Morning Ed: Society {2016.10.25.T}

I was literally thinking last week how cool it would be to have a new Winnie the Pooh story.

The experts aren’t always right, and sometimes they even conflict with one another. So when experts collide, what are we to do?

What are birds? What is art? A philosophical investigation. {Via Jaybird}

The UCF-UConn rivalry remains one of the craziest in college football. I don’t mean “unpredictable” crazy so much as I mean “obsessed stalker” crazy.

This will end badly.

Noah Berlatsky argues in favor of fan influence in popular art.

Beware the black-eyed, for they have traveled through time.

Declutter your life by reserving all fish and giving none.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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143 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Society {2016.10.25.T}

  1. Winnie the Pooh: This isn’t going to work. When the movie version of the Lorax came out, one of the reviews noted that a big problem with adapting Dr. Seuss to the screen in the modern age is that there is whimsy in Dr. Seuss that doesn’t translate well in our time of irony. I think the same is true of Winnie the Pooh. There is a lot of whimsy in the Pooh stories that seems to go against the spirit of the age. Even kids movies are very low on the stuff. Its all STEM and we can figure out what is going on, medicate kids that show too active an imagination.

    When experts collide, you hope that they have expert insurance. We are Farmers.

    The art and fan articles: Saul will have words about this.

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  2. Not giving a F: I’m amazed this is a thing, and by that, I mean that it hasn’t been a thing before. Hell, this pretty much defines my life. The only real objection I have to the flow chart is this part:

    Am I being an asshole–Yes–Make it a difference of opinion.

    Mine’s the same but ends with “don’t give a F”. She’s still giving too much of an F.

    There’s 20 people I give a damn about in this world.
    There’s 10 I’d die for (probably less)
    There’s 5 I’d kill for.

    Everyone else? I don’t care. They can F off.

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  3. I am assuming that article on not giving a fish is parody, and only parody. Because if every “Atlas” decided he was going to shrug, we’d wind up with paved roads turning into dirt roads, and no food on the grocery-store shelves.

    The only way I have succeeded in life is in giving waaaaaay too many fish, all the time. I’m not cool enough or talented enough to say “Meh, don’t care” and not do stuff.

    Some days I feel that literally the ONLY thing I have going for me is the fact that I give a lot of fish. Like I said: not cool, not talented, so I gotta play to my strength, which is caring about junk other people don’t seem to.

    (And yet, I regularly get screwed over by people I expected to do something but who don’t give enough of a fish to do it. So I wind up doing everything myself. I’ll probably be dead by 60 from the stress, but hey, I’ll save the government money on Medicare, right?)

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    • ” Because if every “Atlas” decided he was going to shrug, we’d wind up with paved roads turning into dirt roads, and no food on the grocery-store shelves.”

      “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” – Adam Smith

      But, you do sound like a wonderful person, the type we do need in society.

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    • I have similar thoughts, fillyjonk. Speaking for myself, one of my competitive advantages (or maybe it’s a self-regarding conceit I hold about myself?) is that I am willing to do things outside my formal job description.

      Lately–as in the last couple weeks–I’ve started to be more firm about drawing the line between doing those things and meeting the requirements of my job description, primarily because those aspects of my work are starting to suffer and I need to pay more attention to them. It feels weird to tell people no (or not to be the first to volunteer to do something); I also realize several of my coworkers jump in and do the work, so I want to be sensitive to that and help them out.*

      Possibly relevant: In many cases, there’s something to be said about “good enough” results in place of “superlative” results.

      *By the way, I’m taking a vacation day today and possibly tomorrow. That’s why I’m blogging when I’d otherwise be working.

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      • the problem is, quitting what doesn’t bring me joy at this point won’t keep me my job. I can’t just say “fish submitting the monthly attendance reports we have to do” or “fish writing up my research for publication and then going through the agonizing round of reject-and-resubmit” because that’s part of the deal.

        I dunno. I’m really hoping I survive at least until retirement so I can say “fish all this” and go have some fun.

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  4. You can’t let fans drive your art. Either you have vision, or you have absolute crap.
    GRIMM decided to “fish” for a starring actress (before the “not staying past the first season” lady decided to go have an affair with her onscreen lover) — “please, tell us who you want to see again”

    It was crap.

    You REALLY can’t let what fans you get drive your art. That was the problem with GRIMM when I stopped watching it. They got a lot of women, so they decided they needed the Lifetime Treatment — awww what a cute widdle baby, somebody stole my baby! Etc Etc Etc. It’s both not what the show wanted or needed. Came out really, really stupid. (And this is beyond what my friend the critic has to say about the writers, which is both pithy and likely to get someone pissed at me if I repeat it.)

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  5. The Art Piece: I really hated this piece and I really disagree with it.

    First, the essay goes against itself. First, the author mentions these things as a non-exhaustive list of things people value in art.

    “People value a lot of different things in art: direct pleasure, skill and virtuosity, novelty and creativity, representation, emotional saturation, intellectual challenge, imaginative experience, veneration.”

    There is nothing wrong with this list. It is a fine list. The problem is that the writer doesn’t seem to think that any of this applies to modern art like the abstract expressionists or contemporary art. Isn’t it an intellectual challenge or imaginative experience to question and wonder about the nature of art and try to do something new?

    The thing about artists is that they are interested in doing new and interesting things usually. If they weren’t, they would not be artists. Or they would not be good artists but merely skilled copycats at best.

    Yet so many people seem to have their concepts of art that stopped somewhere around the Impressionists or pre-Raphaelites. Art doesn’t have to be “pretty”. Art does not have to be representational. But a lot of people just want to look at the damn painting of a long-haired Ophelia floating in the water or that damned painting of the young maiden knighting a young squire and declare “All art stops here.” The pre-Raphaelites are false. Pretty but false and they present a world that never was. There is more truth in a Joseph Cornell box or a Robert Motherwell painting then there ever will be in a pretty Hollman Hunt painting.

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    • Adding more:

      What is especially interesting to me is that people who insist the most on art being representational also tend to be heavily involved with Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom? You would think people who love speculative fictions about pasts and futures that do not exist could appreciate art that was not a Kodachrome.

      Yet they cannot.

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    • Saul,
      And what do you say about objectively bad art (poorly representative), designed deliberately that way in order to make a joke? Is it good art, in that it successfully conveys its intention — or bad, because it’s really sucky?

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      • Give an example please.

        I am not saying that all non-representational artists are good. There is also plenty of repetition and copy catting in non-representational art or post-modern dance. I think a lot of the contemporary and post-modern dance companies copy each other too much and can be bored by those performances.

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        • Saul,
          On Bob’s Burgers,
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgerboss
          Specifically, the art for the arcade game. [This is, I might add, NOT a case where “it’s pixellated, so the art looks worse than it is”. It is honestly difficult to tell what the character is using as a weapon. The artist thinks the art is bad, territory, here (of course, the artist also says he’s a sorry artist, which is mere bald-faced truth)]

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    • I am much more up on music than the visual arts. In 20th century “classical” music we have the interesting question “What the fuck happened?” There isn’t a single answer, but you can go a pretty long way with the combination of composers wanting to try new things and composers’ livelihoods being separated from anyone liking their compositions.

      Earlier, composers usually had patrons. If the patron responded to the work with “What is this shit?” the composer had an economic problem. Then came public concerts and sheet music sales. A composer was no longer tied to a patron, but to a mass audience. Then by the early 20th century you had guys who didn’t make their living from composing. They might be conductors, with plenty of time for composing, or a bit later they typically were academics. Then there was a weird period after WWII was the CIA was subsidizing composers. Seriously.

      What happened with the actual music is that it ran off the rails. Composers could try new things without worrying about whether anyone wanted to listen to it. This very quickly morphed into the belief that if people did want to listen to it, this was a bad thing: a sign that it was “kitsch,” which was the worst insult available. Go down this road and you end up with stuff like this:

      or worse, you end up with the cognoscenti exclaiming enthusiastically about this:

      and anyone who suggests that this is perhaps not as profound, or interesting, as claimed is dismissed.

      The inevitable result was irrelevance: a small bubble of enthusiasts alternating between mutual congratulations and vicious power games (I’m looking at you, Pierre Boulez), with no one outside the bubble caring. There was a counter-movement in the later 20th century to try to be relevant again. The judges are still out on whether this salutary attempt came in time.

      Painting played out differently, but there are some parallels. One major difference is that a painting is a tangible object that has value and can be collected. Just as one could collect Rembrandts and Leonardos, whether for personal pleasure or to display one’s wealth and taste, so similarly one could collect Picassos and Warhols, even though collecting a painter who was still living and working isn’t quite the same thing, and in the case of Warhol it isn’t even clear what constitutes an authentic Warhol. So there never developed the bubble that we had with composers. Painters still painted in the hope that someone would lay down hard cash to buy it. On the other hand, there developed the idea of buying art as an investment, rather than the traditional reasons of aesthetic pleasure or display. So we end up with secure, climate controlled warehouses full of art that may never be viewed. At that point what does it mean to even ask if the art is any good?

      It is clear to me that many people do in fact derive aesthetic pleasure, intellectual challenge, imaginative experience, etc., from abstract expressionists or contemporary art. I am mostly not one of them, but that is no one’s problem but my own. But when you have works of art that go from the artist’s studio to the gallery to the secured warehouse, and this is considered success, then there is a problem. I suspect we also have a bubble: not in the cognitive sense, but the economic. It will be fascinating to watch when the bubble bursts.

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      • The movement towards non-representation in art or increased experimentation in music happened around the same time, although it definitely started earlier in the arts. For music, I think that the movement towards abstraction was greatly abetted by the rise of recorded music and what could be called true pop music in the form of songs written by Tin Pan Alley and they like and performed by a regular group of singers. Most of the mass audience found pop music to be more accessible and enjoyable than even traditional composers. This shift freed composers from commercial pressures. I think there was also a feeling that you did nearly everything possible with traditional composition and it was time for something new. There is one market for what could be called traditional composition, the movies and television, and this is where you find a lot of the traditional composers. I think high school bands in swanky districts will also hire a composer to write a piece of music for them.

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        • To put is another way, tonality was the prevailing paradigm in music since about 1600. Within the art music community there was a belief that tonality had run its course: that it had been fully explored, so now it was time to try something different. So far, so good. I am entirely sympathetic to the sentiment. It was time to experiment. But the thing is, most experiments fail. If we are allowed to listen to a piece of experimental music and respond “Well, that was absolutely awful. Try something else.” then this would be all to the good. The problem was that response was interpreted as affirmation: that the person making the assessment of failure is a rube, unlike those of us who profess to love it, who are aesthetes. The logical conclusion of this is not that we are writing atonal music because tonality has been fully explored, but that tonal music is intrinsically inferior kitsch. The catchphrase was “Beethoven was wrong!” The result is not pretty.

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          • There was a lot of abstraction and experimentation for their own sake arguments in a variety of arts during the mid-20th century. Many people in the arts world did decide that anything accessible or understandable to the masses was not only not worth their time but somehow morally repugnant in the free world. Its kind of weird that so many artists had or were perceived has having sympathies towards Communism because Communist governments generally forced their artists to be accessible as possible to the masses. The CIA was a patron of the abstract arts as you noted because they thought it promoted freedom. The commercial West was more into High Modernism than the Communists.

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      • I think 4:33 is an interesting experiment in questioning the nature of music and I think Philip Glass does great stuff. I’m fond of the compositions he did for Mishima.

        In terms of Classical music, I love Mozart and Ravel and many others. I am not fond of Baroque music very much. Nor do I like a lot of the composers who were popular along with the pre-Raphelites. I basically think art took a nose dive from the time of Turner’s death until the late 19th century with the rise of the Impressionists and post-Impressionist and in theatre, people like Chekhov.

        The biggest issue with classical music is that it could not compete with jazz, pop, and later rock music for young audiences. It all seemed stuffy and old-fashioned compared to listening to Benny Goodman, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, Satchmo, Thelonius Monk, Charlie Parker, Ledbelly, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, and then the Beatles, etc. On an old usenet thread, I remember a guy talking about how he was in middle school when the Beatles were first on Ed Sullivan. He and his fellow geeky friends could not figure out why their classmates would rather listen to the Beatles over say Gilbert and Sullivan. Whereas I can perfectly understand preferring the Beatles to Gilbert and Sullivan but I loathe Gilbert and Sullivan as much as I loathe Hollman Hunt.

        FWIW when I was in grad school, I was the director who was more interested in working with playwrights like Beckett, Brecht, and Chekhov over doing musicals. One of the directors who loved musicals told me that I “get Beckett” whereas he did not get Beckett and just wanted to do musicals. I generally dislike musicals with some exceptions and usually the edgier ones like Fun Home or Cabaret or Caroline, Or Change.

        Modern Art museums seem to have much larger audiences than classical performances or the ballet (modern dance has smaller audiences than classical ballet though).

        And sometimes I do think some of the sneers against modern art are because rich people prefer to collect modern and contemporary art over stuff that many people find “pretty.”

        The problem with the crowd that goes against Beckett or Glass or Motherwell is that they seem to want everything locked and the same. I am bored by the umpteenth million peformance of the Sound of Music. Yes there is plenty of really bad experimental theatre or artists who try and experiment and fail but I would rather deal with failed art than everything staying the same always.

        “I am mostly not one of them, but that is no one’s problem but my own. But when you have works of art that go from the artist’s studio to the gallery to the secured warehouse, and this is considered success, then there is a problem.”

        I am not sure about the last step here. Art going to the secured warehouse is an issue of a nature of a certain part of the art market and the fact that there are lots of rich people who can buy more art than they have space to display. Art is a seen as another way to store wealth just like real estate. What would you rather happened to the art?

        There are also a lot of people who buy art and display it. I’ve bought small pieces and gotten some art from my parents as well as they were downsizing. I think the idea of art as investment is way older than the contemporary market. It started in the late 19th century with the first wave of American business fortunes who would buy all of the old Masters of Europe on huge shopping expeditions. This gave us the Met, the Frick, the Gardener, and other museums. The same thing happens today with the Broad in LA but with modern art. I don’t see the difference in Gardener and others buying Rembrandts by the boatload from Joe Duveen over today’s 1 percent buying pieces by Damien Hirst.

        I would say that one interesting issue is that certain artists seem more likely to appreciate than others based on whether they sell to the 1 percent or not. You can buy some smaller Arsham’s for a few hundred or thousands dollars. This is not affordable to most people but is in the realm of possible for an upper-middle class family that is willing to save and make a large purchase. But he is collected by really rich people too so this few hundred can be an appreciated investment. There are lots of artists who make work in the range of pieces for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars whose works will probably not appreciate and I am not talking Kincade but artists with gallery shows in places like NYC or SF or LA.

        *FWIW I have also gotten into conversations here and elsewhere about whether furniture above Ikea is worth it with people of similar income levels and backgrounds and whether it is too privileged too purchase original art.

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            • We’ve found the worthwhile thing about John Cage: he’s a springboard for jokes.

              Which is what would make a good performance of 4:33: first announce that’s it’s a transcription for string quartet, and have the conductor go on for a bit about the difficulties he had getting the arrangement right. Then let the four musicians tune their instruments, at some length, have disagreements that almost escalate into fistfights about whether they’re all in tune or not. Then start the piece, with the conductor waving the players in one by one. (Maybe a false start or two, if one doesn’t come in at the right time.) As the piece goes on, they turn the page on their sheet music a few times. (Perhaps backward.) Finally, it ends with a few dramatic gestures from the conductor, and they all smile, shake hands, and then bow.

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        • Art is a seen as another way to store wealth just like real estate. What would you rather happened to the art?

          The issue is that this creates a separation between art as an investment and art as something that art-lovers look at. The wealthy investor doesn’t care about the piece as art. That isn’t the point. He buys it because he anticipates reselling it at a higher price. The next buyer might similarly not care about it as art, and the next buyer after that. If no one in the chain gives a damn about it as art, what does it mean to say that the art is “good”?

          What does it mean now to say that a work is “good”? If the Elvis on black velvet I pick up at the flea market speaks to me, then for my purposes it is good. But this is not a general statement. More generally, it is a consensus response, with extra weight given to the responses of connoisseurs (however people achieve that exalted status). If connoisseurs give their thumbs up, and the general public lines up out the door to see an exhibition, that is a reasonable basis for concluding that the exhibition is good.

          If the artwork goes into the warehouse, what does it now mean to even ask if it is good? It seems to me that the answer is that there are still links: the artist’s reputation, or the connoisseur the rich guy hired as a buyer. These serve to keep art-as-investment in line with assessments of what is good. But the link is weakened, because no one in the chain of ownership actually cares about it as art-as-art. I can envision the link breaking entirely, so that art-as-investment is unrelated to art-as-art, in much the same way that mid-20th century academic composition became separated from music people wanted to listen to.

          Edit: Oh, and as for what else would I want to happen with the art, this seems to assume that there is more art (presumably even more good art) than can possibly be actually used. This seems unlikely. Supply and demand would suggest that the price come down, such that persons of modest means can afford to buy good art for their homes. This would not be as nice for the artist who is in high demand now, but it would seem to be a good thing for the art world in general, if we include consumers in that group.

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          • I think this implies a false dichtomy. The one percent art market probably buys for both pleasure and investment. At least my study of the high end art market via articles, documentaries, and other media suggests this to be true.

            The real issue is that there seems to be a chasm of difference between what “really rich people like” in art and what many people of compartively moderate socio-economics like as art.

            Rich people probably still get off on being “patrons” but in a more indirect way than in the past. The artist is no longer in the direct employment of a rich patron (except for a commission here and there) but the 1 percent art collector gets a psychic benefit over finding the next big thing and encouraging awareness of emergent artists. Advertising guru Charles Saatchi did this with many British artists like Hirst in the 1990s and early aughts.

            For what is worth, I find some of Hirst’s work to be interesting but others are too clever by half.

            The real split seems to be among the non-rich. Basically the people who can not afford art in the realm of tens of thousands of dollars or more. I think there is some class based animosity and snobbery/reverse snobbery going on. People of ordinary means who like art that really rich people collect (generally modern and contemporary) are seen as pretentious and possibly as stooges for the one percent. Why can’t you just be happy with hanging posters of Hollman Hunt paintings and comic books like the rest of us?

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            • You may be right. I don’t know what percentage of high-end art, either by volume or cost, goes into the warehouse. It may be that I have been reading about this because it makes for a good story, rather than because it is common.

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              • It is fairly common especially for really large pieces because of favorable tax laws and the one percent owning more art than property. The art storage areas in some countries are tax havens so the really rich don’t have to pay taxes while the art is in storage or some such.

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      • OK, I’ve gone and actually read the piece you were objecting to. I think his topic is more narrow than how you take it. I’ll return to music. One idea that 20th century composers pushed was expanding on what constitutes “music.” This wasn’t actually a new idea. Back in the 18th century there were those symphonies with bird calls twittering, and the like. But 19th century music had developed a standard repertoire of instruments to choose from, and this can legitimately be argued to be limiting. But this then combined with the tendency to take an interesting and useful idea and run it far past the point where it is no longer interesting or useful: hence 4’33”. Yeah, I get it: Cage is challenging us to reconsider what sounds count as music It turns out that if you take this to its logical conclusion, the result is banal and uninteresting (and why do we need to pay composers and musicians anymore?). But we aren’t supposed to say that. We are supposed to be enraptured at the mind-blowing insight. It reminds of undergraduates who have just been introduced to solipsism.

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        • Cage might take it too far and into the realm of anti-music but what about Philip Glass. Surely he is doing different things than a standard 19th century composer, a Philips Sousa, or even an early experimentalist like Charles Ives. But what Philip Glass does is still music and even pleasant to listen to.

          I don’t think the authors take is narrow. The first comment also reveals the kind of sentiment that I rebel against. The author of the first comment seems to think that modern art and contemporary art are conspiracies by artists and galleries and critics on insecure middle-class people who worry about taste. He talks about “clear criteria” but does not say what those criteria are. I suspect he thinks that the criteria are ones that would hold art that the commentor likes as good and everything else as bad.

          I find it amazing that there are still a lot of people with academy views.

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          • I happily listen to Glass, though I belong to the “Reich is better” school (and Terry Riley never did it for me). They were the front wave of the return to relevance, albeit arguably inadvertently. They came out of the Cage/Boulez/etc. tradition. There is an argument that they stumbled into a form that people enjoyed listening to, and were surprised to find themselves popular (and took a ration of shit from their peers for it). A bit later we get John Adams moving this forward, with the result that mainstream symphonies play some of his works and mainstream audiences don’t complain. What a sell-out!

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      • This discussion seems to leave out the major employer of working composers: film and television scoring. It may or may not be the environment in which the largest number of hours of orchestral music are composed, but it’s almost certainly the environment through which the lion’s share of money for orchestral compositions passes.

        In that case, there’s a need to appeal both to patrons (director and producer) and through their funding considerations to a mass audience.

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          • I never got why libertarians find the whole outgroup v. ingroup argument so compelling. What is the end goal? Are we supposed to just leave everything alone?

            Yet this argument comes up time and time again. I remember discussing an article about a Trump rally. One of the observations in the article was a man who hit his 5 year old son for asking for an ice cream cone.

            I made a comment that the punishment seems like a disproportionate, overblown, and angry response to a five year old asking for an ice cream cone.

            Someone (probably on SSC) responded to me “Well you are just in the upper-middle class urban bourgeois liberal ingroup that does not believe in corporal punishment. The guy in the article is in the outgroup for believing in corporal punishment.”

            This is suppose to stop me how? Yes, I think it is wrong to hit a kid just for asking for an ice cream cone. Is calling me ingroup supposed to make me say “Okay. Live and let live. People can hit kids for asking for ice cream cones because that is the way of their tribe.”

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            • Compelling? I like it because it seems to accurately describe reality.

              What could be more compelling than that?

              And, for the record, that’s not a “libertarian” thing, as far as I can tell. It’s a “esoteric nihilist” thing. There is probably a lot of overlap between the set of “libertarians” and “esoteric nihilists”, of course. But it’s not a “libertarian” thing.

              As for your example, there are a lot of ways to “hit”. Are we talking a swat upside the head that would be considered playful if it happened between a 16 year old and a 14 year old brother?

              Because one of the things that I have experienced in the “corporal punishment” discussion is the whole phenomenon where half of the discussion is people defending “spanking” and the other half of the discussion is arguing against people putting out cigarettes on the arms of their children.

              “Can you believe that this man *BEATS* his *CHILD*???”

              And we’re not talking about wire hangers, we’re not even talking about a belt, we’re talking about a “swat to the butt” as if we’re talking about battery.

              As such when I hear you say that the parent hit his kid for asking for an ice cream cone, I think “there are a large number of interactions that Saul could be talking about here and I’m sure that I agree with him about two-thirds of what he might be talking about and I’m pretty sure that I disagree with him about the other third (with some fuzzy in there)”.

              Do you disagree that you are upper-middle class urban bourgeois liberal? Do you think that this is irrelevant to your opinion on this sort of thing?

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            • Well the in/out group dynamic does seem like a useful frame often times. It’s also something you can shoehorn virtually any discussion into, has a very black and white simplistic framing and lets the person collapse any details into a convenient meta narrative. So it has something for everybody.

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            • Ingroup/outgroup as you present it is hardly a libertarian thing. If anything, discouraging cross-cultural judgment is a byproduct of pluralism and multiculturalism, which tends to be associated with the left. (Though, ultimately, all sides use it at their convenience.)

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        • Interestingly I dislike a lot of video game and movie sountracks because they sound derivative to me. Specifically I think a lot of them sound like third-rate copies of O Fortuna from Carmina Burnana and think saying things in Latin is serious. It is ponderous.

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          • Apparently one cause of this, at least in film, is that directors will grab some music from a previous movie to fill in early edits until the final music is available. The pacing of scenes then gets staged around the temporary music. When the composer gets the final footage to score, the temp music ends up having a large, albeit indirect, influence over the music that gets composed and used.

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          • There is a reason that suites from film scores are, with rare exceptions, the stuff of pops concerts. I’m not particularly interested in the discussion of whether or not these count as “classical” music. I’ll stipulate to that, if anyone wants me to. More to the point is whether they are good classical music, and the answer is almost always no, they aren’t.

            My local classical station has a weekend hour show of music from movies. It is a mix of music that happens to have been used in movies, such as Barber’s Adagio, and suites from film scores. If I tune in and they are playing a film suite I know it instantly, even if (as is likely) I haven’t seen the film. There is a certain sound: hummable bits strung together with no overarching structure other than stop when you run out of material. The show is pretty pointless.

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            • SF’s classical station freely mixes in film scores with every thing else. The dedicated programs are Mozart in the Mornings (weekdays at nine a.m.) and Baroque by the Bay on Sunday mornings. Plus some religious music on Sundays and the lunch time request hour.

              Music from video games seems to be happening more frequently at SF Symphony. From what I hear, these are good at getting people out for that night but not too return. It is hard to convince people who come out for Music from the Legend of Zelda to return for Shostakovich’s 13th Symphony (The Baba Yar symphony). Gentle suggestions of doing so seem to backfire in a major way.

              Just like there is the regular ballet crowd and the people who just show up for the Nutcracker once a year.

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              • Saul,
                Yeah, well, You’ve not seen a damn orchestra playing Ico, now have you?
                Let’s be realistic here: nobody goes to see these concerts looking for high music — which there bloody well is in video games.
                They go for nostalgia value.

                Can someone please let me know when DEVO is going to play music from their video game? I’d pay to see that.

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            • It’s not surprising – unless the film was choreographed to a pre-existing (or specially commissioned) piece of music, then the scene will follow the rhythm and pacing that makes internal visual sense, and the music will follow off of that. Remove the visuals, and the rhythm of the music will likely seem weird and without rationale.

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          • Saul,
            And when the game is designed to make the latin seem ponderous and thematical, it has done its job.
            Thank you Heroes of Might and Magic Three, where the Latin (and other musical cues) does yeoman’s work for setting the theme for the races.

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    • There’s the dumpster test.

      If you saw this particular work of art next to a dumpster, could you reasonably expect it to be there by the time that the trash truck came?

      Please, no jokes about sculptures that weigh approximately 3 tons. I’m talking about paintings and the like. Maybe sculptures like “fountain”, if we want to get into light sculpturature.

      If the answer is something like “we can reasonably expect the urinal to still be there come trash day” (making exceptions for “do you know how much urinals cost! I’d take that thing home and put it in the garage!”), then I’d say that we’re talking about “crappy art”.

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        • that’s actually a really dumb measure of the visual arts. (presuming anything could be measured along those lines anyway.

          context matters a lot, otherwise i could rip up a whatever space wizard stuff is hot this week and say “look man this book is so not a book because someone’s gonna recycle it just like the plotline and hackneyed writing and paper thin characterizations lol”

          i say this as the proud inventor of #pigdestroyerkennedycenterspecial (\m/ BEST PLEDGE DRIVE EVER \m/)

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            • d000d what

              kitsch requires so much context brah. and that’s without getting into the benjamin stuff or the american queer reimagining of it from 1955 to like 1999 (ish?)

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              • I was more thinking of Bob Ross telling his students (and I’m paraphrasing this) “maybe we’re not going to make something that will ever go into the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but we’re going to make something that you will be proud to put on your wall.”

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                • still not free of context – it’s about reassuring the audience that it’s ok to be an amateur – self-generated art that matters because their effort did.

                  (also not kitsch)

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                  • anyway, using duchamp is the worst possible example of “this is not art lol my kid could do that lol 2: the lolening” for so many reasons. context being #1, as fountain is very explicitly about art in context.

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                    • Well, once again, we’re talking about art that doesn’t need a context. Something middlebrow people would enjoy over their mantle in a middlebrow way and enjoy without knowing about (or even need to know about) highbrow art that requires a context because, if removed from context, it presents identically to refuse.

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                      • there ain’t no such thing as art that don’t need no context. if i take a painting and set it on fire, ain’t no one gonna hang it in their house. because it’s on fire. defeats the wall hanging aspects.

                        similarly, if you remove an installation from its context, you kinda remove the point of the installation. which is to install. in a context, yo.

                        anyway, one love and all that but i vote no on proposition jaybird thinks art is context-free.

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                        • I can certainly see why you’re arguing against the position you’re arguing against. I only really object to your calling the position you’re arguing against mine.

                          I’m pretty sure that you agree that there is a difference between something like Charles Willson Peale’s “The Artist in His Museum” and “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

                          If so, then we can get somewhere.

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                      • The “context!” argument seems suspiciously all-inclusive. A messy desk is Art, to be treated reverently, if it is an Artist’s messy desk. My messy desk, on the other hand, is just a messy desk, because I am just a slob. I find this unpersuasive. The context argument is a real, legitimate thing, but it is one of those real, legitimate things that, taken too far, becomes indistinguishable from bullshit. We need not be able to precisely place the line to know that it is there. It is very much like the 4’33” argument. Yes, expanding what we think of as “music” is an interesting and valuable idea to explore. But once we let it run its course and conclude that everything is music, we have worked our way finally to… nothing.

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                        • jay2b – i objected and continue to object to the dumpster test. it’s a dumb test. as is your comparison. i mean, i’m not about to go piling candy (purposefully or otherwise), but one is a painting and the other is, like, not. both look kinda cool, so i’m fine with it, but i’m not art cop, aesthetic homicide division.

                          hershburger: actually you work your way to (and through) sampling and new understandings of tonality. which is part of why music today is awesome.

                          more to your balliwick, if you take nine dudes dressed the same and put them on a baseball field, you have a team. if you place them in a dark street, you have an armed gang. (who get their asses handed to them by a bunch of dudes cosplaying extras from crusing, but that’s neither here nor there)

                          tl;dr: intent is the core of context.

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                          • I stand by it as a way to determine if a piece of art requires context and is meaningless without it (to the point of presenting identically to trash) and art that also requires context, as all art requires context, but presents identically to something that someone would be proud to have in their home in a place of prominence.

                            Dig this:

                            An anthropologist from the year 3016 finds (whatever).

                            Does he recognize it as “art”?

                            If the answer is that only people who lived between 2015 and 2017 would have recognized this as art, then we’re talking about a very different kind of art than art that even someone a thousand years later recognizes as art.

                            Do we fully appreciate the Venus of Hohle Fels the way that the people who created it did?

                            Of course not.

                            Perhaps they were offering up a criticism of peat Venuses as transient. Perhaps they were engaging in mockery of the people who were criticizing peat Venuses as being transient. Perhaps it was more of a criticism of the growing consumer culture of the Aurignacians.

                            We just don’t know.

                            We sure as hell recognize it as art, though.

                            Imagine someone stumbling across “Where shall we go dancing tonight?”

                            Would *THEY* recognize it as a criticism of the 1980’s?

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                            • so what if 49% (of whatever population makes these decisions) recognize it as “art” and 51% don’t? is it “kinda art” and relegated to a less prestigious but still respectful place in the garage?

                              your criteria is hells of narrow. like, pointlessly so. it’s very limiting.

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      • The Dumpster test is dumb.

        You seem to think that there is a way of getting to a universal 100 percent. Yet there are clearly people who would take a Yves Klein painting a put it in a dumpster because he did a lot of work in all blue. They would probably do the same with Rauchenberg’s “Erased De Koening”

        Others would and do hang these works in museums.

        I am not saying that everyone has to like Yves Klein. Just that having art be frozen in time of 19th century definitions is really silly and definitions with a bias towards representational pretty.

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        • You don’t have to get a universal 100 percent. You merely need one person to look and say “huh, I’m going to take that home and put it in a place of prominence”*. Just one.

          Can you imagine art that, were it not on a pedestal next to a gold plaque, would be seen as refuse by every single person who walks past it?

          Golly, I sure can!

          *As art, I mean. Taking “fountain” home that you may piss in it would be an example of taking something home and putting it in a place of prominence, but it’s not the kind of taking home/prominence that I’m talking about here.

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  6. Interesting from Kevin Drum, paying a sales tax on Amazon increased business in local stores:

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/10/customers-abandoned-amazon-droves-when-they-had-pay-sales-tax

    These are…big effects. For costly items, the paper concluded that Californians reduced their Amazon purchases by a third. Even in low-tax Virginia, households reduced their Amazon habit by 11 percent. For all items, households reduced their Amazon purchases by 9.5 percent overall, but by 15 percent in California and 11 percent in Texas.

    This coincided with an increase of “only” 2 percent at brick-and-mortar stores, but that’s to be expected. As big as Amazon is, it’s still a small fraction of the size of the entire retail market. A decline of 9.5 percent in Amazon sales spread among all brick-and-mortar retailers adds up to a small number.

    Obviously this hasn’t put Amazon out of business. But I think that misses the point. I wonder what effect it would have had on Amazon’s growth ten or fifteen years ago? If sales tax has this much effect even now, when Amazon is practically a habit for millions of consumers, what effect would it have had back when Amazon was still relatively new in the non-book space? Bigger, I assume. And what effect would that have had on Amazon’s growth? Substantial, I think.

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    • I think the lack of sales tax was a good thing to have for a while, partially to nudge people towards being comfortable buying things online (I’m old enough to remember when that was considered kind of risky!) by offering a price advantage or at least mitigating shipping costs. Now people are comfortable with it, and shipping is often incorporated into the price, so my only concerns are logistical (there are a lot of taxing jurisdictions), and those can be addressed.

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      • I can see how this would work for the “big guys” like Amazon, but what about the little indie merchant who, I don’t know, sells antique buttons, but not under the aegis of Etsy or eBay? Does the little button seller have to keep track of every state he sells buttons in, and remit the appropriate tax to that state when the time comes?

        Because if that’s the case, I can see LOTS of little indie sellers just going out of business. I know if I were required to keep track of that extra thing, I’d just decide it wasn’t worth it and either sign on with a “bigger boy” (Like Etsy) who might keep track of it, and raise my prices accordingly (to pay for the fees I had to pay to Etsy), or just shutter my shop and go out of the button business.

        This seems to me another case inadvertently helping the behemoths while hurting the little guy.

        (Also, my local sales tax, after this election, will probably be over 10%. Which will really, really suck if I have to pay that AND SHIPPING on stuff that I can’t buy locally because we have virtually no stores)

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      • Yes. I pay sales tax for everything I purchase on-line. Interestingly this makes purchasing something from Gilt less enticing because of needing to pay for shipping and sales tax. Purchasing from companies that cover the shipping is still fine.

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    • I think there are a couple of questions about (a) what exactly is Amazon’s main business, is it retail or providing internet services to retailers, and (b) was the capitulation on taxes a means to make it more difficult for new market entrants?

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      • On (b) I think they were losing so much ground in so many places that they felt uniformity was better. States were hitting them up for sales taxes especially, requiring them to pay sales taxes when Newegg (for example) wasn’t. So it would make sense that they would want to formalize the process.

        But added to that is their marketplace rivalry with eBay. Amazon’s business model is much more friendly to that kind of coordination, while eBay is more decentralized. Amazon will be able to tell sellers “Go with us, and we’ll take care of all of that for you.” eBay presently can’t. They probably will, but its a deviation for them.

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      • Amazon’s business seems to be anything and everything. I think they are now trying to compete with Grubhub and Seemless for restaurant deliveries too. I wouldn’t be surprised if they introduced their own Blue Apron type of service.

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        • Last week I benefited — I think — from Amazon’s foray into doing the delivery stuff themselves. When I placed the order I chose the 5-8 days free shipping option. The box showed up on day 3. The label had an Amazon warehouse source address, my address for the destination, and no carrier identification whatsoever.

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            • What struck me in particular about the label was the lack of a carrier marking. UPS and FedEx labels have their names on their labels. I think the USPS also, at least over any distance. This one had nothing.

              Amazon recently opened a sorting center in metro Denver. That may mean that the to-Denver option that’s cheapest for Amazon for small packages is now their private air fleet plus USPS last-mile delivery deal, rather than UPS ground.

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              • Amazon started experimenting with same-day delivery in major metros about a decade or so ago. I remember when Amazon and Barnes and Noble announced it for NYC. They also have it in SF (presuming you order from Amazon directly and they have it in their Bay Area warehouses). My guess is they are going to try and do same-day delivery for many metro areas.

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            • Here’s hoping Amazon has some incentive to improve it.

              (I hate SmartPost. When I see that something’s being sent to me via Smartpost, I mentally add about five days on to the predicted delivery window)

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          • I still get most of my shipments via USPS I believe because otherwise Amazon would not have access to my apartment lobby.

            One of the things I like about USPS is that they can always leave things in the lobby. Missing UPS or FedEx means making arrangements which take another day or two to get a package.

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            • That’s not my experience. I’ve gotten a few packages where USPS has given me a notice that I need to come down to their receiving facility to pick it up.

              Not that it’s common, but has happened. It might work differently in an apartment lobby with a receiving procedure, I imagine.

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              • Many New York City apartment buildings have doormen even if they aren’t particularly fancy. One very nice thing about doormen is that it means that somebody is always there to take a package. Saul lives in San Francisco and even the fanciest new luxury condos do not have doormen there from my experience and from what people tell me. That means you need to be there when a package arrives or the building needs to have some procedure for it.

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                • How can Saul then get packages? Is it because there are mail boxes for each resident? And if so, is there a “bulk” or large-item delivery space?

                  If so–and I pinky swear I don’t mean this as a gotcha although it’s going to sound like that–maybe the operative issue is that USPS still enjoys something like a government-granted monopoly. If I understand right, FedEx and UPS aren’t allowed by law to make delivery in spaces reserved for USPS deliveries (e.g., they can’t deliver to PO boxes). So the preference for USPS in this case might be because the laws give USPS a special advantage the private services don’t have.

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                    • That’s it. The mail boxes are usually located inside the building. USPS delivery people are given keys to the main entrance of the building and the mail boxes inside it so that people are spared the inconvenience of having to go to the post office for every thing. They usually leave packages on the ground near the mail boxes and you pick it up when they leave.

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                      • Now that I’ve thought about it, the answer to my own question is so simple that I’m glad no one else has bothered to point it out (yet). The USPS delivers every day or on a regular schedule, so of course they’d get a key.

                        Maybe I’ll call my alma maters and give my degrees back.

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                        • There might also be a presumption that you can trust mail people from the USPS more than you would private delivery people because the government can really punish them if they are found stealing or not doing their job. A private delivery company would probably not want the liability that comes with giving employee’s keys to apartment buildings.

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                          • Funny thing is that I’ve never had a non postal service delivery/receipt problem, but I’ve had several occasions where mail has taken over two months to get delivered 5 miles away, or never delivered at all. My landlord kinda pays attention to this info when he doesn’t get the rent check when it’s due.

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                              • I have had several greeting cards I send out in the past few months go missing.

                                My assumption is someone somewhere along the line either isn’t delivering the mail (we have seen cases of mail carriers just dumping it) or perhaps they’re hoping there are gift cards/cash enclosed in the card and they’re ripping it open to steal it.

                                I dunno. I don’t trust the USPS any more. I did a trial, sending 11 cards out to friends using different modes (my mailbox, the slot at the PO, a blue box on the street). One of the “street box” cards never made it to their destination. And my dad’s father’s day card this year, and a card I sent to another friend.

                                I also once had my water bill go missing after I paid it; I would never have known except the city sent me, not a second notice, but a WE’RE CUTTING OFF YOUR WATER notice. I wasn’t happy. (The city later noted: yeah, we noticed a lot of bills didn’t get paid that month)

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                          • I disagree with your first sentence, but I agree with the last one.

                            ETA: as for problems with USPS, it might depend on where you live. Big City has a not very good reputation for how its USPS works although I understand it’s improved quite a bit. My next door neighbor and I, however, repeatedly get mail destined for other addresses. Usually it’s junk mail, but sometimes it’s stuff that looks important.

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                            • The USPS appears to employ an unexpectedly large number of dyslexic delivery folks. Our address is 6925 XXXX. By chance, the next stop on the delivery route is around the corner at 9625 YYYY. Some days we get their mail; some days they get ours; on at least one occasion, the neighbor and I met at the corner and exchanged the mis-delivered stuff.

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                              • Sometimes I understand the mistake. It will be an obvious transposition of numbers, or more often, it’ll be the correct street number, but the wrong street (usually one or two over). My neighbor keeps getting mail for an address at another street very close by and to my knowledge there’s no apparent reason why the streets or another street number should be confused.

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                            • I’d like to expand a little on why I disagree with Lee’s first sentence:

                              There might also be a presumption that you can trust mail people from the USPS more than you would private delivery people because the government can really punish them if they are found stealing or not doing their job.

                              There may or may not be that presumption among some people, but I believe such a presumption is misplaced. It seems to be much harder to discipline government workers than it is for private companies to discipline their workers. Granted that USPS is one of those “kind of a government but also kind of a private” entities.

                              I’m not saying it should be easier to discipline people. I support, albeit with reservations, “for cause” employment laws. And withal, I’m generally loathe to say anybody should be fired. But when I think of why I trust the USPS–and I largely do, despite the errors I’ve mentioned here in this thread–the likelihood of its employees being punished for malfeasance is not up there.

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  7. Experts: The general problem is tough to sort out from the outside. Is the conflict of experts actually a conflict between actual experts and bullshitters? Or is it a conflict between legitimate schools of thought within the relevant field? Or is it because the question at hand as at the edge of what we know, but some of the practitioners state their arguments over-confidently (or, in the alternative, are reported that way)?

    In my particular field of early baseball history, the absolute worst book in the field–absolute bullshit from cover to cover–is published by an Ivy League academic press, and written by a tenured professor at an excellent college. I am sympathetic with the plight of the innocent bystander trying to sort this all out.

    In the case of the linked piece, what we have are groups of experts with conflicting priorities. I doubt that there is a single right answer here. The informed parent will have to figure out which priorities to adopt and go with that.

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    • That’s a good piece. The skit was great along the lines he describes. Some people immediately misunderstood it in one direction (“They’re mocking Trump supporters”) then in the other (“Actually, it’s about unity”) when its messaging was more nuanced than that. And (contra Bouie) less pointed. Bouie took it as making a strong point, whereas I took it as more of a shruggy “it is what it is” but he could be more right than I am.

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  8. So when experts collide, what are we to do?

    Make sure the targeting chamber is ready, so we can get good data on the collision products.

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