Thursday, November 30, 2006

jane eyre

Jane Eyre

A very good book. A book so good that it is accepted by all and read by few. Hence the reason for this revieuw. Instead of getting the scoop and the new and upcoming releases, this articles is designed to entice you to rediscover an old friend. Often the tried and true novels are forgotten because they simply are too familiar. However, the endless TV and video versions of this book alone would make it impossible to ignore. There are four versions alone
The story central to this book is familiar to the point of nausea. Young, friendless girl, alone in the world, meets rich older man with shady past. They fall in love, obstacles ensue, long passionate speeches are delivered, eternal love is declared. There is heartbreak, tragedy, but finally a restoration, true love and thirty five minutes of proposal speeches.
Yet beneath all the hyperbole, beneath all the Victorian clichés, one can still distinguish the heart beat of a young girl, friendless and alone in the world. Jane Eyre, the strange waif-like protagonist, somehow manages to worm her way into the hearts of the readers. Her independent mind and her loyalty and devotion to what is right is as uncommon today as it was when Charlotte Bronte wrote her one hundred and fifty years ago yet it is a mixture so satisfying that generation after generation turn to her for comfort.
One could argue that the reason for reading this book is not for the dramatic action, but rather, in a very modern way, for the pauses between the actions. The book moves slowly through time. Very little actually occurs. It is in the absence of action that the true beauty of the book can be found. Jane’s silent soliloquies on love and life, faith and despair, are more vital to the book than her engagement to Mr. Rochester. Her quick wit and her insights into the hearts of the people around her, even if occasionally mistaken, make her an admirable creation able to stand on her own.
Jane is the outsider coming into an already established community. Twice in the story she is the pivotal character, inserted into the lives of the other caracters in such a way that she can , sometimes unknowingly, push them towards their goal in life. She is the life-bringer and the restorer, though she herself is only aware of her role at the very end.
As such her character is forever down on herself while in fact aiding others. She strikes a realistic balance between the overstuffed hothouse beauties and the forlorn lost waifs so common to Victorian literature. She does not need rescuing, because she can earn her own way through life as a governess, yet neither does she exact pity from those she meets because she carries herself very well.
Reading Jane Eyre is about discovering friends. One learns to expect the quirkiness of Jane, and to look for the roughness of Mr. Rochester and StJohn’s perfection is in the end his down fall.
The book is an excellent read, filled with interesting ideas and concepts, some foreign to modern thinking, some strickingly similar. The caracters that populate it’s pages delight and exasperate by turns. Though somewhat longwinded (it is a book that is better the second time around) the story is still densly packed with people and events. It is an excellent book to read with a hot cup of cocoa in one hand, wrapped in a blanket sitting by the fire.

mewithout you new cd revieuw

“So have you heard about Mewithoutyou?” The question left me feeling hurt and unwanted. I thought he meant him without me, but after the usual miscommunication birthed from ambiguous sentence structures, I was informed that this was a band name, not, as I had thought, a personal insult. The conversation meandered into other avenues after that, but the name stuck in my head. Two days later, Audrey Watne asks me the same question. This time I’m prepared. “No” I respond ‘I don’t think I’ve had the privilege.” To which the usually very articulate Ms Watne responds with “Aaggh, dude! …”
When she had recovered from the shock caused by my ignorance she proceeded to quote me a few lines from “a four word letter”, one of their better known songs. Unimpressed, yet intrigued by the sudden loss of intelligent speech, I politely dropped the subject and moved on, thinking that was the end of it. But fate had something else in store. Mewithoutyou began to spread like a slow but deadly virus amongst my friends. Converts were being made left and right. When the subject was broached they would engage with all the fervor of the Chosen Few seeking to save the lost. Let me illustrate: when asked to explain Mewithoutyou they responded with these choice morsels:
(Let me add that the first reaction was invariably an ecstatic, unintelligible exclamation, accompanied by a hand placed over the heart and an eye gazing raptly off into the blue yonder. After holding this contemplative, worshipful pose for a few moments they released the torrent of words you find below.)

“In the land before time, there was God, and Mewithoutyou.”
“Their Christianity is not just some shallow bumper sticker; it’s branded on their hearts.”
“The depth of their Christianity goes way beyond the superficiality common to Christian lyrics.”
“They just ARE, and they say who they are, and they love animals and they love people.”
“Catch for us the foxes (their sophomore album) deals with unity between the believer and God, but also the choice of God or suicide”
“You passionately love them or you’re like “what is this freak saying””
“They are heavily influenced by bands like At the Drive In and Sunny Day Real Estate.”
“They’re EPIC”
“They’re not just a lame “Christian band”, not just G, C and D and some lyrics.”
And my all time favorite : A friends father, disapproving of his skipping class to buy the new CD, asked him to wait a few days before purchasing said CD. His response? Classic:
“Dad, we wait for marriage and we have no control over it. Mewithoutyou is the next best thing and I do not have to and will not wait for that!”

In the words of the immortal Doors “the time for hesitation is through” With all this excitement bubbling over all around me I knew I needed to listen to this band myself. It seemed to be perfect timing, since their third album had just dropped in stores. Called Brother, Sister, after the Canticle of Brother Sun by Saint Francis, it is the best album as yet from a band not yet confident of its sound. Even the bands most loyal fans agree that they do take some getting used to. Having said that, the CD is an excellent musical experience, with a wide variety of instruments to be heard on the thirteen tracks making up the CD. There are harps, rain, broke bottles, handclapping and chanting in Hebrew, just to mention a few.
Brother, Sister has a fair share of soft songs, like the spider trilogy, which are barely more than musical whispers. These create an atmosphere of intimacy, as if we were listening through a keyhole to a man extemporizing on the meaning of life.

Buying the album online at midnight, I fell asleep to sound of rain rushing down to meet the earth and merging with Aaron Weiss’s vocals on the way. As lead vocalist and lyricist of the band, Weiss is largely responsible for the bands reputation of honesty and self-deprecation. Speaking rather than singing, his style has been described as spoken-screaming. He blends his deepest fears, beliefs and hopes with everyday occurrences, creating an intimate window into his mind using such diverse examples as overdue library books, pumpernickel bread and a broken record player. The end result is that he completely disarms the listener by his unique use of the English language. His choice of words proves to be intriguing and thought provoking. Even so the lyrics are hard to understand the first time through. Weiss’s voice has an odd, almost muted, quality to it, muffling the words. Repeated listening however reveals the true beauty beneath the crusted surface. He reaches conclusions consistent with Christian doctrine, but in such a roundabout why that the truths he sings of seem delightfully fresh, exciting and personal. The songs left me feeling as if someone had removed a blindfold and flipped the lights on in the room so I could finally see the things I had only been able to sense were there. In his own words: “I’m afraid I don’t have any answers for you. I have questions myself, and the suspicion that I will and should never find complete answers in this life, otherwise in arrogance I may think I’ve come to comprehend that which is beyond comprehension!”
In posing these questions, he elicits an answer that differs from listener to listener, allowing the songs to become deeply personal to each individually.
So in conclusion, what can I say about this very unique band that would make you want to listen to them? (Which, by the way I think you should) Well, with a hand placed over my heart and a far-of look in my eyes, I think I’ll say “aah… dude! ...” Because I have too been converted. Brother, sister is an excellent, solid, musically valid work that has the advantage of possessing a deep well of spiritual and personal experiences. After listening to them one want to sit and ponder life for a while.

philosophy paper on art

Wittgenstein and Co. on Art

The discussion concerning the correct definition of Art has been going on since the first Artist (whatever one means by Artist) displayed his first work in public and opened himself to criticism. What is the function of Art? Does Art elevate or denigrate the human soul? Is there such a thing as Art? Each consecutive age has attempted an explanation for the innate need found within the Homo sapiens to create beautiful and provocative things. In ancient Greece Plato found Art to be dangerous and nothing more than a shadow of a shadow, not to be trusted. In 19th century Germany Freud looked at Art as a way to express the violent and sexual unconscious drives in socially acceptable manners. Both considered Art as an expression of the lower self, the animalistic nature, the bronze souls within humans. Both Freud and Plato were arguing for the value of Art, not calling for a definition of what was considered Art. For centuries the question has always been “What is the purpose of Art?” The definitions of Art and Artist were considered fixed. This is no longer the case, as term Art has become as vague and all encompassing as the term “weather”. It gives no clear idea of what is being discussed. It does not inform us of which mode of expression (i.e. painting, sculpture, drawing, found Art) is being used. Its meaning has become larger and fuzzier than in past centuries. The latest debate no longer focuses on the moral quality of Art, but rather “what is Art?” Is there a clear definition of the concept of Art? Are there boundary lines that can be clearly agreed on? Up until the end of the 19th century the answer to both these questions would have been yes. This last century has seen a drastic shift in philosophical thought concerning. No longer is everything expected to be defined in categories and placed in opposition to all other things. Definitions have become more fluid.
Ludwig Wittgenstein, a prominent Viennese philosopher during the first half of the last century, developed the ideas of open concepts and language as a form of life. Though Wittgenstein never addressed the issue of Art (he simply states that ethics and aesthetics are the same thing and that it is clear that ethics cannot be put into words), his theories in general lend themselves well to the modern discussion. Later philosophers have taken his ideas and embroidered upon them to come up with an adequate modern theory of Aesthetics. Wittgenstein’s idea of open concepts is s response to the idea espoused by Plato, that one could treat all ideas as mathematical concepts. In other words Plato thought that all definitions would fit into precise, exhaustive and sufficient boxes. Each concept could be defined in it’s entirety as different in it’s entirety from any another concept. Plato thought all concepts could be treated this way, whereas Wittgenstein pointed out that this only works in the mathematical, logical realm, but hardly ever in day to day life or even with more abstract concepts like love and friendship.
Concepts are rarely defined by names that are necessary and sufficient. Wittgenstein chose the term family resemblances to explain how things are categories into concepts. A term such as “work” is hard to describe. Both a janitor and a lawyer work, but are their respective work schedules at all comparable? In some areas similarities will be found. They both wear a uniform of sorts and they both receive money for work rendered. But what of the man who volunteers and rebuilds houses for those who can’t afford it? Would it not be considered work because he draws no salary? In each case we find either general or individual similarities with a number of related activities, but no overall overarching principle that could be used to define the concept. There is a complicated network of similarities overlapping and crisscrossing, much as family traits appear at random in humans. Wittgenstein therefore chose to call Work a family, under which he files the different concepts with enough similarities to be recognized as Work. An open concept is one in which one can conceive of a situation in which one would be forced to make a decision on whether to enlarge the family to include the idea or to form a separate group. Wittgenstein would then say that work cannot be defined because it is an open concept.
Morris Weitz took Wittgenstein’s ideas and applied them to Art. He claimed that the question “Is it Art?” calls for a decision to extend the idea of Art to include the piece or not. He would argue that if the piece had enough of a family resemblance to the body of work already considered Art it should be included. In this way Weitz sidesteps the debate on modern Art, whether or not it undermines Art in the past, because the concept of Art is allowed to grow and expand as seen fit.
George Dickie contests the idea that Art cannot be defined. Using Wittgenstein’s own arguments, and a quote by Arthur Danto, Dickie comes up with the institutional theory of Art. Danto had said that to see something as Art calls for a background already prepared in which to place the piece, an Art world. In order to construct such a mental background one needs an idea of the history and theory of Aesthetics. In parallel with Wittgenstein’s idea that language is a social activity, Art too is a social institution that can be defined by the culture and era in which it is produced or judged. Much as the society confers the status of winner to the one who succeeds in being the first to cross the end line, though it could have chosen instead to give that title to the one who ran with the most style, Art receives its status by the society it is produced in. B.R Tilgheman pointed out that in that case whatever the Artist says is Art, must be received as such. The issue of understanding a work and appreciating its message is not even brought in question. Timothy Binkley uses a much simpler tactic to refute Dickie. He simply calls everything Art. If everything can be defined as Art, which it can be by the Artist according to Dickie, then it becomes unnecessary to have a definition for Art.
Binkley wishes to return to Weitz’s interpretation of Wittgenstein, with the distinction that Art is even less definable than other open concepts. Whereas in terms such as work and games there is a clear distinction between what is accepted in the idea and what is not, in Art it is much harder to distinguish the Art from non-Art.
The Wittgenstein point of view states that Art is a radically open concept and that it is intricately bound up in the fabric of the society and culture in which it is produced. It is constantly being added to and indefinable.
Though interesting this view in my opinion fails to take into consideration a few things. It fails to consider the difference between an Artist and an Artisan. It does not discuss the use of Art, only its place. It assumes that Art is something to be compartmentalized, an aspect of life instead of a companion or mirror to life.
The first objection I have to this idea of Art as an open concept is that subconsciously a piece is judged by certain standards that remain constant throughout changing cultures. A piece is judged according to execution. A badly done work, unless intentional, does not get displayed. Art is always produced by an Artist, someone who has made it their purpose to voice to their imaginations. Why else is it that we say that Gaudi built la Sangria Familia when in reality it was a small army of painters, sculptures, carpenters and stone dressers. It is understood that Gaudi was the Artist because Gaudi was the man with a vision. An Artist seeks to share with the world some truth he or she thinks fundamental. An Artist is someone with a passion to say something, to praise or disparage something. An Artisan is someone who has the skills of an Artist, but not his social burden of ideology. Michelangelo’s passion was to picture man as divine, to show the world that man was something worth looking at. His ideology, humanism, drives his work. The men who worked in his atelier, replicating his work, lacked that driving force and therefore their reproductions, though well-done, are not art. The pre- Raphaelites in 19th century England set up a manifesto of their beliefs and convictions before they painted the pictures now considered masterpieces. For all Art there is an idea that pushes at the Artist for expression.
Which begs the question; is there a purpose for Art? Wittgenstein does not consider that Art is a mirror to society; rather he treats it as a subcategory of culture. However Art is not defined by the society surrounding it but rather Art is a product of the society it is in. The difference is that there is no time limit placed on Art. It survives its own creator, the social culture it was born in. Great Art will always be those images or sounds or writings that throw open a window into the heart and soul of their time and culture as well as transcend them. Art performs a very useful function in society. In a sense it is its conscience. It brings people to an AHA-erlebenis by contemplating the purpose behind the work. Take for example the Mona Lisa and a piece exhibited at the Musee d’Art Moderne in Brussels. One was a flat painting of a woman done in oils. The other was a broken and burnt violin encased in clear plastic resin. As far as the family resemblance Wittgenstein looked for goes, they had nothing in common except that they both hung on a wall. Yet both were well executed. There was skill involved in the crafting of the remnants of the violin as well as knowledge of the techniques needed to encase it in plastic. While the violin is meant to symbolic the silencing of Art by force ( the government) and the Mona Lisa is a painting of a lady, carrying scenes in the background praising the government and the innovations it has agreed to make, they both are offering the viewer a choice, whether to accept their view of life or to reject it. So even though there is much openness left in defining Art, it is not radically open or completely indefinable and even in it’s changing there are things that remain constant.
There must be some clear, consistent definition of Art, otherwise a painting is no more Art than the frame it is in, and the frame no different from the wall it hangs on. Since we do acknowledge there is such a thing as Art, we also must acknowledge that there are certain criteria a piece must adhere to in order to be labeled as Art and distinguishable from non-Art (the painting from the wall). Rather than agree with Dickie that those criteria depend solely on the cultural context, I suggest that they are as follows: 1) a specific, informed commitment to a particular school of thought
2) The ability or talent to reproduce the thoughts and feelings provoked by it.
These need not be negative or revolutionary works, they could simply be the beauty of a landscape captured by the English painters. Neither does the statement need to be objectively true. It suffices that it confronts the viewer with an ideology. There for Goya with his sketches of poverty was an Artist while Kinkade was not. Art fashions a world which is other than the material world we live in. When placed side by side, it provokes a response. It can provoke change, as Marcus wanted and as Rainer Maria Rilke experienced after viewing a statue of Apollo in a museum. It has to have the intent to move the audience and the success of doing so. As in all things the mirror reflecting reality can be cracked and twisted. By defining Art as fluid and a radically open concept Dickie and Weitz are looking only at the trappings of the thing. Their definition of Art is like defining Winston Churchill by describing him: he was a fat man in a bowler hat who liked to smoke cigars. That may describe the shell of the man, but it goes nowhere near laying the finger on the brilliant political mind Sir Churchill really was.