‘BC:What do you make of political correctness? There are those who would argue it’s a thing of the past. Frankly, I don’t see how that’s possible. It seems to me that cultural Marxism is more regnant than ever, would you agree?
KM: In my time, a great deal of what used to be intuitive and instinctive (such as good manners) has been replaced by the rule-bound and rationalised. Political correctness is a politicised version of good manners offering power to the kind of meddlesome people who want to tell others how to behave. As to Marxism, it was merely one more illusion that purported to be the key to life. It is significant in that it reveals one of the dominant passions still at work in our civilisation – the passion to create happiness by technology in the hands of a supposedly enlightened elite.‘
From Mike Nayna’s Youtube channel: Radical students and some of their thought-leading administrators have a talk at Middlebury:
Kinda still reminds me of The Wave:
Already, many discussions of depth and note are occurring away from the mainstream. Some ground is shifting, and has already shifted.
Art, money, marketing and fame. It’s worth thinking about Western culture and the travels of the individual artist through romanticism, modernism and post-modernism and to wherever it is that artist is headed now. As for Hirst, it was probably inevitable that someone who couldn’t draw all that well, and didn’t have many of the basics down, would rocket in and out of the spotlight, capturing the moment.
‘Damien Hirst’s output between 2005 and 2008 – the period of his greatest success – has subsequently resold at an average of thirty per cent less than its original purchase price. Moreover, a third of the almost 1700 Hirst pieces that have gone to auction since 2009 have failed to sell at all. Most recently, in November, his gloss-and-butterfly collage Sanctimony failed to reach its lowest pre-sale estimate at a Sotheby’s auction’
“Our only rule was very simple: no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why.“
I suspect Spanish culture helped along the way by placing a lot of emphasis on the arts as it does, tilting the culture in that direction. It’s produced El Greco, Velazquez, Goya, and Picasso among others. Spanish genius tends to flourish in the visual arts.
Here’s a quote from Goya. that first modern, I keep putting up:
“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”
Here’s Dali having become something of a caricature of himself:
-Via David Thompson, Cristobal Vila and Infinite Patterns. Speaking of connecting geometry, (N)ature and architecture, a reader links to Penrose tiles.
There’s good discussion of the Alhambra at the Infinite Patterns link; which contains wonderful and intricate tilework (including and aside from the important Moorish influence, I just want to remind that the Spaniards are among the best visual artists in the world ((El Greco, Goya, Velazquez, Picasso)).
Imagine yourself high above Grenada, a hot summer day winding-down. Your feet are tired. Your back aches and the straps on your bag, where they meet your shirt, even they are covered in sweat.
Evening breezes cause the trees to rustle on the surrounding hillside. This is worth it. This must be why I came. The sun’s light reflects off a thin, now visible, moon. The sky is deepening to dusk; a royal blue. There are a few traces of snow up in the Sierra Nevada. Is that the smell of oranges on the air? Roses? Jasmine?
-Via kottke.org via Vimeo, a composite of photographs depicting ESA’s Rosetta’s hard-landing on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. I play it without the music.
-A pancake-shaped object, traveling for eons through interstellar space, likely becomes coated with regolith. Where did it come from? Probably some other solar system, ejected during planetary formation, long ago. How long has it been out there? A long, long time.
An uncoventional theory is floated. For a brief time, available evidence supports that this could be a light-sail on a reconnaissance mission; some kind of non-self-replicating von Neumann probe. It’s a clever bit of science, really, and couldn’t we send out light sails in a bottle, pushed from our shore?
Statistically such a thing is unlikely, and intuitively, many sense that such a thing is statistically unlikely, but it manages to arouse public interest and excitement.
What are you doing with your hope?
Farewell, Oumuamua, we hardly knew ye. The object accelerates, outgassing a bit as it leaves (on its sunward side), fading back into a deeper darkness.
‘Still, actual life in Hong Kong seemed to be pretty free, especially compared to the available alternatives, which included the totalitarian state that was Mao’s China. Yet as the British lease on Hong Kong approached expiration, an even deeper problem with a non-democratic Hong Kong became evident: Because there was no legitimate alternative sovereign to protest, the British simply handed the territory over to China.’
‘The double grief is, first, the unreflective and ugly anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism of the Left now, its obsessive, laser-like denunciation of everything about Israel, including even its progressive policy on gay people, which is denounced as ‘pinkwashing’ the occupation. Israel is now written about in the way North Korea is written about: as a kind of prime evil.’
Towards a more sustainable skepticism:
Become a member of a protected identity group, whether you’ve chosen to or not, uniting against an injustice or perceived injustice———>have the protected identity group become a member of a broader political coalition of other protected identity groups, coordinated around the competition to defeat moral/political/ideological enemies and bring about justice/liberation———>join a broader coalition of secular humanists but also anti-humanists, scientists/pro-science rationalists but also anti-science irrationalists/Romantic primitives, neo-liberal idealists but also anti-capitalist utopian socialists, live-and-let-live-liberals but also violent authoritarian/totalitarian ideologues——–>Peace/Democracy/Human Rights/A Better World await.
I don’t think it’s an iron law, but it’s likely a truism: Evenutally the logic will be used against you. Within such a Manichean worldview (good and evil, oppressed vs oppressor) some injustices might get better, some worse, but not without the dangers so well documented.
A lot of the problems are baked in the cake, so to speak.
Via Mick Hartley: You never go full Stalinist (photos at the link):
So much emptiness and marble kitsch:
‘Dutch photographer Eddo Hartmann travelled four times to North Korea, between 2014 and 2017. He makes no claim that the resulting project and book – Setting the Stage – are a behind-the-scenes look at the real Pyongyang. On the contrary, he was chaperoned at all times, the images approved by his minders. This is the official North Korea, as they want it to be seen – which makes it all the more chilling. Pristine marble totalitarian kitsch, with the few isolated individuals only serving to emphasise the soulless alienation of the socialist utopia.’
Behold the Dear Leader promoting gleaming new make-glorious subway cars! All is well!
A while back, I was a young mole in Barcelona for a month at a law faculty, and there was an older woman who came in for a few hours a day, sharing our tiny, rented office. She explained her job was to make sure all posters and communications in Spanish at the law faculty also appeared in Catalan. This was a very important job.
She was small in a way many Spanish (Catalonian!) people are small, diminuitive, and in her case determined and a bit mousy. I can still hear her voice echoing ‘Si, digi‘ as she picked up the odd phone call. Down the corridors she’d be off again on another stroll to ensure protocol.
‘Pro-independence parties have restarted talks on the formation of an effective government in Catalonia. The negotiations broke down two weeks ago, following a wave of mutual reproaches and criticism.’
Personal update: This blog is a way to communicate and share ideas, and if you were to meet me, you’d probably have a pretty good sense of what kind of guy I am after a few minutes of conversation (like all of us, right?). May we meet one day, talk, and share a few moments on this strange journey.
Today, I decided to hike alone at the rather pedestrian Cougar Mountain on a sunny and cold morning (out of the noise of the house and away from work).
The ground was frozen and crunched underfoot. There was a welcome stillness and only a few light breezes (5-10 mph from the west/northwest) occassionally clacking some smaller trunks together.
After an hour or so of walking, I arrived at the small falls where a healthy amount of winter water tumbled and cascaded down. I decided to clamber up the left side and go off-trail. I took a few photos back towards the falls, and for some reason, just kept going off-trail.
Exhilarated, I soon found myself powering through pretty dense undergrowth, getting lashed in the face, having my shoes pulled off occasionally, falling down a few times, and you know, wondering what I was doing, exactly.
I checked my phone and there was no signal. I figured I had another mile to go through the growth at that heading, and such a mile was becoming long, unsure and miserable. I did what any self-respecting suburbanite would do and decided to double-back towards the stream and the falls and the ravine. Executive decision.
I sat and took the photo below in a little clearing under the 10:30 am sun along the way back.
I saw a female mule deer bounding ahead, in and out of shafts of sunlight, keeping a safe distance between us. I must have disturbed her. Her ears swiveled wildly and I could see her eyes watching me.
In another shaft of sunlight, back near the stream, I saw a piliated woodpecker swooping ahead of me from limb to limb (explains the woody, jackhammer sound I’d been hearing). Flashes of black, white and red.
‘…Pretentions of Iranian regional hegemonism have altered Arab state calculations at a time when faith in U.S. protection has waned. Especially if Israeli power can be concorded with Sunni Arab efforts to thwart Iran, selling out the Palestinians would be a small price to pay for that benefit, especially if it could be made to look like something other than a sell-out. And here we have the origin of the aforementioned strangeness.’
Radical campus chic meets a taste of reality. From the Harvard Crimson, a graduating student reminds of the horrors of Communist ideology, shared from her family’s personal experience:
‘Many in my generation have blurred the reality of communism with the illusion of utopia. I never had that luxury. Growing up, my understanding of communism was personalized; I could see its lasting impact in the faces of my family members telling stories of their past. My perspective toward the ideology is radically different because I know the people who survived it; my relatives continue to wonder about their friends who did not’
All of us, I think, are subtly influenced by not only our own direct experiences, especially while young, but often imperceptibly by those around us, consistently, all throughout our lives; people interested in ideas no less than people who use their hands.
‘Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres’ is a common Spanish phrase, and I’d even heard it a few times in actual conversation while there: ‘Tell me the company you keep; I’ll tell you who you are’.
Whatever your moral lights, there is much activism and radicalism claiming liberation, but often coming with dangerous, collectivizing and totalizing elements harbored within, shaping the perceptions of the people and institutions wherein it can be found.
If these are the people and ideas left to defend liberty (people to whom Communism is radically chic), we’ve got serious trouble.
‘My point is only that Santayana — the Spanish-born, Boston-bred, Harvard educated cosmopolite — stands out as an unusual specimen in the philosophical fraternity. He wrote beautifully, for one thing, commanding a supple yet robust prose that was elegant but rarely precious or self-infatuated’
and Kimball on Santayana’s interaction with William James:
‘Temperamentally, the two men were complete opposites — James bluff, hearty, the thorough New England pragmatist in manner as well as philosophical outlook: Santayana the super-refined, sonnet-writing, exquisitely disillusioned Catholic Spaniard. In many ways, Santayana was closer in spirit to William’s brother Henry.’
For what it’s worth, I recall a deeply Catholic lament and longing in the Spanish character, which can be combined with a kind of clear-eyed realism and stoicism, but not always. The faith runs deep in St Teresa and her passions, and despite Miguel de Unamuno’s rationalist influences, I remember a general preference for wisdom in the Tragic Sense Of Life.
Something clicked regarding Spain when I finally visited the Escorial outside of Madrid after many months of being in that city. It’s a grand castle of course, but it also struck me as rather plain, barracks-like at times. Very austere. It was explained that the Escorial was both a royal palace and a monastery:
Philip’s instructions to Herrera stipulated “simplicity of form, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation,” qualities clearly illustrated by the long sweep of these facades.
El Escorial was built to honor St. Lawrence, who was burned on a grill. In order to remind the citizens of his martyrdom and sacrifice, the entire building is a grill. Yes, it is shaped like a grill. There are paintings of St. Lawrence on a grill, grills are carved into the doorways, the weather vain is in the shape of a grill, the backs of chairs are supposed to be grills, the list literally could go on forever
I was lucky enough to see this sculpture a few times at the Fundacio Miro in Barcelona. At the time, I remember thinking “Oh, it’s a comment on women in Spain“: All legs and sensuality and yet these malformed, pitiful, faces rising (or barely perched) on top.
“I know women like that…I remember thinking. It’s better to be an object of male lust than nothing, prostitutes take advantage of this all the time. Spanish machismo and insularity, the triumph of cultural values no matter how arbitrary or foolish, and the native ignorance and poverty of the human lot can clearly produce women like this. Despite my idealism, this is what shall remain long after I’m dead.” And then, rather self-satisfied, I strolled away.
Now, as I look again, I realize I have no idea what this sculpture means. Are those two faces? Strange little breasts? Is that a spigot on top? A man’s head and woman’s head? Aren’t they kind of gender neutral? What was I thinking, anyways?
Something about Miro makes me think he has thought long, judged deeply, and yet the colors are joyful, and there’s just this playfulness and achieved simplicity in his work that invites you right in and never really puts you out.
***It helps to understand how rooted Miro was in Catalonia, the northeast province of Spain with it’s own language, political identification, and identity (possibly troubling for a unified Spain), and with his materials and subjects. MOMA has some background here.