Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Think hard: have you ever seen an interesting movie or documentary about a writer? In the past several weeks, I have seen documentaries that did wonderful jobs of portraying two very different art forms: musical composition and painting. A Labyrinth of Time gives us American composer Elliott Carter, while the truly gonzo, loopy documentary Condo Painting shows us the painter George Condo at work. And this is the key: we see these artists at work.
We see Carter working with musicians, hunched over the piano sorting out a composition problem, conducting an orchestra; and when he wasn’t doing much of anything, the filmmakers showed him wandering the streets of his beloved Manhattan with his compositions as background music. With Condo, the visual “photogenic” aspects of his art form are even more obvious; I have a hard time imagining a boring documentary when your raw materials are paint and turpentine and canvases where new work is constructed as the camera watches.
And there’s the problem with writing. There is nothing visual about it. with Carter and Condo, we get to see them doing their art – and it is exciting. Watching a writer do his art is about as exciting as watching a tree put out new growth rings. Making a film in which the main action would be a writer writing would be a disaster. Films about writers always show the writer living his life, not doing his art. There is basically nothing to show.
The other problem with writing as an art form is that (until recently) there have been very few non-traditional outlets for the writer’s craft. We’ve all heard the story (probably apocryphal) of the woman who kick starts a photography career by hanging some of her work in a local bank lobby. We’ve all heard about the actor who got his start acting off-off-off-Broadway (or even doing street theatre). We even have the unforgettable image of Basquiat bombing the walls and subway trains of
Maybe blogs like this are what we writers get to have other than the all-too-rare experience of publication. Maybe the internet is how our art finally gets to be photogenic. Maybe what we’re doing out here is bombing the digital subways with our art.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I highly recommend Michel Hoellebecq's book HP Lovecraft: Against The World, Against Life, for an excellent critical/philosophical assessment of Lovecraft's work.
From The Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of H.P. Lovecraft born Howard Phillips Lovecraft in 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island. He wrote science fiction, fantasy, and horror, a genre that during his life was called simply "weird fiction." Lovecraft wrote hundreds of poems and short stories, but they were scattered throughout various pulp magazines and publications. It was only after his death that some of the people he had corresponded with in letters were determined to share his work with the public, so they formed a press called Arkham House specifically as a way to publish Lovecraft's work. They issued The Outsider and Others in 1939, and his books are still widely available— books like The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stores (1932). Fantasy and horror writers like Stephen King and Neil Gaiman consider Lovecraft one of their major influences, and Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story, "There Are More Things," in memory of Lovecraft.
Friday, August 15, 2008
“If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the patterns of their words.”
I refuse to make a religion out of my lack of religion. I don’t organize my life or my thinking around my lack of belief. My life and my life’s projects are driven by things that matter. If I have to call myself anything, I could do a lot worse than steal an idea from Kierkegaard and label myself:
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Soldiers To Patrol Italian Streets To Fight Crime
Italian Mayor Bans Gatherings of Three or More
What is one to make of these ominous developments in
Europe is a place that turned back the Muslim invaders in the 700's (Tours/Poitiers France) and the 1600s (
- historically, Islam did try to over-run
Europeand convert it. We might say "Jeez Louise, that was centuries ago!" Which simply reveals our ignorance of the thinking of countries that actually have a history, one spanning millenia. To Europe (and, it should be noted, to the Muslim world) things like the battle of Toursand the siege of happened yesterday. Vienna
- our Mexican "invaders" do not have a recent history of detonating themselves in close proximity to the native population of their host country. When Europeans see Muslim immigrants, they think
, they think Coventry Station. They look at Madrid Iraqand and they think "these people are trying to import that into our country." Every single Muslim immigrant gets painted with this same brush. Afghanistan
- Europe always has before its eyes the image of poor, brave, reasonable Theo van Gogh, run down on the street in
in 2004 and slaughtered like an animal in an abattoir by a Muslim religious fanatic. They do not forget that the influential Imam of the as-Sunnah Mosque in Amsterdam gave a sermon several weeks before the murder calling for Van Gogh’s death. They do not forget that, as news of Van Gogh’s murder spread through the Muslim world, many Muslims turned out on the streets to cheer. They think of Van Gogh and wonder, “When will it be my turn?” The Hague
I'm not writing any of this to excuse the recent convulsions of xenophobia in Europe, but simply to give Americans -- who tend to view things through a very America-centric lens -- some idea of how things look from over there. If you think post-9/11 Americans are scared of hordes of Muslim "barbarians at the gates", you haven’t seen anything -- the Europeans are terrified at the barbarians at their gates.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
- John Edwards
Alone among the developed nations of the West, the
We can look to the nations of
Again, I feel the need to emphasize that these numbers are not intended to trivialize the horrors experienced by US military personnel (and their families) in the country’s various wars, but simply to suggest that the scale of the bloodletting necessary to cure a people of their addiction to war is not something that the