“I’ve got the ineffability blues. I feel paralyzed by my own inability to describe why I love Debbie Harry; I’m trapped, like Edgar Allan Poe’s guilty narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart,” alone in a chamber with a ticker whose maniacal thumping, a time bombs’s, declares, “You have twenty minutes to describe Debbie Harry’s ineffable gorgeousness and irony, and if you fail, you’ll be executed.” If I decide not to explain her splendor, and let it remain comment-free, then something in me will have perished. I will have destroyed a small creature buried in my body—the breathing embryo of my remembered attachment to Debbie Harry’s voice and image. By explaining the attachment, I give this embryo life. If I fail to explain, I will have slaughtered some portion of my own potential.”—Wayne Koestenbaum, “Debbie Harry at the Supermarket”, My 1980s and Other Essays
“in the audition sides for the character, during the casting process, there was a scene that Gene Roddenberry wrote between Geordi and Data, that established their relationship. And in that scene, Geordi and Data discussed how Geordi’s eyes and Data’s brain saw the world in a very similar way. They saw the truth of the world around them. And so, in the scene that Gene wrote, they formed a team, and they called themselves the Perceivers, because their perceptions were alike. And even though the Perceivers thing never made it to the pilot episode, the relationship between Geordi and Data certainly did. And I think that that aspect of Geordi that sees the world around him in a much more truthful manner, and his vision as he interprets it through the VISOR — there’s a way that he interprets the world and sees the world slightly differently than the other humans around him, which I think gives him more compassion. That’s the one thing I hear from people more than anyone else — that they get that Geordi is a little looser than everybody else, and that he’s really more accepting. And I think that accessibility comes from his compassion.”—
“When I watch The Craft now, the scenes I love the most are the ones where they’re enjoying magic. As a child, it didn’t really occur to how moralistic the whole story is—the girls are punished for experimenting with a force larger than themselves. I love the scenes where the magic is working for them, when they’re taking pleasure in the power they get from scaring other people instead of being ashamed of it.”—
“I began to find it hard to accept compliments gracefully. When people, even those who knew nothing about the attack, told me I looked beautiful, I didn’t believe them. My mouth, my smile is asymmetric now; one side is shorter than the other, one side has uneven lips. There is a small white scar curving up from the edge of my top lip and another reaching out into my right cheek. I notice other people’s mouths all the time. I note symmetry and asymmetry obsessively. If symmetry equals perfection therefore beauty, as so many women’s magazines and quasi-scientific studies would have us believe, then by default does asymmetry equal imperfection, therefore ugliness?”—
“The fact that audiences are seeing such a varied, nuanced spectrum of black faces isn’t just a matter of poetics, but politics — and the advent of digital filmmaking. For the first hundred years of cinema, when images were captured on celluloid and processed photochemically, disregard for black skin and its subtle shadings was inscribed in the technology itself, from how film-stock emulsions and light meters were calibrated, to the models used as standards for adjusting color and tone.”—
“Unlike other artists, Drake never tried to convince us he was a former gangster, hustling to get by until he made his big break. Instead of putting on an act, Drake went against the grain—the only person he ever wanted to be was himself. Sincerity has been Drake’s most endearing quality ever since his mixtape days, when we first met the earnest rapper who drank white wine instead of sizzurp, and who crooned his way into our hearts with songs about drunk-dialing ex-girlfriends and cruising the streets of Toronto in his mom’s Acura.”—
Suddenly I was the expert, fielding questions I couldn’t possibly know the answers to, soothing the fears of people coming out of the woodwork. “It must be so hard knowing she’s in the hospital,” they said, misunderstanding the most basic tenet of a child raised in an alcoholic home: the time I worry least about my mother is when she’s in the hospital.
“A security video taken outside a nearby business shows that Mr. Yatim was still on the vehicle when a policeman fired three quick shots at him. Six seconds later, as Mr. Yatim lay on the floor with his legs moving, the policeman began firing six more bullets. In all, nine shots were fired in 12 seconds.”—
There are two primary problems in asserting pleasure as a value. The first is that pleasure is a fundamentally personal thing. Music (or a musician) that one person finds intensely pleasurable might be utterly repulsive to another person, and neither would be right or wrong in any objective sense. Maybe the best thing to come out of the whole discussion is this piece by Jessica Skolnik, which explores how we “draw our lines in different places” when it comes to problematic art, depending on our life experiences, cultural backgrounds, group membership, and a thousand other things. I’d argue that, under the standard of “you can’t enjoy anything you disagree with,” almost no one has a morally consistent approach to what art they do or don’t consume. And that’s OK. Certainly, it’s important to engage with others over their standards and to make the case, from your perspective, why people shouldn’t enjoy a problematic work, why it crosses the line in an unforgivable way. But our collective inability to obey a moral standard we ask art to match shows that there must be more to art than politics, or else it wouldn’t be art. If we’re going to talk about art, we have to attend also to what that other thing is.
My last column for Bullett for a while. (It’s been fun!) I decided to go out with some thoughts I’m still struggling with, on how to balance the importance of pleasure with moral principles when it comes to art.
I like this piece, I think about this a lot, I like a lot of art made by pretty objectively terrible people. I don’t really think there really is, or should be, an answer to the pleasure-morality question - it’s kind of a line that people always have to walk.