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Posts Tagged ‘Ricky Jay

“No high-minded man, no man of right feeling, can contemplate the lumbering and slovenly lying of the present day without grieving to see a noble art so prostituted”*…

 

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“Joesph’s Tunic” by Velasquez (in which Joseph’s sons lie to him…)

On the sad occasion of the passing of scholar, showman, and sleight-of-hand expert nonpareil Ricky Jay, your correspondent revisited this 2009 interview, conducted by another remarkable, filmmaker Errol Morris in the late, lamented New York Times‘ Opinionator blog….

We think we know what a lie is, but the moment we try to define it, we run into trouble. Take the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary. (A dictionary definition in an essay should be seen as a red flag, or at the very least, an amber cautionary light, but please bear with me.) According to the O.E.D., a lie is “a false statement made with intent to deceive.” The O.E.D. complicates matters by telling us that to deceive is “to cause to believe what is false, to mislead as to a matter of fact, to lead into error” [emphasis mine] [6]. It also tells us that “in modern use, the word [“lie”] is normally a violent expression of moral reprobation, which in polite conversation tends to be avoided, the synonyms falsehood and untruth being often substituted as relatively euphemistic.” This is where the trouble begins. Are “falsehood” and “untruth” really synonyms for a “lie?” Is lying an attempt merely to mislead or an attempt to get someone to believe that which is false? Or is lying used in two different ways? Here, I believe the O.E.D. is merely reinforcing a standard confusion. I would argue that all that is needed for lying are beliefs about what is true or false — not knowledge of what is true or false.

The fact that there are these two senses of lying gets us into trouble. When we focus on intent, the goal of lying seems utterly clear. When we focus on truth and falsity, we are often led into error…

Read it and reap: “Seven Lies About Lying, Part One and Part Two.”

* Mark Twain, “On the Decay of the Art of Lying”

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As we think about trickery, we might send mannerly birthday greetings to a master of the sly deception and the flattering white lie, Baldassare Castiglione; he was born on this date in 1478.  A Renaissance soldier, diplomat, and author, he is most famous for The Book of the Courtier.– a prime example of the courtesy book, offering advice on and dealing with questions of the etiquette and morality of the courtier– which was enormously influential in 16th century European court circles.

Raphael’s portrait of Baldassare Castiglione

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Written by LW

December 6, 2018 at 1:01 am

“The most beautiful sight in a… theater is to walk down to the front, turn around, and look at the light from the screen reflected on the upturned faces of the members of the audience”*…

 

The magic lantern was basically a seventeenth-century slide projector: a light source (a candle), an image (a piece of painted glass), and a lens. It was an ever-evolving object, and revolutionized the way pictures were seen by an audience. It is often called a precursor to cinema, but it might better be characterized as an enabler that paved the way for film and gave rise to its own powerful visual culture. Many technical devices that explored projected imagery and the persistence of vision are sought, researched, and discussed by lantern aficionados…

The remarkable Ricky Jay [see here and here] remembers two departed friends, and ruminates on the lost art that paved the way for motion pictures even as it created a visual culture all its own: “Farewell to Two Masters of the Magic Lantern.”

* Gene Siskel, quoting Robert Ebert’s report of an observation by François Truffaut

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As we accede to awe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon was released by United Artists.  Directed by Billy Wilder [see here], the film is widely considered the funniest comedy ever made (e.g., on the AFI’s list of 100 Greatest Films and the BBC’s poll of film critics around the world).

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Oh, and of course, it also featured Marilyn Monroe singing…

 

Written by LW

March 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Miniature is one of the refuges of greatness”*…

 

Detail from a self-portrait by Matthias Buchinger, 1724; his hair consists of seven Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer. Click here for larger image.

Matthias Buchinger… was born without hands or feet in Nuremberg in 1674 and never grew beyond the height of twenty-nine inches. [Buchinger had phocomelia, an extremely rare congenital disorder that was in the news in the last century as it can also be caused by a pregnant mother’s use of Thalidamide, a drug then prescribed against morning sickness.] An itinerant magician, musician, writing master, and artist active in Britain and the Continent, Buchinger combined a Grub Street readiness to produce fancy illustrated documents on demand (family trees, coats of arms, wedding announcements, and the like) with a Germanic piety so that, by some wizardry, curls of hair turn into threads of minuscule sentences from the Bible, and sturdy capital letters sprout leaves and tendrils.

Buchinger died at sixty-five, having outlived three of his four wives and fathered fourteen children. His wondrous powers have been a longtime obsession of the magician and writer-savant Ricky Jay, who has collected some fifty examples of Buchinger’s baroque work, from engraved self-portraits framed with his characteristic arabesques and curlicues to spiraling texts that would fit on a thumbnail…

“Matthias Buchinger, a phocomelic.” Etching.

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Read more at “Mystery in Miniature,” and see Jay’s collection on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through April 11.

* Gaston Bachelard

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As we marvel at the minuscule, we might send dreamy birthday greetings to Buchinger’s “yang,” Colin Campbell Cooper, Jr.; he was born on this date in 1856.  A seminal American Impressionist, Cooper is perhaps best known for his paintings of skyscrapers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

“Hudson River Waterfront, N.Y.C.”

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“Self-Portrait”

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Written by LW

March 8, 2016 at 1:01 am

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