As the great man's guest must produce his good stories or songs at the evening banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling facts at mid-day, so the journalist lies under the stern obligation of extemporizing his lucid views, leading ideas, and nutshell truths for the breakfast table.
Cardinal J. H. Newman, Preface to The Idea of a University, 1852

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why beauty matters

Watching Roger Scruton on BBC2:
Philosopher Roger Scruton presents a provocative essay on the importance of beauty in the arts and in our lives.

In the 20th century, Scruton argues, art, architecture and music turned their backs on beauty, making a cult of ugliness and leading us into a spiritual desert.

Using the thoughts of philosophers from Plato to Kant, and by talking to artists Michael Craig-Martin and Alexander Stoddart, Scruton analyses where art went wrong and presents his own impassioned case for restoring beauty to its traditional position at the centre of our civilisation.

BBC2 28/11/09
Some notes from the prog below. Seems to me he's missing the point that an idea can be beautiful (though Alexandar Stoddart - who Scruton approves of - says precisely that), and there is beauty in understanding something. If an 'ugly' work of art helps us understand the world better, that is beauty, surely?

I do have sympathy with his comments on architecture, though.

Someone else "Enables people to see the world they live in in a different way"

Scruton: "To see the ideal in the every day, to transfigure it."

Scruton: "We need useless things [like beauty] as much as useful"

(Oscar Wilde: All art is absolutely useless)

"Beauty is assailed from two sides: the cult of ugliness; and the cult of utility"

"The greatest crime against the beauty the world has yet seen. The crime of modern architecture"

"If you consider only utility, soon the things you will build will be useless" (Example of Reading town centre)

Beauty is to fill the God-shaped hole created by the loss of religion.

Moments we understand as sacred - experience of being in love, the presence of a dead body.

"A denial of love" "determined to portray the world as un loveable"

"There is all the difference in the world by something which aims to transform the everyday, and something which just shares the untidiness of the everyday"

Alexander Stoddart. People in any sphere, such as lawyers and politicians, can have a beautiful idea but it isn't art. Conceptual art is completed in the descrption "a calf cut in half and put in formaldehyde" - you don't need to actually see it.

My emphasis - precisely, so likewise conceptual art can be beautiful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Only eat animals you know

Years ago I had friend from a farming background who said he'd only eat animals he knew personally. When I first heard of this I did a double take: it sounded barbaric and yet I knew him to be gentle and compassionate. But when it was explained that it was because he would only eat animals that he knew had had a happy life, it made perfect sense.

Up until now this wasn't something I could copy - I don't know that many farm animals - but Milton Keynes Parks Trust are launching a scheme to sell meat from parkland animals. I see some of these animals each day when I cycle to work - I've rescued one them from a cattle grid many years back - and I can vouch for the fact that they look happy, most of the time anyway. If it is bit expensive, so be it: meat should be expensive. We should eat less of it:

Less meat, more veg … and we won’t eat the planet

Joanna Blythman Herald Scotland


Eating The Planet?, a joint report from Compassion In World Farming, the impeccably well-informed and thoughtful animal welfare organisation, and Friends Of The Earth, our foremost environmental group, argues that we don’t need to go veggie to feed a booming world population and save the planet from climate change and forest destruction. It says that we can indeed produce enough food for everyone in the world, but only if we are prepared to ditch factory farming for more natural and humane farming methods

Recalibrating our livestock production away from factory-style processes and back to humane and ecologically sustainable farming methods will reduce the quantity of animal foods we produce and make them more expensive. That is a good thing. Intensive farming has provided us with previously unheard of quantities of “cheap” protein, but it can only be considered so if you put no price on animal suffering and turn a blind eye to the environmental degradation it leaves in its wake.

The absurd last-century idea that eating limitless piles of cheap, low-grade meat and dairy was some sort of democratic entitlement needs to be looked upon as an aberration in world history. We have to reverse the meat-and-two veg expectations of the last half-century. A correction is long overdue. Eating lower down the food chain and making the bulk of our diets more herbivorous and plant-centric is definitely where it’s at.