Monday, December 12, 2011

Tim Tebow


Man wins two national championships in college and the Heisman trophy, at Florida State, and the thing he's most well known for is his morality and Christian celibacy.

Denounced for his size and limited play style, he sits a season on the last place Denver Bronco bench behind Kyle Orton , an action that prompted his die-hard fans to buy billboard space all over Colorado advocating for his start.

Upon finally getting the starting nod halfway through the season, he racks up enough wins to put Denver in first place in the division through what have become trademark 4th quarter comebacks.

He's this polemic force of nature, lining his own stat column with figures that would make Kyle Boller embarrassed but filling the win-loss column with numbers that'd fill any Bronco fan with glee.

The man is beautiful: everything about him, from his lifestyle choices to his successful challenge of what it means to be a professional athlete in the most physically taxing sport there is, defies every cynical thing that I've come to know in sports.

The man makes you believe that not only can you be better, but that everyone else can better better. No, it's more than that. You have to be better if you're going to keep up with him, in everything you do.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Bad Clown by Michael Earl Craig

The Bad Clown

I was at the acupuncturist's.
It was my first time.
She put the needles in as I told jokes
to the ceiling. She put more needles in.
I tensed up and let out a demented clown laugh.
It made her stop for a second.
There was a gentle gong-and-bell track
piped in via hidden speakers.
"The speakers are in the jade plant," she said.
I tensed up again. I was golden brown.
I felt like one of those bad clowns.
The kind that hide in the sewers.
The acupuncturist was trying to help me.

Craig uses simple language to describe a single moment that seems to speak of something more poignant. What I really find beautiful is Craig's ability to use a seemingly vague phrase such as "bad clowns" to create an image and feeling that connects with readers. The description of "the kind that hide in the sewers" is enough to create a picture of the "demented clown laugh" and the awkward moment created in the situation. Craig's ability to say so much in such few words adds to the beauty of the poem. 

The World's Best Pizza Hut

Fortunately, my roommate and I were lucky enough to decide to blow all of our money while we were abroad last year on a trip to Egypt.

This picture was taken from the roof of a Pizza Hut that is literally right across the street from the pyramids at Giza.

I'm not sure if its beautiful or just heart-breaking in the worst sort of post-colonial way, but what I do know is that one of my favorite meals that I've ever had, ever, was at this restaurant with my roommate and a Chinese national named Hayden that we met at our hostel.

Gauguin



This is called something like "Two Breton Women in the Road." I think the plain surety of the texture and repetition of color in swatches is beautiful, especially when those colors are so vibrant and the most delicate, visually drawing part of the painting is not the hills or trees or women's bodies or clothes, but the careful attention on the one peasant's face as she listens to the other. This painting compels me and confuses me by its ability to do so.

Dangerous Laughter



Millhauser's "Dangerous Laughter" is one of the most beautiful collections of short stories that I have encountered. He artfully takes metaphors to the levels of fantastic stories, but at the same time grounds the fantasy in a language that argues for their reality. The reader is simultaneously amused by the impossibility of it all and fighting the strong desire to check if some of the events described have actually occurred. This collection walks a fine line between reality and fantasy and in exploiting the division creates some incredibly rich metaphors.

Babette's Feast

"Babette's Feast" is a Danish film from the late 80's that is about the confluence of Christianity, tolerance, and art. The first section of the film examines life in a rather hard-line Protestant community in northern Jutland. Two spinster sisters have a French emigre (who left France for political reasons) as their servant. There is a very palpable feeling of distance not only between the Catholic Frenchwoman (Babette) and the Protestant community, but between the members of the community themselves. They've taken the most divisive interpretations of their pastor's teachings to heart.

In the course of time, Babette wins the French National Lottery (her nephews(?) enter her every year), and she elects to spend all the money on one luxurious, perfect meal that slowly, inexorably breaks down the divisions between the people in the community, their understanding of the demands that their religion places on them change entirely in the face of the incredible beauty of this feast and the act of generosity on the part of Babette. This has got to be one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, not so much because of its cinematography or mise-en-scene, but because of the feeling of absolute warmth it projects.

This is the feast scene itself, broken into two parts. Important background information: the members of the community, used to self-denial, have sworn not to enjoy the decadent and, in their minds, decidedly Catholic meal.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Attraction

No matter how hard I have tried to stay away from issues of vanity on our blog, I couldn't help myself but make my last post to be on a more controversial subject matter in terms of the topic of beauty. So without further ado, I think Ryan Gosling is beautiful.
In all seriousness, I do believe that there is some form of pleasure that we derive from something beautiful upon encountering it. I personally don't believe that pleasure is a completely separate reaction that diverges from experiencing true beauty, the way some of our philosophers have stated. Setting aside sensual attraction for a moment, our attraction to certain objects like paintings or concepts like math equations creates some type of response, whether to act fair and just as Scarry would have us believe, or to try to recreate it or share it with others.
Although some may say that sensual attraction has no validity in the argument of things that are beautiful, I do not find our tendency to find certain people "beautiful" as being a misuse of the word. I find a tremendous amount of beauty in the concept of attraction and what it takes for an individual to bond with another in a very personal way. Stemming from these ideas, I would like to argue that although humans derive pleasure from sex, I am certain that many individuals would find the act and the experience to be beautiful nonetheless.

"Just give me faith; make me believe."

This is one of my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs of all time called "Save Me."
I've been writing my final paper in this class in reference to Milton's Paradise Lost, which offers a different perspective on the Christian creation story. Since it is from Satan's perspective, God is portrayed as a distant character who unjustly banishes Satan to Hell, which is presented as a prison-like environment.
I feel that "Save Me" would be an appropriate song to pair with Paradise Lost with lines like: "I said, 'How 'bout a drink or a bite to eat?' He said 'No, my faith is all I need." So then save me, mister walking man, if you can." This line borders on doubt and necessity in a person's relationsihp with God because Matthews highlights the absurdity of living purely off of faith, yet challenges God to save him in order to have faith be his only necessity.
I find that, because these ideas are so cyclical and dependent, they are beautiful because you can make an argument for faith or against faith using the same lines from Milton's poem/Matthews' song.
"Save Me" from Some Devil by Dave Matthews

Back to Plato's Symposium

So as the semester ends, I find myself looking over the philosophy we have already read. Though we definitely have the extremely important Diotima story from Plato's Symposium in our text, my favorite part of the work is missing: Aristophanes' speech. I find myself thinking about it often, whereas I'm not as enamored with Socrates and his story. If you have time, please read it. If it strikes you the way it did me, please let me know what you think.

In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word "Androgynous" is only preserved as a term of reproach.

In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast.

Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; - and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man - woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round: like their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods.

Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained.

At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: "Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg."

After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and self - neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, being the sections of entire men or women, and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man.

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women. The women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male. And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love.

My words have a wider application - they include men and women everywhere; and I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree and under present circumstances must be the nearest approach to such an union; and that will be the attainment of a congenial love. Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy and blessed.

Beauty Out of Context



Zoos are a strange place for me. They make me both wildly ecstatic and very sad at the same time. The prospect of going to see wolves "in the fur" is ridiculously exciting, but once I go and see the reality and the poor pups are cooped up in an enclosure that is tiny compared to what they would have in the wild, I get very sad. The same goes for the polar bear who swims in the same little pool and climbs up the same little rocks for every day of his life, and the tiger who naps in the same spot of sun on the same boulder every day. The animals themselves still look beautiful and majestic, its just when their surroundings are factored in, the beauty saps away. I think this feeling might be universal- those who stand in awe when they hear a chorus of wolves howling in Yellowstone might only be a fraction as excited when hearing wolves howling in an enclosure. I'm wondering whether this is true for inanimate beautiful things as well as the animate ones. I have a picture that can illustrate my point as well- a beautiful peacock in a crummy enclosure.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jack Johnson - Breakdown Lyrics

Jack Johnson -Breakdown lyrics

I hope this old train breaks down
Then I could take a walk around
And, see what there is to see
And time is just a melody
All the people in the street
Walk as fast as their feet can take them
I just roll through town
And though my windows got a view
The frame I'm looking through
Seems to have no concern for now
So for now

(Chorus)
I need this
Old train to breakdown
Oh please just
Let me please breakdown

This engine screams out loud
Centipede gonna crawl westbound
So I don't even make a sound
Cause it's gonna sting me when I leave this town
All the people in the street
That I'll never get to meet
If these tracks don't bend somehow
And I got no time
That I got to get to
Where I don't need to be
So I

Chorus 2x

But you cant stop nothing
If you got no control
Of the thoughts in your mind
That you kept in, you know
You don't know nothing
But you don't need to know
The wisdoms in the trees
Not the glass windows
You cant stop wishing
If you don't let go
But things that you find
And you lose, and you know
You keep on rolling
Put the moment on hold
The frames too bright
So put the blinds down low

Chorus 2x

---------------------------------------------
I love to Jack Johnson, especially around finals time since his songs are super relaxing, and happy-go-lucky. This is by far one of my favorite songs by him just because the lyrics remind me to slow down in life and appreciate the things around me. Usually, i'm so focused on where i need to go that i forget to appreciate the ride along the way, or the journey towards my goal. I think this is beautiful because it inspires me to change my ways, and live my life differently.

Song link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4O7ufx9D_s

Degas' Dancers


I find this painting strikingly beautiful. The light blue colors make the dancers seem light and air-like, while the darker colors around them just make that even more pronounced. The dancers' graceful poses contribute to the image of fragility and lightness.

Coliseum

I'm posting this video because I think it poses the issue of individual taste. How can one reconcile my feelings about this drummer and the music being played with the feelings of thousands of others who not only find no beauty here, but would probably characterize this video as unpleasant or abrasive or ugly? Are my reasons (self-taught (see drumstick placement in hand) technical skill and ease, artful composition, balance and counterbalance) persuasive, and is my Wittgensteinian utterance, "that's beautiful," valid enough? Or is this just not beautiful?

Itzhak Perlman plays Kreisler

Perlman is certainly one of the better violinists of our time, and this, while a very well-known piece, is one of the better chamber pieces written by the late 19th, early 20th-century master Fritz Kreisler. Perlman wrenches the right amount of feeling from this incredibly technical piece, though his rather determined playing style helps with that. If you're someone who prefers a chamber work played smoothly, check out Joshua Bell's version.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Paul Villinski


"I am drawn to humble, yet evocative materials; in this case, crushed beer cans from the streets of New York - every one of them once raised to someone’s lips. My process of “recycling” them into images of butterflies is a quiet physical meditation, a yoga of tin snips and files and fingers. As the butterflies alight on the walls of my studio, they lead into an exploration of formal, painterly issues. Often, they want to gather into a certain shape, or fly off on a particular tangent, and I let them. They function both as marks in these abstract, three-dimensional “paintings,” and as actors in curious narratives. Some pieces develop a quirky, magic-realist quality, as if a strange child has trained the insects to perform some ritual dance we are not usually privy to. Finally, the butterflies operate symbolically, and I try to develop a conceptual unity between materials, process, and imagery: metamorphosing littered beer cans into flocks of butterflies mirrors the act of transformation and rebirth that butterflies symbolize across all cultures…."

-Paul Villinski


I feel like art is so enchanting to us because as humans we have the ability and opportunity to recreate the things we find in nature into more meaningful patterns and showcases. Again, I believe it is remarkable how some people have the vision to take ordinary objects like beer bottles, records, crack cocaine vials (see artwork on bottom left corner of photograph) and transform them into something beautiful.

Beauty laid bare



“Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our heats? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?”

I was re-reading Annie Dillard's The Writing Life and came upon this passage. Dillard states that when we read we are searching for "beauty laid bare." When I first read it, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the phrase. Does she mean beauty that is obvious, or beauty that is stripped of any excess? I'm still not quite sure what the phrase precisely means, but I feel like in the passage Dillard is trying to express something we have discussed in class frequently: beauty can express some truth to us that we cannot merely state, but need to experience through art.

Playing for Change

I was a little irked by the dismissive treatment music was given by a few of our philosophers, and I've been trying to think of ways music isn't merely the transient, indulgent/luxurious thing it may appear to be on the surface. Playing for Change has allowed me my "Aha!" moment in this pursuit. Playing for Change is a kind of charity that unites people globally through music. The impression this kind of movement leaves on me is lasting, and one can hardly categorize a charity as luxurious, especially when it has such noble intentions as Playing for Change has. The organization has pieced together many songs that I find beautiful and catchy and unique, and "Stand By Me" is just one of great songs I could have chosen (if I'm not mistaken, it's also their first).

"Pretentious Diction"

"The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious" - from Politics and the English Language by George Orwell
I think
George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, is beautiful because
he focuses on the importance of communication rather than the impression that
one’s writing makes on others. Therfore,
he does not write to impress others or create a hierarchy of intelligence
between him and the reader, but to benefit the reader by opening his or her
mind to his point of view. I believe
this is where the power of the English language lies, not in complex sentence
structures or big words.

Choir of King's College, Miserere



Listen at about 1:35. That's Roy Goodman, making what I take to be one of the most beautiful sounds a person can make. Goodman later hit puberty and his voice broke - obviously, I never heard him in person, but a friend played this recording for me a while ago, and I find myself going back to it again and again.

Post from Thurdsay

Hey guys, my computer wouldn't let me post on Thursday, so here is the re-post.

I am working on a paper about translation of Shakespeare and I stumbled unto a translation of "Hamlet" by B. Pasternak. In the "To be, or not to be" monologue Pasternak translates the line "And makes us rather bear those ills we have/Than fly to others that we know not of" with extremely beautiful and poetic language. Now, I never thought that this line was particularly beautiful in the original, so I thought it was incredible how a translation can actually illuminate the beauty of the original work.

You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies


This is a permanent exhibit in the Phoenix Art Museum by a Japanese artist named Yayoi Kusama. This picture is the best I could find though it doesn't really do the artwork justice.

The piece consists of a rectangular room with the doorless entrances enclosed in light-blocking antechambers. The room itself has mirrored walls and ceilings, and the floor is made of a reflective black surface. From the ceiling hang hundreds of different strands of LED lights that twinkle, glow, and change color. The effect of this on the viewer is total disorientation, and the artwork itself is physically difficult to escape.

A poor video of the artwork can be found here.

I think that this is beautiful because the nature of the piece is the engagement between the artwork and its audience. The audience itself is physically inseparable from the actual artwork.

Play Dead; Real Time





For me, Douglas Gordon’s Play Dead; Real Time is a good example of art in which I am more attracted to the conceptual underpinnings, as opposed to the actual subject matter. So I’m not suggesting that this particular elephant is beautiful (even though she might truly be so; who is to say?) or that training elephants is beautiful (which can in fact be seen as somewhat ghastly and cruel). I’m more interested in what the video is doing for me. I like how the screens attempt to present the elephant as life-size as possible, as if it is in the room with us, filling our world like the elephant belongs to it. We can only work with what we’re given, so maybe our reaction is meant to be specific. By continually falling, the elephant on the screen would seem to anticipate our sensitivity to its struggle to get up. We’re momentarily invested in the animal’s effort, as if we’re somehow implicated in the action and called to respond. Only after we might remind ourselves that it’s not "real"— the elephant is trained and is probably doing just fine. I’m amazed by art that can produce those kinds of reactions in viewers.

I originally saw the video in a series that I cannot now find and which would be too long to post on here anyways. Sorry I couldn’t really find a good video without commentary that was just strictly on the installation.

Carbon Nanotubes

This drawing is of a carbon nanotube. I recently learned how fascinating these little things were. The potential for the application of nanotubes is remarkable. This technology can allow us to create bulletproof body armor (Superman), invisibility cloaks (Harry Potter), and elevators to space (Charlie of Chocolate Factory fame). What is not beautiful about being able to live out some of the experiences shared by our favorite fictional characters?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Passage by Hart Crane

Passage
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Where the cedar leaf divides the sky
I heard the sea.
In sapphire arenas of the hills
I was promised an improved infancy.

Sulking, sanctioning the sun,
My memory I left in a ravine,-
Casual louse that tissues the buck-wheat,
Aprons rocks, congregates pears
In moonlit bushels
And wakens alleys with a hidden cough.

Dangerously the summer burned
(I had joined the entrainments of the wind).
The shadows of boulders lengthened my back:
In the bronze gongs of my cheeks
The rain dried without odour.

'It is not long, it is not long;
See where the red and black
Vine-stanchioned valleys-': but the wind
Died speaking through the ages that you know
And bug, chimney-sooted heart of man!
So was I turned about and back, much as your smoke
Compiles a too well-known biography.

The evening was a spear in the ravine
That throve through very oak. And had I walked
The dozen particular decimals of time?
Touching an opening laurel, I found
A thief beneath, my stolen book in hand.

''Why are you back here-smiling an iron coffin?
' 'To argue with the laurel,' I replied:
'Am justified in transience, fleeing
Under the constant wonder of your eyes-.'

He closed the book. And from the Ptolemies
Sand troughed us in a glittering,, abyss.
A serpent swam a vertex to the sun
-On unpaced beaches leaned its tongue and
drummed.
What fountains did I hear? What icy speeches?
Memory, committed to the page, had broke.



The images in the poem themselves are beautiful, but when put together in the world of the poem, the connections being made become more interesting than the images on their own.

Wallace Stevens

SIX SIGNIFICANT LANDSCAPES

I
An old man sits
In the shadow of a pine tree
In China.
He sees larkspur,
Blue and white,
At the edge of the shadow,
Move in the wind.
His beard moves in the wind.
The pine tree moves in the wind.
Thus water flows
Over weeds.

II
The night is of the color
Of a woman's arm:
Night, the female,
Obscure,
Fragrant and supple,
Conceals herself.
A pool shines,
Like a bracelet
Shaken in a dance.

III
I measure myself
Against a tall tree.
I find that I am much taller,
For I reach right up to the sun,
With my eye;
And I reach to the shore of the sea
With my ear.
Nevertheless, I dislike
The way ants crawl
In and out of my shadow.

IV
When my dream was near the moon,
The white folds of its gown
Filled with yellow light.
The soles of its feet
Grew red.
Its hair filled
With certain blue crystallizations
From stars,
Not far off.

V
Not all the knives of the lamp-posts,
Nor the chisels of the long streets,
Nor the mallets of the domes
And high towers,
Can carve
What one star can carve,
Shining through the grape-leaves.

VI
Rationalists, wearing square hats,
Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses --
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon --
Rationalists would wear sombreros.




Not only does the star carving through the grape-leaves remind me of Scarry's palm tree epiphany, but also Stevens' creation of his own phenomenological experience (the strangeness of the wind and water in the first part, being taller than the tree because he can reach the sun or the shore with eye and ear, etc.) as the content of the poem often seems to distract readers and critics from what is really at stake aesthetically. How is what Stevens put to paper controlling our perception? When we talk about the beauty of this poem, for instance, are we talking about his absurd system of rationale in the last part or the way he compares the movement of water over weeds to the movement of a pine tree in the wind and why? Are we really concerned with Stevens' system of cognition and theory? Or are we talking about our experience of reading those lines, separate from what one may assume to be Stevens philosophical, aesthetic position? Or is it some difficult combination of the two?

Jeremy Bentham

"The way to be comfortable is to make others comfortable. The way to make others comfortable is to appear to love them. The way to appear to love them -- is to love them in reality."

--Jeremy Bentham

I think is quote is beautiful because I think that it's true.

Ambigram

This is one of the images from Dan Brown's novel, Angels and Demons. From every angle, the words earth, fire, air, and water are legible. In the book, this symbol is branded on someone's body after he is murdered by the group to whom the symbol belongs. Of course, this is gruesome and disturbing, but the image alone is beautiful because of its symmetry. In this case, symmetry seems to equal perfection. I think this is beautiful because perfection is attained in this image.