Lan D. Ho!

"At least I know now how not to impress you." // I Came to Game

November 17, 2012

But there are many differences between their culture and customs and our own and you must be prepared to deal with them in a way that will make you an acceptable friend of the Vietnamese.

Some of the differences are small things, like the way a Vietnamese seems to be waving goodbye when he is actually beckoning you to come toward him. You should not use typical American gestures to beckon Vietnamese as they use such gestures only for animals. Also do not slap a man on the back unless you know him very well. (from A Pocket Guide to Vietnam, 1962)


April 15, 2012

From Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings 1962–1993:
“Art is sometimes described as radical, but it isn’t really—only artificially, which is something quite different.” (194)

“You can’t say that art is no good because Mozart didn’t prevent the concentration camps, any more than you can say that no more poems are possible after Auschwitz. All I know is that without Mozart and the rest we wouldn’t survive.” (195)

“I don’t believe in the absolute picture. There can be only approximations, experiments and beginnings, over and over again.” (199)

“Man kills as no other animal kills, he kills himself, as if under a compulsion” (202)

“A great painter—once I used to think that I ought to paint like the ‘great masters,’ and of course I couldn’t. I felt it to be a terrible lack in me, I thought I basically wasn’t a painter at all but a fraud, just pretending to be one. It was a long time before I realized that what I do—the desperate experimentation, all the difficulties—is exactly what they all do: that’s the normal nature of the job. That’s painting.” (206)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 3:34 PM // 0 comments

March 19, 2012

"Lan's place is much nicer than I thought it would be," KP said. "I was surprised."

"Why were you surprised?" CP asked.

"Single, plays Magic?"
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 3:30 PM // 0 comments

February 20, 2012

The situation:
I have two friends, A and B.

A has one Twitter account.

A pretends to be B in his Twitter account; the Twitter account is named "Fake B."

B starts a Twitter account.

B communicates only with Fake B in this account.

So I have a friend who pretends to be another friend, and the friend he is pretending to be speaks only to the fake version of himself. If this is not the plot of a Jonathan Lethem novel, it should be.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 9:01 PM // 0 comments

November 20, 2011

"...a single cockroach will completely wreck the appeal of a bowl of cherries, but a cherry will do nothing at all for a bowl of cockroaches." (Daniel Kahneman, referencing Paul Rozin, Thinking, Fast and Slow, 302)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 5:40 PM // 0 comments

October 30, 2011

Self-control and intelligence:
In one of the most famous experiments in the history of psychology, Walter Mischel and his students exposed four-year-old children to a cruel dilemma. They were given a choice between a small reward (one Oreo), which they could have at any time, or a larger reward (two cookies) for which they had to wait 15 minutes under difficult conditions. They were to remain alone in a room, facing a desk with two objects: a single cookie and a bell that the child could ring at any time to call in the experimenter and receive the one cookie. As the experiment was described: "There were no toys, books, pictures, or other potentially distracting items in the room. The experimenter left the room and did not return until 15 min had passed or the child had rung the bell, eaten the rewards, stood up, or shown any signs of distress.

The children were watched through a one-way mirror, and the film that shows their behavior during the waiting time always has the audience roaring in laughter. About half the children managed the feat of waiting for 15 minutes, mainly by keeping their attention away from the tempting reward. Ten or fifteen years later, a large gap had opened between those who had resisted temptation and those who had not. The resisters had higher measures of executive control in cognitive tasks, and especially the ability to reallocate their attention effectively. As young adults, they were less likely to take drugs. A significant difference in intellectual aptitude emerged: the children who had shown more self-control as four-year-olds had substantially higher scores on tests of intelligence." (Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, 47)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 2:22 PM // 0 comments

October 27, 2011

In order to go to Kyoto, I had to fly into Tokyo and then take the bullet train. I managed to stumble my way through a conversation with an agent and buy a ticket. I had no idea what to do—the Tokyo train station is a six-story labyrinthine structure devoid of signs in English. So I flagged down the most attractive woman I saw, showed her my ticket, and shrugged my shoulders, and indicated that I had no idea what to do. She spent spent thirty minutes helping me find where I needed to go. She even carried one of my bags.

Then in Kyoto I fell in love with a girl who worked at the bakery where I would eat pastries stuffed with red beans. I thought her name was Donq (pronounced "donk"). She wore a tag on her uniform that read "Donq," but it turns out that that was the name of the bakery.

Also, while I was in Kyoto, I ate a raw egg every morning for 500 yen. Easiest 2000 yen I ever made.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 3:30 PM // 0 comments

More art imitating life:
Murakami's fiction has a special way of leaking into reality. During my five days in Japan, I found that I was less comfortable in actual Tokyo than I was in Murakami's Tokyo—the real city filtered through the imaginative lens of his books. I spent as much time in that world as possible. I went to a baseball game at Jingu Stadium—the site of Murakami's epiphany—and stood high up in the frenzy of the bleachers, paying special attention every time someone hit a double. (The closest I got to my own epiphany was when I shot an edamame bean straight down my throat and almost choked.) I went for a long run on Murakami's favorite Tokyo running route, the Jingu-Gaien, while listening to his favorite running music, the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" and Eric Clapton's 2001 album "Reptile." My hotel was near Shinjuku Station, the transportation hub around which "1Q84" pivots, and I drank coffee and ate curry at its characters' favorite meeting place, the Nakamuraya cafe. I went to a Denny's at midnight—the scene of the opening of Murakami's novel "After Dark"—and eavesdropped on Tokyoites over French toast and bubble tea. I became hyperaware, as I wandered around, of the things Murakami novels are hyperaware of: incidental music, ascents and descents, the shapes of people's ears.

In doing all of this I was joining a long line of Murakami pilgrims. People have published cookbooks based on the meals described in his novels and assembled endless online playlists of the music his characters listen to. Murakami told me, with obvious delight, that a company in Korea has organized "Kafka on the Shore" tour groups in Western Japan, and that his Polish translator is putting together a "1Q84"–themed travel guide to Tokyo. (Sam Anderson, "The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami," New York Times, October 21, 2011)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 1:56 PM // 0 comments

October 22, 2011

Queries and responses:

Lan: I'm buying a saucepan. Can you tell me the difference between a normal saucepan and a shallow saucepan and whether one is preferable over the other, particularly for everyday use?

Lynh: I suppose it's all about splatter. I think a normal saucepan is good for everyday use. A cast-iron pan is best for searing meats because they get extremely hot but it's very painful to clean. Also, nonstick pans should not be put in the dishwasher.

Lan: I was just asking about the depth of saucepans.

*

Lan: I'm buying a saucepan. Can you tell me the difference between a normal saucepan and a shallow saucepan and whether one is preferable over the other, particularly for everyday use?

Stephanie: I find regular saucepans more versatile, since you can use them to boil things as well.

Lan: I bought the shallow one because it was on deep sale. I am going to boil the shit out of some stuff just to show you.

Stephanie: It was probably on deep sale because it's less useful.

*

Lan: I'm buying a saucepan. Can you tell me the difference between a normal saucepan and a shallow saucepan and whether one is preferable over the other, particularly for everyday use?

Chris: I guess it depends on what you cook. I would probably go for the deeper one due to versatility.

Lan: I bought the shallow one because it was on deep sale. FUCK YOU AND YOUR "VERSATILITY" AND YOUR CLICK.

[seconds later] I MEAN COUCH.

Chris: Deep sale. Don't come crying to me when your ass wants to cook two gallons of spaghetti sauce.

*

Lan: I'm buying a saucepan. Can you tell me the difference between a normal saucepan and a shallow saucepan and whether one is preferable over the other, particularly for everyday use?

Adrienne: I think a normal saucepan is more versatile, especially if you enjoy cooking things with sauce.

Lan: I bought the shallow one because it was on deep sale. I'm going to cook all sorts of shit in it—including things with sauce—just to show your ass how versatile it is.

Adrienne: Do you have a first dish in mind?

Lan: No. I was imagining heating soups out of cans and making ramen, but I'm sure I'll cook other things.

Adrienne: Good luck blanching vegetables in that thing.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 8:45 PM // 1 comments

October 16, 2011

"If you hadn't cut your hair," I said, "you could have gone as Gogo Yubari for Halloween."

"That would've been great. I think I'm going as a slutty maid this year," KT said.

"I wish you would dress as slutty whatever all year round."

"Ha ha!"

"I'm totally serious."
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 11:07 AM // 0 comments

October 07, 2011

The price of hope:
Is it stupid for a poor person to buy lottery tickets? Maybe not. You don't just buy a chance at a big prize. You buy a thrill, a hope, or a fantasy. One consequence of buying a lottery ticket is having an agreeable fantasy. The poorer you are, the more you may need such fantasies just to carry on. You could say that such fantasies are "worth more" to the poor person than to someone with a comfortable job and good prospects. So maybe it is not so stupid to buy a lottery ticket with little chance of winning.

Suppose you are very poor and, unlike most university students, have no prospects of a comfortable life. You value having some hope in your life at $2.50. Then a $1 lottery ticket is a bargain. The expected value of of buying a ticket (on this assumption) is +$1.95.

Thus, contrary to what many more prosperous people say, it is not obviously irrational for poor people to spend some of their not-so-spare cash in a kind of voluntary taxation. But it is a miserable world, where that is the only way that many people can put a little hope into their lives. (Ian Hacking, An Introduction to Probability and Inductive Logic, 90)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 9:05 PM // 0 comments

September 11, 2011

"The Einsteins left Caputh in December 1932, scheduled to divide the coming year between Princeton and Berlin. Einstein knew better. 'Turn around,' he told his wife as they stepped off the porch of their house. 'You will never see it again.' She thought his pessimism foolish." (Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, 186)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 6:11 PM // 0 comments

Ten years ago I was flying from New York back to Austin when my plane was ordered down. We landed in Kentucky. I ended up spending several days in Fort Mitchell, where I stayed at a medieval-themed inn called the Drawbridge Hotel. Most of my time there was spent watching CNN loop footage of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 6:08 PM // 0 comments

August 21, 2011

"Excessive is the only way we know how to live."
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 12:52 PM // 0 comments

August 15, 2011

"Redemption, that is, redemption of the soul, was a private, individual matter and therefore independent of the sphere of national redemption with which traditional messianism was concerned." (Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, 15)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 1:16 AM // 0 comments

July 23, 2011

Live fast, die young.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 2:56 PM // 0 comments

June 29, 2011

"Toll-booth operators supposedly have the highest suicide rate of any occupation," CP said.

"What about suicide bombers?" I asked.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 5:56 AM // 0 comments

June 20, 2011

Instrumental to my understanding of morality when I was growing up (David "Zeb" Cook, Player's Handbook, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, 48–49):
Imagine how groups of different alignments might seek to divide a treasure trove. Suppose the adventuring party contains one character of each alignment (a virtually impossible situation, but useful for illustration). Each is then allowed to present his argument:

The lawful good character says, "Before we went on this adventure, we agreed to split the treasure equally, and that's what we're going to do. First, we'll deduct the costs of the adventure and pay for the resurrection of those who have fallen, since we’re sharing all this equally. If someone can't be raised, then his share goes to his family."

"Since we agreed to split equally, that's fine," replies the lawful evil character thoughtfully. "But there was nothing in this deal about paying for anyone else's expenses. It's not my fault if you spent a lot on equipment! Furthermore, the deal applies only to the surviving partners; I don't remember anything about dead partners. I'm not setting aside any money to raise that klutz. He's someone else's problem."

Flourishing a sheet of paper, the lawful neutral character breaks in. "It's a good thing for you two that I've things together, nice and organized. I had the foresight to write down the exact terms of our agreement, and we're all going to follow them."

The neutral good character balances the issues and decides, "I'm in favor of equal shares—that keeps everyone happy. I feel that expenses are each adventurer's own business. If someone spent too much, then he should be more careful next time. But raising fallen comrades seems like a good idea, so I say we set aside money to do that."

After listening to the above arguments, the true neutral character decides not to say anything yet. He's not particularly concerned with any choice. If the issue can be resolved without his becoming involved, great. But if it looks like one person is going to get everything, that's when he'll step in and cast his vote for a more balanced distribution.

The neutral evil character died during the adventure, so he doesn't have anything to say. However, if he could make his opinion known, he would gladly argue that the group ought to pay for raising him and set aside a share for him. The neutral evil character would also hope that the group doesn't discover the big gem he secretly pocketed during one of the encounters.

The chaotic good character objects to the whole business. "Look, it's obvious that the original agreement is messed up. I say we scrap it and reward people for what they did. I saw some of you hiding in the background when the rest of us were doing all the real fighting. I don't see why anyone should be rewarded for being a coward! As far as raising dead partners, I say that's a personal choice. I don’t mind chipping in for some of them, but I don't think I want everyone back in the group."

Outraged at the totally true but tactless accusation of cowardice, the chaotic evil character snaps back, "Look, I was going an important job, guarding the rear! Can I help it if nothing tried to sneak up behind us? Now, it seems to me that all of you are pretty beat up—and I'm not. So, I don't think there's going to be too much objection if I take all the jewelry and that wand. And I'll take anything interesting those two dead guys have. Now you can either work with me and do what I say or get lost—permanently!"

The chaotic neutral character is also dead (after he tried to charge a gorgon), so he doesn't contribute to the argument. However, if he were alive, he would join forces with whichever side appealed to him the most at the moment. If he couldn't decide, he'd flip a coin.

Clearly, widely diverse alignments in a group can make even the simplest task impossible. It is almost certain that the group in the example would come to blows before they could reach a decision. But dividing cash is not the only instance in which the group would have problems. Consider the battle in which they gained the treasure in the first place.

Upon penetrating the heart of the ruined castle, the party met its foe, a powerful gorgon commanded by a mad warrior. There, chained behind the two, was a helpless peasant kidnapped from a nearby village.

The lawful good character unhesitatingly (but not foolishly) entered the battle; it was the right thing to do. He considered his duty to protect the villagers. Besides, he could not abandon an innocent hostage to such fiends. He was willing to fight until he won or was dragged off by his friends. He had no intention of fighting to his own death, but he would not give up until he had tried to his utmost to defeat the evil creatures.

The lawful evil character also entered the battle willingly. Although he cared nothing for the peasant, he could not allow the two fiends to mock him. Still, there was no reason to risk all for one peasant. If forced to retreat, he could return with a stronger force, capture the criminals, and execute them publicly. If the peasant died in the meantime, their punishment would be that much more horrible.

The lawful neutral character was willing to fight, because the villains threatened public order. However, he was not willing to risk his own life. He would have preferred to come back later with reinforcements. If the peasant could be saved, that is good, because he is part of the community. If not, it would be unfortunate but unavoidable.

The neutral good character did not fight the gorgon or the warrior, but he tried to rescue the peasant. Saving he peasant was worthwhile, but there was no need to risk injury and death along the way. Thus, while the enemy was distracted in combat, he tried to slip past and free the peasant.

The true neutral character weighed the situation carefully. Although it looked like the forces working for order would have the upper hand in the battle, he knew there had been a general trend toward chaos and destruction in the region that must be combated. He tried to help, but if the group failed, he could work to restore the balance of law and chaos elsewhere in the kingdom.

The neutral evil character cared nothing about law, order, or the poor peasant. He figured that there had to be some treasure around somewhere. After all, the villain's lair had once been a powerful temple. He could poke around for cash while the others did the real work. If the group got into real trouble and it looked like the villains would attack him, then he would fight. Unfortunately, a stray magical arrow killed him just after he found a large gem.

The chaotic good character joined the fight for several reasons. Several people in the group were his friends, and he wanted to fight at their sides. Furthermore, the poor, kidnapped peasant deserves to be rescued. Thus, the chaotic good character fought to aid his companions and save the peasant. He didn't care if the villains were killed, captured, or just driven away. Their attacks against the village didn't concern him.

The chaotic neutral character decided to charge, screaming bloodthirsty cries, straight for the gorgon. Who knows? He might have broken its nerve and thrown it off guard. He discovered his plan was a bad one when the gorgon's breath killed him.

The chaotic evil character saw no point in risking his hide for the villagers, the peasant, or the rest of the party. In fact, he thought of several good reasons not to. If the party was weakened, he might be able to take over. If the villains won, he could probably make a deal with them and join their side. If everyone was killed, he could take everything he wanted and leave. All these sounded a lot better than getting hurt for little or no gain. So he stayed near the back of the battle, watching. If anyone asked, he could say he was watching the rear, making sure no one came to aid the enemy.

The two preceding examples of alignment are extreme situations. It's not very likely that a player will ever play in a group of alignments as varied as those given here. If such a group ever does form, players should seriously reconsider the alignments of the different members of the party! More often, the adventuring party will consist of characters with relatively compatible alignments. Even then, players who role-play their characters' alignments will discover small issues of disagreement.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 8:54 PM // 0 comments

June 19, 2011

Maybe the cultural marketplace makes it unlikely that we will find undiscovered treasure:1
When I was fifteen and sixteen I scoured Brooklyn's used bookstores and thrift shops for the hardest-to-find [Philip K.] Dick titles, trying to complete a shelf of the thirty-seven-odd published works. This was 1979 and 1980, before Dick published his last three novels and died, and before the posthumous publication of a dozen or so manuscripts. Locating Vulcan's Hammer was a notable triumph. I'll always remember dowsing it out of a crate of moldering paperbacks that had been pushed beneath a shelf, dusting its glorious, hideous cover (Dick's biographer Lawrence Sutin describes it as occupying "deserved purgatory as half of a 1960 Ace Double") and more or less pinching myself in disbelief: Vulcan's fucking Hammer! I'd found it! Of course, then I had to go and read the damn thing. The irony is that out-of-printness served the purposes of exploring the [oeuvre] nicely: the easiest books to find, and therefore the first I'd happened to read, were mostly Dick's masterpieces ([The Man in the High] Castle, Ubik, [The Three] Stigmata [of Palmer Eldritch], Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). This was because the better books had received comparatively many reprintings, whereas the dreck was always the rarest essence. The problem nowadays is that Vintage's uniformly prestigious shelf of clean, authoritative editions disguise these natural hierarchies absolutely." (Jonathan Lethem, "You Don't Know Dick," from The Disappointment Artist, 79–80)
1 In our native culture, at least.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 11:30 PM // 0 comments

May 30, 2011

"In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. On the northern shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern city of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis, or Diana of the Wood. In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set up on by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or craftier." (James G. Frazer, "The King of the Wood," from The Golden Bough, reprinted in The Waste Land: Norton Critical Edition, 29)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 7:38 AM // 0 comments

May 29, 2011

"Still drawing pictures of ninjas attacking dragons?"
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 2:12 PM // 0 comments

“A 1975 car accident which left Eno bedridden for several months resulted in perhaps his most significant innovation, the creation of ambient music: unable to move to turn up his stereo to hear above the din of a rainstorm, he realized that music could assume the same properties as light or color, and blend thoroughly into its given atmosphere without upsetting the environmental balance.” (Jason Ankeny, from "Brian Eno," Allmusic.com)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 1:51 PM // 0 comments

May 28, 2011

"And Tam has none of the charm or the magic of the girl I met in Hawaii: her hair is longer, the bags under her eyes more prominent, and the glow that she emanated so brightly in that tropical place has been dulled to something so faint as to make me wonder whether it was ever even there in the first place. She is sitting on the couch, and she puts on her sunglasses. I am heartbroken." (from "Notes on Tam Vo," June 26, 2009)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 7:53 AM // 2 comments

May 27, 2011

"After many years I became old and white; I heard a great deal, many lies and falsehoods, but the longer I lived the more I understood that there were really no lies. Whatever really doesn't happen is dreamed at night. It happens to one if it doesn't happen to another, tomorrow if not today, or a century hence if not next year. What difference can it make? Often I heard tales of which I said, 'Now this is a thing that cannot happen.' But before a year had elapsed I heard that it actually had come to pass somewhere." (Isaac Bashevis Singer, "Gimpel the Fool," from The Collected Stories, 14)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 6:43 PM // 0 comments

May 26, 2011

"We're a perfect couple—I'm an emotional cripple, and she has the memory of a goldfish."
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 8:49 AM // 0 comments

May 08, 2011

"Pleasure is not the goal of man, but knowledge. Pleasure and happiness come to an end. It is a mistake to suppose that pleasure is the goal. The cause of all the miseries we have in the world is that men foolishly think pleasure to be the ideal to strive for. After a time man finds that it is not happiness, but knowledge, towards which he is going, and that both pleasure and pain are great teachers, and that he learns as much from evil as from good." (Swami Vivekananda, Karma-Yoga, from The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, volume 1, 27)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 4:37 PM // 0 comments

May 01, 2011

“You can’t say that art is no good because Mozart didn’t prevent the concentration camps, any more than you can say that no more poems are possible after Auschwitz. All I know is that without Mozart and the rest we wouldn’t survive.” (Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting, 195)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 9:01 PM // 0 comments

April 21, 2011

"We should not assume that without Pound Eliot would have published some of the weaker passages in the drafts. But, as soon as one says this, one must add that it is highly doubtful whether, without Pound, The Waste Land would have been completed and published at all. The most important thing Pound gave Eliot was the support of a constant affection, encouragement, and belief. And he gave it at a time of deep discouragement verging on despair. It seems almost a miracle when one considers the circumstances in which the poem was written that it was written at all. To Eliot, struggling in ill health and overwork to combine two obligations—his sense of his vocation as a poet, and his duty to the unhappy girl he had married, who was dependent on him—Pound's unwavering belief in his friend's genius was the stimulus without which he might not have found the courage to persevere. But in addition to his selfless promotion of Eliot's interests as man and poet, Pound showed, for all his bluster and boisterousness, his slashings and damnings, an extreme selflessness and sensitivity in the kind of criticism he gave. He concentrated on making the poem as good as Eliot could make it. He gave his whole mind to the problem of 'Was this good verse?' 'Is this the right word?' 'Does this strike a false note?' 'Is this becoming monotonous?' He makes no comment on the subject matter of the poem, its religious or philosophic views, it's lack of those 'life-enhancing' qualities whose absence later critics have deplored. It was Eliot's poem he was working on, He shows his genius as a critic in the applause he gives—'Echt,' 'OK'—to the most characteristically Eliotian lines and passages. One's heart rises when one sees his 'Stet' or 'OK.' " (Helen Gardner, "The Waste Land: Paris 1922," reprinted in The Waste Land: Norton Critical Edition, 77–78)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 7:45 PM // 0 comments

April 10, 2011

"My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses—the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions—which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." (Vladimir Nabokov, "On a Book Entitled Lolita," Lolita, 316–317)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 3:53 PM // 2 comments

"We interpret the past in the light of what we understand. Thus from the time when history set up as a mental discipline (not to say, an obsession) until 1919, inflation was a relatively rare phenomenon. Then it became frequent, and modern historians see in it a cause of the decline of the Roman Empire. Similarly since 1789 history has had a new perspective, revolution being a successful revolt, and revolt a revolution that has failed. Thus a new or rediscovered fact may give its bias to history. It is not research-work that has led to the understanding of El Greco; it is modern art. Each genius that breaks with the past deflects, as it were, the whole range of earlier forms." (André Malraux, The Voices of Silence, 68)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 3:40 PM // 0 comments

April 02, 2011

From my notes:
Each frame of a movie is the same size. Any illusion of difference in size is created by shot distance and perspective.

Our understanding of the world approximates the way a world appears on film. We know more about the world than ever before, but our understanding is limited by size and perspective: photographs, as they appear on our computer screens and in books, are roughly the same size and shape. Our response to these things is thus homogenized and flattened. A picture portraying the immensity of St. Peter’s Basilica or the Grand Canyon is the same size as a picture of Jay Leno or a dining set. This is an additional obstacle to our correctly perceiving size, and this contributes to our diminished sense of wonder. Also, the endless presentation of rare things, courtesy of reproduction, has made even the most wondrous things banal.

It may just be that we are no longer capable of finding wonder in the Olympian, and so we look for it in the intimate, the private.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 5:02 PM // 0 comments

To be alive in modern times is to have a diminished sense of wonder.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 4:35 PM // 1 comments

March 31, 2011

TV Torso

Courtesy of Timothy Murray.
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 9:56 PM // 0 comments

February 28, 2011

On gambling:
Nothing is more common than for people to make gambling into a drug, which will enable them to escape the consciousness of their economic situation. These people must lose; it may be that, for them, losing is a stronger drug than winning. Since wealthy people find it easier than poor people to contemplate their economic situation dispassionately, it follows that, independent of all technical considerations about the actual game, their chances of winning are greater.

Certain cells have the peculiar ability to take on bodily forms as the need arises, so that fingers or nose, flippers or tail, can be formed from the same cells. In the same way, great passions have the ability to stand in vicariously for quite different forms of life. We can perhaps go even further than Anatole France in his profound understanding of these things and demonstrate that gambling may be a substitute not only for religion but also for love, and even for marriage, for a man's profession, and even for a creative life. Most miraculous of all, however, is that gambling can take possession not only of the future—in the form of feverish expectation—but also of the past. Indeed, isn't its ability to alter the visage of the past the greatest expression of its power over the gambler's heart? I sometimes believe that most gamblers are the stepchildren of love, whether of parental or sexual love, and that here at the gaming tables they are looking to fate to provide them with an adoption that ennobles them more than the origins that repudiated them.

Why do anxious people have an irresistible tendency toward games of chance? Perhaps because their policy is to bury their heads in the sand, or because they are able to endure the prospect of the future only if it is grotesquely disguised. (Walter Benjamin, "In Parallel with My Actual Diary," Selected Writings of Walter Benjamin, vol. 2, 413–414)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 9:59 PM // 0 comments

February 27, 2011

The seriousness of art:
In revolutionizing opera, Wagner realized he would have to revolutionize opera production. What he confronted was a situation where opera was primarily a social rather than a musical event. This was even obvious from the physical arrangements in opera houses. Spectators were seated in hierarchical tiers of boxes in a horseshoe-shaped auditorium where seeing the stage was not as important as seeing, and being seen by, other spectators. The stage itself was small and ornate, and the theatre remained lit throughout a performance. Members of the audience chattering among themselves, were almost as much a part of the show as the singers on stage. The operas themselves were apt to be mangled at the whim of a stage-manager; the music might be cut or altered and the settings for one work were often used for another, irrespective of the dramatic content of either. Soloists usually lacked acting—and at times singing—ability and in any case tended to be more interested in playing to the gallery than in playing a role on stage.

To someone who saw music as a means of redeeming society, such antics were an unspeakable outrage. In Wagner's view the core of the problem was money. That, not art, was what animated impresarios. To them opera was a business and the objective was profit, not musical excellence. But audiences were also at fault. They regarded opera as an evening's light entertainment and a means of flaunting their social status. Wagner wanted opera to convey ideas, explore human relations, portray life at its best and worst, and everything in between. Artistic excellence could not be sustained commercially; it required fewer and better performances and must therefore be supported by state subsidies. Audiences would likewise have to change; they had to learn to treat opera-going as a transcendent aesthetic experience. Ideally the audience and the spectacle were to interact. (Frederic Spotts, Bayreuth: A History of the Wagner Festival, 30–31)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 4:44 PM // 0 comments

February 26, 2011

"Fiction's about what it fucking is to be a human being." (David Foster Wallace, quoted by D. T. Max, "The Unfinished," The New Yorker, March 9, 2009)
// posted by Lan D. Ho! @ 10:58 PM // 0 comments

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