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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

The Origins of Kitsch, and Other News

July 14, 2014 | by

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Rosso Fiorentino, Madonna and Child with Four Saints (Spedalingo Altarpiece), 1518; image via the Nation.

  • Bill Gates’s favorite business book is 1969’s Business Adventures, “twelve classic tales from the worlds of Wall Street and the modern American corporation,” and “it’s easy to see why. Brooks, who wrote for [The New Yorker] for more than thirty years, approached business in an unusual way. He had an eye for the technical details that mattered to insiders, but the sensibility of a broad-minded cultural critic.”
  • “If you visit Florence this summer, you may find that ducking into the Palazzo Strozzi to see the remarkable exhibition ‘Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino: Diverging Paths of Mannerism’ (through July 20) is a great way to dodge the tourist crowds that choke the city’s streets. The works by these two Tuscans, who have good claim to being considered the originators of Mannerism, are as fascinating and problematic as ever. But chances are, if you’re inclined to look at them to discover affinities with art’s future, it’s not Matisse, German Expressionism, or Giacometti you’ll think of first. At least I didn’t—what I saw, for better or worse, was a postmodern Mannerism: the invention of bad taste or, as Clement Greenberg used to call it, kitsch.”
  • Talking to Jamie Keenan, a jacket designer: “Turd Theory (one of The Twenty Irrefutable Theories of Cover Design, written by myself and Jon Gray) works on the idea that in a scary world of disorder and chaos people are programmed to seek out repetition and order. So even the worst cover in the world, repeated twenty times in different colors of the rainbow, will get you an award or two.”
  • Some of literature’s greatest opening sentences—now in punch-card form.
  • Michael Oakeshott was one of the most original philosophers of the twentieth century, but also, his notebooks reveal, one of the strangest: “His response to the modern world was to cultivate an Epicurean gaiety and independence. (He rebuffed politely an approach by Margaret Thatcher, who had it in mind to recommend him as a Companion of Honour.) It was a style of life that combined seemingly antagonistic attitudes: a highly developed aesthetic sensitivity with a tolerance of everyday routine (he was punctilious when acting as chair of his LSE department); a capacity for intense romantic engagement with deep detachment.”

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Philosophy of the World

June 27, 2014 | by

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Detail from Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Kaufhaus im Regen, 1926-7.

In the summer, a trip to the grocery store or the laundromat can pose one existential conundrum after another. On seemingly every corner of the city, one is greeted by a young person with a clipboard in his hand, an enormous T-shirt on his back, and desperation in his eyes. And then come the questions—huge, unanswerable, world-shaking.

DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?

SPARE A MOMENT FOR GAY RIGHTS?

DO YOU LIKE TO LAUGH?

ARE YOU REGISTERED TO VOTE IN NEW YORK STATE?

CAN I ASK YOU A QUESTION ABOUT YOUR HAIR?

YOU LOOK LIKE A FRIENDLY PERSON! CAN I ASK YOU SOMETHING?

ARE YOU JEWISH?

DO YOU LOVE CHILDREN? Read More »

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Train Robberies for Everyone, and Other News

May 1, 2014 | by

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Marius Amdam, The Great Train Robbery

  • Junot Díaz on getting an MFA: “I didn’t have a great workshop experience. Not at all. In fact by the start of my second year I was like: get me the fuck out of here. So what was the problem? Oh, just the standard problem of MFA programs. That shit was too white.”
  • Al Feldstein, the editor who turned Mad Magazine into an institution in the late fifties, has died, at eighty-eight. “In his second issue, Mr. Feldstein seized on a character who had appeared only marginally in the magazine—a freckled, gaptoothed, big-eared, glazed-looking young man—and put his image on the cover, identifying him as a write-in candidate for president campaigning under the slogan ‘What—me worry?’”
  • When print books are scanned and converted into e-books, a process called optical character recognition is supposed to ensure that all of the letters are “read” correctly. But things sometimes go awry, and your e-book includes sentences like this: “‘Bertie, dear Bertie, will you not say good night to me,’ pleaded the sweet, voice of Minnie Hamilton, as she wound her anus affectionately around her brother’s neck.”
  • DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg has a dim view of the future of the cinema: “A movie will come out and you will have seventeen days, that’s exactly three weekends, which is 95% of the revenue for 98% of movies. On the eighteenth day, these movies will be available everywhere ubiquitously and you will pay for the size [of the screen you watch it on]. A movie screen will be $15. A 75” TV will be $4.00. A smartphone will be $1.99… ”
  • In praise of train robberies: “Dismemberment and armed robbery have been lost in today’s commuting experience … A few train robberies would do wonders for commuter attitude. Instead of insisting the city clean up all the snow as opposed to just most of it; instead of complaining that the Citi Bike seats are too long or short, too hard or squishy; instead of issuing eye rolls when a passenger shoves in ahead of closing doors, disrupting their Candy Crush level—a train heist would remind folks that any arrival, even a tardy one, is a blessing.”
  • What’s wrong with contemporary philosophy? “The exclusion of the agrarian and nomadic, in favor of the urban and sedentary. The problem is not just ‘the West’, or Europe, or masculine domination, or white supremacy, or even the intersection of all of these. The problem is the city.”

 

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Opera As It Used to Be, and Other News

March 13, 2014 | by

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Lodovico Burnacini, Il Pomo d’Oro, Act I, Scene V, Jupiter and His Court at Banquet with Discord Floating in a Cloud above the Table, hand-colored engraving, 1668. Image via the New York Review of Books.

 

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Poetry Must Still Dance: An Interview with Ange Mlinko

June 17, 2013 | by

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The Spring issue of The Paris Review includes a long poem by Ange Mlinko, “Wingandecoia.” It took me a few rereads, but, after a bout of Google searching, I saw this poem trace its arc in several directions—those of time, of place, and of musical imagination. Along the way to understanding, Mlinko treats the reader to lines that feel both alive and spectral. Some are even like incantatory but welcome earworms.

Mlinko has also published three books of poetry—Matinees, Starred Wire, and Shoulder Season. And this fall her next book, Marvelous Things Overheard, will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Between books, she writes on language and the arts for The Nation. 

Like the two poems you published in issue 199 of The Paris Review, “Wingandecoia” contains many unfamiliar words and names. How do you see these poems, and that idea, figuring into your forthcoming book, Marvelous Things Overheard?

The book is partly an exploration of time. The sixth-century brigand poet, the Macedonian general, and the ineffectual managers of the lost colony at Roanoke are allowed a measure of strangeness through the language each poem invokes. It amounts to a kind of foreign language within our familiar one. I grew up listening to languages my immigrant parents didn’t want to teach me, so I get a regressive pleasure out of feeling my way through sounds to their possible meanings. Not “getting” a word, or a line, or a poem at first read was never an obstacle for me—in fact, it was a seduction.

And then, obviously, these words are beautiful. Wingandecoia is a beautiful word. So is psittacines. So is pot pot chee. They suggest rhymes, anagrams, and puns. They make music, which I think is an indispensible pleasure. Read More »

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Hell Is Other Cats

May 2, 2013 | by

Henri the Existential Cat waxes philosophical on the price of literary fame.

 

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