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Thursday, 31 March 2022


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At the risk of sounding sanctimonious, I'll post the entire quote by Alexandr Solzhenitsen: The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart --- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside, it oscillates with the years. And even within heart overwhelmed with evil, one small bridgehead of good remains.

With best regards.

Stephen S. Mack

"First, I have to address the departing supporters, who have withdrawn their Patreon contributions"

I just doubled my (paltry) monthly Patreon contribution.

I didn't get involved in all this earlier ( could see what was coming) but one thought always occurs to me when we need to make these kind of judgments. Is there a clear red line? Or just a broad range from 'saint' to 'utter pariah'?

Keep being interesting Mike!

Keep on writing, and stand by Popeye.

I am an Independent, always have been, always will be. I do not care for any party, but I do care about how I treat others. Mike, as soon as I can, I will be adding more to my Patreon pledge as well. You can’t please them all, but you are loved by many and never forget it.

I too have conflicted feelings about Woody Allen. Some of his movies are sublime. Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Midnight In Paris, Matchpoint and Manhattan come to mind. But the storyline in Manhattan of him having a girlfriend in high school is very disturbing. However the cinematography by Gordon Willis in Manhattan is some of my favourite of all time. There is a lot of unique negative space shots in it. There are scenes in Manhattan where someone walks out of frame while they are talking and no one is in the shot.

Still a proud and very happy supporter. I'm pretty sure that if I wanted to dictate what you wrote, that would cost a great deal more, and likely earn me a foot in my posterior.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a helluva guy, and yes, a real role model. I find that it's important to trust your gut on who to follow, especially with art. I read and follow several people I disagree with, but I don't support someone that I feel is doing something wrong. And I don't want art from a bad well in my head, thanks.

Admittedly, I think that too much attention has been given to a millionaire slap fight in front of a lot of millionaires in a week where real news goes unremarked upon, but the reactions tell us a lot about our our feelings on a number of topics.

Hi Mike. Your paragraph on Orwell and his Benefit of Clergy is the perfect prose. Supremely elegant, precision and nuance in every word. Beautiful. Have I read the book? No, it wasn't even on my list. Will I read it? Now I will.

[It's only one essay, an easy (well, short) read. And thank you for the compliment! --Mike]

No idea what's worse, if being offended and personally canceling a comedian because of a joke or canceling and being offended by other people's opinions about the matter.

After reading this I feel grateful to be able to separate the artist from the art. A lot of artists have doubtful personality traits and deviant behaviour, would be a shame to miss great works of art by Woody Allen, Tarantino, Louis C.K., Lars Von Trier, Richard Serra, etc.

Would be only bad if my attention or money helped in any way to perpetuate criminal actions of a individual, that's where I draw the line.

We are in a sad time. FWIW, I know that Mike and I do differ on politics, sometimes the gap is very wide. But I do appreciate his opinions as they are always sincere and well communicated. It is also clear that he is an original thinker. His feelings are coming from life experiences, not last night's manipulative angle being pushed by Don Lemon, Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. We must remember that these people are not "newspeople" - they are entertainers.

As fas as the Rock/Smith debate, I do also find Kareem's to be the best single piece on the affair. He is an original thinker - not bound to any packaged ideology.

Woody Allen did not adopt Soon-Yi. She was the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Andre Previn. So, Allen was the boyfriend of Soon-Yi's adoptive mother. Whether that makes him a good or bad person I don't know. But I do know that Annie Hall is an exceptionally good movie.

I used to be a fan of Nicholas Nixon's work. Then I learned about his transgressions as a college professor. His work is notable, however I cannot look at anymore.

It is a pity some felt that way. Without current events (some say, it is politics) photography is without a soul. Even a benign landscape photo must have behind its vision a worldview shaped by events past or present. Who can separate the grandeur of a rising moon in "Moonrise, Hernandez, NM" from the reflections on myriad gravestones and the single cross jutting out behind the adobe?

The addendum by J. Lee Moses Farrow is interesting. It should make everyone think twice about jumping to conclusions based on inflammatory media reports. We should all know better by now but the culture seems to have a low bar for outrage. Is this another facet of narcissism, we think too highly of our own opinions.

Years ago, it seems there used to be a higher percentage of content about photography and cameras vs. other stuff. Maybe it's just that.

Hi Mike. I have read the Orwell essay on Dali now, and I am glad you made me discover it. Orwell concludes by saying, He is a symptom of the world's illness. To me this sentence opens up a new way of thinking about the dilemma you explore in your own essay.

Who gets to be the gatekeeper of acceptable/unacceptable behavior?

Who gets to define the line between human foible and egregious sin?

Who gets to determine which art/artist is allowed into the pantheon, and what/who is barred at the gates?

Who sets the statute of limitations, decides what “lens” is used to gauge the past, creates the paradigm by how society goes about bestowing the wreathe of greatness upon works?

For me, art is ALWAYS created by deeply flawed, imperfect, struggling artists. The same is true for how we all live our lives, great and small. Daily transgressions, ongoing repeated transgressions, all can be found in each life.

In the end, it’s a call each person must make, as you did. Some works transcend the mortal failings of the creator. Other works are forever bound to the maker's flaws, once known. The job then of the publisher, galleries, curators, repositories, and venues is to include known, substantiated, and truthful information, allowing others to decide for themselves.

Still, far from perfect (a la your info re: Woody Allen), but it might be the best to be hoped for.

Hi Mike,
Interesting to have read so many views on this matter.
It seems that if someone is unable to separate art from artist, and doesn’t wish to view or engage with the art, who am I to pronounce if that is right or wrong - it’s simply how that person is.

For my own view, if someone is harmed in the making of art, without their consent - e.g. the details that have come out about Brando and Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris - that’s where I draw the line. At this point in time.

Hi Mike
I am somewhat late to the party here. I was just reading John Banville’s piece in the New York Review of Books. It is titled The Imaginative Imperative. He is concerned with the core of the individual work of art which he quotes Jed Perl to describe as “the enigma of the work itself”. The point is the art has a message that is quite independent of its monetary value, the proclivities of its creators, or other social weights heaped upon it. To expand on this he points out that Guernica would have been an even greater work if Picasso had chosen a different title, there was no need to drag us by the nose to make its point.
So with this insight, we have to be careful about confusing an artists life with their work. After all as the saying goes even a blind squirrel will find a nut occasionally and it appears that some of them are actually quite good at it.
Sorry no link to the article, I read it on paper, that archaic replacement for papyrus.

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