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Archive for December, 2008

judgment-paris

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Descartes said, ‘I think therefore I am’. Is thought all that defines man of his being?
Self of man is rooted in the very consciousness of his or her world. Even in the womb a child is conscious of a world, which is part of another world. Its floating world is kind of a reality. It may not think or know of a far wider world lying beyond. Even so it is in development, a growth process beginning and end of which no one may determine for certainty. A newborn enters the world with little control over its body and having no thinking faculties so to speak. Is not the baby still a being in its own right?
Ability to think alone does not define the essence of a being.
2.
With great advances in our understanding of physiology we may now put the origin of thoughts, movements as belonging properly in the realm of physiology. Similarly a foetus linked to its mother by an umbilical chord while within the womb is a matter of physiology. But what makes it draw air in its lungs the moment the umbilical chord is cut off  belongs to something else. What gave it a foreknowledge of a world that must be breathed in?
A baby has already certain experience of the outside world and it is picked up through the medium of its mother. By the same token we are conscious of a world, an inner world through the medium of our corporeal bodies.
Thinking only gives a handle to what impressions we may have of other worlds. It cannot however prove its existence or disprove it.
benny

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I do not think I had since I came to a man’s estate ever held Christmas as any day special from other days. It was thus through the period while I had unchurched myself or while I was part of it. Of course it has nothing to do with my belief or lack of it. I feel His presence too well, and it is an every day thing, to think of giving only one day for such things that are so vital to my conscious life.
On the day of Christmas I attended the service and the passage chosen for reading made me reexamine the relevance of Christmas.
1.

Christmas celebrates the advent of Christ: Relevance of the event is that it was a sign. Its origin? Isaiah 7 has an interesting passage where the prophet says,‘ The Lord himself shall give you a sign;…’ The sign originated from the mind of God, having no space or time constraints. Considering the prophet lived some six centuries before the actual event it does not lose its importance. I shall give the immediate context to which the passage refers to in the section 3.

2.

The second part of the verse reads as follows, ‘…Behold a virgin shall …bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’.(vs.14) Immanuel means ‘God amongst us. Whether we subscribe to God as Truth in a secular vocabulary or as ‘Father in heaven’ as the Lord prayer teaches us, the fact is inescapable. Our world and Cosmos is shot through with His knowledge and in the heart of which he remains as the Lord redeemer. Whether in our physical bodies, or redeemed from the corruptible nature of mortality, Immanuel is exactly what the term means. He is among us, among the skeptics and believers alike.

In short life and death may be two states of being and non-being(as believing or disbelieving are), our relationship to God remains unchanged. In this context consider the Pauline verse ‘that he might fill all things.’Eph 4:10. Neither heaven nor hell shall keep the meaning of Immanuel any less relevant.
3.
Prophet Isaiah lived at a turbulent period in the history of Judah. King Ahaz was a wicked king who worshiped idols and did things hateful to God. Even as Syria and Israel conspired together to destroy Judah the king didn’t call upon God. It was under such a circumstance God chose to send His message though his prophet. King Ahaz is typical of modern man who doesn’t care to think God has any role to play in his life. He shall be God, the absolute whether you like it or not. Immanuel for me goes beyond any particular day.  It is an everyday thing and I feel that proper office of man is to give a good account of himself as best as he can, even under the most trying times.

benny

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Decadence of Rome can be summed up in the adage ‘All roads lead to Rome’. The empire was only concerned of taxes, luxury and essential goods streaming in from every road. The wealth of course went into the state coffers and into the pockets of a few families. The empire wasn’t concerned as much about the poor,  workmen and slaves while the few had too much of power, riches and privileges.  The sting of such sweet life that a superpower nation offers to citizens is a price too dear. It saps the moral fibre of each member of the select few. Rome’s fall was hastened by their flouting of some simple home truths. Character of every citizen must add up fairly even handed and nation’s health is made by just laws. Rome allowed certain group uncontrolled power to run the empire.
The same we see now in slightly modified form, noticeably in unrestrained free enterprise of finance. Those who have mishandled the trust of a nation shall gamble away unrepentant, if they get another chance. A gambler’s compulsive nature they will show. Recently I read of some US banks warning that they may not be able to give a proper account of the bailouts they have had. What with such a crisis in consumer confidence at the present we expect the Banks would treat any bailout as manna from heaven. Instead we have here an example of custodians of Nation’s financial health making a mess of money given out to them.  I can only compare it to the expression, ‘ casting pearls before swines’. It is, I suppose, rooted in human nature to be lackadaisical of whatever freely given because of some deeply ingrained wrong habit. The man  in the receiver. A child who gets always into trouble may be helped by another. If such help has come unstintingly it is almost certain he even when old shall go on making mistakes. He may even by experience think the world owes him at least that much. Is it not a moral sickness? Similarly one who has always had support of his class and some who are powerful develop habits that can only spell disaster for so many. The custodians of nation’s wealth having handled money in a very-free- for- all- and- greed- is -good atmosphere are more likely to be less than scrupulous on the commodity of trust in particular. Mr. Bernard Madoff  knew he could get away with his alleged ‘swindle’ under the cloak of philanthropy.  Worse still he knew the regulators would not find him out.  Yes in an insulated bubble of greed the regulators, politicians and crooked capitalists are all patriots of another kind. They beat the drum and wave the flag of their country.  The ilk of Alan Greenspan, Cox, from their positions of  trust and  responsibility  all assure the nation’s wealth is showing great flexibility. Which nation do they serve? These serve a land where money is the only constitution and rule of law is proved by profits. Whereas patriotism of the common man is paid in blood, tears and sweat. When such things become well entrenched in nation’s life remember Rome.
Playing within the system to which only a few are admitted is sure to come unstuck sooner or later.
benny

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Hitler’s Third Reich was built up on the foundation of hatred. It was meant to endure for 1000 years. But it could only manage 13 years. Why? Hatred consumes much more vital resources in human and material terms so much so it cannot be cost effective. Jihadist elements who employ female suicide bombers or African militia using child soldiers are spendthrifts sacrificing their future for the present gains.
2.
It takes money to make money. Right? How is it that those who have made money want more? Greed seems to keep man as though he has got ants in his pants. He may wheel and deal as though ants are out to get at him but do you think he would be able to amount to much? Greed consumes as hate. We see both working overtime these days.
While on the subject of greed I might speak here of  two great philanthropists who lived to give away their wealth wisely and for making at least some difference to people who needed a push at a time they needed most.  Carnegie and Rockefeller had greed in their blood. But life experience gave them a certain kind of infusion to make their vitality achieve something else. It was not wealth per se but by it they could put various aspects that made their lives an uneven weight of struggles, achievements, tears and happiness on a single standard. Wealth for them was the means. Consider now a man far less endowed say for example Johnny Appleseed, was not his contribution to the world as vital as anything that Carnegie could achieve with money? Johny Appleseed made the difference because of something that is rooted in life: he cared.
Life thrives on soils where wealth, science, technology, arts literature and people are all means to make the world richer. Richness comes from love that can be used in right proportions so each aspect is helped by other parts .  For example, wealth funds science and research in turn leads to technological innovations. It can either lead to terrible weapons to wage war or serve as the means to wean the childish notions of man for self- aggrandizement. For the latter, arts and literature act as an ennobling incentive. In this what is the place for religion, one might ask. I shall discuss this in another post.
In this post we are considering only the aspect of life on a finite mode, where wealth is not cost effective if it is not allied with love.
benny

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Chapter-6
Second Chance

Agostino would hear none of it. He insisted Immanuel stay with him till he was well enough to continue his journey.  “Why must a child, you are indeed a child, and why must you take up such a hardship?” He replied that he was sent to seek out children whereever in need. He would have said further.
“But you came to Cloud Peak to look up an old man!,”
he cut in with evident relish.
“You are a child too. Otherwise why would you have carved dolls?” Turning to other topics he said in the end he felt in him a kindred spirit. “My father was a carpenter and…”his voice trailed off as if his past  came in a rush. “Oh to be here. As if I am among familiar things.” He held his hand out and asked if he could hold his doll for a while. Shocked Agostino pointed to the welt in each palm that stood out horribly red against his tender skin. He was about to ask but Immanuel said simply ” Oh these are some reminders,- ‘I was wounded in the house of my friends.’
For a week he thought over. Agostino felt pain that such tender age did not leave the child much. On the day of leave-taking he said, “Here take all, each doll I give into your safe keeping. ”Immanuel looked at him searchingly while he added, ”Give them away if that would make you happier.”
Immanuel accepted them and before he left the old man he said, ”You are a good man. Leave it at that.”
Yes, Agostino felt that his age allowed him to let go. As his dolls.
It made him happy.
The End
Season’s Greetings to all my readers. I take time now to express my thanks to the WordPress team who is doing a great job and wish each one of them a great year.

I shall be busy for a while what with shifting house and building our own dream house. I may not be as regular with my posts as I would wish. Anyway let us see.

b.

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I Vitelloni or the young bulls is the third cinematic essay of Federico Fellini and it was a mature work as far as it reconstructed the trends of neorealism in his own personal idiom. At a time when critics tended to look at films dealing with postwar Italy from a Marxian point of view he was neither conservative nor reactionary. He was far too individualistic to look at social reality with labels. His mature films showed his heart was fully engaged in the creative process whether it dealt with social issues or his interior life. Here I am concerned with pre-felliniesque films.  I dare to think his training as a wandering caricaturist helped him to be objective and go to the essence leaving the claptrap of ideology to pamphlets. He learned what he required more from Chaplin than Rosselini. The social conscience of Chaplin was clothed in melodrama while his characters showed his own. It is pertinent to remember that his films in the early period are more autobiographical than derived from books of others. Between I vitelloni of 1953 and Amarcord of 1973 we can see certain characterisitics that show Fellini at his best. The first is a group caricature of four layabouts in a stifling beach town. It could well be Rimini from where Fellini escaped for Rome in the Thirties. In that sleepy provincial town the social stagnation that enervate I vitelloni has to do much with the economic distress of the post war Italy. Whereas Amarcord traces the rise of fascism in the way of behavior of a few of the town’s inhabitants. Unlike Chaplin who created the Tramp more as a peg to place his genius, Fellini was more in the tradition of a storyteller. His characters are there to delineate themselves and masks they wear are as such we all wear in the growing pains of finding our feet as and when needed. Alberto lives with his mother as Fausto is under the thumb of his feisty father. Alberto( Alberto Sordi) has no qualms of living off his sister but he makes it a point to show he is the man of the house. Fausto (Franco Fabrizi) on the other hand impregnates his friend’s sister and yet finds excuses for not doing the right thing. All these characters are other selves of Fellini who bear the torch lit by his personal vision. Antonia Shanahan, in senses of cinema, July 2002 writes thus, ‘As a veteran of the scripting team responsible for two exemplars of Italian neorealism, Roma città aperta and Paisà (both Roberto Rossellini, 1945 and ’46), Fellini was interested in moving toward a “cinema of Reconstruction.” After Paisà, he redefined his artistic credo to “looking at reality with an honest eye – but any kind of reality; not just social reality, but also spiritual reality, metaphysical reality, anything man has inside him.” ‘(1)( Federico Fellini, “The Road Beyond Neo-Realism, ” in Fellini, “La Strada”: Federico Fellini, Director, ed. Peter Bondanella and Manuela Gieri,-New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987, p.217.)
Fellini showed his genius in such films as Nights of Cabiria, La Strada and La Dolce Vita.

I Vitelloni follows the lives of five young vitelloni, or layabouts, and when the film opens the tourist season has come to an end with the choosing of the summer’s Miss Sirene. It begins with the end of summer, the “vitelloni” introduced in a long, narrated tracking-shot (clearly the inspiration for a similar scene in Goodfellas, and much emulated since.) In the ensuing excitement of the locals who predict great things for the newly crowned Miss Sirene, Fellini uses her innocence and trustful nature to show how the stifling provincialism has already claimed one victim. She (Leonora Ruffo) is the sister of one of the ‘vitelloni’. Moraldo has none of the qualities that make Fausto seem the undisputed leader of the group. As the film progresses we see the characters change their positions. Fausto’s supposedly leadership is shallow as he is unable to raise to the demands made on him. He is the first to leave for Rome but he comes back without being able to succeed there. While Sandra adores her husband and is blissfully unaware of his philandering nature. A telling scene in the cinema hall reveals to the viewer what she does not see. At the end of the episode we see her afraid and she may not have caught him out but she knows he has already gone astray. Far more serious is the way Fausto loses his secure job. He is able to lull his wife and his friend into believing a lie but we know that he would put his marriage into jeopardy sooner or later. Fausto has fallen from his position of adoration to one who is need of correction. Here we see Sandra and Moraldo show much more mettle in facing upto the reality. Shedding her starry eyed admiration for a feckless husband she is able to transform her credulity into a resolute strength. In the end she is able to make Fausto toe the line and behave responsibly. Meanwhile the would-be playwright Leopoldo (Leopoldo Trieste) continues to work on plays that are unplayable and Alberto (Alberto Sordi) who has taken on himself to keep the family honor in tact is helpless to stop his sister, Olga (Claude Farell), from eloping with her lover. Ultimately Moraldo breaks free from his self-imposed paralysis and moves on, leading to one of the most poignant farewell sequences in film history.
I Vitelloni was a hit in Italy upon its release, and it established his reputation as a filmmaker of world class. By the way the title became a part of Italian vernacular.
Fellini’s alter ego Moraldo we shall see in La Dolce Vita where he is of course called Marcello Rubini. I Vitelloni includes some of his most subtle filmmaking and most personal material. Loosely structured and oddly narrated, I Vitelloni is also an insightful and accurate representation of Italy in the immediate postwar period, full of references to the massive social changes underway. Fifty years after its release it is seen as a seminal film in Italian cinema.
Similar Movies
American Graffiti (1973, George Lucas)
Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorsese)
We All Loved Each Other So Much (1975, Ettore Scola)
Basilischi (1963, Lina Wertmüller)
Amici Miei (1975, Mario Monicelli)
The Last Kiss (2001, Gabriele Muccino)
Y Tu Mamá También (2001, Alfonso Cuarón)
After Freedom (2002, Vahe Babaian)
25 Watts (2001, Juan Pablo Rebella, Pablo Stoll)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Ginger and Fred (1986, Federico Fellini)
The White Sheik (1952, Federico Fellini)
Intervista (1987, Federico Fellini)
La Dolce Vita (1960, Federico Fellini)
Fellini’s Roma (1972, Federico Fellini)
Nights of Cabiria (1957, Federico Fellini)
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950, Roberto Rossellini)
Nestore l’ultima corsa (1994, Alberto Sordi)
Ack: brightlights.com-Megan Ratner, all movie- Elbert Ventura
and senses of cinema)

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