Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

It goes round and round.  In a Goodreads reading group I sometimes indulge in the book of the moment is Karel Capek’s WAR WITH THE NEWTS.  It’s one I had read long, long in the past and on re-reading am finding entirely enjoyable, at least as of chapter five or so.  It starts however with a sea captain named van Toch who works largely in the then Dutch East Indies, and one of his ports of call, mentioned several times, is Surabaya.

So big deal, right?  Except there’s a song by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht called “Surabaya Johnny,” from a musical by Brecht and Weill with Elisabeth Hauptmann called HAPPY END — with a story line much like GUYS AND DOLLS and with nothing to do, really, with the East Indies (it takes place in Chicago and also includes “The Bilbao Song,” though the action has nothing to do with Spain either) — and I found the tune going around in my head.  And . . . anyway you can hear it now too, sung by Lotte Lenya (who didn’t actually sing it in the play when it was produced in Germany, but never mind), by pressing here.  And to read the lyrics in English, press here.

An interest of mine is the study of artists other than writers, how they are inspired, how they translate experience into art.  On occasion this vice is fed by the Indiana University Cinema in collaboration with IU’s Eskenazi Museum of Art in a series of films about artists preceded by lectures at the museum.  An example last fall about Van Gogh featured the movie LOVING VINCENT (cf. September 9 2018); yesterday’s double-header for spring coupled an opening talk by Asian Art curator Judy Stubbs, including slides from the Museum’s collection, with the 2015 anime MISS HOKUSAI.

To quote the IU Cinema catalog:  This award-winning Japanese animated film, based on a historical manga series by Hinako Sugiura, tells the story of Katsushika Oi (ca. 1800-ca. 1866), an artist who worked in the shadow of her famous father — the great ukiyo-e print designer Katsushika Hokusai.  In addition to exploring issues of familiar relationships, gender roles, and the mystical power of art, the film depicts life in 19th-century Edo and alludes to some of Hokusai’s famous images, such as “The Great Wave.”  The movie itself, which begins in the year 1814 when Oi would have been about fourteen years old, is a series of fictionalized vignettes, often, as the blurb says, showing echoes of some of Hokusai’s paintings — as well as a few by Oi herself who learned from her father as well as assisting him — but to me the main interest was in a more general sense of what art should mean.  Thus scenes were included of the daughter taking a younger sister blind from birth under her wing, verbally “showing” her things they experience together, but also sometimes harsh criticisms of lesser artists by Hokusai and others, including even Oi whose paintings of women (e.g. “Beauty Viewing Cherry Blossoms at Night” shown below) were claimed to lack appropriate sensuality.

But then Hokusai, as perhaps too many artists, seems to have been a lousy father (the younger sister, in the movie, lived with her mother apart from her father who barely acknowledged her), Oi’s name itself — the name she used in signing her paintings — can be translated roughly as “Hey You!” with the suggestion that that’s how her father usually addressed her.  Nevertheless in real life Oi, who was married briefly, came back to her father and stayed with him until his death in 1849 at about the age of ninety.

But again the main interest for me is about art, and the artist whose works included the print series THIRTY-SIX VIEWS OF MOUNT FUJI in the early 1830s (when he would have been just over 70 years old), who wrote shortly afterward:  From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking into account.  At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants.  And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvelous and divine.  When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own. (Wikipedia)  And so the movie, while not quite quoting that, did end with the words Hokusai presumably said on his deathbed:  “If only Heaven will give me just another ten years . . .   Just another five more years, then I could become a real painter.”

This is mostly unclassified, but weird and strangely beautiful, from Viral Busted via YouTube, brought to our attention courtesy of Rodger Cunningham:  “When a 10-Year-Old Girl Covers Metallica.”  The girl is named Jadyn Rylee, and can be heard here.

Perhaps this is one for us, as writers.

Van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions and though he worried about his mental stability, he often neglected his physical health, did not eat properly and drank heavily.  His friendship with Gauguin ended after a confrontation with a razor, when in a rage, he severed part of his own left ear.  He spent time in psychiatric hospitals, including a period at Saint-Rémy.  After he discharged himself and moved to the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise near Paris, he came under the care of the homoeopathic doctor Paul Gachet.  His depression continued and on 27 July 1890, Van Gogh shot himself in the chest with a revolver.  He died from his injuries two days later.  (Wikipedia)

Sunday, roughly from noon to 3, saw the fall semester’s opening “Art and a Movie” doubleheader of a lecture/presentation on “the artist’s technique and influences” by Arts Museum Curator Nan Brewer (including the department’s own copy of a rare Van Gogh etching of Dr. Gachet) followed by the film LOVING VINCENT at the Indiana University Cinema.  Only six weeks separated Van Gogh’s leaving the hospital proclaiming himself as feeling cured, a prolific six weeks and under a possibly himself melancholic Dr. Gachet’s care, and his taking his own life — if indeed it was suicide.  There were no witnesses to the actual shooting and even some disagreement as to where it happened, out in a field where he liked to paint or in a local barn.  And so the film, while covering the painter’s whole life, ostensibly takes place a short period after Van Gogh’s death and seeks to answer the question why.

But the film itself is a work of art.  While perhaps not the world’s only “hand-painted feature film” (one thinks, for instance, of Georges Méliès’ 1902 A TRIP TO THE MOON and others like it, where he and his assistants painted directly on the processed film), but, quoting the IU Cinema’s blurb, [i]t weaves nearly 130 of the artist’s iconic paintings into a detective story that is itself a “one-of-a-kind work of art.”  Made over seven years, actors recreated the scenes in front of green screens, then 125 artists hand painted each of the 62,450 frames in Van Gogh’s style.  Voice work by actors like Saoirse Ronan and Chris O’Dowd enhances the experience.

It really has to be seen to be believed, simply on a visual level.  But add to that the tragedy of an artistic genius, driven by whatever demons came with it, to end after only about a decade of fortunately very prolific work and LOVING VINCENT is, in my view, a film not to be missed.

And so, for something a little bit different, or, what can I say?  Death:  It is the ultimate unknowable.  Unless — like these zombies and/or resuscitated people who shared their stories on reddit — you die during surgery or in a car accident and then are miraculously brought back.  Whether or not these people were able to accurately remember being dead is debatable (seeing as forming memories is something a living person and brain does), but they’ve died and lived to tell about it, so let’s listen to them.

For more, check out “13 Temporarily Dead People Open Up About What it Was Like to be Dead” by “did you know?” on THE-LINE-UP.COM by pressing here.  But be mindful as the author continues with [w]arning:  Not one person mentioned meeting God or being a zombie.  Or I add that the creepy bit came, at least for me, at the end of number 9.

Okay, this has to do with a commercial product, so all you’ll see here is a video of it in use (albeit with a link to press if you scroll beneath it).  But it made my day — and even if I’m not going to buy one, I can’t say I’m not tempted.  It comes to us courtesy of Peter Salomon, Danielle Kaheaku, et al., via HORROR WRITERS ASSOCIATION on FaceBook (which subsequently deleted it!), from “The 55 Most Genius Products We’ve Found on the Internet” by Danny Murphy on BESTPRODUCTS.COM.

So get ready, don’t blame me if you never want to take a bath again, and to see something you possibly never realized you were missing press here.

Let’s let this one speak for itself:
Tim Peake is the UK’s very own space hero:  only the seventh UK-born person to venture into the great beyond and a member of the International Space Station for six months between December 2015 and June 2016.
A machine of a man, he ran the London Marathon while aboard the ISS, participated in the first spacewalk outside the ISS by a British astronaut and, while aboard completed approximately 3000 orbits of the Earth and had covered a distance of 125 million kilometres.
This is a man who has ventured beyond.  He’s been out there.  He knows things.  So we wanted to ask the tough questions, the ones you always wanted to know the answers to.  The biggies.
Do aliens exist?  And how exactly do you go to the toilet in space?
This is what he told us.
The article is “We Spoke to Tim Peake to Find Out Everything You Wanted to Know About Space but Were Afraid to Ask,” by Dave Fawbert on SHORTLIST.COM, and for more press here.

Yes, what about the bedroom?  So this is another example of serendipity via the web, a click on an email on a different subject, an article about prolonged time in space, then another click and . . . well, I hadn’t even thought to ask.  But here it was:  “Everything You’ve Always Wanted To Know About Having Sex In Space,” by Sam Diss (warning:  may contain frank language) on SHORTLIST.COM.  And, taking the previous post to its next level, it is an important aspect of life if to be spent in space for any length of time.

So be you warned, and — for scientific interest only, mind you — press here.

Suppose you were the new civilian owner of the International Space Station?  Do you just move in or, as one might suspect, could it possibly be a little more complicated than just that?  In fact, Joe Pappalardo explains how much so in “The Owners Guide To Your New Space Station” on today’s installment of POPULARMECHANICS.COM.  Or to quote from the subhead:  Congratulations!  You now own an outpost in orbit.  Here’s how to dock with other spacecraft without breaking everything — and what to do about all that pee.  And be admonished a few paragraphs later that [h]umanity’s big, dramatic future in space will depend on getting the small, everyday details right.  Here are just a handful of the considerations of the future handyman-astronaut. 

Interested?  Thinking to buy?  To see the full article, plus a few extra links, press here.

No, it’s not zombies.  It’s actual people, some who by rights maybe should have been dead, but managed to be resuscitated, as explained in “How Scientists Are Bringing People Back From the Dead” on yesterday’s POPSCI.COM.  One word of caution, though:  researchers prefer not to say “suspended animation,” favoring the description “Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation” (or EPR) although in science fiction movies when people go into a spaceship sleeping container, as Ripley at the end of ALIEN, we could be speaking of much the same thing.  To see all, press here.

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