Interrupted Dreams and Political Crapola

Diary 7/4 to 7/5/22: “Mr. Compromise”; Christian fascism; translator’s choice; Bill Bryson; too many books; imminent mass extinction and Moby-Dick; blogging for ego; Chinese characters; Cinepassion.

U.S. President Joe Biden

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


I woke around 3:30 am and have been unable to get back to sleep due to obsessing over two things, one momentous and one trivial:  the end of American democracy, and a choice by a translator.

It looks to me that Joe Biden, “Mr. Compromise,” is going to compromise us into a fascist state by being unwilling to take on the out-of-control Supreme Court.  Of course, he would have to rely on the other broken branch of government, the United States Senate, to do it.  Whether the state legislatures can or will save us from “the horror” is yet to be determined, and I feel no confidence in saying yes or no—I simply have no clue, have seen no numbers.  But I fear that this is a battle that we cannot afford to lose; the aftermath seems quite unthinkable, a “Christian” fascist state.

Constance Garnett (1861-1946)

The translation at issue is The Heritage Club edition of The Brothers Karamazov.  Constance Garnett’s translation was revised by Avraham Yarmolinsky; he saw fit to replace Garnett’s memorable nickname for the mother of Ivan and Alyosha, “the shrieker,” with the colorless “the possessed woman.”  Obviously it’s unnecessary to include “woman”; possibly I wouldn’t mind “the possessed.”  But Yarmolinsky’s choice irritates me—he may be a great translator, but he lacked the writer’s sensibility in this case.  It would be an exaggeration, however, to say that “he ruined it.”  I’d guess that either choice will appear in the 604 pages fewer than ten times.

Bill Bryson

Another disappointment was Bill BrysonThe Facts on File Dictionary of Troublesome Words, revised edition.  One example will be sufficient:  the entry for “onto” says, “See on to, onto.”  The next item then (copying the book’s typography) is “on to, onto.”  In other words, the book would be improved by the omission of the “cross reference.”  This disappointment, at least, did not result in early morning obsessing.

I have noted here before that I am resistant to buying more bookshelves.  However, I think now that may be the lesser of two evils, if I can call “too many books” an evil.  The “excess” amounts no more than forty books, plus a pile of notebooks about eight inches tall.  But then, I have pulled out three books that I’ve had for at least three years without reading.  They’re good books, where “good” means that I want to keep them:

  • Ben Shahn:  The Shape of Content
  • Paul Klee:  On Modern Art
  • Wassily Kandinsky:  Point and Line to Plane

Three books on art theory or criticism that together amount in thickness to one average book.  Rather than putting them in a donate pile, perhaps I should add them to my overloaded bed, to remind me to look into them very soon.  I remember trying the Shahn once, not getting very far.  I’ll keep the other two for a while.  I really should try the Klee, since I like his paintings.  Kandinsky?  Meh.

Feeling cheerful?  You won’t be if you view the latest YouTube item from the Chris Hedges Fan Club, part of a lecture titled “Imminent Mass Extinction,” in which Hedges compares the United States to the Pequod, Ahab’s mad ship in Moby-Dick.  9:25 plus commercials, darn it.

Moby-Dick by Gilbert Wilson

I really don’t know why I bother blogging—surely not for the five views and four likes of my latest piece.  Not counting the writing itself, which takes typically two or three hours, it can take twenty minutes or more to prep and post my usual kind of piece.  Now the “likes” don’t even necessarily mean that the “liker” actually read the piece.  You can “like” a piece from the Reader app, without loading the full text.  So, “I don’t know why I bother,” except that I do know:  ego.  Even a disgraceful pittance of attention is better than none.

I took a look at the three books listed above.  The Klee is the most interesting because I liked the drawings, but the text was worthless to me.  The Kandinsky text is more interesting, but the drawings are for illustrating his theory and so aren’t interesting in themselves.  The Shahn is probably the most interesting text (it’s lectures), but meh.  So I’ll be donating all three.

I spent some time printing out the Dao De Jing Chinese characters in the hope of resuming an abandoned project, using it to study (ancient) Chinese.  My original plan was obviated by finding a web site that does the legwork of providing English translations, character-by-character, including some knowhow that I would be unable to duplicate.  I had originally started, some years ago, looking up each character in Leon Weiger:  Chinese Characters, reading his explanation of each character, writing down the meanings, and so on, but didn’t get very far and didn’t learn much.

But I’m afraid that this would be a complete waste of massive amounts of time, taking me away from my “important work”—which, of course, is of no importance whatsoever except to me.  So, at best, I’m likely to just dabble with it for a while.


Avengers: Infinity War

Seeing Avengers: Infinity War (2018) was probably the most exciting and emotional experience I’ve had in going to the movies, or at least since I was eleven, when I saw The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958).  Well, this morning I had a dream in which I was listening to the soundtrack for AIW and at the most awesome part of the music (not of the movie, perhaps) I commented to someone, Pablo or someone else who I expected didn’t know what part of the movie it was, about what was happening in the movie.  It seems also that this was taking place in my childhood home, where my indoor dreams are most often set.  What I said I can’t remember, but the music was quite impressive and emotionally impactful in the dream.  I remember not wanting to say too much, which led to some cogitation in the dream about what I should say—which sort of thing generally wakes me up and did here as well.  That’s all I remember.

In looking over the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes for Voyage I was led to the Cinepassion website; the review by Fernando F. Croce was well-informed and almost literate enough that I was tempted to also look up The Andromeda Strain and The Seven Samurai.  The reviews I looked at were short (though not as short as mine) and the website is bare-bones (text only), thus making loading very quick, unlike the overloaded RT.  I liked the site enough to bookmark it, though it focuses on “classics” to the exclusion of anything from this century.  I called it “almost literate” because Croce seems to know a ton about movies (he mentions camera angles, dolly shots, and on-screen horizontal and vertical lines, etc.), not so much about English.

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

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