Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blaise Says

Nothing gives rest but the sincere search for truth.

Notes on Pasolini's Porcile

Pigsty is the title in English, a movie written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini that I've been watching over the last couple of nights. According to "ali-112" at IMDb the film has been shamefully botched in the transfer to to DVD, and it's true that the colors bleed all over the place, the film is badly scratched, and the reels themselves are shown running out three or four times in the course of its 99 minutes. But it's still an intriguing and at times deeply unsettling film for the reasons Pasolini presumably intended.

I'm not even going to try writing about this without describing key events in the film, so if you're interested in seeing the film yourself with suspense (such as it is) intact, consider yourself forwarned.

There are two stories presented here. One concerns a young warrior and takes place in a barren, volcanic landscape between a kind mythical medieval age, but with guns, while the other unfolds in a Rennaissance villa in the present era. The former story is almost entirely free of dialogue, or almost any words until very near the end, while the latter is presented to us in the abstract dialogue of a young man and woman in the beginning, and then other members of the young man's family as the story progresses (to the extent that it can be called a story at all; often it more resembles a philosophical dialogue on film).

The story of the young warrior begins when he comes across a helmet, sword and gun on the ground. He dons the armor and soon finds himself in combat with another strange warrior who could himself have just come across a helmet, sword and gun. He kills the other, takes off his armor, and then savagely renders the corpse. Then he eats it.

From this moment the brutality is carried further by the young warrior and a partner until it becomes a conflict between I think are two distinct tribes. There are what seem to be the development of rituals to celebrate and/or avenge the violence perpetrated on and by others i.e., tossing a victim's severed head into the mouth of a volcano, or earth vent, or whatever it is. The conflict and the society portrayed are elemental, savage, and cruel to a degree that must be considered evil - though of course if they are in fact rituals they are likely intended to ward off evil. As the young warrior is himself led to sacrifice at the end of the story he repeatedly says, "I killed my father, I ate human flesh, and I quiver with joy." He is staked out on the ground and left to wild dogs. As I said, it's all deeply unsettling.

Interspersed with this is the story that begins with a conversation between a young woman and man. As much as the other story is told in primeval images, this story consists almost entirely of dialogue that is sophisticated and at times so abstract it's hard to follow.

The young man is often as whimsical as the young woman is in earnest. She is an idealist, political, and alternates between demanding that he live up to her conception of him and pointing out what seem to her contradictions in his character. He puts her off in most of the scenes, chiefly because of her political concerns, and yet feebly pursues her in other scenes out of what seems to be (a fairly lame) erotic curiosity.

The story expands to the rest of the young man's family: his father, Herr Klotz, a former Nazi industrialist (too obviously sporting a Hitler mustache) and his mother, who is shown conversing with her husband and the young woman about her son.

A business partner (or perhaps competitor) shows up and meets with Herr Klotz. Their conversation covers everything from the good old days of Nazi Germany to the failure of Klotz's son to achieve anything. Some of this conversation is carried on while Herr Klotz plays heavenly strains on his harp, and the mansion in which it all takes place is as luxuriently austere as the other sequence was primordial.

It's hard to see, or at least it's hard to remember, what really becomes of the conversations and conflicts between each combination of characters. Herr Klotz and the other businessman end up toasting each other with glasses of beer; the mother and the young woman are shown conversing at the foot of a four-post bed in which the young man is stretched out in a position that both calls to mind and defies the position of the young warrior at the end of the other sequence.

Maybe it's the Girard I've been reading of late, but I couldn't help but see both stories in light of his observations on violence, sacrifice and society. The worlds depicted here are both polarized and similar to a point of common identity. Pasolini made the movie in the late sixties and therefore precedes Girard's major works on these themes, but I wonder whether he might have benefited from Girard's analysis. I think Pasolini somehow has it backwards, though I admit this may be because I read Girard first. Perhaps I can explain why in a longer post, but much of it has to do with Pasolini's take on the role of priests (and presumably the church) in the primitive sequence and the idealization of politics in the civilized sequence. Nevertheless, he has definitely hit on something in both stories. It's definitely worth a second viewing, and probably more than that. And I haven't even gotten into the title.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Aenigmata by Symphosius

In the latest issue of Poetry, Richard Wilbur has published some translations of ancient Latin 'riddle' poetry, written by Symphosius in the fourth or fifth century. Richar Wilbur has done some originals of these himself, and they're pretty great. I didn't know it was a genre establised a long time ago. Hopefully Poetry won't sue me if I copy a few here:
I wear night's face, although not black of skin,
And at high noon I bring the darkness in,
Ere Cynthia's beams, or starlight, can begin.

I once was water, and soon shall be again.
Strict heaven binds me now by many a chain.
I crack when trodden, and when held give pain.

Light dust of water fallen from the sky,
I'm wet in summer and in winter dry.
Ere I make rivers, whole lands I occupy.

Long daughter of the forest, swift of pace,
In whom old neighbors join as beam and brace,
I speed on many paths, yet leave no trace.

Athena schooled me in the weaver's trade.
The robes I make require no shuttle's aid.
I have no hands; by feet my works are made.
And these are the easy ones, I think. Forget about Sudoku, get the latest issue of Poetry!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rain by Edward Thomas

It's been raining pretty hard here in Seattle, off and on. I thought of the poem by Edward Thomas, the English poet who wrote most of his poems in the space of a few years leading up to World War 1. He died on a battlefield in France in April, 1917.
Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying to-night or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.
Here is another favorite of mine:
Gone, Gone Again

Gone, gone again,
May, June, July,
And August gone,
Again gone by,

Not memorable
Save that I saw them go,
As past the empty quays
The rivers flow.

And now again,
In the harvest rain,
The Blenheim oranges
Fall grubby from the trees

As when I was young -
And when the lost one was here -
And when the war began
To turn young men to dung.

Look at the old house,
Outmoded, dignified,
Dark and untenanted,
With grass growing instead

Of the footsteps of life,
The friendliness, the strife;
In its beds have lain
Youth, love, age, and pain:

I am sometimes like that;
Only I am not dead,
Still breathing and interested
In the house that is not dark: -

I am something like that:
Not one pane to reflect the sun,
For the schoolboys to throw at -
They have broken every one.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Der Amerikanische Soldat

I watched this movie for the third time last night. After reading the IMDb review by Mr. Planktonrules, I think he's right about a couple of things. It is pretty amateurish. Some camera shots are right out of a sixties TV crime drama like Mannix or The Mod Squad. But some others are pretty well done, and I'd still give RWF an A for effort, and then maybe a C- for execution. Or a D. Who cares about grading movies, anyway? I think it's a dumb practice, even if I used to do it myself. Mr. Planktonrules is also right about the truly awful suicide scene (by future director Margarethe von Trotta), and the whole thing certainly does look like a rip-off of Goddard's Alphaville, which, as he says, is a pretty overrated movie itself. So why did I watch it yet a third time? I don't know. I really don't. It really is a mystery to me, too. Never again!

Friday, October 27, 2006

St. Frumentius

(c. 380) Called “Abuna” or “the father” of Ethiopia, sent to that land by St. Athanasius. Frumentius was born in Tyre, Lebanon. While on a voyage in the Red Sea with St. Aedesius, possibly his brother, only Frumentius and Aedesius survived the shipwreck. Taken to the Ethiopian royal court at Aksum, they soon attained high positions. Aedesius was royal cup bearer, and Fruementius was a secretary. They introduced Christianity to that land. When Abreha and Asbeha inherited the Ethiopian throne from their father, Frumentius went to Alexandria, Egypt, to ask St. Athanasius to send a missionary to Ethiopia. He was consecrated a bishop and converted many more upon his return to Aksum. Frumentius and Aedesius are considered the apostles of Ethiopia. (catholic.org)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On Cosmos, by Witold Gombrowicz

Well, I finally finished the novel, after rereading each chapter two or three times. Today's excerpt comes from chapter eight, the longest in the novel, and concerns a pivotal conversation between Witold, the narrator, and Leon Wojtys, the patriarch of the family in whose home he has stayed and with whom he is now travelling in the mountains around Zakopane.
This meeting of ours was so unpleasant, sideways, without looking, as if sightless - more and more blossoms in the grass, blue and yellow, clusters of spruce, pines, the terrain was descending, and I had moved quite far, an incomprehensible matter of otherness and distance, in the silence of butterflies fluttering, a breeze blowing gently, earth and grass, forests turning into peaks, a bald patch under a tree, pince-nez - Leon.

He sat on the stump of a tree smoking a cigarette.

"What are you doing here?"

"Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing," he replied and smiled blissfully.

"What's so amusing?"

"What? Nothing! Exactly that: nothing! Ha! that's a language game, if you please, hm . . . I'm amused by 'nothing,' mark you, Your Reverence, my venerable companion and merry-maker and horse-drawn carriage, because 'nothing' is exactly what we do all our lives. A fellow stands, sits, talks, writes, and . . . nothing. A fellow buys, sells, marries, doesn't marry and - nothing. A fellow sitzum on a stumpium and - nothing. Soda pop."

He was drawling these words, with nonchanlance, condescendingly.

I said: "You talk as if you've never wrroked."

"Never worked? But I have! Yes indeed! Definitely! At the bankie! The little bankie! From the dumb bankie-dear straight into the stomach! A whale. Hm. Thirty-two years! And what? Nothing!"

He pondered and blew on his hands.

"It's run through my fingers!"

"What has?"

He replied nasally, monotonously:

"Years disintegrate into months, months into days, days into hours, minutes into seconds, seconds run past. You won't catch them. Everything runs past. Flies away. Who am I? I am a certain number of seconds - that have run past. The result: nothing. Nothing."

He flared up and exclaimed: "It's thievery!" He took off his pince-nez and began to tremble, like a little old man, like one of those indignant little old men one sees at times standing on street corners, or in a trolley, or in front of a cinema, vociferating. Should I talk to him? Say something? But what? I was still lost, not knowing which way to go, to the right, to the left, so many threads, connections, insinuations, if I wanted to enumerate all of them from the very beginning I would be lost, cork, saucer, the trembling of a hand, the chimney, a cloud of objects and matters undeciphered, first one detail then another would link up, dovetail, but then other connections would immediately evolve, other connections - this is what I lived by as if I were not living, chaos, a pile of garbage, a slurry - I was putting my hand inside a sack of garbage, pulling out whatever turned up, looking to see if it would be suitable for the construction of . . . my little home . . . that was acquiring, poor thing, fantastic shapes . . . and so on without end . . . But what about this Leon? I've been wondering for some time why he seems to be circling in my vicinity, even seconding me, there was some similarity, take the fact that he was losing himself in seconds as I was in trifles, well, well, there were also other leads providing food for thought, those bread pellets during supper and other trifles, the ti-ri-ri, and again, more recently, I don't know why, I fantasized that the disgusting "selfness" ("gratify yourself with yourself . . ."), creeping toward me from the Toleks' and from the priest's direction was also somehow making its way toward Leon. What harm would it do to hint at the sparrow and all the other wonders back home? Put it to him and see what I can see, I was, after all, like a soothsayer, looking into a crystal ball, into smoke.
One way of looking at the novel, philosophically speaking, I think, is to see Leon as a character living out, as purely as possible, a kind of chronological axis, while Witold is obsessed with a spatial axis. In this way they form the boundaries of the space-time continuum that is the 'form' of the novel, or perhaps they are the characters that come closest to approaching the form in which they and all the other characters must necessarilay live and move. Witold is only able to do this with a great deal of frustration and anxiety, which perhaps culminates in his perpetration of a grisley event that forms a link in a chain of events that he had hithertofore only been a witness. Leon, further along in life, is obviously having some difficulty coming to terms with the manner in which he has lived out his years, months, days, hours and seconds.

They are both on to each other, but that doesn't mean that together they will be able to puzzle through the mysterious reality in which they are captured. Perhaps this is because they live along different axes, perhaps it is because as characters they are socially somewhat 'opposed' to one another, but whatever the reason it is utterly bewildering and fascinating to see them end up by communicating through the repetition of a nonsensical word invented by Leon to explain his manner of occupying time. What the hell does it mean? If you read on, you ask this question more and more. Perhaps, as Leon says, it all comes to nothing. Perhaps, as Witold intimates several times in the later chapters, it all goes towards the construction of 'his little home,' whatever and wherever that may be. Gombrowicz doesn't give us much in the way of clues, and even at the end of the novel the narrator has been delivered back to the home he inhabited before the beginning of the story.

If all this sounds a little abstract . . . well, at times it is, but not all the time, and much of the time it really is exhilerating. There are details repeated over and over again, some of the best portraits of mundane reality since Beckett. But it's better than Beckett, in my opinion, or Gombrowicz has lifted Beckett-style observations to a more mysterious and even contemplative level.

On top of all this, it must be added that Gombrowicz seems to be onto something with the Church, by which I mean the one, holy, catholic and apostolic. It isn't direct, and I wouldn't say it's necessarily the most important thing in the novel, but the character of the priest and the cossack he wears is important, and the freakish, violent absolution (okay, if not absolution, what is it?) that he tries to steal towards the end must surely signify something. Okay, I'm giving the game away, but the scene is begging to be quoted:
We sometimes see this in the movies, in a comedy, a hunter moving slowly with his weapon ready to fire, and on his heels treads a terrible beast, a huge bear, a gigantic gorilla. It was teh priest. He walked right behind me, a little to one side, he seemed to trail at the very end, not knowing why or what for, perhaps he was afraid to stay by himself in the house - at first I didn't notice him, he came straggling up to me - with those peasant fingers of his, fumbling. With his cassock. Heaven and hell. Sin. The Holy Catholic Church, Our Mother. The chill of the confessional. Sin. In saecula saeculorum. Church. The chill of the confessional. Church and Pope. Sin. Damnation. Cassock. Heaven and hell. Ite missa est. Sin. Virtue. Sin. The chin of the confessional. Sequentia sancti . . . Church. Hell. Cassock. Sin . . . The chill of the confessional.

I pushed him hard and he reeled.

The moment I pushed him I became scared - what am I doing?! A quirk, a prank! He'll raise Cain!

But no. My hand encountered such a miserable passivity that I calmed down right away. he stopped but did not look at me. We stood. I saw his face clearly. And his mouth. I raised my hand, I wanted to stick my finger into his mouth. But his teeth were clenched. I raised his chin with my left hand, opened his mouth, stuck my finger in.

I pulled out my finger and was wiping it on my handkerchief.

Now I had to walk faster to catch up with the procession. Sticking my finger into the priest's mouth did me good, although it's one thing (I thought) to stick a finger into a corpse and another to do it to someone living, it was like introducing my phantoms into the real world. I felt invigorated. I realized taht with all this happening I had forgotten for the moment about the sparrow, etc., but now I was again thinking that about fifteen miles back, the sparrow was there - and the stick was there - and the cat. And also Katasia.
I should note that several times in the course of the novel, Witold, says "I'm sick," and if only to judge from his actions, the reader has no real reason to doubt him. But if he is an 'unreliable narrator', he is at least reliably forthright about his unreliability in the manner of madmen who at least know they are mad. Which why I say that in spite of the insanity, in spite of the inanity, and in spite of the asininity so carefully compiled, he is on to something. Or up to something. Something great.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How You Found Quotidian Quintilian XV

Here's a puzzler:
mass riddle if one person went downstairs the number would be equal if one person went upstairs the number would double
Start with one person in the basement, four people on the ground level, and three people upstairs. Then you hit the f button, or whatever it is, and you end up with two people in the basement, two people on the ground level, and four upstairs. If 205.188.116 from somewhere in the neighborhood of Wichita, Kansas didn't find it before, they'll find it now.

Now what mass has to do with it, I have no idea. For that I would recommend this book. If anybody can set you straight there, Father Driscoll can.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blaise Says

We are only falsehood, duplicity, contradiction; we both conceal and disguise ourselves from ourselves.

Monday, October 23, 2006

from Cosmos

Is this or is this not worthy of Walker Percy? Others might ask whether Percy is worthy of Gombrowicz. Well, we have them both, thank goodness. Here's Gombrowicz, from page 116 of Cosmos:
Thy took their seats around the big table in the hall, several doors opened into the adjoining rooms, there was a staircase that led to the upper floors. The doors were open, revealing rooms that were totally bare except for a few beds and chairs, lots of chairs. The table was laden with food, spirits were high - more wine anyone? - but the gaiety was of the kind that is created at parties when everyone is jolly just to avoid spoiling the mood for the others, while in fact, everyone is slightly absent, like at a railway station, like waiting for a train - and this absence was connecting with the destitution of this house found by chance, bare, without curtains, wardrobes, bed sheets, drawings, or shelves, with only windows, beds, and chairs. In this emptiness not only words but also persons reverberated loudly. Roly-Poly and Leon in particular were as if inflated in a vaccum and boomed with their persons, while their booming was accompanied by the hubbub of their guests eating heartily, pierced through by the Lulus' giggles, and Fuks, already quite drunk, was acting like an ass, I knew he drank to drown Drozdowski and their mutual wretchedness, his alienation being similar to mine with my parents . . . he, the luckless, the dupe, the irritating civil servant, forced one to shut one's eyes or to look away. Roly-Poly, the magnificent dispenser of salads and sausages, entertaining, entreating, inviting, please, ladies and gentlemaen, try this, there's plenty, we won't starve, I guarantee you, and so on, and so on - busily making sure everything was tip-top, with style, well, well, an eccentric sort of expedition, fun and games, no one will be able to say they haven't had enought to eat or drink. And also Leon's doubling and tripling himself, the Amphitrion, teh commander-in-chief, the initiator, hey, hey, all together now . . .
This was his final novel; the only thing he published after this were a few diary entries, which he kept on and off throughout the fifties and sixties. The diaries are also great reading, although many of the cultural figures have been lost in the monstrous human crash, to borrow Robert Lowell's phrase. Anyway it's a fine novel, one of the finest, really, and you should go and read it as soon as you can.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An Afternoon at the Opera

Did my part-time gig at the Seattle Opera this afternoon, another matinee performance of Rossini's wonderful L'italiana in Algeri, this time with Helene Schneiderman and Lawrence Brownlee in the lead roles, both of them excellent. As far as I could tell from the closed-circuit television, anyway.

I was amazed again at the people on display there in the auditorium - the Sunday matinees offer perhaps the best place for people watching anywhere, including the airport. I didn't see any men in tuxedoes, but there were some older couples that went all out. In 2006 that can sometimes mean pretty far out, and today I saw snakeskin cowboy boots and purple fedoras. There were a lot of kids there as well, which I certainly think is a good thing, and sometimes they look like replicas of their parents, and sometimes they look like replicas of rebellion: goth make-up, piercings, almost anything goes, really. And not just for the kids. One couple biked to the opera - or at least that appeared to be the case, given the brightly colored spandex, those nifty biking caps, and special bike cleats they were wearing while sipping white wine at intermission.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

from Cosmos

by Witold Gombrowicz:
Moonless star-filled sky - stupendous - constellations emerged out of the swarms of stars, some I knew, the Big Dipper, the Great Bear, I was identifying them, but others, unfamiliar to me, were also lurking there, as if inscribed into the distribution of the major stars, I tried to fill in lines that mght bind them into forms . . . and this deciphering, this charting, suddenly wearied me, I switched to the little garden, but here too the multiplicity of objects such as a chimney, a pipe, the angle of a gutter, the crnice of a wall, a small tree, as well as their more involved combinations like the turn and disappearance of the path, the rhythm of shadows, soon wearied me . . . yet I would begin anew, though reluctantly, to look for forms, patterns, I no longer felt like it, I was bored and impatient and cranky, until I realized that what riveted me to these objects, how shall I put it, what attracted me to the "behind," the "beyond," was the way that one object was "behind" the other, that the pipe was behind the chimney, the wall was behind the corner of the kitchen, just like . . . like . . . like . . . at supper when Katasia's lips were behind Lena's little mouth when Katasia moved the ashtray with the wire mesh while leaning over Lena, lowering her slithering lips close to . . . I was more suproisd than I should have been, at this point I was inclined to exaggerate everything, and besides, the constellations, the Big Dipper, etc., amounted to something cerebral, exhausting, and I though "what? mouths, together?" I was particularly astonished by the fact that both their mouths were now, in my imagination, in my memory, more closely linked together than then, at the table, I tried to clear my head by shaking it, but that made the connection of Lena's lips with Katasia's lips even more clear-cut, so I smirked, because truly, Katasia's twirled-up lasciviousness, her slipping into swinish lust had nothing, absolutely nothing in common with the fresh parting and innocent closing of Lena's lips, it's just that one was "in relation to the other" - as on a map, where one city is in relation to another city - anyway, th eidea of maps had emtered my head, a map of the sky, or an ordinary map with cities, etc. The entire "connection" ws not really a connection, merely one mouth considered in relation to another mouth, in the sense of distance, for example, of direction and position . . . nothing more . . . but, while I now estimated that Katasia's mouth was most likely somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen (she slept thereabouts), in fact I wondered where, in what direction, and at what distance was it from Lena's little mouth. And my coldly-lustful striving in the hallway toward Katasia underwent a dislocation because of Lena's incidental intrusion.
Cosmos is one of my favorite novels, and what a surprise to find it translated anew by Danuta Borchardt for the Yale Press. The Grove Press edition, bound together with Pornografia, was better than nothing, but this new volume far, far outshines that earlier version. Hopefully Ms Borchardt has already begun a new translation of Pornografia to sit alongside Cosmos and Ferdydurke.

Cosmos might be the best, combining a kind of noirish mystery (in what seems to be a 19th century Polish landscape with pensiones and horse-drawn wagons) with a kind of philosophical speculation that betrays the unbridled desperation and cunning subversion of the narrator, who, for all we know, is simply making the whole thing up as he goes.

Friday, October 20, 2006

St. Paul of the Cross

St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa, January 3, 1694. His infancy and youth were spent in great innocence and piety. He was inspired from on high to found a congregation; in an ecstacy he beheld the habit which he and his companions were to wear. After consulting his director, Bishop Gastinara of Alexandria in Piedmont, he reached the conclusion that God wished him to establish a congregation in honor of the Passion of Jesus Christ. On November 22, 1720, the bishop vested him with the habit that had been shown to him in a vision, the same that the Passionists wear at the present time. From that moment the saint applied himself to repair the Rules of his institute; and in 1721 he went to Rome to obtain the approbation of the Holy See. At first he failed, but finally succeeded when Benedict XIV approved the Rules in 1741 and 1746. Meanwhile St. Paul built his first monastery near Obitello. Sometime later he established a larger community at the Church of St. John and Paul in Rome. For fifty years St. Paul remained the indefatigable missionary of Italy. God lavished upon him the greatest gifts in the supernatural order, but he treated himself with the greatest rigor, and believed that he was a useless servant and a great sinner. His saintly death occurred at Rome in the year 1775, at the age of eighty-one. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867. His feast day is October 20. ~catholic.org

"The way to free oneself from deceits is to humble oneself well, not to trust oneself, to recognize one's nothingness, to annihilate oneself before God, and to abandon one's self with filial confidence in the arms of God." ~ from a letter of St. Paul of the Cross

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How You Found Quotidian Quintilian XIV

Liberating the Middle East from Islamofascism, one city at a time.


AKA, in Englisch, as Satan's Brew. This is Fassbinder's 28th of the 41 total films he amassed in his still all-too-brief career, and for my money it's the funniest and sunniest of the whole lot of them. Perhaps even his best, perhaps because, althought there's a lot of murder, sadomascism and other forms of mayhem, there's no suicide. Whew! What a relief, after Fox and His Friends, Veronika Voss, Fear of Fear, In a Year with 13 Moons and Berlin Alexanderplatz, not to end up swinging from the end of a rope or with a stomach full of pills, or whatever. I'd write a synopsis, but this guy Jim has already written such a fine one that I'm just going to steal his.
Satan's Brew is not for the faint of heart! It is about Walter Kranz (Kurt Raab), a womanizing would-be "great writer" who scrambles for every pfennig he can lay his greedy little hands on. He lives with a totally batty brother named Ernst (Volker Spengler), who is forever capturing and trying to fornicate with flies (yes, houseflies), and a dumpling of a wife, Luisa (Helen Vita), the only relatively sane character in the film, yet one who keeps scrupulous count of how many days Walter has not had sex with her. No wonder, since he is constantly getting it on with the wealthy masochist Irmgart von Witzleben (Katherina Buchhammer) – whom he accidentally shoots while she is in the throes of passion writing Walter a huge check for his kinky services; his Marxist mistress Lisa (Ingrid Caven), whose husband Rolf (Marquard Bohm) collects the fee for each assignation; Lana von Meyerbeer (Y Sa Lo), a high-class hooker with shady connections and a penchant for knitting whom Walter is using, as he tells his wife, "for research on a book;" and a groveling groupie, Andrée (Margit Carstensen), who worships "the great poet" like a god. With so much turmoil, and nonstop sex, Walter's two-year stretch of writer's block is more than understandable: Where would he find the time? Suddenly one day, after unconsciously scribbling down a poem about an albatross, he imagines himself the reincarnation of its actual author, Stefan George, the nineteenth century gay German poet and aesthete. So taken with this "mystical" bond (which we see as an obvious case of unconscious plagiarism), the über-heterosexual Kranz acatually tries to become gay, like George. He even hires a circle of handsome young man – costumed in nineteenth century garb – to fawn over him, and a muscle-bound hustler to pose in a "classical" toga. Throughout the film, he is dogged by Lauf (Ulli Lommel), a detective investigating the murder of Irmgart von Witzleben (yet he is willing to stop his search when the Krantzes make him an offer he can't refuse: "I won't say no to a footbath!"), even as the wild bunch of characters surrounding Walter grows ever more manically out of control. The film climaxes with not one, not two, but three surprise endings, one of which is genuinely poignant, and the other two dead-on hilarious.
And, boy, are they ever surprises. And nudity, and violence, and madness in spades. So be warned: while it's plenty funny, it's also plenty disturbing. Here is the quotation from Antonin Artaud at the beginning of the movie: "What differentiates the heathens from us is the great resolve underlying all forms of belief not to think in human terms. In this way, they are able to retain the link with the whole of creation, in other words, with the godhead." Food for thought, anyway.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Catullus 75

Huc est mens deducta tua mea, Lesbia, culpa
atque ita se officio perdidit ipsa suo,
ut iam nec bene velle queat tibi, si optima fias,
nec desistere amare, omnia si facias.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Blaise Says

Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I plucked a white hair today,

right out of my, er... um... nostril. Man, I hate getting older. Time passing, the strangest of all things.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Little Red Studio

"Picture an artist's atelier in Paris about 1880..."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bigger Than Paper Towels

While walking around Greenlake this morning,I walked past two older gents going in the opposite direction and in a deep discussion about ... something. The white haired guy turned to the the salt-and-pepper haired guy and said, "And so on the other side they had this theologian, real scum ... worse than a lawyer ..."

What a bummer.

Yesterday I was luckier. I saw a guy, probably about my age (41) reading Cinnamon Skin, one of the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. In the original cover, shiny gold (or cinnamon, I guess), which would be part of the reason I picked up that old Pocketbook Paperbacket of The Second Coming three or four years later. Here are a couple of nice excerpts I remember from MacDonald's book.
We all think of the inconvenience of making an effort. We're all going to do the right things a little later on. Soon. But soon slides by so easily. Then we vow we'll try to do better. We all carry that little oppressive weight around in the back of our mind -- that we should be living better, trying harder, but we're not. We're all living just about as well as we can at any given moment. But that doesn't stop the wishing.
Pretty good, isn't it? I don't think I've read anything in John Grisham that good. B list books were a lot better 25 years ago, I think. And then there was this:
Walking back through the mall to the exit nearest our part of the parking lot, we passed one shop which sold computers, printers, software, and games. It was packed with teenagers, the kind who wear wire rims and know what the new world is about. The clerks were indulgent, letting them program the computers. Two hundred yards away, near the six movie houses, a different kind of teenager shoved quarters into the space-war games, tensing over the triggers, releasing the eerie sounds of extraterrestrial combat. Any kid back in the computer store could have told the combatants that because there is no atmosphere in space, there is absolutely no sound at all. Perfect distribution: the future managers and the future managed ones. Twenty in the computer store, two hundred in the arcade.

The future managers have run on past us into the thickets of CP/M, M-Basic, Cobol, Fortran, Z-80, Apples, and Worms. Soon the bosses of the microcomputer revolution will sell us preprogrammed units for each household which will provide entertainment, print out news, purvey mail-order goods, pay bills, balance accounts, keep track of expenses, and compute taxes. But by then the future managers will be over on the far side of the thickets, dealing with bubble memories, machines that design machines, projects so esoteric our pedestrian minds cannot comprehend them. It will be the biggest revolution of all, bigger than the wheel, bigger than Franklin's kite, bigger than paper towels.
And yet I still couldn't keep myself out of the arcade.

St. Edward the Confessor

Edward the Confessor was the son of King Ethelred III and his Norman wife, Emma, daughter of Duke Richard I of Normandy. He was born at Islip, England, and sent to Normandy with his mother in the year 1013 when the Danes under Sweyn and his son Canute invaded England. Canute remained in England and the year after Ethelred's death in 1016, married Emma, who had returned to England, and became King of England. Edward remained in Normandy, was brought up a Norman, and in 1042, on the death of his half-brother, Hardicanute, son of Canute and Emma, and largely through the support of the powerful Earl Godwin, he was acclaimed king of England. In 1044, he married Godwin's daughter Edith. His reign was a peaceful one characterized by his good rule and remission of odious taxes, but also by the struggle, partly caused by his natural inclination to favor the Normans, between Godwin and his Saxon supporters and the Norman barons, including Robert of Jumieges, whom Edward had brought with him when he returned to England and whom he named Archbishop of Canterbury in 1051. In the same year, Edward banished Godwin, who took refuge in Flanders but returned the following year with a fleet ready to lead a rebellion. Armed revolt was avoided when the two men met and settled their differences; among them was the Archbishop of Canterbury, which was resolved when Edward replaced Robert with Stigand, and Robert returned to Normandy. Edward's difficulties continued after Godwin's death in 1053 with Godwin's two sons: Harold who had his eye on the throne since Edward was childless, and Tostig, Earl of Northumbria. Tostig was driven from Northumbria by a revolt in 1065 and banished to Europe by Edward, who named Harold his successor. After this Edward became more interested in religious affairs and built St. Peter's Abbey at Westminster, the site of the present Abbey, where he is buried. His piety gained him the surname "the Confessor". He died in London on January 5, and he was canonized in 1161 by Pope Alexander III.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How You Found Quotidian Quintilian XIII

Wow. I can't help but picture this poor soul, who, having dumped out a big dusty pile of d-CON over a piece of cheese in one of her (could be 'his') cupboards, has returned later in the day, only to find that the cheese and the poison are both all gone, with nothing but a trail of rat poop leading back into a dark corner of loose plywood.

Best of luck, 70.133.157.# in Plano, Texas.

Big Jon's Latin Assignment #2

This is the poem I went over with a Latin student last night. Catullus 22 has always been one of my favorites, especially for the lines derecta plumbo et pumice omnia aequata and sed non videmus manticae quod tergo est. Big Jon did such an outstanding job of translating last week that I'm asking him to come back and make a go of this one.
Suffenus iste, Vare, quem probe nosti,
homo est venustus et dicax et urbanus,
idemque longe plurimos facit versus.
Puto esse ego illi milia aut decem aut plura
perscripta, nec sic ut fit in palimpsesto
relata: cartae regiae, novi libri,
novi umbilici, lora rubra, membranae,
derecta plumbo et pumice omnia aequata.
Haec cum legas tu, bellus ille et urbanus
suffenus unus caprimulgus aut fossor
rursus videtur: tantum abhorret ac mutat.
Hoc quid putemus esse? Qui modo scurra
aut si quid hac re scitius videbatur,
idem infaceto est infacetior rure,
simul poemata attigit, neque idem umquam
aeque est beatus ac poema cum scribit:
tam gaudet in se tamque se ipse miratur.
Nimirum idem omnes fallimur, neque est quisquam
quem non in aliqua re videre Suffenum
possis. Suus cuique attributus est error;
sed non videmus manticae quod tergo est.
Thanks, Jon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

L'italiana in Algeri

Tonight I saw the dress rehearsal for the latest production at McCaw Hall and enjoyed it immensely. The immense Stephanie Blythe was excellent as Isabella, but I thought the real star of the show was William Burden as Lindoro, who shines from the moment he walks on stage and sings 'Languir per un bella'. Sally Wolf was very good as Elvira and and so was Simone Alberghini as the Mustafa, who does a kind of Islamofascist 'Springtime for Hitler' thing that's a bit hammy, but works well for the buffa quality of the opera. This particular production by Chris Alexander has already worked well in Santa Fe and San Francisco and went off here without a hitch. Setting the comedy in Algeria between the First and Second World Wars with airplanes and hot-air balloons instead of ships worked very well, and that they could begin with a burning plane flying over a Muslim country nicely flouts the pc sensitivity that saw Ideomeno cancelled in Germany a few weeks ago. That the subjugation of women and impaling of infidels by an Islamic autocrat can be played for gags in Seattle is not just a matter for laughing, but a reason for rejoicing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Blaise Says

Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Happy Columbus Day

Regarding the painting (accessed through the title of the post), the commentary from the Web Gallery is as follows: "John Vanderlyn, an American whose revolutionary sympathies had led him to study and work in Paris in the early days of the empire, executed this painting in the American Capitol in Washington. His theme was Columbus Landing at Guanahani, 1492, glorifying the arrival on this West Indian island of the historical figure who was regarded as the founder of the white and Christian Americas. His Indians crouch like wild animals, frightened and puzzled, and some of the explorer's Spanish sailors crawl on the ground, already hunting for gold."

And it's hanging in the U.S. Capitol!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Jeff Jacoby on the Amish schoolhouse shooting.

Over at Korrektiv I posted Rod Dreher's summation of the Amish response to the murder of three girls in a one room schoolhouse. Jeff Jacoby had an equally impassioned interpretation in today's Boston Globe:
But hatred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved. I admire the Amish villagers' resolve to live up to their Christian ideals even amid heartbreak, but how many of us would really want to live in a society in which no one gets angry when children are slaughtered? In which even the most horrific acts of cruelty were always and instantly forgiven? There is a time to love and a time to hate, Ecclesiastes teaches. If anything deserves to be hated, surely it is the pitiless murder of innocents.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


is (hopefully) the next number in the series, as I pointed out to Angelmeg below. Coincidentally, it's also the name of a movie coming out next spring about the Battle of Thermopylae (view the trailer by clicking on the title above), which is covered extensively in this article at Wikipedia. The 300 Spartans, made in 1962, is also worth seeing some rainy day weekend.

Friday, October 06, 2006

St. Pardulphus

(c. 728) A Benedictine abbot. Originally from Sardent, Gueret, Limoges, France, He entered the Benedictine monastery at Gueret and subsequently became its much respected abbot. According to tradition, Parduiphus remained behind and alone in the monastery during the onslaught of the Arabs across southern France. He supposedly won the safety of the monastery through his assiduous prayer.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How You Found Quotidian Quintilian XII

Yep, I'm out now, although the dogs are closing in fast. Just looking for a hacksaw to get these leg irons off. Rufus and Henri aren't much help either; the sooner I ditch them, the better. I reckon.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Blaise Says

Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Catullus 13

Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me
paucis, si tibi di favent, diebus,
si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
cenam, non sine candida puella
et vino et sale et omnibus cachinnis.
Haec si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster,
cenabis bene; nam tui Catulli
plenus sacculus est aranearum.
Sed contra accipies meros amores,
seu quid suavius elegantiusve est:
nam unguentum dabo, quod meae puellae
donarunt Veneres Cupidinesque;
quod tu cum olfacies, deos rogabis
totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

114, 128, 138, 122

There's nothing like consistency.