Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Dream People

On the train back from Newark North Gate to London, then from King's Cross station to Paddington to pick up the Heathrow Express to get to I don 't know which terminal to fly to Charles de Gaulle Paris, where I hope to be by 7:15 tonight. Newark North Gate is half-hour bus ride from Lincoln, the bus having been substituted for the regular train and arriving maddeningly late but it's all right because the train to London came in late to Newark too.
-I have to remember to get down the story of the gypsy funeral.
-John Corbett - I went to his talk because he was on with Olaf. It said he was going to talk about archaic dreams but he actually chose dream accounts completely randomly--all fictional, I think but I'm not certain--from India, Wales, Greece. He codes the references to colors according to a numerical system--if a horse has grey legs, that's 4, if a man wears a green suit, that's 4--then he plots these numbers according to a system I couldn't follow to make an image. In this way, he "decodes" the dreams into primitive drawings of a house, a tree, a stick-man. Somehow these are then transformed to large, Rorschach-y bilaterally symmetrical images--a bit Shroud of Turin-y. I'm not sure anyone could follow just what he made of the end product, but it proved that God speaks to men in dreams. At one point, he derived the form of an airplane from 13 dreams from Hindu literature--and he couldn't get it just by connecting the dots signifying colors, he had to "fold" the resulting image to get the wanigs and tail--and he expressed his astonishment that anyone could deny that God revealed the form of the airplane to the ancient world in the face of this incontrovertible evidence.
And that's not the weird part. (Well, it is, actually, but . . .) When he gets his PowerPoint up, he introduces his talk by saying, "I em-a Chohn-a Cor-bait." His English is barely comprehenisible. So I'm thinking, is he liked some crazed Italian Northern Exposure (or Sex in the City) fan who's named himself after his favorite actor?
He sat alone at lunch; you could see people glancing in and choosing to go to a table that hadn't been set rather than join him (I was one of them). But we ended up walking next to each other up Steep Hill Street (yes, it's about the steepest hill I've ever walked in a city, including San Francisco; coming down, you think your knees will give out and you'll just roll down like a tire), so I was nice and asked him where he was from, and he said,
"I yem-a frohm Cain-toohk-ee."
So that was the end of that.
-I am better friends with Olaf Hansen each year, which is good because we agree on most things--which is also good because he's the next IASD president. Very complimentary about my talk and very interested in bringing in artists and critics and social scientists. After seeing the Cathedral and the Jews House--apparently one of the oldest inhabited structures in Europe-Olaf was very insistent on having a proper British tea--despite the very large meals they're giving us--and very disappointed that the tea room we ended up at had just run out of scones--till the couple from Manchester next to us assured him that the tea cake was actually even more authentic.
Olaf has always worked for, and often directed, organizations for the promotion of "cultural understanding," especially in education and the arts, and he now tells me that he was convening a meeting of delegates from Europe and the Islamic world in Copenhagen right when what they call the "cartoon crisis" hit. (At first I thought he said the "Khartoum crisis.") The Copenhagen papers decided his group, which was sponsoring a show of art from the Middle East, was some kind of anti-semitic front group--despite the fact that this was the first time anyone had talked the various states represented into sponsoring a show with Israeli aritists in it, and that the Israeli embassy had contributed backing.
Not long afterwards, he goes to his office and finds a woman in a sandwich board handing out leaflets that quote a speech Olaf gave in Morocco on cultural exchange. She represent a right-wing organization in several European countries that believes there's a secret concpiracy led by energy corporations to convert Europe to Islam in exchange for a secure flow of oil.
--The Cathedral: I associate Lincoln with The Prioress' Tale, which ends with the prayer to St. Hugh of Lincoln to protect the pilgrims but is the story of how the Jews killed a little boy for his blood--I think one of the first appearances of the blood libel. I didn't know Lincoln was such a centre in medieval times, with a very large Jewish community that apparently grew around the moneylenders to William the Conqueror, who had a castle--I don't know if it was his big castle--there. The cathedral has charts depicting its history a nd in the first couple centuries there were enough catastrophes--the spire destroyed by lightning, the tower collapsed, the enture building destroyed by an earthquake (in the 11th or 12the century)--that you'd think it would make people wonder about this whole Christianity business. I mean, they try to put a good face on it, but the destruction is much more impressive than the reconstruction.

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