Title Comment Comment Date Comment Link
Favorite movies

In my view the disdain for women in Nostalghia isn't a genre thing at all, but just disdain for women. I know Rosenbaum says Tarkovsky's "sexual politics are Neanderthal".

Tangentially re: Tarkovsky liking The Terminator; the one that always puzzled me was Bresson's love for For Your Eyes Only.

8/9/2015 View
Favorite albums

If you're saying that there may be multiple, even contradicting, views that are objective, then I have nothing to really disagree with. That's relativism right there, though perhaps the vocabulary is different. I'm wary of analogies because they can sometimes encourage false equivalencies. For one, I don't think there is anything objective about journalism. Chomsky and Herman showed this quite clearly with Manufacturing Consent. The simple choice to write about a particular event, or certain facts, or whatever, emerges out of an intersection of personal and institutional negotiations a journalist must make. Jackson Lears has brilliantly shown how the writing of an important academic like Jared Diamond is unmistakably stamped by a particular ideology. Science, mathematics and physics are constantly in a flux; the most famous example being Einstein and his critique of Newtonian mechanics. Neils Bohr would, in turn, show lapses in Einsten's thinking. We're constantly finding out how little we know. The world of nutrition is, in any case, hazy; a couple of decades ago they were saying eggs were bad for one's health. Similarly, contradictory reports keep emerging about the perceived benefits of red wine. (Sugar is wonderful, Carême said: "The Fine Arts are five in number: Painting, Music, Poetry, Sculpture, and Architecture–whereof the principle branch is Confectionery.") The Beethoven / Spears example circles back to 'interpretive circles', people who agree about what constitutes good music will likely reach the same opinions about both artists. For me, Beethoven is unfathomably better (I've been spending a lot of time with his sonatas lately, supplemented by Schiff's lectures) but this is a personal truth, not a universal one. To say the human brain is "destined" for something is to inscribe a teleology that doesn't really fit with reality, as it fails to account for why people go their whole lives eating poorly, reading trashy gossip, not looking after their health, not listening to classical music, etc.

I'm struggling to fully grasp your second paragraph, but a few thoughts: For one, I don't think a work of art has to conflate with my worldview in order to be considered good. That would be amazingly self-indulgent. Leavis's brilliant essay on Eliot's "Four Quartets", in which he appreciates the poetry but rejects the Christian worldview, is an example of how one's ideology need not completely interfere with an engagement with the arts. If "Art can be objectively good or bad" sounds better to my ears than "Art can't be objectively good," despite the latter's agreeable message, then I am happy to exalt the former. Furthermore, I'm not certain why a personal opinion would be called objective. I don't care if people are relativist or not, but I strongly feel that one should, for example, not support Israel's foreign policy. Even though I wish everyone else was on board with that opinion that doesn't mean I'm being objective. Rather, it's a point of view that unmistakably emerges out of material circumstances; personal, sociological, and historical. I guess, like so many times on Listology, things come down to semantics. The word "objectivity" to me signifies a universal, incontestable, perhaps provable truth. Like I said earlier, however, I don't think we're in complete disagreement, just perhaps our diction differs. And I feel there are less certainties in this world than you do. ("There are no fixtures in nature. The universe is fluid and volatile. Permanence is but a word of degrees....")

7/24/2015 View
Favorite albums

Rather than objective I think a better term would be inter-subjectivity, where a group (an 'interpretive community') comes together around a shared criteria. Saying that a work has more "compassion" than another isn't scientifically verifiable, but you are likely to reach the same conclusions as someone else who has come to the same social agreement as to what constitutes a good, and a bad, piece of art. This, I think, explains why people have lists that are so similar to Scaruffi. Or Rolling Stone magazine. Or B.H. Haggin. (Well, that or ideological indoctrination). While I don't think there's such a thing as objectivity in the arts, I also don't believe in extreme subjectivity. Each of us are embedded in a complex social framework that shapes our perception.

I'm too much of a relativist to think that something like morality, let alone art, can be discussed scientifically or objectively. Cultural anthropologists have shown this time and time again.

I can't resist quoting Emerson on influence (and by doing so I fall into the trap he describes):
"Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books."

7/23/2015 View
Favorite Comics

I think Kim Thompson has a neat summary of Tintin in Congo. Like you (and him), I am opposed to cleansing history, expunging the story as if it never happened.

Ethics and art is an interesting question. I still struggle with a horse being shot in the neck and thrown down a flight of stairs in one of my favourite films, Andrei Rublev. Can a masterpiece be racist, or sexist, or classist, or...? I'm uncomfortable with the idea of demanding ideological purity (such an attitude seems almost abhorrently self-indulgent, where appreciated works are easily assimilated into one's own moral perspective), but I'm also disinclined to laud something that can be construed as prejudiced and hateful. Oliver Twist is an intolerable book for a number of reasons, not least of which is the hateful Jewish caricature. Yet I love the Goscinny Asterix volume, and in many cases the humour is rooted in xenophobia, stereotypes and parodies. I find ethical questions worth attending to, but difficult to parse.

7/14/2015 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Visual Art of the Week (2015)

Don't you guys sometimes sing along to music!? Lots of pleasure in that..!

6/20/2015 View
Film Log

That's the one. It's highly entertaining. One reads more for the thrill, I think, than any kind of psychological depth, or intricate human understanding. The central character is especially compelling and larger than life. My favourite Marlowe play is probably The Jew of Malta, which hilariously skewers just about every faith, revelling in its own audacity, repugnancy and absurdity. Both that and Tamburlaine are astonishingly free of moral considerations.

6/15/2015 View
Film Log

I considered it, but it felt a little silly to recount--for example--individual, six line Dickinson poems... To quickly summarize: Waiting for the Barbarians, Emma, Ben Jonson, George Herbert, Dickinson, Marvell, Dryden and Pope... Marx, Chomsky (always!), Tamburlaine, Jñānēśvarī... Supplemented by Bach, Verdi, Ornette Coleman, and A$AP Rocky.

6/14/2015 View
Top 10 Movies, Music & Visual Art of the Week (2015)

Great seeing Tsai's name, is this the first film of his you've watched? I should revisit his oeuvre. The one that is clearest in my memory is surprisingly the most narratively mundane, Goodbye Dragon Inn. Magic.

6/13/2015 View
Film Log

Not a one... But it's certainly not a field I have any knowledge about; I'd be surprised if there weren't some worthwhile titles. I just haven't seen them.

You like Bollywood?

6/9/2015 View
Film Log

A number of the popular ones, more than I can remember. Titles include: Lagaan, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Dil To Pagal Hai, Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Devdas, etc...

Gorgeous actresses.

6/9/2015 View
Fave literature

I didn't enjoy Importance at all, but that may not be Wilde's fault entirely. I saw a National Theatre screening of it and the sound was poorly done; everything seemed too loud, and consequently grated to the point I considered walking out. Although I clearly understood everything, there is no doubt this aspect had a negative impact on the entire experience. That said, I didn't find it funny at all; the humour just seemed really dated. I don't even remember the specifics of the narrative very well.

6/5/2015 View
Favorite TV Shows

Sorry! Missed this post. My favourite season of Sherlock is easily the second. I think all the episodes are strong and sufficiently different from one another (the introduction of Irene, the psychological terror of Baskerville, the machinations of Moriarty). I like all of the episodes, but the first season is probably the weakest. Lots of interesting, and comic, moments--mostly centered on character development--but it's still finding its feet in terms of narratives. The third season is good, but I had some minor demurrals, such as episode 1 having no plot. The overarching villain was great, though, and I've liked the development of the Mycroft/Sherlock relationship.

Re: his lack of knowledge in the books; my memory is a bit hazy, but if I remember correctly that's alluded to in S01E03 when Sherlock doesn't know some utterly mundane and universal fact about astronomy.

6/4/2015 View
Fave literature

Yes to Chekhov! One of my favourites. I'm very interested in Olivier's Uncle Vanya... Sadly, I haven't seen any dramatizations of Chekhov's plays.

While I'm here, I recommend Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians. I just reread it the other day (literally, it's only ~150pgs) and it was absolutely astonishing. One of the greats.

6/3/2015 View
Film Log

Not for many years; none grabbed my interest. They were often (always?) painfully formulaic and saccharine, in terms of both plot and style. Maybe I saw the wrong ones.

5/30/2015 View
Favorite Comics

Not at all; I liked Tintin a lot growing up but it doesn't hold up--unlike, say, Asterix--as it once did. Fun adventure stories, but little else. My favourite stories are, probably, The Castafiore Emerald, The Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure, The Shooting Star...

I actually haven't read the one that is supposed to be the most racist of all, Tintin in the Congo. One of these days.

5/5/2015 View