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Archive for August, 2003

FLW Again

Posted by acdtest on August 29, 2003

FLW Again

Weblogger Aaron Haspel of God Of The Machine, a very bright fellow, demonstrates, in responding to my recent piece on Frank Lloyd Wright, how even very bright fellows can, when the proper button is pushed, spout arrant gibberish. Such as,

“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” Frank Lloyd Wright said this. Wright built houses, and the function of houses, as I understand it, is to be lived in. Roofs, too, have functions, among which is to keep out the rain. One might think that a leaky roof would disturb this “spiritual union,”….

One might indeed think such a thing, but only if one willfully misunderstands both the original apothegm, and Wright’s correction of that misunderstanding.

“Form follows function” is not an engineering or structural credo, but an aesthetic one. It means that the architectural (i.e., aesthetic) gestalt of a building should obtain as the organic expression (i.e., unified natural outgrowth) of its (internal) program and of the materials with which the building is built. In short, it’s got nothing to do with leaky roofs and such, which are matters of structural not aesthetic concern.

Aaron then writes,

Buildings, no matter whose, are not “first and foremost works of art” [quoting me] because they are not works of art at all. “Art” is not an encomium. It is a technical term, referring to things that are intended solely as objects of contemplation.

Art merely “a technical term, referring to things that are intended solely as objects of contemplation”(!)? What an idea! Not in any canon of aesthetics I’m familiar with. Art refers to the domain of the aesthetic, always, and any or all man-made things that dwell therein, architecture very much included, as it has always been. Art in fact is what architecture is all about; what separates it from mere building. No art, no architecture, as I’ve elsewhere pointed out.

And this final bit:

This is a case [my calling architecture art] of a misapplied metaphor. The modern religion, as Tom Wolfe beat me to pointing out, is art, which has become the highest term of praise for anything at all. A well-played bridge hand, a well-placed insult, a nice-looking ashtray are all “works of art.” Except they aren’t, and neither is architecture.

Calling a work of architecture art is a statement neither misapplied nor a metaphor nor merely an encomium (as Aaron would like to have it that that’s the way I’m using the term), but clearly a case of proper and appropriate taxonomy. Architecture has been considered art (i.e., belonging to the domain of the aesthetic) from the time of ancient Egypt, and so it shall be considered in future as long as those with other than bourgeois sensibilities and populist concerns have any say in the matter. If a time ever comes when such have no say, or when what they say means little or nothing, that’s the time to start being afraid, very afraid.

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Posted in Architecture | Comments Off on FLW Again

FLW And The Leaky Roof

Posted by acdtest on August 29, 2003

Frank Lloyd Wright And The Leaky Roof

here’s a disease of sorts currently afflicting a large segment of the Eastern cultural elite that would be comical were the doings and opinions of that elite not so widely influential. The chief, and most destructive, symptom of the disease is a determined eschewing of even the appearance of elitism, and a wholesale and prominent embracement of pop culture and populist concerns in the matter of the arts. The disease seems to afflict for the most part, though not exclusively, those who, for a variety of reasons, have run out of anything of genuine substance to contribute to the conversation on the high arts, and so have in consequence embraced a domain within which they can operate with relative freshness of approach and insight.

Well, why not?

Here’s why not — and right from the weblogging keyboard of a card-carrying member of the Eastern cultural elite (take especial note of the use of the term “fan” in the following):

I know I’m committing art-fan-heresy if not actual art-fan-treason by admitting this, but I’m not a Frank Lloyd Wright fan. Yesyesyes, he was a giant and a mega-talent, and his buildings are often beautiful. (I’m not blind.) But while they’re beautiful as structures, they’re often absurd as buildings.

[…]

Simple question: Would you want to live in one of his houses? I wouldn’t, for two main reasons. Most important is the way a Frank Lloyd Wright house never becomes your home; instead, you move in and become the curator of one branch of the Frank Lloyd Wright museum. You’re just the custodian in a monument to his genius. For the other, I wouldn’t want to be in charge of (let alone pay for) the upkeep. Wright couldn’t resist trying out innovative building techniques — which has meant in practice that many of his houses are in semi-constant need of expensive repair.

[…]

The buildings work as they’re supposed to only if you first submit to FLW — and submit totally. Give over to his genius, and then you’ll have earned the right to experience the full, transcendent FLW experience. What if, on the other hand, you prefer to live by your own rules and you expect your house to play along? You may find yourself wrestling with a nightmare as well as courting bankruptcy.

So, what’s wrong with this picture? I mean, it all sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?

It does indeed — if you’re talking about a tract house, or a stand-alone designed and built by a builder along more or less typical commercial lines. Such bourgeois concerns, however, have no place when the house is one designed and built by an architect of genuinely transcendent aesthetic gift.

Wright’s houses, for instance, are notorious for their leaky roofs. As a house is the most elemental and paradigmatic instance of a shelter a leaky roof would seem a most damning and fundamental fault. And so it would be were the house simply a building. With the possible exception of his earliest work, none of Wright’s houses qualifies as simply a building. They’re all, as is all great architecture of any sort whatsoever, first and foremost works of art. That’s to say, considerations of the aesthetic trump all else. As Wright himself is reported to have responded in answer to complaints concerning those infamously leaky roofs: “That’s what happens when you leave a work of art out in the rain.”

Glib, arrogant, cavalier, and the effusion of a monstrous ego most certainly. But essentially true nevertheless.

Should Wright have taken more engineering care in working out his house designs? Perhaps. But it’s not as if his houses were dangers to their original owners; not even the cutting-edge, structurally innovative, and justly aesthetically world-famous Kaufmann house, “Fallingwater”, which today, some 65 years after its building, is in danger of collapsing without extensive (and wildly expensive) correction of its fundamental engineering faults.

And what about the whine of “…a Frank Lloyd Wright house never becomes your home…. […] You’re just the custodian [of] a monument to his genius. […] What if….you prefer to live by your own rules and you expect your house to play along?”

In short, the answer is you hire a good, solid, bourgeois builder to build a house for you, and leave the all-too-rare Wrights of this world free to serve those worthy of their transcendent aesthetic genius.

UPDATE 1 (24 August at 11:56 AM Eastern): Weblogger Alexandra of Out of Lascaux comments. Alexandra imagines that the author of the above quoted piece was merely baiting. Would that it were so.
UPDATE 2 (24 August at 12:28 PM Eastern): Weblogger David Sucher of City Comforts Blog also comments — in a manner of speaking.
UPDATE 3 (26 August at 1:09 PM Eastern): Weblogger Lynn Sislo of Reflections In D Minor comments as well. She carelessly writes:

A.C. Douglas seems to think that because Frank Lloyd Wright was an Artist his buildings should not be held to the same standards as ordinary buildings…

which is not what A.C. Douglas wrote as any clear-eyed reader can confirm for himself.

Her less careless prediction that,

I know A.C. Douglas will consider my attitude “bourgeois.”

is, however, right on the money.

UPDATE 4 (27 August at 12:18 AM Eastern): Oh dear. Is there no end to these howls of deepest indignation from that noblest of creatures, that salt of the earth, the Common Man, whose tender sensibilities have been so wounded at the suggestion he and his common concerns are not the true measure of things but merely the commonest of common denominators, that his defensive rhetoric has been driven to execute the most prodigious pirouettes. Which brings me to weblogger J.W. of Forager 23 who is the latest to offer his comments. And, Ooooo!, is he upset. (Update of the update: I comment further here.)
UPDATE 5 (29 August at 1:51 PM Eastern): Weblogger Aaron Haspel of God Of The Machine has now entered the FLW sweepstakes with his comments, concerning which comments I’m certain I’ll have more to say anon.
UPDATE 6 (29 August at 9:04 PM Eastern): The anon of the immediately preceding update is here and now.

Posted in Architecture | Comments Off on FLW And The Leaky Roof

Writing For The Blogosphere

Posted by acdtest on August 28, 2003

Writing For The Blogosphere

t’s now been almost a year-and-a-half since I first started writing for the blogosphere, and my experience during that time has confirmed my first thoughts on writing for this new medium. Weblogs are, of course, different things to different people, and range from those given over to the chronicling of the merely quotidian personal to weblogs devoted to writings on matters of universal concern and importance. As with all creative efforts, most weblogs are poorly done and not worth a second look, and only a very few will reward daily visits.

Some time ago, I wrote a short piece largely agreeing with weblogger and journalism professor Brendan O’Neill who wrote in part:

The other grating thing about the Blogosphere is the lack of quality writing. […] …most of the Blogosphere consists of bad, bad writing – not just clumsy sentences and never-ending paragraphs, but also spelling mistakes.

The passage of time since then has not changed my agreement with that assessment.

And what, by far, have I found to be the most egregious fault of serious-minded writing in the blogosphere generally?

Lack of discipline. Or, as Mr. O’Neill put it:

Then there are the over-long posts — 2000 words, when 400 words would have been fine. As Voltaire once wrote: “The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.” Blogging everything that comes into your head is a recipe for revealing nothing of substance about yourself or your views.

Quite right. There’s simply no excuse or justification for a lack of discipline of that sort; unless, of course, one’s an academic where the rule — nay, the imperative — is never let 1000 words do when you can manage 10,000.

There’s precious little appropriate to the weblog format (the print equivalent of which would be the daily or weekly newspaper column) that requires more than 1000 words or so to express more than adequately if one really knows what one is talking about; 1500 words at the outside, but typically that many only when one’s post includes a necessary quoting of others’ text(s), or the inclusion of cast lists and credits, or other such pertinent technical data. A post longer than that and one’s either an inept writer, doesn’t know what one wants to say, doesn’t know how to say what one wants to say, simply loves the sound of one’s own voice, or any combination of two or more of the foregoing. I can’t begin to list the weblogs I no longer read due this single fault alone (well, actually I can, but will here refrain from doing so).

It’s a sobering thought, or should be, that one of the most justifiably lauded and influential writers among American journalists, H. L. Mencken, first made his mark on American letters largely by column-length pieces that averaged some 800 words or so (no, I haven’t word-counted his pieces; I’m taking that word-count figure from other sources). If Mencken required only some 800 words per piece to get his points across and make his mark as a writer, less gifted writers (which I can say without fear of serious contradiction would include all who write for the blogosphere) can be permitted 1000-1500, rarely more. Any more is little more than gross self-indulgence which one ought to feel nothing but shame for inflicting on an innocent public.

And with that, I’ll step down from my soapbox — but not before leaving my fellow webloggers with two final sobering thoughts: The 1953 seminal article by James Watson and Francis Crick in the science journal Nature describing in detail the just-discovered structure of DNA and how that structure was derived was 900 words in length, and Lincoln’s dedicatory address at Gettysburg, all of 267.

If that doesn’t sober y’all up, nothing will.

Posted in Internet & Web, Writing | Comments Off on Writing For The Blogosphere

A Telling Comment

Posted by acdtest on August 22, 2003

A Telling Comment

he latest development in the now infamous incident in Rio de Janeiro several days ago involving American opera director Gerald Thomas, who responded to the booing audience at his appearance onstage at the close of the premier of his Eurotrash production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde by dropping his pants and presenting his bare ass to the audience’s gaze, makes perhaps the saddest comment of all concerning the affair.

Rio de Janeiro police are considering filing obscenity charges against opera director Gerald Thomas, who dropped his pants and displayed his posterior to the audience after a performance of Tristan und Isolde last weekend, O Estado de So Paulo reports.

[…]

According to the newspaper, police are investigating whether Thomas’ gesture was part of the show or simply an act of disrespect toward the public.

That the police need to investigate to determine whether the act of mooning was part of the show could not be a more telling indicator of the squalid depths to which these postmodern opera productions regularly descend in order to accommodate the outrageous, self-involved, self-serving vandalism of those directors who perpetrate these grotesque productions, and inflict them on a paying public.

How such productions continue to proliferate world-wide is totally beyond my comprehension. Has no-one heard of the concept called, “boycott”?

Posted in Cultural Commentary, Opera | Comments Off on A Telling Comment

On Interpretation

Posted by acdtest on August 20, 2003

On Interpretation

e true to the artist’s intentions! is the cry so often heard in the matter of interpreting a work of art in performance. It seems a perfectly reasonable, logical, and honest credo; even a goes-without-saying credo of unquestionable veracity. On closer examination, however, it reduces to little more than lofty-sounding, sententious gibberish. Who can say with any degree of certainty what were the artist’s intentions? One might imagine the artist himself could, for one, speak with unimpeachable authority on the question. But when the artwork under consideration is a product of authentic genius, and therefore a genuine work of art, such is not the case. Artists of authentic genius are forever finding their conscious intentions regularly subverted by their unconscious intuitions during the process of creation, and when that process is completed and the artwork finished, find themselves forced to declare along with the great composer-dramatist Richard Wagner,

How little can an artist expect to find his intuitive perceptions [as manifested in the finished artwork] perfectly reproduced in others when he himself, in the presence of his [finished] work of art if it is a genuine one, stands faced by a riddle, concerning which he might fall into the same illusions as anyone else?

So, the artist’s intentions, then, are not the measure. Rather, it’s the finished artwork itself that holds all the keys to interpretation, and is ultimately the sole authority from which interpretations are to be derived, and against which they are to be measured, the artist’s intentions when creating the work, or his after-the-fact thoughts on that work, decisive as such may be expected and appear to be, having little more authority than the opinion of other knowledgeable persons.

As the hallmark of every genuine work of art is its capacity to be read and experienced in a multitude of ways, this seems a perfect prescription for no-holds-barred interpretive anarchy, and so it has been warmly embraced by an ever larger number of self-involved, self-serving interpretive “artists” as witness the growing proliferation of postmodern atrocities in the theatrical and operatic realms; productions which have given us, for particularly egregious, fairly recent example, a Macbeth who’s a 1960s Louisiana politician (Joe Banno’s 2001 production of Macbeth), and a Parsifal who’s a samurai warrior, Star Wars style, accompanied by Knights of the Grail traipsing about as WWI soldiers (Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s 2000 production of Wagner’s Parsifal).

Such productions are, of course, clear outrages (criminal immediately suggests itself as an appropriate intensifier), and perfectly idiot in both conception and realization. For while all such profess to be true to the ideas of whatever work happens to be in question, they’re in truth anything but, prodigiously clever justifications and rationalizations for the outrage notwithstanding. What each in fact does is take a concrete view of an idea embodied in the work in question, dress it without textual or musical warrant, as the case may be, in modern-world-relevant garb, and present it as a “fresh” realization of the “deeper” meaning of the whole, thereby thoroughly emasculating the work as a work of art by wantonly robbing it of its hallmark capacity to provoke in a receiver a wealth of multifarious resonances and meanings.

In the abstract realm of so-called “absolute” music things are not much better as one might expect them to be as there exist no overt ideas to muck about with, and a printed score to tell us authoritatively every step of the way just how things must go. But even given scores of the late-19th century and after with their well-developed and well-understood system of notation (scores before that time assumed a fairly large measure of common knowledge performance practice on the part of performers, assumptions largely misplaced for modern-day performers of those same works), only the note pitches and time values are always treated as invariant. Within the bounds of reason and good taste, everything else is up for interpretive grabs, not only in the matter of divergence from the printed notation, most of which is of a relative nature, but because not everything in the music intended (i.e., the sounded work) is capable of being notated.

So what to do? The problem is a real one, and not to be glossed. A guiding rule is required, and — mirabile dictu! — one is at hand, and that rule in all cases is the negative one of the physician’s oath: Primum non nocere — First, do no harm. Macbeth cannot be a 1960s Louisiana politician as it makes absolute nonsense of the language and much of the text; Parsifal cannot be a Star Wars-style (or any style) samurai warrior and the Knights of the Grail WWI soldiers as that makes absolute nonsense of both text and music; and the tempo and rhythm of the second movement of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, even though a march and notated with the standard march time signature of 2/4, cannot be taken at the tempo and with the lively rhythm of a Sousa march as that makes absolute nonsense of the music’s clear funeral-march character.

As a guiding rule, Primum non nocere may not be much to go on, but it’s a rule more than sufficient to save one harmless from perpetrating clear outrages, and a rule most urgently needing ruthless and rigorous application in the postmodern interpretive world we at present inhabit.

Posted in Aesthetic Commentary | Comments Off on On Interpretation

Contrapundit

Posted by acdtest on August 17, 2003

Contrapundit

esponding to a remark of mine in the comments section of another weblog wherein I jestingly (well, only half-jestingly) expressed the sentiment that I was beginning to become fond of the weblog’s author even though that author was a news junkie and political wonk, a reader eMailed me that he simply couldn’t understand how I could say such a thing. Aren’t news junkies and political pundits the very cream of the blogosphere, and doesn’t serious-minded political punditry represent the blogosphere’s highest calling?

I read that over a few times in an attempt to locate the tongue embedded in cheek, but alas, it was nowhere to be found. Too bad, as absent its presence the eMailer’s suggestion is thoroughly risible. While it’s certainly true that political punditry, local through global, constitutes an overwhelmingly large proportion of the serious-intentioned writing in the blogosphere, it’s neither the cream of the writing, nor representative of “the blogosphere’s highest calling,” whatever that unintentionally comical notion in this context is meant to mean. Political pundits are the proverbial dime-a-dozen, not only in the blogosphere, but all across the Internet. Check into any one of that legion of Internet multi-discussion message boards, for instance, and you’ll find that, almost without exception, the discussions with the highest message activity are the political ones. Everyone, it seems, is a political pundit, and each has something to say, and typically at length. Significant length. Tedious length. Even mind-numbing length, and even the best of them.

As might be guessed, I’ve remarkably little patience with political pundits, generally speaking, even though I’ve on occasion engaged in past in some political punditry myself on the matters of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and our post-9/11 response to terrorism, my excuse for such pundit-playing being that it acted as a vent for my frustrations concerning those matters. But political pundit-playing for me is both atypical and rare.

Part of the reason for my short patience with political pundits generally is that, as I’ve elsewhere made note, he (or she — but the male pronoun from hereon in) is typically highly partisan, so thoroughly immersed in and ensorcelled by the inside-track minutiae and byzantine complexities of the structure of things political and geo-political, and revels so in his own real or imagined expertise in unraveling that structure, he almost invariably misses seeing and understanding the true shape of the structure itself. Political pundits, like all journalists of both the print and blogospheric sort, are devoted to — nay, worship — The Facts. The Facts, it’s imagined by such as these, embody The Truth. Well, the real truth is The Facts almost never embody The Truth. They’re its mere outcroppings or consequence, The Truth almost always lying somewhere beneath — not infrequently, deeply beneath — and hidden from ordinary view. Mistaking The Facts for The Truth, political pundits almost always get it wrong — or rather, almost always get wrong the larger, universal and timeless existential implications, as opposed to the merely transitory empirical effects and consequences, immediate or near-term.

Given those sentiments, do I read, say, newspapers, or watch TV newscasts?

I do. But for the so-called hard news portions only, and even that from only a few carefully selected sources (i.e., selected for their over-time-proven and fairly consistent accuracy).

And how about weblogs, which collectively constitute the blogosphere, a domain I’ve elsewhere characterized as a vast savanna of pundit poop? Do I read them?

Again, I do, but needless to say, not for hard news. That would be patently imbecile.

And what about the weblogs of the blogosphere’s political pundits, then? Do I read them?

Once again, I do on occasion, but only as sources for links, in which capacity they serve a useful purpose. Taken collectively they act as a linked directory to political writings in the blogosphere, much in the same way as the indispensable Arts & Letters Daily is by itself a linked directory to the digitally available writings on the Web which are of interest to the intellectually, um, advantaged, you should pardon the expression. Collectively, one could call the blogosphere’s political pundit weblogs, as do I, The Common Man’s Arts & Letters Daily. I almost never read any of the political commentary linked to, or the commentary these political pundit webloggers sometimes write themselves. But by noting to what and to whom they link gives me a good sense, painlessly, of what’s going on in the blogosphere politically, weblog-wise, that is.

So, if not for hard news and political punditry, what then do I see as the real value and role of the blogosphere; the blogosphere’s “highest calling,” as my eMailer put it?

My answer to that question is short and straightforward: The blogosphere has the potential to become a universally accessible venue where multitudes can be exposed to the work of worthwhile writers in a multitude of fields whose writing, fiction and non-fiction, though of high quality, is for any number of reasons not immediately marketable in the commercial (i.e., paying) marketplace, either mass-market or specialist; worthwhile writing that absent the existence of the blogosphere would go unread and unnoted. And that, to my way of thinking, is a calling of genuine worth, and worthy of being declared “the blogosphere’s highest calling.”

What’s that? Do I think the blogosphere will ever fulfill its potential in that regard?

How would I know. I’m no pundit.

Posted in Internet & Web | Comments Off on Contrapundit

Concerning The Passion

Posted by acdtest on August 12, 2003

Concerning The Passion

ecently under way is a new round of an old criticism of the yet-to-be-released Mel Gibson film, The Passion, chronicling the last twelve days of Jesus’s life, again charging that the film’s treatment of Jesus’s trial and his subsequent crucifixion is all but certain to give rise to a new wave of Christ-killer anti-Semitism. One wonders what the film’s critics would want done concerning this film which Gibson has reportedly declared will, in strict accordance with the New Testament Gospel accounts, “…lay the blame for the death of Christ where it belongs” (i.e., squarely at the feet of the Jews of the time). Stop its distribution? Let its distribution take place, but convince Gibson to omit in the film the Gospels’ account of the ordered arrest and trial of Jesus by a committee of the Sanhedrin (at which trial, according to the Gospels, Jesus was found guilty of blasphemy, and subsequently turned over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate for execution based on a misleadingly worded charge)? Convince Gibson to invent a new story of how Jesus came before Pilate, and was sentenced to death by him, that doesn’t involve, as the Gospels have it, the complicity and instigation of members of the Jewish hierarchy of the time, and even, in some accounts, the Jewish population at large?

Consider, please, there are but two near-contemporary documents that have come down to us that report these events and their attendant details, and which are all we have by way of near-contemporary witness on the matter: The New Testament Gospels, and a brief mention by the not-always-to-be-trusted Jewish historian Flavius Josephus whose brief remarks are in agreement with the Gospel accounts. And while I — a down-to-the-bone Jew, and a Kohan to boot (an automatic-by-inheritance member of the Jewish priesthood whose lineage traces back to Moses’s brother Aaron, the first Kohan) — in no way hold the New Testament Gospel accounts to be inerrant, I’ve no problem at all considering them authentic historical documents, and at least possible legitimate sources of actual historical fact.

The reports in all three so-called “synoptic” Gospels of the New Testament of the ordered arrest of Jesus by, and his subsequent trial before, an extraordinarily convened committee of the highest members of the Sanhedrin (the supreme ruling Jewish council of the time, adjudicators of all matters religious and legal), as well as that extraordinarily convened committee’s finding Jesus guilty of blasphemy in a kangaroo-court style hearing, and their ultimately turning him over to the Roman authority (Pilate) for the purpose of having carried out the capital sentence demanded by the offense but which by Roman provincial law was forbidden the Sanhedrin to carry out itself, are all in basic agreement on the essential details, and I see little reason to not accept those reports as being at least historically plausible. That, of course, is not the same as saying the reports are true. It’s saying merely that, in the absence of reliable historical evidence to the contrary, those reports ought to be treated as at least provisionally true. Unless, of course, one places no trust in the basic honesty of the reporters.

So, should any trust by other than believing Christians (who accept as a matter of faith that everything written in the New Testament is not only true, but inerrant) be placed in the basic honesty of the Gospel writers (all of whom were anonymous and only later assigned the names by which we now know them)?

It would seem, on the best available evidence, that all three New Testament synoptic Gospel writers were basically honest Christians telling the story as it was known to them. None were scholars or historians, and, with the exception of the writer called Luke who was a fully educated man, even somewhat illiterate, or at least nave-of-craft writers, and one of the telling signs of their basic honesty is that they all include incidents in their relating of events that a theologue, evangelizer, or mythologizer would have taken great pains to conceal; incidents, for instance, that cast some of the apostles themselves in a most dubious light indeed.

Another is that even though their relating of the events of Jesus’s life was addressed principally to those Jews (the majority) who had not accepted Jesus as the Christ,* as well as for the guidance of those Jews who had (i.e., Christians), they included much that would be seen by Jews of the time as decidedly antagonistic. The very last thing these writers would have done were they dishonest men is, for instance, include material that attacked a Jewish hierarchy (the Sanhedrin) that, as a body, was held in great esteem by the overwhelming majority of Jews, as well as include material that portrayed at least a fair number of the general Jewish population as a mob of bloodthirsty savages. Or if including it all because well known at the time and therefore impossible to omit, would have taken substantial pains to in some way mitigate.

But include it these writers did, and with no discernable attempt at mitigation. The fairly clear inference is that they included it all unvarnished because they were intent on telling the story accurately as it was known to them, and to the at-large Christian community of the time.

In consideration of all this, it seems clear to me that the Gospel writers’ basic honesty is largely to be trusted, and their reports of events at least plausible historically. It seems further clear to me that in the absence of any reliable historical evidence to the contrary, one ought to provisionally accept the reports of these writers as being essentially (as opposed to in every small detail) true no matter how inconvenient such acceptance may be. And if perverse use of that provisional truth puts a weapon into the hands of anti-Semites then one deals with the anti-Semites, one does not alter what, at least plausibly, appears to be the truth. For a Jew especially, to do otherwise would be a betrayal of our millennia-old traditions of dedicated scholarship and ethical teachings; traditions that, in the secular sphere, are the very ground of our identity as a unique and indispensable people.

And so the answer in this matter of the Gibson film seems clear to me as well: If necessary, kill all the anti-Semites whenever and wherever they surface (or even if not necessary, for that matter; it’s never a bad idea), but save blameless the apparent truth and its messengers, even though that truth be only provisional because based on a merely plausible telling rather than on incontrovertible and verifiable historical fact.

*The Gospels were also in some measure addressed to the Roman powers that were, but on political grounds; ergo, the largely sympathetic to the Romans treatment of the story involving the cruel and ruthless Pilate, and his historically thoroughly implausible reluctance to find Jesus, a Jew, guilty of any crime.

Posted in Cinema, Cultural Commentary | Comments Off on Concerning The Passion

Speaking Of The Devil…

Posted by acdtest on August 6, 2003

Speaking Of The Devil…

irst read this, then this. I mean, it’s one thing to flog this sort of performance as a novelty or curiosity. But to suggest — nay, insist — it’s the Real Deal is to trade in the stuff of channelers and mediums, no matter how respectably garbed in scholarly raiment it may be.

Posted in Music | Comments Off on Speaking Of The Devil…