Title Comment Comment Date Comment Link
Top 10 Movies, Music & Miscellaneous Art of the Week (2014)

Yeah, I understand that. I was in a similar boat, filling up a lot of my time with classical music and neglecting other genres, which is partly why it's so nice to be returning to these pieces. BTW, re: the albums I mentioned--Coltrane/Jackson, Getz/Gilberto--I don't think these albums have what you look for in art, in terms of awe inspiring emotion, etc but they are very solid, beautifully crafted albums that are quite wonderful to listen to... And I would take them over any of the Ring cycles!..

10/18/2014 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Miscellaneous Art of the Week (2014)

I am currently addicted to John Coltrane and Milt Jackson's Blues Legacy. I've been returning to a lot of jazz these days--Monk, Ellington, Dolphy, Coleman, Coltrane--and it's been very rewarding. Like speech after long silence..! I've found some albums, such as the aforementioned Bags & Trane, and Getz/Gilberto, opening up for me in a way they haven't before.

Does much jazz find its way into your listening sessions these days?

10/18/2014 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Miscellaneous Art of the Week (2014)

I will never dispute the value of Nightwatch, as Rembrandt is Rembrandt is Rembrandt (who else could show God in a flayed ox?? Or inject so much vitality in seemingly haphazard lines) but the self-portraits--taken in sum--are, for me, perhaps the greatest story ever told, in any form. I couldn't tear myself away from the Self-Portrait at 63. There's a strange, teasing quality to the mouth that I can't shake... I don't have the eloquence to write about them, but Antony Hopkins's remarks on Beethoven seem pertinent:

The thirty-two piano sonatas of Beethoven are his most significant and revealing biography, worth more than all the thousands of pages that have been written about him. In them we see not the exterior events of day-to-day life, as we do in most biographies, but the infinitely more important life within. In these sonatas lie the stages of a great composer's journey, which paradoxically began with the complete confidence of a young man who knew he had the stuff of genius, and which ended in loneliness, with the composer cut off from the world by a barrier of silence, pushing bravely but sometimes gropingly into a new era.

Perhaps I'm mistaken and it's really the sonatas which are the greatest story ever told!?..

10/12/2014 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Miscellaneous Art of the Week (2014)

First off, please stay off my Favourite Paintings list!!!!!!!! It is hopelessly out of date :). None of my lists have been attended to in ages, but the Painters one in particular expired long ago.

I admit I have not yet hit a saturation point with nude females, but it all depends on the execution. People like Rembrandt, and Titian engage me irrespective of their subject matter. I am reminded of what James wrote about Shakespeare: "The subjects of the Comedies are, without exception, old wives' tales--which we are not too insufferably aware of only because the iridescent veil so perverts their proportions. The subjects of the Histories are no subjects at all; each is but a row of pegs for the hanging of the cloth of gold that is to muffle them".

I know what you mean about finding people to go with, it's not uncommon for me to wind up at the theatre alone and then be surrounded by what seems to be the entire senior population of the city. But I never regret going. I'm also becoming more and more convinced that Verdi was a genius of the highest order.

10/12/2014 View
Favorite Literature

I have not read Notes from the Underground, although I've intended to for ages now. Thank-you for reminding me. I feel like I've neglected Dostoevsky, having only read Crime & Punishment.

While Washington Square is a good book I do not think it ranks among James's best; it was a necessary prelude to the astonishing masterwork that is The Portrait of a Lady. It, and Confidence, are best understood as experiments in which James negotiates artistic problems. Portrait would be, I think, the best place to begin. And from there the brilliant late short stories and novellas: "The Jolly Corner", "The Altar of the Dead", "The Beast in the Jungle", "The Figure in the Carpet", "The Middle Years", etc.

If you ever get around to James (Washington Square or otherwise) do let me know what you think!

10/12/2014 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Miscellaneous Art of the Week (2014)

I see your appetite for art hasn't diminished! I continue to think your methods are bizarre (15000 paintings in a few weeks! As far as painting goes I've been communing with only Charlotte Salomon for that amount of time) but I certainly don't knock it.

I see literature still isn't your thing, but I highly recommend this very short piece written by Borges on Shakespeare. Beautiful, and will hopefully convince you to pick up Othello or King Lear or The Winter's Tale!?! I'm not sure where you live but are the MET Operas screened to a theatre near you? Virtually all of them are incredible (I saw Macbeth today) but you should especially, if possible, check out The Marriage of Figaro which is coming up. One of the most sublime works in any field, of all time.

I will be sure to check out your new lists of paintings..!

Edit: have you seen the work of Stefano di Giovanni? A weird, wonderful Gothic painter... Here is an example.

10/11/2014 View
Jazz Masterpieces

Bix Beiderbecke on the cornet is one of my favourite things... Otis Ferguson acutely described him as being "as fresh and glistening as creation itself". I also think what BH Haggin said about his role in Paul Whiteman's band holds true: "one heard him at most for a fully chorus, sometimes merely for a phrase, sometimes only in the background with the rest of the brass. But even the phrase detached itself from its dull surroundings as something exquisite and perfect; and even playing along with the others in the background he stood out from them, not through aggressiveness but solely through the distinctive quality of his style".

Re: Scaruffi's reading one of his recent pieces (if it can be called that), "The Origin of Copyright", is that he relies too much on intuition. He takes a very important literary landmark and makes a flailing attempt to connect it to what he perceives to be a failure in post-copyright artists. A remark such as "the advent of the professional writer distanced the writer from her world and from her audience" seems absurd from someone who highly ranks, for example, the writing of Proust and James. It's the same kind of half-baked logic that leads to his dismissal of a genius like Armstrong... His own ideas of what music should be come in the way of appreciation. For example, when writ by Scaruffi the phrase "Armstrong had introduced a dose on individualism in jazz that was the antithesis of its original socialist principles" has an inexplicably pejorative edge. It would be easier to take his criticism if he seemed to be honestly reporting what his ears were hearing, but his writing is suffused with such absurd ideas that it's often difficult not to dismiss him.

4/18/2014 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Miscellaneous Art of the Week (2014)


Literature is one of the most exciting art forms because it takes the currency of daily life, language, and transforms it into something different and extraordinary. I doubt you need to be told, but its masterpieces rival, at the very least, the masterpieces of the other mediums... No need to even cast a wide net, as you've done with paintings/music/film. Just spending (lots of) time with the key players--Shakespeare, Chekhov, James, Wordsworth, Jonson, Stevens, Whitman, (George) Eliot, Austen, etc--is moving and transformative.

In my reading of _The Waste Land_ (which, admittedly, was not recent) I found Eliot to be almost invisible, and instead the work unfolded as a compilation of fragments of which he was not the author; he demonstrates incredible resourefulness. This is, of course, a style in and of itself, but it's very different to the style of writers like Frost, or Marvell. Eliot draws on language that has already been deployed elsewhere, but he doesn't use it to carve out his own distinct persona. Instead, he manages these preexisting imaginative/linguistic forms and disallows the reader to trace any particular writing back to him. Who is Eliot in the poem? Understanding a sense of his presence requires, in my opinion, realizing his absence. It's an extraordinary performance. _The Waste Land_ is a very ambitious poem, and I'm willing to concede it's a great one, but it's not my favourite as far as Eliot is concerned. I find myself more drawn to "The Portrait of a Lady", "The Journey of the Magi", "Preludes", etc... Is _The Waste Land_ a weird place to start reading poetry? I don't know, probably, but one has to start somewhere.

For Chopin I primarily spend time with the Preludes, Sonatas and Nocturnes... I can't begin to list particular pieces because first of all, my memory is awful and I can't wrap my head around the naming of classical music (all those numbers!!). I'd check but my music (and books) are on another continent, an ocean away. I've listened to the Concertos probably, I don't know, almost a dozen times but that still has not, I don't think, given them justice. Chopin can be so deceptive, I find concentrated listenings to even pieces I feel I am already intimately familiar with can lead to great pleasure.

2/6/2014 View
Three Hundred and Three Favorite Films

Hey, thanks for dropping by. I've stopped stopped editing this list (and virtually all of my others). To be honest, I'm sure there's lots of good films being produced in the 2010's but I don't watch movies very often anymore, and when I do I tend to see films that are little more than enjoyable time passes. That said, if there are any really great films that you think have come out in the last few years I'd be very interested to hear of them; Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love interests me.

2/5/2014 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Miscellaneous Art of the Week (2014)

AfterHours can you tag me in? I wanna talk about T.S. Eliot. But only as long as "wastelands" stops being written... It's called _The Waste Land_. I don't understand why one would have to know several languages, a good academic gloss is a great tool. Also I think _The Waste Land_ is quite a bit of fun to read, as long as one isn't trying to impose too strong a sense of coherence (as opposed to focusing on the linguistic inflections). What's interesting is how it's impossible to pin down Eliot's poetic voice; all the allusions, fragmented tones, and varied pitches completely suffocate his poetic presence.

Saying that Milton or Blake are somehow easier than Eliot is absurd (it seems poetic that I should ask if you've read Blake's _Milton_, which is a head scratcher, to say the least). In fact Eliot's whole idea of "difficulty" was a reiteration of ideas that circulated since at least the Renaissance (refer to Phillip Sidney: "Believe, with me, that there are many mysteries contained in Poetry, which of purpose were written darkly, lest by profane wits it should be abused"). When Eliot wrote "The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning" he was talking about 20th century poets, but it can't be ignored he was acutely describing, for example, the craft of Milton, and Spenser, and Pope. Blake also strove to not be easy for the common reader, saying "That which can be made Explicit to the idiot is not worth my care".

Chopin is a God, and I would be one happy Listologist if AfterHours started making a literature list.

Also I don't understand what you mean by the Ring Cycle if only for Tristan und Isolde, which is as far as I know its own entity altogether.

2/5/2014 View
Greatest Artistic Experiences

:) It's always nice to have such a quick response!

No order yet, and although I'll eventually give it some meaningful structure (perhaps by place?) I have my doubts whether I'll ever rank them. I just drafted something and quickly put it up before I forgot. I'm still unsure what shape this will all take ultimately; defining exactly what I mean by the title is difficult. I think, for the time being, I'm going to just include experiences that can be pinpointed, unlike, say, rereading/watching Late Spring, Unharvested, The Beast of the Jungle, Michael, etc... Who knows.

PS: I have not been a disinterested observer of your foray into painting..! Quite the journey. The ubiquitous presence of Mona Lisa made me initially dismissive, and I was prepared for my indifference to be confirmed when I saw it in person. But it was transcendent.

12/9/2013 View
Favourite Literature: Graphic Literature

This short piece by Carel Moiseiwitsch may be of interest to you... I found it incredibly moving. She's from Vancouver, to boot.

9/14/2013 View
Top Albums of 2000s

I liked Yeezus quite a bit, the stand outs for me were Black Skinheads, Can't Hold My Liquor and Bound 2. Not a masterpiece or anything, but a solid album. The one I lately returned to is Late Registration, I've always liked it but it's much better and more consistent than I remembered. Even the skits aren't grating, maybe his best work.

Interestingly, Lou Reed wrote an essay on Yeezus.

7/28/2013 View
Top 10 Movies & Albums of the Week [plus other misc works of art] (2013)

The people are saying Tarkovsky, Bresson and Ozu? We may as well stop making lists, because that's one that can't be improved upon.

I'm curious to know why you regard Kiarostami as a "cult director". Plus doesn't figurehead have something to do with popularity, a dubious barometer. I always get suspicious of any looking for deep meaning. Bresson is surely deep, but it's all (like Shakespeare, Mozart and Tarkovsky) on the surface. What you see, hear and feel, not something "beyond" the screen. See Cassavetes Opening Night and Faces, if you don't like them perhaps he's just not for you.

Edit: I came across this interesting bit from Jonathan Rosenbaum: "Syntactically, Dreyer's editing and his way of combining a track in one direction with a pan in another direction are more than just personal inflections, and the same goes for Bresson's use of inexpressiveness in both performances and shots in order to make the juxtapositions between shots and what might be called the involuntary expressiveness of bodies register in a different way from how we've experienced them before. In both cases, I think what's new isn't just a new 'personal' meaning but a new way of producing meaning--and that for me signifies a change in language."

7/18/2013 View
Top 10 Movies & Albums of the Week [plus other misc works of art] (2013)

You hit on one of the reasons I broached my comment in such a manner! Straight up documentary, a form that I have problems with generally (setting up a camera does not capture reality). It would probably never make your greatest films list (it's not on mine either) but I quite simply enjoyed it so much I had to share it. It gives a great insight into a culture, a cuisine, an art, and a man... Like I said, though, I am prejudiced towards the subject matter, so a few tablespoons of salt wouldn't do you any harm!..

7/15/2013 View