Monday, September 16, 2013

Interesting article about acting...

Here's a piece worth reading about acting. Interestingly, I noted at the end it was written by David Thompson, whose self-indulgent, digressive, frequently nasty, and in all but one instance subpar work I am otherwise familiar with from 'The New Republic' (his latest contribution there asserted that because Michelle Pfeiffer appears, to him, to no longer have fun on the screen--and was no longer sparklingly attractive--she could no longer honestly be called 'Michelle,' but should have to opt instead for something muddier like 'Maud'--like I say, don't read his work, elsewhere):

But this one is worth reading, notwithstanding some serious deficiencies in the research (Damon was thoroughly 'method' in his performance in '...Ripley,' and his pretenses within the role were never something the audience couldn't see through in a moment, and so are quite unremarkable--the Damon section of the article is a weak link, really) and the writer's understanding of his subject (i.e. the various schools of Stanislavski-based acting, and what they advocated, and what 'the Method' is/was). With all that in mind, it's a very useful article anyway--legitimately points up a few excesses and deficiencies of method actors in comparison to, say, Olivier.

Re: Olivier, it occurs to me to respond, here, to one of the commenters on the WSJ site, who claimed, possibly at least partly correctly, that actors of the Jimmy Stewart / Cary Grant era (i.e. not Stanislavski-influenced) could not effectively communicate using your full 'instrument,' (i.e. the body--and my words, not theirs) the same way a modern method performer can.To that, it's easy to respond: go back and watch some Lawrence Olivier movies. I suggest just the opening scene or two of his version of Hamlet.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Plato on poetry's relationship to truth...and that of philosophy. Aristotle adds a few neoclassical (as it were) assertions about art

 Plato apparently says, in his Ion, that poetic works come from a divine madness (or at least an inspiration of such nature, depending on how literally/seriously you take him on this), and that 'Because the poet is subject to this divine madness, it is not his/her function to convey the truth.[wikipedia-'mimesis'] Thus, Plato says, truth is the concern only (or, like, mostly--at least in terms of....okay, there's clearly a massive gap in this formulation, because he's putting together a dichotomy of humanities that doesn't include, say, history. Anyway) or primarily of philosophy. Interesting.

Wikipedia goes on about Aristotle's contribution, the beginning of which is:
' Aristotle also defined mimesis as the perfection and imitation of nature. Art is not only imitation but also the use of mathematical ideas and symmetry in the search for the perfect, the timeless....'

The article goes on:
'...and contrasting being with becoming. Nature is full of change, decay, and cycles, but art can also search for what is everlasting and the first causes of natural phenomena. Aristotle wrote about the idea of 
four causes in nature. The first formal cause is like a blueprint, or an immortal idea. The second cause is the material, or what a thing is made out of. The third cause is the process and the agent, in which the artist or creator makes the thing. The fourth cause is the good, or the purpose and end of a thing, known as telos.'

There's plenty more, but that's for you to look into, if you choose. This is plenty to chew on.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Wallace Shawn reads his work

A favorite actor of mine (also a playwright whose work I'm not familiar with) reads from his book of nonfiction essays, 'Essays.'

I feel a bit strange about this weird, since it seems to come from a place that's rather elitist and upper crust, a background and worldview (which he claims to be 'recovering from' in my view) I do not share, nothing about his seeming way of speaking from a stereotypical New York City centrism or, in some cases, generic left-wingery, is anything I identify with. But it's Wallace Shawn, so here he is:

*God, I think I like him less after hearing him read his work, here. All the hypocrisies and feelings of superiority he's pointing out to criticize here are abominable ways of thinking and being I have never shared in the first place. To me, they do not paint modern northeastern-upper-class-social-moderate-liberal-elites (the people who used to be Rockefeller Republicans and now vote Democratic because the modern GOP opposes gay marriage and is just too gauche for the dinner table, don't you think, Mr. Twiddlefingers) in a favorable light to me.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

'Massacres that would dwarf Hitler's or Ghengis Kahn's'

I wasn't aware of this quote.

“If the Zionists dare establish a state, the massacres we would unleash would dwarf anything which Genghis Khan and Hitler perpetrated.”
Rahman Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, April 30th 1946

Knew for a while that the 22 countries who collectively make up the Arab League (and suppress the 15-20 million strong Kurdish nation with assistance from Iran and the Turks) had made very clear they intended war in 1947-8, but this is a stronger statement from the secretary or an Arab head of state than I was aware of.

Here's another gem, from 1948, just as seven Arab armies began their assault on nascent Israel:
“This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”
-Rahman Azzam Pasha

My source is this Izrapundit post, which lionizes one of the Irgun's better moments. It's a terribly interesting read, but keep in mind as Konig speaks in glowing terms of the Irgun fighters that they would later commit the Jewish state's most prominent war crime, massacring nearly an entire Arab village with no tactical or strategic justification (the casualties were over 100), and then claiming to have killed even more than they had in order to terrify local Arabs into further flight (which was already ongoing) or compliance. Just saying. The Arabs may have failed in their attempt to wipe the Jewish state from the face of the earth, but Menachem Begin was as much murderer as hero.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A bit of conversation on politics from social media

It began as a couple of apparently Libertarian fellows made, in my opinion, foolishly over-broad statements about the uniform evil of government, and I wished to preserve this conversation as, well, what it is (names and links redacted to preserve tender privacies, and I should clarify that, while I am sympathetic to a man who keeps it up when he's the only one left (notwithstanding a condescending statement or two on his part), I wish the quality of discourse were higher on all sides).

I should clarify, that none of us, neither the bear nor others weighing in on the same side, as it were, of this discussion, are, to my knowledge, folk who are insensitive to the phenomenon of government doing bad things sometimes and, more specifically, being penetrated by outside interests that subvert its aims. Nevertheless. To the content! (which includes a fairly large, if historically pretty grounded, rant my moi-meme):

  • (Enter a social media conversation in media res, as cynicism abounds in the wake of Edward Snowden releasing further details, with the immense evils of the US discussed. The charge that the US is entirely an immoral agent was broached by the author--who did not comment further, below:)
  • Cave Bear:
    ...As for the US not being a moral agent, well, tell that to all the women who'll be forced out of their businesses, out of school, out of driving [more rights listed]...etc., once the US leaves Af-Pak.
  • Tim  a lot of people would also lose their jobs and become alcoholics if walmart were to leave my small town. it doesn't mean that walmart's central motives have anything to do with morality.
  • Cave Bear No. However, Wal-Mart employs people as a necessary part of its business model, and at the lowest cost possible, especially in benefits, whereas if the US were just interested in a gas pipeline across Afghanistan (as, by some accounts, the Bush administration partly was), they wouldn't bother trying to open thousands of schools to women or maintain law and order beyond what was minimally necessary to secure the path of such a pipeline; given how much money we spend on such wars--under administrations such as Obama's, which does not have ties to the energy industry, as well as Bush's--our strategic moves speak to larger and different goals than just creating profit for Halliburton. It's not like it's a subject that hasn't been intensively studied by security, geopolitics and energy experts the world over, and, no, the typical answer does not come down to 'they just want to create corporate profits.' But I suppose they could all be in on the conspiracy, couldn't they.
  • Tim:  governments and most large corporations do good things to the extent that it serves their long term interests. they work to meet a certain quota of making citizens happy because it's simply easier that way. but it's still about the bottom line. it's still about maintaing, and expanding, the financial and political strength of the institution. sometimes good things can come out of that for secondary reasons. which is great, and we can all feel good about that. but no government or corporate institution uses their time and resources simply to go above and beyond, just for the goodness of the act in and of itself. and in 2013, it strange to me that anybody could even entertain that kind of illusion anymore. it's not conspiracy theory, it's blatant common sense.
  • Cave Bear: Right, no government ever did anything good for the sake of that thing alone. It was all about power. I'll remember that when reconsidering the expansion of government power implied in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Social Security Act of 1965--which did indeed, as Reagan warned us, lead to a descent into tyrranical socialism (and not just subsidized, cheap programs to provide much-needed health-care for the poor and elderly). In addition, I'll remember the use of US 'government power and resources' in the late 1940s and 1950 to rebuild Europe's economy through the Marshall plan, and facilitate West Germany's reconstruction to the point we could withdraw as they domestically elected their own democratic leadership--no doubt this increased our power over Germany above and beyond what we could have maintained through our US-appointed governor-generalship alone; after all, the US is widely regarded as the de facto suzerain of a unified Germany to this day, notwithstanding massive disagreements over economic and security policy.

    I'll also have to review my assumption that US regulation of the financial industry starting with the Securities Act of 1933 was simply an attempt to stabilize the US economic system and avoid another Great Depression--indeed, in retrospect, it WAS primarily a power grab, wasn't it! Why, the financial titans of 1935-1980 could barely issue a single bad loan or leverage themselves up a single trillion dollars they didn't have without the government peeping over their shoulder! Good thing Reagan and his successors rolled back regulation starting in 1981, allowing the financial industry to be free and serve the common good since then; self-regulation is, indeed, a proven success.

    In the meantime, I have to admit it's quite obvious that progressive movement era Federal outlawing of things like child labor was another power-grab over industry--they have never been truly at liberty, since. Simply a PR-friendly excuse to extend the heavy hand of state power over the virtuous entrepreneurs and managers who wished to use the willingly given labor of vigorous, red-cheeked ten-year olds at ten cents an hour to power American dynamism into the twentieth century. And Theodore Roosevelt was clearly wrong to use the power of government to protect the interests of the broader populace from private monopolization of industry through his (in retrospect, widely despised) 'trust busting' and other laws aimed--we were told--to 'increase competition and fairness in the marketplace.' Granted, prices did come down in monopolized industries for a while, making previously unaffordable products available to the growing middle class (created partly through the heinous power of trade-unions, government-sanctioned since the Wagner Act to negotiate on an even basis with employers for a fair portion of profits), but at what cost to the abstract principles of freedom? Freedom for big business, I mean, obviously. Not for, like, regular people who don't possess institutional and corporate power on their own--such members of society do best when following the directions of captains of industry; as we can see, this system functions better, today in the modern economy, when government support of 'unions' and 'competition' has been rolled back in favor of greater control of the marketplace by the large, private enterprises which form the backbone of our free society. Yes, wages are down a little, and 121% of the economic benefits of the recovery have been captured by the top 1% of Americans, while the middle class lacks the bargaining power or legal protection to maintain its economic status, but is this not a small price to pay for greater freedom from the heavy, self-serving hand of government? Were not the Bush II years truly a miracle of the free market? Why, eight-million jobs were created during his era, until five million were lost at the end (temporarily! A blip!) and several million more during the first months of his successor. Granted, the peaks of the 21st century economy never quite approached those of the 1960s, when government played such a larger role in regulating clean air, workplace safety, and all that nonsense, and unemployment typically hovered around 3 or 4%--but at what cost, then, to the cherished ideals of our nation, to the businessman's freedom to work his employees to the bone without paying them a dime more than strictly necessary for them to survive? --And they are free, free to quit, we must remember, at any time! There are other jobs to be had, after all--well, actually, no there aren't--still four applicants available for every opening, nationwide, but the theory, you must admit, is truly beautiful, and has served us well, in the sense that our economic performance has been very nearly half as good since the age of Reagan started than during the oppressive era in our history--in which Americans generally trusted and expected government to do the right thing and protect their interests--we now know, ironically, as the 'New Deal Coalition' era of 1932-1970.

    We must always, and eternally, remember Reagan's formulation, in 1981, that 'government is the problem'! And reject, with our ballots and our minds and all the energy of our meager hearts, such foolish thoughts of FDR's or TR's as 'The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the goverment.' Fools, both of them--I mean, granted, the former led us successfully through our greatest economic crisis, returning us to prosperity from 25% unemployment, and also used a wing of the government known as 'the military' to defeat the most dangerous threat to human civilization the world has ever known (I forget the name, Nazi-ism, Fascism, something--it doesn't really matter--in any case, FDR wasn't able to maintain his dictatorial powers, as the US dissolved 93% or so of its forces after the war, ending his power-grab and allowing freedom to be restored), but that is really minor stuff, the exception that proves the rule.
  • Kalju  careful, [redacted] is [flattering statement, in which I am likened to a steamroller, also redacted out of embarrassment]
  • Clancy  The claim that the government ONLY serves capitalism is insane. As a critical theorist, I'm sensitive to the idea that capitalism infiltrates and dictates the trajectory of much legislation. To say that the ONLY thing the government is after is its own bottom line I rank right up there with the worst a priori, unsubstantiated, unprovable and inane drivel that the Tea Party vomits out on a regular basis. It's the worst sort of naive, unresearched and useless kind of accusation that is neither productive nor generative of useful discourse.
  • Kalju  clancy's more wrecking ball, apparently
  • Tim  you guys think too much.
  • Kalju  thank you sir
    5 hours ago · Unlike · 2
  • Clancy Yea, I'll take that.
    5 hours ago · Unlike · 1
    In fairness, the gentleman exited with grace thereafter.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Why deploy a peace-keeping force if you're going to leave at the first sign of opposition!?

Austria to the mideast: 'Now that the Golan has actually become a security issue, and our soldiers might have to do their job (and a Filipino soldier has been 'injured'), we are withdrawing them from the peacekeeping force there. It's unacceptable to us to keep soldiers deployed if they might face danger.'

"If our peacekeeping missions ever become bothersome to the regional ambitions of any of your actors, just make enough noise and 'chaos' so it looks like we might actually have to fight someone, and we'll just withdraw. We are completely useless."
- Austria

"PS: Remember how the UN had 30,000+ troops in Cambodia in the 90s to safeguard democratic elections and enforce a transition to peaceful governance...but we didn't actually support the democratic winners in implementing the results of those elections after militias threatened violence--because holding the line on our mandate would have disturbed the peace--and let the loser, Hun Sen, formerly of the Khmer Rouge, take power as part of a coalition, and then execute a coup to become sole dictator of the country? This is sort of like that. If you're confused about the point of deploying troops to enforce a UN mandate without the will to even keep them there when ancillary conflicts suggest potential danger, we share your confusion, but we're leaving anyway."

</end rant>

From the article:

'In Israel, the troop withdrawal was read as a betrayal of the United Nation's commitment to regional security, pledged during Israeli disengagement from Syria in 1974. Austria, along with troops from India and the Philippines, has provided a critical portion of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (Undof) charged with ensuring quiet on this sensitive border for the past 40 years.

"The only reason you want anyone there in the first place is in time of trouble," one senior Israeli official told the Guardian. "For the first time in 40 years, it's not easy so the presence ends? That sends a very problematic message to the Israeli public.

"This means that in any future deal with the Palestinians, we won't accept any disengagement forces from the United Nations because at the first sign of trouble, they'll disappear." '

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Clonable mammoth? (corpse found with liquid blood)

The frozen (but not too frozen) body of a mammoth has been found in Siberia in pure ice, with perfectly preserved muscle tissue 'the natural red color of fresh meat' and liquid blood that ran out of the corpse when it was penetrated. I suppose it's extremely unlikely that, even though the blood was liquid at present, it hasn't been frozen and unfrozen many times in the last ten-thousand years, eliminating the likelihood of intact cells. Still: