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

Monday, December 31, 2012

Early Bird Special: Fireworks Off the Queen Mary

On a tip from our waiter (thanks Anon), we walked out along the harbor after dinner and saw the early show (9:00 P.M.): a little band got the crowd hoppin' and then counted down to the blast off. We watched 90% of the fireworks before walking back to our car.


Huntington Beach: I Was Up Early on Dec. 31, 2012



Friday, December 28, 2012

On the Spur of Kundera: Broch's "The Sleepwalkers"

Decided to take up Broch again: this time his The Sleepwalkers.

Re Joachim's passion for Ruzena (Bohemian/Czech girl he met at the casino):
 Love meant to take refuge from one's own world in another's . . .
Re "conventional feeling" and Joachim's brother's death from a duel:
 Bertrand went on:
"We take it quite as a matter of course that two men, both of them honourable--for your brother would not have fought with a man who was not honourable--should of a morning stand and shoot at each other. And the fact that we put up with such a thing, and that they do it, shows how completely imprisoned we all are in conventional feeling. But feelings are inert, and that's why they're so cruel. The world is ruled by the inertia of feeling."

Winter Roadtrip: 2013

Last year it was Tahoe; this year a piece of Arizona. Always a good thing to get the year started. Why? To say we saw the lay of the land. Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kundera on "The Man Without Qualities"

     The Man Without Qualities is a matchless existential encyclopedia about its century; when I feel like rereading this book, I usually open it at random, at any page, without worrying what comes before and what follows; even if there is "story" there, it proceeds slowly, quietly, without seeking to attract attention; each chapter in itself is a surprise, a discovery. The omnipresence of thinking in no way deprives the novel of its nature as a novel; it has enriched its form and immensely broadened the realm of what only the novel can discover and say.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hermann Broch (1886 - 1951)

Started his The Death of Virgil long ago: can't remember at what point I put it down. Perhaps I was too young. After warming up with Musil maybe I'll try Broch again (Virgil or Sleepwalkers).


Hermann Broch (November 1, 1886 – May 30, 1951) was a 20th century Austrian writer, considered one of the major Modernists.


Broch was born in Vienna to a prosperous Jewish family and worked for some time in his family's factory, though he maintained his literary interests privately. He was predestined to work in his father’s textile factory in Teesdorf, therefore, he attended a technical college for textile manufacture and a spinning and weaving college.

In 1909 he converted to Roman Catholicism and married Franziska von Rothermann, the daughter of a knighted manufacturer.[1] The following year, their son Hermann Friedrich Maria was born. Later, Broch began to see other women and the marriage ended in divorce in 1923.

He was acquainted with Robert Musil, Rainer Maria Rilke, Elias Canetti, Franz Blei and his devoted friend and inspiration, writer and former nude model Ea von Allesch and many others. In 1927 he sold the textile factory and decided to study mathematics, philosophy and psychology at the University of Vienna. He embarked on a full-time literary career only around the age of 40. At the age of 45, he published his first novel, The Sleepwalkers.

With the annexation of Austria by the Nazis (1938), Broch was arrested, but a movement organized by friends – including James Joyce – managed to have him released and allowed to emigrate; first to Britain and then to the United States, where he finished his novel The Death of Virgil and began to work, similar to Elias Canetti, on an essay on mass behaviour, which remained unfinished.

Hermann Broch died in 1951 in New Haven, Connecticut. He is buried in Killingworth, Connecticut, in the cemetery on Roast Meat Hill Road. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Kitsch vs. Poshlust

I remember Kundera making a big deal about "kitsch" in one of his novels (I won't bother looking up which one). Anyway, he returns to it in Curtain:

The word "kitsch" was born in Munich in the mid-nineteenth century; it describes the syrupy leftover of the great Romantic period. But Hermann Broch, who saw the connection between Romanticism and kitsch as one of inverse proportions, may have come closer to the truth: according to him, kitsch was the dominant style of the nineteenth century (in Germany and in Central Europe), with a few great Romantic works separating out from it as phenomena of exception.

Which led me to think: And what's the difference between "kitsch" and "poshlust"? Kundera likes to talk about kitsch, Nabokov attacked poshlust. Certainly there's some semantic overlap. A quick google came up with:


Sartre vs. Camus

In The Curtain Kundera brings up the feud between two war-time friends: Sartre and Camus. Re Sartre's attack on Camus he writes:

     After the political anathema Sartre had cast upon Camus, after the Nobel Prize that brought down jealousy and hatred on him, Camus felt very uncomfortable among the Paris intellectuals. I am told that he was further distressed by labels of "vulgarity" attached to him personally: his lowly origins, his illiterate mother; his situation as a pied noir (a Frenchman from Algeria) sympathetic to other pieds noirs--people so "overfamiliar"(so "crass"); the lightweight philosophy of his essays; and so on. Reading the articles in which such lynching occurred, I note this passage: Camus is "a peasant dressed up in his Sunday best,... a man of the people with his gloves in his hand and his hat still on his head, stepping for the first time into the drawing room. The other guests turn away, they know whom they are dealing with." The metaphor is eloquent: not only did he not know what he was supposed to think (he disparaged progress and sympathized with the Algerian French) but, graver yet, he behaved awkwardly in the drawing room (in the actual or figurative sense): he was vulgar.


I also dug up a few words attempting to describe this squabble between two great literary/philosophical giants. I found these "clips" in Camus and Sarte: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It by Ronald Aronson:



Friday, December 21, 2012

Milan Kundera's "The Curtain"

Pretty much finished with the selection of Pinter's plays (volume 4): just a few more pages of Family Voices. Started Kundera's The Curtain (forgot that I had it). It's subtitled An Essay in Seven Parts. I read his The Art of the Novel years ago; and a big chunk of his fiction years before that.

Haven't gotten too far into it yet (though like many of his recent books, it's a shorty), but I thoroughly enjoyed "The Beauty of Death" which starts with the question: "Why does Anna Karenina kill herself?" and compares Tolstoy and Joyce: "Tolstoy and Joyce were haunted by the same obsession: to seize what occurs in a person's head during a present moment and a moment later will be gone forever. But there is a difference: with his interior monologue, Tolstoy examines not, as Joyce will do later, an ordinary, banal day, but instead the decisive moments of his heroine's life. And that is much harder, for the more dramatic, unusual, grave a situation is, the more the person describing it tends to minimize its concrete qualities, to neglect its nonlogical prose and substitute the implacable and simplistic logic of tragedy. Tolstoy's examination of the prose of a suicide is therefore a great achievement, a "discovery" that has no parallel in the history of the novel and never will have.

Daytrip to Point Dume (Malibu)

Don't get up that way (anymore) often enough. Took a few old friends with me: A, B, and C. C. was the first to spot a spout. We finished the day at Malibu Seafood (OK food, great view) and then suffered a bit with the traffic back to Long Beach. A beautiful day.

Still wielding the Nokia.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Few Photos from My New Nokia Lumia 810

I guess it's already been superceded (is that why finding a cover is so difficult), but it's lightyears (in terms of gadgetry) beyond my old phone (and to think I wanted no cell phone and still view the cell-less past as the golden age).


From my drive into work: The City:
My view from my classroom (OK, I'll admit it: my naked eye could see the HOLLYWOOD sign and observatory better):
A few shots I took at the Bolsa Chica Reserve (on Monday), including the gun mounts from WWII (which I'd never seen until now -- a friend had spotted them on an earlier walk so I went up to take a few pics):


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett - A scene from Act 1

Harold Pinter on Samuel Beckett

Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter by photarist
Harold Pinter, a photo by photarist on Flickr.

Harold Pinter (1930 - 2008)

Started (just a night or two ago) reading the 4th volume of his "complete works" (Grove Press). The book contains: Old Times, No Man's Land, Betrayal, Monologue, and Family Voices.


Harold Pinter, CH, CBE (10 October 1930 – 24 December 2008) was a Nobel Prize-winning English playwright, screenwriter, director and actor. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party (1957), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978), each of which he adapted to film. His screenplay adaptations of others' works include The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1970), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), The Trial (1993), and Sleuth (2007). He also directed or acted in radio, stage, television, and film productions of his own and others' works.

Pinter was born and raised in Hackney, east London, and educated at Hackney Downs School. He was a sprinter and a keen cricket player, acting in school plays and writing poetry. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art but did not complete the course. He was fined for refusing National Service as a conscientious objector. Subsequently, he continued training at the Central School of Speech and Drama and worked in repertory theatre in Ireland and England. In 1956 he married actress Vivien Merchant and had a son, Daniel born in 1958. He left Merchant in 1975 and married author Antonia Fraser in 1980.

Pinter's career as a playwright began with a production of The Room in 1957. His second play, The Birthday Party, closed after eight performances, but was enthusiastically reviewed by critic Harold Hobson. His early works were described by critics as "comedy of menace". Later plays such as No Man's Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978) became known as "memory plays". He appeared as an actor in productions of his own work on radio and film. He also undertook a number of roles in works by other writers. He directed nearly 50 productions for stage, theatre and screen. Pinter received over 50 awards, prizes, and other honours, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 and the French Légion d'honneur in 2007.

Despite frail health after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in December 2001, Pinter continued to act on stage and screen, last performing the title role of Samuel Beckett's one-act monologue Krapp's Last Tape, for the 50th anniversary season of the Royal Court Theatre, in October 2006. He died from liver cancer on 24 December 2008.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Project, Berlin

Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Project, Berlin by glen.h
Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Project, Berlin, a photo by glen.h on Flickr.

A variation of this photo appears as the frontispiece to Roth's "Skyscrapers."

Karstadt - Berlin Hermannplatz 1930's

An image similar to the one included with Roth's "The Very Large Department Store." OK, there's a bit of a difference: the one in the book is darker, doesn't show the complete store, has a streetcar in the forefront, and has swastikas flying (1939).

Saturday, December 15, 2012

From Roth's "What I Saw"

From the end of "Affirmation of the Triangular Railway Junction" (Frankfurter Zeitung, July 16, 1924):

So vast are the dimensions of the new life. That the new art which is to shape it cannot find a form for it is perfectly understandable. The reality is too overwhelming to be adequately represented. A faithful "depiction" is not enough. One would have to feel the heightened and ideal reality of this world, the Platonic ideal of the triangular railroad junction. One would have to affirm its harshness with enthusiasm, see the operation of "Ananke"* in its deadly effects, and prefer destruction by its laws to happiness by the "humane" laws of the sentimental world.
     The world to come will be like this triangular railroad junction, raised to some unknown power. The earth has lived through several evolutionary stages--but following always natural laws. It is presently experiencing a new one, which follows contructive, conscious, and no less elemental laws. Regret for the passing of the old forms is like the grief of some antediluvian creature for the disappearance of a prehistoric habitat.
     Gray, dusty grasses will sprout shyly between the metal tracks. The "landscape" will acquire a mask of iron.

From "Skyscrapers" (Berliner Borsen-Courier, March 12, 1922):
     A skyscraper is the incarnate rebellion against the supposedly unattainable; against the mystery of altitude, against the otherworldliness of the cerulean.
     I can see the skyscraper: a slender, floating construction on its broad pediment, noble and delicate in its lines, whose white and gray sets itself apart from the blue sky. Strong and safe in its assembly, it matches a natural mountain for strength.
     An if it were possible for us to build a "planet scraper" and to construct settlements of Mars, the expeditions of scientists and engineers would be accompanied by a delegation of bartenders.
     I have a shining vision of a bar in the clouds. It's raining champagne cocktails.

Joseph Roth (1894 - 1939)

Joseph Roth, born Moses Joseph Roth (September 2, 1894 – May 27, 1939), was an Austrian-Jewish journalist and novelist, best known for his family saga Radetzky March (1932) about the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and for his novel of Jewish life, Job (1930) as well as the seminal essay 'Juden auf Wanderschaft' (1927; translated into English as The Wandering Jews), a fragmented account about the Jewish migrations from eastern to western Europe in the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution.[1] In the 21st century, publications in English of Radetzky March and of collections of his journalism from Berlin and Paris created a revival of interest in the author.[2]    

[From Wikipedia:]

I'm currently reading Roth's What I Saw: Reports from Berlin (1920 - 1933).  First thing I've ever read by him. Feuilletons that originally appeared in various Berlin newspapers. Journalistic but with some literary flair. Some of them are very interesting, especially in light of things to come.
Joseph Roth
[From Wikimedia Commons]

Musilese XII

Nearing the end of Volume 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudoreality Prevails, I suppose there is a sense of closure: just a little bit.

Clarisse attempts to seduce Ulrich:
"I want the child from you!" Clarisse said.
Ulrich whistled through his teeth in surprise.
She smiled like an adolescent who has misbehaved with deliberate provocation. 
Ulrich prepares to go to the train station because of his father's death:
He remembered saying casually that he would probably have to either write a book or kill himself. But the thought of death, thinking it over at close range, so to speak, did not in the least correspond to his present state of mind either; when he explored it a little and toyed with the notion of killing himself before morning instead of taking the train, it struck him as an improper conjunction at the moment he had received the news of his father's death!


After I take a little detour, or is it breather (I'm currently reading Joseph Roth's collection of feuilletons, What I Saw: Reports from Berlin), onto volume two of Musil's unfinished opus: Into the Millennium.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Musilese XI

     And now they had one of their "terrible scenes," of which this marriage had seen so many. They were all on the same pattern. Imagine a theater with the stage blacked out, and the lights going on in two boxes on opposite sides of the proscenium, with Walter in one of them and Clarisse in the other, singled out among all the men and women, and between them the deep black abyss, warm with the bodies of invisible human beings. Now Clarisse opens her lips and speaks, and Walter replies, and the whole audience listens in breathless suspense, for never before has human talent produced such a spectacle of son et lumiere, sturm und drung. . . . Such was the scene, once more, with Walter stretching out his arm, imploring her, and Clarisse, a few steps away from him, with her finger wedged between the pages of her book. Opening it at random, she had hit on that fine passage where the master speaks of the impoverishment that follows the decay of the will and manifests itself in every form of life as a proliferation of detail at the expense of the whole. "Life driven back into the most minute forms, leaving the rest devitalized . . ." was what she remembered, though she had only a vague sense of the general drift of the context over which she had run her eye before Walter had again interrupted her; and yet, despite the unfavorable circumstances, she had made a great discovery. For although in this passage the master spoke of all the arts, and even of all the forms taken by human life, his examples were all literary ones, and since Clarisse did not understand generalizations, she saw that Nietzsche had not grasped the full implication of his own ideas--for they applied to music as well! She could hear her husband's morbid piano playing as though he were actually playing their beside her, his exaggerated pauses, choked with emotion, the halting way his notes came from under his fingertips when his thoughts were straying toward her and when--to use another of the master's expressions--"the secondary moral element" overwhelmed the artist in him. Clarisse had come to recognize the sound Walter made when he was full of unuttered desire for her, and she could see the music draining out of his face, leaving only his lips shining, so that he looked as though he had cut his finger and was about to faint. This was how he looked now, with that nervous smile as he held his arm stretched out toward her. Nietzsche, of course, could not have known any of this, and yet it was like a sign that she had been led to open the book, by chance, at the place touching on this very thing, and as she suddenly saw, heard, and grasped it all, she was struck by the lightning flash of inspiration where she stood, on a high mountain called Nietzsche, which had buried Walter although it reached no higher than the soles of her feet. The "practical philosophy and poetry" of most people, who are neither originators nor on the other hand unsusceptible to ideas, consists of just such shimmering fusions of someone else's great thought with their own small private modifications.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Egon Schiele "Selbstbildnis" / "Self-portrait"

Krumlov Panorama

Krumlov panorama by Alina Zanina
Krumlov panorama, a photo by Alina Zanina on Flickr.
Cesky Krumlove is a dream destination for me (not only because of the Schiele Museum). Seeing it in snow would be magical.

Egon Schiele Art Centrum

Egon Schiele art centrum by Alina Zanina
Egon Schiele art centrum, a photo by Alina Zanina on Flickr.
Had to counter Klimt with Egon Schiele.

Klimt's "Beethoven Frieze"

The Beethoven Frieze is a painting by Gustav Klimt on display in the Secession Building located in Vienna, Austria.


In 1902, Klimt painted the Beethoven Frieze for the 14th Vienna Secessionist exhibition, which was intended to be a celebration of the composer and featured a monumental polychrome sculpture by Max Klinger. Meant for the exhibition only, the frieze was painted directly on the walls with light materials. After the exhibition the painting was preserved, although it did not go on display again until 1986. The Beethoven Frieze is now on permanent display in the Vienna Secession Building.

The frieze illustrates human desire for happiness in a suffering and tempestuous world in which one contends not only with external evil forces but also with internal weaknesses. The viewer follows this journey of discovery in a stunning visual and linear fashion. It begins gently with the floating female Genii searching the Earth but soon follows the dark, sinister-looking storm-wind giant, Typhoeus, his three Gorgon daughters and images representing sickness, madness, death, lust and wantonness above and to the right. Thence appears the knight in shining armour who offers hope due to his own ambition and sympathy for the pleading, suffering humans. The journey ends in the discovery of joy by means of the arts and contentment is represented in the close embrace of a kiss. Thus, the frieze expounds psychological human yearning, ultimately satisfied through individual and communal searching and the beauty of the arts coupled with love and companionship.

[From Wikipedia:]

Beethoven Frieze

beethoven frieze by crown ☁ gun
beethoven frieze, a photo by crown ☁ gun on Flickr.

The Golden Knight Beethoven Frieze

Beethoven Frieze Detail 2

Beethoven Frieze Detail 2 by steve.wilde
Beethoven Frieze Detail 2, a photo by steve.wilde on Flickr.

Beethoven Frieze Detail 1

Beethoven Frieze Detail 1 by steve.wilde
Beethoven Frieze Detail 1, a photo by steve.wilde on Flickr.

Klimt's Beethoven Frieze

Klimt's Beethoven Frieze by jonfholl
Klimt's Beethoven Frieze, a photo by jonfholl on Flickr.
Though preferring Schiele to Klimt, I too remember this frieze as being quite impressive. I'm not sure that any of my photos have survived.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Other Two Girls


Girl Without Hoop (Seurat's "Grande Jatte")

In my mind (always faulty) she had a hoop. Guess I was wrong (though a ghost hoop seems possible)--or confusing this little girl with de Chirico's or Renoir's or ???

Musilese X

Or a few Musil-bullets:

  • In love as in business, in science as in the long jump, one has to believe before one can win and score, so how can it be otherwise for life as a whole?
  • There are so many inexplicable things in life, but one loses sight of them when singing the national anthem.
  • It is only fair to say that whenever their higher selves relaxed a bit, the Kakanians breathed a sigh of relief and, born consumers of food and drink as they were, looked with amazement upon their role as the tools of history.
  • The truth is not a crystal that can be slipped into one's pocket, but an endless current into which one falls headlong.

Musilese IX

There could be no doubt that if God returned this very day to set up the Millennium on earth, not a single practical, experienced man would take any stock in it unless the Last Judgment came fully equipped with a punitive apparatus of prison fortresses, police, armies, sedition laws, government departments, and whatever else was needed in order to rein in the incalculable potential of the human soul by relying on the two basic facts that the future tenant of heaven can be made to do what is needed only by intimidation and tightening the screws or else by bribery--in a word, by "strong measures."
     But then Paul Arnheim would step forward and speak to the Lord: "Lord, why bother? Egotism is the most reliable factor in human life. It enables the politician, the soldier, the king, to keep order in the world by cunning and force. Mankind dances to its tune, as You and I must admit. To do away with force is to weaken the world order. Our task is to make man capable of greatness, although he is a mongrel cur!" So saying, Arnheim would smile modestly at the Lord, with composure, in token of the importance for every man of recognizing the great mysteries, in all humility. And then he would continue his address as follows: "But money is surely just as safe a means of managing human relationships as physical force, the crude uses of which it allows us to discontinue. Money is power in the abstract, a pliant, highly developed, and creative form, a unique form, of power. Isn't business really based on cunning and force, on outwitting and exploiting others, except that in business, cunning and force have become wholly civilized, internalized in fact, so that they are actually clothed in the guise of man's liberty? Capitalism, as the organization of egotism based on a hierarchy in which one's rank depends on one's capacity for getting money, is simply the greatest and yet the most humane order we have been able to devise, to Your everlasting glory. There is no more precise measure than this for all human action."