The dog encountered a cliched cat tonight: it was on the fence, and I don’t mean undecided about whether impeachment would be good for the nation, and it was black, and its back was arched. All it needed was an enormous full moon behind it. Birch, recognizing the mortal enemy - possibly the brains behind that whole squirrel operation - was baying and barking at the cat to make it move along, and he got too close. By which I mean two, three feet.
The cat hissed and swiped a paw. Birch ran away crying yipe yipe yipe, but called upon the ghosts of his long-gone stones and went back to barking, from a safe distance. He has been convinced for the last three hours that the cat is still there, and wanders over to the back door to growl throaty warnings. (Throaty Warnings, btw, is the next person to assert she had an affair with the President.)
I had a lousy day, but you know what made it better? Self-righteous anger! Also, you know what made it worse? Self-righteous anger! Odd how that works out. In the end, everything was fine, and then everything was hilarious.
Wish I could tell you the details, but that would be, well, telling, as they said to Number Two in The Prisoner. (Still amused that the answer to the show’s most oft-repeated question was right there in the opening sequence from the start; the spoiler was put right in front of our faces, and no one tumbled.) I will say that the end result of any sort of self-righteous anger ought to be a sense of embarrassment, because your reaction is usually out of proportion to the actual incident because you’ve talked about it in the shower and you are absolutely right, yessir, no doubt about it.
“He was so unsure of himself he lost arguments in the shower” is a line I should use somewhere.
I did not argue on the way to work, because it was snowing, this being spring, and the road required attention. But by-God you’d better believe I was thinking about it as I walked from car to office. Then something horrible happened: I had lunch, and lost enthusiasm for it. Worse, I considered the fact that I might be wrong, and that’s unnerving - should I drive home and get in the shower again? That worked before.
Anyway. It was a good reminder that I brood because I’m not busy enough between 11 AM and 1 PM; my mood at that point just craters. I am happy as a lark when I wake and spend the morning on a variety of creative endeavors, but then 11 arrives and it’s like a murder of crows flows through the window like I’m Tippi in the attic.
What follows below is not the result of the self-righteous anger, but mere grumpery. Wednesday will now be a spot for cheerful grumpery, and I promise not to leap out the Outrage of the Day. I know, I know - that makes me sound so old. Outrages occur every hour now, and it’s usually enough to retweet and add an emoji and think “my work here is done,” after which you can be assured your membership in the online brigade of Proper-Thinking People is secure.
What’s the bumpersticker? If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention! It’s the opposite these days: you’re not paying attention, because you’re so outraged.
Anyway. This occasional feature isn’t about outrage, but annoyance. The line in a piece (or tweet) that snags the mind like a sweater sleeve on a dull nail.
So: this is twaddle.
Okay. Here’s something that satisfies and affirms my world view:
Is this entertainment? I don’t think it’s entertainment. How does it satisfy and affirm, though? I believe that art in the post-representational period had a momentary obsession with beauty over truth, and attempted to find truth in an abstraction that elevated the beauty inherent in a scene. The Impressionists, for example.
That’s not truth, but it’s beauty, and the beauty comes from an artistic interpretation of the truth. After this period, abstraction devoid of beauty was on the ascendance, because the civilizational shock of WW1 had undercut the old order and emboldened nihilistic sensualism. A modern thinker engaged with the world had to tear down the old order, and that meant extirpating every aspect of the old artistic styles. Guernica, an ugly work about an ugly time, is a pretty good example of what the new wave could accomplish, and it also confirms my low opinion of Picasso in general.
If you demolish the old standards - say, bombing them from above, from the lofty perch of the arid intellectual - then this is what you get, and it will only get worse. So my worldview is satisfied and affirmed. I was not entertained.
Let’s try this one:
Lavoisier was a great scientist, but also a Jacobin. He came to a bad end as the Revolution’s radicalism consumed the seed corn:
According to a (probably apocryphal) story, the appeal to spare his life so that he could continue his experiments was cut short by the judge, Coffinhal:"The Republic has no need of scientists or chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed.” Lavoisier was convicted with summary justice of having plundered the people and the treasury of France, of having adulterated the nation's tobacco with water, and of having supplied the enemies of France with huge sums of money from the national treasury.
This painting satisfies and affirms my world view - the importance of science, the emancipation of women, the dangers of scientific ignorance, and the lack of any connection between talent and wisdom. David, who painted it, was a man who took royal commissions until the winds changed, and then he voted for the king’s execution. Am I reading too much into the work? Am I allowed to know what it’s about to determine whether it’s Entertainment or Art?
Now let’s try some Creativity that challenges and disrupts my world view.
The NYT had a piece celebrating “Ugly Art.”
Owens, who will be the subject of a midcareer retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art this fall, is a master of what might be called ‘‘ugly painting.’’ As paradoxical as this sounds, the term is in fact ferocious praise. Ugly art is sloppy, wild and, yes, transgressive, exciting confusion and joy because it abandons commonplace ideas of what is — and looks — pretty.
That assertion that there are commonplace ideas of what is pretty is interesting, no? Perhaps the author means “Commonplace” among the hot polloi, not the art world, because they’ve been oohing and ahhing over meretricious drivel for decades.
This is not a question of being merely grotesque, but daring. It’s a philosophy that harks back to Tristan Tzara, Dada’s chief theorist, who in 1918 trashed beauty as ‘‘a boring sort of perfection, a stagnant idea of a golden swamp.’’ The Dadaists were advocates for ugliness as not just a valid artistic condition, but as a way of shocking a public reeling in the midst of a hideous war.
Indeed, ugly art often reflects an ugly time. In the 1930s, the Third Reich labeled Otto Dix’s ghostlike figures with mutilated bodies ‘‘degenerate art.’’
See, if Hitler doesn’t like ugly art, then ugly art must have intrinsic merit.
... what unifies ugly painting is its defiance of the obviously attractive, familiar or ‘‘lifelike.’’ It serves as a reminder that art isn’t a branch of mortuary science, providing faithful replication of lost beauties. It’s a mind-altering drug: It exists to cause trouble, knock things head over heels and show that there are other ways to see.
Okay, let's see some ugly stuff that challenges and disrupts in the Tyson-approved mode:
Tyson, of course, is free to expound on whatever he wants, but the oracular pronouncements are hooverd up by the Science, Bitch! crowd on Twitter like brilliant truth bombs. Because it's Neil DeGrasse Tyson!
We're currently having a small amout of fun with Batman.
When last we met the Crusader and the Wonder (Caped and Boy, respectively) they were blinded by the Wizard’s smoke screen - and it looked as if the crashed right into something!
Turns out they crashed right into something:
They’re okay. Batman says “you know, this road led to the cliff where we tangled with the Wizard’s gang before. Perhaps if we follow it we will encounter them again.” Because he’s a master detective.
The bad guys store the car in the underground garage in the hills, then take the secret sub to the Wizard’s lair. first time we’ve seen him in the sub, and he’s a real charmer:
Jeez, what a pill. But here’s some fun new information. See, Batman and Robin lost the crooks, and don’t know there’s a secret sub base below their feet. They’re stumped!
Okay. So the Wizard, who is in reality Dr. Professor Wheelchair who has a machine that lets him walk, lives just down the road from the sub base. He’s the only house around. Obviously the sub ride’s pretty short. Obviously anyone could figure it out.
Well, they find the private detective we met a few eps ago, skulking around the house; they bring him in to talk to Dr. Professor Wheelchair. They discover he’s got microfilm in his cigar. As one does. It contains the plans for a Neutralizer that can combat the Wizard’s Remote Control. Dr. Professor Wheelchair says they’re my plans! Mine! But the private dick says he’s working on behalf of the Research Council.
Ooooh, the Research Council! They’ve determined that the plans belong to the Authorities.
Then they bring in Barry Brown, the reporter who always seems to know things, and arrange for him to have some time snooping around Commissioner Gordon’s desk. He spies this:
He blabs the news on his radio show, and the Wizard decides to hijack the truck to get the Neutralizer. But! The Wizard has an agent overhead in a plane!
A loud, low plane following the truck, and thus attracting no suspicion. The henchmen on the ground stop the armored car and pump it full of gas - and oh right, oh no! Robin’s inside!
So they shoot Robin in the head and leave him by the road.
Nah, he escapes, because they’re busy sending out a decoy armored car by remote control, and -
Ahhh, GAWD it’s complicated. Anyway Robin shakes off the gas and drives away with the real armored car that doesn’t have the Neutralizer. They send in the plane to bomb the armored car.
Wind duly ridden, I guess.
That suffices, I hope. See you thither. (also yon)