Conclusion to conclusion to Renaissance

November 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

What is a gemlike flame, anyway?

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Protected: Five more qustions

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Protected: The Calling

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How not to solve university unhappiness

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

A book on unhappiness in British universities? Great. Much needed. But, from the review at least, you get the sense that he’s totally Missing The Point:

Students are also thought to be victims of the happiness industry. The author suggests that rather than enhancing wellbeing, the preoccupation with student satisfaction, value for money and support for special needs may, in fact, breed unhappiness. Surveys of student satisfaction are singled out for blame: Watson highlights a “reverse Hawthorne effect” based on their findings, where “the more they are encouraged to assert their consumer rights, the more inclined they will be to be grumpy”.

So, it has no connection to the vague and insatiable demands placed on students, the ways in which teachers assign work with only the faintest idea of how much effort is required for it, or how offhand comments are endlessly amplified by an undergraduate culture generally dependent on rumour to figure out what the tutors really want?
[I avoided academic misery almost entirely, by a combination of being personally resistent to pressure, and studying in a department that went out of its way to shield students from the paranoia across the rest of the university. But I was one of the very few lucky ones]

CT Fantasy recommendations

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Crooked Timber book recommendation threads are always, always worth reading. This time, fantasy, with an interesting number of people trying to worm some SF in one way or another. Why are there more people talking about ideas, people and society in an SF than a fantasy setting? Can we blame it all on Tolkein?

me dicen el clandestino / por no llevar papel

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Ulrich Beck is writing a monthly column on ‘Weltinnenpolitik‘ for the Franfurter Rundschau. His first piece is devoted to the political demands of sans-papiers. It’s not a bad introduction to the issue, which apparently hasn’t really come to the fore in Germany. Particularly, the extent to which entire industries and cultures depend on illegal workers.

Grumbling about theatre in Berlin

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

The Tagesspiegel has a good old rant about the caution and backwardness of Berlin theatre:

All das existiert bis heute, es ist die Avantgarde von gestern und vorgestern. Wie modrige Pilze. Die Formen und Mischformen erzeugen kaum mehr Reibung, sie werden mehr oder weniger aufregend recycelt.

You want to pat the author on the back, give him a pep-talk. I don’t know nearly enough about the Berlin theatre scene to say whether it’s accurate; certainly there are few people with a positive word to say about Berlin theatre at the moment. My feeling, though, is that the big and famous theatres are always boring, in every city. The interesting stuff is going to come through newer, smaller venues, of which the article avoids much mention. HAU, for instance, seems to be the epicentre of interesting theatre in Berlin, with a constantly-changing programme that puts the bigger places to shame.

On the other hand, much of HAU’s content comes from touring companies; that might not make them the best advert for Berlin thetre.

Chinese art in Germany

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Sign and Sight, in its weekly guide to the cultural pages of German newspapers, is keeping up a relentless focus on Chinese art. I’m struggling to figure out how much this is a reflection of a genuine trend in the German media, and how much it’s just the interest of S&S’s writers, editors or backers.

Photoshop labelling

November 29th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

The Telegraph:

A group of 50 politicians want a new law stating published images must have bold printed notice stating they have been digitally enhanced.
….
“It is not an attempt to damage creativity of photographers or publicity campaigns, but to advise the public on whether what they are seeing is real or not.”

Well, yes. And that’s before you get onto how unpleasantly inhuman all these doctored images look.

Also, I love that the term ‘airbrushed’ seems set to stick around long, long after every genuine airbrush has been consigned to the scrap-heap

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November 26th, 2009 § Enter your password to view comments. § permalink

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What is culture?

November 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

From Art Goldhammer’s lecture on French culture:

A Jew, Sartre said, is one who is a Jew for the anti-Semite. So let us say that Culture is that which is Culture
for the Other. And let us stipulate further that the Other of Culture is Power, with which it is
locked in mutual embrace

Possession

November 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Just started reading A.S. Byatt’s Possession, and am massively enjoying it. Somehow able to be excited by it even though all the characters are, so far, noticeably wet. Little understanding of why I like it, though — or at least none I’ll put in public on the web.

Two new blogs

November 25th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Once upon a time there was an excellent blog called Volsunga. But its author got busy, or bored, and the blog vanished into the ether. It’s now no longer even in the wayback machine, so far as I can see. But – the author has returned!.

Meanwhile, here is another new blog from another excellent person. I like this trend; the more blogs the better.

Talking to a Stranger

November 24th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Has anybody heard of, or even seen, ‘Talking to a stranger’, a BBC drama from 1966? Somebody put several long clips up on youtube, and they’re incredible. Seriously; watch them, then rewatch for all the nuances you missed first time round. I can’t remember ever seeing a psychological drama half as good on television, or even on film or in the theatre.

It centres on ‘Terri’, played by Judi Dency with a rushing stream-of-consciousness performance that gives the complete tour of her mind within a few minutes. There’s something of Sally Bowles in her (Dench performed in Cabaret a couple of years later). Both have the same vulnerable extraversion, fuelled by terror that everything will fall apart if they stop moving. For Terri that’s intertwined with anger, despair, religion, paranoia and guilt. All this rushes out in perfectly-drawn conversations with her brother and flatmate. Terri selfishly oblivious to them, condescending of their quiet lives, almost unable to believe in them as real people — but with envy constantly creeping in just below the surface.

Again, I can’t quite believe how good it is. Watch it! And this is just from a few clips. I’d love to see the entire thing, but it only seems to be available as part of a massive, expensive box-set of the complete works of Judi Dench. Here is one review.

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Art squats and political novels

November 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

1) The Oubliette, a very impressive group of art-squatters. Currently occupying a building in Leicester Square, ffs. Previous squats: the former Mexican Embassy on Mayfair, and a language school on Oxford Street. And they’re Doing Things™ in the buildings.
2) Crooked Timber searching in vain for political novels. Even CT’s collective erudition doesn’t turn up much, at least in the Anglophone world. This is odd; surely politics should be the perfect backdrop for fiction? Constant conflict of duty, ideology, loyalty, and self-interest. Articulate, self-aware characters continually mythologizing their own lives for public consumption. A prefab Greek chorus of pundits and journalists. Day-to-day politics may be dull, cynical and idea-free, but that doesn’t stop it twisting people in fascinating ways. So, what excellent political novels should I be reading?

Tobias Rapp on Rammstein

November 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Spiegel yet again, where Tobias “Easyjetset” Rapp has a delightfully cynical article on Rammstein finally getting their latest album (not quite) banned:

For the professional provocateurs it is almost a little offensive that a passé gay joke about homosexuals supposedly inserting hamsters into their bodies riled the censors more than earlier songs about the cannibal of Rotenburg and incest, or their Leni Riefenstahl video.

And he has the cultural situation of Neue Deutsche Härte precisely pinned down:

Rammstein, six East German musicians who played in various underground bands in East Germany, derived a successful business model from their understanding that there are no consequences for cultural rebellion in capitalism. Their recipe is simple: Cram sex and violence into a Dadaist vise (a technique that is probably most successful in “Pussy,” with lines like “Blitzkrieg with the meat gun”), add layers of loud guitar music and synthesizer noise, and gurgle out the words in a deep, throaty voice.

MultiKulti fail

November 23rd, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

Also in Der Spiegel, polling of Turkish Germans:

Turks are the largest ethnic minority in Germany and make up almost 4 percent of the country’s population. Yet only 21 percent of those polled feel happy to call Germany home.