Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Modern carrots and sharp sticks

(I'll be short) I understand why most people make the choice of ignoring reality and why they remain silent in the face of injustice, it's easy. Just let yourself controlled by the minds of others and protected by the bodies of others, no need to struggle, just have fun and enjoy the ride, you have one life, why waste it with hard work and deep thinking when you can surrender to happiness. Of course, there are some things you have to give up on, like liberty, independence, individuality... yourself. It's easy for one man or a small group to control the actions of many mindless and coward people, carrots and sticks work very well and those who understand how to use this simple concept hold one of the keys to "persuade" the many and also one of the antidotes to protect against "the few".

Carrots symbolize our desires, the things towards which we want to go while the sticks are our fears. Religious people in the Abrahamic traditions have one main carrot, to say so, and that is Heaven while the main fear is Hell. Atheists also have their equivalents, don't be fooled that just because they think of themselves as  "non-ignorant" (non-religious) they are enlightened. People of the world started to place money somewhere in the heavens instead of angels and God. Economy is a new form of religion when you think that Hell is the absence of wealth and Heaven the abundance of it, the American Dream, or any other dreams out there are large and tasty carrots. The war between good and bad (or good and evil) takes place at every supermarket, at every bank and nobody can escape the omnipotent power of money.

I don't know if someone imposes on us these two elements (from which we run, to which we want to go) or we do the job ourselves, but once we know our desires and fears we are one step closer to our independence, this of course, if we have the courage. We need to know ourselves, something that religion and philosophy have been screaming at us for millennia, yet few listen. The maps which can lead us  towards freedom are not hidden, we can find them in the tools of our enslavement. Why so few listen is the main question of this article. Democracy is suicide if the ones that vote are manipulated by the ones being voted (or, why not, by someone higher than them), the voice of the people is the voice of the media amplified by thousands of times.

I do hope that this article will motivate at least one more to become active in any way he/she can, be it music, writing, art, activism, politics or, why not, even the military. Do not support the army, do not support religious extremists and atheism, do not tolerate ignorance in your family and in your neighborhood, if you want to change the world into a better world be an example, don't be a hypocrite. Get involved into projects that help people, if you are in a wealthy suburb get your neighbors to help those in need, if you can write then write, if you can sing then motivate people through music, if you are in a poor country then find ways to produce something, to do something, learn new skills, be active, don't waste your time watching stupid shows on TV or killing your neurons with alcohol at the local pub from morning till  sunset while criticizing politicians and bankers. They only take advantage of your ignorance and you are the only one to blame if you are in the mud, get up and stand tall.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Davespertine (visual) and Antalio (audio)

Left, image of Anton Talnov.
Right fragment of The studio in my mind
by Davespertine.
Antalio is a project started by Russian composer and producer, Anton Talnov, born in 1979. The song you are about to hear is called Neo Bronze Age (entrance) and is the first track from the album Neo, released in 2011. What attracted me to this piece of electronic music is the strong rhythm that acts like a backbone for the entire song without giving it a monotonous sound and the atmospheric effects which envelop the skeletal structure with a soft and occasionally transparent silk cloth.



Davespertine is a photographer from the United Kingdom who does a magnificent job of combining abstract forms, minimalist compositions and occasionally surrealist thoughts. His works range from truly minimalist images which undermine the very idea of art to very complex urban scenery. A knowledgeable art enthusiast will easily recognize some of Dave's influences and will undoubtedly appreciate his capacity of combining color and form into photographs that approach the realm of paintings.

Airwaves

Are black holes square?

Black Friday

Black or White

Concealed

Crack of Dawn

Just Juice

Larger than life

New Planet

The studio in my mind
Click here for Davespertine's deviantART page where many more incredible works await you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Going through Prometheus

Let's start with the name, Prometheus is a god credited with the creation of man from clay and for giving fire to humans and by this, defying Zeus. As a consequence he was bound to a rock and an eagle ate his liver every day, while every night his liver grew back, this of course, until Hercules saved him. On the other hand humanity also had to pay for their disobedience to Zeus, and they managed to do that successfully with Pandora (she released all the evils of mankind), the first woman made of clay (it seems that prior to this there were no women on Earth). If we start from this summarized story and throw in 120 million dollars we may even end up with something interesting. The movie Prometheus is nothing like this and I dare to say that only the name and the intro can hint to mythology.

We have a team of scientists on a quest to find the ones who created us and the discovery of a series of drawings around the world helps them to create a map towards a planet where, supposedly, we are invited to go. You know it by now, Ridley Scott didn't make a philosophical work of art here, but it is nonetheless a good movie, I have seen it in IMAX format and maybe in simple 2D format I wouldn't have decided to write something longer than a paragraph. One of the researchers has a cross on a necklace around her neck, yet she believed we were created not by God, but by some extraterrestrial race, as opposed to "three centuries" of Darwinism, as how a fellow team mate puts it. Interesting how they choose to put faith in there. The subject of people finding the reason for why we have been created is fascinating, the way in which it was put on film is only visualy captivating with no spiritual and intellectual challenges for the viewer. 

Movies made in Hollywood and usually by big companies are excellent in their appearance but lack depth. In conclusion a nice film, but not a great one. I even felt it was made just to pave the road for the sequel where hopefully Ridely Scott will put more effort into it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

ISPIRESCU, Petre - Life Without Death

A coign of vantage , 1895
by Lawrence Alma-Tadema
For those of you who have children my advice would be to get them next to you because what you are about to read is my favorite Romanian folktale. It's about a prince who went in search of "Youth without (old) age and Life without death", ignoring all of his father's (the king) tempting offers. He eventually reaches a land where death and old age do not exist and for a time it's like paradise, in fact it is paradise... but something goes wrong.

------

By Petre Ispirescu     /    Translated by Jean Harris 
from The Observer Translation Project

------

It happened once as never before-y, ‘cause if  it couldn’t be true, it wouldn’t make a story about the time when the poplar tree made berries and the willow tree broke out in cherries, when bears began to brawl with their tails, and wolf and lamb, unfurling their sails, threw arms around each other’s necks and kissed each other with brotherly pecks, when flees put on horseshoes boldly-- ninety-nine iron weights on one leg only-- then jumped right up to the sky in its glories, and they only did it to bring us stories:
 
                        About the time when flies wrote themselves on the wall,
                        And he’s a big liar who doesn’t believe this at all.
 
                                                                        *
            There was once a great emperor and an empress, both young and beautiful. Wishing to have children, they did many times over everything that had to be done about that. They went on journeys to wizards and wise men who could search the stars and tell if they might have children, but in vain. Finally, hearing that there was a cunning old man in a nearby village, the emperor sent for him. The old man, however, looked the king’s messenger straight in the eye and said that the ones needing help should come to him. Having heard as much, the emperor and empress gathered several great lords, together with soldiers and servants, and their highnesses brought themselves to the gray beard’s house. When the old man saw them coming, he went out to greet them right away.
            --Welcome in good health! he said. But what are your majesties traveling to find? The wish you have will bring you sorrow.
            --I didn’t come to ask you that, said the emperor. If you have some remedy which will make us have children, give it to me.
            --I have, said the old man, but you will have one child only. He will be the Handsome one, the most dear Son, and you shall have no joy of him.
            Taking the cure, the emperor and empress returned cheerfully to the palace, and after several days the empress felt herself full with child. The whole country, and the whole court, and all the servants rejoiced at this event
            Right before the hour of birth, the child put up such a storm of weeping that no wizard was able to console him. Then the emperor began to pledge the child all the good things in the world, but neither was he able to quiet him, though he did everything in his power.
            --Be quiet, Daddy’s dear one, the emperor said, and I’ll give you this or that kingdom; be quiet son, and I’ll give you this or that emperor’s daughter to wive, and a lot of other things like that. Finally, when the emperor saw over and over again  that the child wouldn’t be still, he said on top of that: be quiet my son and I’ll give you youth without age and life without death.
             Then the child quieted down and got born. And the footmen struck drum and
 
 
trumpet, and the whole land celebrated with great good cheer for one full week together.
            The more the child grew, the more quick-witted and daring he became. They sent
him to schools and philosophers, and all the teaching that other children learned in one year, he learned in a month, so much so that the emperor was dying and resurrecting for joy. The whole country prided itself that it would have an emperor as learned and wise as Solomon. From that time forward, however-- I don’t know what Handsome Son had wrong with him that he was all melancholic, sad and lost in thoughts-- but it happened one day when the child had just turned fifteen years old and the emperor was to be found at table celebrating with wine and song among all the lords and seneschals of the kingdom that Handsome Son stood up and said:
            --Father, the time has come to give me what you promised me at birth.       
Hearing this, the emperor became very sad, and he said to him:
            --But look, son, where can I get such an unheard of thing as that to give you? And if I promised you then, it was only to quiet you down.
            --If  you can not give it to me, Father, then I must need scour the whole world until I find the pledge for which I came into this life.
            Then all the lords and the emperor threw themselves on their knees, with pleas that he not leave the kingdom. And the lords added:
             --Since your father is an old man from here on out, we shall raise you to the throne, and we shall also bring you the most beautiful empress under the sun for a wife.
            But they couldn’t turn Handsome Son from his resolution. He stuck to his word like a rock so that when his father saw that over and over again, he gave him his leave and planned vittles for the trip and all things needful.
            Then Handsome Son went to pick a horse from the royal stables where the most beautiful stallions in the whole kingdom were to be found, but no sooner did he put out his hand and yank one by the tail, than he threw it down, and all the other horses collapsed in the same way. Finally, at just the moment when Handsome Son was ready to leave, he cast his eyes once again around the stable, and catching sight of a scrawny, distempered, scabby horse in a corner, he went over to him as well, but when he put his hand on that horse’s tail, the horse turned his head toward Handsome Son and said:
            --Master, what do you command?  Thank the Lord for helping me reach a time when a brave young man puts his hand on me again.
            And stiffening his legs, he stood straight as a candle. Then Handsome Son told him what he intended to do, and the horse replied:
          --To achieve your heart’s desire, you must ask your father for the saber, lance, bow, quiver and arrows, as well as the clothes he himself wore when he was a lad; while as for me, you will have to take care of me yourself with your own hand for six weeks, and all that time you must give me barley boiled in milk..
            So Handsome Son set about asking the emperor for the things the horse advised. The emperor called on the court bailiff and ordered him to unlock all the coffers that held garments so that his son might choose the ones he liked. After rummaging for three days and three nights, Handsome Son finally found--in the bottom of one old trunk-- the arms and garments that had belonged to his father when he was a lad, but the things were very 
rusty. Handsome Son took it on himself to cleanse the weapons of rust with his own hands, and after six weeks he succeeded in making the arms shine like a mirror. At the
same time he also took care of the horse as the horse had told him to do. He had enough work to do, but, howbeit, he succeeded.
            When the horse heard from Handsome Son that the garments and arms were well cleaned and ready, he shook himself, and the boils and glanders fell off him all at once, and he stood there just as his mama made him: a strong, full-bodied horse with four wings. Seeing him thus, Handsome Son said:
            --We leave three days from today. 
            --Long life, master. At your service.  I’m even ready today, replied the horse.
            On the morning of the third day, the whole court and, indeed, the whole realm were all full of woe. Handsome Son, dressed as a brave warrior with saber in hand, mounted on the horse of his choosing, said his good-bye’s to the emperor, to the empress, and all the greater and lesser nobles, the soldiers and all the servants of the court who, with tears in their eyes, begged him not to make this journey so as not to somehow lose his life, but Handsome Son giving spur to his horse, went out through the gate like the wind, and after the prince came carts with vittles, with money and some two hundred soldiers, whom the emperor ordered to accompany his boy.
            Now, when Handsome Son passed out of his father’s kingdom and reached the wilderness, he divided all the wealth among the soldiers, and keeping for himself only as much food as the horse could carry, he bid the soldiers farewell and sent them back. Then catching the road that heads toward sunrise, he rode, and he rode, and he rode for three days and three nights until he reached a vast field covered with a multitude of human bones.
            When they stopped to rest, the horse said to Handsome Son:
            --You must know, my lord, that we are here on the estate of a fearsome Woodpecker who is so evil that no one sets foot on her estate without being slaughtered. She was once a woman like other women, but she wouldn’t listen to her parents. In the end, she made them so terribly angry that their curse turned her into a Woodpecker. The Woodpecker is with her children now, but in the forest tomorrow we will meet her as she comes to destroy you. She is terrifically big, but don’t you despair. Only have your bow ready so you can shoot her with your arrows, and keep your saber and spear close at hand to serve you at need.
            That night Handsome Son and the winged horse gave themselves to rest, but when one watched, the other slept.
            The next day, when dawn poured forth, they got ready to pass through the forest. Handsome Son saddled and bridled the horse. He secured the girth tighter than before, and he set out. All of a sudden he heard a frightful knocking as if someone pecked the air with a hammer blow. Then the horse said to Handsome Son:
            --Hold tight and get ready, master, because the Woodpecker in coming closer.
            And when she came, oh brother, she bowled over trees,  that’s how fast she came, while the winged horse climbed like the wind until he was a bit above her. Then Handsome Son took her leg with an arrow, and when he was ready to strike her with a
second arrow, she cried:
            --Stay your arrows, Handsome Son, that I do nothing to you! Seeing that he didn't
believe her, she gave it to him written in her own blood. And on top of that she said:
            --Handsome Son, you wish that horse long life, wonder worker as he is. If it weren’t  for him, I’d have eaten you roasted. Now, however, it is you who have eaten me. Know that until today not one mortal dared to step over my boundaries. The few madmen who tried it only got so far as the field where you saw that heap of bones.
            They ended by going to Woodpecker’s home, where Woodpecker entertained Handsome Son most hospitably with all the honor due a traveler. But while they were at table regaling themselves with food and drink, Woodpecker groaned anew with pain. All of a sudden, Handsome Son fetched out the leg, which he kept in his pouch. He put it in place, and it healed itself forthwith. Out of happiness, Woodpecker stretched out the feast three days in a row, and she begged Handsome Son to choose one of her three daughters, beautiful as fairies. Handsome Son didn’t want that, however, and he told the Woodpecker plainly what he was looking for. Then, Woodpecker said:
            --With your horse and your bravery, I believe you’ll succeed.
            After three days, they got ready for the road and set out. Handsome son went, and went, and went anew. The way was long and even longer, but when he had crossed Woodpecker’s boundaries, the trail gave onto a beautiful plain. There was flowering grass on one side while on the other the grass was singed. Then Handsome Son asked the horse‑‑
            --Why is the grass burned?
            And the horse answered him:
            --We are here on the estate of a Shrew, the Woodpecker’s sister. These sisters are so evil, they can’t live in the same place. You see, their parents’ curse landed on them, and they turned into monstrous beasts. It’s a fright, the way they hate each other. There’s nothing to stop it, and they want to seize each other’s land.
            --Now, when Shrew is in an evil mood, she vomits fire and brimstone, and this burned plain shows that she must have had some fracas with her sister. With the Woodpecker coming to chase Shrew from Woodpecker-land, Shrew singed the grass where she passed. She is worse than her sister, and she has three heads.
            --Let us rest a little, master, and tomorrow let’s be ready at dawn..
            The next day they prepared themselves as they had when they were about to reach the Woodpecker’s estate, and they had set off when they heard a howling and a whirring the like of which they had never heard before. Then the horse cried out:
            --Get ready, master, for that griffin of a Shrew is closing in.
            With one jaw in the sky and the other on earth, the Shrew bore down on them fleet as the wind. The horse flew up fast as an arrow until he was a bit above her, and he held his position, rather to the side. Then Handsome Son shot the Shrew with an arrow, and he made one of her heads fly. As he was about to make another head sail, the Shrew begged him in tears to forgive her. Then she gave him her word, written in her own blood, so he would have faith in her that she meant him no harm. After that, the Shrew hosted Handsome Son even more than the Woodpecker had, while for his part, Handsome Son gave Shrew back the head he had taken with an arrow. The noggin glued itself back immediately when Shrew put it on, but after three days Handsome Son and the horse left to go further.
             So it was that they passed Shrew's boarders, and on they went. They went and went yet some more until they reached a field of flowers only, all in bloom, and there, there was only spring. Every proud flower: a rare beauty‑‑ and to get you drunk, a little wind drew a sweet smell on a breeze that gently blew.  Here they stayed to rest themselves until the horse said:
            --As for success, master, we got on as we got on, but now we have to get over the greatest  bump in our road‑-a really big danger‑‑ and if God help us escape even this, then we're stout lads. The palace of Youth without Age and Life without Death lies just ahead. This house is surrounded by dense, high forest where the wildest, strongest beasts in the world watch without sleeping, day and night, and they are many. There is no way to win with them, and as for crossing the forest, that's out of the question; so, to end off our task (if human beings can), we'll have to fly.
            After that, they rested for some two days and got ready once more. Then, holding his breath, the horse said:
            --Master, tighten the girth as much as you can, and on mounting, hold yourself well, both in the stirrups and by my mane. And keep your legs stuck fast about my waist so you don’t upset me in my flight.
            Handsome son climbed on, made a test, and in one minute he was near the forest. And again the horse said:
            --Master, now is the time when they feed the beasts of the forest and they are all brought into the courtyard. Let’s go!
            Let’s go, Handsome Son answered, and let God have pity on us!
            They rose into the blue, and they saw the palace gleaming so that you could stare at the sun but at that palace: never! They passed above the forest, and just as they were about to let themselves down at the palace stair, Handsome Son barely, barely touched the tip top of one of the trees with his foot, and all’f a sudden the whole forest began to move; the animals  were roaring to raise the hair on your head. Handsome Son and the horse hurried to let themselves down; and if the lady of the palace were not outside, feeding her cubs (because that’s what she called the beasts of the forest), they would have fallen prey to disaster without fail.
            Out of her abounding joy she helped Handsome Son and the horse escape the beasts, for until that moment not a human soul had been seen around her. She stopped her beasts, she made them tame and sent them where they belonged. The mistress was a tall fairy, slim, and dear, and beautiful-- a stunner! When Handsome Son saw her, he was dumbstruck. Howso’ere, seeing him with pity, the lady said:
            --Welcome Handsome Son! What are you seeking here?
            --We are looking, said he, for youth without age and life without death.
            --If you are looking for that, the fairy replied, it is here.
            Then Handsome Son dismounted and entered the palace. There he found two
 
 
 
more women, one younger than the other. They were the lady’s big sisters. He began to thank the fairies for rescuing him from danger, while they, out of pure joy, cooked  him a
pleasant supper and served it forth in golden dishes. Handsome Son gave the horse his head to graze wherever he wanted to go. Then the sisters made their guest and his horse known to all the wild beasts so that they could wander at leisure through the forest.
            The ladies asked Handsome Son to live with them from now on, for they told him, they were sick and tired of sitting around all alone while he, for is part, did not wait to be asked again. He agreed with all thankfulness since he was looking for that exactly.
            They got used to each other bit by bit. Handsome Son told the ladies the story and all he suffered until he reached them, and not long after he married the youngest daughter as well. At the wedding, the mistresses of the house gave him leave to go through all the places round about, wherever he wished. Only, they said, he must not go to one valley, which they also showed him, for it would not be well for him. On top of that, they told him the dell was called The Crying Valley.
            Handsome Son stayed there time out of mind, none the wiser, for he remained as young as when he came. He ranged through the forest, without bothering his head in the least. He delighted in the golden palaces, lived in peace and quiet with his wife and sisters-in-law, and enjoyed the beauty of the flowers and the sweetness and cleanliness of the air--all as a happy man. He often went out hunting, but one day he took off after a hare. He shot an arrow and missed. He shot a second and missed again. Angrily, he ran after the hare and shot a third arrow, which struck the hare. Howso’ere-- unhappy man!--in the rush he didn’t notice that while running after the hare, he had crossed into the Crying Valley.
            Taking the hare, Handsome Son returned home, when what do you think? All of a sudden he was caught by a longing for his father and mother. Handsome Son didn’t dare to tell the ladies, who were skilled in knowledge. They knew it none-the-less for they saw the sadness and restlessness inside.
            --O unhappy man, they said most fearfully, you crossed, into the Crying Valley!
            --I crossed over, my dears, without meaning to do this foolish thing, and now my legs are melting from under me from longing for my parents, yet I can not suffer myself to leave you. I have been with you many days, and I have not complained of any sorrow. I will go to see my parents one more time, and then I will return to leave no more.
            --Don’t leave us, dearest. Your parents haven’t lived for hundreds of years, and as for you, if you go, we fear you shall not return again. Stay with us, for our thoughts tell us, you will perish.
            All the women’s prayers as well as the horse’s weren’t able to soothe Handsome Son’s longing for his parents, which seared him through and through. In the last resort, the horse said :
            --If you don’t want to listen to me master, anything may happen to you. Know that you are alone to blame. Now, I have to tell you a word or two, and if you accept my bargain, I will carry you back.
            --I accept, said Handsome Son most thankfully. Be it as you say!
            --As we reach your father’s palace, I shall let you down, and I will go back if you
should want to remain even one hour.
            --So be it, said Handsome Son.
            They got ready to leave, they embraced the women, and after they said their goodbyes they set out, leaving the fairies with tears in their eyes. They reached a place where the Shrew’s estate had been. There they found cities. The woods had changed to fields. Handsome Son asked one after another for news of the Shrew and her dwelling; but they answered him that their grandparents had heard of their grandparents prattling to each other about such nonsense.
            --How can that be, said Handsome Son. I passed by here just the day before yesterday, and then he would begin to tell all he knew.
            The people he was talking to laughed at him as at one who raved or told them waking dreams while Handsome Son went angrily onward without getting it into his head that his hair and his beard were turning gray.
            Reaching the estate of the Woodpecker, he made question as at Shrew’s estate, and there, too, he received the same answers. He was not able to make sense of how in several days the places had changed this way. And, upset again, he left with a white beard down to his belt, and sensing that his legs trembled a bit, he reached his father’s country. Here:  other people, other cities, and the old things were changed so that he knew them no more. At long last, he reached the palaces where he was born. As he got down, the horse kissed his hand and said:
            --Your health! Let me go back to the place I came from. If you want to go too, climb up and let’s go!
            --Go in good health, said Handsome Son, for I also hope to return ‘passing soon. The horse took off swift as an arrow.
            Seeing the palace buildings ruined and weeds grown over them, Handsome Son sighed, and with tears in his eyes, he sought to remember  how full of light these buildings used to be and how he had spent his childhood in them. He circled some two or three times there, searching every room, every little corner that brought to mind all things past-- the stable in which he found the horse...then he descended into the cellar, its latch filled with fallen debris.
            Searching in one part and another, with a white beard down to his knees, raising his eyelids with his hands, and hardly moving, he found nothing down there, other than a beat up trunk. He opened it. Howso’ere he found nothing inside. Then he lifted the lid of a hidden drawer inside, and a thin, cracked voice said:
            ---You are well-come. Had you been much later, I would have perished myself.
             Death, who had dried to a hook in the bottom of the trunk, gave him one slap, and he fell dead and turned to dust right away.
 
                                                                        *                                                       
 
And now I have mounted the saddle bow, and that’s all there is. I have told you so!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Starting from 9th Company

The "9th Company" is a 2005 Russian-Ukrainian-Finnish movie about the Soviet-Afghan war and more exactly based on the battle of Hill 3234 in 1988. The main reason I recommend this movie is to promote Russian cinema with works that have what it takes to withstand the attacks of the Hollywood entertainment industry. Russia has to create high quality commercial films in order to compete. This type of art is a huge propaganda tool, American culture is so widespread in part because of commercial movies, not artistic ones, where the hero lights a Marlboro cigarette with the American flag waving in the background and the maiden just saved from the hands of evil is holding tight to the hero's sweaty, beefy hand. Such scenes, as idiotic as they are, repeated in various forms in various movies become hardwired in our brains.

9th Company is not this kind of a movie, it is simply an action/war production  intended to ride the wave of the American invasion of Afghanistan and make some cash. It is nonetheless a good thing to watch, for someone like me who lives in a country where movies are almost all the time of American origin, seeing something in another language is a treat by itself, especially when you are talking about movies with little to no artistic expectations. I am however disappointed of one thing, director Fyodor Bondarchuk could of made a better job in making the movie more Russian, if you change the language with English you won't feel any difference and in fact if it would of been in English I wouldn't have wasted ten minutes writing a review.

There are nonetheless many good Russian movies, but not good enough (to break this marketing wall that favors Hollywood) and not that many and just as I hate monopoly in politics and economy, so I hate monopoly in art and culture. Russia has a long history and enormous possibilities to create unique things, why recycle something made on the other side of the Atlantic, or Pacific... nobody would be interested. Is it enough to rely on the image of the Russian drunk that looks like he went to prison for arms or drug trafficking? I think not, at least not in the case of the largest country on Earth with an unbelievable spirituality.

Trailer:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo Architecten

Libraries tend to become more open to the exterior world, more attractive through their architecture and various auxiliary services like exhibition halls, cafes and lounge spaces. Most new public libraries have this friendly concept which you can compare to the older "neoclassical" one where the library was strictly a repository of knowledge (books mostly) and people went there only to study. Now people can go to the library to socialize, and have a coffee while reading for their exams. This doesn't mean that the main idea of a library is being shadowed by entertainment, on the contrary, it offers people the opportunity to spend some time in a healthy and educational environment. Although this isn't strictly an European phenomenon, I like to think of these libraries as a reaction to the American concept of a shopping mall, the European knowledge-based society (1) versus American consumerism.

Regarding the new Library of Birmingham I must say I am not totally convinced, but considering that it is still in construction I won't be making any conclusions yet. It will have around 35 000 square meters and is situated in the Centenary Square, next to the Repertory Theater from the 1960s and the Baskervill House from 1936. The building has an interesting circle / square game going on, from a distance it seems to be a block of steel and glass but when you get closer and even go in "the belly of the beast" you find the circles. First of all, the facade is made up of circles, here is what Francine Houben, Founding partner of Mecanoo Architecten (the ones responsible for the project) said:
With the circular pattern of the metal framework the Library of Birmingham honours the city’s industrial heritage, in particular the craftsmanship in metal work. For me the circles symbolise unity, and relate well to the purpose of the metal frieze, unifying the different functions within the building with one gesture and expressing openness to the public.
For my heavily politicized mind, however, that metal framework looks like an infinite rendition of the NATO emblem, and besides that, I find these aesthetic elements very constraining and "heavy". If they would of stopped at the black circles/stars (and made them white) it could of been something interesting, but now it looks like that building is suffocating under the weight of the facade. But as I said earlier, I am willing to wait till the building is finished. The other circles are the rotundas scattered inside the building which serve both to ease routing and provide natural light and ventilation. The building will be connected with the REP through a shared theater and a foyer space.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

Another element that caught my attention is the underground level that extends under the Centenary Square but without being separated from the ground level. We again find the circle in the form of an opening in the roof/pavement, yet it seems it will not function as an entrance. I love this idea, in fact this is one of the reasons I decided to present this project. I look forward to see how it will cope during storms if they will not cover it with glass. The building is scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2013.

Copyright Mecanoo Architecten
Copyright Mecanoo Architecten


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Persian Lesson 03 - Compound Verbs

City of Firuzabad (Gur), Iran,
 founded by Ardashir I
خوش آمدید . Like I said in lesson 2 we will now learn about compound verbs, the vast majority of which are constructed using کردن , like in کار کردن which means to work.
The Simple Present Tense for this verb ( کردن  = to do/create ) is created by deleting the ن , just like in the case of simple verbs. So we will have:
من کار کردم
تو کارکردی
او کار کرد
ما کار کردیم
شما کار کردید
انها کار کردند
As you see only کردن accepts suffixes, other examples:
to call (phone call, phone +to do) تلفن کردن
to heal (good + to do) خوب کردن
to cool (cold + to do) سرد کردن
What you should do now is repeat what I did earlier but with this verbs instead. Try to make sentences after. Here are some more words:
friend = دوست
mother = مدر
father = پدر
sister =خواهر
brother =برادر
sick = بیمار
fruit = میوه

As a bonus I will show you how to say my (something), your (something), etc.
My mother for example will be either مادر من (mader-e-man) or مادرم (maderam).
Your father would be  پدرت  .
His/her brother  برادرش.
I will stop here, no use to go into plurals now. Notice the "e" pronounced but not written when saying "mader-e-man", that is the ezafe, we will talk more about that in another lesson.

With what I showed you previously you can now write phrases like:
او برادرم خوب کرد - He healed my brother.

After you practice this It's time for some more compound verbs.

شدن means "to become". So we can create verbs that have this "becoming" meaning. For example:
to grow up (big + to become) بزرگ شدن
to get old (old + to become) پیر شدن
fall in love (love + to become) عاشق شدن

The last verbs for now are created using دادن which means "to give".

to pay (money + to give) پول دادن
to kiss(kiss + to give) بوس دادن
to answer (answer + to give) جواب دادن

خداحافظ

Friday, June 1, 2012

HUXLEY, Aldous - Brave New World [Utopian Dystopia]

Fragment from "Brave New World"
by RuBeN-S.
With this book I want to start a series entitled "Utopian Dystopia" where I will present texts and movies that deal with humanity's future. The idea is that I will talk about these literary and/or cinematographic works in parallel with observations of the present.

I chose "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley because it is relatively well known and starting from this we will continue with a few others along the way, not necessarily influenced by this book but closely related to it. I have to state the fact that I know it is neither the best nor the first such book, but this isn't a top ten anyway. My advise is to read it in case you haven't already otherwise you won't understand anything I am going to write here. Access the book online here.

The main idea of the novel is that humanity "evolved" into what may seem an utopia where everyone is happy. This happiness has a price however, as Mustapha Mond admits:
Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can't. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered. [...] People still went on talking about truth and beauty as though they were the sovereign goods. Right up to the time of the Nine Years' War. That made them change their tune all right. What's the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you? That was when science first began to be controlled–after the Nine Years' War. People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We've gone on controlling ever since. It hasn't been very good for truth, of course. But it's been very good for happiness. 
- Chapter 16

In order to have security and to be happy, people gave up on their independence and embraced a "bottled world" where all bad and difficult things are eliminated:
[The Savage:] You got rid of them. Yes, that's just like you. Getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it. Whether 'tis better in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them … But you don't do either. Neither suffer nor oppose. You just abolish the slings and arrows. It's too easy. 
- The Savage in reply to the Controller, chapter 17

As you know, the caste society in Brave New World is not dictated by any religion or tradition, but through science, people are cloned and bred to serve a specific purpose, to be a wheel in what seems to be a perfect machine. The people themselves don't feel any sense of claustrophobia because they are not aware that their world is so much limited, evidently, depending on the caste you belong to. Mustapha Mond, the Controller of Western Europe and like all the Alphas from the top, is not restricted in any way, and in fact can be considered free (and maybe not that happy?). But what is freedom? An Epsilon going from one floor to another with the elevator can feel just as free as an Alpha watching the society they created and understanding its inner workings.

If all the brainwashing doesn't make you happy, Soma eventually does. This drug, which is given every day after working hours is presented in the book like having the power to take you in one of the most pleasant vacations. I recommend researching the history of drug use, especially in the West, and to narrow down the list of suspects further, search for LSD. This drug was first synthesized seven years after Huxley had finished writing the book, not surprisingly, he was one of the consumers of LSD, maybe not like Soma but close enough. (1)

Sleep-learning is a fundamental part in the development of children in the Brave New World, messages are repeated over and over again for thousands of times while the child sleeps and eventually he assimilates those thoughts without even knowing why, at least this is what happens in the book. Evidently, before this, the embryo is subjected to other types of conditioning. Regarding our society I'll give you a hint, Disney, this is no conspiracy theory because they got sued for some of their cartoons in which naked women popped up in one of the frames and even had to withdraw from the market a version of the Rescuers (The 1977 version recalled in 1999). This is one simple example, you will find more if you search for subliminal messages.

Once matured the individual is no longer an individual, well, at least not in the sense we "know" to be true. He completely gives himself to others: "Every one belongs to every one else" (Henry Foster tells the Assistant Predestinator in Chapter Three). So, let's recap, from an embryonic stage people are designed for something and as children are integrated into their caste and are taught what to think and to be happy with their situation, never to ask for more. The society in Brave New World is a consumer society, sounds familiar? People are made to want to change old things with new things just because those are old, they are conditioned to want to be in a collective, to be solitary is seen like some kind of madness caused maybe by some errors in their programming. Not one moment they can stop and think (about things), they work and when they don't work they engage in social activities that can include hundreds of people or only a couple, but rarely they are alone.

Yet they are happy. Are we heading towards such a world? I believe we are in such a world in some aspects. The superficiality, the juvenile mentality people show in Brave New World is strangely familiar. At the European Night of Museums, I along with my wife, went to see some museums. The Art Museum is situated next to a very busy and noisy boulevard, yet about twenty people were working the stationary bikes, right there, next to all that traffic and virtually putting their face in the exhaust pipe while listening to some idiotic song and a guy yelling at them and shouting, probably for encouragement. I sincerely found that rather stupid.   

Art is discussed in the final chapters and the main idea is that in a perfect, or better said, balanced society, you can not have art, you can not have drama because there is nothing to give rise to drama. There is however a type of art in this utopian dystopia but it is made purely for entertainment, just like most Hollywood movies and pop music. Science is also kept on a leash because it could destabilize the system, the "free" Alphas along with their freedom also seem to have the keys to knowledge and understanding.

Religion is a special topic, because while there is no religion in this "perfect" world, there is a reservation where the "savages" live and practice a mixture of Christianity and paganism. The final chapter shows "The Savage" character in a type of religious fervor that for me has the purpose of undermining religion altogether and it may be one of the reasons that got the book to be banned in some periods in some countries. I should point out the fact that both those living inside the reservation and those living outside of it are conditioned one way or another and in the case of "the Savage", for him Shakespeare took the place of sleep-learning. This makes me question all my beliefs and my thoughts, how free and independent am I, how free and independent are you?