Tuesday, October 31, 2006

America #5

I enjoy this suburban country beyond expression.

Frederick Law Olmsted, letter to Charles Loring Brace, March 7, 1882

Monday, October 30, 2006

America #4, Time #5, History #1

Since Americans have recently found it more comfortable to see where they have been than to think of where they are going, their state of mind has become increasingly passive and spectatorial. Historical novels, fictionalized biographies, collections of pictures and cartoons, books on American regions and rivers, have poured forth to satisfy a ravenous appetite for Americana. This quest for the American past is carried on in a spirit of sentimental appreciation rather than of critical analysis. An awareness of history is always a part of any culturally alert national life; but I believe that what underlies this overpowering nostalgia of the last fifteen years is a keen feeling of insecurity. The two world wars, unstable booms, and the abysmal depression of our time have profoundly shaken national confidence in the future. During the boom of the twenties it was commonly taken for granted that the happy days could run on into an indefinite future; today there are few who do not assume just as surely the coming of another severe economic slump. If the future seems dark, the past by contrast looks rosier than ever; but it is use far less to locate and guide the present than to give reassurance. American history, presenting itself as a rich and rewarding spectacle, a succession of well-fulfilled promises, induces a desire to observe and enjoy, not to analyze and act. The most common vision of national life, in its fondness for the panoramic backward gaze, has been that of the observation-car platform.

Richard Hofstadter, Introduction, The American Political Tradition (1948)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

America #3, Food #6, The Age of Print #1

Life, April 14, 1972

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scopitone #10, Love #8, Archaeology of the Music Video #2

The Flying Pickets, "Only You"

Money #1

When this drunk gave me a ten spot, I couldn't get very excited. What was it? A piece of paper crawling with germs.

Detour (1945) d: Edgar G. Ulmer

Monday, October 16, 2006

Word of the Day #14


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Time #5, Memory #6

Already a fictitious past occupies in our memories the place of another, a past of which we know nothing with certainty--not even that it is false.

Jorge Luis Borges, "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

Monday, October 09, 2006

Art #6

Visiting a museum is a matter of going from void to void. Hallways lead the viewer to things once called 'pictures' and 'statues." Anachronisms hang and protrude from every angle. Themes without meaning press on the eye. Multifarious nothings permute into false windows (frames) that open up into a variety of blanks. Stale images cancel one's perception and deviate one's motivation. Blind and senseless, one continues wandering around the remains of Europe, only to end in that massive deception 'the art history of the recent past'. Brain drain leads to eye drain, as one's sight defines emptiness by blankness. Sightings fall like heavy objects from one's eyes. Sight becomes devoid of sense, or the sight is there, but the sense is unavailable. Many try to hide this perceptual falling out by calling it abstract. Abstraction is everybody's zero but nobody's nought. Museums are tombs, and it looks like everything is turning into a museum. Painting, sculpture and architecture are finished, but the art habit continues. Art settles into a stupendous inertia. Silence supplies the dominant chord. Bright colors conceal the abyss that holds the museum together. Every solid is a bit of clogged air or space. Things flatten and fade. The museum spreads its surfaces everywhere, and becomes an untitled collection of generalizations that mobilize the eye.

Robert Smithson, "Some Void Thoughts On Museums" (1967)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Sea #3, The Animal Kingdom #2, Foreign Lands #7

Little islands are all large prisons: one cannot look at the sea without wishing for the wings of the swallow.

Sir Richard Burton, Wanderings in West Africa, 1863

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Manhattan #5

Test of the first elevated railway, Greenwich Street, Charles T. Harvey, inventor-operator, July 3, 1867

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Apocalypse #6, Time #4

Le passé ne sert qu’à connaître l’actualité. Mais l’actualité m’échappe. Qu’est-ce que c’est donc que l’actualité?

Henri Focillon

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Word of the Day #13


Monday, October 02, 2006

Food #5

A dreary old cliché has it that “one should eat to live and not live to eat.” It is typical that this imbecile concept, a deliberately fruitless paradox born of the puritan mind, should deny sensuous reaction at either pole, and it is fortunate that neither pole really exists, for man is incapable of being either altogether dumbly bestial or altogether dumbly “mental.”

Richard Olney

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Art #5, Gardens #4, Shakespeare #5

PERDITA: For I haue heard it said,
There is an Art, which in their pidenesse shares
With great creating-Nature.
POLIXENES:     Say there be:
Yet Nature is made better by no meane,
But Nature makes that Meane: so ouer that Art,
(Which you say addes to Nature) is an Art
That Nature makes: you see (sweet Maid) we marry
A gentler Sien, to the wildest Stocke,
And make conceyue a barke of baser kinde
By bud of Nobler race. This is an Art
Which do's mend Nature: change it rather, but
The Art it selfe, is Nature.

Willam Shakespeare, A Winter’s Tale