Archive for the ‘art’ Category

discover inner beauty

September 17, 2009

I think this is genius. I have too many little places to post things, so I don’t update at this blog much, am just as likely to post something on facebook or twitter or something, but for some reason this seemed worth putting up a more proper link… It finds any inadvertent haikus within larger texts. This is especially fun to do for your own long texts (I found 3 in my dissertation and many more in a long fiction manuscript I have – guess there are more short sentences in it…)

But it’s also just neat to see what’s in famous texts, e.g., in Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals there was only one:

The reason of this
appears sufficiently from
the treatise itself.

While Anna Karenina (gutenberg’s english version) had easily a couple dozen, a few of which I’ll copy below:

And his face expressed
serious hesitation.
“Are the oysters good?

Tried them: worse. Well, then,
there’s nothing left but to pray
to God. Tried it: worse.

Give me some morphine.
Doctor, give me some morphine!
Oh, my God, my God!

The whole day long there
was fever, delirium,
and unconsciousness.

On the contrary,
I am glad at the very
loss of my freedom.

But now her beauty
and elegance were just what
irritated him.

I speak from my heart.
We’re all gentlemen, aren’t we?
Above suspicion.

See me as you are.
It’s been going on more than
two hours already.

A quite addictive little game… and if it’s a book you’re familiar with, intriguing to catch snippets through a new window…


it’s been a while

August 18, 2009

This blog is stirring, momentarily, to link to something I wrote on Revolving Floor. Terrible, since some portion of the people who are reading this probably only came here because they clicked on the link from the bio of that page. But there may be a few people with RSS feeds who have forgotten about me, and will shrug and go take a look, so. I figured it was worth figuring out what my password was to give it a try.

Maybe now that I’ve stretched my legs and seen that the system still works, I’ll make an effort to be a little more active in the future…

Also, as the wicked witch so rightly notes, the Floor’s a site full of exciting stuff to read and comment on, so, go click around and respond to stuff obsessively. No, seriously, there are a lot of interesting pieces. Anyway, it’s not like you’re getting any work done or anything.

modern living

October 10, 2008

The market is falling and Bush is doing his best to be the calm guide, as are most leaders. I remember 1987, but as a young teenager not for global traumas but just personal / family problems that seemed global at the time… But the radio says it was just as bad then, and we seem to have recovered pretty completely from that, so perhaps this isn’t the 1930s all over again.

Still, what it makes me think of is reflections on consumer capitalism as a way of life, and the question of whether our very method of living is sustainable. This is a cartoon presentation that gives an overview of the issue. It’s a little oversimplified sometimes – the idea of “toxins in, toxins out,” for instance, doesn’t really explain how toxins get out there to begin with, though it does give one example of how it’s often to do with making products flame retardant (and it would make the video even longer to explain the entire history). Likewise it doesn’t get into the story of why a system like this would become entrenched to start with if it has so many negatives, or about the positive aspects this culture might provide. But that’s because we see that constantly, so this is an alternative view, which I think is important to think about.

As a rebuttal to the whole “consumer cog in the machine” idea, I was sent this story of a pencil, which attempts to claim that the fact that no one individual can make a pencil, but instead it’s the product of dozens of bored workers who don’t understand or care how it works, is a beautiful thing – we’re working together! whee! I don’t find it inspiring. It highlights the meaninglessness and wastefulness of the consumer culture – who even needs pencils anymore? The only reason I can think to have them is for those auto-graded tests… In a craft economy, a person’s identity is wrapped up with their profession, but when you work on an assembly line pulling a lever to insert graphite or whatever, you don’t give enough of a shit about it to even know the rest of the process: your identity is wrapped up with getting the paycheck and spending it to prove your worth… to become part of that consumer culture again.

I don’t know if there is a better way, or if that last section is sort of overly hopeful and naive, but I certainly like the idea that we can collectively try to back away from the rat race and try to regain some humanity. Money isn’t everything. We can pursue technology smartly, not dangerously or greedily… at least, I’d like to think we could. Maybe it’s too much to ask of us at this stage of history, but at least the poets and the comedians can drop to the sidelines and watch: Andrei Codrescu offers a nice little tale in that vein.

NYC map of awkward social interactions

October 7, 2008

Just what I said above. This creation (of someone I knew in high school) reflects the juxtaposition of our need to catalogue and track everything like good rational vulcans, with the ever present and inescapable aspect of human experience, our very real inability to figure out what the hell is going on and how to deal. It’s a lovely little observation.

Plus, it’s interactive! go wild! (if you’ve ever been to New York and are a little emotionally exhibitionistic).

un connected

September 14, 2008

I heard this on the radio and was interested as it was something I have thought about, the changing landscape of fiction as technology alters the world. It traces the place of cell phones in movies: how once, screenwriters would sometimes have to come up with bizarre scenarios to allow a character to be believably locateable while travelling – a timing of clocks and placement of various phones, sort of thing, complex machinery that simply disappears once the cell phone comes on the scene. Then, in the early days of cell phones, the enormous bulking boxes are symbols of huge extravagance – only the super-rich and probably evil have them.

But the interesting part is that now, we’re stuck with them. Far too often, a plot can’t move forward because what would have been the conflict or problem or beginning of the story could be simply and easily resolved or never entered if someone just made a quick phone call. And doesn’t basically everyone have a phone in their pocket? So the author has to have cell phones die or get lost or the area not get service… which will surely get old.

I had thought about this because I had been working on a piece of novel-type-scenario set in the late ’90s (only because I started writing it in the late ’90s) and I noticed that the technology of the time was semi-internet but only in a very occasional, ‘it exists’ sort of way, while real newspapers & zines & CDs were still prominent and cell phones were basically not a factor. When I went back to work on it in the aughties or whatever this decade is, I kept not being sure what to do about the technology stuff, whether to have them use real phones, or was that weird? whether to have them read real papers, or go online? to keep it in the 90s where it was originally, or move it closer to the present… and how strange that so few years made so much of a difference. Then i wondered if I’d have to address political stuff too, so sort of decided to just leave it in the 90s… (well, eventually I just stopped working on it, so, whatever…) I was still surprised how much technological shift occurred over a decade though.

On the other hand – that much technological shift occurred for me. John McCain, for instance, still doesn’t use email. And I still have one friend with a landline and no cell phone (Hi S!). And I have other friends who haven’t given up their landlines, I think. Plenty of people read real papers instead of stuff online; I still get a couple magazines myself… There is a shift, but it might not be fair to say when exactly it has taken / takes place…

david foster wallace

September 14, 2008

Apparently he hanged himself. Reading this made me cry. I have had trouble eating this morning, and it’s even possible I am premenstrual so we can blame this on various physical weaknesses, but nonetheless, I … This is really hard for me.

I feel like this is my Nirvana moment, the way my musician friends felt when Kurt Cobain killed himself. For me, that was sad, but nirvana wasn’t really my thing anyway… But I remember stopping by the guitar shop where my friend Jason worked that day, and seeing him near tears. DFW isn’t so much one of my favorite authors as just a voice of a generation, one of the original definers of the meta-ironic overly-self-conscious intellectually wittily effusive, that others have tried to copy but few have really achieved.

God. Maybe I’ll try to clarify what I’m thinking later… [1]

[1] RIP

creative thinking

September 7, 2008

Don’t watch too much TV or keep too busy, when you could be letting your mind wander and spread its wings a bit… This strikes me as intuitively obvious but I am sorry to see that there’s concern contemporary children don’t get enough imagination time… or for that matter contemporary adults. Maybe that’s what church is for :).

more movies…

August 16, 2008

On Tuesday, Blue Velvet was playing at McCarren Pool, the currently unrestored but gigantic old pool in McCarren Park, Greenpoint.

We got there at around 6, even though the movie itself wasn’t scheduled to begin until around 7:30 or 8, because we read that the venue opened at 5:30, and we wanted to get good seats. Well, when we arrived, the place was empty. There were a few tents in the back serving mexican food, and a tent in the middle giving away starbucks energy drinks, and then a few people wandering around, but only maybe one or two people actually sitting down in front of the screen. It seemed like the reason was probably that the sky looked slightly on the grumpy side, but when we went in, the guy at the front, who checked our bags for food & drink to make sure we weren’t bringing in our own instead of buying theirs (I had to finish an Odwalla before he’d let me past) assured us that there was no way they’d be rained out. I specifically asked, how rainy is too rainy, i.e., is a little drizzle enough to put off the show, or does it need to be a downpour, and who makes the call, etc, and he said, oh no, nothing will stop the show, we will go ahead no matter what. I was a little surprised by the answer but didn’t think too much about it as the weather prediction had been only 30% chance of showers and I figured even if it did rain it probably wouldn’t last too long, so I thought he was going on that assumption.

Anyway. We got some mexican food and it started to rain. We decided to find a spot to stand underneath the brick arches to stay dry until the showers were over, so found a little niche behind some electrical wire and opened up a crossword puzzle book (& finished the last wednesday! yay!). The rain got much harder. It started to look like it was coming down at quite a severe angle and possibly really screwing with the tent cuisine. We were quite safe, although the puddle of water in front of us was getting quite deep… Eventually, the rain let up, and a magnificent rainbow appeared directly across from us and it seemed as if everything was right with the world… except that we were meant to see the movie in a pool, and it was flooded. The show was cancelled.

Still, we saw a gorgeous rainbow, had a great dinner in williamsburg, had fun in the pool, got free coffee flavored energy drinks, and walked through parks, so it was worth it.

The next night we discovered Fellini’s 8 1/2 was playing in Socrates Sculpture Park at about 6:30. It was meant to start at 8. We basically just ran for the subway and hoped there’d be seats left, though we were worried about getting a seat where you could still read subtitles.

I had never seen 8 1/2 before. But we got fine seats, even though it was pretty crowded, because it is one of N’s favorite films, and so he basically just walked right up to an empty spot next to the projector and sat down… no one seemed to mind.

I enjoyed the movie, although it had been very hyped and wasn’t really what I’d expected. It wasn’t exactly a Good movie because it was basically a discussion about the impossibility of a Good movie, which I agree with, fundamentally – yet, like all art, we try to make something anyway, as impossible as it is to ever make what would actually be worth making. And this project did work, because it was so self-aware, although at the same time, it offered little beyond its own self-awareness, so it felt limited as well: but it knew it was limited! so you couldn’t fault it for that; it was always ahead of you, so to speak. And really, many of the fantasy / dream sequences or lines back and forth were just so wonderful that it didn’t really matter what the set up was, exactly. Any excuse to create that scene or character… But altogether it didn’t tie up and satisfy something, because its essential point was about the hopelessness of that goal, so a frustration always hung there a bit for me. Like the filmmaker got away with more than he should have because he said from the start that nothing was happening. But maybe the secret is the title: 8 1/2 refers to the number of movies he’d made; every time as a director he goes through this and the 7 1/2 other times he had sucked it up and made it into a story of some kind, he had put that symbolic girl in the white dress, he had cast all the characters, he had made all the decisions and gone forward and just completed the thing, and it had been a movie, Good or not, a finished thing. This time we see what happens when you just can’t deal with all the imperfection of art, all the pain of trying to create when the product is never what you hope for, but it’s just one among many, and Fellini still goes on to keep sucking it up in his other movies even though he never does in this one. (almost related: woody allen discusses creative process with the Onion…I basically just wanted to link to this interview)

Finally, last night I saw Tropic Thunder. I had been expecting a sort of silly comedy about a bunch of guys too dumb to notice they’re not in a movie anymore, with lots of references to serious war movies – a spoof that could be fun but might get a bit eye rolly. This wasn’t that movie. Yes, there were silly jokes, plenty of them, but the whole angle of the thing was self reference rather than movie reference, and the satire was all pointed toward hollywood, or really, our general cultural thinking that we can represent something that someone else has been through and thus, make it more true by making it more accessible to everyone. This was brilliantly pointed out in Robert Downey Jr’s monologue explaining that you “never go full retard” in a movie, since the audience has to relate; it was subversively portrayed by his character being a white man playing a black man; and it was the basic plot with regard to war movies all the way through, as a look at the disparity of actual war and creating a movie about war and the emotional experience of the audience watching the movie about war and thinking it is meaningful: when those emotions they are feeling are based on people’s presentations who have very little idea about what war is actually like. Much like Robert Downey Jr in that blackface.

It was really funny too.


July 16, 2008

Wormspit is a great site about silk and silkworms. It really allows for you to see the entire journey, from the bugs through to the brocade. In between, the cocoons have to be reeled or spun to get the product of the silkworm into a form that can be used for fabric. It’s fascinating to think about how much processing there is from bug cocoon to silken scarf, and that this is true of every human product. Some objects are closer to nature, so that the process doesn’t seem that complex – you chop the tree down and cut it up and then you shape it into furniture. This can be very intricate and delicate and beautiful, but somehow it’s less surprising and mysterious than something like weaving silk, it seems to me. Which makes me think again about sexism being the culprit in seeing carpentry as more reputable or respectable craft than the fabric arts…

I wonder if the attitude toward knitting in general will change if men really do become more common practitioners of the craft …again, according to this site, at least. Who knows what the “real” history is, but what intrigues me is whether a hobby will be considered more legitimate, productive, skilled, and/or interesting at times when it coincides with being popular among males.

artsy thoughts

June 24, 2008

Postcards from Nowhere is an essay that explores the state of modern art, in a well-developed though ultimately very familiar way. The author makes the case that contemporary installations and ironic mass-produced ‘nonsense’, starting from Duchamp or Warhol but now produced by such figures as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, and Damien Hirst, have lost any sense of meaning or commentary they might have had, and really can’t be considered art.

The problem of course, is what can be considered art. This author mostly seems to urge museums to champion their early 20th century collections. He tries to make a weak gesture of support toward some attempts of contemporary artists to produce more organic installations (more “found art” than “mass produced”) but it seems clear he believes we hunger for the beauty of Cezanne and Seurat. But can we go home again? The essay addresses the argument that we get the art we deserve, so to speak, but quite dismissively.

The point isn’t merely that we live in a technology laden world, so art reflects that. It’s also that since we have so much technology, artists interested in realism and beauty may have gone on to become photographers, cinematographers, designers, illustrators – any number of other professions in which the aesthetic is taken as seriously as ever. Fine art has to compete and interact with those media. It’s hard to say if visual art can still do the same thing it once did – critics often write about what is wrong with art now, but really the only way to change it is to just stop responding to the artists that they don’t like, and to only respond to the ones that are doing something more personal and aesthetic. There’s no such thing as bad publicity…