Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is It Time Now?

Is it time for me also?

Everybody . . . was full of willingness. . . . I gave body and soul to each shot. — Quotes from Yuharu Atsuta
Hara has avoided the media and the public eye for almost half a century. I read a hilarious article by a journal reporter, who snooped around her house in Kamakura, trying to catch a glimpse of her in seclusion, decades ago. Hara (or Aida) found him peeking through the garden wall, and told him, "No, you don't." He asked if she could give him interview. She told him, "Of course not". Then, she asked if he was hungry. She served him a plate of curry and rice she had prepared. She said, "When you finished it, please leave." The guy went home stuffed with her meal, but empty-handed. I don't know what happened after in his office, but you can imagine the journal editor throwing pencils at him, yelling, "You ate what?" — MI
The disciples approached Jesus and said,
"Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?"
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

"See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost."

— Today's Gospel Reading
Littleness, as she understood it, and mediocrity as we live it—I could not conceive of two more contrary ways of life. — Karl Stern, St. Thérèse of Lisieux
"Setsuko Hara", un poema de Ventura Camacho

David Baldwin, Late Spring (Wikipedia). Adam Mars-Jones, Noriko Smiling. Reviewed by David Cozy. Also: Late Spring.

Vermillion and One Nights, All about Setsuko Hara, Rare Snapshots of Setsuko Hara

Richard Kaufman, Mysterious famous Japanese actress dies

Robert Gottlieb, An Actress Like No Other

Joe Stalvey, To Setsuko Hara, with Love

More than the others

Saturday, August 6, 2011

La Disparue

Simon Kuper, Who Stole the Mona Lisa?

But even before Mona Lisa disappeared she was more than a painting. Leonardo’s feat was to have made her almost a person. “Mona Lisa is painted at eye level and almost life-size, both disconcertingly real and transcendent,” writes Scotti. Many romantics responded to the picture as if to a woman. Mona Lisa received love letters and was given a touch more surveillance than the Louvre’s other works, because some visitors stared at the “aphrodisiac” painting and became “visibly emotional”, writes Coignard. In 1910, one lover had shot himself before her eyes. After the theft, a French psychology professor suggested that the thief might be a sexual psychopath who would enjoy “mutilating, stabbing, defiling” Mona Lisa.

The thief turned out to be Vincenzo Peruggia, a 32-year-old Italian who lived in Paris. He was a house painter-cum-glazier. He suffered from lead poisoning. He lived in one room at 5 rue de l’Hôpital Saint-Louis, in a neighbourhood of eastern Paris that even today, a century on, is largely immigrant and not entirely gentrified. The Mona Lisa had spent two years mostly on his kitchen table. “I fell in love with her,” Peruggia said from jail, repeating the romantic cliché. The court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed him as “mentally deficient”.

Her beauty is lost [as the painting is currently installed]. Unless you are a connoisseur of mob scenes, there is little here to enjoy. You envy Peruggia his time alone with her in his room two miles from here.
Note to myself: Bydan Free [Richard K. Munro], Inner Excellence Matters More than Personal Appearance

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kierkegaard: How Is Human Existence Possible?

Like all religious thinkers, Kierkegaard places in the centre the question: How is human existence possible? All through the Nineteenth Century this question—which before had been the core of Western thought—was not only highly unfashionable; it seemed senseless and irrelevant.

It is hardly possible to exaggerate the differences between Rousseau's "General Will," Hegel's concept of history as the unfolding of ideas, and the Marxian theory of the individual's determination through his objectively given class situation. But they all gave the same answer to the question of human existence: there is no such thing, there is no such question! Ideas and citizens exist, but no human beings. What is possible is merely the realization of ideas in and through society..

It may be true that human existence in freedom is not possible; which is, indeed, asserted by Hitler and the Communists as well as, less openly, by all those well-meaning "social engineers" who believe in social psychology, propaganda, re-education, or administration, as a means of molding and forming the individual. But at least the question, How is human existence possible? can no longer be regarded as irrelevant. For those who profess to believe in freedom there is no more relevant inquiry.

— Peter Drucker, The Unfashionable Kierkegaard (1949)
Kierkegaard's own answer to this important metaphysical and political question might have been different had he seen you. And the best answer that I know of is: Ozu's family dramas.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Unsophisticated View

One evening in the theater something very exciting happened: The play to be performed was Chasja, the Orphan. Chasja comes from a Ukrainian village, is young, healthy, and very pretty, and she tells people exactly what she thinks. Her poor village father brings her to her rich relatives in the city, where she works hard as a maid and waits on everyone. She falls in love with the son of the house, a good-for-nothing. Now they are all dressed up and in great excitement. They, on the stage, are going to the theater! Then Chasja sees the son of the house, with whom she is in love, steal a gold brooch and hide it. The aunt wants to wear the brooch, and everyone looks for it. There is great confusion. Suspicion falls on Chasja. Now the wicked aunt asks Chasja if she knows where the brooch is. She says, “No!” “Swear by your dead mother that you do not know where it is!” But Chasja will not swear by her dead mother. The aunt is now convinced that Chasja is the thief, seizes her by her two long blond braids, ties her to the bed with them, and screams, “Where is the brooch?” And Chasja says, “I don't know!” And now the aunt gives her a left and a right and repeats the same question and gets the same answer and goes on hitting the poor orphan again and again. Chasja kneels there, tied by her braids, taking the blows and looking proud. The house is in tremendous excitment. We all hate the aunt and sympathize with Chasja. Now the aunt bellows even louder: “Where is the brooch? Where is the brooch?” and boxes the poor orphan’s ears without ever stopping. And suddenly a man who is standing near me in the gallery pulls a revolver out of his pocket and shouts out louder even than the people on the stage: “Beast! Untie her this minute or I’ll shoot you down like a dog!”

The blows on the stage cease. The house is in tumult. Everyone turns and looks at my neighbor, a devil-may-care youth of about twenty, who now was white as a sheet, has pocketed his revolver, and is trembling with excitement. . . .

The cloth wall has already been lowered. The lights are turned on in the house now. Groups are quarreling, arguing, all at once;—the young man has disappeared! Chasja’s poor father—Motje Schtrachl, otherwise Jidl Guttman—is standing before the curtain; he raises his hand. Little by little the people quiet down, and he begins to speak very softly: “My dear listeners, may I say something?” Some clap, others call: “Speak up, Guttman, speak up, Motje! Quiet! Quiet!” Gradually there is silence. And he begins again: “My dear friends, it is a hard thing for me to step out of my character, but I must say a few words in explanation.” And he begins, gently and quietly, like a father explaining something to his children: “You know that Madam Fischler is married to the famous Dr. Fischler and has a father and mother—God be thanked, and may they live to be a hundred and twenty! But art demands that, for this evening, she is an orphan. You know too that Madam Rosenberg has six children and is the best mother in the world and has a heart of gold—but art demands that tonight she is the wicked aunt and hits Madam Fischler. I myself am the president of the Bnai Jakob Synagogue—but art demands that this evening I am Motje Schtrachl, Chasja’s poor father. And so I could go on and tell you who all of us are in real life, and who we are obliged to be for art’s sake. Every afternoon around five o’clock you can see us all sitting in the Cafe Abazia, and we are the best of friends. Even our children are friends. And Madam Rosenberg and Madam Fischler are particularly intimate friends. Now here’s a young man—I’m sure he has a good heart, but he doesn’t know all these things I have been telling you—he gets excited and threatens to shoot his revolver. I ask you: Is that right?” “No!” shouts the house. “Throw him out! Bravo, Guttman! Bravo, Fischler! Bravo, Rosenberg!” Again and again there are shouts and thunderous clapping. The poor old father, the actor and president of a synagogue, Jidl Guttman, raises his hand, and there is quiet again: “Well,” he says, “shall we go on?” And again there is a thunder of applause and agreement and cheers! And the house is darkened, and the play begins again where it had stopped. Chasja’s wicked aunt, Madam Rosenberg, who is a mother herself and has a heart of gold, again asks Chasja, the orphan, who is really the wife of Dr. Fischler and —thank God—still has her parents: “Where is the brooch?” And she answers more loudly and strongly than before, “I don’t know!” “What, you don’t know?” says the wicked aunt and the good mother, Madam Rosenberg, and grabs Chasja the orphan, Dr. Fischler’s wife, by her braids, ties her to the bed again, just as before, and shouts threateningly, “Where is the brooch?” And Madam Chasja, the orphan, cries, “I don’t know,” and Aunt Rosenberg gives her a left and a right again! And again Chasja cries loudly and with pride, “I don’t know! I don’t know!” and lefts and rights land on her ears again and again and again!

So, that evening, because of an excitable young man, who surely had a good heart, the delicate, beautiful Madam Fischler was beaten twice over! Poor Madam Fischler.

— Alexander Granach

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Do You Like Musical Comedy?

Obama is not just a disappointment, he is a danger. He is the most blatantly dishonest person I have ever witnessed in public life. — marymmccurnin
I seemed to be looking into the heart of the criminal—a cold thing, an awful thing. I said to myself, "I shall forget this, we shall all forget it; but it will be there. What I have seen is not an illusion. It is the truth. I have seen death in the heart of this people." For to look at the agony of a fellow-being and remain aloof means death in the heart of the onlooker. — John Jay Chapman, Coatesville Address (1912)
There is no reality in a single phrase uttered in politics, no meaning in one single word of any of it. There is no man in public life who stands for anything. They are shadows; they are phantasmagoria. At best they cater to the better elements; at worst they frankly subserve the worst. There is no one who stands for his own ideas himself, by himself, a man. If American politics does not look to you like a joke, a tragic dance; if you have enough blindness left in you, on any plea on any excuse to vote for the Democratic party or the Republican party (for at present machine and party are one), or any candidate who does not stand for a new era, — then you yourself pass into the slide of the magic-lantern; you are an exhibit, a quaint product, a curiosity of the American soil. You are part of the problem, and you must be educated and drawn forward to real life. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation, 1900
Adieu, fière cité. — Didon, in Berlioz's Les Troyens

Pause is religion. — John Jay Chapman
It is impossible to write a script unless you know who is going to play the part, just as a painter cannot paint unless he knows what colors he is going to use. Name stars have never been of much interest to me. What is important is the character of the actor. It is not a matter of how good an actor is; it is a matter of what he is as a human being. It is not the character he projects. It is what he really is. — Ozu, quote by missingozu
All beautiful human things are dated. Whores are always with us and virgins are born every day, but the world will never see another Setsuko Hara.
Any system of morality or conjunction of circumstances that tends to make men tell the truth as they see it will tend to produce what the world will call art, If the statement be accurate, the world will call it beautiful. Put it as you will, art is self assertion and beauty is accuracy. Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh. — John Jay Chapman, Causes and Consequences (1898)
The truth is, we ought to thank God when any man or body of men make the discovery that there is such a thing as absolute pitch, or absolute honesty, or absolute personal and intellectual integrity. A few years of this spirit will identify certain men with the fundamental idea that truth is stronger than consequences, and these men will become the most serious force and the only truly political force in their community. Their ambition is illimitable, for you cannot set bounds to personal influence. But it is an ambition that cannot be abused. A departure from their own course will ruin any one of them in a night, and undo twenty years of service. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation, 1900
The Devil is a cynic.
I say that our need is new life, and that books and resolutions will not save us, but only such disposition in our hearts and souls as will enable the new life, love, force, hope, virtue, which surround us always, to enter into us. — John Jay Chapman, Coatesville
Fight the mechanical. — Jacques Barzun
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortals, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. — C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
The world values the seer above all men, and has always done so. Nay, it values all men in proportion as they partake of the character of seers. The Elgin Marbles and a decision of John Marshall are valued for the same reason. What we feel in them is a painstaking submission to facts beyond the author's control, and to ideas imposed upon him by his vision. So with Beethoven's Symphonies and Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations — with any conceivable output of the human mind of which you approve. You love them because you say, These things were not made, they were seen. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
We all know individuals so harmoniously framed that we say, If theirs were the common temper of mankind, we should be happy. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
We may be sure that we are upon the edge of a better era when the old moral commonplaces begin to glow like jewels and the stones to testify. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
He becomes the thing he looks on, and he accomplishes something he does not understand. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
Do not think you are wasting your time, even if no one joins you. The prejudice against the individual is part of the evil you are fighting . . . . It may be that you must wait seven centuries for an audience, or it may be that in two years your voice will be heeded. If you are really a forerunner of better times, the times will appear and explain you. It will then turn out that your [act] was the key note of the national life. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
What you really want is that every man you meet shall drop his business and devote his entire life and energy to your cause. — John Jay Chapman, Practical Agitation (1900)
Your devoted slave.