31.10.10

Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Plato's Theory of Bisexuality

Read about how the song "Origin of Love" from the musical movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a primer on Plato's theory of bisexuality.
image credit: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Freud uses the myth of the three human figures (taken from Plato’s Symposium) to illustrate the human instinct to need to return to a former state, which he calls the death drive, which, as can be seen by the myth, is fueled by the libido of desire.
“‘The original human nature was not like the present, but different. In the first place, the sexes were originally three in number, not two as they are now; there was man, woman, and the union of the two.’ Everything about these primaeval men was double: they had four hands and four feet, two faces, two privy parts, and so on. Eventually Zeus decided to cut these men in two .... After the division had been made, ‘the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and threw their arms about one another eager to grow into one.’” (Freud Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 69-70).
In the film, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hedwig uses the same myth to inspire a song she calls, “The Origin of Love.”


Lyrics from “Origins of Love”

26.10.10

Photograph: "Make A Wish"

The Make-a-Wish Virgin

There are miracles around us. New Orleans is a city of the night. If you live here, it is imperative that you make your way through its streets with an open eye. You never know what you may find.

25.10.10

Philosophers and Their Buzzwords: A Primer on Metaphysics


A Table of Western Philosophers and Their Metaphysical Systems


Philosopher
Buzzword
ThalesArche (Latin for "first principle")
HeraclitusBecoming
ParmenidesThe One
SocratesDialectic
PlatoThe Forms
Aristotlebeing qua being
Thomas AquinasGod as Being
DescartesThe Cogito (Latin for "I think")
SpinozaGod as Causa Sui
LeibnizMonads
HumeExperience
KantThe Transcendental
HegelAbsolute Spirit
NietzscheWill-to-Power
KierkegaardRelation
MarxCapital
FreudEgo
HeideggerDasein (Literally in Germain, "being-there")
SartreExistence precedes essence
LacanSymbolic
FoucaultPower
DerridaDifférance (with an “a”)
BatailleEros
DeleuzeFlow
BaudrillardSimulacrum
DesmondThe Metaxu (The Between)
ButlerInscribed Body
ŽižekIdeology

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image credit: Society Of Metaphysical Advancement

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Film Still: Playing Chess With Death

In this post, I jot down some thoughts on when I first saw Ingmar Bergman's 1957 black and white masterpiece The Seventh Seal.
"The Seventh Seal" (written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and 
starring Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot)

        The Seventh Seal is a visually stunning movie. And it has a narrative that keeps the viewer fixated. Death has come to collect Antonius Block (played by Max von Sydow), a crusader who has returned home from war to find his home stricken by Bubonic Plague. Death offers a concession — beat him in a game of chess. And the crusader can cheat death. What transpires after this pact is a visual lexicon of human suffering and hope for that which is beyond all hope. Filled with religious symbolism that is concurrent with the era of the plague — Europe in the Fourteenth Century — the film plays on themes of chance and deceit to deliver its message. In one scene, the Crusader goes to a church and confesses to a priest, all the while, revealing what his next chess move will be. The curtain is revealed, and it is death itself pretending to be a prelate. 
       Ironically, the movie offers a sublime treatment on the theme of death and despair. And presents a couple of transcendent moments as well — including what appears to be a vision of the Virgin Mary who appears to Jof (played by Nils Poppe), a lovable roving theater actor (which I found to be shot in soft light, a trick of the camera that enunciates the ethereal moment and leaves the event to mystery. Was it really the Virgin Mary? Or was it just a mirage that the actor saw through bleary, morning eyes?
        I first saw the Seventh Seal as a teenager. I had checked it out from the local public library and I know it had an effect on me. It was the first movie that I had seen that played with visual allegories — like an early scene where Death cuts down a corpulent human who has tried to escape by climbing up a tree! I remember trying to show the movie to a couple of friends, but they were bored by it and could not relate to its what seemed out-of-date imagery. I think I related to the idea of Antonious Block, preventing death from taking him, so he could carve out one meaningful event in his life after having lived it so vainly and disagreeably in war. At one point, Block asks, (and I am paraphrasing), "What is there?" and Death gives a matter-of-fact answer: "Nothing."
        What I felt the movie was saying was that life is fleeting, and beauty is captured in a moment, then gone. The famous final scene — all of the cast carried away in a dance towards Death — seems to me, a visual for life lived, of the fragile connections we have with others and the suddenness with which life comes to an end. That is why Bergman chose the Plague as his setting. In a time of disease, death is everywhere; one can smell it, taste it, know it. And it forces one to come up out of one's everyday dealings and contend with finality.
        Deep stuff.
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24.10.10

This Fish Told Us Not To Eat Him




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23.10.10

The Vacuum Train!




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21.10.10

5 Provocative Texts for the Precocious Adolescent Reader

1











Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov
The novel tells the story of Humbert Humbert, Lolita, the girl he travels the country with, and the mysterious Quilty, a man who is on their trail. Or is he? The piece reads in three parts. One part paean to language, two parts mystery, and three parts obsession. I suggest reading the novel with The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated at your side. You’ll need it to look up odd flower names, arcane historical references, linguistic puzzles, and Lepidoptera. Good luck.

When I read it I was a junior in college on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. What can I say? I love to mix the sacred with the profane. Lolita is the best book to read to help one overcome adolescence, so you may want to save it for last, but it is the best book of the lot. So, I place it first.

17.10.10

The Stages of Life According to Erikson

Erik Erikson, the accessible psychologist, child of Freud, conceived of an eight-layered schematic to illustrate the entirety of human development —  first marked out in his groundbreaking book, Childhood and Society. In this book, he maps out a continuum from birth to death of the struggles of human development. Even though they are not meant to be like a grocery list, I list them out here:

1. Trust and Mistrust  
The first stage begins at the moment the infant meets the outside social world for the first time. Our first experiences with the world forms the basic trust/mistrust dyad. It’s kind of like the father who tosses his daughter up in the air and catches her. Trust: he catches her safely. Drops her? Basic mistrust forms.
2. Autonomy and Guilt
The struggle between autonomy and guilt – that nasty fight between independence and the debilitating fear of the all-seeing eye that threatens to swallow you alive with its judgment, catapulting a person into shame and doubt.
3. Initiative and Guilt
Then, of course, there is the whole question, “what do I do with myself once I’ve achieved autonomy?” that either gets us going to self-actualization or we become mired in the things we should have done or said – in a word: guilt. 
4.Industry and Initiative
Every child has to learn what to create with their bodies after they’ve decided they can actually get off their haunches and express themselves – and added with that, the internal feeling of being loved and the inner worth that goes along with creating work worthy of pride.
5. Identity
You can have an identity, it seems, without struggling through those forgotten visceral experiences of infancy; adolescence merely pokes its ugly head in to confuse us all over again – and we thought the womb was tough.
6. Intimacy and Isolation
But once we get a firm grounding on who we are as individuals we can really enter into genuine intimacy with another, although rocking precariously with the threat of isolation; this is where boundaries are set and committed relationships begin.
7. Generativity versus Stagnation
  And once we accomplish these mile markers we feel we have to give something back; we feel mortality nipping at our heels and generativity rushes in as a contraposition to idle stagnation.
8. Coming to terms. Or not.
The final hurrah is accessing whether the whole thing was worth it from the womb to the final tomb. We struggle at this point in the journey between feeling satisfied that we have gained much from life and whether or not we have nurtured the seeds for our children’s children. If we feel we've failed, death is a painful process, and we sink into the depressing cavity of despair, hopelessly casting off any hopes for immortality.

Quotation: Nietzsche's The Gay Science

We philosophers are not free to divide body from soul as the people do; we are even less free to divide soul from spirit. We are not thinking frogs, nor objectifying and registering mechanisms with their innards removed: constantly, we have to give birth to our thoughts out of our pain and, like mothers, endow them with all we have of blood, heart, fire, pleasure, passion, agony, conscience, fate, and catastrophe. Life - that means for us constantly transforming all that we are into light and flame - also everything that wounds us; we simply can do no other (Nietzsche 1974 34-35).
Nietzsche, Friedrich W, and Walter Kaufmann. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. New York: Vintage Books.

15.10.10

Dude Plays Saxophone at the Fulton Street Broadway/Nassau Station

 Don't worry. He was graciously tipped. 

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13.10.10

Day Fades on the Manhattan Bound J Train

I took a video of the window of the subway car as the train travelled over the Williamsburg Bridge at dusk on my way to the library from work.







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10.10.10

Top Ten Films To Watch Over and Over Again

What movies are better on a second (or third) viewing? Here is a list of movies you can watch over and over again.
1
A knight fresh back from the Crusades plays a pivotal game of chess with Death.
2
A journalist attempts to track down the real story of newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane.
3
A delinquent boy in Paris grows up and discovers himself.
4
A girl from Kansas ends up in a magical world where she must find the wizard if she wants to go home.
5
A crew on a mission to Mars finds an unexpected foe.
6
A dreamy-eyed girl arrives in Los Angeles but her dreams do not turn out quite the way she planned it.
7.

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A girl in France makes a deal with a man-turned-beast to save her father.
8
A young boy in a coal-mining town in England takes on ballet dancing against his father's wishes.
9
A young boy in Italy is obsessed with movies and befriends his small town's film operator.
10
A police detective in San Francisco is given a case that threatens to unhinge him.
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