Owl of Minerva

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Location:Battery Park, New York, New York


Comic Book Shop in Manhattan: Forbidden Planet

Image result for "forbidden planet" manhattan
Forbidden Planet is a cool shop to browse and window shop. You never know when you'll come across a cool Star Wars action figure or colorful graphic novel. FYI: Management holds your backpack while you browse. Check out the Strand next door. 
Where: on Broadway near Union Square 14th Street (Subway lines: 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R).


What does Nietzsche Mean by God is Dead (and why German Romanticism is not Cool, Dude)

Kid: Dude, Nietzsche is cool.

Nietzsche: No, I'm not.
Kid: Dude, that's not cool.
Nietzsche: Hey, kid, watch out what you say about my will-to-power.
Kid: Uhhhh. OK.
Nietzsche: Damn kids.
    That's how the conversation would go. Is Nietzsche cool? Well, if you call a highly sophisticated philologist with a penchant for Ancient Greek Philosophy cool, then I guess Nietzsche is cool.
Is Nietzsche Misunderstood?
Nietzsche is highly misunderstood. I read Nietzsche's The Gay Science (no, not that "gay," but gay in the old-fashioned way meaning "happy") for the first time in a philosophy seminar back in my college days. We read the Walter Kaufmann translation (the one I still refer to). I remember at the start of the seminar one guy who was especially excited to be reading Nietzsche as if he were to embark upon an expedition in cow tipping while on acid. "Dude, Nietzsche is all about 'God is Dead.' I totally dig that, man." The guy wanted us all to know he was a nihilist: he cut his forearms for show and he wore stark black; which was OK with me, considering black was a decent choice of color to absorb heat in the Winter.
    The professor, who was a very quiet man, a little intimidating, and spoke in a low, almost condescending tone interrupted the guy. "Don't think you understand Nietzsche without reading him. Reading Nietzsche is not cool."
Nietzsche and Teen Angst
Dwayne (Paul Dano) reads Thus Spoke Zarathustra
    The professor did not like associating Nietzsche with teen angst, or smoking a doobie and talking about how much life sucks. Like in the quirky indie comedy, Little Miss Sunshine. Sporting a tee-shirt that says, "Jesus Was Wrong," a teenage boy takes a vow of silence as a tribute to his favorite philosopher, Mr. Nietzsche. Personally, if a disaffected adolescent is going to pout and rebel, he should read Schopenhauer before he reads Nietzsche. Just saying. Nietzsche is rosy in comparison...
The Madman
   It is true that Nietzsche mentions "God is dead" bit in the Gay Science. The book is written as a series of witty, short anecdotal chapters, with an appendix of verse at the end. "The God is dead" piece is paragraph 125, "The Mad Man." The story is simple. A man races through the streets of a city in broad daylight carrying a torch, proclaiming "I seek God! I seek God!" The atheists - "the many who do not believe in God" - stand around and laugh at the madman. "Is he lost?" they ask. The madman gets right up in the faces of the atheists and asks them, "Whither is god?" The atheist continues to laugh but the madman continues, "piercing them "with his glances." The madman makes a claim that the reason God is dead is that we've killed him. "I shall tell you. We have killed him--you and I. All of us are his murderers." The madman goes on for a few paragraphs about how we killed God. 


Never Let Me Go

I was incredibly curious to see the adaptation of Ishiguro's exquisitely crafted novel Never Let Me Go ever since I had learned of Matthew Romanek's project.

I must admit I am a huge fan of the novel and I agree with Time Magazine's claim that it is one of the best novels ever written. So, suffice it to say, I was afraid the film might ruin the book. The same ole book-into-movie fear everyone who is devoted to the source material fears. Don't destroy the book's integrity is the argument that runs through most fears that a film will discredit the book. I had heard that Ishiguro had pretty much handpicked the people who would produce the movie and said publicly he was pleased. Watching the trailer did not help convince me, however. The trailer depicts lots of tears, sentimental scores, and one of the main characters having a hissy-fit on a darkened street which made me suspect that Romanek's version would end up spoiling Ishiguro's understated masterpiece.

If you know nothing of the story's premise, I'm saying nothing to spoil the film by saying it is about a possible dystopic future where humans have discovered the ability to clone a subset of humans, which
they raise in schools across the country, educate them about the proper use of their bodies and health, but eventually use them to harvest their vital organs to defer the life spans of other, "real" humans. Death and disease are gone. At the expense of other "lives."

The premise is fodder for dozens of similar clone sci-fi films, but Ishiguro's novel brought to the table the basic question of what it means to be human and what it means when we consider a particular subset of human, un-human.


Childhood Sexual Abuse and the Binary of Body/Mind in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway

In this post by Greig Roselli, Virginia Woolf's fiction is looked at through the lens of childhood sexual abuse.
A photographic portrait of Virginia Woolf as a Child
Virginia Woolf, Childhood Portrait
There rushes at once through my flesh tingling fire,My eyes are deprived of all power of vision,My ears hear nothing by sounds of winds roaring,And all is blackness. -- Sappho
Thick of waist, large of limb, and, save for her hair, fashionable in the tight modern way, she never looked like Sappho, or one of the beautiful young men whose photographs adorned the weekly papers.  She looked what she was ...
-- Virginia Woolf in Between the Acts
But often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at a Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing -- nothing at all.            -- Virginia Woolf in Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf and Violet Dickinson (Top); Virginia Woolf
     Louise DeSalvo’s book on childhood sexual abuse and Virginia Woolf describes how as a young girl, Virginia Stephen was abused by her half-brothers, George and Gerald Duckworth (children from her mother’s first marriage) -- the extent of which, we do not know much – although much contested and controversial, we do know that something happened to Woolf that deeply marked her as an adolescent, a young woman and throughout her adult years and influenced her subsequent body of writings, essays, and novels, especially.[1]  While not the whole story, the account of abuse by George and Gerald Duckworth is a reliable source we have concerning Virginia Woolf as a sexually abused child and adolescent.  George and Gerald, as recounted in biographical sketches 22 Hyde Park Gate and A Sketch of the Past, abused Virginia until she was in her twenties.[2]  In A Sketch of the Past, she writes that as a child (she was about five years old) Gerald Duckworth, the youngest of the Duckworth boys, lifted her up on a high ledge when she was sick with flu and explored her body, even her private parts (Moments of Being 69).  Woolf would write, reflecting on this incident, how this tarnished her view of her own body and her distaste for mirrors.  In 22 Hyde Park Gate Woolf disturbingly describes (she was a young woman at this time) how George Duckworth crept into her room one night after an evening dinner party and crawled into bed with her; the disturbing part of her retelling is not the actual incident itself, but Woolf’s coy attitude about it, because she knows the scandal it would bring if the society ladies knew she was her half-brother’s lover (Moments of Being )![3]   There is a definite shift in mood from Hyde Park Gate, written at the height of Woolf’s career and A Sketch of the Past written at the end of her life.  The former is separated from the events – as if they were another story, not really happening to her, Virginia – her body being violated – but the latter piece is in touch with the incest that happened, bitterly cognizant of how it disconnected her from her own body, her own freedom to feel and live spontaneously.  This was due in part to the oppressive patriarchy she felt under the ruling monarchy of her father, Leslie Stephen.  The most explicit image of Woolf and the affects of the abused body can be seen in contrasting images of her.  Consider the more beautiful images of Woolf one sees in biographies or in film. Nicole Kidman’s Woolf in the Hours, even with the prosthetic nose is plainly beautiful, but when you notice one photograph (figure 1, top) from 1902 of Woolf in biographies it seems her soul has been dug out of her body; she looks hollow and alone and profoundly insecure, clinging to Violet Dickinson for protection radically contrasted to this photograph from the same year (figure 1, bottom), a profile shot that is highly publicized in books, web sites and magazines about Woolf.[4]
            Of course, it is dangerous and misguided to pinpoint one event as the source for Woolf’s most revealing writings about abuse and the body, for one could point out that the subjugation she felt as a woman – not able to procure a degree from the University like her brothers -- embittered her, as well as the role her mother and father played in her life (for better or worse) – her mother’s illness, her subsequent absences, her father’s patriarchy and then, of course, their deaths, her move to Bloomsbury and her marriage to Leonard Woolf.  
            Psychologists will point out that children who suffer from sexual abuse often express their inchoate feelings and fears in art -- painting and writing.  Controversial even today, research on sexual abuse and children relies on the Rorschach test, the artwork of children, the TAT test, children’s’ own stories and other measures designed to assess whether or not a child has been sexually abused.  There is no universal sorter to determine sexual abuse of a child but most mental health professionals will agree that a child abused “speaks out about the abuse” in ways not always decipherable by language.  It oozes out of them from every corner of their creative side, in their language and their very bodies.  And probably, in this way, as a girl, Virginia Stephen learned to suppress her feelings and memories, possibly not feeling she had a safe space to express her feelings openly – except, save, for her art.  In her writings, perhaps, she explores dimensions of her own coded body – unconsciously or consciously (it doesn’t make a difference) – in a way that was safe for her to express what was going on inside of her.[5]  
            We do not need to know the details of Woolf’s traumatic childhood experiences to find in her novels examples of abused, neglected children and wounded individuals.  Nor do we need evidence that she was actually sexually abused.   The text deconstructs itself, laying bare the unprivileged body in the mess and midst of mind.  DeSalvo mentions that every one of her novels describes a child abandoned, a child ignored, a child at risk, a child abused, a child betrayed (see DeSalvo pg. 14).[6]   In Woolf, there is a pervasive feeling that the very self has been invaded from all sides – the woman questioning her position in society in A Room of One’s Own or a boy bitterly confused by his father’s sharp disavowal of his wishes in To the Lighthouse or a woman’s wish to eradicate her own body for another in Mrs. Dalloway or the androgynous awareness of body that metamorphoses in Orlando.  For fear of being too ambitious, this paper will only focus on one of Woolf’s work, Mrs. Dalloway – not precluding the possibility of applying this thesis to her other works as well.

World Trade Center Light Beams from Rockaway Park, Queens

Photograph + Caption: "Mr. Savory and Ms. Sweet"

If a guy says, "Life's too short. Keep your drama at the door," what he really means is, "I don't want to marry you, and I could care less about your problems."

207th Street Train Yard

View of 207th Street Yard from University Heights Bridge, Manhattan


Book Review: Repulsion as Metaphor in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Met Go

Never Let Me Go
    Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go has recently been released as a film, due out in theaters today. I am anxious about the film because I want to see how the adaptation treats the theme of repulsion, which is my interest in the novel. Ishiguro describes a world where humans have become obsessed with extending one's lifespan. To reach this goal, humans have created a subset of human beings, manufactured in test tubes to serve as body farms for organ tissues. The novel is ostensibly a science-fiction narrative about clones used for organ harvesting in an alternative, but possible dystopic posthuman future in Britain in the late 1990s. Humans, because of the rapid advance of biotechnology, have developed an industry by which cloned human beings are manufactured as “gifts” to stave off death.  These “beings” then, can be picked off when needed — a lung here, skin graft or a heart, there.


"Are you a Dad?" and other Stories from Summer Camp

image credit: remarkk
    While working at a summer camp in Louisiana when I was a Benedictine Brother, I got stuck with the task of dealing with children who suffered from homesickness. We called them the homesick kids; it was easy to spot them right away: either they feigned a fall on the first day to get a ticket back home or they showed up at the cabin with a look in their eye of sheer sadness. These were the kids who figured out they were duped. Mom and dad were not coming back. It was not too hard to find these kids for they usually found you! It didn't matter to any of the forlorn boys who made it out to the homesick bay, if I said, "it's only one week." A week could be a month or a million years. They wanted to go home. One night I was in the infirmary and the youngest cabins were about to finish their night swim and I was helping the nurse administer the last rounds of Paxil, Sudofed, insulin shots, band aids and Calamine lotion.


Flash Fiction: "To Be Naked"

image credit: web gallery of art
    "Do you know the difference between nude and naked?"
    "No, what is it?"
    "Nude is a show. Naked is for real."
    "See this here?" Jakob holds up his faded blue American Eagle tee shirt, a cut in the front of the fabric, as he models. He had already pulled down his pants to show his ass. He smiles. Turns around again to show his sleeping cock as a tease. Spreading his hands out to prove a point, he says, "This is man-made bullshit."


Skip the Statue of Liberty and Head for Ellis Island

The Registry Room at Ellis Island.
Notice the Gustavino tiles.
If you even have a hunch that one of your ancestors may have ventured into the United States via Ellis Island, you should pay the twelve dollars for a ferry at the ticket kiosk at Castle Clinton in Battery Park and skip the Statue of Liberty stop and head straight for a strange parallelogram almost abut New Jersey. For more than a century, travelers from foreign lands hoped to find safe passage on Ellis Island to the United States. In 1954 immigration law mandated that prospective citizens be screened at their respective points of debarkation. The island was shut down by the federal government and remained vacant for years. A cool exhibit at the museum on the third floor are photographs by artists who visited the site during its vacancy period. In the 1980s the complex was renovated and restored by the National Park Service

My own grandfather, Joseph Roselli, emigrated from Italy circa 1920. After his mother died, my grandfather traveled with his brother and father, almost a century ago. His father left he and his brother in Detroit to make a living for themselves in the States. The father returned to the old country to remarry.

I felt a shock of emotion when I walked into the registry room. My grandfather waited in this grand room, designed by the Gustavino brothers, the same brothers who designed the old City Hall subway station, and thousands of tiles scattered through the New York City subway system.

Be sure to explore the individual stations where immigrants had to pass through: the medical rooms, the legal hearing halls, and the on-site dining halls. An added plus is the installation of audio samplings from immigrants who tell their individual stories.


Photograph: After School in Williamsburg

Boys walk on the street after school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Satmar Hasidic Jewish schoolboys walk home after school in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.
image credit: Greig Roselli © 2010


Photographs: Multiple Self Portraits On the A Train

PDF Copy for Printing


Photographs: Rat Ascending Staircases at Union Square Station


Photograph: Smoking Grass on the Highline

                                                                                                        PDF Copy for Printing

Coda Notes: One Easy Way Writers and Artists Can Annotate Web Pages On Safari

I'm a writer and a thinker. And I'm sure if you read my blog, you probably enjoy writerly kind of things. So you get me when I say a writer needs tools. Right?

Well, I don't know about you but we writers love to mark up anything we read. A writer friend told me he practically "eats" his books with pencil marks and ink.
Enter the internet age.

How is a writer supposed to mark up the World Wide Web?

Coda Notes


Weather Channel Weather Map for the Fifty Contiguous States for Monday, September 6, 2010

How the current surface weather looks like in the contiguous fifty states according to the Weather Channel on Monday, September 6, 2010.
The Weather Channel United States Weather Map at 10:00 PM EDT on Monday, September 6, 2010

Collage Ripped from My Scrapbook: "Hegel's Philosophy of History"

I made the above collage when I was an undergraduate philosophy student at K.U.L. (The Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium), living as a Catholic seminary student at the American College (Amerikaans College) at 100 Namsestraat.

Looking at the above collage starting from the top lefthand corner moving clockwise here are the items:
1. A cutout of an illustration from a book on Hegel's Philosophy of History
2. An Audrey Hepburn First Class postage stamp from the United States Post Office
3. A tag for a GFCI outlet
4. An illustration of a stack of books seated on by what appears to be two magicians in rapt conversation. A third magician seems to be surprised (standing at the bottom)
5. An Andy Warhol First Class postage stamp from the United States Post Office (37 cents)
6. A memento of my many sojourns to the Studio (a movie theater) on the Bondgenotenlaan (the town's main drag) to watch movies. This is a ticket stub for a screening of Bladerunner.


Poem: "Is It Me Or Is It Not Me?"

image credit: statue of liberty crown
A man on the Astoria line
wears a foam green
Statue of Liberty hat

"Did he just come back from the Statue of Liberty?"
"Can I trust my inductive reasoning?"
Maybe he just likes to wear plushy foam green Statue of Liberty hats.
I have never been quick to trust inductive reasoning,
so to test my hypothesis I hazard a guess to which stop he will disembark:
Long Island City, I bet! All the hotels near the 59th street bridge 
it must be it!

The N train is spit out by the East River
and diligently speeds towards its station
stop. And, JUST AS I THOUGHT, the passenger with the green foamy hat
gets off,
no smiles, his head turned downward to his mobile device,
tapping away a message to his kids, perhaps?
An inductive me postulates thus: "Hey just got back from the statue of liberty! Love, dad!"

The funny thing is,
I just got back from the Statue of Liberty, as well,
but I am not wearing a green foamy hat nor do I text anyone, at this point;
I have no doppelgangers.

I am as distant from this human being with the green foamy Statue of Liberty hat as I am distant emotionally from everyone in this car.
We are all scrunched in like sardines on the train because the Q is on hiatus. No W, either.
A haggard woman with an aquiline nose (like my aquiline grandfather), like the kind of noses that busted through Ellis Island,
tells me she never comes to Queens and the days she comes who would have thought there would be such a mess. Signaling problems, I tell her; but we don't sweat. No one sweats; The small stuff! Everyone is easily leaning on each other, following the curves of the line, anticipating the next stop

But I still think the guy with the Statue of Liberty foamy green hat looks silly 
even though, like I said, I went to the island myself today, paid the twelve bucks and licked the undersides of Lady Liberty's fanny; and I am still not so silly as to wear a silly, ridiculous hat. My silliness has already been done, lying on my back in the registry of Ellis Island pretending I was my grandfather with the aquiline nose and the legal inspector asks me a question in Italian, and I say, "Did I come to America to learn Italian?!" The legal inspector tells me that he needs to know if I am literate in my native tongue or not and I cry to my mother country to let ole liberty let me pass. When my grandfather was dying my dad bought him a six-pack of beer to drink for the night. We had to sneak it past the doctors and I wonder how many times my grandfather had to sneak past people: sneak past the inspectors in the registry, sneak past the medical examiners and the anti-immigration protesters. To sneak past, again and again, to see the face of liberty sans a green foamy hat. I was silly today. I cried in the registry. Not, long fat sobs, but the kind of cry that sheds one fat tear on your face  small enough not to be noticed but fat enough on my face to feel emotional. I get up in the registry and thank the Park Service ranger — "Thanks, for the tour!"

"Make sure you see the washrooms, sir!"

But, I think, even though I had my moment of silliness, nonetheless, that I should get a hat like that for myself, put it on my head on the way to Lex and 59th street, in the rush hour traffic; pretend like I have just come from the Statue of Liberty to look for my Holiday Inn single-room, non smoking.


Photograph: The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale at the Natural History Museum

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Self Portrait on the Pelham Line

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