Author Archive | Guido Mina di Sospiro

Revolutionaries of the Soul

soulIn western societies, the canon is the greatest ally to social conditioning and nation-building. Schools and media echo it with great alacrity. There are even prizes, ranging from local to international (and very prestigious, as well as remunerative), assigned to sundry representatives of the canon. The significance of such prizes is twofold: further to establish and divulge the canon, and to enroll clever minds in its service. The resulting world is deceptively varied but in fact univocal. Most of us are led to believe that that’s all there is and, often, believe it we do. Then, one day, some of us stumble on something that seems completely extra-canonical. We either dismiss it as sheer nonsense or, to our surprise, we are attracted to it—and the doors of a whole new world are swung open.

Gary Lachman’s Revolutionaries of the Soul: Reflections on Magicians, Philosophers, and Occultists is just the sort of book that those of you who have overdosed on the platitudes so incessantly dished out by the canon-enforcers will enjoy reading.… Read the rest

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A New Music, with Birds, Whales and Cicadas as Guest Stars

Music should not be heard, but listened to. Everywhere we go, there is music. It’s become such a widespread phenomenon, we hardly notice it any longer. It’s similar to cigarette–smoking in public places: some decades ago, it was such a common occurrence, nobody noticed it—except our eyes, throats, and lungs. Laws have been passed since, and smoking has been banned from public places. At times I wish piped music were banned from public places too. Everywhere we go, we are assailed by music we didn’t ask to hear and we normally don’t care for. It gets in the way both of thinking and of carrying on a conversation. It’s an instance of acoustic pollution. One of its by-products is that we now take music for granted, when music is one of the most marvelous things we humans can produce and/or listen to.

Timothy Hill, Pauline Oliveros, David Rothenberg; photo by Stenie Mina di Sospiro, 2014

Photo by Stenie Mina di Sospiro; from Left to right: Timothy Hill, Pauline Oliveros, David Rothenberg.

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Children and the Great Blur

Boy 1900 hgAll children suffer when they are born to varying degrees. This is no pessimistic life-is-an-illness-with-a-terrible-diagnonis-because-its-outcome-cannot-be-but-fatal rigmarole. Far from it; however, only occasionally childbirth is an entirely smooth process, and psychologists of all schools cannot stop telling parents how important it is to reassure the newborn immediately, to establish the “bond” with the mother, etc., etc. It must be owned that there is a sharp contrast between the liquid womb environment and the outer, dry world of sharp lights and loud sounds. Childbirth can indeed be seen as, or actually be, a trauma.

At any rate, after a successful delivery—let us assume it is a vaginal one, the labor has been brief and the pregnancy as devoid as the delivery of any complications—the infant is in a state which could be defined, if somebody cared to be frank about it, catatonic. It will take months for the infant to start crawling. Later on, the upright posture will be a hard-won conquest.… Read the rest

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A Disconcerting Concert: Animus and Anima in Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto

BeethovenMusicologists maintain that, in the history of classical music, the symphony and the sonata are the more ambitious form of composition. In effect, the concerto for one or more instruments and orchestra is inevitably more theatrical, often promoting, rather than music per se, vacuous virtuosity. But Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto for piano and orchestra elevates the generally facile juxtaposition between soloist and orchestra to an accomplished integration of Animus and Anima, sun and moon, the two opposing elements of the universe in a triumphantly réussi instance of coniunctio oppositorum.

The following — whose style is intended as a tribute to Hector Berlioz’s A Critical Study of Beethoven’s Symphonies — should encourage the reader to go back to the source, i.e., the concerto itself, whether it be the first time you listen to it, or the umpteenth.

Beethoven’s Klavierkonzert No. 5 [Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major Op. 73 (“Emperor”)] is the prototype of concerting perfection.… Read the rest

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The Importance of Living: Lin Yutang Meets the Dude – An Esoteric Take on ‘The Big Lebowski,’ Part 2

[Readers may wish to read An Esoteric Take on The Big Lebowski prior to reading this post]
Razzle, dazzle, drazzle, drone, time for this one to come home
Razzle, dazzle, drazzle, die, time for this one to come alive
And hold my life until I’m ready to use it
Hold my life because I just might lose it
Because I just might lose it
Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang

– from Paul Westerberg’s Hold My Life

There are a few works out there, be they novels, movies or even pieces of music, that manage to make the esoteric, exoteric. Such works rarely surface, though, because the shallow machinery of the publishing, movie and music industry is mostly allergic to them. As I was re-reading Lin Yutang’s masterwork, The Importance of Living, I found so many passages that seem custom-made for the Dude, the now-legendary leading character in the Coen Brothers’ film The Big Lebowski, that I thought it might be fun to explore the points of departure and arrival of both works, in tandem.Read the rest

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An Esoteric Take on The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski

More than a movie The Big Lebowski is the kind of miracle that, more rarely than occasionally, slips through the cracks of the Hollywood machinery. That’s because the Coen Brothers’ previous film, Fargo, earned seven Academy Nominations and won two, for best original screenplay and best actress in a leading role, Frances McDormand, incidentally Joel Coen’s wife. So, with a lot more clout behind them, the Coen Brothers embarked on their next project, The Big Lebowski, in which the leading role of the Dude is sublimely played by Jeff Bridges. The Dude, by the way, was inspired by a real man, Jeff Dowd, a publicist who helped the Coen Brothers in launching Blood Simple, their first film.

In the Dude we find the archetype of the slacker, i.e, according to the definition in the dictionary,  an educated young person who is antimaterialistic, purposeless, apathetic, and usually works in a dead-end job.… Read the rest

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A Viable, Contemporary Neopaganism

“So if I want Mexicans to learn the name of Quetzalcoatl, it is because I want them to speak with the tongues of their own blood. I wish the Teutonic world would once more think in terms of Thor and Wotan, and the tree Igdrasil. And I wish the Druidic world would see, honestly, that in the mistletoe is their mystery, and that they themselves are the Tuatha De Danaan, alive, but submerged. And a new Hermes should come back to the Mediterranean, and a new Ashtarot to Tunis; and Mithras again to Persia, and Brahama unbroken to India, and the oldest of dragons to China.”
—D.H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent
Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Photo: Jiuguang Wang (CC)

Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, Zaragoza, Aragon, Spain. Photo: Jiuguang Wang (CC)

 

As early as in 1968, Alain de Benoist founded in France the Groupement de recherche et d’études pour la civilisation européenne, a ethnonationalist think-tank that rejected Christianity and advocated a return to Paganism.… Read the rest

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Lone Survivor—And Who Was Doing the Thinking That Fateful Time?

navy sealsThis is not a review of Lone Survivor, a competent war movie—minus one major detail that needs to be stated: the film is shot in New Mexico, on the assumption that none of us have ever visited the state and it will, therefore, be a perfect stand-in for Afghanistan. Having been to New Mexico twice, and recognizing the place within minutes, I had trouble in suspending disbelief. But never mind that: Hollywood’s permanent assumption is that moviegoers are far from discerning so, enough said. The problem stems from the story itself, if it is faithful to the events as they occurred in actuality.

During the War in Afghanistan, a highly trained four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance and surveillance team is dropped from a helicopter via fastrope in a saddle between two mountains. Their mission is to observe an Area of Interest, looking in particular for the commander of a group of fighters, Ahmad Shah.… Read the rest

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‘The Great Beauty': High Culture Without the Highbrowness

The Great BeautyYears ago, while a student at USC’s Cinema Production Department, I took a class taught by Arthur Knight, whose The Liveliest Art: A Panoramic History of the Movies was a standard textbook at colleges and universities all over the world. In it he argued that cinema was the liveliest art because it incorporated all arts. It’s a notion that was dear and sacrosanct to all of us cinephiles. For centuries it was cathedrals that incorporated all arts; then it was opera; in the 20th century, supposedly, cinema. Nowadays that’s hardly the case. Hollywood blockbusters are made for the PG-13 audience, except for a few “serious” movies that aim at Academy Awards recognition and, under the pretense of being socially or culturally relevant, are generally platitudinous. Then there are the inevitably marginal “independent” movies that, far from incorporating all arts, are minimalistic not only in production values but above all in content.… Read the rest

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All Is Lost—And Who Was Doing the Thinking?

All_is_Lost_posterWarning: This article contains spoilers.

The film All Is Lost has been released to unanimously raving reviews. Critics are greatly satisfied with both the film itself and Mr. Redford’s performance, which is wonderful since he is the one and only actor in it. A seasoned gentleman leisurely crossing the Indian Ocean all by himself on an elegant sailboat faces a number of contretemps. Things go from bad to worse until he’s forced to abandon ship and board the lifeboat. More tribulations await him there.

It’s a good man-versus-the-elements yarn, and I found myself rooting for the mariner (we never get to know his name) because, as a fellow human being, I certainly wouldn’t like to be in his predicament. Having said that, my rooting for the mariner wasn’t nearly as wholehearted as it should have been, because a simple but essential detail kept nagging at me.

Years ago, while doing research for a novel of mine, Leeward & Windward, I studied a book by Don Biggs entitled Survival AfloatHow to Prevent Disasters on the WaterOr Survive if One Occurs, copyrighted in 1976 and published presumably then (there is no release date in my copy).… Read the rest

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