Updates, Live

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Lost Tribe of Eric Kamen

Were I to see only this 2 minutes movie from all movies created by the couple Rapaport/Held, I would know all about their movie universe.

Urban Flamenco. He plays the guitar. They dance, each one in her own world. Four dancers, four worlds in counterpoint, creating the paradox of unity in contrasts. And this unity of dance, against the sound of the guitar. The guitarist and the sound, minimalism at its best, superbly restrained to itself. The girls forcing the sound to let itself tell the tale - and the guy with his guitar, keeping the tale within itself. Dance and guitar flowing together, never attaining one another. The mystery of the lost tribe confined there.

He is Eric Kamen. They are Holly Googe, Pearrie Hammie, Shakiver Gordon, Cecile Klaus.

And the eye of cinematographer Wolfgang Held, together with the knowledge of cinematic rhythm of director Pola Rapaport, creating an incredible gem: two minutes concentrating the essential about Urban Flamenco. Nothing more needs to be said.

(Pola Rapaport)

(Wolfgang Held)

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Truman Capote: The Duke in His Domain (Profile of Marlon Brando)

In 1957 Marlon Brando spent some time in Kyoto, together with the whole crew of Sayonara, doing the shooting on location for some scenes of the movie. Truman Capote came there to meet the actor and interview him.

To really understand Brando's persona seemed to be a task far from easy. Capote knew that from the very beginning: Marlon’s the most exciting person I’ve met since Garbo. A genius. But I don’t know what he’s like. I don’t know anything about him.  Even for the crew members  of Sayonara it had proved impossible to get to know the guy. Which was frustrating for them, naturally: he had shown himself on the set as a slouchingly dignified, amiable-seeming young man who was always ready to cooperate with, and even encourage, his co-workers—the actors particularly—yet by and large was not socially available.

Well, Capote came at the hotel and was led by a staff member to Brando's apartment. The encounter lasted till late in night.

Brando was talking continuously jumping from one topic to another, while keeping the talk on one single personage: on himself. Meanwhile Capote was listening, noting for himself subtle nuances (his voice—an unemotional voice, in a way cultivated and genteel, yet surprisingly adolescent, a voice with a probing, asking, boyish quality—seemed to come from sleepy distances), or falling in his own thoughts, about the actor, parallel with his endless talk. And Capote had a lot to think about the man in front of him, Their first encounter had been ten years earlier. By that time Brando was playing on Broadway, in A Streetcar Named Desire, He was unknown yet by and large, though among the New York theatre’s cognoscenti he had already attracted attention. And Capote was rememorating the way Brando had attracted his attention: as if a stranger’s head had been attached to the brawny body, as in certain counterfeit photographs... taut skin, a broad, high forehead, wide apart eyes, an aquiline nose, full lips with a relaxed, sensual expression.

Now and then Capote was coming back from his thoughts and was interrupting the actor with a quick question, moving his monologue in a new direction, or the reverse: one sentence of Brando pushing the flow of thoughts somewhere else.

The result would be The Duke in His Domain: a fascinating portrait of Brando; a portrait in counterpoint, with three themes evolving in cooperation and competition: the monologue of the actor, the thoughts of the writer, and the chain of events taking place in the hotel apartment during the evening. Like the movement of several clouds, each one seeming unaware of anything else but itself, each one getting gentle pushes from the others, changing its shape, enlarging or shrinking, breaking and recomposing; and the whole creating a great mood and great tones and semitones.

When Capote eventually left to go to his hotel, he found himself trapped within unknown streets in an unknown city: quite a contrast to daytime, when the central parts of the town, caroused by crowds of fiesta massiveness, jangle like the inside of a pachinko parlor, or to early evening—Kyoto’s most exotic hours, for then, like night flowers, lanterns wreathe the side streets, and resplendent geishas, with their white ceramic faces and their teal looping lacquered wigs strewn with silver bells, their hobbled wiggle-walk, hurry among the shadows toward meticulously tasteful revelries. But at two in the morning these exquisite grotesques are gone, the cabarets are shuttered; only cats remained to keep me company, and drunks and red-light ladies, the inevitable old beggar-bundles in doorways, and, briefly, a ragged street musician who followed me playing on a flute a medieval music.

The Duke in His Domain was published in The New Yorker in 1957, in the November 9 issue. Here is the text:

(Truman Capote)


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Walt Whitman

The image reproduces a daguerreotype (photographer unknown) that was made in New Orleans, during Whitman's residence there between February and May, 1848, while he worked on the New Orleans Crescent. Reproducing the daguerreotype is courtesy Walt Whitman House, Camden, NJ.

(A Life in Books)


Friday, July 25, 2014

Alice Munro: What Is Remembered

(The New Yorker, February 19, 2001)
no copyright infringement intended

For a long time Alice Munro has been compared with Chekhov; John Updike would add Tolstoy, and A. S. Byatt would say Guy de Maupassant and Flaubert.

...what she does better than anyone is to capture the unexpectedness of life

...(she) has said everything there is to be said on the subject of female fantasy, and said it so well.

A married woman has a one afternoon affair with a virtually unknown man, the friend of a friend of her husband. She will never see him again and her marriage will last tens of years, till the husband will pass away. She will remain for all her life with the feeling of that single afternoon, the feeling of what is remembered.

Actually, trying to tell a story written by Alice Munro is a misnomer. Like in the stories of Chekhov, there is something behind, impossible to explain: French guys would say maybe that there is a je ne sais quoi. It's the atmosphere, it's how the story goes its way as governed by fatality, the role each hero plays exactly at the right moment to make things happen (take for instance the wonderful Aunt Muriel, this impossible mix of angelic and demonic, what a great personage!), and more than that, it's the feeling you get by reading the story that there is another meaning in it, that you have to think about.

It's about the unexpected elements that come in the story and suggest much more than they appear to be. For instance the white gloves from the very beginning of What Is Remembered, sending to a quote from Queen Sirikit, quoting in turn the fashion designer Balmain. Who is Balmain? asks the husband. Or take for instance the discussion with the husband by the end about Turgenev and his heroes, revealing a hidden tension over that episode long time ago, unknown to the husband, however somehow present in his subconscious. Or the way she prefers to think at the place of the tryst, just an atmosphere of long accommodation of private woes and sins... and an old-fashioned cage of the elevator, run by an old man—or perhaps an old woman, perhaps a cripple, a sly servant of vice.

All this... or maybe just how Edith Pearlman puts it: this is what Alice Munro does: on the first page of a story she introduces us to a character who by the third page has aroused our curiosity and by the last has become an intimate (Boston Globe)

What is Remembered was published in 2001, in the volume Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. You can read the story in The New Yorker:

(Alice Munro)


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Simon Rich: Guy Walks Into a Bar

(The New Yorker, November 18, 2013)
no copyright infringement intended

So a guy walks into a bar one day

and he notices the pianist, a twelve inch little thing in tuxedo playing Chopin.When you are so damned small, there could be a  lot of nuisances, for instance your tolerance to alcohol is extremely low. There is also a genie in the men's room granting wishes, only a bit hard of hearing, which leads to other nuisances. The bartender has a PDD syndrome (I mean a penile dysmorphic disorder, you know what I mean), which makes his life a nightmare.

So the guy runs into the men’s room and, sure enough, there’s this genie. And the genie’s, like, “Your wish is my command.”

Once Simon Rich starts telling a story, he remains in firm control of his logic and everything else gets upside down. Read here the whole story:

(Simon Rich)


Simon Rich

He is a humorist, novelist and screenwriter, born and raised in New York City, has written some damned good stories and has been translated abundantly. According to The Guardian he is the funniest man in America. Very cool guy.

(A Life in Books)


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham
photo: Barbara Zanon/Getty Images
(The Guardian)
no copyright infringement intended

He lives in a world where Virginia Woolf and Walt Whitman are present and their books unfold surprising destinies through their heroes and readers altogether. An unexpected image of eternity, caught in a myriad of glimpses of time and space, completely distant and different each other, each one ultimately revealing the forever, specimen days and specimen hours. Decades pass and then centuries, everything changes, Miss D. is passing through all this, forever evolving, forever the same.

And the Old Bard tuning his lyre:

Fear not, o Muse! truly new ways and days receive, surround you,
And yet... the same within, without...
The same old love, beauty...

(A Life in Books)

(Walt Whitman)

(Virginia Woolf (and Edward Albee))

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cristian Vasile: Aprinde o țigare

Când de ochii tăi adânci mi-e dor
Şi în noapte chem o rază din lumina lor de vis
Stele mici, spre tine, când mă îndeamnă în șoaptă,
Şi-s flămând de al iubirii paradis
Iau atunci și sorb cu sete o țigare,
Şi în fumul ei ucid cumplitul dor
Şi a mea e atuncia lumea asta mare
Şi de viață mă îmbăt ca de alcool

Aprinde o țigare!
Şi-n fumul care zboară-n nori albaștri ca un vis
Cufundă-te-n uitare
Şi lasă gândului cărare de abis

În fumul de țigare
Durerilor găsește tainicul liman
Găsește o nouă stare și dorului alean
În fumul de țigare
Ce se pierde în val

Când ajungi să crezi că viața-i o povară
Şi dureri de neînțeles te apasă greu
Când afară-i ciripit de primăvară
Iar în sufletul tău toamnă e mereu
Înfrățește-te cu fumul din țigare
Şi te avântă pe aripa-i de mister
În regatul fără nume și hotare
Şi colinde prin oceanul de...

Aprinde o țigare!
Şi-n fumul care zboară-n nori albaștri ca un vis
Cufundă-te-n uitare
Şi lasă gândului cărare de abis

În fumul de țigare
Durerilor găsește tainicul liman
Găsește o nouă stare și dorului alean
În fumul de țigare
Ce se pierde în val

Cristian Vasile: Aprinde o țigare
(video by Adragnava)

(Les Troubadours du Temps Jadis)


Mircea Barbu reporting from MH17 crash site

(The Romanian texts from Mircea Barbu Facebook page. I tried an English translation, that follows each Romanian text)

no copyright infringement intended

Sunt în drum spre locul unde s-a prăbușit zborul Malaysian Airlines. Armata ucraineană și-a sporit efectivele la filtrele de control din zona de est a țării. Câțiva soldați ucraineni mi-au mărturisit că așteaptă noi ordine de la Kiev, cu privire la modul în care vor răspunde la acest incident. Atmosferă extrem de tensionată, din nou, în estul separatist al Ucrainei. — la Nikolaev, Ucraina.

I'm on my way to the crash site of flight Malaysian Airlines. Ukrainian army increased its manpower in the control filters from the eastern part of the country. Some Ukrainian soldiers have told me that they are awaiting further orders from Kiev on how tol respond to this incident. Extremely tense atmosphere again in the separatist region from eastern Ukraine. - At Nikolaev, Ukraine.

no copyright infringement intended

no copyright infringement intended

no copyright infringement intended

La locul accidentului, undeva la numai câțiva zeci de kilometri în afara orașului Donețk, urmele zborului Malaysian Airlines sar în ochi ca o amintire sumbră a tragediei întămplate în urmă cu 48 de ore.Aici, printre lanuri de floarea soarelui, poți zări genți aruncate, scaune topite și rămășițe umane, împrăștiate pe o rază de 20 de kilometri. O echipă OSCE se află la fața locului. Anchetatorii oficiali nu au sosit încă, iar accesul în zonă este puternic restricționat de separatiști înarmați.

At the crash site somewhere only a few tens of kilometers outside the city of Donetsk, the Malaysian Airlines flight tracks glaring like a grim reminder of the tragedy happened 48 hours ago. Here, among sunflower fields, you ca see discarded bags, chairs melted and human remains scattered over 20 kilometers around. An OSCE team is on the spot. Official investigators have not yet arrived, and access to the area is heavily restricted by armed separatists.

no copyright infringement intended

Accesul la locul accidentului e restricționat. Am încercat să mă strecor de dimineața, dar am fost oprit de un filtru separatist la numai câțiva kilometri de site. Momentan în Donețk, încerc să obțin acreditare de la Centrul de Presă al separatiștilor. Toata presa adunată chiorchine pe o mână de funcționari.

Access to the crash site is restricted. I tried to sneak in the morning, but I was stopped by a separatist filter only a few kilometers from the site. Currently in Donetsk, I am trying to get accreditation from the press center of the separatists. All media gathered in a bunch over a handful of officials.

no copyright infringement intended

În aceste momente se desfășoară conferința de presă a OSCE în legătură cu zborul MH17: Nu ni s-a permis acces total la site. Ieri am fost intimidați de către separatiști, dar astăzi au fost ceva mai înțelegători cu scopul misiunii noastre, a declarat rep. misiunii OSCE în zona de est a Ucrainei.

An OSCE press conference right now, related to MH17 flight. They did  not allow us total access to the site, and we were intimidated yesterday by separatists. Today they appeared to be a  bit more accommodating to the goal of our mission, said the representative of the OSCE mission.

no copyright infringement intended

no copyright infringement intended

no copyright infringement intended

Misiunea OSCE se află în orașul Torez, la 20 de kilometri de locul unde s-a prăbușit MH17. Trenul morții transportă victimele accidentului în vagoane frigorifice.

The OSCE mission is in Torez, 20 kilometres from the crash site of MH17. The death train is carrying the victims in refrigerated cars.

no copyright infringement intended

Am deschis vagoanele. Da, sunt cadavre înăuntru, dar nu putem verifica originea lor sau numărul exact. E imposibil de intrat fără echipament special, a declarat purtătorul de cuvânt al misiunii OSCE.
Mergem în coloană spre următorul site al accidentului.

We opened the refrigerated cars. Yes, there are corpses inside, but we can not verify their origin or the exact number. It is impossible to enter without special equipment, said the OSCE spokesman.
We move with an auto column to the next crash site.

no copyright infringement intended

Obervatorii OSCE împreună cu o echipă de anchetatori olandezi în aceste clipe în Torez, stația de tren unde sunt ținute, în vagoane frigorifice, victimele zborului MH17.

OSCE observers together with a team of Dutch investigators in Torez railroad station, where the victims of MH17 flight  are kept in refrigerated cars.

Se trage în Donețk. Hotelul unde suntem a fost înconjurat de forțele separatiste. Victime la gara din oraș. Sunt în Torez, la o oră de oraș. Mă îndrept spre locul incidentului.

Shootings in Donetsk. The hotel where we are has been surrounded by separatist forces. Victims at the railroad station. I am in Torez, one hour to the city. I'm heading to the scene.

Un bloc de civili a fost bombardat acum câteva clipe în Donețk. Din surse neconfirmate, se pare că artileria ucraineană ar fi fost de vină.

An apartment building of civilians has been bombed a few moments ago in Donetsk. From unconfirmed sources, seemingly the Ukrainian artillery were the culprit.

(Mircea Barbu)


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kobayashi Kiyochika: Matsuchi Hill and the Taiko Bridge in winter

a view of Matsuchi Hill and the Taiko Bridge in winter,
looking across the Sumida River
with a ferry-boat in the foreground
signed Kobayashi Kiyochika. Published Meiji 29 ( 1896 )
richard 浮世絵 ukiyo-e, JapanesePrints-London
no copyright infringement intended

A few words about the collection: Richard Kruml started dealing in Japanese prints, paintings and books in 1968 after studying architecture and then being a professional photographer for a number of years. He was the first dealer to hold exhibitions and issue catalogues on surimono and also the first to issue a Kuniyoshi catalogue.

(Kobayashi Kyiochika)


Friday, July 18, 2014

Kobayashi Kiyochika at Freer: Sumida River by Night, 1881

Kobayashi Kiyochika: Sumida River by Night, 1881
woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Robert O. Muller Collection
Kiyochika: Master of the Night, exhibition at Freer Gallery of Art
no copyright infringement intended

Kiyochika (1847 - 1915) was the last important ukiyo-e master and the first noteworthy print artist of modern Japan... [or, perhaps] an anachronistic survival from an earlier age, a minor hero whose best efforts to adapt ukiyo-e to the new world of Meiji Japan were not quite enough (wiki)

On September 3, 1868, the city called Edo ceased to exist. Renamed Tokyo (“Eastern Capital”) by Japan’s new rulers, the city became the primary experiment in a national drive toward modernization. Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847–1915), a minor retainer of the recently deposed shogun, followed his master into exile. When he returned to his birthplace in 1874, Kiyochika found Tokyo filled with railroads, steamships, gaslights, telegraph lines, and large brick buildings—never-before-seen entities that were now ingrained in the cityscape (Kiyochika: Master of the Night)

(Smithsonian Castle)


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Nadine Gordimer

Nadine Gordimer in 1961
Photo: Alamy
(The Guardian: Nadine Gordimer, a Life in Pictures)
no copyright infringement intended

A NY Times alert came to my email a couple of days ago: the respected South African author and activist Nadine Gordimer passed away, at the age of ninety. As I was browsing the obituaries from some major media outlets (The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Washington Post, BBC, Al Jazeera, to name but a few), I was thinking at the peculiar way my first encounter with her name took place.

Several years ago I was looking on the web to find references about a jeweler from Johannesburg (Kurt Jobst). Someone on a web forum had a bangle crafted by Jobst and wanted to know more about him, firstly if he was still alive or not. I offered my help, and the first reference that I found shocked me (as I knew nothing about the man): it was about his funeral in 1971. This reference was from a library catalog consecrated to the papers of Nadine Gordimer: an annotation quoting a sentence of her about Jobst, that he gave Jo'burg some style. A bit later I understood that this sentence was actually the title of a foreword written by Gordimer for a monograph consecrated to Kurt Jobst. But, at the very beginning, it was the only thing that I had found out about the jeweler, and also about the writer. I didn't know virtually anything about Nadine Gordimer, previously to that moment, as I didn't know anything about Kurt Jobst either.That sentence was telling me a lot about both of them. You could feel an author of great quality behind such a sentence, and also a person of great quality characterized by such words.

Later I discovered more about them. Nadine Gordimer (that would receive the Nobel for literature in 1991) and her husband Reinhold Cassirer (about whom I would read years later another superb phrase - not coined by Nadine Gordimer this time, but anyway :) - that he had been an eccentric art dealer in a class of his own) were regularly invited by Kurt Jobst who enjoyed treating his friends with sophisticated dishes cooked by himself. I had the chance to make acquaintance with someone who had been by that time in their circle of friends, and who gave me a great description of their dinners.

Naturally this gave me the impulse to read Gordimer's books, and I promised myself that I would  start doing it, only time is always one's greatest enemy when it comes to fulfill such promises. Any small urgent task puts a delay to one's enthusiastic plan and then delay comes over delay and that's it.

There are several books by Nadine Gordimer at the English Bookshop in Bucharest, and each time I'm going there I can see them on the shelves, and the story of Kurt Jobst, the man who gave Jo'burg some style, comes again in my mind. That story and all those people who one way or the other had a role in it - and their whole world - this circle of friends from Johannesburg, part of the tumultuous history of South Africa in those years. And I feel again the impulse to read her, and to open this way the gates toward the complex and contradictory South African universe.

Well, last time I was the English Bookshop I bought one of Gordimer's books: The Late Bourgeois World. I would come back, very soon (hopefully:).

(A Life in Books)


Monday, July 14, 2014


Father of English literature, originator of English vernacular tradition, the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages, this was Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400); author, philosopher, alchemist, astronomer, civil servant, courtier, diplomat, bureaucrat, leaving his trace in each of these domains. To say of him that he was a man of many talents (which he was, indeed), would be a misnomer: because he was larger than life.

One of my childhood memories is of two books staying together on the shelf in an uncle's house: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales near Boccacio's Decameron. Understanding the importance of one of them nurtures your understanding of the importance of the other; and it nurtures further your understanding of their crucial moment in the European culture: they opened the gates of the vernacular; they liberated the flow of the modern age. We belong to their mentality, they belong to ours. Basically we are on the same page.

I was visiting the other day the English Bookshop in Bucharest, and that childhood memory came to my mind, as I noticed a splendid copy of The Canterbury Tales, a Wordsworth edition from 2002. And I considered the pros and the cons of buying it. As vernacular as it is its language, it is still very different from what is in use nowadays. Maybe it's better to find a good translation (as it was the book in my uncle's bookshelf).  Otherwise the risk is to try one page, to get lost after a few lines, to put the book some place among other books ejusdem farinae and to forget about it.

All this was true (and well experienced), while not buying the book would have meant losing great indulgements; taking it from the bookshelf every now and then, opening it each time at another page (that being the case with any book of sand, according to Borges - and this was definitely a book of sand) reading some lines, getting lost in its riches of language, enjoying the moment. I opened the book and looked at a few pages. Each tale was preceded by an explanatory text, a plot summary was provided, as well as scholarly bibliography. Many lines in the tales were having annotations to help understanding the old wording.

Look here, just a couple of lines at random:

Whilom, as olde stories tell us (once upon a time)
Ther was a Duk that highte Theseus (was called)
[The Knight's Tale, page 39]

He conquered al the regne of Femynynye (kingdom; Amazonia)
That wilom was y cleped Cithea (formerly; called)
[The Knight's Tale, page 39]

In old days of the kyng Arthur,
Of which that Britouns spekeen gret honour
Al was this lond fulfilled of fayrie (fairies)
The elf queen with hir joly compagne
Daunced fuloft in many a grene mede (meadow)

I decided to buy the book.

(A Life in Books)