Sunday, 25 July 2010
I agree with this statement, but I still think that "finding one's feet" is central to adolescence, regardless of how one approaches the creative act. During my adolescence, I made an effort to broaden my horizons and went through a lengthy process of trial and error. But one of the main factors that kept me going was books, and I think there are certain books many people (in particular male people - females usually go after other books not mentioned in this list) read during their adolescence as an effort to broaden one's horizons and to form an identity. I have just come out of adolescence, so I think it is a good time to look back and reflect on those watershed books.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Stephen Dedalus (James Joyce's alter ego) rejects Christianity and conventional education in pursuit of trying to create an individual voice. He intends to "forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race." Through all his searching, Dedalus finds that there is no ultimate ideological or theological truth to follow and that he can pursue his artistic vision without the need for friendships. The voice of the narration, which uses Joyce's newly formed stream of consciousness technique, gradually matures and increases complexity as the character gets older, and in the final pages there is a magnificent shift to first-person narrative where Dedalus avows his intentions.
I read this book in many wood and park benches when I was 16. It was May, 2oo7. Once, two young teenage girls came over to me while I read it in a park bench and started tormenting me, completely perplexed by the sight of a teenager reading a book.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
When Borges chose Dosoyevsky for a personal library compiled just before he died, he wrote: "Like the discovery of love, like the discovery of sea, the discovery of Dostoyevsky is a memorable date in our life. It is usually around adolescence, where maturity seeks and discovers serene writers." Indeed, I found myself engaged in this text when I read it, identifying with Raskolnikov's misanthropy and solitary life. The levels of tension are overwhelming and one reads this with rapt fascination. For the first time, one also considers all the existential questions that are posed in the book.
I read this book just after reading Portrait, when I was about to turn seventeen. Once, I read it at the local woods at night illuminated by my father's laptop. It was a library copy, and it was stained by blotches of mud after I accidentally dropped it!
The Outsider by Albert Camus
This short novel was voted first in a survey asking men after their milestone fictional work. It is a work that has a strong effect upon the reader's life. The indifference Mersault shows to the murder he commits and his unwillingness to compromise to the court and establishment strikes a strong chord with male readers. Camus' direct prose reflects Mersault's indifference and existential condition.
I read this at the age of seventeen, four or five months before my breakdown. The day I read wasn't in the slightest bit pleasant; I had a horrible fight with my sister because I couldn't read with the noise she was making, I trashed the house and when I went outside to read it was raining. The following day I read the last ten pages at the local park with the sun out, totally immersed in the book.
Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes
This philosophical text addresses the groundwork of philosophy. It is read by many young people who start questioning philosophical issues, and Descartes' book explores metaphysical thought about God's existence and other concerns like truth and falsehood and the relation between the human mind and body.
I finished reading this text a few weeks ago at the age of 20. I decided to read it in anticipation of studying philosophy at university, and as an attempt to have a basic grasp of the rudiments of the subject.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
The Leopard is the most boring fucking piece of shit ever conceived by anyone, and is praised by art fags with the vague hope of appearing intelligent. Other than that, I enjoyed most of these films. I changed my mind about Rohmer, I really like his films now.
The Leopard (Luchino Visconti)
Mouchette (Robert Bresson)
Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorcese)
Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky)
Through A Glass Darkly (Ingmar Berman)
The Silence (Ingmar Bergman)
Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman)
Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein)
La Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir)
Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo)
Les Amants (Louis Malle)
Celine and Julie go Boating (Jacques Rivette)
Two or Three Things I Know about Her (Jean-Luc Godard)
Le Boucher (Claude Chabrol)
Band A Parte (Jean-Luc Godard)
Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Alain Resnais)
400 Blows (Francois Truffaut)
Le Mepris (Jean-Luc Godard)
Le Beau Mariage (Eric Rohmer)
A Summer’s Tale (Eric Rohmer)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)
Rome, Open City (Roberto Rosellini)
For a long period of time, LOVEFILM wouldn’t send me a whole batch of Tarkovsky films I wanted to watch. Instead they sent me films on my list that I didn’t want to watch at the time, but had to watch because I had no choice. I have decided to put these films on a separate list. Receiving the films I didn’t want to watch (but enjoyed watching nonetheless) spoilt my weekly Wednesday film ritual for quite a long time.
The Man Who Wasn’t There (Coen Brothers)
Manhattan (Woody Allen)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch)
Shivers (David Cronenberg)
eXistenZ (David Cronenberg)
Waking Life (Richard Linklater)
Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick)
Drifting Clouds (Aki Kuarismaki)
Sunday, 18 July 2010
- I won't cheat and skip a track only because I don't like it
- I will skip any track of opera, because I don't like opera even when it's written by people like Stravinsky. I will also skip anything from a John Zorn documentary I have on the Ipod.
- I will write for every single track that comes up, and I will try as hard as I can with my limited musical knowledge. I'm not a musician, I'm a music lover.
- To avoid repetition, I will only have one artist per post. If an artist appears more than once in the shuffle, I will skip it.
- I will write about the music while hearing it.
Solo piano playing subdued and restrained impressionist classical music. It is part of Debussy's Images. The track gradually goes building momentum and reaches the 'higher' notes prior to using the full scope and breadth of the piano. There is a tempo change at around 3:12 and the music becomes far 'slower'. The track beautifully withers away at the end. On the whole, the piano sonatas and chamber music by Debussy doesn't do as much for me as his orchestral works.
2. Vocalise, pour l'Ange qui announce la fin du temps - Oliver Messiaen
Another French composer. This is beautiful, beautiful music from one of the finest compositions in the history of music. When I first downloaded it years and years ago, I always thought this part was the first movement, but it's the second! Olivier Messiaen was a political prisoner at a camp, and he wrote Quartet for the End of Times for himself on piano, a clarinetist, a cello and a violin. The piece captivated the soldiers so much that they let them go... This part is one of my favourite moments of the piece and Messiaen, being a highly religious character, draws on ascetic themes for the title and the 'vibe' of the piece. This part if quite harmonious through the majority of its duration, but has quite a visceral opening and closure.
3. Against Constancy - Michael Nyman
Repetitive but highly effective sound patterns from a master of minimalism. This is a movement from his piece The Libertine. There are horns and strings playing this melody again and again, with a clarinet soloing quite a bit around it. Like the music of Steve Reich this achieved to emotional effect and produces this 'emotion' through quite technical procedures.
4. Collapse and Crush - Isis
In contrast to the three previous classical tracks, here we have a bit of sludge metal. This isn't, however, from their masterwork album Oceanic but from Celestial. The heavy guitars play repetitive patterns, and the screaming vocals are buried deep within the mix. Sadly, they disbanded recently and I won't be able to see them live again. The music, like the Nyman before, incites emotional responses from repetitive sound structures. But, unlike Nyman, this makes you move and mosh. No matter how much I love metal music, it can't be denied that a lot of it is quite stupid. Isis are an exception: this is intelligent metal.
5. Concert Romanesc IV: Molto Vivance - Gyorgy Ligeti
This is part of a piece written by Gyorgy Ligeti before he discovered modernism and the Viennese school, but it's written while he was still in Hungary. You can certainly hear the shadows of Kodaly and Bartok, and this piece does indeed draw a lot from Hungarian folk music. One can see in embryonic form Ligeti's 'micropolyphony' in the intricately assembled orchestration. This is less dense and substantial than Ligeti's later pieces, but it results in a highly enjoyable yet somewhat light-hearted piece.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Monday, 12 July 2010
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
This is easily Herzog's higest-profile film ever. Its failure at the American box-office may discourage big Hollywood producers from hiring a loony Arthouse director for a big-budget crime drama, but thank God they did just that or otherwise we wouldn't have this film! The script is far from original, but Herzog has injected enough of his signature into it to make it riveting and compelling.
Nicholas Cage's performance is very intense, and when one watches this film you get the impression that him and Herzog were made for each other. He gets into the character of this crack-addled cop so well that he will go hell-for-leather to accomplish his performance. This would inevitably - and justifiably - draw comparisons to Klaus Kinsky. No matter how accomplished Herzog's recent documentaries have been, he hasn't found an obsessive character who has this intensity. He briefly found it in Timothy Treadwell, but after him becoming deceased his Herzog partnership was over.
Nicholas Cage plays a cop who has been recently promoted to lieutenant. He is far from heroic as he staggers across the backstreets of post-hurricane New Orleans. He steals cocaine from pedestrians and gives a large amount of it to is prostitute girlfriend. Cage investigates a murder that leads to... frankly, I can't remember. The plot is largely forgettable, and I don't think Herzog cares much for it himself. Not many directors would interrupt key plot points with extensive shots of iguanas (are they meant to symbolise the character's drug addiction? Who knows?) If this is meant to be a crime drama, it fails completely; Herzog takes it onto a new level.
The film is named after a 1992 Abel Ferrara film, Bad Lieutenant. Already drawing an enraged reaction from this director, Herzog insists this isn't a remake (he claims he hasn't seen the film nor even heard of Ferrara, which can't be too credible). I haven't seen this film either, though I'm sure this newer version must bear similarities no matter how superficial they may be.
I was watching Mark Kermode reviewing the film, and he believes that this is an 'incidental' Herzog film. I think there are certainly a lot of Herzog features in it, especially the shots of iguanas, but perhaps this is true. This picture does have elements of a b-movie, and it isn't a giant aesthetic leap in Herzog's career, but how often will he have a chance to direct a film like this?
Thursday, 1 July 2010
I turned 20 on the 7th of June. I am no longer a prodigy, but I am still unacknowledged... I haven't given much thought to reaching this age, and this is perhaps due to having so much on during this month.
These are the gifts I received for my birthday:
- Ipod nano. Received this as my old MP3 player broke. It has kept me amused for hours and hours, and it's already filled with thousands of tracks. I'll be using it for this blog in an upcoming regular entitled 'Ipod Shuffle'.
- Internet Radio. This came with the Ipod for an extra £2o, so my parents realised that it was a bargain and that they should get it for me even though I will probably never use it...
- 100,1 Films to See Before You Die. Marvelous book. I used to go to Waterstone's just to flick through it, and now I can do just that. It encompasses everything from great arthouse classics to the biggest Hollywood blockbusters.
- Twin Peaks - Season 1. I'm a big Lynch fan, and I've been wanting to see this television series for a while. I'll take my time to watch a great part of it this upcoming summer holiday.
- The Garden of Earthly Delights calender. My parents bought this calender in a museum in Madrid they visited that owns and exhibits this Hieronymus Bosch painting. Each month has a large detail of a specific part in the painting.
- Hieronymus Bosch magnets. My parents also bought another item sold in the museum - magnets of many of the bizarre creatures featured in the painting. The problem is that I don't know where I'll put them.
- Último Round by Julio Cortázar. My Chilean uncle-in-law visited our house recently, and my aunt sent him with this marvelous oddity of a book by Julio Cortázar as she knows that I am a big fan. The book is filled with short essays, stories poems and photographs. But it's got two sets of pages to follow, meaning that you can read it in any order you want and thus making you the 'active' reader Cortázar wished you to be.
- The current Chilean football strip. My uncle-in-law also brought me the current chilean football strip, which they wore at the world cup. I was thinking of putting it on my wall (I also have the 1998 strip on my wal), but I decided to keep it in my draw for future use.
I was incredibly pleased to see Chile maintain their qualification form in the World Cup itself, as they played scintillating football in their opening match against Honduras... They completely outplayed them with overwhelming speed and technical skill. After countless dire starts from dire teams, the TV pundits agreed that Chile, with their attacking brand of football, were a breath of fresh air. They did, however, struggle to score and should have won the match 3-0 or 4-0... This was perhaps due to the absence of striker Humberto Suazo. The group was complicated with Switzerlands win against Spain, but Chile once more proved what an exceptional side they are by overcoming them too... Once more, they could have scored more goals as the opponents were a man down, but Switzerland play with 11 men at the back.... If this game made me tense, nervous and frustrated, then it's nothing compared with what the Spain match did to me.... Chile were all over for the first 30 minutes of the match, but Chile's naivety and recklessness cost them in the end. Two grievous errors resulted in two devastating Spanish goals... Yet without this recklessness and naivety, this Chilean side wouldn't have gotten to where they are... I was in such a bad state (I had a screaming fit and knocked over bin outside) that we had to switch the television off for the second side. But Bielsa, the genius that he is, calmed the team down, made sensible substitutions, and got a goal in the second half...... Chile in the end came second place with the same amount of points as Spain, and they accomplished the mission they had to do in the World Cup: get through to the second round. Still, the World Cup draw is really, really fucking poorly done. The four other South American sides made it to the other quarter-finals because Chile had to play Brazil in the second round. Chile are a million miles better than Paraguay and Uruguay but they get to this stage of the World Cup because they have a more favourable draw! Ughrrr. As a pundit said on BBC World Service "But for Chile's tough draw, there would be 5 quarter finalists from South America." As for who will win the tournament itself, my money is still on Brazil: they are deadly and can dismantle and destroy any team they want. Maradona's Argentina are defensively naive and Spain don't live anywhere near up to the hype they were accoladed with.
No-one knew who they were voting for in the last general election; we now have a conservative Britain... Real politics do not win elections - charisma and image do. All the economic and political experts reached the consensus that the most accurately devised policies were from Gordon Brown and the labour party... But people want a 'change'... Sigh. You'll get a change: you will all your jobs axxed because you simple-minded cunts voted conservative, or even the idiotic party that is currently second in command - the Liberal Democrats... Yes, this is a first - me talking politics on my blog...
I will now go through the process of assembling my book Juvenilia: An Unacknowledged Literary Prodigy together. This is a collection of my 'best' (but still quite wretched) short stories from the ages of sixteen to nineteen. I will create a blog post for it when it's ready, along with details for anyone (or more likely, no-one) who is interested in buying it...