Amargosa Haunting

Almost a year ago, a dear friend and I made a pilgrimage to the Amargosa Opera House.

Marta Beckett is no longer the the dancer she was in this photograph, though her spirit still commands the stage with graceful gestures. Her performance that night was profoundly stirring for the audience members of a packed and dim theater.
Of her life and discovery of the hall where we sat, she said,

Peering through the tiny hole, I had the distinct feeling that I was looking at the other half of myself.

She spoke with the concentration of a spirit medium, from some distance down the tunnel of her vivid memories. In the first few sentences it seemed that her mind expanded to encompass the entire house, and we had all turned to spellbound listeners, painted into our chairs.

Her excerpts from the musicals she and her collaborators had produced in earlier days retained the flavor of an unassuming sense of humor, and a former vaudevillian self emerged before us, observing and interacting with Grand Junction residents.

Her ability to create characters which interact and mimic real life, merging with the local culture and landscape, and keeping herself somewhat apart from her surroundings - this paradoxical life reminds me of something I read recently by Orhan Pamuk about his habits as a writer. There is some kind of magic that happens in between our interactions with other people and what we make out it. We all do this, and are conscious of it in very different ways. To see how Ms. Beckett has done this, and continues living with these characters after 40 years, is truly astonishing and mysterious. Forget the red carpets! She winks and dances there with the desert stars.

Go to Death Valley and see for yourself.


Weekly Scanning

Aka, weakly scanning, Images from the desk of Yours Truly.

An Æ (ash) flake I made during the holidays while listening to their recordings. It's a floating pun.

© 2009 sweetemploy

And a package of the very smelly "Takabb Anti-Cough Pill"


Moustashe Magic

Gorgeous Georgian Polyphony Playlist.

The last video is the same song as 2nd, but is a stronger example of the expressive mustaches, profound woolly-bear brows, and gentlemanly chops. Thank you, Hamlet.

Wikipedia says "At the height of his fame, he died in 1985 in a fall from an apple tree." Maybe this is why the men in my life aren't like this?


Lucy Zhao

On my visits to Minneapolis, I try to stay the onslaught of Midwestern Boredom by visiting museums and parks. One of my favorite places to go is the Chinese scholar’s room at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. They have a rather tacky website for their Asian collections, as I found while looking for cricket ticklers.

But, now we can admire the scholar’s study cyber-spacially.

Lucy Zhao/Chao, or Zhao Luorui (someone else figure out the graphs), was the author of the first complete Chinese translation of Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. She grew up in a courtyard-style home in Beijing, which later, after surviving the Cultural Revolution, succombed to demolition despite her brother’s spirited fight to preserve the 400 year old house. Their family furniture was donated to museums and private collections around the world.

One of a pair of folding chairs belonging to the Zhao family ended up in Minneapolis, in the collection I regularly pay my respects to. Sarah Handler’s book, Austere Luminosity of Chinese Classical Furniture (what a Chinese-sounding name for a book), describes the chair as “the property of Zhao Lourui” in her chapter on folding armchairs.

I’ve probably admired this chair at the museum. Lucy may well have translated Leaves of Grass sitting in it.

This is her handwriting.