Hacer buenas migas

15 January 2009

Migas, as I think I’ve written here before, are rainy day food – stale bread soaked under a damp towel with herbs & spices, fried up in a pan with egg & bits & pieces of whatever you have left in the cupboard. Hacer buenas migas means, “to go well together,” even if it’s whatever you happen to have thrown in.

It’s raining again in Jaén, after a brief snowfall last Thursday. And so here are some things I have lying around, to throw into the pot with the stale bread:



Andrew Bird writes about making & remaking a song(s), music as opposed to songmaking, & an old barn. Includes audio from his new album, Nobles Beast, & the instrumental companion Useless Creatures.


. . . the white blooms of flowering yuccas moved in the wind and in the night bats came from some nether part of the world to stand on leather wings like dark satanic hummingbirds to feed at the mouths of these flowers.

148: . . . the white blooms of flowering yuccas moved in the wind and in the night bats came from some nether part of the world to stand on leather wings like dark satanic hummingbirds to feed at the mouths of these flowers. (Sean McCarthy)

Via John B., a series of illustrations by six different artists of lines taken from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. They’re captioned by the quotations, which, taken in isolation, reminded me of the force of McCarthy’s prose. I am starved here for literary English. I see again his habit of using archaic, single words as the most precise variety of seasoning, never more pronounced than in the otherwise unadorned repetition of The Road, but still notable here: “He sees a parricide hung in a crossroads hamlet . . . “

There is intentional vagueness to the gestures (“some nether part of the world,” above), and the constant reference to sight, to things just becoming clear in new light, which reminds me of Milton’s lines describing Death that Edmond Burke famously cites in “On the Sublime and Beautiful”:

—The other shape,
If shape it might be called that shape had none
Distinguishable, in member, joint, or limb;
Or substance might be called that shadow seemed;
For each seemed either; black he stood as night;
Fierce as ten furies; terrible as hell;
And shook a deadly dart. What seemed his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.

Now see McCarthy: ” …the four of them all clutched to the snapping cloth were towed mutely from sight beyond the reach of the firelight and into the howling desert like supplicants at the skirts of some wild and irate goddess.”

Click through for more.



Digging up the picture I took, above, of my favorite piece of graffiti in Jaén, I’ve been thinking a little bit about the charm or value of clumsiness in photography, how flaws can produce a kind of sublimity. It put me to mind of my abiding affection for defunct Polaroids, eulogized here just after Christmas in the New York Times. The way the limitation of the image is made plain, as fragment, as imperfection, makes necessary a kind of grappling that is like the clumsy translation Conrad Roth advocates – the purposeful, or accidental roughness, the seams showing, forces a kind of doubled contemplation, an awareness of the act of seeing. Roth himself doesn’t quite see it this way.

Polaroids carry their frames with them; we never forget we are looking at an image; we are not seduced into thinking that pictures are a window onto absolute reality (although it does look a little like a windowpane, doesn’t it?). Polaroids look more like other polaroids than they do the real world.

I prefer analog machines because the flaws they produce are characteristic & comprehensible; they are integrated into a piece of work in a way that, say, the pixelation of an inadequate digital image doesn’t seem to be, at least for me. The analog machine, as Roberto Calasso writes [in translation!], contains within it “the physical reality of the varying values, which is a last palpable memory of the outside world.” Not that film is an fragment of Truth, free from manipulation, the digital a degenerate fraud. But a photograph, held in your hand, is a fragment of something; it bears the marks of its creation.

Above: My disfigured snapshot, lightstained, poorly framed. We are exhorted: Cambio vino don Simon X coctel MOLOTOV!!!* A crudely drawn bottle of the cheapest, most vile industrial wine in Spain, manufactured by a company famous for its shitty orange juice, explodes next to ragged letters.

*[Convert wine of Don Simon into cocktail of Molotov!]

Below: From the New York Times article, a gallery of found polaroids. The one on the right – this struck me – is, of all things, from Holland, Michigan; from my hometown.


Finally: An internet collection by Mauricio Sapata of constraint photography taken with a series of “lo-fi cameras” – polaroid, plastic, box, pinhole.

Maurice Sapata]

Taken with a 35-mm Lubitel plastic camera. (Credit: Maurice Sapata)

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