Monday, April 5, 2010

April 5

Clay Shirky has some interesting thoughts on why complex institutions may not be able to simplify themselves, even when under considerable pressure to do so:

In suggesting that over-complexity can lead to the collapse of empires, Shirky finds himself in the good company of historian Niall Ferguson, who believes that the days of the American empire may be numbered:

Of course, all empires eventually fail; and given the speed of change now, it was unlikely that any modern empire would demonstrate the staying power of, say, the Byzantine Empire:

What is "the Mount Everest of string quartets"? The Elliott Carter Third, whose first performers used a "click track" to keep in ensemble? The Morton Feldman Second, which lasts six unbroken hours and practically requires its live performers to wear Depends? Kyle Gann argues that the highest mountain is in fact Ben Johnston's microtonal Seventh, which has yet to be performed adequately:

In his latest DVD column, Dave Kehr, in addition to writing about Joseph Losey's excellent These Are the Damned, brings our attention to the short films of an obscure Yugoslav contemporary of Dusan Makevejev, Karpo Godina:

Godina's later features are listed at the IMDB, though without much detail. He has also been the cinematographer on many films shot in Yugoslavia -- have you ever heard of Private War, a 1988 war film starring Joe Dallesandro of Andy Warhol fame? I thought not....

(Dallesandro has worked steadily, despite being so memorably out of it in Warhol's Trash -- well, I suppose he was acting. He has performed for an impressive roster of directors including Louis Malle, Catherine Breillat, Jacques Rivette, Walerian Borowczyk, John Waters, and Steven Soderbergh.)

The Neglected Books Page takes a peak at the work of the now largely forgotten early 20th cartoonist H.T. Webster:

David Pagel makes a convincing case for the bright appeal of the paintings of Jonathan Lasker:

The online booksellers' collective AbeBooks puts together some terrific galleries, such as this one of enchanting old butterfly books:

Although The Literateur's review of Dmitry Bykov's big novel Living Souls is mixed-leaning-negative, it tells me enough to know that this ambitious "'state of the nation' epic" is probably my kind of book:

It is reasonable to look to reviews not just for opinion but for flavor as well, as the latter may provide more of a clue as to whether you or I will like something.

Among notables born on this date are philosopher Thomas Hobbes, educator Booker T. Washington, educational patron Elihu Yale, poets Algernon Charles Swinburne and Richard Eberhart, novelists Robert Bloch and Hugo Claus (Flemish Belgium), film directors Roger Corman and Peter Greenaway, record producer Joe Meek, general and statesman Colin Powell, composers Louis Spohr and Albert Roussel, conductor Herbert von Karajan, impersonator Frank Gorshin, and actors Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Melvyn Douglas, Gregory Peck, Gale Storm, and Michael Moriarty. A group of my Chicago film friends sat down this weekend for a private screening of Peter Greenaways's monumental, formalist, and quite funny The Falls, a three-hour fictional documentary about 92 survivors of a "Violent Unknown Event" whose last names all begin with the syllable "Fall," and whose subsequent experiences take in a host of obsessions including birds, water, and languages. See what I mean about conveying the flavor? If that one sentence didn't tell you whether you are part of the target audience for this film, I didn't do my job. My guess is that 98% of the general public are not, and that 98% of the readers of PMD are.

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