January 19, 2017

"And there's no judgment"... oh, but there will be judgment, as the NYT pushes working out inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The video shows the nature of the movement — vigorous walking through fabulous museum rooms with stops for jumping and stretching movement at the feet of grand statues. It's pre-opening, so no one stand in the way of this exercise-focused, seemingly art-oblivious group:



But the video does not include the voice that the museum-goers are hearing. Maira Kalman — who is an interesting author/illustrator — is saying lord knows what. I can only guess from the hints given in the article:
Her narration proffers personal thoughts about art and unexpected aphorisms on mortality. 
Tell me one!

And the video plays only one song, "Stayin' Alive." That has some "aphorisms about mortality" in it: "Life goin' nowhere/Somebody help me, yeah." More importantly, "Stayin' Alive" mentions the New York Times: "We can try to understand/The New York Times' effect on man."

And woman, it's only fair to say, as this marchin'-through-the-museum bunch is overwhelmingly female.

You know, you can also get an early-morning NYC workout by walking briskly outdoors...



To work on the upper body, carry a paint can.

Paint, ah... Back to the museum.

I'm saying that the video of the museum workout is unlike the real experience described in the text because it lacks the voiceover narration and because it plays only one song. It does appear that "Stayin' Alive" is the kind of song that is played: Elton John is cited in the text.

I don't know which Elton John. One of the peppier ones, I bet.

Maybe: "Crocodile Rock." Maybe "Crocodile Rock" as they are passing one of the museum's many representations of crocodiles, though the article never suggests that the music lyrics are keyed to the visual experience.

Quite the opposite:
The workout, with its pop-rock playlist and jazzercise-y moves, successfully removes any pretense or affected erudition. For one, talking is prohibited. (Kalman, at one point, narrates, “I really hate talking about art.”) And the constant disorientation disallows for higher cognitive thought to occur. 
So the one quote from Kalman — "I really hate talking about art" — undercuts the promise of "unexpected aphorisms."

I don't really mind people walking briskly through the vast spaces of the Metropolitan Museum. It's good to get the message out that it's one of the best places in the world to take a long indoor walk.

You don't have to look at the art, except in passing, the way you glance into shop windows when you power down the sidewalks. Big museums get very tedious if you think you need to pause and gaze reverently at every piece of art.

I don't mind if the museum lets some people for special off-hours activities. It needs to build its audience and to remind us to come back and relive its grand spaces.

You could make the Metropolitan Museum of Art your regular "workout." A long, brisk walk is good whether you're in some special organized group or not.

Just don't bump into people. Don't annoy people.

And don't knock into the art. When I saw this article, that was my main concern. You shouldn't be thinking I'm getting a workout! while barging around and swinging your arms in the vicinity of artworks.

Since we didn't get any aphorisms on mortality and you've stayed alive until the end of this post, I will give you a photograph I took in the Metropolitan Museum a while back:

In the Greek and Roman gallery

Quite a lively sarcophagus, no?

And here — your final reward — an unexpected aphorism:
Yes, man is mortal, but that would be only half the trouble. The worst of it is that he's sometimes unexpectedly mortal—there's the trick!

26 comments:

Amexpat said...

I find myself doing the same thing when I visit these vast, important museums. It's too overwhelming to stop and view each painting, so I walk briskly, viscerally taking everything in and stop if something calls out for a closer inspection.

richlb said...

Funny, I've always sang those lyrics to Stayin' Alive wrong, and never really had the urge to correct myself. I've sang:

...the New York Times are in the air...

Again, I knee that wasn't right, but I sang it that way anyhow.

mezzrow said...

Ben Franklin probably wishes yoga pants had been around in 1740 or so.

Thanks for the look inside contemporary urban culture, for those in a certain set.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

Thus, Trump.

Brando said...

When I first saw that movie, I expected a goofy Travolta film with dancing and hijinks. Instead it turned out to be rather dark and bleak--not what you'd expect from the soundtrack!

Also, if their disco was in Manhattan (I assume) and they lived in Bay Ridge, why were they always goofing off on the Verranzano Bridge on their way home? Or was that a different bridge they were on?

Unknown said...

It must be weird to live in Trumpland with God, Guns and Fox News where the main culture - books, modern music, TV shows, movies and others are created, produced and distributed by the hated elitist liberals on the Coasts.

Trumpland should produce their own literature, music, TV shows, movies. Guaranteed to be world-class with everyone gagging for it.

traditionalguy said...

Brings back memories, but where did they put the 10,000 person crowd?

Ann Althouse said...

@richlb

Here's a discussion of the line "the New York Times' effect on man," which many have puzzled over, if they could even hear it. I don't think I was ever able to understand the "effect on man" part, but a book "Hot Stuff: Disco and The Remaking of American Culture," quotes the line that way and says: "Presumably [the Bee Gees] were trying to fit in a reference to the city and convey something about upward mobility. But these are such inelegant, head-shaking lines that for years critic Dave Marsh, eager for more class-conscious lyrics, misheard them as 'We can try to understand / The New York Times don't make a man.'"

The author of the book observes that the movies shows the NYT delivered each morning to the female character. I would add — based on decades-old memory of the movie — that the NYT represented the NYC that the characters — who lived in seedy 70s Brooklyn — dreamed of reaching some day and the characters do make it to Manhattan in the end.

The movie was based on a New York Magazine article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night." Maybe the NYT is mentioned in the song because "Times" scans better than "Magazine."

Brando said...

"The author of the book observes that the movies shows the NYT delivered each morning to the female character. I would add — based on decades-old memory of the movie — that the NYT represented the NYC that the characters — who lived in seedy 70s Brooklyn — dreamed of reaching some day and the characters do make it to Manhattan in the end."

I could see that--Tony's father (character actor Sal Viscuso) seemed more of a "Daily News" reader.

FullMoon said...

Unknown said... [hush]​[hide comment]

It must be weird to live in Trumpland with God, Guns and Fox News where the main culture - books, modern music, TV shows, movies and others are created, produced and distributed by the hated elitist liberals on the Coasts.

Trumpland should produce their own literature, music, TV shows, movies. Guaranteed to be world-class with everyone gagging for it.


Clever. Fresh. Original. Interesting. Insightful.Marvelous. Melodious.Thread winner!

MadisonMan said...

That workout video is a great SNL skit. I'm curious about the guy in the suit with the Laptop. What is he doing?

buwaya said...

The unknown questioner is not a serious person, but this is an interesting question.

The historical answer is of course that he who pays the piper, broadly speaking, calls the tune.
What was the arts and entertainment establishment of the French Ancien Regime devoted to producing? Obviously it was all meant to please the court and the royalist establishment, the Abbe of this and the Countess of that, and the various persons eager to declare themselves entertained by the tastes of their betters, not the sorts who would shortly be the sans-culottes. Who, after all, was paying the bills at the Comedie Francais?
But come the day, and the day, culturally speaking, preceded by some time the actual collapse (and Glenn Reynolds is perfectly correct about culture being upstream of politics), the master-class changed, so did the artists. Boucher was out, David was in.
You will find a very similar case in Russia, and for a fascinating look at how these things mutate, try Orlando Figes, "Natashas Dance".
The US seems to be in a revolutionary mood, where such things can happen, where the outs are in and the in, out, where the pipers find someone else paying and calling different tunes.
Would it were so, because culturally the country is in a terrible rut.
Granted it is very, very unlikely that the unknowns have a brain given to curiosity about such things.

MadisonMan said...

We can try to understand/The New York Times' effect on man

Never realized that was the lyric. I learned something today!

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I made my first visit to New York City a couple of weeks ago. I lost three pounds while there just from eating less (have you seen the prices at the restaurants in the Waldorf?!) and from walking everywhere while shepherding four kids and carrying a seventeen pound infant strapped to my chest. I liked to think that ascending the stairs from the subway helped my rear end a little bit each time.

I expected to be a bit intimidated by the city and I expected snobbery, but to my happy surprise I found neither. I loved everything about it. I thought its vibe was far less pretentious than the West Coast cities I've spent more time in. Seattle, which is home, is WAY farther up its own ass than NYC seems to be. Maybe it's because New York is so self-assured and those Pacific cities are anxious and insecure. I liked it so much that my Westchester born-and-raised husband has me half convinced to consider moving there.

We had a spot of unpleasant weather that slowed us down the day we were to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I'll be back in two weeks, though, so I plan to make its acquaintance that then. If I check out this exercise thing I will report! I think it's a great way to use valuable indoor space. What a marvelous thing, to get to perform a fairly boring, repetitive task of self-care indoors, safely, and amongst some of the world's greatest treasures of art.

buwaya said...

Interesting you bring up the quote, from "The Master and Margarita"; this book was in the Palo Alto High schools reading list. Unlike pretty much all other high schools in California, on which the cultural master class foists dreadful factional pap.
That alone, the corruption of all these children, is an unanswerable charge against the American creative class and those who employ them, an excellent reason for the tumbrils and the guillotines.

rehajm said...

What do the curators think? They freak at radical changes in humidity. When I workout I'm very sweaty. It could be a few sweaty people do less damage than a regular strolling museum crowd.

BudBrown said...

Maybe if Mona Lisa visits they'll play Brown Eyed Girl.

lemondog said...

Squats for John Singer .........

LarsPorsena said...

Just like basic training...someone was always out of step.

Martin said...

I think the correct explanation for "We can try to understand the New York Times' effect on man" is the one Ann proposes above: it's an oblique reference to the source of the movie, which was a story by Nik Cohn originally published in New York magazine.

It's true that "New York Times" scans better than "New York magazine" and it's also possible that the Brothers Gibb, while great songwriters, didn't know that New York the magazine had nothing to do with the New York Times.

I love this song.

SDaly said...

"And the constant disorientation disallows for higher cognitive thought to occur."

The key sentence that explains modern American culture.

Martin said...

What an anti-intellectual, anti-thinking, decadent, self-absorbed pile of garbage!

In the presence of some of the finest objects ever created by human beings, but it's all about YOU!!!

Portlandmermaid said...

Was that Prancercise?

dustbunny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carbondale said...

I think there is a big fat lawsuit coming from the BeeGees for unauthorized use of their music. In fact I'm sure of it.

Carbondale said...

I think there is a big fat lawsuit coming from the BeeGees for unauthorized use of their music. In fact I'm sure of it.