Tuesday, August 09, 2022

no one expects the spanish inquisition.

It's hard to know what to say, other than what I've said before. Varieties of decadence, and they're all so earnest. But still...

The Decadents knew that Catholicism pairs well with transgression. The Metropolitan Museum of Art knows it, too: It held an exhibition titled “Heavenly Bodies” in 2018, a show that juxtaposed liturgical iconography with high fashion and BDSM paraphernalia. Catholicism embraces the give-and-take between sin and repentance, formalizing it in the sacrament of confession. 

An open defense of Catholic decadence: homosexuality, and other fun, are fine, as long as you confess your sodomy on Sunday. And the author is a "senior editor" at First Things.  John Waters read this and he's laughing; and a lot of others too, all older than Julia Yost and Matthew Schmitz.  Richard John Neuhaus would be horrified. But what about his goddaughter? And Yost name checks Nick Burns (same link).  

Another recent trip down memory lane, because the liberals mocking her are equally so utterly clueless. Left right and center, it's all cosplay. 

Just for fun: 3 posts on Alexander McQueen and Giovanni Bellini 

and Bronzino, who now has a tag.

In the larger sense I've been describing this for decades—the origins of the reactionary politics of truth. What I didn't predict was a literal return to the Church. I've quoted the popular definition of kitsch as something or someone being "more Catholic than the Pope", and now here we are! 
Also tagged Vermeule

Lorentzen has a series of podcast interviews he labels "Truth & Beauty".
The focus on aesthetics in a time of crisis, the false equivalence with "truth", the mix of puffery and denial, as if we don't have access to the history.  
Milanovic rt'd a friend on why he didn't listen to stupid podcasts: the directness of listening to the voice, the insecurity and fakery, makes it unbearable.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

"Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired".

For scholars​ of heartbreak and trepidation, the Dolly Parton songbook is a core text. No other singer would say ‘please’ when begging Jolene not to take her man. In Country Music, Ken Burns’s recent documentary series, Parton insists a great song is like an heirloom or a keepsake, essentially a piece of storytelling. A well-written song can dramatise a wonderful character or bring back a singular voice, and in these senses, among others, the siren of East Tennessee is better than most poets. There’s a giggle and a teardrop in her voice, an unmistakeable set of attitudes about life, and I was looking forward to her novel the way lovers of chocolate might look forward to Easter. It was going to be Eudora Welty, Tom Wolfe, Reese Witherspoon and Tammy Faye Bakker in a wild Southern barn dance. It was going to be a roof-raising, hello God hoedown, a complete riot of personal faith, the sentences glinting with rhinestones and Southern Gothic, all of it secured by a narrative raised on sweet tea and Moon Pie. On her own, Dolly can do no wrong, but like many country heroines she sometimes gets into bad company.

Once upon a time I had plenty of admiration for Thérésa. It seemed as if, in that huge voice with its low-pitched notes, there vibrated the soul of the people. She stirred me and made me shiver; more than once she brought tears to my eyes. In the last two years I have gone to her comeback performances as if to visit an old friend, searching for that impression of the past which she cannot reawaken. Her fine diction, so strong and clear, is spoilt now by pretentiousness, pomp, and solemnity. No doubt she imagines she is now a social force, and that each word she drops will have repercussions in the world. She adopts without discernment songs which are inept, and tries to colour their empty words with a redundant sentimentality and a false picturesqueness. Instead of the brutal and sincere art which used to delight me, the singer displays a procedure which has grown uniform and a search for violent effects. 

 There's a lot there, but I'm not going to do your work for you.

The liberals who now call themselves socialists and who accuse others of denying their own pasts are denying their own pasts again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

This interview is getting a lot of attention among leftist academics. They're linking it and recommending it. They're surprised. It's new to them. All the books they read and they don't know what it was like to be an adult and a leftist-bourgeois-intellectual-blablabla, 50 years ago, or 70. And these are the same people who debate whether Foucault was a conservative.

On that note, one of them, Jäger, retweets Markus Rediker

When I was in graduate school (1979), I wrote a letter to Michel Foucault to ask a question about one of his books. I expected no response. Imagine my astonishment when, ten days later, a pale blue envelope appears in my mailbox, from “MF,” Collège de France.

I was reviewing vol. I, *The History of Sexuality* which said on its back cover that it was the first of six volumes on the subject. I asked, what were the other volumes? He said he had just made that up about six volumes, but added that he was writing *Pleasures of the Self*.

I also asked, how can you deny the existence of conscious, knowing subjects in your work and then use military concepts like “strategy” and “tactics” of power, which imply conscious, knowing subjects? He answered, that is a real contradiction in my thought, I have no answer.

He continued, I just thought we might progress by trying to think about power in a different way. His responses were funny, modest, and honest, genuinely illuminating, although not very satisfying either politically or intellectually.

He answered, that is a real contradiction in my thought, I have no answer. 
The only honest answer. Only a pedant without imagination could think otherwise. 
...not very satisfying either politically or intellectually. 
I haven't read much Foucault, but I understood I wasn't reading the Anglo-American academic model of a thinker who writes; I was reading a writer who thinks. Back to Eliot; it's almost too perfect.
James in his novels is like the best French critics in maintaining a point of view, a view-point untouched by the parasite idea. He is the most intelligent man of his generation.
And the writer Foucault was responding to the preconceptions described in the interview above.

Branko makes the argument against reading Branko
I am of the opinion that if one wants to learn more about a current problem, one should never read books published now b/c they just reproduce all commonplaces we believe now.
In the next tweet he recommends Milosz. I won't argue. Recently I told him he wasn't a historian and that perhaps he should stop pretending. Maybe he's taken my advice. In re: the interview above, he wrote this only recently

Now, almost half-a-century later, as I was writing about the war, I realized how Marxism in that case really fulfilled the essential functions of a religion.

NFS means No Fucking Shit.  But as I reminded him years ago—and he agreed—he didn't grow up under communism; he grew up under Tito. And as a friend put it: "The Poles came to us to go shopping. We went to Milan"

From the interview above 

AP: The tensions within the party were between a small orthodox group linked to the Soviet Union who strongly opposed the Union of the Left. The main issue in the 1970s was nationalizations. I was in charge of the “Nationalizations and Industrial Policy” department and it’s true that we overplayed the issue of nationalizations. We argued that nationalizations, provided they reached a significant threshold, would allow us to structurally change our economic system. The socialists, opportunists that they often are, adopted our views. I had a friend who was having marital difficulties who was convinced that if the left came to power, her marriage would be fixed. This was the degree of people’s belief in politics.

My slogan was, “Where there is property, there is power.” And that is the primary idea which motivates me to this day. But at the time, we thought public property had a mythical capacity to change everything. The socialists only agreed to nationalize because they saw it as a condition of preserving the Union of the Left. They were ideologically overpowered. Internally, the debate was around the scale and the industries. The socialists were against, for example, nationalizing the banks and financial sector completely. They thought it was enough to nationalize 51 percent—just enough to give us the majority. But we insisted on 100 percent. And given the internal discussions, I was surprised with how far Mitterrand ultimately went....

MA: Maybe we can go back to the history of the party, particularly in 1968. What was the relationship like between the student movement and the labor movement? And how did those conflicts play out in the party’s policy positions?

AP: Until 1968, the Communist Party was influential in the labor movement and among intellectuals. For the latter, the theory of state monopoly capitalism gave us a lot of intellectual capital. I remember getting a drink with Georges Séguy and Georges Marchais right before the adoption of the Common Program, and Marchais informing us that the CGT had just recruited its three-millionth member. Today there are fewer than 300,000. So we had a lot of hope, but we were also distrustful of the socialists (due to their position on the Algerian War and the Suez Affair, among other things) at the same time as we sought a union with them. The events of 1968 bear the mark of these contradictions. We participated in the events at the same time as we witnessed meetings between Mitterrand and Mendès-France and understood that the situation was hopeless. I remember once going to a meeting at the Place du Colonel Fabien and seeing the head of the Economic Section tearing up piles of paper, so as not to leave a trace in case the Gaullists retaliated.

There was also a cultural shift with the emergence of the so-called bohemian bourgeoisie, who pushed the boundaries of morality, sexuality, and so on. The communists didn’t identify with that. Culturally, we were rigid: when you got married, you got married. You never bought your house, you always rented. If you bought a car, it was from Renault, because it was the national company.

Teenagers vs Communists (as moralizing petty bourgeois.)

repeats: Eric Rohmer 

"I wasn’t hostile to May ’68, but whereas the people who participated in it saw it as a beginning, I saw it rather as an end. May ’68 was the first stone thrown into the pond of Marxism. The ideological collapse of Marxism began in ’68. Because I believe that May ’68, paradoxically, cured many people, including perhaps me, of communism and anticommunism. I think that the kind of Marxist fever that took place after May ’68 carried within it its condemnation and its end, it was a last flare-up. That’s how I saw May ’68, and that is why, personally, I remained absolutely indifferent, serene, with regard to what might happen. I continued with my work." 

The same idiots link to a new book of essays.

Where the standard story sees neoliberalism as right-wing, this book points to some left-wing origins, too; where the standard story emphasises the agency of think-tanks and politicians, this book shows that other actors from the business world were also highly significant. Where the standard story can suggest that neoliberalism transformed subjectivities and social lives, this book illuminates other forces which helped make Britain more individualistic in the late twentieth century.

If you follow the link to Rohmer and continue, you'll find these. I'm so bored.

"What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It’s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won."

"Perhaps more than an ambiguity, it was an irony of history. The real legacy of May ’68, as we see in France today, is individualism, the rejection of civic sense and ideology, the rehabilitation of the idea that personal and financial success is a worthy pursuit — in short, a revival of capitalism. To borrow an expression of Lenin’s, we were useful idiots. Indeed, the uprising was more a counterrevolution than a revolution."

And all this is why Streeck and the rest have me "banging my fucking head against the wall"

In the order that seems to be emerging [sic!], social bonds are construed as a matter of taste and choice rather than of obligation, making communities appear as voluntary associations from which one can resign if they require excessive self-denial, rather than as ‘communities of fate’ with which one either rises or goes under.   

These people are embarrassing. 

If I'm telling stories I should talk about the night at dinner in the early 70s when my father found out to his chagrin that he was a hero to the local CP. The son of an old friend was in town and staying at the party office. They had places to crash. My father called at the end of dinner and the kid on the line interrogated him: "Who are you? What do you want?" My father gave his name.  "Oh,Yes sir! Yes, Mr Edenbaum. I'll get him sir." Sitting at the table I watched my father move the phone away from his ear, incredulous.

Panofsky, Galileo As A Critic Of The Arts, the original, not the shortened one. The first section.

footnotes—which take up almost as much space as the text—stripped for simplicity, though they're no less fun to read. Greek words marked (...)

The greek passion for debate, legal or not, produced, as early as the fifth century B.C., a peculiar genre of literature, called (... ) in Greek and altercatio, concertatio, dialogus, disputatio or conflictus in Latin; in English, something like "contest" or "debate" would seem to be the most appropriate equivalent. What we witness is, as a rule, not an internecine battle between absolute good and absolute evil (as in the struggle between the Virtues and the Vices, Reason and Lust, Faith and Heresy); rather it is a competition for superiority between two—or, occasionally, more than two— relative values, a competition that may end with a reasonable compromise or even a happy reconciliation.

The contestants may be Virtue and Pleasure but also The Cook and The Pastry Baker, Homer and Hesiod, or Poetry and History but also Lentils Boiled Whole and Lentils Pureed. And in the Hellenistic age, when Plato's theory of ideas was reinterpreted so as to glorify rather than disparage the "imitative arts", the arena was entered by Painting and Sculpture. In Lucian's Dream, Sculpture (...) wages, but loses, a battle against Refined Culture (...); in Dio Chrysostom’s Olympic, Phidias, claiming for sculpture the ”power of the symbol” (...) and the ability to produce ”what cannot be compared to any mortal human being”, wins an imaginary argument with Homer; and in the Introduction to Philostratus’ Imagines we hear the echo of a debate between Sculpture and Painting, the author deciding in favor of the latter. 

In the Western Middle Ages, contest literature was passionately cultivated  in Latin as well as in the vernacular languages, and the number and kind of contestants were varied ad infinitum. Wine competes with Water or Beer; Winter with Summer; The Mountain with The Valley; The Swan with The Crow; The Cleric with the Layman, Peasant or Knight; Worldly Glory with Pious Renunciation; Fortune with Philosophy; The Body with The Soul. Even the case of natural love vs. what the State Department calls "deviationism"—outlined in Plato's Phaedrus and circumstantially developed, from opposite points of view, by Plutarch and Lucian—was kept alive and was amusingly restated in a rhymed debate between Helen of Troy (supported by Nature) and Ganymede (supported by Philology), which ends with the betrothal of the disputants. However, what disappeared from the scene of mediaeval contest literature were the visual arts. Once painting and sculpture had been demoted to the status of artes mechanicae (which adjective was held to derive from Latin moechus, bastard, rather than from Greek (...), their rivalry with each other was no longer of interest while the possibility of their competing with their aristocratic sisters, the liberal arts, was excluded on principle: the Bataille des Sept Arts was a tournament in which mere burghers were not permitted to participate.

It was not until about 1400—when Brunelleschi and Ghiberti competed for the bronze doors of the Baptistry, when Donatello was an apprentice, and when Masaccio was born—that Cennino Cennini came forward with the contention that painting had a legitimate claim to recognition as a liberal art. His reasoning was rather naive: the painter, he says, is equal to the poet in that he can produce imaginary beings as well as reproduce real ones. But his position, expressing a fundamental change in attitude, came to be generally accepted. The privilege obtained by painting was gradually extended to what was later to be called the "Fine Arts"; and for a sixteenth century thinker  it was, again, more natural to illustrate the meaning of Plato's ideas by "that image of a perfectly beautiful body" which lives in the mind of an artist than by the archetype impressed upon the mind of a philosopher.

No sooner, however, had painting and sculpture been promoted to the rank of Art with a capital "A" than they began to fight each other for superiority. In the North, not as yet inclined to theorize about the arts, a certain rivalry between painting and sculpture may reflect itself in those simulated statues which challenge the genuine productions of sculpture in the altarpieces of the Master of Flémalle, Jan van Eyck and their followers. In Italy, it came into the open about 1430. Leone Battista Alberti, the first art theorist in the full sense of the word, clearly alludes to it when he suggests that sculpture and painting, though different in means and aims, were equal in rank and should keep the peace,  and thereafter the competition between the two sister arts remained the favorite topic of contest literature in many lands and for several centuries. A climax was reached in Leonardo da Vinci's "Paragone" where painting carries the offensive deep into the territory of the liberal arts, claiming to be superior not only to sculpture but also to music and poetry. And by the middle of the sixteenth century the discussion about the relative merits of painting and sculpture, by now a kind of intellectual pastime, even gave rise to what is perhaps the earliest public opinion poll: in 1546, preparatory to two lectures published three years later, a Florentine humanist, Benedetto Varchi, elicited statements from a great number of important artists, including  Michelangelo, Benvenuto Cellini and Pontormo, each of them loyally defending his own profession. 

This "Paragone" literature has some importance in that it fomented such notions as "sculptural" and "pictorial," "volume" and "space," "one view composition" and "multiview composition," notions which, when the quarrel for superiority had subsided in favor of a calm appraisal of possibilities and limitations, were to become the basic concepts of what we call "stylistic analysis." But on the whole texts of this kind cannot be said to make inspiring reading. Few l~ter writers went beyond the arguments put forward by Leonardo da Vinci, adopting and, very rarely, amplifying them when they were painters or friends of painting, attempting to refute them when they were sculptors or friends of sculpture. There is, however, one glorious exception: a letter of no less illustrious an author than Galileo Galilei.