Same time

A.O. Scott on "The Favourite" directed by Yorgos Lanthimos:

'Lanthimos, his camera gliding through gilded corridors and down stone staircases — in exquisitely patterned light and shadow, with weird lenses and startling angles — choreographs an elaborate pageant of decorum and violence, claustrophobia and release. The law of the kingdom is mutability, signified by the many names its sovereign and her subjects are called by. Sarah is Lady Marlborough, and also Mrs. Freeman. The Queen is Mrs. Morley. Abigail plots to marry a handsome doofus (Joe Alwyn), hoping to acquire a title of her own. No identity or value is fixed. Alliances shift like the weather. Fortunes rise and fall. Beauty transmutes into ugliness and back again. Love is a synonym for domination, or maybe for submission.

The best — and also the most troubling — thing about “The Favourite” is its rigorously bleak assessment of human motivations and behavior. The palace is a petri dish aswarm with familiar pathogens of egoism, cruelty and greed. A sentimental soul might wish for a glimpse of something else, but at the same time it’s hard to say that anything is missing from this tableau, which is also a devastating, flattering and strangely faithful mirror.'

Read the article here.

The Favourite didn't impress me as much as 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer", with may have been less subtle but was deliciously devastating.

But "The Favourite" is "Dangerous Liaisons" without men, the men are just a couple of doofuses. And Emma Stone as Abigail is the quintessential survivor, surviving as a profession, Abigail gives egotism a good name.



Right or wrong

Lou Marinoff on Hobbes in TLS:

'Needless to say, this is a recipe for endless conflict, exacerbated by Hobbes’s two-fold notion of equality. On the one hand, we are equal in the most dangerous sense that the weakest can kill the strongest, “either by secret machination or by confederacy with others”; on the other, we are equal in that each one nurtures a similar hope of attaining his own particular ends. Thus the three principal causes of quarrel are competition (over any resource that one seeks to monopolize); diffidence (mutual mistrust of one another and the desire to protect or defend one’s resources); and glory (preservation of one’s reputation, aggrandizement of one’s status, or defense of one’s honour). So by our very natures, we are drawn into perpetual strife, which Hobbes calls a “war of all against all”. We may forge temporary alliances, but only to stave off graver threats or more imminent perils. This incessant war is known as the Hobbesian “state of nature”, the universal and inevitable initial condition of humankind, in which life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Hobbes goes on to emphasize that in this state there is no right or wrong, no justice or injustice, for there is not yet any established – albeit artificial – standard by which any such value judgments can be made. This anticipates by two centuries Darwin’s “struggle for existence” among life forms, in which any behaviour that conduces to survival is entirely self-justifying. Hobbes then cleverly poses a rhetorical but “trick” question, calculated to push his main point home. To those who might cavil at his grim portrayal of human nature, he inquires whether they journey armed and well-accompanied, whether they lock their doors at night, and whether they secret away their valuables at home, among “trusted” servants; even though they inhabit a polity with criminal laws and a justice system in place: “does he not there as much accuse mankind by his actions”, he asks, “as I do by my words?”

Having inveigled the reader’s affirmation, that we must constantly safeguard our persons and possessions, he continues with a declaration that itself carried a death sentence for heresy: “But neither of us accuse man’s nature in it. The desires, and other passions of man, are in themselves no sin”. With that, Hobbes flatly contradicts Augustine, and repudiates the sacrosanct doctrine of Original Sin. This alone was sufficient to see Leviathan immediately placed on the Roman Church’s index of banned books.'

Read the article here.

Needless to say that I sympathize with Hobbes. The war of all against all cannot be overcome, but with the help of social contracts and by transferring some of our powers to the authorities, we can make this war more benign and pleasurable.



Aloe Vera

Back home - just the aloe vera plant passed away.
The day started in a hotel in Amsterdam and ended in a restaurant in New York with the fish of the day.
We could call it tradition, an attempt to be not completely unbound.




It's a good night for the Lorelei, here's Heine:

I know not if there is a reason Why I am so sad at heart.
A legend of bygone ages
Haunts me and will not depart.

The air is cool under nightfall.
The calm Rhine courses its way.
The peak of the mountain is sparkling
With evening's final ray.

The fairest of maidens is sitting
So marvelous up there,
Her golden jewels are shining, She's combing her golden hair.

She combs with a comb also golden,
And sings a song as well Whose melody binds a wondrous
And overpowering spell.

In his little boat, the boatman
Is seized with a savage woe,
He'd rather look up at the mountain Than down at the rocks below.

I think that the waves will devour The boatman and boat as one; And this by her song's sheer power
Fair Lorelei has done.

Translation: A.Z. Foreman

(Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.

Die Luft ist kühl, und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
In Abendsonnenschein.

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldenes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.

Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewaltige Melodei.

Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh'.

Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn;
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
Die Lorelei getan.)

My plan is to go on a Rhine cruise in 2019 or 2020.
To be devoured by waves can wait a little bit longer.