JJPierce

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Posts posted by JJPierce


  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VTqGpdt2og

    Same Hollywood generation as Korngold; this concerto was composed in 1953-54 specifically for Heifitz, who, according to Rozsa's Wikipedia entry, collaborated on "fine-tuning" it. Very romantic, and also very Hungarian -- I could tell that from first hearing it, being familiar with Zoltan Kodaly and Bela Bartok. One of those pattern recognition things, like knowing the difference between a waltz and a tango even if you can't put it into words.


  2. This is just an aside. Both Angels and Insects (actually, "Morpho Eugenia," one of two novellas in that book) and Possession have been made into excellent movies. I won't give any details here, but they might be worth their own thread.

    I can say one thing about Angels and Insects that is not really a spoiler: when I first saw it, I had no idea where the story was going. But when William Adamson, the impoverished naturalist back from a trip to the Amazon, makes the acquaintance of the Alabaster household, he meets two women: Eugenia, the daughter of the wealthy country squire who takes him in; and Matty Crompton, the governess. Eugenia seems like any red-blooded man's dream come true, whereas Matty... just an ordinary woman. And yet I could tell there was something about her, a rare intelligence and independent spirit. And I felt like shouting at Adamson, "She's the woman for you, forget about Eugenia!"

    I'll say no more.


  3. Here's another, reprinted in The New York Times Saturday. The paper was celebrating 40 years of Op Ed pieces. The deconstructionists would have us believe that anyone who doesn't embrace their nonsense must be part of the intellectual Great Unwashed, but they'd sure have trouble pigeonholing Byatt (Possession, Angels and Insects) that way!

    <<Feb. 11, 1991: Valentine’s Day Deconstructed

    By A. S. BYATT

    Published: September 25, 2010

    Roses are red/Violets are blue/

    Sugar is sweet/And so are you

    Frank Kermode observed justly that it was not until the second half of the 20th century that Keats was seen to be a “difficult” poet. Recent critical developments have made it possible to extend this insight to a mass of other apparently “innocent” work. We know now, thanks to Jacques Derrida and other deconstructionists, that words have no necessary or stable meaning but take their place in the shifting and endless tissue or text of language, of which we are all a part. All texts read all other texts, and, according to modern theories of intertextuality, modern texts may read older ones. My reading of the Valentine quatrain cannot therefore offer itself as definitive, but it can, I think, illuminate this deceptively simple text, tease out, or, as we say, “unpack” some surprising implications.

    The first three lines of the poem deal with traditional emblems of ambivalent sexual desire, response, defense, death and a touch of necrophilia. With the last masterly line, the whole tone changes abruptly. “Sugar” is not the third in a series beginning with roses and violets. Moreover, the color series is left incomplete, as the adjective appeals not to the eye but to the tongue. This could be seen as an interesting breaking of the elitist hierarchy of the senses, a demotion of the usually privileged visual response. It might even suggest a soft kiss, or titillation of the taste buds. But I think it can be shown to make a much more sinister appeal. It retreats from implied images of penetration to an earlier orality, a sucking or swallowing. But this implies — “Sugar is sweet and so are you” — that the beloved is there to be engulfed, eaten whole, a sweetmeat, or sweetheart for an amatory cannibal.

    Moreover there is something terrifying in the very substance to which the beloved is compared prior to ingestion. Into what heart, male or female, in our civilization, does not the word “sugar” strike fear and terror? What kind of terrible lack or inadequacy is not etymologically implied in the phrase “dental caries”? Dreams of the falling out of teeth are primal dreams of impotence.>>


  4. This is really a terrific film, as I'm sure others can testify. But there are a couple of remarkable things about it besides having a tangled but compelling plot and fascinating (if deeply troubled) characters.

    1. It's a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name, but it's better than the original, because it has a more convincing backstory about what brought Will Dormer to Alaska (Jonas Engstrom to northern Norway in the the Norwegian version) in the first place – a backstory that ties dramatically in with the frontstory

    2. Robin Williams' riveting performance as Walter Finch. Williams was known almost entirely as a comic actor at the time, and yet I knew he had it him to play dramatic roles. That was because in a 1996 adaptation of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, he had played the mad Professor who goes around with a bomb strapped to his chest. Williams had the character, the very prototype of the modern terrorist, dead-on. Yet for some reason, he had himself credited as "Jeorge Spilvyn." That's a variation of "George Spelvin," a pseudonym generally used by actors who aren't happy with a role, just as "Alan Smithee" is used by directors who are embarrassed by a film -- usually because of studio interference.


  5. I think the Koran burning idea is great, even if simply done as a PR stunt to demonstrate the obvious-but-unspoken double standard amongst religions and cultures. The only church I'm aware of is in Florida.

    If the president and other politicians urge them to stop to the point of intimidating them into not burning the Koran, we will have the first state-mandated case of censuring free-speech against Islam in America.

    There's an issue that hasn't been raised here, but is fundamental. Have you heard of "forcing the end?" It's the idea of some radical Christians that God wants them to provoke a world holocaust that would bring about End Times and the Second Coming. The same idea is behind the idea of expelling Palestinians from the West Bank in order to reclaim the entire Holy Land for the Jews as prophesied in the Bible. Believe me, these people would welcome the slaughter of thousands or even millions of Americans as a sign that they are doing God's work.

    Situations like this at least force the absurdity of the Muslim "be tolerant of our intolerance or we will raze your country to the ground!!1" madness into full light.

    The protests of Liberals who say "but it endangers the troops!" can't be taken seriously, as these same Leftists had no complaints for the millions of prior leaks the Media have done which have actually endangered soldiers.

    We live in a culture where it is OK for South Park episodes to feature a cartoon Jesus literally defecating and dancing on the American flag, for comedians and popular tv shows to make endless permutations of Jew/Nazi/holocaust jokes, yet it is abominable to merely advocate the burning of the Koran, much less actually perform the act? The principle of the matter makes me want to bbq pork meat using the Koran as charcoal on Sep 11th.

    I'm sure doing this would piss off Muslims. But if peaceful relations with radical Muslims is our goal, then put on a burqa and start bowing to Mecca and we can have it overnight.

    I agree with you totally about the hypocrisy of South Park versus pussyfooting when it comes to Muslims. The same sort of hypocrisy was apparent in the liberal praise for a photo called Piss Christ: what if it had been a menorah or a portrait of Martin Luther King in a tank of piss?

    But it isn't only liberals who are worried about our troops being endangered by Rev. Jones antics – General Petraeus and such conservatives as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have come out against the Koran burning stunt. We have to be guided by common sense and morality, even if our enemies are not. It's fine with me if we assassinate Al Qaeda bigs and Somali pirates. But I've seen calls for nuking Tehran and the like, and some nut case last week thought he was defending the country by knifing a Muslim cab driver. Close on 800 years ago, the legate of Pope Innocent III (an ironic name, that) is said to have ordered the extermination of everyone in the French city of Beziers during the Albigensian Crusade againsxt the heretic Cathars: "Kill them all; God will know his own." Since we are atheists, we could hardly resort to "reasoning" of this sort.


  6. I think the Koran burning idea is great, even if simply done as a PR stunt to demonstrate the obvious-but-unspoken double standard amongst religions and cultures. The only church I'm aware of is in Florida.

    If the president and other politicians urge them to stop to the point of intimidating them into not burning the Koran, we will have the first state-mandated case of censuring free-speech against Islam in America.

    There's an issue that hasn't been raised here, but is fundamental. Have you heard of "forcing the end?" It's the idea of some radical Christians that God wants them to provoke a world holocaust that would bring about End Times and the Second Coming. The same idea is behind the idea of expelling Palestinians from the West Bank in order to reclaim the entire Holy Land for the Jews as prophesied in the Bible. Believe me, these people would welcome the slaughter of thousands or even millions of Americans as a sign that they are doing God's work.

    Me, I have nothing against the Koran, or the Bible, or even the Upanishads. But this isn't being done as any sort of a protest against an "evil" religion. It's just deliberately waving the red flag at the bull and provoking it to attack -- but attack other people. You can be sure that Jones and his ilk aren't in any danger. Think about it: suppose you had friends or relations working in or traveling in one of the Muslim countries.

    Jones reminds me of Elder Daniels in Shaw's one-act play, "The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet:"

    <<ELDER DANIELS. There is One above, Blanco.

    BLANCO. What do you know about Him? you that always talk as if He

    never did anything without asking your rotten leave first?>>

    I wouldn't be so eager to give my rotten leave to Jones.


  7. Does anyone here know why the TSA sends airlines the names but not the descriptions of terrorists? You've all seen the stories about children who aren't allowed on planes because their names supposedly match those on the list. And, naturally, any terrorist with half a brain will use a phony name in any case.

    Why, JJ, that would be profiling. Can't do that! So we'll just get blown up instead. :)

    With Regards,

    Bradley

    timeforeverymantostir@yahoo.com

    But if the very same people were bank robbers or rapists, you'd see them on wanted posters. Wouldn't you think the authorities would want to go after them, instead of waiting for them to show up at an airport?

    The funny thing is, I have yet to find a case where the news media asked the same question, although I think the TSA has made a general statement that to release any information other than the names would threaten national security! This makes me worry that the watch list might be a scam. What people call "security theater."

    Remember when there was a move in Florida to remove convicted felons from the voter rolls? Only their approach was to purge every "Joe Smith" if any Joe Smith anywhere in the country had been convicted (The actual directive for this was once shown on 60 Minutes).

    In New York City, there's been an outcry against thousands of people (mostly black and Hispanic) being randomly stopped and frisked and their names put into a criminal database, even though few of them had actually done anything. There was a recent exposé about one precinct where there was actually a quota for stopping and frisking people (like the infamous quotas for parking tickets), whereas in the very same precinct the cops often refused to investigate actual crimes reported by victims of same in order to keep the crime statistics down.


  8. Does anyone here know why the TSA sends airlines the names but not the descriptions of terrorists? You've all seen the stories about children who aren't allowed on planes because their names supposedly match those on the list. And, naturally, any terrorist with half a brain will use a phony name in any case.


  9. Yet another example, but from a long time ago – in G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), in which a fake professor goes up against a "real" one, a celebrated "German nihilist:"

    <<"I need hardly say there was a collision. The pessimists all round me looked anxiously from one Professor to the other Professor to see which was really the more feeble. But I won. An old man in poor health, like my rival, could not be expected to be so impressively feeble as a young actor in the prime of life. You see, he really had paralysis,

    and working within this definite limitation, he couldn't be so jolly paralytic as I was. Then he tried to blast my claims intellectually. I countered that by a very simple dodge. Whenever he said something that nobody but he could understand, I replied with something which I could not even understand myself. 'I don't fancy,' he said, 'that you could have worked out the principle that evolution is only negation, since there inheres in it the introduction of lacuna, which are an essential of differentiation.' I replied quite scornfully, 'You read all that up in Pinckwerts; the notion that involution functioned eugenically was exposed long ago by Glumpe.' It is unnecessary for me to say that there never were such people as Pinckwerts and Glumpe. But the people all round (rather to my surprise) seemed to remember them quite well, and the Professor, finding that the learned and mysterious method left him rather at the mercy of an enemy slightly deficient in scruples, fell back upon a more popular form of wit. 'I see,' he sneered, 'you prevail like the false pig in Aesop.' 'And you fail,' I answered, smiling, 'like the hedgehog in Montaigne.' Need I say that there is no hedgehog in Montaigne? 'Your claptrap comes off,' he said; 'so would your beard.' I had no intelligent answer to this, which was quite true and rather witty. But I laughed heartily, answered, 'Like the Pantheist's boots,' at random, and turned on my heel with all the honours of victory.">>


  10. This sort of thing is chump change compared to the racket a lot of big cities play, subsidizing big stadiums for major league baseball and football teams. When I visited Kansas City a few years ago, I discovered that there was a huge tax on my hotel bill to pay off the stadium there. Needless to say, I hadn't come there, and never would have, to watch the Chiefs or the Royals.


  11. Here's the tale of a hilarious encounter between some computer geeks and the academic literary establishment:

    http://www.info.ucl.ac.be/~pvr/decon.html

    This was years before Alan Sokol took in the editors of Social Text with a fake essay about physics. But the principle is the same: these academics couldn't tell the real from the fake. I don't know whether anybody here would want to take the trouble that Sokol and Chip Morningstar did in exposing the emperor's lack of clothing. But ridicule for what deserves to be ridiculed is a powerful weapon. I highly recommend it.

    I've started a thread specifically about Chip Morningstar here, if anyone is interested.

    Here's something thematically related:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/books/re...?pagewanted=all


  12. Scuse me, wrong link in this bit of my post:

    I have no idea what to call the technique of layered rhythm/melody in different tempos (like the biological tempos of heartbeat and breathing) in works like this from Jon Brion:

    For that matter, I don't have a name for the narrative style-technique of Robert A. Heinlein as emulated by Joe Haldeman, David Gerrold, Allen Steele and John Scalzi. But I can recognize it. Pattern recognition is something built into us. I think. It would help if formal education could build more on that.


  13. More than 100 years ago, G.K. Chesterton spoofed a certain segment of academia in The Man Who Was Thursday (1908), in which a fake professor gets the better of a famous German nihilist:

    <<Whenever he said something that nobody but he could understand, I replied with something which I could not even understand myself. ‘I don’t fancy,’ he said, ‘that you could have worked out the principle that evolution is only negation, since there inheres in it the introduction of lacuna, which are an essential of differentiation.’ I replied quite scornfully, ‘You read all that up in Pinckwerts; the notion that involution functioned eugenically was exposed long ago by Glumpe.’ It is unnecessary for me to say that there never were such people as Pinckwerts and Glumpe. But the people all round (rather to my surprise) seemed to remember them quite well, and the Professor, finding that the learned and mysterious method left him rather at the mercy of an enemy slightly deficient in scruples, fell back upon a more popular form of wit. ‘I see,’ he sneered, ‘you prevail like the false pig in Æsop.’ ‘And you fail,’ I answered, smiling, ‘like the hedgehog in Montaigne.’ Need I say that there is no hedgehog in Montaigne? ‘Your claptrap comes off,’ he said; ‘so would your beard.’ I had no intelligent answer to this, which was quite true and rather witty. But I laughed heartily, answered, ‘Like the Pantheist’s boots,’ at random, and turned on my heel with all the honours of victory.>>

    Fortunately, there is more intelligent critical writing out there. Here is Jo Walton, speaking of science fiction, and coming up with a new term ("incluing") that actually means something -- while poking fun at the standard sort of approach that Chip Morningstar and others have spoofed:

    http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/01/sf-reading-protocols

    As far as learning outside of the university, that's mostly been the case with me. I learned more about what "literature" means from C.S. Lewis' An Experiment in Criticism than from ant course I ever took, and I learned next to nothing about music in school -- to this day I can't read a note. I learned by listening, from the time my mother took me to see Disney's Fantasia at age two (Of course, it took the Joffrey ballet's version of The Rite of Spring to get the dinosaurs out of my head!). But lack of a formal education can inhibit discussion of a subject. I'm sure we can all tell the difference between a waltz and a tango, but most of us would be hard put to explain how we know this, and even harder put to explain the difference between a Strauss waltz and Khatchaturian's waltz from Masquerade:

    Or between a classic tango and Badalamenti's take on it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3ecqEHf-Ls...be_gdata_player

    I have no idea what to call the technique of layered rhythm/melody in different tempos (like the biological tempos of heartbeat and breathing) in works like this from Jon Brion:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3ecqEHf-Ls...be_gdata_player

    For that matter, I don't have a name for the narrative style-technique of Robert A. Heinlein as emulated by Joe Haldeman, David Gerrold, Allen Steele and John Scalzi. But I can recognize it. Pattern recognition is something built into us. I think. It would help if formal education could build more on that.


  14. Here's the tale of a hilarious encounter between some computer geeks and the academic literary establishment:

    http://www.info.ucl.ac.be/~pvr/decon.html

    This was years before Alan Sokol took in the editors of Social Text with a fake essay about physics. But the principle is the same: these academics couldn't tell the real from the fake. I don't know whether anybody here would want to take the trouble that Sokol and Chip Morningstar did in exposing the emperor's lack of clothing. But ridicule for what deserves to be ridiculed is a powerful weapon. I highly recommend it.


  15. Thanks V. Interesting articles.

    And thanks John, for the link to Gabriel's theme. I just heard that for the first time on the radio yesterday, and decided that I had to get the recording.

    That CD is one of my faves. Morricone shows incredible range, as in the weird arrangements for a section called "Penance" (which at 1:26 quotes "Dies Irae," from a medieval chant that has been sampled before by Berlioz and Rachmaninoff, among others):

    For a century before there were any movies, "serious" composers were doing overtures and incidental music for stage plays (EGMONT, PEER GYNT), and nobody looked down on them for that. Yet while movie music was considered lowbrow in the age of atonalism, the people who wrote for movies were doing some really innovative things. Morricone's scores aren't just watered down versions of 19th Century music; they're really fresh.