Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Anatomy of Melancholy VII

I realize I only just started working on this series last August 11th, and I only have 5 pages of notes left on it, so it is not like there should be any hurry in writing everything down. However there has not been a literary or 17th century entry in a while, the tone of occasional minor seriousness that I aspire to has been flagging, and I do not know of any other way to impart it. So it is back to Burton.

On exercise and recreation: "...he is nobody that in the season hath not a hawk on his fist." If only Twitter were really like this.

"William the Conqueror, in his younger years, playing at chess with the Prince of France (Dauphine' was not annexed to that crown in those days), losing a mate, knocked the chess-board about his pate, which was a cause afterward of much enmity between them."

"Yet 'if', as Socrates said, 'all men in the world should come and bring their grievances together, of body, mind, fortune, sores, ulcers, madness, epilepsies, agues, and all those common calamities of beggary, want, servitude, imprisonment, and lay them on a heap to be equally divided, wouldst thou share alike, and take thy portion? or be as thou art?'" I suppose this is a good point, though it reminds me of the question of why in the world I had any children, let alone five, though of course I don't expect them to have their proper share of these human calamities, even though I am supposed to have a somewhat sober and philosophical education. I can't find the origin of this supposed Socratic quotation in ancient literature, and Burton himself did not reveal it. An internet search only brings up the passage in Burton for at least five pages. I was not prepared to dig any deeper than that, as the major literature concerning Socrates is well known enough that if it were there it should have been easily found.

"Some philosophers and divines have evirated themselves, and put out their eyes voluntarily, the better to contemplate." He does not specify who these philosophers who blinded themselves intentionally were. He references Homer and Democritus as blind men who saw more accurately than all who had sight, but they are cited as a lead-in to the introduction of this more demonstrative group rather than as making some part of their number.

Machiavelli quote: "...'tis a wonderful thing...to him that shall consider of it, that all those, or the greatest part of them, that have done the bravest exploits here upon earth, and excelled the rest of the nobles of their time, have been still born in some abject, obscure place, or of base and obscure abject parents."  This does not mean there is still hope for most people of course.

"What care I of what stuff my excrements be made? (Hieronym)" This is one way of looking at social anxiety.

"...Babylon, the greatest city that ever the sun shone on, hath now nothing but walls and rubbish left." A rare superlative from our author.

"...'tis but a folly to love thy fetters, though they be of gold." This is on marriage, I assume as it pertains to men. Of course there is something in it, although if one is prone to be unhappy, there is occasion for being so in almost everything, so that in itself is probably no reason to forego those chains. He followed up this with a "why be sad when your son dies?" bit, that I thought he might reverse his position on a few pages later, though I don't seem to have noted that he did so.

"But I will urge these cavilling and contumelious arguments no farther, lest some physician should mistake me,  and deny me physic when I am sick: for my part, I am well persuaded of physic..." This is one of his more rapid backtracks.

"Nicholas Leonicus hath a story of Solon, that, besieging I know not what city, steeped hellebore in a spring of water, which by pipes was conveyed into the middle of the town, and so either poisoned, or else made them so feeble and weak by purging, that they were not able to bear arms."

Numerous examples of given of men who bored holes through their skulls in order to exhale bad vapors. I may try it.

"...as Hierome bears me witness: 'A far greater part had rather read Apuleius than Plato.' Tully himself confesseth he could not understand Plato's Timaeus..." One suspects the level of legitimate artistic comprehension across all forms is microscopic. For science it is even worse. Life is a ridiculous sort of charade in most instances. All the smart people know that already I suppose.

"I speak it only to tax and deter others from it, not to teach, but to show the vanities and fopperies of this heroical or herculean love," and to "apply remedies unto it". It is proper.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Game of Art: Falling Out of the Game Entirely

I can't keep up a regular writing schedule.

This was to be the main object around which I organized my life, for which I neglected even acquainting myself with other pursuits, and I cannot even do it.

I had a momentary throb of pain in my head the other day and thought I might be having a stroke, or even dying. Fortunately it appears to have been nothing and I have another chance to make more efficient use of such remaining time as I have left, blah, blah, blah, but if the mind and the soul remain empty this is of little use.

Greece being in the news this past week (the elections there inspired the media to remind us numerous times that "After all, Greece is the birthplace of democracy"), I was reminded of the Elgin Marbles and the controversy to have them restored to their native soil. This is exactly the sort of thing right thinking people and bad but strong thinking people have a decided opinion on and that I never am able to work up much passion about and if I feel anything have sympathies that lie with the side generally considered by anyone with a 21st century mentality to be obviously the wrong one. All this is to say that in my heart of hearts I kind of hope they will always remain in England, which looks as if it is going to happen anyway, even though the geographical specificity of Ancient Greek civilization resonates more strongly with the modern student than that of maybe that of any other ancient people, and I suspect that the means of getting them out of Greece in the first place was obnoxious in every possible way. Nonetheless they have been in London now for more than 200 years, and their presence in the upper end of English speaking culture anyway has grown substantial during that time. Giving them up will be a greater loss in this sense than I think is widely perceived, even though I know all upper end culture is global now and their being in Athens would constitute no barrier, or even any noticeable difference, to modern educated people. Of course I saw them in London myself in the same mid-20th century mindset through which I see everything and I remember the occasion as one of the more memorable days in what has been a mostly drab and uninspired existence passed in waiting around for something to happen. This means nothing and everything at the same time, but I have no doubt that their presence in London has been a boon to mental life even in its diffusion throughout the Anglophone world, which was after all one of the unstated purposes of founding the British Museum, as well as the National Gallery of Art, with its famous collection of mostly foreign paintings. Also there is no shortage, comparative to the rest of the world, of Greek antiquities available to be seen in Greece itself. I would not want to give them back if I were the British, even if it would be a magnanimous gesture, even if somehow it could be proven beyond a doubt to be the right thing to do. 

Perhaps no small part of the appeal of the collection of the British Museum is the thought of some imperial man perhaps biologically not so different from ourselves deciding that he would like possession of something of the grandeur of antiquity, and rather than appealing weakly and invariably futilely to editors and professors and museum curators and other professional experts to be admitted to its mysteries as those of us who have had all their physical and mental dynamism drained out of them would do, just went and literally ripped one of the finest specimens of all Greek art off the facade of the Parthenon and had it shipped home. Of course Byron and the Romantics, as well as Rosetti and the pre-Raphaelites were not impressed by this plundering of the treasures of antiquity, but these were poets and great lovers of women, comparatively sensitive and empathetic to foreign peoples, and everything grand in life in a sense belonged to them as the honest due of their vigor and talent as artistic beings. But for others to whom this sensibility and overall talent for life was not accessible the plunder itself, or in any event the possession of it, by whatever unexplained means, occasionally is a more forceful symbol of societal strength, ambition and sense of place in the world than constant sensitivity and empathy for anybody but one's own people. Even though I am a Democratic party voter and generally prefer their policies, even when they are awful, to those espoused by their enemies, I do not like the direction of sarcasm, flippancy, smugness and air of total disrespect and even disdain for most of the accomplishments and history of this country and the western world himself that their sense of superiority towards their ideological antagonists have taken. Not that those antagonists (again) are not even worse, but who wants to be aligned with these weak, useless modern, sarcastic little liberal men especially who are totally predictable and can't stand behind or express enthusiasm for a single legacy or tradition or episode of western history that has not first been totally cleansed and neutered for modern progressive sensibilities? Not that I am ultimately much better, or that anybody likes me--my Sunday brunch days with the mixed-sex educated liberal set are far, far in the past, and were fleeting enough while they lasted--but I at least have some sense of shame in my diminished state of humanity. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More 50s Movies

I may have to ditch the movie columns if I can't find a way to write them more quickly.

I got in a few more movies from the 1950s--making it all the way back to 1954--but the workings of my listmaking dictate that I will be at least temporarily returning to more modern times after this set.

Carousel (1956)
I had forgotten about the possibility of seeing any of the old Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, as I thought even the middlebrow critics tended to discredit them nowadays, but someone still likes this. The main impression it made on me, who am inclined to be more generous than otherwise, is that it is strange, discomfiting even. It has more attitudes and assumptions about the world that are blatantly outdated than the (better) stuff from its time, which is what I have gotten accustomed to seeing. It also has things like obviously fake sets, a plot that in spite of my efforts to find something reasonable about it is flatly absurd, it doesn't bear even a passing resemblance to either the time (1873) or place (coastal Maine) in which it is supposedly set. There is a very odd depiction of the afterlife where the male lead, who was accidentally killed by the point of his own knife in a botched robbery attempt, is dressed in a tight turtleneck hanging up five-pointed glass stars in a room painted blue from ceiling to floor (this I actually kind of liked, but it still belongs far more to the realm of cheese than to anything having to do with advanced style). I can't say I didn't like it a little, in a sad, nostalgic way, though heaven knows most interesting people were eager to usher the world it was representative of out the door as rapidly as possible, and while I wouldn't have been clever enough to figure out that society could be meaningfully changed, I probably at least would still have been dissatisfied and unhappy, albeit for the wrong reasons. It is not a great movie however.

One problem is that I don't love any of the songs in this, though several of them are pretty famous. "You'll Never Walk Alone"--perhaps better known these days as the anthem of the Liverpool football club--I take to be the big number, though in the movie it is sung in an operatic style that I have never really warmed up to. "If I Loved You", which was another popular hit from this show, also suffers in my opinion  from the overly operatic treatment. The sequence for "June is Busting Out All Over", shot on location in the celebrated fishing and boating village of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, which I have never been to--maybe this summer! but probably not--anyway the song is one of those choreographed dance numbers with 200 people in it, livelier than most of the tunes in this movie but of its kind nothing special. There is a long ballet sequence near the end that I kind of like, though I don't know anything about ballet and have not the least idea of any of the sources of the excitement which are produced in serious ballet fanatics by this art. I guess I thought the insertion of it must have spoken to something aspirational, as far as the audience was concerned, and found it touching. The dancers in the movie were apparently serious ballet people, many of them from Europe itself. I wonder what they thought about this segment.

Though I have not written much about it, I had been on a good run as far as the DVD commentaries of these classic movies go, to the point that for several months if there was one I was almost automatically taking the time to watch the film a second time while listening to them, and the quality was consistently pretty high. The one for Carousel had the now elderly Shirley Jones and some British fop who seemed more interested in fawning over her than he did in revealing any great insights into the movie. So while it was not one of the better commentaries, it did manage to hold my interest enough to make it all the way through. As fans of the "Partridge Family" have probably discerned, Shirley Jones is not a deep thinker; however she does not seem to have any pretensions towards or anxiety about not being one either. She mentions at one point without a trace of embarrassment that as a young music student she avoided studying opera because she didn't want to have to learn foreign languages. She maneuvers her way around the discussion of some plot points and lines of dialogue that appear outrageous to contemporary sensibilities, such as the part where her character, who it is suggested is frequently abused by her rather boorish husband, claims that when one is in love such blows don't hurt at all, by saying with a shrug in her voice that she really didn't think anything of it at the time. On a more trivial note, during one of the Boothbay Harbor scenes Shirley and the co-commentator both agreed that this town was located somewhere between Portland and Kennebunkport, which obviously is false; I will bear in mind in the future that the commentaries are apparently not edited and may contain egregious factual errors.

If you are interested in generational theory Shirley Jones (born 1934) is a textbook member of the Silent Generation, the group who were teenagers and young adults from the mid-40s to the early to mid 60s. These people were very deeply and proudly American, not in a mindless way, but in their identification with a certain positive idea of the culture and life of the country which has not been as strong in the cohorts that came after them. They could be a little overly wholesome (though obviously most of the icons from that time were anything but)--Shirley Jones's characters in her early roles are almost fatally boring, and her brief reign during the late 50s as perhaps the face of the big budget musical seems puzzling in retrospect--anyway they're all in their 70s and 80s now. No new movie stars or ballplayers or scientists or authors or political leaders left to emerge from this group. Their stone bearing their record is nearly set.

Here is some footage from the swinging 60s of the Liverpool fans belting out "You'll Never Walk Alone". The tradition goes back a while.
Lola Montes (1955)

This was nothing like what I was expecting it to be. As one of the more celebrated films, as well as I believe the last, of the master pan-European director Max Ophuls, whose reputation, as far as I could make out, places him decidedly in the difficult and cerebral wing of the mansion of cinematic history, I was resigned that that which was most important in his work most likely operated on a plane so subtle and penetrating as to be  well above the heads of all but the most advanced audiences. Andrew Sarris, the acerbic and influential longtime critic at the Village Voice, proclaimed it the greatest movie of all time. After being poorly received at its premieres at both Paris and Berlin (if they didn't get it, what hope in the cosmos did the likes of me have?) the film was promptly butchered by its panicked producers and re-released, the full original version apparently never being seen in America (though various attempts were made by cinephiles and scholars over the years to present versions more true to Ophuls's) until 2008. This history of blatant philistinism doubtless played some part in the passion which the film, or for a long time the idea of it, was able to arouse among the serious film community. None of this boded well for my chances to get much out of  the film, and in truth, given the character of most of its champions, I still have to suspect that on the level of comprehension that is hitting these largely volatile and contemptuous people so intensely I must not have understood anything. This is not to suggest that the movie is anything less than great--it is excellent--the movie I saw however did not strike me as the sort of thing that would be the all time favorite of anyone sympathetic to the worldview of the Village Voice, and its myriad sister publications around the cosmopolitan world.

Lola Montes, the 1955 Franco-German movie about a beautiful woman who has love affairs with many great and powerful men including Franz Liszt and King Ludwig of Bavaria and ends up as a circus act recounting her sinful past for the titillation of vulgar audiences, was an accessible story told with great skill and a lavish, baroque beauty--I had no idea before it started that the movie was even in color--that appeared to me on initial viewing to be unironic; the more simple, austere beauties and joys that are usually celebrated in art films, if they are found here, are not prevalent. The story unfolds very much like a well-done classic Hollywood movie. It has a superb structure and the flow of the scenes from one to the next is so natural that many of the choices made in its execution, such as the subject itself and the various directions in which to take narrative in terms of chronological time and episode and returning again to the present, appear obvious and easy, when in truth this is exactly the basic point on almost all movies flounder. I probably admire this above anything else in the film, and vis-a-vis other classic films this seems to me to be its outstanding quality.

But there has to be more. Thus I settled down to take in the commentary, having been, as noted earlier, on a  hot streak with commentaries. Within ten minutes, I was forced to abandon this plan, as the commentary, which was done by a film scholar named Susan White, stank. Ms White was a representative of an especially repellent strain of academia, characteristically though of course not exclusively female, marked by its blithe humorlessness, reflexive pedantry, and obsession with confirming the credentials and established reputations both of the subject matter before one and one's colleagues in the field before offering any kind of personal judgement. She seemed incapable of producing an interesting idea on her own, and had the effect of making other people's idea seem markedly diminished by the circumstances of herself relating them. There are two things every idolator of Ophul's work in this film feel compelled to point out; the first, that the producers were inexperienced and incompetent, and the second, that Martine Carol, the actual star, was awful in the title role. Susan White was all over both of these standard opinions, which she gave no evidence of demurring from, within the first five minutes of the commentary, as if to re-emphasize just how much dead weight the gods of art had dropped on the exquisitely refined head of poor Max Ophuls, who nonetheless was able to rise above all of this and produce a masterpiece. With regard to Martine Carol, who seems to be regarded as something like the Jane Russell, of 1950s French cinema, our guide offered what sounded to me like a quotation, that the kindest thing that could be said about Milady was that "she sensed her own inadequacy". While it is true that this lady did not demonstrate a Meryl Streep-like repertoire of acting skills, I had not myself, with my considerable eye for such matters, detected either this supposed inadequacy or her sense of it. If it is there--and the maxime-like quality of the quotation suggests to me a French or highly Frenchified continental origin--it is of a much different quality than the English word, as used rather dismissively, by Ms White, suggests. Martine Carol is certainly beautiful enough to play anybody, and her bearing is at least French enough to have been adequate to convince me that she was capable of arousing the interest of musicians and princes beyond the ordinary run of women. But for Max Ophuls and an artwork of this caliber, apparently, the standard for performance is a lot higher than what Martine Carol brought to it. I turned it off before, as doubtless happened, Ms White could express her approval of the work of the great Anton Walbrook, our old friend from Colonel Blimp, who apparently could not only act at an appropriately high level, but could do so in all the major western European languages, and who played King Ludwig of Bavaria here. I love Anton Walbrook too; he is excellence in his field personified. I didn't feel the need to be assured of his greatness by Susan White's banal regurgitation of the standard praises of him, especially when compared to Michael Powell's elegant and wholly unpedantic explanation of Walbrook's brilliant rendering of various scenes in Blimp. There seems to be a lot of exhausting intellectual huffing and puffing with this film where the critics are concerned that doesn't amount to much.

Susan White also caused me to have a fight with my wife, which is another reason she is on my dirt list. As often is the case, I was wandering about the house one day plotting in my mind my strategy for taking apart Susan White in this post, and I guess my brow was furrowed and I looked very angry. Of course my wife asked what in the devil was wrong with me and I explained the cause of my fervor, namely that I was taking up an argument with a film scholar who had got on my bad side. As this was dismissed as somehow ridiculous, I pleaded, as I often do, my desperation to engage in the world of art and ideas which seems for whatever reason to be closed to me. This led to my wife's saying that she thought a lot of film scholars would like to have my life. This must have struck me as an impossibly odd thing to me, for my immediate and automatic response, thinking as I ever do only of people who are regarded as smart by other smart people, with real careers, and who are actually good at something, and thinking not at all of my actual domestic situation, which is actually a highly fortunate one, was "Who would want my life?" after which I predictably spent the rest of the afternoon in the doghouse.

One critic who seemed to me to be a professional--unfortunately I can't find it now--thought Ophuls was overly obsessed with 19th century European social customs at the expense of penetrating psychological exposes of his characters. 19th century European social customs are one of the very few things in the entire world, it seems to me, worth being obsessed about.

The link below is for the criterion trailer for the movie, which is excellent and highly enjoyable even for people who have limited ability to detect anything that is not on the surface, in spite of its forbidding reputation.


On the Waterfront (1954) 

I hadn't seen this for about 20 years, so I figured was due for a reacquaintance. Most of these movies I watch at the end of the day when I really tired, am having a last drink and snack before bed, at which times I watch about an hour or so before turning it off and finishing the next night or two nights later or whatever. On the Waterfront is one of that increasingly small class--most of which, to be honest, are Hollywood films of the 30s through the 60s--that I am entertained and distracted enough by to want to sit through all the way in one sitting, the extra hour of sleep be damned. As with most films I suppose, but this one especially, the greatness of it is in the aesthetic details of it much more than the story or politics. It has been described, not I think in a complimentary sense, as having a "Life magazine realism". This of course is mainly what I find attractive about it. It was filmed on location in New York and New Jersey in the winter, so all the actors' faces look like what those of us from the northeast think of as natural. And it's all such a long time ago now. That world is dead dead dead. Brando is dead, and was old when he died. Everybody praises Brando, obviously, but there really is something like genius in his performances. This is not a great role as written, and the role itself never becomes great as a matter of fact. Brando as always does a lot of great things within the confines of the role that make watching him compelling.

These are my people (working class Irish Catholics) here I guess, though with the exception of the genially lovely Eva Marie Saint (more about her later), not exactly the most flattering depiction.

I didn't last long with the commentary on this one either. Richard Schickel, who is the critic at Time magazine and I guess is pretty well known and is personally intimate with the likes of Clint Eastwood, was one of the people doing it, along with another Los Angeles-based writer. Schickel did the commentary for another movie I saw; he is terrible at it. He is probably similar to Susan White in that his mind is not inherently interesting or well-constructed, and therefore he has nothing to add to the conversation about the movie but facts gathered at second or third hand, which invariably miss the point. There are good commentaries by scholars (I don't know about critics), though the movie also has to suit that particular approach. The commentary for Les Enfants du Paradis was so dense with explanations of symbolism and allusions and its reference to the contemporary situation and so forth that it could scarcely keep up with the pace of the film. There was no time for inside Hollywood-type gossip (the boring kind; a good commentator such as Michael Powell or Malcolm McDowell will actually give an anecdote about someone that is worth hearing) or the excessive technical discussions that some analyzers get bogged down in (some technical talk is all right if some unique facet of a scene is pointed out in passing and clearly explained, but detailed discussions of which camera lens was used in each shot are more than most people will care for). Enthusiasm and a strong feel for a director or a time period approached in the spirit of sharing rather than jealous possessiveness also usually goes a long way towards helping the non-industry professional connect with the audience.

There is also a half-hour documentary on the bonus features dedicated solely to the 'I could have been a contender" scene, but life is not that long, so I passed on that one.

On the Waterfront dominated at the Oscars in '54. Looking over the competition now it wasn't a tremendous year. The Caine Mutiny, which I do think is a very good movie, was up that year, and Rear Window, but most of the other big films that year are more dated than this is. It did stand out among the winners of the 50s though, most being of the big budget and flashy variety of films, including several musicals.  The equally low rent Marty did win Best Picture in '55, but otherwise all the Best Picture winners from '51 to '59 were of the extravagant big canvas type.

There were some seriously ugly mugs available to make up the membership of Johnny Friendly's gang. You don't see faces like that anymore. Fred Gwynne, later to win fame both as Muldoon in Car 54 Where Are You? and Herman Munster, can be spotted among this crew, among whom he is a relatively handsome young guy.

Eva Marie Saint is kind of a standard attractive blonde type so I was going to let her pass by without professing my undying love for her, but I had forgotten about her awesome voice, which is actually very similar to Teresa Wright's voice. Teresa Wright was born in 1918 in Manhattan and grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey, which is right next to Newark. Eva Marie Saint was born in Newark in 1924 and grew up in Delmar, New York, which is right next to Albany. I think I see a pattern here. I had always suspected that the greater New York City area circa 1940 was my kind of place, but if there were large numbers of young females who talked like this walking around everywhere...it's 2:42am, and that thought doesn't need to be finished. But here is Eva's voice with some of Brando's charming eccentric genius thrown in as a bonus. This whole section actually is a good demonstration of how this movie is great quite independently of whatever is supposed to be going on in the plot.


Saturday, June 02, 2012

Women Show More Cleavage Today Than They Did 20 Years Ago (Though They Supposedly Have Less Sex)

It's Garbage time in the last game of this blog's life. We are trailing by 50. The other team has long pulled its best players and is laying back (I think it probably should be lying, but no one who uses the expression ever says lying) on defense; however we are still throwing up wild three pointers that land nowhere near the basket and off-balance running one handers from outside the lane, as even with the minimal resistance we are unable to penetrate therein. I admit I am surprised by how grisly it has been. I thought we'd be competitive in most of our games and easily make the tournament. 12-6 at the worst, never 4-14 with most of the defeats by blowout. We overrated our talent, it goes without saying, but we also never identified anything we did well, or that might develop into something we did well by the standards of our competition over the course of the season if we worked at it. This all falls on the coach, of course, and in real life would necessitate his firing (to mix sports, if I am the Gerry Faust of this blog, this post is pretty much the 58-7 Miami game).

A few months back I remember articles making the rounds about how certain aspects of the culture--namely fashion, music, movies--had stopped progressing around 1992, and that while there were easily identifiable differences from 1932 to 1952 to 1972 to 1992 in these areas, there was, in the eyes of these writers, little discernible different from 1992 to 2012 (literature may have been included in the list, though people have been complaining about its being moribund since long before 1992). My initial reaction upon reading these was to think that superficially it seems to be somewhat true, but that is of course because I am stuck in many ways, and always will be, in a 1990s (and 80s)-centric idea of how the world is. Time really has moved on, and while most people I know do still dress about the same as they did in the early 90s, all you have to do is search for "shopping mall photos circa 1990" or some similar thing to see that in fact young people do dress (and look) quite differently. The main change in fashion, other than that there are a lot more really fat people, and a lot of them don't seem to be as conscious of themselves as being grotesque as they probably would have 20 years ago, is the ubiquity of tattoos, which for the most part only hardcore heavy metal fans and a few extra-bad boys and girls who backed up the look with a lot of real attitude and debauchery had in those days. I am certain that the young women show a lot more cleavage than they were doing in the late 80s and early 90s, and you would think if anybody would know about this it would be me. I also see girls wearing bikinis on the beach, even some who have less than spectacular figures. I don't remember anybody 'normal' (i.e., was not clearly dating a bodybuilder or member of a biker gang) wearing a bikini in New England at least in the 80s. In general I think people look more and more stupid the more years that go by, and project less in the way of having any kind of interesting personality, but that is also a common affliction of aging.

Again, there does not seem to be much going on in music--I seem to hear about two new songs a year that I actually like at all at maximum--but it is highly likely that if there is any new music that is going to be considered good fifty years from now I am not hearing it, and even if I were technically hearing it, like the old fogies who doubtless heard classic rock songs in the 50s and 60s and could not discerning any pleasant sounds in them at all, I would probably not be 'hearing' what is dynamic in them. New movies and literature, the other dominant artistic forms of Generation X's and especially the Baby Boomers' most impressionable years, are not giving the most emotionally devoted, or at least most critically credentialed, segments of their audiences what they are looking for either, and I must include myself among that disgruntled middle aged group, since I find it pretty much impossible to find anything new comparable to the good old stuff before everybody became stifled by the particular attitudes and variety of self-consciousness that you know everything today is smothered in before you even see it. Still, a half-century on, there will be aficiondos of our period who will think a few things from it splendid, and wonder and be saddened that there are not, and never will be, any more works of a similar character to be discovered from it. Our generation, if not dead, will be superannuated, its essential work finished (if you think, as I increasingly do, that most artists decline after age 40 my generation's work is already essentially finished) and our descendants will have from what was done a strong sense of all that was not done, and might have been done. But they will love some of the things that were done for reasons that are inaccessible to someone already past middle age now and making a living or maintaining a persona as a curmudgeon and a scold.

I do suspect that the new technology of the last 20 years may be hindering people who may have been creative in these older forms. I am not referring to myself, as when I used to attempt creative writing I wrote all my drafts out in longhand and typed and printed up copies from which I did revisions after that. I found I could not compose on the computer, that it was too fast, that I didn't have the same sense of making the actual thing that I wanted to make. I do compose the blog posts on the computer of course, because I don't have time to write them out in longhand at present, but I am always a little jittery and uncomfortable in doing so, I am always conscious of time, I am always conscious of other points I could bring in which would necessitate changing the flow of the narrative, and it shows in the postings. I think the ever-increasing stupendous-ness of the technology is probably a little deflating to would-be artists who are trying to, or need to use it, but have no sense of control over it because they don't really understand how it works. Personally I would happily give up computers long before I gave up old-style literature or music or films, and I do not think that computers are an expression of a superior intelligence to at least the greatest works of art, but it is an expression of a very powerful and seemingly very different kind of intelligence that is wholly ascendant at present. The humanistic artist of the present and future probably has to, a la Buster Keaton with the movie camera, or even better, Vermeer and the other ancient artists' necessity of making their own actual paint and other supplies from scratch, take the computer apart (not necessarily literally, though that would probably not hurt), identify what its powers and ruling premises really are and what they really signify to man in his current state of existence, and then internalize that understanding so that it is as much as possible second nature, and the technology is no longer a hindrance. Doubtless this process is already underway, but I probably will never be able to get it. I'm kind of intellectually stranded in my early 40s, and I don't like it.

Back to the main point, however. The  physical manifestations and delivery of art even in my childhood were, though by machines and technology, were by machines and technology that one had a reasonable visual and cognitive sense of how they worked--printing presses, records, film reels, radio broadcasts. I have no sense of how clicking various buttons on the internet allow me not only to save my draft of this post, but in the event that I should fly to Irkutsk in the next couple of days, to be able to retrieve it there on any computer I might find that has internet access. I have no sense of how if I click a couple of buttons, that I not  only can hear and see video images of Tavares' "Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel", but I can have a copy of it "burned" onto my own computer and can then do I guess any number of things with it, though so far I still just make CDs out of these songs I download or upload, though how that process works I don't really understand either. The worst part is, I'm not terribly interested in understanding it, even if I could; but that is in some large sense the key to what life is in my time, regardless of whether I want it to be or not, and I should be interested in it. But back again to the main point--the computer is too powerful a tool. If you attempt to use it passively as just a cleaner and faster substitute for the kind of work you were used to doing in a way in which you had greater hands-on physical control, you will be surprised by how much power it saps out of you because it makes you aware, subconsciously or not, that there is infinitely more going on in it than there is in you.

I wanted to write some more about the negativity so many people feel about college these days, and how I do expect this widespread disenchantment to be a serious political catalyst within the next few years, and not only because of the loan debt, though that is certainly a big part of it. For a large part of the current generation especially there has been, a deep emotional investment in the whole college process from an early age, and despite the cynical exhortations and words of wisdom of their elders to toughen up, that nothing is promised or owed to anyone in this world, that they didn't study the right subjects or compete strongly enough to be successful and now they just have to live with the consequences of that failure, I don't think they are going to be so easily persuaded that it didn't really signify anything as far as the rest of life goes. But I'll have to go into that more another time. That, and I suppose other politics. Someday I'll probably break down and relate my vision of a world where published authors and professors and other intellectual authorities have attained the power of administering life and death over people who unsuccessfully aspire to join their ranks, and of my own trial and execution at the hands of this court--but yes, I should definitely stop for tonight...