– Mr. Alicublog goes to the movies:
Also revisited Kubrick’s Lolita. Like Wilder in Kiss Me, Stupid, Kubrick was doggedly exploring the terrain of 60s sex comedy; unlike Wilder, he has no skill at sex comedy of any sort — the best male sex-comedians dance at the edge of misogyny, whereas Kubrick had long since progressed from misogyny to misanthropy. I can see why he was attracted to Humbert’s obsession, but having to deal with the female half of the equation appears to have baffled him: The moments of sympathy for Charlotte Haze seem tacked on like guilty afterthoughts and Sue Lyon is practically exterminated as Lolita — only her body and brash tone survive….
Yes, totally. (I don’t like Stanley Kubrick at all, by the way. I, too, watched Lolita on cable the other night, but only to wallow in James Mason’s dark-brown, Yorkshire-tinged accent. I can’t think of a Hollywood voice I like better, male or female.)
– The ever-satisfying Ms. Household Opera goes to the annual Modern Language Association convention and breathes a sigh of relief at having resumed her civilian status:
But well before the end of it, I was thanking multiple deities that I will never again have to write in the machete mode of criticism. By this I mean the kind of literature scholarship that frames all its main points as a demolition of everyone else’s main points, like mowing down those around you by swinging a machete around. In graduate school it didn’t take me long to tire of academic writing in which the argument was preceded by hatchet-jobs on the prior work of Professors X, Y, and Z; I hated writing like that even more. Hearing it again from the lips of senior scholars, some of whom posed their entire talks as point-by-point refutations of someone else’s article, reminded me of everything that put me off the idea of writing the sorts of things one gets tenure for. At one point, I had the odd feeling that I was watching a large group of people standing on a tiny patch of ground, elbowing and jostling each other for more space, all trying to outshout each other.
No wonder I so often used to feel like no matter how hard I worked, I could never be good enough. Blargh. I don’t miss it one little bit….
Blargh. Is that better or worse than arrgh?
– Comes now The Little Professor, that mysterious but nonetheless self-evidently cool non-civilian Victorianist, with a link to an almanac-worthy remark by Colin Burrow, followed by reflections thereon. The quote:
“Shakespeare may or may not have been Catholic, but generally if a document that sounds too good to be true is found exactly where you’d hope to find it and then goes missing in mysterious circumstances it is indeed too good to be true.”
Sad but true, as any halfway decent biographer (or journalist! or journalist!) can tell you.
– An unknown visitor to the new MoMA recently damaged Anne Truitt’s “Catawba,” which is no longer on display. Tyler has the scoop, plus links. (Scroll up and down for more.)
– Mr. Decline and Fall, an American living in Iraq, keeps his ears open:
What do they listen to? Let’s just say that there’s very little sense of “cool” or “trendy” in their listening habits. One can’t expect people who have spent their lives living under Saddam’s thumb to have any real sense of hipster do’s and don’t’s, but even those who have lived in America for a while and have come back here to work as linguists can almost be relied upon to be fans of Celine Dion. It’s actually gotten to the point where as soon as a discussion of music begins, I say to the nearest Arab, “You like Celine Dion, don’t you?” They always reply in the affirmative.
On some level this completely un-self-conscious appreciation of melody and the human voice is refreshing in a world where you are sometimes identified by your music preference. When someone says they like Billy Ray Cyrus or DMX or Franz Ferdinand or Marilyn Manson, we assume that tells us something about them. Unaware of the pitfalls of music-as-identity, these folks just listen to what they enjoy. On the other hand, I can’t shake the thought that Western Music consists in their eyes of nothing but insipid crap….
Yesterday I was getting an Arabic lesson from a local national friend when he looked across my desk and saw the new Nirvana box set. I explained, through words and gestures, about Nirvana’s music and Kurt Cobain’s untimely demise and concluded very quickly that he would not be able to appreciate what an earth-shattering event “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was, so I showed him my iPod. I dialed up Ella Fitgerald singing “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” but he didn’t like the fact that he couldn’t understand the words. So I let him listed to Edith Piaf singing “La Vie en Rose” with the thought that if neither of us knew what was going on lyrically we’d be on the same page. No dice: “Too old,” he said.
Then I decided to try an instrumental selection: one of J.S. Bach’s Violin Concertos, played by Hilary Hahn. He had never heard anything like it before. For a moment I pondered the stark implications of a culture that had heard Yanni but not Mozart, Celine Dion but not Ella Fitgerald, Country but not Blues. “This is a much bigger clash of cultures than I had ever imagined,” I heard myself say. But the look on his face as he struggled to turn the volume up on that exquisite music made it all better….
I sure hope somebody out there tells Hilary Hahn about this posting. (You may need to scroll down a bit to find it, by the way.)
– Speaking of great moments in Western culture, Mr. From the Floor recently paid a visit to the “Mona Lisa”:
The point of seeing the piece, for almost all visitors, is to say that they have seen it. Tourists don’t really go to the Louvre to look at the Mona Lisa. They go so that when they return home they can tell friends that they saw the painting.
Those of us who spend time looking at and writing about art tend to be condescending toward the masses that gather in front of da Vinci’s painting–looking, as they do, to the work to provide validation for their trip to Paris.
Unfortunately, though, many of us do the same. Reading through top ten list after top ten list this month in both the print media and around the blogosphere has made me realize that too many art writers neglect seeing exhibitions in their haste to prepare for saying that they have seen them….
Oh, yes. Yes-and-a-half.
– Lastly, Lileks reflects on some non-political aspects of the great red-blue divide:
I love some bustle. I prefer to commute to the bustle, however, not be embustled 24-7. Myriad options are nice, but I suspect that 84% of these options consist of “ethnic food, readily available,” and the other 12% are made up of museums and concerts most urban dwellers rarely have time to attend.
But at least they’re there if you want them! In any case, it’s somehow flattering to know you live in a place where someone, right now, is setting up an art installation that forces us to rethink the way we think about something. Anything. Except the historical failure of art installations to make anyone rethink about anything, ever….
Or you get exhilarated, depending on your mood and temperament, or depending on something as simple and unique as turning a corner in Manhattan during the blue hour, looking through a store window into a salon, heading up the sidewalk with the traffic streaming the other way, forty stories of lights rising up on either side, and thinking: nowhere else but here, and here I am. Having lived on the East Coast, I can see why some people love it. And I understand why I didn’t, in the end. At some point in your life you may think I’d prefer a little less public urination, if I might. The fact that some prefer the Big City strikes me as utterly unremarkable, and I’d bet that most people in Red states don’t think much about why Blue staters like to live in concentrated urban centers. Why? Because they don’t care. They know that the big cities have advantages the rural areas lack, but they’re not that important to them, and they don’t worry about what they’re missing. If they do, then they move….
Speaking as one who did–but continues to retain his home ties–I’d say this is exactly right.