Tuesday, September 2, 2014
From 1974 through 1981, Haruki Murakami ran a jazz club in Tokyo, Japan, and wondered what direction his life would run. After long soul searching, his life ran in the direction of becoming a novelist. He hasn’t stopped running since, producing 13 novels that not only have won international awards, but also have been translated into over 50 languages, thus making him the most well-known Japanese novelist in the world. His latest novel to be translated into English, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, adds to his oeuvre one more tale of dreamy, surreal, puzzling, yet oddly beautiful human existence. Despite his success, Murakami (shown above) still faces criticism for his writing style, which some see as overly simple and occasionally downright ugly—criticisms once aimed at the Murakami beloved bebop jazz, the style employed by the enigmatic, brilliant pianist Thelonious Monk. Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of fiction? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of Fiction?"
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Of all the standard myths and accepted truths of the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven, the idea of the “Romantic” Beethoven—the embodiment of Germanic sturm und drang and 19th century revolution—clings the most. In a massive new biography, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, Jan Swafford hopes to tear away that and many more myths to rediscover the real man and artist buried beneath. “Beethoven was not a Romantic, and he never called himself a revolutionary,” Swafford asserts. “He based much of what he did on tradition, models, and authorities, and he never intended to overthrow the past. He was an evolutionist more than a revolutionist. Call him a radical
one with a unique voice.” Using his own unique voice as biographer of
great composers, Swafford traces the life and art of Beethoven in
eye-opening, rational detail and gives you a more human, more
fascinating portrait of Beethoven the radical evolutionary than even the
Beethoven the Romantic of legend. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Was the Romantic Beethoven Really a “Radical Evolutionary”?"
The flood of images of violence and unrest continues to flow from Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. (See one
slide show here.) The promise of a “post-racial America” after the election of the first African-American President
seems a cruel joke when watching scenes of mostly African-American
citizens square off against mostly white police and government
representatives. But aside from the story that these images tell is the
story of the images themselves. According to The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ),
“Press freedom in the United States dramatically deteriorated in 2013.”
A major part of that curtailed press freedom involves the primary
medium of today’s information society—visual images. From arresting and
threatening photojournalists to performance art specifically about
picturing dead young, African-American men, the fight for images of
Ferguson reveals more than we realize and more than many people want to
acknowledge. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Fight for Images of Ferguson."
Monday, August 11, 2014
“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay,” begins James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, opening a torrent of words that has drowned many readers in confusion over Joyce’s modernist approach. A fresh new edition of Joyce’s 1939 novel edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon and illustrated by John Vernon Lord throws a life preserver to readers by offering a more readable, more musical text accompanied by illustrations that capture the playful, multilayered, flowing spirit of the story. For anyone who has tried and failed to finish Finnegans Wake or for anyone too intimated to try, this new edition will have you hearing and seeing Joyce’s language more clearly than ever before. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Hearing and Seeing James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Anew."
In his recent New Republic article titled “Liberals Are Killing Art: How the Left became obsessed with ideology over beauty,” art critic Jed Perl makes a convoluted argument that liberalism now “find[s] the emotions unleashed by the arts—I mean all of the arts, from poetry to painting to dance—something of an embarrassment.” Embarrassed by emotions, liberals “who support a rational public policy—a social safety net, consistency and efficiency in foreign affairs, steps to
reverse global warming—[are]
reluctant to embrace art’s celebration of unfettered metaphor and
mystery and magic.” Beginning with that quick hop, skip, and rhetorical
leap from global warming to art appreciation, Perl stands up a series of
liberal straw men
to knock down in his overall accusation that liberals see art just as
political (or politicizable) content at the expense of aesthetic
pleasure. In resurrecting an old school argument from more than half a
century ago, Perl asks if liberals are killing art, but ends up making
readers ask if conservative critics are killing art instead. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Are Liberals Killing Art?"
Friday, August 1, 2014
Must mindfulness always mean meditation—eyes closed, mind clear, simply breathing, simply being? Dan Harris’ recent best seller 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Really Work—a True Story modestly proposed that just 5 minutes of meditation a day could go a long way towards making you more mindful and more happy, even if it’s just 10% happier. But even 5 minutes of meditation seems impossible for many people conditioned to be continually on the go or continually stimulated visually by one screen or another. After reading Harris’ book and David S. Shields’ Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography (which I reviewed here)
close to one another, my new interest in mindfulness overlapped with my rekindled interest in silent film.
If we can’t break our visual addiction but acknowledge the need for
greater mindfulness, I thought, then maybe the different kind of visual
storytelling of the silent film era might be the solution—a tale of Zen and the art of silent movie watching. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Zen and the Art of Silent Movie Watching."
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
When Pablo Picasso and other early modernists appropriated elements of so-called “primitive” African art for Cubist and proto-Cubist works such as 1907’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon they perpetrated a kind of artistic colonialism similar to the economic colonialism that brought back African treasures to French museums and galleries in the first place. It was an exclusively European, almost exclusively male club that marginalized not just the African culture it emulated, but also the women that were often the subjects of their art. In Mickalene Thomas: Tête de Femme, African-American artist Mickalene Thomas breaks up the modernist boys club a century after its formation and takes aim at the lingering effects of its subtle misogyny and racism that continue in the visuals of our present-day culture. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Mickalene Thomas Breaks Up the Modernist Boys Club."