change it any more, and today I finally clunked the old girl to the bike shop and changed her in.
I am now the proud owner of the cheapest rideable bike I could find. My old bike actually had its light ripped off—a rarity in Japan, where most bikes are taken only to be used—so I have no desire to put anything pretty out there to be nicked or abused. I even went for theft insurance and bought a seat lock and a cover that I immediately rubbed in the mud to make it look as beat-up as possible. We'll see if my precautions pan out.
Back when I lived in the Izu Peninsula, I used to ride my bike from Matsuzaki to Shimoda, then go bodyboarding for a few hours before riding back. My only existing scar come from a fall I took on the mountain road one day, which retired that bike for the remainder of my tenure. Since then, I have not had a decent bike. That makes about eight years.
When I took my new bike out of the shop and got on it, without the slightest forethought and even with a silly pump sticking awkwardly out of my backpack, the instant my feet hit the pedals, I just rode. Having spent so long away, I'd forgotten what it was like to fly.
The frame weighs about an ounce. The gears aren't particularly smooth, but they'll down-shift three at a time. The brake pads are cheap but they do the job. And the pedal grips dig right into my cheap sneakers and tell me my feet are exactly where they're supposed to be.
The temperature dropped about 10 degrees over the last 48 hours, and it was fantastic to feel the cool air whipping into my lungs. My legs felt used for the first time since I can't remember when. Until I got onto that bike, I had no idea how much I really enjoyed riding.
Now I just hope it's still there when I wake up tomorrow.
Right, I just shaved off my 5-day 5-o'clock shadow, so I am no longer Snout the Tinker.
The run was serious fun. With 40 people in the cast, there was always something going on, and the backstage area of the Sunmall Theatre is amusingly cavernous. The effects were brilliant, and though things weren't always perfect, the impression made on the audience was always solid. Last night we got a nice 'ooh' as Titania came out.
My best shows were probaly the first night and the last night, largely thanks to Phil McQueen, who gave me some fantastic material to react to as Thisby/Flute the Bellows-Mender. Roger, our effects guy, has over 100 gigabytes of photos and video that I can't wait to get my hands on. Now I just need food, sleep, and a bit of normalcy...
Okay, now we have TWO sections. Huzzah! Why is it 4:22 in the morning? I have rehearsal tomorrow. This was dumb.
My computer decided to reformat my USB drive to display squiggles that are not recognized by any program I own. There's nothing like swearing at a collection of chips and processors at 3:00 in the morning.