I'd known of director Les Blank by reputation, but until last weekend had never actually seen one of his films. Having been on something of a late 60's / early 70's doc kick recently, binge watching Luis Malle's Phantom India and half-ironically watching Chariots of the Gods (the book frightened me when I read it while camping at Lake Wappapello as a kid), I felt ready to move on to something a little more..."wholesome" isn't the right word. Maybe "soulful". Something smaller scale. More focused. Something cutting a little bit closer to the bone.
I expected the music to be good. Mance Lipscomb is one of the most accomplished and recognizable blues guitarists America has ever produced. What I didn't expect were the almost Wendell Berry-esque themes of longing, change, and a beautiful simplicity being run over roughshod by what Lipscomb calls our "fast living". Lipscomb was born in the late 1800's. The film was made in 1970. A Well Spent Life is a time capsule within a time capsule. It's both a celebration of folk art and a record of what we lost in the ascendant fevered anti-culture of celebrity. Makes you want to sing along mockingly with Lipscomb at the banal figures who currently loom in our public consciousness: "You aint so big / you just tall, that's just about all"
"Issue #3 of the Full Stop Reviews Supplement includes some of our favorite reviews from the second half of 2017, as well as an essay on the pervasiveness of PDFs by media historian Lisa Gitelman.In addition, we have a standalone essay by Danny Snelson on the history of the PDF.
Both can be downloaded for free or for donation.
Full Stop is run by a volunteer editorial collective, and donations will go toward helping us pay more writers and artists."
My contribution can also be found here.
I wrote something like a brief introduction to Byung-Chul Han for Law and Liberty here.
(photo: Philosopher Byung-Chul Han in Barcelona, Spain, February 7, 2018 (Massimiliano Minocri/El Pais).