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« Charlton on Audible | Main | Separating Artist and Art »

September 02, 2006


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Stephenesque's dad was an early electronic-music buff. You can wayback-machine yourself to the earlyish days of electronic music here, here, and here.

* Is it really true that there's an epidemic of oral lovin' going on? Tim Harford says the answer is yes, and tries to explain why. The relevant numbers:

Johns Hopkins University Professor Jonathan Zenilman ... reports that both the adults and the teenagers who come to his clinic are engaging in much more oral sex than in 1990. For men and boys as recipients it's up from about half to 75 to 80 percent; for women and girls, it's risen from about 25 percent to 75 to 80 percent.

* Searchie tumbles for the one-book meme, and comes up with an inspired response to it.

* In 1984, a British headmaster wrote an article wondering if multcultural dogma was in fact good for his students. As a reward for his frank musings, he was forced to resign, and was never able to teach again. These days, though, he's feeling vindicated.

* Whisky Prajer says that being a little less hard on himself has been good for his writing. He also reviews some tempting-sounding books about rock music.



posted by Michael at September 2, 2006


The headmaster's case would justify talking about "multicultifascists".

Posted by: dearieme on September 3, 2006 10:36 AM

Hey, you missed the real "juicy" tidbit in the Tim Hartford piece, to wit:

Klick and Stratmann claim to have found evidence of exactly this. Wherever and whenever abortion-notification laws have been passed, gonorrhoea rates in the teenage and adult populations start to diverge [i.e., teen gonorrhea rates fall relative to adult rates]. When it becomes more troublesome to get an abortion, teenagers seem to cut back on unprotected sex.

You could have gotten a zillion comments on this posting if you'd focused on the upsides of abortion parental notification laws! The fur would fly, my friend!

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on September 3, 2006 7:29 PM

Dearieme -- "multicultifascists" is good!

FvB -- Scary, huh? An abortion debate would probably dwarf the heat that immigration-policy debates generate,

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 3, 2006 10:59 PM

I'm probably the only person in the United States who is basically indifferent on the abortion question. Ban it entirely? fine with me. Abortions for everyone? fine with that too.

I'm refering to abortion as a public policy issue, not to my personal attitudes toward it.

But I do wish we'd debate immigration and all corollary racial and cultural questions with the same directness and frankness with which we debate abortion.

Posted by: PA on September 4, 2006 8:34 AM

PM -- That's a nice way of putting it, and a nice distinction. Like I have personal feelings and prefs about abortion too, but as a public-policy debate it couldn't interest me less. I wonder if we all walk around with a kind of list inside our heads -- things we're willing to go to the mat about, ranked from highest to lowest. Abortion's pretty low on mine.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 4, 2006 11:38 AM

Thanks for the link, Michael. "Good for the writing", and (I should add) good for the family dynamic - which is also good for the writing! Say, you might want to start some advice columns dedicated to the health of married artsy-types(?).

Posted by: Whisky Prajer on September 5, 2006 7:08 AM

Ahhhh, hermeneutics. Finally. Oodles of theorizers have mucked up the simple act of understanding what we read. The meaning of a text, they say, is not merely in the text itself. That’s too easy. Somehow meaning gets “situated” around the text, like an aura. Meaning is behind the text -- in the author or, casting the net a bit more broadly, in the community in which the author was intellectually situated. And meaning is in front of the text -- in the mind of the reader, or his or her intellectual community. The text itself sorta drops out of contention and treated as a mere goad to finding “real” meanings.

Similarly, with a piece of art, architecture or music, it is difficult to allow the “thing itself” to just mean something. We mentally jump behind the object as if the biography of its creator offers tantalizing clues to its meaning and worthiness. In doing so we act as if the meaning or value of the object can be found in the intention or mind of its creator, not in the thing itself.

Simultaneously, at those moments when self-awareness pulls us away from the object toward ourselves, we become vaguely aware of our own role as interpreters and observers of the art. To borrow from philosophy – incorrectly! -- the “thing itself” becomes the “thing for me.”

What to do? Can’t we just let the text be a text without self-consciously worrying about our own biases and history? Similarly, can’t we just forget the creator and concentrate on the creation? Tragically, the answer is “no.” There seems to be both a learned habit and innate need to probe the intention and mind of the artist behind the art. I have no idea why.

An anecdote. Many years ago I took a medieval history class in grad school. For the two weeks prior to class, I imbibed medieval history thoroughly loving every book on the reading list. Then class started. Curiously, we rarely talked about medieval history. Instead, we spent ALL of our time discussing the biographies of the authors of the wonderful books I had just read, as if knowing about the author would give a secret insight or necessary clue to the book’s meaning. The content of the book was almost ignored. Of course, the prof may have assumed we’d get the content by ourselves, and so spent our seminar time instilling “nuance” and “significance.” But I remember feeling empty after every class. The innocent joy of reading medieval history turned to muck. (I’m a professor of history, by the way, and those dusty books are on my office shelf. I have never read them again.)

Back to the German Waffen S.S. writer, Guenter Grass. A big part of me – in fact the biggest part of me – wants to scream, “Who gives a shit about his past. It is his ART that matters. It his ART. ART. ART.”

But I have to admit I’m curious about the artist. A wee voice inside of me is curious about Glass. I confess to being fascinated with demented, mentally ill and politically repulsive artists so much so that I wish art could be rendered ahistorical and anonymous, as if discovered on the moon. But even if this happened, I’d have me to contend with me. I’d still be in front of the text, viewing it from afar through lenses specifically ground by my intellectual past.

I miss innocence. I just want to curl up with a book and forget about me and the author and the context and the bias and the agenda and the … I JUST WANT TO READ.

But I can’t.

Kris in AZ

Posted by: kris on September 5, 2006 11:29 AM

Re: the Brit headmaster. Being ahead of your time is hard. It must drive ahead-of-your-timers crazy. "I'm right. Correct. Stating the future conventional wisdom if you losers, er, people, would just open your eyes!"

-On a totally unrelated note to anything ever on this blog, what on earth was that whole Bernardo Bertolucci The Innocents/The Dreamers movie all about? I seriously did not understand one bit of it, but I can't get some of the images out of my head. If this is a recommendation of the film, or utterly horrifying, I cannot say. I am leaning toward utterly horrifying.....

Filmi people, what say you? I mean, WTF*?

*Stands for freak. I don't swear. It's rude (okay, I swear plenty and the residents hear me swear around the microscope and then they laugh at me - discreetly)

Posted by: MD on September 5, 2006 6:55 PM

Oh, there is a post about the Dreamers....I somehow missed it. Maybe I should have searched before I posted, but how boring would that be?

Posted by: MD on September 5, 2006 6:58 PM

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