Wednesday 365

Instinct for art

Filed under: Art — Tags: , — zundel @ am

Showing off the life of the mind” by Robert Fulford in the National Post 2008-12-30

By shrewdly choosing the best material available, A&LD has emerged as the most useful intellectual magazine in the English-speaking world.

In 1993 two Russian artists, Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, organized a statistically impeccable survey of taste in 10 countries. They concluded that people from Iceland to China hold similar opinions about art: All express affection for landscapes, particularly landscapes dominated by blue, with water somehow involved.



Thursday 359

Neocon next

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — zundel @ pm

Will Hillary Clinton serve as the neocon wing of the Obama administration?

Where Have All the Neocons Gone?” by Jacob Heilbrunn in The American Conservative 2008-01-12

The neocons, who had started out as Trotskyists, espoused a social-democratic program in domestic policy.

…US Institute for Peace and Holocaust Museum task force on genocide … new report … could prove almost as influential for the Obama administration as the neocon-inspired “Defense Planning Guidance” of 1992, which called for American unilateral domination of the world, was for George W Bush’s presidency. … The report’s aims are noble, but it is essentially a stalking horse for liberal intervention. It would create a permanent bureaucracy with a vested interest in insisting upon armed interventionism whenever and wherever the US pleases… [emphasis added]

[from A&LD]


Filed under: Society — Tags: — zundel @ am

In our history of insanity, a moment of humanity:

Demystifying the Christmas Truce

A strange sight, truly!

Christmas Day on the Somme

I highly recommend The Heritage of the Great Wargreatwar.nl.

Wednesday 358

Dissent on architecture

Filed under: Building — Tags: — zundel @ am

Learning from Venturi” by Christopher Caldwell in The Weekly Standard 2008-12-29

It will be surprising if Mark Rothko, Henry Moore, Josef Albers, and Andy Warhol are still preoccupying any serious person (let alone commanding top dollar) 50 years from now.

Gerhard Kallmann’s Boston City Hall still sits like a Stalinist mausoleum on an empty, windswept plaza…

What makes Learning from Las Vegas so fascinating is this trick of deploying one kind of crap to discredit another.

The boy who says the emperor has no clothes does a service even if he has no “blueprint for governance.”

Tuesday 357

First Annual Stumptown Birkebeiner

Filed under: Photo, Portland — zundel @ am
Skiers on Nw Johnson at 14th in Portland, Oregon

"First Annual Stumptown Birkebeiner" by Jamie Francis of The Oregonian

Monday 356

The View from an Attic Window

Filed under: Poem — zundel @ am

The View from an Attic Window” (c 1960) by Howard Nemerov

for Francis and Barbara

Among the high-branching, leafless boughs
Above the roof-peaks of the town,
Snowflakes unnumberably come down.

I watched out of the attic window
The laced sway of family trees,
Intricate genealogies

Whose strict, reserved gentility,
Trembling, impossible to bow,
Received the appalling fall of snow.

All during Sunday afternoon,
Not storming, but befittingly,
Out of a still, grey, devout sky,

The snowflakes fell, until all shapes
Went under, and thickening, drunken lines
Cobwebbed the sleep of solemn pines.

Up in the attic, among many things
Inherited and out of style,
I cried, then fell asleep awhile,

Waking at night now, as the snow-
flakes from darkness to darkness go
Past yellow lights in the street below.

I cried because life is hopeless and beautiful.
And like a child I cried myself to sleep
High in the head of the house, feeling the hull
Beneath me pitch and roll among the steep
Mountains and valleys of the many years
 Which brought me to tears.

Down in the cellar, furnace and washing machine,
Pump, fuse-box, water heater, work their hearts
Out at my life, which narrowly runs between
Them and this cemetery of spare parts
For discontinued men, whose hats and canes
 Are my rich remains.

And women, their portraits and wedding gowns
Stacked in the corners, brooding in wooden trunks;
And children’s rattles, books about lions and clowns;
And headless, hanging dresses swayed like drunks
Whenever a living footstep shakes the floor;
 I mention no more;

But what I thought today, that made me cry,
Is this, that we live in two kinds of thing:
The powerful trees, thrusting into the sky
Their black patience, are one, and that branching
Relation teaches how we endure and grow;
 The other is the snow,

Falling in a white chaos from the sky,
As many as the sands of all the seas,
As all the men who died or who will die,
As stars in heaven, as leaves of all the trees;
As Abraham was promised of his seed;
 Generations bleed,

Till I, high in the tower of my time
Among familiar ruins, began to cry
For accident, sickness, justice, war and crime,
Because all died, because I had to die.
The snow fell, the trees stood, the promise kept,
 And a child I slept.

Sunday 355

Fedor Tyutchev

Filed under: Poem — zundel @ pm

No sickness of the flesh is ours today
 Whose time is spent in grieving and despairing;
Who pray all night that night will pass away—
 Who greet the dawn rebelliously, uncaring.

Withered and parched by unbelief, the soul
 Impossible, unbearable things is bearing.
We are lost men, and ruin is our goal,
 Athirst for faith, to beg for faith not daring.

(translated by R Christie)

Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money

Filed under: Economy — Tags: , — zundel @ am

The essential Fallows provides a look over the horizon. (Translation: really high praise—go read it.)

Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money” by James Fallows in The Atlantic 2008-12

After we are gone, you cannot just go to the moon to get more money.

About stock market derivatives and their role as source of evil:

If you look at every one of these [derivative] products, they make sense. But in aggregate, they are bullshit. They are crap. They serve to cheat people.

About the $700 billion US financial-rescue plan enacted in October:

Finally, after months and months of struggling with your own ideology, with your own pride, your self-righteousness … finally [the US applied] one of the great gifts of Americans, which is that you’re pragmatic.

Pardon the following, but how often do I get to use it.
“I, for one, welcome our new overlords.”

[from A&LD]

The web, and the moment, seem to serve some magazines well. The Atlantic and The Nation have done some excellent publishing this year. And Arts & Letters Daily provides a nice portal.

Saturday 354


Filed under: Portland, Web — zundel @ pm

I just discovered that Portland has the blessing of an excellent search website.


Which also has a great weather page:


Thank you Benjamin and Paige.

Good photo

Filed under: Photo, Portland — zundel @ am

Friday 353

Politics, YouTube, and Foucault

Filed under: Politics, Society — zundel @ pm

Michel Foucault and our macaca future” by Julian Sanchez in Ars Technica 2008-12-19

Sanchez raises an interesting question: How will YouTube and such discipline politicians?

a growing bottom-up panopticon will have important—and not exclusively salutary—effects on our political life

Foucault’s idea that the act of observation—and indeed, the mere awareness that one might be observed at any given time—exerted a powerful psychological effect on the observed.

how we might characterize the implicit “aims and objectives” of a distributed Little Brother panopticon

from the comments:

Wasn’t there a similar worry that with the advent of 24/7 news networks like CNN that politicians would simply sanitize their every thought? As if politicians were somehow human and genuine to begin with. That quickly passed, and I think the same will happen here.

Since there is no oversight or accountability in user generated content the door is left open to distort and skew the facts for political gain.

For all the talk of how the internet is going to revolutionize politics for the better, it sometimes seems like it has only reinforced our short attention spans and cultivated our love for brief sound bytes.

Thursday 352

Keith Douglas and poetry misread

Filed under: Poetry, Politics — Tags: — zundel @ am

from “How to Kill” (1943) by Keith Douglas (1920–1944)

Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.

Douglas had a voice appropriate to his war and technique to use it.

Jon Glover brackets a review mostly about Keith Douglas with genuflections to ideology. He quotes Douglas’s peer Sidney Keyes:

Person and Politics: Commitment in the Forties” by Jon Glover in Poetry Nation 1974

In an insecure, unplanned society such as ours, no one has a right to complain that art is obscure or out of touch with the people; this state of affairs is inevitable, and will remain so, as long as the structure of society itself stands between him and his potential audience. While the mass of the people are excluded from full participation in the necessary activities of society, among which artistic appreciation is one of the most important, all Art for the People will be bad art, and nearly all good art will be obscure and exclusive. (Keyes, “The Artist in Society”, Minos of Crete, p 149)

Keyes accurately describes the result: bad art for the people, and the obscure. He mistakes the obscure for good. And he ignores that most good art existed before him, from times even less secure.

And Glover persistently slips on ideology and misreads Douglas.

Glover’s invocations of ideology seem silly from the distance of more than thirty years. But they do matter. We inherit the legacy of this criticism.

Did Marxist literary criticism license inaccessible art?

Simplify Me When I’m Dead” wrote Douglas.

Read the poems.

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