Scrooby's Musings

Started by Scrooby, March 08, 2022, 12:28:53 AM

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RENI, Guido, Crucifixion of St Peter (1604-05)

The human race : Look how bored the guy at the top looks!

And here we have a colossally common film technique (e.g., Alma throughout Phantom Thread): the guy's face is both light and dark!

In this instance, one wonders why. Theory : he is actually not a terrible human being, but has been tasked with this unhappy assignment. So it's St Peter—or him.


Science tells us that the red and green photoreceptors in our eyes are extremely close in at least two ways :

"The gene that encodes for our green receptor, and the gene that encodes for our red receptor, evolved via a gene duplication. It's likely that they would have originally been almost identical in their sensitivities." James P. Higham, "The red and green specialists: why human colour vision is so odd"

"The molecular genetics of color vision has turned out to be much more complex than originally suspected. This complexity derives in part from the fact that red and green opsin genes are adjacent to one another and they are about 98% identical." Maureen Neitz & Jay Neitz, "Molecular Genetics of Color Vision and Color Vision Defects"

Somehow the Renaissance artists had an inkling of this connection. The red/green combination is a remarkably common color combination of the Renaissance.

Hence, for example :

And so (of course) :


TINTORETTO, Crucifixion (1565), Oil on canvas, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice.
Is it just me or does the light look like wings? The crucified has the last laugh. Genius.


UNKNOWN MASTER, Flemish, Crucifixion (1435-45)

If it isn't the moon, then what is it? A blot on existence? What if we consider it psychologically? Is it something to stare into, for reasons the Reader can theorize on? Or perhaps it's a type of angel approaching? Or the darkness of death approaching? Or something approaching? The abyss arriving to swallow them up? Whatever it is, it's the most strikingly strange image out of the many hundreds I've seen today.

At the very least it can be defined as an anomaly. To make the Spectator uneasy?

Notice the contrast between the circle and the jagged peaks.

Perhaps it's an enigma "simply" to remind the Spectator of the enigma of life and all else?

Could it be the opening of a tunnel in the sky, such as in the Stephen King story "The Langoliers"? Is it something like this :

NBK, 8:04. Driving into the abyss.

It also recalls :

BOSCH, Hieronymus, Triptych of Garden of Earthly Delights (outer wings)



I posted this pic so the topic of today may not end on a down note. A bit of a smile in the midst of seriousness does not have to be a crime; and I am not taking this or any related religious subject lightly. This post is like a "breathing out".


glowing paper


S/Z by Roland Barthes is a colossal work of 20th-century Art Comprehension Scholarship. The entire book is a virtual word-for-word analysis of one very short story by Balzac.

Memories of Thelma Todd

You Made Me Love You (1933). She died of carbon monoxide poisoning when she fell asleep in a car in a garage in 1935.

Powell and Loy : I Love You Again (1940)

Emphasizing the lens.

"water flares"

The whites of the eyes.

The rainbow

Crying for Kubrick?

"Good boy."

and lastly


S/Z by Roland Barthes : an intro to Barthes

"Once the author is removed," writes Barthes in "The Death of the Author", "the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing. Such a conception suits criticism very well, the latter then allotting itself the important task of discovering the Author (or its hypostases : society, history, psyche, liberty) beneath the work : when the Author has been found, the text is 'explained'—victory to the critic. Hence there is no surprise in the fact that, historically, the reign of the Author has also been that of the critic. . . . In the multiplicity of writing, everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered; the structure can be followed, 'run' (like the thread of a stocking) at every point and at every level, but there is nothing beneath : the space of writing is to be ranged over, not pierced; writing ceaselessly posits meaning ceaselessly to evaporate it, carrying out a systematic exemption of meaning. In precisely this way literature (it would be better from now on to say writing), by refusing to assign a 'secret', an ultimate meaning, in the text (and to the world as text), liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity, an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases—reason, science, law."

From his "From Work to Text" : "The text is experienced only in an activity of production."

Some lines from S/Z :

"The goal of literary work is to make the reader no longer a consumer, but a producer of the text."

Otherwise, "the reader is plunged into a kind of idleness. . . . Instead of gaining access to the magic of the signifier, to the pleasure of writing, he is left with no more than the poor freedom either to accept or reject the text : reading is nothing more than a referendum."

"The text is not a thing, we would have a hard time finding it in a bookstore. . . . The text is a perpetual present . . . The text is ourselves writing. . . ."

"Meaning can never take over the absolutely plural text . . . based as it is on the infinity of language."

"Reading is no longer consumption, but play."

All this applies to film.


Barthes : "Rereading, an operation contrary to the commercial and ideological habits of our society, which would have us 'throw away' the story once it has been consumed, so that we can then move on to another story, buy another book, is tolerated only in certain marginal categories of readers (children, old people, and professors). . . . Rereading is here suggested at the outset [of the first reading]. . . . Rereading multiplies the text in its variety and its plurality. . . . Rereading contests the claim which would have us believe that the first reading is a primary reading which we will only, afterwards, have to 'explicate', to intellectualize. . . . Rereading is no longer consumption, but play. . . ."

Jacques Derrida puts it succinctly : "The return to the book is also the abandoning of the book." (i.e., your old understanding of it)

and also says, in Of Grammatology : "The sign is the unity of a heterogeneity."

And all this recalls Nietzsche's "joyful, wilful forgetting."

And back to Barthes : "The text is . . . an irreducible plurality."


Derrida : "By never saying enough, I thereby say too much."


O sun, O moon,
who shine down on our land, our people
bright with grace;
you whom we care for, and who care for us :
hear now our holy song!

Hear the high-reaching art of our children,
these, the pious girls and boys of our land,
who shall sing a song of praise to please you.

Kind light of Inspiration,
who gifts us refining beauty,
or hides it—
may you, the endlessly reborn,
look favourably on us
and on our mighty city!
Bring us new birth easy and fine!
Goddess of fresh life, protect our mothers,
who give our own light back into the world.
Goddess, lead your children!
Nurture our resolution!
Let us bring new excellence
to ourselves.
Let marriage of women and men
yield fruitful and productive substance,
so we may found a ceaseless age of thought
and art, to please our daylight,
and our darkness.
O Truth, you who were sung by Fate
ages ago, and watch over Time and limits,
may you be kind to our kingdom,
and keep us stable all the way to the end.

Horace, Song of the Future (Carmen Saeculare), re-imagined by JSB


1. JSB was the first casualty of Covid censorship in the UK media.

2a. In March 2020, JSB sent emails to all of the UK newspapers, pointing out the moronic response by the UK publishing world, controlled by Bertelsmann (Germany), to the increasing Covid threat.

2b. Artellus Ltd.'s Twitter feed included a series of horrific jokes making light of Covid, a moral monstrosity which literary agent Leslie Gardner (Salman Rushdie's first book; A Clockwork Orange) refused to remove until I acted not with politeness but with strength (the newspaper emails).

2c. In early 2020, Italy was being destroyed by Covid—and check out Artellus' relationship to Italy!

3. At this time, JSB's first breakthrough, after 15 unpublished books and 30 years of working in silence, was about to be published. JSB, therefore, warned Artellus to stop with its silliness, because JSB believed the colossally offensive Twitter rubbish might hurt JSB's book.

4. What happened? One review only. In the history of publishing in 21st-century London, how many books have been reviewed in only one major place? The "London" Review of Books was the sole place of review.

5a. Title of the review? "Ah, how miserable!"

5b. My own words were used against me.

6. "Ah, how miserable!"? An author's first book? A review written by a professor at the University of Pennsylvania? (Emily Wilson) A book review without a single positive word?

7. Since that time, JSB attempted suicide four times.

8. Justice will be served : legally.


Statius, The Achilleid

Outrunning the military of city Lacedaemon,
Prince Alexandros of Troy, with lovely Helen beside him,
had launched his ships onto river Eurotas, and was threading
toward the sea and safety. Nothing more beautiful had he seen
living or unliving than Helen, so he had won her heart,
the now-absconded queen of Lacedaemon. She put her hand
in his as he fled his crime—all according to his mother's
prophecy, dreamed long ago while he had kicked in the womb.
She had seen herself birth a fire that set her city aflame.
(But what man doesn't believe himself able to outwit Fate?)
And so Alexandros made for the sea, and his course for home.

Now Nereid Helle, swimming amid sparkles of sunlight,
unhappy to be in the sea but doomed for eternity
to haunt its waves—so that the Hellespontos itself received
its name from this once-mortal princess—took sight of the many
ships with an interest, then dove down deep into the under.

So soon it was sea-goddess Thetis who rose up through the dark.
(Ah, you parents, you whose predictions are too-often fulfilled!)
She took fright at the oarpaddles frothing in the transparent sea.
The seawaters boiled between the shores of the strait, through which
the Golden Fleece had once come. The fleet's ferment had disarranged
its level surface and disrupted its many mistresses;
so Thetis, with all her many sisters, leapt out of the waves.

When they came into the air, first they shook off the salty spray
from their bodies. Then Thetis spoke : "This fleet seeks to attack me!
They sail toward slaughter, and would put my son in Hades' place.
I understand these signs. What my father warned me is coming true.
Bellona, goddess of death, brings Priam a new daughter-in-law."

From behind her closed eyes Thetis said : "I see a thousand keels
defiling the Ionian Sea, and the Aegean.
Greece united with Atreus won't be satisfaction enough;
they'll also want my son. Soon they'll look across land and sea
to find Achilles—and he will voluntarily follow.

They'll find him by Pelion Mountain, where Chiron once tutored
Jason, and Heracles, and Theseus—and now my Achilles.
Right now I see him in playbattles with the Centaurs as guides,
and he already regards himself as strong as his father,
silly thing. Ah, sadness! for a mother to feel such a fear
for her child! How maddening, that at the first, when the trees
of his homeland were felled and fitted together as seaships
that came our way, I and all my sisters failed to raise up the sea,
and break their sails, and sink these unholy criminals down
in a fathomless storm! It's too late now! The crime has happened!"

So what, sea-goddess Thetis thought to herself, would she do now?

"I will go," she said, "to Zeus—there is nothing else I can do—
and beg him the best way I can—and I'll appeal to his love
for his own mother Rhea, and father—and ask for a storm."

to be continued


Statius, The Achilleid


Thus spoke Thetis, who then shot up like lightning into the heavens.
High Zeus, then, infinite in age and sight, came into view. Though
as spacious as all Time and Space, he yet reduces the size
of his dimensions, to taste of the delights of Creation.
Just now he was returning from the hospitable table
of river Oceanus with a face of sheer contentment :
nectar drawn off from the river-waters had left him relaxed.
His horses skimmed the sea-surface so lightly, hardly any
sea-spray dappled the warm evening air. The mermans haunting
the rocks of the sea sang quietly as the god passed them by.
No storm or wind frustrated his homeward journey.
God, then, coming into the Tyrrhenian Sea, received salute
from seraphim following above and below him. And he
passed Thetis by as if unawares and returned to Olympus.

So sea-goddess Thetis appealed next to Poseidon. He came
to her astride his triple horses, who were equine in chest,
but with fins behind them which wiped out their prints as they galloped
on the deep. And Thetis said :

"O great father! Monarch of the Under! See what misery
they bring to your seas! Criminals fleeing the land now sail
safely ever since Jason shattered the illustricity
of your waves with his thievery! Now another criminal
flees along your routes, the man who chose recklessly on sacred
Ida! Ah! What impious injury to heaven and earth!
And furthermore—to me! Is this how we enjoy our privilege?
Are those two following the rightful ways of Aphrodite?
Or maybe it's ingratitude from Aphrodite, child
of the sea? These ships don't carry the pious, or Theseus!
If any honour is due to you and these waters, drown them!
Or abandon all of your sovereignty over the seas.
What I ask is nothing cruel : allow me to fear for my son.
Prevent a flood of grief from taking me away! Don't think of me
off on a beach somewhere, alone, with my head bowed to the waves,
and the stones of a tomb raised beside me."

Thus did Thetis plead to Poseidon. During all this begging
the goddess had carved up her cheeks with her clawed fingernails.
Now her dazzling face was etched with beads of immortal blood,
and she wildly blocked his horses' way with her bared breasts.

So the Monarch of the Seas pulled up on his reins. Poseidon
invited Thetis sea-goddess into his golden chariot.
Then he began to speak to her in a kind and loving way
while holding her hand, to soothe her. "Those ships will sail by
whether we like it or not, Thetis. I cannot destroy them.
The Fates will have their way and cannot be prevented, even
by gods. We are at their mercy, too."

Poseidon with one hand cleansed the woe from the goddess' face;
the other he dropped on her knee. Poseidon then continued :

"Ages ago Europe and Asia were fated for battle
with bloody hands; and Zeus has allowed it, and so it shall be.
That fleet sails unawares into ten long years of slaughter.
But your son shall gain imperishable glory in the dust
by the Scamander. You shall see sights of his heroism
unmatched by man. Many Trojan mothers he shall leave weeping
for their sons. The grandson of Aeacides shall flood the plain
with blood, and the rivers, too—and a terrible fate awaits
Priam's Hector. Your Achilles will even tear down the walls
I built there!—and the ancient Ilium shall go up in flames."

Thus he spoke. Thetis then lightly lifted his hand from her knee.
The god saw her face glowing fresh and smooth again, and he said :

"Men all over shall believe your Achilles no son of man,
but of Zeus. And your grief won't go unanswered. You will use my
waters—I shall let you—to bring that fleet there to the bottom
of the sea. When the time comes and Cape Caphereus ignites
its lights, the homeward ships will wreck themselves on the rocks, and we
will pass no little time in terrorizing Odysseus."


The god had spoken, and the lowered eyes of Thetis goddess
showed her misfortune at the rejection. She had been hoping
to scuttle the criminal ships threading through the Hellespont,
but it was not to be. So her thoughts turned to something other.

With three long sad thoughtful strokes she swam across the Aegean
and came to Haemonia, place of magic. Her naked feet
stepped up out of the foam and onto the land of ancient Greece.
The Hills of Cynoscephalae raised their heads in happiness
to see her; while many caverns broadened, like a smile,
to invite her in. Delightedly the Sperchios River
hugged her ankles when she stepped in its fresh-water stream. Thetis,
though, took no joy in the place. With her heart and mind in distress,
the goddess, hoping desperation might give her eloquence,
sought out the reverend tutor Chiron. Reaching his dwelling
required an arduous journey up a steep mountainside
through difficult and unpleasant terrain, to find the one cave
opening that led to his vast dwelling inside, on whose roof
rested the entire summit and tip of Pelion Mountain.
Part was hollowed out by hand, part cracked wide by decaying age.
Signa and couches of the gods furnished the interior—
these ornaments distinguished the spots where each Olympian
had excavated the rock. The Centaur's home comprised a network
of many airy caves. Unlike his violent brother Centaurs,
here the many spear-points were clean of human blood, and no shafts
had fractured during drunken warplay. Not one mixing-bowl here
had been flung at a brother during a feast. Here, the quivers
hung neatly on pegs in open spaces softened by many
animal skins. All these weapons, long retired from service,
memorialized his youth. These days he went around unarmed,
and worked at researching his herbs that gave medicinal care
to spirits hanging in the balance; or he strummed his lyre
and sang of ancient heroes as instruction to his student.

Now the cave went dim, and goddess Thetis turned to see Chrion
standing four-footed at the threshold, the half-horse, half-human
Centaur, now a looming shadow, blocking the only way out.
But he stepped forward with a smile, and invited her in
(though she stood inside already), and he took her hand in his,
courteously. And while overjoyed at the sight of her,
his shoulders sank at the thought of his crude dwelling in her eyes,
and he warned her of the unsteady places of his cavern.
Then the dignified healer bent to his hearth. He brightened things
with a fire, and began preparing a meal; and Thetis
sea-goddess began to speak, saying :

"Chiron! Where is my child? And tell me since when does the boy
live apart from you for any length of time? Old friend, tell me this!
Shall a mother ignore the signs in her nightmares, breathed into
her mind from the gods, inspiring many terrors? Sometimes
I see sword-points piercing my womb from the inside out; sometimes
fears overcome me like wild animals tearing my breasts.
Even under water I wring my hands dry with lamentation.
Worse horror—In my dreams I see myself bearing my own son
down into Hades and drenching him in the waters of the Styx.

Now I have more secrets to tell you. The old man of the sea
instructs me to purify my son in a rite by the shores
of Oceanus, if I am to undo my fears. I'm to stand facing the west
and its unknown waters warmed by the declining stars at dawn.
There we must make terrible sacrifices—gifts to unknown gods.
But to say it all would take ages; and I am forbidden
to speak of it anyway. Just tell me where to find my son."

Thus spoke Thetis, weaving a fabricated tale for Chiron.
For how could she tell him she planned to dress her son in girls' clothes?

to be continued


Phantom Thread and ancient Greece

Your tireless author has written at length on PTA and the ancient Greeks ("Sophocles and Phantom Thread") and now look. At 5:43, Woodcock looks for all the world as if drinking from an ancient Greek kylix (κύλιξ). Then at 5:48 Cyril is framed as if by symmetrical Greek columns.