June 2005 Archives

Murakami Watch

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A pleasant surprise: July's Harper's has a new story by Haruki Murakami called Chance Traveler.

Update: and another new story in The Guardian - The Folklore Of Our Times.

Die faster, damn you!

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Pathologists wish people wouldn't linger, already:

"The problem is you have to wait for the people to die and they're just not dying early enough," Brown explains. "They die after several weeks in intensive care and all the (viral) tracks are gone."


"Getting people who die from rapid, fulminant disease early to look at when everything's sort of fresh is the trick."

News from Tartary

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Three quotes from News from Tartary, which I think I'm going to enjoy very much:

I know nothing, and care less, about political theory; knavery, oppression and ineptitude, as perpetrated by governments, interest me only in their concrete manifestations, in their impact on mankind: not in their nebulous doctrinal origins. ... I say this because I know that to read a propagandist, a man with vested intellectual origins, is as dull as dining with a vegetarian.
We walked the lorries over a precarious bridge whose architecture seemed to be an affair of mud and mass-hypnotism.
The foreign engineers responsible for the construction of the Sian-Lanchow road had impressed on their Chinese subordinates the desirability of marking difficult or dangerous passages with the traffic signs current in Europe: such as an 'S' for a double bend. The Chinese, however, either ignorant of or impatient with the orthodox sign-vocabulary, declined on their noticeboards to commit themselves to the exact nature of the peril in wait for the motorist, and merely painted a bold and arresting exclamation mark. As we hurtled downard the recurrent '!' atoned for its inadequacy as a warning by its charming aptness as a comment.

I just wish I could have found an edition with the photos and maps of the original edition; I'll have to keep it in mind when browsing second-hand book stores.


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Glass's "Koyaanisqatsi" and the art of film scoring:

When I saw "Koyaanisqatsi" in college, I dismissed it as a trippy, slick, MTV-ish thing, to which some well-meaning soul had attached hippie messages about the mechanization of existence and the spoliation of the planet. At Lincoln Center, I understood it as something else altogether--an awesomely dispassionate vision of the human world, beautiful and awful in equal measure. What made the difference, apart from the fact that I was no longer a facile collegiate ironist, was the experience of hearing the music live, with Kurt Munkacsi's sound design adding heft and definition to every gesture. For all the deliberate coldness of some of Glass's writing, "Koyaanisqatsi" is deeply expressive; its blistering virtuosity is often the only sign of emotional life on display, excepting a few wan smiles on the faces of pedestrians who hurry through Times Square.

"Powaqqatsi" and "Naqoyqatsi," the sequels, don't match the force of the original, though they are absorbing throughout. Glass supplies many passages of cool, aching beauty, but the urgent side of his early style, the technique of eviscerating repetition, is diminished. As a whole, the trilogy mimics the uneven shape of the composer's career, which has ranged from achievements of staggering originality ("Music in Twelve Parts," "Einstein on the Beach," the Violin Concerto) to statements of baffling neutrality (a world-music cantata entitled "Orion" is the newest instance of the latter). These days, he often seems trapped in his formulas; he writes "Philip Glass music" in place of music that happens to be by Philip Glass. But he has won his place in history, and he may figure out a way to knock us sideways once again.

I dearly love both Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, but Naqoyqatsi was a really disappointing film; it relied way too much on digital processing of imagery instead of the fantastic cinematography that made the first two so compelling (along with the music of course). I hope I can see the films with music played live at some point, it sounds like it adds to the experience of the film.

The Brothers Grimm Trailer


The Brothers Grimm trailer - Direct link, as the player doesn't work for me in firefox.

I'm looking forward to this just because it's Terry Gilliam, but it's always a bit worrying when a trailer uses the 'In a world where...' format. It's probably due to the usual incompetent marketing for Gilliam's work.

Billy West Interview


Billy West, the voice actor behind Ren & Stimpy and several of the characters on Futurama has some things to say about celebrity voices:

[W]ith your little strip of vocal cords, you're going to create heavens and hells and universes and populations of people, which is the whole idea that a voice person has in their head. It's like, "Whatever it is, I'll be it." But the voice people can physically escape the sound of their own voice. We do multiple voices. We used to save producers' asses, because they'd hire you and say, "Well, we were going to get six people, but we can't afford it. Can you do this, this, and this?" And you'd do them, and they'd be perfectly happy, and they'd save a bundle of dough. Now, it's the exact opposite. The minute they mention a CGI film, they're already looking to see what Renée Zellweger is doing. They're already looking to see what Billy Crystal is doing. This doesn't make sense, to do what they do--spend zillions on visuals, and then have this totally fucking flat-lining voice track. You know, "Hey, I'm Will Smith, I'm a clam! I'm Will Smith, I'm a kangaroo!" All you bring to the performance is your own ego. They're just being themselves. Let's put it this way: Cameron Diaz is the highest paid voice actress in history: $20 million for Shrek. Why? Because she has a 9-foot mouth? That works somewhere else, but not on tape! [Laughs.] It's like what the hell is that all about?

Let me say this about Billy Crystal as a voice actor: he was kind of distracting in Howl's Moving Castle, because it really popped out at you that it was Billy Crystal doing the voice, which is not good when you're supposed to be paying attention to the fire demon that he's voicing.

New Mirrormask Trailer

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New Mirrormask trailer; September 30th looks to be the release date. The illustrated script book is available now.

Thanks to a wallace-l member who transcribed the entire thing from video tape, I present: David Foster Wallace - Commencement Speech at Kenyon University. Unlike your typical go-forth-and-do-good-things commencement speech, Wallace's is inwardly concerned; it hopes to inspire inward attention (which I think is where Wallace thinks good works come from):

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large arts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I'm talking about.


Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.


Stuff to look forward to

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Talent Over Tools

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Awesome article about Alex Majoli, an award-winning photojournalist that shoots exclusively with digital point and shoots, Olympus C-Series in particular. As someone who is resisting the siren song of digital SLRs, this is a welcome reminder that it's possible to do great work with simple tools, as annoying as their limitations can be. More of Majoli's photos. (via.)

Eastern & Western Laziness

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Quote spotted at caterina.net, by Sogyal Rinpoche:

There are different species of laziness: Eastern and Western. The Eastern style is like the one practised in India. It consists of hanging out all day in the sun, doing nothing, avoiding any kind of work or useful activity, drinking cups of tea, listening to Hindi film music blaring on the radio, and gossiping with friends. Western laziness is quite different. It consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so there is no time at all to confront the real issues. This form of laziness lies in our failure to choose worthwhile applications for our energy.

A bit of googling reveals this is from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2005 is the previous archive.

July 2005 is the next archive.

This is marginalia.org, a weblog by Bill Stilwell. I take the occasional photo.


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