Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Postmodern Philosophy of Art 10 Minutes

“Did you get my card?”

Recovering the Mindset from Matthew Morettini on Vimeo.

Giovanni Strazza, “Veiled Virgin”

The Human Body is Amazing

Jerry Springer: The Opera: The Review

I caught Balagan Theatre’s production of Jerry Springer: The Opera this evening at the Moore. It was an impressive production with a hugely talented cast. I was particularly impressed by the vocal and dramatic performance of Megan Chenovick in the role of Baby Jane. The character could easily lend itself to cheap laughs and flat, expository plot development, but Ms. Chenovick turned it into a well-rounded characters, full of pathos and personality, all while delivering a stunning vocal performance, to boot.

Sean Nelson’s roles of Jonathan Weiruss and Satan were also quite noticeable. Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Nelson’s music, but this is the first time I’ve seen him in a dramatic production. His portrayal of a sycophantic warm-up man was believable and strangely charming in its eager cynicism. His Satan was appropriately flamboyant and commanding, effortlessly owning the stage and toying with Brandon Felker’s Jerry Springer. Nelson was flawless in the role of antogonist, playing a perfect foil to both the self-interested Springer and the self-pitying God.

In the end, the production was stunning, and my only real complaints are with the writing. The vernacular of the Ensemble got a little too camp at times (e.g. announcing Satan’s entrance with “Him am the Devil”). Many of the musical sections had no noticeable transitions, just sort of slamming into one another. The opening scene of the second act was heavy-handed with its cliche denigrations of the sort of blue collar Americans that are presumed to be fans of Jerry Springer.

I was also disappointed that there was no overture, but that’s really more a matter of taste.

Still, for its minor flaws, it was a hell of a show. Funny, fast-paced, brilliantly sung and acted, and with pleasingly anti-Manichean twist to it, it was well worth the price of admission. The show runs through this weekend, so if you’re in Seattle and can get tickets, I strongly suggest you do so.

The amazing Josy Carver tears it up to some electroswing:


I just finished The Last of Us, and I offer it as proof of my long-held assertion that video games can be capital-A-Art. To any who doubt it, I will henceforth simply say ecce pathos and hand them the controller.

Like all good art, the game is driven by its characters. The protagonists, Ellie and Joel, are the two most compelling characters I’ve found in video games. In the span of a few hours, the player is introduced to these two rich, multi-dimensional characters well enough to know them intimately and to truly identify with their motivations. The plot then proceeds to strings these two characters up between two poles: the monstrosity of infection and the monstrosity of self-serving human nature.

In a way, The Last of Us serves better as a protracted ethics thought experiment than anything else. Ellie and Joeal are not just walked through a few scenes of moral ambiguity, but are pitched headlong into a morally ambiguous world, and let to play out their fate in the absence of any clear good at all. The choices they make are the often difficult, but wholly necessary conclusions of their well-explored personalities and the positions they find themselves in. The resulting grim calculus is portrayed aptly and unflinchingly. At no point do their actions feel untrue to their characters, even when those actions feel deeply uncomfortable.

The gameplay itself is also excellent, but almost entirely beside the point. The characters in The Last of Us, as in all good fiction, are the focus, much to the game’s benefit. The dialog is tight and feels completely natural. The voice acting and mo-cap are both top-notch, making the characters to feel not just well-articulated, but fully human.

I highly recommend the game, not just to gamers, but to all fans of narrative fiction.

On the Arts Under Socialism

While I was waiting to see Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands at Bumbershoot, the MC for the stage brought on local (self-described) Socialist city council candidate Kshama Sawant and asked her a question about what she’d do to foster the arts if elected to city council. (I get the impression Sawant wasn’t the only local politico they’d had onstage during the weekend, but she was the only one I saw.) I felt that she mostly dodged the question, which is a pity. Because I think that if we’re going to have Socialist candidates for public office, then we should pay close attention to what actually happens under Socialism.

So, if anyone is actually interested in what happens to the arts under Socialism, I highly recommend Josef Skvorecky’s Talking Moscow Blues.

One excerpt, of many suitable ones:

“The name of the organization was innocuous: the Jazz Section of the Czech Musician’s Union. Its membership was restricted [by the Socialist government – AMB] to 3,000– a mere club of aficionados of a type of music which long ago had ceased to excite the masses and was therefore taken off the Party list of dangerous social phenomena. When, after thirteen years of existence, the Jazz Section was for all practical purpoces finally forced out of existence, the event went unnoticed in the U.S. Time did publish a story but ran it only in its European edition. In America this act of “minor” repression was apparently not considered newsworthy. And indeed, the bloodless demise of a small group of jazz lovers pales in the reddish light of a world where even genocide is quickly reashing the status of newsunworthiness. …

Apparently jazz, that generous gift of America to the world, has never been good for Communists in power. …[O]nce the Communist cause metaporphosed from liberating people to closely watching them the jungle sounds of freedom became suspect: sometimes they were deemed supremely dangerous, at other times only alien to the new socialist man. The criterion was simple: if a music fills a football stadium with raving youngsters, it signals danger; if it fills only a smoky jazz club with nostalgic middle-aged men, it is just a nuisance. A well-entrenched Marxist state can tolerate such nuisances. Therefore, in Czechoslovakia, jazz was under fire only until Elvis Presley and the hippy shake reached first the proletarian, then the new upper-class dance halls. After that, the ideological gunmen switched their attention from the saxophone to the electrified guitar.” – Josef Škvorecký, “Hipness at Noon”, as reprinted in Talking Moscow Blues

It should be pointed out that the above passage was written by Škvorecký whilst he was in exile for daring to attempt to publish un-Socialist novels. Three years after it was written, the leaders of the Jazz Section were imprisoned for daring to support and perform unapproved and insufficiently Socialist music and for publishing for its small membership unapproved or suppressed works of music and literature.

So it’s a pity that Ms. Sawant dodged the question. I think the attendees of Bumbershoot would have liked to hear an answer to the question of what Socialism actually means for art.

Art under Socialism is art stifled by the need for government permission and formed by the threat of censure, censorship, imprisonment, and violence.

David Foster Wallace on Ambition, Perfectionism, and Confronting One’s Limits

The Torture of Yann Frisch

French magician Yann Frisch and his incredible sleights of hand:

I love that, without saying a word, he can clearly portray himself as being tortured by a bunch of little red balls and the seemingly random peregrinations of his cup. Absolute brilliance.

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
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4a.) Penalty one stroke.
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