William Hazlitt on a Sporting Life

C.L.R. James mused in “Beyond a Boundary”–his far out book on cricket and “what men live by”–that he hoped to “write of the game and its players as Hazlitt wrote of fives and Cavanagh.”  James knew his 19th C. Brit culturalists and his praise led your editor to the following swatch from Hazlitt’s “Table Talk,” in which the eminent pre-Victorian paid tribute “to the best fives-player that perhaps ever lived…” 

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Merrill Garbus & The Wokeness Unto Death

For being an “outside artist,” Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards has never lacked in critical applause. The lo-fi Afrobeat of her 2009 debut Birdbrains immediately established her as a singular voice in the freak-folk music world. The gigantic production and stylistic leap of Whokill, her 2011 sophomore effort, landed her on many year-end best-of lists. More recently she was commissioned to create the theme music for the New Yorker Radio Hour. As a fan, I’ve worried with each new release she’d morph her authentic weirdness into easily digestible hipster marketability. But she’s resisted that impulse. Unlike the manufactured weirdness of a Lady Gaga, her introspection and restlessness have kept her music from becoming self-help dance muzak. Her defiant neuroticism resists any easy boxing-in.

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An Eye for Comedy

The second half of the HBO documentary, “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” made me want to be a kinder, more generous, and more forgiving person. The doc, directed by Judd Apatow, lifts the edges of the napkin covering GS’s life without revealing much. We come to know him from his eyes.

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David Hockney’s Happy Phenomenology

Hockney’s pictures have been derided as “merely decorative” and the late Peter Fuller takes up that criticism with the artist in the short clip posted below. Hockney’s musings link pleasure in his art to affirmations of his (gay) self: “We should like ourselves.” There’s another BBC program where the artist is sound-tracked by snatches from Stravinksy’s opera, “The Rake’s Progress,” which flashed your editor back to an 80s Hockney show that seemed largely about cruising. (Not that Hockney’s phenomenology of his intentional body in space is always so libidinal.) While gay liberation is on his canvasses, the splashy promesse de bonheure in Hockney’s art belongs to everybody everybody. It’s a 60s thing, though it evokes other avatars of happiness that deserve dap–Greeks who first depicted the human smile, young French revolutionaries who declared: “happiness is the new idea in Europe,” ex-West Africans who flipped the mask of tragedy even as their favorite color reminded them of their lost continent. It’s all about blue for Hockney too!

If you’re around New York, go see his show at the Met before it closes on February 25th.  B.D.

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