Friday, 20 July 2012

My Beethoven bust!

This is what I asked for my birthday and my swell parents agreed to pay for it. It finally arrived!

I might not be a composer of any sort, but this will be my daily reminder to create!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Writers at work

The physical experience of writing is something I like. When I'm writing a story I hit the keys with all my force. Sometimes people surrounding me in the library will ask me to keep it down. I sometimes also rock back and forth in my chair.

I'm not saying I'm anywhere near as good as the authors below - and never will be. But below are a few authors in the middle of the writing process.

 J. G. Ballard
Paul Auster

Roberto Bolano

William Faulkner

George Orwell

T. S. Eliot

John Updike

Monday, 16 July 2012

Lower-case "conservative"

The term "conservative" carries a lot of weight to it. In Britain, it conjures images of so-called "pragmatic", but uncharismatic, politicians who enforce a lot of spending cuts. In the United States, what it conjures over there is much worse. Conservatives over there believe that too much government is, by extension, synonymous with communism. There is also the new crop of "neo cons" - Dick Chaney, George Bush, Sarah Palin - who fuel corporate greed and wage wars on the "enemy."

Ok, so that is "Conservative," with a capital "C". That is the more political definition. But I believe there's a lot worth being conservative (note the lower-case "c") about.

I would say that, in many ways, I am a conservative because I want to go back to a simpler form of living. Instead of living under corporate law, I would favour a community-run society, with no state intervention - that could be seen as a conservative mentality. It's about returning to a less zealot, corporate existence.

In terms of social values, I may also consider myself a conservative. I'd like less aggression, noisiness and out-and-out stupidity. Instead of going out clubbing, rushing through the streets in a drunken frenzy, I'd like to contemplate the fields. Because the mentality people seem to go for now is just that - aggressive, drunken behaviour. Many people might see that as a "progressive" mentally. But I would rather back to a bare existence - a house in a forest, quiet, contemplative existence. Learn to live with solitude.

I also cherish human artefacts and certain institutions. There are people who would like to wipe these out. For instance, books and libraries are the cornerstones of human civilisation - the classification and codification of all human endeavour. Replace that with screens and gadgets and it ceases to have any meaning; it just becomes the same. There's a new crop of parasitic business men who think that that's too passé - screens are the way forward. I think that if libraries were to go on the brink, then that's killing an aspect of humanity.

Same goes for music downloads. People are now being brought up to look down on the more tactile experience. Owning an album or book is a remarkable thing. Having a file on a computer means absolutely nothing.

In this day and age, there is a lot to be conservative about.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The death of affect

"I believe in the death of the emotions and the triumph of the imagination." J. G. Ballard

For a lot of people, an easy way to 'access' a film or book is through its level of emotional involvement. 19th century romances and soap-operas are successful chiefly for that very reason - people can connect to it.

I'm not saying I don't like emotional involvement - I do. What I find most fascinating, though, are fantastic worlds wherein emotion is non-existent. Worlds where concepts such as love have no place in the waking world and there is a great level of disconnection.

So, what responses do these works provoke? It'd be odd to say that it's exhilarating - that is, in effect, an emotional reaction. In many cases, ironically, it provokes just that... But most of the time it is intrigue and fascination.

Writers like Don DeLillo and J. G. Ballard, and film directors like David Cronenberg and David Lynch, I find do this marvelously. A criticism often leveled at these artists is that their dialogue is not realistic - "people don't talk like that in real life."

In these books or films, people talk articulately, artificially and stiltedly. I often wish people talked like this in real life. Instead of talking with emotional superlatives, enthusiastically or banally, I'd find it far more satisfying if people talked in a forensic, detached manner in addition to being cold and distant.

The idea that art and creative practices are for emotional liberation is highly contestable. It can consist of that, yes. But that isn't its principal function. Why should music, for example, exclusively be a release of emotion? Often it's just mechanically organised patterns. And why should a writer be a romantic tormented soul? Can't his duty be that of a psychoanalyst or scientist, analysing the world and making observations?

Someone once directly criticised Ballard about his dialogue, saying "No-one talks like that." Ballard replied "I do."

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Thoughts on morality

An innate mechanism

For centuries, people have thought that the little social harmony and understanding that existed came as a result of religious morality. The religious testaments and scriptures, or the various permutations and variations of the religions that exist around the world, were the foundation as to how humans knew right from wrong.

First of all, morality isn't something that one makes up. Knowing that you don't have to kill someone, for example, is a moral judgment. When one forges one's own system of beliefs, these are values. Religion imparts its own set of values (which I think is the wrong thing to do anyway). Most religions, though, claim to have the ultimate verdict on morality. 

Morality is an innate mechanism. Most humans know that they do not have to kill, rob, slander, etc. They know this because they have grown up, made observations and developed their own moral code. What's more is that morality isn't something that is forced upon you from an early age, set in stone. You grow up, make a few observations and then develop an understanding of right and wrong.

Public and private

There is the public sphere and the private sphere. An infringement on someone else's private life is an abhorrent thing to do. This is why, when someone is raped or murdered, action has to be undertaken to set things right.

Morality in the public sphere is a different question all together. In a creative practice, transgressions (such as depiction of pedophilia or incest) can be making points that can, in fact, broaden the scope of our knowledge. In social commentary, such as journalism, opinions which some may deem to be immoral, should be given a space in the public platform. A plural society needs a diversity of voices and opinions. A far-right politician, for example, is entitled to a column in a newspaper. (Even though I would strongly disagree with the things he says.) If his political party were to take over and try silencing everyone's opinions, then that's a private infringement and measures should be undertaken to restore order.

Personal choices

I do not have a full understanding of existentialism. I cannot even claim to be well-versed in philosophical texts. Though the idea of making a personal choice, a moral personal choice, appeals to me greatly. When the redundant religious doctrines cease to have importance, one takes a look at the world, reviews one's personal take on things and acts accordingly. This, to me, is a sensible course of action. Everyone's thought processes work differently and, thus, one's values are different. No primitive morality can prove otherwise.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The genius of Anton Webern

I've been hearing Anton Webern for years, but only recently have I come to appreciate the true value of his music.

The way these strands of sound are sown together fills me with awe. I also love how, though this music is mathematically calculated and tabulated, it sounds as if it has been extolled from a very brooding introspective mind.

Last time I went to Chile I attended programme including a Webern piece. An old lady sitting next to me said "I could have written that." If only you knew, old lady... If only you knew.