April 2005


…and I don’t want to wait for “Kipling Tuesday,” so…
 
Here is it is:
 
The Conundrum of the Workshops
1890
Rudyard Kipling
 
WHEN the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden’s green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”
 
Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew—
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons—and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled “Is it Art?” in the ear of the branded Cain.
 
They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: “It’s striking, but is it Art?”
The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.
 
They fought and they talked in the North and the South, they talked and they fought in the West,
Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest—
Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: “It’s human, but is it Art?”
 
The tale is as old as the Eden Tree—and new as the new-cut tooth—
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: “You did it, but was it Art?”
 
We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yelk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: “It’s clever, but is it Art?”
 
When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room’s green and gold,
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould—
They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: “It’s pretty, but is it Art?”
 
Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
By the favour of God we might know as much—as our father Adam knew!

Kipling would gag at what passes for art nowadays

Only folks who know me well (ok, many folks who even know me only in passing) know just how disgusted I am by much of what passes as “art” nowadays. It’s beyond disgust into complete ennervation (cue Madeline Kahn singing “I’m Tired”) whenever I attempt to actually talk to people who consider themselves “artists” for farting in public or whatever. While a Francois Villon could make a “fart” the occasion for poetry (“Le Roman du Pet au Diable” for example), most “artists”—and their academic and media “critics”—today mistake their passed gasses for art (and their waste product for vanilla ice cream, no doubt).
An example? Gee, try ANY “Top-40” manufactured album or how about this:
 
 
“The Gates.” *Blech* I mean, really.  This fails even the “It’s pretty” part of the question posed in “The Conundrum of the Workshops.”  Can anyone say “Airing your dirty laundry in public”? And this is some of the best of “art” hailed by critics as visionary or whatever…
 
Where’s the craftsmanship, the skill, the chops?  No need! “Art” nowadays largely (and successfully) consists of throwing actual (or figurative) feces at buyers and laughing all the way to the bank when they buy the stuff, and it’s not even been composted and bagged for use in their garden…
 

*sigh* For years I’ve operated under a misconception
 
For years I’ve completed people’s sentences for them, etc. in the blithe certainty that I’m a mind reader.  Today, I learned differently.
 
I am *shudder* a mime reader.
 
I’ll never live it down…

Frost this a.m. (and yesterday and the day before… ); 50 degrees, now that it’s “warmed up”; gray, drizzly day
 
That’s a description of April 29, 2005 in America’s Third World County™ located in the boonies of the Ozarks.
 
And with windchiil, it really does seem like hell will freeze over, soon.
 
It’s that damned global warming*…
 
I’m almost ready to bet on snow.
 
(*Yeh, I know that implies specious resoning on my part, but if the econazi global warming religionist fakirs can cook their data and lie about what their cooked data says, I can pick and choose mine. So there.)

No cheesy rides or geek show here: it’s all good!
 
Carnival of the Recipes XXXVII is up and making my mouth water!  What are you wasting time here, for?  CLICK on over and start making out your grocery list!
 
You still here?  Go!

Curmudgeon Mode: Tried to take an online musical survey—discovered I’m an antediluvian…
 
Yeh.  Noah still owes me two sheep and a dove.
 
Silly survey.  Purported to delve into my musical taste and determine what (recent) decade I “belonged” in. All it listed was a collection of mostly non-musical pseudo rock bands (and a few actual rock bands thrown in for measure, not-so-good, but some sort of measure nonetheless).
 
*sigh*
 
In commenting on the site that had led me to the survey, I asked why this guy was not on the list, as well:
 

1903–1931 Bix Pic—two years before he began playing a Vincent Bach Strad and six years before his early death in 1931. See bio
 
Yeh, that’s Bix Beiderbecke in the pic. I wasn’t even alive when he was playing, and his music still speaks to me.  Heck, my dad wasn’t even a teenager, then (but he still knows who Bix Beiderbecke was, and even, I suspect, played some of Bix’s music when he had a band of his own).  But Beiderbecke’s music affected a whole buncha folks who were a part of a music revolution, in this country, at least.  And it’s still good.  Don’t take my word for it.  Sample some for yourself.
 
There’s a whole lotta music beyond the low-level pseudo music of 80s and 90s faux rock bands out there, but there’s a generation of folks who apparently have no idea that it’s so.
 
And what of the rest of the 20th, 19th, 18th and other centuries’ music? Tons of it (OK, less of the 20th than of the others’ *heh*) is more than just worth listening to; tons of it is just mind-bendingly wonderful. (This, for example.)
 
Against such mahvelous “musicians” as 50 Cent, Ace of Bace, Aerosmith, Alanis Morissette, Alicia Keys, Anthrax and the rest of the alphabet soup at this so-called music quiz, I’ll take Marta Keen’s or Nick Glennie-Smith’s or any number of musician’s current work (any of it) any day and twice on Sundays.
 
I think, perhaps, that such abortions as (insert any top 40 group or so-called “artist” here) and American Idol may owe their popularity to the fact that this country is full of folks who are simply tone deaf.
 
*sigh* (Putting PPM& Friends/Lifelines CD from 1995 in so I can hear some real rock, rap, soul, blues, country and more… all on one album, and not some crappy “Best of” either. Emmilou Harris and Noel Paul Stookey: now there’s an interesting duo… )
 
Unless I cool off a tad, there’s likely a rant on the state of music NON education in our “prisons for kids” and the influence of “stupid music for stupid people” manufactured by the recording industry coming.  Nah. 
 
BTW, just spent a lil time re-aquainting myself with the Beiderbecke sound.  Gee.  As Otis Ferguson (yeh, that Otis Ferguson, THE pop culture critic of the 1930s) said, “Bix had swing before the phonies knew the word.”

There is just no other art so strong as a piece of music that knows where it’s going…
 
Every now and then I hear a piece that simply captures me. The piece can be a longer work, even symphonic, or a short song.  The magical part is that it’s designed to travel to a specific meaning and it effectively works to arrive where it’s designed to go.
 
It’s easy to see why Sibelius’ Finlandia was the first piece that strongly struck me so. Mahler’s #1 was another such. More recently, such choral pieces as Marta Keen’s Homeward Bound and Nick Glennie-Smith and Randall Wallace’s Mansions of the Lord. In particular, I have felt a yen to listen to Mansions a lot today/tonight. 
 
The link above leads to a portion of the performance at Ronald Reagan’s funeral. Here are the lyrics.  You tell me: is it as effective a piece as it seems to me?
 
“The Mansions of the Lord”
Music: Nick Glennie-Smith
Lyrics: Randall Wallace
 
To fallen soldiers let us sing
where no rockets fly nor bullets wing
Our broken brothers let us bring
to the mansions of the Lord
 
No more bleeding no more fight
No prayers pleading through the night
just divine embrace, eternal light
in the mansions of the Lord
 
Where no mothers cry and no children weep
We will stand and guard to the angels’ sleep
All through the ages safely keep
the mansions of the Lord

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