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Sylvia's on the back (October 2005)

READIN

Jeremy's journal

Nonsense is only another language.

Penelope Fitzgerald


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Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Mythology

Sylvia and I spent some time this weekend reading stories from a college book of mine, Rhoda Hendricks' 1972 edition Classical Gods and Heroes: Myths as told by the ancient authors -- a good resource although I don't love her translations. Looks like we should find some good translations of Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days to learn more about the early Greek myths. It will probably be a lot more difficult to learn anything about the early Roman myths, since all the Roman writing about mythology seems to come from well after the Hellenization process was underway. I would like to pick up a good translation of Metamorphoses though, Ovid seems to be a good story-teller.

Anyone who is interested in this stuff and has not read the comments to the previous post should do so -- Randolph reposted a great writeup there from Bryon Boyce.

posted afternoon of February 28th, 2010: Respond
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Thursday, February 25th, 2010

John Bramblitt learned to paint after he went blind. You can listen to a talk he gave at the Metropolitan Museum last year, or watch a documentary about his painting process to find out how he chooses colors and finds the regions on his canvasses; or just revel in the beauty of his paintings.

posted evening of February 25th, 2010: Respond
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Gravity's Rainbow playlist

(To go along with the Inherent Vice playlist...)

Oh we're the LOONIES ON LEAVE, and
We haven't a care --
Our brains at the cleaners, our souls at the Fair,
Just freaks on a fur-lough, away from the blues,
As daffy, and sharp as -- the taps on our shoes!

A group of students and faculty at Portland State U. have set to music 15 of the lyrics from Gravity's Rainbow: The Thomas Pynchon Fake Book. Excellent takes! Lotsa Laffs! Here is a Vulgar Song:

posted afternoon of February 25th, 2010: Respond
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Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Zeus ≡ Jupiter

Sylvia has gotten pretty interested in learning about the gods and heroes of Greece and Rome -- prompted in part by a study unit her class did and in part by Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians books; and one thing that has occupied a bit of her attention lately is learning which Latin names correspond to which Greek names.

I remember doing this too, probably at about the same age; and ever since I've walked around with a sort of simple equivalence in my head, Zeus is Jupiter, Ares is Mars, Venus is Aphrodite, etc. -- that the two names identify the same entity. But I wonder how this could be? Recently I have formed a sort of vague notion that the Greeks and the Romans, living close to each other over the millenia, had developed their mythologies roughly in parallel -- that there were two separate entities named Athena and Minerva who featured in similar stories.

But how closely similar could they have been? In The Golden Bough, Frazer seems to refer to Diana and Artemis almost interchangeably, and not only that but likewise to Hippolytus and Virbius. Not only does it seem strange that the legends would be so similar that you could do this, it seems like it would be sloppy on Frazer's part to confuse two different god-and-hero pairs like this -- which brings me back to my old way of thinking, that Diana and Artemis are just two different names for the same figure. I'm puzzled though, trying to see a mechanism for this to come about -- it seems like if the religion was imparted from one group (I guess I would assume from the Greeks) to the other, the names would go along with it. I sort of thought a tribal religion was a sine qua non of a Classical civilisation, I guess.

Also kind of interesting, Frazer seems to imply at the outset that the story of Diana and Hippolytus was made up to account for the tradition of Rex Nemorensis, that this was an ancient tradition incorporated into the Greek/Roman religion à la Solstice rituals into Christianity.

posted evening of February 24th, 2010: 9 responses
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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

First, Second, Third

In his case, would you say that the habit you describe, of treating feelings as provisional, of not committing himself emotionally, extended beyond relations with the land of his birth into personal relations too?

I don't know. You are the biographer. If you find that train of thought worth following up, follow it.

This passage illustrates what I think the best thing is about Summertime -- Coetzee is talking about a third person, a fictional entity named Coetzee; and I have a constant undertone to my reading that well, he could very well be talking about himself you know; and in moments like this it hits me that he could just as well be talking about me. Leaving aside any therapeutic benefits this kind of introspection may have, it's just a lovely sensation to feel yourself inside the book looking out, inhabiting the roles of speaker, person being addressed, and subject of discussion.

posted evening of February 23rd, 2010: Respond
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Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Narrative Layers

I'm in awe:

One morning... John appeared at the front door. 'I won't stay,' he said, 'but I thought you might like this.' He was holding a book. On the cover: Dusklands, by J M Coetzee.

I was completely taken aback. 'You wrote this?' I said. ...

'I didn't know your father was a historian,' I remarked the next time we met. I was referring to the preface to his book, in which the author, the writer, this man in front of me, claimed that his father, the little man who went off every morning to his bookkeeping job in the city, was also an historian who haunted the archives and turned up old documents.

'You mean the preface?' he said. 'Oh, that's all made up.'

So J.M. Coetzee is writing a story with a fictional character named J.M. Coetzee who writes a book with a fictional character named Coetzee -- which book was also coincidentally written by the primary Coetzee...

I have got to read Dusklands now...

posted afternoon of February 21st, 2010: 4 responses
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Spoiler?

...Not really, I think... But if you want to read Coetzee's Summertime with no foreknowledge, skip this post. Otherwise, look below the fold.

read the rest...

posted morning of February 21st, 2010: Respond

Stencils in Caracas

Oswaldo Aiffil of Así pienso... ¿tú qué dices? posts some lovely photos of the work of street artist Ergo:

posted morning of February 21st, 2010: Respond

Conversation

I watched Land of Silence and Darkness for the second time last night -- the first time I watched it was near the very beginning of my getting into Herzog's œuvre, and I did not get much out of it at all; now it is seeming to me like possibly the greatest of his documentaries, and on a par with Stroszek as an utterly captivating movie.

The first time I saw it I was laboring under some misconceptions, which I believe it would be useful to examine. I had just seen Even Dwarfs Started Small, and then seen the YouTube clip of Vladimir Kokol making lip-noises and playing with his ball, and I went into the movie sort of thinking, This is a crazy Herzog film about crazy people. But that is an exceedingly poor rubrik for understanding Land of Silence and Darkness. The Kokol clip is only meaningful in the context of the film as a whole, and it kind of sucks it is the top hit when you search YouTube for clips from the film -- I think the clip of Straubinger which I posted below is a much better introduction to the movie. Straubinger and the people she visits are not (in general) "crazy people" or deranged, they are deaf and/or blind, and listening to them talk/sign about their experience is enlightening and touching.

(Also possible: when I watched Even Dwarfs Started Small I was listening to Herzog's commentary track, which as I recall consisted essentially of him saying to his interviewer, "heh -- look at these crazy midgets" -- I probably had that in mind going into this movie, and was thinking of Herzog as taking his camera to the zoo/asylum to film the animals/crazy people... I have no idea whether that was his intention, but in any case the movie he made is much more valuable than that suggests. Possibly I should watch Even Dwarfs again and see if there is more to it than I got on my first viewing. A key thing to remember with Land of Silence and Darkness is that Herzog is not the only person making the movie -- the deaf and blind people are not actors, they are people with their own agendas in speaking to Herzog.)

The primary thing I am taking away from last night's viewing of the film -- and I am planning to watch it many more times -- is how the chain of conversation flowed between the different people. When a person is speaking words as he or she signs the words onto the listener's palm, and the listener speaks or mouths the words being signed, the communication that is going on is astounding to watch -- and as a viewer I felt able to get inside that act of communication in a distinctly different way than I do watching what I think of as "normal", spoken conversation. Then in the next scene, a deaf person would be signing to another without speaking/mouthing words, and I would be completely outside their conversation...

posted morning of February 21st, 2010: Respond
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Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Das ist so, man meint, Taubheit, das ist völlige Stille. Und nein, da irrt man sich. Es ist ein ständiges Geräusch im Kopf.

Fini Straubinger explaining the sensation of deafness.

posted evening of February 20th, 2010: 1 response
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