This morning, Larry was reading Greg Mankiw’s NY Times editorial on 45’s tax plan. Mankiw is an economics professor at Harvard. To familiarize me with Mankiw, Larry played a country western economics song, Dual Mandate for me. I guess he was directed to this from reading Mankiw, and I incorrectly reported it as Greg. An alert reader (thanks, Dan) caught the error, but the video is still worth watching.
And Mankiw’s editorial in the Times is worth reading.
I don’t know any good poems on economics or business. As Dana Gioia has pointed out, business is the last taboo subject for poetry. I have one poem about money, and so you don’t miss a Monday poem, here it is.
Meditation on Money
I am thinking about a day forty years ago
when we were down to our last fifty cents,
and our friends drove up
with a month’s rent and groceries,
and after we ate and talked, we sat together
on the edge of the dock, saying nothing,
and watched the barnacles
slowly open their feathery lips,
slowly close them.
We are back home, and happy to find that David Juda has completed a wonderful project of posting poems and music from For Jazz on his website, Voetica.
Just click on an artist to see and listen. This area of the site features woodcuts by Nina Mera, poetry by Peter McSloy, and accompanying music by jazz greats.
This site is a terrific resource to hear many recordings of contemporary and significant poems from the past. With a background in theater, David has found extraordinary talent and there are new additions all the time. Worth going back to many times.
We’ve enjoyed Santiago a great deal, especially the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombiano where we went twice. The bottom floor is called “Chile before Chile” and as you walk in, you are greeted by these grand wooden grave markers at the end of a long hallway, some lit, some in shadow:
They are supposed to reflect the spirit of the departed, and provide a very eerie introduction to the pots and fabrics and other ancient artifacts.
One of the features of Valparaiso is the Funiculars, called simply elevators. Apparently there used to be 15 of them, but only 5 still work. One, Ascensor El Peral, was right by our apartment.
It’s motorized, of course, but the two cars are also counterweights to each other, with a cable that rolls over a giant wheel at the top.
Riding it was only a little scary, and one time when we went up, one of the stray dogs joined us.
No one seemed to think it unusual that he just came along for the ride.
At the top, he hopped off and went on his way.
After my posts about wiring, which seems pretty much the same through both Argentina and Chile, you might think I’d be nervous riding a motorized tram up the steep hillside.
I was somewhat reassured when I saw that the wiring for the tram for once was all in a conduit. That is until I looked a little more closely at the conduit…
One evening in Valparaiso, we saw one of the street artists at work. I imagine his work was unauthorized, as he was doing it at night. He had a big power spray paint gun, and wore a mask.
We got to see the finished image the next day.
We mostly went to the seaside town of Valparaiso because Neruda had lived there and his house is a museum we wanted to visit. But what captivated us more than the house was the incredible street art. Art on walls, on doorways, on steps on lampposts, just about anything that can be painted or collaged. Here is a gate made of bicycle parts:
The city is built on steep hills with ravines between them, and there are many concrete walls and concrete and stone sides of houses that lend themselves to large murals. To get a sense of the variety, look here.
Every time you turn a corner, there’s some new marvel. Here are a two of my favorites:
A skeletal sax player–on a house wall next to a barred window.
And an eye painted on a corner wall. Continue reading
We took a trip to Northern Chile especially for a visit to Alpha Aldea Amateur Observatory site to see these stars. A completely different sky than the one I’ve seen all my life.
It was thrilling to see the mysterious constellations of the southern hemisphere, Scorpion with bright Antares at the head, Aquarius, the Magellanic Clouds, and the famed Alpha and Beta Centauri, which glitter near the horizon.
As we wandered through the Santiago airport, I was stuck by subtle differences. Of course, the lines, the security, the crowds were familiar, but I loved the box of confiscated objects by the security line—what do they do with them, I wonder? They already have filled one box and are working on the second.
I understand most of the stuff, scissors, Swiss Army knives, kitchen knives, the odd corkscrew or fork. But who travels with wire cutters, I wonder.
A book swap stand by the gate also caught my eye.
Very much like our little libraries on the street, only unfortunately without books when I walked by. I’ll certainly leave a book when we leave Chile. Also, though I’ve seen this once or twice before, they had a big children’s play area between gates—such a great idea.
El Calafate, a town in Argentine Patagonia, has the look of a frontier town, with buildings thrown up slapdash out of whatever scraps were at hand. The landscape itself is sere and twisted.
The gorse-like bush at the edge of the photo with the yellow flowers is called el calafate, and despite its thorns, its berries are picked for jam and liquor, makeup and whatever else the industrious population can think to make of them.
But as the natural wonders that surround the town have become an increasing tourist draw, it’s as if a Disney theme park had appeared next door, and hotels, restaurants and shops have instantly sprung up to accommodate trekkers, sightseers, and tourists of all sorts.
One of the pleasures and also the problems of travel to another country is that each simple transaction is slightly mystifying: the language, the currency, the customs. Your habits are left at home with the clothes in your closet, and everything is fresh and surprising.
As one small, graphic example, the electrical apparatus of Buenos Aires is alarmingly slapdash.
Wires hang in clumps along the main boulevards, and in tangles behind the apartment buildings.
It has a certain charm, but also makes one wonder what the next big storm will bring.
In the same way, being in a new environment without the protection of your accustomed routine has a certain liberating effect but can also be profoundly disconcerting. It usually leads to at least one day where everything goes wrong.
We had one of those days when we left Buenos Aires–Larry discovered he had lost his bankcard, I grabbed wrong bag at the airport, and we spent the rest of the day unravelling these problems mostly in Spanish with phone systems that would not cooperate.
But these minor pains were salved by reading Borges’ lecture on his blindness which includes this paragraph, translated eloquently by Eliot Weinberger: Continue reading