June 6, 2011
waka un kite varua toa
waka tere taku vaka kia Maroroji—
Wenua Mamao notetua Taua
Dancing with the souls of dead warriors,
You shall sail away in the canoe of the Sky God
In Taua's canoe, to the home of the tradewind.
The Book of Puka Puka by Robert Dean Frisbee. Frisbee was a trader on the south-seas atoll in the early 1900s, and wrote this whimsical narrative about his experience. The book is interspersed with black and white prints and each chapter begins with a few lines from a chant or a song, like the one above. At times Frisbee comes off a little preachy, but I like the way he becomes a character and allows the stories of the islanders emerge in his writing. Here's an excerpt from the introduction:
“I am a South Sea trader on the atoll of Puka-Puka, or Danger island, as it is marked on the hydrographic charts. If you search diligently you should find a dot smaller than a fly-speck on a line whose ends touch Lima, Peru, and the northeast point of Australia. Perhaps the dot doesn’t appear to the naked eye. In that case, if you are still interested, intersect the first line with a second running from San Francisco to the northwest cape of New Zealand, and a third traversing the Pacific from Shanghai to the Horn. Where the three lines cross you will either find Danger Island or you won’t, depending on whether the hydrographer thought it worth while to mark such an insignificant crumb of land. In any case you will agree that the spot is a sufficiently lonely one.
Danger island comprises a reef six or seven miles in circumference, three small islets threaded on this reef, and a lagoon so clear that one can see the submerged coral mountain ranges ten fathoms below. The islets are little more than banks of sand and bleached coral where coconut-palms, pandanus, and a few grosteque gale-twisted trees and shrubs break momentarily the steady sweep of the trade-wind. The bizarre stunted trees on the windward beaches defy both the poverty of the soil and the depredations of the Puka-Pukans, who lop off branches to make drums and popguns, coffins for dead babies, and poles on which to hang spirit charms.
But when the hurricane comes, hundreds of trees are blown down and the little Puka-Pukan houses are carried away like so many card-castles. Away goes everything then – drums, popguns, coffins, spirit charms, and sometimes a man or two, whirled with his household gods to Maroroyi, the legendary land of the departed. At such times the Puka-Pukans scramble up the stoutest coconut-palms, hack off the fronds that have not already been blown away, and roost among the stumps until the gale blows over and the seas subside.
But for years on end Puka-Puka is untroubled by great storms. Then the weeks and months slip serenely by, their monotony broken only by the yearly, or semi-yearly, arrival of Captain Viggo’s trading schooner.
I have hunted for this sanctuary. Now that I have found it, I have no intention, and certainly no desire, to ever leave it again.” RDF. Pua Puka August 1929.
Right now I'm in Brighton/London, visiting some of my favorite people from the Maldives - Alexa Wilkinson, Muku Naeem and Ali Warnock! Missing the Vilingili crew :-). Here's a video we made about our weekend...
May 9, 2011
Here's the accompanying descriptor, quoted from the website.
"A combination of cloud, wind and tall islands created a striking pattern over the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Chile on April 29, 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard the Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of two ship-wave-shape clouds induced by Juan Fernandez Islands on that same day.
The cloud pattern is given its name because the ripples in the clouds are reminiscent of the V-shape wakes left behind boats traveling in water. In this case, however, the air is moving around high mountain peaks that are stationary, and the patterns are caused as the air is swept over and around the mountains, causing a ship-wave like pattern on the lee side. The disturbed air rises and falls causing peaks and troughs. Rising air cools, and because the air is moist, clouds form on the peaks. As the air falls, it warms and the clouds dissipate. The formation and dissipation of clouds creates the striking cloudy-and-clear pattern.
The Juan Fernandez Islands are volcanic in origin, rising from lava flows from the Juan Fernandez hotspot a million years ago or more. The islands of Robinson Crusoe and Alejandro Selkirk have very tall peaks (3,005 feet and 4,360 feet, respectively) that are high enough to disrupt clouds, creating several interesting patterns that can be seen from space. In this image, the island of Alejandro Selkirk is on the left and Robinson Crusoe is on the right."
The islands are also famous for a cloud formation called the
May 5, 2011
Here's a description of the project:
The Portland Art Museum offers a unique opportunity to share your story about an object that is meaningful to you. Do you have something you would never give up? Like a favorite childhood toy, a military medal, or a memento? Something that lives on your wall, your mantle, or buried in a corner of your dresser? Something that evokes a time or person in your life, a place you miss, or something you hope for?
Check out the interactive story panel - I love the shifting photographs over audio. The descriptors — storytellers are asked to describe their story in six words — are so simple and evocative. You can even rearrange the stories within categories.
"There is no separation between objects and subjects." —Daniel Miller, Professor of Anthropology, University College, London (from the About Object Stories description on their website)
"Drawing from material culture, thing theory, anthropology, Museum education, and traditions of storytelling, Object Stories, the Portland Art Museum's new installation, is an open-ended exploration of the relationship between people and things, the Museum and the community, and the subjective and objective."From a single, tangible object, stories from all corners of life emerge. And just as these stories are given life by the object, in turn they are reflected back onto the "objective" object - so that by the close of a story we the listeners view that object differently (and as we are listening, we likely form our own personal connections, tangible and intangible).
Maybe I'll bring in my glow-in-the-dark 7th grade full-leg cast, I'm going to see if I can convince my grandmother to bring in Colonel Catuna's hat. What would you bring?
May 4, 2011
May 2, 2011
I listened to "Born to Live" this morning, which captures what Terkel called the "essence of the human voice."
The late Terkel describes Born to Live and what he was going for in an interview from Transom.org:
"With Born To Live I had the help – more than the help, the collaboration – of Jim Unrath, who was an announcer at the station. He and I worked together on all the documentaries, and all on his own time. As I told you earlier, I’m inept mechanically. Jimmy gathered all the stuff. He knew the way I was thinking. Born to Live is a collage montage of voices.
How to explain this? There was a contest called the Prix Italia. It’s the equivalent of the Nobel Prize, you might say, for radio and TV documentaries and features. And Dennis Mitchell had won it for Morning In The Streets. So Rita Jacobs said, “Let’s submit it.” Well, very few American stations ever win. It’s won by BBC or Stockholm or wherever.
So I thought of all the interviews that I had, and there’s this one that was sponsored by UNESCO as a special interview. It was 1961, I think, that we started doing it. The Cold War was going on pretty hot. And UNESCO says, “Can’t there be one program of East/West values to lower the temperature of heated discussion?”
What came into my mind when we decided to enter the contest – with the odds about a thousand to one – was interviewing a hibakisha, one of the Hiroshima maidens, they were called, who survived the August 9th atomic bombing. She was talking through an interpreter. She’d been brought by the wife of a Quaker who ran that ship The Golden Rule, challenging the nuclear stuff. As she talked, I thought, “I’m going to open with that.”
And then I thought of other tapes I’d done. One of a street worker talking to a kid, a tough kid who’s got a tattoo that says “Born To Die”. There are tattoos on his fingers: die, death, D-E-A-T-H. The street worker says, “What about the time between you’re born and the time you die? What about that?”
“I don’t know. What is it?”
And then I say, “Time to live.” See? And then snip. [snaps]
Little thoughts. And music. Pete Seeger doodling on a banjo, but he’s doodling the chorale from Beethoven’s Ninth. Then it cuts to someone else – two couples in a suburb talking about their kids: “And so she says to me, ‘Well, might as well live today, tomorrow you’re gonna die. I don’t know how long I’ll live.’” “How old is she?” “Nine.” And in between and interspersed are children’s songs, American children’s songs and Japanese children’s songs. And then finally I say, “Born to live. What about the time between you’re born and the time you die?” Then all the voices start. Some dealing with humor and laughter and some dealing with myth and legend, and the voice of Jimmy Baldwin and the voice of Miriam Makeba, the voice of Einstein. And John Ciardi says, “Sometimes you can tell the difference between a large decision and a small decision. Sometimes it’s the sound of it. When I was a kid I used to hear Caruso records. I heard them in these Italian households in Providence, Rhode Island, I’d hear these Caruso records. And you think, ‘That’s as far as a human voice can go.’ And there he’d go one step further.” Then I slip in the voice of Caruso singing “Oh, paradisio,” as he goes one step higher. And then Charlie saying, “…tell the difference between a small decision and a giant decision.” Then it cuts to the voice of Sean O’Casey, and Einstein, and Bertrand Russell. And then it cuts to the voice of a child.
In any event, it had everything. But I was influenced by Dennis Mitchell as well as by Norman Corwin. Sounds need not have a narrator. I got that from Mitchell. Just let the ideas flow from one to the other."