11/16/2019

Subversive

Dear C,

Thank you for your remark below:

"I am sure reading Tolstoi from his parables to his Maximum Opus, War and Peace is certain to evoke things that are dear to all of us. He is subversive without doubt, and  you will be a better person for having read him."

That was a response to my raving about a diary by Andrzej Zulawski a film director and a novelist (1940-2016).  The diary which rebels against almost everything and pulls no punches against the established cultural flow is appropriately titled "Nocnik".  This polish word means a night chamber but could also as a neologism be taken as the night notes (reverse to the diary -  etymologically based on daily activities.)  This term night chamber/nigh notes evokes dirt and waste since that's what goes into the potty.

Madman Zulawski, to keep with the chamber potty meaning, delivers plenty of shit and obnoxiousness in talking about his lovers, family and colleagues and writers or filmmakers he doesn't like.  Yet he gets away with that because, when not being an asshole curmudgeon, he dazzles with above the scale perceptiveness, brilliance and depth when riffing about politics, history, books and films.

A remarkable read.  A truly subversive intellectual, who cherishes subversiveness,  truthfulness and daring of Tolstoi as a thinker, philosopher and a sophisticated story teller.

11/07/2019

Shallow metaphors

"Parasite"- with its best visual metaphor.

In “Parasite” a character ironically tosses remarks “it’s metaphorical” usually at some lame configurations or objects.  Does it come from the filmmaker trying to diffuse a possible criticism of his film, which is one giant, lame and tired metaphor?  Yes, I am probably one of a dozen people on the planet who doesn’t go nuts about the tile.

The story reads and looks like a calculated rendering of a Marxist theory about a class struggle.  Such a simplistic juxtaposition of rich and poor, cartoonish rendering of the social sides and tired and predictable attempts at grotesque could pass in the 19th century.  Nowadays, at least to me, they feel cheap and boring.

The only interesting character in the Parasite is the father with his slowly brewing evolution.  In this respect he chimes with the main character in the original “Old Boy”, one of my favorite movies of all times.  Even though the former is a grotesque and the latter a thriller they both use several common stylistic elements - downstairs/upstairs, capturing, release, panoramic windows, wide angle tableaux, unexpected violence and more as well as attempts to enter the tormented souls of their heroes.  I like the freshness and intelligence of the Old boy narrative technology.   Granted, grotesque doesn’t have to be profound, but doesn’t have to be superficial either.  

10/12/2019

Shusterman meets Strzeminski

Ed Trotta and Petra Lucas in 
"Kobro or the Madness of Love" by Alicja Kuczynska.  
American Center for Music Theater,  Hollywood, CA, 2001

In a strange twist of things Wladyslaw Strzeminski as played by Ed Trotta returns in a small but significant moment in the upcoming "Exposure and Self-Knowledge" (a documentary about Richard Shusterman)

10/06/2019

Politics as a tool for self improvement


James Madison in The Federalist Papers (Federalist No. 51) balances between a realistic reading of the human nature and a dream of establishing a social structure as the reflection of the best in man.  In the quote below "ambition must be made to counteract ambition" points to the former, " the line "But what is government itself..." to the latter.   Between the two the current political commotion unfolds. 
  
"Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

10/03/2019

What do we hear?


Charlie Brown in "Charlie and the Common Good" talks about Ahimsa as one of the fundamentals for his theory. The quotes below come from a circular that just came from ISUD (an organization that Charlie was one of the co-founders) to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth:

Ahimsa (non-violence), was a key tenet of Gandhi’s beliefs. He held that complete non-violence means removal of anger, obsession and destructive impulses. A daily life of likes and dislikes creates an illusion of reality and becomes a stumbling block to advance on the path of truthfulness. The mental impurities of anger, lust, greed, attachment and ego need to be cleansed for making progress on the spiritual path of approaching absolute truth. A life of opposing polarities of joy and sorrow creates a partial reality of truth as at any given moment only one polarity is active. To rise above this dualistic reality, one has to get detached from both likes and dislikes and become an observer.  
Dr. Ramanath Pandey

Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.’ Each and every person has got his conscience, which is nothing but the inner soul. The infallible universal law is the result of the direction of the intuition of inner soul. The direction of the conscience comes from within in the form of command. When it is the inner voice that speaks, it is unmistakable… This phenomenon of ‘Inner voice’ is described by Gandhiji as the Divine Radio who is always speaking in the form of giving us directions. Gandhiji observes: “The Divine Radio is always speaking if we could only make ourselves ready to listen to it but it is impossible to listen in without silence.”  For Gandhi violence signifies social, economic and political exploitation of a section of human beings for the benefit of others.  (..) Gandhi’s view is quite opposite to the utilitarian one, which advocates the greatest good  of the greatest number. 
   Raghunath Ghosh                                                                                                                                   

9/30/2019

Is time a tool to read reality with?


Olga Tokarczuk in "Bizarre stories":
"It's not that the word has changed.  
It's us whose brains became so scuffed 
that we don't catch time as we used to."

I like that.  Instead of bitching about the world out there perhaps we should take a closer look at our pathetic and shrinking selves.   Another aspect of the quote that I like is that it leads to time as the element which makes or breaks our well being.  For example the information explosion is really the assault on our sense of time. 

9/28/2019

The place of an image


Richard Shusterman quotes/translates in "The Adventures of the Man in Gold" Laozi describing the Tao:

“As a thing the way is shadowy and indistinct. Indistinct and shadowy, yet within it is an image. Shadowy and indistinct, yet within it is a substance. Dim and dark, yet within it is an essence. This essence is quite genuine” (D 21). (道之為物惟恍惟 惚。惚兮恍兮其中有象。恍兮 惚兮其中有物。窈兮冥兮其中 有精。其精甚真。)

At first I though it was a cascade: the unspoken contains an image, that image contains a substance, that substance holds an essence. And the essence is genuine. So we go deeper and deeper till we reach that which is.

However grammatically it's a series of approximations that try to explain that which is shadowy and indistinct. Or is it? I need a solid English consultation here.

As an image maker I would prefer the former way of reading the quote. In it the image is a necessary step into that which is. In the latter it's just one of many possible ways to grasp that which can't be grasped.