Archive for September, 2008

Continued from my previous post ‘Is God Out There?’

Time is of a vast scale and beyond our clear understanding. Nevertheless we walk the line or mark time here on the earth. Why would we then correct ourselves of mistakes we perceive them as unworthy of us if it were not so? Anyone who has some measure of self-esteem and respect for one’s true worth will strive to live in an exemplary manner. ‘When can I do better nothing less would suffice’. Time for us on the earth is to take us a notch higher day after day in moral terms as well as in our knowledge . Our mortal nature recognizes truth of nature ; but it is in context of Truth. We have a physical body but  we also have a soul-our essence: our soul is what we hold as Truth transcribed into human terms. Conscience is merely our recognition of  it.
St. Augustine led a dissolute life and he changed when he was convicted of such a life unworthy of him. Why would he want to do that when time is distorted for all? Yes we are finite beings and time runs for us in such a manner we tend to be distracted by superficials than by what is of our essence. For St. Augustine such a realization came from a chance hearing of verses from the Scriptures. His mother’s prayers that he would have heard often and the maternal concern for his soul resonated at the appropriate time to effect a change of ways.
Such changes work for so many in so many ways. I shall illustrate in another post how Albert Schweitzer found his way out.
Dr. Albert Schweitzer, St. Francis, Buddha and Gandhi for example learned to straighten out time from distorting their life’s work.


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Arturo Rubinstein in order to practise for a concert instructed his butler Francois not to let in any caller; he was to tell the caller that he was not at home. When the telephone rang Francois dutifully answered the woman at the other end as was instructed with the crashing chords of the maestro coming from the next room.
“Out?” she asked with disbelief,”I can hear him playing!” ”Not at all madam,”the butler was quite clear,”it is merely I, dusting the keys.”(Ack: Jack Lait Jr.-Brooklyn Eagle)
Ralph Waldo Emerson was well versed in philosophy, poetry and many other disciplines that the label of savant adequately expresses him, was however at a loss in leading a female calf into the barn. His son Edward once went to his help and he grabbed the animal by the ear while his father pushed from behind. While they were stumped an Irish servant girl came to their rescue. With an amused glance at the perspiring philosopher she thrust a finger into the calf’s mouth and the animal enticed by this maternal imitation dutifully followed her into the barn.
After cleaning himself up he paid a tribute to the servant girl in his journal thus:’I like people who can do things.’ (Ack: Philip Russel-The Wisest American)
George Nathaniel Curzon(1859-1925)
Curzon who was the Viceroy of India was a hard task master and no servants lasted long in his household. One fellow served Curzon in the capacity of a butler for years and he also one day decided he had had enough. He gave notice and the great man asked him if he could recommend a successor.”There are,” he replied wearily,”only two who could take my place-one is Jesus Christ, I am the other.”
Alexandre Dumas occasionally lost patience with his servant who was not respectful always. Once after he had ignored an order Dumas cried out,”My God are you mad or am I?”
“Ah sir,”replied the servant,”surely you would not hire a servant who is mad!”

Sir William S.Gilbert(1836-1911)liberettist,wit
A lady of ample girth once was the guest of Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame; during the rehearsal he was urgently called to backstage and when he came back he found his guest missing. He asked the stage-hand who stood nearby if he knew whare she might be.
“Oh,”answered the stage-hand pointing,”she is round behind.”
“I asked you,”replied a waspish Gilbert,”for her geography, not her description.”
Soon after the death of a well known composer, someone who did not keep up with the news asked Sir Gilbert what that particular composer was doing. Gilbert said that he was doing nothing.”Surely he is composing?”the fellow persisted.
“On the contrary,”commented the wit,”he is decomposing.”

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An individual molecule of water can spend 200,000 years undisturbed in an icesheet in Antartica whereas in the ocean it may spend some 40,000 years. The same molecule can manage 1000 years in an underground reservoir, 10 years in a lake,10 days in the atmosphere. The same molecule in an animal’s body will endure only around 10 hours. With such a variation for the same molecule depending on the state it finds itself we may apply our own case to the concept of Time. Man as terrestrial being may have life span of 80 years or about. As spiritual beings it may have another cycle. What comes after that is beyond any man’s guess.
Time is in short distorted for all corporeal beings.
God is defined as eternal being and omnipresent. If God is a reality, a molecule of water  in a great icesheet in Antartica is no different than one in a human body.
In my case I believe God is part and parcel of my being since I mark time. ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’.

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Wilde had an uneasy friendship with the artist James McNeill Whistler. In the autumn of 1883 Punch parodied one of their conversations about the Divine Sarah. Wilde cabled to Whistler, ”Punch too ridiculous. When you and I are together we never talk about anything but ourselves.”
Whistler cabled back: “No, no Oscar when you and I are together we never talk about anything except me.” Wilde however had the last word:”It’s true, Jimmy we talk about you, but I think of myself.”

Disaster Strikes
His downfall was much of his own making. Even when it was clear his abortive charges of criminal libel would fail, and despite of well meaning advice to flee the country he remained as though resigned to his fate.
To one who asked him to turn to France he remarked, ”One can’t keep going abroad unless one is a missionary or a commercial traveller,- which comes to the same thing.

To one actor he cracked, ”Have no fear, the working classes are with me- to a boy.”

Two actors who were both appearing in Wilde’s West End hits (An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest)came across the playwright in the street and they were embarrassed. Before they could duck Wilde asked them if they knew what it was Queensberry, his archenemy was saying about him. Uneasily they declared they heard nothing. “Then I’ll tell you,” said Wilde, ”He actually had the effrontery to say that ‘The Importance of…’ was better acted than An Ideal Husband. Naturally I had to sue.”

There were certain lighter moments in the court. While recreating scenes at one of the male brothels situated at Westminster, he was asked, ”Was it in a bad neighborhood?”
“I know nothing about that_ it was near the House of Commons.” Was his reply.

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Gide And Cocteau

Andre Gide, (1869-1951)writer
A few days after the death of Andre Gide, fellow writer Francois Mauriac received the following telegram:’There is no hell. You can go on a spree. Inform Claudel-Andre Gide’.
Jean Cocteau, (1891-1963)poet, artist

When asked for his view on the existence of hell he replied with a smile,”Excuse me for not answering. I have friends in both places.”

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Intimate Lighting (Intimni osvetleni to the Czech) is quintessentially a Czech New Wave film. It follows the visit of musician Petr (Bezusek) and his betrothed to old friends in a small country town. A moving tribute by Ivan Passer (who was Milos Forman’s co-writer ‘If There Were No Music’ or Kdyby ty muziky nebyly, 1963) to the pleasures of friendship the film retains a wistful, gently comic and affecting tone throughout. Lasting an admirably tight 72 minutes, it invites us to share a weekend in the countryside with six couples and two small children. During this period a series of outwardly unexceptional events and conversations take place; and it is to the credit of the filmmaker that such intimate grouping and their interaction do not peter out into self indulgent free-for all but each scene freely flows  to another and at the same throw up a great many truths that are revealing of ourselves from the particular to the general. It is the last Czech film by Ivan Passer, a sympathetically directed study of belonging and feel for the place.
The Film
Music plays a large part in the film, beginning with a provincial orchestra essaying Dvorak Cello Concerto predictably without fire and passion and the string quartet rehearsal that for the first time establishes common ground between the three leading men. Among other things there is a brass band accompanying a funeral procession or Grandfather’s snoring which crop up as a leitmotif of provincial life expressed in musical terms.
Petr (Zdeněk Bezušek) and his girlfriend Štěpa (Věra Křesadlová, Forman’s wife at the time) live in Prague and they return to the country to visit Bambas (Karel Blažek) and the latter’s unnamed father (Forman regular Jan Vostrčil). Bambas still nurses some grudge since he was left behind to work as a school administrator and it pops recurringly in their conversation.
Passer delicately counterpoints their low-level squabbling (which, as so often in real life, is never really resolved). Whereas  their women hold a more down-to-earth attitude. In addition to Štěpa, there’s no-nonsense housewife and mother Maruš (Jaroslava Štědrá), and Bambas’ unnamed mother (Vlastimila Vlková), who believes that she was abducted by a travelling circus when young.
The lightness of Passer’s touch recalls Jean Renoir at his peak, and comparisons with the latter’s Partie de Campagne (1936) are not out of place. Like Jean Renoir Passer opted to work in America and sadly nothing as remotely touching the promise he had shown in Intimate Lighting came to fruition. Forman’s regular cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček (whose work was completed by Josef Střecha after Ondříček went off halfway to work for Lindsay Anderson) manages to make the lighting look both meticulous and deceptively casual, the slightly off-centre compositions giving an off-the-cuff feel that is in keeping with overall tone of the film as a whole. The scenes with Bambas’ children are small miracles of choreography and cutting, especially Štěpa and little Kaja’s peek-a-boo game interweaving itself into an early conversation, or the dinner-table scene in which a chicken leg changes plate three times before being accidentally drenched.
Passer has a wonderful eye for absurd but strangely congruous juxtaposition, with first a white then a black kitten held up outside the open window for the string quartet’s reluctant enjoyment, or the incident with the chickens and the car, its bloody conclusion rendered oddly poetic by a perfectly-formed egg rolling up to the corpse. ‘The film’s final shot is too delicious to spoil, but Pauline Kael’s description of it as “a freeze-frame closing gag that’s so funny and so completely dotty that you’re not likely to forget it” is right on the money.’(quoted from filmjournal)
For a non-professional actor, Blažek does an extraordinary job of conveying Bambas’ inner melancholy, though it turned out that part of the reason was that he was dying of leukaemia, succumbing just six weeks after shooting finished and never seeing the finished film.

1965, black and white, 72 mins

* Director: Ivan Passer
* Screenplay: Jaroslav Papoušek, Ivan Passer, Václav Šašek
* Story: Václav Šašek (’Something Else’)
* Photography: Miroslav Ondříček, Josef Střecha
* Editor: Jiřina Lukešová
* Design: Karel Černý
* Music: Oldřich Korte, Josef Hart

* Cast: Karel Blažek (Bambas); Zdeněk Bezušek (Petr); Věra Křesadlová (Štěpa); Jan Vostrčil (grandfather); Jaroslava Štědrá (Maruš); Vlastimila Vlková (grandmother); Karel Uhlík (chemist); Miroslav Cvrk (Kája); Dagmar Ředinová (young Maruš)

•    Crew: Adolf Böhm (sound); František Sandr (production manager); Ludmila Tikovská, Věra Winkelhöferová (production representatives); Jiří Růžička (assistant director); Jiří Stach (stills); Barrandov Studios plus location shooting in Tábor and Mirotice

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A Sick Cat-sketchbook

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