David Mamet Shorts

A nice collection of three Mamet's shorts by L.A. Theatre. Less profound than his typical long works for the stage and cinema, however these 2 hours were worth it.

I would say that Bobby Gould in Hell is extremely funny, like classic Mamet funny. I would love to see that on stage.

The Reunion was nothing too great – or maybe just not my kinda thing.

And The Shawl was, umm, unexpected. Enjoy!

P.S. I realized L.A. Theatre is available on Russian iTunes at 1/2 of audible price, huh. As much as I love having all on the same platform, greed rules.

 


“Часть Европы. История Российского государства. От истоков до монгольского нашествия” Бориса Акунина

Ну что, товарищи, весьма занимательную non-fiction книжку написал наша совесть и беллетрическая гордость г-н Чхартишвили. Я, как человек не открывавший и не листавший даже ни одного акунинского детектива, зато читавший его Писатель и Самоубийство то ли в конце 90-х, то ли в начале 00-х, по совету IG решил-таки осилить сей новый труд.

Я начал с аудиокниги, вышедшей на litres.ru (и вам советую) – она шла на ура, ибо начало этой истории читается (и слушается) как абсолютный триллер, full of action, интриг и, не знаю, приключений, что ли. Первая половина, ну, примерно до конца царствования Мономаха, на одном дыхании и безумно интересно.

Потом, после середины, когда количество главных героев вдруг стало нарастать в геометрической прогрессии – междоусобица, что тут поделаешь – я немного “сдулся” и стал откладывать книгу в долгий ящик, ибо при перечислении десятков враждующих князьков я начинал теряться и думать о чем-то другом. Пришлось перейти из медиума аудио в бумажный (точнее, электронный и бумажный).

В целом, это весьма полезное, подробное и красочное повествование о России с момента призвания Рюрика и до момента приходы Орды (про Орду будет второй том у Акунина, ждем). Прочитайте, не пожалеете. От истории про Миллера и Ломоносова я просто плакал. Наша родина отжигала во все времена.

Приведу здесь длинную цитату – правообладатели, ответственно заявляю – я это делаю исключительно с целью рецензирования и воистину продвижения вашей книги, нет, я не пират, я купил ее трижды – как аудиокнигу, как ebook, да еще мой папа мне купил бумажную. Вот.

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Всякий раз, когда государственная доктрина ориентировалась на борьбу с «низкопоклонством перед Западом», версия норманнского происхождения русского государства подвергалась суровой критике как антипатриотическая и оскорбительная для самосознания великой нации или даже преступная. Но во времена либеральные, западнические «норманизм» с удовольствием поднимали на щит, ибо эта теория подтверждала тезис об изначально европейской сущности России.

Первый бой государственно мыслящих «антинорманистов» с безыдейными «норманистами» произошел еще в царствие кроткия Елисавет.

Санкт-Петербургская академия наук и художеств решила провести «публичную ассамблею», назначенную на 6 сентября 1749 года – день тезоименитства государыни. Два ученнейших профессора – Герхард Миллер и Михайла Ломоносов должны были приготовить каждый по докладу: первый на латыни, второй на русском. Ломоносов отнесся к парадному мероприятию прагматично – сочинил «Слово похвальное императрице Елизавете Петровне», которое, как и подобает панегирику, было «цветно и приятно, тропами, фигурами, витиеватыми речьми как драгоценными камнями украшено», за что и получил лавры вкупе с высочайшим благоволением. Но историограф Миллер, ученый сухарь, воспринял задание слишком буквально. Он подготовил научный трактат «De origine gentis russicae» («Происхождение народа и имени российского»), где, изучив разные источники, пришел к выводу, что русская держава была создана пришельцами из Скандинавии.

Идея была высказана исключительно не ко времени. Российская держава никак не могла идти от скандинавского корня, потому что отношения со Швецией в тот момент были отвратительные. Многоопытное академическое начальство на всякий случай отменило тезоименитственную «ассамблею», а Миллерову «диссертацию» отправило на экспертизу.

Уже отпечатанный тираж научного труда был уничтожен. Более всех негодовал на автора-немца Ломоносов, написавший в своем отзыве, что сии выводы «российским слушателям досадны и весьма несносны». После этого Михайла Васильевич затеял сам писать «правильную» историю России с похвальной целью обосновать «величество и древность» славянского народа.

Бестактному Миллеру урезали жалованье и понизили из профессоров в адъюнкты.

Двести лет спустя сторонник «норманизма» так легко не отделался бы. В эпоху борьбы с «низкопоклонством перед Западом» возник настоящий культ Ломоносова как истинно русского патриота, самоотверженно сражавшегося с иностранным засильем в отечественной науке. Именем Ломоносова назвали Московский университет, где великому ученому стоит целых два памятника – сидячий и стоячий.


The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard

My weekend flying routine now has two fundamental pillars – a movie when I take off and during the flight, and an audio play when I land and later in the cab. Today, it was Jacques Audiard's De Rouille et D'os and Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.
 
After I got into Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in late 1990s, I have read several Stoppard's plays in English and in Russian, but to my shame, I remember none. So this one, on love, adultery and doubt, I may have read already. Oh well. Not a clue.

Stoppard is quite a good playwrite – however, as compared to my fave contemporary drama author David Mamet, his stuff is much more minimalist-repetitive and it goes at a slower pace. Mamet's 1h40m play feels 2x as short as Stoppard's. Still, it quite a thing. A real thing, huh.

I mean, if Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at twenty-two, the history of music would have been very different. As would the history of aviation, of course.


Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen

When Masha Gessen's new book about Pussy Riot appeared on amazon in January, I bought that in a blink of an eye, but decided – I will hold off reading it till the moment when the audiobook is available as well, so that I can alternate reading and listening – after The Man Without a Face I realized that Gessen's stuff is best taken this way.
 
Great book! The more I read Masha, the more I realize I need to put all her previous books in my to-read list and catch up.
 
Given this is my reading blog, and not my Facebook page, I decided I won't spam it with too much liberal propaganda and atheism. Still, I want to make a few things clear – I am a hardcore atheist, who on top of that loves contemporary art, was always thrilled by all of Voina's actions (these guys rocked Auchan, huh – BTW, a great fiction book on Voina by Valery Panyushkin), and who found the trial of the three girls a complete aberration of law and common sense, coupled with ugly rape of the secular state by the church.
 
Gessen split her book in three parts, and each talks about and symbolizes one thing. Part one, the most interesting for me, is about Art. Short bios of the girls, formation of Voina, their actions and reactions. Voina rocked.
 
Part two, which was most known to me, as I have read court transcripts online as the case was broadcast, should have been called The Witchhunt. I had a long drive ahead of me this weekend, it was night time and lots of rain, the windscreen was dim and foggy – and the narrator's voice from my audiobook reconstructed the horror of the fake soviet style trial, the mockery of Russian justice. It's Miller's The Crucible staged live, with only exception they don't burn the witches alive in the frigging 21st century. Oh, at least that.
 
Part three, I would call it Gulag. Because today's Russian corrective colonies are just that, slave labour and no human rights. And then more slave labour. Also, to piggyback on Sochi toilets with no partitions between seats – well, obviously that's the way Russian jails are built. Surprise, surprise!
 
Anyway, the world has now seen a nice face of Russia, smiling and heavily made up, all shiny in the glittering snow and ice – and this book gives a great overview of the other side of the coin, both in freedom and behind bars, the side where no czar face or two-headed eagle is engraved. And it slowly gets murky, depressing, and heartbreaking. And, of course, it is as real as the gold medals and the new slopes.
 

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

A very well researched and no less well written book about Jeff Bezos, the founder and perennial CEO of amazon.com, that hit the virtual shelves of Amazon just recently, so it's very new and very fresh, an unsortmountable advantage for a business biography – so I hurried to devour it fast in both kindle and audible formats.
 
I never really followed the Amazon stock or story – no, I rather laughed at the sheer craziness of the people who invest in it (today it trades around 600x trailing 12m P/E) – but this book showed me that Bezos was and remains a true visionary behind his business. And I do love that business! Even here in Russia, a country where Amazon is not officially present, I am an avid fan of its products and services.
 
I needed not to go far to understand this – the opportunity, though sad, presented itself – I lost my kindle on a flight last week, amid reading this book, and it sure made me realize how fond I am of it – and iPad kindle app is a poor substitute – though audible.com, an Amazon company, which I re-discovered for myself a month or so ago, helped with a recording that is awesome.
 
In order not to bore my dear readers, I decided to put a short quote at the end of this review – an idea that I like a lot, and that I think is missing from our corporate world today – which is built on the premise that the opposite is holy.
 
Also, at the end of the book, there was the so called Jeff's Reading List, which is a list of a dozen of book recommendations from Bezos himself. Here's a great overview of it on Business Insider, have a look.
 
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At a management offsite in the late 1990s, a team of well-intentioned junior executives stood up before the company’s top brass and gave a presentation on a problem indigenous to all large organizations: the difficulty of coordinating far-flung divisions. The junior executives recommended a variety of different techniques to foster cross-group dialogue and afterward seemed proud of their own ingenuity. Then Jeff Bezos, his face red and the blood vessel in his forehead pulsing, spoke up.

“I understand what you’re saying, but you are completely wrong,” he said. “Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way. We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.”

That confrontation was widely remembered. “Jeff has these aha moments,” says David Risher. “All the blood in his entire body goes to his face. He’s incredibly passionate. If we was a table pounder, he would be pounding the table.”

At the meeting and in public speeches afterward, Bezos vowed to run Amazon with an emphasis on decentralization and independent decision-making. “A hierarchy isn’t responsive enough to change,” he said. “I’m still trying to get people to do occasionally what I ask. And if i was successful, maybe we wouldn’t have the right kind of company.”

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P.S. … and now I am thinking whether to write a short complaint to jeff@amazon.com as the whispernet wireless synch between the book and the audio didn't always work 😉

 

The Proof by David Auburn

Hell, I never knew that this play was so famous, Pulitzer and Tony prize winner and stuff – I just downloaded a random one that seemed ok based on audible.com reviews. Didn't know there's a movie of the same name by John Madden with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anthony Hopkins in it! And the play had Anne Heche and Jeremy Sisto.
 
The first part was rather slow, not too disappointing, but slow – but once the second half kicked in, it was then when I became all ears (audio play, no visuals, huh). And luckily, no math or math jargon involved – even the Enron play had much more special lingo.
 
The way I look at theater recordings now, they're my best pals on the solitary taxi ride from the airport – they're dramatized, and dramatized equals gripping. When the pilot says “Ladies and gentlemen, the plane now starts to descend, and we will be landing in Moscow [VKO/SVO/DME] airport shortly”, that's the moment to switch on a new play, listen to it furtively while the plane lands (I hate airlines' superstitious rules against electronic devices – at least they don't force us to pray, just yet), while I clear border control and customs, and then through the entire taxi ride home – and most likely, it's kinda over around the time I reach my doorstep or a few moments after. Nice, better than listening to some crappy radio.
 

Anthem by Ayn Rand

I just love this short dystopian anticommunist manifesto! It's so full of fresh air.
 
Back several years ago I listened to (not read) Altas Shrugged, and it was amazing. Now, with my renewed interest in audiobooks, I should seize the moment and listen to all of Rand's body of work, I guess – as her words sound much more impressive and powerful when read out loud to you. Well, to me, for I shall not get involved with other men's preferences nor be bound by them 😉
 

I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold.

For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one's choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within man's soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man's torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie.

The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.

What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey?

But I am done with this creed of corruption.

I am done with the monster of “We,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.

And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride.

We have hundreds more books for your enjoyment. Read them all!

This god, this one word:

“I.”