Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Ways of Seeing" by John Berger

‘Ways of Seeing’ was a BBC program which was translated into a book of the same title, and recommended to me by my artist daughter, so I read it only to impress her with my artistic knowledge.

I expected a huge reference, but was gladly surprised to find that it is a tiny book. Moreover, and to my great delight, out of its seven chapters, four are written and illustrated, and the other three, are simply images of "famous" oil paintings and photos.

The book explores the way we see, and the way in which seeing has been manipulated through art and the media. That is the way photographs, television, and copies have affected the message of art.

Chapter one: I did not get most of it, but I think it is about how painters have viewed their subjects and the reasons behind the paintings.

Chapter two: I loved it. It had nothing but images so I skimmed quickly through it, although I am sure John Berger, had a good reason to have those images there, but I am afraid I must be artistically challenged (but please don't tell Noona).

Chapter thee: My favorite chapter, was about women and how they were painted as objects to be looked at by men. Berger says: "The man's presence is dependent upon the promise of power he embodies. The promised power may be moral, physical, temperamental, economic, social, sexual - but its object is always exterior to the man. A man's presence suggests that he is capable of doing to you or for you. By contrast, a woman's presence expresses her own attitude to herself, and defines what can and cannot be done to her. Presence for a woman is so intrinsic to her person that men tend to think of it as an almost physical emanation, a kind of heat or smell or aura."

Chapter four: Another images only chapter. Hooray!!

Chapter five: Is about how oil paintings were mostly a way for the rich to brag about themselves or their possessions. Berger notes that: "This analogy between possessing and the way of seeing which is incorporated in oil paintings, is a factor usually ignored by art experts and historians. Significantly enough, it is an anthropologist (Levi-Strauss) who has come closest to recognizing it."

Chapter six: One more images only chapter. I love that book!!!

Chapter seven:  Is mainly about advertising and its relation to oil paintings. The neat idea discussed in this chapter is that advertising is all about envy - envying the model in that dress, envying your future self wearing that dress, and all the affects this has on life that revolves around images of advertising.

Done. I am sure that my daughter will comment on this post, and will hopefully correct many of my ideas about the book, especially the images only chapters!!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kalam by Mark Twain

"We are all ignorant,
just about different things."

Howard Zinn about Mark Twain: "Everybody learns about Mark Twain as the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but when we go to school, we don’t learn about Mark Twain as the vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League.

We aren’t told that Mark Twain denounced Theodore Roosevelt for approving the massacre in the Philippines."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Reel Bad Arabs

I was finally able to get my hands on this book which is best summarized by Jack Shaheen's own words:

"I am not saying an Arab should never be portrayed as a villain. What I am saying is that almost all Hollywood depictions of Arabs are bad ones. This is a grave injustice. Repetitious and negative images of the reel Arab literally sustain adverse portraits across generations. The fact is that for more than a century, producers have tarred an entire group of people with the same sinister brush.

Hollywood's past omission of  everyday African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos unduly affected the lives of these minorities. The same holds true with the industry's near total absence of regular Arab Americans. Regular Mideast Arabs, too are invisible on the silver screens."

Following a short introduction, Jack Shaheen lists and discusses more than 900 feature films displaying Arab characters. Unfortunately, only a handful of those movies depict heroic Arabs.