Categories for Books, films and TV

The end of a beautiful dvd collection

April 11, 2003, at 21.40 CET i published a present: The beginning of a beautiful dvd collection.

dvdcollectie

Donnie Darko, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Buffy season 1 / 5, Lord of the Rings Extended Fellowship of the Ring, Angels season 1.

Today i’m writing the post The end of a beautiful dvd collection.

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I do think the last dvd i bought was either Dollhouse s2 or Caprica. That must have been the end of 2010. Five years ago. I was downloading already. But yes, i did enjoy having the dvd’s, of special shows i love. I enjoy the packaging, the special features.

My favourite dvd’s still are the extended ones form the Lord of the Rings. The bonus features! The first one, which i already had in 2003, had this special bonus on color correcting, which i loved. I should watch these again soon. Not the movies itself i’m afraid. These were broadcasted on television so many times, i can probably dream these. But yes, the special features!

The movies are mostly from the mid 00’s. Cube i haven’t watched entirely. 24 i liked. True binge watching. I stayed up until around 5am, thinking every time i pressed next that it was going to be the last one, but i couldn’t resist. But 24 did fade away , especially after season 5 or 6.

My Joss Whedon fandom is clearly visible. Buffy, Angel, Serenity, Firefly, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. Most of the first year Buffy comics. I am curious what Whedon will start up next. Even do i did enjoy the two Avenger movies, i’m happy Whedon has stopped working on these and is back to creating his own world once again. I’m curious!

And of course Battlestar Galactica. I missed the first two seasons when it was broadcasted here in the Netherlands. But once i got to see it, i was hooked. I love the story telling, the acting, Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell especially. The human Cylons were great, and delivered a special view on humans and how they were perceived by their own makings. Since two days i’m watching the series once again. Friday i watched the mini series. Yesterday, saturday, i watched the first season until episode 8 Litmus. I will watch the rest of season 1 this evening. I’m also reading the reviews on the A.V. Club website. It does give many insights into the episodes which i only half noticed. Or not have noticed at all!

…my interpretation is that it’s the first time the show makes clear to its humans, through a web of subtext and semiotics, that humans will have to be something other than human in order to survive. It’s not clear what, for sure. But this transference of sexual imagery to the machine—and then Kara’s transformation from a ground-crawling human to person that can kind-of-sort-of fly, using her feet and hands — is not an image that is just thrown into the story for funzies. There is something very intense here — a meditation on humanity, a meditation on survival, a reckoning of the very drives that make us people. And an exhortation, perhaps, to walk in someone else’s shoes — or to fly with their wings — or to look through their eyes, after you’ve given them over to the Commander. (from You can’t go home again)

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My second bread! With sunflower pits and flaxseeds. I did knead it longer this time, around 10 minutes. The rising went better. I ate the first slices straight after it got out of the oven. I had two slices with butter, and two with tuna salad i made half an hour before, with self made mayonaise. Gorgeous!

Published on January 11, 2016 at 6:00 by

David Foster Wallace

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This article from the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, published 14 December 2012, has been hanging on my board for the past three years. It is about Wallace himself, about his books, about his recently published biography. It is a Dutch article, i won’t be translating it. Sorry.

The last two sentences

In a world of pure panic, of smouldering suffering, artificial irony doesn’t have a place anymore. It doesn’t even scratch the fucking surface.

Published on January 8, 2016 at 6:00 by

Infinite Jest: Page 3 – 31

The title. Infinite Jest. It is taken from Hamlet. The play written by Shakespeare.
Hamlet holds the skull of the court jester Yorick and says:

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!”

I’m guessing the best time to search for an explanation of a title is at the end. So that is what i will do. But i do want to state the thought of the title at the beginning. It is an easy element to forget. Important though.

inbetween

Year of Glad
Page 3 - 17
I read this part three times. Once when i bought the book. Once later on, trying again to read this book. And finally this time. So yes, i know this part. And yet, like with any book, which you simply won’t memorize completely, it is new to me.

I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies.

The first sentence of the book. It is strangely worded. Heads and bodies. As if the person is surrounded by marbles, disconnected from each other. This part describes someone very aware of his surroundings. Aware of himself, in a distant way.

I believe i appear neutral, maybe even pleasant, though i’ve been coached to err on the side of neutrality and not attempt what should feel to me like a pleasant expression or smile.

The I in this chapter is Hal Incandenza, eightteen years old. Hal is a ranked tennis player. He is at his admission talk for the University of Arizona.

His experience of his own body, his own speech is vastly different from how others perceive him. Other people people hear subanimalistic noises and sounds. Hal is taken away by paramedics into an ambulance. Strapped.

I’m not what you see and hear.

Unknown words
wen / harmless, usu permanent, tumour on the scalp or other part of the body

inbetween

Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment
Page 17 - 26

The years have weird descriptions. The Year of Glad? Depend Adult Undergarment? Strange.

Well, this seems another year. I’m not sure what the name is of the man in this chapter. Erdedy? Not a name i have heard before. Well, he is waiting for a woman. He has made an appointment with her. She had said she would come. She will bring along 200 grams of marijuana. His mind wanders. Watching an insect. Thinking about how he wanted to stop doing drugs, how each time he calls another person to get it once again. How he had prepared his house for a couple of days of being completely out of it. How this time would be the last time. How he would force himself of taking too much. Each day.

The woman still hadn’t arrived by the end of the chapter.

Unknown words
girder / wood, iron or steel beam to support the joists of a floor

debauch / cause to lose virtue, to act immorally; turn away from good taste or judgement

inbetween

1 April – Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad
Page 27 - 31
Hal is ten in this chapter, eight years younger than in the year of Glad. He is having a talk with a professional conversationalist. Hal drinks soda. Hal can cite the dictionary. Hal’s dad has made the appointment with the conversationalist.

And are you hearing me talking, Dad? It speaks. It accepts soda and defines implore and converses with you.

inbetween

These first chapters are hard. Difficult to read. The unknown words list should be longer, but i only list the words which struck me, and of which i have no idea what they mean. Other words have a vague meaning, still giving a clue to what they want to say. I know the story plays in the United States. I don’t know what years. The years are not numbered, but have weird names.

I’m guessing the first pages of this book are hard to read, the story isn’t set yet. The characters are not known. This is still the introduction.

inbetween

After i wrote this part, i went through the posts on Infinite Summer. I discovered the next bit:

How do you know Wallace can deliver before you’ve already blown the whole summer?

We have a number of reasons to trust Wallace. We have the word of smart people who have read the book, like Marcus, Jason, and Matt. We have almost 15 years of people reading and rereading, mining the book for its pleasures. We have the place to which this book has rapidly ascended in my generation’s unconscious.

But best of all we have the first ten pages.

The first ten pages of this book are remarkable. The first 100 pages are very good (if sometimes frustrating) but the first ten are amazing, and he deliberately put them there, right at the front, in order to make you a promise.

‘I’m not a machine. I feel and believe. I have opinions. Some of them are interesting. I could, if you’d let me, talk and talk. Let’s talk about anything. I believe the influence of Kierkegaard on Camus is underestimated. I believe Dennis Gabor may very well have been the Antichrist. I believe Hobbes is just Rousseau in a dark mirror. I believe, with Hegel, that transcendence is absorption. I could interface you guys right under the table,’ I say. ‘I’m not just a creatus, manufactured, conditioned, bred for a function.’

I open my eyes. ‘Please don’t think I don’t care.’

I look out. Directed my way is horror. I rise from the chair. I see jowls sagging, eyebrows high on trembling foreheads, cheeks bright-white. The chair recedes below me.

‘Sweet mother of Christ,’ the Director says.

He could have just said this: Listen up. I have a freaking great story to tell you.

If you feel yourself getting frustrated in parts, or lost. If you feel Wallace has lost your trust, stop, go back and read the first ten pages. You’ll find a promise.

I had forgotten about this passage. I just looked it up again. It was what came after it that threw me off. The rejection. The complete lack of understanding.

Talk to you again soon.

Published on December 14, 2015 at 6:00 by

Infinite Jest: Start Up

Starting to read Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, published in 1996. Again.

I will also watch the movie The End of the Tour, released July 2015.

Main websites for further information and help.

Journalism articles

David Foster Wallace on Ambition | Blank on Blank | PBS Digital Studios

Full HD David Foster Wallace interview with Charlie Rose (03/1997)

Another Random Bit: The Perspective of David Foster Wallace

Rereading David Foster Wallace – The New Yorker Festival – The New Yorker

This Is Water – Full version-David Foster Wallace Commencement Speech

The text [copy from webarchive] (Not sure how long i may publish this text, lets just see how it goes.)

Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address – May 21, 2005

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings [“parents”?] and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here’s another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.'” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education — least in my own case — is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.

But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible — sounds like “displayal”]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

Published on December 9, 2015 at 6:00 by

Infinite Jest

Over the past months i’ve been rereading some of my SF and fantasy books. I’ve been through the best of them. So now it is time for me to turn to some other books i have, which have been waiting for my attention. First is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I have this book for around 5 years. I have tried reading it, but i got stuck. So i will try again. Yes! I will use resources online to help me understand the book and read notes about it. Infinite Summer i have still bookmarked, and i’m happy to see it is still online. A good place to start.

This evening i will read some articles about Wallace, tips to help me get through the book and enjoy it, warm ups and advocacy posts.

This thought just cropped up, so i do need to give it some thought before i go ahead with it. I might do a small series about the book here. Some notes, passages i noticed. This might give me some support in reading. I’ll think about it.

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After doing the clips yesterday, today i’m searching for best of lists. Also a few other clips i came across. Enjoy!

Paste Magazine‘s best of 2015 music list

Rolling Stone – 50 Best Songs of 2015

Published on December 8, 2015 at 6:00 by

Fabeltje vertellen

A short fable written by Remco Campert. It’s from the book Fabeltjes vertellen, which i have for many many years. It is in Dutch, and my translation skills are not up to translating this. It is a very language specific story, about an ezel who think he is a wezel and an eekhoorn who think he is an eenhoorn. Sorry guys and girls 🙂


Published on September 3, 2015 at 6:00 by

My bookcase

I don’t buy that many books. Partly it is the cost. Partly it is because i don’t read that much usually. I still have some books i haven’t read yet. They are on my list!

The bookcase in my front room has my main books in it. I’ll go through them.

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A tiny book from Remco Campert called Fabeltjes vertellen. Little stories with language games and mazes in them. Another tiny book, Faust from Goethe. Never read this, i do know its world famous, just.. too tiny letters.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses. It’s been years since i read these books. I didn’t finish Ulysses, i’m ashamed to say. I did enjoy reading it till around three quarters. I know i should finish it.

Jonathan Safran Foer. Extremely loud & Incredibly close and Everything is Illuminated. These two books didn’t really stick. I enjoyed reading them, but that is about it.

Ian McEwan, Atonement. Brett Eaton Ellis, Lunar Park.

Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections. I also had his book Freedom, but last year, when i was reading it, i left it on the train station.

David Foster Wallace, Everything and more, Infinite Jest. I did read Everything and more this year. I had to brighten my math knowledge, which had sunken deep since i went to school. Infinite Jest is still on my list of to read books. I did try, but it is a hard book. One day i’ll be able to read it fully.

A.S.Byatt, Possession, Babel Tower. Dom DeLillo, Underworld. John Irving, A widow for one year, A son of the circus. Vikram Seth, A suitable boy.

Salman Rushdie. A discovery in the late 80s. I first read Shame. I don’t have that book myself. Which make me think now i should actually get it. I loved it. Midnight’s Children i read after that. Wonderful. Satanic Verses i loved too. His later books i didn’t think of that much to be honest. But still.

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Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead. A borrowed book i never returned. I read this book i think when i was around 18 years old. I did reread it a couple of times.

Edwin Abbott Abbott, Flatland. A birthday present. Should reread it again. Great book.

Jung Chang, Wild Swans. I think i read this book when i was on holidays on Crete in 1993. My first acquaintance with Chinese history of the 20th century. Pretty shocking.

Paul Ford, Gary Benchley, rock star. I’ve been a fan of ftrain.com since i got to know it, i’m guessing around 1999. The main reason i bought his book yes. I do love his posts. This year his post on What is code? was published on Bloomberg.com.

Jeannette Winterson, The Power Book, Sexing the Cherry, The Passion. George Perec, Het leven een gebruiksaanwijzing, not read yet. Per Olov Enquist, Het bezoek van de lijfarts.

Umberto Eco, In de naam van de roos, Baudolino. I read the first book on holidays when i was 19 years old. Loved it then.

Thomas Mann, De Toverberg. A classic. Should reread this.

Italo Svevo, Een geslaagde grap. August Strindberg, Aan open zee. Adrienne Rich, Poems 1950-1984. Thomas Rosenboom, Publieke Werken. Harry Mulisch, De zaak 40/61. Jan Wolkers, De perzik van onsterfelijkheid. Gerard Reve, Nader tot u, Op weg naar het einde. Bob den Uyl, Quatro Primi, De bloedende trein. A.F.Th. van der Heijden, Advocaat van de hanen. Multatuli, Max Havelaar.

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Philosophy and non-fiction books.

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Youth and young adult books. Thea Beckman, Tonke Dragt, J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter series, Philip Pullman and Astrid Lindgren.

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My cook books.

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My art books.

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Vinyl.

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Vinyl, singles, Tolkien, my Asterix comics and Kuifje comics.

Published on August 19, 2015 at 6:00 by

Science fiction

Reading was my most treasured pastime from when i was able to read. I read fairy tales, myths, and all kinds of books from the library. Each week i went there. It must have been from my 8th, 9th. Sometime around that age. I bought many books. You can read my post about my teen books if you wish to know about those.

My favourite writer was Tonke Dragt. She is not in that post. That is because her books are still in my bookcase in the front room. I even bought one of her books in the 90s. Her books were my introduction into science fiction. I must have been around 12 years old. From that age until i was like 17-18 years old, scifi was the best!

So yeah, i did loose sight of the major developments in scifi from the 80s on. I got a bit more in fantasy, i bought some scifi books later on, some of them i liked, some of them i didn’t. It is a major escape for me, i can still pick up a book or a series and simply dive into it. Right now i’m reading The left hand of darkness by Ursula Le Guin. I came across her name a couple of times on brain pickings. So today i picked up the book once more and started to read.

I’ll give you a list of the books in my scifi and fantasy bookcase.

Top row, fantasy

  • some warcraft novels
  • Raymond E. Feist – ok books, basically exploration and magic and adventure books
  • Robert Jordan – Wheel of Time series, i still need to read the last book!

Second row, fantasy

  • L.E. Modesitt Jr – a favourite series, very specific magic system, not just bolts and whooshes, love the stories
  • Robin Hobb – adventures with some magic and swords
  • Eric Brown, Helix – quite new, don’t remember too much about this book tbh
  • Tais Teng, Cepheide – from the 80s, no recollection whatsoever
  • Amber Benson, Death’s daughter – Amber played Tara from Buffy the vampire slayer, i do like her books, and i do like her!

Third row, science fiction

  • Frank Herbert, Dune series – one of my old time faves
  • Asimov, two robot detectives – love these ones too
  • Jack Vance – these have faded a bit
  • Robert Heinlein – nice
  • Russel – frankly, i don’t remember much about this book
  • Ursula Le Guin – one of my faves, three books i have, like them all
  • Kate Wilhelm – sort of a feminist scifi book, should reread it
  • Ballard – like this one 🙂
  • Turner – mwah
  • Simak – ok
  • A.E. Van Vogt – ok
  • Ehrlich – this one had sex in it, enjoyed it 🙂
  • Bradley – sort of generic scifi
  • Coney – sort of generic scifi
  • Thijssen – scifi adventure, whoosh!

Fourth row, fairy tales, myths and science fiction

  • some books with games, some with cats, two old books and some fairy tales and myth books – ok
  • Ian M. Banks – some more recent purchases, i tried to read these, but it’s hard, might try again soon, or other option: simply forget about them
  • Neil Stephenson – also a book i couldn’t finish, sounds interesting, but sort of a bit too long for me
  • Peter F. Hamilton – i bought these in London on recommendation of someone who lived in the same flat as me, very space opera, fun
  • Zelazny – too long ago since i read this book, it is completely wiped from my memory
  • Pohl – good
  • Vera Chapman – more fantasy type books
  • and then towards the end some short stories books
  • at the end, Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy – i haven’t read this one yet! but i did see the movie 🙂

Sometimes when i’m in a bookshop, i wander over to the scifi and fantasy section. I might go soon once more, to get that last Wheel of Time book, which was released years ago. Reading is my most treasured form of escaping yes. Something about being all by yourself with just text which lets your imagination run wild with stories. More than watching movies and tv series. But i enjoy those too!

Ooh.. i did buy the first four ebooks of A song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. I got into the second book. Maybe it is the ebook format which doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe it is the long threads and many many many people in the books which keep confusing me. Not sure. But yes, not finished reading those either. Loving the tv series though.

And another ooh, at the bottom two rows of this bookcase, magazines. Which are not scifi. Still need to fill up these rows with some magazines which are still in the attic. I know, i am a hoarder. But! the pile of magazines on the right are going to be thrown away.

Bye bye!

Published on July 9, 2015 at 6:00 by

Teen books

I have a room in the attic. It is a place to store stuff. Four apartments have a room there. When i went to London, fifteen years ago, to live there for a while, i put a lot of boxes with all my stuff there. It was stacked. After like 7 months, when i got back, i left a few boxes there. I might have taken a quick look to see what was in there, and thought that i didn’t need any of it.

Well, for like once a week i’ve been going upstairs and looked around. I took down a box full of books. The books i read when i was like 8 till 14 years old. Some of them i was even older.

The past week i read some of the books in there again. Which gave me a lot of pleasure!

Yes, i first read the Bouquet series books. This series is still available. It was like… 30 years that i last read these? The earliest one i have is number 62, which was published in the Netherlands in 1976. I was twelve then. I admit, the first books in these series were rather prudish. It was kissing mostly, feeling excitement yes, but no sex until you were married! Which usually happened at the end of the book. The later books were a bit more free in that aspect. Some had real proper sex, yay! I definitely had my favourites. There is one i still remember, which i sadly don’t have anymore. I also liked some writes better than others. I still got little red ears while reading a few of these.

I also have a lot of series. Billie Bradley i enjoyed. I didn’t know the series was published from 1920 through 1932. I also have Anne-Marie, a Dutch series. Katy and Zaza are Dutch too. Zaza was the best!

I also have some other Dutch series: Merel, Isabel and Annemieke. Not sure which one of these i liked best. I did like these books, but i don’t think they were my favourites. Some single pocket books, a couple from Leni Saris. I’m readng these again right now. They are different from the Bouquet series, which are mainly about a man – woman development which goes to the ultimate end. These Dutch books do have more of a story in them. The one i’m reading now, the Wingerdrank ( in English it’s well.. wingerd rank), is about a girl who is a journalist whose parent betrayed friends in the second World Was. There is love in there too, of course. It is a romance.

I do know i had the Enid Blyton series too. I now have only a few single books of these series. I think i have given away some of these books. Silly me! I remember the Famous Five. Sometimes i see this as a series on television and i still watch it when i come across it.

In the box there are also some other books, some of them i don’t remember at all. Not sure how i got them.

Well, that is almost it. The pictures are next. Still not sure what to do with them. My bookcases are quite full, but hopefully i can find a proper place for them. It’s good to have these books back in my little house!

Also, after making this post, i will make another post about my books. Lots of sci-fi, fantasy, literature, young adult, art and philosophy. Reading is not a huge part of my life, i do have periods i read lots, but also periods i don’t read anything. Ooh.. and magazines! Pfff.. so much more to come! 🙂

Read more…

Published on June 23, 2015 at 6:00 by

Read aloud: Snow White

I will be reading the Grimm fairy tale Snow White. The English name is actually Little Snow-white. But i stick with the Dutch title: Sneeuwwitje. Hmm, while i’m writing the Dutch title, it’s dawning on me that it’s the diminutive of Sneeuwwit. The appendix -je or -tje in Dutch means ‘little’. The same goes for -let in English and -lein and -chen in German. It’s actually in my first name, Neeltje. Which nobody has ever used! I mean, my name has always been Ellen, but officially my name is Neeltje Ellen Pronk. It’s in my passport.

German is close to Dutch, or better said, Dutch is close to German. The Dutch word for fairy tale is ‘sprookje’, the German word is ‘Märchen’. The Dutch word for girl is ‘meisje’, the German word is ‘Mädchen’. A better English translation is ‘little maid’. The English word Dutch is coming from the word Diets, a precursor to the modern Dutch. In the Netherlands we use the word ‘Nederlands’ for the word Dutch. Dutch to us sounds more like how we call the Germans, Duitsland, and how they call themselves: Deutschland. I do like how these words get mixed up and change meaning over time.

OK, an end to this digression. Back to Snow White. I did do a search for analyses of this fairy tale. It was hard to find decent ones. So many movies have been made, from Disney’s 1937 ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, the 2012 ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ and ‘Mirror Mirror’, the TV series ‘Once upon a Time’ and so many more. There is this rather nice article on the newyorker.com ‘Snow White: Beauty Is Power‘. In this article it is said the most important theme of the story is a generational sexual rivalry in a world where beauty – and youth – is the main asset of a woman. This does remind me of our current world still. Not strict, but the young are so beautiful, and it does give them power. Look at people like Ariana Grande, or Miley Cyrus. It’s not that they are not capable of what they are doing, but their beauty does add to their enticement. It’s not the only path a woman can walk, but it is still a very tempting one for the young and gorgeous people.

The seven dwarfs in Grimm’s version are not named. Also Snow White does not clean up their house, but eats a bit of their food, tries out their beds before she falls asleep in the one bed that fits her. The dwarfs in Grimm’s version are hard-working. They state very clearly from the outset the Snow White can stay at their place, only if she is willing to work. “If you will take care of our house, cook, make the beds, wash, sew, and knit, and if you will keep everything neat and clean, you can stay with us and you shall want for nothing.” Snow White needs to grow up and take responsibility of her own life.

I won’t go into any more possible analyses of Snow White. I leave it up to you. Enjoy!

Snow White

Published on May 21, 2015 at 6:00 by