Dominic (Black paint on White Canvas) from a poem by e.e. cummings as set to music by Vincent Persichetti.
Recently, I was driving to work, listening to the news on the radio, when a nice turn of phrase caught my ear. It made me think about words as art. Words have always been my preferred media, and much of my writing can be seen as a sketchbook.
When I think of art, I think of form and I think of function. It seems like most words these days are focused on function. Make money online. Try to convince someone of a point of view, or at least preaching to the choir, but where is the form, where is the beauty?
Yes, there is poetry, which is perhaps the closest we get to words as form over function. e.e.cummings was a master of this. It was probably in junior high school that I was in a chorus that performed the poem Dominic by e.e.cummings, put to music by Vincent Persichetti. Mixing media even more, I imagine it as black paint on white canvas.
Today is Robert Frost's birthday, another poet I grew up on. His words have often caused me, not to stop and think, but to stop and ponder, the way I've pondered great paintings in a museum. Trying to use words to describe those words seems to bring us to literary variant of Gödel's incompleteness theorem.
Perhaps the closest I can get of bringing together all of these thoughts is the seventh proposition of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent".
I clicked on Google News and found the top Entertainment story today to be "The Hunger Games", raking in over $155 million on its opening weekend. I glanced at other news. The shooting of tribute Trayvon Williams by tribute George Zimmerman was up at the top of the list, followed by the shooting of at least 16 civilians by a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. Also, fourteen members of the rebellion, err, Occupy Wall Street, were arrested in New York. (Would that be in the 13th district?)
No, I have not read the books or seen the movie. I've just read enough of the reviews and heard enough discussions to mix things up a little bit. Yet this gets to the bigger question, why is The Hunger Games resonating in our society the way that it is? Likewise, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, why is the book being banned by some teachers?
Is it gratuitous violence that is desensitizing tweens to violence, or is there something more pernicious, a strong woman (what Limbaugh would call a slut), coming to recognize oppression and seeking to find ways of beating the oppressors at their own game?
Is it really like the reality television shows that some have compared it to, a twenty first century version of the panopticon? Or, is there something bigger going on, akin to social media where we all become both the watchers and the watched, where our status updates, tweets and blog posts become a performance in which we seek to outwit the oppressors the way Katniss seeks to outmaneuver her oppressors?
This morning, a friend posted a picture of William Eggleston's photograph, "Memphis (Tricycle)", asking "Is this photographic art worth $578,500?" The overwhelming response seems to be no. I took a very different view, which a co-worker summed up nicely, reflecting that the picture captured very nicely the 1970's suburban zeitgeist.
With that, I'm trying to capture some of my reactions. One thought is of William Carlos Williams famous poem, "Red Wheelbarrow" which starts off simply, "so much depends upon a…". It is a very simple poem that captures a compelling image. In Williams' case, it was a red wheelbarrow. In Eggleston's case, it was a rusty blue trike.
The tricycle is from Memphis, but it also made me think of a great song by David Glaser, "House in Baltimore".
our days fled like a passing summer storm
In that little house in Baltimore
The song, like the imagist poem and the image from the photograph beautifully captures the 1970's suburban zeitgeist.
Doing a little more research, I found an article about the auction where the photograph fetched over half a million dollars. Christie's auction of Eggleston prints nets $5.9 million.
Benefiting the trust, the rare public sale of Eggleston’s work marked the first time his photos have been sold in an oversize format. Combining some of the 72-year-old photographer’s most famed works, along with selection of lesser-known images, each was produced in 60-by-44 inch size and utilized a new color printing process allowing for high quality reproductions
There is a big difference between a rare 60-by-44 inch print and a 607x419 pixel image embedded in a Facebook page. And how much does knowing the place of the photograph in history change the perceived value? The Wikipedia article about William Eggleston provides important additional context to the place of Eggleston's work in the history of photographic art.
The discussion drifted to another dimension. Catherine asked, "Does it help you look at the way you live or see the world?" That is the interesting question to me, along with variants. I asked, "what aspects of the photograph bring it the most value?" Another person had a curious comment, "Art has nothing to deliver to recipients!". They went on to talk about the folly of asking "an 'Off-Art'-Public about the 'Worth' of Art".
I was uncomfortable with these comments. Is art only for an elite cognoscenti, and if art has nothing to deliver, does it have any purpose or value?
Yet returning to Catherine's question about helping people look at the way they live or see the world, I think Eggleston photograph, as well as Catherine's Facebook post, helps people with these issues. Perhaps this blog post, too, will cause someone to stop and think.
I finally got a chance to watch the next lecture in the Yale Theory of Literature online course. During the lecture, Professor Fry makes a reference to an autodidact in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. The word jumped out at me since my viewing of these lectures is autodidactic. In fact, part of what has always drawn me to the Internet has been the great potential for autodidacticism. I always enjoyed searching out content that I could glean some new knowledge from. Perhaps it is part of an older form of autodidacticism, my love of wandering in libraries, randomly selecting articles in encyclopedias to read and similar pursuits.
Later, I started reading an essay by Hans-Georg Gadamer about hermeneutics. Yet between some undiagnosed ADD and simply being tired from a long day of work, I couldn't sink my teeth into the essay. So, I resumed my wandering autodidacticism. After all, how does hermeneutics relate to my work as a social media manager, blogger, father, husband activist or aspiring writer?
I briefly looked at some of the RSAnimate videos on YouTube, yet that was still a little too close to the thoughts about hermeneutics. Where could I learn new signifiers and gather new thoughts and ideas to weave together into something of my own.
I spent a little time thinking about mind-bending films, and perhaps I'll spend some more time watching some of them sometime soon. However, with the day almost over, I wanted something quicker to engross myself in. So, I found some Haim June Paik videos on YouTube. This led me to some Phillip Glass, and from there I was off into other experimental videos.
I'm not sure how where this leads to next or how it will all come together, but it did give me pause to think about my interactions on various social media sites. How are they feeding my autodidacticism? What do I really get out of the interactions? And what to the people that read me get out of it?
For nearly four years, Fiona has been doing an Internet based radio show on Blogtalkradio. Earlier this month, she interviewed Jen Alexander about Middnight on Main, a big New Year's Eve celebration in Middletown, CT.
I've been working to help promote the event and I asked if Fiona could get a press pass. Everyone agreed, so she will be attending the celebration as a journalist. She is very excited.
We've spent time pouring over the list of great bands and other performances, as well as the food trucks and other wonderful eating opportunities. I've tweaked Kim's phone to make it easier for Fiona to tweet and blog and do interviews from Kim's phone.
I've also set up some new pages for Fiona. She is too young to have a Facebook account according to their terms of service. However, an older person can set up a Facebook page for her, so I've set up Facebook Fan Page. I also set up a page on about.me to make it easier to find some of her postings.
With that, it is time for us to rush out and begin the festivities and the coverage.