Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Catalonian Fantasy

Here's one worth more than a thousand words.  Found here.

Barcelonan children in 1936 play at things happening around them.  The seen is really one of cheerful innocence - they don't appreciate what it is they are imitating, and their surrounding communities haven't yet imposed that experience on them or their families.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Misunderstood Genius

Tom Huddleston describes the work of prolific animator Hayao Miyazaki:
Some filmmakers build their great artworks with blood, sweat and toil. Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki seems to sprout his from seeds, planting them in good earth and patiently watering them until they burst into bloom.
Perhaps true genius comes from making things look easy.  From his essential book Starting Point here's Miyazaki himself describing the price of mastery:

You want me to talk about my family?  That's a problem for me.  I'm hardly ever at home.  Last night I got home at 1:30 AM, the night before it was 1 AM.  It's not as if I go out on the town.  I'm a father who works too hard and returns home late at night six days a week.  Usually I repeat, "I've got to go now", several times as I eat breakfast; when I have the rare day off all I do is sleep.
It wasn't so bad when I was employed at a company.  But twenty years ago, when I began to produce my own films, this schedule turned into a lifestyle.  Animation work isn't something that is over when a certain amount is done.  One has to pursue it until one is satisfied.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


In chronicling the depravities of the Emperor Caligula, the 1st century Roman historian Suetonius makes a revealing statement. From Robert Graves' very readable translation:
Besides incest with his sisters, and a notorious passion for the prostitute Pyrallis, he made advances to almost every well-known married woman in Rome; after inviting a selection of them to dinner with their husbands he would slowly and carefully examine each in turn while they passed his couch, as a purchaser might assess the value of a slave, and even stretch out his hand and lift up the chin of any woman who kept her eyes modestly cast down.
Whether it happened or not, here's a culture with its contradictions on display when the biographer interrupts a tale off incest and mass murder to primly note that the Emperor also treated wealthy matrons as if they were slaves.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Masters of an Arcane Art

This from The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England.  After describing the theories of medicine built around the bodily humours, the author attempts to explain why these abstruse and mostly worthless medical principles were popular for two thousand years:

All very straightforward, you might think, even if somewhat misconceived.  However, "straightforward" it certainly is not.  One of the reasons humoral theory continues to hold such sway is because it is so involved and complex.  Its numerical harmony (the four elements, the four humours, etc.) allows for endless refinement and invented complexity.
I would add to that the power of certification.  Whether it's young men attending academies to learn principles that set them apart from the public, or the divine who cultivates a privileged understanding of spiritual verities, there's a benefit to being accorded a position where your opinions cannot be challenged.

I see the same mixture of nonsense complexity and appeal to authority in the economists of today.  They are the high priests propagating the special, liquidity-based healing that they say our economy needs.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Take That George Lucas!

"He's a three P-O," they say, meaning that such a person surrounded himself with cheap copies made from declasse substances.

So says Frank Herbert in Heretics of Dune, and the reference is obvious:

So is the insult.  When Star Wars came out in 1977, the similarities were abundant and generated some commentary.  Interestingly, Herbert wrote another Dune book, God Emperor of Dune, after Star Wars came out and made no mention of the Lucas' successful doppleganger, only inserting this jab after 1983's Return of the Jedi.  Apparently Jabba the Hutt was too on-the-nose an imitation of the God Emperor Leto.  From Justine Shaw:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Freude Schoner Gotterfunken x 10,000

Rather than me quote all of Schiller's masterpiece, you can listen to it here, as sung by 10,000 Japanese.  Apparently an annual New Year's Eve community event in Osaka, something like this has been done every year for quite a long time.  They make everyone in the audience a part of the production.  Here's the scene from New Year's 2012 (gotten from this source):
The soloists are professionals, clear and very sharp, as are the orchestra and conductor.  Speaking of the conductor, at the end of the performance he looks like he's been through the war, and no wonder - any chorus of 10,000 will be hard to manage, even if comprised of professionals.  And these folks are amateurs, some old and some very young.  The chorus is a big, lurching, heaving beast, reliably a note behind the orchestra.  Such a dispersed group could hardly expect to stay together, and it hardly matters.  There's something deeply impressive about a performance where there is no audience.  And for this song, in particular.  No one is passive, all are singing about the universal effects of joy and amity.  There are no listeners, or rather everyone is a listener, and the small sing right along with the great and all are contented.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Watching the Watchers

This charming image is from a National Geographic photoblog:

Kids still like watching airplanes today, but the gawkers furthest down the sidewalk don't appear to have any with them.  Those lumbering beasts were novel enough to inspire fascination, and air travel still had a mystique.

Very different today, where air travel is uncomfortable, tedious, and fraught with frightening police state theater.

I also like that they felt free to pull over to the right lane of an expressway to relax and watch.