Madame, I Believe Your Brains May Have Fallen Out

After the Yale Silliman silliness and the Charles Murray Middlebury madness, a cruder skepticism might recommend writing many humanities/social sciences departments off altogether (hey, it’s Middlebury, after all).

Some departments are so open-minded, it seems, they’re allowing students to chant James Baldwin as though his spells will ward off the evil spirits of white-devilry (there’s still an air of the psycho-drama about all this).  Perhaps, just perhaps, a University isn’t the type of place where angry mobs should shout-down invited speakers, hunt them to the after-party, and beat them away into the night.

Mockery and laughter can work wonders in the face of true-belief and rigid ideology (that’s not funny!), but relatively fewer people have the wisdom, moral courage and humility to earn back the trust to educate, not indoctrinate.

Frankly, I’m not holding my breath as long as enough money and influence are at stake, and the stakes, as they say, are still pretty low.

At least now a broader swathe of the American public has gotten a look at the unhealthy radical group-think festering within, the kind which arrives when ideas and bad ideas, unchallenged, are allowed to rule the roost.  The consequences such ideas are having upon the pursuit of truth are damning.

Whose good is this serving?

Heterodox Academy might not be a bad start.


As previously posted:

As this blog has been arguing for over a decade, a lot of modern art is pretty good, but beyond the current political/ideological squabbles, there sure are a lot of poseurs making crap.

A Bleak, Modern House-Four Poems

The creep of vacuous ideas and lack of any apparent talent/technique is common, and it can be hard to tell where celebrity, marketing and branding bullshit ends, and ‘art’ begins:

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

What is this lady doing?:

Some quotes for you, dear Reader:

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’

We’ll see about that…

Roger Scruton’s words struck me when I read them years ago:

“In the days when the humanities involved knowledge of classical languages and an acquaintance with German scholarship, there was no doubt that they required real mental discipline, even if their point could reasonably be doubted. But once subjects like English were admitted to a central place in the curriculum, the question of their validity became urgent. And then, in the wake of English came the pseudo-humanities—women’s studies, gay studies and the like—which were based on the assumption that, if English is a discipline, so too are they.”

“And since there is no cogent justification for women’s studies that does not dwell upon the subject’s ideological purpose, the entire curriculum in the humanities began to be seen in ideological terms.

————

Apart from the rare genius, it seems the arts tend to ferment in groups and schools, made up of individuals with their own ideas, reacting to each other and events; reacting to their own developing talents and finding out through trial and error what works within some semblance of a tradition.

See: ‘Tradition And The Individual Talent’

Culture matters, in the sense that the value a civilization chooses to place in one activity over another can dramatically affect outcomes for that particular activity; a framework emphasizing and incentivizing the activity to live on in hearts and minds of individuals.

Perhaps Modern Art just needs to be put into broader contexts, given deeper roots which can nourish the talent already being born.

Some people are looking for ‘epistemologies:’

Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

No, I don’t need a movie explained to me in terms of ‘masculinity’ or feminist doctrine, any more than I need it to tell me to read Leviticus, or be a good Christian. I like good composition.

No, I don’t need a cartoon to reflect ‘solidarity’ around a particular political figure or set of political ideals, you fool!

Good art is usually beyond all that, and makes the viewer question/forget such things.

Why not just put a few algorithms to work in writing those artist statements?

See Also On This Site:  Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Stanley Fish also says keep politics out of academia: From The Stanley Fish Blog: Ward Churchill Redux…

Scruton again has deep insight, but will Christian religious idealism have to bump heads with Islamic religious idealism?: From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Thanks to iri5

End Federal Funding For The Arts? From The New Criterion: ‘Who Supports The Arts?’ Plus Richard Serra’s ‘Tilted Arc’ & An Old Vincent Gallo Interview

Full piece here.

‘But step back a moment. Would ending federal, i.e., taxpayer, i.e., your, money on entities like the NEA, the NEH, and the CPB be a bad thing?’

Here are two good reasons in favor of ending Federal funding:

  1. You will likely aid in making better art.  Universities, museums and institutions don’t necessarily get along with the creative genius, nor in making something new.  In fact, such institutions can stifle creativity by rewarding and amplifying current tastes and entrenching public sentiment into reefs, creating additional hurdles for talent to get where it’s going.  State money, furthermore, is not a necessary condition of good art.  In fact, it may be a necessary condition of bad art [addition: we can probably say that bad art is everywhere, but there’s rarely great art coming out of Federally funded programs].
  2. Incentives matter: The self-interested, ideologically driven and less-talented will have incentives to control the Federal bureaucracy and politicize the arts.  They’re out there, and if you reward them with cash and status, you’ll get more of them (bad artists, ideologues, politicians and bureaucrats in an unholy cycle of Badness).

No one can speak for all the public, not even the artistic genius.  Art-curators, docents, specialists and critics can do good [for art], but sometimes they can do bad. Individual talent, tradition, hard-work, groups of people, ideas, money and opportunities all matter, but how much exactly, is anyone’s guess.

Richard Serra was commissioned to put a piece in Federal Plaza, paid for the public, and some people didn’t like it.

It was removed.  Serra felt railroaded.  There was a lot of press and drama.

Pretty relevant, I’d say:

Also, this Vincent Gallo interview is funny as hell:

He takes the critics on while wearing an awesome USA track-suit:

Related On This Site:  Repost-From Poemshape: ‘Let Poetry Die’

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…
——–
Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

 —

From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story…A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

Tuesday Poem By Wallace Stevens And A Quote By Hume

Not Ideas About The Thing But The Thing Itself

At the earliest ending of winter,
In March, a scrawny cry from outside
Seemed like a sound in his mind.

He knew that he heard it,
A bird’s cry, at daylight or before,
In the early March wind.

The sun was rising at six,
No longer a battered panache above snow…
It would have been outside.

It was not from the vast ventriloquism
Of sleep’s faded papier-mache…
The sun was coming from the outside.

That scrawny cry–It was
A chorister whose c preceded the choir.
It was part of the colossal sun,

Surrounded by its choral rings,
Still far away. It was like
A new knowledge of reality.

Wallace Stevens

———————————————————————-

Beauty is no quality in things themselves, it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

=David Hume

White Guilt & The Freedom To Think Differently: Shelby Steele & Jordan Peterson-Some Links

Shelby Steele at the WSJ: ‘The Exhaustion Of American Liberalism

If you think, as this blog does, there’s plenty of empirical evidence to suggest a trend of radicalized and (dis)organized discontents seeking influence over all of our lives, then it’s reasonable to wonder what results come from such influence. Or course, what kind of authority involves itself in your life, through American liberalism and through institutions of education, politics and law is a similar question to be asking.

Are such folks ‘liberal?’

Steele on white guilt:

‘White guilt is not angst over injustices suffered by others; it is the terror of being stigmatized with America’s old bigotries-racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. To be stigmatized as a fellow traveler with any of these bigotries is to be utterly stripped of moral authority and made into a pariah.’

Deep-diving the reef of white guilt with popularizing critical theorists as historical and contemporary guides clearly has its drawbacks (if you enjoyed the tour…don’t forget to put some coins in the reparations jar, white devil!).

From The New Criterion: Theodore Dalrymple Reviews Ta-Nehisi Coates ‘Between The World And Me’

Related On This Site:   What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often


Of course, one can still be an intellectually humble and moral person, recognizing the actual injustices and genuine horrors of much American racial history, while still coming to differing conclusions based on different principles about that history and what should happen next.

One can still re-examine one’s own beliefs and choose not to carve up the world into classes, races, genders based on some presumed endpoint to human affairs promised by the same old ideologies (the oppressor is dead, long live the oppressor!)

Most people not immediately being made to suffer injustice, enjoying relative personal and economic freedom have little need to make their personal lives political. 

Unfortunately, it seems we live in a time when many of these people are now clearly feeling pressure to signal their belonging/non-belonging recognition/non-recognition of activists’ claims to their freedoms.

Here’s the rub: If you disagree with a principled, reasonable person, you’ll probably both walk away challenged, enlightened, and enriched.  They really do think differently from you.  Maybe they’ll always be an enemy of sorts, but an enemy for which you’ve gained some respect (and vice versa).

Unprincipled, unreasonable people abound, however, and certain radical ideologies reward and can incentivize the worst in people, while claiming the highest good towards radical liberation.  Such ideas also reward worse people without necessarily placing important limiting principles and brakes upon these people (the passion play of radical ‘anti-fascists’ seeks actual ‘evil people’ and ‘fascists,’ in perpetuity).

Many activists don’t respect authority because they don’t believe that authority is legitimate.  Of course, what kind of authority they think is legitimate is less often considered.  Most simply haven’t bothered to understand the traditions, laws, and duties they believe it is their duty to change.


On that note, a Nietzsche-influenced psychologist discusses his epistemological differences with Sam Harris, a neuroscientist more interested in scientifically accurate and empirically valid truth statements about the world, and our thoughts about it.

The modern project is not only dependent upon both the sciences and the social sciences claims to truth and knowledge (and actual discoveries), but also lies exposed to the dangers of anti-science and anti-social-science ideologues everywhere, especially on the radical Left.

Human nature hasn’t changed so much, after all.

Adam Kirsch At The New Statesman: ‘Why Ezra Pound Was The Most Difficult Man Of The 20th Century’

Full piece here.

Book here.

Kirsch reviews Daniel Swift’s look at Pound’s work and life.

And that process was as complex, often as illegible, as thought itself. Free-associating on characters from the Odyssey to Confucius and from the Italian Renaissance to the American Revolution, Pound produced a self-portrait as “difficult” as any cubist masterpiece.’

As previously posted:

Another interesting piece here, as our author takes a look at one of the most important modern poems:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Brief Bio-Pound really wanted to get out of America.  To London first, as the father of modernist poetry, and eventually Italy where he made pro-Axis rants on Italian radio during World War II.   When American troops finally got him, they put him in a box for 25 days.    He was never quite the same after that, though not exactly stable to begin with.  Stable in his art, perhaps.

Alba (Dawn Song)

As cool as the pale wet leaves
of lily-of-the-valley
She lay beside me in the dawn

Via Architizer-‘A Brief History Of Modern Architecture Through The Movies’ And A Few Quotations Gathered Over The Years

Full post here.

Chronologically done with choice examples of each style.

—–

Ever since I was young, I found myself wanting to live in that Mt. Rushmore house at the end of North By Northwest.  I suspect some among us have wanted to occupy a modernist lair.

From an article in Der Spiegel on the Bauhaus, where modernism got its start:

‘The real feat achieved by Gropius and his cohorts was to have recognized and exposed the sociopolitical and moral power of architecture and design. They wanted to exert “effective influence” on “general conditions,” fashion a more just world and turn all of this into a “vital concern of the entire people.”‘

I’m always a little skeptical of such grand visions.  Utopianism runs deep.

Robert Hughes wasn’t a fan of some of what’s modern.  Empire State Plaza in Albany, New York seems pretty out-of-place, and pretty authoritarian-looking:

I think we may be seeing the mix of the corporate/bureaucratic alliance so common in post-war America coming-up for re-examination and undergoing some kind of resurgence in our current politics:


Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’


Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

‘…aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

See Also: 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’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom 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’

As Seen In Seattle-A Little Piece I Like To Call ‘Stalin’s Fingers’

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Fun fact: During times of stress, Josef Stalin is said to have marched his fingers just so across his desk, transgressing his own boundaries!

You might have noticed those tiles already look a little drab and dated, even though construction only finished a few years ago.

The above mural is part of the new Capitol Hill light-rail station on Broadway.

More here on the piece (apologies to all comic/graphic artists ahead of time, for not portraying your craft with as much fidelity as it probably deserves).

Our muraliste is a comic/graphic artist tapped to make signs and symbols for all the Community:

‘Forney, originally from Philadelphia…landed the light rail station gig back in 2008 after submitting a series of paintings of hands in provocative positions to Sound Transit — paintings which had originally been featured in the 2007 Seattle Erotic Art Festival. The series was called Big Fuckin’ Hands.’

Get it?  They’re hands, and they’re…well…you know.

Oh boy…

As for People’s Republic of The Northwest Territories, there’s that Diego Rivera-esque mural in Kane Hall at the University Of Washington…multi-ethnic laborers of the world uniting for the common good.

Comrade, I must confess: I see myself in those square-jawed, virtuous workers, gathered above their apparently crayon-scrawled manifesto.  For long years now, I, too, have dreamed of controlling the means of production, in solidarity with all the Workers Of The World!

The Seattle Monorail has always looked to me like a cross between the Disneyland monorail in the 50’s (actually updated due to market forces) and the crown-jewel of Pyongyang’s subway system.

A bullet to the future, frozen in time!:

All aboard!:


These public projects tend to become repositories for all the hopes and sacrifices people around here make for the  ‘-Isms’ (counter-culture anti-establishmentarianism, vaguely warmed over socialism, environmentalism, radical collectivism, activism of all stripes etc.).

Many people don’t always know what they’re for, exactly, but it’s often easy to tell what they’re against, and it’s you should you choose to play the bad guy in their passion-play.

Fascist!

Don’t try and make too much sense of it:  Cargo-Cult thinking is often in effect when it comes to the economics of these projects:  The cost, numbers, budgets etc. usually come later.  First seems to be the solidarity, the ‘sacredness’ and the tiny shrines which have sprung up this past century around which people gather in common cause.

You must show some belief in the vision.

Related On This Site:

Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

-Amtrak to the Future!:Repost-From The New Yorker: ‘Writing Powered By Amtrak’

-A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

-Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

***I’m sorry for the glare and the lack of composition.  I am but a humble prole passing through the Great Hall Of The People’s Transit.