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Showing posts from November 19, 2017

spinoza and the american predicament

There have been innumerable searches for the roots of the American predicament that resulted in the election of Donald Trump. I came across this passage from Spinoza that provides a general framework for the racism, ignorance, stubbornness and despair that goes into giving your heart to a senile bully: “Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favored by fortune: but being frequently driven into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluctuating pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of fortune’s greedily coveted favors, they are consequently, for the most part, very prone to credulity. The human mind is readily swayed this way or that in times of doubt, especially when hope and fear are struggling for the mastery, though usually it is boastful, over-confident, and vain.” The rules, of course, that once governed at least certain circumstances in the capitalist world – rules that

Reviving the ostinato genatalia - not a good idea!

Years ago, the art historian Leo Steinberg wrote a book about the sexuality of Christ in renaissance paintings, in which he pointed out that the ostinato genitalia was at the center of many paintings of the Baby Jesus. This was consistent with the culture of this late medieval, early modern period. Who knew that digital phone cameras and the internet would democratize the ostinato genitalia, so that any freaking Senator, movie producer, magazine writer or talk show host would be on it like mustard on a hotdog? To the Charley Roses, the Weiners, the Louis CKs, the Rep. Joe Bartons - buddy, the late middle ages were a long time ago! Put your rocket back in your pocket, please. And also, resign? Happy Thanksgiving!

The black and white world - the soul of the banal

The central trauma of cinema, for many writers, was the transition to sound. For me, though, it was the transition from black and white to color. This is a matter, partly, of my age. Being born in 1957, I well remember black and white television sets. And I remember how common black and white photos were. Color television came well after color in the movies, but during the era of black and white televisions, black and white movies from the thirties to the sixties were common fare. Frankly, I haven’t owned a television in years, so I don’t know what the lineup is, but I imagine the spate of black and white films that I was fed from the 30s and 40s has slowed to a trickle. The effect of black and white film and photography on me has been profound. Firstly, it has taught me the insufficiency of color words – black and white have been used so variously, the tonal scale creates such differences between one black and white picture or film and another, that our color langua