Wednesday, May 6, 2009

behaviorism, lethe and a week of wonders

Three things:
1. I find the language of Skinner's Behaviorism to be excessively arid.
2. If you haven't seen Valerie a týden divu (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders), Jaromil Jireš' Czech New Wave masterpiece, then you should make a point to post haste.
Inspired by fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red-Riding Hood, "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a surreal tale in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world. (an essential Eastern European hallucinogenic-baroque-witch-flick)
The soundtrack, recorded by Luboš Fišer in 1970, is a gorgeous confection of bombastic fairy tale Gothic folk tunes: bells (from glockenspiel to church bells) and whips and music boxes all clustered in claustrophobic collage. I haven't heard anything else quite like it, and listening to the tracks closely (as opposed to enjoying the pleasant bizarrerie of the music alongside the film) I appreciate Fišer's deliberation in crafting something that is at once so ensorcelling and terrifying and playful. And while I often find this kind of music too disjointed or distracting to enjoy as casual listening, I've found myself letting Valerie loop a few times with no ill effect, except for, perhaps, the occasional sensation of Victorian goblins fumbling around in the rafters. Which isn't an awful thing per se.

3. Now this, for a friend...
Oblivion! is it not one name of death?
Nay, is not Lethe death's most dismal name,
Death growing hour by hour within our frame,
Death settling slowly in our brain, the breath
Of the soul ebbing, so that he who saith,
I am to-day as yesterday the same,
Lies, for his thoughts are fled like smoke from flame,
And like the dew his sorrow vanisheth.
Changed is the river, though the waves remain,
Which rocks of slowlier-changing circumstance
Plough up in every day of chafing foam.
Changed is the river, gone, gone to the main,
Yesterday's dream and last year's happy chance,
And the heart's thoughts again return not home. -John Barlas


1 oz absinthe
1 oz apple schnapps
3/4 oz raspberry (framboise) brandy
1/4 oz Kirschwasser cherry brandy
Pour into an old-fashioned glass filled with broken ice. Garnish with a twist of lime, and serve with a maudlin sigh.

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