Author Archive | Guido Mina di Sospiro

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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The Metaphysics Of Ping-Pong

Table tennis

[Disinfo ed.'s note: The following is an excerpt from the Prelude to The Metaphysics Of Ping-Pong, by Guido Mina di Sospiro, published by Yellow Jersey Press, Random House, and long-listed for the William Hill Sports Book Award 2013.]

During a summer some years ago our friend Rupert Sheldrake — the controversial philosopher of science — his wife Jill and their two boys, Merlin and Cosmos, paid us a visit. I gave the boys rackets and showed them a few strokes. It was instant karma: they were hooked. Back in London, they persuaded their father to buy them a table and he himself has become a player. Every time I went to visit them there were the inevitable ping-pong matches. I’d play for hours with both sons and with Rupert, too. It was fun and, surprisingly, also intellectually stimulating. There was something unusual about the essence of the game that escaped us. Eventually, after some speculative discussions about it, we realized what was intriguing us: the fact that ping-pong is strikingly non-Euclidean.… Read the rest

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Two Takes On ‘New Age’

New age dolphin rainbow

Introduction

In 1928 a brilliant philosopher/logician from Vienna, Rudolf Carnap, published Der logische Aufbau der Welt, The Logical Structure of the World. Ten years before, Ludwig Wittgenstein had conceived his highly cryptic Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, “the last philosophical book.” Carnap—and other exponents of the Vienna Circle—elaborated on Wittengstein’s message. Toward the conclusion of his mentioned work (183.Rationalism?) he inserted:

REFERENCES. Wittgenstein has clearly formulated the proud thesis of omnipotence of rational science as well as the humble insight relative to its importance for practical life: “For an answer that cannot be expressed, the question too cannot be expressed. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered… (…)” Wittgenstein summarizes the import of his treatise in the following words: “What can be said at all, can be said clearly, and whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

That famous aphorism, which concludes the treatise, ought to have been interpreted as a confession of Gnostic humility, not as a “proud thesis of omnipotence of rational science.” All it takes is heeding all the implications of the opus.… Read the rest

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Homegrown Terrorism: How I’ve Lived Through This Before

guidoTerrorism spreads quickly, and is viciously efficient: it takes very little to do a lot of harm. The knowledge of how it developed recently elsewhere, and how it was eventually defeated, can only be of help.

It’s orientation day for foreign students at the University of Southern California, late August 1980. I am assigned a room in a dorm to share with a fellow international student, a Palestinian 300-pounder whose father is “not as powerful as President Carter, but almost.” The first night in the dorm he keeps me up playing “beautiful Arabic tunes” on a recorder because “I like Italians, they’re very nice people; we train them in our camps, you know, the Red Brigades, and others.”

Back to the present.

The Boston Marathon bombings and the events following them have made the prospect of homegrown terrorism become a reality. Although the 21st century has begun with multiple acts of terrorism on an unprecedented scale, it has been perceived all along as a threat that comes from the outside.… Read the rest

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Hands-on Tikal

Embraer 110 Bainderante small twin-turboprop

The Embraer 110 Bainderante doesn’t look exactly brand-new. Later on I’ll read that this small twin-turboprop was last produced in 1990, which means that the one we were flying on was at least 23 years old, though I’d say a few more. The din inside is deafening, so even if I wanted to say some (famous) last words to my wife, she wouldn’t hear them. It’s strange how we shy away from risk at home, wear seatbelts religiously, pay insurance on this and that, but throw all caution to the wind when traveling to exotic places. The thing is, Tikal remains a difficult place to reach, and even when flying in, the airport of Santa Elena is about seventy minutes away by bus from the archeological marvel.

Once inside the minibus a guide tells us that the Petén, the vast region that makes up Northern Guatemala, used to be all jungle, but then was deforested only to find out, after what must have been a herculean task, that the soil was not suitable for farming: too thin, sitting on top of limestone ridges.… Read the rest

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