Friday, March 05, 2010

We live in a wonderful time for animation.

You know, seeing the nominees for best animated film, just about any of those would be fine. David Denby is right to point out that the golden age we have been living in for animated films since Pixar showed up is better than the official golden age of animation from the Disney era. It's an opinion open to passionate dispute, of course, but if we're not in a golden age of animation this is a pretty astonishing "silver age" just on the basis of Pixar and Miyazaki alone.

Throw in Nick Park's work with Wallace and Gromit and Henry Selick's stop-motion animation, too; throw in Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's mammoth run on the DC cartoon universe; and toss in stuff like Persepolis and the sheer range of style and content in animation in the last fifteen years is a marvel to behold. My nieces and nephew are growing up with a much wider range of quality cartoons than I had access to when I was their age. Most of the cartoons thirty-somethings in my generation lavish their nostalgia on were actually pretty lame. The cartoons that started coming out when I was in high school and college, on the other hand, were often very solid. Maybe we're not back at the level of Bugs Bunny if you insist on that being the high water mark for short serialized animation, but the story-telling is more varied and substantial.

Up seems likely to win but even though I liked the film I kinda want Coraline to get some love. Henry Selick is easy to over look if you're just focusing on Pixar. Sure, he did Monkeybone but everyone's bound to make some clunkers or slip up. Nightmare Before Christmas is still a great cartoon and most folks in animation aren't going to be Hayao Miyazaki or Brad Bird.

busy with not being able to do much

Still in the quest for the grail of a reliable productivity-related revenue stream. Have not composed a whole lot and have not even played a whole ton of guitar. It's hard to feel inspired to do that somtimes. I have stalled at just 8 of projected 24 preludes and fugues for solo guitar. I've got C sharp minor, E flat major, F major, G major, A flat major, G sharp minor, A major, and B flat minor accounted for. I have ideas in the works for C major, D major, D minor, E minor, F minor, F sharp minor, G minor, and B minor--not many ideas, just enough to know I'm not going to run out of these things and come to a dead stop creatively in the next few years.

By the previous sentence I mean a dead stop of having no projects to motivate me to keep trying until I pull things off, not a dead stop in the form of hitting roadblocks and brick walls in getting established projects done or getting sidetracked by feeling depressed not managing to even get interviews.

I have been doing some study of Igor Rekhin's preludes and fugues and while I would have "liked" for him to have used actual countersubjects in his fugues he manages the tunes so I guess all is forgiven (I trust you can see that I'm being very tongue-in-cheek about that forgiveness thing).

In fact among famous fugue writers it has been interesting to learn that even greats like Hindemith and Beethoven would just dump countersubjects, something that Bach rarely does. Of course just because the greatest composer of fugues who ever lived rarely skipped out on composing a countersubject doesn't mean you HAVE to compose countersubjects yourself. Still ... it's more profoundly satisfying to compose a fugue for solo guitar in which all the musical strands are fully interchangeable. The whole art of counterpoint, it seems to me, can hinge on the invertible nature of it. The soprano's melody can become the bass and the bass can become the tenor and the tenor can become the soprano and all this without compromising the pleasing musical relationships between all of the melodic material.

I'm also slogging through a project for violin and guitar, a couple of those, actually. I might have not one but two sonatas for violin and guitar I can finish this year, and one of them will be heavily inspired by Charles Ives in method though it will not resemble anything he wrote in terms of style or rhetorical flair.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

McNaughton fine art and the McNaughton rule in forensic psychiatry

A curious coincidence is that McNaughton is a name associated with "fine art" of a particular kind and a precedent established for how to verify whether or not a person is not guilty of a crime due to insanity (the incapacity to discern that what one did was morally or socially wrong). I'm not sure most people have ever even heard of the McNaughton standard unless they have a curiosity about philosophy and precedent in crime and prosecution.

(what can I say? I am a Batman fan and I never bought the idea that in the real world Joker could ever be considered insane by any criminally prosecutable standard, only the most bleeding heart liberal prosecutor would not go for the death penalty if it were legal in a city like Gotham ... or the Joker would just have to live in Washington state where lawyers would say that if you can't execut Gerry Ridgeway you really can't execute the Joker, either)

Having given myself the luxury of an entirely parenthetical paragraph and just now succumbing to a reflexively repetitive alliteration always worthy of the would-be witticisms of Stan "the man" Lee I probably better make this my single post on my blog tonight.

Monday, March 01, 2010


To say that I am not by disposition an optimistic person might be an understatement. Last week I had dinner with a friend who said he is by nature very optimistic and that he gets angry when that optimism gets thwarted. He, curiously, has a great disdain for most people generally and particularly and perhaps could be likened to that person in the Brothers Karamazov who professed to love humanity and to whom Zossima made the obversation that many who profess an ardent love of humanity in general hate the people they know in particular. It is possible for your boundless optimism to be optimism for you and not for others. It is possible that your optimism that is thwarted and leads you to anger is of a theoretically limitless type but limited in range. I don't have that sort of optimism, I guess.

I tend to be gloomy in outlook, perhaps even depressive. It has not helped that I learned that someone I met years ago was recently murdered. In your 20s you don't consider mortality very often. Well, I considered mortality and the frailty of human life often but perhaps having a catastrophic macular detachment does that to a person. I lost nearly all my grandparents by the time I was 30. My paternal grandmother died when I was about 18 and my maternal grandmother died when I was about 31. My maternal grandfather died when I was about 7 or 8 at the oldest. I also grew up in a mixed family (which is to say that I not only saw family die I also saw marriages collapse fairly early in my life). I have by inclination and disposition in conjunction with experience been inclined to notice how close death and disaster can be at any given stage of life. This may give me an often morbid disposition.

My sense of of humor can also occasionally veer toward the grim or macabre. I would not advise anyone (normally) to watch Woodland Critter Christmas but the very macabre nature of the episode amused me greatly. "Sorry son, Santa's gonna have to kill you." Again, I don't advise you to watch that episode if you haven't seen it already and if you don't even know what I'm talking about you're probably better off. I merely mention that by way of illustrating that sometimes my humor gets grim (paradoxically those guys consider themselves very optimistic).

If my childhood kept me aware of death by virtue of a death and the dissolution of a marriage and my teens saw the dissolution of other family connections and my twenties broadly saw the death of remaining grandparents my thirties have had me witness death in other forms, most recently the news that an old high school associate has cancer and, most recently of all, learning of a murder. And all this during a time when I have been unsuccessful in not only landing work but even getting job interviews.

Because of the kind of work I used to do (non-profit) I can't collect the unemployment benefits that people could be expected to rely upon. I even know someone who has decided that he's "at peace" not collecting unemployment even though he had a substantial sum left in his claim, at least a month's worth of rent at any rate. I have grown bewildered by this sort of Christianese "at peace" decision that only seems like a motivation by some sort of pride to me. But it may simply not be my business to make this assessment and people have their reasons for doing what they do. Be all that as it may, a handful of people have been surprised to learn that I can't take advantage of things that they take advantage of themselves or that in their (as I perceive it, pride) don't WANT to avail themselves of.

My only sense of optimism is not based on the optimism of "things can only get better" but "things haven't gotten worse yet". I don't have cancer, I didn't get murdered, I don't have to move out at the end of the month while also not having a job, I don't have the sorts of debts that lead my wages or savings to get garnished because I haven't been diligent in keeping my responsibilities.

I am far from happy and most of the time far from content with my situation but in spite of these things I do have moments where I realize that small and seemingly unimportant decisions have made this period of my life more tolerable than it would be if I hadn't. As the scriptures say, wealth hastily gotten will dwindle but those who gather little by little will increase it. Those who aspire to get rich quick fall prey to many schemes.

I have to remind myself that the gospel is good news. The hope that does not disappoint is not really a hope that if you use wisdom and do the right things that things will go well for you in this life. The good news isn't that your performance and status will improve. The good news isn't that you go "upstream" and "influence culture". The good news isn't any of those things and though those things are not bad they can be a form of laying up treasures here on earth instead of in heaven. The most spiritual people on the surface can frequently be the most worldly yet they convince themselves and us that they are spiritual models to be followed. I simultaneously hope never to be such a person and constantly suspect myself to be one of them. I don't want to be a teacher precisely because I fear that I would just be a false teacher if I were one. The moment you stop doubting that you could be one the more in danger you are of actually becoming one is the conviction I have. So it is wiser to not aspire to be a teacher, but I clearly digress.

Perhaps the most dangerous idolatries of all are those that masquerade as spiritual treasures. Pharisees amassed money, loved money, loved their prestige and to have honored seats at special occasions and yet despised the Lord. The good news was for those who had no earthly hope, for the widow and the orphan, those who the men of the society had a remedial and even obligatory concern. Perhaps it might be said that they were Tamar before Judah repented of his cruelty and disdain.

For me the most difficult battle is to hold on to the idea that God shows any graciousness in this age. I can get that God can show kindness in the age to come but a survey of the Old Testament shows that the psalmists and the prophets and kings were all concerned that God not forget to show mercy NOW. When they spoke about how God seemed to forsake His covenant and to not really be faithful as advertised they were challenging Yahweh to prove that He was still faithful NOW and not just in an abstract future. Yahweh demonstrated His faithfulness but often in unexpected and even unpleasant ways, allowing His people to make spectacularly unpleasant discoveries about themselves along the way.