Monthly Archives: November 2008

Letter From Belgium

Alan is putting out some really good ambient-style music and other bits and pieces that don’t quite fit with Hooray For Humans. He’s also on MySpace here and here.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m a hair’s breadth away from utter exhaustion so I blogging will be very light over the next few days.

Too busy to blog

I’m up the walls. I’d tell you the names of the books I’ve read in the last few weeks but you’d give me a quizzical look.

Odd thing happened this morning: I checked the spam in my Gmail and found a legitimate one from eircom. It’s not the first time that’s happened. What’s Gmail trying to tell me? πŸ˜€

Baptism bother

Jonathan Jones has got a bit hot under the collar over a quote from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who said Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ should be moved from the National Gallery to a Catholic church. The cardinal’s argument was that the painting was not art, but a work of piety.

Jones feels this is “ignorant and insensitive under its veneer of anthropological subtlety”. I’m inclined to think he’s taking the comment the wrong way. As he points out himself, the cardinal may be being provocative. But he’s as likely to be simply stating that he would rather the work be viewed in its original context, or as close as possible, seeing as the painting was taken from a church in Italy. His language is careful: “I would like to see”, not “I want to see”.

Although it’s an interesting work, I’m not as carried away with it as Jones, who said

the spirituality of this pale, mirror-like vision of Christ’s statuesque figure, with the strange gathering priests, the witnessing angels, the white town in the distance, is so intense that it doesn’t need to be in a church to exert religious authority.

In criticising the cardinal, Jones runs the risk of overriding one of art’s great strengths: that it can mean different things to different people.

Murphy-O’Connor may be following in a tradition of religious artistic appreciation. For example, the lavish illuminated pages of manuscripts such as The Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow are not designed simply to look good, but as forms of visual exegesis. They have many layers of interpretation: a lay person can appreciate them for their aesthetic values, while a cleric, who would have had much closer contact with such manuscripts, would be encourage to meditate on God and the message of whatever Biblical book was being illuminated. This is particularly the case with this, the beginning of Christ’s genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew. The carpet page becomes a meditation on the name, Jesus Christ.

What do you think? Is Jones right, the cardinal right, or neither?

Mumbai attacks

The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is blaming them on groups from neighbouring countries. I’m a bit cynical: it’s an easy claim to make and by shifting the focus abroad it’s a quick way of being seen to be making progress. There are, after all, a number of separatist and insurgent groups that have been active in the country for years.

One also has to wonder, if the groups are from other countries and the Indian government knows this within hours of the attacks, thereby implying intelligence on the attackers, why did it not take some preventative measures? Or was it genuinely taken by surprise? The attackers had military-grade explosives, which indicates access to substantial logistical support.

The standoff has some time to go, but the Times of India is doing a good job of keeping readers up to date.

No Beckham bounce

David Beckham may cost Major League Soccer $50m a season for his five-year contract (and that’s $100m gone already), but his impact on the league’s success has been marginal at best.

MLS officials at the time envisioned more TV viewers, as well as higher attendance and franchise values.

Their optimism was based on landing a player many called the biggest star to play the game in the United States since Brazil’s Pele signed in 1975 to play in the MLS’s predecessor league.

Early returns for the MLS have been mixed as stagnant TV ratings and a lack of profits contrast with higher attendance and franchise values.

TV ratings ticked up to 0.3 [that’s 0.3% of Americans watching television, my edit] from 0.2 in Beckham’s first year before slipping back to 0.2 in the just completed season, all on Walt Disney Co’sABC, and ESPN networks, according to the Nielsen Co.

Those are a far cry from the 0.9 rating garnered in the league’s first season in 1996.

For the record, I don’t begrudge the man his $250m contract. Well maybe I do a small bit, but more from envy than resentment. If somebody waved that much money in my direction I wouldn’t say no right off the bat. However, I still don’t see it paying off as a proper investment, even if it is only part of MSL’s marketing push. It’s also unfair to put the responsibility of raising the league’s profile on one man’s shoulders.