He turned the tuning knob of the radio and tried the aerial at every angle its swivel allowed. His fingers moved in hesitant concentration, someone feeling out, listening for the combination that would spring a lock. The aerial wavered the single antenna of an injured crayfish he had once caught at Gansbaai. She attracted his attention with a new battery held up, end to end, between thumb and forefinger. He shook his head. There is no music of the spheres, science killed that along with all other myths; there are only the sounds of chaos, roaring, rending, crackling out of which the order that is the world has been won. No peace beyond this world—not there, either. When the racket was lost a moment, only a cosmic sigh; they heard the sough of time and space, the wave poised over everything.
Nadine Gordimer, from July’s People (1981)
"'What is a working day? What is the length of time during which capital may consume the labour-power whose daily value it has paid for? How far may the working day be extended beyond the amount of labour-time necessary for the reproduction of labour-power itself?' We have seen that capital's reply to these questions is this: the working day contains the full 24 hours, with the deduction of the few hours of rest without which labour-power is absolutely incapable of renewing its services. Hence it is self-evident that the worker is nothing other than labour-power for the duration of his whole life, and that therefore all his disposable time is by nature and by right labour-time, to be devoted to the self-valorization of capital. Time for education, for intellectual development, for the fulfilment of social functions, for social intercourse, for the free play of the vital forces of his body and his mind, even the rest time of Sunday (and that in a country of Sabbatarians!) - what foolishness! But in its blind and measureless drive, its insatiable appetite for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral but even the merely physical limits of the working day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight. It haggles over the meal-times, where possible incorporating them into the production process itself, so that food is added to the worker as to a mere means of production, as coal is supplied to the boiler, and grease and oil to the machinery. It reduces the sound sleep needed for the restoration, renewal and refreshment of the vital forces to the exact amount of torpor essential to the revival of an absolutely exhausted organism. It is not the normal maintenance of labour-power which determines the limits of the working day here, but rather the greatest possible daily expenditure of labour-power, no matter how diseased, compulsory and painful it may be, which determines the limits of the workers' period of rest. Capital asks no questions about the length of life of labour power. What interests it is purely and simply the maximum of labour-power that can be set in motion in a working day. It attains this objective by shortening the life of labour-power, in the same way as a greedy farmer snatches more produce from the soil by robbing it of its fertility."
Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, 376 (via trashingdays)
And Stones, Too, Will Ever Need Each Other
Outside is white and barren because winter is still in stretch. Inside, muted sighs stoking collared shirts. These benches, near the front, are new—glossy, blonde. In the back: rows of pea-green, coffee-pocked cushions. In the pew pockets: books of psalms and fraying blue ribbons. The girls sit on the opposite side of the aisle.
Before: the mural of a man and his sea of converts.
Behind: Vietnamese voices in choir. Vietnamese tones molding hallelujah, hallelujahs.
Beware: dad warned of devils in the carpet; they’ll sap strength from my knees.
“Brothers and sisters… I mean… and so you must… Which means,” the pastor continues—his words skipping, blurring. I could get more words if I tried. He wears green and white.
We stand back up for the third prayer, which means mass is halfway over. The boys next to me hold their hands up, and we join. In unison:
Lạychachúngconởtrêntrời chúngconnguyệndanhchacảsáng nướcchatrịđến ýchathểhiệndướiđấtcũngnhưtrêntrời xinchachochúngconhômnaylươngthựchằngngày vàthanợchúngcon nhưchúngconcũngthakẻcónợchúngcon xinchớđểchúngconsachướccámdỗ nhưngcứuchúngconchokhỏisựdữ amen.
We are saying something about our Father who art in Heaven. His kingdom: nước: water; country. Here, when we say nước: “And God said, Let there be the Four Seas.” At home, when mom says nước: “You have a homeland you’ll never know.”
Once, when I was small, we’d gone to Việt Nam. I remember a swan—a swan you’d peddle across the water. And I remember something of a road, sunbeaten and dusty. There was mom waiting for me by a fountain. In school I would learn that somewhere on those streets—some war-frenzied kin of those streets—a Buddhist once set himself on fire. And I’d learn, not from school, of how my cousin—the oldest son, foremost keeper of the family name—manned a relative’s snack stand in his early years, on those streets. I still remember mopeds, several in row by the mouth of the garage; or was it the living room? Once, I called them motorcycles and dad laughed, saying no one owns motorcycles back there. Then what were they? Certainly motorbikes.
Take a tour of the living-room-garage; I work up meek greetings to pass around. The adults are in a club in which every word you said was the password.
Dad had to hold me up because I couldn’t squat over the “toilet,” a hole in the floor. I don’t remember, so can only imagine, waking up in the middle of the night—moonlight, in the greenish sift of mosquito nets.
Back to bed, back to tugging on the tail of things on their way to being forgotten, back to some primordial home of homes.
mom’s lullaby, dad’s lullaby
Home from church, my cousin speaks with her mother.
“I’m going out now.”
My aunt doesn’t want her to go out all the time.
My aunt is concerned.
My cousin once told me Vietnamese sounds annoying.
Mom jokes that her Taiwanese friend sounds annoying.
I saw a Taiwanese film that opens with a gaudy red-pink wedding that reminds me of places I’ve been.
The film ends with a funeral.
“He’s an adult now. He can stay longer,” dad says of me.
The next day, one of the eulogies is about how the deceased worked a snack shop in Việt Nam so long ago. There are other details. A misadventure. I can’t remember.
I had never been to temple before. Step-mom presses my sister and me to say a prayer. Instead, we whisper to each other, “But we’re technically Catholic.”
God wasn’t jealous. We hadn’t deserved the tower in the first place. Broken so easily, so fatally by language.
The lights are on in the Korean supermarket on a snowy night. I rest my head on the cold pane of the car door.
Then there is the static of rain, cars unzipping past, tactful firecrackers. Dad used to have a CD of rain and nature sounds. He’d find storms to rest to:
You can see the sky, slipping on her coat. The sea, waiting for her visit. And the whole earth, everyone—listening.
(Edit of this.)
In Nara, there are deer.
One of my first nights in Japan we talked and drank by the river. I was asked something like, “How have you never been in love?” To which I thought, of course I’ve never been in love. How could I say I have? Yesterday, my English discussion class was talking about love and marriage in Joyce and Eliot. The teacher says, “You’ve all been in love, right? You’re at that age.” One student describes love: “It’s all-consuming,” etc., etc. And so we all understand, in our fog of common sense, that love is obsession, but presumably with more positive connotations. I find that a terribly shallow, violent definition. At any rate, despite its rite-of-passage status and all, I can’t say I’ve ever been in love with another person. (I wonder where the loveless souls—those that had never lost any love, had never loved at all—go.) Maybe I have felt love, though. I’ve slowly swooned before. I have a cold right now and, as smell is probably the strongest and most economical keeper of memories, all of this sniffling and cool air—I’m reunited with all these moments I’ve forgotten. I’m swooning slowly. That must be a kind of love. I also love cough syrup, but I digress.
In other words, English is awful. I feel like the longer I do this—read these books, write these papers—the less tolerant I become of academia’s pretensions. All of the meanings we discuss seem, ironically, so meaningless. I’m just tired. I can’t retain any information. I’ve grown so tired of criticizing. But don’t you understand? I no longer want to have opinions. I want this semester to be over and done with, though I hold out hope otherwise.
There were times this past week when I was exhausted from illness, lack of sleep, what have you. I thought about how this life is killing me. I’m dying. But too tired to be afraid. So that’s it. That’s the eternal calm, waiting to pluck the last grain from the shore. In a way, everything moves from exhaustion. That’s how it was in the beginning: the roiling abyss, bored of itself, changed directions and bore something else. you, lip of light, first kissed the cosmic night. and so now, still flustered, sleep breaks each scrap of color.
Tea ceremony club
Kagura club preformance