Tag Archives: Culture

Repost-Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

Full post here.

If you’ve studied in a humanities department, you’ve probably noticed a divide between what you read and wrote there and the culture at large: movies, videos, music videos, songs, broadcast news etc… which (as Camille Paglia argues) is the culture for a majority of Americans.

The author Frank Donoghue, whom Fish reviews, argues that it’s a losing proposition to even try and work against this tide, mostly for financial reasons:

“Such a vision of restored stability,” says Donoghue, “is a delusion” because the conditions to which many seek a return – healthy humanities departments populated by tenure-track professors who discuss books with adoring students in a cloistered setting – have largely vanished. Except in a few private wealthy universities (functioning almost as museums), the splendid and supported irrelevance of humanist inquiry for its own sake is already a thing of the past.

The departments are not self-sustaining, and it’s evident from within.

I would argue that much of Donoghue’s thinking has likely been influenced by the idea that because there is a lack of a central vision of what liberal learning ought to consist of (in part due to the influences of Continental postmodernist thinkers, the tail end of Existentialism etc. again this is a Paglian view of things, with some Allan Bloom thrown in)…

…as a result race, identity, gender politics, and all manner of other interests (many politically left) have helped filled the void.  I won’t argue that these groups don’t contain a lot of truth as many others on the political right are doing.

I will argue that from the current state of Humanities departments… these ideas are informing our politics and shaping public opinion…and the political and idealogical reactions to them (on the right)…for better or worse.

So does Donoghue have a solution?:

“In his preface, Donoghue tells us that he will “offer nothing in the way of uplifting solutions to the problems [he] describes.” In the end, however, he can’t resist recommending something and he advises humanists to acquire “a thorough familiarity with how the university works,” for “only by studying the institutional histories of scholarly research, of tenure, of academic status, and . . . of the ever-changing college curriculum, can we prepare ourselves for the future.” “

Not really, though what he does offer seems practical.

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As mentioned:  I have some doubts about Fish’s larger interpretation of affairs…a tendency to view the arts, humanities, and philosophy itself through a certain lens.  (Fish teaches a course on conservative philosophy..hopefully in the better sense of that word…conservare…).

See Also On This Site: Martha Nussbaum saw this coming a while ago, but is her platform broad enough?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities:Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

So, You’re Telling Me What’s Cool?-Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal: ‘Banksy In Neverland’

Full piece here.

Banksy’s website here.

Here’s what much of that ‘meta’ commentary on commerce and transgressive street-art might get you.  Local thugs charging those Banksy groupies to see his art.  Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?:

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Dalrymple:

‘The enormous interest his work arouses, disproportionate to its artistic merit, shows not that there is fashion in art, but that an adolescent sensibility is firmly entrenched in our culture.  The New York Times reports that a lawyer, Ilyssa Fuchs, rushed from her desk the moment she heard about Banksy’s latest work and ran more than half a mile to see it.  Would she have done so if a delicate fresco by Peiro della Francesca had been discovered in Grand Central Terminal?  In the modern world, art and celebrity are one.  And we are all Peter Pan now:  We don’t want to grow up.’

Well, I certainly hadn’t noticed an adolescent sensibility at the NY Times.  Certainly not.

An image of one of those Peiro della Francesca frescoes here.

Perhaps it’s worthwhile to view Banksy as a kind of poor man’s Damien Hirst:   A ‘working-class’ British guy with some native talent but not too much in the way of formal training nor arguably lasting artistic achievement (perhaps in the ‘graffiti’ world).  Instead of working as a gallery, mixed-media modern installation artist like Hirst, he’s followed the street-graffiti path leaving ‘transgressive’ messages on politics and ethics scrawled across the cityscape in anonymity.  For all his irony, and the fact that he’s likely in in on the joke, Banksy still finds himself subject to the larger forces at work where art, money, & fame are meeting.

As a girl in Seattle here mentioned to me at a party:  ‘His work is a meta-commentary on art, commerce, greed, creativity and all that.  His becoming a commodity is the ultimate irony.’

Deep man, deep.

Yet, as to Dalrymple’s point, I could imagine an adult sneaking off to check out a Michaelangelo fresco with childlike anticipation, and maybe even a little childish or adolescent delight at being the first to arrive.  Of course, I think that fresco tends to engender a much deeper and complex response than that of Banksy’s work and ‘social commentary’, but the desire for beauty, hope, and brief bursts of transcendence aren’t going anywhere.   This reminds me of Richard Wilbur’s poem:  ‘First Snow In Alsace.‘  which evokes the grim realities of war and suffering covered up by a beautiful snowfall.

Here are the last stanzas and line:

…You think: beyond the town a mile
Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes
Of soldiers dead a little while.

Persons and persons in disguise,
Walking the new air white and fine,
Trade glances quick with shared surprise.

At children’s windows, heaped, benign,
As always, winter shines the most,
And frost makes marvelous designs.

The night guard coming from his post,
Ten first-snows back in thought, walks slow
And warms him with a boyish boast:

He was the first to see the snow.

The worst war can bring is juxtaposed against our simple childlike wonder (and possibly childish) delight at that which is beautiful and mysterious in nature.  Of course, such desires can help cause the destruction of war, too, but…hey.   People love to be the first and the coolest.  As Dalrymple argues above, these childish impulses are the ones that should not be so easily encouraged nor celebrated, especially by Banksy nor his reviewers at the NY Times.  I pretty much agree.

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Performance artist Marina Ambramovic and Jay-Z are together at last during a 6-hour lip sync performance-art pieceto promote Mr Z’s new album.

Still, it’s probably more engaging than Tilda Swinton in a box.

Maybe Jeff Koons got there first, where marketing, money, and branding met pop art:  A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

***I’d currently argue that in a successful commercial culture such as ours, with such strong tensions between the individual artist and the demos, and such high and low-art available, and where we’re awash in pop culture, music & entertainment, it’s natural to have strong debate going as to what’s ‘cool’ and what’s good art.  Clearly, religion and religious duties come into constant tension with both commerce and art.  Clearly, that commercial culture has formed a celebrity culture which is also affecting our politics.  Clearly, whether or not you’re an art snob, an aesthete, or a secularly or religiously moral person, you can easily see how that culture produces a lot of crap, and can arouse the base desires in people which can be as harmless as a crush, sexual longing, a desire for romantic love and/or the cult-like worship.

Here’s Robert Hughes being especially critical of an Andy Warhol modern art collector, and where money, marketing, art and fame meet:

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Addition:  I’ve gotten a few emails suggesting this is too negative.  Bah.  I like some of Banksy’s work for it’s cleverness and wit, and his experience in doing what he does.  Beyond that, not too much and there’s way too much hype.

Related On This Site:  Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’

Full post here.  (including video link)

Detroit may have seen better days, and may have its problems, but is it to be seen through a tragic lens?  Should it viewed as an artifact whose meaning is to be determined by young artists looking for a sense of community, social integration, and a certain definition of “culture?”

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Continuing towards a theme:  Reason magazine recently did an interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire and Treme for HBO.

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At the end of this enjoyably contentious interview, Simon says we must learn how to live in cities.  He says this as though it were a moral imperative, and as though his presentation of a rather tragic vision of human nature, good and evil, individuals navigating through corrupt and decaying institutions, were enough to actually live in those cities.

Here’s some of what Detroit living is like for many people:

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The lights are off.  There aren’t enough police.  Like parts of Baltimore, it’s dangerous and unsafe, overrun with criminals and criminal activity.  Detroit doesn’t have enough revenue to provide basic services.  Clearly, some of what Detroit needs is to attract companies that are actually generating revenue back into Detroit.  I doubt that the people still within city limits can focus on the crime and victims of violent crime, the broken windows, and the corruption at City Hall until something like this happens.

I realize we’re looking at decades of decline, and no easy answers. I also understand that Simon spent a lot of time writing at the Baltimore Sun, observing closely the stuff of which he made his show, the actual lives and rational incentives that guide many of his characters.

I don’t begrudge anyone their art nor experience, nor their own ideas and principles regarding that experience.  I also don’t begrudge people their freedom to move into Detroit and grow community gardens, and seek some kind of ‘organic’ solution, though they will clearly run into problems.

Obviously, in getting individuals to contribute to institutions that aren’t already corrupt, or in some cases barely functional, much more is needed, including reasonable freedom from violence, the freedom to move out of a terrible neighborhood if you’re able, and the opportunity to get a job and develop skills that don’t relate to the drug trade.

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Perhaps we are also in a Western wave of semi-nihilism passing through the arts and our culture:   Individuals are isolated from, and in conflict with, nearly all institutions and traditions on such a view, led by the isolated artist himself.  Artists usually have problems with religion, politics and convention.  If they’re any good, they can show us beauty, bending our imaginations within the scope of their imaginations through their chosen medium.

You probably recognize the theme these days:  The beautiful city, raucous and ruined, corrupted and decayed.  The isolated, flawed characters making their way tragically through that city, casting long shadows.  You can hear echoes of romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism throughout.

Personally, I doubt some form of soft collectivism or communalism (anti-corporatism) which is being attached to this nihilism is a good solution to such problems between the individual and his institutions in our society.  A lot of liberals are entertaining it these days, in cities like Detroit and post-Katrina New Orleans.

I suspect such an approach will eventually make it harder to defend individual freedoms against the institutions such liberal ideas can actually create, which don’t work so well in the real world.  Our freedom as Americans to make art and engage in free speech are central to our lives, but they are also intimately connected with our political and economic freedoms as well.

This makes for more culture wars, I suppose.

Related On This Site: Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?… some people don’t want you to have the freedom to move to the suburbs and are attaching creativity to political goals: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’… From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar Man

From Strange Maps: ‘Crime Topography Of San Francisco’… What about the victims of crime, not all this romanticization of criminals?:  Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘Radical Graffiti Chic’..sometimes religion works for cities:  Repost-William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

James Lileks From His Site-Riffing On Modernism

Full post here.

Lileks responds to an Atlantic piece which reflects upon the modernist influence.  From the Atlantic piece.

‘At their best, the Schiffs can be models for renewing the unquenched aspiration of a century ago, to place art and its imaginative demands at the center of an effort to build a more humane future’

Humane.  Human.  Human rights.  Make it new.  Break with the past.  Shape man’s destiny upon new foundations of knowledge, explore new possibilities, and perhaps shape men themselves.

Why, there’s a whole philosophy under there.  Not a religion necessarily, and not always moral claims to knowledge, but a whole framework nonetheless. Well, some of it, anyways.

Lileks responds:

‘There is no morality in art. There is morality in religion; there are philosophical objectives embedded in politics. The two are intertwined in a society and reflected in its art. When you sever art from its cultural moorings and make “newness” the overriding criterion by which the merits of a work are judged, then anything is possible. This results in crap. Not always’

James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ezra Pound, the Bauhaus, the imagists, the futurists etc.  Some of those influences have morphed into post-modernism or where such currents have flowed and keep flowing.

Lileks’ take:

‘The primary urge of the revolutionary and the modernist and the adolescent: impatience.’

So, do we aim for maturity?  Reverence?  Good old Longfellow?

Food for thought on this Friday.  Science, technology, mathematics are doing quite fine, and moving ahead, but what about the humanities?

A little more on postmodernism.

From Dr. Steven Hicks:

‘In the shorter term, postmodernism has caused an impoverishment of much of the academic humanities, both in the quality of the work being done and the civility of the debates. The sciences have been less affected and are relatively healthy. The social sciences are mixed.

I am optimistic, though, for a couple of reasons. One is that pomo was able to entrench itself in the second half of the twentieth century in large part because first-rate intellectuals were mostly dismissive of it and focused on their own projects. But over the last ten years, after pomo’s excesses became blatant, there has been a vigorous counter-attack and pomo is now on the defensive. Another reason for optimism is that, as a species of skepticism, pomo is ultimately empty and becomes boring. Eventually intellectually-alert individuals get tired of the same old lines and move on. It is one thing, as the pomo can do well, to critique other theories and tear them down. But that merely clears the field for the next new and intriguing theory and for the next generation of energetic young intellectuals.

So while the postmodernism has had its generation or two, I think we’re ready for the next new thing – a strong, fresh, and positive approach to the big issues, one that of course takes into account the critical weapons the pomo have used well over the last while’

-Want to lose an afternoon?  Visit Lileks.com.  A fine humorist with a sharp pen and a keen eye.  This is what the internet is for.

Here’s Australian art critic Robert Hughes discussing the Albany plaza, and almost hyperbolically criticizing the aims of modernist architecture.

***Fun fact, he pronounces the “Boogie Woogie”  the “Boo-gie Woo-gie.”  

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Related On This Site:  They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’ Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Michael Wolff At The Guardian Via CatholicismUSA: ‘The New York Times’ Identity Crisis’

Full post here.

‘For generations, the New York Times strove for singular meaning and significance. The message to everyone who has ever worked there was that they were made by the Times and lesser without it. Indeed, the whole point of a newspaper is to combine and orchestrate information niches and voices into a seamless package and towering brand.

But now, the memo: undo all that’

New technology levels authority, greatly empowering individuals to produce, manage and consume their own content.  Institutions are disrupted.  The old brands don’t tower like they used to.  The Grey Lady, as a daily, has to utilize the new technology and prove its value every day in a competitive market going forward.

I do remember Snow Fall: The Avalanche At Tunnel Creek, an interactive piece a few years back, which tried to innovate.

They also had some success with Nate Silver, but there were authority issues and a culture clash, by all accounts:

‘One of the Times’ successful product differentiations was its arrangement with Nate Silver, the data packager, who drew handsome traffic numbers during the election season. But it lost Silver in a bidding war. While Abramson fought to keep him, Thompson and the business side did not, it seems, want to pay what this successful product cost.

Nor were they quite ready to acknowledge that these mini-products and brands might each nurture and depend upon as great an ego as the Times itself. They were not ready to be reconciled to the fact that, in a hit-driven world, you have to really suck up to stars.’

I’m guessing much of the old newsroom culture is not yielding to the rapid change going on right now.  Some have probably dug in and stayed dug inside their rolodexes and old ways.  There is a serious culture clash going on.

Perhaps also some folks at the Times are creative types, the kind who will cast a baffled eye and jealous glance towards technology, having gravitated towards literature, theater and the arts, thus resisting data, analysis and what numbers can do for them.

As to politics and ideology, other than to say that the Times has always been pretty liberal, and much of the new tech crowd and plugged-in culture is pretty liberal (usually voting non-Republican) and that many parts of NYC are quite liberal, there may not be much to say.

The Times is exhibiting what many institutions in our culture seem to be exhibiting:  Fidelity to a post 60′s, idealist, liberal managerial class often guided by feminist and environmentalist ideals, diversity for its own sake, and abstract equality as the highest thing around.  Throw in a touch of sexual liberation, too.

A pursuit of such ideals can narrow their focus to a very liberal base of readers and lead to non-critical Democratic party support.

We’ll see what happens.

Classic Yellow Journalism by malik2moon

Remember The Maine! The good old days…by malik2moon

Related On This Site:  Michael Kinsley At The New Republic Via Althouse: ‘A Q & A With Jill Abramson’

From Slate: “Newsweek Has Fallen And Can’t Get Up”

Big Data And Filthy Lucre: Neil Irwin At WonkBlog-’Here’s What The Bloomberg Data Scandal Reveals About How The Media Really Makes Money’

Jeff Bezos, Founder Of Amazon, Acquires The Washington Post

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama…Hate Is A Strong Word-Some Links On The BBC, The CBC, & NPR

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…

Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’..

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers?

The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard

From NPR: ‘How California Is Turning The Rest Of The West Blue’

Full post here.

Thanks to a reader for the link.  Culture and ideas matter, as many Californians are fleeing California, looking for jobs and economic growth elsewhere.

As to these wanderers:

‘Nevertheless, they also tend to be fairly progressive on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion — and overall may be more liberal than their new neighbors in other states.

“You see that in other parts of the country, too,” says Ruy Teixeira, a Democratic demographer at the Center for American Progress. “You have the phenomenon of relatively conservative people leaving a liberal state and moving to a conservative state where they’re relatively liberal.”

Colorado has been a hotspot, as well as Nevada.

On Joel Kotkin’s thinking:

‘As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California’s politics become even more left-wing. It’s a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, “the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees.’

Well, California has Silicon Valley, a strong tech sector, tourism, immigration, the call of manifest destiny, great port cities, great weather, the entertainment industry, rich natural resources as well as many other things going for it.

It’s been the operating theory of this blog that NPR’s ideals, similar to ideas active in California culture and politics, are a natural consequence of liberalism and are part of the trade-offs that come with liberalism, harboring progressivism and 60′s idealist collectivism within itself.  Such ideologies can lead to the same problems driving many people away from California at the moment:  Strict environmental laws, strong public sector unions, a progressive culture of multiculturalism and abstract equality which rewards activism through the laws.

In California, these ideals have come to dominate education and health-care in particular, and large swathes of public sentiment more broadly. In practice, this has led to one-party control of the political process, economic stagnation, bloated bureaucracy, deficits, race and identity group politics and a shrinking pie.

So for all the free-thinking Jerry Brown displays in the video below, the practical politics that result from these ideas are another matter:

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Other parts of the country are NOT California of course, full of more rooted, generally more traditional people, but the whole country, regardless of political ideology, is facing global competition for jobs, rapid technological change and loss of manufacturing and other low-skilled jobs, municipal defaults in many areas, and have not figured out how to fulfill the promises they’ve made for their citizens.

Walter Russell Mead suggests this is emblematic of the failure of the ‘blue model’:

‘The frustration and bitterness that fills American politics these days reflects the failure of our current social, political and economic institutions and practices to deliver the results that Americans want and expect.’

Victor Davis Hanson’s advice for California may be true of what’s increasingly part of the furniture for our national politics and liberalism more generally:

Soon, even the Stanford professor and the La Jolla administrator may learn that illegal immigration, cumbersome regulations, and the terrible elementary schools affect them as well.

The four-part solution for California is clear:  don’t raise the state’s crushing taxes any higher; reform public-employee compensation:  make use of ample natural resources: and stop the flow of illegal aliens. Just focus on those four areas-as California did so well in the past-and in time, the state will return to its bounty of a few decades ago.  Many of us intend to stay and see that it does.’

I know where much of what’s become of mainstream liberalism will likely pull the culture: Towards this collectivism, solidarity, activism and Statism, and it’s arguable how liberal this really is.

***See Matt Welch’s piece here on how the New Republic has gone full progressive in many ways.  In this blog’s opinion, neo-liberalism is more like that of Will Wilkinson, or can be found at the Economist.

They’ve got to keep up with the times: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

 Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…

California’s anti-union and anti-immigration democrat-Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.

A good post on Robinson Jeffers from Malcolm Greenhill, which highlights how the rugged and vast beauty of California makes it easier to imagine what culture is, and what it ought to be on this outpost of Western Civilization.

Conn Carroll At The Washington Examiner: ‘California In Crisis’

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-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

-A map from Immodest Proposals on how to divide California.  Topographic crime map of San Francisco. 

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

Related On This Site:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’ A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homlessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

Onward we go.

Sunday Photo And A Poem By Emerson-’Boston’

Boston-Skyline copy-1

Boston

(Sicut Patribus, sit Deus Nobis)

The rocky nook with hilltops three 
Looked eastward from the farms, 
And twice each day the flowing sea 
Took Boston in its arms; 
The men of yore were stout and poor, 
And sailed for bread to every shore. 

And where they went on trade intent 
They did what freeman can, 
Their dauntless ways did all men praise, 
The merchant was a man. 
The world was made for honest trade,- 
To plant and eat be none afraid. 

The waves that rocked them on the deep 
To them their secret told; 
Said the winds that sung the lads to sleep, 
‘Like us be free and bold!’ 
The honest waves refuse to slaves 
The empire of the ocean caves. 

Old Europe groans with palaces, 
Has lords enough and more;- 
We plant and build by foaming seas 
A city of the poor;- 
For day by day could Boston Bay 
Their honest labor overpay. 

We grant no dukedoms to the few, 
We hold like rights and shall;- 
Equal on Sunday in the pew, 
On Monday in the mall. 
For what avail the plough or sail, 
Or land or life, if freedom fail? 

The noble craftsmen we promote, 
Disown the knave and fool; 
Each honest man shall have his vote, 
Each child shall have his school. 
A union then of honest men, 
Or union nevermore again. 

The wild rose and the barberry thorn 
Hung out their summer pride 
Where now on heated pavements worn 
The feet of millions stride. 

Fair rose the planted hills behind 
The good town on the bay, 
And where the western hills declined 
The prairie stretched away. 

What care though rival cities soar 
Along the stormy coast: 
Penn’s town, New York, and Baltimore, 
If Boston knew the most! 

They laughed to know the world so wide; 
The mountains said: ‘Good-day! 
We greet you well, you Saxon men, 
Up with your towns and stay!’ 
The world was made for honest trade,- 
To plant and eat be none afraid. 

‘For you,’ they said, ‘no barriers be, 
For you no sluggard rest; 
Each street leads downward to the sea, 
Or landward to the West.’ 

O happy town beside the sea, 
Whose roads lead everywhere to all; 
Than thine no deeper moat can be, 
No stouter fence, no steeper wall! 

Bad news from George on the English throne: 
‘You are thriving well,’ said he; 
‘Now by these presents be it known, 
You shall pay us a tax on tea; 
‘Tis very small,-no load at all,- 
Honor enough that we send the call.’ 

‘Not so,’ said Boston, ‘good my lord, 
We pay your governors here 
Abundant for their bed and board, 
Six thousand pounds a year. 
(Your highness knows our homely word,) 
Millions for self-government, 
But for tribute never a cent.’ 

The cargo came! and who could blame 
If Indians seized the tea, 
And, chest by chest, let down the same 
Into the laughing sea? 
For what avail the plough or sail 
Or land or life, if freedom fail? 

The townsmen braved the English king, 
Found friendship in the French, 
And Honor joined the patriot ring 
Low on their wooden bench. 

O bounteous seas that never fail! 
O day remembered yet! 
O happy port that spied the sail 
Which wafted Lafayette! 
Pole-star of light in Europe’s night, 
That never faltered from the right. 

Kings shook with fear, old empires crave 
The secret force to find 
Which fired the little State to save 
The rights of all mankind. 

But right is might through all the world; 
Province to province faithful clung, 
Through good and ill the war-bolt hurled, 
Till Freedom cheered and the joy-bells rung. 

The sea returning day by day 
Restores the world-wide mart; 
So let each dweller on the Bay 
Fold Boston in his heart, 
Till these echoes be choked with snows, 
Or over the town blue ocean flows.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson.

-Click through for more photos.

Repost-A Few Wednesday Thoughts Towards a Theme

Recently, British thinker Alain De Botton floated the idea of building an ‘atheist temple’ in the heart of London.  He recommends combing through religious practices for useful organizing principles in response to the New Atheists.  You can read more about it here, which includes a radio interview/podcast.

Did the Unitarian Universalists get there first, with a mishmash of faith and secular humanism?

Towards a theme: Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas:

‘The Rothko Chapel, founded by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A tranquil meditative environment inspired by the mural canvases of Russian born American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970), the Chapel welcomes over 60,000 visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.’

There’s even a suite of music by Morton Feldman, entitled ‘Rothko Chapel’

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Simon Schama has a four-part series on Rothko available on Youtube.

Here’s Robert Hughes, whom I’d identify as an art critic with roots in the Anglo-American tradition.

“Mark Rothko was obsessed with the idea of an abstract art that would carry the full weight of religious meaning.”

Sadly, Rothko killed himself.  To be fair, that was a tall order to fill.  Hughes’ also discusses the American romantics, brushing up against the wide open wilderness, and raising questions of transcendence in the linked video.

Like me, you may have gotten a whiff of something almost New Age about the chapel.  Here are some people congregating there to do yoga:

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Lastly, to beat my favorite horses, I just wanted to contrast the above with the portions of our politics and culture which depend upon traditional religion, and upon resistance to the pursuit of virtue through collectivist political philosophies, which often finds common ground in secular humanism:

Addition:  Big theme, small blog?  Does art always seek its own space?

Related On This Site: Douthat argues that organized religion is on the decline in America, and in its place are rising new-age, self-help, mega-churches, and vague spirituality: Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘Divided By God’

Charles Murray is trying to get virtue back with the social sciences: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & AtheismRepost-From Virtual Philosophy: A Brief Interview With Simon Blackburn…Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…of England?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Repost: A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…One of the new atheists and a 68er and socialist, materialist and relentless critic of religion, and especially faith: Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Nussbaum argues that relgion shouldn’t be a source for the moral laws From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

More On The Washington Post, Technology and The Role Of The Media-Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘How The Post Was Lost’

Full piece here.

Is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of the Washington Post going to allow him to place the paper in your living room, or on your Kindle, or some other mobile device?

Perhaps.

Bezos could attach the brand (if not the institution) to his ‘free cash flow‘ model, one which aims to be where you are and win your loyalty with great service and ease of use.   You may already be streaming movies online, downloading books to your Kindle, and having groceries shipped to your home.   With logistics, constant innovation, and by eschewing percentage margins, he’s kept Amazon elastic, and focused on you, the customer.

On the other hand, Bezos may also not be all that interested, or even able, to merge what he does best with the Washington Post and its obligations.  It could end up little more than a vanity purchase, one with a rather minimal $250 million price-tag, ending-up on the ash-heap like Newsweek.

The Post’s acquisition is apparently part of a longer, slower process, an old media model that’s been dying, and just about to die, for quite some time.  The more the old revenue streams and the old models dry-up (the online streams haven’t replaced them), the worse the journalism tends to be.  It’s been a death-spiral for many with skin in the game.

Ross Douthat’s answer is to suggest that the new technology has helped create a nationalized market for media outlets, and thus, the Washington Post couldn’t compete with Politico:

‘Today, though, it’s Politico rather than The Post that dominates the D.C. conversation, Politico rather than The Post that’s the must-read for Beltway professionals and politics junkies everywhere, and Politico rather than The Post that matches the metabolism of the Internet.’

He finishes with:

‘What Bezos can deliver, in other words, is a newspaper war, with clear and pressing stakes. For The Post to thrive again, Politico must lose.’

Is Politico the Post’s real competition?  To some degree, perhaps. 

Here’s Bill Virgin, discussing the failure of one of Seattle’s two dailies:

‘To put all the blame, or even the bulk of it, on those factors is not only too convenient, but also downright deceptive. It obscures a long-standing truth about this business: American newspapers have been and continue to be, as a sector, the worst-run of any industry in this country.

The Internet may have helped weaken the precipice upon which the newspaper industry was standing, and the recession may have given it a helpful stomp to send us into the chasm. But it was the industry itself that walked out onto a ledge of crumbling shale and stood waiting for it to collapse.’

What is it that journalists create of real value to people?  Facts and information?  Checks on politicians, local events, and corruption? Reinforcement of a political ideology and a worldview?

What is it that journalists’ seek?  Truth?  To practice their craft of writing and offer a public service? Career advancement?  Influence?

Addition:  Douthat has a follow-up here.

***Douthat mentions the British comedy ‘Yes, Prime Minister‘ as a source for who reads the Newspapers.

—————-

Here’s a good American version.

Related On This Site:  Jeff Bezos, Founder Of Amazon, Acquires The Washington Post

Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’..

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die? From Slate: Jack Shafer On The Pulitzer Prize-Who Cares?  Who Reads The Newspapers?

The Newseum Opens On The Mall: More From The Weekly Standard

A Free Lunch?-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘How To Get Ahead On Facebook Without Really Trying’

Malcolm Gladwell argues here that apart from the information/journalism divide, the technology still ultimately costs something as well…”Free” is a utopian vision, and I suspect Gladwell knows this pretty well:  From The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Priced To Sell”

Jim Powell At Forbes: ‘How Did Rich Connecticut Morph Into One Of America’s Worst Performing Economies?’

Full piece here.

‘What Connecticut politicians failed to do was focus on making their jurisdictions as attractive as possible to investors and entrepreneurs, so there would be a continuing influx of new jobs.  Among other things, this means reducing the cost of doing business for everyone, large and small – prospective newcomers as well as investors and entrepreneurs already in the state.’

Over in Rhode Island, they tried a crony capitalist sweetheart deal to get in on that tech action with Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios.  Taxpayers were on the hook.  That didn’t work out so well:

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Boondoggle!

Hopefully, more Americans are coming around to the idea that you can’t keep squeezing a stone, neither locally, state-wide, nor federally.  Many municipalities are drowning in pension obligations and they are looking for cargo-cult solutions to keep the status-quo going.

A quote found here:

‘The last thing Detroit teaches us is that America too often doesn’t learn from its mistakes.  Detroit’s troubles have been evident for quite some time, yet it’s hard to see that many other post industrial cities have managed to carve out a different path.  Rather, they pretended that Detroit’s fall was somehow unique due to its auto industry dependence – and managed to ignore other failed cities as well – while embarking on the same turnaround strategy via conventional wisdom and silver bullets.’

This kind of thing is going on all over the country.

Of course, lower taxes, less regulation, less crony-capitalism, and a growing private sector are not in the interests of many in our society, and certainly not the current administration.  I’d even say that we’ve got our work cut out for us given the potential overall drift of our culture, especially post-60′s:

Another quote, this time from Ira Stoll:

‘Indeed, if there is a single fact that sums up the state of American political economy at the present moment, it is this: the Boston office building once home to Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, which chronicled and celebrated small and fast-growing businesses, is now the headquarters of a publication called “Compliance Week.”’

Related On This Site:  Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.

What if you’re economy’s already depressed?  Don’t make a maze of laws and build stadiums and museums on the public dime…get new industry: From Reason: ‘Reason Saves Cleveland With Drew Carey’…Reason also suggests that if such creative/entrepenurial spirit gets off the ground, it will have to get around the public sector in Detroit.  From Reason Via Youtube: ‘Is Harrisburg’s Nightmare America’s Future?’
Is the same definition of ‘community’ connected with one that can stifle economic growth through political means?: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘Washington Versus America’

Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘The End Of Unions?’

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