on the passing of Jimmy Dean; his song "Big Bad John" (1961); and a proper consideration (i.e., thus herein is recounted an unwritten follow-up to an unwritten blog post), from Wagner through the era of Sam Cooke (i.e., mike stand as percussion), of musical compositions that incorporate the sound of metallic clanking
It is possible to learn more of the world by producing a single opera, or even conducting a single orchestral rehearsal, than by ten years reading in the Library of the British Museum.
on how the urban geography of NYC's West Village streets ("irregular" pattern; hub design; one-way; narrow; good for pedestrians, bad for police vehicles; confusingly and arbitrarily named; w/ layout unfamiliar to cops from outside the neighborhood, etc.) enabled the Stonewall Riots, as per David Carter's Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Gay Revolution
a survey of artwork by artists that has involved destruction of books (tearing, carving, dissecting, disassembling then painting, soaking, scorching, kiln firing, etc.)
on the unfortunate slide into increasing disuse of the useful phrase "a confusion of purposes"
on Edmund Wilson's description of one way we can tell if we are bored by a piece of writing:
This tale I found completely unreadable. The story and the writing both showed a surface so wooden and dead that I could not keep my mind on the page.
(on the work of Margery Allingham, from Wilson's "Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?" (1945), collected in Classics and Commercials - A Literary Chronicle of the Forties)
on the Blair Peach report, LKJ, and the era when one could receive one's current events news from a record player
on Mao-era Chinese words for loafing:
moyanggong (pretend to work but actually only dawdling along);
daigong (slowing down);
tuotuo lala (stretching out)
on C. Wright Mills 1958 observation about the word "culture":
one of the spongiest words in social science . . . In practice, the concept “culture” is more often a loose reference to social milieux plus “tradition” than an adequate idea of social structure.
on J. Lanier on the increasingly converging logics of capitalism and search engine
on Franz Reuleaux's observations about the mental break necessary for the takeover of sewing machinofacture, as stated in his The Kinematics of Machinery: Outlines of a Theory of Machines (1876):
Attempts were made for many years to construct a sewing-machine which should produce work exactly the same as hand-stitching, but they always resulted in failure. As soon as this idea was completely discarded, and a new form of stitch specially adapted for the machine was looked for, the spell was broken, and very shortly the sewing-machine appeared. . .
The attempt to imitate nature in the machine rests upon an altogether mistaken idea, and it was when this was entirely thrown overboard that machine development received the impetus under which it is still making such rapid progress.
a close examination of the first version, from 1935, of W. Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," as newly translated & published in Grey Roomno. 39, with special attempt to pinpoint the precise portions that WB cut from the second, 1936 version in Iluminations; including, it seems, a fascinating digression about AstaNielsen, "Europe's First Lady of the Silver Screen":
The demand that a performance be delivered without direct experiential contact to a situation that is not subject to the rules of the game is common to all tests, athletic as well as cinematic. Asta Nielsen occasionally demonstrated this in an impressive way. During a break at the studio -- a film based on Dostoevsky's Idiot was being shot
[TiR's (pointless) research suggests that the film was Irrende Seelen (1921), directed by Carl Froelich]
-- Asta Nielsen, who was playing Aglaya, stood in conversation with a friend . . . during their conversation, [she] suddenly saw the actress playing Nastassya walking back and forth, devouring her breakfast at the back of the studio. "Look, that's what I call movie acting," said Nielsen to her visitor, looking at him with eyes that had filled with tears at the sight of her colleague, as the coming scene called for -- without so much as bending a brow.
a delightful passage -- not only because the anecdote sounds like one that WB could have struck upon through enthusiastic scouring of a German equivalent of Photoplaymagazine -- not only because we wonder whether his excitement somehow to splice in this fun story may have temporarily overridden considerations of whether & how it supported his essay's argument -- but also because of the enjoyment that came to TiR from involuntarily 'ambiguizing' the story, and Die Asta's comment . . .
[indeed TiR involuntarily reads too much into everything . . . except for the cases where we ought to do, but cluelessly don't, or do too late, usually w/ pathetic and humbling outcomes (or blog posts)]
. . . to ask,
"What did she really mean?
"What exactly was Asta Nielsen attempting to demonstrate to her on-set visitor?
"Did she intend merely to demonstrate her ability to cry on command?
"Or, instead, her ability to do so even amidst the banality and chaos of a working film stage?
"Was Nielsen crying fortuitous tears of hunger and frustration, because she was forced to film a scene during the morning while cast and crew enjoyed their breakfasts?
"Or, instead, did she know how to summon from within herself well-timed tears that were in fact those of disgust, as she devoured with her eyes the sight of a coworker undignifiedly stuffing her face?
[What were Nielsen's feelings generally towards the other unnamed actress (possibly LydaSalmonova, wife of Paul Wegener (and his costar in Der Golem), who considered Nielsen his favorite actress and was one of her closest friends)? How did those feelings aid or detract from her on camera performance? Nielsen's character of Aglaia in The Idiot, for what it's worth, is meant to display some possible feelings of jealousy against Nastasya, her romantic rival.]
"If the latter, was Nielsen's pre-performance secret to scan her surroundings then focus her gaze on that which she considered to be the most emotionally approriate object (or person) in the room, so as to help herself get into character?
"If so, was she demonstrating the secret of some kind of proto-Method, real-time Emotional Sense Memory acting technique?
on Gustawa Jarecka's "The Last Stage of Resettlement Is Death" (1942), a writing from the Warsaw Ghetto intended either to be "driven under the wheel of history like a wedge" (as per the English-language edition of Der Spiegel) or "hurled like a stone under history’s wheel in order to stop it" (as per historian Samuel Kassow's Who Will Write Our History? (2007)), depending, TiR gathers, on how you translate the original Polish.
on a remark from Eduardo Galeano, interviewed last autumn:
JR: Is there a zeitgeist now, a spirit of the age we inhabit?
EG: The world today goes about like a blind person caught in the middle of gunfire.
TiR's Galeano-inspired curiosity: How many blind persons in fact "go about" in gunfire, metaphorically at least, and serve as active duty personnel in, say, the US military? There are some, yes. One such person's story is here.
on what today's undergrads allegedly love to write stories about, according to separate essays written by two writing instructors, in this year's Atlantic Monthly fiction issue:
on how the history of one variety of queueing (by schoolchildren, graduates, soldiers, etc.) often seems intertwined with the history of alphabetization (i.e., by surname); and how the latter history seems to lead us back to information management systems originated in the ancient library of Alexandria.
on why Libération is probably TiR's favorite newspaper this summer: its addictive summer series of daily profiles of eccentrics, or "personnalités hors normes," only some of whom are French, including:
. . . & it continues as if working in part from TiR's own list of favorite personages, with Cab Calloway and Quentin Crisp.]
. . . and our wish that a newspaper in every country in the world would respond with its own selection of eccentrics.
on philosopher Felix Kaufmann's delightful songs from the Mises Privatseminar circle's cafe evenings in Weimar-era Vienna, including, for example, this excerpt from his "Pure Theory" ("Die Reine Theorie"):
Thinking begins at seven And lasts 'til nearly eleven But certainty's supply is never short. Now all ears in suspension, Everyone’s attention, Turn to him with wisdom nonpareil. With knowledge apodictic, Dinner looms realistic. Theory alone cannot our hunger quell.
on examples of reconcilation via Facebook
on "teh" acceptance, the evolutionary plasticity of language, and its interplay with technology: Should the QWERTY keyboard be redesigned to reverse the H and E keys' positions, so that when a certain percentage of typists accidentally but inevitably misspell the word "the," the resulting article will turn out orthographically correct? Alternately, if the keyboard go unredesigned, how long til "teh" becomes accepted as a legitimate spelling variation?
on choreographer Kelly Nipper on "girdle scales" and "equator scales"