It’s been way too long since I conducted a tour of the blogosphere. Even when I was feeling thoroughly crappy (i.e., yesterday), I continued to surf the Web and bookmark cool stuff I found along the way. Here’s some of it:
– Eat your hearts out, film buffs: Celluloid Eyes has a great list of “movies I am dying to rent/own on DVD and cannot” because (gnashing of teeth) they aren’t available on DVD. As she remarks in passing:
Many of these hard-to-find movies are my favorite kind of movie: those delightful, witty, frothy, often surprisingly relevant, sometimes surprisingly naughty American movies from the 1930s.
Why hasn’t anybody told me about this blog?
– Zoilus gleans this Elvis Costello quote from the New York Times:
“You’re kidding yourself if you believe it when people say, `Oh, that’s a political song,’ ” Mr. Costello said. “No. A political song is one that if you played it to Donald Rumsfeld, he would give up his career and enter a monastery. That would be a political song — one that affected him so deeply that he would renounce his view of the world. I don’t think anybody alive is capable of writing that song. So all you’re doing is writing things that matter to you.”
To which he appends numerous disagreements, concurrences, and amplifications, among them:
Costello’s right, though, that some sort of potentially transformative experience should at least be nosing around the edges of a properly political song – political speech is primarily persuasive, right? And I think…that in art the best mode of persuasion is empathetic, to bring the audience through the experiences that shape the point of view rather than to argue the point of view. (Does arguing ever do anything ever?)
– From the Daily Telegraph by way of artsjournal.com, our invaluable host, a smart interview with Stephen Sondheim on the latest London revival of Sweeney Todd:
I remember when I was at college, one of the English professors made what seems an obvious point, but it wasn’t obvious to me at the age of 17, that one of the things that keeps Hamlet alive is that every generation brings something new to the performance. It isn’t just the poetry; it’s that every time you do Hamlet you can take a different view of it – and that’s what keeps theatre alive.
With musicals, the audience tend to want to see what they’ve seen before. Whereas people who go to Hamlet want to see something different.
– I love smart lists, and my super-smart artsjournal.com colleague Tyler Green, who blogs at Modern Art Notes, has published a fine one:
Here are my ten favorite artists. Or at least my ten favorite artists as of when I typed this. And to make this an even sillier exercise, I’ll give a one-word summary of what I like best about each artist….
Go see for yourself. Four of Tyler’s listees would either make my list or come damned close. One of them makes me run screaming from the room.
– Speaking of lead-with-the-chin lists, Alex Ross, the classical music critic of The New Yorker, has posted a list of 20 non-classical albums he loves (or, as he says, “an irrational series of powerful attractions”) on his blog, The Rest Is Noise. I like or love 11 of them. One of these days I’ll see Alex and raise him….
– And speaking of The New Yorker, did you see John Updike’s essay about Philip Larkin? It contains this beautifully balanced pair of clauses: “Larkin, though modest in manner and production, achieved major eloquence and formal perfection…”
– Advertising can be deceptive–both ways. On my recent visit to the Williamstown Theatre Festival, I spent the night at the Porches Inn, which is located right across the street from MASS MoCA (the too-cute acronym for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art). I loved Porches and intend to stay there again whenever I return to the festival, but had I read this description on the inn’s Web site, I might well have thought twice, or maybe even three times, about checking in:
Porches is the most visible manifestation, to-date, of the changes sparked by MASS MoCA. Its 50-plus rooms of retro-edgy, industrial granny chic ambiance make a spirited lodging statement in New England and beyond.
That’s got to be a prime candidate for Private Eye‘s Pseuds Corner.
– Memo to Frank Lloyd Wright buffs: have you stayed here yet?
– The Buck Stops Here has a lovely little tribute to the sheer niceness of classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. I suspect–I hope–that a lot of us have similarly sweet stories about similarly thoughtful celebrities. I know I do.
– One of the participants in Michael Dirda’s recent Washington Post online chat turns out to have been a fan of this blog and several of its brethren. Dirda thinks the Web is incompatible with “bookishness.” The chatter begged to differ:
One of the most delightful and unexpected developments on the WWW in the last year or so is the development of a community of literary blogs. These are creating a very real conversation about serious books, including many of those serious books that only infrequently are reviewed in the WP and NYT (and even then are often confined to the genre-ghetto roundups).
Some of my favourites: Terry Teachout occasionally takes a break from reviewing art and plays to write about the very particular joys of reading Donald Westlake. Teresa Nielsen Hayden, an editor at Tor books has a long-standing blog covering inter alia publishers’ slushpiles, pygmy mammoths and sf fandom. It’s a small gem — well worth browsing the archives. Jessa Crispin’s Bookslut is an indispensable source of literary gossip and astute judgements on the merits of recent releases. Maud Newton’s taste in literature is eclectic but unfailingly good, while her writing style is both direct and elegant. Scott McLemee — an authority on obscure Marxist sects, Dale Peck and the MLA. All considered, there’s never been a better time to seek out good, interesting conversation about books.
To which Dirda, a columnist for Washington Post Book World, replied:
I’m glad you disagree with me, and your tastes in blogs is certainly discriminating, if only because I’m a great Westlake fan (having reviewed him frequently and interviewed him onstage at the Smithsonian). But, despite this chat, I personally find that the Internet sucks up too much time. I enjoy doing this for an hour a week; indeed, might enjoy it for an hour a day. But I’m fundamentally a loner and my communing tends to be with books and their authors rather than my fellow readers.
But this is just me. I’m perfectly sociable and charming, but my streak of puritanism is so strong that I can’t help but see online discussions as simply fooling around. For a writer it even feels like throwing away good material. But then I probably don’t have as many ideas as most bloggers and need to carefully marshal the few I do have.
I of course think otherwise. More than that, I suspect Dirda doesn’t look at enough blogs to know what they’re really like. For me, “About Last Night” is occasionally a burden (at which times I hand over happily to OGIC), more often a stimulus. As for blogs “sucking up too much time,” I wonder if Dirda would say the same thing about magazines….
UPDATE: Don’t miss Ed‘s whirlwind tour of the blogosphere, all done in a single paragraph of sentence fragments. Whoosh!