The red arrow, or rather what remains of it, points to a narrow barrier of rocks barring my way. Technically speaking it’s not difficult to find small footholds to climb up. The problem is, after overcoming it, on both sides the slopes rapidly fell as if eager to reach the mountain valley. I could not walk upright, fearing any misplaced step, or a gust of wind would rob me of my balance and roll me down to the unfathomable depth. My heart and legs faltered at these thoughts. Surely I’m not expected to continue on such a dangerous path? Besides, no further red paint could be seen ahead. Maybe this is the wrong place. But where else should I go? At this point, the cross on top of Hönigspitz was already lost behind the final few hundred meters of steep rising.
I looked back at the small figures of the two hikers coming this way, who I descried a while ago and induced me to hurry up lest I be caught up with and lose the title of being the first one to reach the peak. That idea was completely gone. Now I only wished them here sooner. While waiting for them, I walked back a bit to find a place to rest. But wherever I moved, in front of me was always that formidable descent that gave me no peace. Leaning back against the rocks as much as possible, I imagined a stream that may rush down from here; started to comprehend how fearless the water has to be. Thankfully the anxiety did not last long. How swiftly the couple traversed the single foot path where I spent quite some time and effort finding firm rocks for both of my hands to hold on to so as not to fall sideways. Soon they popped up around the corner, Thomas and Mara!
They confirmed that horrible path is the right way to the top, and asked if I’d like to join them. Oh of course, I happily joined them – they looked so pro. On the other hand, they apparently also noticed me as the opposite. So Mara led the way, me in the middle, Thomas the rear and sometimes at the outer side to protect my flank whenever applicable. Now I understood what a mountain ridge is. All my life I had been hiking in mounds. Or at Hefelekar, the ridge was much wider and stairs were built. Yet Mara and Thomas walked the delicate string as if that 2700 meter elevation wasn’t there – they walked upright like decent human beings. While I constantly dogged down and almost crawled my way up. Maybe that was to punish the nonbeliever who wanted to reach Jesus’s cross – an unpleasant thought.
Now that I wasn’t alone anymore, and the couple kept me busy with conversations so that my small brain had no room for thinking about the risks, the danger seemed dismayed and to have retreated. The challenges were to keep up with my companions’ pace in this tough ascension and at the same time make sure each step is firmly grounded. Even though they asked me to tell them whenever I feel like taking a break or if they are too fast, I guess I could still push myself further strength and perseverance wise, so as not to bore them too much. This way after much fun of rock climbing (made easier by tracing Mara’s pioneering steps), crawling (when it was relatively level) and Thomas’ many promises such as “we are almost there”, or “this is the last small bump to overcome”, we reached Hönigspitz!
The northern side of the mountain range were clothed in virgin snow: a vast white headpiece touches her waist; the white dress develops into long stripes and finally laces at the fringe. We took a food break while admiring the views around us. Thomas remarked that I was probably the first Chinese to ever ascend this peak because it’s not so known other than to locals. “Is it because here it’s not as nice as the other side in the Texelgruppe Nature Park?” I worryingly asked. He replied:” No. It’s because here it’s much more difficult to climb.” That was a satisfying answer 🙂 Then I started to worry about the way down. There’s no way I could descend the same way I came – it was simply too steep. The couple told me their plan of going on along the ridge towards the other slightly higher peak Hirze Spitze – the namesake of this region and apparently the highest peak around, and then returning back to the middle point between the two peaks where there would be a much easier route down. While having to deal with the scarily tricky Alpine mountain ridge again doesn’t sound exactly appealing, taking the same way back is all the less so. So I accepted the former challenge.
At the descent point I opted to stay put and wait for them. The staff at Krammeben forbade me to go up to Hirze Spitze anyway. Before they embarked, Mara offered if I wanted an apple, a banana, or her jacket. Such kindness… I shamelessly took the apple… I guarded the sign post in this profuse serenity, now watching Thomas and Mara making their way to the neighboring spitze, now waving to the paragliders riding the east wind, now singing little winged songs to my silent snowy audience, most of the time nourishing my soul by inhaling the breathtaking mountainscape near and far. Alps! read more …
It is fifteen minutes before the concert starts. The crowd density around the stand that sells the program brochure is inversely proportional to the time left. There never was and never will be a queue. A young lady is in the center of this half disk. She wears very, very thick glasses.
The pair of thick glasses confesses her usual way of life immersed in the library as a musicology student. She is actually one of the contributors to the introductory texts on the program brochures. One day the philharmonic orchestra coordinator said that a person was needed to fill the post of that stand and pleaded for her help. And here she is, behind the counter.
Hundreds upon hundreds of arms stretch and point towards her; a formidable forest of lances slowly advancing. The various amounts of coins, bills in those hands are like the sharp pointed lance-tips, all too ready to charge into the lady before anyone else. It’s hard to determine at this point how much longer can the lady rightly charge everybody 20 shekels before she is unjustly charged into. Through the thick lenses, the student’s eyes struggle to identify the most imminent threat and convey it to the overburdened computation faculty for the near impossible task of figuring out how much change to return and how many brochures to hand out using which hand and giving to which direction before the next imminent threat is too late to be dealt with.
There ARE people that are not so aggressive. Me, and an old man. Aware that I came later than him, I am determined to get the brochure not before him. He held out his hand steadily until five minutes passed, during which the elbowing masses came and went and were replaced by new such masses. The old man understandably complained. The distressed lady anxiously apologized that she overlooked him and promised he would be the next to be served. While she was saying so, another hand came to occupy her whole limited vision and had to be dealt with; then another, and another. She certainly wants the old man to get his brochure, but, where is his hand? Or maybe, she thought, have I already given him? She is barely defending herself and can pursue this thought no further.
The inverse proportion relation cannot hold out forever though. At some point infinitesimally close to the starting time of the concert, people decide they’d rather forgo the brochure. Suddenly, the boiling heat vanished! She is all alone in the hall. The muffled sound of symphony playing is heard as if from another planet. She adjusted her heavy glasses that slid down her sweaty nose a bit, looked around, wondering if all the stress had been a nightmare. A gust of chilly evening wind was sent through the open door, stirring the bills inside the tin box. Oh, these are the money collected for the program brochures. These de-poled lance tips are the inerrable evidence of a real occurrence.
The stories and thoughts I had during the Picasso Graphics project, naturally rippled through my mind and danced their way to that gently smiling destination. I developed my color scheme for the Harlequin with a Guitar from the impression of the painting seen through the industrial engineering library door every day when I go to school; the failed attempt to recreate that bulky caricature of Igor Stravinsky and the coincidence of having to study the Rite of Spring for the Israel Philharmonic special Hanukkah concert; the Game of Pages as a fun lining practice but also remotely connected to the Arthurian romances I had recently been reading…
I pointed at the Nude with Arms Raised and called her “your favorite girl” and was not met with the least bit attempt of denial. Without even turning to the original drawing, sensei immediately remarked how my girl has her eyes closed. I was imagining her more like bathing in the morning sun than inspecting herself in the mirror. And I admitted though I learned to read the spirit through the fog of stylistic informality, I still did not a hundred percent internalize it, as manifested by not drawing the squiggle hair.
My take on the Nude in Landscape was proclaimed less effective in expressing what I claim to be the Mediterranean laid-backness, chiefly due to the sharp lines and some perceived hesitation in their execution. But those are actually more of a technical issue – I was too impatient to reapply the lines before the gouache dried up so that the black ink on her belly lines bled. And I should have applied gouache after the pen lining to soften it up, which would surely satisfy sensei w.r.t his criticism. We had yet a greater disagreement with regard to the black face. Influenced by the texts, I incline to believe this is a face distorted by the horrifying emergence of a bull out of the vase that signifies an impending war; the ponderous male face beside is also an evidence. And it’s exactly this disturbing element in juxtaposition with the idle air of the Mediterranean seaside composed of a broken wall, a broken table, the summer breeze and the simple, lovely, flower-decorated house that has my mind singly fixed on this particular composition. But sensei believes it’s just a shadow effect and there is nothing extraordinary about the bull head.
The Studio, though simple and plain, caught my eyes again because of the rhythmic breath of zephyr lulling both the nude in the picture and the clouds in the sky to sleep, reminiscent of my sweet napping in those summer afternoonsa. An accident occurred here: pointing at the woman on canvas, I said “I could sleep just like that”, referring to my own moments described abovea, but apparently would be more easily understood as literally like her, namely, naked, and in that specific posture! Well, however much I was innocent in intention, I must accept it as a past event I can not undo; accept it that I was in factuality guilty of verbal seduction, or hinting undressing myself, or whatever it might have been interpreted as ;_; read more …
All the debates are exhausted. I’ve made up my mind long ago. Why do people still throw the same ancient arguments in speeches and opinion pieces? It tires me. Are they not? … So I thought.
Yet sometimes, occasionally, just “poco poco poco“, I would venture beyond skimming the headlines and into the realm of actually reading it. To see if the world has changed since last time I engaged with it? To be, um, informed (not without an eye roll)? Or mere yak shaving?
This time it was that old old UN’s obsession with Israel, that old old settlement obstacle, and oh a new new number 2334. I despise important people’s speeches and I do not appreciate the significance of their subtle wording. That being said, I started this excursion by reading the state secretary’s full text from yesterday’s newsletter. Well, to my delight it proved a waste of time because I agreed with 99% of what he said. Il n’y a de nouveau que ce qui est oublié.
I held on to my view that it’s logical to claim that settlement expansion on the land which is subject to negotiation is harmful to the negotiation, thus an obstacle to peace, though I do not claim it is the only one or even the major one. And that is just a statement derived from logic. What really agonizes me is how the check posts can deprive the other side of human dignity and potentially brutalize the soldiers – more of the latter.
I am not unaware of their incitement problem. Following that line of thought, I may mention the well-known double standard that always subject Israel to harsh criticism and does not hold them accountable for horrifying deeds they did. I was once very indignant about it, too. It harms the peace process, true. But now I’m part of it. I can now somewhat relate to why some friends of Israel would do that to Israel. Because it is Israel with whom I fall in love with (sadly on my own), not the other side. As the internalization process goes, I naturally see myself whole-heartedly desire for her all the good, peace being that most precious jewel for her eternal grace. So in my eyes all I see is her, every motion she does, every word she utters, every glance she casts, every expression she shows, so much so that I don’t have any attention to spare for what the other side is doing. When she takes the course I deem leads her to danger, I cry; when they do whatever, I simply don’t care. That’s my perverted double standard.
As I just woke up from my foolish serenade, let me also put my double standard in a more comprehensible way. It’s reasonable to hold oneself to the standard of doing what one thinks is right to do, regardless of how badly the other party might behave. Since Israel is mentally internalized by me, I naturally hold her to a higher standard, because she is supposed to be that positive, progressive force.
The main objective of this post is not to document my long held belief regarding the two-state solution, though it’s worth documenting for my future reference. The point is, as my blog name indicates, a surprising revelation of how my belief is not essentially different from the school of greater Israel, of annexation, or from the school of status-quo that is vehemently attacked by both two-state and annexation advocates, despite the unseemly quarrels between these groups. The new perspective was gained following clicking into another headline in today’s newsletter. It is written by a settler. read more …
As I was reading about the route Kafka used to take everyday to school accompanied by the family chef, suddenly the strains of HaTikvah was heard. It may not be much of a surprise since Kafka was known to have wanted to make aliya, the strange thing is that barely passing 8 bars, the music deviated from what I know so well. It then became apparent that this is not the Israeli national anthem, or a remix of it.
Recalling that the music of HaTikvah was adapted from some pretty pedestrian folk tune, I went to the Wikipedia page in hope of finding some confirmation that the presently playing piece was also a derivative of the same source. There, the name Smetana struck me familiar. Wasn’t that splendid hall where I listened to that underwhelming concert inside the municipal house called Smetana Hall? – It’s probably not the Prague Symphony Orchestra FOK’s fault, but my insisting in going to the concert after a whole day’s hike to blame. Now as the second movement of Smetana’s symphonic poem set, Vltava, greets me again, my hypothesis is validated. For some time, I enjoyed the discovery of the hidden links between these initially unrelated dots scattered all over my trip. But it seems to be a well known fact domestically.
Now as I think of it, isn’t it most suitable to choose this piece of music for that short film of Kafka’s Prague? On one hand, the HaTikvah-like melody alludes to his Zion heart, on the other, a Czech rendition reflects his cultural identity. By the way, this is not the only occasion where the museum designers show genius choice of music. Firstly I was met with some non-trivial ambient music in the introductory part. And close to the end in the literary analysis section, some spooky metal sounds are heard accompanying Kafka’s hand injury drawings made for his insurance company, creating a creepy absurd space. I would say the museum is quite experimental sonically and visually.
They also offered scholarly and deep interpretations for Kafka’s work, which were difficult to chew. To be honest, when I read Metamorphosis, I hardly saw anything beyond the storyline. But I’ll have plenty of chances to read between the lines now that I bought a set of three books compiling Kafka’s short stories from the museum shop – almost as impressive as the Autechre EP box that I got at the live show!
On a somewhat remotely related note, the nude with arms raised (and armpit hair exposed) by Pablo Picasso actually reminded me of George Samsa’s sister at the end of Metamorphosis, stretching herself to receive the infinite generosity from the sunshine as much as she could; her parents suddenly realize that here is a full fledged young woman ready for the future. This is not to say that I finally start to whole-heartedly appreciate that drawing. Although admittedly, Catherine’s explanation helped a lot towards that end. She says naivism tries to unlearn the academic training and focuses on the essence of what one wants to convey through childish paint strokes. In this particular drawing, I indeed starts to see the innocence, youthfulness and all the signs indicating the fresh positive, instead of singling out the grotesque squiggles supposedly representing her hair and hands. We also agreed that his intentional neglect of making her face pretty and leaving the natural underarm as is were an explicit challenge to typical modern viewers such as us, who are knowingly but irresistibly conditioned to popular media dictation of what is considered to be feminine beauty.