Friday, March 28, 2003

Conceptions of Art
"I’ve decided that I find it worthwhile and helpful to pause and make the distinction between little-a art and big-A Art. But as for 'art' being used to indicate quality -- thanks but no thanks" writes Michael from 2blowhards. Meanwhile Blake Gopnik takes on ten cliches about good art.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Movie Lists of The Future
ACdouglas was inspired by a post by Kathy Shaidle to show the progress or regress of the same set of movies on yet-to-be-made top ten lists. Note that Douglas and Shaidle have opposite views of 2001. I agree with Shaidle -- it's bloated and pretentious. On a sad note, the set doesn't include non-English films apart from Metropolis. Douglas seems to admire American mavericks with two each of Kubrickiana and Welleswork in his critics top ten.

The General dir. Buster Keaton
This comic chase movie has aged well and its visual gags are the main course. If you watch it, remind yourself that Keaton didn't use a stunt double. While I wondered why the hero was on the Confederate side, I enjoyed everything else about the movie. When I reached the end, I realized how that the movie is paced so well -- with no boring moments -- that it seems much shorter than it is.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

On literature and airports
So I'm getting off the plane from Chicago and I (along with another passenger x) get detained by a guard y who asks us if we took a picture. I say no; x says he doesn't even have a camera with him. Y says we are now in denial so further questioning is necessary. In one hand I am holding James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I have read to the chapter where Stephen is overcome with (unnecessary) guilt over sex. In my bag meanwhile is the hardcover I purchased from O'Gara and Wilson, Franz Kafka's Complete Stories, which, of course, includes The Trial.

Egoism & the Crisis in Western Values by Elton O'Keeffe
"Whatever happens in California happens in the rest of America -- a few years later. Whatever happens in America happens in the rest of the world -- a few years later," writes O'Keeffe in this preface to his analysis of the West's social malaise.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

From Mike's Philosophical Definitions Page and Scenes from the APA, or Odysseus Looks for a Job
analytic philosophy: a redundancy.
continental philosophy: an oxymoron
Being and Time: nice work, if you can get it

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman
reviewed by David Boulton
Rather than placing the blame for the decline of Western thought on Derrida, Freeman lays it squarely on Paul, who in the first century CE rejected "the wisdom of the wise." This is a provocative thesis, but surely, Constantine should some some of the blame, too, shouldn't he?

Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle) dir. Jean-Pierre Melville
Fans of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch will enjoy this noirish meditation on the point and pointlessness of crime. Melville is a visual stylist par excellence so I felt I was watching a silent film with sparse dialogue instead of intertitles. Watch out for the editing bonbons. The film depicts men being men--tough yet self-mocking--so women are sadly missing from the film. A small complaint about an otherwise unmissable re-release.

James Baldwin by James A. Haught
"James Baldwin, arguably America's greatest black writer, was a popular Pentecostal preacher in Harlem at age 14 - but at 17 he renounced religion as a sham. It happened when "I began to read again . . . I began, fatally, with Dostoevski." See also: Haught on the postmodernist attack on the Enlightenment

Friday, March 14, 2003

The Left and Democracy: The Triumph of Real-politik
A Review of "Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000" by Geoff Eley
While the Marxist Left of the early 20th century and the PC Left of the 21st seem like enemies of liberalism, Eley makes the case that a segment of the left has also been inextricably involved in the struggle for democracy. Not surprisingly, that segment comprises leftists who subscribe to realpolitik. They may ironically earn the disdain of their hard-left colleagues but they deserve credit for most real progress.

Matt Haimovitz Plays Bach in Folk Venues
You'd think someone would have thought of this before, but Matt Haimovitz is taking his cello to the folk/acoustic halls of the U.S. to perform Bach's cello suites. Classical performers are constantly trying to make old music sound new. Haimovitz's solution removes the bourgeous bloat that often icily coats the music one hears at symphony halls. While his method may appear untraditional, one should not forget that chamber music derives its name from the intimate chambers in which the music was originally performed.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

What Philosophers Are Really Like by Julian Baggini
"Philosophers are different from other people. That much, you might think, is obvious. But how exactly are they different?" And what about "philosophiles?" And "philosophobes?"

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

'Works in Progress' -- Simon Rattle's Live Beethoven Symphonies Cycle on EMI from The Independent (London)
Considering that arkivmusic the web's ueber classical CD store has 96 recordings of Beethoven's 4th, his least recorded symphony, do we really need another Beethoven symphony cycle? On the other hand, this is the Vienna Philharmonic. This reviewer claims that Rattle hedges too much, while the BBC 3's CD Review says that it provides effortful enjoyment.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The French Screen by Victor Morton
In the National Review of all places, we are treated to an ode to French cinema from the 1920's to the present. I've always loved French films for having adult characters who are actually grown-up (see A Heart in Winter aka Un Coeur En Hiver). Hollywood, on the other hand, has such a penchant for escapism, that both its comedies and its tragedies deploy characters who just don't seem like people you would actually ever meet.

Postmodernism and History by Richard Evans
Like determinism, postmodernism -- precisely, postmodern perspectivism -- has soft and hard versions. The soft version makes the obvious claim that perspective sometimes makes some difference in our perceptions of the world. The hard version, which comes from post-structuralism, suggests that anyone's idea of truth is always and totally part of that person's social discourse, and has no more claim to the truth than anyone else's.

Mr. Palomar by Italo Calvino | first chapter | other excerpts
Reminiscent of Einstein's Dreams, this novel consists of Montaignesque reflections on identity, humanity and the universe arranged into a four-dimensional chapter structure. Although the title character's musings are witty and enjoyable, he occasionally comes across as a man without qualities and he pushes silly metaphors in a Heideggerian manner - and no, that's not a compliment.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Movie Reviews to Arrive
The Straight Story dir. David Lynch
Suspicion dir. Alfred Hitchcok
Adaptation dir. Spike Jonze

Friday, March 07, 2003

W. G. Sebald Symposium at Davidson College
W. G. Sebald died just after his works started to become known in the English-speaking world. Now, there is a symposium on him at Davidson College (which incidentally is my alma mater).

Thursday, March 06, 2003

On Adapting "The Hours" for Film
"The films of Joyce's 'Ulysses', Pasternak's 'Dr Zhivago', Kundera's 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being', Proust's 'Swann's Way' and Zola's 'Germinal' were all bad or worse, and they are just the tip of an iceberg" writes Mark Cousins.

The South Fails to Get Over the War (Part 348)
Garrett Epps comments on the southern revisionism at the center of Gods and Generals. Despite its four-hour running time, the film has just one (demeaning) reference to Lincoln and no reference to slavery. Humility and penitence are apparently not part of the Bible in this belt.

Zoe Williams on Sociobiology
Sometimes sociobiology can overdo its explanation of attractiveness as women's search for power and men's search for beauty. For example, they tend to sample only certain animals. Why not, for example, study the marine iguana? (They masturbate all day. Since you asked).

Ebert on the Establishment Clause
Roger Ebert takes a break from movie criticism to comment on the decision by the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that "under God" is unconstitional. He makes a distinction between vertical prayer, i.e. silently praying upwards to God, and horizontal prayer, i.e. praying aloud to make other people feel included or excluded.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Graham Swift interview
He hasn't done interviews since he published his Booker-winning, stylistic feat, Last Orders, in which he creates a bunch of English geezers and then gets into their minds and narrates the story in their voices. Now there's an interview with Graham Swift on the Independent. From the interview, "The old phrase about 'the art that conceals art' still means something to me. There's more there than meets the eye."
If you enjoy first-person novels, I'd also highly recommend Booker nominee, English Passengers by Matthew Kneale.