(Picture taken in Midtown Market, Brisbane, California on March 22nd, 2015. Live long and prosper.)
For art and artists, these are interesting times…as Adam Marsland reminds us, that’s a Chinese curse…
I’m currently working my way through a re-read of Honoré de Balzac’s marvelous Pere Goriot as part of my 2015 reading list. While the opportunity to savor Balzac’s loquacious piece of realism that examines parental love and Parisian society is certainly pleasant for a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of realism in its various literary expressions, both foreign and domestic, I have found myself with nothing to write about unless, as Mr. Micawber optimistically, invariably expected, something turns itself up.
Since you are reading this, you know that my own Micawberean expectations have not been disappointed. A piece by art critic Jerry Saltz at the Vulture blog of New York Magazine caught my attention because it addresses one of the unresolved cultural questions left to us by the 20th century: to wit, how do we reconcile the merging of popular and what was once termed “high” culture and make intelligent determinations about what is culturally worthwhile for us to explore, discuss, even preserve in this merged culture?
This issue is one that I have explored extensively before, and, despite my best efforts to offer some explanations/insights/whining complaints, it pops up again and again and smacks me (metaphorically, of course) upside the head saying, “How do you like me now, Jim?” and forcing me to take yet another look at this perhaps never to be resolved issue.
So. Here we go again…. Continue reading
If you’re MSNBC, who do you get to provide the anti-FCC net neutrality position for fairness and balance?
As usual, while there’s a kerfuffle over major issues I’m down here in the weeds wondering at peculiarities. For instance, with net neutrality being a significant chunk of the current 24/7 news cycle fodder thanks to the FCC’s recent decision, I could focus on the pros and cons of net neutrality, so-called or otherwise, but I’m honestly a bit torn. For the moment, I’m content to wait and see what the wonks have to say about the full 300+ pages of the FCC measure when it’s eventually released. There’s cause for caution when advocates for net neutrality are holding their noses over this latest development. Continue reading
Leonard Nimoy passed away today at age 83. I read that he was taken to the hospital last Thursday with a possible heart attack, so I am not completely surprised. I am, instead, deeply saddened. It’s like the end of The Wrath of Khan–but this time it’s for real and there will be no Genesis planet.
Spock: The ship… out of danger?
Spock: Do not grieve, Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many, outweigh…
Kirk: The needs of the few.
Spock: Or the one. I never took the Kobayashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?
[Spock sits down]
Spock: I have been, and always shall be, your friend.
[he places a Vulcan salute on the glass]
Spock: Live long and prosper.
George Harrison’s 72nd birthday…a bittersweet reminder that All Things Must Pass…
In many ways it’s pointless to write or say much more about The Beatles. They remain, despite revisionist rock historians’ best efforts, rock music’s most important band. Arguments about their merits as solo artists follow similar paths. John is better because he was truest to rock and roll’s founding principles. Paul made what Dave Marsh once called “the Decision for Pop” because he wanted to be loved. Ringo was – well, Ringo was better than anyone expected but still the luckiest sod in musical history.
Then there is George. Known during the Fab Years as “the quiet Beatle,” his release from what had become for him the prison of being a Beatle led to a creative outburst and the best of all Beatle solo efforts, the magnificent All Things Must Pass. Many critics think George had the best solo career of any former Beatle. I think Paul has done so but then, I’m his buddy.
On to the music…
Climate realists are fighting an uphill battle against professional climate disruption deniers who have media bias, time, money, and an apathetic public on their side.For the other posts in this series, click here.
Today scientists are as certain about the threat of industrial climate disruption as they are about tobacco smoke causing lung cancer, yet neither the United States nor the broader international community has made any significant progress toward addressing the disruptions expected as a result of the Earth’s changing climate. The question is why.
When we look at the public discussion of industrial climate disruptionA (aka global warming or climate change), it’s clear that the playing field is not level. It’s very clearly slanted in favor of peddlers of deceit like Tom Harris, Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), and his fellow professional climate disruption deniersB for four main reasons. First, the media prefers publishing disinformation that’s interesting to publishing uninteresting “me too” articles. Second, professional climate disruption deniers simply have more time and money available with which to push their disinformation. Third, writing disinformation is remarkably easy when you’re not inhibited by facts, yet correcting the disinformation is difficult partly because it requires strict adherence to the facts. And fourth, Harris et al are peddling disinformation that people want to hear, rather than an unpleasant reality that they need to hear. Continue reading
(warning: graphic content)
patriarchal principle: Men are entitled to take up space
“Manspreading” refers to men sitting in public spaces with their legs spread wide apart. Anyone – and especially a woman – who has sat in a movie theater, airplane, or any sort of public transportation is all too familiar with the phenomenon. All too many men seem willing to rudely spread out beyond their little designated spaces in places like those I’ve mentioned. I’d really like to have a dollar for every time I’ve been squeezed out of my space in a movie theater by a man manspreading next to me – I could buy most of the books on my wish list at Amazon. Some speculate that this behavior is an act of dominance or is about male privilege. Personally, I have always thought the message is, “Hey,everybody look at me – my balls are so big that I can not even close my legs!” The problem is widespread – if you will – enough that now, the New York City subway authority is mounting a campaign against the practice, using the slogan “Dude, stop the spread please. It’s a space issue.” Continue reading
I was shaking and weeping by the end of the advert for Microsoft’s new HoloLens technology.
Maybe you don’t like Microsoft? Or galloping consumerism? Or corporatism, or the wealth of the elite, or whatever. You’re a jaded cynic and such things serve to feed your rage.
Put that aside for two minutes and twelve seconds and remember what it was like being five years old, when the world was new, and watch this:
If you want to know what President Barack Obama will discuss in his 2015 State of the Union speech, there is no need to wait until Tuesday when he delivers his annual message to Congress and the American people.
The president already has begun traveling around the nation to promote the initiatives he will outline next week. Among them are proposals for free community college, more affordable housing and stronger cyber security.
By pushing his agenda before the speech, Obama is reversing the usual sequence of events that accompany State of the Union addresses, as well as similar annual reports from governors, mayors and other public figures. For years, the norm has been to unveil an array of public policy proposals in the speech and then go out on the road to promote them.
Why the change? Continue reading
Joe Cocker’s soulful shouting was later overshadowed by his pop balladry, but the man could always bring it.
Joe Cocker, the magnificent singer from Sheffield, has died of lung cancer at the age of 70. Cocker’s career divides neatly into two phases – the great run from 1966-71 when he rose to prominence as a legitimate white blues shouter – and a forefather of what’s known as Northern Soul – and took prominent songs from contemporaries and made them his own (“A Little Help from My Friends” by The Beatles; “The Letter” by The Boxtops; “Feelin’ Alright” by Traffic) – and the rest of his long career in which he transitioned into singing more pop oriented material, often to great success (he won a Grammy for his duet with Jennifer Warnes on the otherwise execrable movie ballad “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman).
What made Cocker special, besides that distinctive gravelly voice and his deep infusion of emotion into even the tritest material he sang, was his onstage behavior, an unforgettable experience for those who saw it. At times seeming almost as if struck by spasms, Joe’s windmilling arms, head shaking and air guitar made him a figure occasionally parodied (here’s a killer Joe Cocker/John Belushi duet from SNL’s Golden Age). But there was no denying his vocal talent or his desire to give everything he had to any song he sang.
Here he is at his emoting best doing a killer version of that Beatles’ tune mention above at Woodstock in 1969:
We may not see his like again. RIP Joe….
Tamir Rice grew up–and died–in the city that has adopted the movie A Christmas Story as its own, Cleveland, Ohio. But there is a vast gulf between Tamir Rice and Ralphie Parker that, even accounting for the gulf between real life and fiction, cannot be reconciled. At this holiday season, when the TNT network is about to indulge in its annual 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon, it seems a particularly appropriate time to reflect on the recent tragic shooting.
On Saturday, November 22, a man made a 911 call to the Cleveland police about “a guy with a pistol, and it’s probably fake. . . but he’s pointing it everybody.” Continue reading
The 20th century offered artists – and everyone else – the greatest number of technological advances in human history. But these advances also changed human ecology – and artists and art – in startling ways….
The turn of the 20th century saw humanity in the midst of an onslaught of technological change that has permanently altered how we communicate, travel, and entertain ourselves. The telephone made it possible to hear the voices of friends and family over remarkable distances and receive news, especially personal news, faster than ever before. The automobile and airplane made visiting those distant loved ones first possible, then feasible, ultimately expected. And the phonograph, motion picture camera/projector and later radio and television (remember, television’s blockbuster effect on home entertainment was delayed at least a decade by World War II) made home entertainment as simple as passively sitting and listening/watching. The culture became both easily mobile and easily sedentary in one fell swoop. Modern photography, already 75 years old by the beginning of the 20th century, had been appropriated for artistic purposes for at least 50 years. However, its documentary function far overshadowed its power as an art form for many decades.
The newer technological innovations of recording and film offered artists opportunities – but unlike other technological innovations such as I mentioned in the previous essay (industrially produced paint for artists, the use of the typewriter by authors, the harpsichord’s replacement by the piano in music), these technological innovations did not necessarily lend themselves to exploitation by artists. In truth, the technological changes that developed in the 20th century changed not simply how art was made but how art was conceived and executed and how art came to be viewed in ways that we have not fully considered. A look at the changes that occurred and what their possible meanings are for us culturally seems apropos. Continue reading
The hazard of attempting to keep up with the full spectrum of the news/infotainment/propaganda establishment is that one actually becomes aware of the breadth and depth of the opposition. On any given day, when I click the “All Articles” button in my news reader, the one that spits out articles from over a hundred sources all mixed together without regard to topic or political persuasion, I’m as likely to see lolcats next to the latest advances in science as I am to see liberal politics mixed in with CNN’s feeble attempts at news coverage mixed in with headlines from The Blaze. I’ll be honest, there are times I actually do find valuable information at The Blaze. No end of the spectrum has cornered the market on the full story of the world we live in. So this isn’t necessarily to say that I only look at The Blaze and other sites of its ilk solely for the sake of disparaging them. Continue reading
We live these days in a weird era where art and tech are linked in ways which I don’t believe we understand very well and don’t think about enough. Maybe we are in some transition to a culture in which tech is believed to be art and art is believed to be -I don’t know – tech…? Whatever the artist says it is…? Obsolete…?
This started out, as sometimes things do, with a conversation:
Lea, my wife, and I were coming home from one of her art exhibition openings last night and somehow we got on the subject of Claude Monet. The art opening was part of a series of events in which artists, writers, and craftsmen and women had simultaneously occurring book fest, art exhibition opening, and crafts fair. This is the sort of event that arts groups hold more and more often in these same days of this our life. Artists hoped that book lovers would stop by the art exhibition, writers that art lovers would stop by the book fest, crafts people – well, people still buy crafts, kinda sorta (more than they buy fine art and books, at least), so the crafts people were likely simply being helpful.
I don’t know how well the whole series of events went off (I didn’t even go to the crafts fair because I – I don’t know – well yes I do: at least half the tables at the “book fest” were selling – crafts – yeah, I know). I hope that the artist and writer friends I ran into at the two events I attended made some sales. But at one point last evening Lea looked at me and noted, “I think everyone at this exhibit is an artist.”
Yeah. I know. This is all too common these days.
And yes, I’m rambling, but I’ll get to something in a minute. Bear with me. Continue reading
Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh has been lavished with praise – the mystery is…Why…?
As anyone familiar with the literary scene (at least any literary scene not composed solely of adults who read nothing but YA literature or some other highly siloed genre/subgenre) knows, Michael Chabon has been a darling of the litfic scene for about 25 years now. He’s won a Pulitzer Prize and several other awards and been touted as a literary great. His first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was called “astonishing” by the New York Times; “remarkable” by the Los Angeles Times; “extraordinary” by the Village Voice.
My own experience with Chabon’s work before reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh was watching the film version of Wonder Boys. I found it a quirky, charming, somewhat slick little film and thought about getting the book. I supposed the book would be that, too: quirky, charming, a tad slick. Still, I thought to give it a go. Something else shiny beckoned, evidently, because I never got around to it. So when I ran across this book at my favorite used book store a while back, I picked it up expecting to read the early work of a talented and celebrated writer. Given that this was his first book, I expected some flaws. I expected some rough edges… Continue reading
If the excerpt from the new Elvis biography is an indication of the entire work, readers will learn exactly – nothing new…
I had a professor who once described sound academic writing as learning to “articulate the obvious.” This in itself isn’t bad advice, and I occasionally pass it along to writing students who seem convinced that scholarly writing of any worth must follow “the three C’s” of turgid writing: it should be convoluted, confusing, and contradictory.
Joel Williamson’s new biography of the King, Elvis Presley: A Southern Life, avoids turgidity and, if the excerpt recently published by Salon is any indication, it follows my old professor’s dictum to a degree that readers knowledgeable about the music legend (or about the history of rock and its significant figures) may find downright frustrating. Continue reading
And who can blame Governor Nixon for that?
Like most folks who keep up at least a little with the news, I’ve heard a thing or three about Ferguson. Of late, I’ve actually stopped keeping up with news in general to the extent I used to. Partly that’s burnout. Partly it’s that I’ve found a few other things to keep me fiddling while Rome burns. But I still scan the headlines at least a few times a week. Maybe it’s like a junkie getting a half-assed fix. Maybe it’s just a good idea to keep some fresh idea of what’s going on in the world. Anyone blow up Russia yet? Has the ebola outbreak spread to my neck of the woods? What about Kim Kardashian’s ass? You know, the usual important stuff. Continue reading
…in a hotel room in San Juan Bautista, California.
My wife and I had been having a lovely time until then.
I am fortunate she returned from the hotel pool in time
to switch off the set.
If she hadn’t, I might have ended up on Fox News.
(Picture taken in San Juan Bautista, California on June 22nd, 2013)
Hipsters being savaged by a former hipster seems – oh, I don’t know, about right…?
No one who is a thinking person doubts that our culture is in trouble. Whatever forces have taken us down a road where knowledge of reality television shows is considered social capital are, I think we can all agree, malevolent.
In a recent essay in The New Statesman (and republished in The New Republic), British novelist and intellectual Will Self savages his generation’s acquiescence in failing to overcome being what he calls “the pierced and tattooed, shorts-wearing, skunk-smoking, OxyContin-popping, neurotic dickheads who’ve presided over the commoditization of the counterculture; we’re the ones who took the avant-garde and turned it into a successful rearguard action…of capitalism’s blitzkrieg.” His critique (written in a classic snarky style) continues with an indictment of what he sees as a completely delusional group of “artists” – : Continue reading