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The Sun Shines & The Igloo Melts

‘Their Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Them’: An Essay and Two Responses


Illustration by Benjamin Urkowitz.

In The Lifted Brow #23, we published Ellena Savage’s column on subjectivity in the essay, ‘Their Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Them’. Shortly afterwards, Sean M Whelan’s spoken word response, ‘How Much Do Your Words Weigh?’, appeared in The Lifted Brow: Digital. Now, we are republishing these two pieces along with Maggie Alden’s ‘Click, Read, React’, a meditation on the nature of reading online.

‘Their Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Them’, by Ellena Savage

Archangel or whore

[she] don’t mind

All the roles

Are lent to [her]

—Laure (Colette Pieignot), [ed. Ellena Savage]

essayer: French, to attempt, to exercise, to test, to experiment.

Michele de Montaigne cannot keep his subject still. “It goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness.” He takes it on this condition, he writes, just as it is at the moment he gives his attention to it. He does not portray being: he portrays passing.

The progenitor of the essay, de Montaigne, wrote his seminal three collections of essays, eventually numbering a thousand pages, across twenty years. During these two decades, he made corrections, additions, and additional contradictions, as his daily experiences altered his outlook on things. He never retracted the originally published text, just attached addendums here and there to mark his ever-evolving perspective. While de Montaigne’s compendiums of personal wisdom were widely circulated in late-Renaissance France, and are now canon for scholars and practitioners of the essay, the texts were more or less ignored by the Anglospheric academies and their philosophers during Montaigne’s life, and long afterward.

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"The social reader reads for phrase, with an urge to distill the piece into aphorism and to pass on the nugget of a phrase that will signal to others, “this is something you should read,” or “this is something to know,” or at the very least, “please know that I am reading this.” It’s partly a kind of narcissism—an urge to find a phrase to project as a reflection of one’s own readerly habits."

Kids Playing In Floodwaters, Jakarta

If you are in Yogyakarta then head along to the Jogja Gallery for the photography exhibition Exiled to Nowhere on the Rohingyas.

The Jakarta Globe has an informative Q&A with the photographer, Greg Constantine.

Further information on the Rohingyas:

The Economist, Communal Violence in Myanmar: When The Lid Blows Off

"In Indonesia, 60 Rohingya approached UNHCR in Indonesia between January and June – a drop of almost 90 per cent compared to the same period last year. By the end of June 2014, there were 951 Rohingya registered with UNHCR, mainly people who arrived in previous years from Malaysia. In the first half of the year, nine boats travelling towards Australia with more than 400 people were intercepted under the government’s Operation Sovereign Borders. Seven were returned to Indonesia. One boat with 41 passengers was returned to Sri Lanka. The 157 people on board another boat that left from India were transferred to Nauru, pending a decision by the Australian High Court on how to process them.

All these developments take place in the context of a very challenging protection environment for refugees in the region. States, including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, are not signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and lack formal legal frameworks for dealing with refugees. Without a legal status they are often at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation under immigration laws. It also makes legal employment impossible and drives many people, including women and children, into exploitative and vulnerable situations.”

More than 20,000 people risk all on Indian Ocean to reach safety: UNHCR report


Jorge Luis Borges

Here’s a fantastic interview with Terry Gilliam, “one of the great cinematic fabulists of our time, architect of magnificently maximalist alternate universes, from the surreal dreamscapes of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to the dirty, juddering dystopias of Brazil and 12 Monkeys, right back to the alarming, bulbous animations he created for Monty Python. In his 1988 film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the titular teller of tall tales puts forward a neat distillation of the Gilliam world-view: ‘Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash, and I’m delighted to say I have no grasp of it whatsoever.’”

Directing was, says Gilliam, always what he wanted to do. His first solo effort, which came out in 1977, was Jabberwocky, a scatological Dark Ages fantasy that had only the loosest connection to the Lewis Carroll poem (it had a monster in it). He was filming at Shepperton when George Lucas was filming Star Wars at Elstree, and the two productions shared crew. “I remember our crew would go some days and work on Star Wars, and come back saying, ‘Jabberwocky’s going to be great; Star Wars, the director doesn’t know what he’s doing.’ They were so proud to be working on Jabberwocky, they wore T-shirts with the name on, until Star Wars came out. Off went the Jabberwocky T-shirts, on with the Star Wars T-shirts.”

The fickleness of Hollywood is a subject you feel Gilliam could expound upon ad infinitum. His struggles with the “middle-range bureaucrats” who run the place have become the stuff of legend, because Gilliam has never been afraid to engage them in battle. In 1985, Universal producer Sid Sheinberg asked him to hack away 50 minutes from Brazil and give it a happy ending. In response, Gilliam took out a full-page advertisement in the trade paper, Variety, reading: “Dear Sid Sheinberg, When are you going to release my movie, Brazil?” Then there was the episode in 2006 when, aggrieved at the lack of marketing support for his film, Tideland, Gilliam wandered the streets wearing a cardboard placard reading: “Studio-less film maker – Family to support – Will direct for food.”

Gilliam used to jet over to Los Angeles to pitch his stories to the studios, but not any more. “I’ve cut my ties, I don’t even have an agent out there,” he says. “I used to go out there with my begging bowl in my hands. And you’d go to these meetings with these executives and you’d get this preamble of five minutes of how much they’ve loved all my films, when they were kids, Time Bandits, it goes on and on. And then you present the new film and they say, ‘Well, I don’t know, I don’t quite get this one.’ And I have to tell them,” he says, wagging his finger, “ Nobody got those other ones either!” Gilliam is still a member of the Academy, and submitted votes for this year’s Oscars: “I just vote for my friends, or do it whimsically, or out of spite in some cases.” —Terry Gilliam interview: ‘If I had stayed in America, I’d be throwing bombs’

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Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea