Orson Welles, Volume 3: One-Man Band’ by Simon Callow

‘Orson Welles, Volume 3: One-Man Band’, by Simon Callow
Review by Christopher Silvester

One-Man Band shares its title with that of an unfinished Welles documentary film, a series of comic segments about life in Britain filmed between 1968 and 1971, and aptly evokes his career-long battle for freedom from studio control. This battle brought chaos, but a chaos that for his biographer “was often invigorating, life-affirming, liberating — even necessary”. Welles is best understood, Callow argues, not as a frustrated director who worked in that role far too infrequently but as a Romantic artist, “a force of nature, ablaze with energy”, unceasingly experimental, “always trying to storm the citadel of creativity” http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ee00d138-990e-11e5-9228-87e603d47bdc.html

Marshall McLuhan Speaks Special Collection: Television News Is a New Mythic Form

Concept: Television news is a new mythic form
[Wolfe]I think a hundred years from now historians, that’s assuming that the Chinese will have any interest our character or history, won’t look at the 1960s in the case of, say, the United States as the era of the war in Vietnam, of the moon shot or anything of that sort. I think it will be looked at in terms of what you refer to as the ground has changed, the way people have changed the their ways of living.
[McLuhan]We used to concentrate on figures and now the ground itself has become figure. The area of attention has shifted from the older characters to the ground. Now that includes audience. The audience has now become actor. Don’t you think this is a tendency as a result of developments in our time?
[Wolfe]Well, certainly Woodstock was a perfect example of it. Woodstock is probably the great, typical event of our times because …
[McLuhan]Instant city.
[Wolfe]It was set up. From the very beginning there was going to be a movie made of Woodstock. As it started out every one of us were paying our eighteen dollars for the weekend. Gradually, so many people came, they just abandoned that and let them all come in. But actually they should have paid them all eighteen dollars asthey came in because they became the show.
[McLuhan]Consider in that regard what we call coverage. Coverage now is no longer just on a single individual but on a whole complex action. In turn, don’t you think that in both Vietnam and in the North of Ireland that the audience wants to get into the action, that the coverage encourages the audience to get into the action? I have been told by reporters from the North of Ireland that when the news is not on, and the cameras are ready to go, the public is all out in the streets ready to go into action as soon as the cameras are.
[Wolfe]Yes, that’s marvelous.
[McLuhan]They all retire inside to watch the news, and then come outside to participate in covering the news and in acting it out themselves. Now I think the difference between hired actors and the public itself is tending to merge. This kind of unexpected flip happened in the Eichmann trial. The coverage pushes up the figure dramatically into heroic dimensions but at the same time involves the audience so completely in the process of his action that it begins to feel far more guilty than he did. He appears merely as a person carrying out orders – the orders of the community. He was a welladjusted, nice guy who was doing what had to be done, according to the audience command, the audience being so involved in this process that it now begins to feel like a villain. Therefore, they want to cut that show right out of their lives.
[Wolfe]Do you think this explains the really strange fascination that Arthur Bremer had with Sirhan Sirhan? Bremer obviously looked at Sirhan as some kind of heroic figure. He wasn’t this poor, helpless, useless human being who had done this desperate thing, certainly not in Arthur Bremer’s eyes.
[McLuhan]No, and again, he had made the news. Sirhan had made the news. Now this you can take in every sense of the word as having gotten into the news, having been created into a vast figure by the news. “Making the news” is a very strange phrase, but the media themselves can now create events that are so much bigger than people, so much bigger than the audience, that it really is a new mythic form.
[Wolfe]I would really like to run down a checklist of all the predictions you made six years ago that people thought were absolutely crazy that have come true.
[McLuhan]I’ve always been very careful never to predict anything that had not already happened. The future is not what it used to be.


Cathay: Ezra Pound’s re-imagination of Chinese Poetry by Kerry Brown

Cathay: Ezra Pound’s re-imagination of Chinese Poetry
This slim volume, born from an accidental discovery, set the tone for modern translations of Chinese poetry into English
By Kerry Brown

This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the first publication of Ezra Pound’s slender volume of oriental poems, Cathay. While the collection does not have the fame of his epic lifelong work, Cantos, it ranks highly among modern fusion poetry that blends in two different literary traditions.
Pound never claimed to be fluent in Chinese, writes Ira Nadel in his introduction, although in the last decades of his life he did study Confucius’s Analects with a dictionary by his side. He used Chinese characters in his work, but Pound’s view from early on was that Chinese ideograms or characters, and the culture they represented, had primarily an aesthetic appeal.
The translations, which he based his own works on, came from the work of Ernest Fenollosa, an early Orientalist who mostly used Japanese renditions of classical Chinese works. Cathay is, therefore, a double mediation—a work based on another body of work which itself was derivative — rather than directly linked to the source material.
Pound was criticized for this remoteness once Cathay was published. But in the intervening hundred years, the consensus remains that he did manage to capture something of the spirit and deeper meaning of the Chinese texts.
Pound made a major contribution to the modern western concept of “the Orient”, a place of otherness, with a different tempo and emotional register to European or American cultures. He described the dominant feelings of being lost and the sense of solitude within his imagined Orient. “The River Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” is the most celebrated of this genre, with its tale of “two small people, without dislike or suspicion” who marry at 14, get separated at 16, with the wife waiting for her husband to one day return.
Exile and absence marks many of the other poems, reinforcing this sense that Chinese poetry is about delicate understatement and restraint, expressed through metaphors concerning the landscape, vegetation, or water.
Pound’s imagination and work dealt with a larger “orient” rather than a specific place called China. The ways in which he treated this idea of what is oriental typifies other writers or thinkers from Europe or North America, whose cultures are distinct from that in Japan, China, or across East Asia.
Pound makes certain assumptions. In the Cantos, he described the whole dynastic history of China. Historians would now despair at his idea of such neat divisions between order and chaos. But when we remember that he is writing not so much about what China or the Orient as an actual place might be, but how western imagination configured it and responded to ideas about it this question of how accurate Pound’s translations are becomes unimportant. What makes his poetry important not only in and for itself, but because its role in this history of western conceptualization of the Orient, and of China.
The book is also a reminder that Pound was a skilled lyricist. His later political adventures, which almost led to a conviction for treason during World War II for producing propaganda for the Fascist government of Italy, have tended to overshadow awareness of his immense technical skills. The Cathay poems show the intensity, the concreteness and the music that Pound at his best was able to create. Cathay contains hybrid material—most of it related to Fenollosa’s renditions of Japanese-Chinese texts, but he also put in his celebrated translation from the Old English, The Seafarer. There is nothing discordant about this. In fact, it stimulates thoughts on how similar the worlds from these two eras—ancient imperial China and the dark ages of Europe—might be. Both describe loss, vulnerabilities, and the creation of beliefs.

Pound is perhaps one of the very few creative figures that succeeded in bridging two very different cultural worlds. Cathay stands as a testament to that.
Kerry Brown is Professor of Chinese Studies and Director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London. His latest book China’s CEO: Xi Jinping will be out in April, 2016Reprinted with permission from The Asian Review of Books