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Sunday: February 15, 2009

Now Who’s Being Naive?

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:26 PM UTC

Terry Teachout wonders why music is sometimes used to torture prisoners, while other genres of art are not:

I’m . . . struck by the fact that music is, so far as I know, the only art form used for such purposes. No doubt it would be unpleasant to be locked in a windowless room that had bad paintings hung on all four walls, but I can’t envision even the most sensitive of spies blurting out the name of his controller to escape the looming presence of Andy Warhol or Thomas Kinkade. Yet I have no trouble imagining myself reduced to hysterical babbling after being forced to listen to shred, grunge and “I Love You” [as sung by Barney the purple dinosaur] for 16-hour stretches, a technique said to have been employed by Guantanamo interrogators.

Andy Warhol? Thomas Kinkade? What we need is not so much art that is bad, as art that is disturbing, and not just esthetically. I don’t know one-hundredth as much about painting as Teachout does, but I do know that there are some serious and not-so-serious works of art that would freak me out if I had to live with them round the clock: some of Lucian Freud’s nudes (Google “Freud nude shatters price record” for a disgustingly obese example) and one or two of Francis Bacon’s screaming popes, just to name two specific categories. Other possibilities that might well work on a fanatical Muslim terrorist, even if they don’t bother me much: some of Dali’s weirder paintings, almost anything by R. Crumb, the Pompeian wall-painting of Priapus with a set of scales and a big grin, weighing his enormous organ — I’m sure there are plenty more.

There are also some movies that would be very likely to disturb the sleep of a high percentage of prisoners. I haven’t seen Freaks, and terrorists would probably enjoy Faces of Death (haven’t seen that, either) and even the bloodiest gangster movies, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space seems like a cheap and easy shortcut to the confessional. Again, I’m sure there are plenty more.

Tuesday: February 10, 2009

Quotations of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 1:01 AM UTC

“The dead weep with joy when their books are reprinted.”

“Everyone can see the future, but no one remembers the past.”

(The Stranger, in Russian Ark, 2002)

Monday: February 9, 2009

Quotation of the Day

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:25 PM UTC

“Unhappiness is our own invention. At times I’m sad that I lack the imagination for it.”

(Général André de . . ., in The Earrings of Madame de . . ., 1953)

Tuesday: February 3, 2009

Bad Things Come in Threes

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:51 PM UTC

In his commentary on Horace’s Soracte Ode (1.9), David West writes:

“Horace says sententiously, ‘When winds stop blowing, trees stop shaking’, meaning of course that unpleasant things do not last for ever. This could be said of a plague of locusts or a broken ankle or a professor with tenure” (Horace Odes I: Carpe Diem, Oxford 1995, 42-3)

The third unpleasant thing is odd at first glance, and suggests that West had at least one unpleasant colleague to put up with until he either died or retired.

Sunday: February 1, 2009

Wrong Question

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:42 PM UTC

The Blogosphere is busy arguing whether Tom Daschle should be approved as Secretary of Health and Human Services, despite being an obvious tax cheat. I would have thought that was a no-brainer: of course not. The question people ought to be arguing is whether he should be hauled away in handcuffs or at least grilled further about his finances, not by the Senate but by someone with the power to indict him. I lean towards ‘yes’ on the second question. Why is no one — or no one of importance — even asking it?

Missing the Best Part?

Filed under: — site admin @ 7:30 PM UTC

InstaPundit is duly impressed that Amazon sells bacon-flavored jelly beans. I’m more astonished by the last two things listed under ‘customers who bought this item also bought’: the bacon wallet (imitation bacon, I presume) and the Mr. Bacon vs. Monsieur Tofu Action Figures (making Tofu a Frenchman is a particularly nice touch).