I kind of feel under attack from various sources lately as I am known to read less-than-high quality poetry, cheap men’s adventure paperbacks, and artist monographs from artists that I don’t like and who lack basic technical skill if not fine motor control.
Writing at First Things, Leah Libresco outlines why bad art may not be the best thing for us. It’s an interesting piece and one item stood out because it’s an opinion I already held: The CGI Yoda from the Star Wars prequels, despite its ability to hop all over the place in a lightsaber duel, is not as good as the simple puppet voiced by Frank Oz in the original trilogy.
Come on, you know who he’s talking about.
Second, Severian tackles one of my musical crushes from the 1990s, Jewel:
In case you don’t remember, or were too young / old to be aware of her, that’s pop singer Jewel, in retrospect the most Nineties of all 90s poseurs. Trust me when I say that if you had any interest at all in college girls in the 1990s — prurient or otherwise — you can probably still recite the entire track list of Pieces of You (which, not coincidentally, is also the most Nineties possible album title). If you really want to give a guy in his 40s PTSD, play that and Jagged Little Pill back to back outside his bedroom window. After five minutes, he’ll either start shooting at you, or dig out his old flannels and Doc Martens and start kicking around a hacky sack…
Ow, that stings. I got Pieces of You after a
epic quest evening of hitting record stores looking for it in that pre-Amazon and mostly pre-Internet era. I even bought her book of poetry, for Pete’s sake (which is the young person equivalent of grandmother poetry; a few nice moments, maybe, but mostly a nice pat for trying). I bought Spirit and even 0304 in this century (I was not impressed). And that was it. A couple of years later, she switched to country (as a lot of pop stars tried), but I haven’t really paid attention in the last fifteen years (how long?).
Also, on a side note, I also had Jagged Little Pill on CD back in the day; I got it before Pieces of You. But I got tired of Morrisette’s schtick and got rid of it sometime early this century. I still have Pieces of You, though, and the iTunes counter shows that I have listened to Pieces of You and Spirit once since I swapped computers a year and a half ago and 0304 twice.
Okay, so the Internet has been targeting me (I am the center of the Internet, gentle reader–everything on it is about me). What about the great masters?
Matthew Arnold, in his address entitled “Milton”, which was given on the dedication of the Milton window at St. Margaret’s Church:
It appears to me difficult to deny that the growing greatness and influence of the United States does bring with it some danger to the ideal of a high and rare excellence. The average man is too much a religion there; his performance is unduly magnified, his shortenings are not duly seen and admitted. A lady in the State of Ohio sent to me only the other day a volume on American authors; the praise given throughout was of such high pitch that in thinking of her I could not forbear saying that for only one or two of the authors named was such a strain of praise admissible, and that we lost all real standard of excellence by praising so uniformly and immoderately. She answered me with charming good tempers, that very likely I was quite right, but it was pleasant to her to think that excellence was common and abundant.
You see? Even late nineteenth century poets were gunning for me.
Although that last sentiment in the Arnold quote, gentle reader, might be a bit more than I truly believe, I am in favor of reading not only excellent things, but also things that are not excellent so as to develop a better understanding of what things are not good and perhaps why. Also, I come from a university English background, where at workshops we’re supposed to find at least something nice in the worst tripe. I didn’t do so well at it when I was in the university, but I have since mellowed.
And, as you might expect, I listened to a Rebecca Black EP, for crying out loud. Without Dustbury continuing to promote her, where will her career go?