That hilarious Macbeth

October 31, 2012 Comments Off on That hilarious Macbeth

It is reported that Verdi wrote Falstaff in response to Rossini’s criticism that “he [Verdi] wrote only tragedies because he could not write a comedy if his life depended on it”.  Rossini was a good judge of character, it is therefore perhaps not surprising that Falstaff is not funny; but — having heard last night’s I must say – his claim that Verdi could not write a comedy was wrong: Macbeth is absolutely hilarious.



October 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

I return to Onegin often.  Not on the strength of the love story, as most of you do, I am sure; but on account of the friendship-story:  Onegin, a man from the capital, befriends a local boy; in conversation he lets slip that he finds the boy provincial; over which the boy challenges him to a duel — and dies shot through the head.  In a way this summarizes my relationship with the world:  here I am, the (sorry to sound stuck up, but this is the unadorned truth, the, as it were, facts of life) man of the world — seven languages, life divided between five countries on three continents, a man of vast reading with experience and expertise in several professions and several sciences — and over there is everyone else, lucky to be bilingual, lucky to have lived in two different countries, lucky to have held more than two jobs.  This, it turns out, is not merely a source of misunderstanding but also a source of deep resentment.  My provincial friends (which is, more or less, everybody) will not only often not understand what I am saying, they will also not be explained to.  (There is a Dale Carnegie lesson in this:  play dumb).

That the modern human condition is unprecedented

October 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Heretofore, one could always escape.  There was always The Territory.  One could always go off and start from scratch.  Without them.

Today it has all been populated, developed.  There is no Territory.  There is nowhere to run.

The dissatisfaction of literature

October 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Having settled in a beautiful and convenient but boring place — with no museums, or performing arts worth mentioning — I set about reading with the intention of catching up on the backlog of literature.  I have read piles of science, philosophy, history, and art; literature, I felt, was now the major remaining mountain of knowledge needing to be conquered.

Alas, it will remain unconquered.

With very few exceptions I am finding reading literature a dull and depressing experience:  literary authors simply do not know enough about life (spending all day writing prevents them from living — they are as unknowledgeable about life as every other desk-bound full-time employee); nor do they have the theoretical foundations which stem from rigorous acquisition of facts.  Their lack of insight is glaring; their life theories naive; their psychology, for the most part, wishful thinking.  Except for some deft story telling techniques (fancy language, beautiful metaphor, a sudden narrative switcharoo) I find little reward in literature; and what I find is too weak a reward for the time spent reading.

So, I have changed my project and turned to music.  I now spend hours listening (intently) to music.

The theory of evolution predicts that different brain-mutations must exist within the human population. The pomo debate illustrates it.

October 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Foreign languages add perspective: sometimes they let you see something that should otherwise be obvious but in your own language remains occluded by customary usage.  A Polish pomo debate (here) turns out useful in just this way, casting new light on the entire pomo debate:  not because of what the poster said (after all, what she said was the usual attack by one of us on what we perceive as nonsensical statements emanating from pomo:  nothing new in that, we already know pomo is nonsense) but because of something one of the pomo-defenders said in the discussion section:  “It is OK to be critical of pomo, but why castigate it?” (Można krytykować ale po co zaraz zjeżdżać?)

Because Polish debate usage allows this kind of friendly appeal to sense of fair-play, it also allows the appealing side to expose itself.  In this case, the defender reveals that he thinks that the the attacker’s act of holding up a pomo statement to ridicule as pure nonsense is an act of “castigation”.  He thinks that because, either:

— the defender does not think the statement in question is nonsense;


— he admits that it is nonsense but thinks nonsense is perfectly admissible in debate.

Whichever is the case, the defender does not think what we think:  that nonsense offends.

This raises an interesting question:  why does nonsense offend us and not them?  I feel that the correct explanation must be architecture of the mind.  We simply have different heads.  Our model of CPU does not allow certain kinds of computing, while theirs does.  The result is mutual incomprehension.

This is as it should be:  the theory of evolution predicts the existence of different minds: if the human mind is the result of evolution, it is the result of the rise of mutations and competition between them.  If the human mind has not somehow magically stopped evolving but continues to do what it has done for the past two million years, then different mind-mutations must exist within the population.  And they do:  the pomo debate illustrates it.

Why did Bellocchio release Il regista?

October 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Did he think it was good?

He could not possibly have thought it, unless…  unless the biographical aspect of it has blinded him into thinking it is important:  after all, we all commit the grave mistake of thinking that because what happens to us is important to us therefore it must be somehow universally important.  And the truth is — it is not.

Or did he think it was not great but it would do?

To turn out good films (or novels) one has to take time to experience and digest, i.e. stop writing (or filming)

October 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Il regista di matrimoni on the other hand, despite some beautiful eye candy, and some delightful oddities (Bellocchio’s films are placed somewhat in the direction of the the Manuel de Oliveira/Raoul Ruiz corner of the realism/surrealism spectrum), disappoints.  It seems an immutable principle of art that whenever an aging movie director makes a film about an aging movie director (or an aging novelist about an aging novelist) the resulting work must needs be dull.  The autobiographical details of the lives of productive artists, unlike the autobiographical details of mercenaries or gangsters or entrepreneurs, are just not terribly interesting:  sitting and writing all day does no more to develop an interesting character than turning out a movie a year, and precisely as much as any other job.  And if you trust pornographic websites, far less than the job of a librarian (or a nurse).  I suppose the sad truth is that no one has 40 good films in him (except perhaps Ozu); good directors (like Kubrick) know this and don’t mind producing a film every decade.  To turn out good films (or novels) one has to take time to experience and digest, i.e. stop writing (or filming).