April 29th, 2009

blue jellyfish

Good Morning!

Kay Ryan said that before writing poetry she reads some of the great European writers, including Milan Kundera, which led me to google him and discover these quotes.  I'm not sure if I agree with him, and it is fun to wiggle the brain with his thought. 

War and culture, those are the two poles of Europe, her heaven and hell, her glory and shame, and they cannot be separated from one another.  When one comes to an end, the other will end also and one cannot end without the other.  The fact that no war has broken out in Europe for fifty years is connected in some mysterious way with the fact that for fifty years no new Picasso has appeared either.

Milan Kundera

((b. 1929), Czechoslovakian author, critic. Paul, in "The Brilliant Ally of His Own Gravediggers," pt. 3, Immortality (1991).)

Listening to a news broadcast is like smoking a cigarette and crushing the butt in the ashtray.

Milan Kundera

(Milan Kundera (b. 1929), Czech author, critic. Paul, in "The Brilliant Ally of His Own Gravediggers," pt. 3, Immortality (1991).

alan - three poppies

Technology -

I recently posted Kevin Kelly's wonderful discourse on how we are all involved in technology, and how at this point, we humans can't survive without it. We need our tools. http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2009/03/the_world_witho.php

Robinson Jeffers integrates beautifully.


The little biplane that has the river-meadow for landing-field
And carries passengers brief rides,
Buzzed overhead on the tender blue above the orange of sundown.
Below it five troubled night-herons
Turned short over the shore from its course, four east, one northward.
Beyond them
Swam the new moon in amber.
I don't know why, but lately the forms of things appear to me with time
One of their visible dimensions.
The thread brightness of the bent moon appeared enormous, unnumbered
Ages of years; the night-herons
Their natural size, they have croaked over the shore in the hush at sundown
Much longer than human language
Has fumbled with the air: but the plane having no past but a certain future,
Insect in size as in form,
Was also accepted, all these forms of power placed without preference
In the grave arrangement of the evening.

- Robinson Jeffers

Seeing -

I am reading Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer.

I am especially fascinated with his words on Paul Cezanne and The Process of Sight.  I excerpt from the chapter here what especially interests and excites me.

He begins by reminding us how shocking was the unveiling of the postimpressionist paintings where Cezanne starred.

"The psychology of the time continued to see our senses as perfect reflections of the outside world. The eye was like a camera: it collected pixels of light and sent them passively on to the brain. The founder of this psychology was the eminent experimentalist William Wundt, who insisted that every sensation could be broken down into its simpler sense data.  Science could peel back the layers of consciousness and reveal the honest stimuli underneath.

Cezanne inverted this view of vision. His paintings were about the subjectivity of sight, the illusion of surfaces."

"Cezanne believed that light was only the beginning of seeing.  "The eye is not enough," he declared.  "One needs to think as well."  Cezanne's epiphany was that our impressions require interpretation; to look is to create what you see."

"We now know that Cezanne was right. Our vision begins with photons, but this is only the beginning.  Whenever we open our eyes, the brain engages in an act of astonishing imagination, as it transforms the residues of light into a world of form and space that we can understand.  By probing inside the skull, scientists can see how our sensations are created, how the cells of the visual cortex silently construct sight. Reality is not out there waiting to be witnessed; reality is made by the mind."

"Cezanne's art exposes the process of seeing.  Although his paintings were criticized for being unnecessarily abstract - even the impressionists ridiculed his technique - they actually show us the world as it first appears to the brain.  A Cezanne picture has no boundaries or stark black lines separating one thing from the next.  Instead there are only strokes of paint, and places on the canvas where one color, knotted on the surface, seems to change into another color.  This is the start of vision: it is what reality looks like before it has been produced by the brain.  The light has not yet been made into form.

But Cezanne did not stop there.  That would have been too easy. Even as his art celebrates its strangeness, it remains loyal to what it represents. As a result, we can always recognize Cezanne's subjects.  Because he gives the brain just enough information, viewers are able to decipher his paintings and rescue the picture from the edge of obscurity..... "

"This is Cezanne's genius: he forces us to see, in the same static canvas, the beginning and the end of our sight.  What starts as an abstract mosaic of color becomes a realistic description.  The painting emerges, not from the paint or the light, but from somewhere inside our mind.  We have entered into the work of art: its strangeness if our own."