Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bits and Pieces

I'm at the rag end of a very exciting project that Cara, Jeff, and I will be able to talk about in a week or two.  It's incredibly rewarding, but it's also eating me alive, so I'm going to give you short value today in order to finish it on schedule.

There's a piece of the project on the left.

When I read, which is all the time, I underline, and if I really like whatever it was, I use a little Post-It flag.  Books I really enjoyed bristle at me from the shelves.  And I NEVER get any use out of the things I flag.  

So today, I'm passing a few onto you.

"A great art critic is the last thing any civilization gets.  You start with a house, then you get a streetlight, a gas station, a supermarket, a performing arts center, a museum.  The very last thing you get is an art critic."  

That's Peter Schjeldahl, the chief art critic for The New Yorker.  I love the quote.  It says something very positive to me.  If a civilization likes instrumental music it'll start with a drum and a plucked string and, eventually, wind up with a grand piano.  Grand pianos and art critics -- they point to areas in which a civilization has achieved something important to it, something that has nothing to do with the grunt mechanics of daily life.

"I have always found it difficult to feel resentment when industry comes running toward culture, check in hand."  It may be hard to believe, but that's Ingmar Bergman, not normally noted for his proficiency with a punch line.  

It's another line I like, having been at several times in my life on the check-holding end and having little sympathy for the disdain with which some artists and institutions take it.  Public television (I know, they've got enough problems already) is a perfect example.  They accept money while looking in the opposite direction so they won't be corrupted and then go and program as though popular culture were the highway to hell.  But the moment they need to raise money again, PBS becomes The Yanni Channel, relieved by Lord of the Dance and the All-Star Doo-Wop Reunion.  Give me a good, venal, profit-oriented corporation.  At least they don't buy cartons of Odor of Sanctity Cologne.

In an interview, Akira Kurosawa said, "Balzac says that the most important thing for novelists is to put up with the boring labor of writing line after line of the letters of the alphabet."  

This means an enormous amount to me.  Some people seem to think that art is lightning caught in a bottle, a bolt of passion in amber. I blame Beethoven's appearance for a lot of this -- he looked like he could have burped a symphony,

In fact, art is one bloody musical note, or brush stroke, or adjective, or click of the shutter, or frame of film after another.  Art is work, is all, and there are times when it's no more fun than doing one's taxes, but you do it because otherwise you'll never get the lightning into the bottle.

One letter at a time.

Tim -- Sunday


  1. Can you imagine how honored I am to be part of a project created and driven by one who considers today's post "short value?" Tim, you make us all proud.

  2. Well, Jeffrey, you're no more honored to be in the project with Cara and me than I am to be in it with you.

    And I have the advantage of you because I can see how it's shaping up, and I think we're all going to be proud of it.

  3. Very provocative post. You don't suffer fools gladly , do you? I admire you guys because you work so hard and give so much pleasure. Very cool people.

  4. One brush stroke, or musical note, or adjective is creativity one step at a time. The accumulation of each set puts the lightning into the bottle.

    The hardest things humans have to learn to do is walk and the Creator gave the job to little people who can't be deterred from getting the lightning out of the bottle. Every step ends in a fall until, suddenly, it doesn't and the world becomes a wonderful and exciting place to explore. They walk because they are driven to learn the world and, once they have mastered the art of putting one foot in front of the other, there is no turning back. Every step without a fall is a victory and every victory leads to marathon that is life.

    Mr. Hallinan, you, and your associates on this blog, have mastered running because you are willing to risk a few falls every time you open the bottle and deposit one letter at a time until it holds all the possible lightning it can and the book of the moment is done.


  5. Lil and Beth, you guys are too nice to me. If I had enough blood pressure left to blush, my face would be red right now.

    Thanks for all the kind words, and, Lil, I try not to suffer fools at all, even though I'm one myself from time to time. And Beth, all of us are grateful for the appreciation of what we do as we type one word after another after another.

  6. As I'm finding more and more these days, Lil and Beth, Tim has made it unnecessary for me to say more. He expresses my sentiments precisely. Thanks.