This is sad news.


House Proud

This is a bit like that thing by Michael Chabon's wife that drew so much ire last year, only transposed onto real estate. I certainly would like to have that house though.

It's a shame though, because, thanks to Meryl Streep, you sort of assumed Susan Orlean would be cooler than this.


Also browless breakfast-cereal criticism

The problem with Honey Bunches of Oats stems inexorably from the cereal's key selling point. There are, as even schoolchildren know, five different kinds of cereal within a box of HBofO. Those different cereal pieces are different sizes, and some are sweeter than others. This makes for an engaging mix. But: the smallest pieces (the little granolalike clusters) are the sweetest. Inevitably, they settle at the bottom of the box, while the less sweetened cornflakes (or, as Post insists on calling them, "sparkle flakes") remain at the top. The result is that the first few bowls from a given box are insufficiently sweet, while the last few are cloying. I'm not sure what to suggest.

Middlebrow movie criticism here too

The problems with Brokeback Mountain are so obvious that it feels dumb to list them. The opening act moves at roughly the speed of the glaciers that built the mountain in the first place. The conclusion undercuts the movie's entire raison d'etre: Don't worry -- there's still heterosexuals to keep everything going! (In that sense, the movie is like Jack Twist's father, who insists that, while Jack might have spent the best moments of his life on Brokeback Mountain, he'll end up in "the family plot.")

Most of all, though, there's the fact that the protagonists spend the entire movie manifesting exactly one personality trait each.

It made me think: Do characters have to change? Must we be subjected to yet another "arc"? Why is a story about people who get in ruts and stay there somehow unsatisfactory? And I was glad, on reflection, that I didn't have to watch Heath Ledger shouting "Jack!" and running from a church to embrace Jake Gyllenhaal in view of the evil sheriff who will shoot one of them the next morning or anything like that. But saying that stories are sometimes cheesy or mechanical doesn't mean your movie is going to fly without one.


Highbrow Art Criticism Blogging on Roth Brothers

I was bored and a bit lonely on Saturday afternoon and I had no interest in Skins-Seahawks so I went to the east building of the National Gallery which is the one that has the 20th century art. I was looking at one of the big classic Jackson Pollocks (it's called Lavender something) and I got up really close to look at the places where the paint is applied so thickly that it piles up in three-dimensional mounds. This made me think that maybe Clement Greenberg got something wrong in his championing of Pollock. Unless I'm misrembering (which is possible because its been a while since i read all that stuff) CG's whole thing with the abstract expressionists was that they emphasized what is most essential about the medium of painting - that is, its flat, two-dimensional quality. He liked it because -- unlike, say, cubism, and certainly unlike Duchampian-style conceptual art -- it wasn't trying to be anything other than painting. But part of the cool thing about pretty much all of JP's iconic-style drip paintings is how he heaps the paint up to make these mounds and ridges. Which couldn't be further from 2-dimensional.

I feel like I must be getting CG wrong here, because you don't get to be the most influential art critic in the history of modernism without looking pretty closely at the paintings you're writing about. But I do remember that the whole 2-dimensional thing was kind of key to his thinking about the abstract expressionists. So what's the deal?

On a related note, I remember that when I studied this stuff in like the mid-90's, we were vaguely encouraged to disdain Greenbergian formalism (and particularly the work of this guy Michael Fried, who was kind of an intellectual fellow traveler to Greenberg) as naive and apolitical. I remember reading an essay by Fried from the 50s or 60s and being almost unable to contain my white-hot hatred for his reactionary conception of what art should and shouldn't do. Luce Irigaray (who for a while i thought was named Lucy Rigaray) and Julia Kristeva and those other post-modern ones were the cool kids. But it'd be interesting to see if that's still how it's taught, now that the whole post-modernist/post-structuralist moment seems to be over.