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Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

— Sir Francis Bacon

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Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

🦋 The experience of deafness and blindness: 3 takes

Fini Straubinger:

Saramago (in Pontiero's translation):

The blind man had categorically stated that he could see, if you'll excuse that verb again, a thick, uniform white color, as if he had plunged his eyes into a milky sea. A white amaurosis, apart from being etymologically a contradiction, would also be a neurological possibility, since the brain, which would be unable to perceive the images, forms, and colors of reality, would likewise be incapable, in a manner of speaking, of being covered in white, a continuous white, like a white painting without tonalities, the colors, forms and images which reality itself might present to someone with normal vision, however difficult it may be to speak, with any accuracy, of normal vision.
Borges (and guess how excited I am to find the Seven Nights lectures online! At least one of them...):

posted evening of August 31st, 2010: Respond
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Sunday, February 21st, 2010

🦋 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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