Why Is The Entire Staff Of ‘Brooklyn Rail’ Leaving?


Staff and Board Members Leave Brooklyn Rail En Masse‘ read the headline from Hyperallergic, an arts blog that I regularly read.

It caught my eye because I subscribe to Brooklyn Rail. It was happenstance (I got it concurrent with a subscription to Poetry; I’m always on the look out for deals on periodical subscriptions) that I did, but I enjoy reading it. It’s rather like reading The New Yorker when you don’t live in New York. There’s a lot to get from it, regardless of personal geography, but at it’s heart, it is a regional publication (even more true of Brooklyn Rail than its glossier cousin).

The Hyperallergic article doesn’t give any insight into why everyone is leaving (because no one involved will say), but it feels sad. Journalists are already such a precarious damn place. Arts journalists, more so. Does your local paper have a full time arts reporter? Or book reviewer? Much less an arts editor? Probably not.

For this revolt of thine methinks is like/Another fall of man.
– Henry V by William Shakespeare

 

I Love Godzilla


Godzilla was on the other night. The terribly edited one with Raymond Burr spliced in and the most terrifying moments cut out (a mother and child crushed underfoot) in order to satisfy the delicate sensibilities of white americans.

But I love Godzilla so much.

The looping crescendos of the music, reminding us that Godzilla does not care about us, barely notices us. It’s not ‘scary’ music like the strobe light sounds of Pyscho or the rising, precision hunting of Jaws. Like the monster himself, it is merely inexorable.

When Does Intent Cease To Matter?


Most philosophy of ethics views intentionality as key. Was the mental intention good or bad?

I have been thinking about this in the context of recent presidents. Trump almost certainly did not mean to give Israeli intelligence to Hezbollah (though it’s questionable how much of a pass he gets for his apparent intention being ‘show off to Russian officials in order to bolster self-esteem and impress Vladimir Putin’).

But I actually am thinking more about this in the context of George ‘Dubya’ Bush. One can feel almost nostalgic for Dubya while in the thrall of dangerous insecure man-child. At worst, one thinks, he was merely a well-meaning idiot. And didn’t he direct a lot of money towards fighting the spread HIV internationally?

It’s easy to forget all the terrible, ethical lapses of his presidency; of a war driven by Freudian conflicts vis-a-vis, his father.

But even if we accept the premise that he was well-meaning, at what point does intention not matter? Even if he did not intend so many deaths, so many maimings, so much destruction, so much lost, at what point does the water of consequences burst the dam of intention? When is ‘I meant well’ (truly stated) not enough to stave off sin?

To The Green Angel Tower


I finished the Memory, Sorry and Thorn trilogy (which, apparently, will have a follow up trilogy, with the first book coming out this summer).

There was, I’m afraid, a definite decline in the series. The first book did not reinvent the wheel but was, nonetheless, a reasonably creative take on the high fantasy tropes. The hero was a youth, but he never did turn out to be some destined hero of prophecy (or great wizard or even better than a decent warrior). The first book also took its time. Really took its time. Which was just fine.

As the series went on, the author started doing the George R.R. Martin multiple perspective thing and it didn’t work for me.

Also, the ending feels rushed and sort of implies that everything every character ever did was kind of pointless. And I’m also not entirely sure how the good guys won.

The Rodin Museum & Joseph Fox Bookshop


We went to Philadelphia for a two day work thing that had the first day unexpectedly cancelled, so we found ourselves with an unexpected free day in Philly.

Living in DC spoils an art lover. Most of the city’s best museums (which are some of the finest in the world, I would argue) are free. You get used to not paying for access to great art. Which does bring up some interesting issues: by making it seem like creative works should be free, are we devaluing the labor of artists (as has already happened online, particularly with writing and journalism); or are we making the arts more available to underserved communities? Just to put my own thoughts into this, I would point to the model of the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum, which is free to residents of the county wherein it resides (Wayne County, if you’re interested). While that wouldn’t apply to museums like the National Gallery of Art nor the Smithsonian, since they are treasures for the entire country, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about various models.

But my point was that it has made me cheap and I couldn’t help but notice that the Rodin Museum had only a ten dollar suggested donation (per adult), whereas most other museums were charging twenty. Also, a large selection of Rodins was not something I could readily see in DC, whereas a large selection of (for example) Impressionists is something I can see back home.

It’s not a large museum, but it’s in  classy, Art Noveau looking building and filled with interesting pieces and has a beautiful garden with some larger pieces – though it was raining cats and dogs all day long, so we weren’t in the best form to appreciate, for example, a large bronze of the Gates of Hell.

A little later, we trod through the rain to the Joseph Fox Bookshop. I knew nothing about it, except that the Yelp reviews sounded promising.

It’s a very small bookstore, but it makes up for that by being exceptionally well-curated and giving a lot of space to smaller presses to publish (drum roll, please)… good books.

For example, the NYRB and Pushkin Press were amazingly well-represented (those are two presses that you can buy almost any book they publish and be confident that it will be awesome).

Naturally, I bought something. In my case, a recently re-published in book form long essay by Marcel Proust: Chardin and Rembrandt.

 

Yayoi Kosuma


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There were five rooms (or five self-contained installations, if you prefer) and we only got to visit three before being escorted out (the museum was closing; we weren’t misbehaving, though there was some temptation, on account of our understandable frustration at the long lines preventing us from seeing them all).

The documentation around it, filling up the spaces, was filled with absences. There was the tiny, pink haired octagenarian that Kosuma is now and the provacatrix of 1960s ‘happenings’ and various forms of installation and performance art, but nothing in between those two periods.

While almost certainly not the curators’ intentions, it makes a bit of conceptual sense. Rather than infinity, I saw smallness and absence. Mirrors hiding cramped spaces. It was a joyful exhibit, no doubt – don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t see infinity.

‘Timon Of Athens’ At The Folger Shakespeare Library


To get one thing out of the way: by Shakespearean standards, Timon of Athens is not a particularly good play. That isn’t to say that it isn’t still better than almost everything else, but the narrative veers too swiftly and character traits which appear can feel underdeveloped (unearned might be a better way to put it; characters don’t earn their actions through earlier characterization).

One ‘solution’ taken by the director, artists, and casts was to create a stark, high tech set with some video screens and LED lights in the floor and ceiling and cyberpunk feel, with characters always carrying smartphones and money transferred via biometrics. The characters were very much dressed in a ‘cool’ fashion. The artist wore black and a beret; the philosopher wore a scarf and a tweed jacket.

Timon was played as a germaphobe, no doubt to sharpen the impact of his feral breakdown and feces smearing (I’ll explain later; wait, no I won’t), though I don’t think they succeeded, because I only realized what was being attempted in retrospect.

Having been reading a lot of Greek philosophy lately, and also the historical circumstances around ancient Greek philosophers, I was struck most by two characters: the philosopher Apemantus and the soldier Alcibiades.

Apemantus was a sort of Socratic gadfly, though his philosophy less resembled the Socrates of Plato and Xeonophon than a milder version of the Cynic philosophers (not cynic, as in the modern definition of ‘cynical,’ but something else; you’re on the internet, so look it up – or better yet, read a book!). In fact, Apemantus’ final appearance has him pointing out that Timon has taken on his role – and Timon has very clearly taken on the role of a true, impoverished Cynic, while Apemantus appears less afflicted (again, more like a Socrates inflected with Cynic philosophy than a true Cynic).

As for Alcibiades… there was an Alcibiades who appears in the Socratic dialogues of Plato and who was a favorite of Socrates in life. That Alcibiades was also a sort of collaborator with the Spartans after Athens lost the Peleponnesian War. This Alcibiades marches an army on Athens, partly because he was disgusted with the disrespect with which Timon had been treated.