Monday, May 16, 2016

Clarence Thomas tells graduates to simply be good citizens

Clarence Thomas tells graduates to simply be good citizens: 'Hallmarks of my youth such as patriotism and religion seem more like outliers, if not afterthoughts.'

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas urged college graduates who seek to "preserve liberty" to do so by fulfilling the duties of their daily vocations rather than attempting to achieve sweeping political goals.
"At the risk of understating what is necessary to preserve liberty in our form of government, I think more and more that it depends on good citizens, discharging their daily duties in their daily obligations," Thomas said Saturday during a commencement address at Hillsdale College, a small liberal arts college in Michigan.
Thomas lamented various aspects of contemporary society, especially with regard to colleges and universities. He diagnosed what he regards as a contemporary tendency to take pride in having "grievances rather than personal conduct" and to focus on individual rights as citizens, rather than responsibilities. "Hallmarks of my youth such as patriotism and religion seem more like outliers, if not afterthoughts," Thomas said.

He added, "Do not hide your faith and your beliefs under a bushel basket, especially in this world that seems to have gone mad with political correctness."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Andrea Ostrov Letania: Neo-Fascist Consideration of MURIEL(by Alain Resnais & Jean Cayrol) and ATLANTIC CITY(by Louis Malle & John Guare) — and some notes on THE EXORCIST by William Friedkin and William Blatty. Part 2.



















Continued from Part 1 of the Blogpost: http://ostrovletania.blogspot.com/2016/01/neo-fascist-consideration-of-murielby.html

French cultural dominance was served by French political dominance, but even after the fading of France hegemony in economics and military power, French culture maintained its prestige as long as the cultural mode of Europe remained elitist, intellectual, and/or Eurocentric(for lack of a better term). Despite the great achievements in art, literature, and music among Germans, Russians, Poles, and others, France continued to maintain its edge in most areas of culture and ideas. The only real rivals were the Germans and Italians in music and then later, Germans in philosophy. While one could argue that Russia produced a number of writers who were as great or greater than any produced by France, French literature by and large eclipsed the output of all other European nations combined, with the exception of Britain, but there was a continental bias against the Britons who weren’t necessarily regarded as Europeans.
In the age of aristocracy, most new fashions and dances originated in France. (French aura and prestige were such that, instead of coming up with their own styles, non-French high societies just waited eagerly for the French to come up with the new and different. Or, the creative and original among the non-French might move to France, often permanently, to breathe in the creative air and live as expatriates, thus becoming French in espirit.) Great non-French artists, thinkers, and activists often drew their elixir from the French cultural spring.

Lucky for the French and European culture in general, even with the fall of the aristocratic order following WWI, elitism was alive and well in the world of arts and letters, even at the core of Modernism, which, though anti-traditional, also tended to be anti-populist, ala Hollywood and Mass Culture. Modernist Art was clearly not for everyone; one needed to be in-the-know to appreciate movements like ‘cubism’, ‘surrealism’, and other isms. And despite the radical rise of mass politics, intellectualism was very much in the air in a culture that was overwhelmingly literary. Men-of-Letters commanded the most respect. It sure was no strike against Lenin to have written enough material to fill up many volumes. And it was a time of Big Ideas when an intellectual worthy of his name was expected to produce a tome like DAS KAPITAL, THE DECLINE OF THE WEST, or BEING AND TIME.
The deeper meaning of Marxism could only be understood by intellectuals who could make sense out of stuff like DAS KAPITAL. Even intellectuals who spoke in the name of the people most often spoke and polemicized in the language of intellectualism and theoretics, sometimes esoteric and difficult to discern at times — the masses might respect these people in the way that the illiterate and semi-literate in earlier times were impressed by the clergy who could recite Latin, the language of sanctity. Even as intellectuals and radicals spoke in the name of the People, their vanity as thinkers and secular prophets followed in the age-old tradition: They deserved to lead the people because they knew so much more than the people. Consider the Frankfurt School.

Of course, intellectuals switched gears accordingly, pandering to general readers when not writing for intellectual peers, be they allies, rivals, or enemies. So, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote philosophical tomes and books that made no sense except to those ‘in the know’, but he also wrote popular material for general readers in the mass media. Modern intellectuals wanted to have the cake and eat it too: Establish and solidify their credentials as important thinkers who could only be understood by a select few(with sufficiently high intellect and broad erudition) AND play to the people to show that their ideas were relevant to real people with real problems. And such vanity existed on the Right as well, which is why National Socialists, with their deep inferiority complex in matters of arts and culture — as the great majority of most prominent thinkers, artists, and performers of late modernity were leftist, liberal, and/or apolitical than reactionary or right-wing — , invoked or feted important thinkers and artists to stock their movement with respectability. So, Hitler and other National Socialist intellectual-strivers might quote figures like Nietzsche or show gratitude for the support, even if half-hearted, of men like Oswald Spengler, Martin Heidegger, Knut Hamsum, and others. Though some film scholars have called into question Fritz Lang’s account of Goebbels’ offering him control of German cinema, it wouldn’t have been out of character in the context of Nazi intellectual and cultural aspirations. Indeed, right-wing regimes even reached out to left-leaning artists and thinkers to garner some degree of ‘respect’. (Consider how Franco’s regime tried to win over Luis Bunuel. It was all the more frustrating for the Right because, even though right-wing regimes generally offered more freedom than left-wing regimes did, Western intellectuals still preferred leftism with its tendency toward totalitarianism over rightism that was, at worst, only authoritarian. How is this paradox to be explained? Why would so many Western thinkers and artists feel closer affinity toward totalitarian regimes of the left than to authoritarian regimes of the right? One reason is that rightist regimes could be more nakedly brutal precisely because of the greater freedoms. Since rightist regimes didn’t control everything, there was more opportunity for opposition and resistance. When things got out of hand, the only way to maintain control was to crack some heads. In contrast, because leftist regimes eradicated the very roots of potential opposition and seeded every child with dogma from cradle, the result was more social peace and cohesion. So, leftist regimes externally seemed more harmonious than rightist regimes. Another reason is that Western intellectuals, in their radical zeal, dreamed of having absolute power to change society for the better. Rightist regimes allowed a degree of freedom, but intellectuals couldn’t do much with it except write books and make some art. In contrast, leftist regimes could be idealized as the means for totally remaking society for the better. So, even if most Western intellectuals were likely to be more free in a rightist regime than in a leftist one, the most that rightist authoritarianism offered them was small personal freedoms. In contrast, while leftist regime could mean NO freedom at all, it could also mean TOTAL power in the hands of intellectuals to create utopia. Rightism meant some freedom and limited action, whereas Leftism could mean total freedom and total power for the intellectuals to do as they pleased. It was the risk that intellectuals and leftist artists were willing to take, at least from afar in their role as Western Intellectuals, like the ones in THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE by Denys Arcand.) And this became even a bigger problem after WWII as Western Europe, that had come under German invasion/occupation, held the conviction that right-wing Germany under National Socialism was the biggest evil that had ever existed. And once the Holocaust became ever more prominent in the historical/moral narrative, even right-wing or right-leaning thinkers and artists had to be very careful about their political or ideological affinities and affiliations. Though one could argue that the Soviets had been as murderous as the Nazis, Western Europeans hadn’t been directly affected by communism, and besides, Soviet Union had done the most to defeat Nazi Germany. (And with American Empire as the main enemy of the USSR, Western Europeans who resented American power naturally saw Americanism as ‘right-wing’; the Vietnam War especially gave Americans the reputation as the New Nazis.) So, while the European Left could be rabid, virulent, and extreme in the aftermath of WWII, the European Right had to be very cautious(even if it had been anti-Nazi during WWII). The cultural climate was such that Franco’s right-wing Spain eagerly catered to artists like Picasso and Luis Bunuel in the hope of having them return to Spain. Though Picasso was actively allied with communists, anarchists, and the like and even though Bunuel was famous for his anti-clerical subversiveness, the Spanish government hoped that associations with such artists might improve its image around the world. The Spanish government also had an open-arm policy to film-makers. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was filmed there, as well as many Spaghetti Westerns, even those with leftist and/or anti-American themes.
At any rate, even after WWII, intellectualism and elitism defined much of Western Culture. European leftism was also organized around elitist attitudes. The most influential intellectual-cultural figures of this period were arguably Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus whose novels and plays administered heavy doses of socio-political philosophy. Indeed, both figures alternated among creative writing and philosophical writing and political writing, and often, the three modes were combined. And with the rise of the middle class in America in the post-war period, there was a mass desire for respectability, phenomenon that came to be denigrated as ‘mid-cult-ism’ by Dwight MacDonald. MacDonald’s point was that low/popular culture could be perfectly entertaining for what it is(honest trash), but high/elite/serious culture required the best of vision, depth, originality, and/or truth. It required genius and purity of commitment. MacDonald was fine with both honest low culture and singular high culture. What got his goat was this kitschy thing called ‘middlebrow’ culture that either inflated the low to faux-seriousness(or faux-respectability) OR diluted the high to something more generic and accessible. And MacDonald wasn’t entirely incorrect about the middlebrow audience not really being interested in art; they were really into ‘Art’ as status symbol, like the Shelly Winters’ character in Kubrick’s version of LOLITA. They might hang a reproduction of a Picasso or Vogh because it signified Kultur. They might attend operas because it was what the ‘best kind of people’ did. And they might mistake movies like BEN HUR or JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG as ‘art’ while being blind to the merits of HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR or L’AVVENTURA. (Or they might pretend to appreciate the Resnais or Antonioni film because it happened to be the ‘talk of the town’. Middlebrow audiences generally had no intellectual or cultural ‘agency’ of their own.)
Anyway, the immediate postwar era in America saw the dramatic rise of the middle class. The working class was also doing well, and ‘middle class consciousness’ began to infect their identity as well. In earlier eras, the ‘middle class’ didn’t necessarily mean those in the middle; it generally referred to white collar workers, the relatively affluent, the professional class. Varying among Western nations, the middle class might up 10 to 20% of the population, the majority of which was still made up of working class, servant class, underclass, and small farmers.
Prior to WWII, many American working class folks didn’t entertain notions of joining the middle class. They might want their kids to gain middle class status through education and social striving, but there was a clear class division between the working class and the middle class, and everyone knew that the vast majority of the population was well below the so-called ‘middle class’; and of course, middle-class-ness varied from race to race, ethnic group to ethnic group. Thus, the black middle class might be only 5% to 10% of the entire black population, and there would have been far fewer Italian-American middle class folks than among Anglo-Americans in a state like NY. Also, standards for ‘middle-class’ status varied among different groups. What might be considered ‘middle class’ among ethnic immigrant populations might have been deemed lower among the Anglo-Americans. After WWII, there wasn’t only a vast expansion of the middle class by the numbers — those working in white collar jobs, professional jobs, or owing small businesses — but by a change in consciousness whereby even those in working class occupations felt themselves to be part of the ‘middle class’. As working class folks got higher wages, could afford homes(with help of loans), own a car or two, and send kids to college, the working class became like a lower-middle class in America, especially as class consciousness in America had never been as strong as in Europe. Part of the reason was the relative freedom and greater fluidity of social mobility in America, but there was also the factor of ethnic diversity. Generally, class consciousness thrives most in homogeneous nations where the working class might unite against the upper classes. In America, the ethnic and even racial diversity of the working class and farming class made it less likely for American workers and farmers to come together to form a coalition based on class. So, even if the Irish-American working class, Italian-American working class, Polish-American working class, Jewish-American working class, Anglo-American working class, black-American working class, and etc. shared certain common economic interests, they favored tribal unity over class unity, especially as the fortunes among the various groups differed greatly. Furthermore, some groups were more adept at socio-economic elevation, and it made little sense for such groups to cling to lower-class identity when their child had a good chance of rising to higher classes. (If West Virginia hillbillies were stuck in their working-class or lower-class status — seemingly permanently — , Greek-Americans might rise high within a few generations.) Thus, a poor Irish-American might feel closer to a rich Irish-American than to a poor Italian-American, and vice versa. When Italian-Americans needed special help, they might to mafia bosses than Union bosses, but then, Union-related organizations ran along ethnic lines(and could even be managed by people connected to organized crime). Thus, Irish-Americans had their faction in the Unions, and so did other groups, just like blacks in Congress have their Black Caucus. Since poor Irish-Americans felt closer to rich and powerful Irish-Americans, poor Italian-Americans felt closer to rich and powerful Italian-Americans, and poor Jewish-Americans felt closer to rich and powerful Jewish-Americans, America was bound to be more pro-capitalist. Even if an Irish-American remained poor, the sight of a rich and powerful Irish-American made him feel pride and power by association. Things were different back in Ireland, of course. Since almost everyone was Irish, there was no need to worry about tribal loyalty or national power since it was understood that all Irish, leftist or rightist, were for Ireland. So, the divisions, such as they existed, were more about class.
But no such ethnic or national sense of power could be taken for granted in America where each ethnic group had its own stake in its struggle for the ‘piece of the pie’. So, the default mode of each group was to root for the successful and powerful of their own kind. Thus, Irish-Americans came to place their hopes on powerful Irish-Americans, and this was true of blacks as well(though, to be sure, blacks came to rely on rich Jews who funded black movements in order to paralyze white gentiles with the stinging venom of ‘white guilt’.) In the South, poor whites sided with rich whites, and poor blacks sided with rich blacks.

Anyway, the huge middle class boom after WWII led to cultural neurosis among many Americans. Before middle-class-ness became the norm, most Americans had no great aspirations; they knew that life was about going to work, raising a family, growing old, retiring, and dying. They knew they weren’t going to college and their kids won’t be going to college either. Their cultural life revolved around Church, family, and the local community. But with the rise and spread of middle-class-ness, many Americans felt they should know some fancy art and culture. No longer could they snub the arts & culture with attitudes like, "What’s the big idear?" To keep up with the Joneses — who might have traveled to Europe, bought fashionable clothing, joined the Book Club, and saved money to send their kids to college — , many Americans figured they should have some taste and intellect. Maybe they should take their kids to the museum once in awhile. Maybe they should watch a foreign film now and then. Maybe they should buy the Harvard Classics for the library in the basement. Maybe they should subscribe to some ‘intellectual’ magazines like The New Yorker. And maybe they should lose some of their provincialism, whether it be rooted in small town values, Old World ethnic customs, or Christian moralism. Maybe they should gaining an inkling of sophisticated stuff like ‘psychology’, especially the fashionable theories of Freud that challenge the so-called New England Puritanism that supposedly made America repressive(politically as well as sexually), though to be sure, the Catholic communities probably had more to do with cultural censoriousness in the 20th century, and besides, the classic Communist Left was hardly made up of ‘free love’ libertines, and they loathed Rock n Roll as ‘capitalist-hedonistic-consumerist’ music and flipped out when Dylan ‘went electric’ at the Newport Festival. Anyway, because of all such aspirations of the nouveau-middle-class that didn’t know how to be truly ‘middle class’ — in the respectable bourgeois and/or intellectual bohemian sense — , they needed lessons and cues from the ‘better’, ‘smarter’, and/or ‘hipper’ kind of people.
Of course, there were plenty of newly-minted middle class folks who were happy to be like Ralph Kramden or Archie Bunker(of "All in the Family") and mocked all the fancy stuff — ironically, it’s Gloria and Meathead who are more middle-class strivers despite their professed ‘radicalism’ because they have a craving for socio-moral elevation and ‘intellectual’ sophistication & respectability — , but the first few decades after WWII was a hopeful and anxious time for many middle class Americans who were optimistic about improving living standards and rising expectations. And instead of the lower-classes striving to climb up to the classic definition of middle class status — as had been the case in earlier periods — , it was as if middle-class-ness took on a life of its own and flowed downward as an all-inclusive concept. The idea of class became ‘fluid’ in the US long before sexuality did. So, even if one remained in the working class — laboring in an auto factory for example — in the technical sense, one could earn sufficient wages to afford something like a ‘middle class lifestyle’. If some nouveau middle class Americans were happy enough with shiny cars and home ownership — like the Clint Eastwood character in GRAN TORINO — , others were more like the James Mason character in BIGGER THAN LIFE. They might feel that middle-class-ness was not enough and hankered for higher status, even elite status, and such obsessions were widespread among middle class Jews, which is rather ironic since the political ideology among Jews was generally to the Left, i.e. Jews yammered about ‘social justice’ and ‘equality but focused on attaining socio-economic success or cultural influence that further separated them from the ‘rabble’. It’s no wonder that there are so many affluent Jews in Manhattan who enjoy the finest and most exclusive privileges but constantly harp and yammer about how ‘evil, wicked, and racist’ white folks(meaning white gentiles) are. Since Jewish hypocrisy is plainly visible to anyone with an honest pair of eyes, one would expect much criticism and satire about Jewish power, but it simply isn’t so. As Jews dominate the media, comedy, and satire, most of social criticism and commentary in America would have us believe that a ‘white Hispanic’ like George Zimmerman and the fictional KKK at Oberlin college pose the greatest threat to justice in America.

Anyway, there was a new striving for respectability among the nouveau-middle-class. But because of the influence of modernism & avant-garde-ism and the fashionableness of ‘radicalism’, the neo-respectability wasn’t like traditional bourgeois respectability centered around manners, sobriety, and propriety. While the traditional bourgeois ideal didn’t fade overnight, the American intellectual elites looked to Europeans and European emigres for Big Ideas, and one of the biggest figures was Jean-Paul Sartre, who even visited America in the 1950s and wrote something in the spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville. The problem was Sartre was a radical Marxist, anti-capitalist, and anti-American(despite his bourgeois privileges). Indeed, many of the ‘leading’ thinkers, intellectuals, artists, writers, and performers of the postwar era in America were radical-leaning, not least because American culture, both elitist and populist, had been transformed from the 1930s to the 1950s with the arrival of European, especially Jewish, emigre elites. On the one hand, due to their intellectualism and European-ism, the Jewish emigre thinkers were conflated with seriousness and respectability. After all, the unwashed masses didn’t read philosophy or attend art galleries featuring the latest avant-garde works. It was the elites and the aspiring middle classes who did. But such works were ideologically ‘radical’ and ‘subversive’ even if they were mainly consumed by privileged sophisticates who hung around ‘respectable’ institutions such as museums and universities. Indeed, consider the films of Luis Bunuel that ceaselessly mocked the bourgeoisie in the name of the Revolution or some radical notion. And yet, the great majority of people who watched his films were members of the bourgeoisie and their children who, for all their ‘radical’ or ‘neo-Marxist’ posturing, were headed to college and sought social elevation. Thus, ‘radicalism’ and respectability merged into one, into ‘radictability’. To be sure, this was nothing new as the European bourgeoisie had constituted the bulk of the audience and patrons of modernism in art and produced children who were most likely to adopt fashionably ‘radical’ ideas — that were increasingly less about the substance of economic revolution and more about styles of transgression that hardly threatened the economic powers-that-be and, if anything, served it with mocking flattery — , but what differentiated the postwar period in both Europe and America was that the middle class was much larger, and many more people had access to this fusion of radicalism and respectability. To watch and discuss a film like Jean-Luc Godard’s BREATHLESS was both respectable and ‘radical’. It was indeed a new kind of cinema with dangerous ideas and a subversive outlook, but it was also the favorite of film festivals organized and attended mostly by those with means and sensibility(attained through higher education). And the film was written about mostly in journals for the ‘better kind of people’. So, while the ‘unwashed masses’ — who were, to be sure, the well-showered masses due to mass availability of modern plumbing — were more into Hollywood movies and pop music, the more ‘intellectual’ and ‘sophisticated’ types were ‘thinking’ about Godard’s film and the French New Wave(and Modern Jazz), and of course, the bulk of such people tended to be middle class types in big cities or college towns. You can see the combination of respectability and radicalism in the Folk Movement, especially in the figure of Bob Dylan.
A Jewishy Italian-American folk-rocker artist(who carried on his shoulder an orange tabby cat if not a Siamese one) in INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS by the Coen Brothers who want to be the Bob Dylan of cinema.
The Folk Movement, though ostensibly inspired by rural and rustic tunes, was essentially an urban movement with a lot of city-slicker Jews. Though it was supposedly for The People, it’s main supporters and fans were socially aspiring middle class folks, many of whom could afford to attend college. Most working class types and Negroes couldn’t stand the Folk Movement. It’s like the Fonz flips out when he discovers that folk music is the new craze in HAPPY DAYS. They were into rhythm-n-blues, rock-n-roll, or real folk music of the local community. Real folk culture was about hillbillies singing hillbilly songs, cowboys singing cowboy songs, Negroes singing Negro songs, Polish-Americans playing the Polka, the Irish-Americans singing "Danny Boy" for the umpteenth time, and etc. Though over time, different ethnic styles did influence one another, the borrowing across cultural lines happened to be ‘accidental’ than willful. In contrast, the Folk Movement was a kind of earnest charade where mostly city-slickers sampled various styles and pretended to represent local cultures of which they were not a part. (It was earnest in the sense that many in the Folk Movement tried to be as faithful to the original music as much as possible. It was later that musical interest in ethnic music became post-modern in the manner of David Byrne and others who reveled in the fusionary joy of irreverent eclecticism.) Jews were especially adept at this, not least because their Zelig-ish nature had already cornered the market on writing Christmas songs. The Folk Music Movement combined elements of American strains of puritanism — ‘pristine’ music of the souls of honest salt-of-the-earth folks as opposed to popular music concocted by cynical profit-driven capitalist industries — , progressivism, populism, and elitism/respectability. It was less about what the masses were really wanted and liked than about what the educated, idealistic, radical, and/or respectable members of the Movement thought the masses should really like. It was more about idealism than realism, even though the appeal of Folk Music was supposedly that it had risen from the ‘real’ people.
But over time, middle class kids soon tired of "Erie Canal" and "This Land Is Your Land"(already a pseudo-folk song by Woody Guthrie who was something of a faker as a ‘hobo’ poet-of-the-people). The stuff was getting boring, and so, the arrival of Bob Dylan in the folk scene was like godsend. He looked and sang rougher than the others, thereby seeming authentic, even though he was a Jewish kid from a middle class family. More significantly, despite the earnestness of songs like "Blowing in the Wind", there was wit, originality, brilliance, and eccentricity generally lacking in the other folkies. Instead of being the typical boring Mr. Do-gooder who was dime-a-dozen in the Folk Movement, Dylan was infected with the edgy hipsterism of the jazzy Beat Generation. And even his moralistic songs had a certain irony and playfulness that went beyond the kind of save-the-world drivel sung by Joan Baez whose falsetto voice turned everything into a holier-than-thou homily.
Also, there was a cerebral component to Dylan’s songs even in the early years — logical gamesmanship, crazy quilt imagery, or allusions to historical and literary sources — that was like cheese and wine to the Folkie community composed of intellectual types repressing their own intellectualism(lest it be overly elitist for a movement committed to the People); Folk Movement was made of intellectually-repressed intellectuals.
So, a song like the "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" wasn’t merely a sermon but a kind of thought experiment, with Dylan posing certain mind-games: "But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears, Take the rag away from your face, Now ain't the time for your tears." Dylan seemed to be both flattering and mocking his listeners: flattering them for having the decency to care about the death of Hattie Carroll and raptly listening to his song, but also mocking them down for their preference of comfort of self-righteous sentimentality over commitment to real action. And yet, the song isn’t a simple call for action either — like John Lennon’s later song "Power to the People" — but self-reflective and self-mocking as well. Thus, it sermonizes but subverts its own sermonizing; it praises the caring audience but sneers at the narcissism of ‘caring’. Dylan was playing it on several levels and shaping folk music from a simple moral matter to a twisted moral maze. Dylan’s impact on the Folk scene was so fast and profound that it soon couldn’t do without him, which is why it was all the more jarring to see him go ‘electric’ at Newport. It was one thing for Dylan to add sugar and spice to the Folk Movement. It was quite another for him to feed alcohol to the kids. It was as if Moses descended Sinai not with the Ten Commandments but with the Golden Calf. It was as if the Negro in LILIES OF THE FIELD got the nuns into Charlie Parker than merely singing gospel in a more vibrant way.
One wonders. Suppose Dylan hadn’t joined the Folk movement, and it came to be defined by the likes of Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul, and Mary(without the songs contributed by Dylan). The Folk Movement may never had an ‘edge’ and might have petered out as a cultural statement in the early 60s(and may not have sprouted a branch called Folk Rock). Dylan infused the Folk Movement with new life, and without him, it might have had nowhere to go.
Dylan did most for the Folk Movement in the 1960s but also did most to undermine it by leaving it. In leaving, he wittingly or unwittingly played pied piper to a whole bunch of others folkies — like members of the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield — who chose to compose personal music than stick to old folkie standards. And once power of personality took precedence over populist politics in what remained of the Folk Movement, all sorts of creative possibilities opened up.
If Pete Seeger hated Dylan’s electric songs, imagine how he probably felt about the Byrds’ "Eight Miles High" or "Hey Mr. Spaceman". (Though men like Pete Seeger were all for Negro rights, they also subconsciously feared the wild-ass muscular Negro and believed that traditional Folk Music, white or black, was the best way to bring the races together. Such music would tame their wilder energies — especially those of the jive-ass Negroes who be stronger than white folks — and make them more reverent toward older folks, noble workers, and social values. If Negroes were encouraged to act wild and crazy, race relations would fall apart. So, Seeger saw Rock n Roll and ‘electric music’ akin to feeding alcohol to the Indians. Given the history of Black Rampage that soon followed the Civil Rights Movement, Seeger wasn’t entirely wrong even though, of course, he never spelled it out that way. Rap music is all the rage, but Rap Culture makes it more difficult for non-blacks to get along with crazy-ass Negroes into Thugro Culture.) Once Dylan went electric, inhibitions began to drop like flies in the Folkie community despite the opposition of diehard purists, and many soon followed in Dylan’s footsteps. Folk went from Protest music to Personal music. It was more about self-expression than save-the-world.
Yet, if the infusion of hedonistic and neurotic strains loosened up the Folkie community, the ‘defection’ of Dylan from ‘folk’ to ‘pop’ made pop music more serious than ever before. Folk music was about ‘save the world’ while Pop music was about ‘see my girl’, but as Rock musicians began to see themselves as messengers(as Dylan had been during the Protest phase) than mere entertainers, they felt compelled to make grand statements, such as "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles and "We Love You" by the Rolling Stones.
Bob Dylan as Personal Artist
And yet, there was the third factor in all this: Art. Bob Dylan’s standing even in his Protest Music phase owed to his extraordinary creativity. He wasn’t merely righteous but ‘writeous’, expressing himself in words and attitude that posed double-edged challenge; his persona stood apart from mainstream values and radical activism, both of which had their own rules of conformism. Even though the likes of Pete Seeger were pretending that Dylan was the heir to Woody Guthrie, the inconvenient truth was that Dylan — despite his genuine appreciation for Guthrie — wanted to be something more than a singer, activist, or spokesman. Despite his hobo-protest persona, he was too smart, too curious, too cultured, too literate, and too ambitious. He wanted to be an Artist. Since art-for-art’s-sake was anathema to the Old Left(that had a strong presence in the Folk Movement) that believed in the moralistic, even Stalinist, notion of art serving the masses, Dylan the artist initially remained in the closet, but with every new song and every new album, Dylan composed songs that had increasingly less to do with ‘saving the world’ and ‘loving your brother’ and more to do with love, desire, obsessions, and neurosis. And even as Folkies appreciated Dylan for his do-goodiness and political consciousness, they were also turned on by his eccentricity, imagination, and originality. This artistic side of Dylan was unstable in the Folkie community. It was radioactive and could lead to a meltdown. In DON’T LOOK BACK, we see Dylan performing a song in Britain, and the audience listens with rapt and reverent attention. Even when they laugh, they are cued to laugh by Dylan who signals that he’s making a joke. The demeanor of the audience is anti-Beatlemania. If Beatlemaniacs lost control and screamed like lunatics, Dylan’s audience in the film seem so very serious and concerned about the world. It’s like they’re at a church service. And yet, elements of middle class anxiety could be discerned among the audience. Dylan seemed more respectable than the Beatles or Rock n Roll because he was being serious and meaningful. The postwar nouveau-middle-class in US and UK were in search of a proper way of being respectable and ‘modern’, and Dylan the Folkie appeared to be offering a way, an alternative to traditional/serious culture that seemed old-fashioned and Pop Culture that seemed shallow and inane. Dylan was both fun enough but also serious enough. Also, the literary quality of Dylan’s lyrics — notice how the British audience in the film sit ever-so-still and quietly, listening to every word as if their life depended on it — gave him the cachet of ‘intellectualism’ then lacking in pop music and Rock-n-Roll, the lyrics of which was mocked by Steven Allen in his reading of "Be Bop a Lula" as a poem. Though song lyrics can’t be read like poetry, even literary folks were impressed by Dylan’s literary prowess in a song like "A Hard Day’s Nights Gonna Fall", which was only a prelude to masterpieces like "Visions of Johanna". If Dylan’s artier folk songs could be depreciated as pretentious middlebrow — a kind of Ezra Pounds meets Woody Guthrie — , this was no longer the case beginning with HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED and BLONDE ON BLONDE. Middlebrow-ness, after all, is marked by a certain calculation and insecurity. In balancing populist and elitist elements, the middlebrow artist seeks respect from above but also holds onto his existing popular audience. Furthermore, middlebrow-ness offers cover against both sides. If dismissed by the elites, the middlebrow artist can claim that his arty stuff was only in jest and fall back on his existing populist audience. If rejected by the popular audience, the middlebrow artist can appeal to the elites as the only ones who can truly appreciate his intentions. Middlebrow sensibility inflects a song like "Gates of Eden" that, though impressive, strains to be poetic even while passing itself as a protest song. And even though "Desolation Row" on HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED is a great song, it too has elements of strain with its endless name-dropping allusions. But most of the songs on HIGHWAY and nearly all the songs on BLONDE ON BLONDE are not products of calculation but of eruption of creative stresses and contradictions that had formed over the years. The energy and power seem beyond conscious control. It’s as if Dylan’s wits and passions all melted into magma that went volcanic into stratosphere. While Dylan did his best to control and channel these forces into music, he couldn’t have known how these forces were being created within him and when they would erupt. And when these energies had run their course, he was drained and struggling regain equilibrium.
Dylan's Retreat in Woodstock from the Peak Creative Period in 1966
Few artists fully recover from such overflow of creativity. They ponder their achievement feel either intimidated or emboldened, leading to excessive anxiety(as if to wonder, "How did I do that?"), excessive arrogance(as if to feel, "Whatever I touch is magic."), or excessive self-consciousness(as if to consciously formulate what had been a creative ‘miracle’). Genius, especially the creative kind, can never be entirely conscious and thus remains mysterious. Highly intelligent or talented individuals often achieve remarkable things through conscious calculation, but their greatest achievements, sparked by inspiration from an unknown place, surprise even them.
Anyway, Federico Fellini didn’t recover after 8 ½, and Sam Peckinpah never came close to anything on the level of THE WILD BUNCH again. It took nearly a decade and half for Tarkovsky to make another film comparable in greatness to ANDREI RUBLEV: the ‘science-fiction’ film STALKER. (Though there’s been talk about computers making music in the future, will it ever be capable of producing something like BLONDE ON BLONDE? Will it have personality, eccentricity, and sense of biography that makes Dylan’s album so singular.
Already, we have people composing music with the help of test-marketing, advanced electronics, and psychological studies. It’s almost as if they’ve turned the art of music into a computer software, an app. To maximize market share and profits, music industries recruit psychologists to test market what kinds of beats, rhythms, melodies, and harmonies appeal the greatest number of young people. (The industry goal is to turn consumers into addicts. It used to be that the industry focused on catchy melodies that might become hits. But this approach led to too many misses. It took genuine individual talent of, say, a Carole King, Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, or Smokey Robinson to come up with memorable melodies. Now, melodies are secondary to the ‘sound’, the all pervasive rhythm and beat that are almost indistinguishable from song to song. So, even if the melody is limp or tiresome, the songs are sustained with busy beats that provide the high. The ideal of the individual artist was to be as distinct from others as possible. The model of the idol, now favored by the industry, is to be as generic as possible. Such genericism, however, goes unnoticed by many because of the salacious nature of the material that makes it seem ‘daring’ and ‘rebellious’.) And computer engineers keep ‘perfecting’ software and technologies that make it easier for composers to add and mix all kinds of sounds — just about anyone can download programs that can turn any spoken speech into a ‘song’. So based on data of what turns people on — how their senses function and respond to certain electronic-stimuli — a globo-style of music has become the standard around the world. Consider how so many songs now sound alike whether they’re from Japan, France, or India. Indeed, 90% of them might as well have been produced by computer programs. Though every musical genre has its own formula, there were many more dominant genres around the world than there is now in the era of globo-standardization — most musical styles around the world are like non-American imitation of MTV. Furthermore, unique eccentricities matter less than formulaic syntheticism that pervades the idol-centrism of the music industry. Song-smiths matter less than Song-programmers, and spontaneous personalities matter less than well-drilled performers. The diminishment of personality has been compensated by intensification of pornographics, i.e. "I’m special because I’m pornier than you." If unique talent and style no longer draw the line between worthy and unworthy, there is only ‘me so horny’ versus ‘me so hornier’. (Likewise, in the Art World, the total collapse of meaningful artistic criteria has led to Worth — of contemporary art — being judged almost solely by financial value via cynical manipulation. Art was always an investment, but it used to be art works were expensive because they had artistic value, like the works of Vincent van Gogh. Nowadays, the finance comes first, i.e. if enough insiders rig up the price of an ‘art work’, it has value regardless of artistic value. It’s like finance once used to serve manufacturing, productive, investment, and saving economy, but now, so much of Wall Street is geared to playing games to increase value through insider tricks, especially among Jews, explaining why so many of the Jewish super-rich made their massive fortunes in finance.)
Stevie Nicks was unmistakably Stevie Nicks, and no one mistook her for Joni Mitchell or Carole King, but does anyone really care about the differences among the latest madonna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Rhianna, Skankasshokura, and etc? They have different styles to be sure, but they all look so manufactured.
Of course, there are still surprises like Cady Groves whose amazing album THE LIFE OF A PIRATE is comparable to the early songs of Loretta Lynn. Cady is real in ways that pop idols are not.
Cady Groves who staked her musical claim with songs of real experience and emotions. Sadly, the industry is turning her into yet another bubbly plastic idol. Her music went from chewing jerky to chewing gum. This happens all the time in pop music. A genuine talent with something real to say is surrounded by 'friends' and agents who pretend to 'care' and know what's best for the artist. In no time, they turn her into just another a dime-a-dozen industry idol. When she started out, there was no one like her. Now, her agenda seems to be another Katy Perry.
Anyway, as psychologists gain a better understanding of the human mind, their knowledge will be bought to serve the entertainment industry’s agenda of ‘perfecting’ what the masses want to see and hear — just like food industries have ‘perfected’ fast foods, sweets, and drinks that are most appealing and addictive to couch-potatoes. It might not be long before computers come up with tunes more infectious than any written by humans. But, will computers be able to produce something like BLONDE ON BLONDE that is so richly biographical, personal, neurotic, and eccentric? And sublimely ‘flawed’? Probably not. (Sublime flaws can be more interesting than standard ideals. It’s like a Barbie-like pretty woman is obviously attractive but lacks the element of mystery. But when a woman who isn’t conventionally pretty has certain odd qualities of style and personality that make her strangely alluring, she may be far more interesting that the standard beauties. This goes for men too. Charles Bronson wasn’t conventionally good-looking. In some ways, he could even be said to be ugly. But when used right, he embodied depths of strength and manhood lacking in the pretty boy or the muscle-head. Dylan wasn’t conventionally a good singer, and he wasn’t the pop tune-smith of the caliber of Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Smokey Robinson, and many others. He really had to struggle and crawl out of the cave of inadequacies and insecurities to become one of the giants of 20th century music. For his voice and image to be justified, he had to create a music of originality, personality, biography, and eccentricity so that his work would be singular and unique. He had to create his own standards for his own expression. It was a tall order to achieve, and he achieved it.) Of course, a work like BLONDE ON BLONDE isn’t for everyone. After all, despite all the accolades showered upon Dylan over the years, he’s never come close to selling the volume of the acts with the biggest popularity. Dylan relied on the artier and intellectual set in a musical culture geared primarily for hormone-drenched teenagers.
Likewise, despite the high regard for Andrei Tarkovsky, ANDREI RUBLEV will never have mass appeal. Artistic perfectionism of a Tarkovsky is entirely different from the economic perfectionism of Hollywood, the main objective of which is to maximize profits and maintain market dominance. To be sure, it’s not just about profits but about Jewish power. Hollywood could surely make a lot of money by making movies with blonde heroes battling wicked greedy Jews, but why would Hollywood Jews spread a message that might undermine their dominant stake in society? Thus, most ‘conservative’ Hollywood movies are designed to channel white Conservative rage at foreign enemies while enforcing the taboo forbidding the portrayal of domestic Jews as villains. Hollywood and other Jewish centers of culture have been perfecting not only the profit-mechanism but the ideological-mechanism of shaping mass minds into Jewish-friendly sheeple. Thus, a show like WILL & GRACE is meant not only to rake in lots of dough but to disseminate Jewish and Homo supremacist message in the most effective way so that vast numbers of gentiles will be brain-addled into slavish suckers of Jews and homos.
The human mind is under intense study & scrutiny in top universities in America, but much of these insights and understanding are being employed and exploited by a capitalism that is unmoored from morals & values and only cares about profits — even if it means turning the masses into soulless morons. No better is that the political culture is dominated by a fearful & paranoid hostile elites — mainly Jews and some homos — who use the knowledge of the mind not to enlighten us as thinking adults but to manipulate us as dumb children. Indeed, one gets a strange feeling while reading Steven Pinker’s books like THE BLANK SLATE and BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE. On the one hand, they are packed with all manner of new discoveries and theories about the mind and human nature, but there is a sly nagging insistence that certain taboos — especially those pertaining to race — must remain as such because free discussion may bring about the decline or even fall of Jewish power. Pinker is essentially trying to touch upon the reality of biology — something the Jewish Left has been publicly allergic to — to render it safe for politically correct consumption. To admit the power of biology is politically incorrect, but eventual palatability may be at hand with a gentler and kinder style. Thus, the ideas that had been denounced by Liberal Jews as wrong, even evil, could gradually be appropriated by Jews as something mildly unnerving but detoxicated and tamed. Notice how Pinker says there is a human nature(thus admitting the power of biology), but there are no racial natures(thus refraining from going ‘there’ that might provoke the ‘anti-racists’).
Steven Pinker moonlighting at 50s-themed diner in 2001 to earn extra cash to finish his project of becoming an immortal super-Jewish robot-man
But if biology really matters, and if different races evolved under different conditions for prolonged periods, wouldn’t they have developed varying degrees of human nature? Might not some races have more of certain kinds of human nature than other races do? Even if basic human nature is basically alike, might not certain races have more of certain traits while other races have more of other traits?
Anyone who has spent considerable time with whites, blacks, Mexicans, yellows, and other groups of people would notice that, despite the basic commonality of human nature among all peoples(as well as the factor of culture), there are also certain general innate variances across racial groups that aren’t exactly trivial. Any scientist who insists that racial differences are trivial is either a liar or living in a naive bubble world. It’s possible that since Pinker spent most of his life around well-mannered high IQ people of all backgrounds and races — Jewish, white, Asian, Arab, Negro, etc. — , he is blind to the true repercussions of racial differences(especially among the hoi polloi whites who must integrate with trashy Negro thugs), not least because the arid tone of the academia happens to be passionless(except in the heavily politicized departments where we have the strange spectacle of professors getting all worked up using terminology and jargons that sound ill-fitted for emotions: A sampler: "And surely, if his analysis has any validity at all, it should establish quite persuasively that the commodity is indeed the capillary point of that political economy." Here is another: "Moreover, Foucault's focus on the local and capillary nature of modern power clearly resonates with feminist efforts to redefine the scope and bounds of the political, efforts that are summed up by the slogan “the personal is political"). But in the more natural and emotionally expressive world of the underclass(where people say stuff like, "Fuc* you, a**hole", "Suck my dic*", or "I’m gonna kick your ass."), it’s easy to take notice of different natural characteristics of the various races, not least because lower-class people have fewer inhibitions in behavior and speech. They are less mindful of manners and what may constitute ‘proper behavior’. Between the two possibilities(disconnect or deception), I think Pinker is a liar because he seems too smart and knowledgeable about the world to be unaware of the problems of racial differences in America. Surely, he must know that the main reason for the high rates of interracial crime involving black-on-non-black violence has mostly to do with racial differences in physicality and emotions, i.e. blacks are generally physically stronger and emotionally more aggressive and less inhibited or self-controlled. If Pinker, after surveying all the relevant data and surveys, cannot admit to this, he is either a coward in the face of politically correctness or willfully perpetuating politically correct taboos to serve Jewish supremacist goals because, after all, any honest discussion of racial differences will favor whites morally and politically, and that may lead to the revival of white power politics calling for white survival and security from the threat posed by Negroes. And if whites were to see themselves as righteous biological victims of Negroes, then the cult of ‘white guilt’ will fade, and then it will be difficult for Jews to control whites by baiting their guilt conscience.
Anyway, there is something more to creativity than pleasing the audience and providing pleasure. While it may well be true that certain kinds of musical-manipulations produce the greatest immediate pleasure in the listener, pleasure isn’t the only response sought in the arts and entertainment. After all, while it may be possible for scientists to create the ‘perfect’ sex machine that, strapped to an individual, could produce the biggest orgasms, people look for something more than sex & pleasure when the look for love. It’s like that song "Looking for Love" in URBAN COWBOY. The bond between the John Travolta character and the Debra Winger character owes to something more than humping. It’s love forged by shared pain as well as pleasure, humility as well as pride. Similarly, there are foods that offer simple pleasures, and then there are foods that offer something richer, more tantalizing, more memorable... even if not as immediately yummy like a candy bar or donut.
Also, there’s a difference between creating and catering. Something is created because the creator feels a need to create regardless of how others may respond to it. It may or may not have value, but it was created because of the urge to create on the part of the creator. Thus, every created object is the outcome of force of vision and will. In contrast, catering is about understanding what others want and assembling objects that most ‘perfectly’ serve those demands. A creative chef will come up his own dish out of personal conviction. But a ‘caterive’ cook will make dishes that will most likely appeal to less adventurous, discerning, or sophisticated appetites; he has no desire to challenge the taste buds of others. This is the difference between someone like Philip Roth and Neil Simon. Some of Roth’s books may not go down well with readers, but Roth felt a need to honestly reflect his experiences and thoughts — even if one cannot be honest with the rules of life, one can be honest with the demands of art, thereby opening a backdoor to the hidden truths of life, as suggested in BEING JOIHN MALKOVICH. In contrast, Neil Simon has always catered to middlebrow expectations and tastes. (There’s nothing wrong with that as long as there’s no pretensions otherwise. Aaron Sorkin is offensive because he works on the level of Neil Simon but pretends to be something closer to David Mamet.) Even though computers can be programmed to write intelligent-sounding sentences, can it express the deep truths of great literary figures? It’s doubtful, unless of course, computers become sentient, possessed of emotions & unique ‘personalities’, and develop their own biographies(or cybographies). Today’s popular culture is exceedingly ‘caterive’ than creative(or at least morally serious). The great success of Apple is very much the sign of the times. Everyone holding the same kind of iPhone and owning the same kinds of iPods, where news and music are no longer something to absorb but something to tweedle endlessly with the restless thumb. But what do you expect from a company that turned "Think Different" into a trademark, commercializing famous figures of the 20th century into ‘thinkbots’ whose presumed collective-prophecy was the apotheosis of Steve Jobs who died with the immortal words, "Wow". Considering Steve Jobs’ mania for the Beatles, a band that, despite its creativity and originality, was essentially about formulating the best method of cranking out #1 hits — a song like "Hello Goodbye" could probably be composed by a computer — , one wonders what it was about Dylan that appealed to Jobs so much. For one thing, if Jobs really appreciated Dylan, why was he also into Joan Baez? Even though Baez and Dylan made a popular pair in the heyday of the Folk Movement, Dylan couldn’t really stand her and had only used her to gain wider access. She was a ladder, nothing more.
Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan, two iconoclasts who became icons. Ain't gonna work on Steve Jobs' farm no more.
Also, if one truly digs Dylan, how could he look forward to a day when computers make music? The whole idea seems anathema to what Dylan was all about. What kind of a computer program would come up with something as unique and strange like "Visions of Johanna". (Perhaps, the use of psychedelic drugs made Steve Jobs experience his own mind and music like a mental computer program?) The difference between Pop and Art is that Pop can be mass-produced whereas Art cannot. A factory can churn out thousands of candy bars a day, each identical with all others, but real cooking in a restaurant has to be done by the chefs with their own hands. Though some people have more knack at Pop than others — Paul McCartney certainly had a finer touch than Billy Joel — , Pop is sufficiently formulaic that it can be mastered by non-artists(though star quality is something that few have, most don’t. There could be only one Elvis Presley). Creating good pop is no easy feat, but rarely does Pop Culture amount to anything more than catering to the audience’s demand for gratification. Sometimes Pop is so fresh and original in its ingenuity and effect that it achieves a kind of greatness — songs like "She Loves You", "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", "I’ll Get You", "Ticket To Ride", and etc. — , but it’s all about the pleasure, the sugar content. Art tends towards complexity, duality, ambiguity, entanglement, mystery, contradiction, and depth. Even when direct and powerful, there’s a sense of more to be understood, pondered, unlocked. Complicating matters is that there could be a kind of ‘universal activation’ at work in the minds of most people. Noam Chomsky came up with the theory of Universal Grammar that posited that grammar is hardwired into the human mind, thereby accounting for the ease with which children pick up language. Though children of different nations learn different languages, they more-or-less pick them up in the same way according to innately encrypted grammatical logic. So, children don’t have to be told everything about language in order to learn it as they seem to intuitively grasp its ‘feel’ of expressions and meanings. They ‘know it’ before they’re taught it.
Similarly, the thing about art/entertainment is so much can be conveyed with so little. A kind of universal or innate process is activated just by showing a little to the audience. The audience sense and feel much more than they are actually provided with. Thus, two hour film can feel ‘epic’, a few paragraphs in a novel can make the reader feel as though he’d been through a massive battle, and a series of narrated still image panels can bring the Trojan War to life. Indeed, especially before the coming of cinema, magic lanterns shows and illustrated books carefully featured certain key images to unlock and stimulate narrative movements in the minds of the audience. Thus, a child might be shown only 20 images of a certain tale, but his mind would naturally form a flow of images that fill in the ‘gaps’, and this process would happen effortlessly and automatically. It’d be like he had a built-in or innate understanding of story-telling that could make sense of and fill in a story even if provided only with fragments. But not any series of images, sounds, or words have the same impact on the senses. Certain combinations of stimuli carry more iconic or archetypal weight and trigger far more extra-imagery, and some artists and entertainers have a keen sense of which buttons to push or which triggers to pull than others do. This is something Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg have in common. Just about every image in a Kubrick film not only looks great but suggests meaning far beyond the literal presentation. And just about every image in a Spielberg movie elicits strong responses, arousing sensations and emotions that go beyond what the trite narrative would merit. It’s not just a matter of what stimuli will cause what reactions but which stimuli will stir the imagination, i.e. make the person see and feel far more than what has actually been presented.
Spielberg's magic does it again. Pop Master's intuitive assembly of images turns trite material into one grand entertainment.
Anyway, for a few decades following WWII and with the rapid expansion of the American middle class, there was a kind of Anxiety of Respectability, whereby the nouveau middle-class was unsure of the proper way of being ‘middle class’, especially if imbued with higher aspirations be they social, cultural, or intellectual. In this period, elitism still had firm hold over the culture. Even though the likes of Dwight MacDonald scoffed at the Middlebrow Culture or Mid-Cult, it nevertheless implicitly confirmed the respect for higher/intellectual culture as the ultimate authority. Mid-Cult served as a bridge to high culture even if few made it across. (The likes of MacDonald argued it was less a bridge than a phony substitute.) Most middlebrow folks, due to lack of taste, knowledge, and/or intellect, had no means to truly appreciate high culture, but they nevertheless respected the hierarchy of culture and thought it would do their kids some good to know something other than TV and pop music. But as years passed, especially during the crucial period of the 60s, the middle class became more settled and confident in its middle-class-ness. More at ease. No longer were they anxiously looking over their shoulders at supposed ‘social betters’ for lessons on how to be properly ‘middle class’. (If tremendous amount of creative energy in 20th century modernism was devoted to violating artistic/expressive conventions of what works and appeals to people, the main theme of culture since the Age of Warhol has been the ‘radical perfecting’ of what really appeals to the people. Modernism originally waged war on works that were pleasing; they were deemed too safe, bourgeois, and/or philistine. It was as if modernism willfully preferred the difficult, the disorienting, the displeasing, the disgusting, the discordant & dissonant. It considered qualities that were pleasing as quasi-sins against the true radical potentiality of art. In this sense, there was a puritanical streak in modernism despite its subversive agenda. For a time, it was sufficient to break the rules to carve out one’s place in the Modern Art scene, but once all the rules were broken many times over, breaking them was no longer exciting or interesting. Even as modern art had willfully chosen to be displeasing, there was mischievous joy in the enfant terrible revelry. But once the initial scandalousness and then the avant-garde hype wore off, there was the inescapable realization that much of modernism is tiresome, boring, and ugly. And from there, the culture shifted toward emphasizing things that offer pleasure, indeed the maximum in pleasure. Thus, the culture, elite and popular, world became increasingly orgasmic, even ‘pornographic’. To fully understand this dynamics, we need to draw a distinction between the pleasing and the pleasurable. Traditional art, moral art, classic art, and bourgeois art were often pleasing but not wholly pleasurable. They maintained the ideals of dignity, nobility, respectability, moral/spiritual considerations, and primacy of meaning that served as brakes on the senses. So, nude paintings had to be tasteful, focusing more on beauty and grace than lust in the Beavis-like ‘boing’ sense. Traditional and Classical Music could be fast, furious, and loud, but the main emotions had to be beauty, bliss, tragedy, or transcendence than something like "Hot For Teacher" by Van Halen. Thus, bourgeois culture was at odds with both the logic of modernism and popular culture. Modernism was ultra-elitist and radically contrarian in violating all the rules that made art pleasing, tasteful, and respectable. Modernism tried to make art less pleasing, less accessible, less comforting. It tried to break as many rules as possible without becoming utterly unintelligible, in which case it would be indigestible. It could even be painful, difficult, and off-putting. In contrast, the logic of popular culture found traditional-classical-bourgeois culture to be too stuffy and repressed, therefore the enemy of unrestrained fun and joy. Pleasing wasn’t enough for Pop Culture. It had to be pleasurable like sex. The fact that so many creative people are now in the food business says something about the shift in culture from the ideal of contrarian displeasure to the ideal of compounded pleasure. After all, modernism isn’t possible with food. Creative chefs can try out new dishes with experiments in fusion and combinations, but the end result has to be pleasurable. No one is going to tolerate pieces of glass and nails in food just because it’s ‘different’ and ‘challenging’.)

TO BE CONTINUED.