Friday notes: What's the verb behind it all? | Bleader

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday notes: What's the verb behind it all?

Posted By on 05.15.09 at 04:48 PM

The most must-read piece from any local outlet I've read in a long time is the Sun-Times report, by Tim Novak and Chris Fusco, on city-subsidized affordable housing in the Maxwell Street neighborhood and the buyers who flipped the units. It's so good, and so infuriating, I don't want to spoil it for you. Read the whole thing.

***

I'm as excited about the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute as the next person - the collection and the building - but I couldn't decide whether the final line of Nicolai Ouroussof's NYT review was madness:

"The beauty of [Renzo Piano's] designs stems from his stubborn insistence that the placement of a column or a window, when done with enough patience and care, brings us a step closer to a more enlightened society."

I don't think it's a completely malformed sentiment. I can get behind the contention that there's a social and moral value to certain expressions of aesthetic perfection, and even that there's more to some than to others. I can't really articulate this particular instance very well, but here it is anyway: I saw the CSO do an outstanding version of Mozart's Great Mass, but it still wasn't resonant, on a sacred level, in the way that Bach's music is for me, or even Messiaen. It's not a view I feel the need to impose on anyone else, it's just the way the peculiarities of the music echo off my thoughts and beliefs. Lee Sandlin has a good description of his sacred music:

"I'm sure he was as conventionally devout as any other citizen of Germany, but compared with the solid, comfortable Lutheranism of his neighbors, his internal landscapes seem as Byzantine as an opium dream. His music is so ecstatic and so cold, so fantastically impassioned around the margin and so reserved about its ostensible subject, that I sometimes think I'm witnessing a kind of confidence trick."

That just works for me. I can't explain it much beyond that, at least in the time allotted.

So, sure: I'm more than willing to meet Ouroussof halfway on the importance of aesthetic detail in a form as musical as architecture, but "a step closer to a more enlightened society" summons the fantods for me, especially after observing how the theoretically enlightened Bauhaus transmuted into the chilly van der Rohe architecture of power and fuck-you money here in Chicago. I've nothing against brilliant architects getting big money to work at the limits of aesthetic endeavor, but it's worth keeping in perspective what goes where.

***

I was sick with the flu for much of the week, and not a sexy, career-boosting case of the swine flu, just regular old drag-ass flu, and thus spent three days watching about a season of Law & Order, renaming files, and passing out. In these hectic times, it pays to concentrate your drudgery, and I didn't have the willpower to just stare at a wall.

Anyway, one of the few bright spots to the week was learning, via Reader contributor Brian Costello, that Mike Watt, most famous as the bassist for the legendary Minutemen, has a podcast: The Watt From Pedro Show.

I have to read and worry about so many arcane and terrifying aspects of the Web that I'm occasionally blinded to its wonders, and forget that the endlessly discussed social networks and platforms are just conduits for sale, and the reason I got into it in the first place was things like Mike Watt's podcast. That's what these networks are there for, no matter where the money pools. Growing up, I'd little means or reason to know who Mike Watt was; now, thanks to the magic of econo technology, I can hear him not only spin records but discuss the history of Los Angeles from my desk in Chicago. I try to keep things like that in the back of my mind when the fields seem fallow.

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