G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Great Art Was Born of Great Terrors...Fate of Manuel's Magpie and Finches

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977):
"...Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them..."



Orson Welles as Harry Lime ‘The Third Man’, 1949: 
"In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace - and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."


The following picture combines two snaps taken in the months of November/ December 2015.

On the left are two birds:  a sparrow eating biscuit powder laid in the steel plate and a bulbul (a member of  family Pycnonotidae, medium-sized passerine songbirds) is perched on a bar after having had its fill earlier.

On the right are two cats somewhere in my cousin's garden.



The cats above look so cute, indeed pious but I know how murderous they can get on sighting a bird.


"'They're cute and furry and cuddly, but we need to remember when we have cats as pets, we are inviting little predators into our house,' psychologist Dr. Max Wachtel told 9NEWS".

All this reminded me of  the following stunning picture.



Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zúñiga, 1787-1788, current location: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Artist: Francisco Goya

When I first saw the picture, I was focused on Goya's 'Red Boy' Manuel...but as my gaze came down, I saw the terror that was lurking in the picture....three cats are eyeing Manuel's pet magpie.

Robert Hughes in his wonderful book 'Goya', 2003 says this about the painting:
"...The little boy, who was four at the time, is wearing a rich red silk jumpsuit with silvery-white sash and collar. He holds a string whose other end is tied to the leg of a pet magpie (the eclectic bird, noted for picking up things here and there, has Goya’s calling card in its beak, complete with a design of palette and brushes). Two cats are staring at the bird with fixated, murderous concentration, waiting for the boy’s attention to stray. Nearby on the floor is a cage full of finches, which the cats will presumably polish off as well if they get a chance. On one level this may be a lighthearted painting, but on others it is no such thing. It is another example of Goya’s awareness of how contingent life is: how at any moment, without warning, death can break into it, and it will be too late to save anything or anyone. Neither the magpie nor its noble young owner can relax. The price of privilege is unremitting tension, for birds as for people...."

Manuel himself died young at the age of just eight. There probably is no record of what happened to the magpie and finches.



Monday, August 15, 2016

वाङ्मय शोभा, ऑगस्ट 1947....What Did Vangmay Shobha Say in August 1947?...आक्रंदन!

Today August 15 2016 is India's 70th independence day

Artist: Dinanath Dalal (दीनानाथ दलाल),'Vangmay Shobha' (वाङ्मय शोभा), August 1947

This was 100th issue of the magazine that was launched in 1939.

Dalal's lady is not just beautiful and elegantly attired but also so excited that she forgets, for a moment, the pot she is carrying over her head...the collective joy of the free nation is represented by the overflowing waterpot...

The cover of the magazine is so sunny and full of hopes and dreams but the editorial strikes a sour note with a title "आक्रंदन!" (scream!).

The leader includes following two cartoons:

Unfortunately I can't guess or read the name of the artists. 

courtesy: 'Vangmay Shobha' (वाङ्मय शोभा)

Interestingly editorial praises Dr. B R Ambedkar (डॉ. भी. रा. आंबेडकर) and lauds the Congress party for taking him aboard. It condemns Mahatma Gandhi for not recommending Ambedkar's name for presidency of Congress.

Although the tilt of the editorial is overzealous anti-Gandhism, it does raise some valid points such as  early signs of poor administration, corruption under home-rule etc.

It has printed a letter, dated March 26 1947, by Mr. Neel B. Banerjee, ICS who had served as chief secretary for  the United Provinces under Mr. G B Pant.

Following is the first page of the letter.




Thursday, August 11, 2016

मग आपल्या मठात जाऊन त्या प्रेतावर ध्यान लाऊन बसायचं. हे धूतव्रत…Nine Cemetery Contemplations

दुर्गा भागवत, 'ऐसपैस गप्पा: दुर्गाबाईंशी', लेखक: प्रतिभा रानडे, 1998:
"...'विसुद्धीमग्ग' या ग्रंथात सांगितलय, की बुद्ध सांगायचा, की शरीर किती अशाश्वत आहे हे जळणाऱ्या प्रेताचं बारीक निरीक्षण करून कळत. ते कळण आवश्यक आहे…'विसुद्धीमग्गा'त प्रेताच्या विविध अवस्थांचं सूक्ष्म वर्णन केलेल आहे…य़ा ग्रंथात प्रेताच्या किती तर्हा असतात, प्रेताकडे कसं जायचं, तेंव्हा कोणती सावधगिरी बाळगायची, कशी बाळगायची हे सांगितलंय…की नुकताच प्राण गेलेल प्रेत पहा, रक्तान , पूंवान भरलेलं प्रेत पहा, मग नुसता अस्थिपंजर उरलेलं प्रेत पहा. वेगवेगळ्या वयाच्या माणसांची प्रेतं पहा. रोज रोज पाहायचं. मग आपल्या मठात जाऊन त्या प्रेतावर ध्यान लाऊन बसायचं. हे धूतव्रत… " 

Mary Roach, ‘Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers’, 2003:
“...The life of a bacterium is built around food. Bacteria don't have mouths or fingers or Wolf Ranges, but they eat. They digest. They excrete. Like us, they break their food down into its more elemental components. The enzymes in our stomachs break meat down into proteins. The bacteria in our gut break those proteins down into amino acids; they take up where we leave off. When we die, they stop feeding on what we've eaten and begin feeding on us. And, just as they do when we're alive, they produce gas in the process. Intestinal gas is a waste product of bacteria metabolism.
The difference is that when we're alive, we expel  that gas. The dead, lacking workable stomach muscles and sphincters and bedmates to annoy, do not. Cannot. So the gas builds up and the belly bloats...
... Bloat is typically short-lived, perhaps a week and it's over. The final stage, putrefaction and decay, lasts longest.
Putrefaction refers to the breaking down and gradual liquefaction of tissue by bacteria. It is going on during the bloat phase—for the gas that bloats a body is being created by the breakdown of tissue—but its effects are not yet obvious.
Arpad continues up the wooded slope. "This woman over here is farther along," he says. That's a nice way to say it. Dead people, unembalmed ones anyway, basically dissolve; they collapse and sink in upon themselves and eventually seep out onto the ground. Do you recall the Margaret Hamilton death scene in The Wizard of Oz? ("I'm melting!") Putrefaction is more or less a slowed-down version of this. The woman lies in a mud of her own making. Her torso appears sunken, its organs gone—leached out onto the ground around her.
The digestive organs and the lungs disintegrate first, for they are home to the greatest numbers of bacteria; the larger your work crew, the faster the building comes down. The brain is another early-departure organ.
"Because all the bacteria in the mouth chew through the palate," explains Arpad. And because brains are soft and easy to eat. "The brain liquefies very quickly. It just pours out the ears and bubbles out the mouth."
Up until about three weeks, Arpad says, remnants of organs can still be identified. "After that, it becomes like a soup in there." Because he knew I was going to ask, Arpad adds, "Chicken soup. It's yellow."
Ron turns on his heels. "Great." We ruined Rice Krispies for Ron, and now we have ruined chicken soup.
Muscles are eaten not only by bacteria, but by carnivorous beetles. I wasn't aware that meat-eating beetles existed, but there you go....
...There is a passage in the Buddhist Sutra on Mindfulness called the Nine Cemetery Contemplations. Apprentice monks are instructed to meditate on a series of decomposing bodies in the charnel ground, starting with a body "swollen and blue and festering," progressing to one "being eaten by…different kinds of worms," and moving on to a skeleton, "without flesh and blood, held together by the tendons." The monks were told to keep meditating until they were calm and a smile appeared on their faces. I describe this to Arpad and Ron, explaining that the idea is to come to peace with the transient nature of our bodily existence, to overcome the revulsion and fear. Or something...”



Peter Conrad, review of 'Leonardo and the Last Supper', 2012 by Ross King, 'The Observer':
 "...King wants to believe that great art lasts for ever, so he argues that The Last Supper has enjoyed, like Christ, "a kind of resurrection" in Warhol's silk screens or the cloned version that Peter Greenaway manufactured with an inkjet printer. But I wonder if Leonardo didn't intend it to decay. He knew that creativity fights a losing battle with destruction and that art cannot outwit nature: what better way to illustrate those morbid truths than to produce a miraculously beautiful painting that almost immediately begins to revert, like the bodies and minds of all who look at it, to unformed chaos?"
 
 

'Anatomy of the heart; And she had a heart!; Autopsy'

Artist: Enrique Simonet (1866–1927)

Sunday, August 07, 2016

जीएंच्या महंताने 'आय, क्लॉडियस' वाचले होते का? G A Kulkarni and Robert Graves


जी ए कुलकर्णी, 'स्वामी'/ 'पिंगळवेळ', १९७७:
(महंत 'स्वामी'ला) "... भोवतालच्या माणसांना एकच मुंडी असती तर ती आपण अत्यंत आनंदाने पिरगाळली असती, असे वाटण्याजोगे क्षण तुझ्या आयुष्यात कधी आले नसतील?..."
 (मूळ प्रसिद्धी:  'दीपावली', १९७३)


Robert Graves, ‘I, Claudius’, 1934:
“...When I returned to Rome I heard that there had open trouble. Caligula had been disturbed one night by the distant noise of the people crowding to the amphitheatre just before dawn, and pushing and struggling to get near the gates, so that when these opened they could get into the front rows of the free seats.
Caligula sent a company of Guards with truncheons to restore order. The Guards were ill-tempered at being pulled from their beds for this duty and struck out right and left, killing a number of people, including some quite substantial citizens. To show his displeasure at having had his sleep disturbed by the original commotion and by the far louder noise that the people made when they scattered screaming before the truncheon charge, Caligula did not appear in the amphitheatre until well on in the afternoon when everyone was worn out by waiting for him, and hungry too. When Leek Green won the first heat there was no applause and even a little hissing.

Caligula leaped angrily from his seat: "I wish you had only a single neck.

I'd hack it through!"...”


Sir John Hurt as Caligula (Aug 0012 – Jan 0041) at the games from TV serial 'I, Claudius', 1976

courtesy: BBC

Friday, August 05, 2016

Sustaining a Benevolent Myth: Like Livia Drusilla, I Want a Good Show



Today August 5 2016, Games of the XXXI Olympiad start

Mary Pilon, The New York Times, July 18 2016:
"...Because sports are a religion, it’s difficult to imagine a world without the Olympics, and to be sure, they have given us many glorious moments. It would be easy to conclude that the Olympic “movement” has lost its way since the time of Coubertin’s lofty vision, but that, as Goldblatt demonstrates, would be to rewrite history, since the idea of a clean and easy way to achieve peace through sport was a benevolent myth in the first place."

Livia Drusilla, 30 January 58 BC – 28 September 29 AD:
 “I've a few words to say to you before these games begin. Well, gather round. Now, these games are being held in honor of my son, Drusus Nero, who was worth the whole lot of you put together. It's my intention that these games shall be remembered long after you're all dead and forgotten even by your nearest and dearest. You're all scum and you know it, but you've a chance here - some of you - to prove that you're a bit more than that. And for those whom death doesn't liberate, there'll be plenty of freedoms handed out afterwards - to say nothing of gold plate and coin. But... I want a good show. I want my money's worth! I don't want any kiss-in-the-ring stuff. And I don't want my family watching two grown men pussyfooting around each other for half an hour before one of them aims a real blow. There's been too much of that in the past. And, don't think you can fool me either because I know every trick in the book, including the pig's blood in the bladder to make it look as if one of you is dead. There's been too much of that too lately. These games are being degraded by the increasing use of professional tricks to stay alive, and I won't have it. So put on a good show and there'll be plenty of money for the living and a decent burial for the dead. And, if not, I'll break this guild up and I'll send the lot of you to the mines in Numidia. That's all I've got to say to you.”
(from Episode 4,  ‘I, Claudius’, 1976 BBC Television adaptation of Robert Graves's I, Claudius and Claudius the God.)




                                                       Majestic  Siân Phillips as Livia

                                                                    courtesy: BBC