‘It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.’
-James Panero at The New Criterion: ‘Detroit Chronicle‘
‘This is not to say that the arts will “save Detroit,” as some have suggested. The sociologist Richard Florida, who wrote The Rise of the Creative Class in 2001, has staked much on this messianic and largely unproven claim for rustbelt renewal. Instead, cities work best when the planners get out of the way of artists rather than attempting to use them as tools of gentrification. Basing your urban future on jet-setting bohemians coming to town for a Matthew Barney film shoot is no way to keep the lights on and the water running, or, more to the point, strengthen the local cultural fabric.’
As previously posted:
70 photos of the abandoned, foreboding Temple. Mysterious symbols and a certain sad grandeur that’s come to represent Detroit these days.
-Photographer Ben Marcin has a series called ‘Last House Standing.’ Solitary row-homes…the only ones left on the block.
From Buzzfeed: ‘Why I Bought A House in Detroit For $500:’
How did Detroit get here? Very comprehensive and easy to navigate.
Are you looking at beautiful photos and feeling sorry for Detroit, and yourself? See Time Magazine’s photo essay by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre (less porn-like, more thoughtful).
Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either: A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’
GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’
You Can Have It
My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.
The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.
Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,
and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labours, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?
All night at the ice plant he had fed
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I
stacked cases of orange soda for the children
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time
with always two more waiting. We were twenty
for such a short time and always in
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty.
In 1948 the city of Detroit, founded
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died,
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace,
for there was no such year, and now
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers,
calendars, doctors’ appointments, bonds
wedding certificates, drivers licenses.
The city slept. The snow turned to ice.
The ice to standing pools or rivers
racing in the gutters. Then the bright grass rose
between the thousands of cracked squares,
and that grass died. I give you back 1948.
I give you all the years from then
to the coming one. Give me back the moon
with its frail light falling across a face.
Give me back my young brother, hard
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse
for God and burning eyes that look upon
all creation and say, You can have it.
There’s definitely some Spanish influence here, by way of Antonio Machado. Perhaps there’s also some labor/alienation sentiment for the working man on the factory floor, but hey, it’s Detroit and it’s a well-crafted poem.
Just because I love to highlight the generally Left-Of-Center political philosophy over at PBS and NPR, there’s a link to this PBS piece about life on the factory floor and Levine’s poem. Here’s a Paris Review interview with Levine.
A lot of breathing, technique, and multiphonics going on here.
A while ago now, but, please…help us:
In case you hadn’t heard, Tilda Swinton has been sleeping at MOMA. Encased in a glass box, the actress, best known for her roles in films such as Burn After Reading and Moonrise Kingdom, has shown up to exhibit her virtuosic napping skills twice over the past week, and “performances” will apparently continue throughout 2013′
Photo set here.
MoMA’s mission statement:
‘Founded in 1929 as an educational institution, The Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to being the foremost museum of modern art in the world.’
Brian Kelly, our author, finishes darkly, chiding MOMA:
‘Such irresponsibility portends the degradation of cultural institutions, the shirking of their instructive responsibilities, and the corruption of artistic judgment from a metric of aesthetic merit to one of capitalist value.’
They’re trying to get people in the door. Maybe they could put her in that Damien Hirst tank filled with formaldehyde, the one with the shark.
Marketing, fame, entrepreneurial spirit, high and low culture.
On that note: Banksy, the mildly talented, ironic/iconic graffiti artist tries to shock you awake to how the world really is.
It’s not Disneyland, it’s ‘Dismaland.‘
I admit I find Disney theme parks to be rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization, and storybook themes. There’s a lot of kitsch in them thar walls.
Clearly, though, many people love them. They provide families with a place to go and spend time with their kids, and provide the kids a safe place to explore.
They’re a business, operating for profit. I get it, but I don’t really care.
I can understand that a Frenchman, living in the shadow of Euro Disney, consuming a local wheel of perfectly aged cheese might have a different set of concerns, and perhaps some valid concerns, but I still don’t care that much.
So, why ‘ironically’ target Disney, copying their model of people paying to wander through rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes?
Artists often want your attention, usually to have shaped your imagination in a slightly different way, or to make see the world anew by creating something beautiful enough that your reasons can’t justify your aesthetic pleasure.
So, ironically, and with politics infused, Banksy has deigned to get your attention by making something shockingly modern and urgent, globally just and socially conscious enough to direct your attention to the world as it really is.
Deep man, deep.
Surely, while highlighting the problems artists have always had with money and patronage, Banksy has no commitment to post-Enlightenment ideas that offer rather sentimental recreations of nature, civilization and storybook themes…still haunting the landscape like so many abandoned theme parks that few people care to visit.
What a sad use of the imagination and relatively little in the way of artistic technique to back it up.
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
Also On This Site: Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily argues the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’
How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia. See the comments: Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful
Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…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…
“…and if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important that equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.”
(This piece has been altered to reflect an accurate reading of Douthat’s piece. Better late than never. Original copies can be provided.)
‘So it isn’t quite sufficient to say that the cult of John F. Kennedy is merely a case where admirable energies and impulses have been misdirected toward an unworthy hero figure. Rather, the biggest problems with the Kennedy era — the way that “missile gap” rhetoric led inexorably to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and then a near-nuclear war, the sleepwalking escalation in Vietnam, and then what my colleague David Brooks rightly calls “the mirage of religiosity” around the modern presidency that Kennedy’s rhetoric and martyrdom helped conjure up — are all characteristic and recurring problems with the attempt to resist, through politics, the trends and tendencies that books like “The Abolition of Man” and “Brave New World” discerned and warned against.’
‘These problems are among the reasons why so many contemporary writers, mostly liberal and libertarian, are inclined to dismiss the very concept of decadence … or at least to say that while we probably wouldn’t want to go the full Mustapha Mond, that kind of danger is still extremely remote, and so long as growth continues, living standards rise, and equality advances, anything that’s lost along the way is probably well worth giving up.’
Another addition: Just read Douthat’s article. He is critiquing something that progress and the creature comforts of a material culture provide and which both Huxley and Lewis warned against: A soporific attitude towards life because much immediate suffering has been vanquished. Our technology and progress can lead to a sleepy drift where we are happy to trade security for freedom because many of us don’t know any better, and don’t want to risk finding out.
JFK was a receptacle for national liberal greatness, and for a lot of Americans’ sense of civic duty, membership to the national identity, and perhaps cause for moral action like joining the Peace Corps. Such calls to ‘national greatness’ politics as in the case of JFK can be intended to take advantage of the sense of purpose such politics bring to individuals’ lives. This can lead to great error and consequences on down the road, especially surrounding the myth of politics. JFK admirers can be a rather deluded bunch when the facts of his Presidency are enumerated (to say nothing of the conspiracists) and a poor receptacle for such hopes and dreams.
There seems to me to be a deeply personal line of reasoning behind much of this argument, which might require an individual to enter into a complex relationship with God through church doctrine, or at least to recognize the dangers of false idols and the celebrification of our culture. We should be skeptical of such mythmaking and what ‘national greatness’ politics can do to our commitments in life. I can respect such an argument, even though I may not agree.
I should say it’s nice to have a contrarian voice around in the face of a popular, secular humanism promising ever more individual freedom, ever more equality, and ever more progress. Those goods will clearly come into conflict with one another. Douthat, as a conservative columnist, seems to be living up the the Buckley-esque mandate of standing athwart history yelling: ‘Stop.’
A few more thoughts, for what it’s worth:
The progressive, activist Left seems perfectly happy to achieve its goals through charismatic, populist leaders engaged in majoritarian politics, often willing to push through ambitious laws impossible for even a competent technocracy to administer. This can easily go beyond science and wise policy-making into rabble-rousing street politics and a naive idealism wedded to the logic of political power.
Douthat, at least, gives me that courtesy of explaining his reasoning without immediately seeking control over my life through his political coalitions.
Of course, as Douthat points out, the decadence criticism would be applicable to the Right as well, and a surging conservative populism: Just repeating the names of Reagan, Churchill, and Calvin Coolidge doesn’t necessarily absolve one of one’s freedoms and responsibilities. Simply appealing to God and/or Ted Cruz comes with all the realities of human nature, policy-making, laws, and grubby politics, too. Skepticism is certainly warranted, and actions always speak louder than words.
On that note:
Free-market libertarian Ira Stoll wrote ‘JFK, Conservative‘
Libertarian Virginia Postrel has a new book entitled ‘The Power Of Glamour: Longing And The Art Of Visual Persuasion.’ The Kennedys and their representation in the popular media and public mind certainly involves a lot of glamour. I like some of what she does:
The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New Party…Ross Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’
Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’… Behavioral economics and libertarian paternalism and below all that some liberal totalitarianism (the personal is political crowd)…Ross Douthat Responds To Paul Krugman At The NY Times: ‘Can We Be Sweden?’
Are these the enemies of the future?: Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’…
Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’
I stopped to pick up the bagel
rolling away in the wind,
annoyed with myself
for having dropped it
as if it were a portent.
Faster and faster it rolled,
with me running after it
bent low, gritting my teeth,
and I found myself doubled over
and rolling down the street
head over heels, one complete somersault
after another like a bagel
and strangely happy with myself.
‘Most of the newspapers currently in operation will ultimately die, because the internet rewards scale rather than deep local knowledge. They will die whether they stick to their knitting or go all-in on “digital first.”
More here: ‘Driving Into The Sunset Of Public Service‘
‘In the past decade or so, the business model has essentially collapsed in the advent of the Internet. Why should anyone pay for something they can get for free?’
-‘Extra, Extra, read all about it…on your mobile device, at least on your mobile device as of a few years ago. (Future readers, this is before the implants).
-(addition) Via a reader: Eugene Volokh argues freedom of the press ain’t about saving the buggy whip industry:
‘I’ve often argued that the freedom of the press was seen near the time of the Framing (and near the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment, as well as in between and largely since) as protecting the right to use the press as technology — everyone’s right to use the printing press and its modern technological heirs. It was not seen as protecting a right of the press as industry, which would have been a right limited to people who printed or wrote for newspapers, magazines and the like .‘
Related On This Site: Here in Seattle, Bill Virgin says newspapers built up their value, and slowly let it die: 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?
Why not build another museum on the mall?