Monday, 21 May 2007

Capote's Blondes and Brunettes

Although I hadn't actually seen the film, the impression I got from all the talk about Katherine Hepburn's star turn in Breakfast at Tiffany's was that it was superficial socialite twaddle and Capote's writing wasn't worth bothering with.

But if it weren't for the film Capote, which I did go and see, I wouldn't have reassessed my impression of the film's inspiration and gotten down to reading his work.

Needless to say, In Cold Blood and the dead-tree version of Breakfast at Tiffany's are brilliant, and Holly Golightly is a much darker figure than I had expected.

And so I give you a selection from In Cold Blood, which, funnily enough given the book's non-fictional fictional status, might not be words of Capote's invention but of the actual person from whose mouth they were supposedly uttered:
"What you got against him - a nice little punk like that?"

"Parole violation."

"Uh-huh. Came all the way from Kansas on a parole case. Well, I'm just a dizzy blonde. I believe you. But I wouldn't tell that tale to any brunettes."

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Cryptic Joy

I'm a fan of cryptic crosswords, and yesterday's Age had a fantastically good clue for 1 across:
Give a shellacking with two languages (6,6)
It took a while, and I needed a little help with some handily placed cross clues, but figuring out French polish was the answer made the morning feel so much brighter.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Sympathetic Until...

I certainly felt quite sympathetic towards the first person ever convicted of distributing movies over the internet using BitTorrent, which happened in Hong Kong of all places. Yes, sympathetic until I noticed he had been convicted for distributing the films Daredevil, Miss Congeniality and Red Planet, the first of which mine own eyes can attest was craptacular.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Schopenhauer vs. the German Idealists

Schopenhauer dealt professionally with Hegel at least in the German university system, but that didn't stop him in his World as Will and Representation from launching some of the most stinging invective I've ever read against the obscurantism of the German Idealists that came after Kant:
What was senseless and without meaning at once took refuge in obscure exposition and language. Fichte was the first to grasp and make use of this privilege; Schelling at best equalled him in this, and a host of hungry scribblers without intellect or honesty soon surpassed them both. But the greatest effrontery in serving up sheer nonsense, in scrabbling together senseless and maddening webs of words, such as had previously been heard only in madhouses, finally appeared in Hegel.

Schopenhauer vs. Spinoza

If I remember correctly, Schopenhauer was fond of and influenced by Spinoza's work. Certainly Schopenhauer's positing of an essentially unified world bears a striking resemblance to Spinoza's pantheism, yet that never got in the way of a classic Schopenhauerian quip, as the following attests:
To call the world God is not to explain it; it is only to enrich our language with a superfluous synonym for the word world.

Farewell France?

Why emulate those whom you ridicule so justifiably?

France and Sarkozy remind me greatly of the misguided aims of communism in practice. Communist governments spent so much time concerning themselves with progress, with worrying about being more productive and beating capitalism at its own game, they forgot that communism's attractions relate to the possibility of living better.

Wherefore art thou o ideology that careth not for the productive cog, but for humankind in its resplendent glory?

Wherefore art thou o salvation from this mortal coil?

Monday, 14 May 2007

Everybody's Looking for the Ladder

I previously gave you Kant's dove; I now offer you Wittgenstein's ladder.

Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus can be pretty much summarised thusly: anything that doesn't refer to the factual world is meaningless.

Of course, that statement and most of the Tractatus itself did not refer to the factual world and was therefore meaningless by its own reckoning, which was something Wittgenstein was indeed aware of.

So in order to dig his way out of the hole of meaninglessness that he made himself fall into, Wittgenstein used the following non-factual and therefore meaningless metaphor:
My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.)

He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Skin-Deep Beauty

An elder monk notices a younger monk leering at a hot chicky babe in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, and, in order to disengorge a sanctified appendage behaving sinfully, says rather misogynistically to the hornbag youth:
The beauty of the body stops at the skin. If men could see what is beneath the skin, as with the lynx of Boeotia, they would shudder at the sight of a woman. All that grace consists of mucus and blood, humors and bile. If you think of what is hidden in the nostrils, in the throat, and in the belly, you will find only filth. And if it revolts you to touch mucus or dung with your fingertips, how could we desire to embrace the sack that contains that dung?
Such a wonderful elaboration of the adage "beauty is only skin deep" is not, however, of Umberto Eco's invention. The above passage is in fact attributable to one Saint Odo de Cluny, but what he was referring to when speaking of the lynx of Boeotia not even the internet could tell me.

Yes, for once, Google failed me.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Plato and Kant's Flightless Dove

Yesterday we had Plato's metaphysical suppositions providing Copernicus with the idea of a heliocentric universe; today we have Kant lampooning those very same metaphysical suppositions that lie at the heart of Plato's philosophy by talking of a wishful-thinking dove.

From the introduction of Norman Kemp Smith's translation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason:
The light dove, cleaving the air in her free flight, and feeling its resistance, might imagine that its flight would still be easier in empty space. It was thus that Plato left the world of the senses, as setting too narrow limits to the understanding, and ventured out beyond it on the wings of the ideas, in the empty space of the pure understanding. He did not observe that with all his efforts he made no advance - meeting no resistance that might, as it were, serve as a support upon which he could take a stand, to which he could apply his powers, and so set his understanding in motion.