wax banks

second-best since Cantor

Category: miniatures

‘So Expressionist!’

One obvious mark of a poseur is that they declare art good or bad based on whether they can identify its style. This is a handy heuristic for dismissing ‘critics’: if their interest in a text scales with how neatly the text fits an existing pattern of judgment — genre markers, current narrative tropes, allegorical Significance — then they’re not really attending to the text.

One trouble with art criticism in general, then, is that once you’ve found the great critics, the ones who engage deeply with individual artworks on their (the artworks’) own terms, in their (the critics’) own voices, you no longer get the comfort of abstraction. Great critics don’t arm you for cocktail-party talk about Art, because that talk never gets past schema, category, dead-end recurrence to personal taste. How could it? People at cocktail parties hate each other and share nothing meaningful, since (and therefore) they only hang out at cocktail parties. Strong critics set their own terms; they change conversations rather than keeping them going for status reasons.

(This nitpick, like most of what’s left of American ‘intellectual culture,’ brought to you by a tweet that annoyed me and inspired our post title.)

One-line reviews/summaries.

Literary Theory (Terry Eagleton)

The whole history of literary theory has led inexorably to the literary theory of Terry Eagleton. –Terry Eagleton, convincingly

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter Thompson)

Mustn’t slow down or the Seventies will catch you.

Seinfeld (Larry David et al.)

Apparently in the 80s and 90s everyone was inexplicably wealthy and Jewish and everyone was terrible, and the reason your idiot friends hate the final episode isn’t so much that it isn’t funny as that it was the first moment when David et al. refused to cut away from the severed heads and gouts of blood.

Logan (James Mangold et al.)

A perfectly fine latter-day Western is accidentally marketed as a superhero film; hijinks ensue.


Only in our era of absolute myopic cowardice could this intermittently funny movie for scared 20something boys be called ‘risky’ or ‘adult.’

Sidenote re: Deadpool

The joke about International Women’s Day (pegging) was, in my mind, the moment it went from ‘forgettable’ to ‘contemptible’; YMMV.

It’s only sex.

Almost everyone has it — frequently and for fun; it’s one of the defining features of our species — so it should be all over the art we make. It should be as strange and varied as it is in life, i.e. endlessly so. It may as well be sexy. And since it’s art, it should be beautiful.

In other words, sex should play as wide a range of roles in art as violence.

It strikes me as pitifully sad to have to put it in those terms.

Handy guide to telling whether someone’s a hipster asshole.

If they talk for more than five seconds at a time about a corporation’s font choices or complain about the method by which their coffee was poured into their cup, they’re probably a hipster asshole.

Free ideas.

Take these and run with them!

  • Scientists and engineers use complex language in precise ways, and your sloppy repurposing of that language damages understanding, so don’t do that.
  • Your tastes aren’t interesting in themselves, so unless you have something beautiful to say about the world using your tastes (you probably don’t), stop making a big deal about them.
  • Stop giving advice on your blog.
  • Don’t describe yourself as talented. Even if it’s true, by the time you realize you’re talented, you’re too far along to still be talking about your talent.
  • Alcohol is poison, alcohol consumption is an unsustainable pleasure, and you don’t need it to have a good time. Build as much of your social life now around being drug-free as you’re able; later on you’ll have no choice.
  • Root for your local sports team, not whatever team is hot right now. Jumping on the winners’ bandwagon is like skipping to the last page of a story.
  • Judge people’s choices, not their circumstances.
  • Listen to strangers, especially older ones.
  • Go to the theater. Go to the library.
  • Don’t describe kids as ‘stupid’; unlike you, they haven’t yet had a chance to choose to be mean and ignorant.
  • Don’t marry your high-school sweetheart without seeing other people first. But don’t lose touch either.
  • Choose a rugged, ugly glasses case over a fashionable, flimsy one.
  • If you buy sweets, you’ll eat sweets. Fill your house with healthy snacks.
  • Keep a journal — even if it’s nothing more complicated than ‘Grocery shopping w/Bill; 2hrs Game of Thrones,’ you’ll learn something about how you live your life. Don’t resist revelation.
  • Bike riding is a skill. Get a decent bike, take good care of it, learn to ride it skillfully.
  • Find an enjoyable core strength workout and stick with it.
  • Watch Deadwood.
  • Read Aegypt.
  • Buy my books.

Here’s how amazingly groovy I am, Reader(s): I didn’t include a hyperlink in that last line, did you notice? On account of I wanted this to be classy like.


renaissance ‘world of knowledge’ texts took poetic form for a variety of reasons, some terrible (e.g., all good things echo God’s plan so all disciplines are linked).

but the ultimate reason is good and simple: engaging the imagination and emotions strengthens your teaching.

you listen harder to story

Sunday Funday 1+1+1day

Woke to pale blue sky and the smell of my wife’s hair, got to cleaning the bathroom and living room floors, enjoyed a Skinny Zesty Egg White sandwich from Bruegger’s. My son ate the same. He’s such a little guy and I worry about his weight but he did well and was issued one of the chocolate chip cookies our adorable new neighbours brought over the other day. Added the next weekly line to my son’s Allowance ledger — he’s learning the hard way, but with good humour, that money doesn’t grow on trees — and with an unexpected $10 Frequent Buyer bonus burning a hole in our wallet we’re off to Henry Bear’s this morning to buy Legos or a book or, indeed, whatever the hell he wants.

Even brushing our teeth together is perfect. Even sorting the recyclable junk mail from the months-old medical bills. Even just lazing through the day.

For the first time in a long long time, I look at the bookshelf and see things I’m excited to learn rather than obligations I’ve dodged.

I hear him upstairs say, ‘Instead of armadillo can we do, like, “harmadillo?“‘

Once we were going to live forever, and now we know we won’t; nothing has been lost.


The core appeal of esoterica and apocrypha isn’t the experience of secret knowledge, but its promise — which had better go unfulfilled, lest banality set in. The ‘secret of the universe’ is just that the universe is more complex than the human mind can readily deal with, ‘fractally’ so, the motivations of the beloved family dog (or family member) hard enough to puzzle out without worrying about the downstream press of the second law of thermodynamics or the bizarro intimations of quantum entanglement. ‘Ultimate knowledge,’ i.e. godliness, is a strange strong attractor for the mind of the seeker, but it’s only advertised, never actually sold. Which is fine until you sign the check.

The core appeal of (in Ken Hite’s charming term) ‘eliptony,’ in other words, is the feeling of adventurous expectancy that comes from suggestion and evocation, free association — the pleasure of private pattern-matching and worldmaking. It gives pleasure in passing. The instant you get what you think you’re looking for, the whole thing falls down.

Which is maybe just a roundabout way of saying that the fraction of Tolkien readers who make it through the appendices to The Lord of the Rings is statistically indistinguishable from zero. If Middle-Earth were really real, the really geeky, poorly socialized hobbit- and elf-nerds would get together online to argue about realist novels in which white human women academics experiencing quiet revelations of their own mortality while having affairs with students. They would reread these books endlessly, to spend as much time as possible in (diminishing, ever more familiar) tension.

The real esoteric promise is: The road goes ever on and on…

we three kings

  1. Thrice-Born Lorrev is known (i.e. rumoured) to have died on two separate occasions, both times riding his favourite horse in battle against the black-veined Rowat Supplicants during one of their periodic millenarian uprisings. He wears only pale blue, and covers his shimmering vedantium armour with flowing blue silks cut from a bolt his mother (Thrice-Damned Krisseva) stole from a Gheltish monastery at the height of her glory seventy years ago. Lorrev’s trusted advisors are a circle of twelve sentient ravens. He abhors the new moon, divination, games of chance, and travel beyond the boundaries of the capital district, which — alas — contains the great temple of Rowat, lately showing signs of unrest.

  2. Aodhra the Devil is unable to sit still for more than a few moments within the bounds of the royal keep, and so avoids the endless council meetings and hearings which the death of his father, King Quehlor, foisted upon him. Aodhra is haunted by hallucinations of his parents performing unspeakable acts, which he misunderstands as memory — he is convinced that he alone knows their true nature and must tell no one lest the kindgom fall into turmoil. Only by retiring to the royal greenhouse, with its rows of wickedly beautiful red lotus (a thaumatic anhallucinogen), does Aodhra find mental respite. This week he completed work on the first volume of a rigorously logical prophetic work which he intends to publish anonymously for unguessable reasons.

  3. Since it appeared a fortnight ago, Krayd IV conceals his newborn second head beneath a topologically improbable assortment of hoods, shawls, cravats, and grand turbans. It speaks to him of a second world which contains ours, accessible through cracked mirrors and half-open doors to lightless hallways. It is a terrifically insightful judge of character, but dismisses Krayd’s questions about social matters, insisting that ‘true light’ is only visible from a certain vantage in the second world. Krayd and his consiglieri Alvo Gretzz have worked out a way to discuss a solution to the problem of the head in writing without involving the head itself, and Alvo presently leans toward the pragmatic solution of a royal marriage, as his early priestly training leads him to believe that (speaking strictly) Krayd is presently living in sin. No explanation for the head’s appearance is being sought; Krayd is a ruthless pragmatist. The head is able to affect the movements of the king’s left middle finger only. It grows restless. This is not its home.

Cathedral of the not so much ‘bizarre’ as thuddingly lame.

The ‘neoreactionary’ movement, where ‘movement’ means ‘bloggerklatch,‘ is one of those …

(Abandoned because who cares, really, but I did like the title. And the word ‘bloggerklatch.’ –wa.)