More on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s writing

DostoevskyFyodor Pavlovich (FP): ‘…I’d put an end to that little monastery of yours. Take all this mysticism and abolish it at once all over the Russian land, and finally bring all the fools to reason. And think how much silver, how much gold would come into the mint!

Ivan: ‘But why abolish it?

FP: ‘To let the truth shine forth sooner, that’s why‘.

Ivan: ‘But if the truth shines forth , you will be the first to be robbed and then……abolished‘.

FP: ‘Bah! You’re probably right. Ah, what an ass I am.

Fyodor Pavlovich suddenly cried, slapping himself lightly on the forehead.

FP: ‘ Well then, Alyoshka, in that case let your little monastery stand. And we intelligent people will keep warm and sip cognac.’

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky

The only way I could describe reading Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky it is like putting a mirror up to your soul. I often find when people refer to the soul it often has a dualistic emphasis and interpreted with rose-tinted glasses. Rather your soul which Dostoevsky’s writing probes is scarred beyond recognition and malevolent at its core, but their remaining a spark of goodness therein.

There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in – Leonard Cohen – Anthem

It is the realisation of when you see yourself in one or more of the characters, and you don’t like what it says about you. This kind of exposure to one’s self can be very painful and extremely humbling. It is often these uncomfortable journeys into the murky waters of our souls which can serve as opportune times to make reassessments about truly what drives us and how we approach life’s inevitable challenges. Our worldviews, in fact our entire direction in life, can shift as a result of this experience.

As I alluded to in a previous post – The Art of Disagreeing, Jordan Peterson summed up so powerfully why Dostoevsky is the absolute model of a true intellectual:

‘(Dostoevsky) when he sets up two ideas to go to war he embodies both sets of ideas and the most powerful characters he can imagine. You can see two parts of Dostoevsky fighting it out in the book. So he was at war inside and he put those parts of him in those characters and let them just go at it’.

In the playing out of this war in his mind (and our minds) Dostoevsky seems to be tackling the fundamental question of human existence–how best to live one’s life–in a truly engaging way. As one Good Read‘s reviewer Rawley put it about The Brothers Karamazov:

Dostoevsky articulates, better than anyone, how human beings really are what I would call “walking contradictions”. Perhaps all of our struggles in life boil down to the reality that we desire contradictory things, simultaneously. If you like your novels with good character development, this is the masterwork. Dostoevsky’s characters are more real, more human, than any other. At different points along the way, you will identify with them, sympathize with them, curse them, agonize over them, celebrate them. You will be moved.

After having devoured Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I am now well into his other epic masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov which not unlike the former I am floored by this dense philosophical work. It won’t be the first and last time I have read these books. I will be coming back to them often I suspect.

To conclude this post, I feel it most befitting to present the following video of why you should read Crime and Punishment:

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Rocketman- Elton Hercules John!

RocketmanAs I alluded to in a recent post there is a plethora of music homage movies set for release in 2019, Rocketman is one such feature which centers on the musical-life of Elton John. This review does contain spoilers so if you intend on seeing this movie then I would be reluctant to read further because knowing as little as possible about Rocketman’s unique modus operandi would in my estimation pay the audience member inestimable entertainment dividends.

I went into this movie with trepidation because as I mentioned in my previous post from having gleaned the trailer I didn’t see Elton John in Taron Egerton. However, part way into Rocketman I was relieved to find myself fully immersed in Egerton’s portrayal of Elton. I remarked to my partner in one of the movies highlights (and there is a swathe of them) how it was though I was watching Elton John in person, when Egerton as Elton Elton uncannily finds the musical essence of Bernie Taupín’s lyrics in arguably Elton john’s greatest love song ‘Your Song’.
Edited: Since writing this post, movie clips from Rocketman have been released on you tube including the scene described above:

One of the criticisms I read about Rocketman was how it seemed to get too bogged down into Elton’s addictions, self-loathing, and over-indulging a victim-hood narrative. I won’t pretend it doesn’t delve deeply into Elton’s negative excesses, however what sets Rocketman apart from a over-sentimental and forbearing daytime drama, is each time our Elton hits rock bottom, his music pulls us (the audience) out of it in most unexpected and often peculiarly humorous ways.  It doesn’t encroach the abyss where the dark is too cumbersome we are unable to forge our way out of it. That is what I think is Rocketman’s shining achievement.

The other aspect of Rocketman which I wasn’t expecting at all, is that it is essentially a ‘musical-odyssey’. Rocketman isn’t a by the numbers – drama scene followed by drama scene leading to a climax concert package rather it flies in the face of conventional music-bio films. The principle cast members contribute to the musicality of John’s timeless classics and most scenes transform into extremely originally and well-choreographed mini-musical productions. It doesn’t try to replicate Elton or his music, rather it becomes its own fantastical beast as it were and something that stands up on its own two feet.

Rocketman isn’t without its flaws and there are moments which I felt were slow-going, but I think Taron Egerton did a tremendous job inhabiting Elton. While his voice doesn’t ascend to the richness of the real Elton, his singing and dancing talents are showcased wonderfully. His brotherly relationship with Bernie Taupin is gorgeously woven into the story. You get a real sense of how extraordinary their chemistry and love for one another must have been. The depiction of the various epochs were expertly detailed and rendered to give the viewer a sense they were watching actual musical-history in the making. While there are too many grandiose scenes to describe here, one that particularly stood out for me is where Elton ‘in recovery’ makes amends with his younger Reginald Dwight self and family and friends. It is truly transformational and captivating viewing.

There is no doubt that Elton John himself had his hands all over this movie, but rather  than seeing it as a negative I like to think that his flair and flamboyance were somehow inculcated into its making which a movie like this so desperately needs stamped into it. Any contemporary musical enthusiast should make Rocketman a must-see movie, in the cinema particularly where the richness of the sound, production and cinematography can be fully immersed.

Elton John: I never thanked you, Bernie.

Bernie Taupin: No. I love you, man. Always have, always will.

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Posted in Movies and TV, Music

Bridge of Spies (2015) – Steven Spielberg

Observation Blogger

Bridge of SpiesBridge of Spies is a highly engaging political-adventure based on a true story about a highly covert Spy swap deal between the CIA and KGB during the cold war.
Lawyer James Donovan played by Tom Hanks is tasked to provide legal representation to a  Russian Spy captured on American soil. He is eventually solicited by the CIA to travel to Berlin and act on behalf of US interests ‘as a private citizen’ to negotiate an exchange with the Russians.  It is of course a delicate time in Berlin as the infamous Berlin wall is swiftly being built separating the former Soviet bloc and the West.

Bridge of Spies also heralds the first time Steven Spielberg has teamed up with the Coen Brothers’ writing team. The nuance and wit of the Coen’s writing and Spielberg’s large and epic visuals work wonders. The effectiveness of this collaboration is probably no better substantiated…

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Is Ben Shapiro’s career over for good after the BBC interview?

Something that has been trending of late on social media is Ben Shapiro’s controversial interview with BBC journalist Andrew Neil where Shapiro cut short the TV debate. The interview has sparked the question in many leftist circles: Is this the beginning of the end for Shapiro?

Before I detail my response to this question I should add the caveat that I am a supporter of the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW) community where Shapiro resides. If a video appears in my you tube feed with an interview or talk by one of the IDW constituents I normally press the ‘play’ button. I think the IDW has been tainted and misaligned by the ‘modern-left’ to be an ‘Alternative-Right’ soundboard. If one takes a look at the graphic below of the individual political positions of each member I think we can safely discard them being anything which resembles how the modern-left classifies the group:

idw-positions-miesslerNow returning to the question, I have a hunch that the interview probably marks the end of a potential political career for Shapiro. Regarding his social network career (his podcast and public opinion), I think he has a lost a huge amount of respect from people who admired his gusto and honesty even if they generally disagreed with his ultra conservative opinions. I would consider myself in that league of soft followers. Obviously it’s all speculative, but I do think that interview has done him a great disservice; the likes of which may not be known until it comes back to bite him real hard if he ever decides to run for public office. I always found his smugness and ‘I’m smarter than you’ lawyer brashness a turnoff, but I was willing to look past it because he did make some good arguments. But these negative traits and his immaturity were on full display.  I cannot think of another IDW constituent who would act as poorly (and counter IDW intuitive) as Ben did in that interview.

Ben has since admited that he was ‘destroyed’ in that debate which was to be expected. But how much of a lifeline does that give him and how much more patience remains from moderates who had taken the time to hear him out? In my humble opinion very little on both fronts.

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Ham on Rye – Charles Bukowski

“You are thirty minutes late.”
“Would you be thirty minutes late to a wedding or a funeral?”
“Why not, pray tell?”
“Well, if the funeral was mine I’d have to be on time. If the wedding was mine it would be my funeral.”

Observation Blogger

ham on ryeI had been wanting to read a Charles Bukowski novel after seeing the illuminating documentary, Born into this.

As Goodreads describes Ham on Rye, ‘Charles Bukowski details the long, lonely years of his own hardscrabble youth in the raw voice of alter ego Henry Chinaski‘.

What started out seemingly mediocre turned into a tour de force about one of the most vial, detesting characters I have ever read – Henry Chinaski. He could well be the greatest outcast character ever written in contemporary American Literature. This book tells so much about the ugly untold social underbelly (aspire to be rich, but really are poor) of North America during its post Depression era.

The high testosterone, sense of alienation and machismo of adolescence is brilliantly captured in Ham on Rye. You really feel entrapped in the mind of this seriously flawed individual, but by the end greatly…

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The Happy Prince – Oscar Wilde (adapted and directed by Orson Welles)

El Principe felizWhen I was a child, I used to play this record incessantly.  Today, as a 45 year old man, it still brings a tear to my eye! It remains the most beautiful and heart-wrenching fable I have ever had the pleasure to read or listen to. On Christmas Day, as a family we flipped the LP over to listen to Bing Crosby tell the beloved Christmas Story The Small One. I recently procured the The Happy Prince in my children’s native tongue, so I can pass the story onto them (see image inset).


Orson Welles The Happy PrinceWhen I was a high octane and emotionally-charged youngin my father sat me down on occasion to watch his favourite movie Citizen Kane by Orson Welles. I normally made it to the scene where young ‘Charles’ slams his snow-sled into ‘Mr Thatcher’ (his soon to be be foster parent) until I fell into a blissful slumber on the couch whispering Rosebud…………..(Crystal ball falls from hand and breaks into pieces). Don’t mind me..I got carried away there.
Unbeknownst to me for many years it was Orson all along who narrated my all time favourite short story. And of course Citizen Kane would become the ants-pants currently sitting at number 2 in my 100 favourite movies list.

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‘The Future of War video’ and Political Grace (The art of disagreeing well)

I think anyone who uses social media needs to see this video especially right up until the end because in a sense the future of war most definitely will involve each one of us. If you haven’t got time to watch the whole video you can read the brief extract below.
Some may view it as war propaganda.  It depends if you are talking about the derogatory word for propaganda, that lies in order to manipulate perspectives falsely and not in good faith. The way I see it is purely information.

‘(25.15) We like to think of this Internet place as just a fun consequence free place…(but) Something’s happening. I just had a four star general tell me that the cyber domain and specifically the human elements – that being us affected within that cyber domain is one of the 5 most important components to modern warfare…I believe the biggest threat right now is division. They are going to find the division within our society and they are going to try and amplify it. I would like to submit for your consideration a countermeasure….a way to get through this modern bombardment; this new battle-space that we haven’t considered before. I think if they are going to divide us, I think the way to get around this is proactive intentional unity. We all need to be more conscious of what types of content we are consuming online. What are we liking and what are we sharing. How is it affecting our minds. Is it affecting the way we treat people both online and offline. If we just extend patience and political grace but also to those we disagree these maneuvers in the cyber domain meant to divide us simply will not work. Political grace, the art of disagreeing well. This is the ultimate countermeasure.
– Destin Sandlin SmarterEveryDay

So modern cyber combat is coming in the form of creating and exacerbating division within our societies. Well it already has occurred as you maybe be aware by foreign meddling in elections and targeted consumer research on Facebook to exacerbate political divisions.

Political grace (The art of disagreeing well)

I couldn’t help but reflect on what Jordan Peterson said or words to the effect: ‘What you really want to do if you have an argument with someone is you help them. You want to make their argument as magnificent as you possibly can and then see if you can undermine it… Don’t strawman it, rather steelman the opposing view until it’s the best it can be and reflect on it until you respect it highly. Like how the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky empowers his characters with immense impartiality no matter their psychological state or philosophical bent. Then and only then only can you disagree well.’ Peterson expands on this in the snippet of his lecture below.

I’m currently reading Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and like Peterson I can attest this book flattened me. Rarely these days do I read with that kind of hopeless, helpless feeling of being completely, utterly lost in the imaginary world. Who else can create such authentic human emotions that I feel I’m experiencing all of them myself?

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Music homage films abound in 2019 (Beatles, Springsteen, Elton John & Bob Dylan)

After the big box-office smash hit Bohemian Rhapsody, film studios must have been wiping the dust off dozens of musical homage scripts faster than they could sing: ‘We will, we will rock you!’.

Yesterday and Blinded By The Light
In similar vein to the upcoming movie about the Beatles if they had never existed called Yesterday, another UK movie set to be released in June this year which pay’s tribute to Bruce Springsteen called Blinded By The Light.

IMDB Storyline: In 1987 during the austere days of Thatcher’s Britain, a teenager learns to live life, understand his family and find his own voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen. 

Based on the trailer, I could relate to the teenager being swept up by the lyrical worlds of Springsteen. Coincidentally it was also 1987 when I was introduced to the Boss by a friend at school. I was in absolute awe of Springsteen’s odes to the working class, striking melodies, not to mention the superior musicianship of the E Street band.

I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen
– Jon Landau’s Real Paper column on Bruce Springsteen’s May 9, 1974 performance in Cambridge’s Harvard Square.

In May this year we are set to be treated to the Elton John biopic RocketMan by the same director who polished up the Oscar Award winning – Bohemian Rhapsody. Like many of us, I was brought up on Elton John’s music as soon as I was able to hear so I need to keep my expectations in check on this one. From gleaning the trailer below, I don’t see Elton John in Taron Egerton nor hear Elton in his renditions. I hope I come around by the end credits.

Some interesting trivia detail about RocketMan from IMDB:
* Elton John told Taron Egerton to not copy him too much in the film, and make his own version out of it. (So that takes care of any criticism that John’s alluring singing and presence isn’t present!)
* Taron Egerton does all of his own singing in the film.
* Back in 2012, Elton John revealed his top choice to play him in a biopic was Justin Timberlake.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
If all this wasn’t enough to get us salivating at the bit, Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home follow up  Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese is due for release on Netflix on June 12:

IMDB Storyline: Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese’ captures the troubled spirit of America in 1975 and the joyous music that Dylan performed during the fall of that year. Part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream, ‘Rolling Thunder’ is a one of a kind experience, from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese.Written by Netflix.

Also Dylan will release on June 7th his much anticipated  14-CD “Rolling Thunder Revue” Live Box Set which will coincide nicely with the the Scorsese documentary on June 12.

Well at least this old nostalgic fart is licking his chops!

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Posted in Movies and TV, Music

Heaven Knows What (2014)

Observation Blogger

802341_040Every two weeks or so I check out the movie database Rotten Tomatoes which lists amongst other things – the latest DVD releases. The movie information of Heaven Knows What caught my eye.

Heavan Knows What blends fiction, formalism and raw documentary as it follows a young heroin addict (Arielle Holmes) who finds mad love in the streets of New York.’ – Rotten Tomatoes

I truly didn’t expect anything out of this, which is why it was such a huge surprise.  Its near-flawless as far as documentary-style films go. The plot takes a back seat in Heaven Knows What which might turn people off, but that’s what I adored about it; raw, real and totally honest which defies the limitation of its budget. Too bad the score was detracting especially in the beginning.

IMDB Trivia: The lead, Arielle Holmes lived on the streets of NYC prior to this…

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20 Seconds of Insane Courage

Observation Blogger

we-bought-a-zoo-Scarlett-JohanssonFor the school social I gargled Listerine. The pain felt reassuring. I sprayed my hair with Mum’s hairspray, “Taft”.
In the school hall, we shuffled to Toto’s “Africa”. Girls on the other side, giggled about stuff we’ll never be privy to. They did, however, have pert adolescent tits. We puffed out our chests, bobbing over exaggeratedly to the beat.
The girl of my dreams, South African-born Cheryl V hardly notices me as I do everything in my power just to meet her eyes. The next day she went steady with an acquaintance of mine.
He later told me, “Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.”
I replied, ‘Did you just buy a fucking zoo’?

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