Dumbland & Sisyphus

I’ve watched almost all things David Lynch. Tonight I watched Dumbland, which was, well…. dumb. David Lynch describes it as “a crude, stupid, violent, absurd series. If it is funny, it’s because we see the absurdity of it all.”

Yesterday, I was doing a Google search on Camus and Solomon and came across an article entitled Sisyphus and Suburbia by David Durnell. Guess what it’s about? David Lynch’s Dumbland which just happened to be next up on my Netflix queue and arrived today. Nice timing!

It’s extremely crude so of course my 15 year old son loves it. It seems sort of meaningless, but there is always meaning in the seemingly weird and meaningless when it comes to Lynch. Lynch’s art is both absurd and surreal and follows in the tradition of the Absurd Theater inspired by Camus’s Absurdism. Durnell says Dumbland is “a skewering of the rotted and dysfunctional nature of the American nuclear family– a family immersed in banality, and drowning in absurdity –left only to violently self-destruct.”

It is way out of proportion, but I can definitely see the reflection of my neighborhood in Dumbland. Most families DO self-destruct in one form or other these days. Very few of my kids’ friends live with both of their parents. And of those that do, the mother very often plays the submissive, supportive role. The wife in Dumbland who seems forever in fear of what it is her husband is going to do, is not an uncommon scene. Lots of women take a back seat to their husband’s authority. I had a friend tell me that she knows it doesn’t work for everyone, but her marriage got so much better when she quit disagreeing with her husband. She lets him make all the rules and decisions and keeps her mouth shut and all is well. Another friend told me how she can barely believe that she used to read books by feminists! It’s a woman’s role to be submissive to her husband according to the Bible, after all. (The husband and the child have names in Dumbland, but the mother doesn’t. She doesn’t have an identity.) And it’s getting harder to ignore – especially with all of the suburban high school shootings. American suburbia is violent.

My neighbor has actually sold guns out of his garage during neighborhood garage sale days! I don’t know where he gets them. Being very vocal about disciplining your children by hitting them is not at all uncommon. In fact, you are somewhat suspect if you don’t believe in corporal punishment. We were one day shocked to see a little girl from down the street on television. She was telling the interviewer how she used to be evil but she wasn’t anymore – this was thanks to being spanked in front of the entire church congregation while they prayed for her. This wasn’t presented on the news as abusive, it was presented as loving and healing.

It is increasingly absurd. Why is everyone surprised to discover that students were planning a Columbine style attack at our neighborhood high school? The high school made national news for this last year and we parents didn’t know a thing about it until it made national news. They also tried to tell us nobody had ever been killed on the campus but that wasn’t true. Just the year before a student was knifed in the parking lot and he died. This year the school made national news for pulling an article out of a student news letter about the rampant drug abuse among teens. The article ended up published in major newspapers along with the story of how the principle pulled the article from the student newsletter. (That still cracks me up.) We’ve also made national news for canceling the homecoming dance because the students refused to quit dirty dancing (gasp)!

It may look pretty from the outside because people show you what they want you to see. But look a little closer, and what you see are a bunch of people whose lives are spiraling out of control trying to pretend that they have it all together. It gets harder to cover up all the time, too.

Durnell says you cannot understand Lynch without at least a little background on the development of Dadaism, of Absurdism, and a little Freud. Absurdist author Eugene Ionesco said that “People drowning in meaninglessness can only be grotesque.” Lynch is reflecting the crude, stupid and violent in his films – not creating it.

Summary from the history given by Durnell:

Dadaists believed humans were “inherently good” and could only be corrupted through a morally bankrupt society. Such a society should be radically altered for humanity to survive. The Dadaists created what they called anti-art to save humanity from the meaningless. Michel Janco writes, “We had lost confidence in our culture. Everything had to be demolished… [and] we began by shocking common sense, public opinion, educations, institutions, museums, good taste, in short, the whole prevailing order.” It was an attack on convention meant to shock people out of their complacency. Most of the artists eventually broke off from Dadaism and became Surrealists.

Then, along came Sartre and Camus with the Absurd and the Absurdist Theater was founded on this idea, led primarily by Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus. The Absurdist Theater was more focused and had a better developed message than that of the Dadaists. Like Dadaism, it presented meaninglessness and alienation. But unlike Dadaism which was meant to “bewilder and shock” to save human nature, The Absurdist Theater was meant to shock people out of their false realities by providing an outline of human nature. Human nature was presented through meaningless plots, repetitive and inconsequential dialog, and dramatic non-sequiturs to create nightmarish and surreal worlds.

Today, attempts at Surrealism and Absurdism in film are quite rare even though it is still common in art and literature. It’s difficult to make work in film, but David Lynch continually returns to the surreal and Absurd in his films. What he gets criticized for – meaninglessness, weirdness, etc. is exactly what he means to do. But it isn’t weirdness for weirdness sake. There is a point to it, but you can’t get to the point by deconstructing his films.

According to Durnell, In Dumbland, Randy is cut off from the rest of the world on his little suburban plot of land. He never leaves that little plot of land. Never does anything meaningful, and is stuck in repetition, including the repetition of drinking, watching television (especially violent sports – football and boxing), farting and acting violently. He both acts and causes the absurdity for no reason other than the lack of reason itself. In the first Episode, when the helicopter flies overhead, all he can do is pathetically cuss at it. The doctor in the third Episode continually asks “Does that hurt you?” and Randy implies “no”. The doctor puts a knife in the side of Randy’s head and Randy says it doesn’t hurt, but then seems to realize that there is an outsider in his home and so hits the doctor. The doctor then determines that he is absolutely normal, indicating that Randy’s (eternal) numbness is normal. The episode ends with the wife screaming – it’s not just Randy who is affected by this “normality”, it’s his family and all of society.

Randy is apparently contemplating suicide when contemplating the broken lamp in Episode 3. Durnell compares this to Myth of Sisyphus. Like Sisyphus, Randy endures endless repetition. Camus considers Sisyphus the absurd hero. But Lynch sees nothing heroic about the absurdist repetition. Not committing suicide is itself absurd because as the doctor so casually states, the endless repetition and absurdism is “completely normal”.

In Episode 4, Randy has a beer with a Cowboy and they talk about how they like to kill things. Durnell says that the violence in sports and hunting are not separate joys isolated from everyday life, but actions that reveal the true nature of man. They long for a time when they could gore freely, but they are confined to a fenced-in suburban back yard. They are aware of their own boredom. Freud would say it is the repression of animal lusts in an enveloping society and this creates a double conflict: the banal meaninglessness of a mundane society and the inner urges of a man wanting to kill. (Durnell suggests that while Sisyphus was pushing the rock up the hill, he took some time to fart and dismember some poor creatures for libido expression.)

In Episode 5 a stick shows up in a man’s mouth and Sparky repeatedly tells Randy to “get the stick”. Randy gives no thought to how to get the stick and simply tries to pull it out of the man’s mouth, breaking his neck and beating him to a pulp before finally getting the stick. (And the fucker didn’t even say thank you!) This allegory could work for politics, war, etc. Durnell says that one could imagine a violent Bush administration tearing up Iraq and bombing it to a pulp leaving the country war-torn and demolished and being angered that “the fucker never even said thank you!”

In Episode 6, everyone is doing their own thing, the son’s teeth start to bleed, the wife starts to gurgle blood, but Randy notices nothing but what it is he is doing until a fly buzzes. Durnell says this is self-consumed ignorance and the ability to filter out reality. They are completely oblivious to all of the chaos and disorder going on around them.

In Episode 7, we meet Randy’s mother who is, of course, controlling and domineering. He has to take care of Uncle Bob who is sick and probably dying. Bob goes through a series of repetitive patterns, which includes repetitively hitting Randy. After a few hits, Randy hits Bob back and is caught by his mother. He hides outside away from his mother. His mother ends up having to take Bob to the hospital because he’s bitten off his own foot. As Durnell says, the doctor will probably pronounce this self-mutilation as perfectly normal. (Maybe like the repetitive bad eating habits we suburbanites are so fond of that create diabetes and the loss of limbs?)

In Episode 8, Randy is faced with ants he intends to kill with a can labled “KILL”. But he accidentally sprays himself instead and encounters dancing ants who let him know they think he is an ass hole, a shit face and a dumb turd. It’s as though he has started to reflect on his behavior in his hallucinatory state, but instead of coming to any self-discovery, he gets angry and continues to try and kill the ants. He breaks his neck and wakes up in the hospital in a body cast to ants crawling inside his cast. He can do nothing but scream in rage.

Durnell asks, is this really all we are? “An illogical, inescapable body-cast plagued by never-ending torrents of ants?” He says that Lynch is picking up where the Absurdists left off by modifying Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus.

For instead of a hero pushing up the boulder (that is life) up the hill (that is absurdity), we have Randy. And this time, the setting for this theory is not a post-war France, but a place that makes banality and mundane repetition, as well as hidden fetishized underbellies beneath moral façade, much more apparent: suburban America. But instead of merely pushing a rock up a hill for all of time, Sisyphus has got other concerns to aggravate him –such as dancing ants who, while singing, repeatedly refer to the ever diligent and ever absurd Sisyphus as a “shit face,” an “asshole,” and a “dumb turd.” Thus, in context, Lynch has, deliberately or otherwise, functionalized a new, modified Absurdism, far more pessimistic and far more hopeless than any of his predecessors, though rather appropriate and unsurprising, in light of Lynch’s cynically dark and comically hopeless oeuvre.

I’m not sure I agree that it is more pessimistic and hopeless than his predecessors. The only hope Camus gave us was to resign ourselves to our fate and scorn the Gods. I don’t think Lynch is pushing resignation because he’s far too involved in TM to do that. He’s got his own version of hope going on. I find his films to be far more compassionate than pessimistic. Perhaps, as Durnell suggested at the beginning of the essay, Lynch is merely reflecting our own pessimism back to us. I think there is good reason to do this. If we happen to catch our reflection and realize the absurdity of our situation, then perhaps we can pull ourselves out of it. 

Death in Venice (1971)

I have to send Death in Venice back to Netflix. This is another film I really don’t want to let go!

It’s based on Thomas Mann’s novella by the same name. Thomas Mann said the character of Prof. Aschenbach was, in part, based on Gustav Mahler. He had been inspired to write the novella after seeing Mahler break down in tears on a train departing Venice. It was the physical appearance of Aschenbach, not his character, that was based on Mahler. Mahler’s Third and Fifth Symphonies are used in the movie and Gustav von Aschenbach looks very similar to Gustav Mahler in the film. Director Luchino Visconti turns Aschenbach into composer rather than the writer Mann portrayed him as in the novella.

I don’t know who Arthur is, maybe a friend, or maybe the devil’s advocate? There isn’t a lot of dialog in the film, but I did write down the conversation between Gustav von Aschenbach and Alfred on beauty. It seems likely that I’ll want to come back to it after Nausea because it seems to reflect some of Sartre’s thoughts on art….

By aligning himself with Apollo (the god of reason and intellect), Aschenbach has denied Dionysus, the god of unreason and passion (a theme straight out of Nietzsche).

————————————————–

Alfred: Beauty. You mean your spiritual conception of beauty.

Gustav: But do you deny the ability of the artist to create from the spirit?

Alfred: Yes, Gustav. That is precisely what I deny.

Gustav: So then, according to you, our labor as artists is –

Alfred: Labor, exactly! Do you really believe in beauty as the product of labor?

Gustav: Yes, I do.

Alfred: That’s how beauty is born, in total disregard for your labor or mine. It pre-exists our presumption as artists. Your great error, my dear friend, is to consider life… reality as a limitation.

Gustav: But isn’t that what it is? Reality only distracts and degrades us. You know, sometimes I think that artists are rather like hunters aiming in the dark. They don’t know what their target is, and they don’t know if they’ve hit it. But you can’t expect life to illuminate the target and steady your aim. The creation of beauty and purity is a spiritual act.

Alfred: No, Gustav. No. Beauty belongs to the senses. Only to the senses!

Gustav: You cannot reach the spirit through the senses. You cannot. It’s only by complete domination of the senses that you can ever achieve wisdom, truth and human dignity.

Alfred: Wisdom? Human dignity? What use are they? Genius is a divine gift. No: a divine affliction. A sinful, morbid flash fire of natural gifts.

Gustav: I reject the demonic virtues of art.

Alfred: And you are wrong! Evil is a necessity. It is the food of genius….

Gustav: You know, Alfred, Art is the highest source of education, and the artist has to be exemplary. He must be a model of balance and strength. He cannot be ambiguous.

Alfred: But art is ambiguous. And music, the most ambiguous of all the arts. It is ambiguity made into a science. Wait! [Sits down at the piano.] Listen to this chord, or this one. You can interpret them in any way you like. You have before you an entire series of mathematical combinations unforeseen and inexhaustible. A paradise of double meanings in which you, more than anyone else romp and roll about like a calf in clover. [Plays a melody.] Don’t you hear it? Do you recognize it?

….

Alfred: That’s not shame, that’s fear. Shame’s a spiritual distress to which you are immune because you are immune to feeling. You are a man of avoidance, of dislike, the keeper of distances. You are afraid to have direct honest contact with anything! Because of your rigid standards of morality you want your behavior to be as perfect as the music you compose. Every slip is a fall, a catastrophe, resulting in irreparable contamination.

Gustav: I am contaminated!

Alfred: If only you were! To be in debt to one’s own senses for a condition which is irredeemably corrupt and sick. What joy for an artist! Think what a dry and arid thing good health is. Especially if it’s of the soul no less than the body.

Gustav: I have to find my balance somehow.

Alfred: How unfortunate that art is so indifferent to personal morality otherwise you would be supreme, unreachable, inimitable. Tell me, do you know what lies at the bottom of the mainstream? Mediocrity.

Gustav: Stop!

Alfred: It’s yours! It’s all your music!

SPOILER WARNING!!!

Toward the end of the movie, Gustav has a flashback of presenting a composition that angers the audience. He is hissed and booed and retreats to a room where people try to storm him, but his wife pushes them out. Alfred tells him there are people who want to see him, and Gustav asks him to send them away. Alfred says, “Send them away? I will deliver you to them … They will judge you. And they will condemn you.” As Gustav comes back to the present, Alfred’s words continue, “Truth – human dignity – all finished. Now there is no reason why you cannot go to your grave with your music. You have achieved perfect balance. The man and the artist are one: they have touched bottom together.”

At the very end of the movie, upon Gustav’s death, we hear Alfred’s voice again: “Chastity is the gift of purity, not the painful result of old age. And you are old, Gustav – and in all the world there is no impurity so impure as old age.”

Art & Sartre

Hayden Carruth’s  introduction to Nausea inspired some web surfing and and further reading of his writing. It seems as though he came to some of the same conclusions Sartre did about art in his later years. At one point, he thought art (his poetry and writing) could help people, but now he realizes it can’t. In Suicides and Jazzers, he writes that artists yearn to be connected through their art, but eventually will discover their defeat.

People say that a society which neglects its arts and artists will be impoverished, but this society is so impoverished already–and from hundreds of quiet other causes–that the neglect of art can’t make the situation any worse. Artists know this. They know that if they work simply for themselves, or even for some abstract ideal of Art, they and their work will become attenuated and parched. They yearn to be connected. But they can’t be, and they are defeated, they are in a condition of unending degradation.

But doesn’t this sort of thinking reject the idea of freedom Sartre purports? If you are going to make demands on others (that they be helped by your art, for instance), then you are seeking to limit their freedom. So of course you are going to end up feeling degraded. We are connected. We don’t have to demand connection. To make that demand is to reject the freedom “we have been condemned to”.

Yes, in one sense, we are utterly alone and everything is meaningless, including our attempts to help others and everything we’ve ever held “sacred”. If we can accept this, then we can realize we are never alone and that nothing is ever meaningless. That’s the paradox and I don’t think it requires believing in God or an Absolute to realize it although perhaps it does require a sort of Kierkegaardian “leap of faith”. But that leap of faith need be nothing more than a willingness to imagine beyond the limits of our current perceptual biases. I don’t mean hoping for anything in specific like wanting the world to conform to what it is we want it to be. But hope in the more general sense – that we can never step into the same river or universe twice because it is undergoing constant change and there is no way we can possibly imagine where that change may take us. If we insist on the reality of our circumstances, we are likely to stay stuck in the same old circumstances.  Our circumstances do not exist in reality because reality is forever in flux.

Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch (1997)

I have been watching a lot of David Lynch’s films since watching Mulholland Dr. with the Analogical Imagination. I’ve watched Wild Thing, Blue Velvet, and at least 4 of his short films so far (I’m still making my way through them.) I also watched Pretty as a Picture, the Art of David Lynch to try and get a better feel for Lynch.

People seem to genuinely like working with him. He gives his actors a lot of artistic freedom to express their characters and has the same staff working with him on most of his films. His approach to film is unorthodox. Rather than follow the rules of film making, he is fully guided by an internal vision – which is bizarre. But maybe not really that bizarre. If most of us were able to project our experiences on the screen in as honest a way as Lynch does, it would probably be equally bizarre. We don’t experience life in a linear fashion. An event can happen which makes you recall some past event which influences future events. We see things in textures and hear things in sounds that we don’t consciously realize we are seeing and hearing.

A bizarre story was told of Lynch by an artist friend of his. They were sharing a studio in Lynch’s younger years when Lynch began adding bugs to his paints for texture. They had traveled somewhere and Lynch’s suitcase was lost. They asked him what was in it and he told them there was a container of bugs and a Blue Danube plate with a mouse glued to it. (The mouse was already dead when he found it.) It seems so weird, but Lynch himself seems very centered and “normal”. Everyone on the film says he is normal, at least. Not sure what that means exactly because what is normal? But he does seem very centered.

I’m somewhat amazed that I’ve liked Lynch’s films so far because I am typically very adverse to violence. But it’s so artistically handled in Lynch’s films that it doesn’t bother me. It’s surreal, not naturalistic (which is what violence feels like to me anyway). If the violence has a purpose other than being violence for violence sake, I can typically handle it. But I just don’t care at all for action movies that have a lot of violence for no other reason then to be violent.

Mel Brooks said of Lynch:

David loves innocence. David loves evil versus naivete and he understands demon conditions. And he understands it like Brach and Picasso. He’s like Seurat. David paints in strange globs and dots and if you get way back you can see, “hey, it’s a movie”. But you’ve got to get way back, you’ve got to get an overview of it, because if you are in the middle of it all you get are globs of paint unconnected. You won’t see the brilliant patterns that are in his soul.

Godfathers of the Renaissance

I’m including a review of 15th Century Florence and the Rennaissance as an example of how crazy religion gets. There are many, many examples, but I’m using this one because I’m still working my way through C.S. Lewis’ writing and he frequently argues against how most people view the Rennaissance. Plus, the end of the Rennaissance marks the first major split in Christianity – the Protestant Reformation.

This is based upon a 4 hour Empires Special called the Medici: Godfathers of the Rennaissance.

I think, perhaps, what I am searching out in all of this are patterns of behavior. That is what most amazes me of late – that there is such a strong propensity toward repeating what has already been done for fear of the future. The film makes the point that there are always those fearless people in search of their own truth pulling us into the future with wealthy and sometimes completely unscrupulous people who back them. Within the recognition and the willingness to take a risk lies an extraordinary scruple that often goes unnoticed. I’m not sure C.S. Lewis would agree, but it is an interesting idea. (On to the history…)

The Medici family have humble mercantile beginnings with big ambitions. In 1410, they lend some money to an ex-pirate who wants to become Pope and wella! A pirate is made Pope because he is able to buy his way into the papacy. And so the Medici were rewarded for gambling on the pirate and became powerful. The Pope spent extravagantly and owed much money to the Medici bank. In order to collect the money, the Medici’s would collect 10% of the publics earnings as church tithing. If you couldn’t pay, you’d be excommunicated from the church. It’s a brilliant way to get rich. The Pope is now known as Antipope John.

The Medici family takes a different kind of gamble on Brunelleschi who accomplishes the architectural feat of creating a dome for the Cathedral in Florence and introduces perspective to his contemporaries after years of gothic art which was flat and two dimensional.

They also take on Donatello who creates the David which was incredibly daring because 14,000 people had been arrested for sodomy and Donatello’s David was very sensual – very on the edge of what the Florentine people might accept.

These patronages are a wise political move on the part of the Medici. The unfinished Cathedral had been an embarrassment to Florence, and now Florence was the place to be for tourism. It contained the most impressive art and architecture to be found anywhere.

In 1464 Cosimo Medici is declared father of the fatherland for bringing Florence back to life.

The Medici family continues to maintain control of Florence through Lorenzo, Cosimo’s grandson, who marries into Roman aristocracy which is a very politically wise move. He doesn’t really want to take the position, but he has little choice. So he becomes the new godfather.

Lorenzo had been brought up a secular scholar, so had the spirit of secular freedom. He was willing to explore the new and dangerous and allowed Boticelli, the newest Medici patron, to work on any subject matter he wanted. This boiled down to being just about everything but Jesus. All art in Florence had been Christian in theme, so what Boticelli creates is radical new style of art based upon pure fantasy based on very pagan ideas. For example, La Primavera shows Venus arriving to celebrate spring. As Brunelleschi brought back the classicism of ancient Rome through his architecture, so does Boticelli through his art. The Birth of Venus is a celebration of human desire.

Rennaissance means rebirth – in particular, the rebirth of Ancient Roman Classicism.

But as I said, there are always those who want things to remain as they are. A Dominican Monk named Savonarola believed that Lorenzo was leading Florence to destruction. His moralizing was fanatical and anything that didn’t have to do with religious tradition was something to be despised. He believed he could see the future and forecasts the downfall of Lorenzo – which does occur and gives Savonarola much power over the people of Florence.

Lorenzo asks the forgiveness of Savonarola, but Savonarola tells him he is damned and destined for an unforgiven life in Hell. And he seizes his chance. Even Boticelli gets swept up in the religious fervor. Savonarola orders that prostitutes be beaten, homosexuals burned, and jewlry and make-up forbidden. He creates a huge public burning for books, figurines, and jewels to be thrown into the fire. Boticelli throws much of his art into the fire as well.

As the film puts it, in search of salvation, Savonarola created a Hell.

Michelangelo had grown up in the Medici household, but his David came to represent independence from the Medici rule. If it had been placed on the Cathedral, it would have had religious implications – David the prophet. But instead, it is placed in front of the courthouse and becomes Republican Art – the slaying of the Medici. Which was appropriate, because even though Michelangelo was greatful to the Medici for raising him, he felt their immense power threatened the future of Florence.

Niccolo Machiavelli is determined to protect the city from Medici dictatorship. But, the Medicis manage to create a Pope. Giovanni Medici becomes Pope Leo X which erases all ill will the Florentines ever felt toward the Medicis because the Pope occupies God’s position on earth. He is above any earthly power.

But Giovanni loved drinking, hunting and women. He believes God has given the Papacy to the Medici, so they should enjoy it. Machiavelli is exiled and threatened with excommunication. And he writes The Prince and dedicates it to the Medici as a means to smooze his way back into Florence and the church. This work became the workbook for ruthless dictatorship.

Giovanni quickly drains the Papacy of its funds with his wreckless spending. In order to earn money, he begins to sell forgiveness. These are papal indulgences that provide freedom from Hell. The sale of salvation was a gold mine for the Pope.

And this is what pushes Martin Luther over the edge in 1517. No one had ever dared go up against the church before. But Pope Leo X was not worried because this was a German monk and everyone knew the Germans were primitive barbarians.

Pope Leo dies of a simple winter chill and his cousin Giulio Giulianno de Medici, who is a cardinal, becomes Pope Clement VII (Giulio gets to cast the deciding vote).

No one thought that anyone would ever dare to sack the sacred city of Rome. But the German followers of Martin Luther, the Lutherans, saw Rome as the new Babylon – home to the anti-Christ. So they destroy the sacred building, rape the women and kill the children. It was massacre on a grand scale – 8000 people killed the first day alone.

Pope Clement dies and ends the corrupt Medici papal rule. Searching a high and low for a new Medici to be the figurehead of Florence, Medici supporters discover an illigitimate heir of humble background they think they’ll be able to control. He is Cosimo I de Medici. But, he turns out to be more than they bargained for. He physically trains and studies under such people as Galileo. And, he befriends a man named Vasari.

Vasari had discovered the missing arm of David when he was a child and hid it thinking the right time would come along to make it known that he had it. With the new leadership of Cosimo I, he decided this was the time. He tells Cosimo that he will repair the David and so he is now under the patronage of Cosimo I. Vasari is more a spin doctor than he is a great artist, and putting the David back together becomes a symbol for the new Medici rule, rather than independence from Medici dictatorship. Cosimo gains great fame through Vasari’s spin doctoring, and becomes the Grand Duke of Tuscany. This is the highest position outside of the Papacy any Medici had ever held. Cosimo marries Eleonara of Toledo, daughter of a Spanish duke, which wins him the approval and protection of Spain.

Vasari continues to underwrite every decision Cosimo makes and writes the first book of Art History called the La Vite, which told about the lives of the Italian artists over the 200 year span he coined “The Renaisance” (the rebirth). He dedicated it to Cosimo and this book solidified the Medici’s place in history as much as anything since they were who commissioned these artists. But, as one expert cautioned, when you read his book, you most always remember Vasari’s genius for spin doctoring.

In response to the Protestant revolt, the Catholic church becomes very conservative and creates the Roman Inquisition otherwise known as the Power of Truth. Through the inquisition, many potential moves forward are thrwarted.

It becomes illegal to own heretical books. Some of these titles included Plato and early works by Augustine. Cosimo himself organized a book burning to help gain recognition from the Papacy.

Tomaso Campanella is arrested and imprisoned for his open opposition to the authority of Aristotle. Bruno is burned at the stake for suggesting the universe is infinite. And Galileo Galilei is put on house arrest for the rest of his life for suggesting, like Copernicus, that the earth revolves around the sun. Even though he had tutored 3 Medicis, they refuse to fund him for fear of the Papacy.

The Medici rule comes to an end with Ferinand II in 1670.

Klimt (2006)

I watched two films about Gustav Klimt, the artist (Post Impressionism). One was a movie by Raul Ruiz, the other a documentary from The Post Impressionists series.

I first watched Raul Ruiz’ movie and was left totally confused. I’m certain it was meant to be artistic – maybe trying to evoke the same experience his art evokes. And perhaps in that sense, it was quite good, although very difficult to follow. I felt that if I knew more about Klimt, I’d probably have a better feel for Ruiz’s movie. So I watched the documentary on him which was helpful, but not a particularly good documentary as far as documentaries go.

What I learned is that the movie’s film score is of composers that Klimt admired. Very little is known about Klimt because he lived a sort of hermit existence. What is known about him is gnereally through his art – which makes sense why the movie is so vague in terms of a biography. I’m happy to have learned about Klimt. Although the movie made me want to seek out more information, the documentary did not.