Sunday, November 27, 2005

Urban Istanbul is a surprisingly westernized place. I learned this watching an exquisitely shot film called "Distant" this evening. I recommend it to fans of minimalist cinema. It is the story of Mahmut, a divorced 40 year old commercial photographer living in a modern, very European Istanbul. It is clear that he once held ideals about photography, but pays the bills by shooting floor tiles. When inspiration strikes, he's too jaded to find the motivation. This is a metaphor for his life, which is the real subject of the film.

In one scene, Mahmut is sitting near the Bosphorus River, thinking about how he came to this "distant" emotional place.

It was a familiar scene, one I remember from my days as a college student struggling with the emerging realities of adulthood. But at 20, there was always a comforting depth to my melancholy. It often felt authentic, real, hopeful, and even quite inspiring. I suppose It was the weight of the future that made it so strangely fulfilling.

40 year old Mahmut sits as a man well into his life and very alone, very much looking back rather than forward. In Mahmut, the same emotions I recognized from my melancholy college days seem to have a much different, tragic meaning.

The pacing of the fillm is very deliberate, full of the kind of pregnant silence that polarizes movie fans. Highly recommended, if you're into that kinda thing (which I am).

Friday, November 25, 2005

I found a couple of links down memory lane today. I was googleing "The New Dance Show," hoping to find some video links. No luck, but I did ind two other things of note.

Here's a site dedicated to the history of "jitting" and "jitters." The Jit was a dance craze in Detroit which I don't know if I ever saw done in person, but you can watch the video of the impressive moves here.

This is a column from the Metro Times, back in '99. Brendan Gillen (aka Ectomorph) maintained this bi-weekly column on the rave scene for a few years. It's funny how the music seems to take a backseat to the soap opera and celebrity that was the Detroit rave scene.

Now, someone please post some video clips of The New Dance Show!
In the introduction to the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," Mr. Pevear writes:

"Levin also goes through the same religious crisis that Tolstoy went through while he was writing the novel, and reaches the same precarious conversion at the end."

I found the following passage from Part Five of the novel very familiar. Levin is awkwardly attending Confession, a requirement for marriage.

'Christ stands here invisibly and recieves your confession,' he said, pointing to the crucifix. 'Do you believe everything that is taught by the holy apostolic Church?' the priest went on, turning his eyes from Levin's face and folding his hands under his stole.

'I have doubted, I doubt everything,' Levin said, in a voice he himself found unpleasant, and fell silent.

The priest waited a few seconds to see whether he would say anything more, and then, closing his eyes, in a quick, provincial patter with a stress on the "O"s, said:

'Doubts are in the nature of human weakness, but we must pray that God in his mercy will strenghten us. What particular sins do you have?' he added without the slightest pause, as if trying not to waste time.

'My chief sin is doubt. I doubt everything and for the most part live in doubt.'

'Doubts are in the nature of human weakness,' the priest repeated the same words. 'What is it that you doubt predominantly?'

'I doubt everything. I sometimes even doubt the existence of God,' Levin said involuntarily, and was horrified at the impropriety of what he had said. But Levin's words did not seem to make any impression on the priest.

'What doubts can there be of the existence of God?' he hastened to say with a barely perceptible smile.

Levin was silent.

'What doubts can you have of the existence of the Creator, when you behold His creations?' the priest went on in a quick, habitual manner. 'Who adorned the heavenly firmament with lights? Who clothed the earth in its beauty? How can it be without a creator?' he said, glancing questioningly at Levin.

Levin felt that it would be improper to enter into a philosophical debate with a priest, and therefore he said in answer only what had a direct bearing on the question.

'I don't know,' he said.

'You don't know? How can you doubt that God created everything?' the priest said in merry perplexity.

'I don't understand anything,' Levin said, blushing and feeling that his words were stupid and could not help being stupid in such a situation.

'Pray to God and ask Him. Even the holy fathers had doubts and asked God to confirm their faith. The devil has great power, and we mustn't give in to him. Pray to God, ask Him. Pray to God,' he repeated hurriedly.

The priest was silent for a time, as it pondering.

'You are, as I have heard, about to enter into matrimony with the daughter of my parishoner and spiritual son, Prince Shcherbatsky?' he added with a smile. 'A wonderful girl!'

'Yes,' Levin answered, blushing for the priest. 'Why does he need to ask about it at confession?' he thought.

And the priest, as if answering his thought, said to him:

'You are about to enter into matrimony, and it may be that God will reward you with offspring, is it not so? Well, then, what sort of upbringing can you give your little ones, if you don't overcome in yourself the temptation of the devil who is drawing you into unbelief?' he said in a mild reproach. 'If you love your child, then, being a good father, you will not desire only wealth, luxury and honor for him; you will desire his salvation, his spiritual enlightenment with the light of Truth. Is it not so? What answer will you give when an innocent child asks you: "Papa! Who created everything that delights me in this world - the earth, the waters, the sun, the flowers, the grass?" Will you really say to him, "I don't know"? You cannot not know, since the Lord God in His great mercy has revealed it to you. Or else your little one will ask you: "What awaits me in the life beyond the grave?" What will you tell him, if you don't know anything? How will you answer him? Will you leave him to the temptation of the world and the devil? That's not good!' he said and stopped, inclining his head to one side and looking at Levin with meek, kindly eyes.

Levin made no reply, now not because he did not want to get into an argument with a priest, but because no one had ever asked him such questions; and before his little ones asked him such questions, there was still time to think how to answer.

'You are entering upon a time of life,' the priest went on, 'when one must choose a path and keep to it. Pray to God that in His goodness He may help you and have mercy on you,' he concluded. 'May our Lord and God Jesus Christ, through the grace and bounties of His love for mankind, forgive you, child . . .' and, having finished the prayer of absolution, the priest blessed and dismissed him.

On returning home that day, Levin experienced the joyful feeling of having ended his awkward situation and ended it in such a way that he had not needed to lie. Apart from that, he was left with the strange vague recollection that what this kindly and nice old man had said was not at all as stupid as it had seemed to him at first, and that there was something in it that needed to be grasped.

'Not now, of course,' Levin thought, 'but some time later on.' Levin felt more than ever that there was something unclear and impure in his soul, and that with regard to religion he was in the same position that he so clearly saw and disliked in others and for which he reproached his friend Sviyazhsky.

Levin was especially happy that evening, which he spent with his fiancee at Dolly's, and, explaining his excited state to Stepan Arkadyich, said that he was as happy as a dog that had been taught to jump through a hoop and, having finally understood and done what was demanded of it, squeals, wags its tail, and leaps in rapture on to the tabels and windowsills.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I used to tell everybody who'd listen about a French movie called "Hate." It's fantastic if you can see it. The NYT just put out a piece about the fact that art foretold the Parisian Riots.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

To defy with Promethean constancy a hostile universe, to keep its evil always in view, always actively hated, to refuse no pain that the malice of power can invent, appears to be the duty of all who will not bow before the inevitable. But indignation is still a bondage, for it compels our thoughts to be occupied with an evil world; and in the fierceness of desire from which rebellion springs there is a kind of self-assertion which it is necessary for the wise to overcome. Indignation is a submission of our thoughts but not our desires; the Stoic freedom in which wisdom consists is found in the submission of our desires but not of our thoughts. From the submission of our desires springs the virtue of resignation; from the freedom of our thoughts springs the whole world of art and philosophy, and the vision of beauty by which, at last, we half reconquer the reluctant world. But the vision of beauty is possible only to unfettered contemplation, to thoughts not weighted by the load of eager wishes; and thus freedom comes only to those who no longer ask of life that it shall yield them any of those personal goods that are subject to the mutations of time.

- Bertrand Russell, from his essay "A Free Man's Worship"
Coincidence #1: Today I was driving around listening to NPR like I often do, and I heard a music interstitial that I had remembered hearing before. "What is that?" I thought. I really was curious, to the point of making a mental not to try to check the NPR website. This evening I visited and just by coincidence, downloaded it. It is the opening strains of Sufjan Steven's "Detroit, Lift up your weary head!" I am listening to it for the first time as I write and I approve.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Does this arrest and media parading of a 35 year old Iraqi woman in the Jordanian bombing case smell funny to you? The lack of details and the bizarre photo of a still bomb-equipped would be suicide bomber have got my spidey senses going. Why the heck does she still have the bomb on?
"It's broken," she must have said.
"Oh, if it's broken, then just keep it," the Jordanians might have replied.
Or did they make her put it back on for a photo shoot? Apparently she is still wearing it in a taped confession. That just seems kinda dangerous to me, but hey, I'm no expert. I know damn well though, that if I caught a guy going crazy with a rifle in the public square, my first priority would be getting that firearm out of his hands asap. Unless he told me he it was broken, and then I'd probably be cool.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I picked up the new My Morning Jacket albm "Z' today, and I love it, but I just realized that it is a tainted Sony product. Luckily, I use a Mac so it looks like I'm in the clear, hopefully. Here's more info. Kudos to the folks fighting this fight.

Also picked up "Pure Getz," by The Stan Getz Quartet, on vinyl, used for 4 bucks. It sounds fantastic and is free of computer debillitating code.

*here's the latest on the sony drm software for macs, and links to the backstory.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Is God an Accident? That's the question asked (and answered) in Paul Bloom's article in the December Atlantic.

"Is God an Accident?
Despite the vast number of religions, nearly everyone in the world believes in the same things: the existence of a soul, an afterlife, miracles, and the divine creation of the universe. Recently psychologists doing research on the minds of infants have discovered two related facts that may account for this phenomenon. One: human beings come into the world with a predisposition to believe in supernatural phenomena. And two: this predisposition is an incidental by-product of cognitive functioning gone awry. Which leads to the question . . ."

Online article is restricted to Atlantic subscribers, so take my advice and subscribe to my very favorite mag.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Dover comes correct:

"On Tuesday, the residents of Dover ousted all eight school board members running for re-election who had put their town in a global spotlight and their school district on trial for being the first in the nation to introduce intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in science class. In swept the full Dover Cares slate of eight candidates, which had coalesced to oppose the change in the science curriculum." (Full Article)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Holy Crap. This is terrible. Kansas is the new Ohio. To all the Kansas parents interested in a decent education for your kids, "MOVE!"

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Best sentence I've read in a while:

"When he discovers the fiery energy of Zydeco music on his radio, the rigid monotony of his daily routine takes a spicy turn."

From the back of the DVD copy of "Schultze Gets the Blues," which I also quite enjoyed.

Friday, November 04, 2005

There's more Intelligent Design news this week. It's infuriatingly fascinating. That's why for Halloween this year I donned my "full pirate regalia" to spread the word of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We've all been hearing a lot about "activist judges" over the past few months, but what exactly does it mean, and who does it really refer to? According to these stats, it's not who you might have been led to believe.