Friday, March 26, 2010

Soulful music at Lodz Philharmonic

Spring time has its spirituality. Ester for Christians, Passover for Jews and Noahides, revival of life for agnostics, hope for all...

This year series of spiritually motivated concerts at Lodz's Philharmonic had an amazing emanation tonight.

Arthur Rubinstein Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of its artistic director Daniel Raiskin played three compositions. There was Wojciech Kilar "Veni Creator" composed as his tribute to his wife Barbara. It was good piece of music, but, I must say, it was not as great as his incredible Exodus and multiple of his other pieces.

However, the next piece was surprising and fantastic and deeply emotional. Joep Franssens composition Sanctus (it was its 10th live performance) was great. Kept in the tradition of ArvoPart or Gorecki minimalism, the piece was calm but powerful.

The last composition was absolute hit. It was Styx composed by famous Georgian composer Giya Kancheli. Styx is a piece for viola, symphonic orchestra and choir. The piece was dedicated to Avet Terterian and Alfred Schnittke - Giya Kancheli friends. It is incredible piece - full of marvellous almost silent moments placed between powerful fortissimos of orchestra and choir.

The viola part was beautifly played by outstanding violist Lars Anders Tomter.

The concert was great also because, thanks to organizers, both Joep Franssens and Giya Kancheli were present in the hall. It was great pleasure to be there with them and see them happy to have their music in Lodz's Rubinstein Philharmonic ....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mahler XVII Symphony - second time live in Lodz

Seven years ago I had a chance to listen to Mahler's VII Symphony live in my town. It was a performance of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of famous Zubin Mehta. That was the event that triggered my almost narcotic clinging to Mahler's music. See these posts.

Today I had a chance to relive this incredible music again. We had the chance to listen to Deutsches Symphonie Orchester (DSO) from Berlin under the baton of Ingo Metzmacher, here in Lodz.

This was great performance. Ingo Metzmacher was passionate and energetic. He conducted in most like Bernstein's style - and the result was astonishing.

Mahler's VII Symphony is a special piece of symphonic art. I once called it "No programme - sheer beauty" Symphony - and this seems to be true - for all of this piece performances.

Mahler tells us some story - "shaken" and disturbing story - yet the story of immense beauty...

If you have a chance to listen it - I strongly recommend it....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How could these events happen ?

I still can not quite come around my thoughts after reading "No one would listen" by Harry Markopols. Well, OK, here is a short review. The book was written by the real person and is, as far as I can gather, completely real story of real life events. It describes ten years long hunt conducted by the author after Bernard Madoff and his investment fund. It started, when his bosses at Rampart company wanted him to invent a financial product which could compete with Madoff double digit returns. However, when Markolopos, equipped with excellent mathematical knowledge, started to investigate Madoff strategies, they appeared to him as bogus. He quickly discovered that Madoff could run Ponzi scheme or was involved in an illegal practice of front running:

"This is a fraud, Frank," I told him. "You're an option guy. You know there's no way in hell this guy's getting these returns from this strategy. He's either got to be front running or it's a Ponzi scheme. But whatever it is, it's total bullshit."

The book than describes the series of failed attempts to inform market supervisors, mainly SEC about the fraud. It is incredible history of ignorance and neglect by the regulator.
It is also the story of human naivety, about the incredible ease with which we sometimes trust in people who are just untrustworthy.

As I wrote before - the most horrific conclusion from reading of this book, is not the Madoff evil nature - but the complete lack of true, deep supervision by SEC and other US and international authorities.

The book ends with chapters that look like advice for authorities - how to improve SEC and make it true regulator and true protector. In this spirit, the author's lawyer, Dr. Gaytri Kachroo has offered a speech at World Legal Forum. It's audio version is available here.

We must ask the rethoric question: "Do they listen now" ???

Finally, when writing about Madoff it is hard not to contemplate on his distorted and depraved mind. Not all know, that he embezzled a lot of money from Jewish charitable institutions, Jewish educational institutions (like Yeshiva University) and foundations. See this as one of the most critical examples....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Deep devastation after "No one would listen"

The video below seems "funny", but after reading Henry Markopolos "No one would listen", I'm devastated.

We all heard about Madoff Ponzi crime, but few of us knew that it is not only his crime, but the complete failure of the most advanced regulator - SEC - what makes this story horrible.

Full review will come - on the weekend.

Meanwhile, watch this:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Harry Markopolos
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Reform

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Darkness of the Soul in the Heart of Darkness

I must admit that the second reading of "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad was extraordinary experience. As it was with "Lord Jim" it is hard to write a review about the book that deserved and rightly received tens of thousands of reviews.

So let me point only these matters, that were so important to me.

"Heart of Darkness" to me is about the nature, the human condition and the dark side of our souls. It is also one of best written short novels I ever read, using intense, suspended language - with many symbolic connotations and special constructions related to its form of "frame narrative". For all language lovers - those who like the pure construction of phrases - this book is like good poetry.

Nature - Conrad shows how important nature is for us, the nature that is almost forgotten today - it was already almost forgotten in the beginning of XX century:

The dusk came gliding into it long before the sun had set. The current ran smooth and swift, but a dumb immobility sat on the banks. The living trees, lashed together by the creepers and every living bush of the undergrowth, might have been changed into stone, even to the slenderest twig, to the lightest leaf. It was not sleep--it seemed unnatural, like a state of trance. Not the faintest sound of any kind could be heard. You looked on amazed, and began to suspect yourself of being deaf--then the night came suddenly, and struck you blind as well.

The pervasive nature is contrasted with human affairs and our constant jabbering:

The smell of mud, of primeval mud, by Jove! was in my nostrils, the high stillness of primeval forest was before my eyes; there were shiny patches on the back creek. The moon had spread over everything a thin layer of silver--over the rank grass, over the mud, upon the wall of matted vegetation standing higher than the wall of a temple, over the great river I could see through a somber gap glittering, gittering, as it flowed broadly by without a murmur. All this was great, expectant, mute, while the man jabbered about himself.

or in this fragment:

The pilgrims could be seen in knots gesticulating, discussing. Several had still their staves in their hands. I verily believe they took these sticks to bed with them. Beyond the fence the forest stood up spectrally in the moonlight, and through the dim stir, through the faint sounds of that lamentable courtyard, the silence of the land went home to one's very heart,--its mystery, its greatness, the amazing reality of its concealed life.

The tragic human nature is projected onto the nature, but Conrad does not make it dull and naive. He does not meditate on humans thrown on the nature. Rather he is able to show the authentic tragedies, deceptions and deep unshaken love:

'Yes, I know,' I said with something like despair in my heart, but bowing my head before the faith that was in her, before that great and saving illusion that shone with an unearthly glow in the darkness, in the triumphant darkness from which I could not have defended her--from which I could not even defend myself.

Finally, the book shows how easy is to lost our own inborn sagacity, how easy is to deprave oneself. What we usually need - is just a bit too much power, too much wealth and too much domination over others...

I tried to break the spell--the heavy, mute spell of the wilderness--that seemed to draw him to its pitiless breast by the awakening of forgotten and brutal instincts, by the memory of gratified and monstrous passions. This alone, I was convinced, had driven him out to the edge of the forest, to the bush, towards the gleam of fires, the throb of drums, the drone of weird incantations; this alone had beguiled his unlawful soul beyond the bounds of permitted aspirations.

I know that there are many more interpretations of this incredible book, some even accusing Conrad of racism. Nothing is more far from the truth and from the author intentions. His portrait of the relations between whites and blacks in the book are in fact, accusations of imperial era. As it is in the most famous movie adaptation of the book: "The Apocalypse Now" ....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The days of PHYSICAL books - II - Jung's Red Book

This book arrived. I was waiting for it since December last year...

Carl Jung's "The Red Book". First impression comes from its huge size and weight. It is 16" x 12" and weights about 8 pounds. So far it is the largest of all my books from my library...

The physicality of this book is immense and disturbing. It contains Jung's text set in calligraphic handwriting and his pictures. I'm fortunate to be able to acquire it just few months after it has been published after about 90 years of total secretion. The first time it was revealed to scholars was only in 2001. At this moment I prefer to stay away from any comments about the book content. The time will come and I will write.

Today I just wanted to share with you my amazement about this extremely tangible proof of the importance of physical books for our culture....

BTW, my childreen's she-cat named "Szpinak" (yes yes Spinach !) is here to show you how big is the book... and she was really interested - I used to say - she practices Zen :-)

The days of PHYSICAL books - I

As my readers know, most of books I read exist for me in electronic format.
So the encounter with great physical book is shocking and paralysing experiment.

During my last visit to Cracow and to its Jagiellonian University, I was fortunate to picture Copernicus' "De revolutionibus orbium coelestium":

No more words over this book....

The physical books will survive...

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Heart of Darkness - harbinger of my third reading review ...

". . . No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the
life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence,--that which
makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle and penetrating essence. It is
impossible. We live, as we dream--alone. . . ."

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

I'm deeply moved by this book. I did not think, my third reading of it in my life, would bring such shocking experiences and thoughts...

Full review to come soon...

Sunday, March 07, 2010

No one would listen - The account on the failure of American Financial supervision

This is harbinger of full review, because, so far, I read (i.e. listen to) only the first chapter of Harry Markopolos's "No one would listen".

Well written, almost like a thriller or good detective story, is, unfortunately I could say, based on true facts, and the author was the true detective. The book describes his investigation into Bernie Madoff case and his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. What is amazing, is that for at least last 10 years, Markopolos was sending warnings, was speaking, would offer his help to SEC - but apparently no one has seriously his warnings. Why?

Failure of FCC and SEC? Bigger failure ? Maybe....

I die for listening the full book - I will do it soon ....

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Little Book on Stillness

This is my second Echart Tolle Book, and third listening to his unpretentious voice speaking out simple truths we know, but we used to forget...

"Stillness speaks" is indeed short, as compared to "The Power of Now". Yet it is good, concise summary of Tolle ideas. In some sense it is about one idea, that is elaborated deeply in both of his books. This simple idea can be expressed in saying: "We are not our minds". Tolle rediscovers truths known to almost all great meditative traditions of all religions, to tell, in simple words, that beyond and below our discursive and noisy stream of thought, there IS certain realm, that exists, but which existence is of different dimension than the existence of forms in this world.

Yet this simple idea is fruitful and deep. Tolle elaborates on it, and the consequence are far reaching, from appreciation of meditative practice, through betterment of our relations, to the overcoming of suffering and death.

As I stressed in my two previous reviews, the true value of Tolle is in his simple language, modest approach to difficult problems and intellectual honesty. So don't expect here cryptic expression of some mysterious truths. This book is about things of common life and common experience - that are, as it often happens, concealed by our talkative and blusterous culture.

As I said before, I do not quite agree with Tolle's approach to past: "Past and future are thought forms, mental abstractions. The past can only be remembered Now". While his view is reasonable, the negation of the existence of Past, the frozen world of our good and bad choices, is to me, unnecessary....

Macrospherology of humans. Globes - volume two of Peter Sloterdijk's Spheres

I have been reading the second volume of Sloterdijk's magnum opus for a couple of months now. I still haven't found the time for a f...