And I think that Southern artists have peculiarities unique as well: they certainly have an obsession with place. But, as well, they have an obsession with family, death, the past – and they’re uniquely susceptible to myth and mystery. They have a willingness to experiment with doses of romanticism that would be fatal to other, non-Southern artists.
- Sally Mann
Mann says of her work, “When the good pictures come, we hope they tell truths, but truths ‘told slant,’ just as Emily Dickinson commanded.” Her images are haunting, intimate, and disturbing but at the same time leave the viewer with a sense of comfort. “I’m a little like Flaubert, who when he looked at a young girl saw the skeleton underneath,” says Mann, 54. “It’s not morbid, it’s just this awareness of the antithetical aspect of every situation.”
Thanksgiving Fact: My mother discovered sweet tea-flavored vodka tonight and filled her entire diet snapple iced tea bottle with it. “I can’t even tell the difference!” she exclaimed. This does not augur well.
Thanksgiving Fact: Larry King seems to be singing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” on the television right now, somewhat drunkenly, and definitely off-key.
Thanksgiving Fact: Is it just me or does Alec Baldwin narrate everything?
Thanksgiving Fact: I may or may not have placed a drunken bet against my family that Lady Gaga would still be around in twenty years, but she will have reinvented herself into a geometric musical molecule that can implant itself into your brain. I made my cousin write the bet down and bury it in the backyard.
Children of her type contrive the purest philosophies. Ada had worked out her own little system. An individual’s life consisted of certain classified things: ‘real things’ which were unfrequent and priceless, simple ‘things’ which formed the routine stuff of life; and ‘ghost things,’ also called ‘fogs,’ such as fever, toothache, dreadful disappointments, and death. Three or more things occurring at the same time formed a ‘tower,’ or if they came in immediate succession, they made a ‘bridge.’ ‘Real towers’ and ‘real bridges’ were the joys of life, and when the towers came in a series, one experienced supreme rapture; it almost never happened, though.
The classical beauty of clover honey, smooth, pale, transluscent, freely flowing from the spoon and soaking my love’s bread and butter in liquid brass. The crumb steeped in nectar.
“Real thing?” he asked.
“Tower,” she answered.
“There are codes and there are codes, aren’t there? I see somebody who was engaged in a life of rebellion against stated forces of his world, and that’s a hard way to live. Let me misquote, because I’m not quoting exactly: Camus, in The Myth Of Sisyphus, said something to this effect: “Rebelling against an injustice where you are certain to fail is absurd. But to not rebel against an injustice where you are certain to fail is also absurd. Only one choice offers the opportunity for dignity.” I think that’s inherent in a lot of the stuff we’re talking about. I think people feel that way a little bit about Omar, and that’s why he had some appeal.”—David Simon on the character of Omar from The Wire.
The theory as to why the universe rejects the creation of Higgs bosons is based on complex mathematics, but, Nielsen tells TIME, “you could explain it [simply] by saying that God, in inverted commas, or nature, hates the Higgs and tries to avoid them.”
“When he was in school, Werner never learned anything. He never read the books he was supposed to read, he never studied, he never knew what he was supposed to know, it seemed. But in reality, Werner always knew everything. His senses were remarkable. If he heard the slightest sound, ten years later he would remember it precisely, he would talk about it, and maybe use it some way. But he was absolutely unable to explain anything. He knows, he sees, he understands, but he cannot explain. That is not his nature. Everything goes into him. If it comes out, it comes out transformed.”—
-Werner Herzog’s mom (!), from Herzog on Herzog
I found this to be an incredibly profound description on the variety of how we apprehend the world individually, how we take in information, and what we do with it. As a teacher, I get sort of unnaturally obsessed with this notion: I am far more interested in how my students see literature and writing as connected to the way they see the world than in my telling them how to read something or what they should be taking away from it, or hell, what they should even do with all that information anyhow. I want to send more Werner Herzogs into the world, students who absorb a piece of literature and, I don’t know, turn it into a math equation or a video game or a piece of music. People who honor their internal compass. I am fortunate enough to teach at an “alternative” school that absorbs the kids that don’t quite “make it” in regular school. And you would be shocked (well, perhaps not) to know how many of these kids come in having no idea that they are “allowed” to make connections like this, that your future success in the world is not wholly dependent on whether or not you have mastered the five-paragraph essay. I think we have an enormous double-standard in the western world: follow the rules, unless you are very, very good a breaking the rules.
“That’s all crap. The fact that’s it’s a bleak and bloody story has nothing to do with whether or not you can put it on the screen. That’s not the issue. The issue is it would be very difficult to do and would require someone with a bountiful imagination and a lot of balls. But the payoff could be extraordinary.”—
Cormac McCarthy on whether or not “"Blood Meridian" is unfilmable because of the sheer darkness and violence of the story.
One of my favorite human beings (as well as neighbor) from ye old Crumblydown Manor has compiled a wondrous history and documentation of 807 Esplanade, New Orleans. It still makes my heart feel funny to look at it.
Her words and memories are beautiful, of liminal spaces and ghosts. Read it! I was reminded of how, whenever I slept downstairs, I would dream of an old woman whose hands were old and gnarled and in a lot of pain. I would always wake up with aching hands. That house.
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.”—Margaret Atwood
“First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach a large economic reward to it that usually has nothing to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn’t meet the goal. We will call the goal a “B.A.”—
Charles Murray in an arresting piece on America’s absurd, outmoded, socioeconomically cruel university system (thanks dad!). While at Bard I’d not have understood his points; my time at LSU illustrated his thesis: for many students, the B.A. is an artificial goal, often unattainable and usually unrelated to their subsequent careers; it is, in most cases, a token reward for waiting and surviving in the back of the classroom for a few years while sinking deep into debt. Perhaps its primary function is to communicate that one was able to afford not to work for some years: a class badge. (via mills)
I wholly agree with Mills’ last sentence. A college degree is a somewhat contentious thing in my family: my grandmother was one of the first women to graduate with a degree in Economics from UC Berkeley in the 1940’s, a degree which went on to find its ironic use as a decoration inside of her soup cabinet as she went on to become a homemaker and wife for the rest of her life. My mother never went to college and went on to retire at the top of a field mainly populated by men with Princeton degrees. She is the smartest and most innovative person I know. Their stories were constant refrains in the background of my life growing up: I MUST go to college, I MUST do something useful with a degree.
I’m 28, now. I’ve been working on this ‘degree’ for ten years, off and on. I’ve worked nearly full-time (mostly as a waitress) the entire time. Two years ago I was hired by a friend (out of pure luck and good faith) to redesign the entire English curriculum at an alternative private high school, which led to them offering me a full-time teaching gig. While one does not need credentials to teach at a private school, nearly all of my co-workers hold degrees from Stanford, which is right down the road. The minute I walked in the door, I felt my glaring lack of the “B.A. badge” was flashing from my forehead. But you know what? I strongly, strongly believe that it was my lack of badge, of “technical” training, that helped my curriculum earn the first award the school had gotten for curriculum design. I did it from intuition, from remembering what sucked about high school English. I threw out all the old, insulting, outdated high school textbooks. I taught myself how to put the entire curriculum online as a living document which is constantly being updated and edited by both teachers and students. The first incarnations are embarrassing to look at, but you know what? When I look into Bachelor programs in curriculum design they are full of rules, rules, rules. Rules that probably would have told me that I couldn’t do what I was doing.
And in the last two years I have learned (aside from a few amazing professors, of course) incalculably more than I have learned in my arduous and meandering path through earning this degree. As a further testament to the ludicrous restraints on obtaining a B.A., when I approached an adviser to give me credit for all the work I’ve done (and spending two months researching and connecting texts on madness and wisdom for an AP Lit class IS literary in nature!) they told me no. What I am doing is “educational” work, rather than “literary,” which is what my concentration is in. So, another semester to go.
I have major, top-secret, outrageous goals for changing education in this country…so many links are fundamentally broken, the supposed success and reward of a B.A. being one of them.
Monaghan set out to create eight prototype homes based in classic New Orleans styles. ‘Having lived there so long I thought I knew everything,’ he said. ‘I’m an architect, I’ve done a lot of historic preservation work. I thought I’d just design some houses that looked like New Orleans houses.’
That proved trickier than he’d thought. He explored the city with tape measure in hand, conducting a sort or architectural phrenology to figure out the proportions and details that made New Orleans house so New Orleans—the depths of the porches, the sizes of the pediments, the angles of the hip roofs, the ratio of height to width. It turned out that while these measurements tended to be quirky and irregular, they made a lot of sense for the culture and climate of New Orleans. For instance, almost every old house has tall ceilings that allow residents to live below the worst of the summer heat. Single shotgun cottages lack hallways, allowing for efficient cross-ventilation in every room…Monaghan’s mission is to build houses that New Orleanians have shown, through a process of architectural natural selection spanning more than a century, that they love.
Having lived in a New Orleans mansion that was, quite literally, sinking, and having a fierce and protective love of the city in general, I found this portion of the essay somewhat heartening. The architecture of New Orleans is so intrinsic to who it is. My connection to New Orleans in all of its crumbling, haphazard, ominous glory may very well be born of the fact that I grew up deep in the heart (or abyss!) of an 'Edward Scissorhands'-like suburb, where one had to petition a community board in order to paint one’s mailbox a sanctioned color. Waking up in New Orleans the first day was like waking up up in one of those strange and wonderful landscapes of deja vu that only seem to inhabit dreams. I had dreamed it before somehow, had dreamed that binary heaviness and carelessness of place and time that seems exclusive to New Orleans alone.
When I returned to New Orleans post-Katrina, I wept for many things. Tied up in all that sense of collective loss was a perhaps somewhat snobbish worry: what will it look like when it is rebuilt? To imagine a New Orleans of postmodern tract housing made my stomach turn, and not just for aesthetic reasons, but for the reasons pointed out in this article: a sense of collective identity that showed itself in overgrown porches, of shotgun-room living. It calls to mind Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, wherein he explores how intrinsic our notions of architectural space, memory, and dreams really are.