Paul (ace_combs) wrote,

The goldenrod is coming into bloom. And the Queen Anne's lace has cupped. Here, in the prairie, that means Summer's fading. The air is drier, the nights are cooler, and the first wood smoke wafts...

New photo sets on flickr:
Building, slowly, the following:
Chicago Public Sculpture.
Jean Dubuffet: Monument a la Bete Debout

Jack Kerouac and the End of America
So, yeah, I picked up a collection of his work, and 3 cd's on which he was recorded while reading poetry.* It was the first time that I had heard his voice: East Coast, cadence alternately halting and rolling, obviously connected to the mind that formed the words given to the voice.

I tried to read Kerouac aloud - imitating the man's own speech - when the nephew was in town. "Stop! Stop! It's horrible!" he yelled at me, "I wanted a story, but not that!"

In any case, my real interest in Kerouac stemmed from his role in the development of a consciously "outsider" or "alternative" American movement - post WWI.

Two quotes, (A), (B), from Kerouac's About the Beat Generation, 1957:

(A) "In actuality there was only a handful of real hip swinging cats and what there was vanished mighty swiftly during the Korean War when (and after) a sinsiter new kind of efficiency appeared in America, maybe it was the result of the universalization of Television and nothing else... but the beat characters after 1950 vanished into jails and madhouses, or were shamed into silent conformity,** the generation itself was shortlived and small in number."

(B) "It never meant juvenile delinquents, it meant characters of a special spirituality who didn't gang up but were solitary Bartelbies staring out the dead wall window of our civilization- the subterraneans heroes who'd finally turned from the "freedom" machine of the West..."

In that period between WWI and, say, the mid 80's, we had a series of "counter-cultural" movements that, each in their turn, emphasized the act of breaking from the ongoing processes of integration, homogenization, and, yes, commercialization, that ran parallel our exploding technical capacity to communicate and manufacture.
Ex-Pats/Lost Generation [F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway] to
Beats [Kerouac, Ginsburg] to
Hippies to
Punks (this is a terrible article; wikipedia at its worst...),
and then you lost me...

Post WWI there was a change; I don't think it's an arbitrary date: investigate the rise in American military/industrial power, mechanization of warfare, corollary developments in flight, etc.. If the War ran from 1914-1918, maybe the American century was/is 1914-2014; the midpoint (50 year rise, after which the fall began) would be 1964 - the same year that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was used to commit us to (un)war in Vietnam. 1989 would mark the center of the period of decline; 1989 was Bush Sr's first year in office. It works for me.

Roughly, 1990 to the present day I have watched the "fight" go out of the American people. Materialism seems to have triumphed: the myth of scientific progress is repeated, while the vast majority of life on the planet is extinguished for want of healthy food to eat, clean water to drink, minimal care during pregnancy/birth, and basic sanitation - all of which we have the necessary technology to repair. But, no. Visual art, music, fashion, politics - all recycled: sampling and repeating that which has already been. Reagan [1980-1988] won office with a bold vision: looking backward, back before 1964, back before Vietnam, back to the 'good old days' of the 1950's - when America was rising towards her zenith. Well, it all ended with Kennedy looking up at the moon, didn't it? In 1963 he was assassinated. And now?***

I am pained, nightly, by the images broadcast on BBC World News. BBC-Tavis Smiley-Charlie Rose: that's been the routine. Images: 70, 80, 90 year old men and women being carried from the rubble that was a home; children's bodies lying still under tarps; the guy from Boston who moved to Israel, his feet still on the pedals of the bicycle he was riding when the rocket landed.

Well, these people are a part my family: Lebanon and Israel. I refuse to discuss the issue in any other terms. The violence is wrong, period. I am completely opposed to all of it.

It's a horror, you know, to cause the innocent to suffer. "Where is the humanity?" a woman cried out, her child beside her.

Muslim, Jew, or Christian, where does the responsibility lie:
(1)the man who gave the order that the bomb should be dropped;
(2)the man who dropped the bomb;
(3)the man who made the bomb that was dropped;
(4)the man who provided the design to the maker of the bomb;
(5)the man who wrote the book that inspired the order to drop the bomb.

The Modern History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Five Periods

1914-1918 World War One; T.E. Lawrence, et al, encourage Arab revolt againt the Turks.
1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement
1917 Balfour Declaration
1919-1945 Mandate System establishes European "tutelage" of Mideast
1938-1945 World War Two; The Holocaust
1943 Lebanon (independent) created as French mandate ends, Syrian troops leave
1947 British leave Palestine to U.N.
1948 Israel (re) founded (first P.M. David Ben-Gurion)
1948-1949 First Arab-Israeli War
1952 Gamal Abdel Nasser comes to power in Egypt
1956 Egypt (Soviet Union) nationalzes Suez Canal - attacks Israel (Britain, France)
1956 U.N peacekeeping force separates Egypt/Israel
1973 Egypt, Syria attack Israel
1977 Anwar el-Sadat, President of Egypt, flies to Israel meetin Parliament, P.M. Menachem Begin
1978 Camp David Accords between Sadat/Begin, via Jimmy Carter
1981 Anwar el-Sadat assassinated by a Muslim extremist
1982 Israel invades Lebanon - to strike at P.L.O.
1993 "Oslo Accords" Israeli/P.L.O. mutual recognition, Palestinian self-rule
1995 PM Rabin assassinated by a Jewish extremist

Prior to the First World War, the Ottoman Turks had controlled a portion of southeastern Europe, southwestern Asia, and northeastern Africa for several centuries. After the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in WWI, agents of the Allied Powers - especially the British - sought to weaken the Turks by provoking their subjects to rebellion. (Striking at your enemy through the use of another people is characteristic of conflict in the region to this day.)

Most probably for the purpose of winning the War, the British promised, essentially, everything to everyone: (1) to the various Arab speaking people of the region: indepedence; (2) to the French: post-war Anglo-Franco control of the entire region; (3) to the Zionist movement: support for a Jewish homeland in the territory called Palestine.

Post WWI, the British and the French did divide the region of the Mideast (all of the Ottoman Empire, but for Turkey proper) between themselves - establishing borders according to their own purposes. While Palestine was governed by the British, the French carved the territory of Lebanon from Syria; both territories (Lebanon and Syria) remained under French rule.

During the 50's, 60's, and 70's, i.e., the Cold War, the greater powers in the world fought each other via surrogates. The Soviet Union supplied arms and advisors to the Arab speaking peoples; the British, French, and later the Americans, supported Israel.

(Post)Modern Art
A month ago? Two months ago? I hit to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Patty Chang: sculpture and video installation dealing with the myth of "Shangri La." I walked up to Patty's piece - a huge sort of jagged pyramid, faced with glass - and a female security guard walked up to me. She reached out, extending a pair of white gloves. Along with the gloves came an invitation to "turn" Patty's mirrored pyramid; it was mounted on a pivot of some sort. So, yeah, I put on the gloves, laid hands on the piece, and began to circle Kaaba. With each pace, a crowd grew about me. After one full revolution, I had 50 spectators. Or, Patty had 50, and I had become a part of the artwork. Powerful spotlights mounted overhead shown down on the piece, casting reflections about the room. The effect was not unlike the infamous "disco ball" of the 70's.

I put together a few recycled 5 gallon buckets at the beginning of the season - using compost that I had made, last year. A Roma tomato plant went in one of the buckets, a Big Boy hybrid in another. The plum has bourne fruit abundantly; the hybrid's limped and withered along.

Though I lost my (20x50) vegetable garden plot when my sister moved to Texas, my wildflower project at the Mom's place has matured; it now hosts a good variety of insects, birds, and small animals.

From the library shelves: Art Today, by Edward-Lucie Smith. Art of the Post-Modern Era, by Irving Sandler.

I'm still not certain that there is any such thing as "Post Modernism." A fair number of people will repeat almost anything, if they believe that they stand to gain (status/wealth/etc) as a result of their repetition. To the degree that university is structured for the purpose of maintaining certain paradigms, such people do well in university.

One reads Derrida, or Foucault, or, for that matter, Nietzsche; the number of overt, and covert, references to Xenophon, Plato, Aristotle, et al, is striking. So that it would seem silly to suggest that one possessed any real understanding of Derrida/Foucault/Nietzsche/et al without having read Xenophon/Plato/Aristotle/et al.

But the situation is even more horrible: "important" professors, authors, and other such people, not only avoid The Classics, but, too, it is not uncommon to find that they've read only summaries of the (postmodern?) authors who comment upon the The Classics. Right? Follow?

[* I ended up returning the materials to the library a few days late...and paying $2 U.S. in fines. Generally speaking, I feel good about giving my money to libraries. The public library is, I think, one the best things that we, as a species, have done.]

[** I think that "...shamed into silent conformity," sounds not unlike the social machinery at work in Alexis de Tocqueville's "Tyranny of the Majority." See Part II, Chapter 7, Democracy in America. ]

[*** RANT: 1980 to the present, a period of 26 years, two families, Bush and Clinton, have been, as President or Vice President, in the White House. "'re so boring; boring, boring, boring; always tape machine recording; i've heard all this before; i've heard all this before; your emotions make you a monster." Vote for Hillary in the next election? "It's time for a change." My ass.]

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