Friday, November 30, 2012

Planet Hump or the lack of sensuality in the male libido

These dreams are getting out of hand

Vergina: Philip's Tomb restoration of wall painting hunt frieze: det.: first mounted man from left
Datelate 4th C. B.C
LocationVergina (Greece)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Paul Himmel      Ballet Serenade      c.1951

Vija Celmins: Blackboard Tableau #7,

Francisco Goya  Still-Life with Three Salmon Steaks, 1808-12
(Source: drawpaintprint, via blastedheath)

Jackson Pollock:  Number One (1948)

Landscape of the Bleeding Crowd

A letter by Federico García Lorca to his friend Regino Sainz de la Maza, guitarist and compatriot in Spain’s ‘Generación del ’27.’ The United States, where Lorca enrolled at Columbia University in 1929-1930, was his first trip abroad before he traveled south to Cuba. Lorca was on Wall Street on the day of the stock market crash. Any resemblance to real people is purely intentional.
Untitled by Samira Abbassy, from the Urban Jealousy series at the International Roaming Biennial of Tehran.
October 30, 1929
Esteemed friend:
When this letter reaches you I would not blame you if you found it part-bourgeois, part-Nietszche. It is Wednesday and I am sitting in a warm apartment in Harlem. Yesterday was Black Tuesday: an open gallery to the multitude of death. Other people’s deaths, actual and real, happen in plural numbers, whereas one’s own, abstract and invisible, is perceived to be utterly unique. Singularly special! This is our sickness.
The signs I saw around the necks of many young men yesterday said: ‘WANTED, A Decent Job,’ followed by a self-description (‘Family Man,’ ‘Three Young Children’) and age. It is hard for a man to be a man like it is hard for a dog to be a dog.
Sometimes I want to remain asleep but I am expulsed into the street like a braying sheep, a no-nothing wrapped in sopoforic wool, eager to know what all the fuss is about. I remain that way until I see the butcher shining his knife in a fresh white apron. Then I know.
Yesterday was the first time since arriving some months ago that I felt frightened, and the grid-jungle appeared as a death trap. The port, rather than looking outward to Atlantis, became the mote around a strange and awful castle where the candlelights were suddenly blown out. Darkness set in amidst the confusion of automobiles and skyscrapers.
Remember when you wrote that South America is the Andalucía de América? And what of North America? Where is its what?
No one looked at another with enmity yesterday. Only fear—the anguished fear that violently pierces the hearts of men and women and even children when faced with their closing fate. I am pushing this pen against the page in order to delay telling you the inevitable, that I witnessed not one, not two, but six suicides yesterday, and I dread you asking what expression I saw on their faces as they each fell to earth. In truth their faces wore nothing, not even the specter of fear. I watched as one watches a skeleton. My despair rose to my temples and my hands shook. Contemplation stopped! It was a VEIN-OPENING and I scarcely knew who held the dagger.
There was a woman among them and she threw her hat down before stepping onto the ledge. We watched that gray furry hat float down with the excruciatingly slow speed of an indifferent feather. Below her Babylon shook. There were shouts in more languages that all of Paris or London contain.
Since alcohol is still prohibited, what poison will they (will we?) drink to counteract the venom of this world? There is no sherry or Fundador brandy strong enough as the strychnine this demands.
I wrote ‘Ruina’ and dedicated it to you today, it will soon be published. Do you want to know how it came to me? Predictably the germ was planted in a dream. ‘You alone and I remain. I alone and you remain. One must look quickly, love, quickly, for our profile without sleep.’
Prepare your skeleton, friend!
I want to mock all the things and scream at all the things. That dinner party at Mildred Adams’—that Spanish-speaking journalist in Granada, you remember?—is far away. My ears are bereft of the music of Albéniz and Falla and your own. The sensual warmth of the polymaths gathered around a dining table seems a century-and-a-half away even though it was only months ago when the Spanish colonies of New York and red-wearing hispanophiles befriended me. I will soon visit Philip Cummings, the writer and Spanish teacher in Vermont. I am ashamed of the departure from New York, ashamed like a half-tourist reluctantly escaping the scene of a famine. This is not a metaphor.
It is only five o’clock in the evening but already it is pitch black outside, as black as the cement on this shaken earth. This is the world, friend, a bushel of coal. Meanwhile, meanwhile, meanwhile. Yesterday’s dead decompose below the clocks of this city.
Since you are full of inquietude and melancholy you will understand the melancholic’s desire to fly.
An enormous and tight embrace,
Not just a nature lover: Keats’s critics were suspicious of his “jacobinical” politics—but how radical was he? 
In his early poem “I stood tip-toe”, Keats describes an effect of sunlight passing through water:
Where swarms of minnows show their little heads,Staying their wavy bodies ’gainst the streams,To taste the luxury of sunny beamsTemper’d with coolness. How they ever wrestleWith their own sweet delight, and ever nestleTheir silver bellies on the pebbly sand.If you but scantily hold out the hand,
That very instant not one will remain;
But turn your eye, and they are there again.
At first glance, this seems to be nothing more than a delicate piece of observation. We know from Keats’s letters (as Nicholas Roe points out in his new biography, John Keats: A New Life, Yale University Press, £25) that as a boy he loved to explore the natural world of the countryside near Edmonton: “How fond I used to be of Goldfinches, Tomtits, Minnows, Mice, Ticklebacks, Dace, Cock salmons and all the whole tribe of the Bushes and the Brooks,” he wrote to his sister.
But Keats the poet gave those childhood memories an extra depth when he interpreted the movement of the minnows as a wrestling “with their own sweet delight”. That gloss makes the water both the minnows’ pleasurable element while, at the same time, something to be resisted or struggled against. It is a doubleness which retrospectively gives additional point to the word “wavy”. Initially one reads “wavy” as saying merely that the minnows’ bodies are undulating, because that is the motion fish use to stay “their . . . bodies ’gainst the stream”. But then, glancing back, one understands that the minnows’ bodies are also “wavy” in another sense. They are wavy, too, because they have an affinity with the waves in which the fish live. Resistance and assimilation are fused in a single word.
Critics have often fastened upon such passages as evidence for a vision of Keats as a thoroughly aestheticised figure. This is the Keats whose preoccupation was, above all, with beauty. The letter, both proud and mortified, that he wrote to Fanny Brawnewhen he was already mortally ill with con- sumption is often taken as an encapsulation of the whole life and work:
If I should die . . . I have left no immortal work behind me—nothing to make my friends proud of my memory—but I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember’d.
The clew of beauty leads inescapably to certain lines of Keats’s poetry. It takes us to the opening lines of Endymion:
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
And it takes us to the gnomic closing lines of the “Ode on a Grecian Urn”:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”— that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. 
It also leads us to certain celebrated passages in Keats’s letters, in particular thosewhich touch on Keats’s ideas of poetic selflessness: for instance, when he famously imagines himself pecking among the gravel with the sparrows, or (most centrally) when he explains to his brothers his idea of the “negative capability” which he thinks is essential for any great literary achievement: “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason”. It is an idea Keats summarises by saying: “This pursued through Volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.”
This image of Keats as an acolyte of beauty is very familiar to us, yet there are problems with it. In particular, the poems which are most often cited as exemplifying this aestheticised Keats—that is to say, the odes published in 1820 (principally “Ode to a Nightingale”, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, and “To Autumn”)—are, it would seem, not the kind of poetry Keats ultimately wished to write. If we take seriously what Keats says about “negative capability”—the great positive example of its possession being Shakespeare, and the great negative example of its lack being Coleridge—then this theory of literary selflessness seems to push Keats towards at least narrative poetry, if not even as far as poetic drama. But Keats’s dramatic works, Otho the Great and the fragmentary King Stephen, are usually passed over in awkward silence.
Not only does the aestheticised image of Keats tend to put the highest value on poems which there is good reason to think Keats himself would not have rated so strongly. It also dismisses from serious attention some poems altogether—those verses normally labelled “Fugitive Pieces” or “Trivia” in editions of his poetry. The Keats whose devotion was to beauty cannot be allowed to have had any serious talent for light verse, or whimsicality, or satire, and the poems of that character he wrote are therefore pushed to one side with disdain. Nor can the aestheticised Keats have had much interest in politics—his conception of his poetic calling must have been too high-minded for such earthly commitments. And yet some of Keats’s first reviewers caught political implications in his verse. Lockhart’s jab at what he called this “bantling” poet who had learnt from Leigh Hunt to “lisp sedition” shows as much. So too does The British Critic’s resentment of “a jacobinical apostrophe” in the opening lines of Book III of Endymion:
There are who lord it o’er their fellow-men
With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
Their baaing vanities, to browse away
The comfortable green and juicy hay
From human pastures; . . .
The radicalism sensed by the conservative reviewers of Keats’s own day is not something that can easily be accommodated by today’s critics of an aesthetic bent.
Nicholas Roe has always wished to challenge this aestheticised Keats. His first book, John Keats and the Culture of Dissent (1997), attempted straightforwardly to overturn it by means of a full-frontal assault. In that book Roe set out to “restore the vivacious, even pugnacious, voices of Keats’s poetry” by showing how time and time again the poems “responded to and addressed matters of the moment” in a way which would have been evident to their first readers, but which a later academic audience found it hard to catch.
This was an attempt to turn Keats into Shelley, and unsurprisingly, despite the quality of the research which went into it, it did not entirely persuade. The argument was pushed with a certain bluntness. The fact of there being echoes and points of connection between Keats’s poetry and radical journals of the day was too easily taken as evidence that the poems themselves must also have been radical. However, Roe’s stance towards Keats succeeds much better in the mode of this excellent and fascinating new biography, where his image of the poet emerges more easily and more naturally from the flow of event, and is often brilliantly illuminated by the light thrown by circumstance.
Roe’s Keats is primarily a Londoner, and the first chapters of the book are an impres- sive recovery of the milieu in which the young Keats was raised. He is also—at least until disease undermines his constitution, and despite his short stature—vigorously physical, given to rough-housing when a boy, fond of demanding walking holidays when a man. He was raised and educated in radical circles: the dissenting culture of Enfield School is brought out very well by Roe. Nor was Keats without financial means. There was a modest amount of money in the Keats family, although access to it was hampered by its being tied up in Chancery. Nevertheless, Keats was able to draw on money, and even to lend it to friends more indigent than he. Roe explores the complicated money affairs of the Keats family in impressive detail. Finally, Roe’s Keats was not so attached to the ideal of beauty that he would overlook or ignore its earthly embodiments (indeed, the folly of so doing is a central part of the meaning of Endymion). Roe underlines the avidity of the young Keats for sexual experience, a trait perhaps traceable to his mother, who was much given to “pleasure”; and he plausibly suggests that in consequence Keats contracted a venereal disease for which he treated himself with mercury.
Roe’s Keats, although devoted to poetry, is also open to other literary possibilities. For Roe, Otho the Great is not merely the false step it has seemed to be to so many other critics, and he takes seriously the possibility that, had he lived, Keats might have pursued a career in the theatre. Even more arrestingly, Roe is also impelled by his reading of the letters to imagine Keats’s pursuing a quite alternative literary path:
Throughout Keats’s letters and poems we have seen vivid glimpses of a novelist in the making, suggesting that in the 1830s and ’40s he might have rivalled Dickens, then turned his awareness of life’s ironies into moments of vision like Thomas Hardy’s, or even joined Hunt,whose insights about consciousness and time prefigured Virginia Woolf’s.
This startling vision of Keats as a rival to the young Dickens has the benefit of bring- ing more to the centre of our attention the lighter verse which critics have tended to leave on the side of their plates, like so much unpalatable gristle. Roe, however, wolfs down even this rejected fare with gusto: “If The Fall of Hyperion was a venture along some darker passages of his psyche, The Cap and Bells gives us a streetwise Keats as he walks by gaslight to an evening drink and talk with friends.”
Finally, Roe’s Keats still harbours radical sympathies, as Roe had suggested in his first book. But Roe now allows the radical touches in Keats’s poems to emerge with less strain, and his discussion of those potentially radical details implicitly acknowledges their occasional faintness or slightness. As he says of “To Autumn”:
When we turn from Hunt’s “Calendar of Nature” to Keats’s poem, its three richly laded stanzas appear as a harvest-home for England’s “less fortunate multitude”: a lock of hair is “soft-lifted” to float free on a “winnowing wind”; a furrow is abandoned “half-reap’d”; the gleaner—an archetype of poverty and exclusion—becomes a figure of steady purpose; and swallows, still gathering, announce their imminent departure while keeping at bay Keats’s fateful word “gone”. Under a new moon’s Dian skies, such images of natural liberty assured Keats’s poem a hearing even amid the noisy, disorderly debates ignited by the Manchester outrage.
This captures admirably both the closeness to, and the distance from, the political in Keats’s poetry.
If the insights of Roe’s biography are fresh, sometimes vividly so, these vivacities have not been purchased by any modish freedom with the form of the book. Biographical fashion for the time being has turned its face against what Roe calls “cradle-to-grave” or “womb-to-tomb” biographies. The new biographers attempt to tell the story of a life through narratives “that begin at the end, or in which the subject is viewed through lesser-known siblings, imaginary friends, or personal effects”. Roe eschews such cute tricks. His own method is meticulously chronological and sequential. Had Keats lived a normal span, this might have become tedious. As it is, with Keats dying aged 25, it is a method which allows Roe to focus with a truly Keatsian intensity on such details of the life as have survived.
This may not be the biography of Keats that gives the reader the clearest sense of the broad outlines of the poet’s life. Sometimes Roe’s immersion in the flood of detail makes his narrative confusing to follow, and those not already familiar with the Keatsian dramatis personae will sometimes struggle to recall who is meant by “Tom” or “Severn” or “Dilke”—names which come more than naturally to Roe in his unrivalled familiarity with Keats and his world, but which the rest of us may need laboriously to remember. Nevertheless, this is, by far, the biography which will most delight those who are already familiar with that outline. It loads each rift with the ore of biographical detail (often marvellously retrieved), and threads the whole story of Keats’s life with intriguing and imaginative speculations.
It is Roe’s achievement to have written the most Keatsian biography of Keats that we will ever have. And he has done this by taking seriously Keats’s own idea that the life of a writer may be discerned figuratively in their works. The result is to bring Roe surprisingly close to those critics who have championed the aesthetic Keats, at least in terms of their shared reverence for Keats’s words. No critic was more committed to an aesthetic Keats than John Jones, and Jones famously justified the intense concentration he brought to Keats’s language by blandly confessing: “every section-heading of this book [John Keats’s Dream of Truth] is a phrase from three consecutive sentences of a single letter he wrote: as if I thought his words, even in casual prose, might sometimes be enchanted. And in fact that is what I do think.” Roe’s Keats is very different from Jones’s. Nevertheless, Roe too seems to believe that Keats’s words may sometimes be almost supernaturally significant.
What we have in this superb new biography is neither the exquisite poet of the aesthetes, nor quite the pugnacious radical of Roe’s own earlier work. This new Keats is stranger than both, and it is another of Roe’s Keatsian achievements to have let this strange and contradictory figure come into the light, without on his part any irritable straining after biographical fact and reason. Thanks to Roe’s richly-detailed and often beautifully-written biography, we can now see that Keats, like the minnows of “I stood tip-toe”, was at once resistant and assimilated, and passed his life in a wrestle with sweet delight.

Museum of Modern Art "Acquires" 14 Video Games, Including Tetris and SimCity 2000

Soon the Museum of Modern Art will house video games. Above, people enter MoMA in 2004.
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Take that, Roger Ebert.
In 2010, the venerable Chicago film critic penned an infamous op-ed titled “Video Games Can Never Be Art.” But today, the Museum of Modern Art announced that it is now collecting video games, with 14 titles forming the basis of a permanent collection on interactive design in the video game industry. For gamers like me, this is serious validation of our often dismissed pastime.
MoMa curator Paola Antonelli, who revealed the museum's acquisition today in an official blog post, gives resounding authority to the idea that video games are indeed art. So Ebert can kick rocks. (That is me editorializing—Antonelli did not, would never, write that. She didn't even mention Ebert. But maybe she should have.)  
Antonelli went on to write that not only are video games art, “but they are also design, and a design approach is what we chose for this new foray into this universe.” The video games selected will fit in with the museum's already extensive collection of interactive design highlighting “one of the most important and oft-discussed expressions of contemporary design creativity.”
The 14 titles already in the permanent exhibit are Pac-Man, Tetris, Another World, Myst, SimCity 2000, vib-ribbon, The Sims, Katamari Damacy, EVE Online, Dwarf Fortress, Portal, flOw, Passage, and Canabalt. There are also plans to add 26 additional games to its collection, including Spacewar!, Pong, Snake, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, M.U.L.E., Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, Chrono Trigger, Animal Crossing, and Minecraft. (At least MoMA has better taste than Time.) “Because of the tight filter we apply to any category of objects in MoMA's collection, our selection does not include some immensely popular video games that might have seemed like no-brainers to video game historians," wrote Antonelli.
The video games were chosen using four main criteria: The behavior designers prompt from the players, aesthetics, time spent in the game, and space, which is described as “an architecture that is planned, designed, and constructed according to a precise program, sometimes pushing technology to its limits in order to create brand new degrees of expressive and spatial freedom.”
MoMa's acquisition comes on the heels of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's six-month exhibit on “The Art of Video Games,” which included a few of the titles acquired by MoMa.
The display of the fist 14 video games will be ready in March 2013. MoMa will either create videos or “interactive experiences” or, if the game is short enough, allow patrons to play them in their entirety. So maybe arcades aren’t entirely a thing of the past—we’ll just have to visit museums to see them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Frida Kahlo, written in her diary a few days before her death
“An artist is above all a human being, profoundly human to the core. If the artist can’t feel everything that humanity feels, if the artist isn’t capable of loving until he forgets himself and sacrifices himself if necessary, if he won’t put down his magic brush and head the fight against the oppressor, then he isn’t a great artist.” Diego Rivera

I Fart In Your General Direction!

Now this is disturbing

Assyrian star planisphere found in the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (reigned 668-627 BCE) at Nineveh. 
The function of this unique 13-cm diameter clay tablet, in which the principal constellations are positioned in eight sectors, is disputed but the texts and drawings appear to be astro-magical in nature.
Currently located at the British Museum, London.

Twitter our lives away

Media and expression: theses in tweetform

1. The complexity of the medium is inversely proportional to the eloquence of the message.
2. Hypertext is a more conservative medium than text.
3. The best medium for the nonlinear narrative is the linear page.
4. Twitter is a more ruminative medium than Facebook.
5. The introduction of digital tools has never improved the quality of an art form.
6. The returns on interactivity quickly turn negative.
7. In the material world, doing is knowing; in media, the opposite is often true.
8. Facebook’s profitability is directly tied to the shallowness of its members: hence its strategy.
9. Increasing the intelligence of a network tends to decrease the intelligence of those connected to it.
10. The one new art form spawned by the computer – the videogame – is the computer’s prisoner.
11. Personal correspondence grows less interesting as the speed of its delivery quickens.
12. Programmers are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.
13. The album cover turned out to be indispensable to popular music.
14. The pursuit of followers on Twitter is an occupation of the bourgeoisie.
15. Abundance of information breeds delusions of knowledge among the unwary.
16. No great work of literature could have been written in hypertext.
17. The philistine appears ideally suited to the role of cultural impresario online.
18. Television became more interesting when people started paying for it.
19. Instagram shows us what a world without art looks like.
20. Online conversation is to oral conversation as a mask is to a face.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Severe beauty

Disturbing "after holiday" dreams

  1. The Perils Of Ancient Motherhood

    Emily Wilson reviews a spate of books on motherhood, among them Mothering and Motherhood in Ancient Greece and Rome:
    Even male authors of antiquity were aware that motherhood was a very dangerous business, for women as well as for men and babies. Those who survived to adulthood must have been conscious that their mothers could have died giving birth to them; men must have been aware that fathering children on their wives could, and quite likely would, kill them. Orestes, who kills his mother in adulthood, is supposedly justified in his action, because he is avenging his father – and the Oresteia itself can be read as, among other things, an attempt to justify matricide and fatherhood (which are, revealingly, linked together). But the cultural background of the play includes the awareness that children very often "kill" their mothers, simply by being born; and husbands often "kill" their wives by making them pregnant.

Monday, November 26, 2012