Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's the Trouble with Modernism?  

It spends most of its time angrily ATTACKING, or sullenly DISAPPROVING, or childishly REBELLING. It rarely-if-ever evokes Empathy, inspires a deeper appreciation of Beauty, Affection or Mirth, neither does it attempt to appreciate Tenderness or inspire Courage, Loyalty and Devotion to anything higher than Self. 

Taken altogether most of the "Art" and "Philosophy" of the past century might be interpreted as a gigantic TEMPER TANTRUM –– ACCUSATION –– a nose-thumbing REJECTION and HATRED of REALITY. In other words it's largely been a cynical celebration of NIHILISM. It seems nothing more nor less than an all-out embrace of utter IRRATIONALITY.

I dislike letting myself be defined by others, because in truth I don’t fit neatly into any pre-constructed pigeonhole –– and don’t want to. I much prefer to design and build my own life. However, I suppose I must qualify most closely as a true PALEO-Conservative –– a term I don't even believe in, because it assumes there is another, more "modern" form of Conservatism –– NEO-Conservatism –– which is a TRAVESTY of the real thing. 

Anything that strives to be different merely for the sake of being different is only a childishly perverse IMITATION of what is real and good. Doing the exact opposite of any established, value, virtue or accepted norm is nothing more than a form of imitation.  It takes a great deal more than that to produce something genuinely original. 

Any fool can give Beauty a black eye, a broken nose or a fat lip. That in no way means he, she or it has established NEW STANDARDS of BEAUTY.


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  2. FT,
    Doing the exact opposite of any established, value, virtue or accepted norm is nothing more than a form of imitation. It takes a great deal more than that to produce something genuinely original.

    Just try to convince the modernists or post-modernists of that one!

    When nihilism is the norm, will rebellion to that venture back into classicism? Just a thought.

  3. FT,
    Hear, hear! to your comment at June 1, 2013 at 7:57 AM.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. I like Picasso's work, and I understand it somewhat because we studied it in a humanities class.

    He didn't do weird stuff just for the fun of it. He had reasons that grew out of the times. He skewed things around or drew them out of proportion because he wanted you to notice them.

    I am with you, however, on weirdness for weirness's sake. After the true artists do something bold, you always get the pale imitators pouring in after them...

  6. Picasso's great painting Guernica, IMHO, is one of the most moving and passionate work of art that depicts war as what it is: savage, brutal, and indiscriminate in its carnage and destruction.

    I was lucky to have seen Guernica while it hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. Picasso had forbidden it to be shown in Spain until Franco was either deposed or dead. The epic painting was then shipped to Spain.

    Modern art, as art from every era, has the ability to make us humans look at what is in front of our noses (even when Picasso paints two on one face.) ;)

  7. I've always liked much of Picasso. I'm very familiar with Guernica, because it hung in the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd St. in Manhattan all during my formative years and beyond. And yes, I understand and admire it, but I wouldn't want to have to LIVE with it.

    Visiting "MOMA" was always one of my favorite pastimes in my New York days.

    I was much more enamored of modern Art and modern Architecture back in the 1950's than I am today, however. My tastes were not fully formed then, so I was open to just about everything, UNTIL I began to realize that a lot of the stuff vaunted and celebrated by The Art Establishment was farcical in nature -- a deliberate thumbing of the nose at the then fashionably despised Bourgeoisie.

    If you really knew me, you would realize, however, that I've never thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to ANYTHING.

    I'm STILL very open-minded, but a great deal more DISCRIMINATING now than I used to be. "Discrimination" has come to be regarded as something of a dirty word in this Marxian-Fabian, Post-Modern world where "non-judgmentalism" and a quasi-militant inconclusive approach to values and mores are considered cardinal virtues. I don't go along with such notions.

    I certainly know the difference between Art and Kitsch and Art and cynical Affectation, but I refuse to succumb to the insane notion that there is no such thing as good taste or bad taste, etc.

    It's really very simple. Anything I like MUST be good. Anything I despise MUST be bad.

    I do not despise what I cannot understand (like Japanese films, for instance) but I'll be God-damned before I'd tell you I LIKE things like that just because someone who presumes to know what's what says I ought to. If I merely followed the trends, I'd be just another poseur in the vast army of pesudo-intellectual hypocrites.

    One thing I'll never be -- except for the purposes of proving discussion -- is a CONTRARIAN or one of those dreadful types who never fails to tell you how much he adores THE most alien thing he can find at any given moment.

    Russell Lynes had it all very well pegged many years ago when he wrote his famous essay "Highbrow, Lowbrow, Middlebrow."

    Frankly, I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy many things that belong in EACH of those three categories.

    If you must call me something call me RADICALLY ECLECTIC by HYPER-DISCRIMINATING -- something like that? ;-)

  8. If you enjoy the idea of smoking out and skewering "phonies," and "the ladies who lunch," etc. you would enjoy reading XINGU, a short story by Edith Wharton.

    Here's a link to the online text:

    I may publish XINGU here tomorrow or soon thereafter. It's a classic.

    I enjoy leading horses to water, as it were, if only to amuse myself seeing whether or not they'll take a drink.

  9. THe trouble with "modernism" is that everyone believes the modern era is "past"... that we're living in the post-modern era. Modern man was the whole enchilada a complete unit. Post-modern man is a cog in the State machine... his mind tailored through the division of labour into maintaing a single function, ignorant of the whole.

  10. I wouldn't know where to start to respond to an apparent rejection of an entire century's art.

    Just how much do you reject? I suspect you'd walk back quite a bit.
    You put up a graphic of a Frank Gehry building ad I'd agree he lacks self control. Would you reject similar radicals like Guadi and Hundertwasser?
    Would you reject Guadi's organic beauty?

    As I say, were to begin? You lament (and i join you) the relative scarcity of classical music in popular culture. But you have it a little better than i do. If Bach and Beethoven are played less than they should be what about Bartok, let alone Eliot Carter, Ligeti or Xenakis. But they don't fall neatly into your Aristotelian aesthetic.

    Like many 20th century artists they reject your certainty of what is good, beautiful, useful etc.

    But you're in a better environment than some. If the woman came to me asking about Jane Eyre in the curriculum I probably would have said that in celebration of it being back in print (finally) we were going to read Renata Adler's Speedboat. Adler clearly being the superior writer.

    But don't worry, FT. Museums cater to the "where are the Impressionists?" patrons. Those of us who think Renoir is a flat saccharine bore aren't prevailing.

    Of course there are always those Japanese film that no one in their right mind would watch but I wonder if you can name an artist who dealt more compellingly with the institution of marriage.

    It's not that I reject your aesthetic, FT. I certainly don't but it is so limiting.

    There is a van Dyck portrait in the Isabella Gardner museum. Terrific technique and really a technical tour de force. It's a portrait of an upper class woman and screams "I'm well to do and privileged." Nothing else.
    I can appreciate the form but I do wish it told me something worth knowing.

  11. Since you mention Picasso I've only seen one of his paintings up close and personal. End of April I had the chance of being in Ottawa for a few days and took an opportunity to visit the National Gallery. I had to look up the painting as I didn't recall the name. It turns out to be Weeping Woman which has some apparent relationship to Guernica mentioned above. Personally I wasn't impressed by the Picasso since it was another distortion and/or contortion that I always seem to see in his stuff.

    Only a few steps from the Picasso was one by Van Gogh—Iris. That mightily impressed me. It's a painting he did while committed to an insane asylum in France, apparently, so it's said because of a disastrous falling out with his friend Gaugin. He was eventually released back into the world again after cutting his ear off and depressingly not even being able to make a living from his amazing paintings, which today sell for multiple millions each. And we should mope and pout about life today, pretty damned ironic.

  12. Here's a link to the Van Gogh "Iris" ...

  13. Personally, I believe that abstract art is just another way of saying: "I don't know what to paint, so I painted this."
    In general I like impressionism, but I like different pieces of art, something that touches me: I love Gustav Klint, I love Monet, both of them so romantic. I like some pieces of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, and Frida Kahlo. Some pieces of modernism and cubism, but not all. Art is too personal to be criticized by standards.
    I like a lot of colorful art, and the reason why I like Kahlo is because of how she projects her emotions so well into her paintings, and I like her style.

  14. Thanks for censoring me, FT.

    Any reason other than disagreeing with you?

  15. Not today, Josephine! ;-)

    I don't recall your having contributed to this thread, Ducky.

    I've been busily deleting mindless, derogatory comments about Ms Shaw, which proliferate here like dead leaves in autumn, and I'm trying to get rid of any remarks that address ANYBODY as "you asshole," or "you dirty bastard," "you fucking moron," or "you fringe right loon," etc.

    It's not that foul language "offends" me so as it bores the SPIT out of me. So does boilerplate insolence.

    I do not categorically hate all modernism, as you may like to think, but I've never fallen prey to the notion that art "advances" or "progresses." It merely changes as it develops -- and not always for the better.

    Beethoven for instance is not "better" than Bach, and Wagner is not "better" than Brahms, etc. And the modernists are certainly not better than the romantics anymore than the classicists were "better" then the better composers of the Baroque period.

    What I do despise is "change for the sake of change."

  16. I added two comments that I thought were relevant to the discussion but they're not here either. I got a message that comments were being moderated. How long does moderation take?

  17. Yeah, I submitted a long one , FT.

    I wasn't logged on to Google and it asked me to log on and returned with the moderation message.
    Apparently the post was lost. Pity, but at least I my understanding of the moderation rules is correct.

  18. Sorry, guys. I've been in and out of moderation today, but never saw anything stored in the Comments Awaiting Moderation box. I don't understand what happened. Blogger has done lots of bizarre things before. Many comments I've made elsewhere have been chewed up and spat out never to be seen again.

    I know it's annoying. Best to write in Word, then copy and paste here. It's the only sure way to keep what you've written intact.

    When you get as much garbage pouring into the box as we do here ever since I started deleting brutal insults to Shaw Kenawe and threats to myself, it's necessary to use tactics I'd much prefer to avoid.

    I cannot sit here ALL DAY playing nursemaid to the blog, so, as the saying goes, "Shit Happens!"


  19. Only solution is to turn off moderation . . .


  20. Have you checked your Blogger spam folders? I've been told that sometimes comments can end up in other spam files, or at least the comments have been located there by mistake.

  21. If we are in the Post-Modern age today did Modernism in art lead us to this?

    Probably the most famous work of art in the Western world would be painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo. Turns out that a star scholar has discovered some secret covert messages contained within the work, asserting that Michelangelo was including images related to ancient Jewish scripture contained in the Kaballah, some would say ancient occultism, including the hexagram of the Star of David.

    Would the man commissioned or commandeered by the papacy deliberately attempt to undermine the church by doing something like that? IMO, it stretches credulity, especially in the larger context of the history of the Church of Rome persecuting anybody considered heretic including their own flock as well as Jews. Whether true or not it is a story bound to be embraced in our Post-Modern age and it does appear in that journal of supposed rock-ribbed conservatism, the Wall Street Journal, but the man who asserts this is from Massachusetts so it would well be something in the drinking water, as well.

    "Mr. Doliner believes that Michelangelo, whose unconventional education at the court of Lorenzo de Medici included the study of Judaic and Kabbalistic texts, meant the 1,100-square-meter ceiling of the chapel as a mystical message of universal love -- a bridge of understanding between the two faiths."

    "Q: As a religious Jew, how did you end up being a guide at the Vatican?

    I grew up in an Italian Catholic neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. So I went to mass with my friends more often than I went to Hebrew school. And obviously spending a lot of time in Italy, I am passionate about art and architectural history, Western civilization, church history and of course the Talmud and the Torah, Kabbalism and Jewish history. If you study all of this stuff you see how it all is interwoven."

  22. FT,
    I cannot sit here ALL DAY playing nursemaid to the blog...

    The blogblighers were out in force yesterday at my site, too. Sheesh.

    There are at least 18 types of trolls (very informative article).

  23. Well, AOW, I hate to tell you, but I did not really like that article. I know it was intended to be amusing, but I found it flippant and overly cynical. Also, the language in numerous places does not resemble the good standard English I insist on using, even if I end this life as A Minority of One.

    More and more I find the "key punchings" of younger contributors to blogs and websites to be harder and harder to relate to, because they've become increasingly less comprehensible in just the past few years.

    If we do not stand up for proper spelling of the names of public figures, of commonly used terms and proper differentiation between there, their, they're and to, too, two, and all the rest of it, we will not only lose our language, but our Civilization as well.

    One of the things I dislike most about the life we experience here in Netland -- and sometimes in the classroom too, I remember -- is the way those in error blithely refuse to correct themselves when their errors are pointed out to them. In today's world the poor example is apt to be widely emulated, while the good one is either ignored or mocked -- and even vilified, as it was in the article you cited.

    I guess I'd better change my name from FreeThinke to A. Stickler, because I'm never going to back down on points of this nature.

    This modern notion that it's both "compassionate" and "polite" to let Error stand unnoticed, unremarked and uncorrected only succeeds in compounding Error while conferring a false aura of "respectability" upon it.

    May God forever bless the "Old Maid Schoolteachers" and "Maiden Aunts" from days of yore who dedicated their lives to keeping everyone around them in line and on the upward path!

    Haven't you noticed that the Edna May Olivers, Dame May Whittys, Margaret Rutherfords and Gladys Coopers we used to enjoy making fun of while we secretly loved and admired them have completely disappeared from both the Screen and from Society?

    Very frankly, I see it as a sad loss, and one of the many signs that society has lapsed into a woefully degenerate condition.

  24. Jack, if your blog ever gets "targeted" for ritual abuse, you will understand very well why "Comment Moderation" is sometimes a good and necessary thing.

    Without it many of the more active blogs would very quickly resemble The City Dump. The depressing case of David Horowitz's earliest version of Front Page Magazine remains THE outstanding case in point.

    None of us got into this game in order to become managers of a Sewage Treatment Plant, yet that is the role we are too often called on to play in order to stay in business.

    Life as lived here in Netland has proved only one thing conclusively in my fourteen years of exploring the internet: People cannot be given total freedom without abusing it.

    That's very much akin to the well-worn maxim that tells us "Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely."

    Know the Truth. It may discourage, depress and enrage you, but ultimately it is the only thing that could possibly set you free.

  25. FT,
    What I found spot on in the article: the information about Troll 1, Troll 16, and Troll 18 -- and the top graphic, which depicts certain types of individuals.

    As a member of the Grammar Police myself, I might well qualify as Troll 2.

    Over the years, I've seem various bloggers try to define the word troll. A copy-and-paste spammer is obviously one type.

    The various social media seem to bring out the worst in some people. I'm not sure that particular trend is going to change -- except to get worse. **sigh**

  26. A troll is nothing more or less than any individual who habitually contributes nothing to a discussion, but the willful intent to draw attention to himself.

    That's IT.

  27. Trolls are the Internet equivalent of the Roma. They have no "property" (blog) to defend (and upon which others can retaliate in-kind), so they vandalize and deface that of others, at will.

    Of course, some blog owners run their blogs like Roma as well, deleting any and all rebuttals and comments that prove them to be idiots. A certain here-to-fore "nameless" person comes to mind...

  28. It used to be that the "HIGHEST" architectural value was "utility". Hence, square/rectangular shapes carried the day. Today, privacy and exclusivity have become more "valuable"... so you can have a house on the 7th floor with a view... w/o any neighbors. Money, and "efficiency" no longer dominates the aesthetic. "Luxury" and "social-rank-seeking" does.

  29. So much for the Modern Age of the common man. The post-modern authentic yet "uncommon" distinction demands recognition.

  30. We reached the apex of domestic architecture in the USA in the years immediately following WWI and just before the Depression. It all went to hell in the 1950's.

  31. I actually love the Gaudi/ gaudy.

    There's more to life than "economics". It's not exactly "baroque"... the symmetry is skewed towards a more "Fibonaccian" ideal.

  32. No one would agree more than I that there's more to life than just economics, TAM.


    "Love your life, poor as it is. You may, perhaps, have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected as brightly from the windows of an almshouse as from a rich man's abode."

    ~ Thoreau (1817-1862)

    I have seen a few glimpses before of this very romantic Spanish neo-Gothic, neo-Rococo architecture. It's fascinating, but bizarre. It seems like a crack-pipe-inspired vision of the Gothic style to me, but I don't dislike it. It's interesting, and I'm glad someone made it happen.

    Thanks for the input.

  33. Again, we encounter an element of the "sublime" in it. It isn't "beauty".... the symmetry is imperfect. It inspires something a little deeper... not exactly "terrifying" (as the "gothic"). Perhaps a bit of the "chaos" which preceded "order"... and the infintely regressing spiral of a "fractal".

  34. There's nothing terrifying -- to me -- about Gothic architecture, Thersites. I never heard any negative references to it until I was past the age of twenty. A that time I was reading James Baldwin's Another Country, and found myself shocked at his depiction of Chartres Cathedral. He was a very powerful writer, and the disquieting images he drew have stayed with me.

    It wasn't until many years later that I realized his main purpose must have been to PUNISH us White Folk by denigrating one of "our" ancient, highly-prized objects of veneration.

    Now I see the great cathedrals of Europe and the British Isles as architectural monuments of sublime beauty. Awe-inspiring to be sure, but -- to me -- very reassuring.

    Baldwin wanted to see Chartres -- and by implication all the others -- as monuments to Oppression, Coercion, Vanity and Hubris.

    To put it as simply as possible: I don't. I see them as astonishing testaments to the unifying power of childlike faith and a healthy sort of exuberant naiveté that very sadly has been bludgeoned out of the world by sneering cynicism born of too much worldly wisdom coupled with a lack of Charity.

  35. Nothing meant to instill a fear of G_d and Eternal Damnation?

    Must have been a Jewish conspiracy of Stonemasons....

  36. All is in the thinking of the beholder.

  37. Waylon, you must have fallen for The DaVinci Code

  38. Er, uh, no Ducky, not The Da Vinci Code. Just turning to former members of The Society of Jesus, Brothers of Loyola for some inside dope on the history of the Church, that's all.



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