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« Race and More | Main | Ottawa Isn't Rome »

October 11, 2008


Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* What's your karma?

* The secessionism issue is showing some legs: Matthew Cropp and John Schwenkler.

* Where do you have to go to get some quiet these days?

* One day he just started drawing on the walls ...

* The complete guide to bikini waxing yields my favorite new term of the day: "Wahroongan waxing," described "as an Australian technique, whereby the hair is removed in a way to reveal a dollar sign. 'Give some bling to your thing'."

* Speaking of Australian ... Model Elle Macpherson became famous for her beach-chick physique and her everyday-girl demeanor. But time has passed, and it sounds like she's friendly no longer. What happens to some people? Hmm, I wonder if Elle wears a Wahroongan ...

* Stephen Rose collects a lot of provocative videos about buildings and cities.

* Traditionalist philosopher Roger Scruton considers the art of modernist giant Mark Rothko.

* Mandatory public education: A well-intentioned dream that has since gone awry? Or an attempt to dumb-down and regiment the masses right from the outset?

* An NSFW labor of love. Small MBlowhard hunch here: Much of the culturestuff that many men really love is NSFW.

* Ed Gorman flips for Chabrol's "Story of Women" and Jean Harlow in "Libeled Lady."

* Why marriage remains popular. What would the Roissy crowd -- many of whom seem convinced that they'll never be able to get married -- make of this article?

* MBlowhard Rewind: I confessed that I read philosophy at least as much for the sake of literary pleasure as for the ideas.



UPDATE: Can you be both a punk rocker and a paleoconservative?

posted by Michael at October 11, 2008


I find Rothko, and Rothkos, moving still, even as I've undergone something of the changes Scruton wrote about with respect to the artist and his works.

The problem with Rothko is that he was a deeply religious man whose spiritual passion was crippled by an inadequate theology (even metaphysic). Rothko thought that the world of Spirit was, like ours, a landscape or space, but which differed from ours by its qualities: its deep extended redness say, or later blackness/purpleness as in the Houston Chapel. But this is just wrong...not artistically, but theologically.

God is not extended in space at all. He occupies no space, and therefore cannot be suggested, let alone captured by any colour scheme at all. God has no colour because he takes up no space, is located nowhere and is, analogically, a dimensionless point, which unlike geometrical points, cannot be meaningfully located in any reference coordinate system at all.

Since God is this omnipresent/omniabsent point, he is not deep, or orange, or black, or oiled, or located behind any window opening like the kind Rothko painted (I still find it ironic that critics who pilloried say, Poussin, for creating windows in walls that opened into dream worlds praised Rothko, who did the very same thing).

God makes everything happen, including colours and space and time and trees and Frank Frazetta and Frazetta cavegirls and Charlton and me drooling over the cavegirls, and so on literally ad infinitum. But of God himself, there is nothing to be said at all. The world is created by this omnipresent point, this transcendent existence generator, but it does not follow that this point creates the world. The point has no parts, and therefore cannot be said to act or to be acted upon. The world is created by God, but God does not create the world.

There is no point in trying to capture God on canvas. All you'll be doing is capturing some aspect of the created world.

Which is why I still find Rothko moving and powerful. He was trying to do the impossible: get God down on canvas. The solution: get his creations down on canvas since that's what you'll be doing anyway, was not acceptable to Rothko. It's tragic, because had he remembered his own Jewish traditions, he would have realized he was trying to put something inside the Tabernacle. Nothing fits in there.

And so if you go to to Houston and look upon the deeply moving canvases there, you'll realize what Rothko ended up portraying. The people kneeling before those canvases and gonging the bell there, are, as Robert Hughes said in Shock of the New simply "worshipping a void".

I still love Rothko, and he still makes me cry. But not for the reasons he used to. What a waste of a great deep soul.

Posted by: PatrickH on October 11, 2008 11:55 AM

Many sharp observations by Scruton. I like the point about Rothko making all those similar painting before he became famous. Normally, as Scruton observes, an artist will do his repetitions once a formula proves to be a hit. But hey, what artist really, truly wants a life of starvation?

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on October 11, 2008 1:38 PM

1) Secessionism

Since one of the rare NYC area library copies of "The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty," which I borrowed last year, has since been lost or stolen, and the otherwise very large and dependable nearby Strand (used) bookstore has never had any copies whenever I've asked over the years, I decided to try buying a copy on-line (my first ever on-line purchase of merchandise).

When I first looked into it, about two and a half weeks ago, perhaps the cheapest copy being offered on-line was amazingly cheap: $3.33 plus $3.99 for shipping and handling. (When the book was first published in 1980 or so, the hardcover edition was about $9.00, I believe.) The other copies being offered on-line were also pretty cheap -- being only a bit more expensive than this one. There was one, for instance, that was going for about $10.00, and the seller said it was only a slightly soiled first edition.

But I decided to go for the cheaper $3.33 offering for a reason I'll mention in a bit, but also because it was touted as being in mint condition ("probably never read") and because I believe the book only had one edition anyway (and it might never have been published in paperback either). So my thinking was that, in any case, the worst that could happen (if the seller was honest -- and the seller did have a very good on-line rating) was that I would MAYBE be getting a mint condition paperback version.

Therefore, I went ahead and ordered the book on Wednesday, 9/24/08, and the book finally arrived on Thursday, 10/09/08 -- and the book was indeed a hardcover first edition in mint (probably never read) condition. But the "fun" thing about this particular copy of the book was something that was mentioned in the original on-line offering -- that on the front flyleaf is stamped, "Alaska Statehood Commission"! (Now that I have the book [but not with me at the moment] I see that there are actually two stamps: 1) one says, if I remember correctly, received by the Alaska Statehood Commission, with maybe the date it was received (?); 2) and other one has the name and the street address of the Alaska Statehood Commission.)

As to the substance of the book, I highly recommend it. As I mentioned previously, Jacobs looks at the history of separatist and unification movements and makes a good case that countries often do worse (e.g., economically) after unification and better after separation.

PLUS Jacobs also makes a positive case for Balkanization, talks a bit about small vs. large in a general way (and says, for instance, that small is NOT ALWAYS beautiful), the roll of emotion in this issue, gives a fascinating detailed history of the peaceful separation of Norway from Sweden in 1905, etc. Also, although the book is ostensibly about politics, she talks quite a bit about economics -- so in some ways the book is a case study and illustration of her economic theories.

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on October 11, 2008 2:20 PM

P.S. to my post above: “. . . the roll of emotion in this issue . . .” should have been, “. . . reflects upon the role of emotion in discussions of this issue” . . .

2) Mandatory Public Education

I just skimmed the linked to article, "How public education cripples our kids, and why," by John Taylor Gatto, and based upon my quick reading at least, he doesn't seem to be as negative about mandatory public education as the blog post blurb, perhaps unintentionally, indicates. From a quick reading, at least, what he does seem to be saying instead is that mass public education inevitably has a number of negatives that wise parents can and should mitigate against.

If that’s what he’s saying, I do disagree, though, with the idea that mass public education necessarily has to have the negatives he ascribes to it. It seems to me that the public schools I attended in NYC in the 1950s and 1960s, for instance, weren’t like that. For instance, pretty much all of my teachers seemed to stress the importance of independent thinking over rote learning when appropriate. (Obviously, there are times, especially in the early grades, when rote learning is useful and appropriate.) This didn’t seem to be the case, by the way, with the (Catholic) parochial schools of the time. Friends and relatives who went to them did seem to get the negatives of mass public education that Gatto writes about.

In general, despite the problems we have today, I think it’s just amazing what a great job the public schools of NYC (and other cities too?) have done in educating the masses of kids who’ve attended them, a great many of them the children of poor and working class illiterate migrants / immigrants (e.g., my maternal grandmother never really learned English, and she was illiterate even in her native dialect of Italian -- she signed her name with an "x").

Posted by: Benjamin Hemric on October 11, 2008 4:51 PM

I will second Gorman's recommendation of Chabrol's Story of Women.

Posted by: Thursday on October 11, 2008 7:01 PM

When they mentioned punk rock traditionalists, I wasn't too shocked. What's more traditional than a DIY culture and a "mind your own fucking business" attitude towards things? Those types of punks definitely outnumber the Jello Biafra types, and even then a former Dead Kennedy's politics are better than the current live one's.

Of course there are weirder things. Stereolab are techno-pop Mutualists, complete with lyrics about how such a system would work set to weird retro space-age lounge set music.

Posted by: Spike Gomes on October 11, 2008 8:44 PM

The complete guide to bikini waxing

Oh, no ...

Posted by: Peter on October 12, 2008 12:16 AM

My reasoned guess is that Roissy's angry-nerd readership would be greatly dismayed by the marriage article to which you linked. Being deprived of the opportunity to marry is more tolerable when marriage is a declining institution. It is plainly more difficult to accept that fate if marriage remains alive and thriving.

Posted by: Peter on October 12, 2008 9:33 AM

I heard Gatto interviewed on a talk radio show (I think it was Jerry Brown's) about 10 years ago and was quite impressed. I've given copies of "Against School" to lots of people. I think that the successful mainstreaming of homeschooling in the 10 years since I first heard him shows how correct he is in many ways.

From the perspective of having two children go through a mix of public and parochial schools and the troubles that they had, I agree with much that he has to say. Also, looking back on my own life it's humbling to admit how totally brainwashed I was by the system

Posted by: Reid Farmer on October 13, 2008 3:35 PM

pigeonholing peter wrote:
My reasoned guess is that Roissy's angry-nerd readership

one man's anger is another man's joie de vive.

Being deprived of the opportunity to marry is more tolerable when marriage is a declining institution.

i'd safely guess for those hard-up male readers, it's not the opportunity to marry that they fear being deprived, it's the opportunity to get laid.

It is plainly more difficult to accept that fate if marriage remains alive and thriving.

there's a sucker born every minute.

Posted by: roissy on October 13, 2008 6:12 PM

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