Sunday, January 31, 2010

Doctors' Reward

As long as they were well and healthy, the Chinese emperors paid their doctors generously. Payment was stopped when the ruler became sick. In that case, the doctors had obviously failed.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Success Formula

Ordinary rape and murder just doesn't make it anymore. It's much better to have ultra-violence, chainsaw massacres, X-rated Draculas, and continents sinking into the sea with the entire population lost, at the very least.

Jon Davidson, New World Pictures, on what makes a good movie

Friday, January 29, 2010


"I have offended God and mankind because my work didn't reach the quality it should have."
Leonardo da Vinci

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Perennial Mistress

Why are we so obsessed with understanding every detail of Anne Boleyn’s rise and fall? It is because her character has archetypal force. The story is of its time and place, but also universal. She is the young fertile beauty who displaces the menopausal wife. She is the mistress whose calculating methods beguile the married man; but in time he sees through her tricks and turns against her. It is the human drama that engages us. Her trial is only patchily documented, but you can make an argument that, in judicial terms, Anne was murdered. In human terms, we see that she has been paid out. Natural justice came for Anne not in the shape of the headsman, but in the shape of Jane Seymour, the sly unnoticed rival who replaced her, within days, as Henry VIII’s third wife.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Honor System

According to a British study, people's honesty depends. In offices with an honor system for coffee, employees are more likely to pay on days when a photograph of human eyes is discreetly posted above the coffee machine. They are more prone to cheat if a still life of daisies is posted there instead - even if they say they are unaware of either picture.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Wall

"He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in this dungeon. I am very busy building this wall all around; and as this wall goes up into the sky day by day I lose sight of my true being in its dark shadow. I take pride in this great wall, and I plaster it with dust and sand lest a least hole should be left in this name; and for all the care I take I lose sight of my true being."
Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Good Advice

"If you want to achieve something, if you want to write a book etc., be sure that the center of your existence is somewhere else and that it’s solidly grounded; only then will you be able to keep your cool and laugh at the attacks that are bound to come.”
Moss Hart

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Dog In The Manger

A dog was lying in a manger on the hay which had been put there for the cattle, and when they came and tried to eat, he growled and snapped at them and wouldn't let them get at their food. "What a selfish beast," said one of them to his companions; "he can't eat himself and yet he won't let those eat who can."

Friday, January 22, 2010

We Are What We Want To Be

"Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions."
Stephen R. Covey

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Playwright's Objective

No matter what you want to achieve as a playwright, you must have one primary objective. You must learn how to elicit emotion. People do not go to a theatre to watch people on stage sing, dance, talk and laugh. They go to have emotional experiences themselves. The goal of every one working in and for the theatre, actually the goal of every one in the entertainment business, is to elicit a positive emotional response in the audience.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."
Thomas Mann

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Distinction

Put a group of writers together for an extended period of time and invariably one will break out of the pack. Some of the others will lament their sour grapes that “there’s virtually no difference between that writer and me. I’m just as talented as he/she.” And they are right. The distinction is infinitesimal. Those who make it have decided to make one small adjustment: They would stop waiting for career validation or help from the Big Guns of the world and immediately be the writer they wanted to be with the career they wanted to have. That is the one change. If I had to start from scratch again I would stop waiting and begin treating my work with the respect it deserves.

Monday, January 18, 2010

An Artist's Prayer

"Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I can accomplish."
Michelangelo (1475-1564)

Sunday, January 17, 2010


A wolf came upon a lamb straying from the flock, and felt some compunction about taking the life of so helpless a creature without some plausible excuse; so he cast about for a grievance and said at last, "Last year, sirrah, you grossly insulted me." "That is impossible, sir," bleated the Lamb, "for I wasn't born then." "Well," retorted the Wolf, "you feed in my pastures." "That cannot be," replied the Lamb, "for I have never yet tasted grass." "You drink from my spring, then," continued the Wolf. "Indeed, sir," said the poor Lamb, "I have never yet drunk anything but my mother's milk." "Well, anyhow," said the Wolf, "I'm not going without my dinner": and he sprang upon the Lamb and devoured it without more ado.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's All An Illusion

Bishop George Berkeley(1685--1753), an Irish philosopher, was the first to prove that there is no such thing as matter at all, that the world consists of nothing but minds and their ideas. In his Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous he takes the side of Philonous who mercilessly drives the matter-believer Hylas into contradictions and paradoxes, and makes his own denial of matter seem, in the end, as if it were almost common sense.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Bridge

The building of the Brooklyn Bridge is the stuff great dramatic stories are made of, and it is also a metaphor. In the years around 1870, when the project was undertaken, the concept of building a suspension bridge to span the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn required a vision and determination comparable to that which went to sending a space craft to the moon. Throughout the fourteen years of its construction, the odds against the successful completion of the bridge seemed staggering. Bodies were crushed and broken, lives lost, political empires fell, and surges of public emotion constantly threatened the project. The Brooklyn Bridge might not have been built had it not been for Emily Roebling, who was determined to complete the work of her husband, Washington Roebling (the Chief Engineer), and her son who both dies during the time of construction. This is not merely the saga of an engineering miracle: it is a sweeping drama of the social climate of the time and of the heroes and rascals who had a hand in either constructing or obstructing the great enterprise.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Launch The Boat

I must launch out my boat. The languid hours pass by on the shore---Alas for me! The spring has done its flowering and taken leave. And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger. The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane the yellow leaves flutter and fall. What emptiness do you gaze upon! Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far-away song floating from the other shore?

Rabindranath Tagore (Translated by C.W. Yeats)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Innocent by Usefulness

Born in 1912, Wernher von Braun came from a conservative Junker family. As a student in Berlin, he fell in with a rather louche group of rocket enthusiasts. In the 1930s, patronage came from the army, which set up a special rocket base on the Baltic Sea, at Peenemünde, where von Braun worked from 1937 until 1945. It was there that he helped to build the A-4 (V-2) missile. Six thousand of these missiles were produced, and about 3,000 were launched against London and Antwerp in the last year of World War II. After the war, von Braun claimed that his main interest had been in space flight all along. His work for the German Army had been an unfortunate necessity because that was where resources could be obtained, and, besides, it was dangerous to resist the Nazi state. In fact, von Braun was very far from being an innocent visionary who took Nazi money in order to pursue his dream. He was a member of the Nazi Party and the SS, and he knew that he was developing weapons at Peenemünde and that the weapons were manufactured by slave labor. He had enough contact with Nazi leaders to understand quite clearly what kind of regime it was, and he helped to persuade Hitler to give top priority to the V-2. Von Braun escaped from justice and moral judgment with the help of the American authorities, who wanted to employ him in the missile and space programs.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grades Of Intelligence

"There are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first kind is excellent, the second good, and the third kind useless."
Niccolo Machiavelli

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flight Security

Since an underwear bomber set fire to himself on a Delta-Northwest flight approaching Detroit from Amsterdam, new security hurdles are being thrown in the paths of fliers. In many cases the measures are ridiculously ineffective, in others they treat all passengers as potential criminals. New scanners are installed that strip them bare, hand luggage shall no longer be allowed in the cabin, passengers must remain seated for one our before touch down. I have a much better idea. After passing the security checkpoint every flier should be hand cuffed, and chained to the seat on the plane.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Crisis? What Crisis?

A bluefin tuna fetched 16.3 million yen ($177,000) in an auction Tuesday at the world's largest wholesale fish market in Japan. The 513-pound (233-kilogram) fish was the priciest since 2001 when a 440-pound (200 kilogram) tuna sold for a record 20.2 million yen ($220,000) at Tokyo's Tsukiji market. Caught off the coast of northern Japan, the big tuna was among 570 put up for auction Tuesday. About 40 percent of the auctioned fish came from abroad, including from Indonesia and Mexico.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


"Everyone has its superstitions. One of mine has always been when I started to go anywhere, or to do anything, never to turn back or to stop until the thing intended was accomplished."
Ulysses S. Grant

Friday, January 8, 2010

Silly Fish

A fisherman skilled in music took his flute and his nets to the seashore. Standing on a projecting rock, he played several tunes in the hope that the fish, attracted by his melody, would of their own accord dance into his net, which he had placed below. At last, having long waited in vain, he laid aside his flute, and casting his net into the sea, made an excellent haul of fish. When he saw them leaping about in the net upon the rock he said: "O you most perverse creatures, when I piped you would not dance, but now that I have ceased you do so merrily."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hats Off To Terry!

Arguably the craziest movie director currently allowed to work in Hollywood is Terry Gilliam. Okay, he will never create something like "Avatar". His fantasies are not exactly "commercial". Lately he gave the world "The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus". It proves again that the man is a little mad and a true genius.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Art vs. Fashion

“I’ve reached an age where I’m two generations past when I was considered avant-garde. I went right from avant-garde to being old hat in five minutes, and you start to feel superannuated. With every new generation, popular art changes. Already there’s a generation that thinks the Beatles are old-fashioned, which I find screamingly funny. The same thing is true of plays and musicals. People need things loud and fast. That’s one of the things that I like about ‘Little Night Music.’ The musical says: Slow down. Slow down and think.Chills go up my spine whenever I hear someone say that a certain musical form is timely or relevant. For me the goal has always been telling a strong, clear story, not being in vogue, and balancing music and lyrics so that orchestrations never overwhelm the story and its words. Too many musicals today lose that.”
Stephen Sondheim

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


You can argue endlessly about books. To rate them like restaurants is utterly inappropriate. Nevertheless I can't help being pleased to see one of my favorite books at number one on the list of "the decade's best books" put up by the intellectual New Yorker's Village Voice. Zach Baron shares my opinion that the late W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz (2001)—published two months before the German author's death in a car accident in England—is a most outstanding work. Through a pastiche of memoir, invention, winding sentences, black-and-white photographs, architectural plans, and reproduced stamps, Sebald revisits the 20th century . The Holocaust is the book's central trauma, but the novel anticipates fresher wounds, too. "Outsize buildings," Sebald wrote a year before 9/11, "cast the shadow of their own destruction before them." Prophecy based on the understanding of the past.

Monday, January 4, 2010


"Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike."
Alexander Hamilton

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Arthur Koestler

“Darkness at Noon”, Arthur Koestler's book on the Stalinist coercion, changed my father's life. After he read it in the late 40's, he broke with the communist party in which he, a fervent anti-fascist, had seen the promise of a new beginning after World War II. I was only six or seven then, but I understood that Arthur Koestler was someone to be respected. Only much later I've learned that my father's hero was an assh... well, he was repugnant. He bullied and raped women, refused to meet his illegitimate daughter, beat his wives (one of which committed suicide). When he was drunk he threw chairs in restaurants and started fights with bystanders. It was easy for him to change his opinions, because the only thing he believed in was his supreme intelligence My father knew and understood that Koestler became a fierce anti-communist, but had no idea that he was paid by the C.I.A. He was a Hungarian jew, but refused any public support for either the Hungarian uprising of 1956 or Israel in the 1967 war. His often demonstrated concern about "humanity" was a thin disguise of his general contempt of humans. Understandably he was contemptuous even of himself. He realized that he was "admired for my brains and detested for my character."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How to win

"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."
Winston Churchill

Friday, January 1, 2010

Facing 2010

Superstition is a belief resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown or trust in magic. It thrives on New Year's Day. Even people who usually laugh it off can't help hoping that some little miracles will make their secret wishes come true. Let's make a New Year's resolution to start living in the flow of life instead of pushing upstream toward an imaginative future!