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Showing posts from January 30, 2022


  The part about parties The party existed in the 19th century. Go to, say, the Chicago Tribune society page and read this, from 28 January 1877: “A social event which will long be remembered by those who were so fortunate as to participate occurred Frida evening at the residence of Mrs. Whitman, no. 1777 Wabash avenue. The compliments and best wishes of the party were tendered to Mr. and Mrs. Ed Sturtevant, whose appreciation of the “surprise” was made manifest during an entire evening of unmingled entertainment.” These social events were often “functions” based around some purpose, but as the Whitmans and the Sturtevants could testify, they often involved unexpected visitors, drinking and fiddle playing. As the gilded age got ever more gilded, among the New York millionaire set parties became essential monuments of conspicuous consumption, running rampant through show girls and ice sculptures. But I would contend that it was technology – notably the phonograph and the radio – that r

Flirting and modernity

  In the 18 th century, English essayists expressed a lotta anxiety about female reading.   The “new” genre of the romance fiction already created its problems for the classically trained, who rightly suspected that the prevalence of literacy was having a massive, unpredictable effect.   As Samuel Johnson wrote: “In the romances formerly written, every transaction and sentiment was so remote from all that passes among men, that the reader was in very little danger of making any applications to himself; the virtues and crimes were equally beyond his sphere of activity; and he amused himself with heroes and with traitors, deliverers and persecutors, as with beings of another species, whose actions were regulated upon motives of their own, and who had neither faults nor excellencies in common with himself. But when an adventurer is levelled with the rest of the world, and acts in such scenes of the universal drama, as may be the lot of any other man; young spectators fix their eyes

here we are now - interchange us

This is a paragraph from an essay Musil wrote about Bela Belazs’s famous book about film, Visible Man: The observations that I will add in the following concern these contact and luminal surfaces. The question of whether Film is an independent art or not, which is the entering point for Balazs’s effort to make it one, incites other questions that are common to all the arts. In fact film has become the folk art of our time. “Not in the sense, alas, that it arises from the spirit of the folk, but instead in the sense that the spirit of the folk arises from it,’ says Balazs. And as a matter of fact the churches and the cults of all the religions in their millennia have not covered the world with a net as thick as that accomplished by the movies, which did it in three decades.” As is so often the case with these Viennese intellectuals, Musil is astonishingly sensitive to the changes being wrought by modernity – with the wisdom; of nemesis perched on the apocalyptic battlements. His refere