Category Archives: Uncategorized

Philosophia becoming falsafa …

In Aristote au mont Saint-Michel[1] (2008) Sylvain Gouguenheim claims that it was not so much the Islamic Golden Age which transmitted our Greek heritage, but Nestorian Christians such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq and translators such as James of Venice.

In a telling passage (above) Gouguenheim says:

“Des chrétiens ont ainsi forgé, de A à Z, le vocabulaire scientifique arabe. Telle fut notamment l’oeuvre de Hunayn ibn Ishaq (809-873), le véritable créateur de la terminologie médicale arabe, dont le génie consista non seulement à décalquer des mots grecs et à les «arabiser» en leur donnant une sonorité arabe (philosophia devenant falsafa) …”.
“Thus Christians have forged the Arab scientific vocabulary from A to Z. That was the nature of the work of Hunayn ibn Ishaq (809-873), the true creator of Arab medical terminology, whose genius not only consisted in the calquing of Greek words and to “arabize” them by giving them an Arabic sound (philosophia becoming falsafa) … “

And elsewhere:

“La conclusion est claire : l’Orient musulman doit presque tout à l’Orient chrétien. Et c’est cette dette que l’on passe souvent sous silence de nos jours, tant dans le monde musulman que dans le monde occidental.”
“The conclusion is clear: the Muslim East owes almost everything to the Christian East, and it is this debt that is often overlooked today, both in the Muslim world and in the Western world.”

Translations are mine.

“Places that cannot be left” (2)

Furthering my previous post on “places that cannot be left” (“The Captives of Longjumeau” and The Exterminating Angel), I remembered the book Krabat which I read as a child, about a young boy who winds up in a mill from which it is impossible to escape. Everyone who tries to run away wades through swamps all night, only to find himself (at dawn) back at the gates of that very same mill.

And by coincidence, yesterday, I watched the absurdist/surreal film Woman in the Dunes. Its male protagonist is trapped by local villagers into living with a woman whose life task is shoveling sand for them.

It’s an excellent film, one of my World Cinema Classics.

P.S. : I cancelled my cable and bought this gadget, Google ChromeCast, which allows you to play YouTube films from your smartphone or PC.

“Places that cannot be left” and other tropes of the fantastique

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Borges’ “Kafka and His Precursors” mentions Léon Bloy’s story “The Captives of Longjumeau“, which, in the words of Borges “relates the case of some people who posses all manner of globes, atlases, railroad guides and trunks, but who die without ever having managed to leave their home town”.

This reminded me of Luis Buñuel‘s film The Exterminating Angel, in which the guests of a posh dinner party are, for some inexplicable reason, psychologically, but not physically, trapped in a house.

Wondering if someone else had noticed the similarity between these two plotlines, I googled “The Captives of Longjumeau” and “The Exterminating Angel” and found A Reading Diary, a book by Alberto Manguel which lists fiction in which “time is suspended”, where “places cannot be left” (what I was looking for) and the opposite, “places cannot be reached.”

Catch the Beat: The best of Soul Underground 1987-91

Catch the Beat: The best of Soul Underground 1987-91

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Dave Lubich[1] of Soul Underground[2] was kind enough to send me a copy of Catch the Beat: The best of Soul Underground 1987-91 (2010). This 440-page book contains a selection of features, interviews, charts and news stories from each of Soul Underground’s 38 issues.

The book is a blast for lovers of black music and electronic dance music.

I especially like the charts.

Dave Lubich first came to my attention when he wrote ” Too Blind To See It: Discovering The Roots Of House Music”[3] an excellent article on homophobia in black music.

Sniper cinema

Both The Phantom of Liberty (Luis Buñuel, 1974) and God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976) feature a scene in which a sniper shoots innocent strangers from a highrise. Both scenes are probably inspired by Charles Whitman‘s spree killing in Texas in 1966.

In Buñuel’s film, the sniper randomly kills people in the Parisian streets below.

Phantom of Liberty as featured in Blixa Bargeld’s cover of “Soul Desert“, sniper scene starts at 0:42

In Cohen’s film, the sniper is perched on a water tower in New York and opens fire on the crowded streets below, killing fifteen pedestrians.

God Told Me To, the sniper scene starts at 1:26

See stranger killing by snipers in seventies cinema.

The Loving Trap

I recently met a woman who is into conspiracy theories. I’m not fond of conspiracy theories (think the Zeitgeist rubbish). Why invent injustice when the world is riddled with very real injustice already? By coincidence (or was it? haha) a week later, I stumbled upon “Living in an Unreal World[below] by famed and brilliant documentary maker Adam Curtis, whose The Trap,The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares I had seen and admired. So I decided to check some of his more recent work.

And so it came about that yesterday I watched Bitter Lake and for the first time I was disappointed by Curtis’ work. It struck me as a conspiracy theory film lacking a culprit. Arty and well executed, but a conspiracy theory nonetheless.

So I googled “conspiracy theory” and “Adam Curtis” and found “The Loving Trap[above], a Bitter Lake spoof by a certain Ben Woodhams who described Bitter Lake as the ‘televisual equivalent of a drunken late night Wikipedia binge with pretension for narrative coherence’.

I see Woodhams’ point but remain a loving fan of Curtis’ work.

Klimt and Loos

While researching Gustav Klimt, I thought it was a good idea to watch the film Klimt (2006). It’s a truly silly film, take for example the scene where Gustav Klimt smears a piece of cake in the face of Adolf Loos to solve a dispute over ornament:

Gustav Klimt, responding to Loos’s claim that ornament is crime and having covered the face of Loos in cake:

“What you were just saying is merely ornamental.
Therefore it’s useless and therefore it’s ugly.
However this cake has allowed me to shut your mouth.
Therefore it’s useful, it’s expressive, and above all it’s beautiful.”


“You, Herr Klimt, I forgive.
And you know why I forgive you?
Because at least your paintings are sexual, as all art should be.
The crucifixion for example.
Now what could be more sexual than the crucifixion?”

I’m not sure Loos and Klimt met. But I’m quite certain Loos would not have allowed to be pied like that.