Moss is giving a party in his garden. Over the lawns and across the gravel paths
leading down to the river, guests circulate, carried along by the warm breezes and
the gently perfumed puffs of a summer afternoon. In the shade of the aviary,
Mandarin Joe Kwan stands in his pale orange ski jacket - much too hot for this
weather - lecturing to a group of disciples. In onc hand he holds a nearly finished
glass of orange juice. in the other a handkerchief. As he talks his arms pump up and
down as if signalling some sort of coded yellow semaphore, mouth saying one
thing - arms saying another.
This method of discourse always ensures some confusion, there being a distinct possibility that his words are carrying a double meaning. Mindful of his tricks, his
listeners both watch carefully and listen, against a background of warbling birds, flowers, and ruffled cocktail dresses. As Kwan's words spread out over the dahlias, the handkerchief folds and unfolds itself in his fingers.
Behind him, in the distance, the door of the teahouse is open. A particularly well dressed couple pauses on the stone steps. (The microphone moves in closer.)
You've missed the point completely, Julia. Thffe were no tigm. That was the point.
Then what were you doing up in the tree: You and the Maharaja?
A face appears in the doorway: Alex! Julia!
My dear Julia!
(Julia begins to laugh)
It's perfectly hopeless. You haven't been listening.
You'll just have to tell me all over again, Alex.
I refuse to tell the same story twice.
But I'm still waiting to know what happened. I know it starttd as a story about tigers.
Julia I told you, there were never any tigers.
The face, without waiting for a reply, turns back to the crowd in the room and cracks into a grin, sharing their joke. A round face, which you could describe as dark and symmetrical, except for the two rows of white teeth, in good condition but tossed every which way, like trees in a village square after rogue elephants have been by.
A tea trolley arrives, laden with a large white pot and cups. Steam pours and spoons clatter as cups and saucers pass from hand to hand.
Ta, love. Milk?//
Sir Salar, we do so lookforward to paying a visit. And suing your collection.
(His round face again breaks into that grin.)
Absolutely smashing. Julia. You know you and your children are always welcome.
Khyber winters come early Julia. That is if you still plan it this year.
Oh please, you must not worry about the details. Kwan will be there. He will arrange everything.
The character in this story called Salar is really Sir Salar Jang, Maharaja of Hyderbad, a late t9th century potentate who adored England and things English and spent a fortune trying to collect both, on his annual shopping visits to London. Because of his habit of buying seemingly without discrimination, purchasing whatever struck his fancy and apparently without troubling to ascertain its value or worth to his collection, he was labelled by many a hoarder, the worst and lowest type of collector. The fact was that none of the art or antique dealers could follow his choices, or put a precise finger on his taste. One moment he would show exquisite judgement in picking from a cabinet of mediocrities a rare piece of crystal. and the next he would be choosing drawings from a portfolio that a dealer had agreed to keep for a day or two to look at - but had found absolutely worthless. But in London business was business, and each year while the Maharaja was in town. the Maharaja bought, and the dealers naturally did their very best to accommodate him. For those couple of months, they kept their shops specially preened and primed for his visits and looked up expectantly each time the bell above the door jingled. Some dealers. thinking the Maharaja was attracted to the showy and bright. tried to bait him by placing gaudy umbrella stands in their ordinarily tasteful windows and propping peculiar clocks and hat racks in prominent places. Others were less opportunistic and gently attempted to instill some consistent rudiments of taste into this strange man, showing him their best pieces, explaining their stock of pictures and offering quiet advice. What most tried their patience however, was attempting to convince the Maharaja of the extra worth of a piece that was unique - for if the Maharaja found an object that he liked he would always think it better if he could order a dozen. The good dealer could produce arguments until he was blue in the face. but in his conviction Sir Salar would remain unmoved. He preferred pieces available in duplicate, and refused to see the desirability of owning the sole exemplar of anything.
It was the same at Harrods and the other establishments in Knightsbridge. In those days Harrods advertised that they could supply anything in the world anywhere in the world. The Maharaja loved Harrods for this, and the floor managers loved him. Not only would he buy in bulk, he would consistently buy items that had gone out of fashion or which no one else wanted. what the managers termed slow movers. For his part, Sir Salar was continually enchanted by the enormous range of products and manufactured goods that the department store offered under one roof. It was as if the best stalls of all the bazaars of India had been sewn and welded together for his pleasure. And what's more. Harrods could supply things impossible to find in India - beaver skin coats for example, or blue Aztec jewelry. The Indian bazaarwallah simply could not match the diversity of Knightsbridge or keep up with the latest technology. It was in Harrods that the Maharaja truly became a consumer king. He would spend many happy hours wandering up and down the aisles of goods, trailing clerks carrying packages and lists itemising his purchases. A typical week day would find him on the third floor examining cameras or choosing boxes of thimbles. or on the first floor admiring spider-web Tiffany lamps just imported from the master's studio in New York.
Even though Salar's collection included many priceless art works, his reputation as a hoarder and of being absolutely unable to discern between the good and the bad caused most of the cultured class and literary society of London to gradually snub his company. Each year it became worse. They started to turn their backs on him in the theatre. They whispered and sniggered in the Pall Mall eventually it seemed that only Oscar Wilde's crowd would have him to their parties - and then only in his role as a colourful and controversial figure - but this was a small mercy, for they themselves had recently found disgrace. And of course the society columnists, little maggots that they are, had a field-day. As the Maharaja fell from social grace they made him inro something of a public laughing stock. It got so bad that Mandarin Joe would have to spend a half hour in the morning checking the papers and removing the pages containing derisive comments and ridicule. Had the Maharaja seen these, he would have found himself portrayed on alternate days as either the Human Magpie or Sir Flypaper. The Human Magpie was sighted yesterday swooping down in Earls Court... and so on. Even P&O, the great ocean liner company, could not escape the popular press's mocking tone. When the boat docked in Southampton to carry him and his treasures home, the notices listed it as the arrival of Noah's ark. It was all very cruel. Perhaps this cruelty was concealed jealously that a foreigner could afford to buy so much. Perhaps it was rooted in a deep seated and barely recognised - outrage that the Maharaja could, each year, take away from England a number of important works of art and, along with everything else, bury them in India.
And it was true that his palaces in Hyderbad and Chittal were perversely filled with a mixture of the most commonplace and the rare, most rooms stacked up in this fashion literally to the ceiling. And it was true that his care for those priceless works of art, and the manner in which he kept them, shocked even his few friends who came from England to visit him and his collection, sympathetic to his project and intrigued. For it was not unusual for a visitor, browsing in the library at Hyderbad, to stumble across some treasure - a moth eaten first edition Cervantes, a mediaeval bible - lying lUcked between old Sears and Roebuck catalogues.
The gathering necessity is universal to all men. Every member of the Family of Man, from Eskimo to Aborigine, collects things, or in one way or another strives to maintain a set of personal possessions to which he or she can add. The differences between men lie in the scale and content of the collection - the degree of disinterest, the freedom of choice. Each collection varies according to the individual's and the culture's means. Some have better territory, some have more money, some are more greedy.
The role that collecting plays in our personal psyche has not really changed much over the last couple of thousand years. If we stop and consider for a while, we would be surprised to see that the act of collecting - that is our predisposition to hunting, gathering, and storing away for a rainy day - plays as important a role in our lives as it did for our paleolithic ancestors, who lived - compared to our Northern European ease today - in an existentially much tougher world. Where they gathered food, we gather information. Where they stockpiled for the coming winter, we collect things for pleasure and aesthetic reasons.
This is not to say that our contemporary forms of collecting are less essential to our existence. We still hunt for what we need because we need it. No matter what we call the hunting, or how we manage to camouflage the fact that we are doing it.
The essence of our collecting nature lies in the inner need we have to preserve objects and information which might prove useful to us later. This need probably runs metres deep, attached to a gene every human inherits. We are born with this
trait, this urge to own and possess, and like all the other biological urges in our lives, we can subdue it and place it under control but never completely suppress it. The urge rises and is endlessly repeated. We remain, at heart, cavemen and women. With the brains of cavemen and women.
Every type of collecting, to remain true to the term, requires at least a minimal amount of discernment and involves making choices; but as in the principle of natural selection, only by collecting the right things do we ensure our own and our culture's survival.
Moss's greatest passion was his bird collection, his aviary numbering as one of the finest in Britain. He was specially renowned for his magpies and birds of paradise. He was considered an expert on Passerines, or perching birds, and had contributed an article on these to the 9th edition Britannica.
Sing-a-song of sixpence, pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing. Wasn't that a dainty dish, to set before the King.
The magpie, a member of the order Passmnes, is a European bird with a long pointed tail and black and white plumage. It, like the Australian bowerbird, has a reputation for stealing bright shiny objects and collecting all manner of strange things to line and decorate its nest. The male bowerbird in particular presents ethologists with a striking example of coUecting behaviour in the animal kingdom. It designs and builds its bower - a tent or teepee-like construction which in some species can be up to two metres tall- so as to excite and attract a female for the purpose of mating. The male bowerbird also make the collections that are displayed in and around the bowers. 1t is quite extraordinary how each species of bowerbird specialises in collecting specific categories. The male Archbold's bowerbird, for example, collects things that are black, the male Gardner bowerbird, things that are red, and the male Satin bowerbird, things that are white or things that are shiny. The proportion and form of the bower construction and especially the quality and placement of the collection in and around the bower, influence the degree of the female interest and excitement. Thus a poor or carelessly put together collection severely decreases the chance of the male finding a mate.
Magpies and bowerbirds themselves are much sought after - attractive feathers and a twist of fate turn the collector into the collected. In the west the passerines have been kept as cage birds for a very long time. The origins of this practice are lost in antiquity, but it is known that by the 5th or 6th century BC the Greeks collected and kept a variety of songbirds, including magpies. Man's aesthetic tastes are attracted to the almost infinite variety of colours, patterns, behavioural traits, and songs found in these birds. The magnitude of today's cage-bird fancy is indicated by importation statistics on wild and semi-domestic birds: in one recent year alone, over 420,000 passerines - excluding canaries and parrots - were legally imported into the United States as cage birds.
Apart from referring to the bird and its collecting habits, the word magpie has a few other connotations which should be mentioned. A magpie is a term that a hunter will use to mean a rifle shot that strikes the outermost division but one of a target, as in two hull's eyes and a magpie. When such a shot is fired it is usually signalled by the waving of a black and white flag. The word magpie can also be used in a derogatory sense - because the bird's black and white feathers resemble clerical vestments - to indicate an Anglican bishop. By a strange extension and some word play, magpiety, both in and out of church, has come to mcan a display of false piety.
Somewhat coarser, it has been left to those gentlemen belonging to the lower circles of society to invent the expression magpie nest, referring of course to the place on a woman's body where a male member tries to roost. But by and large the most common associations with the word magpie suggest either those poor souls who share the bird's proverbial habits of stealing and hoarding or who are constant in their idle chatting.
The biggest collector of all is our mind, which stores gigabytes of memories and experience: books, faces, painful lessons and past holidays are all locked away. The recording of these memories and their accumulation forms the shared database which is the basis of our civilisation. The rate or speed of our civilisation's development has always been in direct relation to - and in accordance with - the ability to access this database.
Our entire world has been built on foundations laid down in the past by others. The Japanese symbolise this in the landscaping of their gardens as the primordial tortoise on which the world rests. The tortoise is an island, poking his head up as a mountain. One of my favourite collectors of the 19th century, Des Esseintes, the hero of the novel Against the Grain, made an oblique reference to this imagery when he had a live tortoise back encrusted with carefully chosen gem stones in order to arrange a moving highlight for his Persian carpet. Des Esseintes was an estranged aristocrat, a withered end to a long family tree, whose life and collection can either be seen as a diseased cui de sac of old world values, an end game of aestheticism, or as a model precursor to the possibility of a New Collector. We today, living in the wealthy western world, coUect our money and use it, as he did, as a key to access our culture and civilisation. Money, since at least the Renaissance, has been making not only the world but also culture go round. Civilisation grows. We are standing on the shoulders ofgiants. We are constantly on the verge of the new. New developments in the market place have ushered in the possibility of using money both to access civilisation and to make even more money. Our past plays a role in the economy. In an article on the history of western collecting in volume 12 of the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia we find a socialist encapsulation of this phenomena:
In the time of the 20th century, collecting became a profitable form of tax-exempt investment,first in the USA and then in Europe, giving rise to considerable speculation on collectable objects.
Or as David Lynch portraying Gordon Cole in Twin Peaks so aptly put it: MASSIVE, MASSIVE quantiti" of cherry pie!
The museums of this world are nothing but big refrigerators, categorising, sorting and storing our collections - and all very full. They too, form part of our inheritance, but unlike our instinct to collect, the idea of the museum is neither archaic nor innately human, it being a comparative latecomer to our social scene. Whatever the museum's lineage and from wherever its roots, the world that we are born into finds it sitting pretty and well established. There follows a tendency on our parr to act as if the museum has always been there, to accept its premises as God given and its methods as natural laws. This poses a problem. We all know what the museum is and what it is for. Even before we step through the door of the foreign museum we know what we are going to find inside. The trouble is we do not question it, or its continued feasibility in the face of the new odds and changing conditions. Each new innovation is an update - but what good is that if the basic concept is hopelessly obsolete? How will we teU, if this concept remains a fixture in our lives?
What are museums?
Museums preserve our society's culture and heritage or the culture and heritage of another.
Museums store our collected objects and museums divide those objects into
Museums are security. Even if we never go into museums, the facade alone is
enough to satisfy us that someone else is taking care of things.
Museums have over the decades become indispensable to us as social institutions, but like banks and hospitals, they must be trusted in order to be really useful. Is our feeling of security warranted?
It is just like a man who went on a journey, who called his seJV3nts and put his wealth in their charge. The servants thus should act for him in his best interest. Each according to his capacity.
//I should point out that we have briefly returned to Mon's garden party. Mandarin Joe stands in the shade of an aviaryfilled with rustling magpies. He translates a biblical story for tht btnefit ofhis disciples://
To one he gave five pounds, to another two, to another one; to each according to his ability; and immediately he went on a journey.
The one who received five pounds then went and traded with them, and he earned five more.
Likewise the second one by trading gained two others.
But he who received one pound went and dug in the ground and hid his lord's money.
Wherever we travel today in the world we know we will find at least one friendly museum. Museums are in business as cultural hotels. They provide familiar watering-holes for the disoriented. Like good hotels they strive to be comfortable
for the traveller and attract his or her return business the next time he or she is in town. Museums are designed and marketed to be visited by strangers, by tourists. This is not surprising in view of the fact that the rise of the modern museum was
connected with the rise of mass tourism. Henry Ford himself was instrumental in bringing about the first open air museum in America. He had visions of the future.
Likewise our museum directors today closely follow the latest developments in mass tourism and hotel management, for it is assumed these will provide excellent models for the future directions of the museum. Recently I watched a television program concerning the development of MASSMOCA, the new Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art. A lot of research was done before the project was started: when all the different market analyses, prognoses for the future and feasibility studies were put together on a bookshelf, they measured a full metre of paper.
We can read in books and magazines about the Museification of the World. To what do these words refer? And what are the implications of this move? If we follow the news with any regularity we know that our world is in deep trouble, that man's technological advancements have caused the world's environment to change and this change is taking place a.t an accelerating rate. The word is – we are approaching ecological chaos and catastrophe. If we haven't yet acclimatised to the news of a generation in ecological decline, the signs are all around for us to see. For the cause of our species, other species are being shed at a sickening rate. Sixty years from now we can expect the human population of our already overpopulated planet to be double what it is today and at the same time a quarter of todday's known species to be extinct.All this is going to occur without our raising an extra finger to help the process along and in spite of any measures we take now to stop it. We've built up considerable momentum, now we must deal with the consequences. The realisation is dawning that in order to survive man must become a planet manager. Sorting and storing the resources of the planet. So we see the Museification of the World.
From the informative media we learn that at this moment our own human genes, and those of the animals and plants that are important to us, are being mapped and preserved in enormous projects. Why? To record the genetic information before it is lost forever. Seed libraries containing complete gene pools are being built and placed in locations around the earth that are considered statistically safe from natural disaster. As cultural diversity disappears, endangered languages and traditions are recorded and collected in the field, and the information is stored and protected in warehouses and databases. Some of the more folkloric living traditions enjoy a status leap and become protected tourist sites. Safari parks are built and mediaeval villages reconstructed. Likewise a few of the more cute or visually attractive species are privileged enough to be left alone in their wild habitat. This is then fenced in around them and they are preserved in the open air for a few more generations. Business has the task of turning ecology into business. When the concerns of industry and business can afford it, legislation is passed creating 21st century Indian reservations, fish and wildlife parks are set aside and new monument lists are drawn up. There is no other solution open to us. Human life is supported by business. ]fbusiness gave way now completely to ecology, the human catastrophe would be immeasurable. Our dependence has developed as we have progressed. As Thoreau warned in Walden: But lo! Men have become the tools of their tools.
The Museification of the World can engage two quite different approaches. Type I follows contemporary trends in order to keep abreast of the flood and up to date. It turns sections of the world into an informative and entertaining theme park. This
seemingly modem approach actually continues the historical site of the museum as wunderkammer and place of dead roads. Like the more traditional museum it extends and replaces, it presents a set of ryre tracks into the past or to the momentarily non-accessible. The objects or information that are relegated to Type I museums are tokens, stand-ins for what they were, what is no longer, or what is somewhere else. This is why some schools of thought in this century have scorned museums as dead places.
It was August and it was warm. We were sitting outside with our espressos. The discussion was whether a love of museums was in fact a form of suppressed necrophilia.
MARK Duchamp said once that every work of art has its own lift span. It functions as an artwork only for a certain length of time, and after its time is up it belongs to the museum. What you see in the museum is only a dried shell of what once was.
But when an artwork dies, does it hope to go to museum heaven?
Do horses want to go to gluefactories?
If it means surviving death in one form or another - I imagine yes.
I have always wondered where artwork hell was.
Again. the question Fred asked was: What does the museum mean to today's artist.
I know quite a few artists who would answer that qutStion by asking whether the museum was a major museum.
The second sort of Museified World, Type II, breaks the mould of how we look at preserving and collecting things. It opens new categories and forms of collection, both in the finite physical realm and in the virtual world of information. Instead of being merely representative, the new realities erase the old.
The first Museification concept is like bottling jam and calling it fruit. You end up looking at jam and trying to imagine what the fruit looked like. After the fruit is no longer around you even begin to wonder whether it ever existed. Type I Museification is surrogate. The second preserve – and we have only just started to explore such avenues – can be imagined to be comparable to in vitro culture, the horticultural practice where new plants are cloned from a piece of material taken from anywhere on the original plant – even ifit is just a minuscule bit of stem. With Museification Type II, the fruit is still bottled into jam, but the jam can be later raised from the dead, opened and planted to produce new fruit trees. Museification II represents a positive approach to the changing world and is truly progressive. Man takes control and, by creating and using new technology, manages to manage his environment. Control and the will to powerrule again.
And the artist's role?
And the museum's role?
And the collector's role?
Aloha. There's mangoes for breakfast.
But lo! Men have become the tools of their tools.
During the past decades, while the world has rapidly evolved in complexity, information has replaced gold, oil and diamonds as the world's most valuable commodity. Why? Because in a world of change and with so many variables in play, information allows us to anticipate altering conditions and prepare ourselves for the onslaught of new phenomena. It allows us to be able to predict the increasingly non-uniform behaviour of others; who they are, what they think and how they might possibly act towards us. Information provides us with a context in which to operate and interact with the world. We need to have high quality information. The better the quality, the better we can map our current position – our global position and fonn an appropriate attitude and world picture.
In order to meet this need for infonnation we have become a society of media watchers and subscribers. Media are our life lines. As the media become more demassified, major media are breaking down into multiple smaller and more specialised channels and more of us are given – and taking – the opportunity to talk back. We are becoming a society of message producers, casting out our own lines and networking. The definition of the artist in this world is expanding. As the amount of information increases the messages tend to become shorter and more fragmentary, so we can take in more in less time. The long discourse has yielded to the magazine, newspaper and television, which delivers information in short bursts and clips. It becomes a major challenge to find and piece together enough consistent bits of information to bake a pie. Some of us are dealt wild cards. We are forced to hunt for what we need. The missing ingredients to our cognitive puzzle are floating around somewhere in the ether.
Most bits of information, when taken alone, are quite harmless, but there are some which, when combined improperly, produce poisons. To date, there are no controls over what is pumped into the information sphere and recently there has been voiced concern over the pollution of our idea space. What once was a singular figure, the Spy who came in from the Cold, is replaced by an increasing mass of business artists and entrepreneurs who have caught on to the lucrative wave of marketing and producing new and fresher information. Breeding data breeds contempt and, like the joke with rabbits, suddenly we are confronted with an enormous glut, a gargantuan surplus. We wake up to a nightmare on the information highway, our eyes fixed to a rising speedometer and the accelerator pedal stuck to the floor.
Looking at examples of our society's exponential growth has been a disconcerting pastime since Alvin Toffler published Future Shock in the early 70's. The facts and figures contained in these books and tracts are truly unnerving. I find that memorising a few helps me stand up at parties to postmodernist smart-asses, when they truck out the cliche that there is nothing new under the sun. I recently picked up this one from Mediamatic magazine: If we take the amount of information in the world available in the year I AD as I unit, it took 1500 years to double and another 250 years to double again. That is, the citizen of 1750 had 4 times as much information at his disposal as the citizen of the year I. By 1900 it had doubled again to 8 times. And by t950 it had doubled again t6 16 times. The final year of the study was 1973 and by then the citizen had 128 times more information available to him than his ancestor in the year I. Today – in 1991 – it is estimated that the total amount of information available to us is doubling every 18 months. My question to you is this - actually it's two questions: How long is it going to be before it is doubling daily? And how are we going to keep track of it all?
Storing the information is not going to be such a problem, because even though the recording of the information must rely upon physical means and that takes space – even personal memory depends upon acids and cells – information is principally a virtual commodity and virtuality can be packed tight. Perhaps this is why, contrary to all our other commodities, the amount of accessible and embodied information in the world is exploding. Not only is there a market for it, but we have enough room. The spirit survives in another space. Virtual worlds, where forms are made of data, are going to allow new possibilities for the tourist and collector. Charles Fort, in his book New Lands, written at the end of the First World War, suggested this possibility when all the known land has been settled and used up. The young man is no longer urged. or is no longer much inclined, to go westward. He will, or must. go somewhere. If directions alone no longer invite him, he may hear invitation in dimensions. Our will to power triumphs in the jaws of physical misfortune. We can only match the generative force of nature through endless gibberish applied superiorly. Point forward. There will be new things to collect.
Joe Kwan came from an ancient !V1andarin family, which had lived several generations in Singapore before settling in Goa in the 1860'S. The son of two doctors, Joe was the youngest of four children and the only one born in Goa. He was a precocious child, showing signs at an early age of being a prodigy. At two and half, he was fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, English and Hindi.
On his fiftieth birthday, as was the custom for such celebrations, his father and mother engaged a small troupe of entertainers to perform for his party. The troupe consisted of a snake charmer, two musicians, a contortionist, a fakir and a juggler. The afternoon before the performance, while the whole house was in an uproar of preparation, a tent was set up for them in the garden; and before going to bed, Joe, who was quite excited by the party's prospects, received permission from his parents to peek inside.
Accompanied by a family servant and chatting like a magpie, Joe waited as the cloth covering the entrance was pulled back. Inside was a low bed or divan, strung with rope and apparendy devoid of cushions. Beside it, a nearly naked man lay stretched out on the ground asleep. This was the fakir of the troupe, his brown body looking as weathered as a discarded cigar. Smitten with youthful curiosity, the boy reached up for the servant's hand and together they took a few cautious steps forward until they were standing next to the sleeping figure. Trying to wake him, the boy addressed him first softly in Hindi, and then, when there was no response, more loudly in Portuguese. The fakir remained oblivious to these salutations. The boy repeated them even louder. The fakir, though obviously not dead, remained as if dead. Sensing something was not right, the servant pulled Joe back. But Joe, not accustomed to having his will thwarted, shook free from the servant and, before he could be stopped, landed the fakir a small kick. A slight tremor moved through the man's body and his eyelids opened for a fraction of a second, revealing only white. Suddenly embarrassed and thinking the man must be sick, the boy opened his mouth to apologise, his embarrassment rapidly turning to fear when he found that no words came out. With wide open eyes, and with the servant vigorously thumping his back, young Joe silently moved his lips up and down. By the next morning Joe still hadn't recovered his ability to speak, and when the fakir was summoned, it was reported that he had disappeared during the night. Joe's parents, the two doctors, both well versed in Chinese medicine, tried everything to restore his speech but without success. They were on the verge of despair when his voice returned, as mysteriously as it had left him. This occurred the instant that Joe – playing again in the garden after a week in bed – accidentally discovered a rupee, buried in the ground.
After this strange experience Joe read everything he could find on fakirs and yoga. He learned to read Sanskrit, and when he ran out of books , pleaded with his parents until they agreed to find him a tutor on the subject. Appalled by the idea that their son might end up leading the impoverished life of a beggar, they sought the aid of a wealthy brahmin who was as renowned for his business sense as for his scholarship in religious matters. After meeting with Joe, the brahmin was so impressed by his intelligence that he decided to tutor the boy himself. So it was that Mandarin Joe grew up making weekly visits to this man for spiritual instruction.
This brahmin, although married, was himself childless, and as is often the case in these situations, grew – after a time – so fond of his pupil that he began to think of him as a son, in spite of their difference of race. Thus the brahmin held back nothing, and taught the boy everything he knew, including the art of Kundalini yoga in which the brahmin was a secret adept. Kundalini yoga, also known as the serpent power, involves the raising of the snake or the coiled energy said to be buried sleeping at the base of the spine. Using ancient techniques, the breath is first collected and stored in the solar plexus, and then given a charge by sharply contracting the heart. In this manner the Kundalini energy is awakened. This is not without danger, for if the snake is awakened facing downwards there is a good chance the practitioner will die. Once aroused, the energy is slowly raised up the spine and, by using specific operations to open each door, moves from one chakra to the next. If all goes well, after much effort and internal discipline, the practitioner's Kundalini nears rhe final destination, the crown chakra siruated at the top of the skull.
Years later, Mandarin Joe would stand in Moss's garden his mind on magpies and a buried rupee, his mouth and arms telling his disciples a biblical story.
After a long time the lord of those servants who had gone away returned and took an accounting of them.
Then the one who received five pounds came up and offered five others, and he said, My lord, you gave me five pounds; behold, I have added five others to them.
His lord said to him, Well done, good and reliable servant; you have been faithful over little, ] will appoint you over much; enter into your master's joy.
Then the one with the two pounds came and said, My lord, you gave me two pounds; behold, I have added two others to them.
His lord said to him, Well done, good and reliable servant; you have been faithful over little, I will appoint you over much; enter into your master's joy.
Then the one who had received one pound also came up, and he said, My lord, I knew that you are a hard man, and you reap where you did not sow and gather where you did not scatter.
So ] was afraid, and] went and hid your pound in the ground; here is the very one you gave me.
His lord answered, saying, 0 wicked and lazy servant, you knew me that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I did not scatter.
You should then have put my money in the bank, and when I returned I would have demanded my own with interest.
Therefore take away the pound from him, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.
For to him who has, it shall be given, and it shall increase to him; but he who has not, even that which he has shall be taken away from him.
When the time arrived in his schooling to choose a university, Joe Kwan decided on engineering at the University of Bangalore. This is where he met and became friends with Prince Salar Jang, who was to later become the Maharaja of Hyderbad. Both Joe and Salar enjoyed a certain degree of notoriety around campus. Joe because of his mango trick: a trick where, in a few hours, a tree sprang up and produced fruit. No one could explain how he did it. Salar because he was a descendant of Tippu Sahib, the rebellious prince known to the British as the Tiger of My sore, who had developed the world's first war rocket and used it so effectively against the British army in the 1790'S. As a matter of fact Salar shared many similarities with his illustrious ancestor, physically as well as in character. Besides having red hair and sporting an enormous moustache, Salar, like Tippu Sahib, blended a taste for reading literature together with a passion for hunting bordering on the fanatic. However, Salar's friends happily found him less prone to war than the feared Tippu and noted onc trait that none ofTippu's biographers had mentioned: Prince Salar was an incorrigible collector, and already, barely twenty, his collection was vast. Salar's taste was entirely eclectic, not limited to any particular category or thing. When he chosc something he always made a big show of choosing with certainty, but is choices followed laws noone else could follow. An old brass table, a few yards of yellow silk, a hand painted on the door of a shop. Like Mandarin Joe, Prince Salar was a little mysterious. Everyone agreed upon seeing his installations there was a certain logic, that it somehow worked. But it was impossible to explain. Nobody had ever seen a collection like Salar's before.
Our story ends with Joe and Salar hitting it off immediately, discovering that they shared many mutual interests. After classes Joe accompanied Salar as he walked through the bazaars searching for things, very often astonishing Salar's other friends
by anticipating his choices. It seemed that Joe was the only one besides Salar who knew what it was all about. Salar appreciated this, and grew very close to Joe. It surprised no one when, at graduation, Salar hired Joe as his secretary.
The sound of waves moving pebbles. The crunch of cereal and milk. Boots on beach gravel.
I can't find my glasses.
You don't need them now, it's dark.
I know but I want to make sure that I haven't lost them.
You haven't lost them. Go get your guitar.
I don't know why we are taping this... this is going to be completely incoherent. The museum! The museum!
Coherent. That's the name of a big laser manufacturer.
Now it's dark.
Isn't that the company that built the laser that was fired from the earth to the moon? Did you know that by the time it reached the moon the beam was only six feet wide!
(a shooting star)
That was a big one.
And what about laser sights on hunting rifles?
What about them?
Just point and shoot. No muss, no fuss. Just line up the red dot and take a deer home. It even comes standard on the new cameras.
Get a load of the Deer Hunter.
Hey guys, aren't we on a fishing trip?
I prefer myoid Pentax - don't trust those new automatic jobs.
They look like a bloody laser" either that or...
Hey, you know the new one with a lid? Looks like you are holding a bottle of jam in your hand.
Who wants another can of beer?
You know I have still got an old Leica - doesn't even have a light meter.
By God that's the only way to really learn photography.
Hey look, the Artist.
Might as well be using a bow and arrow. By the time you are ready to shoot with that thing the deer has gone home to bed.
Bullshit. You never heard of Cartier-Bresson? What do you think he used? (chorus)
The decisive moment!
What exactly is coherent anyway?
Coherent means something easily followed or a substance that sticks together not rambling or inconsequential.
I sure could have stuck that girl at the gas station.
Hey, clean it up, we're on tape here.
No, I mean a laser works because the light is coherent, right?
Where's Mort? (looking around)
I don't know, he left a while ago.
Probably went looking for the white lodge.
Think he left a trail of bread crumbs?
In the moonlight?
You know what mort means?
Note sounded on a horn at the death of deer.
Hey, what's that? (pointing)
Don't point. It's bad manners to point.
I thought I saw a salmon jump.
Hey asshole, salmon don't jump at night.