Monday, August 30, 2010

The Misses Vickers

The Misses Vickers (1884) by John Singer Sargent

La Miseria

La Miseria (1886) by Cristobal Rojas

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Anna Karenina (excerpts)

I wish I could write like this...

'Please don't be frightened! It's nothing. I'm not a bit afraid,' she said on seeing his alarmed face, and she pressed his hand to her breast and then to her lips.

He jumped up hastily, hardly aware of himself and without taking his eyes of her put on his dressing-gown and stood still, gazing at her. It was necessary for him to go, but he could not tear himself  away from the sight of her. He had loved that face and known all its expressions and looks, but he had never seen her as she was now. How vile and despicable he appeared to himself before her as she now was, when he recollected the grief he had caused her yesterday! Her flushed face surrounded with soft hair that had escaped from beneath her night-cap shone with joy and resolution.

Little as there was of affectation and conventionality in Kitty's general character, yet Levin was astonished at what was revealed to him now that every veil had fallen and the very kernel of her soul shone through her eyes. And in this simplicity, this nakedness of soul, she whom he loved was more apparent than ever. She looked at him smilingly, but suddenly her eyebrows twitched, she raised her head, and coming quickly to him she took hold of his hand and clinging close she enveloped him in her hot breath. She was suffering, and seemed to be complaining to him of her pain. And for a moment from force of habit he felt as if he were in fault. But her look expressed a tenderness which told him that she not only did not blame him, but loved him because of those sufferings. 'If I am not to blame for it, who is?' he thought, involuntarily seeking a culprit to punish for these sufferings; but there was no culprit. She suffered, complained, triumphed in her sufferings, rejoiced in them and loved them. He saw that something beautiful was taking place in her soul, but what it was he could not understand. It was above his comprehension.


He only knew and felt that what was happening was similar to what had happened the year before in the hotel of the provincial town on the deathbed of his brother Nicholas. Only that was sorrow and this was joy. But that sorrow and this joy were equally beyond the usual conditions of life: they were like openings in that usual life through which something higher became visible. And, as in that case, what was now being accomplished came harshly, painfully, incomprehensibly; and while watching it, the soul soared, as then, to heights it had never before known, at which reason could not keep up with it.


And suddenly, out of the mysterious, terrible, and unearthly world in which he had been living for the last twenty-two hours, Levin felt himself instantaneously transported back to the old everyday world, but now radiant with the light of such new joy that it was insupportable. The taut strings snapped, and sobs and tears of joy that he had not in the least anticipated arose within him, with such force that they shook his whole body and long prevented his speaking.

Falling on his knees by her bedside he held his wife's hand to his lips, kissing it, and that hand, by a feeble movement of the fingers, replied to his kisses. And meanwhile at the foot of the bed, like a flame above a lamp, flickered in Mary Vlasevna's skilful hands the life of a human being who had never before existed: a human being who, with the same right and the same importance to himself, would live and would procreate others like himself.


Before that, if Levin had been told that Kitty was dead, and that he had died with her, that they had angel children, and that God was there present with them--he would not have been astonished.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I recently discovered--somewhat to my amazement (though why I should be amazed is slightly mysterious now that I think about it: I've all but ignored entire scene for several years)--that I band I really liked, and I mean really liked, a long time ago, was still around. They had disbanded just about the time I lost interest in the entire Solid State scream-o, grind-core, metal, whatever it's-just-loud genre. The band was called Zao. I mean, well... it's still called Zao, I guess. But it's not Zao, you know? No. Whatever. Turns out they pulled themselves back together when I wasn't looking. (Coincidentally, Living Sacrifice is still a thing, too. Christian metal's still a thing. Huh. Ever notice that, that when you lose interest in something it seems absurd, almost ridiculous, that it keeps going without you? I mean, what's the point? I'm not interested anymore, and that's the main thing. Right...? Where was I?) So Zao's still a thing. They were epic. Man, they were great. I mean, you couldn't be into Christian metal around the turn of the century and not know them. They defined early Christian metalcore. Their influence was enormous. They, along with the aforementioned (and also still around) Living Sacrifice, basically played godfather to a genre, spawning an embarrassing legion of less-than-impressive but no-doubt well-meaning sound-alikes. But I guess that's not their fault. They were just great, and everybody wanted to be like them. But those wannabe bands are what eventually killed the scene for me. It all sounded the same, and second rate. Zao and Living Sacrifice had already done it, so why bother with the rest? Plus, well... I grew up, evolved, possibly mutated, and a band's loudness no longer was what compelled me. I started listening to all sorts of bizarre things. Bizarre, that is, for me; normal for everyone else. I started listening, for instance, to Jars of Clay. Jars of Clay?! Growing up is odd. But, to be all literary and stuff, the past in never dead; it isn't even past. A while ago, even though I for the most part get irritated by the sound of it now, I (feeling some strange vibration run along a long abandoned, but once affectionately played, power-chord in my heart) loaded up some old Christian metal albums onto iTunes, an exercise in which Zao featured prominently. Where Blood and Fire Bring Rest brought chills; Liberate to ex Inferis still terrified me. But there was also a strange sense of disassociation, like looking at old photos. It's me, but it's not me now, and you get that distinct feeling you are no longer who you were and who you were actually makes you frown or blush. But autobiography aside, their music, even after years of neglect, still produced the distinct throb and tension in my chest, the desire to just scream until your throat bleeds. It was an epoch, I realize. It was a chapter. It was a time in my life that I value but that I'm glad is gone. I'm rambling. Zao. Still a thing. So poking around in the iTunes store, following up links and recommendations (I can't remember the specific trail that brought me to it, but surely it was something arcane and possibly occult, a digital incantation that resurrected a long dead-to-me band), I suddenly saw that "Listeners Also Bought" Zao. Zao? Zao! That's still a thing? Not only is it a thing, it's a thing with three albums I didn't know about. 30 bucks later, I prepared to enter the past. The past, it turns out, is smaller than it looks. What was enormous before casts a much smaller shadow now, as if the sun had risen higher (which I suppose, if I were to push this particular aging metaphor further, means that the shadow will get larger again as I grow even older and the sun sets... and that's... wow, that's almost terrifying. I can almost imagine pulling out some of these CDs or MP3s from a dusty box and playing them for my kids. Yes, MP3s in a box. Where do you keep yours? But to return...). I guess what really disappointed me is how almost exactly the same the new Zao sounds, as if no time has passed. But time has passed. A lifetime has passed. Possibly several lifetimes. Or at least that's how it seems, if you measure a lifetime by how much you've changed. I'm a completely different person now: different politics, different aesthetic, new priorities, bald. An entire metamorphosis. How is it possible some things stood still while I moved forward? It just seems odd. But wait, no, that's not quite true. What I said about them sounding the same, I mean. It's not quite true. They don't sound the same. They sound younger. Or maybe I listen older. Reading the lyrics, listening to Daniel Weyandt scream and grind and gurgle about how shallow Americans are, how difficult life is, about the struggle and injustice of it all, I wondered, were they always this angry and immature? Surely not. Surely, surely not. Because, if they were... that would have awkward implications for myself. Because I really liked them, thought they were intelligent and important and stuff. And they were. Important, I mean. To me. To the me of then, the different me that I sort of recognize now.

What is all this? I don't know. It's odd, that's what it is. It's self-indulgence, I know, and I'm sorry. I don't really have much to say about Zao, I guess. I liked Zao, but I liked them better in the past than in the now.