5cense home

Correction, the origins of 'SSES"3 & chasing higher orange dudu to Kathhmandu

nepalese goat

Dear Internet,                                                        Doha, Qatar—June 28, 2013

In the last post we mentioned our brother ... & how we were threatening to transcribe his journals. Now we're considering more than this ... now we're thinking of making a book from his writings. We’ve had this idea for quite some time, since after his death, we just weren't sure how to do it. Seems, or seemed, insensitive to just publish his journals ... they need to be framed somehow. And real-world names changed. And maybe this much time needed to pass ...

When our brother completed his MFA (from Art Center College of Design) in Pasadena, he wrote a thesis called 'SSES" 'SESS" (so those asking what the SSES tattooed on our arm means ... now you know). 'SSES" 'SSES" basically took James Joyce’s organizational framing for Ulysses one step further by applying Joyce's re-wrapping of The Odyssey (in Ulysses) to our brother's own travels ... a trip he took starting Jan 6, 1989—exactly 7 years to the day after our father commit suicide ... a trip that took him across Europe, Russia, China, Mongolia, Tibet, India & ended in Nepal.

We propose taking this one step further ... perhaps call it 'SESS" 'SSES" 'SSES". We have of course considered publishing the actual thesis ... but we’re not sure this tells the whole story. Being a thesis, we imagine there were certain academic requirements he had to fulfill. And beyond just this thesis, when he died he left behind a smattering of writings ... most notably his hand-written journals from this trip mentioned above, & also his journals from the years after, back in L.A. ... which documents his issues with drugs ... that would eventually end his life prematurely.

Correction by Thomas Bernhard

On the plane here to Doha, we read Correction by Thomas Bernhard. ... which is as good a book as any to get us thinking about framing devices ... it's the story of this guy Roithamer who becomes obsessed with building an object, 'The Cone', as a monument to honor his sister. The story is told by his friend, who goes to Roithamer's studio ('Hoeller's garrett' ... also referred to a few times as a 'thought chamber') & in a sense reoccupies Roithamer's life in order to tell, or re-tell the story (through all the notes & manuscripts that Roithamer left behind).

Our brother didn't build a Cone, per se, but he is/was an artist that built objects (after he forswore painting when a fire burned all his paintings & drawings ... & only did conceptual work). The Cone is just a metaphor ... a metaphor for something ideal & unobtainable. Maybe, to our brother, this cone was heroin ... or maybe Everest or some other holy Himalayan peak. The question is, how do we inhabit, or get under his skin, to tell his story? How do you occupy's one's 'thought chamber' without becoming possessed by their thoughts? Not that we're afraid we'll be tempted to try heroin or something (our fear of needles alone would prevent us), but it's dark shit, his rehab journals ... & it's one thing to read, but another to understand ... & then to understand enough to tell or retell it ... which is basically what the unnamed narrator in Correction is tasked with.

While it's incidental that we happen to be reading Correction on the plane here to Doha from NYC, it is not coincidental that we are thinking about our brother, for we are on our way to Nepal, which seemed to be the apex/Cone of our brother's journey/walk-about/pilgrimage/whatever you want to call it ... in fulfillment of his vision quest for the sake of his 'SSES" 'SESS" thesis.

The funny thing is that our brother was not exactly the outdoors type. We were the brother addicted to climbing & hiking & whatnot ... though we never had ambitions for high-altitude mountaineering ... especially something like Everest. And the basecamp of Everest is the last place in the world we'd want to go. Our brother never hiked or climbed in the U.S. ... he was a city boy ... but for whatever reason he fixated on Himalayan peaks. We're not sure what Everest or Annapurna or Machapuchare or the Himalayas in general meant to our brother .. maybe 'it' represented an unobtainable goal, the 'highest' you could get .. complete purity ... higher than even heroin. Or in regards to Ulysses/The Odyssey, it stood for our father.

Perhaps part of the reason we felt compelled to show you our Macbook in the last post & our brother’s ashes, has to do with the fact that he also had a Macbook. He was pretty paranoid & secretive & kept his computer locked, but when we found it in his belongings & got to the password prompt, we thought about it for a few seconds seconds & the first word we put in— Chalky—didn’t work. So then we tried Chaulky (or maybe it was the other way around) & bingo, we were in. There’s a story behind this (or maybe there isn’t) but we got to leave something for the book .. which we’re working on in a different window as we write this post. Maybe the author will even be Chaulky White ...

taking the plunge

Correction is not an easy read ... told in typical Bernhard style with really long sentences & no paragraph breaks ... only one break in the narrative stream in the whole book. So if you take a break from it, it's hard to know where to jump back in. It's almost like you have to read it all in one sitting, enter the stream & not leave. But the mind wanders, especially when we start thinking about our brother & Nepal & the everyday distractions (like the idiot kid hitting our seat over & over ... whoever thought to use touch-screens on the back of plane seats should be pummeled to death with a sock full of river rocks ... the population at large still wants to hit buttons).

Not that a trip half-way around the world, with a 6-hour layover in Doha isn't the ideal situation to read the book ... to the contrary, it's the perfect intercontinental flight book. But in our current mindset, Correction was at times tedious, seemingly repetitive & wordy (would've made a fine novella cutting half the fluff), & not so easy to follow ... which is probably by design, as this obsessive & ceaseless thought experiment reflects the subject matter of the book. Take this sentence for example:

«And so it is self-evident that he would be tempted to elucidate his subject when he spoke about it and while he spoke about it, in clear language, in short sentences, using all his skill pf phrasing while constantly intent upon simultaneously elucidating and reexamining his theme, always while conquering and reconquering his primary subject matter, natural science, during every moment of his preoccupation with the subject matter, since to think is to regain and recover, moment by moment, everything previously thought, to make it new, and so it is self-evident that he always had to consider politics, always specifically the actual political events of the time together with their political history and at least relate all that to his own thinking, since the thinking must think not only his own special discipline but everything else which is, after all, logically related to his own subject, as conversely everything else is related to his own subject, that is, all his own possibilities or impossibilities and probabilities and improbabilities are always interrelated with all the others.»

We guess the other thing about the book is that it reminded us too much of Bernhard's Extinction, which we read en route to or from Dublin. Bernhard seems to have a thing about coping with privileged upbringings.

But we like the idea of the book. And the second half of the book gets better, when he actually starts piecing together Roithamer's story (the first half could basically be summarized as setting the stage, him describing how he was going to tell the story, how he got into Roithamer's mindset ... something that would've been better perhaps as an accompanying blogpost ... or whatever the equivlent was in the 70s when Correction was written). The narrative transition is gradual & seemingly schizophrenic ... his friend keeps telling his story (& this is where it gets tedious ... for example, every time Roithamer underlings a word in his writings, the narrator would say the words were underlined, rather than just underline them ... which perhaps is necessary to keep reminding us that it is he, his friend, who is telling the story ... but we'd just assume read straight from the source).

What's interesting though, is this idea of correction ... of Roithamer writing & rewriting & correcting until he destroys what he wrote in the first place, or creates something new out of the destruction ...

«... because the destruction of his work by his own hand, by his keen mind which dealt most ruthlessly with his work was, after all, merely synonymous with the creation of entirely new piece of work, he had gone on correcting his work until his work was not, as he thought, destroyed, but rather a wholly new piece of work had been created.»

This is sort of how we felt in writing The Becoming ... editing & changing so much that the final version hardly resembled the original manuscript. But in regards to the editorial process of the narrator of Correction, he doesn't delete or correct anything, but only 'sifts and sorts'. He takes 800 some pages & wittles them down to 80. This namesake 'correction' process has more to do with just writing though ... what the book is really about (in our minds) is suicide (as with our brother's 'SSES" 'SESS" ... the suicide of our father (& 'SSES"3 about our brother's final act)).

Then again, you could also say Correction is about authors & books ... The Cone (in our mind) is just a metaphor for a book, how lives become reduced to books ... not just any old books, but 'good books' as Bernhard says ... the books with lofty unobtainable ambitions ... high art ... where in the end the only thing worth writing about becomes the writing process itself. And how this obsessive self-correcting that we all fall prey to, knowingly leads to our demise ... yet we do it anyway.

«The matured idea is enough in itself to destroy most people, so Roithamer. And such an enormity as a work of art, a lifework of art—regardless of what this monstrousness is, everyone has such a possibility in him, because his nature is in itself such a possibility—can only be tackled and realized and fulfilled with the whole of one's being.»

The author sacrifices himself for the sake of his book ... his opus. The next reader occupies the book, lives in this author's shoes for a spell, becomes possessed ... & in turn sacrifice themselves for their own book ... & the cycle goes on.

We're not sure if our brother ever read Thomas Bernhard ... the book was written in the 70s so he definitely could've, we just don't remember him talking about him.

Not much to say about Doha ... we are only seeing the inside of the airport. Though we imagine the rest of this place to look like the inside of an airport. The sheik look is pretty bad ass if you're skinny, but looks silly on pot-bellied men. People from all walks of life in transit. The most dominant thought in our mind today, like most days when we are traveling, is that there is just too many people in the world.

doha from air



kathmandu coming into focus

next morning ... Nepal coming in focus

Kathmandu, Nepal—June 29

... after yet another overnight flight, in Nepal. Time accelerated to somehow cram 24 hours of travel time into what our bodies think is 2 days. Hurts the head to think about. We got to the hotel & tried to nap it off. Kept hearing all these noises above us ... not sure how we'd describe them but in our haze we dreamed of how you might describe them as «riverrocks & ping pong balls being released on a timpani drum.» It's still happening now ... banging on pipes. Things being dropped ... hammering, all with this weird echo effect, as if there's an airplane maintenance hangar above us. And groups of high school kids terrorizing the hallways (not that this hotel is that nice, but shouldn't kids this age be staying at youth hostels or fleabag hotels?). And our phone ringing for whatever reason.

kathmandu from air

We must've fallen asleep though ... 3 or 4 hours passed & when we got up there was a bowl of fruit in our room that wasn't there before. Neither j or i heard them knocking or coming in. Creepy. And then some woman comes by knocking again, throw our pants on it & she hands me a wilted flower. Gee, thanks. Namaste.

crows fence

A lot can be said about the first bird you see when you get to a place for the first time & look out the window. Here we saw a crow ... a loud & mangy one roosting on some janky fence. Now there are more. We usually like crows, one of our favorite birds ... they are usually clever, dignified & healthy looking. These gray-headed ones here are scrawny & boisterous, with bad posture. And they are scavenging, which is strange to see crows doing. Not just being opportunistic, but squawking & fighting for scraps ... have they no self-respect?

Another maid came by knocking with another pathetic looking flower. She tried to barge in but now we know better & chained the door. When we unlock it, she hands us this flower & then while our back is turned she comes in uninvited & walks to our bathroom, flushes the toilet, then washes her hands, dries her hands on our towel & tosses the towel on the counter. Strange. Almost animal-like, terratorial behavior. She lingers, looking past us, as if scoping out the room. Now we think maybe we should put our shit in the safe, but the safe doesn't work. Wouldn't be surprised if this is the last post we write on this computer, before it falls into the hands of someone else. Which we guess would be kind of funny ... especially if they read this & continued the story & continued posting stuff to 5cense.

On the plane we tried to read The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. We were looking for a book to read in Nepal & came across this one at Book Culture & figured it was destiny ... Matthiessen is invited to Nepal to be part of some expedition to look for some sort of blue sheep. Fine enough premise. Problem is, by fifty pages into it, all he is talking about is eastern mysticism & taking drugs ... peyote, LSD, opium, etc. & taking them for «spiritual» reasons. There's nothing we hate more than when white hippies travel to exotic places, take drugs & act all mystical & knowledgeable, like they are suddenly the experts about a country's religion & culture with the pop of a pill. How suddenly, after a few weeks in a country, they are no longer tourists but become local Nepalese or Tibetan, more native than the people born here ... this sort of shit makes us want to puke. And to make matters worse, Matthiessen had a wife & kid back in whatever safe, privileged home he had ... or we guess we should say has, as we googled & the dude's still alive.

Kathmandu, Nepal—June 30

Last night went to eat at Bhojan Griha. Had like a 12-course Newari meal while musicians played music & dancers danced around the restaurant. The band-leader kept making goat sounds & hooting & hollering. Good times.

Had dreams of flying, not unusual for us, but these were particularly vivid ... soaring down a mountain while j was running below us. We felt sort of lazy flying, but knew we'd get exercise running back up the mountain. We were kind of having a dialogue as we went, j wondering if our methods of flying had ever been proven or documented. As she was saying this we realized we were dreaming, but we didn't fall or wake up (like we typically might). We were thinking that the laws of physics shouldn't be any different in reality than in dreams ... if you put your mind to it. Seemed to make perfect sense while we were dreaming ... you just had to get a running start, know the air thermals, & not question that you could do it.

Had this other dream which is a bit harder to explain ... in the second dream we were writing the dream itself (in the dream) & we came to this revelation that was so profound that, in our dream, we tried to wake our self up to write it down, but at the same time we made the argument that it was best to leave this thought in the dream state & that it would somehow manifest itself later in conscious thought ... but to tell it how it was in the dream wouldn't make sense (at least to our waking self). So we didn't wake up & kept dreaming.

Our sleep was restless because of jet lag, so eventually we woke up & scribbled down some notes in the darkness, to help trigger what we were thinking about (we do this often). We scribbled down things (still in a half-asleep state) like "suicide as a short circuit" & "the idea seemed biological ... almost down to synapse level ... we could see the actual firing ... a sort of built in safety mechanism."

dream texts

But most of what we wrote we can't make out. And we'd wake up again & write over what we'd previously written. From what we can piece together in our head, the thinking, this thought, had something to do with the vanity of pursuit in thinking ... & language itself. Of trying harder & harder to articulate it & then, almost like a line end or carriage return, the line of thought (that again, was almost biological, that although text-based, was like a firing synapse) would feedback on itself like a sick joke (we wrote "Infinite Jest in that it bypassed consciousness or understanding itself"). Engrained in this was the knowledge that this, the feedback control, was necessary, as a survival mechanism. This is what kept people alive (hence why we wrote "suicide as a short circuit" ... we think what we meant is that suicide is a loophole in this feedback system.). And while we wrote that "complete understanding was not possible, yet the idea to keep trying is what is built in" ... we think what we meant (consciously) is that this was at once both the carrot dangling at the end of the stick & a built-in, hard-wired switch that at some point limits understanding for our own protection ... at least as far re-articulating it precisely with language. And because of this hard-coded limiter switch, we're not exactly sure we consciously understand the dream or what we are saying here ... which is fine ... it's the trying that matters ... just like the cliche about it not being about the destination, but getting there.

Besides dream stuff, in this half-lucid state we were also writing down things about this SSES book we've been talking about (which is not uncommon, especially when we're traveling & we can't sleep but don't want to turn on a light & wake j up ... we'll often scribble such notes in the dark that of course we can't really understand later) ... on how to approach this 'SSES"3 book. The dream (both of them actually) has a lot to do with 'SSES"3 in fact, as this limit was what our brother was vainly striving for, knowing full well it was unachievable, but trying anyway. In our notes we wrote "the pursuit of higher art" ... as a phrase, perhaps to include in the title even, that captures what it was our brother was looking for (& that we in turn are looking for in writing/re-writing his story).

Feel funky from two days of shitty food & not exercising. No gym & Kathmandu is not good for running, but found an abandoned tennis court & a few bricks ... what more do you need? Did suicides (forgot all about this term until reading Amy Albracht's story in the soon-to-be Sleepingfish 12) & squats & push ups. Mentioned two posts ago that we gained 5 kilos after 6 months of NYC living, but then dropped 2 kg ... since then we've lost 2 kg more ... though we're sure we'll gain some of it back now.

J went to work & we walked around out to an area of Kathmandu called Patan where these photos were taken. Might have more to say once we've processed it.

cows road


flags & wires


wires fruit


graffiti stupa


elephant girls




orange creeps


umbrella man


nepalese goats




patan woman


falling temple



squat dive


put it on sideways


bicycle sleeper






laundry temple

  >> NEXT: Photo me sadhus, road safety & the vanity of experience (Durbar sq & Bhaktapur)

5cense home

[  com.Posted 2013  derek white  |  calamari press   ]