Chagall is an artist I was somewhat unfamiliar with, though I have gone to art galleries all over the US and Europe. I picked up his self-illustrated auto-biography recently. It is his life story written out as a poem, accompanied by sketches of his humble upbringing, in somewhat surrealist fashion. It recalled memories of things I had learned in my eastern European history class at U.C. Davis. What impressed me much, was this artist’s simple upbringing. Chagall wasn’t good at anything at all, except for art. Worried he would be a failure, he married the first local girl he ever kissed, after growing up in some tiny town. The synagogue was the center of his somewhat insulated life. Meanwhile, his parents scorned him for choosing to be an artist, instead of something more traditional.
Throughout the work, people are ready to kick his ass for being a Jew. Sometimes he runs, other times he claims he is not Jewish. Some lady sleeps with 25 troops , just to get to the store to buy flour. Stores are often ran-sacked. Born in Belarus, he borrowed a friend’s papers to get out of town, and go to Paris and St. Peteresberg. In Paris he scours the Louvre, getting influenced by the great artists. In Moscow, he set up a school where he taught orphans how to be artists. The reach of the USSR permeates throughout his existence, reminding me of how much many Eastern Europeans (like in Czech where I visited before) really hated and resent the Soviet Empire’s domination of their people’s.
Partly, what makes this book interesting is its authors takes on the other great artists, such as Picasso and Matisse. This book shows how he took their influences and blended them together to create his own art form, something critics like Wagner would say amounted to a watering fown of the art form. When Chagall returned home after WWI to Belarus, then he learned he had become famous. Ultimately, his takes on cubism, sculpture, and oil paintings, helped break through traditions, and led to modernism in art. His art had an undertone of yearning and loss, as well as surrealistic elements, which were ahead of their time. At the same time, his artwork seems very humble, always sketching out details of his local upbringing in a small town. He lived in a great age historically, dominated by Trotsky and Lenin. The entire autobiography is written in a somewhat poetic fashion, and is an achievement in originality. After having read this great artist’s take on art. We will next turn towards Richard Wagner’s (more) controversial opinions on art in an upcoming column.
Do you ever feel like the world is just kind of slapping you around from one situation in life to the next, like you don’t belong anywhere with anyone? Or that people sometimes bounce off each other in dramatic ways: some succeed, some die, others fade into obscurity.
I recently finished an interesting book called Pinball, by Jerzy Kosinski. Supposedly, it was written for the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. The author is a Polish guy who was on the way to Polanski’s the day the Manson family killed them. He only wrote five books or so and is a cult author, known for so many revisions and being compact in his writing style. The author is like a well kept secret. And as the book shows, sometimes our secrets can be liabilities.
The plot involves a love triangle, which involves a number of pianist (performers) and composers. The main ploy is one of them is a very famous but reclusive composer, whose identity remains unknown. Throughout the book, the link main emphasis is on sex as a catharsis release of energy which then engages the creative spirit. Chopin is brought up as a sick but pertinent example. The author demonstrates tons of knowledge of classical up through modern synthesizer music. And a bit about early rock and roll. He does this historically, as well in terms of performance art knowledge. The love triangle is very intimidate, because the lovers are affecting each others musical compositions or performances, so that each act of lust takes on a higher meaning.
The climax of the book results in a final bloody and fatal feud, not unlike American Psycho crossed with a Tarentino script. The author is clearly a musician and probably sexually obsessive himself. The honesty of the writing style gives it power and purpose. In an age where the slightest touch on the ass of a hot female will result in the Gulag, reading a book such as this, or 1984, reminds one of the importance of the human touch, and the ability to freely associate and express oneself , free from tyranny.
Note that the one eye on the cover is probably Illuminati symbolism.
So in school I was assigned to read Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. And the schools I went to were only an hour from where Steinbeck lived and wrote most of his early works. But we never took afield trip out there. Those books aren’t as good, or as poignant as The Pearl.
In the Pearl, the main character Kino dives for pearls for a living, and lives a modest lower class agricultural lifestyle. One day he dives and retrieves the largest pearl ever known. His child had also recently fallen ill. Rumors spread, and the whole town (including the baby’s doctor) soon is conniving to either screw him over- or to steal it from him outright. His wife Juanita warns him that all this could happen. But Kino’s pride as a man, combined with his personal ambitions doom him completely. Juana fatalistically accepts Kino’s flawed decisions out of an understanding of the psychology of prideful men (a clear indication this book was written before the feminist movement). And in the end, many characters suffer ill fates.
If you ever saw the cult film with Mimi Rogers and David Duchovny called The Raputure, then you will recognize the symbol of the pearl in the cult members visions and also as tattooed on one of the members’ back in the film. Pearls in American culture are in a modern tradition tending to represent an ominous forewarning of personal or societal apocalypse. Personally I have a pearl memento from my baptism when I was 14.
This book made me ask myself hard questions. Many authors like Nassim Taleb (in his book Black Swans) argue that one should always take advantage off opportunities to profit aggressively (since good opportunities are deemed rare). Ayn Rand would also argue to be greedy and not share the proceeds with the community, since humans are not sacrificial lambs, but rather self-responsible individuals. But in this book, which is a fairly realistic scenario, the main character would have done better to do neither of those actions. Instead, had Kino shared the proceeds with his community, then the community would not have had as much incentive to rob/maim him. And had Kino took the first (lesser) payment offer for the pearl and been modest, instead of turning down the offer to seek more money for it – then he would have been all the better for it.
As we move towards the future with sexbots, maybe society should consider whether these could be benefit of all, instead of simply for the wealthy and the perverted. And perhaps we should also not think of the sexbots as a total cure-all for headaches and arguments men and women suffer from each other. Its best for society to keep an open mind towards them, and try to find a way to use them as a positive tool and a force for peace and happiness in the world. – “Deplorable” Steve
It has been a fun summer. But I think I took the wrong books on that picnic date. Lets review some of this past summer’s reading:
Breakthrough by Whitley Strieber. (1995) Highly Recommended.
Mr. Strieber’s follow-up to Communion is once again about getting abducted by aliens. Its awesome because he writes it as non-fiction in the first person and makes it extremely vivid. I’m not saying there really are aliens abducting him -the remote New York cabin location seems kind of convenient to avoid witnesses or security seeing the aliens. Yet his paranoia makes a darn good horror story. The last few chapters are an awesome retrospective on the history of the US government, the media, and UFO’s. Another great thing about this book is it left open who the aliens are. Strieber claims they could be time-travelers (inter-dimensional beings) , or that aliens could surrogates of foreign governments, the US government, or private corporations.
Love + Sex with Robots by David Levy (2007) Not Recommended.
I was pretty excited when I started this book, and by the time I had read forty pages I felt like someone should have been paying me to read it. With subject matter like this, the author needs to make it kind of funny and enjoyable to read. This book is very dry and scholastic in its tone. The author does an excellent job of providing information to the reader. He even goes back into the history of sex dolls. All the way to modern Japan, where the top corporations have done these advanced robotics and AI. There’s explanations of why people will want sexbots. Including psychological studies and so forth. And taking into account things such as convenience, locality, attachment etc. However, since it is written in a style which is as though he was turning it in for a college thesis to be graded – it is not as enjoyable to the average reader who is seeking information in a way that is fun. Therefor, I would not recommend this book to a friend. Though, at the same time, I do give props to the author for his vast knowledge of sexbots and for taking on a topic which sometimes results in ridicule.
Nihilism by Brett Stevens (2016) Highly Recommended.
Are you ready to challenge your basic assumptions about humanity? If you answered yes, then I would highly recommend you add this book to the end of summer reading list. Its author keeps the readers turning the pages by strongly challenging basic assumptions about whether modern civilization is on the right track or not. Stevens argues that society is in denial about how bad things are, like in Voltaire’s Candide. His condemnation of society as well as his remedies both challenge the reader to brainstorm with him about how it could be possible to get civilization back on track. He avoids fatalism by not saying everything is doomed. But rather suggests his own solutions, which is refreshing (whether or not you necessarily agree with all of them). The author believes that much less government imposed order would be beneficial to humanity. This is interesting because it evokes some libertarian principles. There is Rousseau/Hobbesian inspired state of nature aspects to this book. At the same time it is ironic. Since it crosses with a form of Jacksonian social Darwinism, which is looked down upon by scholars traditionally (yet has always had populist appeal). A highly provocative book, for deep thinkers. – Steve C.