(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘culture

“Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable”*…

 

By the end of last year, anyone who had been paying even passing attention to the news headlines was highly likely to conclude that everything was terrible, and that the only attitude that made sense was one of profound pessimism – tempered, perhaps, by cynical humour, on the principle that if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, one may as well try to enjoy the ride…  Yet one group of increasingly prominent commentators has seemed uniquely immune to the gloom…

The loose but growing collection of pundits, academics and thinktank operatives who endorse this stubbornly cheerful, handbasket-free account of our situation have occasionally been labelled “the New Optimists”, a name intended to evoke the rebellious scepticism of the New Atheists led by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. And from their perspective, our prevailing mood of despair is irrational, and frankly a bit self-indulgent. They argue that it says more about us than it does about how things really are – illustrating a certain tendency toward collective self-flagellation, and an unwillingness to believe in the power of human ingenuity. And that it is best explained as the result of various psychological biases that served a purpose on the prehistoric savannah – but now, in a media-saturated era, constantly mislead us…

Don’t worry, be happy? “Is the world really better than ever?

* Voltaire

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As we cultivate our gardens, we might send well-watered birthday greeting to Monkombu Sambisivan Swaminathan; he was born on this date in 1925.  A geneticist and international administrator, he is known as the “Indian Father of Green Revolution” for his leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat in India.  Swaminathan, based these days at he MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, is an advocate of moving India to sustainable development, especially using environmentally-sustainable agriculture, sustainable food security, and the preservation of biodiversity– which he calls an “evergreen revolution.”

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Written by LW

August 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The color of fire and sunset, the color of flamboyant flowers”*…

 

Clio, Pierre Mignard

Red is “the first color,” the most primordial and symbolic, for thousands of years in the West “the only color worthy of that name.” It is the basic color of all ancient peoples (and still the color preferred by children the world over). It appears in the earliest artistic representations, the cave paintings of hunter-gatherers 30,000-plus years ago. Blood and fire were always and everywhere represented by the color red. Both were felt to be sources of magical power, and both played a role in human communication with gods through bloody sacrifices. Humans also painted their bodies red, and shells and bones painted red are found in abundance in burials from 15,000 years ago…

The history and the meaning(s) of that most fundamental of colors: “Crimson Tidings.”

* Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

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As we take Bill Blass’ advice, “when in doubt, wear red,” we might recall that today is the Catholic Church’s Feast of the Precious Blood, a commemoration of the blood of Jesus.  (This is a feast that does not exist in the new Roman Calendar of Pope Paul VI. It is still, however, in the traditional Roman calendar of the 1962 usage.)

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Written by LW

July 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs”*…

 

When brands get highjacked…

At far-right rallies across the U.S., an English tennis champion named Fred Perry hovers, invisible to the men unwittingly representing him. For the last two years, members of the Proud Boys cult of masculinity have worn Perry-branded striped-collar polo shirts with a Wimbledon-inspired laurel insignia as they shout at anti-fascist protesters and take rocks to the head. In blog posts and tweets dating back to 2014, their patriarch Gavin McInnes has instructed them that this — a Fred Perry cotton pique tennis shirt, always in black and yellow — is the proper armor for battling multiculturalism.

The Proud Boys at most have a few hundred active members, but they are a fixture at fascist “free speech” events like this month’s anti-Muslim marches, where they mingle with white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. McInnes is eager to point out that the Proud Boys accept people of color, Muslims, and Jewish people — so long as those members also “accept that the West is the best” and reject non-Western immigrants to America (McInnes is Canadian). But McInnes insists his followers are not themselves white supremacists, a clarification he has to make partially because Fred Perry polos have a history of popping up at racist skinhead punk shows and rallies across Europe and the Americas. The shirts have been a fixture in some form or another, in all their two-dozen-plus colorways, in both fascist and anti-fascist politics for fifty years, here in the States but especially in England, where both the brand and the skinhead subculture that co-opted it are from…

The whole sordid story at “How Fred Perry polos came to symbolize hate.”

* “Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

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As we cull our wardrobes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1787 that Edward Gibbon completed last lines of his monumental (and instructively cautionary) History of the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire (nearly 25 years in the writing) between 11 o’clock & midnight in Lausanne.  He called it the “hour of my final deliverance.”

(In 1897, precisely 110 years later, Thomas Hardy visited the same spot and wrote his “Lausanne.”)

Edward Gibbon, portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds

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“Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television”*…

 

And sometime, good television: full episodes of the frighteningly-prophetic Max Headroom at Dailymotion.com— watch ’em while you can!

* Woody Allen

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As we cope with blipverts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the legendary Edward R. Murrow aired his 500th and final Person to Person interview (with actress Lee Remick).  The series continued for another two years with Charles Collingwood as host.

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Written by LW

June 26, 2017 at 1:01 am

“O, had I but followed the arts!”*…

 

Investment in the arts doesn’t cost us money – it MAKES us money!

I just got back from a rally at City Hall. It was organized by city council member Jimmy Van Bramer to protest the proposed budget cuts to both publicly funded arts organizations (NEA, NEH and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) and the library system. Lots of other council members, museum directors, actors, union representatives and many more were on hand. It was a beautiful spring day. I spoke very briefly, making the economic and social argument—that arts funding benefits the economy and creates jobs way in excess of the amount invested. It has the effect of lowering crime, raising property values and lowering child abuse! Really!

The Trump administration and their Republican allies hope to eliminate funding for a number of federal arts organizations. This is a political move—it really doesn’t amount to much money—it’s a tiny part of the federal budget. The amount of federal funding is $741 million, which sounds like a lot, but is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the United States’ annual federal spending, an amount supporters say is too small to make a difference in the budget if it was cut. On a budget pie chart it doesn’t even show up, it’s too small.

Q: What does that “investment” get us as a nation?—A: It gets multiplied more than 100 times= $135.2 BILLION…

Read on, as David Byrne makes a compelling case at “What Good Are the Arts?

* Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

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As we treasure society’s hope chest, we might recall that it was on this date in 1939 that celebrated contralto Marian Anderson sang an Easter Sunday concert for more than 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  A radio audience of millions listened in.

Anderson had been denied the right to perform at Constitution Hall by the DAR because of her color.  Instead, and at the urging of Eleanor Roosevelt, Harold Ickes permitted her to perform at the Lincoln Memorial.

 

 

Written by LW

April 15, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything”*…

 

Leland Carlson is sitting in his Washington, D.C. apartment watching the rain outside his window and speculating what a dull man in Southern California would find amusing. “They might like to go to Venice Beach and watch the tide come in,” he says. “That sounds fun to do.”

Carlson, a 77-year-old retired tax attorney, is the founder of the Dull Men’s Club. The club is a loosely organized online community where men can share thoughts and experiences about ordinary things. There’s a website packed with articles on “dullites,” a shop featuring club swag and a calendar with various meet-ups in England and the U.S. along with celebrations of things like National Pencil Day.

Carlson says it’s remained a men’s group because he considers women “too exciting” (although those that appreciate dull men aren’t turned down). The club is a place to feel free from the pressures of being trendy, and it’s a place where no one cares about fancy cars, buying a bigger house or going on exotic trips…

Carlson wanted somewhere for “old farts” like him to discuss duck ponds and hubcap collections. He had no idea his Dull Men’s Club would launch a movement.  From MEL Magazine (via Narratively) “The International Society For Men Who Love Being Boring.”

* Voltaire

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As we consider a nap, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that General Foods put the first nationally-branded individually-packaged frozen foods– “Birds Eye Frosted Foods”– on sale in 18 retail stores in Springfield, Mass. to test the market.  General Foods (recently renamed from the Postum Corporation) had acquired the frozen food business from Clarence Birdseye; inspired by seeing Canadians thawing and eating naturally frozen fish, Birdseye had invented the category in the early 1920s.  The initial Birds Eye line featured 26 items, including 18 cuts of frozen meat, spinach and peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets.

Clarence Birdseye and his handiwork

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Written by LW

March 6, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Don’t criticize what you can’t understand”*…

 

Cultural critique is in a tricky spot. Living as we do under an extremist government, it is hard to know what to do with criticism, or how to consume art that does not carry a big rubber stamp declaring it “political.” It’s hard to defend doing anything except being in the streets…

Cultural criticism is not self-indulgent: It is a service to the community…  Painting, music, television, the visual culture of the internet, poetry: These art forms and their consumers and critics represent an aesthetic space whose boundaries are not defined by the president. Unless we believe in and nurture this space, the critic is stuck forever explaining how this or that book is crucial reading “in Trump’s America.” But this type of reviewing hobbles thought, because it reduces all art to the structure of satire. It is as if Trump is a spider in the middle of a web, and every review that tethers the meaning of a pop song to his régime strengthens it…

Art as society’s hope chest: “In Defense of Cultural Criticism in Trump’s America.”

* Bob Dylan, “The Times, They Are A’-Changin'”

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As we think for ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 that Charlotte Brontë, eldest of the three literary Brontë sisters, and author of Jane Eyre (among other novels), wrote to The Reverend Henry Nussey, the brother of Ellen Nussey, her long-time friend and correspondent, refusing Henry’s proposal of marriage.  Charlotte found Henry desperately dull.  Still, she let him down diplomatically.  “I have no personal repugnance to the idea of a union with you,” she wrote in her unenthusiastic reply, going on to cite altruistic reasons for her demurral: “mine is not the sort of disposition calculated to form the happiness of a man like you.”

cbrichmond source

 

Written by LW

March 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

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