Have you ever heard the story of how the human body instantly weighs less right after the moment of death, and this proves the existence of a “soul,” since the weight loss must have come from the soul leaving the body? Personally, I think that’s a bunch of hooey, and the weight loss is more likely to come from the loss of urine and waste (hard to hold stuff in after you’re dead, I figure) or something similar. Still, there’s no denying that there’s a clear, physical divide between the living and the dead, a palatable quality to the warm human body that no mannequin, no matter how well-made, will never be able to possess.
Why am I talking about this? Well, I visited the Seoul City Museum of Art today to check out a Renoir Exhibition (titled “The Promise of Happiness”), and it reminded me of that story. Renoir’s work is all about life and warmth. I don’t know much about art, but I do remember being struck in my college Art History class by how “happy” Renoir’s work seemed to be. And there’s no denying it after today; the man was a genius. Give him some paint and a canvas, and boom, he uses subtle shades of light to create figures with warm blood and glowing skin; not only that, you can actually see INTO their eyes and discern the personalities within. His pictures positively shimmer with life.
Now this is what I’m talking about when I talk about great art; I still don’t get the whole Picasso cubism thing (they just look whacked to me), and don’t even get me started on abstract art and performance art, most of which strike me as hopelessly affected, self-conscious, and–if I may borrow a term from Simon Cowell–hopelessly indulgent. So Monsier Pierre Auguste Renoir, I officially declare you today to be Tommyland’s Number One Painter. Thank you for your greatness.
Now of course, there is indeed a time and place for coldness instead of warmth. And that leads us right into the #78 song of our All-Time Top 101 countdown: Dirty Vegas’s “Days Go By.” This song is super-danceable (you may remember the car commercial from years back), but it’s got a cold, hard-shelled heart in the middle. The singer has clearly reached a point of numbness in his hopeless obsession, singing over and over, “Days go by, and still I think of you…” There’s no sign of hope; in fact, there’s no discernible sign of any emotion whatsoever. It’s coldness all right, but it’s absolutely hypnotic in its iciness. It beckons you to dance along in despair, until you feel numb, and then… nothing at all.