Place: At my main computer at home, surrounded by the usual clutter of books, DVDs, and music equipment.
Reading: Last night I completed Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live. As I’ve said before, the book is very helpful in steering one toward what is important and valuable in one’s life. It may simply be a matter of time, but I haven’t yet figured out how to implement the changes, or even determine what the changes are, that would take me towards that ideal life that I’ve more or less identified. Since completing that book I’ve started on A Man of Parts by David Lodge, a fictionalized biographical work on H.G. Wells. I’ve also returned to the exhibition catalog Out of Character: Decoding Chinese Calligraphy. At some point in the next few weeks I’ll be blogging on this subject of Chinese calligraphy, using this book as well as notes taken at the connected exhibition as a starting point. Also sitting at the top of my to-read stack is Umberto Eco’s The Book of Legendary Lands, a beautifully illustrated compendium of utopias and dystopias from throughout human history. The real world leaves much to be desired right now, and escaping to some imaginary lands has great appeal.
Viewing: I never challenge intuitions and vague attractions, and something has drawn me toward the work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder this week. Several DVDs of his films have long resided on my shelf, but in some cases I’d never even taken the plastic off of them until now. In World on a Wire (1973), Fassbinder’s only science fiction film, a virtual world has been created on a computer, and one of the lead scientists on that project becomes suspicious when people associated with it start dying, disappearing, and behaving strangely. It was a fairly mind-bending three-plus hours, full of the themes and the visual cues (mirrors and other reflective surfaces, careful framing of shots, endless fascination with peoples’ gazes) typical of Fassbinder’s movies. I had also never seen one of his most famous films, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), about an older woman who falls in love with and marries a much younger Moroccan man. This portrait of loneliness really moved me, and the casual racism of the woman’s family and friends was both disturbing and seems quite germane even today, forty years after the film was made. I’m peering right now at my Criterion box of Fassbinder’s famous series Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), and wondering if I might finally need to watch it.
Listening: Once again this wasn’t much of a week for music listening. I did, however, continue noodling on the Korg keyboard that sits next to my computer here, with the thought of trying to write some music. I haven’t completed a new piece of music in around a dozen years, and now, for some reason, seems like it might be the time to break that streak.
Blogging: My only post this week was a short, charming poem, “Bugs in a Bowl” by David Budbill, that characterized very nicely my feelings of undirected compassion on the day I posted it.
Pondering: The perception of time. So many stretches of weeks and months in my life have passed without my even noticing – a trend that seems to get worse as one gets older. However, there are other periods in which time seems to drag to a standstill. The last two or three weeks have felt like slogging through a muddy field. How can two weeks feel like months?
Anticipating: I have lost approximately 1/80 of a ton since the beginning of 2014. For those of you without calculators, that’s 25 pounds. Daily walking, eating carefully, and a little heartache and its associated loss of appetite have brought me within shouting distance of the weight of 175 pounds that I had wanted to reach by the end of this year. So well has this gone that I’m even thinking about dropping that goal to 170.
Gratuitous Artwork of the Week: La Sortie de l’opéra en l’an 2000 (Leaving the Opera in the Year 2000) by Albert Robida (1848–1926). In this lithograph from 1882, sometimes referred to as Leaving the Paris Opera, Robida, an illustrator and science fiction writer, imagines a world of air travel as fashionable Parisian society departs from a night at the opera. Click on the image below to see a larger version and enjoy the fun details. Featured in Umberto Eco’s The Book of Legendary Lands.