Thursday, January 31, 2013

Martiros Saryan (1880-1972)

More information here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

I've just been to see Zero Dark Thirty, and although I don't usually write reviews of things I read or see or listen to, beyond saying 'I liked it' or, more rarely, 'I didn't like it', I feel somehow compelled to say that I liked this movie a great deal, and that the whole furore (ah, that's why I'm compelled to write about it! A good wholesome furore!) about whether or not it 'endorses torture', or suggests that torture was a useful tool in finding and killing Osama Bin Laden, doesn't seem to me to be the point of the movie. It's a film about knowledge, about how we process information, and the moral uncertainty that arises from this process. It's about how the world (in this instance the political world, the world of spycraft, but I think this applies to the world in general) is never purely black and white.
Three moments:
1. Maya (Jessica Chastain), the protagonist, says at one point something along the lines of: 'I've lost a lot of friends, I feel that I've been left behind to get Osama for them'. In the context of the movie, this kind of eschatological understanding of the mission is quite clearly naive: it may be (it's not entirely clear that it is) what Maya thinks, but we are never given any kind of (with apologies) Hollywood-style implied statement that she is right.
2. CIA chief James Gandolfini asks people round a table to say, yes or no, whether they think Osama Bin Laden is in the house that he may have been tracked down to. Only Maya says, unequivocally, yes; everyone else gives generally positive numbers between 60% and 80%. James Gandolfini is naturally a little put out by this.
3. When they finally get Bin Laden, they find his archives. 'Give me ten minutes to get it all bagged up,' the head of the squad says. 'You've got four before the Pakistani airforce get there,' his commanding officer tells him over the radio. They end up leaving half the archive there.
Unless you can tie up every loose end to every question in every situation, which, given the fact that life is messy, you can't, then solutions to particular problems (from 'Where is Osama Bin Laden?' to 'What Happened Last Night?') will always be a matter of reconstructing possible paths through disorganised chaos, and if you arrive at the 'right' answer, then you are lucky. Quid est veritas, as someone once said.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It ain't over till it's over...

The Christmas presents which we sent to England on 18 December arrived there yesterday, 16 January. The delicious Christmas cake had its last hurrah this morning. Only 340-odd shopping days to go...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Teobaldo Jorge Ricaldoni (1861-1922)

Argentinian inventor, Uruguayan by birth, whose major claim to fame was to have invented, and to have had rejected by the Argentinian army, a working submarine in the late 1800s.

Gustav Thormod Legis (1806-1867)

More images, and a little information here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ernst Ferdinand Oehme (1797-1855)

Burg Schlaffenberg bei Nacht (1827). More information (in German) here.

Caspar Johann Nepumuk Scheuren (1810-1887)

Die lustige Rheinfahrt (c. 1870). More information (in German) here.

Carl Blechen (1798-1840)

Einfache Häuser an der Landstraße (Das Quartier der Soldaten in Pompeji) (1829). More information here.

Franz Theobald Horny (1798-1924)

Frauen am Brunnen von Olevano (c. 1822). More information (in German) here.

Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel (1815-1905)

Die Zeitungsleser (1891). More information here.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Misunderstandings in the Translator's House

M.: Well, the normal word is grasa, or gordo if it's an adjective, but you might say tiene sobrepeso or lleva algunos kilos...
J.: No, how do you render fat, not how do you render 'fat'.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Just Because...

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Christmas in Cádiz

It was not the most Dickensian of Christmases, but it was extremely enjoyable nonetheless (my tolerance for prawns, shrimp, lobsters and all other kinds of dendrobranchiata is high, and my appreciation of sun and palm trees is lavish). This is the first photo I took with our new camera, passed on by my father. Wife and Elephant's Child under the tree.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Books I Read in 2012

My favourites. As always, if you asked me tomorrow, I might pick different titles. One point: I tried to reread all Dickens's novels this year. I got quite close, but still have Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood pending. Dickens is not included in this list, because a list that read Bleak House, The Pickwick Papers, Barnaby Rudge, Little Dorrit, David Copperfield, would look, to the untrained eye, a little monotonous.