One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Sunday, October 28, 2012

From "The Man Without Qualities": Ode to a Slide Rule

Slide rule Pictures, Images and Photos
 
 
From the moment Ulrich set foot in engineering school, he was feverishly partisan. Who still needed the Apollo Belvedere when he had the new forms of a turbodynamo or the rhythmic movements of a steam engine's pistons before his eyes! Who could still be captivated by the thousand years of chatter about the meaning of good and evil when it turns out that they are not constants at all but functional values, so that the goodness of works depends on the psychotechnical skills with which people's qualities are exploited? Looked at from a technical point of view, the world is simply ridiculous: impractical in all that concerns human relations, and extremely uneconomic and imprecise in its methods; anyone accustomed to solving his problems with a slide rule cannot take seriously a good half of the assertions people make. The slide rule is two systems of numbers and lines combined with incredible ingenuity; the slide rule is two white-enameled sticks of flat trapezoidal cross section that glide past each other, with whose help the most complex problems can be solved in an instant without needlessly losing a thought; the slide rule is a small symbol carried in one's breast pocket and sensed as a hard white line over one's heart. If you own a slide rule and someone comes along with big statements or great emotions, you say: "Just a moment, please--let's first work out the margin for error and the most-probable values."



Ewelina Hanska (1805 - 1882)

Eveline Hańska (Ewelina, née Rzewuska, 6 January c. 1805 – 11 April 1882) was a Polish noblewoman best known for her marriage to French novelist Honoré de Balzac. Born at the Wierzchownia estate in Volhynia,[1] (now Ukraine) Hańska married landowner Wacław Hański (Wenceslas Hanski) when she was a teenager.[2] Hański, who was about 20 years her senior, suffered from depression. They had five children, but only a daughter, Anna, survived.

In the late 1820s, Hańska began reading Balzac's novels, and in 1832, she sent him an anonymous letter. This began a decades-long correspondence in which Hańska and Balzac expressed a deep mutual affection. In 1832, they met for the first time, in Switzerland. Soon afterward he began writing the novel Séraphîta, which includes a character based on Hańska.

After her husband died in 1841, a series of complications obstructed Hańska's marriage to Balzac. Chief of these was the estate and her daughter Anna's inheritance, both of which might be threatened if she married him. Anna married a Polish count, easing some of the pressure. About the same time, Hańska gave Balzac the idea for his 1844 novel Modeste Mignon. In 1850 they married and moved to Paris, but he died five months later. Though she never remarried, she took several lovers, and died in 1882.


***


 
Hanska's Portrait by Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller (1835)
[From Wikimedia Commons]
 
 


Tombe de Balzac

Tombe de Balzac by Saltdeanbeach
Tombe de Balzac, a photo by Saltdeanbeach on Flickr.
I believe I have my version of this somewhere. Too lazy to run it down and digitalize it.

Balzac's "Le Pere Goriot"

Except for the "Unknown Masterpiece" I've not yet touched Balzac. I did so today. In my Kindle collection I ran through all the titles until I found one of the few I remembered (thinking it was one of his most famous): Father Goriot. I started in (over coffee) and read for a bit. I'll see how it competes with my "paper read": Musil's Opus.

***


From Goriot:

The first room exhales an odor for which there is no name in the language, and which should be called the odeur de pension.

Two of the four rooms on the third floor were also let -- one to an elderly spinster, a Mlle. Michonneau, and the other to a retired manufacturer of vermicelli, Italian paste and starch, who allowed the others to address him as "Father Goriot."


 
***


Honoré de Balzac (French pronunciation: [ɔ.nɔ.ʁe d(ə) bal.zak]) (20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled, La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.

An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal difficulties, and he ended several friendships over critical reviews. In 1850 he married Ewelina Hańska, his longtime love; he died five months later.


[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honor%C3%A9_de_Balzac]

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Very Scary

 
 
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Robert Musil (1880 - 1942)

Robert Musil (German pronunciation: [ˈmuːzɪl] or [ˈmuːsɪl]; 6 November 1880 – 15 April 1942)[1] was an Austrian writer. His unfinished long novel The Man Without Qualities (German: Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften) is generally considered to be one of the most important modernist novels. However, this novel has not been widely read because of its delayed publication and also because of the lengthy and intricate plot. It is, nonetheless, a significant literary achievement that foresaw the impending disaster in Europe after the first world war.





Jef Aérosol 2010 - Robert Musil Museum (Klagenfurt, Austria / Autriche)

Didn't know there was a Robert Musil Museum. And, yes, that's Ingeborg Bachmann to the left of the door. I guess they were both born in Klagenfurt. (I'm a collector: another place I'd like to go.)

Another Proustian Read

Almost finished with Virginia's essay: her tributaries are sometimes more entertaining than the major thrust of the work (IMO not a negative); finished with Moravia's Contempt (perhaps the ending was a bit contrived, but it was still a very powerful read); have just scratched the surface of Musil's monument: The Man Without Qualities (though I loved his short stories I'd hesitated at taking this on -- we'll see if I have the stamina).

Once a man has put his house in order it is time to go courting. Ulrich's girlfriend in those days was a chanteuse in a small cabaret who went by the name of Leontine. She was tall, curvaceously slender, provocatively lifeless, and he called her Leona.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Faraglioni di Capri

Faraglioni di Capri by carmineparis
Faraglioni di Capri, a photo by carmineparis on Flickr.
I was only on Capri for a day (it was winter and a lot was closed: nice in a way), but I think I walked far enough to get a glimpse of these (maybe I'll look for my pics, maybe not). I speak of them only because Moravia's Contempt reaches its climax on Capri and he mentions the "two great, red rocks" and the bright blue lizards unique to these rocks, living "between the blue sky and the blue sea."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From Moravia's "Contempt"


They say that, if we manage to live without too great an effort, it is entirely owing to the automatism which makes us unconscious of a great part of our movements. In order to take one single step, it seems, we displace an infinite number of muscles, and yet, thanks to this automatism, we are unaware of it. The same thing happens in our relations with other people. As long as I believed myself to be loved by Emilia, a kind of happy automatism had presided over our relations; and only the final completion of any course of conduct on my part had been illuminated by the light of consciousness, all the rest remaining in the obscurity of affectionate and unnoticed habit.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Return to Eden Project: The Colorado Lagoon

Not a whole lot has happened since last weekend: gigantic U's were unfurled, some wood was cut and a few more woodchips scattered. Too (the little flags seem to mark the spots) perhaps a few plants were planted.

Also, minus an angel before the gate, there are a few limiting/attributing signs.

Anyway, it rained last night and that made things seem even more brand spanking new. Many of the photos below are simply a revelling in that.

*

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Oak Glen, CA

Oak Glen, CA by Buffy's Eyes
Oak Glen, CA, a photo by Buffy's Eyes on Flickr.
It's that time of year: a little trip (everyone trying to grab their hand/eyeful of nostalgia) to Cherry Valley (Oak Glen).

We could be dodging the rain (mist) today, but that only adds to the excitement.

Apple cider and heaping apple pies are our usual souvenirs (hard to get those down below). The pumpkins are cheaper at Trader Joe's.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf by Julia Casimira
Virginia Woolf, a photo by Julia Casimira on Flickr.
Finished Moravia's Boredom and have just started his Contempt. Have also started re-reading Woolf's extended essay, A Room of One's Own.

This is a nice "mixed media" piece on Virginia. Thanks Julia Casmira.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Habitat Restoration @ Colorado Lagoon: Where Is the True Eden?

Though I'm all for returning the Colorado Lagoon "back to nature" or "to the birds" (more accurately, I suppose: humans are trying to share with non-human admirers/denizens of the lagoon, i.e., humans are keeping a portion for themselves), I'm wondering which eden the "planners" are aiming for? Is it some pre-Olympics (1932) one? Or something between then and now? Or is it some landscape artist's vision that staring back at me from the safeguarding fence?

*

For all we know, the true Eden is buried under some parking lot or being used as a storage site for WMD's.

*

Anyway, here are a few photos of the "work in progress":


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Saturday, October 13, 2012

More from Moravia's "Boredom"

As the intro by William Weaver says: It's not about painting. Still the narrator, in contemplating his relationship with Cecilia, contemplates an empty canvas and quotes Kandinsky:

How the devil, then, could I paint on that canvas, which on the day of my first meeting with Cecilia I had signed as if to underline the fact that painting, as far as I was concerned, was finished? To comfort myself, I reread something that Kandinski had written on this very subject. "The empty canvas. In appearance -- really empty, silent, indifferent. Stunned, almost. In effect -- full of tensions, with a thousand subdued voices, heavy with expectation. A little frightened because it may be violated. But docile. It does willingly whatever is asked of it, it only begs for mercy. It can lead to anything, but cannot endure everything. A wonderful thing is the empty canvas, more beautiful than many pictures...." Suddenly I hurled the book on the floor and almost ran out of the studio.

Friday, October 12, 2012

From Alberto Moravia's "Boredom"

Believe it or not, I was magically transported from 1 PM to 3 PM today -- via Moravia's Boredom, or was it something more -- and thus passed through the fires of a gruelling day.

*

Perhaps he had indeed been a sort of madman, but he was a madman whose madness consisted in an illusion of having a relationship with reality, that is, of being a wise man, as his paintings bore witness, whereas I -- as I could not help saying to myself -- was possibly a wise man whose wisdom consisted, on the contrary, in a profound conviction that such a relationship was impossible, that is, a wise man who believed himself mad.

Good Article on Peter Zokosky up at HUFFPOST ARTS & CULTURE

John Seed has written a great article on the Long Beach artist Peter Zokosky at Huffington Post:

Peter Zokosky: The Shock of the Weird

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Alberto Moravia

Alberto Moravia by UmberTimes
Alberto Moravia, a photo by UmberTimes on Flickr.

Alberto Moravia (1907 - 1990)

Finished with Lardner's short stories; a few pages left in Pnin; have just started Moravia's Boredom.


Alberto Moravia, born Alberto Pincherle (November 28, 1907 – September 26, 1990) was an Italian novelist and journalist. His novels explored matters of modern sexuality, social alienation, and existentialism.

He is best known for his debut novel Gli indifferenti (published in 1929), and for the anti-fascist novel Il Conformista (The Conformist), the basis for the film The Conformist (1970) by Bernardo Bertolucci. Other novels of his translated to the cinema are Il Disprezzo (A Ghost at Noon or Contempt) filmed by Jean-Luc Godard as Le Mépris (Contempt) (1963); La Noia (Boredom), filmed with that title by Damiano Damiani in 1963 and released in the US as The Empty Canvas in 1964; and La Ciociara filmed by Vittorio de Sica as Two Women (1960). Cedric Kahn's L'Ennui (1998) is another version of La Noia. He was an atheist.


[From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Moravia]


Friday, October 5, 2012

Pnin on Education in America

Probably not too far off the mark:
Next, they switched to the usual shop talk of European teachers abroad, sighing and shaking heads over the "typical American college student" who does not know geography, is immune to noise, and thinks education is but a means to get eventually a remunerative job.

Ring Lardner Home

Ring Lardner Home by Clyde Bentley
Ring Lardner Home, a photo by Clyde Bentley on Flickr.
A little crooked but it'll have to do. I've been looking for a "postable" version of this sign commemorating Lardner in Niles, MI.

Ricardo Nirenberg Reviews "The Last Man"

A very generous review of my first book is in Issue #50 of Offcourse: A Literary Journal: http://www.albany.edu/offcourse/

R L Swihart's Poem @ decomP

A new poem is up at decomP: "Tahoe." There's also a consort audio (only my second, so go easy on me).

http://www.decompmagazine.com/tahoe.htm