Wednesday, February 04, 2009

On groundhogs, identity, warsaw bikini, raccoon coats, iPhone erotics, hairdressers' intelligences, perimenopause, poetics, opium dens, etc.

Random thoughts questions observations today:

Is it possible to substitute mozzarella for paneer in Indian recipes? Has anyone tried this?

A guy walks by looking Fitzgeraldian in a RACCOON COAT. What? All he needed was a megaphone. Like Reggie in the Archie comics.

The feminine autoerotics of the iPhone are so obvious they hardly even bear mentioning. Especially that gesture of enlarging what’s on the screen.

Wondering how much being a short person has contributed to my sense of self-pejorative comedy. Taller people walk past looking poised and graceful. Perhaps they are also quaking and filled with doubt. Gary is short, too. Neither of us is exactly freakishly short, but we do have to somehow project a little more to feel our powers.

Artists talking about their own work. Hilary Harkness yesterday defensive a little having been attacked and perhaps anticipating more. Did I not tell you about Hilary Harkness? I only linked to her. She paints tiny, scantily-clad, sexpot women – scads of them¬– in strange settings, like cutaways of WWII battle ships, or in a fantasy version of Sotheby’s auction house (or was it Christie’s?). The settings are so perfectly rendered that they look like digital virtual reality, and the figures look almost like they could be in the Sims or Second Life, but she paints in oils, in breathtaking detail. She listed Richard Scarry (“The Greatest Word Book Ever”) as an important early influence: hence the 3D cutaways. The women in her paintings engage in all sorts of vigorously imaginative partying and sex acts, and there seem to be no men anywhere ever. Lots of people find her work “problematic.” I find it beautifully obsessive and naughty, and I love the elaborate narratives she spins in and around the paintings. There’s something terrifically childlike about that, even though her execution is so masterful, and that contrast is compelling.

One guy, in the few who spoke up in the Q and A, used the adjective “laxadaisical” to describe her paintings. I was offended on two grounds, one that there is no such word as laxadaisical, it’s lackadaisical, and if you didn’t know that before, you should make a note of it so as not to make that particular mistake again. The other ground for offense was that her work isn't lackadaisical at all, it's totally painstaking and fully realized imagination.

I don’t like to ask questions in big public forums, although sometimes I do it anyway. Lately I notice thought that the people who do speak up often say dumb rambling irrelevant things or make a lot of mistakes.

Yesterday I commented to Tanya, my hairdresser, that I found her intelligent. I didn’t mean it condescendingly. She replied, “I’m just a hairdresser,” and I said, “hairdressers need many intelligences.” It’s true: they need to have interpersonal intelligence, aesthetic intelligence, chemical intelligence, structural intelligence, socio-semiotic intelligence, and time management skills, at the very least.

She is from Belarus and her English is charming. When she washes my hair, she says, “close your eyeses,” and it’s so sweet I can’t correct her. She gave me some gloriously red highlights last night, which I hope will help me to survive the rest of the winter. If we go by Chuck the Staten Island groundhog’s behavior, winter shouldn’t last too long. Did no one else find him funny? Biting the mayor?

Everyone needs a specific abjection or objection to struggle against.

Thinking that these lone wolf guys who say cutting things about me so superciliously have a fundamental misperception that I have some kind of power or influence to kick out against. What might startle them is that I’m not really laying any claims to anything, and that renders their cuts moot, or at least laughably blunt.

If I were to really try to define myself, my practice, and my terms as they say I ought to, the definitions would shift around so much as to be hardly legible, or more precisely, to just be more poetry.

That is, the self-definition might look something like this blog, which accrues my statements on poetics all the time.

Thinking reading Sandra Simond’s Warsaw Bikini (the title and femininely exulting cover image of which I like very much: it reminds me a little of the cover of Stephanie’s Picture Palace), that much of it is a kind of bouquet of puzzled repeated attempts at self-definition. I’m this, no I’m this, no not really, actually I’m like this. The definitions oscillate between the stark and the surreal: “I’m the malnourished flesh holes” “I’m not settling like a formaldehyde drizzle on the morgue sea/ of looping and looping figure eights” “I’m the saltwater dispatch” “my flesh is an artificial/ field of feel where each cell/ is a different explanation” “I carry sixteen passports” “I AM SMALL/ but my life is enormous” “Simonds: you boo-hoo Jew” “I am the lapse” “I am poor” “I’m nothing,/ my friends are nothing.”

It’s true, isn’t it, it is so hard to know what one is in the contemporary miasma, we have always to be at least conjecturing (conjuring?) identities, even if we can’t make them stay still. I am not at all convinced (despite being "midway on my journey") by my multiple conjectures of who I am or what I am doing, BTW. Are you?

Warsaw Bikini is a good book, by the way, you should read it. I think her poems are satisfyingly extravagant and syncopated and visceral. I also like that the poems seem to come out of discomfort, which is to me a much more interesting place for poems to begin than in any kind of settled conviction.

On being perimenopausal: my moods swing so much I should start a playground, or a jazz combo. The strange sudden rushes of heat, it’s almost a kind of power, except that it’s also distressing. Having to throw off the covers several times in a night, or get up to drink ice water.

Wondering about opium dens, wanting to hear the bubbling in the pipe and then feel that blank release into Lethe, or perhaps just smoke a hookah, which I’ve never done, either.
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6 comments:

Meg said...

ah...now this is an important conversation for a change.

Cheese for paneer need not be imitated.

Queso Fresco...depending on where you live can be purchased and is the exact same thing as the cheese used in Palak Paneer. Ricotta comes pretty close if you put it in a cotton sack and drain it for a day or two.

sandrasimonds said...

Thanks so much, Nada. This was a lot of fun to read. Loved Mark's review of Folly. Can't wait to read it.

Agnes said...

I've never had paneer, but I've read that you can substitute ricotta or tofu. There's a recipe at Vegetarian Times online for Saag that says you can sub mozzarella for the paneer. It's stirred in at the end, so its melting would probably be less of an issue.

shanna said...

i've used (lightly browned) firm tofu cubes in place of paneer before. mozz might not hold its shape enough?

thanks for writing re: warsaw bikini!

Meg said...

And if you like paneer, you'll love cassava leaf stew. Poisonous when raw (chock full of cyanide) but damn fine when cooked with fish, chicken, palm oil, onions, peanut butter, oha leaves and hot/hot chili.

I'll bet if you live in a major metropolitan area, you can probably have a taste at a fine West African restaurant.

Serve over glutenous rice with lemon.

Ryan said...

Nada,

Your thoughts on the iphone make so much sense I read that line three times, then imagined myself enlarging a picture on a screen on a phone I don't have.