Sunday, December 4, 2022

 “I cannot help but regret that I did not live 50 or 100 years sooner. Life is too full in these times to be comprehensible. We know too many cities to be able to grow into any of them, . . . too many friends to have any real friendships, too many books to know any of them well, and the quality of our impressions gives way to the quantity, so that life begins to seem like a movie, with hundreds of kaleidoscopic scenes flashing on and off our field of perception, gone before we have time to consider them.” 

 George F. Kennan, diaries, 1927

Thursday, December 1, 2022

 “My dear fellow.” said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, “life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out of that window hand in hand, hover over this great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in at the queer things which are going on, the strange coincidences, the plannings, the cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events, working through generation, and leading to the most outre results, it would make all fiction with its conventionalities and foreseen conclusions most stale and unprofitable. “

“And yet I am not convinced of it,” I [Watson] answered. “The cases which come to light in the papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and vulgar enough. We have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the result is, it must be confessed, neither fascinating nor artistic.”

- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sunday, November 27, 2022

"Is it possible - and I know this mad hypothesis is asking for ridicule - that we are poisoning ourselves with music? Our lot, my contemporaries, from our adolescence on, we listened to dance music, day and night, and it was all of it romantic or sentimental. It yearned, it wanted, it longed, it needed - and expected, too, for somewhere, some time, a promise had been made. Some day I'll find you... We were immersed in dreams. But since then music has changed. Its rhythms no longer swoon or sway or linger, they beat and pound and drive and the sound is so loud you have to hear it with your nerves....  So my question is, when some person goes out to kill or torture or maim, can one reason be that he or she has been set for the crime by music that has driven them mad? Shamans have used music for thousands of years to create special moods, young men are prepared for killing by stirring marches, churches use inspirational music to hold their flocks together, and it is known that real spiritual teachers use music, but this is so delicate a thing that it is used carefully, by specialists, in special circumstances. But we deluge ourselves with music, of every kind, soak ourselves in it, often feed it direct into the brain with machines designed for this purpose - and we never even ask what effect it may be having. Well, I, for one - and I know there are others think it is time we do ask."

- Doris Lessing, 1994

(from Under My Skin: Volume I of my Autobiography, to 1949)

Saturday, November 26, 2022

"To counter the pessimistic question of where music is heading, I would aver that it goes nowhere: it resides right there in the dimensional warp between your hands and your head, between the act of consuming and the act of listening. I can testify to how my deeper understanding of music has come from two types of moments. The first is an unpredictable encounter with a song whose materiality — its texture, its configuring, its apparition — overwhelms my attempt to dissect its contents. The second is when someone else turns me on to a song, not by intimidation, oneupmanship or neurotic insistence, but because they somehow manage to point out something they experienced deep within the song which I then attempt to register. In this latter case, I try to not listen for myself, but through an alternative self which can navigate the music better than I. In film scoring, one’s personal taste is a deadly liability. Film scoring entails dealing with psychological sensations and effects which go well past any sense of ethical stability and well-being. Film scores thus enable a promiscuous listening which I find liberating: I feel I’ve gone beyond myself into something more interesting than my pithy sense of taste."

 Philip Brophy, in the Wire, on listening and role of turning people on through alternative selves

Sunday, November 20, 2022

 "What, do you imagine that I would take so much trouble and so much pleasure in writing, do you think that I would keep so persistently to my task, if I were not preparing – with a rather shaky hand – a labyrinth into which I can venture, into which I can move my discourse... in which I can lose myself and appear at last to eyes that I will never have to meet again. I am no doubt not the only one who writes in order to have no face. Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same: leave it to our bureaucrats and our police to see that our papers are in order. At least spare us their morality when we write.” 

Michel Foucault, the outro to The Archeology of Knowledge

My little brother pretending to read my copy of Archaelogy of Knowledge

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

 “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook – even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions.

We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, ‘But how could they have thought that?’ – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H.G. Wells and Karl Barth. None of us can fully escape this blindness, but we shall certainly increase it, and weaken our guard against it, if we read only modern books. Where they are true they will give us truths which we half knew already. Where they are false they will aggravate the error with which we are already dangerously ill. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books,”

 – C.S. Lewis, in his introduction to Saint Athanasius’ On the Incarnation.

  “I cannot help but regret that I did not live 50 or 100 years sooner. Life is too full in these times to be comprehensible. We know too ma...