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April 06, 2005


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Thanks once again to the brilliant Dave Lull, who forwards along a link to this entertaining Bookslut interview with Camille Paglia. Camille's new book about poetry can be bought here. UPDATE: Dave turns up another interview with Camille, this one in Salon, day pass required. Great quote:

I'm a professor of media studies as well as humanities, and I'm an evangelist of popular culture. But when there's only media, then there's going to be a slow debasement of language, and that's what I think we're fighting.

The blogs, for example, are becoming so self-referential. If people want to be better writers, they can't just read the blogs! You've got to look at something that's outside this rushing world of evanescent words.

And another terrific passage:

I'm saying to the left: Stop bad-mouthing your own civilization; get over it, you little twerps. I'm saying to the religious far right: If we are defending Western civilization, as you claimed in the incursion into Iraq, then you'd better realize it's much more than Judeo-Christianity and the Bible. You'd better get real and accept that we have a Greco-Roman tradition of literature and art that started in 700 BC. And yes, some of it deals, quite frankly, with sex and the body; you must deal with it and allow students to deal with it, because that is part of the brilliant strength of our arts. I'm demanding that conservatives support the arts and that liberals stop being so snobby about art and quit celebrating art that is simply cheap sacrilege of other people's beliefs.

Artists have got to get back to studying art history and doing emotionally engaged art. Get over that tired postmodern cynical irony and hip posing, which is such an affliction in the downtown urban elite. We need an artistic and cultural revival. Back to basics!

* Dave also mentioned that his favorite book about writing is Robert Pinckert's "The Truth about English." (It's out of print, but used copies can be bought here.) In light of our recent yakfest about the Whole Earth Catalog, it's fun to learn that Dave once pointed the book out to Stewart Brand, founder of the WEC. Brand liked the book too, and in 1983 recommended it to his readers in these terms:

You can hear good writing. That's the surest test of it. It sounds like somebody telling the truth. Bad writing looks like somebody showing off. Pinckert's best and most radical service is teaching you how to punctuate by sound rather than by rule. You listen to your writing, and so does the reader. The rest of the book is a cheerful tour of all the ways to show off in writing. You learn how to identify each kind of lie and cut it away. What's left may be the truth.

* George Wallace puts "Ozymandias" in list format. It makes for something that isn't a poem any longer, but is certainly still a remarkable reading experience.

* Cowtown Pattie has put up a couple of lovely -- and very evocative -- postings. Here she recalls growing up in the Texas countryside. In this posting, Pattie 'fesses up to some of the books that really moved her soul when she was a young thing. Books to hide in the closet or under your bed -- what a great theme. Do kids still conceal their naughty reading material from their parents' eyes? In any case, I was feeling inspired by the exact same reading-list Pattie was reading from, and at about the exact same time ...

* Google for video.

* I have a hunch that the annotated-photograph is becoming a major new art form. If not, it's loads of fun to play with and taste-test anyway. The Communicatrix has put up a lively annotated photograph that's like a nonlinear memoir.

* Maciej Ceglowski is adamant: hackers and painters aren't alike, darn it. For one thing, painters get laid a lot more often.

* Jim Ryan argues that sperm banks do their offspring a serious disservice.

* John Leavitt, who wrote a series of Guest Postings for us about life as an art student, has started his own blog about life as an illustrator. It's called Illustrae, and can be visited here.

* Fans of the very gifted Hannah will find more videos of her putting those gifts on display here. Many thanks to a correspondent who'd prefer to remain anonymous for turning these videoclips up.



posted by Michael at April 6, 2005


About the sperm bank post, I would be suprised if what this guy says is true. You could ask people who were born as a result of sperm banks to see if there is any real injury. I doubt there is, even if you ignore the fact that the particular person wouldn't exist without the sperm bank.

Some heterosexual couples use sperm banks when the man is infertile. I don't think this guy actually wants to claim that having a father who isn't your biological father is a great injury. Should the women divorce the infertile man to marry a fertile man?

Some lesbian couples use sperm banks. This guy may claim that having a second mother rather than a father is a great injury. But, the biological mother is a lesbian so it isn't like there is some plan B where the mom's kid has a father.

Some single women use sperm banks. This guy may claim that the women should marry a man if is she is heterosexual. There is always a chance that the women won't have a kid if she waits to get married.

A key question is "what is the plan B?". Plan B probably needs to include having another kid somehow. Under utilitarianism, it is suprisingly hard to argue that an additional kid makes things worse off.

The author could say the plan B is adoption, but adoption may be better than all biological ways to have a kid. It wouldn't be a problem specific to sperm banks.

I have just finished reading " reasons">,GGLD:2004-09,GGLD:en&q=reasons+and+persons">reasons and persons ". It is a very interesting analytic philosophy book on ethics that deals with similar issues.

Posted by: Joe O on April 6, 2005 7:07 PM

Oh, darn, late again:
I was just planning to bring to your attention pan Maciej!
I only recently discovered his blog (by detour via Languor management, than Blogchik - and simultaneously receive letter confirming my admiration of him from Language Hat. All listed are excellent reads, please visit)

And don't miss the link Maciej provides to his oil paintings. Pity, every one I loved are sold already! (that fountain in Provence...)

Posted by: Tatyana on April 6, 2005 7:48 PM

Joe O -- Great reflections. Moral reasoning usually eludes me once it gets beyond the Golden Rule phase. I just find myself wondering how much further principles and obligations can be deduced -- seems to me that, past the Golden Rule level, it all becomes debatable. So I tend to go practical at that point. But that's my lame-o way of handling these questions. I'd be curious to know how Jim Ryan would respond to your reflections. Have you thought about pasting your thoughts into a comment at Right Reason? Ryan's usually very generous and courteous about responding.

Tatyana - Hah! For once I'm half a step ahead of you instead of the usual three steps behind. Actually, lazy and appreciative soul that I am, I think I prefer it when you're out in front. Where's your hustle, girl?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 7, 2005 10:46 AM

i remember that second Paglia interview well...wrote a respinse to it that was pblished on Get Underground,but which is now on my blog here (scroll down a bit):

Posted by: Rob on April 7, 2005 11:48 AM

Thanks for the Wallace link -- I enjoyed the "Ozymandias" transformation, as well as Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII in PowerPoint format. Hmmm . . . something interesting for the classroom lurking in there, probably about "what makes poetry poetry?"

Posted by: missgrundy on April 7, 2005 12:44 PM

Who's Hannah? Is she the girl who's written a few things for this site?

Posted by: . on April 7, 2005 12:52 PM

Also (sorry about the double post), I enjoyed Cowtown Patty's reflections on books. Mine were Youngblood Hawke (from my dad's Book of the Month Club shelf, and which he didn't want me to read); Lolita (I babysat for a family that had it and ran for the shelf as soon as their car pulled out of the driveway); Lady Chatterley's Lover (my best friend's parents were librarians and let her read *anything*); the medical library of an OBGYN I also babysat for (lots of stuff on perversions and weird sexual diseases). Oh yeah, and my dad's Playboys, which he kept in the bathroom on top of the toilet tank, hidden under a few issues of Time.

My son, in contrast, doesn't hide anything, except when he was 12 or 13, and my husband let me know that the kid was hiding Esquires in his room (since we didn't have any Playboys, I guess). I didn't have a problem with him reading anything, and we often had good conversations about it.

Now, when I started finding pay-per-view porn on my cable bill, that was another issue entirely.....

Posted by: missgrundy on April 7, 2005 12:56 PM

Perhaps this would be a good time to finally find out--how do you pronounce "Ozymandias"? I've heard it several ways...

Posted by: Urijah on April 7, 2005 6:47 PM

All rightie, than - and let me introduce to you (if you haven't find them already, that is)the Atlas Shagged, aka Republican Party Reptiles (scroll down to the bottom of the page for the list of contributors)

Check out yesterday's post with link to the [Russian]State Museum of Architecture site for illusrations on not-built Stalinist projects of the 30's - that's a good visual to our recent conversation on Krier, Nazis, Classicism, etc.

MUAR has other very interesting virtual exhibitions (and very good commentary, alas, only in Russian - I can translate for the interested: an article on Moscow mayor Luzhkov's city construction [with policies of demolishing gems of Russian Empire period architecture] is called "Vampire Style"). For example, one of the exhibits of "Unrealised Moscow" is beautiful Hotel of Moscow City ["Mossovet"] by Starpan and Savelyev, 1931. You can see more renderings and plans here (for interiors, click @ the upper right corner, bottom line). Unfortunately, as it stated in the later posting, this wonderful building not only haven't been rebuild and restored - it was demolished altogether.

Of course, the rest is magnetic as well - for Fri spirit look into categories *Party affiliation Irrelevent and *Incriminating Party Pix - that is, if you need diversion from other topics...

Posted by: Tatyana on April 8, 2005 4:05 PM

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