I took this photo while walking on The High Line last September. I started wondering what the Arabic sentence meant only when I looked at the photo recently reminiscing about the pleasure of walking in a crowded area. With the miracle of Internet, I was able to quickly find out that it was an installation by a Palestinian artist Emily Jacir.
ex libris commemorates the approximately thirty thousand books from Palestinian homes, libraries, and institutions that were looted by Israeli authorities in 1948.
Not knowing much about the Israeli-Palestinian politic, I can’t really comment on the political aspect of the work. However, it made me wonder if one of the thirty thousand books could be the book that is a foundation of modern computing that allowed me to write this post on a computer. The book “Rules of restoring and equating” is written by Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 825) and the latinized word “algorithm” is derived from his name.
This is a little known fact that I learned when I was studying computer science (the field I chose after all my options ran out) as an undergraduate. This is probably a fact that most Americans are ignorant of even though nowadays everyone at least heard of the word “algorithm”. Of course, a popular image of the middle east is the land of savagery and war-mongering, not the enlightenment.
In The Western Lands (probably a perfect book to read during a quarantine), William S. Burroughs acknowledges this intellectual debt the world owes to the Islamic world by using the company his grandfather founded as an example:
Much like the legacy of the Islamic world is veiled by Yashmak and being forgotten by the rest of the world, the legacy of the Burroughs corporation and William S. Burroughs (a perfect example of xenogenesis) himself seems to be disappearing. The Burroughs corporation had invented adding machines (mechanical computers that are literally made out of steel and wood) in the 19th century and introduced a series of technical breakthroughs since then only to become a shadow of itself later. William S. Burroughs, who invented the cut-up technique, is now only given that dreadful title “a controversial gay writer”.
From my 2007 diary…..What a strange and deeply inspiring summer. I have been living in New York City for just about ten years, and I think it is finally becoming the kind of muse that sends my creative spirit flying. Tonight I drove to Flushing to shoot xenogenesis. Little did I know that a drive to this marvelous Asian community would lead to one of the most unusual epicurean experiences I have ever had — eating authentic Szechuan food. This region of China includes the highly pungent taste of Mala. Eating this invisible, peppery powder in our appetizers was like diving into a pool of ocean water with an electrical socket plugged into the taste buds of your tongue. What a charge!
So back to filmmaking, though in many ways such taste-defined sensations are very tied into the witnessing and thinking that comes with collecting images for our words. It’s all new and all extremely sensory. Tonight I shot in the Sago Bubble Tea Cafe because it seemed like a great place to study the radical shift in life style between generations in the Asian community in this city. Here I was able to see tables of young people gathering to drink a particularly new dessert drink, to eat French fries, to participate in a sense of community that is, to my eye, so different from that of their parents.
In my recent business trip to Tokyo, I’ve decided to read Alice in Wonderland on the plane. There was a Japanese cartoon series based on Alice in Wonderland I loved to watch when I was a kid and I thought reading it would somehow help me find my way in Tokyo…
If there is a dish that can be served during the tea party in Alice in Wonderland, Omurice has to be it. It’s a Japanized version of western Omelette with fried rice in ketchup.
To me, this is the quintessential Japanese food and a very worthy offspring of western Omelette. It’s hearty, colorful, inexpensive, and very very tasty. Everyone who visits Japan should try it instead of cold and overpriced Sushi that most people seem to favor for a reason that I can never understand…