Category: aesthetics

Anything goes

Frontality is passé.

Sadly, gun ownership in America has gone from being a hobby to an addiction. Promiscuous gun laws only promote the addiction.

The 2nd amendment was especially important in areas of the new nation where slaves outnumbered free persons.

Neither Brexit nor Trump nor Sanders will/would fix the economy. But false hopes die hard.

It’s not news that journalism thrives on conflict. It’s not the business of journalism to create consensus. However, it should be the business of journalism to offer reality-based reportage.

Fashion leftward

The rise of Mr Sanders is less surprising than the ascent of Mr Corbyn from the unvisited limbo of political oblivion.

A beige or straw colored suit doesn’t work for Mr Corbyn. It makes him look even blander than he actually is. However, as a post-Hegelian materialist, he doesn’t understand that, in politics, appearances matter. Mr Corbyn would be helped by a reading of Kant’s third Critique as well as a new Burberry wardrobe.

Both Sanders and Corbyn should take their sartorial cue from the French left, which has always been stylish.

Revolution and art

As Immanuel Kant noted in 1763, the French have a feeling for the beautiful. But that’s not the whole story.

Aristocrats and intellectuals were not “purged” during the French Revolution (many sided with the Revolution). The post Napoleonic Restoration brought such groups back into positions of influence. But Napoleon himself was keenly interested in the arts and the major Academies were reorganized under his munificent care. Modern art (“autonomous art” as per T. W. Adorno) emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century via a rejection of “academy art.”

What occurred in post-revolutionary Russia and China, the emergence of various politicized aesthetics, was aggressive hyper-Philistinism combined with an ugly streak of raging Puritanism.

Und Sie wissen nicht, mit wem Sie reden

There will always be angry men shouting on the touchline of life.

The infelicitous confluence of the confessional disposition (or self-surveillance ala Foucault) and the rising prominence of visual media (tv and film) marked the advent of the confessional writer and his/her distortion of the writing workshop dictum “write what you know.” This writer type shares nothing in common with Montaigne but everything in common with Rousseau.

The aesthetic value placed on the vérité humaine by realism and naturalism meant the novel should be “true to life.” It did not mean the novel should be an exposé of the writer’s personal life or feelings. The contemporary concern with authenticity dates from the 1960s; in the worst cases, “authenticity” is manifested in narcissistic auto-narratives.

When I go

I can’t believe the Texas governor will accept federal disaster funds. Doesn’t he know its a precursor to martial law?!?!

Re the FIFA election: It’s great that post-colonial elites are so firmly united in support of corruption.

Re Sepp Blatter’s resignation: For extradition reasons, Mr Blatter could not afford to attend the Women’s WC in Canada. They don’t serve gourmet spätzle in US medium security prisons.

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I did an essay at university that was a structuralist comparison of Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally,” Pegg recalls. “I got a first for it. I read it the other day and I didn’t understand it – it’s completely indecipherable to me. It’s like stereo instructions. But, basically, I tried to say that When Harry Met Sally is like a piece of prose, and Annie Hall is a poem because it uses cinematic devices figuratively, like poems, and it rhymes scenes, whereas When Harry Met Sally is a continuous narrative. It wasn’t saying either one is better. Though Annie Hall is better.

Simon Pegg shows that actors can also be intellectuals. He clearly knows the difference between sjuzet and fabula.

Boxing and biblical art

The Museum of Biblical Art in NYC is closing. I saw an excellent exhibit of Dürer woodcuts there a few years ago. I had trepidation about entering the museum; the “biblical” in its name put me off. Perhaps it was also because the museum is housed in a building owned by the American Bible Society. I was pleasantly surprised that no proselytizing took place. However, when one sees a painting depicting the sacrifice of Isaac, or a myriad of bloody crucifixion scenes, the madness of monotheism becomes overwhelming oppressive, no matter how well the religious themes are aesthetically rendered.

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Boxing was on life-support long before Floyd Moneyweather mastered a style of fighting that can only make the likes of José Mourinho take interest. The attraction of the video game bloodsport (MMA) has captured the spirit of barbarism among millennials. But even it is riddled with PEDs and criminal violence among its iconic figures. Soon, all bloodsport will be consigned, like fox hunting, to the dustbin of cultural history.

Between strangers

The Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, published an Op-Ed in the New York Times proclaiming that he will oppose “gay marriage” by all means necessary. Mr Jindal gives away the purpose for his Op-Ed in this paragraph (emphasis added).

If we, as conservatives, are to succeed in advancing the cause of freedom and free enterprise, the business community must stand shoulder to shoulder with those fighting for religious liberty. The left-wing ideologues who oppose religious freedom are the same ones who seek to tax and regulate businesses out of existence. The same people who think that profit making is vulgar believe that religiosity is folly. The fight against this misguided, government-dictating ideology is one fight, not two. Conservative leaders cannot sit idly by and allow large corporations to rip our coalition in half.

He is concerned with maintaining a (conservative) coalition. His purported defense of religious freedom and free enterprise is a political strategy, not a moral cause.

The “We” Mr Jindal addresses is not the “We” imagined in the phrase “E Pluribus Unum”; he addresses an apparently shrinking political coalition of conservatives who think exactly as he does. He finds it unfathomable that “left-wing ideologues” (translation: people who think the 14th Amendment means something) would be part of the “We” he addresses. Even other conservatives and members of the “business community” who opposed the Arkansas and Indiana laws as de jure discrimination risk being cast into the left-wing pit of grave evil if they do not conform to the beliefs of Mr Jindal’s coalition. In fact, the point of difference is this: the conservative voices and businesses leaders (recognizing that discrimination is bad for business) who spoke out against anti-LGBT bigotry are speaking to the “We” of E Pluribus Unum.

Mr Jindal unwittingly (or intentionally) excludes his vision of conservatism from this “We.” In so doing, he reveals himself as a political radical wrapped in the accoutrements of a conservative.

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In an interview published in The Guardian, the author Toni Morrison describes her self-conception as a writer:

Most writers claim to abhor labels but Morrison has always welcomed the term “black writer”. “I’m writing for black people,” she says, “in the same way that Tolstoy was not writing for me, a 14-year-old coloured girl from Lorain, Ohio. I don’t have to apologise or consider myself limited because I don’t [write about white people] – which is not absolutely true, there are lots of white people in my books. The point is not having the white critic sit on your shoulder and approve it” – she refers to the writer James Baldwin talking about “a little white man deep inside of all of us”. Did she exorcise hers? “Well I never really had it. I just never did.”

She is claiming a right to self-limitation, no matter how essentialist. How does she know what Tolstoy was thinking?

The characterisation of Tolstoy is a matter of projection on the part of Ms Morrison. What she implies is that Tolstoy was only writing to Russians (the literate ones). One can extend the logic of this claim further: Shakespeare wrote only for the English (Londoners in the main), Flaubert wrote only for the French (but probably only Parisians), Baudelaire wrote only for prostitutes (again, probably only Parisian ones), Joyce wrote only for … god knows who, etc. ad nauseum. There’s no empirical evidence that supports this sort of speculation about literary intentions.

In literary-critical terms, Morrison’s perspective stands opposed to modernism; moreover, it is a 1960s-inspired racialist realism that prioritises the author’s experience and that of her “imagined community” (Benedict Anderson) as opposed to the vérité humaine of nineteenth-century realism (which some of her writing clearly violates) . Rather than treating literary works as open books, available to be appropriated by all, Ms Morrison takes a position on literary works that comports well with the publishing marketplace: slap the label of a genre on it (YA, crime, science fiction, romance), and it will sell.

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What do these strangers — Mr Jindal and Ms Morrison — share in common? An allergic response to the idea of the universal, of the porousness of socio-historically imposed boundaries, of the fluidity of imagined communities, of the polyphonic character of the self.  The “left-wing ideologue” and the “white critic” function as convenient bogeys to motivate the insistence on essential identity, whether conceived in politico-religious or racialist and/or ethnic terms. They are necessary fictions for the defense of a world that no longer exists. Perhaps it never existed apart from acts of political and imaginative will.