Posted by: Arthur337 | July 19, 2009

Movie Credits

AAA Pictures Presents…..
A film by BBB….
Starring…..

And we all know the last person in the opening credits is the name of the movie director. We’ve seen hundreds of those in movies, but so few are remembered. Perhaps the opening credits serve as a reminder to the audience that though the movie has started, it hasn’t started completely, so they have a second chance to grab popcorn or go the the restrooms. George Lucas thought the opening credits were pointless that he left them out completely in the Star Wars series, though not without consequences that made him resigned from the Directors Guild.

Having just watched the controversial movie Watchmen gave me second thoughts of the opening credits. It was brilliantly done with great cinematography. I was amused with the “alternative history” depictions using well-known photographs found in history books. Here’s one that first made me laughed, recognizing the art as the Last Supper only after noticing the odd “uplifted finger” often found in Da Vinci’s drawings.

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lastsupper

Then coincidentally I was reading National Geographic‘s rebuff of the moon landing hoax claims using the helmet reflection photo of Buzz Aldrin.

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The other opening credits that I could remember and like was The Fall, which I blogged earlier this year. The other was Juno with tasteful drawn animation of suburb scenery.

junoopening

And of course, besides opening credits, I was impressed by Wall-E‘s closing credits with brief progress of art history from the cave drawings to the Roman mosaics and then the European Impressionists.

wall_e_contact
from http://www.artofthetitle.com

It is good to know that, while Hollywood major distributors might dumb down the plots for the mainstream audience, the artists are given artistic leeway in areas where the mainstream audience doesn’t care much.

Check out www.artofthetitle.com for some great film credit art.

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Posted by: Arthur337 | June 25, 2009

How to Rule the World

I’m falling in love with the book Fountainhead. Here’s a truncated speech by Ellsworth Toohey – evil but brilliant. When I read it, I can’t help but to see the handprints of the world institutional religions on this madness that still persists in the society today.

==============

If you learn how to rule one single man’s soul, you can get the rest of mankind. It’s the soul, Peter, the soul. Not whips or swords or fire or guns. That’s why the Caesars, the Attilas, the Napoleons were fools and did not last.

Great men can’t be ruled. We don’t want any great men. Don’t deny the conception of greatness. Destroy it from within. The great is the rare, the difficult, the exceptional. Set up standards of achievement open to all, to the least, to the most inept–and you stop the impetus to effort in all men, great or small. You stop all incentive to improvement, to excellence, to perfection.

Happy men are free men. So kill their joy in living. Take away from them whatever is dear or important to them. Never let them have what they want. Make them feel that the mere fact of a personal desire is evil. Bring them to a state where saying I want’ is no longer a natural right, but a shameful admission. Altruism is of great help in this. Unhappy men will come to you. They’ll need you. They’ll come for consolation, for support, for escape.

Look at the moral atmosphere of today. Everything enjoyable, from cigarettes to sex to ambition to the profit motive, is considered depraved or sinful. Just prove that a thing makes men happy–and you’ve damned it. That’s how far we’ve come. We’ve tied happiness to guilt. And we’ve got mankind by the throat.

Every system of ethics that preached sacrifice grew into a world power and ruled millions of men. Of course, you must dress it up. You must tell people that they’ll achieve a superior kind of happiness by giving up everything that makes them happy. You don’t have to be too clear about it. Use big vague words. ‘Universal Harmony’–‘Eternal Spirit’–‘Divine Purpose’–‘Nirvana’–‘Paradise’–‘Racial Supremacy’–‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.’

Men have a weapon against you. Reason. So you must be very sure to take it away from them. …… Just say that reason is limited. That there’s something above it. What? You don’t have to be too clear about it either.  The field’s inexhaustible.  ‘Instinct’–‘Feeling’–‘Revelation’–‘Divine Intuition’–‘Dialectic Materialism.’ If you get caught at some crucial point and somebody tells you that your doctrine doesn’t make sense–you’re ready for him. You tell him that there’s something above sense. That here he must not try to think, he must feel. He must believe. Suspend reason and you play it deuces wild. Anything goes in any manner you wish whenever you need it. You’ve got him. Can you rule a thinking man? We don’t want any thinking men.”

The world I want. A world of obedience and of unity… . A world where no man will hold a desire for himself, but will direct all his efforts to satisfy the desires of his neighbor who’ll have no desires except to satisfy the desires of the next neighbor who’ll have no desires–around the globe, Peter. Since all must serve all. A world in which man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster–prestige.

We’ll enjoy unlimited submission–from men who’ve learned nothing except to submit. We’ll call it ‘to serve.’ We’ll give out medals for service. You’ll fall over one another in a scramble to see who can submit better and more. There will be no other distinction to seek. No other form of personal achievement.

Posted by: Arthur337 | June 24, 2009

Realities of the drooling societal beast

From Ayn Rand in Fountainhead:

“I’ve looked at him–at what’s left of him–and it’s helped me to understand. He’s paying the price and wondering for what sin and telling himself that he’s been too selfish. In what act or thought of his has there ever been a self? What was his aim in life? Greatness–in other people’s eyes. Fame, admiration, envy–all that which comes from others. Others dictated his convictions, which he did not hold, but he was satisfied that others believed he held them. Others were his motive power and his prime concern. He didn’t want to be great, but to be thought great. He didn’t want to build, but to be admired as a builder. He borrowed from others in order to make an impression on others. There’s your actual selflessness. It’s his ego he’s betrayed and given up. But everybody calls him selfish.”

“That’s the pattern most people follow.”

“Yes! And isn’t that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of a self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he’s honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. The man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to be mediocre, but he’s great in the eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison. The man whose sole aim is to make money. Now I don’t see anything evil in a desire to make money. But money is only a means to some end. If a man wants it for a personal purpose–to invest in his industry, to create, to study, to travel, to enjoy luxury–he’s completely moral. But the men who place money first go much beyond that. Personal luxury is a limited endeavor. What they want is ostentation: to show, to stun, to entertain, to impress others. They’re second-handers. Look at our so-called cultural endeavors. A lecturer who spouts some borrowed rehash of nothing at all that means nothing at all to him–and the people who listen and don’t give a damn, but sit there in order to tell their friends that they have attended a lecture by a famous name. All second-handers.”

“If I were Ellsworth Toohey, I’d say: aren’t you making out a case against selfishness? Aren’t they all acting on a selfish motive–to be noticed, liked, admired?”

“–by others. At the price of their own self-respect. In the realm of greatest importance–the realm of values, of judgment, of spirit, of thought–they place others above self, in the exact manner which altruism demands. A truly selfish man cannot be affected by the approval of others. He doesn’t need it.”

“I think Toohey understands that. That’s what helps him spread his vicious nonsense. Just weakness and cowardice. It’s so easy to run to others. It’s so hard to stand on one’s own record. You can fake virtue for an audience. You can’t fake it in your own eyes. Your ego is the strictest judge. They run from it. They spend their lives running. It’s easier to donate a few thousand to charity and think oneself noble than to base self-respect on personal standards of personal achievement. It’s simple to seek substitutes for competence–such easy substitutes: love, charm, kindness, charity. But there is no substitute for competence.”

“That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers. They have no concern for facts, ideas, work. They’re concerned only with people. They don’t ask: ‘Is this true?’ They ask: ‘Is this what others think is true?’ Not to judge, but to repeat. Not to do, but to give the impression of doing. Not creation, but show. Not ability, but friendship. Not merit, but pull. What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce? Those are the egotists. You don’t think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands. When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness. To stop consciousness is to stop life. Second-handers have no sense of reality. Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another. Not an entity, but a relation–anchored to nothing. That’s the emptiness I couldn’t understand in people. That’s what stopped me whenever I faced a committee. Men without an ego. Opinion without a rational process. Motion without brakes or motor. Power without responsibility. The second-hander acts, but the source of his actions is scattered in every other living person. It’s everywhere and nowhere and you can’t reason with him. He’s not open to reason. You can’t speak to him–he can’t hear. You’re tried by an empty bench. A blind mass running amuck, to crush you without sense or purpose. Steve Mallory couldn’t define the monster, but he knew. That’s the drooling beast he fears. The second-hander.”

Posted by: Arthur337 | April 27, 2009

Promises to Keep

Found this passage while doing some soul-searching. I think the author, Brett McCracken, wrote beautifully about life and obligations. Sometimes it is hard to reconcile what we want to do with our lives, and what we end up having to do.

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My life has been crazy busy lately, though it’s nothing really new, and it’s not like everyone else in the world doesn’t feel the same way. We’re all busy. Life is always on the brink of being too much to handle. For everyone everywhere at every time in history, it’s been a struggle.

Today I was thinking about how grandiose and overwhelming existence is. There is so much wonder and beauty to be experienced, so many roses to be smelled, so many puppies to be pet, so many interesting variations on earth and sky to be seen. It’s downright daunting. Just when you think you’ve seen the best thing— Boom! There’s something better. Around every corner and at nearly ever turn, there are new adventures and new experiences to have. New lessons to learn. People to meet.

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep

So wrote Robert Frost in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. It’s a poem about the alluring beauty of a forest during a snowstorm. A rider is passing through it, entranced by its splendor, tempted to linger. But he’s got places to be, obligations to keep. Miles to go before he sleeps.

So often I feel like life is a snowstorm and I’m just passing through, unable to really stop and play in it or experience it for what it really is. There’s too much to do. The business of life doesn’t allow for much lingering. There’s just not enough time to do all that the world beckons me to do.

There’s not enough time.

Those are numbing words. No one wants to hear those words, but we all know they’re true. And oh is it painful to admit: there are places I will not get to see, people I will not get to know, books I will not get to read. There are songs I won’t sing, paintings I won’t paint, films I won’t film. There are things I will only ever be on the outside of, looking in. And it’s not just the lofty “life goals” stuff that gets consumed by the breakneck tempo of life. It’s a day-to-day thing. Every morning we rise, with a list of things we must do and hopes for what we might do. Every night we go to sleep with a few things left undone, a few things that might have happened differently.

I think this tension—this ability to have vision, desire, ambition, and longing for so much more than our temporal faculties could permit us—is one of the most significant tensions of life. It’s painful, but unavoidable. As much as we might try to aim lower or dream smaller, it’s an inevitability of life that we will always be plagued by the ceaseless handicap of “miles to go.” We’re always looking towards an end—a sun that is forever racing away from us, as the world turns.

Posted by: Arthur337 | April 12, 2009

Monday Blues

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by Alex Noriega

Posted by: Arthur337 | April 12, 2009

Damn, am I a hipster?

I’m not even aware of the urban culture called hipster until I wrote the last entry below. So I went to the net and did some reading on this culture. As silly and embarassing it may seem, I can totally see myself partially in this category. I think it is apparent when I named the title of this blog The Bohemian Delirium, which bohemianism can be strongly tied to that culture of anti-mainstream. I don’t know where I first got this influence, perhaps back in the days of Cornell when I started to like art.

Here are some definitions of Hipster from the UrbanDictionary.com

  • People in thier teens to 20s who generally listen to indie rock, hang out in coffee shops, shop at the thrift store and talk about things like books, music, films and art.
  • Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter….The “effortless cool” urban bohemian look of a hipster is exemplified in Urban Outfitters and American Apparel ads which cater towards the hipster demographic. Despite misconceptions based on their aesthetic tastes, hipsters tend to be well educated and often have liberal arts degrees, or degrees in maths and sciences, which also require certain creative analytical thinking abilities. Consequently many hipsters tend to have jobs in the music, art, and fashion industries…….a lot of anti-hipster sentiment evidently comes from culturally-clueless suburban frat boy types who feel that the more sensitive, intelligent, and culturally aware hipster ideal threatens their insecure sense of masculinity. Anti-hipster sentiment often comes from people who simply can’t keep up with social change and are envious of those who can.  – Trey Parasuco
  • Someone who thinks that they are being “special” and “unique” for liking some underground bullshit no one else cares about. And they pointlessly look down on people who don’t know anything about indie culture, because that’s the only thing they know anything about. – Lexi

bingo

Based on the definitions of Hipster, to some extend, yes I am one. I love books, literature, poetry, music, film and art. Yes, I love looking at art pieces that don’t make any sense, wondering what goes into the mind of the demented artist. Yes I love indie music and other songs by non-mainstream artists, typically found in TV soundtracks such as Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy. Yes I am semi-antiestablishment (I’m libertarian). And yes, I would like to live at a warehouse-turned-loft with fancy art pieces on the wall and artsy books everywhere.

But no, I don’t care anything about hipster fashion. I don’t dress like a slob. I don’t like to wear tight jeans, or anything vintage from the thrift store, or even weird sunglasses (though I love to visit Urban Outfitters). No I don’t work low-paying jobs – well, what I meant is that I am climbing a normal corporate career ladder. And no, I don’t live off my parents money.

So am I?

Posted by: Arthur337 | April 12, 2009

Coffee Hipster

Tonight I’m not in my best moods. Sitting at Starbucks by the window, staring at the raindrops falling to the ground outside and listening to Jazz, I found my comfort zone. I can’t seem to explain why. Here I am, sitting amongst the crowd of people – some reading, some talking over coffee, some with their laptops. It seems that, at this environment, I am in the mood for intellectual pursuit.

I am fully aware some people think that drinking over-priced coffee and displaying their shiny white iMacs/iPods while reading or writing are pretentious hipsters. It reminds me of a scene from Family Guy that goes like this:

starbucks

Guy #2: Hey, getting some writing done there buddy?
Guy #1: Yeah, setting up in public so everybody can watch me type my big screenplay.
Guy #2: Me too. All real writers need to be seen writing otherwise what’s the point, right?
Guy #1: You should totally write that down!
Guy #2: Okay, will you watch me?

I am not sure how to defend myself against that charge. I don’t think it’s so much to be seen using the latest gadgets or doing something cool. I think it is more about being an observer rather than being observed. Perhaps sitting in the middle of the bustling crowd, while  isolated audibly by the earphones, allow me to become a third-party observer of the society. I’m isolated, yet not isolated. I’m connected to the society, yet disconnected at the same time. My mind is free to wander in the realms of intangible ideas, knowledge and culture, yet not too distant and removed from the real world.

Looking at the tables next to me, I ask the questions “Who are they? What do they do for living? What are they wearing? Is that the new fashion now? How is that two person relate to each other? What are they discussing? What are they reading? Why did they choose that book or magazine? Is that person over there writing an interesting play? Or is it a boring project proposal that is likely to be scrapped?”

I think there is no other public places outside where people congregate and make themselves comfortably, while pursuing very different ideas  – whether it’s work related of business ideas, engineering innovation, and job interviews, OR leisure related of art, music, fashion, relationships, and even philosophical discussions.

As a person who loves both science and culture, and who happens to be a social critic, I can’t think of a better place (within the convenient distance) to set my mind right – away from trivial troubles of life – and to delve into the more pertinent questions of the society, of humanity, and the most important of all, of ourselves.

Posted by: Arthur337 | April 8, 2009

Other side of Dubai

Here is an excellent read – The Dark Side of Dubai by Johann Hari

dubai-downtown-burj-dubai

Here are some samples of the interviews.

Sahinal Monir, 24-year-old Bangladeshi labor

“To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell”

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don’t like it, the company told him, go home.

“We have been robbed of everything. Even if somehow we get back to Bangladesh, the loan sharks will demand we repay our loans immediately, and when we can’t, we’ll be sent to prison…..There’s a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they’re not reported. They’re described as ‘accidents””

Mela Matari, a 25-year-old Ethiopian maid

“But they paid me half what they promised. I was put with an Australian family – four children – and Madam made me work from 6am to 1am every day, with no day off. I was exhausted and pleaded for a break, but they just shouted: ‘You came here to work, not sleep!’ Then one day I just couldn’t go on, and Madam beat me. She beat me with her fists and kicked me. My ear still hurts. They wouldn’t give me my wages: they said they’d pay me at the end of the two years. What could I do? I didn’t know anybody here. I was terrified.”

Ahmed al-Atar, 23 year-old Emiratis

“This is the best place in the world to be young! The government pays for your education up to PhD level. You get given a free house when you get married. You get free healthcare, and if it’s not good enough here, they pay for you to go abroad. You don’t even have to pay for your phone calls. Almost everyone has a maid, a nanny, and a driver. And we never pay any taxes. Don’t you wish you were Emirati?”

Sultan al-Qassemi, 31-year-old Emirati columnist

“When I see Western journalists criticise us – don’t you realise you’re shooting yourself in the foot? The Middle East will be far more dangerous if Dubai fails. Our export isn’t oil, it’s hope. Poor Egyptians or Libyans or Iranians grow up saying – I want to go to Dubai. We’re very important to the region. We are showing how to be a modern Muslim country. We don’t have any fundamentalists here. Europeans shouldn’t gloat at our demise. You should be very worried…. Do you know what will happen if this model fails? Dubai will go down the Iranian path, the Islamist path.”

Dr Mohammed Raouf, the environmental director of the Gulf Research Centre

“This is a desert area, and we are trying to defy its environment. It is very unwise. If you take on the desert, you will lose….At the moment, we have financial reserves that cover bringing so much water to the middle of the desert. But if we had lower revenues – if, say, the world shifts to a source of energy other than oil…Water is the main source of life. It would be a catastrophe. Dubai only has enough water to last us a week. There’s almost no storage. We don’t know what will happen if our supplies falter. It would be hard to survive.”

Unnamed American woman hotel employee

“They (water analysts) told us it was full of fecal matter and bacteria ‘too numerous to count’. I had to start telling guests not to go in the water, and since they’d come on a beach holiday, as you can imagine, they were pretty pissed off……The expats are terrified to talk about anything. One critical comment in the newspapers and they deport you. So what am I supposed to do? Now the water is worse than ever. People are getting really sick. Eye infections, ear infections, stomach infections, rashes. Look at it!”

Unnamed Filipino retail worker

“I think Dubai is like an oasis. It is an illusion, not real. You think you have seen water in the distance, but you get close and you only get a mouthful of sand.”

Other various expats comments

“Here, you go out every night. You’d never do that back home. You see people all the time. It’s great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don’t have to do all that stuff. You party!”

“When you go to the toilet, they open the door, they turn on the tap – the only thing they don’t do is take it out for you when you have a piss!”

“All the people who couldn’t succeed in their own countries end up here, and suddenly they’re rich and promoted way above their abilities and bragging about how great they are. I’ve never met so many incompetent people in such senior positions anywhere in the world.”

Posted by: Arthur337 | April 4, 2009

Rand’s Foreword in Fountainhead

the-fountainhead

I’ve finally found a decent version, instead of cheap mass paperbacks, of Ayn Rand’s novel Fountainhead at The Curve Borders. This is in my list of books to read for this year, though I doubt I will touch it until at least after June when I have the time.

Still I couldn’t help but to take a peek at the introduction. Reading the foreword by the author herself reassured me that I have no regrets paying a premium for the larger book. The foreword, written in 1968, contains the thoughts of Ayn Rand on the success of her books still in commercial print 25 years after it was first released in 1943.

Here is what she wrote that caught my attention:

“…my attitude toward my writing is best expressed by a statement of Victor Hugo: ‘If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away.’  Certain writers, of whom I am one, do not live, think or write on the range of the moment. Novels, in the proper sense of the word, are not written to vanish in a month or a year. That most of them do, today, that they are written and published as if they were magazines, to fade as rapidly, is one of the sorriest aspect’s of today’s literature….”

“Longevity-predominantly, though not exclusively-is the prerogative of a literary school which is virtually non-existent today: Romanticism….. It deals, not with the random trivia of the day, but with the timeless, fundamental, universal problems and values of human existence. It does not record or photograph; it creates and projects. It is concerned-in the words of Aristotle-not with things as they are, but with things as they might be and ought to be.”

“And for the benefit of those who consider relevance to one’s own time as of crucial importance, I will add, in regard to our age, that never has there been a time when men have so desperately need a projection of things as they ought to be.”

Indeed, today in the face of global economic crisis, many of us are “desperately need a projection of things as they ought to be.” Ayn Rand would be amused to know that her Objectivist philosophy far extends her lifetime – 60 years later, and is now more relevant than ever before.

Posted by: Arthur337 | April 1, 2009

Don’t Use Helvetica

NoHelvetica

By Robin Wicker
Found here

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