Tag Archives: Culture

Michael Moynihan Reviews Russell Brand At The Daily Beast

It can take a village to raise an idiot, and there appears a space in Britain into which sometimes witty, constantly preening and narcissistic performance artist Russell Brand has plopped himself.

After much shameless celebrity-seeking and many attempts to plop himself over here as well (through manic, self-absorbed word and idea play, the performing part, apparently), Brand has also trafficked in thera-speak, victimology, and making self-piteous demands for inclusion of former drug addicts like himself into society through social programs (though, hats off to anyone who’s kicked such habits).

Michael Moynihan reviewed his book so you don’t have to (no, please don’t get up).  ‘Russell Brand’s Revolution For Morons

‘These are sentences that stupid people think are smart; a simple concept brutally assaulted by a thesaurus. When he hits upon a phrase he likes, the reader should prepare to be smothered by it. Scattered throughout Revolution, Brand denounces “the occupants of the bejeweled bus,” “the bejeweled fun bus of privilege,” “the eighty-five occupants of the bejeweled bus of privilege,” “the occupants of the bejeweled bus,” the “bejeweled bus with eighty-four other plutocrats,” and a “bejeweled misogynist making money by moving ice.” The writing isn’t just excruciatingly bad, but exhaustingly repetitive.’

On that note: It’s not the vapid, radical chic Leftist ideology that Brand tries to wave around without much reason…however…Lena Dunham seems at a crossroads of feminism, the celebrity cult of Self (complete with knowing meta-winks at fame), the inwardness of the writer and artist confessing away, as well a lot of wannabe radicalism and warmed-over 60′s bohemian counter-culture.

Kevin Williamson wasn’t too impressed with all the posturing, holding Dunham to her own standards: “Pathetic Privilege.”

I can’t speak to her art, but I think I know why she’s been feted in many quarters.

————

Moving along: Should the culture drift further Left, perhaps one could expect the rather lonely Peter Hitchens-type conservative arguments brought against Brand’s bathos.

Perhaps you don’t entirely agree with Hitchens, but if fewer people believe in the spirit of the laws which criminalize drug-use and possession, and fewer believe in the prosecution of those laws (War On Drugs over here), then a lot of the authority based on the presumption of free will and responsibility aimed for in the law-abiding (applying pressure to never use drugs in the first place, especially the hard ones), is likely significantly eroded.

Russell Brand’s arguments aren’t particularly well-made, but I suspect there’s much more space for them, and for compassion without, perhaps, full consideration of the consequences and a lot of other costs besides.

————-

So, this is just liberalism, right?  It’s not race, it’s class.  It’s not ideology, it’s only science.  Look at all this equality!

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times

Which Way, Venezuela?-Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘No Mas Democracia’Who Needs A Growing Economy, When You’ve Got Solidarity?-Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘The Death Of Stalin’s Songbird’

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale Surrenders

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea…as a more entrenched radical British Left and Muslim immigration don’t mix too well: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’

Robert Tracinski At The Federalist: ‘Neil DeGrasse Tyson & The Metaphysical Dilemma Of The Left’

Full piece here.

Explainers and popularizers often run into the problem of hubris; what they know of their limited fields is limited (even and especially if it is physics). They can often be pressed to become public figures and end-up cogitating on everything under the sun.  If left out in public too long, bad things can happen.

Not all Neil DeGrasse Tyson followers are Leftist ideologues I imagine; people constantly on the lookout to advance their ideological preferences and failed theory of history under the veneer of (S)cience.  Many people, however, are clearly trying to put something into, and take something out-of, DeGrasse Tyson that has little to do with physics.

Human ignorance and metaphysical scorn towards the sciences aren’t merely the provinces of religion either, as the need for meaning, purpose, belonging, identity etc. are ever-present.  The radical, nihilist, and anarchic types more often found under the banner of liberalism are clear proof of that. The group-think and proclamations of evil coming from the Left serves another fine example.

Many artists, writers, musicians etc. are consistently in the meaning-making business through their arts.  Their contributions will live or not live on through following generations and through their art.

I remain highly skeptical of people in the ‘narrative’ business (as I engage in the very same), people who might see their tasks as cultural gatekeepers; perhaps to protect and advance the arts, but who often bring a lot of unexamined ideological and political assumptions along.

This isn’t really science, either.

We should be clear on that part.

Tracinski on the Leftist part:

‘Now put these two together: the left’s imperative to think of itself as a tradition of free-thinkers opposed to religious dogma, and their need for a scientific theory that validates their prejudice against capitalism—and you get the impetus for the whole mentality of what the blogger Ace of Spades calls the “I Love Science Sexually” crowd (a play on the name of a popular Facebook page). And you can also understand their adulation of popularizers like Neil deGrasse Tyson who repeat this conventional wisdom back to them and give it the official imprimatur of science.’

On that note, one of the key questions in political philosophy is:  Who has the moral legitimacy to be in charge?

A general who’s fought honorably in a decisive victory? A religious leader? A scientist with/without practical knowledge of politics and just how local it is?

A Statesman who maintains your favored principles and isn’t too personally or politically compromised to get things done?

What do you think ought to be the duty of a scientist in relation to all of that?

Surprise! Sex Sells, But Do We Need Legalized Prostitution?

Reihan Salam at Slate: ‘It’s Time For Legalized Prostitution:

Apparently, it’s not time:

‘So will Americans soon start clamoring for legalized prostitution? I doubt it, because it’s going to be very hard for people to stop looking down on those who buy and sell sex.’

Along the knife’s edge of sexual revolution can be found many an ideologue to whom the idea of liberation (sexual and otherwise) goes hand-in-hand with ideology. To them, your freedom to buy and sell sex would be part of a much larger project of ideological liberation from opposing historical forces and foes such as the Catholic church, the Puritan roots of America, the ‘Patriarchy,’ the squares, the bourgeoisie etc.

Apart from actual radicals, activists and ideologues, however, everyone’s got thoughts on prostitution. I’m guessing the idea of legalized prostitution is more popular amongst liberals and some libertarians, artists and the avant-garde, the younger generation and a steady band of older goats and ‘sex-positive’ types (my sympathies on your diagnosis).  Perhaps feelings run highest amongst those with a personal stake in the matter, after all, dear reader, hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.

It’s a complicated issue.

This blog remains open to empirical arguments from the data, and well-reasoned debate, with a lot of skepticism.

Some years ago, Martha Nussbaum tried to bail-out Eliot Spitzer after he was caught visiting a prostitute while also being in charge of prosecuting prostitution laws:

She writes:

“Spitzer’s offense was an offense against his family. It was not an offense against the public. If he broke any laws, these are laws that never should have existed and that have been repudiated by sensible nations.”

Maybe the U.N. could have drafted a hooker human-rights charter to trump local laws?

As usual, this blog is concerned with the potential for Statism, the deployment of not just science but scientism, not just reasonable arguments but a lot of rationalism as well, with a slavish devotion to experts, a trendy desire to be like Europe, brochures and bureaucrats to fill the hole (ahem).  Many secular humanist ideals are claimed to be universal ideals, which is enough to back our way into a lot of illiberal institutions.

There’s none quite so moralistic as those who’ve fought to overthrow some other forms of moral judgment.

On that note, here are some related videos for your viewing pleasure:

Did the 60′s counter-culture and the conservative counter-counter culture both win, in a sense?

Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley and Peter Robinson discuss below, including the sexual revolution:

—————————

Here’s a good cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer,’ which includes the lines:

‘Asking only workman’s wages I come looking for a job…but I get no offers…just a come-on from the whores on 7th avenue…’

Turns out Paul Simon was reading the Bible a lot while writing the lyrics.

Ah, Look At All The Lonely People-’Jeff Koons Is Back’ Via Vanity Fair

Full piece here.

-Koons gets the Annie Leibovitz treatment (an unfortunate photo at the link).

-This is not a commentary on Koons’ art, some of which I like well enough, it’s a much worse beast: Another attempt at cultural criticism.

In the talk around Koons, what often stands-out to me is how much talk there is about Koons himself, and the search for meaning in all that talk. The concept of artist-as-individual is nothing new: An isolated Self, quite apart from society, mining his interior life and experiences in order to represent beauty, meaning, and some attempt at expressing universal truths through his work and craft. This is unsurprisingly part of what all artists do, and the extreme individuality of this process is what Western artists somewhat consciously have been doing for a few centuries now, from musicians to writers to sculptors, from romanticism to modernism to post-modernism and beyond.

The fact that Koons is doing this with such relentless self-promotion and while also courting celebrity is arguably a much more ‘modern’ phenomenon. A certain amount of melliflous, abstract bullshit seems part of the Koons’ game, as if you’d walked onto a used-art lot as Koons tours you around, asking what’s-it-gonna-take-to-get-you-into-one-of-his-pieces, yet with soothing, professional demeanor, offering an invitation to return a part of of your Self to you and make you whole again within the work produced by his Self. Jeff Koons is a brand.

Perhaps this is what it takes these days to make a living by schmoozing with wealthy art-buyers, but in some ways, it has a distinctly American feel as well. High and low culture mix in a highly commercial, utilitarian way. The urge to merge abstract art and the avant-garde with mass, pop-culture is expressed. Fame and meta-critiques on fame, celebrity, money, the Self amplified for all the other Selfs to see has implications for much of our culture, I suspect.

As to establishing Koons’ bona fides enough to merit attention by Vanity Fair…here are a few quotes from the piece:

“Jeff is the Warhol of his time,” proclaims Adam Weinberg, the Whitney’s director.

Everyone’s getting in on the bullshit!

‘The reference to Curtis ties Koons to the last true avant-garde—a pedigree the artist likes. Curtis, who refused to be called a drag queen, was a pioneer of the L.G.B.T. movement and, like Candy Darling, was made famous by Warhol’

You need the cultural legitimacy of an L.G.B.T. blessing to be truly avant-garde these days.

‘What Warhol and Koons do have in common, though, is an uncanny ability to nail an image or an object so that it catches the Zeitgeist.’

Partially true, perhaps, but what if the Zeitgeist is nothing but a leafy suburb full of good schools, intact families, and moderate lives?  Isn’t this why some youngish people (ahem…many hipsters) often leave their small towns and suburbs looking for meaning, group membership and purpose in what can end-up vaguely collectivist and vaguely individualist lives in cities?

Everyone’s an artist, these days.

Establishing modernist credentials for the brand:

 ‘Koons’s job at MoMA gave him the opportunity to immerse himself in the history of modernism, in particular the ideas of Marcel Duchamp, who changed art history by showing how everyday objects, or “readymades,” could be elevated into the realm of art, depending on context. Duchamp’s theories were a revelation to Koons.’

Piketty and Brecht in the same paragraph:

‘Barbara Kruger, the artist whose unsentimental pronouncements have been cutting to the chase about the art world for decades, says “Oh boy” when I call to discuss Koons, whom she has known since they both were starting out in New York. She needed to think about it and later wrote me: “Jeff is like the man who fell to earth, who, in this grotesque time of art flippage and speculative mania, is either the icing on the cake or some kind of Piketty-esque harbinger of the return of Brecht’s ‘making strange.’

And finally, while I have no quarrel with neurosicence, pop-neuroscience is often a repository for the modern search for legitimate experiences and theories of the Self:

‘Dr. Eric R. Kandel, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, was so impressed with the show that he e-mailed Koons afterward. I asked Kandel why. He explained, “I have been interested in the ‘beholder’s share,’ an idea that came from the Viennese art historian Alois Riegl. It involves the concept that when a painter paints a painting or a sculptor makes a sculpture it is not complete unless a beholder, a viewer, responds to it.”

Kandel adds, “When you looked at the sculptures you saw yourself embedded in the gazing balls. Artists sometimes put mirrors in works, but they don’t design the work so that you find yourself in the arms or chest of a statue, which is what Jeff did.’

Go and find your Self and be made whole, dear reader, within Jeff Koons’ work and the Jeff Koons brand, and try and tell the dancer from the dance.

————————

Koons’ Made In Heaven only amplifies that sound, blurring the line between art and porn, private experience and public show, innocence (so easily corrupted) and naive, narcissistic indulgence.

I suspect Made In Heaven explores previous themes of high and low that were already emerging in his kitsch work, fleshed out in pieces like Michael Jackson And BubblesWinter Bears and on this site: ‘St John The Baptist’.

Some quotes from Koons:

‘This type of dislocated imagery is what motivates people. They’re amused by it, but they have a lot of guilt and shame that they respond to it.  I was trying to remove that guilt and shame.’

Another quote which highlights an idea of some import to the nation:

Coming from a suburban, middle-class background, as he did, he felt that there was something, if not dignified, at least, too easily discarded about this kind of imagery and this kind of sentiment.’

Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

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

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.

—————————————————————————–

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?:

——————–

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.

———————

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:

———————

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?”

————–

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

——————–

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:

———————-

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.

——————————–

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.”  

———————-

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:

————————

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’

————————————————

-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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,391 other followers