Archive for:May, 2014

Art of the Day: Patrick Süskind’s Perfume (Book Review)

May 24th, 2014

    Perfume by Patrick Süskind. What a riveting novel. I read it in a day, which I can’t remember ever having done before; a breathless binge, gulping chapters and chapters, forgetting to swallow.
     The novel’s about a scent-prodigy, Grenouille, who grows up in Paris in the late 18th century. He’s not only a gifted man, but a supernaturally gifted man, one who can identify odors by even their remotest traces, find them in the dark, and track them expertly through the stenchy, dense heart of the City of Lights circa 1750. Industrious, obsessive, mole-like, Grenouille is forever seeking new scents to experience. He processes everything around him nose-first, like an animal; all other modalities a distant second. He’s also a sociopath of the highest order, from an early age decisively cut off from humanity, from all empathy and fellow feeling, living only through his eerie gift for detecting, tracking, identifying & mixing scent.
     What’s more, he casts no discernible odor himself, which makes this already strange being even more supernatural, alien, wraith-like. Combine Grenouille’s odorlessness with his endless thirst for new scents, for sucking up experience through his nose, and what you have for a protagonist is a kind of scent-vampire (think of the classic description of the vampire casting no reflection in a mirror).
     As the novel unfolds, Grenouille comes more and more into his own, realizing the extent of his powers and how he can use them to achieve greater and ghastlier ends. He stops at nothing to learn all he can about alchemical extraction of scents from matter, willingly enduring an apprenticeship to a washed-up talentless rich perfumer, Baldini, who takes credit for all his new underling-savant’s astonishing creations. Eventually, having fine-tuned his scent-extraction skills under Baldini (whereas his talent for identifying and mixing scents, being already virtuosic beyond measure, needed no further refinement), he realizes the olfactory sense is the most primitive, most direct channel to the brain, and that the way to influence and dominate others to meet his own ends is through nostrils. He will do this by extracting & making use of the rarest, most potent scent of all, regardless of what heinous acts he has to commit to obtain it.  (Read More . . .)

[posted by: C Way at 9:14 PM]

[file under: ART OF THE DAY ||| Literary Arts]

On Metal

May 21st, 2014


       Assorted Metal Covers. Covers from top to bottom: Locrian’s LP “Crystal World”, Mastodon’s LP “The Hunter”, Metallica’s single for “One”, Burzum’s self-titled first LP, Slayer’s “Seasons in the Abyss” LP, Lurker of Chalice’s self-titled LP

      I read a Harper’s article recently by poet Michael Robbins entitled “Destroy Your Safe And Happy Lives” (May 2104 issue). The piece was about the metal music genre, specifically its heavier, darker-themed, louder & faster variants black metal, death metal & thrash metal (hereafter collectively referred to in this piece as “dark metal”). Robbins seeks to situate dark metal’s subject matter & aesthetic within a creative continuum that begins at least with the literary & philosophical tenets of the Romantics. His essay is entertaining, & at times insightful and revealing, but too often feels conflicted and second-guessy about the merits of its subject matter, in the process coming off as somewhat of a lukewarm apologia. The only moments of true clarity & impact come at the end, where Robbins discusses his subject not as a scholar but as a person, as a male who looks back to his youth and feels he can no longer relate to conventional rock.
      I believe a lot of this was planned — it feels like Robbins wanted to acknowledge dark metal’s deficits, connect metal to poets such as Rilke and Blake, & then close strong and make a case for why it has impact: that of heaven-storming aural assault. But it doesn’t quite work. To me, he does too much damage with his frequent dismissals of metal’s histrionics & goofiness, as well as with his unsuccessful attempts to illuminate dark metal by way of stanzas by Milton and Rilke, to leave the reader with a clear idea of why this music is worth paying attention to, or, for that matter, a clear idea of the author’s position (and, mind you, even conflict and indecision can be a position, but in this essay I do not find this to be the case).
      Example: from the very beginning of the essay Robbins juxtaposes a Blake excerpt that includes the line “All that can be annihilated must be annihilated” with a brief imagined description of what the birth of dark metal must have looked like. He next confesses that “[the] two histories probably have no connection besides the one they spark in me”. He’s right, they don’t, except superficially; the de-contextualized Blake line & the long poetic argument it’s a part of both have little, if anything to do with the shallow ranting typical of dark metal lyrics. I appreciate his candor, but by opening his work essentially admitting that his subject doesn’t really objectively belong in the same discussion as what he’s using to elucidate it, he doesn’t really inspire confidence.  (Read More . . .)

[posted by: C Way at 1:52 PM]

[file under: LAUDS ||| Music]

Help Adam Carolla & Podcasters Defend Against Patent Trolls

May 4th, 2014

     Do you know what a patent troll is? A disgusting class of morally-bankrupt lawyer vermin who sniff around buying random patents just so they can bully people they claim are infringing on said patents. The burden of proof in such cases is always on the defendant, and patent trolls, through sheer mafioso intimidation, often win their settlement (since the cost of going to court for defendants is so prohibitively high, patent law being one of the most expensive kinds of litigation out there). One of many sad symptoms of our government’s inability and/or unwillingness to enact meaningful legal reform.
     Here’s the crux: podcasts are in trouble because of these shit-hearted crooks. Adam Carolla, comedian & creator of one of the most popular podcasts on the net, is being sued for millions by patent trolls. Why? Because his comedy podcast presents itself in episodic form. Apparently there’s a patent on presenting podcast media in discrete episodic units (which in itself is a jawdropping absurdity on the order of a word like “box” being copyrighted by FedEx). To provide the actual patent legalese: he’s being sued for using a “system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence”.
     The mere existence of such a patent is scary enough — suggesting a whole intellectual trove of similar hyper-granular patents that could be seized upon and exploited in similar fashion — but what it means for the modern medium of podcasts is scarier yet: everyone would have to pay. A lot. This could cripple podcast ownership and expression as we know it, since most podcasters are small-time artists or entertainers who wouldn’t be able to operate as they do now if the Carolla case goes the way of the patent trolls, and if the patent trolls thereby gain precedent leverage.

     So, whether you hate Carolla or love him, if you consume podcasts or if you are disgusted by patent trolls, learn more about the issue here, and help Carolla out with a donation of any size:
     Thanks for tuning in — Adios!

[posted by: C Way at 9:40 AM]

[file under: Comedic Arts ||| misc ||| SLAGS]