Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alain de Botton on being/not being a critic

Wrestling with the dissertation these days. This quote, from Joshua Rothman's New Yorker profile of Alain de Botton's "art as therapy" project, is helping energize me by reminding me of why I'm doing all this work. Just replace "art" with "literature" in my case.

“What are you supposed to do if you love art?” he asked. “Do you become a scholar of art? Do you become an art critic? Do you write about art? Our answer is that one should try to take the values that one admires in works of art and enact them, and make them more vivid in the world. It’s too easy to ‘love art,’ and to not love the things that art actually loves. But the point is to try and love the things that the artists we love loved. Don’t just love the artist,” he said. “Don’t just love the work they produced. Love what they loved.” Inside the museum, these ideas had seemed contentious. Outside, on Seventieth Street—where trees waved in the breeze, and clouds glowed behind them—they seemed less so.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

You Should Pick Up the Old 97's/ Waylon Jennings Collaboration

(This happened.)

Texas Monthly/ The NY Times has an oral history up of the 1996 collaboration between Waylon Jennings and the Old 97's:

In 1996, five Texans met in Nashville to record two songs together. At the time, the four members of the Dallas band Old 97’s were awaiting the release of their major-label debut for Elektra Records, “Too Far To Care.” But already they were considered too loud for country, too country for rock. It was a struggle that the fifth Texan in the room, Waylon Jennings, knew all too well.

The fruits of that meeting, versions of "The Other Shoe"* and "The Iron Road", are being released today by Ominvore Recordings, along with four Old 97's demos. Get to a record store!

Previous posts on the Old 97's here and here.

*"The Other Shoe" is my all-time favorite Old 97's song. Except maybe for "Salome". Or "Big Brown Eyes". Anyway, Waylon had good taste.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Sites to See

I just want to highlight some super-cool scholarly and texan and scholarly-texan-type things going on around the web:

First, if you're reading James Joyce or planning a trip to Dublin, you have to visit Jasmine Mulliken's meticulously-researched Mapping Dubliners Projectwhich features online maps of every place referenced in Dubliners and mapped routes of all of the collection's characters. Jasmine also writes a blog, spotlighting a new place from the book each week, with notes on its history and its role in the text.

Second, the Harry Ransom Center has a blog! How did I not know about this until now? It's full of fascinating commentary on the center's holdings--I learned about it the day Michael Gilmore wrote about the famous scuffle between Ernest Hemingway and Max Eastman, which took place in the office of Hemingway's editor after Eastman challenged Hemingway's manhood. The story is unbelievable, and Gilmore's posts reminds me of exactly why I love archival work. 

Finally, I knew Hannah Gamble in Houston, and now she's blowing up on the national poetry scene. She'll be featured in next month's Poetry and she's doing a reading at the KGB Bar in New York tonight. Her 2012 collection "Your Invitation to a Modest Breakfast" garnered this great review from Anna Journey at the Kenyon Review.  And you can see her at the top of this post, reading a poem and being interviewed by her former professor Richard Jackson. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Happy birthday, Freddie King!

Texas has produced a lot of great bluesmen (and blueswomen). Happy birthday to one of the best: the Texas Cannonball, Freddie King, seen above with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. King would have been 79 today.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Remembering Penelope Casas

(Penelope Casas, 1943 - 2013)

Penelope Casas, America's foremost expert on Spanish cuisine, passed away this week at 70. No cookbook author meant more to me or my family, and I've got a post over on the pterodáctilo blog explaining why. Check it out, and go buy one of Casas' extraordinary books on Spanish food!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

From the Gulf

(Galveston Island, 1972. All photos by Blair Pittman via The Atlantic.)

I love this series of photos from Texas in the 1970s that's up right now at The Atlantic's website. Part of it is that we just got back from a weekend getaway to Port Aransas, on the Gulf, which still looks amazingly like these 40-year-old shots of Galveston.

As a kid, sometimes I would ask my mom if I could have a certain toy or watch a TV show, and she would tell me, "No, it's tacky." She wasn't being snobby--she just thought that living a good, beautiful life meant surrounding yourself with good, beautiful things, and lots of the junk that kid-me wanted didn't qualify. My mom was a paradox (we all are) who also loved Coors Light and grew into a devoted NASCAR fan. But when it came to raising me, she emphasized cultivating the beautiful and a sense for the beautiful. And that meant that "the beach" for me growing up was a serene spot with white sand and blue water and no oil rigs on the horizon--we loved the beaches of the east coast, and we travelled to or aspired to travel to nicer beaches outside of the country.

There's a certain level of tackiness to the beaches of the Texas Gulf, and the 1970s were America's tackiest decade. But there's also value in finding beauty in what you've got on hand, in what you can afford--a value my mom absolutely understood--and that's what you get from this series.