Late Republic Nonsense: Aesthetics & Obsessions
Celebrations, Condemnations & Reconsiderations. Welcome to Late Republic Nonsense.
On their coffee table, Dolly and Sid Wiseman had the program for King Tut’s exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1976, Treasures of Tutankhamun.
I was somewhere around 4 or 5 or 6, and totally captivated by the photos in the thick, glossy book. Hieroglyphics, pyramids, clothing, furniture, the famous golden mask—all fascinating and strange visions from another world.
Clearly, the Wisemans noticed my intense interest and generously allowed me to keep it.
I can’t imagine what drew me so immediately to these things, but the first thing I remember being completely obsessed with was Ancient Egypt.
I made my parents and grandparents crazy, eating and sleeping and losing my mind about it. Very soon, we’d exhausted the Egyptology books in the library’s kid’s section, and I was asking my mom to show me how to find the big, thick, dusty books in the stacks. Didn’t know what many of the words meant, but I plowed through anyway. Wanting to make my own versions of hieroglyphics, I struggled with teaching myself how to draw.
I’m not sure how long all this went on, but I’m pretty certain I was the last one in the house to tire of the subject. There would be many aesthetic obsessions to come.
I was out-of-step in high school—and lucky enough to make wonderful friends who also didn’t give a damn about the culture swirling around us in the 1990s. We were impervious to any new trend, and we liked what we liked.
More than anything, we had an awareness that the history of music or film contained inconceivable riches, and we felt like we were racing against time to assimilate them all.
You’d have to work—visiting far-flung libraries, book, record and video stores—to get to the secret knowledge, and each journey felt like an accomplishment. The way we saw it, we were giving ourselves an education in the most inspiring and alluring things, and nothing could be more thrilling.
In that respect, pretty much nothing has changed for me since.
And I still think that process is beautiful and worthwhile—especially now, as we’ve got so much access to knowledge at our fingertips. I’m sure that availability, combined with the coarseness of our aesthetic sensibilities, has a lot to do with what seems like a great decline in curiosity about the beautiful things that make life worth living.
About “Late Republic Nonsense”
I came up with “Late Republic Nonsense” several years ago as a way to describe so many of the things happening all around us.
I’m going to be writing here about things I love—things I’ve learned about, become obsessed with, and want to share.
I’m also going to write here about the crisis of contemporary America—and the small, few pieces I feel I can contribute to illuminating, or at least understanding.
One of those things is the importance of art and aesthetics, but there will be politics and social and cultural commentary, as well.
I hope you enjoy, share, and help support this new endeavor by becoming a paid subscriber.
BTW: You can buy a signed copy of my book, Qatar’s Shadow War, at Davereaboi.com
On the turntable
Paulinho da Viola’s self-titled 1971 masterpiece.