October 11, 2004

Virtual Heroism Seminar Continues...

I thought the virtual heroism seminar had ended. I was wrong.

In the late update, Matthew Yglesias canters in on the White Horse of High Art to denounce anew the Gnawing Criticism of the Merely Politically Correct:

Matthew Yglesias: Once More Into The Che: ...the aesthetic merits of a work are not reducible to, or even necessarily related to, their political merits. This is a point that I think people are clear on when it comes to things that are far removed from the issues of the day. Neither The Merchant of Venice nor any of Shakespeare's plays about the history of England say much that is admirable from a political point of view. One serious problem with Tom Clancy's more recent novels is that instead of being fun, though insubstantial, adventure stories about spies, they've become rather heavy-handed rightwing political propaganda. The problem here, though, is that they're heavy-handed rightwing political propaganda, which distracts from the fun and demonstrates a lack of artistry, not that they're rightwing political propaganda. Ezra Pound's Cantos or T.S. Eliot's "Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar" are good poems, their anti-semitism notwithstanding, just as Birth of a Nation really is a grounbreaking work of technical cinema, its racism notwithstanding. It demonstrates a certain impoverished outlook -- as I wrote, a philistinism -- to not be able to see this.

Historian Timothy Burke admonishes me "to take the lyrics of the song from Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome more seriously." I did take them seriously! I did! That's why I quoted them! And Tina Turner rocks!

:-)

He goes on to write from the Olympian Perspective of a Jove-Like Historian, Thundering Down From on High that humanity has outgrown its need for heroes writ large:

Heroes in the sense of people who we regard as so unusually admirable that they are a model for us to imitate or follow, are pacifiers we should leave in our collective cribs. Heroes in the sense of historical protagonists whose actions and ideas, small or large, have helped to produce a better future, are found in the most surprising places and moments—-and it is hard to think of such a hero whom we could not damn simply by choosing the darker sides of their time on Earth to emphasize. I’m interested simply in talking about what it is that people do in the world, and about a full appreciation of all the consequences of their actions, all of them. In the space of that interest, there’s room for Mohandas Gandhi the racial chauvinist of South Africa, a young and idealist Che Guevara on a motorcycle... a liberty-loving American revolutionary who owns slaves, and maybe even for the awful attractiveness of a long-ago mythical figure in an epic poem who petulantly slaughters other men for the sake of his own egotism.

Robert Farley brings lawyers, guns, money, and the advantage of actually having viewed The Motorcycle Diariesto the party:

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Motorcycle Diaries: I'll tell you what I thought of the film.

I quite liked it, and I wasn't overly troubled by the lack of context. Technically, the film was quite good, and the two primary actors were excellent. The pace dragged a bit toward the end, but there was much to admire in the storytelling. As for context, there perhaps could have been a trifle more, but I wasn't unhappy. I have never understood how Che, of all the various revolutionary adventurers, achieved iconic status. The film gave a glimpse of the reasons why I still see Che shirts on University Way every other day or so. I would never wear such a shirt, but I can now better understand why some are drawn to the figure of Che. He is tragic in the sense that many Communists and no Fascists are; he legitimately believed that his actions would result in a better world for everyone. This belief led him to advocate murderous policies that went well beyond what Castro (or anyone else short of Mao or Pol Pot) was prepared to do. Indeed, few have as clearly articulated Stalinist solutions as did Che. This is tragic; an impulse for justice twisted into an advocacy for destruction.

As such, the film works much better if you understand who Che was and what he did for the rest of his career. Unfortunately, the epilogue gave no details, and at least one audience member was shocked to find that he had been executed by the Bolivians in the 1960s (idiot). The narrative revealed Che's nascent radicalism in a few places, but even those worked better if you knew the whole story. If you don't, I can see how you would come away with the impression of Che as unambiguously heroic figure. Ambiguous figures are, of course, a good deal more interesting than unambiguous figures, and the filmmakers may have assumed to much knowledge on the part of their audience (at least the North American audience).

On its own merits, a solid flick. As political document, a bit twitchy.

And Mark A. R. Kleiman wants to give the last word on Achilles (and Guevara) as hero to W.H. Auden:

Mark A. R. Kleiman: Che Guevara as Achilles: The Shield of Achilles

She looked over his shoulder
For vines and olive trees,
Marble well-governed cities
And ships upon untamed seas,
But there on the shining metal
His hands had put instead
An artificial wilderness
And a sky like lead.

A plain without a feature, bare and brown,
No blade of grass, no sign of neighborhood,
Nothing to eat and nowhere to sit down,
Yet, congregated on its blankness, stood
An unintelligible multitude,
A million eyes, a million boots in line,
Without expression, waiting for a sign.

Out of the air a voice without a face
Proved by statistics that some cause was just
In tones as dry and level as the place:
No one was cheered and nothing was discussed;
Column by column in a cloud of dust
They marched away enduring a belief
Whose logic brought them, somewhere else, to grief.

She looked over his shoulder
For ritual pieties,
White flower-garlanded heifers,
Libation and sacrifice,
But there on the shining metal
Where the altar should have been,
She saw by his flickering forge-light
Quite another scene.

Barbed wire enclosed an arbitrary spot
Where bored officials lounged (one cracked a joke)
And sentries sweated for the day was hot:
A crowd of ordinary decent folk
Watched from without and neither moved nor spoke
As three pale figures were led forth and bound
To three posts driven upright in the ground.

The mass and majesty of this world, all
That carries weight and always weighs the same
Lay in the hands of others; they were small
And could not hope for help and no help came:
What their foes like to do was done, their shame
Was all the worst could wish; they lost their pride
And died as men before their bodies died.

She looked over his shoulder
For athletes at their games,
Men and women in a dance
Moving their sweet limbs
Quick, quick, to music,
But there on the shining shield
His hands had set no dancing-floor
But a weed-choked field.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

The thin-lipped armorer,
Hephaestos, hobbled away,
Thetis of the shining breasts
Cried out in dismay
At what the god had wrought
To please her son, the strong
Iron-hearted man-slaying Achilles
Who would not live long

For next week, I want to assign everyone Barbara Ehrenreich's (1997) Blood Rites. (Diane Pub. Co.: 0805057870). It is a wonderful book that does a brilliant job of outlining the awful attractiveness of Achilles and his ilk; drawing out the consequences of our sick tendency to love, admire, and worship young adult males who place themselves in mortal danger to try to achieve collective goals; and speculates that this is a consequence of the Darwinian pressure put on our minds by our long-ago environment of evolutionary adaptation--in which a young male could indeed demonstrate his fitness and help the pack survive by serving as point and so having the close encounter of the third kind with the local leopard.

They yoked their oxen and mules.
They gathered before the city.
For nine long days they brought great heaps of wood
On the morning of the tenth day, with many tears,
They brought brave Hector forth, laying his body
Upon the summit of the pyre, and lit the fire thereto.
Then, when dawn with her rosy fingers came on the eleventh day,
The people again assembled round the pyre of mighty Hector.
They quenched the fire with wine wherever it was burning.
Then his brothers and comrades, with many bitter tears,
Gathered up his white bones, wrapped them in purple cloth,
And laid them in the golden urn, which they placed in a grave.
They covered it over with large stones set close together.
Over it they built a barrow--in haste, keeping guard on every side,
Lest the Achaeans should attack them before they had finished.
When they had heaped up the barrow, they went back again into the city,
And held high feast in the house of Priam their king.

Thus ended the funeral of Hector the Horse-Tamer.

Posted by DeLong at October 11, 2004 03:28 PM | TrackBack
Comments

The thing about Greek heroes is that the Greeks didn't think about them the way modern westerners think about their heroes. For the Greeks, the hero marked the border between divine and humane. By definition they had to do stuff that humans couldn't. Often they did stuff that was simply aweful - not simply horrible, but in the sense that contemplating the act would fill you with awe (regardless of whether or not it was a good thing). By definition you usually didn't think of these fellows as role models. One thinks of Oedipus, sleeping with Mom and killing Pops, for example. This is not to say that the Greeks did not admire Hektor profoundly - indeed many have argued that the profound and enduring power of the Iliad arises from the all too human portrait of Hektor. But Hektor could not be a hero, for the Greeks, in the way that Achilles was. Achilles did the unimaginable. The great power of the Homeric portrait of Hektor arises from the fact that we all can easily imagine being him.

Posted by: Pudentilla at October 11, 2004 03:57 PM

Blood Rites rocks. It pairs nicely with John Keegan’s The Face of Battle, too.

Posted by: David Moles at October 11, 2004 03:58 PM

Anyone who would write "Hector the Horse-Tamer" instead of "Hector, tamer of horses" as a translation of the Iliad, may know Greek but is woefully underequipped where English is concerned. [Carnie voice:] Step right up, boys and girls, ladies and gents, and see ... Hector the Horse-Tamer! [/carnie voice]

An example that there is such a thing as "the aesthetic."

I'm with Yglesias on this one, for the most part, but I think Matt has to concede that there can be, at least in theory, great works of art that are dangerous and morally repugnant--dangerous because they are so aesthetically attractive. Hypothetical examples will suggest themselves to the reader; it would be interesting to name actual ones, but I'm not going there alone ....

Posted by: Anderson at October 11, 2004 04:12 PM

"Birth of a Nation" is an awful film. Not to understand this, even if there is a technical proficiency or adeptness or even advance with the film, is to yet lack sympathy for those who were directly harmed by such a film. I do not dismiss the anti-semitism of a T. S. Eliot or Ezra Pound. Why should I? That such poets were clever with words interests me little. "Triumph of the Will" could not compare with "Guernica."

We must choose our heroes carefully, choose our heroic art carefully. By so doing we advance in humaneness, and humaneness alone will provide for lasting advance.

Posted by: anne at October 11, 2004 04:37 PM

Jule 10, 2004

The Greeks Conquer the London Stage With War and Sacrifice, but No Heroes
By BEN BRANTLEY - New York Times

LONDON - At first you think it can't get more upsetting than this: the tearful, gasping incomprehension of a blameless girl who has learned that her father has ordered her execution. But what winds up being most painful in the breathtaking new production of Euripides' "Iphigenia at Aulis," at the National Theater here, is the ardor with which the title character comes to embrace her death sentence.

A defenseless-looking figure in a child's chaste white underwear, the Iphigenia of the play's later scenes stares at her destiny with eager eyes that blaze and water. Her voice, amplified by a public address system, suggests both terror and triumph as she exhorts her father's troops to proceed with her sacrificial murder in the name of king and country.

Is this patriotism or psychosis? The line between them blurs damningly in Katie Mitchell's passionate, elegant staging. Making merciless use of images associated with the heroism of the British home front during World War II, this "Iphigenia" charts a mind-warping plague of military fever that leaves no one uncontaminated.

Only a few blocks farther into London's South Bank, at the Young Vic Theater, another, more obscure Greek tragedy has been resuscitated with similar intent, though in a very different style. That's "Cruel and Tender," Martin Crimp's intense reworking of Sophocles' seldom performed "Trachiniae." Staged by Luc Bondy to give off the bleary fear and loathing that accompany raging hangovers, "Cruel and Tender" portrays the vigil of a high-strung general's wife awaiting her husband's return as an exercise in destructive domesticity that leaves every surface smeared with blood.

In London, where theater often has a fraternal closeness to the morning's headlines rarely known across the Atlantic, the ancient Greeks are hot this summer. And two productions of Euripides' "Hecuba," from the Donmar Warehouse and the Royal Shakespeare Company, are scheduled for the coming season.

Mind you, relevance-seeking Shakespearean tragedy, which can be relied on to fit any historic occasion with a little directorial tailoring, has been on tap in London since the invasion of Iraq. (Think of Nicholas Hytner's transformation of "Henry V" into a CNN-friendly theater of war.) But for once, those really dead white guys ? Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides ? have the edge over everybody's favorite Elizabethan, and they fit the anxious temperament of a nation where popular skepticism about foreign policy keeps growing. Even at their darkest, Shakespeare's history plays have the built-in promise of a better future, of an ever more civilized England.

The Greek classics, on the other hand, have no such complacency. Among their incontrovertible principles are the beliefs that the human race was born to suffer and to inflict suffering; that empires rise only to fall; and that self-knowledge, if it ever arrives, comes too late. "Glory is dangerous, and honor is slippery," an already depleted Agamemnon says in the first scene of "Iphigenia at Aulis," in Don Taylor's sharp-tongued translation. "You have it, and it's gone."

Of course, the ancient plays now in London have been hand-picked for their exceptionally bleak view of things military. Probably written in the last year of Euripides' life, "Iphigenia at Aulis," his final tragedy, reflects the seasoned cynicism of an old man who has lived through years of devastating warfare. There's not a hero to be found here. And while the plot is set off by a priest's insistence that Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter to the goddess Artemis, to bring the winds to send Greek boats to Troy, there is a pervasive suspicion that all gods have gone missing.

Posted by: anne at October 11, 2004 04:47 PM

That Shakespeare held a mirror to English politics was admirable in itself, for it allows us to see the characters depicted from an increasingly humane perspective. Shakespeare is an altogether different artist than T. S. Eliot, altogether more nourishing for the soul as we grow. The Shakespeare of Lear and of the histories is the same.

Posted by: anne at October 11, 2004 05:00 PM

Please, can't we get beyond Thunderdome?

Posted by: Mac Thomason at October 11, 2004 06:43 PM

So, I finally saw The Motorcycle Diaries!

There've been so many Achilles and Triumph of the Will references that it feels like a bit of a distraction to actually reference the Che movie. But at the risk of giving away the ending to those who haven't seen it...

One thing I didn't get from any commentary or reviews I've read was how the movie throws in quite an ambivalent angle on the older Che. At the end of the movie, we see Che's friend Alberto (young version) wave goodbye as Che (young version) flies off. We then see a short note about Che's and Alberto's life after that point, and about Che's death in Bolivia. The film then cuts to a shot of an older man, apparently the older Alberto, looking off into the distance, and then a repeat of the shot of Che's (young version) plane taking off - as if Alberto is still waiting for the Che that took off that day to return.

What I got out of this is that the promise of the young heroic Che was not fulfilled by the older Che - his friend is still waiting for that young hero to return and slay the dragons of Latin America. That ambivalence, combined with the remarkable artfulness with which the film shows the real problems of Latin America (circa 1952, but the filmmakers probably don't want you to think all that is over now) and the younger Che's growing awareness of them, left me feeling that The Motorcycle Diaries was a reasonably fair and moving portrait.

Posted by: Geoffrey at October 11, 2004 08:03 PM

Was just up in Canada on business, and over lunch we started talking about Canadian health care, how they get both medical and major- medical free, qued up at state-owned hospitals,
first emergency surgery, then elective surgery.

Cosmetic surgery is available if the patient wants to pay for it and to wait for it, which is why they all come to the US for facial and lipo, although you don't see very many fat Canadians.

What's that got to do with epic heroes?

Anyway, so I asked them, what do they think the worst problem in America is, you know, nuclear terrorism, price of oil, federal deficit, what?

And they all said the worst thing about the US was all the people "living on their backs", by which they mean all the homeless in America, since there are few homeless up in Canada.

So as a person who has been there and survived that, I'd have to say the real epic heroes in this odd Greek fable called Americus are our nation's homeless. Invisible, unwanted, with no way over the wall or around it. Doomed. Dying. Millions and millions of them, to dub Sagan. You often step over them on your walk to Wall Street.

Who was Che compared to an epic as big as that?

And does Lord Kerry care? Does he even notice?
He's not playing to homeless because they don't vote, just as he won't play to a lot of things after he's elected. Nothing matters but process.

How's them apples?

Posted by: Tante Aime at October 11, 2004 08:24 PM

You really don't have to go back to the primal throng to find a time when the military skills were honored and useful. A lot of the small countries of Europe (Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, Holland) were once militarily fearsome. Otherwise they'd all be provinces of some more fearsome entity (as Sweden and Portugal have been).

For whatever reason, there was a real enthusiasm for war in 1914, and most nations had a war policy to some degree. Many of the losers ceased to exist (Ottoman Empire, Hapsburg Empire) or were immensely transformed (Russian Empire, which was not doing well militarily when the Romanoffs were overthrown).

Even the Czechs had their moment of glory, as my pseudonym attests.

Posted by: Zizka at October 11, 2004 10:25 PM

I mean Holland and Portugal.

Posted by: Zizka at October 11, 2004 10:30 PM


I think what Timothy Brooks means is that if you take the song seriously you have to grapple with it in the context of the film. Taking the song seriously means taking the film seriously: and the film makes its own argument about social progress that is different from your position.

Thunderdome shows individuals slowly accreting into tribal groups, and then primitive market societies, and finally what Miller presents as a just society. His utopia is represented by the children (literally "the future"), a group shown to be impractical, naive and short-sighted; they have no business plan, which is exactly why they don't need a hero but a "driver" who can show them the "way home".

So Miller isn't dismissive of ideological movements that are completely impractical. He is supportive of them and critical of the moral compromises he sees sustaining unjust societies. Were this not the case, Thunderdome would be much more positive about Aunty Entity and Bartertown, the city she single-handedly built. Yet Miller dwells on injustice. Bartertown is a place where might is literally right (disputes are solved through violence not only in the thunderdome but also among its governing elite), and justice is a "Wheel of Fate". Life is a metaphorical hell for the vast majority of workers who toil below ground, just as it is a paradise for those "on top".

This isn't an uncritical condemnation: showing us the city through Max's eyes reminds us clearly enough that if it's bad having water available only as a commodity, how much worse is it having none at all? So Miller probably isn't supporting movements advocating destruction.

But Miller is clearly in the camp backing revolution, and it isn't accidental that Bartertown is actually destroyed in the process of creating a new society. So even if we put more emphasis on the more organic, cumulative nature of social progress, we still have a film that functions as a call to arms. Miller may be cynical about the ability of any revolutionary to achieve intentional social change (his selection of an "anti-hero" as his "hero" is clear enough here), but his is not a defense of workable pragmatism. At the very least, it is a call for us to be more sensitive to claims of social injustice, if only because it would be a better world without them.

I guess filmmakers pay less attention to institutional sustainability and equilibrium than economists. Everyone can agree that Tina Turner rocks though. :)

Posted by: trevelyan at October 11, 2004 11:02 PM

I agree with Anne, we have to choose our heroes carefully. The true hero points the way to a better future, and our judgment of that better future is passed on to the next generation as the way it should be, even if we cannot make it happen right now. Martin Luther King is this kind of hero, he teaches us about a better America, more inclusive, more open to difference, more open to the successes of all of its people. It is not where we are today, but we may get there.

This vision is directly contradictory to the fundamentalist vision, which is that all good occurred in the past, and that only by returning to the past can we achieve the golden age.

Posted by: masaccio at October 12, 2004 06:59 AM

Masaccio:

I agree with Anne, we have to choose our heroes carefully.

The true hero points the way to a better future, and our judgment of that better future is passed on to the next generation as the way it should be, even if we cannot make it happen right now. Martin Luther King is this kind of hero, he teaches us about a better America, more inclusive, more open to difference, more open to the successes of all of its people. It is not where we are today, but we may get there.

This vision is directly contradictory to the fundamentalist vision, which is that all good occurred in the past, and that only by returning to the past can we achieve the golden age.

What a wonderful comment, how beautifully written :)

Anne

Posted by: anne at October 12, 2004 07:33 AM

"You really don't have to go back to the primal throng to find a time when the military skills were honored and useful. A lot of the small countries of Europe (Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal, Holland) were once militarily fearsome. Otherwise they'd all be provinces of some more fearsome entity (as Sweden and Portugal have been)."

No, we haven't. Neither have the Portuguese, strictly speaking.

Posted by: David Weman at October 12, 2004 09:17 AM

I think anne &co. are missing part of the point in insisting that Achilles is a hero who we don't want to emulate. The more I believe that we should admire only the virtuous, the more important it is to remember that it's often easy to be thrown by the awe and terror of the heroic, e.g. Achilles, into something much too much like emulation. I have to remember that to be warned against it even in myself, let alone in other people.

We seem to be stumbling over the lack of a different term than 'hero' for someone who exceeds common humanity in virtue: 'saint' has had a good run, is there something not theological?

I have been told that there's a Jewish (folk?) concept for something like a secualar saint, and I think some of the Confucian ideals fit well - perhaps the virtuous governor whose death is remembered in the Dragon Boat races - but I don't know a classical term for it.

Posted by: clew at October 12, 2004 11:01 AM

Chew

Nice argument. After all, Achilles is portrayed a hero and the portrayal is meant to be compelling. Homer is quite the poet. Again, we are made up of many contrary parts.

Posted by: anne at October 12, 2004 11:25 AM

Some parts of this ambling discussion have taken on a familiar quality - members of each side insisting on their own definitions, then declaring victory based on those definitions. Is it more important to see to it that everybody adopts a definition of heroism that is foreign to our time, so that we can read Homer on the same terms as his comtemporaries, or can we be allowed to use our language in its modern, conventional form? I have news -- we will never be able to read Homer as Homer's contemporaries would. It is well worth knowing that Homer's contemporaries had a particular definition for "hero" but that doesn't mean the original point, about whom we might see as heroic, can be dismissed.

So everybody who is unable to wrap their minds around a discussion that encompasses knowledge of what the Greeks might have thought when reading (hearing) Homer as well as the modern meaning of "hero" raise you hand. Otherwise, let's try to figure out what the other guy meant before declaring victory.

There is an undeniable appeal to somebody like Achilles, or Ajax or Hector. Many of us are not young, strong males. Some never were. But for young, strong males, the idea of Achilles - of being the fastest, strongest, most deadly, most feared - seems within reach. Not every day, but some days, when the discus leaves your hand just right, when the other guy lands on the mat way before anybody thought possible, when every physical act comes easy. We may choose our heroes carefully, but we cannot choose for others. Achilles appeal will last as long as their are strong young men.

Posted by: kharris at October 12, 2004 12:05 PM

"...the awful attractiveness of Achilles and his ilk; ..."

Says who?

Posted by: vachon at October 12, 2004 12:39 PM

KHarris

Agreed!

Posted by: anne at October 12, 2004 12:54 PM

http://www.online-literature.com/cervantes/don_quixote/5/

In short, his wits being quite gone, he hit upon the strangest notion that ever madman in this world hit upon, and that was that he fancied it was right and requisite, as well for the support of his own honour as for the service of his country, that he should make a knight-errant of himself, roaming the world over in full armour and on horseback in quest of adventures, and putting in practice himself all that he had read of as being the usual practices of knights-errant; righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger from which, in the issue, he was to reap eternal renown and fame. Already the poor man saw himself crowned by the might of his arm Emperor of Trebizond at least; and so, led away by the intense enjoyment he found in these pleasant fancies, he set himself forthwith to put his scheme into execution.

Posted by: anne at October 12, 2004 01:02 PM

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/10/books/review/10DELBANC.html?pagewanted=all&position=

''I am alogos,'' [Harold Bloom] says, ''averse to philosophy,'' by which he means that he wants to inhabit the riddles of life without presuming to solve them. He ''would rather be Falstaff or Sancho than a version of Hamlet or Don Quixote, because growing old and ill teaches me that being matters more than knowing.''

Posted by: anne at October 12, 2004 01:08 PM

David -- Portugal was absorbed by Spain for a time (albeit by dynastic marriage). If you're Dutch -- what was your status after the Napoleonic wars? Maybe I'm wrong.

My point, however -- that the nice mild Swiss, Swedes, Dutch, and Portuguese of today used to be murderous brutes -- is valid.

Posted by: Zizka at October 12, 2004 01:56 PM

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Posted by: Your safe Online Pharmacy at October 12, 2004 11:59 PM

This entire conversation is absurd. That seems to be the case whenever technocrats discuss culture.
Acts are heroic; people are flawed. The Greek heroes were flawed on a grand scale; that's what makes them interesting.

Art can not be made to follow the law of non-contradiction. Yglesias' response is Lit. 101. It's amazing that he should have to make such an argument in a conversation among adults.
How many American heroes are villians in the eyes of others?
Was Lincoln a hero to Frederick Douglass?

How many of the works of art that DeLong recently praised so highly on his trip to Italy succeed in atoning for the crimes of the Catholic church? What's the relation of Titian's art to Philip II? Are there no fans of the Venetian master in Maastricht? Are we going to discuss the destructive forces of American culture and all it has wrought? God save us all from the middle aged american teenager in the voting booth.

Most of what is truly great in our culture is seen as a flower growing in a rotting swamp: The blues comes from slavery, its white cohabitant from grinding poverty. Our optimistic art is silly. optimism pairs with no-nothingism and greed, can-do practicality with ignorance of anything outside the range of techinical skill.

Art is the craft of seduction. Plato spent a lifetime trying to suduce people into believing it wasn't worth the risks.

If it can't be eliminated we should at least respect its power.
And if one respects something, doesn't that allow the possibility of something more?

DeLong ignores that Hector was raising his son to be a warrior and a king.
And for the record I chose Achilles, at about the age of 5. I never thought of him a hero.

Posted by: seth edenbaum at October 13, 2004 09:29 AM

I agree it's important to denounce lunatic radicals who torture and execute victims of an overthrown dictatorship in the name of "liberating" them and promoting "new society".

I also think it's even more important not to give them a second term in office, but hey, that's just me.

Posted by: TK at October 13, 2004 11:36 AM

Ah, my absurd, technocrat friends! Are we not fortunate to be set straight by Seth? Seth who knows each of us in our private lives so well, that he recognizes us as the mere, absurd technocrats we are, each and every one. How kind of him to shed some glimmer of enlightenment, of the possibility that art, truly understood, affords. It shames me, shames me to have tried even in my meager way, to trudge through the pages of Homer, missing the forest for the trees all the way through. Now I'll return to "Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel", a work my technocratic excuse for a mind can hope to comprehend.

Posted by: kharris at October 13, 2004 01:08 PM

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Posted by: Buy cheap Soma online at October 14, 2004 02:35 AM

Just in case "substance please" was meant for me, I would point out that substance is pretty much what was going on here, till this happened by:

"This entire conversation is absurd. That seems to be the case whenever technocrats discuss culture."

Substance free and snotty.

Sauce for goose, sauce for gander. Don't anticipate that you'll be allowed to go around snubbing other peoples views without being called on it.

Posted by: kharris at October 14, 2004 07:04 AM

You took a word from one line. Here's the rest:

Acts are heroic; people are flawed. The Greek heroes were flawed on a grand scale; that's what makes them interesting.
Art can not be made to follow the law of non-contradiction. Yglesias' response is Lit. 101. It's amazing that he should have to make such an argument in a conversation among adults.
How many American heroes are villians in the eyes of others?
Was Lincoln a hero to Frederick Douglass?
How many of the works of art that DeLong recently praised so highly on his trip to Italy succeed in atoning for the crimes of the Catholic church? What's the relation of Titian's art to Philip II? Are there no fans of the Venetian master in Maastricht? Are we going to discuss the destructive forces of American culture and all it has wrought? God save us all from the middle aged american teenager in the voting booth.
Most of what is truly great in our culture is seen as a flower growing in a rotting swamp: The blues comes from slavery, its white cohabitant from grinding poverty. Our optimistic art is silly. optimism pairs with no-nothingism and greed, can-do practicality with ignorance of anything outside the range of techinical skill.
Art is the craft of seduction. Plato spent a lifetime trying to suduce people into believing it wasn't worth the risks.
If it can't be eliminated we should at least respect its power.
And if one respects something, doesn't that allow the possibility of something more?
DeLong ignores that Hector was raising his son to be a warrior and a king.
And for the record I chose Achilles, at about the age of 5. I never thought of him a hero.
---
Anne: "We must choose our heroes carefully, choose our heroic art carefully. By so doing we advance in humaneness, and humaneness alone will provide for lasting advance."

I cringe.

Be that as it may, next time you watch Riefenstahl's "Olympia" look out for the steeplechase sequence. The director placed a camera on a tripod just to the side of a tall water-jump and the machine records the scene as rider after rider, mostly military officiers dressed to the nines in their cavalry[!] uniforms are thrown from their horses and plunge into the mud. The scene goes on and on; it's a comedy of horror, the death of old Europe, courtesy of UFA. Homer who had a great sense of irony, would die laughing as he watched. I just think of that great old Nazi, Strauss' "Four last Songs" sung by Schwarzkopf of course, and hum along.

Posted by: seth edenbaum at October 14, 2004 09:05 AM

Already saw the rest. Doesn't change how you opened your comment. It was "my dog's bigger than your dog" putdown. Lacking substance, snotty, needing of a spanking. Nothing you said after that - oh but thanks for showing us the whole thing again - changes the fact of the opening putdown. So don't expect to chide your way out of it.

Posted by: kharris at October 14, 2004 09:16 AM

I made no apologies.
Would DeLong apologize for deing rude to Donald Luskin?

Posted by: seth edenbaum at October 14, 2004 10:01 AM

I made no apologies.
Would DeLong apologize for deing rude to Donald Luskin?

Posted by: seth edenbaum at October 14, 2004 10:06 AM

I made no apologies.
Would DeLong apologize to Donald Luskin?

Posted by: seth edenbaum at October 14, 2004 10:10 AM

the multiple posts on the other hand...

Posted by: seth edenbaum at October 14, 2004 10:58 AM

Edenbaum's post was sharp and contained lots of substance. Just read past the cranky first sentence; isn't it a little silly to be hanging out in blog comment sections if you're that easily offended?

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