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, May 31, 2015

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876 - 1944)

Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti (22 December 1876 – 2 December 1944) was an Italian poet and editor, the founder of the Futurist movement.

Marinetti and Fascism

In early 1918 he founded the Partito Politico Futurista or Futurist Political Party, which only a year later merged with Benito Mussolini's Fasci Italiani di Combattimento. Marinetti was one of the first affiliates of the Italian Fascist Party. In 1919 he co-wrote with Alceste De Ambris the Fascist Manifesto, the original manifesto of Italian Fascism.[8] He opposed Fascism's later exaltation of existing institutions, terming them "reactionary," and, after walking out of the 1920 Fascist party congress in disgust, withdrew from politics for three years. However, he remained a notable force in developing the party philosophy throughout the regime's existence. For example, at the end of the Congress of Fascist Culture that was held in Bologna on 30 March 1925, Giovanni Gentile addressed Sergio Panunzio on the need to define Fascism more purposefully by way of Marinetti's opinion, stating, "Great spiritual movements make recourse to precision when their primitive inspirations—what F. T. Marinetti identified this morning as artistic, that is to say, the creative and truly innovative ideas, from which the movement derived its first and most potent impulse—have lost their force. We today find ourselves at the very beginning of a new life and we experience with joy this obscure need that fills our hearts—this need that is our inspiration, the genius that governs us and carries us with it."

During the Fascist regime Marinetti sought to make Futurism the official state art of Italy but failed to do so. Mussolini was personally uninterested in art and chose to give patronage to numerous styles in order to keep artists loyal to the regime. Opening the exhibition of art by the Novecento Italiano group in 1923, he said: "I declare that it is far from my idea to encourage anything like a state art. Art belongs to the domain of the individual. The state has only one duty: not to undermine art, to provide humane conditions for artists, to encourage them from the artistic and national point of view."[9] Mussolini's mistress, Margherita Sarfatti, successfully promoted the rival Novecento Group, and even persuaded Marinetti to be part of its board.

In Fascist Italy, modern art was tolerated and even approved by the Fascist hierarchy. Towards the end of the 1930s, some Fascist ideologues (for example, the ex-Futurist Ardengo Soffici[10]) wished to import the concept of "degenerate art" from Germany to Italy and condemned modernism, although their demands were ignored by the regime.[11] In 1938, hearing that Adolf Hitler wanted to include Futurism in a traveling exhibition of degenerate art, Marinetti persuaded Mussolini to refuse to let it enter Italy. During the same year he protested publicly against anti-Semitism.[12]

Marinetti made numerous attempts to ingratiate himself with the regime, becoming less radical and avant garde with each. He relocated from Milan to Rome. He became an academician despite his condemnation of academies, saying, “It is important that Futurism be represented in the Academy.”[12] He was an atheist[13] but became reconciled to the Catholic Church in an attempt to make Futurism the official representative of religious art.[14]

There were other contradictions in his character: despite his nationalism, he was international, educated in Egypt and France, writing his first poems in French, publishing the Futurist Manifesto in a French newspaper[12] and traveling to promote his ideas.

Marinetti volunteered for active service in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War and the Second World War, serving on the Eastern Front, despite his advanced age.

He died of cardiac arrest in Bellagio on 2 December 1944 while working on a collection of poems praising the wartime achievements of the Decima Flottiglia MAS.

[From Wikipedia:]

Benjamin Quotes Marinetti

Still, Marinetti says in his manifesto on the Ethiopian colonial war: "For twenty-seven years we Futurists have rebelled against the branding of war as antiaesthetic.... Accordingly we state:... War is beautiful because it establishes man's dominion over the subjugated machinery my means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metallization of the human body. War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns. War is beautiful because it combines the gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, and the stench of putrefaction into a symphony. War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation of flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others.... Poets and artists of Futurism!.... remember these principles of an aesthetics of war so that your struggle for a new literature and a new graphic art... may be illumined by them!" 

Benjamin on Happiness

Reflection shows us that our image of happiness is thoroughly colored by the time to which the course of our own existence has assigned us. The kind of happiness that could arouse envy in us exists only in the air we have breathed, among people we could have talked to, women who could have given themselves to us. In other words, our image of happiness is indissolubly bound up with the image of redemption.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pentangle - Let No Man Steal Your Thyme (1968)

Fell onto this researching the old English ballad that Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen sang in the film.

"Far from the Madding Crowd"

Made for a good movie but not sure I need to read the book (never say never). Swear I saw the earlier Julie Christie version, though I didn't remember the storyline a bit.


Far From the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Benjamin on Proust

This quote comes from the very end of Benjamin's essay on Proust:

As it was, however, this malady was destined to have its place in the great work process assigned to it by the furor devoid of desires or regrets. For the second time there rose a scaffold like Michelangelo's on which the artist, his head thrown back, painted the Creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel: the sickbed on which Marcel Proust consecrates the countless pages which he covered with his handwriting, holding them up in the air, to the creation of his microcosm.

Benjamin on the Concept of the Aura

     The concept of the aura which was proposed above with reference to historical objects may usefully be illustrated with reference to the aura of natural ones. We define the aura of the latter as the unique phenomenon of a distance, however close it may be. If, while resting on a summer afternoon, you follow with your eyes a mountain range on the horizon or a branch which casts its shadow on you, you experience the aura of those mountains, of that branch. This image makes it easy to comprehend the social bases of the contemporary decay of the aura. It rests on two circumstances, both of which are related to the increasing significance of the masses in contemporary life. Namely, the desire of contemporary masses to bring things "closer" spatially just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction. Every day the urge grows stronger to get hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction. 

Benjamin on Atget

It has quite justly been said of him that he photographed them like scenes of crime. The scene of a crime, too, is deserted; it is photographed for the purpose of establishing evidence. With Atget, photographs become standard evidence for historical occurrences, and acquire a hidden political significance.

Eugene Atget (1857 - 1927)

Eugène Atget (French: [adʒɛ]; 12 February 1857 – 4 August 1927) was a French flâneur[1] and a pioneer of documentary photography, noted for his determination to document all of the architecture and street scenes of Paris before their disappearance to modernization.[1] Most of his photographs were first published by Berenice Abbott after his death.[2] An inspiration for the surrealists and other artists, his genius was only recognized by a handful of young artists in the last two years of his life, and he did not live to see the wide acclaim his work would eventually receive.

[From Wikipedia:]


[Atget's photos also from Wikipedia]

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Isola di San Michele: Floating Island of the Dead

Have been dreaming about a visit. Have been dreaming. I saw it from a boat last I was in Venice (did I take a photo?), but didn't visit. I'm hoping to bump into Uncle Ezra and a few other distant relatives.


San Michele is an island in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It is associated with the sestiere of Cannaregio, from which it lies a short distance northeast.


Along with neighbouring San Cristoforo della Pace, the island was a popular place for local travellers and fishermen to land. Mauro Codussi's Chiesa di San Michele in Isola of 1469, the first Renaissance church in Venice, and a monastery lie on the island, which also served for a time as a prison.

San Cristoforo was selected to become a cemetery in 1807, designed by Gian Antonio Selva, when under French occupation it was decreed that burial on the mainland (or on the main Venetian islands) was unsanitary. The canal that separated the two islands was filled in during 1836, and subsequently the larger island became known as San Michele. Bodies were carried to the island on special funeral gondolas. Among those buried there are Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Jean Schlumberger, Christian Doppler, Frederick Rolfe, Horatio Brown, Sergei Diaghilev, Ezra Pound, Luigi Nono, Catherine Bagration, Franco Basaglia, Zoran Mušič, Helenio Herrera, Emilio Vedova, and Salvador de Iturbide y Marzán. The cemetery is still in use today.

[From Wikipedia:]


Photograph by Aconcagua]

Nikolai Leskov (1831 - 1895)

Inspired by Benjamin's essay, I will probably read Leskov next (unless the blind librarian hands me another book).


Nikolai Semyonovich Leskov (Russian: Никола́й Семёнович Леско́в; 16 February [O.S. 4 February] 1831 — 5 March [O.S. 21 February] 1895) was a Russian novelist, short story writer, playwright, and journalist who also wrote under the pseudonym M. Stebnitsky. Praised for his unique writing style and innovative experiments in form, and held in high esteem by Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov and Maxim Gorky among others, Leskov is credited with creating a comprehensive picture of contemporary Russian society using mostly short literary forms.[1] His major works include Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1865) (which was later made into an opera by Shostakovich), The Cathedral Clergy (1872), The Enchanted Wanderer (1873), and The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea (1881).[2]

Leskov received his formal education at the Oryol Lyceum. In 1847 Leskov joined the Oryol criminal court office, later transferring to Kiev where he worked as a clerk, attended university lectures, mixed with local people, and took part in various student circles. In 1857 Leskov quit his job as a clerk and went to work for the private trading company Scott & Wilkins owned by Alexander Scott, his aunt's English husband.

His literary career began in the early 1860s with the publication of his short story The Extinguished Flame (1862), and his novellas Musk-Ox (May 1863) and The Life of a Peasant Woman (September, 1863). His first novel No Way Out was published under the pseudonym M.Stebnitsky in 1864. From the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s Leskov published a wide range of works, including journalism, sketches, short stories, and novels. Leskov's major works, many of which continue to be published in modern versions, were written during this time. A number of his later works were banned because of their satirical treatment of the Russian Orthodox Church and its functionaries. Leskov died on 5 March 1895, aged 64, and was interred in the Volkovo Cemetery in Saint Petersburg, in the section reserved for literary figures.

[From Wikipedia:]

Palette: Green

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

From Benjamin's "Illuminations"

From "The Task of the Translator" (a bit wrenched from context):

Art, in the same way, posits man's physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its works is it concerned with his response. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bolsa Chica: 5.17.15

Just three souvenirs. Will look for the name of the beautiful groundcover (it was there a month or so ago, has always been there, but it seemed redder than before and had a small, white flower).



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Benjamin (Reloaded)

Really enjoyed "Scholem on Benjamin" so I've decided to reread Benjamin's Illuminations. Last read it when I was still "tied to paper," but this time I'm taking it on via Kindle.

Should "take me home" re the semester finale.


A single clip from Hannah Arendt's Intro re Benjamin:

To describe adequately his work and him as an author within our usual framework of reference, one would have to make a great many negative statements, such as: his erudition was great, but he was no scholar; his subject matter comprised texts and their interpretation, but he was no philologist; he was greatly attracted not by religion but by theology and the theological type of interpretation for which the text itself is sacred, but he was no theologian and he was not particularly interested in the Bible; he was a born writer, but his greatest ambition was to produce a work consisting entirely of quotations; he was the first German to translate Proust (together with Franz Hessel) and St.-John Perse, and before that he had translated Baudelaire's Tableaux pariseiens, but he was no translator; he reviewed books and wrote a number of essays on living and dead writers, but he was no literary critic; he wrote a book about the German baroque and left behind a huge unfinished study of French nineteenth century, but he was no historian, literary or otherwise; I shall try to show that he thought poetically, but he was neither a poet nor a philosopher.

Knight-Errants are Back!

Cottonwoods and Mourning Cloaks. Not many knight-errants yet, but they're riding on a few walls and trying to write their erotemes.


Mystery Pic

Sunrise & Sign (5.16.15)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Borges' Footnote

In my Selected Non-Fictions (Penguin, Edited by Eliot Weinberger) it appears on p. 215 (in "The Total Library") and is the second of only two footnotes for the very short text. I also reread Total's fiction counterpart, "The Library of Babel," and, alas, the busy primate is missing (but I'll perhaps check again -- he may be in the john of one of the unspotlighted hexagons).

"Strictly speaking, one immortal monkey would be sufficient."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Scholem on Benjamin (on Kafka)

A single clip (from a letter to Benjamin from Scholem):

I have of course already had "individual thoughts" about Kafka, although these do not concern Kafka's position in the continuum of German literature (in which he has no position of any sort, something that he himself did not have the least doubt about; as you probably know, he was a Zionist), but his position in the continuum of Jewish literature. I advise you to begin any inquiry into Kafka with the Book of Job, or at least with a discussion of the possibility of divine judgment, which I regard as the sole subject of Kafka's production [worthy of] being treated in a work of literature.

Morning: Around the Lagoon (5/10/15)

Bucks. Scholem on Benjamin. Lagoon and Marine Stadium.




Sunday, May 3, 2015

Scholem on Benjamin

Two clips:

That others were impressed, indeed entranced, by the imaginative verve of Goldberg's interpretations of Torah and sometimes even by their rather sinister aspects is evidenced not only by the writings of the paleontologist Edgar Dacque but above all by Thomas Mann; the first novel of the latter's Joseph tetralogy, The Tales of Jacob, is in its metaphysical sections based entirely on Goldberg's book. This, to be sure, did not keep Mann from making Goldberg the target of his irony a few years later in a special chapter of his novel Doctor Faustus. There Goldberg appears as the scholar Dr. Chaim Breisacher, a kind of metaphysical super-Nazi who presents his magical racial theory largely in Goldberg's own words. Benjamin's interest in this Jewish sect, if I may so describe it, accompanied him right into the Hitler period.


     Shortly thereafter Benjamin came to Munich on his way to visit Dora on the Semmering. On that occasion he bought Klee's watercolor Angelus Novus for 1,000 marks (14 dollars!). In my essay "Walter Benjamin und sein Engel" ["Walter Benjamin and His Angel," in Jews and Judaism in Crisis, pp. 198 - 236] I have given a detailed account of this acquisition and Benjamin's close relationship to the picture.

Marine Stadium (5/3/15): Waif-and-Stray Sea Lion or Long Beach Nessie?

Very playful. Flips and fins. But rarely came up for long. Probably why she's still legend.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Scholem on Benjamin

Three clips:

The origin of the constellations as configurations on the sky surface was, so he asserted, the beginning of reading, and writing, and this coincided with the development of the mythic age. The constellations were for the mythic world what the revelation of Holy Writ was to be later.


Buschor had spoken about the archaic torso of Apollo in the museum at Naples and at the end of his lecture had recited Rilke's poem by that title, whereupon he burst into tears -- not an everyday occurrence in an academic lecture on archaeology. I told Benjamin about this, and he said, Yes, it really is an extraordinary poem.


This is when I first noticed Benjamin's basic melancholy, the incipient depressive traits that later became more pronounced. (I never noticed anything manic about him.) At the same time I began to grow aware of the hysterical elements in Dora's behavior, which were sometimes suddenly triggered by the most insignificant events. Often enough these tension-laden scenes left me overwhelmed and perplexed, like a man who has seen more than he cares to see. 


Laundry 2