An Old Favorite: Diary, 3/16 to 3/17/22

Beauty and the Beast 1987 TV series; library book sales; Stephen Wolfram; much nattering about books; Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; fave artists; Hemlock Club audiocast? Gifts for Madelyn; Constance Garnett; blood on the page.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{3/16/22} Continued.

Binge watched season three of the Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990) TV series, starring Linda Hamilton, Ron Perlman, and Jo Anderson.  This series, which absorbed much of my attention in my early forties, is pretty thin overall, with many weak scripts.  The stars do excellent work.  I love the music, and found much of it on You Tube.  Watching these episodes, I wimped out during the first episodes—knowing what was coming (from having seen it in the last century, 1989 or 1990), I “couldn’t bear it” and went on to the next episode.  I can’t explain without providing spoilers.  I’ll just say that I quite enjoyed the episodes I watched, with the exception of the last two episodes, which I frequently fast-forwarded through—not because they were “too horrible,” but because they were mostly unrelated to the series as a whole, and not very interesting in their own right.  Of season one I watched only two episodes (first and last), and I didn’t get season two from the library and don’t plan to, though I’d like to see the last episode of the season.  Undoubtedly there are quite a few episodes I’d like that I’ve not checked out…

I went to the library book sale at the Beale today.  I suppose I looked around for close to two hours, and came away with two heavy bags (and $37 lighter).  Mostly I got DVDs and CDs, plus eleven books.  Looking through hundreds of DVDs is exhausting.

The most interesting of the books, perhaps, is also the largest:  Stephen Wolfram:  A New Kind of Science.  It represents twenty years or more of work by this guy, mostly relating to cellular automata, chaos theory, complexity, fractals, and so on.  I doubt that I’ll actually read it, but it looks important, serious, and competent.  The reception, however, was mixed at best (see the Wikipedia article); here’s a link to a mostly favorable review by Rudy Rucker.  Amazingly enough, the book is also available free online from the author’s website (link).  Since I haven’t read the book and am not likely to, I can’t offer a sensible review, but the many computer graphics are interesting.

I also got a curiosity, Francesco Colonna: Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (this is not a joke); the author was Italian, 1433-1527.  It’s supposed to be erotic; so far I have yet to see anything of that, though I’ve leafed through it casually a couple of times.  There are a lot of woodcuts.

The third interesting book is D. T. Suzuki:  Zen and Japanese Culture, one from the Bollingen series.  Many illustrations, including some trifold sheets.  It was originally published in 1928.  I’ll possibly read some of this, unlike the other two.

The real showpiece of the sale was a three-volume art book, quite enormous in an odd black binding holding the three volumes together.  It was $50 (undoubtedly worth a lot more, though it might be an ex-library thing) and I didn’t dare try to open it, so I’ve forgotten the subject matter—something relating to art history of a particular period or culture, I think—anyway, something not in my interest zone.  I salivated and passed on, I’m not really a book collector.  If I were selling on eBay I would have jumped at the chance (if it looked salable) because it’s bound to be uncommon (unlike, say, large format books of Audubon paintings).  It’s barely possible that I’ll go back tomorrow (last day of the sale) to take a closer look at it, if only for its intrinsic interest as a publishing venture.

I do have several art books…actually, I have four art books (Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, and another Van Gogh)—I just don’t have a lot of time for art, but I do have my favorites.  I also have books, little paperbacks, written by Kandinsky, Klee, and Ben Shahn that I’ve never read.  I can draw a little, but seldom do, though I occasionally get ideas that I don’t try.  I’d like to do a black-ink brush painting to accompany my “Out of Touch” poem (available here).  Don’t hold your breath.

I bought I think 15 DVD packages and about 10 CDs, in addition to the books.  Highlights of the CDs include two of Alan Hovhaness orchestral pieces (including a favorite, his “Magic Mountain” symphony) and a set of four of African music.  Hovhaness was a prolific twentieth-century classical composer, having written over a hundred symphonies.  I suppose his most famous work is And God Created Great Whales, for orchestra and tapes of whale sounds.  I’ve been a fan since I heard his “Magic Mountain” about half a hundred years ago, in a Fritz Reiner recording.  I daresay (without checking) that some of his music will be available free on You Tube, since it seems that almost everything is there that I can think of to search for.  CDs and DVDs were only $1 each, half their usual price.  I spent all my time primarily on these, plus classics, philosophy, and reference books.  There was tons of history and biography that I hardly glanced at, despite my interest.

I’ve been listening to the audio recording I made of a Hemlock Club meeting at Panera Bread in Bakersfield, on 9/1/21.  It lasts three hours and twenty-seven minutes.  I plan to make this available on my blog.  I’ll probably try recording our next session, because this one was very noisy (outside was better, last Saturday).

{3/17/22}

Well I went back to the Beale library and bought the $50 set of three books because it was Three Hundred Chinese Paintings from the Palace Library (of Taiwan), approximately.  I lugged it the several blocks to the bus, with Pablo, rode home, looked through two of the volumes, was bored, and realized that it had been a mistake to get this attractive volume because I am the wrong person to appreciate it.  I also got a few more CDs and books.  So between yesterday and today, I spent a hundred bucks at the library.  It’s from 1956, I think.

Baron Munchhausen

This evening I picked out about a dozen books to get rid of.  I’ve decided that I don’t need books on ethics, since I no longer read such things, and some on atheism, ditto.  Plus some odds and ends.  The books I got today were a German-language Baron Munchhausen and a Duden dictionary of the German language, plus a couple of books on Zen by D. T. Suzuki and Shunryu Suzuki.  [I watched Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen recently, for a second time; it’s fairly good.] These are good books that may or may not be of much use.  Also got Mary Hill’s California Landscape.  In looking for books to discard, I discovered that I have California Insects, a nicely illustrated paperback in new condition—I’d guess that I bought it new ($27.50) some time ago, just because it was available.  In glancing through the Peterson Field Guide on insects, I decided that I should probably keep it as well.  I pulled out a couple of other nature books, then put them back.

One of the books I’m getting rid of is the Colonna mentioned described yesterday.  It’s just dull and irrelevant—just because it’s old, and I like other old books, doesn’t mean much.  As Emerson says, Aristotle must prove himself to you, too.  But it’s sad to buy a book one day and get rid of it the next, even if it only cost $2.00.

One of the books I got today is Life is a Gift: Living is an Art, “Writings from the spiritual traditions of the world,” one of something called “The Mananam Series.”  It’s an anthology that includes brief selections from a number of swamis, plus Wayne Dyer and Albert Schweitzer.  Okey doke.

One book that I’m quite pleased with I got yesterday, Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov in a slipcased hardcover, in the Constance Garnett translation.  Nabokov trashed Garnett in his book of lectures on Russian literature, but I think she writes well, even if her translations are “inaccurate” according to the old butterfly murderer.  If you haven’t read Dostoyevsky’s best book, go do so if you aspire to higher things.

From The Encyclopedia of Doris

Pablo bought a copy of Swann’s Way (in English translation) as a surprise for Madelyn, a cashier at Panera Bread that I’ve mentioned here before (she sits with the Hemlock Club sometimes).  Why does this beautiful 20-year-old sit with three old codgers?  (Nog actually is only in his forties, I think).  Possibly she finds us amusing, in a creepy sort of way.  I’ll be giving her The Encyclopedia of Doris [by Cindy Crabb], on Saturday, as mentioned here previously.  I told Pablo that I’m giving her “blood on the page,” an expression he did not recognize (or understand at first), but I’m pretty sure that others have used expressions very similar…anyway, he got competitive about our respective gifts (of course).  She has a scholarship to go to Paris for a week.  Last time she sat with us he lectured for fifteen minutes on Proust and “the madeleine,” as he has done many times previously, despite my whining.

Copyright 2022 (text only) by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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