Updates, Live

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Baldassare Castiglione

Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529)
portrait by Raffaelle Sanzio
probably winter 1514–1515
oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre
room 8: Grande Galerie. Denon, 1st floor
(source: wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended

Author, courtier and diplomat, poet and soldier, considered a quintessential example of High Renaissance gentleman. At his death, the Emperor Charles V famously said, Yo vos digo que es muerto unos de los mejores caballeros del mundo.

In Raphael's portrait, Castiglione traits are caught with great subtlety: the finesse and elegance of execution is consistent with the subject's finesse and elegance.

Castiglione was sensitive, scrupulous and hard-working. It is refreshing to remember that the daunting paragon of refinement and courtesy was also indecisive, fussy, snobbish and ambitious; that his half-hearted approaches to marriage were inspired by his urgent need for money (his eventual marriage, none the less, was extremely happy); that he was not at all distinguished as a commander and indeed sickened by battle; that he was more than once suspected of treacherous conduct; and that he was excessively fond of fine clothes and horses. In short, he was very human.


(Raphael)

(A Life in Books)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Franz Xaver Winterhalter

Franz Xaver Winterhalter
(1805-1873)
photo ca. 1865
source: Bibliothèque nationale de France
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended


German painter and lithographer who spent an important part of his life in the Paris of Louis-Philippe and then of Second Empire, where he gained the reputation of court portraitist very in fashion. Among his best known clients were Empress Eugénie, Empress Sisi, Queen Victoria.



(Old Masters)

Labels:

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, 1916



Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.





Deux a divergé dans un bois jaune,
et désolé je ne pourrais pas voyager les deux
et être un voyageur, long je me suis tenu
et ai regardé en bas d'un dans la mesure où j'ai pu
à où il s'est plié dans la broussaille ;

Alors a pris l'autre, aussi juste que juste,
et ayant peut-être la réclamation meilleure,
puisque c'était usage herbeux et voulu ;
Cependant quant à cela le dépassement là
les avait portés vraiment à peu près identiques,

et tous les deux que le matin étendent également
dedans ne laissent aucune étape avaient marché le noir.
Ah, j'ai gardé le premier pour un autre jour !
Pourtant sachant la manière introduit ensuite la manière,
j'ai douté de si je reviens jamais.

Je dirai ceci avec des âges
d'un soupir quelque part et des âges par conséquent :
Deux routes ont divergé dans un bois, et je
j'ai pris celui moins parcouru près,
et cela a fait toute différence.


(El camino no tomado)
no copyright infringement intended


Dos caminos divergían en un bosque amarillo
Y pesaroso al no poder viajar por ambos
Y ser un solo viajero, largo tiempo me detuve
Y escudriñé uno tan lejos como pude
Hasta donde se perdía entre la maleza.

Luego tome el otro, también ameno y llano,
Y dotado quizás de mayor atractivo,
Por su pasto suave que pedía ser hollado,
Aun cuando los que por allí pasaran
A los dos habrían gastado del mismo modo.

Y ambos esa mañana yacían igualmente
Hojas que ningún pisada  había ennegrecido.
¡Oh! Seguí el primer camino un día más!
Aun sabiendo como un paso sigue a otro paso,
Dudé si debía haber regresado sobre mis pasos.

Debo estar diciendo esto con un suspiro
En algún lugar, dentro de muchos años:
Dos caminos divergían en un bosque, y yo
Yo tomé el menos transitado,
Y eso ha hecho toda la diferencia.


(Robert Frost)

(Le Parnasse des Lettres)

(Una Vida Entre Libros)

Labels:

Robert Frost

Robert Frost in a photo from 1941
Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram and Sun Collection
(wikimedia)
no copyright infringement intended




(A Life in Books)

(New England)

Labels:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Profesorul Nicolae Saftu

Nicolae Saftu, Rîsete fără catalog
ilustraţii de Octavia Țarălungă
Edidura Didactică şi Pedagogică, Bucureşti 1977
no copyright infringement intended


Drumeţii Veseli şi-au făcut apariţia cândva pe la jumătatea anilor cincizeci: un concurs care avea loc la radio în fiecare sâmbătă seara, cu două echipe de elevi de liceu răspunzând la întrebări de cultură generală; întrebări brodate pe o excursie imaginară, drumeţind câteodată prin vreo localitate din România, alteori şerpuind prin paginile vreunei cărţi, alteori urmărind viaţa unei mari personalităţi din istoria noastră sau a altora. Uneori tema era chiar foarte ambiţioasă: o scriitoare din Cluj, Genţiana Groza, îşi aminteşte de participarea la un concurs Drumeţii Veseli (era pe atunci elevă la liceul Mihai Viteazul din Ploieşti) cu subiectul Puşkin în literatură şi muzică.

Profesorul Nicolae Saftu era sufletul acestui concurs. El avusese ideea Drumeţilor Veseli, se luptase apoi să îşi transforme ideea într-o emisiune radio, iar acum venea în fiecare sâmbătă seara alături de cele două echipe. Era organizatorul emisiunii şi asta însemna că era în acelaşi timp arbitru şi antrenor. Întrebările erau pregătite de el, şi avea darul să le pună în aşa fel încât să îi entuziasmeze pe concurenţi, să scoată din ei tot ce era mai bun. Iar noi, ascultătorii, aşteptam cu nerăbdare răspunsul, echipierii se mai certau unul cu altul când doi din ei se gândeau la răspunsuri diferite. Venea în sfârşit răspunsul, corect sau greşit, urmat imediat de comentariile profesorului, având darul să menţină entuziasmul la aceeaşi cotă şi să ne pregătească pentru următoarea întrebare.

Nicolae Saftu era profesor de limba română la Liceul German din Bucureşti. Eram foarte curios să îl văd în carne şi oase, concursurile lui mă fascinau. Liceul German era foarte aproape de liceul unde învăţam. Şi într-o bună zi a apărut pe neaşteptate în sala noastră de sport. Aşa am aflat că era bun prieten cu profesorul nostru de Educaţie Fizică (un om despre care ar trebui să vă povestesc odată, Stelian Gheorghiu, cunoscut mult mai bine după poreclă, Nea Tilică). Saftu s-a asezat pe una din băncile de lângă spaliere, pălăria lui Nea Tilică era lângă el, a luat-o şi a cântărit-o în mână: măi Nea Tilică, pentru ce îţi miroase pălăria a usturoi? Am râs, amândoi erau chelioşi, pe vremea aceea nu bănuiam că soarta nu avea să mă cruţe nici pe mine.

Ne-a vizitat din nou după un timp. Era aniversarea zilei de naştere a lui Eminescu, iar liceul nostru o serba în fiecare an. Toate clasele erau strânse în sala de festivităţi. Profesorul Saftu era invitat special. A făcut o prezentare în care asemuia limba română unei corăbii înfruntând vitregiile vremii şi urmându-şi drumul, acostând la ţărm spre a lua călători noi (cuvinte noi), sau spre a drege cuvintele vechi prea uzate de furtuni. Şi lăsând de fiecare dată un document, ca o mărturie asupra devenirii ei. Scrisoarea lui Neacşu, Psalmii tălmăciţi de Dosofteiu, Didahiile lui Antim, Şcoala Ardeleană, primii scriitori moderni ... ajungând acolo unde destinul îi rânduise să ajungă, la locul unde Eminescu avea să o desăvârşească.


Nicolae Saftu alături de elevii săi, 1970
(http://www.lic21.de/jahrgang/1958-1970/lz_66-70/b-klasse/1970-klassenfoto-1-12b.htm)
no copyright infringement intended


Şi apoi anii au început să zboare, am terminat liceul şi m-am dus la Politehnică, am terminat şi facultatea şi am devenit inginer. În locul Drumeţilor Veseli a apărut Cine Ştie Câştigă, avea la fel să îşi dobândească faima, apoi radioul a fost înlocuit total de televizor, cu alte şi alte concursuri şi atracţii de tot felul.

Profesorul Nicolae Saftu a murit în 1981. Cartea sa, Rîsete fără catalog, o am în bibliotecă şi o deschid din când cu plăcere. Amintirea Drumeţilor Veseli mi-a rămas în suflet alături de alte amintiri dragi ale anilor de demult.


(Bucureşti)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Karl Ove Knausgård

Karl Ove Knausgård
(photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum for NYT)
no copyright infringement intended

Once, Knausgård wrote on suddenly seeing a lake in Michigan, “My eyes teared up, not because the sight was so beautiful, but because the beauty was so sudden."


Karl Ove Knausgård is a Norwegian author known for six autobiographical novels, titled Min Kamp (My Struggle). They have been translated so far in 22 languages.

An introduction to Knausgård's literary universe could be this travelogue through the Midwest in search of a distant relative, an alleged Viking relic and the peculiar essence of Americanness. It was published in NYT in two parts:







(German and Nordic Literature)

Labels:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Salesman (1968)

David and Albert Maysles during the filming of Salesman
(Forbes, credit Associated Press)
no copyright infringement intended

An almost hallucinatory piece of cinéma vérité that needs a second watch to get its message and everything. And that is because Salesman is subtly but unbearably depressing. A quiet desperation is pervasive throughout the movie, almost at a subliminal level. A group of four door to door salesmen is followed in their daily business. A business implying a network of bosses, salesmen, prospects. A network where nobody's innocent: the prospects struggle to find reasons to reject the offer, the salesmen push relentlessly to perfect the sales, the bosses press the salesmen to get results. And all this takes place in the Catholic universe: they try to sell expensive Catholic editions of the Bible to lower income families of Catholic parishioners. Spirituality and business interlaced, or rather business pushing aside spirituality. Under the spiritual skin a Darwinian struggle, where the weak ones are eliminated: aging parishioners cannot find any more the energy to reject the offers, aging salesmen cannot find the energy to place their Bibles any more. One of the salesmen, the eldest of them, is on the brink of loosing the battle: for those who fail the American Dream shows its nightmarish truth.

Paradoxically this depressing movie carries also something like a charm: a time capsule bringing the today's viewer back to a bygone era, the wonderful 1960's, when we were so young, ladies were wearing their curlers with genuineness and gentlemen were playing cards with open pleasure, sales were made door to door, the Internet wasn't yet born, you talked with your sweetie via a phone operator, people were not afraid to invite strangers inside the house, faith was still a thing people cared about, the convertibles were so big and Gosh, so vintage! And everybody smoked, everybody, all the time! You can guess I watched it twice.



Salesman, 1968
produced by Albert and David Maysles
based on an idea by David Maysles
directed by Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
cinematographed by Albert Maysles
edited by David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
(video by Vusal Azizov)



(Albert and David Maysles)

Labels:

Albert Maysles, Russian Close-up (1957)

Albert and David Maysles in Red Square, 1957
(Cine Archive)
no copyright infringement intended

When Jean-Luc Godard calls you ‘the best American cameraman,’ as he did of Albert Maysles, you know you’re onto something

In 1957 Albert Maysles came back to Russia, this time together with his brother David, and they crossed the country on a scooter. The result was a 33 minute, 16 mm black and white, documentary, Russian Close-up. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a copy to put it here. Another movie (made much later by Walter Salles) comes to my mind: Diarios de Motocicleta. I think it's a different beast. The movie of Sales has a political dimension, inevitably, you cannot talk about Che without taking sides one way or another, while the moto-diary of the Maysles brothers for sure is just Cinéma vérité. The way the world is seen by a man with the talent for getting on well with people.



poster of Russian Close-up
(The Telegraph)
no copyright infringement intended


The Maysles brothers were among the first documentarians to use cameras small and light enough to fit on a cameraman’s shoulder, and in their work you can see the intimate view of personal experience that this allowed them to capture. At the time, they called it ‘direct cinema’; today we think of it as ‘Cinéma vérité.’ Such a humanistic focus would understandably disdain the importance of soulless institutions and the ‘official’ view of the world, and indeed, this ethic would gain far more traction in the late 1960s and beyond.


still from Russian Close-up
(Film-Cine)
no copyright infringement intended




(Albert and David Maysles)

Labels:

Monday, March 09, 2015

General Relativity Explained in a Haiku

John Archibald Wheeler
(From the Big Bang to the Big Crunch)
no copyright infringement intended


It was John Archibald Wheeler who explained in a haiku no less than Einstein's General theory of Relativity


Matter tells space how to curve
Space tells matter how to move


I found this Zen poem in El País:

La materia le dice al espacio cómo curvarse
El espacio le dice a la materia cómo moverse



(A Life in Books)

(Una Vida Entre Libros)

Albert Maysles, Psychiatry in Russia (1955)

surrounded by ladies
Albert Maysles during the shooting
(Dangerous Minds)
no copyright infringement intended

A nice photo made in 1955, during the shooting of Psychiatry in Russia. For all his life Albert Maysles enjoyed enormously to be surrounded by ladies, as many as it could be. He was a very nice person who always generated genuine sympathy. That was the way I met him sometime in the 2000s, a joyful octogenarian flooded by feminine presence, young documentarians from New York surrounding their beloved patriarch. In the photo above, shot in 1955 in Moscow, a young Albert Maysles appears in the middle of a bouquet of Soviet ladies, doctors, patients, medical staff.

It was his first movie. Albert Maysles was twenty-eight or twenty-nine. He had an MA in psychology from Boston University where he was teaching. Sometime by 1954 he made a professional trip in the Soviet Union, to visit psychiatry institutions there and set scientific contacts. The following year he came back with a handheld camera, starting a long cinematic career.

Psychiatry in Russia is a thirteen minute documentary. Albert Maysles is the orchestra-man: director, cameraman, editor, narrator. The camera follows the eyes of the filmmaker and borrows his genuineness and empathy. It's a window of freshness, in a Cold War era dominated by deep mistrust and hysterical propaganda. An American in Russia, and the lack of arrogance is total! No patronizing, nothing of the kind. Just a human being among other human beings.The camera is just following people, doctors and medical assistants and patients, normal people with normal wishes. Ironically, the psychiatric environment makes the demonstration of normalcy. A statue of the Generalissimo seen in the background for just a second, as a touch of chiaroscuro: normalcy was having its limits, like always.




(Albert and David Maysles)

Labels: