Thursday, May 31, 2007

Berceuses du Chat

"Animals do not have to do, they just are".
-Igor Stravinsky

(mentioned in Robert Craft's Chronicle of a Friendship)


"...the true, creative overcoming of religious illumination certainly does not lie in narcotics. It resides in a profane illumination, a materialistic, anthropological inspiration to which hashish, opium, or whatever else can give a preliminary lesson."

-Walter Benjamin ("On Hasish")

διασκοπῶν οὖν τοῦτον--ὀνόματι γὰρ οὐδὲν δέομαι λέγειν, ἦν δέ τις τῶν πολιτικῶν πρὸς ὃν ἐγὼ σκοπῶν τοιοῦτόν τι ἔπαθον, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, καὶ διαλεγόμενος αὐτῷ--ἔδοξέ μοι οὗτος ὁ ἀνὴρ δοκεῖν μὲν εἶναι σοφὸς ἄλλοις τε πολλοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ μάλιστα ἑαυτῷ, εἶναι δ᾽ οὔ· κἄπειτα ἐπειρώμην αὐτῷ δεικνύναι ὅτι οἴοιτο μὲν εἶναι σοφός, εἴη δ᾽ οὔ. ἐντεῦθεν οὖν τούτῳ τε ἀπηχθόμην καὶ πολλοῖς τῶν παρόντων· πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν δ᾽ οὖν ἀπιὼν ἐλογιζόμην ὅτι τούτου μὲν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐγὼ σοφώτερός εἰμι· κινδυνεύει μὲν γὰρ ἡμῶν οὐδέτερος οὐδὲν καλὸν κἀγαθὸν εἰδέναι, ἀλλ᾽ οὗτος μὲν οἴεταί τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οἴομαι· ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι. ἐντεῦθεν ἐπ᾽ ἄλλον ᾖα τῶν ἐκείνου δοκούντων σοφωτέρων εἶναι καί μοι ταὐτὰ ταῦτα ἔδοξε, καὶ ἐνταῦθα κἀκείνῳ καὶ ἄλλοις πολλοῖς ἀπηχθόμην."


("Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of
wisdom, and observed him--his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination--and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is, for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think that I know.")

-Socrates (from Plato's "Apology", trans. Jowett)

T I M E is the opium of space. Space, the opium of movement through time of matter through the void. Void, the opium of thought. Thought, the opium of the intellect. Intellect, the opium of consciousness. Consciousness, the opium of the brain. The brain, is the opium of the will. Will, the opium of the animal drive for survival. Survival, the opium of the free. Freedom, the opium of the not-free. The not-free, the opium of everything. Everything, the opium of the nothing. Nothing, the opium of religion. Religion, the opium of the extinguishable (as in transient). The extinguished, the opium of the Earth. The Earth, the opium of the living beings on the Earth. The living beings of the Earth, the opium of the powerful. Power, the opium of ideology (political, ethnic, nationalistic, religious, etc). Ideology, the opium of the inhumane. Inhumanity (O! the inhumanity!) the opium of the religious. The religious, the opium of frightened/diseased intellects. The frightened/diseased intellect, the opium of the Fascist, Marxist ("the opium of the intellectuals"-edmund wilson), Libertarian, Anarchist, Democrat, Republican, Neo-Conservative, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist, Feminist, Anti-Feminist, Nihilist, Post-Modernist, Modernist, Pre-Modernist etc.
All of these mentioned above, the opium of those with overflowing Gnosis, or Knowingness, or Knowledge of the Ideal, the Utopian, the Truth of History in Theories/Jargons/Systems. Gnosis, the opium of the ones (we) whom are eternally abandoned by the Gnosis, (thanks, absent, flawed demiurge, ya prick!). We, the people, the opium of civilization (in our case, Western). Civilization, the opium of that which exists in the workable, problem-solving orientations of various spinning wheels.
Problem-solving, the opium of the pragmatist. Pragmatism, the opium of the skeptic. Skepticism, the opium of the one who thinks there is more than what he sees/knows/hears/touches/tastes/feels (or less). More (or less), the opium of hope. Hope, the opium of optimism. Optimism, the opium of the humanist. Humanism, the opium of the Educated. The Educated, the opium of reasonable, the balanced, the open-mindful, the naturalist, the one without answers. The absence of answers, the opium of the infinite questions.
The infinite questions, the opium of Philosophy, Science (let us have these two finally meet each other with wet lips and beating kind hearts, like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in "Sleepless in Seattle").
Philosophy and Science, the opium of art. Art, the opium of Art.
The opium of opiums.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

iTunes Unnecessary Censorship

Sometimes, censoring something "dirty" that wasn't in the first place makes it "dirty". Thus, iTunes has labeled one of Benjamin Britten's effortless choral pieces, King Herod and the Cock, in truth a friendly setting of an old Christmas folk tune for boy choir and piano (found on this Naxos release), "King Herod and the C**k", which adds a sort of Genet-esque air of forbidden desire.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

German Dictionary

I've promised myself to continue studying French this summer, so when I go back to school in the fall, I'm not totally lost. Second languages can float away like ghosts; I've already lost most of my Spanish from high school, which I am also trying to remedy to some degree this summer.

In the the midst of this language acquisition bonanza, I picked up an old German vocab book, "Mastering German Vocabulary." I was delighted to find the book's distinctly Germanic feel, even in the choice of example sentences. Whereas your Spanish and French language books choose simple and friendly examples, El profesor usó una camisa roja ("The teacher wears a red shirt"), J'ai un chat noir ("I have a black cat"), the German phrase book has slightly more somber ones. Needless to say, they don't quite help in altering the stereotype of the sadistic , maniacal German, the depressive fascist who loves Rammstein and all occurrences of schadenfreude, especially around children and the infirm.

For example, and I am not joking, here are some I found after turning to random pages:

-Man sieht seinem Gesicht an, daß er schon viele Enttäuschungen erlebt hat.
("His face bears the traces of the many disappointments he has experienced.")

-Ist due Pflege Ihrer behinderten Tochter eine große Belastung für Sie?
("Is caring for your handicapped daughter a great burden?")

and my personal favorite:
-Aus lauter Verzweiflung beging er Selbstmord.
("He was so desperate he committed suicide.")

Did Max Stirner write this book?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jerry Falwell: RIP

Monday, May 07, 2007


It is always good to not take yourself too seriously, especially if you are an artist. Taking yourself too seriously has led to many a downfall. Just look at the career of Crazy Town (Shifty Shellshock simply could not better "Butterfly", so begins a downward spiral; he is the F. Scott Fitzgerald of rap rock. "Gift of the Game" is Gatsby, and "Darkside" is The Last Tycoon ).

When you can parody yourself, that is a good sign. James Joyce constantly makes fun of his style and reputation, especially in Finnegans Wake (the most complex and difficult work of literature that is more aware of its overt pretentiousness than any of its critics could ever be: " the Nichtian glossery which purveys aprioric roots for aposteriorious tongues this is nat language in any sinse of the world", 83-10-12).

Another good example would be this poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne, the hugely underrated Victorian poet, which parodies his uncompromising flowery grandiloquence:

ROM the depth of the dreamy decline of the dawn through a notable nimbus of nebulous noonshine,
Pallid and pink as the palm of the flag-flower that flickers with fear of the flies as they float,
Are the looks of our lovers that lustrously lean from a marvel of mystic miraculous moonshine,
These that we feel in the blood of our blushes that thicken and threaten with throbs through the throat?
Thicken and thrill as a theatre thronged at appeal of an actor's appalled agitation,
Fainter with fear of the fires of the future than pale with the promise of pride in the past;
Flushed with the famishing fullness of fever that reddens with radiance and rathe* recreation

*[speedy].... "

Swinburne was a multilingual virtuoso of meter, rhyme and vocabulary. To give you some idea of his mastery of all poetic form, Kenneth Haynes has counted about 250 verse forms in Tennyson. Swinburne used well over 400. Even when he's trying to write bad poetry and make fun of himself (including providing a useful footnote for a difficult archaic word, 'rathe'), he does it with brilliance and skill.

A sign of a great artist, is the self-knowledge and good humor to be able to annihilate as well as you create.
That's your bit of wisdom for the day. Carry on in peace, my butterfly, sugar, baby.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Andrew Hill (1931-2007)

I was saddened and shocked to find out about the death of Andrew Hill. Hill has long been one of my musical heroes, and I consider him among the greatest American composers. His classic Blue Note albums, many of which are only know coming back into print, are nearly all masterpieces. His piano playing, and compositional style were so unique, that I could only venture into superlatives. There was sort of an oblique, asymmetrical and glass shard-like quality to his compositions and playing. Hauntingly lyrical and modal one phrase, disjointed and dissonant another, swinging and iterant rhythmically one bar, spasmodic and distracted the next. His music often brought to mind Stravinsky's judgement of Webern as the supreme diamond cutter. Not to say he was as abstract as Webern. He could be, but he could be funky too, which Webern never was (unlike Stravinsky). He was like some strange, heteromorphic combination of Thelonious Monk, Debussy, Webern, Jelly Roll Morton and some forgotten Japanese Haikuist from the Edo period.

Fine remembrances at Do the Math and Destination: Out. Buy everything you can find with him on it. The new albums were great too.