Category: Art


LRB, By Ben Lerner, June 18

In ninth grade English Mrs X required us to memorise and recite a poem and so I asked the Topeka High librarian to direct me to the shortest poem she knew and she suggested Marianne Moore’s ‘Poetry’, which, in the 1967 version, reads in its entirety:

I, too, dislike it.
Reading it, however, with a perfect
contempt for it, one discovers in
it, after all, a place for the genuine.

I remember thinking my classmates were suckers for having mainly memorised Shakespeare’s 18th sonnet whereas I had only to recite 24 words. Never mind the fact that a set rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter make 14 of Shakespeare’s lines easier to memorise than Moore’s three, each one of which is interrupted by a conjunctive adverb – a parallelism of awkwardness that basically serves as its form. That plus the four instances of ‘it’ makes Moore sound like a priest grudgingly admitting that sex has its function while trying to avoid using the word, an effect amplified by the awkward enjambment of the second line and the third (‘in/it’). In fact, ‘Poetry’ is a very difficult poem to commit to memory, as I demonstrated by failing to get it right on any of the three chances I was given by Mrs X, who was looking down at the text, my classmates cracking up.

My contempt for the assignment was, after all, imperfect.
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How a Movement in Chile Is Transforming Film Worldwide

Wired, By Sam Fragoso, June 12

Chances are you haven’t heard much about The Stranger—it’s been hard to pick up any frequency other than “Jurassic” this week—but director Guillermo Amoedo’s unnerving sophomore feature is worth your attention. On the surface, it’s an atmospheric genre movie about a bearded nomad out to kill his lost wife, who shares his thirst for human blood. But that’s just the story. Deeper down, in its marrow, it is the embodiment of filmmaking in Chilewood—a movement of indefatigable artists who are poised to change how movies are made in 2015.

The term “Chilewood” refers to an emerging camp in its eponymous country where genre films are being made by a myriad of talents and attracting high-profile names like Eli Roth and Keanu Reeves. And the etymology of the catchy name originates with its creator Nicolás López, who dropped out of high school at 15 to produce a show for MTV Latin America and never looked back. “When I was 10 years old I used to direct short films with my friends and we called that Chilewood,” says López. “Now I’m 32 and I’m still playing with my friends, but this time, the movies are longer.”

It’s true: At 32, López has written and directed seven feature length movies, attracting like-minded artists from around the world to come and work in Chile. The Stranger, hitting theaters and VOD today, is just the latest offering to come out of the movement López started as a kid. Here’s everything you need to know about Chile’s most fascinating new moviemakers.

Every burgeoning movement, filmic or otherwise, needs a raison d’etre. For Chilewood, that purpose is simple: “We want to make genre movies that we want to see for the entire world,” says Eli Roth, an instrumental player in the movement’s growth. Since joining the Chilewood camp in 2012 with Aftershock, Roth and co. have been largely successful in crafting those genre pictures for the masses. They’ve done so by constructing, from the ground up, their own methodology. “We can take bits and pieces of the best from all the different systems,” says Roth, “and really shoot however we want.” For Roth, this means moving away from the studio system, where he believes “things get overdeveloped to death and are very star-dependent.” In Chile, they prefer to “go on instinct and not second guess ourselves,” says Roth. “We take chances and cast new faces.”

Can Reading Make You Happier?

The New Yorker, By Ceridwen Dovey, June 9

Several years ago, I was given as a gift a remote session with a bibliotherapist at the London headquarters of the School of Life, which offers innovative courses to help people deal with the daily emotional challenges of existence. I have to admit that at first I didn’t really like the idea of being given a reading “prescription.” I’ve generally preferred to mimic Virginia Woolf’s passionate commitment to serendipity in my personal reading discoveries, delighting not only in the books themselves but in the randomly meaningful nature of how I came upon them (on the bus after a breakup, in a backpackers’ hostel in Damascus, or in the dark library stacks at graduate school, while browsing instead of studying). I’ve long been wary of the peculiar evangelism of certain readers: You must read this, they say, thrusting a book into your hands with a beatific gleam in their eyes, with no allowance for the fact that books mean different things to people—or different things to the same person—at various points in our lives. I loved John Updike’s stories about the Maples in my twenties, for example, and hate them in my thirties, and I’m not even exactly sure why.

But the session was a gift, and I found myself unexpectedly enjoying the initial questionnaire about my reading habits that the bibliotherapist, Ella Berthoud, sent me. Nobody had ever asked me these questions before, even though reading fiction is and always has been essential to my life. I love to gorge on books over long breaks—I’ll pack more books than clothes, I told Berthoud. I confided my dirty little secret, which is that I don’t like buying or owning books, and always prefer to get them from the library (which, as I am a writer, does not bring me very good book-sales karma). In response to the question “What is preoccupying you at the moment?,” I was surprised by what I wanted to confess: I am worried about having no spiritual resources to shore myself up against the inevitable future grief of losing somebody I love, I wrote. I’m not religious, and I don’t particularly want to be, but I’d like to read more about other people’s reflections on coming to some sort of early, weird form of faith in a “higher being” as an emotional survival tactic. Simply answering the questions made me feel better, lighter.

We had some satisfying back-and-forths over e-mail, with Berthoud digging deeper, asking about my family’s history and my fear of grief, and when she sent the final reading prescription it was filled with gems, none of which I’d previously read. Among the recommendations was “The Guide,” by R. K. Narayan. Berthoud wrote that it was “a lovely story about a man who starts his working life as a tourist guide at a train station in Malgudi, India, but then goes through many other occupations before finding his unexpected destiny as a spiritual guide.” She had picked it because she hoped it might leave me feeling “strangely enlightened.” Another was “The Gospel According to Jesus Christ,” by José Saramago: “Saramago doesn’t reveal his own spiritual stance here but portrays a vivid and compelling version of the story we know so well.” “Henderson the Rain King,” by Saul Bellow, and “Siddhartha,” by Hermann Hesse, were among other prescribed works of fiction, and she included some nonfiction, too, such as “The Case for God,” by Karen Armstrong, and “Sum,” by the neuroscientist David Eagleman, a “short and wonderful book about possible afterlives.”

A New ‘Wrinkle in Time’

Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has sold 14 million copies since its publication in 1962. Now, a never-before-seen passage cut from an early draft is shedding surprising light on the author’s political philosophy

The Wall Street Journal, By Jennifer Maloney, April 16

Madeleine L’Engle, the author of “A Wrinkle in Time,” resisted labels. Her books weren’t for children, she said. They were for people. Devoted to religious study, she bristled when called a Christian writer. And though some of her books had political themes, she wasn’t known to write overtly about politics. That is, until her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, came across an unknown three-page passage that was cut before publication.

The passage, which Ms. Voiklis shared with The Wall Street Journal so it could be published for the first time, sheds new light on one of the most beloved and best-selling young-adult books in American literature. Published in 1962, “A Wrinkle in Time” has sold 14 million copies and inspired a TV-movie adaptation, a graphic novel, and an opera. Meg Murry, the novel’s strong-willed misfit heroine, has been a role model for generations of children, especially girls. Now, Jennifer Lee, the co-writer and co-director of the Oscar-winning animated film, “Frozen,” is writing a film adaptation for Disney.

A witches’ brew of science fiction and fantasy, Christian theology and a hint of politics, “A Wrinkle in Time” has long been considered influenced by the Cold War. It explores the dangers of conformity, and presents evil as a world whose inhabitants’ thoughts and actions are controlled by a sinister, disembodied brain.

Many readers, then and now, have understood the book’s dark planet Camazotz—a regimented place in which mothers in unison call their children in for dinner—to represent the Soviet Union. But the passage discovered by L’Engle’s granddaughter presents a more nuanced worldview.

In it, Meg has just made a narrow escape from Camazotz. As Meg’s father massages her limbs, which are frozen from a jarring trip through space and time, she asks: “But Father, how did the Black Thing—how did it capture Camazotz?” Her father proceeds to lay out the political philosophy behind the book in much starker terms than are apparent in the final version.

He says that yes, totalitarianism can lead to this kind of evil. (The author calls out examples by name, including Hitler, Mussolini and Khrushchev.) But it can also happen in a democracy that places too much value on security, Mr. Murry says. “Security is a most seductive thing,” he tells his daughter. “I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the greatest evil there is.”

Evil clown phenomenon sparks police Halloween warning

French authorities warn against trick-or-treaters carrying weapons as fancy dress shops refuse to sell clown costumes to teenagers

The Independent, By Henry Samuel, October 31

Paris – French police fearing “evil” clown attacks on Halloween have issued warnings of prosecution for any threatening clown behaviour on social networks after a spate of incidents across the country.

The warnings on Facebook and Twitter came as one village in southern France banned teenagers from dressing up as clowns on Halloween at its traditional procession to avoid spreading panic, while some fancy dress shops are either refusing to sell the outfits or asking for ID before doing so.

Police have issued a statement on their national website entitled “Evil Clown Phenomenon”, reminding would-be clown pranksters: “Carrying a weapon in public is a crime punishable by a prison sentence.”

This followed a warning last week from Pas-de-Calais police in northern France that “clowns inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre are not welcome outside schools.”

France has been gripped by a clown psychosis following a raft of incidents in which eerie, fake clowns have terrified passers-by in what some see as attempts to emulate the TV series American Horror Story or highly popular YouTube killer clown videos – including one by Italian DM Pranks Production that has been viewed 30 million times in five months.

Matt Taibbi Leaving First Look

Naked Capitalism, By Yves Smith, October 29

Matt Taibbi has been missed. He went into a writing black hole when he decamped from Rolling Stone to Pierre Omidyar’s wannabe media empire, First Look in February. But when the billionaire’s news venture was launched, the press was sloppy in reporting on Omidyar’s financial commitment. It was widely depicted as a $250 million venture, when the tech titan never committed anywhere near that amount of funding. Admittedly, it takes time to get a new publication going, but the lack of any apparent progress was becoming noteworthy. From the outside, it looked like the project might be going pear-shaped, and it appears it did.

I had heard, second hand, that Taibbi had envisioned a publication that would mix satire and serious reporting, and would have a strong focus on skewering plutocrats. That may have struck too close to home. The official announcement of Taibbi’s departure is clumsy:

Important Announcement

Pierre Omidyar October 28, 2014

I regret to announce that after several weeks of discussions, Matt Taibbi has left First Look. We wish him well.

Our differences were never about editorial independence. We have never wavered from our pledge that journalistic content is for the journalists to decide, period.

We’re disappointed by how things have turned out. I was excited by Matt’s editorial vision and hoped to help him bring it to fruition. Now we turn our focus to exploring next steps for the talented team that has worked to create Matt’s publication.

I remain an enthusiastic supporter of the kind of independent journalism found at The Intercept and the site we were preparing to launch. As a startup, we’ll take what we’ve learned in the last several months and apply it to our efforts in the future.

Above all, we remain committed to our team and to the First Look mission.

…continued at the link.

Weekend Flashback: Touched By The Tremendum

The Edge, By Terence McKenna, March 27, 1990

[Speculative, but what the heck…]

First of all, I am delighted to be here. The great thing about being here in New York is you don’t have to worry if you’re the smartest person in the room. What impels me to talk to groups like this is the conviction that a major aspect of what it means to be a human being has received short shrift in our civilization for at least a couple of millennia. And that, to some degree, the solution to the mega-crisis that is bearing down on Western institutions is to be found in a revivifying of the archaic. And this takes many different kinds of forms. It’s nothing to do with what is popularly presented as the new age. It’s, to my mind, a much larger and deeper and persistent phenomenon than that. In fact, the entire intellectual tone of the 20th century can be seen as a groping toward a recapturing of this archaic mentality.

This is what psychoanalysis was about. This is what cubism, surrealism, and—in the political zone—negative phenomena, such as national socialism. All of these various intellectual concerns, to my mind, can be traced back to a kind of unconscious nostalgia for the archaic.

Now, when a society feels itself to be in crisis, the unconscious response is to look back into time to attempt to find a previous model that seemed to work and then to crystallize energy around that model in an effort to reorient society. The last time this happened was with the breakup of the medieval stasis of the pseudo-eschatology of Christianity, and out of that chaos, that sense of disconnectedness came classicism.

In other words, people were looking back into time for a serviceable model that could step in to the vacated shoes of the discredited medieval church. And what they came up with was platonic philosophy, Roman law, the esthetics that ruled Periclean Athens, and so forth. To a degree we are still living in the twilight of that return to classicism, but it no longer serves. And in its place is this inchoate groping for yet another historical paradigm that can somehow be contextualized in the late 20th century and give meaning to the experience that is coming, is sweeping over the world.

Via the Naked Capitalism links entry

…Just reading this article can induce hallucinations…

Once you unleash psychedelics in the population the dreams that will be dreamed are large dreams, indeed. It’s very clear that within the next 50 years we will understand the human genome to sufficient depth to probably take control of the human form, we will become who we want to be. We will design ourselves into being the kind of organism that is consonant with our politics. Strangely enough, the only kind of organism I can think of that is congruent with our politics would be something like a mushroom.

A mushroom is a mycelial network through the soil. It has as many connections as a neuro network. If it’s a psilocybin mushroom it’s a network filled with neurotransmitters, yet it’s as fine as a cobweb. Look at how delicately the mushroom touches the earth; it lives only on decaying matter. But if it has menus inside of itself, then it may be living in situ, a fuller, deeper, richer, more feeling filled existence than we can imagine. So I don’t think we should cling to the monkey form. Shedding the monkey is a real potential possibility. Techno freaks will want to download us into a solid state cube on the dark side of the moon. I would rather download us into planktonic life and put us into the oceans.

Update, Reuters: Scientists use brain scans to find how magic mushrooms alter the mind
WaPo: Psychedelic mushrooms put your brain in a “waking dream,” study finds

Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies

USA TODAY, By Bob Minzesheimer, April 17

Nobel Prize-winning novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who was praised as the most popular Spanish writer since Cervantes, died today in Mexico City at the age of 87.

Garcia Marquez, a former journalist who was born in Colombia but lived in Mexico for more than 30 years, is best known for his 1967 masterpiece, the epic, hallucinatory novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, about the trials and tribulations of one family over several generations. Widely taught in college, it has sold about 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.

His other novels include Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), about a pathological fascist Caribbean dictator, and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), about two lovers thwarted in their youth who find each when they are close to 80. Cholera was adapted as a film in 2007 starring Javier Bardem, Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Benjamin Bratt.

When Garcia Marquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1982, the Swedish judges praised both his novels and short stories “in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts.”

He was the first Colombian and fourth Latin American to win the world’s most prestigious literary award. He later said, “I have the impression that in giving me the prize, they have taken into account the literature of the sub-continent and have awarded me as a way of awarding all of this literature.”

Beautiful art expressing an ugly world

Politicians discussing climate change until the very end
Politicians discussing climate change until the very end

Isaac Cordal is famous for tackling big political issues through a tiny medium. In his series “Waiting for Climate Change,” Cordal created a set of ephemeral and partially submerged installations to draw attention to rising sea level change. Laced with black humor, these grim and apocalyptic scenes show the consequences of inaction and apathy to environmental issues. The theme of rising floodwaters and drowning are themes repeated throughout his work that reference both climate change and the state of our sinking society.

To capture his skepticism of authority, Cordal usually depicts his tiny figurines as politicians and businessmen in the process of needlessly trapping themselves in unpleasant situations. In “Follow the Leaders,” Cordal warns onlookers of the dangers in blindly following the wills of the rich and powerful. Like miniature clones, the identical statues were created in the likeness of middle-aged, white collar, white men, each desperately clutching a briefcase as they huddle together or drown to death in a mindless mass.

Be sure to watch the slideshow at the link

Iditarod race draws dogs and mushers to Alaska for epic contest

  • Annual dog-sled marathon attracts 69 entrants
  • Dog teams to make ceremonial start in Anchorage on Sunday

Reuters, March 1

Dozens of mushers and their sled-dog teams will on Saturday mark a ceremonial start to Alaska’s famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race, which takes contestants through nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of wilderness over the course of a week.

The 11-mile jaunt through the state’s largest city of Anchorage sets the stage for the Sunday start of a race that commemorates a 1925 rescue mission that carried diphtheria serum to Nome by sled-dog relay. Some 69 mushers, some from as far away as Jamaica and New Zealand, are expected to take part.

“Saturday is an opportunity to interact with mushers, watch dog teams excited to leave the starting line, travel 11 miles of the city streets and call it a day,” said the race executive director, Stan Hooley. “There is much more of an opportunity to touch and feel the race, and celebrate this great race.”

Timed racing will start on Sunday when the mushers reach Willow, a small community about 80 miles north of Anchorage. The competition will eventually see them glide into Nome, a city on the coast of the Bering Sea. They will hit 21 checkpoints with distances between stops ranging from 18 to 85 miles before reaching the finish line in Nome. Race officials peg the distance at 975 miles, not accounting for any topographical changes.


How to bring FINE ART to the people

A brilliant video marketing campaign.

Street performance art at its best.

In April, 2013, the newly-refurbished Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Holland, decided to celebrate the return to the museum of Rembrandt’s great painting, “The Night Watch” (1642): they brought the characters in the picture to life and placed them in a busy shopping mall.

Translation of the sign at the end of the video: “Our heroes are back”.