Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Demistyfing The Dead Sea Scrolls

I'm sure you will not regret buying and listening to this course created and lead by Professor Lawrence H. Schiffman. In 14 Lectures, narrated by the professor himself, one can listen about the most important archaeological discovery of XX century. For those who do not know, in 1947 in a place west to Dead Sea, called Qumran, the first from a set of ancient manuscripts was found. The set was later called The Dead Sea Scrolls. Over next almost 20 years, hundreds of manuscripts, mostly - parts of scrolls were identified. For long time the discovery was a bit secretive, with lots of all sorts of conspiracy theories about them. None of them proved true. And this is what Lawrence Schiffman says - this discovery is one of the greatest, but there is nothing that could "prove" or "disprove" religious believes !!!

The course author makes some interesting hypothesis about Qumran and its community. For example, contrary to popular views telling of Essenes as the Qumran community inhabitants, he convinces the listeners that it was rather created by a group of pious, priestly Sadducees who supposedly distances themselves from the practices of the Temple in Jerusalem.

What is very important in this lecture is the objectivity of its teaching. The author clearly states, that, though the discovery is very important, it does not question or break any of existing religious traditions, including Judaism and Christianity. However, shedding light on the most interesting period in Judaism's history - i.e. the transformation from the Temple periods to later rabbinic or Talmudic period, it also sheds light on early Christian history.


The lecture ends with interesting summary of Dead Sea Scrolls presence in today's public culture, and this presence is said to bring a very positive effect on bringing closer the largest and oldest monotheistic religions of the world....

I listened to this lecture with great attention, also because several weeks ago I was blessed by the possibility to visit Qumran and to feel it's unique atmosphere. See my two pictures:


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Leonard Bernstein and his wand ...

My blog readers might have read my posts about Mahler ("Justice and tribute to Mahler", "Ken Russell Mahler - More then controversial - just going to far" and Gustav Mahler enchantment). In some sense, Mahler music is connected in my mind with his ingenious interpreter and conductor Leonard Bernstein.

So this time it is all about Bernstein and his conductor's wand...
Over last couple of weeks I was enchanted by the 5 DVD edition: Leonard Bernstein: Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, Franck, Milhaud, Mozart, called also as "Celebrating Lenny".
This set is probably one of the best sources reflecting Bernstein talent as conductor.

I want to tell you about three recordings from this set:

Darius Milhaud - La création du monde - incredible connection of classical and jazz music, with a programme reflecting upon African myths of the creation

Anton Bruckner - IX Symphony - The last, unfinished symphony of the humble genius - Anton Bruckner. It's second movement (Scherzo) is really shocking and deep. You can feel (intentional ?) relation of Bruckner thought to Beethoven symphonies, yet it remains completelt original and deeply moving.

Ludwig van Beethoven - IX Symphony. I guess, writing about this piece of music makes no sense. However, I use the occasion to say, that its second movement (Molto Vivace) is such incredible piece of music, that when I return to it after some weeks, I always, always have the feeling of G-d presence in music. Try it - you will see. Now, the Bernstein conducting is great, but it is this recording where we can feel coming fate - it was one of his last recordings - several months after he left our world... When you watch this movie, you see tired, old man - but the man that still jumps, rejoice and is just happy with his life. And last but not least - this piece of music, played that year (1989) is something very important - the freedom came to us ....

And with these words I will finish this post ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mister Thaddeus - or the Last Foray in Lithuania

I must admit, I read (i.e. listened to...) Adam's Mickiewicz "Pan Tadeusz" almost accidentally. I wanted to check how http://www.audioteka.pl/ works, and I bought the poem. By and large, this is the most famous Polish epic poem. It is also one of the longest and almost the last real epic poem of the world. Composed in twelve books, it describes the events situated in Lithuanian village, than under the Russian command that happened in just few days of 1811 and one day of 1812.

I did not expect, that the reading of "Pan Tadeusz", the obligatory reading in all Polish schools, will bring so many warm feelings and tears to me...

First of all it refers to the most beautiful, yet tragically ended part of Polish history - i.e. its two hundreds of years long union with Lithuania - called Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The union, the unusual construction as for late medieval Europe, was an example of very advanced political system, having no precedence in the Europe of that times.
"Our state is a republic under the presidency of the King" or "Rex regnat et non gubernat" ("The King reigns but does not govern") were typical descriptions of its status. The country had a real parliament and in 1791 adopted the first European national constitution - with only one predecessor - that of United States....

It was also a country of amazing tolerance to people of all ethnicities, religions and political views.
Poles, Lithuanians, Jews and many other people living in peace as one nation.
"Pan Tadeusz" refers to it, telling, among others, the story of old Jew, Jankiel, who being trully religious Jew, was also a great Polish patriot...

The poem starts with words:

O Lithuania, my country,
thou Art like good health;
I never knew till now How precious,
till I lost thee.

There are English translations of it: by Marcel Weyland and Leonard Kress.

There was also the movie by Andrzej Wajda.

It's pity nations forget about their great past ...
Today, we often wittness almost total ignorance of that great past among many Poles....

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Secret of Life by J.D. Watson

The book "DNA: The Secret of Life" is one of the great popular books that J.D. Watson (Nobel Prize Winner (with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins) of 1962), wrote - this one with Andrew Berry. Watson, in really fascinating way, describes the history of the discovery of DNA structure and the role of the discovery in our understanding of life. The book has great passages, that are, surprisingly, very simple to understand, like that about the role of RNA, particularly in the evolution of living species. One of the most intriguing chapters says about efforts to create gene therapies, another one about methods to deliver genetic information to living cells, yet another one about the other applications of the knowledge. There, Watson goes from agricultural application, through the applications in forensic studies, to, last but not least, treatment of worst genetic diseases that plague humanity.

He is honest about his position about GMF (Genetically Modified Food) and other controversial applications of the science - i.e. - he supports the applications. Doing so, he certainly is a bit controversial in his opinions, but, he is not blindly "positivistic". For example, he describes his allocation of 5% of the total budget of Human Genome Project into exploration of ethical and philosophical issues related to genetic sciences.

What strikes me, however, is, sorry to say so, primitive materialism and reductionism, that emerges, mostly in the beginning of the book. Having discovered DNA, it seems he found a way to eliminate any kind of transcendental interpretation of biology. While the pure scientific approach, without resort to religion, is of course, of the great value, but when it comes to interpretation, for me and contrary to Watson, the discovery itself, clearly demonstrating the role of the CODE, of something that transcends the physical realisation and embodiment - is one of the greatest proofs of transcendence - revealing itself in the organization of life. Seems to me that Watson had quite old-style idea of G-d, religion and its relation to science.

Also, a bit embarrassing are his remarks like "Let's play God" or "Why be content with nature's design? (...) when little manipulation might yield something more useful" - that has some primitive tone. However, Watson seems to gain more humility with age and with the evolution of the science and its medical applications. In last parts of the book he admits to the limits of genetic science. More and more he sees and confesses to the mere fact, that life is still a great mystery to us. Failures of many of gene therapy application, resulted in famous tragic cases, seem to humble Watson's unequivocal faith in simple positivistic philosophy of science....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Writing about Kabbalah - Charles Mopsik attempt

Charles Mopsik was French Jewish philosopher who specialized in general studies of Jewish mysticism and of Kabbalah in particular. The book "La cabale" which I read in translation to Polish, is an attempt to write about Kabbalah in both objective (say, "scientific") way and with passion characteristic for young French philosopher (Charles died at the age of 46 in 2003).
In fourteen chapters he explains is Kabbalah, what are its relations to Judaism, describes fundamental Kabbalistic authors and texts. His accounts about Abraham Abulafia stress the importance of linguistic and hermeneutical component of Kabbalah. There are parts of the book, that are historical and ... sorry to say so - quite funny - when the author writes about "Christian" Kabbalah.... Of course we had in history such mixtures (e.g. in Pico de La Mirandola legacy), but if someone had a little of Jewish mysticism - can only read such chapters with ... a smile.

Generally - the book is very good, and in the time when a hordes of followers (like Maddona) go after Rav Berg's Kabbalah Centre, like in blindness – it’s good to see Kabbalah from rather objective perspective.

Personal note: I spoke to one of the Orthodox Jewish Rabbi recently. After this incredible meeting I talked to one of his students, and I know that true Kabbalah is almost never spoken of. It exists, it is important, and is living. But there is no way to speak of its secrets without such deep knowledge and wisdom, that is hardly attainable by us mere mortals...

The far feeling of it I was able to experience in my recent trip to Tzfat...


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Man's Search for Meaning

I read Frankl's books in reverse order - the first, "Man's Search for Meaning" for me was the last ... And for good reason - in some sense this book is the great summary of Frankl's view on life. Sold in 10 million copies - the book has two distinct parts - the first is a kind of memoir of the horrible time Frankl spent in at least four concentration camps during II World War, including Auschwitz. From all written stories about the life in camp - Frankl's relation is astonishing - there are no gruesome scenes, no ghastly relations - but through some cold description of prisoners shock, apathy, bitterness and finally deformation of morals - Frankl's account is one of the most fearful stories I have ever read. Yet, there is still a small light of humanness, still a germ of meaning in all these atrocities. Let's read: "We have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips."

The second part of the book deals with his LOGOTHERAPY - the fundamental theory Frankl promoted in XX century. Logotherapy seeks the cure for neurosis and existential emptiness in the search for meaning in life. There are passages in the book, also those about love and its importance that make one shiver....

Let's read two citations from this great book:

"An incurable psychotic individual may lose his usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a human being. This is my psychiatric credo."

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Unconscious Religiousness and the Men's Search for Ultimate Meaning

Victor Emil Frankl was one of the greatest psychiatrist/neurologist/philosopher of XX century. He was Holocaust survivor - prisoner of numerous concentrations camps, including Auschwitz, where his mother and brother were killed.

The book: "Men's Search for Ultimate Meaning" is his last book, for some it is a sequel to "Men's Search for Meaning" but it is rather his "credo" - and is based on his Ph.D. dissertation.
The book's main theme is the refutation of reductionism approach to human mind. In simple words he shows us that the human mind is a unique, irreductible phenomenon.
The ultimate force that drives human person, is according to Frankl, is its search for meaning,which in fact is a search of ultimate meaning, i.e. the search for transcendence.

The book has some great passages and amazing chapters. In one of them: "Unconscious Religiousness" Frankl shows how modern psychoanalysis (existential analysis) reveals the level of human mind - where the unconscious presence of transcendence becomes predominant...

There are also great passages about human love, freedom and responsibility.
He devotes a large part of the book to the problem of "existential vacuum" - the feeling of meaninglessness, that dominates our culture.

Across the book there is a lot of references to love and to its unique importance in human life. His words are stunning expression of the effort to humanize the sexual part of our life. Once we understand, that the sexual life is not a goal in itself (as it exists in modern culture), and that it is ultimate mean to be with, to know your partner - there is no longer any problem with pornography, debauchery, untruthfulness, prostitution and all other plagues related to the intimate sphere of our lives.....

What is also very important - the book has scientific character, in many places you read the language of professional psychology and psychiatry - but, even if you are not of these professions - you have no problem with deep understanding of all ideas the author expressed there.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

World without us - old prophecies in modern skin ?

Reading Alan Weisman "The World Without Us" is a terrific experience. The book contemplates the state of the earth after the human race is gone... The author is not giving us the another catastrophic theory - instead he speculates on how and what can happen to our mother earth if we are no longer there....

The prevailing conclusion is that the nature will manage the world without us much faster we could ever imagine. He gives examples that are so convincing - like the example of Puszcza Bialowieska in Poland - the last forest primeval in Europe, Chernobyl abandoned areas, Korean DMZ - the places where the power of nature prevails - only because we are not there.....

The author also suggests, that what could happen to us, in some sense already happened in the history - in the case of Maya civilisation. Although on a micro scale, what happened to Maya's - can happen to us - on much larger scale.

The book is fascinating and captivating - once you started - you can not stop reading.

It also relates to "end-of-time" predictions of major world religions.

The only criticism I may have - is in the "Coda" where author apparently apotheoses the idea of "one-couple - one child" idea. On this point, I dare to disagree, but I also think, the fantastic book would be even better if the author would not endorse the questionable idea....

Books over Books - Reading as the ulimate prayer

After spending one week in Israel, I am still transfixed. I knew a bit of the importance of Books - mostly the Torah - for the People of the Holy Land, but what I witnessed was unbelievable. Books, Books, Books. You go to a small prayer house somewhere in Galilee and there are hundreds of Books. You go to Ancient Zfat synagogue - Books.


You go to Western Wall, and turn left 50 meters - thousands of books. Everywhere - in small, bigger, large communities of people - Jews are reading, commenting, studying.

The Nation of the Book. The Reading as the ultimate prayer.
That week was the pivotal week for my life....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When everything is Miscellaneous - what is left ?

This is the third great book of David Weinberger that I was happy to read. Of course, the first, Cluetrain Manifesto (he co-authored it) and the second, Small Pieces Loosly Joined are great books that show the transforming power of Internet and its role in business and in social life.
"Everything is miscellaneous" is a bit different. The book, with some small exceptions, focuses on knowledge and the fundamental transformation that the very concept of konwledge and science undergoes today. The book demonstrates the weakness of the old-style "categorized" and well-ordered knowledge originating in Aristotelian science (to who - of course - the credit of the knowledge creation must be given !!!). It was known since the dawn of civilisation that since and knowledge evolve through discourse of scholars and thinkers. Today everybody can be a scholar and thinker and publisher and mentor. The amazing fact is that, contrary to common sense - this not only degrades the level of discourse, but in fact increases it. See Wikipedia case (which author analyses deeply).


From my perspective, the most interesting parts are those about classification systems, with the stress of "faceted classification" (e.g. colon classification system), that allows to build unlimited trees of knowledge and the notes about semantic web. Without pretending to know the reasons, Weinberger sheds some light on the failure or maybe rather, slow progress of Semantic Web. Surprisingly, the potential reasons are in the very nature of Semantic Web formulation, in RDF like mode, which does not fall far from Aristotelian, non-miscellaneous way of thinking.
For me it is like David Weinberger was to tell us - it is the meaning that matters, not the rigid structure of knowledge.

He tries to find the tools to represent meaning in the concept of "the third order of order": " ... but only if we see past its mess to its meaning, for that is what the third order enables" and “The world won’t ever stay miscellaneous because we are together making it ours”

However, in line with the message of the book - it is not easy to explain clearly and without some ambiguity, what are the tools to contain the meaning. Are they in folksonomies? are they in interaction and the way Wikipedia works ? We may fall short if we try to DEFINE them. Or maybe we need to wait until the next book of this great author ...

There are also very interesting thoughts about business today. See the quote: "In a truly miscellaneous world, a successful business owns nothing but what it wants to sell us. The rest is ours."

Justice and tribute to Mahler

Leonard Bernstein Essay on Mahler "Little Drummer Boy" is this story about Mahler, you must see, if you want to know about the composer and his music. It is also far better story, than Ken Russell's one. Of course it is hard to compare the essay of famous conductor with a fiction of avant-garde film director. But, the "Little Drummer Boy" tells us the deep dramatic story of Mahler life, his internal struggle of his Jewishness, that he officially abandoned by converting to Catholicism, but that he also never had forgotten, and that is present in this way or another in his music. Bernstein shows, how this personal drama of Mahler - the drama of his pursuit of musical career to its top European heights of Vienna Opera, for which he sacrificed his religion - influenced his musical message - how this interplay between Judaism and Christianity stamped a tragic but also great mark on his life. Another fault line of Mahler's life marks the drama of life and death. Here Bernstein shows how important was Mahler's awareness of death - death of his beloved daughter, the death threat upon himself, death of many innocent people of his time.

What is great about "Little Drummer Boy" is the passion of Bernstein and his ability to show the meaning of Mahler music itself. He does not resort to music's "programme", but tries to explain the meaning of pure musical qualities. Strongly recommended movie.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jerusalem - the epicenter of faiths

The "Fight for Jerusalem" by Dore Gold is a very good journalistic, fact book.

So, in some sense it is difficult to review, because it has sort-of apologetic character, that would be difficult to praise if it was a novel. But this is the book, that opens ones eyes on the nature of the conflict over Jerusalem. The conflict that originates in inability of many people to recognize the central role of Jerusalem and, in particular, of Temple Mount, to those who are not Muslims.
It is hard to believe but there are still people (mostly on the Arab side of the conflict) that try to deny the sanctity of the place for Judaism. There are theories, endorsed by some Palestinian circles, telling that Temple Mount was not the place where Holy of Holiest was in the past.

Dore Gold, through the survey of Jerusalem history, goes to the description of current situation in Jerusalem. What is incredible in this book is the revealing of facts that we have no chance to know. For example, all good people of the world condemn Iranian's leader Ahmadinejad, but we do not know that this guy believes in the return of 12th Imam, Mahdi !!! What it means in practice, is just horrible. In the name of his idea of G-d, he is ready to destroy the world, and to start this destruction in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, short survey of Internet using "Ahmadinejad Mahdi imam" supports what Dore Gold wrote....

The another fact, not very well known, is the removal of tons of rubble from The Temple Mount,by WAKF (Arabic governing body of Temple Mount) - the rubble that contained artefacts fromeven the First Salomon Temple. Unfortunately you could easily confirm that it indeed happened....

Maybe Dore Gold is a bit too appologetic, but, for G-d sake - it is for the good reason and the book shows how important for all people of the world is the religious freedom on the Temple Mount.



Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ken Russell Mahler - More then controversial - just going to far

Following my intereset in Gustaw Mahler, and his music, I ordered Ken Russell film about the Master. The film starts in a very interesting way - the entire action is set during a single train journey, as we can guess - a journey to home from the last of Maestro US trips. During the train journey with his wife Alma, Mahler goes through imaginative recollections of his life. The life, particularly the marriage with Alma, was not easy. First, he suppressed her musical talent, and initially, she gladly limited herself to loving housewife role. But over time, her disappointment grown into high level. We do not know if that was a reason of her fall into affair with Walter Gropius – but at least we can think it was... That affair, apparently well known to Mahler haunted him deeply over years.

However, I doubt that the way Ken Russell illustrates it, is justified. In one dream, Mahler is placed into a coffin with a window alive, and with absolute cynicism of his wife – is burned to ashes in crematorium. After the funeral his wife performs a perverse dance with Mahler head's marble statue...

This was quite obscene scene, I must say. We could find there a far reference to Strauss's Salome scenes with prophet's head - but it was filmed not in the way we could even try to accept as symbolic or artistic... And the facts of Alma “activity”, even after Mahler death, when she was really distorting his image – do not justify the imagery Ken Russell applied.

In the same way, the scenes of Mahler's dreams related to his conversion to Catholicism are going well too far. They suggest, that his conversion was a simple matter of business to become Vienna Court Opera director, what for a Jew was obviously difficult at that time. However, we are now sure, that Mahler's motives were much deeper and even if there was a tone of pragmatism in his decision - there was certainly no hostility to Judaism in it. The grotesque scenes in which he is hammering the Star of David into Germanic sword and play stupid games with Nazi-like perverse girl - are suggesting something that is just total falsification of Mahler's thinking, music and imagination. Even in so-called film-reality Mahler shows to Alma a rosary and calls it - "the key to opera" – it was just ridiculous. It's enough to recall that long after his conversion, he still suffered from anti-Semitism in Vienna and bore it with dignity...

The film could possibly be good, Ken Russell has a talent to underline some of Mahler's key attitudes to his music and to his life: in a dramatic scene of an argument with Alma over his "Songs on the Death of Childreen", he shouts out: "I do not choose what I compose - it chooses me".

However, I'm not very positive about the movie. I try to believe that it was not sheer stupidity or ignorance of Ken Russell, that made him to do the parts of the film in that way. I only hope, it was because in 1974, many artists pressingly tried to play the "avant-garde" to shock the audience by some “art for art's sake” - not by art for truth, for the deep meaning ....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The enduring power of ideals

It's unusual to write about political events on such blog.
But this event, event of November 4th, 2008 is unprecedented.

Let's keep in our memories two fragments from his speech, words that say more about America, than hundreds of some other opinions:

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

and

"Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope."

G-d bless Obama, G-d bless America...

Now, as a kind of PostScriptum, Obama speach in my mother's tongue...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Don't read this book ....

Yes, if you want to keep yourself faithful in human Goodness, Good faith and all the important virtues of human race - do not read this book.

The book I write about is "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader". The book is written cold. It is mostly based on press reports and the existing relations about Osama and its life in Saudi Arabia, in Afganistan, Pakistan. Almost all of us have heard stories about this most wanted terrorist and declared enemy of the free world. But what one feels when slowly going through this book is hard to describe. It's really hard to comprehend, to grasp, that there are people so dedicated to kill other innocent people, and what is more - to do it in the name of G-d. One of the most shocking fact revealed by the book, is a potential psychological link of the fatwa issued by Sheikh Omar Abdur Rahman and the later 9/11 act. I do not want to go into details in this review. The book shows the dark side of humanity, hatred and false believe in one's own right to judge - not only ourselves but also the entire world. I still hope that this is a book about a deviation or rather aberration from what really Islam teaches ....

It is a very good book, very well written and really fascinating - but for goodness sake - if you do not want to loose your faith in humankind - do not read it ....

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Gustav Mahler enchantment

It may happen that, as time passes, I will be adding reviews of music I listen to this blog. Music plays important role in my life. I hardly can play, though. Of course, I "play" - I mean - I have fun to play several melodies on my alto- and bass- recorders, on Indian bass flute, or few tones on Jewish horn - Shofar - but it is even less than amateurish activity. However, my son, being realy amateurish guitarist, does it much better than I ever did !!!

On the other hand, we listen to music of many genres, ranging from ancient music, through Bach & Bethoveen, Mahler, Sibelius to Penderecki, Gorecki, Glass, Arvo Part, not to mention modern Jazz and ambitious rock & metal music. We literally live within music during our weekends and evenings.

This weekend I devoted to Mahler and his first three symphonies. Anyone who searches for the music deep in its meaning, with some dose of "programmatic" themes, which do end in banality - should listen to them:
  • Symphony No. 1 - As Henry-Louis de La Grange writes it is a "mixture of sorrow and irony, the grotesque and the sublime, tragedy and humor" and that was the programme added by Mahler to the symphony
  • Symphony No. 2 - With beautiful poem "Primeval Light" from "The Youth's Magic Horn" - collection of popular German folk poems, the symphony asks fundamental questions about life and death, depicts the importance of joyful times in our life, goes through despair of meaningless activities of life, to end in the true hope of our sould renewal. It's worth to read what Henry-Louis de La Grange wrote about 2-nd symphony
  • Symphony No. 3 - One of the most imposing of all Mahler's symphonies. This is the act of creativity that caused Mahler to express: "The composer who writes 'a major work, literally reflecting the whole world, is himself only, as it were, an instrument played by the whole universe' ". The symphony programme was around the answers that composer gets from Nature, its glory and from man: Summer Marches In, What the Flowers on the Meadow Tell Me, What the Animals in the Forest Tell Me, What Man Tells Me, What the Angels Tell Me, What Love Tells Me. The best illustration of this incredible music is in Mahler's own words: "My symphony will be something the world has never heard before. In it Nature herself acquires a voice and tells secrets so profound that they are perhaps glimpsed only in dreams! I assure you, there are passages where I myself sometimes get an eerie feeling; it seems as though it were not I who composed them."
    Again, the best ever text about it is by Henry-Louis de La Grange.

Of great importance is of course, what performance do you listen to. I did to Bernstain's...
I'm not sure if there exists anything better than Bernstain recording of Mahler's symphonies. Needless to say, watching Bernstein profound dedication to music, his conductor's "body-language" is another incredible experience.

I must also say some bad words about an attempt to illustrate Mahler's music by computer graphics. I refer to "Vision Mahler" by Johannes Deutsch. The music performance (conductor Semyon Bychkov) is fine, but the illustration is primitive. I understand the need of interpretations other than the composer programme for the symphony, I understand the need for visual experiments with music, but to illustrate the glorious Mahler's Symphony No. 2 with phlegmatic shapes from XX century 90-ties computer 3D graphics was too much to me.
I hope, Johannes Deutsch, who is certainly good artist will come up with something better in the future !

At this moment it is good to remind Gustaw Mahler's words: "If a composer could say what he had to say in words, he would not bother trying to say it in music". And this equally applies to words as to images !!!

So, while I advice to listen to Bernstain's "The Symphonies", I certainly do not to "Vision Mahler" ...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Life of Dante by Bendict Flynn

Benedict Flynn describes in his short story the life of Dante Alighieri - the Italian poet of Dark Ages. The book reveals the dark side of the life of Dante - his conflicts with Florentines, his banishment from beloved city of Florentine, his passion for Guelphs and their struggles with Ghibellins. For those who do not know - Guelphs were papacy supporters against Ghibellins - the Roman Emperors supporters. Later - the movement divided into two factions Black and White Guelphs, and Dante was unfortunate to be White, while Black were in power, the power that, among other things was used to expel Dante for life long exile in Verona and finally in Ravenna.
The short book suggests that these misfortunes in Dante life, were actually the breeding ground for Dante's "Divine Comedy".

Nice little book ...

Notre-Dame de Paris - Aftermath

This book, probably read by millions of people, has so many senses, so many meanings, that it is hard to say, which is the one, the most important, the key meaning. There is love for Paris, love for Notre-Dame, love for love ....

But the thread I want to tell about in this review is that of morbid love. It is represented by the lust of Claude Frollo - the priest, to the young girl. The lust that ultimately takes her to her death under Paris's gibbet. The lust, that was not true love, that brings only unhappiness, grief and finally the death. And this thread of the book, the slow and deep analysis of this morbid feeling is what gives the book its universal meaning - how often we meet such cravings in our life - even if not in us, but around us....

And there is also a counter-tone, the tone of true, deep and unspoken love. Love that does not search for its fulfillment, for its satisfaction - the love of Quasimodo for Esmeralda. The love of ultimate care for the dead body of living soul - the love that seeks for its end in death - but the death in the eternal embrace of her body, thrown into Montfauçon - the common grave for people lost like her - in the dark ages of Paris ...

All - read this book, Victor Hugo is one of the greatest ....

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Orhan's Pamuk Istanbul - The city has no centre other than ourselves ...

This was long reading - started in June, finished in October ...It is not for the book being uninteresting, it is because of its melancholy and for the sometimes strange desire to be with me for long time ... So I was reading it in ... sauna, in planes flying over Europe, on those sleepless nights I sometimes experience.

Orhan's Pamuk "Istanbul - Memories and the City" let us understand this great city much better and much deeper than in any tourist’s guides. The main reason for this is the great courage which the author shows when writing about its own beloved city. He dares to call some period of modern Istanbul history the "turkification" of Istanbul, and when describing the remainings of the city great past, he shows us that almost all of them are just dilapidated ruins.
However, there is no doubt that he loves the city, loves Turkey - and this love is even greater by his ability to see its shadows and dark side.
The best of this book is in showing the relation between our lives and the places we live in. There is no question that to live in a place like Istanbul, rises this relation to the highest levels. Let's cite Orhan: "Was this the secret of Istanbul - that beneath its grand history, its living poverty, its outward-looking monuments and its sublime landscapes, its poor hid the city's soul inside a fragile web? But here we have come full circle, for anything we say about the city's essence, says more about our own lives and our own states of mind. The city has no centre other than ourselves."

Another fantastic part of the book describes specific melancholy, called "Hüzün" in modern Turkish ( ḥuzn in Arabic). This very concept, the idea of failed life, the lost of something, defines deep meaning of Istanbul's character during the most of XX and XXI century - after the demise of Ottoman Empire, and subsequent westernization, secularization and modernization.

It was one of the greatest books I ever read, and I recommend it with all my heart.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Notre-Dame de Paris

After so many visits in Paris, I finally started reading Victor Hugo "Notre-Dame de Paris", which in many translations is called "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" or (in my native language) "The Bell-ringer of Notre-Dame". So many people read the book, so to write one more "typical" review does not make too much sense. What makes this book great, is the atmosphere of middle-age Paris, and almost physical imaginative power. Listening to this book today, made me first time ever walking around Paris' Cité for hours and to contemplate the cradle of the one of the largest and the most important cites of the world...

And, like the sign from heaven, when I entered the cathedral itself, there was a movie played on a huge screen - a movie about Notre-Dame history - in which Hugo's book was described as one of the most important events.....

And the very next day I visited The Archeological Crypt the most astonishing place on the Île de la Cité.


It's really amazing to be so many times on the big plaza at the cathedral and finally after years no notice the huge underground crypt, that shows ruins of old Paris, and the passage of time. Everything thanks to Victor Hugo, at elast in my case.

For all who love Paris - that's recommended reading.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Moses und Aron

After posting reviews of the radio programmes.... writing about an opera is not so unusuall - is it?

Well, "Moses und Aron" by Arnold Schönberg is something worth writing about and worth to recommend to everybody interested in modern music. First of all, libretto and music is by one of the giants of XX century music - the man who laid the ground to atonal, or rather, twelve-tonal music. "Moses und Aron" is partially tonal, but the atonality is also very important there and forms a large part of the score.

Second, the libretto is, of course based on biblical theme, literally on the story of Aaron being involved in Golden Calf blasphemy, while Moses was on Mount Sinai with G-d.

The Opera, particularly in the realization I saw - by Vienna State Opera, uses this theme to present the unending dillema of theory versus practice, idea versus reality, True G-d versus politheism. Aaron is after practicality, reality while Moses after ideas, theory and virtues.

The incredible images on screens of TV sets palying the central role in Act II of the Opera, show what the authors of this staging, take as "modern day" politheism. Later, in the interview, Reto Nickler, the stage director, explains this explicitly: the modern politheism is a focus on appearances, on the unrealism of media, particulary of TV, it is in the bigotry, in the egoism, in the acts of those who kill people in the name of god....

Moses und Aron is a great opera, and I do advice to everybody, like me, who did not like opera so far - to watch, to listen, to experience it....

See: the images from the opera.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Music history continued ...

Richard's Fawkes book "The History of Classical Music" is fantastic introduction for all of us who are interested in the history of music, but how do not have energy to read long treatises. Fawkes book takes us on an interesting journey from the beginnings of western music, starting from mystic chants of Hildegard of Bingen, through renaissance and baroque classical music to modern music of such giants like John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen or Henryk Górecki.
It has also some interesting parts that describe opera music.

The book is certainly more scholar and more "popular" one than "The Rest Is Noise" (described here), but it gives a good ground for understanding the transformations of music through centuries. Sometimes, it lacks some deep details that could be interested for us, readers (I missed more information about Bach and/or Mozart), but my overall opinion is positive.

The book ends with beautiful short parable: "Yet, having started this journey with Greogorian chant, it seems appropriate to conculde with a world, that perhaphs, would not sound so unfamiliar with the devout of Dark Ages. Arvo Part, the Estonian composer, born in 1935 has his roots in chant, yet his minimalism is a distinctly XX century voice. The spiritual qualities, the spiritual message of the Westeren musical tradition is undimmed, even into XXI century..."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Radio fascination

Rarely, it is worth to write about a radio programme... However, for the second time in last few months, I must write about something extraordinary.

Canadian Public Radio (CBC.ca) publishes a memoir about Peter Gzowski, descendent of great Kasimir Gzowsky (Canadian hero), who for many years was the host of amazing radio programme "Morningside" of Canadian CBC. Morningside was the best ever radio programme I ever had chance to listen to, and Gzowski was the great guy – probably the best radio host ever lived...

True Canadian patriot (name sounds Polish, but he was Canadian), man of great humour and of great vision of what the radio should be...

I strongly suggest to visit: http://archives.cbc.ca/arts_entertainment/media/topics/1793/

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The imaginary country of modern music that can not be found on a map - the end of The Rest Is Noise reading ....

The reading of "The Rest is Noise" by Alex Rose was one of the best experiences I could have in September of 2008. As I wrote in the previous post, it shows incredible connections betweenthe music and politics or the trends of troubled XX century.But it also shows that in the later part of XX century, music became less "political" and more engaged in itself - in creation of "The imaginary country that cannot be found on a map" (Debussy).
Alex Rose, shows us what makes the great music, free from politics, when he writes:"The debates over merits of engagement and withdraw [of music] has gone for centuries (...)Composition only gains power from failing to decide the eternal dispute. In a decentred culture, it has a chance to play a kind of good-father role - able to assimilate anything new because it has assimilated everything in the past".

I do not see, and I believe, the author also does not think that way - that the music CAN in fact be motivated by what happens in the world - it cannot be isolated. But, what is the great hope, thatthe music is not, and will never be played to fulfil some crazy dictator's agenda ....

I strongly recommend this book for everyone who is interested in modern music.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shocking interweaving of Music and Politics of XX century

Well, I planned to write a review when I finish this book completely, but I feel an urge to write now... I just finished Part II, that describes the period of 1933 to 1945 - the most tragic period of XX century. What is shocking is how close was music to politics of all sorts. The figures of Richard Strauss or Anton Webern on the one side and Shostakovich or Prokofiev, and their close relations to Nazis and communist regimes - is just horrifying. Honestly, before reading this incredible book I was unaware how abused was (maybe still is ....) music by politicians....

What is even more shocking is that some composers in US were also not very far from ideological streams. The book describes some ties, that great US composer, Ruth Crawford Seeger, had with
leftist Popular Front organisations.

I will write longer review when finished, but as for now, I can only write - it's a great book, but it shows something that I did not notice in my long life of music fascinations - how deep can sometimes be the link of art and dirty politics.... How it is today with great music ???

Noam's Chomsky "9-11"

It is not long reading. The book has about 120 pages and is small format.
It is exclusively composed of Noam's Chomsky interviews following and analysing September 11, 2001 attacks on World Trade Center. This attack had special impact on myself, for many reasons, for my history and for the other events in my life ...

Chomsky is well known for his unorthodox critique of US foreign polices, so the book does not surprise a reader who knows a bit about Chomsky. He gives some very interesting accounts on the potential motives of those terrorists who committed that crime, but in my opinion, he falls short when about to give any real explanation of these motives. To the contrary, the motives he apparently dismisses (they hate us for globalization of our world view, our values), are, possibly the only fundamental deep motives. Instead, through most of the speeches he tries to convince us, that it is US which is the utmost terrorist, legitimized by its power, organization !
Some of Chomsky's opinions are just ridiculous. Let me cite one: "... In those years (1980s), a prime enemy of the U.S. was the Catholic Church, which had sinned grievously in Latin America..."

I do not say, US does always good when is globalizes its outlook on life - but this process just happens with little of any policy makers intention, and we are just hated by terrorists and fundamentalists for it. That's my opinion, and here I disagree with Chomsky.

But, even if I disagree with him, I admire the sharpness and bravery of his intellectual activity. I strongly recommend this little book to all who are interested in global and in US politics.
And, thanks good God and fathers of America - he can proclaim his thoughts being in US, teaching at MIT... That is what is important. That what opens minds of people, even if they do not agree - the essence of free speach and our freedom.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week September 15-19


Nice idea of Amy. I start to recognise that there are more of us out there - Book Bloggers.... Amy - congratulations for the great idea !!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Reading while in Paris ...

Two interesting books, in both cases I just started reading them - so this is not a review yet.

Siting in Paris in La Bucherie restaurant (just several steps from my favorite bookstore Shakespeare and Company) and waiting for my plane back to Poland, I was reading Noam's Chomsky "9-11". The great philosopher account on his deep criticism for American "War on terror". I do not agree with him on many issues, but it's hard not to notice how close are some of his views to those of George Soros, that I described here. Will write more....

The second, unquestionably great book I was reading (actually listening it in audio version)
was "The rest is noise" - the great story of XX century music and its intertwinement with politics, history, events .... Great reading ... Will write more ....

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Salman Rushdie on books and reading

In one of his interviews with Steve Paulson (http://www.pri.org/arts-entertainment/books/great-writers-books.html) Salman Rushdie expressed a simple truth about books and the imaginative power they have.
It could be a motto for my blog:

"Every book is a different sort of a journey. And you are, in a way, making up a world that you're simultenously moving in to. And offering other people to do the same thing with it.
(...) I have an experience when I'm reading a book that I really love, that I slow right down, that I want to stay there as long as I can."

This is exactly what I feel when I read great book. Sometimes, when I read a book after book, I need to stop and just do not read anything for a while - just to allow the worlds I was in, to dwell longer in me.....

Great Writers on Great Books

It's a bit unusual to write a review about ... the radio programs. But in this case, Wisconsin Public Radio published (in its famous series "The Best of our knowledge" (http://ttbook.org/) made by
Jim Fleming and Steve Paulson), an amazing series "Authors, Authors - Great Writers on Great Books". Its ( a bit unimpresive) website is: http://www.wpr.org/book/greatbooks/

The list of really authors interviewed mostly by Steve are:

Alice Walker, VS Naipaul , Orhan Pamuk, Alexie Sherman, Salman Rushdie ,
Khaled Hosseini and others. There is also a great listening about some who passed away like Valdimir Nabokov or Charles Bukowski.

I strongly recommend this audio programmes. You can find real audio at http://wpr.org/book/greatbooks/index.html.

What was however the most important to me, it was Salman's Rushdie expresion about books, see the next psot on this blog...
Here I recall that Rushdie called his famous "Satanic verses" as his least political books of all (and I must say its true).


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"The Last Secret of the Temple" - The Aftermath ...

Well, I have mixed feelings.... Not because the Sussman book is not good. It is. It is imaginative. You read some passages and you see the things. But ...

To write a review of a book is not easy if you do not want to spoil it for the readers. And I do not want, because the book is a good reading. As I wrote before - its good holiday reading, captivating, intriguing ...

The story of modern times, of present day conflict between Arabs and Jews described around the theme of an object from the Jerusalem Temple, stolen, taken away, and finally found by the heroes of the book - found twice ... Interesting account on human emotions and hatred and desperate search for peace. Going back to the horrors of Nazi's occupation of Europe.

As one can see - it is much more realistic and, in some sense, interesting - than a bit artificial struggle of Opus Dei against the Christ familly - totally invented fantasy ....

But ... well - there is something bad in some modern thrillers - the authors try to find the most shocking, the most unpredictable thing to shock the readers - I do not know why - it is like they do not have confidence in the imaginative power of their writing. The same sin is, in my view, committed by Paul Sussman.

I do not want to spoil the reading, but, excuse me, to find one important character to be a spy of the "other side" and the another character of the opposite side to be a murderer of his own people - is just a grist to all conspiracy theories lovers mills....

So, it could be a very good book, if Paul would not go that far, and have had more faith in his own ability to write imaginative stories - what I believe - he surely posses....

Yours to discover if I'm right....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Prolong your holiday's reading with Paul Sussman

I'm in the mid of "The Last Secret of the Temple" - the fantasy/fiction/historical thriller.
It's very good, captivating reading (listening in my case :-).

The plot of the book is deeply rooted in the Middle East conflicts, that are presented quite objectively - from both sides.

If one compares this book to something well known - the good comparison is "Da Vinci Code", but this one is more realistic. (Don's Brown "reality" conflict of Opus Dei with the world is somehow inflated..)

The full review will come here, as soon as I finish it.

So far - so good - strongly recommended - good holidays reading !!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Bubble of American Supremacy by George Soros

That was my third book of Soros. In it Soros goes high with his critique of George Bush and latest events involving US on a global scene. He argues that after September 11th attacks, American government abused its principles and launched the mistaken "War on Terror". Even though I had the opposite view - I must admit that Soros's arguments are very convincing and after reading the book, one starts to questions the view that Iraq war was just war and that Bush administration was legitimate in that action....

But the book has a dose of optimism. It is in Soros constant promotion of Open Society idea.The part of the book describes his activities in promoting the Open Society in Russia and other Central and Eastern Europe countries. The book has its special meaning today - in the year of the presidential elections in US....
Strongly recommended !!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thou great star! What would be thy happiness if thou hadst not those for whom thou shinest!

Finishing reading Thomas Common translation of Nietzsche's "Thus spoke Zarathustra..." is a queerish experince while immersing into Mishnah ....

Weeks ago I read latest Polish translation of the book done by Sława Lisiecka and Zdzisław Jaskuła . But the classical English translation of Thomas Common has some different flavor.
It is a bit more poetic and more imaginative - but of course this is difficult to confirm when you can not read it in original (I can not ...).

If I was to make my final summary of "Thus spoke Zarathustra..." it is not, unfortunately, very positive. In short words, Nietzsche tries to build the meaning, the goal, the utter sense for man on the ruins of meaninglessness and nihilizm of our civilization (as it was in XIX century and was even more in XX...), but what he propheses is insufficient. His will to power, recurrence and superman related ideas, emerging from "Thus spoke..." narrative just can not be taken as apealing proposal after XX century. And it is not for trivial conotation of his superman idea and nazism... It is because of lack of any realistic ground for his new morality and new goals. His superman is a solitary hero, who attempts to find the ground in himself only. There is no God, and I could forgive him this error (sic !), but ... there is no other man - no The Other, no Other face. "I and thou" - is almost missing from Nietzsche proposal.

And when the ground is missing, the tower he built is like one errected on sand. It did not stand for historical challenge - XX century misuse of his thought ...

The only thing which I could say, after writing this post is that Nietzsche was apparently aware of his fate and the fate of his thought. I close this entry by the quote:

"I know my fate. One day my name will be associated with the memory of something tremendous--a crisis without equal on earth, the most profound collision of conscience, a decision that was conjured up against everything that had been believed, demanded, hallowed so far. I am no man, I am dynamite." (Ecco homo)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Mishnah

This entry is just a signal - not yet a review. Well how it could be possible to make a review of such Book...
I slowly, but regularly read Jacob's Neusener "The Mishnah. A New Translation." To be correct, I still read the introduction to it. And it is incredible ...

Just two citations:

"The Mishnah talks of this worldly things, but the things stand for and speak of another world entirely."

and

"This language is filled with words for neutral things of humble existence. It does not speak of holy things and is not symbolic in its substance. This language speaks of ordinary things, of things which everyone must have known. (...) but (it) expresses a deeply embedded ontology and methodology of the sacred, specifically of the sacred within the secular, and of the capacity for regulation, therefore for sanctification, within the ordinary...."

This is another reality, reality worth to know ....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The puzzle solved: THE GREATEST MINDS & IDEAS OF ALL TIME

Of course it was William Durant choice, made in "The greatest minds & ideas of all time".
Years ago I read his "The story of Philosophy" and it was just great.
There is something about "The greatest minds ..." that is not in accord with his objectiveness...

See the list of 10 greatest poets he selects: Homer, David the Psalmist, Euripides, Lucretius,
Li-Po, Dante, William Shakespeare, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walt Whitman
I have not to say that Keats, Shelley or Whitman were not great poets, they were...
but if they are here - where is Goethe, Pushkin, Baudelaire ?
I think his selection was a bit biased...

And all the book seems to me a bit pompous and overoptimisitc....

Friday, August 08, 2008

The New Paradigm for Financial Markets - conclusions

The book itself is not very long, so I could finish it while coming back from Paris.
In the later part of the book Soros elaborates on his theory of reflexivity and how it helps in the understanding of the current financial crisis. The theory replaces traditional "equilibrium" theories that laid ground to strong market fundamentalisms - that claim that market are always right. He proves that sometimes they are not.....
The book concludes with interesting suggestions, addressed particularly toward market regulators. One of his propositions says that regulators should care more about credit expansions and not just about monetary face of financial system.

The book is great - a year ago I read Alchemy of Finance, but for me it was more technical, so I even did not dare to post a review here. The "New Paradigm" is different. It is intriguing and breathtaking.....

Last but not least - it's nice to hear Soros talking about the ideas and about the size of the crisis.
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june08/soros_05-13.html

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Reading while in Paris: Gorge Soros's "The New Paradigm"

"The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crash of 2008 and What It Means"

This is the book I started to read in Paris. It's quite different from my "holiday's readings" that you can see here. Soros analysis of what we perceive today as the financial crisis is deep. No question about that.

Traditionally, we think the current crisis is just "subprime" lending crisis. It is not. This is just the effect. The cause is deeper and has roots in processes and trends almost 10 years old.

Particularly I was intrigued by the conclusion that the cut of the rates of federal funds by Fed (from 6.5% to 3.5%) in the course of just few months of 2000, caused by Internet bubble, and the trend that get it down to 1% by 2003, has created a long term bubble in housing markets....
The examples he gives, are just breathtaking and almost unbelievable....

As in "Alchemy of Finance" he writes about his life's experiences and how thay influence his philosophy and activity. I know, Soros is controversial. But he explicitly says about the philosopher who was his master: Karl Popper. For this very reason I value Soros, as I'm also a pupil of Popper, and his Open Society ideas ....

I'm in the mid of the book now, I will write more when finished.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Shadow of the Wind - The Aftermath

Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind is indeed a great and powerful novel. In addition to fantastic reading experience it offers a lot of philosophical and moral implications.
And all with a dose of good humor and in very imaginative way.
I also strongly advice to read/listen to Carlos' interviews. One of them (in English) is added to Audible.com audio version of the book.
What is interesting there is to discover how honest and humble to us, his readers is Carlos.

And, finally - all is about the Love ....

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Shadow of the Wind - Power of imagination - Power of Spirit

I started to read Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind.
Increadible book. Imaginative and captivating. I promise to write more when I finish it - I hope in few days ...

Kate's Sepulchre - The After Reading Impressions

I finished it - mixed impressions ... Too many ghosts and devils but ... the plot's constructions and the implications (your family roots do matter ...) are the real values. Besides that - as I wrote before it was fantastic reading for vacations. The ending of the book - the book-in-the-book idea is used in a very good and unexpected way.

Finally - I gave my good recommendation for this book to all of you.

Four days of silence ....

I was outside any "connected world", outside any electronic books...
I was in total solitude canoeing on two wild rivers Bukowina and Łupawa in Northern Poland.
Pictures (about 300 ...) will come later.
The only things I was reading deep into the nights, against starry sky were: Tomer Devorah and Mesillat Yesharim by Moshe Luzzatto. At this moment I will not comment about these lectures ... Too deep feelings ....
After the silence I finished the Sepulchure (see next entry) and started to read "Shadow of the Wind" - the second after an advice from my beloved daughter.... See next entries ....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kate Mosse Sepulchre - good vacation reading

When I was in Paris recently it was hard not to notice the new Kate's novel adds. They were everywhere in Paris !!!
So when I was getting the book for my short holidays I selected Sepulchre - and it was good choice. I still read it so this is not final note about the book....
The book has two plots, which are quite long completely parallel and unrelated. One is in XIX century France for a French family, another in XXI France for American researcher. The plots meet at the same place - in Domaine de la Cade - a house in Rennes-les-Bains
(Carcassonne area). I have no final opinion yet - but - I can say - it is captivating story - just perfect for holiday relax. Tarot cards, connections to da Vinci Code, occultism and fascinating interplay of these two threads - modern and old - this makes it all.

btw, it was nice to read about Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris - this is my favorite place in the city.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Started reading Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" again. First reading maybe 30 years ago ...
Shocking experience to read it in your 50-ties....
I know he is not guilty for Nazi ideology, for all what was after him in Germany .... but....
The contempt he expressed for people (if the people are not super-something) is just amazing ....
Some parts are good literature - yes, but the final message we get from it is not what we find as just simply good ....
Well - do you have different opinions - your comments are welcomed !

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reading with a bit of good humor :-)

I just forgotten to make a post of my (two months ago) reading of A.J. Jacob's "The Year of Living Biblically". It is not quite serious book, and I'm glad to know that it was not meant to be serious.
But, as always, it has a grain of deep thoughts. What it could mean today to be a religious fundamentalists? Where and when people that claim to live biblically, do it with profound, deep faith, but when it is just lack of wisdom and common sense ?

Paradoxically, the book posts quite serious question (without giving an answer): if one want to live according to Torah (or Bible in broader sense) - what would it mean? Where banality ends and true virtue starts? What rules/commandments we need to follow literally and what allegorically ?

Honestly - I do not know the answer - and question remains - so it's good to ready funny, a bit unserious books sometimes ... and have more serious thoughts after .....

Saint Patrick of bitterness

I have read Philip Freeman's "St. Patrick of Ireland". Interesting account on the early history of Christianity and its connection to politics... However, two things haunt my thoughts after reading it. One is the recognition of the bitterness St. Patrick had to experience after his work in Ireland. Charged of some sort of bribe or using money in his mission he had to explain and justify something that most probably was just a common method in his otherwise clean and chaste, mission. These events show that that such bitterness is often inextricably connected to all missions, political, religious, social.... What happened to Walesa in his native Poland around mid of 2008 .....

The second thought is the apparent attempt of the author (Philip Freeman) to distance himself from another author writing of Patric - Thomas Cahill (see "How the Irish Saved Civilization") (and my early post about it). In some part of the book, he writes: "Irish did not saved civilization, civilization saved itself" (I'm not sure now about the exact wording, but the meaning is certainly true). Does Freeman try to be less pathetic ? Maybe I need to return to Thomas's book again ....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Memories and the City - Istanbul - Orhan Pamuk

Between Khalil Gibran's "Prohet" and Philip Freeman's "St. Patric of Ireland" I ... landed for a few days in Istanbul... It's magic city, and I must admit, did not realize before how important it is for all europeans...

Meanwhile, before and after, I read (now in physical sense of the word, i.e. the real book, no its audio version - what matters because of old black & white photographs of Istanbul)
Orhan Pamuk's "Istanbul - Memories and the City".

It's fantastic book. Imagine - last weekend I read it ... in sauna - I did not want to loose any single minute without this amazing book.

My dream is to meet Orhan. I feel that we, Poles, have some common thoughts with Turkey's.
When I read "Istanbul - Memories and the City" I can not stop thinking of Lodz, the city of Polish, Jewish, Russian & German roots. Lodz is also very melancholic. It was also a clash of cultures. I was not born here, but it (Lodz) has put a seal on me... like Istanbul on Pamuk.

And when I listened to Pamuk talking to Charlie Rose, I think Poland and Turkey have a lot to exchange - particularly about its past. Poles, did reconcile with Urainians, partialy with Jews (well, only partially). But we did not with reconcile with Lithuanians (for Zeligowsky Mutiny), nor with Czechs over Zaolzie . Turks still did not reconcile with Kurds and with Armenians...

So we have so much in common ....

I will write more soon ...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

We are responsible ....

Another truth, that I just could not not to bring to your attention:

"And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all."

I dedicate it to all those that are so easy to condemn others ....

Sunday, June 08, 2008

They come through you but not from you ....

I did not expect that reading the second (after Bible) poetry book of US, would give so much spiritual pleasure and deep thoughts....

"The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran

Well, instead of my comments, please read the excerpt:

"They [children] come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."

The another moving chapter was about Talking:
"You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts"

and more ....

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The highest form of knowledge is inversely related to its certainty

I did not expect the book about Maimonides (Rambam) would be so important to read ...

"The more we become concerned with the extremaly abstract being and existence, let alone G-d, the less certain is our knowledge."

Somehow the book remainds me that we can speak about G-d only through negation - of what he is not, not - what he is ....

The truth so often forgotten...

What is however unbelivable - how it could happen that someone in XII century would get to such thoughts, far deeper than tens of philosophers yet to come.....

If one wants to read the interview with the author its here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More questions - No answers

I finished "The Castle in the Forest" ... It is incredibile book. Norman Mailer is a master of revelations. What he reveled in this book is the truly demonic character of Hitler. And it is not
for the book's narrator is devil... That were Hitler’s family relations - they were already demonic.
But - I must say - the book raises more questions than gives answers.

Let us think about the end of the last chapter - seven:
"Mother's love must be a sweetest honey - indeed we are there to enjoy it as well"

In some parabolic or maybe, alegoric sense, the books explains how the childhood may bring the evil into our life.

One thread in the book, that I do not understand is the devil's plot in Car's Russia.

Maybe I have gut feeling about the connection, but nothing I could think of, nor to write in this blog ...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Devil's child ...

That's the book I did not anticipated to be what it is .... I even do not remember why and how I started to read it .... "The Castle in the Forest" by Norman Mailer.
The book about the Evil and how it is planted in humans in history. No wonder that Mailer takes Hitler's young life to show us the role of Evil personified. Great book, if it was not great, you would not like its almost childish narration of D.T. - devil himself. But it is just great.
No question about the choice of narration.
I'm now in a mid of it. Let me come back to it later....

Love Wife reminiscence

I finished "Love Wife" couple of weeks ago. It was just great book, the longer you go with Carnegie and Blondie the more you get....
Strongly advisable ....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gish Jen's writings ...

I read "Love wife" by Gish Jen. Incredible book, although some passages did not speak to me ...

However, Her question "What is a family?" in the realm of American life and culture sounds familiar and stunningly important...

Still read it ... Will drop some words when finished....

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The end of the World Without End ....

If anyone have read these 1000+ pages of mediaval story like me, she or he understands what it means to end the reading. The book, particularly in its second half slowly grows in ones mind as the alternative reality, something that attracts one to it, takes one away of daily troubles and stresses ...

I found many senses in this book, not only those that are arround dizzying mediaval plots and intrigues. The sense of responsibility of your children....
"You have to think of your child not about yourself" as one of characters says ...

The sense of freedom, the sense of hard work ...

Of course, the book has some little odds, sometimes the language is too modern as for mediaval scenes, some of unimportant tiny plots (like those of lesbian nun) are strikingly not mediaval (though I do not claim lesbian love did not happen then), but my final simple word is: this is a great book - one of the best I read (Actually listen to, thanks to Audible) - it was more than 40 hours of great time ....

Ken Follet, "World Without End"

Monday, February 04, 2008

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

It's not easy book, as I said.
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. There are many senses and contexts, certainly.
But I'm not a literary critic. I want to recall only the "turns of heart" of the main characters there:

"But this question of love (she thought, putting her coat away), this falling in love with women. Take Sally Seton; her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?"

"To love makes one solitary, she thought. "

"One could not be in love twice, he said"

but the ending is what makes the essence of the book:

"What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement? It is Clarissa, he said.
For there she was."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My readings...

I'm not a good blogger. You know my vistors .... But I will do my best to improve :-) In fact I feel the urge to publish some notes after every book I read. To many of you who know me, this must be a surprise: Mirek reads? When? Actually I listen to. For last 3 and half years I listen to various audio books in English. My principial source is Audible.com, but occasionally I used also Aishaudio.com and some other sources. The audio books opened to me a world of literature that was closed to me because of my busy life as CEO of Makolab....

Now, whereever I go, in my car on a trip, in plane, and almost everyday on bike between my home and my office - I have my earphones on, my Zen Nano on and I read by my ears....

I will try to post some thoughts about the best books I read. As for today - I just finished Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.... incredible book, but honestly - quite difficult ... After the Clarissa Dalloway "stream of consciousness" I switch to Ken's Follett "World without end". Easier reading certainly - but I like Ken's style and imaginative narration. I was mesmerised by "Pillars of the earth" ....

Well, I do not promise to give a post to all great books I read - but I will try to list them, comment on some, and be better with my future reading.

Keep smiling with me --> and READ !!!!