Sunday, March 22, 2020

Archipelago's free e-books

I'm sure you've seen this elsewhere, but this is an offer I don't mind seeing as a repeat. Archipelago Books is offering 30 of its titles free as ebooks until April 2nd. The list of books can be found here. The books I've read from Archipelago have been of a consistently high quality, so even the titles I'm not familiar with I would recommend.

Books on the list I've read and recommend are Bacacay by Witold Gombrowicz, The Expedition to the Baobab Tree by Wilma Stockenström, Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski, and Posthumous Papers of a Living Author by Robert Musil.

Archipelago is a non-profit organization, so I'm sure that any donation or additional book orders will be appreciated. They're a great publisher and this is a generous offer on their part!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

"Sleep and the Dream" by László F. Földényi at The Paris Review

Francisco Goya, El sueño de la razon produce monstruos, 1797–1798, Etching and Aquatint. From Wikipedia Commons

At the risk of overwhelming you with Dostoyevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears, I wanted to relay this complete essay by László F. Földényi at The Paris Review posted last week. I'm only about a third of the way through the collection of essays, and one common theme has been looking at dichotomies, "not so that one side would be necessarily defeat the other, but rather so that an argument for a multiplicity could be made." (Preface, page xiii)

One such split or partition Földényi evaluates is that of the Enlightenment and the religious beliefs it meant to replace. In attempting to set aside one metaphysics, a new type of metaphysics sprang forth, demonstrating "that we cannot exist without metaphysics. Even in a secularized age, as sense of our existence within this universe, for the great wonder of the incomparability and unrepeatability of each moment of every one of our lives." (Preface, page xii)

I hope this intro helps frame "Sleep and the Dream" for you. First Földényi looks at the mystery of what happens when we sleep, positing that maybe sleep allows relationship of body and soul to move more in harmony, or at least be less differentiated. Földényi then looks at Goya's etching El sueño de la razon produce monstruos. The sleep of reason produces monsters.

The ambiguous title allows for several interpretations, questions between reason and intellect (and the area that falls outside each), issues that were not raised before the Enlightenment. Are the monsters an external unknown, or do they represent an internal unknown? Maybe the limits of our knowing which is which inspires us to deal with this confusion. Coincidentally, this is somewhat related to my earlier questions regarding the articles on Walker Railey.

I realize the collection won't be for everyone, but hopefully this essay and introduction to it gives you a taste of what is in Dostoyevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears. I'll post more on it once I finish the book.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Nightly Met Opera Streams starting tonight

Beginning tonight and continuing each day for the duration of the Met’s closure, an encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series will be made available from 7:30 p.m. EDT until 3:30 p.m. the following day.
More information at the Met's website. Quite an impressive line-up for the first week:

Monday, March 16: Bizet’s Carmen

Tuesday, March 17: Puccini’s La Bohème

Wednesday, March 18: Verdi’s Il Trovatore

Thursday, March 19: Verdi’s La Traviata

Friday, March 20: Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment

Saturday, March 21: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor

Sunday, March 22: Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin

More information can be found at the above link.

Updates: The Met Opera site has synopses of the operas that are helpful if you're not familiar with what you're watching. The operas can be found here in alphabetical order.

One of my favorite sites, among many that has libretti of popular operas, is at Dmitry Murashev's opera site. Find a site with a translation that works for you.

Art Museums You Can Tour Online, and Much More

Travel & Leisure recently posted an article titled Stuck at Home? These 12 Famous Museums Offer Virtual Tours You Can Take on Your Couch. The twelve museums are
  • British Museum, London
  • Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • Musée d’Orsay, Paris
  • National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul
  • Pergamon Museum, Berlin
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence
  • MASP, São Paulo
  • National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
All see the link at the end of the article for more of Google Arts & Culture’s collection of museums.


A few years ago Mental Floss had a similar article titled 12 World-Class Museums You Can Visit Online. There isn't much overlap between the two lists.
  • The Louvre
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • National Gallery of Art
  • British Museum
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Dalí Theatre-Museum
  • NASA Space Center
  • Vatican Museums
  • National Women's History Museum
  • National Museum of the United States Air Force
  • Google Art Project

Last for the Museum virtual tours is the massive list from Lifehacker: You Can Virtually Tour These 500+ Museums and Galleries From Your Couch.

Plenty of sites are providing lists of things to do and helpful links, such as Open Culture's Use Your Time in Isolation to Learn Everything You’ve Always Wanted To: Free Online Courses, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Coloring Books & More. If you have to be stuck inside, it's amazing how much is so easily available.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Article: The Silent Spring of Walker Railey (D Magazine, October 1987) by Mike Shropshire

It seems like a good time for long articles to read while at home. One article I highly recommend is Mike Shropshire's article in the October 1987 D Magazine titled "The Silent Spring of Walker Railey" regarding the attack on Peggy Railey, wife of high-profile Methodist minister Walker Railey. I lived in Dallas at the time, working in an office that had a view of the SMU campus (a beautiful view across North Central Freeway). The attempted murder of Peggy Railey was a huge story at the time, but I'm not sure how widespread the story went outside of north Texas.
Unfortunately, the transition from the print article to online has many typos, but they're easy to decipher.

I can't imagine sitting across the table from Railey and interviewing him. What's most worrisome for me is not that Railey is a monster, although that would be part of the concern. It's more that he is an "everyman," a successful everyman, and we see part of ourselves when we look at him. How much of that monster is inside each of us? And what does it take for that part of us to surface?

As I said the event and story sent seismic waves through Dallas at the time. I don't see many thorough online articles regarding the story from the year of the attack, but that is probably due to few print publications from that period available online to us now. Another article that covers much of the same ground but adds an additional interview with Railey after the events is "The Sins of Walker Railey" by Lawrence Wright in the January 1988 edition of Texas Monthly. I admire Shropshire and Wright for the work they did given the disturbing nature of the story.

Railey's story takes many twisted turns regarding the minister and the Methodist church. I remember a friend working on his PhD in religion at SMU during this period who would stay overnight at our house during his visits. We would stay up late while he filled me in on issues that wouldn't become public for several months negatively impacting the church, its image, and more importantly its principles.

I link to these posts since they were published within a year of the story. Many good articles were published years later when Peggy Railey died almost 25 years after her attack, a timing that coincided with more news sources publishing online and when more information was available.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Question on Carl Schmitt

Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) was a conservative German legal, constitutional, and political theorist. Schmitt is often considered to be one of the most important critics of liberalism, parliamentary democracy, and liberal cosmopolitanism. But the value and significance of Schmitt’s work is subject to controversy, mainly due to his intellectual support for and active involvement with National Socialism.
- From The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Has anyone here read Carl Schmitt? I've run across his name a couple of times already in László F. Földényi's Dostoyevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears and the quotes sound intriguing, as do the descriptions of several of his books at the above link. I liked the following quote from Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, which was originally published in 1922:

As Carl Schmitt put it, the middle class wants a God, but he must be passive; it wants a ruler with no authority to rule; it demands freedom and equality but wishes to limit suffrage to the ruling class, so that by means of wealth and education it may bring its own influence to bear on legislation (as if wealth and education justified the exploitation of the poor and uneducated); it abolishes aristocracy based on family but supports the rule of a mercantilist aristocracy, which is still an aristocracy but an idiotic and commonplace one; it desires the sovereignty of neither king nor people. What—we could ask with Schmitt—does the bourgeoisie really want?

Parts of those comments seem to apply to the world today just as they did to Schmitt' world a century ago. I'm adding Political Theology to my wish list, mostly to find out more of the context of his arguments, but I'm curious to hear other readers' experiences with the "controversial" writer.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963 TV movie)


Last week, TCM aired the 1963 TV documentary Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment directed by Robert Drew. From the linked DrewAssociates link:
When Governor George Wallace literally stands in the schoolhouse door to block the admittance of two African-American students to the all-white University of Alabama in June 1963, President Kennedy is forced to decide whether to use the power of the presidency to back racial equality.

“Crisis” captures events from all sides, using the cinema verite techniques pioneered by Drew Associates. The cameras follow the President, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Wallace, and the two students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, as the crisis unfolds and up through its dramatic climax, including rare scenes of decision-making inside the Oval Office.

This TV movie is a good introduction to the segregation of the University of Alabama in June 1963. The main characters are Alabama Governor George Wallace, President John Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and students Vivian Malone and James Hood. The students are essentially pawns in a larger game of national vs. state policy and the carrying out of a court order for the University of Alabama to allow black students to enroll. Wallace campaigned on keeping the schools segregated and was upholding his promise—Alabama was the last state to have segregated public universities.

Despite Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach's desire not to make a stage production out of the confrontation, the actual moment was essentially theater intended for the public, everyone's part scripted to further their message. Wallace knew he was going to lose this confrontation, and Kennedy did his part to let Wallace save face in defeat. The tension came from neither side knowing exactly how the other would act. What helped was the desire of both sides was to keep this peaceful, and to his credit, Wallace played a large part in that. Early in the movie he charges his staff to avoid violence, sealing off the university from outsiders in order to avoid violence like the previous year at the University of Mississippi. You'll notice a lack of crowds at Foster Auditorium other than state troopers, policemen, and the press. And later the nationalized Alabama National Guard.

Even with the softening of the setting, it doesn't lessen the tension, especially for Malone and Hood. Their grace under pressure is extraordinary. The brief interviews shown with them answering questions from the press and preparing for enrollment is a testament to their fortitude.

The two confrontations between Katzenbach and Wallace are shown, the second one resulting in Wallace backing down and allowing the court order to be fulfilled. With D.A. Pennebaker filming in Washington and Richard Leacock handling the camera in Alabama, we see what is happening simultaneously in both locations. This also gives rise to one moment of levity when Robert Kennedy puts his three-year-old daughter Kerry on the phone with Katzenbach. For a moment, the stress melts from Nick's face as he chats with the child.

After the resolution in Tuscaloosa, we see David McGlathery walking unaccompanied to register at the University of Alabama—Huntsville two days after Wallace's stand. I wish more had been said about McGlathery since he was the first black to attempt to integrate the University of Alabama system. To say the movie brought back a lot of memories for me is slightly misleading...I was only 1 year old when the events here unfolded. But the settings around Montgomery and Tuscaloosa are part of my youth, and Wallace was a dominant figure for decades. The adults showing their appreciation for Wallace were figuratively like many of my neighbors. I remember my fifth-grade teacher crying when the news broke that Wallace had been shot in 1972. Plus, I don't know how many times I've passed through those doors at Foster Auditorium while attending Alabama, but I remember the first time I did, looking around to compare with the pictures and footage I saw of these moments.

I say the movie is a good introduction because there is so much more to the story than just the lead-up to that one day. Wallace is a fascinating character and worth watching the higher-rated movies about him and reading about his personal and political lives. The Washington characters have plenty of coverage, although I will recommend finding out more on Nicholas Katzenbach and his career. And, at the center of the storm, the students deserve reading about for their role and how they played it. Very highly recommended.

The movie is currently available to Hulu Live subscribers (I don't know for how long), or for a fee at Amazon Prime or on YouTube. The movie is also one of the features in The Criterion Collection's The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates disc.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Radio Prague International: The Czech Books You Must Read series

Kafka, Čapek, Kundera and Havel, these are all world renowned names, but what about all the others? How well are Czech authors actually known abroad? Can you find a bookshop in Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, Paris or New York that aside from classics such as The Good Soldier Švejk also sell the works of contemporary Czech authors? At Radio Prague International we have decided to map out the popularity and availability of Czech books abroad and find out which books have been translated into international languages such as English, German, Russian, Spanish and French. At the same time we will be providing our foreign audience with the opportunity to get acquainted with past and present Czech literary jewels.

The aim of the project is to give you a list of arguably the best and most popular Czech novels and poetry ever written, presenting not only the established classics, but also introducing the leading contemporary authors.

I've had a link to Radio Prague International's Culture & Literature posts in my sidebar for quite a while, but it has been some time since I had visited it. Many thanks to Michael Orthofer at his The Literary Saloon blog for noting that radio.cz had begun a series titled The Czech Books You Must Read, entries of which can be found here.

So far they have included The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek, The Grandmother by Božena Němcová, and Marketa Lazarová by Vladislav Vančura. I can highly recommend the first and last of these three, and I look forward to exploring The Grandmother soon. The entry for Švejk includes an interview with Abagail Weil, who is working on a book about Hašek (now that I want to read), and it is noted that a new translation of Švejk by Gerald Tuner will be due soon from Karolinum Press. I had wanted to revisit the book, and that seems like a great opportunity to do so.

If you're interested in finding some great books to read in translation, keep up with the series!


Illustration of The Good Soldier Švejk by Josef Lada at Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Articles on László F. Földényi at Hungarian Literature Online

(Pictures from hlo.hu)

László F. Földényi was author of the month for February at Hungarian Literature Online, and they have closed out the month with a bang. Today they provided one of Földényi's essays, "Goya's Dog," at their site. The translation is by Ottilie Mulzet, the same translator for the collection of essays Dostoyevsky Reads Hegel in Siberia and Bursts into Tears, released last month by Yale University Press in The Margellos World Republic of Letters series. "Goya's Dog" is a bonus essay, not included in the collection.

February posts at hlo.hu on Földényi: I'll see if I can post on these collections later this year, along with notes on Földényi's earlier book Melancholy, once I get my books unpacked.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Maria Pia Paganelli on Why Should We Read Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations"

Last night I attended a lecture by Maria Pia Paganelli, president of the International Adam Smith Society. The talk was part of the Adam Smith Lecture Series at Boise State University. Some of the previous years' lectures are described at their site as well as links to recordings of them. It looks like quite the lineup over the past few years, and last night added to the series' quality.

I'm sure there will be a recording available soon, but in the meantime I'll highlight some points in the lecture.

Paganelli began with the question on why we should read Smith's The Wealth of Nations today. Is it because of his ideological positions? Well, Smith doesn't easily fit into any category and would probably disagree with most positions taken today, left, right, whatever. Is it because of his economic analysis? Edwin Cannan, almost a century ago, addressed Adam Smith as an Economist. The professor at the London School of Economics had this to say:
Very little of Adam Smith's scheme of economics has been left standing by subsequent inquirers. No one now holds his theory of value, his account of capital is seen to be hopelessly confused, and his theory of distribution is explained as an ill-assorted union between his own theory of prices and the physiocrats' fanciful Economic Table. His classification of incomes is found to involve a misguided attempt to alter the ordinary useful and well-recognised meaning of words, and a mixing up of classification according to source with classification according to method or manner of receipt. His opinions about taxation and its incidence are extremely crude, and his history is based on insufficient information and disfigured by bias.

Fortunately, Cannan goes on to list three great things Smith did accomplish. Continuing on...should we read Smith for policy prescription? Hardly, since our current economic world hardly resembles that of 1776. So why should be read The Wealth of Nations?

Paganelli quotes E. Weintraub, who makes a startling claim upon reading one of Paganelli's papers, "You make Adam Smith sound like the Bible." Not that his word is gospel, but that it was a living book, something that synthesized differing strands of thoughts. The Wealth of Nations is a book about ideas. Big ideas. And it covers questions we are still asking today. It helps to remember the full title of the book: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. An inquiry. That means Smith asks a lot of questions, many of the same ones we're asking today. It is a living book, one that easily fits into current times as well as any time between now and 1776, and should fit into future times, too.

Paganelli then mentions three of the reasons Italo Calvino suggests on why to read the classics that are relevant when it comes to The Wealth of Nations: it's a book that offers a sense of discovery on each reading of it, it never exhausts all it has to say to its readers, and it's a book that is on a par with ancient talismans attempting to represent the whole universe.

Some of the questions we ask today were asked by Smith in The Wealth of Nations, and he helps frame important ways to try to answer them. Why do we care about justice? How are wealth and justice related? How would a just system, promoting the well-being of humankind, look like when it is a given that man is imperfect? What institutions channel our passions to promote justice and wealth? Why are some of the ramifications of "poor" countries versus "wealthy" countries? What is the role of government in protecting its citizens from injustice?

Smith prods us to investigate how we think about wealth, about how justice interacts with our institutions, and how the government and economy interact. One thing to keep in mind is that Smith viewed The Wealth of Nations as a "violent attack against the whole commercial system" of Great Britain, which was all too often enamored with the glamor of big merchants and manufacturers. He works with big ideas, which why we should return to his big questions and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

All in all, a most enjoyable evening put on by the Economics Department at Boise State and underwritten by the Institute for Humane Studies. Many thanks to BSU for helping support this series.


Maria Pia Paganelli's teacher page at Trinity University