At the coffee shop. Walked here! On my feet, using my legs! You can do that in the city. Not that I ever do; usually I have errands to run in this little commercial node, and don’t want to schlep home the bags and have them spill out after I slip on the ice. (Some people’s sidewalks, I note with smug disapproval, are quite slick.) But the garage door is still hosed, and I am both too lazy to fix it and too lazy to operate it manually. Mostly I’m here because there are people in the house and I have much to do.
Also because I want to be out among Christmas things. The snowflake decorations, the signage offering “cheer” in various forms (hot liquid, sugary fluids), the Christmas songs in the background that are different from the songs I have on my iPod. All goes away too soon. At least that’s how it seems this year. Most years you’re rather relieved when it’s done. I don’t feel that now.
The view from the bridge on the way over:
Ordered my coffee, updated the work blog, did a little clicking. Some things that came through my tumblr feed: here's a detail of a sculpture, with the original here. (Don't want to get a takedown notice.)
Says the text, in a rather shouty fashion:
DUANE HANSON, SUPERMARKET SHOPPER, 1970
IN THIS CREEPILY REALISTIC SCULPTURE, HANSON CRITIQUES MIDDLE AMERICA AND CONSUMERISM. THE WOMAN DEPICTED IS NOT IDEALIZED IN ANY WAY, AND PROBABLY WOULDN’T BE THE TYPE OF PERSON TO FREQUENT AN ART GALLERY, ALTHOUGH THAT’S EXACTLY WHERE HANSON HAS PLACED HER. HANSON WAS PRECISE AND OBSESSED WITH SURFACE; UNLIKE A CHUCK CLOSE OR RICHARD ESTES PAINTING, HANSON’S ILLUSION OF REALITY HOLDS AS THE VIEWER MOVES CLOSER AND CLOSER TO THE PIECE, CHARGING THE VIEWER’S BODY IN RELATION TO THE WORK, CREATING A TENSION BETWEEN ACTUAL REALITY AND HANSON’S FAUX REALITY.
What did this woman do to deserve this?
She’s fat and goes out in public wearing curlers, and is buying mass produced food.
She is, in other words, the product of an affluent society that does not condemn ordinary people with ordinary skills and ordinary interests to a hardscrabble life boiling cabbage for supper in a hut heated by burning peat. It is also a society that does not condemn people for failing to live up to a particular body image; that is left to the cultural critics who find a rebuke to The System in the public apparition of such people.
At least it's a reminder to today's avant garde that "critique" of "Middle America and Consumerism" is an idea over 40 years old. Come up with something new, if you would.
Then I clicked on this piece about memory, nostalgia, and the internet - a combination of subjects I enjoy. I agree with the sentiment=, although I had to stop here:
It is well over a decade now since the philosopher Jean Baudrillard began arguing
Has he stopped yet? I hope so.
. . .that reality itself had been fundamentally altered by a highly mediatised world - indeed, that there was no objective reality anymore, only a reproducible simulacrum, the nature of which is determined by large-scale corporations and their allied governments.
If one really believes there is no objective reality anymore, then you don’t look both ways before crossing the street, because there’s really no such thing as buses. There might be, but who can be sure?
Oh, I get what he means, but it’s a sweeping assertion that’s generally banal and specifically useless.
Then it comes, on a discussion of the accelerating pace of news coverage:
In recent years we've seen a slow food movement emerge -
No no no, please, not any more “slow” things.
. . . its aim, the portioning-off of what we eat from the remorseless chomping away at the environment by big food producers and retailers.
It may well be that what our society also requires is some kind of slow news, a manner of reporting present events that will at once acknowledge the novel situation, and also redress the balance between the ancient history before the web and a monstrous - and babyish - present.
And we've also witnessed the rebirth of slow travel, as people take to their feet and rediscover their own locales, rather than being whipped airborne and girdling the Earth.
I agree, but that requires knowledge of history, a context for all the tales and players. The people who bring that to the story probably have a slow-based opinion already.
Then an email about the redesign of Foreign Affairs magazine. They're adding photos to the covers for the first time. I had to smile at their choices for the gallery of previous cover designs. Lead story:
The author of the "No" piece was Ron Paul's foreign policy advisor in 2008.
Mr. Waltz, judging from the response at Foreign Affairs, believes that Iran could be detered from using the bomb, or giving it to terrorists. I have a hard time understanding why I should be comfortable with "could," and positively enthusiastic about the "should."