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[P]
Art, music and violence

By fuzzrock in Op-Ed
Thu May 03, 2001 at 08:56:38 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Imagine, if you will...

You are walking on a NYC street. There is a vendor, selling paintings. One of the paintings catches your eye. It appears to be of a man and a woman in a violent altercation in the woods. He is clearly about to stab her with a kitchen knife. The painting seems focused on him, and he is clearly insane... he's frothing at the mouth, and his eyes are wild. He seems to be screaming at the woman, who you somehow realize is his wife. The painting style is jarring - bright colors, red blood. It is vivid, and quite disturbing. Is that Art?

Now lets pretend you encounter the same basic scene in the painting, but this time in a short story being read by a man in a beret. He is reading from a obviously home-made sheaf of paper. The story is from the perspective of of the man in the painting, and part of the character is clearly based on himself. In the story, he rages at the woman, screaming at her to love him, even as he stabs her to death. His writing is lucid, and quite disturbing. Is that Art?


I think in both cases the answer is clearly yes, that would be art. The subject and content of a piece of art do not disqualify it from being art, and even if the painting depicts a horrible act or situation, it is still art. Or at least, the answer is clearly yes when it's a painting, or a short story, or a novel. What if it's a song? In point of fact, it is a song - Kim, by Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem. And it's a song that is often cited as something that should not be "allowed". But nobody says it isn't a vivid depiction of an insane man murdering his wife, and nobody reasonable claims he portrays himself in a positive light.

When Rudy Giuliani tries to ban paintings from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the majority opinion at K5 is that he's a fascist. Whenever censorship comes up, in fact, we all come down hard on the offenders. But then, there's this discussion of Eminem. Admittedly, the thread was not so much on censorship as on violence in the media, but I think my point stands.

It seems to me that we have assigned music (and, although I don't discuss it here, movies and television) a lower "art" value than prose or painting. I think this is a shameful failure on our parts. What do you think? Am I just wrong? Is this a valid valuation of various mediums?

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Art, music and violence | 137 comments (123 topical, 14 editorial, 1 hidden)
Hmm... (3.87 / 8) (#2)
by trhurler on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:31:51 PM EST

Well, it is possible that I've missed some stunning new development in the realm of English, but I'm fairly sure that capitalizing common nouns in lame imitation of people from hundreds of years ago to make yourself look sophisticated is poor writing style.

As for Eminem, he's nothing more than an imitator, for all that he screams the opposite. He imitates shock rock and he imitates rap rock. He was the second or third generation of each, and as usual, people have totally forgotten the originals already. He's the massive commericalized success, rather than the innovator. Go talk to Alice Cooper and Faith No More and so on and see what they think of Eminem. Imitation and interpretation of life is art. Imitation and interpretation of art can be art, but usually, it is bad art. Eminem is no exception to the rule. Neither were the better people who came before him.

There's a lot of high quality musical art out there. Too bad most of the people screaming about how music gets no respect aren't listening to any of it.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Bang On. (4.00 / 2) (#5)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:47:38 PM EST

Eminem is the work of Dr. Dre. Dre created Eminem to get "back into the business" - it was a venture to make money, and he had the formula down pat.

How do you make rap appealing to thousands of suburban teenagers looking for a new way to be "bad"? You give them exactly what they want to hear - Eminem.

While I must admit that even commercialized art like Eminem is still art, I wouldn't give it too much in the way of innovation (as the parent comment described). It is successful in that it appeals to a lot of people, true enough, but it isn't a masterpiece, and when the next "Vanilla Ice" comes through in 5 years he'll be forgotten.


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

eminem's origin (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by suntzu on Wed May 02, 2001 at 03:33:48 PM EST

actually, eminem definitely has his battle rap credentials in order. dre discovered him at a freestyle competition in detroit (eminem actually got 2nd place), i'll send you an mp3 of the competition if you want. though somewhat commercialized now, eminem's definitely got skill (though not my favorite freestyler, that probably goes to canibus). maybe you should know the history of what you're talking about before pulling idle conjectures out of thin air. and don't say "you're average person doesn't know that much about rap." there are plenty of things i don't know that much about, but i don't go commenting on them like i do.

[ Parent ]
Eminem's Ability, Not his Product (4.00 / 2) (#44)
by Mad Hughagi on Wed May 02, 2001 at 03:51:37 PM EST

Hey man, I never said anything about Eminem's ability as a rapper. He's got it locked down, and I've got some of his old stuff (I don't listen to it that often though). All I'm saying is that he sells because of his message and how Dre has turned him into an icon. He wouldn't be where he was if he wasn't good at what he does, but now that he's been acknowledged, it's just a matter of what sells.

So while you might think my opinions are based on idle conjecture from thin air, I'm fairly confident that there are quite a few people that would agree with it.

My vanilla ice comment was probably what steamed you the most, and I admit that Eminem is of a different calibre than he was, but what I was getting at was the commercialization of the shit. Sensationalism.


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

fair enough, fair enough (none / 0) (#137)
by suntzu on Wed May 16, 2001 at 02:42:13 AM EST

i posted the comment mostly because it seemed like you thought eminem just came out of nowhere. but you know your shit, so while i disagree w/ the point that dre is just marketing him to get back in business, i'll agree for the most part w/ the sensationalism viewpoint.

[ Parent ]
Wow, a grammer nazi who's ignorant about rap... (2.75 / 4) (#17)
by Electric Angst on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:17:51 PM EST

I see you're descided on a new persona, trhurler. While I personally think it's just a riff on the old 'grammer nazi' motif, it fits well with your natural curmudgeonly nature, and I hope it goes well for you.

Now, as to why you're wrong, well, you obviously haven't listened to an entire Eminem album, or else you might have noticed the inticate structure, the self-awareness and mocking self-reference, the way that the artist swims upstream in the english language, like a trout up a waterfall, and, of course, the genuine feeling behind the songs- pity, doubt, love, hate, anger, joy, all of these can be found on both the Marshall Mathers and Slim Shady LPs. Those who don't see it are choosing to look elsewhere, probably because of their initial impression of him by the media. (Remember that the next time you think about how much the media influences your life...)


--
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
[ Parent ]
Is this your idea of humor? (4.25 / 4) (#28)
by trhurler on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:35:27 PM EST

See the other reply to my original comment for a more realistic view of Eminem. I've listened to all of his crap more than I ever wanted to. He's a commercial hack. Get over it. All of us have some commercial hacks we enjoy listening to. That's life. The guy is a band in a box - a PR/media creation. He's the music world counterpart of an astroturf political campaign. That'd be fine if he didn't pretend otherwise, but in order to seem "cool" to a bunch of kids too stupid to realize that "the real deal from the streets" isn't signed to a multimillion dollar recording contract, he DOES pretend otherwise.

Trout don't swim up waterfalls, (and neither does anything else,) and while "hate fags? The answer's yes!" does convey an emotion, it isn't necessarily one I want to feel. I may be a hatemonger, but I'm an equal opportunity hatemonger, you see.

As for intricate song structures and mocking self reference, a band that plays at one of the bars I hang out at has all that and more, and lacks the cheezy PR campaign. Of course, there aren't millions of deluded 16 year olds listening to them, and their style isn't all that popular, but in the end, I think this may be a good thing; I've yet to get so sick of one of their songs that I wanted to kill anyone. If anyone plays any more Eminem in the office, I'm going to kick his ass.

You want to be cool, go buy your music somewhere besides Streetside Records. If you don't know anything that hasn't made VH-1, go ask. You'll find that there's a whole world of music out there that doesn't bite ass.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
You wanna be right so bad, but you're still wrong. (4.33 / 3) (#39)
by Electric Angst on Wed May 02, 2001 at 03:07:14 PM EST

Wow, I always figured you were an elitist, but I never had any idea you were this bad.

So everything popular is automatically shit, right? Carlos Santana, Moby, hell, Nirvana, they are (or were) all hacks because they signed on to a major label, right? Every band that's ever even been close enough to corporate money loses all ability to create, right?

Popular rap is use in commercial culture, yes. In case you haven't noticed, so is everythin else. Hell, a Buzzcocks song was recently in an SUV commercial. Iggy Pop (who was hardcore while Alice Cooper and Faith No More were sucking their mother's tit) is being used in bank commercials. Trying to escape commericalism today is hopeless, and the best one can generally do it to control it, rather than have it control you. That's what Eminem is doing.

Hell, the bar I work at is owned by a relativly popular musician. I hang around with local bands after hours every weekend. I probably have a better knowledge of good indie music in my pinky than you will ever be able to muster. Ever heard of Sleater-Kinney? Pocket Fishrmen? Tang? Reverand Horton Heat? Bah, I could go on, but it's be a waste...

Now, the trout up a waterfall thing was supposed to be an exagerrated metaphore. I'm not surprised that you didn't pick up on it, what with your obvious lack of appreciation for anything other than science-textbook english.

About emotions, I'm sorry that you don't seem to appreciate smirking revenge, which is what Eminem is using extracting during the line "Hate Fags, the answer's yes!" In that song (Criminal), he uses his lyrics to turn himself into the monster that his detractors have labeled him since the beginning of his popularity. He gives an ironic situation, where he displays all the hate and violence he is accused of, but doesn't actually embrace. It's not the sham homophobia in that song you're supposed to realize, it's the intelligent reply to ignorant detractors (like this post.)

Also, despite "having to hear it all the time", you obviously didn't catch that Eminem is very aware of his success, and the fact that his 'street cred' is no longer worth anything. Hell, in 'Kill You', he even states the line "They say I can't rap about being broke no more." To claim that he's still tryinf to flex that street cred is a shot far off the mark.

So basically, you've made me sit down here and laboriously explain to you exactly how badly you're wrong, and how your singleminded prejudice against anything "popular" has caused you to fail in gleaning any insight or joy from an impressive artist's collection of work.


--
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
[ Parent ]
Elitism, music, etc (4.33 / 3) (#42)
by trhurler on Wed May 02, 2001 at 03:36:15 PM EST

Wow, I always figured you were an elitist, but I never had any idea you were this bad.
My disdain for Eminem has nothing to do with elitism, but if elitism is bad, then I'm worse than you can imagine.
So everything popular is automatically shit, right?
No, but you can't be a national recording and touring sensation and a hood rat at the same time, and that's what Eminem's PR department wants people to believe in. The man is more like a CEO than an artist.
I probably have a better knowledge of good indie music in my pinky than you will ever be able to muster. Ever heard of Sleater-Kinney? Pocket Fishrmen? Tang? Reverand Horton Heat? Bah, I could go on, but it's be a waste...
Ah, so by "indie" you mean "popular touring bands that just refuse to sign a contract so they can seem edgier." Whatever. Nothing wrong with them; they're good enough. Figures that an Eminem fan would mistake them for the whole of non-major-label existence, though...
Now, the trout up a waterfall thing was supposed to be an exagerrated metaphore.
I'm not so inept that I didn't get it; it was just so incredibly lame that I chose to mock you rather than take some other course of action. Perhaps your metaphors would be more apt if you quit listening to the whole-cloth creations of record company executives for inspiration.
It's not the sham homophobia in that song you're supposed to realize, it's the intelligent reply to ignorant detractors (like this post.)
Yes, but the missing detail here is that the millions of kids who buy the album don't know that. They don't care, either. They think it is "cool." Then, when it gets attacked, a few of the less-stupid fans can go around talking about how people don't know what they're talking about. Well, here's news for you: to most of his fans, Eminem wouldn't be worth buying if he didn't go around saying things designed to piss off their parents.
To claim that he's still tryinf to flex that street cred is a shot far off the mark.
Making fun of himself like that is supposed to preserve that very credibility, by making him look like a guy trying to do what he can do who is aware of what's going on. Nice of you to totally fail to notice; I'm sure he appreciates it.
your singleminded prejudice against anything "popular"
Actually, I like an awful lot of very popular music, and an awful lot more that was popular at one time or another. However, I don't go around saying that semitalented mini-corporations disguised as musicians are "artists." Next you'll be telling me we should put Michael Jackson and Poison up as examples of artistry... (doesn't it dig you to admit you listened to them? Don't you just hate knowing that yes, you were one of those bozos who bought MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice tapes? Then again, you might be a bit young to have been a Michael Jackson fan. Just as well; he'd probably have plorked you in the heinie:)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Yes! A point-by-point rebuttle! YHBT! YHL! HAND! (4.33 / 3) (#45)
by Electric Angst on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:06:35 PM EST

Oh wait, I wasn't trolling, so I guess I can't claim the cred for that one... Ah well, here goes:

Ah, so by "indie" you mean "popular touring bands that just refuse to sign a contract so they can seem edgier." Whatever. Nothing wrong with them; they're good enough. Figures that an Eminem fan would mistake them for the whole of non-major-label existence, though...

No, I just thought it would be easier to list bands who's name you might recognize. You would probably try and claim that I was talking out my ass if I mentioned Planet Zorn, The Oi!sters, The Flametrick Subs, Dixie Witch, and MC Overlord.

Perhaps your metaphors would be more apt if you quit listening to the whole-cloth creations of record company executives for inspiration.

Well, if turning off my Eminem CDs means that I'll gain your jagged, bland use of the language, I had better start listening more.

Well, here's news for you: to most of his fans, Eminem wouldn't be worth buying if he didn't go around saying things designed to piss off their parents.

Do I care what most of his fans think? After all, that would be bowing down to popular conception, and I'm surprised to see you arguing for it.

Making fun of himself like that is supposed to preserve that very credibility, by making him look like a guy trying to do what he can do who is aware of what's going on.

You made two statements here, one I totally disagree with, and one that is in a way correct. Is Eminem still trying to say that he's indie? That he's on the streets right now? No. I defy you to find one instance where he does this. Now, how you ever considered that Eminem isn't simply looking "like a guy trying to do what he can do who is aware of what's going on", but that he really is? If you took off those blinders of cynicism for a moment, you might actually see something.

I don't go around saying that semitalented mini-corporations disguised as musicians are "artists."

So, what this all comes down to is your own opinion that Eminem isn't a good artist, an opinion that plenty of people would be ready to dispute, and is called into question by your own lack of understanding about the music. You know, I've realized something, this entire time, you've constantly been referencing things besides the music itself. You're talked about corporations, indies, fans, money, and all that, but you have very rarely gotten into the music. I propose a challenge, trhurler. Sit down one evening, with the Marshall Mathers or Slim Shady LP (or their MP3 equivilants), and just listen to the album. Don't think about all the crap outside of it, all the things that, while they have an effect on the music, are ultimantly peripheral. Just hear the beat, the melody, and the lyrics. Pretend this is some unknown artist and you got the album from a friend, who bought it at a small club concert. Once that happens, let me know what you think of the music. Until then, your point is pretty much invalid, since you've yet to judge the music on its own merits.


--
"Hell, at least [Mailbox Pipebombing suspect Lucas Helder's] argument makes sense, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of people." - trhurler
[ Parent ]
I hate to nitpick (none / 0) (#93)
by ichimunki on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:56:26 AM EST

Iggy Pop (who was hardcore while Alice Cooper and Faith No More were sucking their mother's tit) is being used in bank commercials.

Iggy Pop was born in 1947. Alice Cooper was born in 1948. From what I can tell, the first Stooges album was put out in 1969. Alice Cooper's first album was put out in 1971. I learned all this in five minutes at cdnow.com-- but of course, don't let the facts bother a music expert like yourself. :)

As to Eminem, he's the Britney Spears of the rap world. His subject matter is so trite I'm surprised that Jerry Springer hasn't slapped him with a "look and feel" lawsuit. His raps pale in comparison those of people like Chuck D, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, or even the Beastie Boys. The only thing Eminem has going for him is that popular rap has been in a sewer since at least when Will Smith came on the scene-- that and Dr. Dre produced and promoted his first album, which means that it inherited that credibility and considerable talent.

[ Parent ]
Off to the camps with you. (2.00 / 2) (#53)
by Delirium on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:57:39 PM EST

As a proud grammar Nazi, I cannot help but point out that you have done our kind a grave injustice through your misspelling.

[ Parent ]
possibly intentional... (none / 0) (#76)
by cp on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:25:52 AM EST

...though good form is usually to be thorough and spell it "grammer natzi".

[ Parent ]
Excellent topic (5.00 / 3) (#3)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:35:39 PM EST

A lot of people are going to argue that pop music, TV and most of what comes out of Hollywood is really just pandering, not art. That is, it gives people what they want (or what they pay for, maybe not the same thing) and doesn't give a rat's ass about "artistic merit". I would agree with these people. But they will probably then go on to say that therefore we shouldn't accord it the same respect and/or rights that "real art" enjoys.

Bull.

First, not all art is produced under that banner. Robert Heinlein (to pick a name out of the hat) wrote his first short story to win grocery money. He continued to write to pay off his mortgage. He explicitly says (in mulitple locations) that he didn't consider his work art--he wrote what he knew and what people would pay for (RAH also claims that H.G. Wells was the same, but I have no independent source for that). But, whether you like Heinlein's work or not, I think we can all agree that it has "artistic merit" (at least most of it).

Second, so what if it's not art? It's still expression--and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Keep in mind that the song does not literally harm anyone in any measurable (or even known) way.

Play 囲碁
Re: Heinlein (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:58:39 PM EST

But, whether you like Heinlein's work or not, I think we can all agree that it has "artistic merit"

I don't agree, and invite fellow dissenters to join this virtual petition.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Why not? (none / 0) (#12)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:09:43 PM EST

Assuming that the reason is not simply "Heinlein didn't call it art, therefore it isn't". What feature or characteristic does, say, "Stranger in a Strange Land" or "The Green Hills of Earth" lack that "real art" doesn't?

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
non-reply (none / 0) (#14)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:12:20 PM EST

I'm afraid that this is all the reply you're going to get

However, I am deadly serious -- I mean what I say when I say that Heinlein's work is *not* art, and invite others who agree to say so.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Why do I even bother? (2.00 / 1) (#20)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:22:40 PM EST

"We assume that "art" is a type of thing, and then set out to ask what type of thing. But we really have no basis for assuming this other than the structure of the English language, which is a pretty poor reason to believe anything."

"Art" is a noun, therefore it *IS* a type of thing. Whether any examples exist is a different matter (see: "Unicorns"). Reasonable people or multiple cultures would say that "Romeo and Juliet" and Mona Lisa are specific examples of a general thing--we call that thing "art".

But you aren't convinced (or pretend not to be). So let's phrase the question a different way: Let's say we have an unnamed category containing the works of Shakespeare, (Mary) Shelley, and Rudyard Kipling. Do you think the work of Heinlein belong in this category? Why or why not?

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
free your mind (none / 0) (#26)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:33:07 PM EST

"Art" is a noun, therefore it *IS* a type of thing.

No; the relationship between words and the world goes the other way. Every thing has a corresponding noun; that is an obligation on language. There is no symmetrical obligation on the world to provide a thing (even an abstract thing like a "type", category, Platonic universal) for every noun. In fact, we know that there are certain noun phrases (the set of all sets not members of themselves, the shortest noun phrase not referred to on this HTML page) which, as a matter of pure logic, cannot be things

Reasonable people or multiple cultures would say

.... the damnedest things, as we both know. But setting that to one side, my argument is that the set of linguistic behaviour which is made up of declarative sentences with referents, is only a part of the larger subset of human behaviour which is the referent of the noun "language".

Let's say we have an unnamed category [...]

This is another way of making the same assumption; you are assuming that "deciding what is and is not art" is a special case of assigning members to a set based on its membership criterion. I'm saying that it's a different kind of *activity*, not a different kind of *set*.

Get a cold towel ready ... this stuff requires some serious concentration. Took me years to even get this far.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Definition of "thing" (none / 0) (#35)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:49:41 PM EST

"In fact, we know that there are certain noun phrases (the set of all sets not members of themselves, the shortest noun phrase not referred to on this HTML page) which, as a matter of pure logic, cannot be things."

But "the set of all sets not members of themselves" IS a thing. Here we are, talking about it. Sure, maybe it's an artifact of our language...but so is the word "thing".

"This is another way of making the same assumption; you are assuming that "deciding what is and is not art" is a special case of assigning members to a set based on its membership criterion."

Not really. Let's say there are 5 objects in a room: a copy of Shakespeare, a "fertility symbol", a crayon drawing of a house by a toddler, a bowl of egg salad and and a dog biscuit. Enter subject #1. He is asked to separate "art" from "non-art". He puts the first three in one pile, the other two in another. Subject #2 does the same. Etc, for many subjects.

Clearly there is a concept in these people's heads that partitions the objects. We call that concept "art". If YOU want to have something else that is "a different kind of *activity*" that's fine...but why not leave alone words that already have meanings? And again, it doesn't matter if this concept is innate, learned or whatever--the point is that it's *widespread*. As you say, every thing has a noun. The noun for this thing is "art".

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
I really don't think (none / 0) (#36)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:54:16 PM EST

Clearly there is a concept in these people's heads that partitions the objects

I really don't think you can take an end run around the whole subject of psychology and philosophy of mind with the one word "clearly". The evidence against the concepts existence is the amount of contorted reasoning and logical twisted knickers which have filled the books of aesthetics for the last five hundred years. It's an empirical, inductive argument, so I don't expect it to convince you, but it convinces the hell out of me.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

What's not clear? (none / 0) (#37)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 02, 2001 at 03:06:25 PM EST

Do the experiment. If it comes out as I claim (and I don't see how it couldn't) then I don't see how you can get around the fact the subjects have SOMETHING in common.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
they have the behaviour in common (none / 0) (#70)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:27:56 AM EST

That's all. It's theorising to then say that the reason for the behaviour is some abstract entity which is the referent of the word "art". That's what I'm saying. There is a certain kind of behaviour which includes using the word "art", but it's not the same as the kind of behaviour involved in everyday paradigmatic cases of speech.

The advantages of this interpretation over the theory which has "art" as an independently existing thing are twofold: first, the theory is robust; it still works fine if a person comes into the room who seems to know what the word means but makes perverse judgements, and second, it explains the fact that literally *no* progress has been made on the question of "What is art?" in the last five hundred years -- all the writing on the question should be interpreted as a kind of behaviour which is not the same as an attempt to answer the question.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I would categorize it as... (3.33 / 3) (#40)
by elenchos on Wed May 02, 2001 at 03:31:42 PM EST

...the kind of art know as bad art. Alongside Norman Rockwell's more slapdash magazine covers, or popular song lyrics generated by what appear to be mechanical means. The problem is self-indulgence and laziness, pasting together different versions of the same 3 or 5 characters in slightly varying circumstances whose purpose is a close race between transparent didacticism and pure wankish escapism. The only real hope for Heinlien is for the wanking to win: taken as nothing more than fun stories for 13-year-old boys to read with a flashlight under the covers at night, Heinlein is perfectly acceptable and appropriate. Not unlike The X-Men or cheescake of Bette Page.

The only time you need to become uncomfortable with Heinlein is when people over the age of 17 remain enfatuated with him, and when actual responsible adults start making serious claims about these little stories, it is time to reject him out of hand.

What bothers me personally is that it is always this particular B-grade genre hack that immature adults latch on to as their guru. Why not a little variety for once? Phillip K. Dick at least. Or even, dare I hope, stepping out of the sci-fi genre altogether and dittoing someone who will mix things up a little. Hunter S. Thompson, Gore Vidal, I don't know. Anybody: if they would just break the mold a little.

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have
[ Parent ]

Heinlein (5.00 / 3) (#64)
by sigwinch on Wed May 02, 2001 at 09:24:02 PM EST

I would categorize it as the kind of art know as bad art. Alongside Norman Rockwell's more slapdash magazine covers, or popular song lyrics generated by what appear to be mechanical means.
You probably think the velvet picture of Elvis hanging in my living room is bad too. Well, you can just go to hell. ;-)

I'm also happy that the Doc Smith stories are being reissued.

The problem is self-indulgence and laziness, pasting together different versions of the same 3 or 5 characters in slightly varying circumstances whose purpose is a close race between transparent didacticism and pure wankish escapism.
As to the repetition, Heinlein made a living as a writer. IIRC, his health was poor and writing was one of the few professions that wouldn't have killed him outright. Given that he had to consistently churn out stories or go bankrupt, what is remarkable is not the repetition, but the lack of it. (*cough* Piers Anthony *cough*)

As to the "wankish escapism", why does a story have to be full of angst-ridden interpersonal conflicts to be good? Why is an entertaining story about people doing amazing, heroic things so bad? Furthermore, not all Heinlein stories are happy-happy-feel-good-heroic-formulas, such as The Green Hills of Earth, or better yet, Podkayne of Mars.

The only time you need to become uncomfortable with Heinlein is when people over the age of 17 remain enfatuated with him, and when actual responsible adults start making serious claims about these little stories, it is time to reject him out of hand. What bothers me personally is that it is always this particular B-grade genre hack that immature adults latch on to as their guru.
Yeah, how dare they! I mean, responsible adults admiring the heroic and generally decent characters in Heinlein stories? *How* juvenile. One Hundred Years of Solitude, now there's some real guru material for you. Or actually thinking that men might conquer the Moon? Or the stars? What unrealistic idiots.
Why not a little variety for once? Phillip K. Dick at least.
You mean like the Complete Stories of Phillip K. Dick sitting in my bookcase (which I need to reread sometime)? Or Ray Bradbury. Or Ursula K. le Guin? Or Orson Scott Card? Or Harlan Ellison? Sure, they're great, but why does their existence make The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress a worse book?
Or even, dare I hope, stepping out of the sci-fi genre altogether and dittoing someone who will mix things up a little. Hunter S. Thompson, ...
Does watching the Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas movie count? Sadly, Thompson's written works are still on my very extensive list of "things to read when I get the time".
... Gore Vidal, I don't know. Anybody: if they would just break the mold a little.
Once upon a time, I was searching the university library for "computer viruses", and Live From Golgotha (by Gore Vidal) came up. I looked at the Lib. of Congress record, and it was listed under three categories: 1) computer viruses, 2) Jesus Christ, and 3) time travel. After I saw that, I just had to read it!

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Non-responsive, move to strike. (2.00 / 2) (#99)
by elenchos on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:04:57 PM EST

The straw man business about "why does a story have to be full of angst-ridden interpersonal conflicts to be good? Why is an entertaining story about people doing amazing, heroic things so bad?" is simply nonsense. That angst stuff you pulled from thin air, and I never criticized heroic fiction. I criticized cheap, sloppy heroic fiction meant for an unsophisticated, gullible and easily amused target readership. My criticism of Heinlien was about recycling the same characters and putting them into slight variations of the same well-worn plots, excessive didacticism and generally exhibiting the laziness of a second-rate hack writer who has bills to pay. Which is not a crime. It is just not admirable either.

The question is, why this hack? You are defending yourself against a different straw man by listing all the books you have read, as if having read a book says something about you. I've read Heinlein; that does not make me a follower of him. So by showing that you are aware of some of the larger world beyond these potboilers, it only begs the question: Why do so many people latch onto this guy and not some other equally loud and opinionated Kilgore Trout? Someone as obviously erudite as you ought to know, right? So?

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have
[ Parent ]

Why I like Heinlein (5.00 / 2) (#118)
by sigwinch on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:47:15 PM EST

That angst stuff you pulled from thin air, and I never criticized heroic fiction.
Sorry. I was just venting at the "sophistication above everything else" school of literary criticism. These people write off Heinlein (and most sf in general) because it's plainly written and entertaining.
You are defending yourself against a different straw man by listing all the books you have read, as if having read a book says something about you.
I was trying to make the point that, while I may be a Heinlein fanboy, it isn't because I've only read him and a few Star Wars novels. I've read and enjoyed a wide variety of other stories, and I still value Heinlein's contributions to literature.
Why do so many people latch onto this guy and not some other equally loud and opinionated Kilgore Trout?
Dunno about other people, but here's why I like Heinlein:

Heinlein's "hard/pure" science fiction aspect is usually well motivated and well executed. The first deadly sin that he avoids is that his science and technology are physically plausible and properly developed. When he uses fictional machines, they are described in enough detail to seem real, and are usually pretty well integrated into the story. Example: a Heinlein character would not escape from captors using a suddenly-introduced teleporter. He would steal a flying car, and when he got away, set the car's autopilot to lead the Evil Authorities on a wild goose chase. Lesser authors (e.g., most Star Trek novels) would just use a "magical" teleporter that suddenly rescues the protagonist, with no skill or guts or luck needed by the rescuee. As an engineer, I find that sort of deus ex machina resolution disappointing and unfullfilling, and Heinlein rarely resorts to it. When he does use it (e.g., the Martian mental powers in Stranger In A Strange Land), he first takes the time to thoroughly describe and motivate their use, and he also places practical limitations on the powers. I think this is one of the reasons so many technical people like Heinlein stories.

The second deadly sin of hard sf is describing technical stuff in excruciating detail. When some authors include an sf gimmick, they spend several paragraphs (or even pages!) describing *exactly* how the gimmick works. You get the feeling that they're about to burst out in equations. Heinlein mostly avoids this, especially in his later work. He takes the time to integrate the gimmick with the story, and he writes in plain, understandable language rather than descending into technobabble.

Heinlein was also quite inventive with his gimmicks. Examples: waterbeds (Stranger In A Strange Land), the dangers of nuclear power (The Green Hills Of Earth and another story whose name escapes me), rocketry and space travel in general, weaponry (powered armored suits in Starship Troopers), waldos (which take their name from his story Waldo), and many others. About the only technologies you can accuse him of overusing are flying cars and big, shiny rockets.

As an added bonus, the making of many of his technological gimmicks is a part of the story. Technology is a critical part of industrial societies, and Heinlein is one of the few authors to write about how and why engineers do their work. Even most science fiction authors resort to handwaving and/or "magical" development when telling how idea X got turned into machine Y.

One of Heinlein's faults is the recycling of character types. There are only about half a dozen different character types in all his work. At least most of the characters are likeable or at least respectable. Heinlein did not subject his readers to an endless parade of squalid or obnoxious characters just for the titillation value. I get the feeling that, except for the odd nuclear explosion or revolution, his characters would make nice neighbors.

His plot structures, too, tend to be of a couple of varieties, such as the favorite 1) ordinary man is 2) suddenly thrust into an extraordinary situation by 3) events outside his control, but he manages to 4) overcome it by a combination of 5) personal strength and 6) ethical behavior, and 7) returns home a hero. This gets somewhat tiresome, especially if you're reading several of his books back to back. (Although most authors are tiresome if you do that.) At least Heinlein didn't slavishly follow a single form: it may be transparently obvious that the protagonist is about to be hauled across the galaxy on a rocket ship, but it's usually different circumstance that precipitate the adventure, and the actual adventure itself is unique.

One area where Heinlein had versimilitude was the setting, especially the societies. I particularly like how he explores other possible societies. Examples: Slavery in several stories. Military culture and franchise in Starship Troopers. Repression and revolution in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and Revolt in 2100. (And additionally religion-based gov't. in the latter.) Genetic manipulation in Friday. Nudity and other social mores in many stories.

Of course, this is also where he is preachiest and most didactic, but I can partially forgive that because the issues are important to the future of the human race and he doesn't cop out like most authors do. As an example, most authors just raise a question like "Is slavery bad?" and all they can think of is "Why, yes, it is bad. Very bad." No shit -- I had to read your book to find out that? If they had any solution at all, it would be some sort of magical hero who shows up and frees all the slaves (Spartacus, Annakin Skywalker, whatever). Heinlein would plainly and simply show why it's bad without belaboring the obvious, show the conditions under which it is likely to occur, show how a few of the obvious solutions are useless or counterproductive, and show one way of working towards a solution, which solution usually means acting in an ethical but pragmatic way given the prevailing circumstances. Heinlein also rarely treats the antagonists as pure ravening evil -- he shows what drives them from their point of view and evokes pity and perhaps even sympathy. This doesn't make for the most readable stories, of course, but I think it's interesting and thought provoking, and it's a hell of a lot more useful than the good vs. evil approach. Another thing to consider is that Heinlein rarely wrote giant 700 page books, and one paragraph of preaching can illustrate a point that would take dozens of otherwise superfluous pages of story.

I also like the way Heinlein treats non-human life forms and intelligences: they are portrayed with understanding and comprehension. Too many stories treat non-humans as simple forces of nature. He examines even dangerous threats to the human race (the Martians in Stranger and the alien invaders in Puppet Masters) from their own point of view, and doesn't just treat them as ravening bug-eyed monsters to be annhilated.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

re: types of characters (none / 0) (#130)
by Rainy on Sun May 06, 2001 at 07:28:29 PM EST

I think there's only 2 of them in heinlein works: (a) a teenager who Doesn't Know How Things Work (yet) and (b) A grown man who Knows How Things Work. Sure, that's not really diverse, but H. makes up for it with how well these types are done (and varied) and mastery of pacing, imagination, originality. He's not bad.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
A couple things... (none / 0) (#133)
by elenchos on Sun May 06, 2001 at 10:04:45 PM EST

If you just like something, there is nothing wrong with that, and, incidentally, nothing much to discuss. But if you are going to dispute my claim that Heinlein is bad art, it is something different. You haven't said you disagree with my partial definition of good art, and have instead responded by pointing out this author's good qualities as you see them.

Even if this short list of good qualities were acceptable, I'm not so sure they would be enough to raise his work to the same level as the hundreds of authors whose work is so much more successful in so many more ways. If what you are arguing is that RAH is one of the very best sci-fi genre writers, alongside Asimov, Herbert, Niven... sure, I'd buy that. I don't think there is any good art to speak of in there, just some books that are fun to read. But porn is fun and books of jokes are fun, but that isn't sufficient to start saying that this meets a decent definition of good art. If it does, then an absurd number of other works, like TV sitcoms or issues of Cosmopolitan magazine will also be called good art. Where does that leave you?

And then there are your items that make Heinlein good. Let's look at a few of them.

We know Heinlein only has a handful of characters he uses over and over. "Heinlein did not subject his readers to an endless parade of squalid or obnoxious characters just for the titillation value." That is one nice way of putting it, but a truly great author would have given us portraits of original and unique human beings who will make an impression on us and make us think we have seen a facet of humanity that we didn't know existed. Sure, likeable characters are nice, but network TV can manage to put up likeable characters. But if they all come from Central Casting and are made of cardboard, we refrain from saying the writer is a good artist.

We have a similar kind of attempt to have it both ways on the subject of plausibility. On the one hand you say he doesn't use deus ex machina to make his extraordinary events happen, and that his technology is plausible. Yet you immediately bring up the most glaring counterexample: Stranger in a Strange Land. The out of body experiences, psychic powers and gross violations of the laws of thermodynamics that he describes are not made plausible in any way. "Motivates?" Well, yes we know why he wants this stuff to happen in his plot, but he justifies it with hand waving. Which is actually OK: all kinds of authors get away with it. But it is just one of many examples (Job, all that time travel in his later potboilers) of Heinlein giving a plausible technical justification if he has one handy, and of not bothering to do so if he doesn't. All told, the best we can say is that some of the time he is more plausible than the typical sci-fi genre writer.

Other contradictions? Well the preachyness. He is totally unrestrained, left to his own devices. The pages and pages of boring and uncalled for speeches are the weakest part of almost everything he does. Have you seen the new version of Stranger in a Strange Land that came out a couple years ago? Talk about your overweight magnum opus! The first published version had hundreds of pages of material very wisely cut out by Heinlein's editors. What was cut? Political harangues. So we can presume that the only thing that made 700 page tomes "rare" was the power his editors had over him. In Heinlein's opinion, that stuff should have stayed in! Hardly a master, of anything.

Then there is the gratuitous sex added for entertainment value, I guess, but then spoiled by the weirdly clinical and cold language and tone he takes when things get sexy. What is up with that? People want books with fucking in them, or no fucking in them, but who wants to read Heinlein making sex into some kind of mechanistic bodily function with neither physical passion nor emotional power? Ick.

There is quite a bit of this contradiction, both in Heinlein himself, and in your apologetics for his work. I actually find his stories kind of fun, especially the earlier ones. But because you find some books fun to read is no reason to start putting him in a league that they aren't qualified to be in.

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have
[ Parent ]

More on Heinlein (none / 0) (#135)
by sigwinch on Mon May 07, 2001 at 04:50:54 AM EST

(BTW, I've enjoyed this discussion.)
You haven't said you disagree with my partial definition of good art, and have instead responded by pointing out this author's good qualities as you see them.
I've been thinking about Heinlein, and before I go any further, I want to divide his stuff into two classes: Lazarus Longish (LL)stories, and non-Lazarus Longish (NLL) stories. LL stories includes things like Friday, The Number of the Beast, Time Enough For Love, all the stories that have soft porn elements, any story over 400 pages, and so forth. The more I think about it, the more I have to agree with you about the LL stories: preachy, artless sex, and rambling. In these stories, he was trying to branch out beyond his abilities and not learning rapidly enough from his mistakes.
On the one hand you say he doesn't use deus ex machina to make his extraordinary events happen, and that his technology is plausible. Yet you immediately bring up the most glaring counterexample: Stranger in a Strange Land. The out of body experiences, psychic powers and gross violations of the laws of thermodynamics that he describes are not made plausible in any way.
That aspect of Stranger is actually vintage Heinlein: break some rule (or rules) and follow the breakage to its logical conclusion. It isn't just a "nomenclature device" used to advance the plot (e.g., the Quantum II FTL drive in Niven's stories). Instead the Martian powers are integral: the characters are skeptical of the powers, investigate them, and gradually wrap their minds around the alien concepts. The confrontation with alienness isn't confined to the parlor tricks either: the Martian ethics and value system are very unhuman and the characters are made to painfully confront it. Moreover, Heinlein does this with the unconventional method of dropping a single Martian into a human society. This is a refreshing change from the conventional cliche of dropping a small number of humans into an alien society, where (surprise, surprise) they experience culture shock. Offhand, I can't think of any other alien contact stories handle this way.

Of course, the above artfullness is spoiled by the preachy Jubal Harshaw character. (Remember, this falls in my LL category, so there has to be a Lazarus Long figure.) And if you mention the "uncut" Stranger, I'll put my fingers in my ears and yell "nah! nah! nah!" As for Heinlein's sex: ick! There are anime fanfics that do it better, and I don't mean a little bit better.

On the other hand, if da Vinci had written comic books in his dotage, it would be wrong to say "da Vincis are bad art". We have to look at the works separately.

So let us look at some of the early "NLL" stories. These are the ones I love the most and which make me recommend Heinlein. In these, Heinlein wasn't trying to explore social themes on an epic scale, just to write good sf stories. There's "Blowups Happen", a great example of technological suspense, and also a good example of hard science fiction that used specific technologies by name *and* aged rather well. Another good one is "The Roads Must Roll": fast paced, interesting social situation, excellent development of the fictional technology, and tightly written.

Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps" is moderately good for the suspense/mystery aspect, and has possibly the best development of the time travel paradox I've ever read. The basic premise (spoiler alert) is that a man is transported into the distant future by a mysterious person. Once there, he finds a time travel/viewing machine and gradually comes to realize that it was himself, in the future, who transported himself from the past to start with. Heinlein pulls of the gimmick perfectly, and I think every author should be forced to understand this story before they are allowed to use time travel.

For sheer phildickian whimsy, there's "Our Fair City", featuring a whirlwind as one of the central characters. I don't know if this is art, but it's odd and charming. "--And He Built a Crooked House--" is also rather whimsical, about a crazy architect who designs a house with seven rooms and an odd floor plan that collapses along the fourth dimension during an earthquake. Its flagrant disregard for the laws of geometry is hilarious, and although brief it has one of the better descriptions of strange space-time geometries I've read.

Time For The Stars explores the social and emotional effects of time dilation and the twin paradox. It has some of Heinlein's best action scenes, and a lovely bittersweet ending.

Finally, there's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Great adventure, great hard science fiction, a convincing portrayal of a complex fictional culture, an interesting look at what it takes to run a successful revolution, and a realistic portrayal of a machine intelligence. Moreover, although the story is complex, it is a short, tightly-written book by any standards (and compared to the LL stories, it's Cliffs Notes). I think Mistress is Heinlein's masterpiece.

So there are some examples of Heinlein stories that I think are Good Art: they are well written, entertaining to read, and where they use gimmicks, the gimmicks are unique and inventive. Heinlein wrote a lot, and had the guts to stretch his abilities to longer, more ambitious works, and it's inaccurate to call him crap on the basis of his disasters (especially since the "disasters" actually sell better and you have to dig through used book stores to find the gems).

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

"Bad" art? (none / 0) (#111)
by sec on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:11:35 PM EST

What exactly is "bad" art, anyway?

Is it art that you don't like?

Is it art which espouses a message or a philosophy that you don't agree with?

What is it, then?

What's wrong with escapism, anyway?

If you say that he's a B-grade hack, does that mean that he really is? What if someone else says that he's a genius?

Have you ever remotely considered the possibility that some people may consider him a guru because he has some worthwhile things to say?

Am I asking too many questions? :)



[ Parent ]

Some answers. (none / 0) (#115)
by elenchos on Thu May 03, 2001 at 08:39:15 PM EST

Bad art is generally a failure. It tries to do something, but because of the limitations of the artist, perhaps lack of talent, or laziness, or his wife, or the government, or God, or whatever, it doesn't work. Heinlien fails in many ways. Pretending that the story at hand is just an escapist romp, and then indulging in a ten page harrangue on free enterprise just doesn't work that well. If the goal is to convince people to believe in his theories, some realistic evidence would help. When you see the same characters coming back again and again, and being just as urealistic with each iteration, you become incredulus. Well, you do if you are an adult; adolescent boys seem to have no problem with it. The confusing part is why this one small group of fanatics continues to find this stuff credible. What is it that makes them buy into Heinlein years after they should have learned better? I have my theories on this, but they are not very nice.

Heinlein does other things poorly as well, but I don't have all day.

Paradise Lost is great art, yet it espouses a message that I disagree with in ways to numerous for me to name. I disagree with it in its general sense, its spirit, and in its individual details. So I guess the fact that I disagree with it doesn't make it bad art by any means at all.

What criticism of escapism are you referring to?

If someone else wants to call him a genius, I would probably scoff, and request evidence of his genius. As long as the only evidence of talent I can see in his work is equivalent to what I see in a painting of some dogs playing cards, I will stand by my judgement that it is bad art. Sure, everyone is entitled to have an opinion, but that doesn't prevent them from having an opinion that is wrong.

Perhaps you find worthiwhile ideas in his writings. You find worthwhile ideas in Stephen King books too, I would imagine, but how come Stephen King is not a guru and Heinlien is? Why aren't there John Grisham fanatics like there are RAH fanatics? If your standards are that low, I would think you would follow just about any body.

So you tell me. If Heinlein is your guy, tell me what makes him a successful artist. Give me an example of something that he did so well that it just knocked your socks of, took your breath away and left you speechless and stunned. Any decent work of art ought to be able to do that, or why even bother with it?

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have
[ Parent ]

Et tu. (none / 0) (#119)
by sec on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:58:09 PM EST

If someone else wants to call him a genius, I would probably scoff, and request evidence of his genius.

Personally, I think your position would have a lot more credibility if you provided a little evidence yourself. You state your preferences, you make assertions, and you insult people who think differently from you, but you never once justify your position.

Give me an example of something that he did so well that it just knocked your socks of, took your breath away and left you speechless and stunned. Any decent work of art ought to be able to do that, or why even bother with it?

If that's what a _decent_ work of art should do, then what is a truly great work of art supposed to do?



[ Parent ]

Great art should do something like this: (none / 0) (#121)
by elenchos on Fri May 04, 2001 at 01:44:31 AM EST

"If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?"
--Emily Dickinson, 1862

Heinlein doesn't make you feel like that? Then stop wasting your time with him. Life is too short, and you would have to live to be 300 just to read everything of the same caliber as Emily Dickinson. To read everything from her level all the way down to RAH you would need 1000 years, and since Heinlein's superhuman lifespans are still nothing but wankish vaporware, I just don't see a reason to continue diddling with him.

What evidence do you want? You want a complete list of all the different ways that Heinlein's characters are unrealistic stock figures straight out of central casting? An full enumeration of his canned plot devices? God, that would get ugly; it would look like a slaughterhouse. Instead would you rather hear a list of reasons why RAH isn't good enough to kiss the feet of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Vladmir Nabokov? Even Robert Pirsig kicks his ass, if you only want to compare him to didactic novelists. You want all the bloody, painful details?

Is that a productive way to spend our time? Instead, go read something good. Something really good. Henry James or Somerset Maugham or Jorge Borges, or perhaps Joseph Conrad, if what you want is escapist adventure.

And whatever you do, pick a better guru.

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have
[ Parent ]

What I'd like... (none / 0) (#122)
by sec on Fri May 04, 2001 at 02:58:53 AM EST

Heinlein doesn't make you feel like that? Then stop wasting your time with him.

_I_ will decide what I'll spend the few miserable decades I've been allotted on this earth doing, thank you very much. Why exactly I'd want to feel like I'm in a meat locker or like I've been trepanned, I'm not quite sure anyway.

You want all the bloody, painful details?

If, as your previous posts indicate, you aren't going to offer anything but insults, assertions, and elitism, then no. If, on the other hand, you can formulate an objective, well reasoned argument, then go ahead.

Note that your original assertion was that people who like Heinlein are puerile. I don't care how many better authors that Heinlein you can find, it simply doesn't prove that assertion.

And whatever you do, pick a better guru.

Who said that Heinlein was my guru? Certainly not me. I don't believe in gurus.

What I was doing was defending the man from an attack from someone who, from all outward appearances, appears to be an elitist asshole.



[ Parent ]

Unlike RAH. That's pretty good. : ) (1.00 / 1) (#126)
by elenchos on Fri May 04, 2001 at 04:47:02 AM EST

I bet if I cranked out a few elitist books and filled them with asshole rhetoric, prurient, yet jarringly clinical sex talk, and some generic space opera, then you wouldn't be saying that about me. If I were an elitist asshole sci-fi author, then you'd have been defending me all day long, and keep at it into tomorrow. Even if every author ever were better than me you would still be hanging on. Damn, now that is loyalty. If Heinlein were smart like L. Ron Hubbard he would have started a religion and really taken it to the bank.

So be it. You say I'm an elitist asshole. Fine.

...Oh, I almost forgot:

YHL. HAND.

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have
[ Parent ]

Fans (none / 0) (#123)
by inpHilltr8r on Fri May 04, 2001 at 03:13:24 AM EST

> Why aren't there John Grisham fanatics like there are RAH fanatics?

There are, and I've met (IRL) more of them than Heinlein fanatics. Heck, I'm the closest I know personally to a Heinlein fanatic, and I quit reading his stuff a decade or so ago. Number of the Beast, just say no kids.

Starship Troopers rocked when I was 13 though.

But then so did Lensman (although in my defense, I did know it was pulp)

[ Parent ]
Um.. (none / 0) (#129)
by Rainy on Sun May 06, 2001 at 07:18:42 PM EST

I personally read (and like) Heinlein, Dostoevsky, Salinger, Markes, Thompson and so on. Needless to say, I emphatically disagree with labeling Heinlein as mindless entertainment.. it *is* entertainment, but it ain't mindless. He was out to entertain, to pay his own bills, *but* there is more to his works. May I hypothesize that you simply don't like his style?
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
Where do I say "mindless entertainment?" (1.00 / 1) (#134)
by elenchos on Mon May 07, 2001 at 01:27:32 AM EST

No matter what the quality of the other books you read, they are not capable of increasing the quality of the Heinlein books you read. The RAH books are the same as ever for your having read Catcher in the Rye. Good to see they are still assigning that, by the way.

I suppose that wankish escapism can also be described as not mindless, so I don't think there is anything to debate there. There is the question of whether the jerking-off aspect is submerged in the endless speculative political diatribes. Maybe that is a style issue. It is the style of Heinlein to stop whatever was happening in the story, and go off uncontrollably for half a dozen, a dozen, or even more pages in order to argue some imagined truth about human nature or government or something. For other authors, it is not their style to do that. To each his own.

Is having one basic protagonist character type, with six slight variations on it also a style thing? I am more a fan of the style of writing in which there are more unique defining characteristics to human beings. The style where there are more different kinds of people than can be described on the back of a cocktail napkin.

Then there are those authors whose style is that if they write 20 or so novels, they will use more than one plot in them. I'm just one of those who is unhappy with the one-plot-twenty-books style.

Seriously. Do you think Heinlien's best book is even close to being in the same league as a serious work of art? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is more in those books and I haven't seen it. By all means, tell me what it is that I missed.

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have
[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#136)
by Rainy on Tue May 08, 2001 at 12:07:58 AM EST

B-grade genre hack, you said. Is that not equivalent to mindless entertainment?
No matter what the quality of the other books you read, they are not capable of increasing the quality of the Heinlein books you read. The RAH books are the same as ever for your having read Catcher in the Rye. Good to see they are still assigning that, by the way.
Oh, but you seemed to imply that Heinlein fans in general don't read any 'quality' literature. Oh, and nobody assigned Catcher in the rye, I read it myself. You seem to be either ignorant about Heinlein works and arrogant enough to assume that nobody who likes Heinlein could have read Catcher on his own.
It is the style of Heinlein to stop whatever was happening in the story, and go off uncontrollably for half a dozen, a dozen, or even more pages in order to argue some imagined truth about human nature or government or something. For other authors, it is not their style to do that. To each his own.
Doing this sort of commentary interspersed in the main plot is quite common. In particular, Dickens has alot of that, (I can readily recall commentary on public courts in David Copperfield) and Iskander, to name just two. And that 'imagined truths' really gives it away - you hate his guts, don't you? Anyhoo, to me Heinleins views on human nature, government and so on are very interesting, to say the least. More than a few people share my opinion.
Is having one basic protagonist character type, with six slight variations on it also a style thing? I am more a fan of the style of writing in which there are more unique defining characteristics to human beings. The style where there are more different kinds of people than can be described on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Yeah, Heinlein isn't very diverse with protagonists (he's got 2 types, really). That's unfortunate, but more than compensated by great pacing, inventive imagination, the way he avoids naivete and yet remains optimistic, unique and original societies. Nobody is without a flaw. Heinlein wrote dozens of great books and several not-so-great. Perhaps the problem is that you hit onto one or two of these later not-so-greate ones, and that turned you off his stuff completely (I know that *would* happen to me if I tried 'number of the beast' or 'cat that walked through walls' first!).
Then there are those authors whose style is that if they write 20 or so novels, they will use more than one plot in them. I'm just one of those who is unhappy with the one-plot-twenty-books style.
You're gonna have to back that up. How is 'galaxy citizen's plot is the same as 'ST's or 'Moon's or 'have spacesuit will travel'? Now don't be a damn coward and answer that!
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
heinyland (2.33 / 3) (#48)
by eLuddite on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:28:58 PM EST

What do you mean? There isnt a single Heinlein work that cannot effortlessly be adapted for midnight soft porn cable. Surely if that werent art g**ks would be without culture, a contradiction in logic.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Oh? (none / 0) (#131)
by Rainy on Sun May 06, 2001 at 07:33:36 PM EST

Well, I guess for a really really lax definition of 'adapted' (and even then excluding all juveniles, that make up more than half of his works). I don't see how revolution in _Moon_ or 'survival is the morality above the level of individual' thing in _ST_ fits in, either.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
[ Parent ]
What ISN'T art? (3.50 / 2) (#4)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:45:31 PM EST

Looking at this from a purely logical standpoint, the best way to disprove something is artistic is to first prove that not everything is art.

Since art cannot be truly defined (and thus, cannot be disproved), One can conclude, everything is art.

I challenge you all to come up with a counterexample.

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Easy (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:52:58 PM EST

Assuming you don't believe in God: The Moon. Or any other natural body, feature or creature.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
proves nothing (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:00:38 PM EST

the moon is not art? This is assuming art must be manmade, and i made no assumption of that.

Let us make this simple statement: Everything that exists, is art.

Reciprocally, everything that is art, exists. This of course, is easily proven using common sense.

To disprove the first statement, you would have to prove to show an example of something that exists, but is not art. Thus, you would have to qualify what art is, and what art is not.

"Beliefs" have little to do with it, as we are working with logic here. I could believe I could fly, but that would be easily disproven by jumping off a cliff.

As such, I challenge you to define art with a definition itself that cannot be refuted with a counterexample. Otherwise, the first statement holds. Everything is art

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[ Parent ]

embarrassing for you (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:16:35 PM EST

As such, I challenge you to define art with a definition itself that cannot be refuted with a counterexample. Otherwise, the first statement holds. Everything is art

Dear me. How would you propose to argue against a contrary bugger like me who decided to form the opinion:

Nothing is art.
?

I await your counterexample of something which both exists and is art, with the term "art", of course, suitably defined.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

illogical statement (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:26:38 PM EST

I suggest you learn something about logic. One of the first rules: You must disprove something to disprove it, using logic, not opinions. Though your statement does actually strengthen mine due to a concept known as Reductio Ad Absurdum (yes, it's real).

Just stating a contrary statement formed as an opinion means nothing.

Ie, i say "If my name is craig, then my name is craig". You cannot disprove this by saying "my name is bob and i dont believe your name is craig".

Opinions/beliefs have little to do with this. You must LOGICALLY provide a counterexample.

In any case, i can indeed disprove "Nothing is art". Since you have failed to disprove "everything is art", then we can still hold that as being true. I do not need to define art, because by rules of logic, we can hold "everything is art" to be true, because you did not disprove it. And since "everything is art" is true, "nothing is art" is false.

Stating a contrary statement is not disproof. The burden is upon you, to develop a counterexample to "everything is art".

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[ Parent ]

That's not going to work (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:33:18 PM EST

streetlawyer isn't just saying "nuh-uh" when he says "Nothing is art." He's just making a sample opposite claim from yours to demonstrate that it is equally logically supportable. And if two contradictory claims are equally supportable the likelihood of either having any meaning is negligible.

Furthermore, it is up to YOU to provide proof FOR your claim that "Everything is art", not for us to DISprove it.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
incorrect. (2.00 / 2) (#29)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:38:08 PM EST

To disprove "nothing is art", i'll use RAA which means i'll state the opposite of the statement, and try to prove that. If I can prove the opposite, then the first statement is disproved.

The opposite, is of course, "Everything is art". I am unable to disprove this, however, thus everything is art can hold true. Thus, since this is true, the original statement "nothing is art" is false.

The key concept here is: if you cannot disprove it, it is true. It's a common concept in the field of logic.

And that is one of the most difficult problems of logic today, is disproving things.

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[ Parent ]

I hope you're not taking any exams (none / 0) (#34)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:48:52 PM EST

What you have done is not the method of reductio ad absurdum, but rather the fallacy of affirming the consequent of a conditional statement. I blame the fact that nobody teaches the bloody subject with tableaux any more.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
logic and such (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by Delirium on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:48:52 PM EST

I'm unclear as to why everything in your example cannot be reversed:

"To disprove 'everything is art' I'll state the opposite, which is of course 'nothing is art.' I am unable to disprove this, however, thus 'nothing is art' can hold true. Thus, since this is true, the original statement 'everything is art' is false."

The point being of course that neither of these contradictory statements can be either proven or disproven, and thus nothing can be said about the veracity of either without some other justification being offered.

I also disagree with the "if you cannot disprove it, it is true." If you cannot disprove it you cannot hold it to be false, and for the sake of argument you may assume it is true as one of the premises of an argument based on it, but that premise is still open to dispute, especially if another contradictory premise is an equally plausible assumption.

The same sort of questions are central to philosophical theological debate - neither the claim "God exists" nor the claim "God does not exist" can be proven. This does not mean, however, that "God exists" is a true statement merely because we cannot disprove it.

As for reductio ad absurdum, I thought that was a technique for showing the absurdity of an argument by taking it to its logical extreme (for example, anti-abortionists often criticize pro-abortion arguments based on the idea that fetuses are not "moral agents" by showing that these arguments necessarily imply that killing 1-year-olds is also acceptable, since they are not "moral agents" either. Since this is a clearly absurd moral standpoint to most people, it shows that the argument from which the conclusions were drawn is equally absurd).

[ Parent ]

nah.. (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 05:44:59 PM EST

reductio ad absurdum is about taking opposites and deriving things from it. That's a simplified way of putting it, but more or less right. All of this becomes much clearer after taking a good logic course. And as ive shown, now several times, it's much easier to disprove "nothing is art" since one does not need to define art to do it.

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[ Parent ]

terminology and proofs (none / 0) (#58)
by Delirium on Wed May 02, 2001 at 08:01:19 PM EST

Hmm, from a quick perusal of the dictionary and Encyclopaedia Britannica it appears that both definitions are correct. The phrase is simply Latin for "reduction to absurdity," which can be applied to both cases. In the one case you're pursuing an argument to its absurd extremes, and in the other case you're showing an absurdity that arises if you assume your argument to be false (if you show an impossibility that arises if your argument is assumed to be false, that's commonly known as a "proof by contradiction," or reductio ad impossibile [according to Britannica]).

So anyway I retract my correction of your terminology, but stand by my claim that you fail to actually prove either statement, since there is nothing patently false or absurd about the contradicting statement (for the same reasons you cannot prove either "God exists" or "God does not exist" with this method - neither statement is clearly absurd and thus neither can by contradiction prove the other one).

[ Parent ]

defintion (none / 0) (#63)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 09:23:22 PM EST

*whips out handy copy of Logic, Sets and Recursion* My professor wrote this cursed book.

Reductio Ad Absurdum

Let the desired conclusion be "w" and the original premises be "R". Create a new premise to add "not w" as a new premise. Now use this expanded set of premises to derive (if possible) any contradiction (a sentence and its negation) from R union {not w}.

In other words, use the opposite of the original statement and try to prove it.

Substitute "R" and "w" with greek characters Gamma and Psi.

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[ Parent ]

Maybe a Rubik's cube would be a better idea. (5.00 / 2) (#92)
by pulp on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:56:18 AM EST

Jesus. Reb, where, in this entire goddam argument, have you established R? You have no explicit set of premises to which "Everything is art" can be conjunct.

Further, assuming you had (or proceed to state) a set of premises, you *do* understand that you must produce a logical contradiction from the conjunction of "Nothing is art" and your premises to be able to claim RAA? You cannot merely "fail to prove" that Nothing is art and call that victory.

All of this, of course, depending on your capacity to produces a set of premises with which folks can agree.

And, hey, what's with the previous argument you made that (paraphrasing) "Disproving that Nothing is art is easy, since it doesn't depend on a definition of 'art'"? Would you mind going into a little detail there?

+----------+ +--+ + - On the other hand, you have different fingers. +----------+ +--+ + -
[ Parent ]
I see (3.50 / 2) (#78)
by cp on Thu May 03, 2001 at 04:13:30 AM EST

The key concept here is: if you cannot disprove it, it is true.
Such analysis would sure go a long way towards resolving religious/secular squabbles about Divine existence or non-existence, if it weren't for the small matter of being a crock of shit.

A disinterested observer might even suspect you've never met a paradox.

[ Parent ]

You are kidding, right? (none / 0) (#106)
by marlowe on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:28:54 PM EST

Just checking. There are people out there so stupid that they actually reason this way.


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
fun and games (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:40:54 PM EST

Strange, that's what they suggested at the beginning of my three year course in philosophical logic :-) Where they taught me all about reductio arguments, which are not used in the way you seem to think they are

Proceeding in the same general manner for fun ...

Just stating a contrary statement formed as an opinion means nothing

True, but just stating an affirmative statement formed as an opinion means nothing too, and AFAICT, that's what you did.Since you have failed to disprove "everything is art", then we can still hold that as being true. I do not need to define art, because by rules of logic, we can hold "everything is art" to be true, because you did not disprove it.

Perhaps so; but if I'd reached this thread first, I could have said "Nothing is art" first. Then you wouldn't have been able to disprove *that*, and it would have been true that nothing was art, by these rules of logic which bear a family resemblance to the ones I once learned.

Now we seem to be in a position that the question of whether nothing is art or everything is art depends on who happened to push "refresh" on the K5 story queue at a particular moment. Which will never do; we can't have important things like art depending on trivial things like that.

So far, all I've proved is that we're as stupid as each other, you and me. But subtle analysts of the game may detect that I'm establishing a slight advantage.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

i disagree (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:44:16 PM EST

read my reponse to DesiredUsername which states a disproof of "nothing is art", which is not dependent on "who got there first".

It does use "everything is art", but only because "everything is art" is the exact opposite of "nothing is art", rather than my statement before.

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[ Parent ]

what on earth (5.00 / 2) (#7)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:56:20 PM EST

is the use of a word that applies to literally "everything"? We already have plenty of those. And furthermore, how can you possibly assign any sort of moral, political or aesthetic importance to "art" if it is literally impossible for anything not to be art?

In any case, it's not the case that art cannot be "truly defined". It's pure mathemachismo to claim that if you can't come up with an algorithmic method for sorting the world into N and not-N, then N has no meaning. The fact that we manage to discuss art at all suggests that we have enough of a common concept to get language off the ground, and if you expect anything more in the way of "true definition" from the behaviour of a particular species of terrestrial primate, then you're quite simply asking for too much.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Values greater than 0. (none / 0) (#18)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:17:52 PM EST

You can assign importance to anything.

For example, the statement "everything that exists, exists" is obviously true. You can assign higher values of importance to THINGS and IDEAS can you not? Of course "importance" is entirely subjective depending on the person you ask.

In the case of art, we are not debating the importance of art. We are debating what is, and what is not, art. In other words, the classification of an object (or idea..anything that can exist) as "art", which is synonomous to the existence of something as art.

Let's define "thing" as object, idea, concept and so on. Thus "everything" would be..everything, "something" would be some (perhaps all) and so on.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

no you can't (none / 0) (#19)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:22:15 PM EST

Unfortunately for your argument, the one thing you can't assign importance to is "the set of everything which exists". Importance is a relation between objects; having some things be important necessitates that other things are less important. If the first place in your relation is occupied by "everything", then you've got nothing left for your second place. Unless you are in the habit of going around saying things like "Everything is more important than nothing", in which case, I suppose, good luck.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
it depends on how your set is defined. (none / 0) (#25)
by rebelcool on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:32:41 PM EST

Let us assume that the set of everything is comprised of pairs, the first element of the pair being the "thing", the second being the "importance". Let us make importance a number greater than zero. An importance of zero would mean that the thing did not exist, and thus wouldnt be in this set anyway.

While you could define a greater-than relation for the importance of these things, it wouldn't matter to the concept that everything that exists, exists in the set. The numeric value of "importance" is inconsequential.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

the set of everything has a precise df. (3.00 / 2) (#73)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:35:19 AM EST

Let us assume that the set of everything is comprised of pairs

Let's not, because that would be wrong. One of the things we know about the set of everything is that it isn't a set of ordered pairs.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

but... (none / 0) (#94)
by rebelcool on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:07:08 AM EST

if you wanted to associate 'importance' with all the things, one could easily introduce ordered pairs with it. That would be a sensible way to represent importance with things.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

but then it wouldn't be the set of everything (3.00 / 2) (#95)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:15:36 AM EST

If you can pair off the members of your set of everything with "importance", then you've created another thing (the ordered pair) which has to go into your set. And then *this* member has to have a pair, which creates another thing to go into the set and so on.

One of the very definite things we know about the set of everything there is, is that its members can't be paired off with anything else.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Monsieur Duchamp! (none / 0) (#83)
by Tezcatlipoca on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:24:51 AM EST

I did not know you frequented k5! I know some script kiddies still think code is art, but what the heck, they have seen too much of your work, so it must be all your fault. But at least you made an artistic statement that allowed all of us to become artist of sorts, in the other hand script kiddies only passed their obfuscated code through a beautifier...

Now people, smile please.



Might is right
Freedom? Which freedom?
[ Parent ]

Not a bicycle! (none / 0) (#110)
by lahvak on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:00:06 PM EST

Not a sewing machine!

[ Parent ]
Quality of art. (4.33 / 3) (#8)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 02, 2001 at 01:58:21 PM EST

Are those things art? Of course!

Are they good art? Are they offensive art? Well, that's an entirely different question.

Just because it is "art" doesn't mean that it isn't complete and utter anti-social crap.

But one of the big problems that artists have is that clueless fools often can't tell the difference between the opinions of the artist and the opinions expressed by characters in the art. This is not to say that some artists don't have vile opinions, but there it is...

Heaven help the poor fool who tries to write a satirical novel. People have a tendency to take it seriously.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Taking foolishness seriously... (5.00 / 2) (#38)
by MarkCC on Wed May 02, 2001 at 03:06:27 PM EST

I'm taking off on the last line of the previous message, but it's so frighteningly true...

I work in a lab where nearly everyone in the building has a PhD in computer science. We're not dealing with average folks here - the people here are very, very far above average intelligence.

Several months ago, on the wall outside my office, I hung an article from the Onion about Harry Potter promoting Satanism. It was written in the Onion's typical style, which is deliberately obviously silly. And it include a picture of three kids in cheap halloween witch suits, with the words "Avadra Kedavra" written in dripping red paint on the wall behind them.

I thought this was a hysterical article. And the majority of people who saw it also thought it was funny. But I had several visits from people who were outraged at it, who thought that it was serious, and that I was seriously working to have the Harry Potter books banned for promoting Satanism.

It was an incredibly depressing experience. Even very smart people in America have a tendency to be total idiots who wouldn't recognize a satire if it hit them in the head.

[ Parent ]

Well.... (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by Ken Arromdee on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:17:21 AM EST

There are segments of our society who really *would* try to ban the Harry Potter books for promoting satanism. The Harry Potter article is too close to what some of those groups have been saying to be easily recognizeable as satire. Just because the article is ludicrous doesn't mean anything--these groups have said plenty of ludicrous things.

In fact, real book-banners have gotten hold of the Onion article and are using it to try to ban the books. See here.

[ Parent ]

Quality vs. Character (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by Devil Ducky on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:08:02 PM EST

To further demonstrate the difference between what the artist says and what the artist is:

Vincent VanGogh, a raving lunatic who cut off his own ear, may have murdered a landlord, and basically lived in a world only shared by the insane and hardcore drug addicts; painted pretty pictures invloving flowers and landscapes.
"Eminem" "raps" about killing his wife, having sex with his mother, hating/killing homosexuals, and other "bad-boy" things; is just a blowhard, faking his way to a better selling image.

Would you know about VanGogh had he not cut off his ear? Would you know about Eminem if he wasn't an asshole?

Devil Ducky

Immune to the Forces of Duct Tape
Day trading at it's Funnest
[ Parent ]
a small plea on behalf of logical consistency (3.14 / 7) (#11)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:06:38 PM EST

The main argument here appears to be:

"You say that pop music isn't art. But you can't say that. Some people think it is art. Who are you to say they are wrong?"

I have to point out that the contrary is equally valid: I say that Eminem isn't art, and since that is my personal artistic judgement, nobody is able to prove me wrong.

Which leads you to think, there must be something wrong with the way the question is posed.

In fact, the first mistake has been made before the question is posed. We assume that "art" is a type of thing, and then set out to ask what type of thing. But we really have no basis for assuming this other than the structure of the English language, which is a pretty poor reason to believe anything.

In fact, a statement of the type "this is art" is not a declarative statement, despite its structure. It is a different kind of behaviour; the adopting of a certain kind of attitude toward the object of the declarative sentence. To say "this is bad art", or "this is not art" is to adopt a distinct way of viewing the object. There are structured ways for people adopting different attitudes toward the object to behave to one another; although these involve behaviour similar to uttering declarative and interrogatory English sentences, this similarity is misleading (the linguistic illusion is, of course, a very powerful illusion indeed).

And if you think that this implies that "all talk about art is meaningless", then I have to say you're demanding something from your concept of "meaning" which it quite simply couldn't ever possibly have provided.

ahhhhhh Wittgenstein.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

A small plea against intellectual masturbation (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by fuzzrock on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:27:17 PM EST

I have to point out that the contrary is equally valid: I say that Eminem isn't art, and since that is my personal artistic judgement, nobody is able to prove me wrong.
Yeah, you're right. I can't prove you wrong. Art is a sufficiently subjective concept that I couldn't even imagine a logical proof regarding an instance. But I can make some convincing arguments. I think kim is art. I think that because (for me at least), it's a vivid portrayal of how someone feels. In general, that's what I think art is for - communication. In particular, communication of ideas or emotions that words seem inadequate to express.

So, while I respect the fact that my argument is not a proof, I challenge you to come up with some argument against... What makes kim not art for you?

As for the rest... While I appreciate a discussion of the inadquacies of linguistic expression as much as the next guy, write your own damn story.

haiku.fuzrocks.com

[ Parent ]

a small plea *for* physical masturbation (4.00 / 2) (#33)
by streetlawyer on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:45:14 PM EST

What makes kim not art for you?

I thought we were talking about art, not "art for you". I'm not sure what is or isn't "art for me"; I've never given the subject much thought, being preoccupied with the more interesting matter of art. But I am pretty sure that Eminem isn't really art.

As for the rest... While I appreciate a discussion of the inadquacies of linguistic expression as much as the next guy, write your own damn story.

Well, the next guy to me wrote his PhD on the linguistic philosophy of WVO Quine, so I'm afraid you're wrong on that. But this isn't your house to keep people in and out of, and you can't chuck me out just because I know more about the philosophy of art than you. Now I'm off to have a jolly good wank ....

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Laugh (none / 0) (#124)
by inpHilltr8r on Fri May 04, 2001 at 03:21:40 AM EST

> Well, the next guy to me wrote his PhD on the linguistic philosophy of WVO Quine...

Wow, so you can surf the web on those grease-proof tills?

[ Parent ]
"Art" vs "Entertainment" (3.75 / 4) (#13)
by WinPimp2K on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:12:12 PM EST

This is purely subjective, but I'd think a part of it has to do with a rather vague line we draw between Art and popular entertainment. A work of Art is expected to engage our intellect in some way whereas quite often entertainment actually expects us to shut down some our intellect. Heck, most of the time we use music to provide "background noise" to the important parts of our lives. What messages do we pick up unconsiously?

Another possible problem with music is that unlike movies and television you can be forcibly exposed to it. Can you say "elevator music"? Ever been stuck in traffic and felt the bass line from the nearby car pumping out some of Eminem's finest at a brain melting decibel level?

Also, music is used to promote various emotional responses (making happier more productive workers, enouraging purchases, etc) so I think we (media savvy critters that we are) recognize that music has a greater potential to propogate memes (toxic or otherwise) than an artform that we can only expose ourselves to by making some deliberate effort - going to the museum - turning on the tube, or entering the theater.

It is the audience, stupid. (4.22 / 9) (#15)
by yankeehack on Wed May 02, 2001 at 02:13:02 PM EST

I once had a professor in college who spoke about the different art forms found in America. He categorized each art form into highbrow/uptown(painting/poetry/opera/ballet) and lowbrow/downtown (jazz/rap/graffiti/quiliting) art. He said the difference wasn't the art, per se, but who the intended audience was.

For example, there's plenty of death and destruction in the so called classical arts, Opera/poetry, but you don't see many protests against these works do you? Or, do you really think a Manhattan socialite owns a copy of the Marshall Mathers LP?

The issue with Guiliani and Eminem was that the art in question is targeted towards the lowbrow and the public, which disturbs some. For example, if the art had been in a private gallery in SOHO, no one would have cared, but since it was in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, it is public.


"Please people, if you have no knowledge in a field, don't try to write a grand all-encompassing treatise on it." --Delirium

Jazz (4.50 / 4) (#56)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 02, 2001 at 05:57:25 PM EST

That's funny, as these days I think many people consider Jazz more of a high-brow thing. But then, "high-brow" usually just means "stuff that was low-brow 100 years ago".

I once read something else that defined three levels, high-brow (Umberto Eco), middle-brow (Stephen King) and low-brow (romance novel).

One of the points it made was that much of the stuff that is high-brow now (opera, Shakespeare) used to be solid middle-brow stuff.


-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

I don't know from opera (4.50 / 2) (#81)
by ZanThrax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:07:49 AM EST

but I'd say Shakespeare was origninally on par with modern romance novels. (better written certainly, but its mostly sex and violence)

Time for a new .sig


[ Parent ]
Jazz has been co-opted by whites (5.00 / 2) (#90)
by yankeehack on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:48:19 AM EST

I understand what you are saying, but there's a history to Jazz. Jazz, the musical art form was created by African-Americans in the early part of the 20th centrury. Back then, the word Jazz originally meant sex in African-American slang.

Jazz was an underground art form that prospered in places like Harlem dance halls until whites like Benny Goodman, et al. started performing it for white audiences during the 30s and 40s. And when that happened, it became "cool" for whites (who wanted to push the envelope) to like Jazz. Thusly, you now have your white intellectual audience.

If you haven't seen the Jazz documentary that was on PBS not so long ago by Ken Burns, I'd highly recommend it.

"Please people, if you have no knowledge in a field, don't try to write a grand all-encompassing treatise on it." --Delirium
[ Parent ]

(n)brow (none / 0) (#60)
by axxeman on Wed May 02, 2001 at 08:37:37 PM EST

As a wog, I can only appreciate monobrow art.

Being or not being married isn't going to stop bestiality or incest. --- FlightTest
[ Parent ]

What is art (3.25 / 4) (#47)
by DranoK on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:08:14 PM EST

In my view art is only art when it is written truthfully from the heart. That sounds like a contradiction if you know me (I don't believe in the bullshit known as Truth) but my statement still stands.

Art is anything and everything which stems from feelings, emotions, personal style, and thought. Driving can be an art, and yes, even rape can be art in act or writing. Crimes can still be art even if acted upon, whether the artist who commits this rape in fact should be punished is an issue completely up to the social reality he lives in.

What is *NOT* art however is repitition. Art thrives on originality. If you're just copying someone else's work, albeit twisting it to seem like your style, then you are simply a Xerox machine.

Art simply is. It doesn't strive to become created, it simply creates itself in whatever manifestation its being desires.

DranoK


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence
--DranoK



I'm sorry... (none / 0) (#66)
by Kupek on Wed May 02, 2001 at 11:27:39 PM EST

...but that was just stupid.

Here is a haiku, which is creative:

There is a man who
told me that rape is an art.
He is very dumb.

-k.
#include <wittyQuote.h>
[ Parent ]
If you think that's art (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by DranoK on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:12:46 AM EST

it's art. What I'm saying is the art, which when guaged from the viewpoint of historical contex, is that which does not conform to the societal reality as it existed at that point in time, but rather breaks traditional boundries and tries to perceive things in a different light. In that sense, which is no better than any other concept of what art is, your haiku is funny, but not great art. In my own opinion, your haiku is funny and witty, but without redeeming value that would get me to say, read it again.

It seems you missed my entire point, and believe that I advocate an elimination of the moral concepts which found our laws. Quite the contrary; a man who rapes deserves severe counseling and punishment, reguardless of wheter his crime is art or not. Do you see the distinction?

C. Manson was an artist; he was very skilled in manipulation. Does that mean he shouldn't rot the rest of his life away? Of course not; in my opinion he should. But the point is, his mastermind in itself was a form of art, wheter it had redeeming social value or not.

I would mock those who define art in a reality based on mediums; art is art.

DranoK


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence
--DranoK



[ Parent ]
Ahhh, just because art is immoral or illegal... (none / 0) (#103)
by Vermifax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:48:50 PM EST

...doesn't make it not art.

You have written a poem with rape in it and indeed it is art.
- Welcome to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.
[ Parent ]

Searching for Art (4.00 / 3) (#49)
by mbiggs on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:32:22 PM EST

I am not going to try to define what art is. Art is way too subjective to try to place a rigid definition on. Do I assign less "art" value to music, movies, and television? Well, I try hard not to, but it is real difficult to keep giving those "artists" the benefit of the doubt. Let us take for instance Eminem. His song Kim really is not "art" in my eyes. Yes, he is taking the role of a lunatic who is really pissed off at his wife. And I am sure some people can listen to that song and find gobs of meaning. But, personally, it sounds pretty dumb to me. It actually sounds like something I would write back in the 8th grade when I wanted to do crazy things to make me feel special. I never did because I knew better, but I am sure I wrote about dumb things like that to appease myself. And that is probably the reason why so many young ones out there like Eminem. Crazy is cool. Bad things are cool.

Dr. Dre knows what he is doing. Supposedly, Eminem was created to make money, not to make "art". And when listening to his songs, that seems to be true. He and all his songs seem to be a product solely created to make money. Now, I am not saying that products cannot be "art". They definitely can be. But the harder the "artists' make it for me to find the "art" in their songs, the less I am going to try. Eminem makes it real hard for me to find his "art". But, to each his own, I guess.

"All you read and wear or see and hear on TV is a product begging for your fat ass dirty dollar. " - Hooker with a Penis, Tool

What is art? Isn't it obvious? (3.50 / 12) (#51)
by puzzlingevidence on Wed May 02, 2001 at 04:44:33 PM EST

I'm always kind of boggled when I hear someone ask "What is Art?" or hear "Well, it can't really be defined."

I think it's obvious: Art is a piece or collection of work created with the intent of communicating with an audience and eliciting an emotional response.

Is news reporting art? No, because while it is intended to communicate, it is not intended to elicit an emotional response.

Is software art? No, because programmers do not intend software to either communicate or elicit an emotional response. On the other hand, a user interface *can* be considered art.

Is beating on someone's door to piss them off art? No, because while its intent is both to communicate and to elicit an emotional response, it is not a creative work.

Is Eminem's work art? Yes, because it is a creative work intended to communicate and to elicit an emotional response.

Is St. Basil's Cathedral art? Yes, for the reasons outlined above.

If you write a short story and never show it to anyone, is it art? It depends on if you ever intend to communicate with your audience. If you write for yourself and then hide it away forever, then it is not art. If you intend to show it to someone and then your house burns down with you in it, it was art. The intent of the creator of the work is important.


---
A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge

So very wrong.. (3.00 / 3) (#54)
by DeadBaby on Wed May 02, 2001 at 05:05:03 PM EST

Is beating on someone's door to piss them off art? No, because while its intent is both to communicate and to elicit an emotional response, it is not a creative work.

Then you haven't beat on enough doors to piss people off. It can be an art. From the tone you use to scream obscenities to the duration of your thumps at their door to the style of thumps you use. It's all art.




"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]
Clarification? (4.25 / 4) (#57)
by johnny on Wed May 02, 2001 at 06:21:50 PM EST

I think this definition has some merit, but I wonder where advertising falls into this? Or propaganda? Or a cross that the KKK burns on your lawn to terrorize you?

Doesn't Aristotle say in Poetics that the purpose of art is to instruct and delight? I think this idea merits consideration. Art is supposed to tell me something useful, and delight me at the same time. So the KKK cross fails this test (passes yours), and propoganda/advertising are debatable.

The Beethoven Violin Concerto delights me. Does it instruct me? Hard to say. I believe it's profoundly meaningful. It's instructing me. What's the message? Beyond my ability to put into words. So maybe Aristotle's definition doesn't work. Or more probably, I'm not as smart as Aristotle was, so I cannot explain it.

Here's what's bullshit: putting hateful, deathloving instructions into "art" and pretending that it wasn't intended to instruct; that it was merely "art". DeSade was a master at this con. Of course Nazis were good at this, too. And Dr. Kevorkian has made the act of killing people into "performance art."

In fact, contemporary US culture is built around the glorification of deathmaking, but that's a whole nother rant.

Discussions about the True Meaning of Art, of course, are rights of passage for college-age people, like spring break, and like spring break they should be studiously avoided by old tired men who are not Aristotle, lest they make jackasses of themselves. But why should I let that stop me? Jackass, rant on!

Here's a little factoid that's been bugging me lately that's kind of orthogonal to this discussion: the absorbtion into the corporate machine of the band Rage Against the Machine. I used to really like those guys, and now that they've sold out I feel stupid and used.

Every night I go to the gym to work out, and they play the local corporate rock station, WBCN in Boston, with their Corporate-approved "alternative" playlist, and they play their corporate pabulum.

And at the top of this insipid playlist is RATM's anthem to murder, that replays, like Bolero, over and over and over "Here is something you can't understand: how I can just kill a man." Gawd, it is so obnoxious. As if somebody murdering somebody else were so difficult to understand. What, do I have to be Einstein to understand how some fucking nigger kills another fucking nigger? Fucking niggers kill each other all the time. Its about as unusual as dirt. What's so difficult to understand?

What's that you say? I just said a naughty word? Cannot say "nigger?" Let's see: I can celebrate death, and murder, but I cannot say words not on the playlist. I get it. Corporate "alternative" rock is instructing me: they're instructing me how to be cool. Bragging about doing a murder is cool. Being racist is not.

According to corporate propoganda/art/advertising (same thing) it doesn't matter whether the message is moral or not. It only matters whether it's cool or not. Why? because what's cool is what sells. And now Rage Against the Machine, corporate America's new spokesman, has their biggest hit. Congratulations, boys. You've gone platinum. You've embraced the Hollywood agenda! Celebrate death wherever and however you can! Wow, are you alternative now!

That's what so bugs me about definitions of art that do not in some way address the "instruct and delight" criterion. Art instructs, by its very nature. RATM is instructing people that murder is cool, just as what's his face, mm, instructs people that mysogyny and homophobia are cool. That's why I think their stuff is evil, and I repudiate it.

So anyway I expect that most people understand the ironic intent in using the aforementioned naughty word, but for anybody who missed it: I repudiate racism just as I repudiate murder. Only on my personal list, murder is worse. Anybody who missed my intent probably cannot parse this paragraph, so I guess it's doubly redundant. Oh well. If I have a brain in my head I won't press the "post" button.

yr frn,

jrs

yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

wait a minute (none / 0) (#61)
by axxeman on Wed May 02, 2001 at 08:41:31 PM EST

So you're saying trolling is art?

Being or not being married isn't going to stop bestiality or incest. --- FlightTest
[ Parent ]

Is trolling art? (3.20 / 5) (#65)
by puzzlingevidence on Wed May 02, 2001 at 10:07:31 PM EST

I think it's debatable that trolling is a creative work or that it is intended to communicate.

---
A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge
[ Parent ]

One of the products in your fridge may be deadly! (4.00 / 2) (#82)
by ZanThrax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:23:12 AM EST

We'll tell you which one at 11!

News reporting is very much intended to elicit an emotional response. Well, maybe not the weather; but the rest of it is presented in such a way as to make the apropriate emotional reaction obvious to the reader/viewer. I'm not saying its especially artistic, but it definately intends to elicit an emotional response.

My personal favorite definition (whose source I cannot recall) is anything manmade with more than the minimum effort to be functional. The pyramids are art. An ornamental chair is art. Music is art (moreso than the previous examples, since the entire effort of creation has no functional purpose). An elegant hack is art. A kludge is not. News reporting is art (to whatever extent they do more than simply list and describe events) In the end, I think that the intent to communicate is an unecesary requirement. If I make something for my own emotional reasons, it doesn't matter if I never allow anyone else to see it, its still art. (Buddist sand paintings are an example of this. When they do them for museums to display during the process, there's an audience, but often no one but the creaters ever sees them before they are eradicated.)

Time for a new .sig


[ Parent ]
Not news (3.50 / 4) (#96)
by puzzlingevidence on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:29:52 AM EST

You're describing feature reporting, not news reporting. While related, they're distinct.

---
A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge
[ Parent ]

Nope..... (none / 0) (#102)
by Vermifax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:46:54 PM EST

The creator of the work in question always has at least one audience member. The creator. It is still art if the artist never shows it to anyone. They just have an audience of one.
- Welcome to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.
[ Parent ]
Definition of audience (3.40 / 5) (#107)
by puzzlingevidence on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:44:52 PM EST

You need to read up on what the definition of "audience" is. The creator cannot be part of the audience.

---
A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge
[ Parent ]

As a creator (none / 0) (#112)
by Vermifax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:01:05 PM EST

I disagree with that as do other creators I know.
- Welcome to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.
[ Parent ]
As a creator... (2.80 / 5) (#114)
by puzzlingevidence on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:49:00 PM EST

...I agree with the common definition, and the definition I learned in Fine Arts classes in university: creator and audience are a non-intersecting set.

---
A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge
[ Parent ]

There are a lot of creators who... (none / 0) (#120)
by Vermifax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 10:33:24 PM EST

...believe that you can't 'learn' art. The idea that an artist isn't moved and appreciates his own work is elitist crap. I as a musician stand by my audience of one.
- Welcome to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.
[ Parent ]
Art is Good! (3.00 / 1) (#59)
by Komodo321 on Wed May 02, 2001 at 08:27:26 PM EST

Or so we've been taught since kindergarden. But art can be disturbing and pathological. Art can be used to promote destructive ideas (look at some of the Nazi poster art from the 1930s). Its still art, it may protected speech in countries like the US, but it may not be a good thing. Maybe the emphasis on influencing/censoring different art forms that you mention are related to their effectiveness - Television and radio are more effective at reaching millions of people and possibly influencing their thinking than a single exhibit at one museum.

You do have a point that different media are treated differently. I think the Forces of Moral Decency will criticize anything they see as degenerate, but that the majority in society responds to media according to the way the art is produced and distributed. TV and radio typically use the public airwaves, which requires a license, and has strings attached (like decency regs). That's why cable has pushed the envelope in terms of taboo related art - they are less confined by the government as they don't need an FCC license. Museums are usually seen as 'purer' than mass production industrial companies in LA/Hollywood. But museums have been vulnerable because they often receive government money (as in the first Guiliani crusade, which was in a building owned by the City of New York). The National Endowment of the Arts is a favorite scapegoat of the US right wing, because it receives government money for thousands of projects, and some incredibly small percent of those projects end up exhibiting really bad art, like an inverted crucifix submerged in urine - enough to demonize art as a whole. It is easier to induce outrage when there is a guilt element..."My tax dollars paid for that?"

You automatically lose the argument.... (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by Blarney on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:33:17 AM EST

No fair Hitlering threads.

[ Parent ]
the eternal question (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by cybin on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:16:59 AM EST

i've had this conversation many times, as one would expect in a society that values free speech. there are a few things that i mold my taste by:
  • "Music is Love" -Darius Milhaud
  • "Good art is inventive, fresh, and new" -Anne Kish
  • Art involves emotion, and since anger and hatred are not emotions one cannot base art upon them.


of course these are very personal for me. i think that it is up to us, the viewers & listeners, to determine what works do in fact deserve the distinction of being called art. museums, mayors, the government, etc. should follow their own doctrines and allow free speech so that the people can decide what is good and what stinks.

if it stinks, get rid of it. the dung-Virgin-Mary might be in an art gallery, causing a commotion all over the place, but that doesn't mean it's GOOD. but just because it isn't good doesn't mean it's not worth seeing.

how would we know what to appreciate if there were no awful creative works? i certainly redeem my love of Milhaud and Radiohead's music whenever i hear the crap commercial radio plays. that, however, makes me want to be creative and undertake new compositions like the chamber opera i'm currently sketching! :)

Anger isn't an emotion? (1.50 / 2) (#80)
by ZanThrax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:59:51 AM EST

What the hell is it then?

Time for a new .sig


[ Parent ]
Maybe anger isn't an emotion... (3.00 / 2) (#88)
by Spacer.human on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:38:55 AM EST

...perhaps its just a state of mind where people say really dumb things in the middle of an otherwise intelligent conversation.

For example, expressing the opinion that anger and hatred aren't emotions.

(Bad coding day. must vent steam and make self-referential comments)
Reading Slashdot is like watching the monkeys at the zoo: You already know one of them is going to start throwing its own shit but it is still entertaining. -- l33t j03
[ Parent ]

"Anger is a gift" (none / 0) (#104)
by tralfamadore on Thu May 03, 2001 at 01:29:04 PM EST

yeah, and you rage bashers know what you can do ;)

[ Parent ]
Anger is an enegy (none / 0) (#125)
by inpHilltr8r on Fri May 04, 2001 at 03:28:48 AM EST

May the road rise with you.

[ Parent ]
Anger and hatred are emotions. (none / 0) (#101)
by Vermifax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:44:42 PM EST

It is just currently not favorable in the current socio-politcal environment to believe they are.
Basically what it comes down to is, you like art you like, and you don't like art you don't like. That's fine, that is opinion. However, you don't get to say, that is bad art (in a factual sense). That would be an incorrect statement if only one person disagrees with you.
- Welcome to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.
[ Parent ]
one more thing... (4.66 / 3) (#75)
by cybin on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:21:54 AM EST

It seems to me that we have assigned music (and, although I don't discuss it here, movies and television) a lower "art" value than prose or painting.

a few thoughts on this: first, as a composer i have many friends who work in the literary arts. we have equal appreciation of one another's work, and many of us can speak intelligently about each other's areas. second, yes, pop music has (rarely) any art value (there are exceptions IMHO).

i think there are two neglected forms at this moment in time: poetry and dance. but, the thing to remember is that there is good art, and there is not-so-good art (one might even say it is not art at all). that's how it's been for centuries -- the good stuff survives or surfaces later, the bad stuff fades away. nobody would know who Salieri was if he wasn't suspected of killing Mozart, even though Salieri was much more popular at the time than Wolfgang was.

What is "art"? (4.33 / 3) (#77)
by DJBongHit on Thu May 03, 2001 at 03:36:11 AM EST

This is not a reply to the article, which I agree with fully (although a bit more of a writeup would have been nice). It is more a comment to the streetlawyers are the trhurlers of the world (no offense to either of you).

Is Beethoven's 9th "art"?
Is the Beatles' White Album "art"?
Is Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon "art"?
Is Led Zeppelin I "art"?
Is Nirvana's Nevermind "art"?
Is Alice in Chains' Jar of Flies "art"?
Is Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP "art"?
Is your average Bloodhound Gang album "art"?
Is the latest Britney Spears' album "art"?

I hope you see what I'm getting at. Who are you to judge what constitutes art? I posted a comment similar to this on Jin Wicked's "Programming is not Art" article, but apprently that didn't reach anybody. Anything that is a creative outlet for the creator is art. If you don't like it, fine. The art didn't effect you in the way that the artist wanted. But that doesn't mean it didn't effect other people in that way. Just because you think something sucks doesn't mean that it's garbage. Whether something is art or not doesn't depend on you agreeing with its message.

I happen to hold Eminem in very high regard - he has tremendous musical ability and a new, innovative sound. He doesn't create the same old rap and "shock rock." I don't agree with a lot of the things he says, but I still very much enjoy listening to his music simply for the musical and aesthetic appeal.

You have to make a distinction between something not being art and something being art that doesn't appeal to you. And you can't draw a line between Beethoven's 9th (which I'm guessing you do consider to be art) and Eminem's "Kill You." There is no real difference between the two - different instruments are used in their creation, and different sounds result. They're both music, and therefore art.

Having opinions on what music you choose to listen to is one thing, but making claims that stuff you don't like is "garbage" and isn't art is entirely different.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

misunderstanding on my side??? (3.00 / 1) (#79)
by dazk on Thu May 03, 2001 at 05:44:20 AM EST

Hmm, I don't think the author actually wants to state what's art and what not. It's just an expression of oppinion.
----- Copy kills music! Naaah! Greedyness kills Brain! Counter: Bought 17CDs this year because I found tracks of an album on fileshare and wanted it all.
[ Parent ]
my point below (4.75 / 4) (#84)
by streetlawyer on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:35:39 AM EST

Is that the question "is this art?" needs to be unasked - that it's a serious source of error to confuse the way we interact with art, and the way in which we categorise things in the rest of our life.

In order to support this point, I'm semi-whimsically turning the argument around and saying instead of "You have to make a distinction between something not being art and something being art that doesn't appeal to you", something more like "You have to make a distinction between something being art and something being non-art that appeals to you".

And the point is that the argument is equally valid when turned round. The fact that we can't find a definition (in the sense of an algorithm-like method for separating art from non-art) doesn't really count as an argument in favour of a more inclusive definition of art rather than a less inclusive one. And that to me suggests that the whole way of regarding "Is this art?" as a question of the same logical structure as "Is this cheese?" is flawed.

Or to put it another way, you say "Who are you to judge what constitutes art?". To which my answer is (in my role as Devil's Advocate); I'm me, a person with equal status as a judge of what is and isn't art, who disagrees with you. You say that "Anything that is a creative outlet for the creator is art". I say something like "Anything that is a creative outlet for the creator is art, except for a few things like rap and cake-icing". And the objection of "who are you to judge?" has equal force on both of us. Too many people use the "who are you to judge" and then sit back as if the argument was won without realising that the argument is purely destructive, and that there is nothing to stop its use against positive declarations of art status as well as negative ones.

So, we can't decide on what is and isn't art. I propose that we take this point seriously and don't decide what is or isn't art. (As opposed to someone holding your position, who seems to want to say that we can't decide what is and isn't art, therefore we should decide that lots of things are art). But since a lot of people have substantial career investments in doing just that, and since it's often a lot of comparatively harmless fun, I'm not suggesting that we just shut up about art altogether (I may make specific exceptions to this general forbearance). What I am suggesting is that we stop regarding declarations like "this is art" or "this is not art" as being standard English declarative sentences. We should treat them as what they are; as certain kinds of structured behaviour in response to a stimulus, and leave it at that.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Art (none / 0) (#105)
by DJBongHit on Thu May 03, 2001 at 02:01:03 PM EST

In order to support this point, I'm semi-whimsically turning the argument around and saying instead of "You have to make a distinction between something not being art and something being art that doesn't appeal to you", something more like "You have to make a distinction between something being art and something being non-art that appeals to you".

Hmm, that's an interesting way of looking at it, I guess. I think this is an argument that can't possibly be won, so I'm gonna stop here :).

The fact that we can't find a definition (in the sense of an algorithm-like method for separating art from non-art) doesn't really count as an argument in favour of a more inclusive definition of art rather than a less inclusive one.

That's because art appeals to people's emotions, and, as we all know, emotions are volatile, irrational things. They don't usually obey any formula or algorithm, and vary from person to person. So I think you're right when you say And that to me suggests that the whole way of regarding "Is this art?" as a question of the same logical structure as "Is this cheese?" is flawed.

Or to put it another way, you say "Who are you to judge what constitutes art?". To which my answer is (in my role as Devil's Advocate); I'm me, a person with equal status as a judge of what is and isn't art, who disagrees with you.

Fair enough, I guess. But I wasn't really trying to claim that my opinion of what is art should override yours. I was saying that anything that the artist considers to be art is art. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean that it's not art, and the same goes for me. I happen to hate Britney Spears' music, and think it's a pile of steaming overcommercialized and artificially-created shit. Does that mean it's not art that appeals to me? Yes. Does that mean it's not art? No.

As opposed to someone holding your position, who seems to want to say that we can't decide what is and isn't art, therefore we should decide that lots of things are art

My position is simply that art is a creative outlet for an individual. It doesn't matter if nobody else likes it... if it means something to them, it's art.

What I am suggesting is that we stop regarding declarations like "this is art" or "this is not art" as being standard English declarative sentences. We should treat them as what they are; as certain kinds of structured behaviour in response to a stimulus, and leave it at that.

Agreed.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Semi-topical... (3.00 / 1) (#85)
by ZanThrax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:40:14 AM EST

Alright, there's a nice little war (couple of em actually) about Eminem's status of artist vs. corporate creation of Dre. Which has reminded me of something I was thinking about many months (probably a couple years, now that I consider it) ago. How the hell are we supposed to accept any music as being art? Alanis releases Jagged Little Pill; it's a different sound, rather enjoyable. I start to wonder what the hell the guy who presumably inspired this did to her. Then I wonder if there's actually a guy. Then I remember Alanis' music from two years before, and decide that she's just a slightly more devious form of Spice Girl. At a later time, listening to Rage's track on the Godzilla album that rants about Godzilla being "pure fucking filler, keep your mind off the real killa" I started wondering about the record exec who put it on the disc. Decided that it was purely intentional to simply sell records to the teenagers with half-formed notions of rebellion and a desire for anti-corporate product (see New Radicals). Which, naturally lead to the idea that pretty much all the alternative music is bullshit designed to sell to a certain niche market. Of course, I don't believe that every single piece of music expressing sentiments of dissatisfaction with one element or another of our society are total shills, simply trying to sell what some kids (who are happy enough to conform to something, even if its anti-conformism of one sort or another) want to hear. Thus I'm left at the position of assuming that most musicians are actually trying to convey some message with their music they write and sell.

Time for a new .sig


The Media and Popular Culture (none / 0) (#89)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:46:18 AM EST

I was watching a PBS show about a month ago that did an in depth analysis of how much sway MTV had over the teenage - 20 something market. It was pretty amazing.

Take a bad like Limp Bizkit (or however it's spelled). They began their crusade on popular music by appealing to the disenchanted part of society, but once they got into the MTV circuit they rather happily embraced their new rock-star status. Everyone wins!

I like to think that in general it's the independant/minor labels that allow for the artists to truly take control of their music. A band like Bad Religion has been around for over 20 years, and their music is still relatively popular yet at the same time they haven't changed their views whatsoever. While they appeal to the non-conformists, their music is actually intelligent.

I guess it depends what kind of intentions you have as an artist. If you are truly an artist, then you will make your music the way you want to. Can you imagine someone like Van Gogh or Thelonis Monk having someone tell them what they were going to paint or play on the piano?

It's a hard position to take. If you want your material to be widely distributed to the public, then you have to accept the way that the major labels do things. If you want to be able to live, you've got to make money. Where do you draw the line when it interferes with your artistic merits?


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

I think its possible to be commercial and still (none / 0) (#113)
by ZanThrax on Thu May 03, 2001 at 06:23:40 PM EST

artistic. You mention VanGogh, so I mention Michelangelo, who certainly did do works for hire, and is still considered one of the greatest painters of all time.

Time for a new .sig


[ Parent ]
Intent (none / 0) (#116)
by Mad Hughagi on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:19:52 PM EST

I guess it's a matter of intent on behalf of the artist.

Obviously if you let someone make a work of art, and they do something very well, then they aren't going to refuse to be paid for it.

I'm just afraid that the majority of artists who appeal via a commercial system are successful because they are using a formula simply to make money.

You are right though - commercial appeal doesn't neccissarily exclude artist status.


HUGHAGI INDUSTRIES

We don't make the products you like, we make you like the products we make.
[ Parent ]

In the immortal words of Andy Warhol... (5.00 / 2) (#97)
by Ricdude on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:31:26 AM EST

"Art is what you can get away with." -- Andy Warhol

Is "white curve" art? *

Is 4' 33" art?

Is the work of the gentlemen who served dinner for four and left the unwashed plates on display for a month art?

As long as someone's willing to believe it's art, it's art for that someone. Who are you to tell me what is or isn't art? Who am I to tell you, for that matter?

* I didn't mean to reference someone's exposition based on my own usenet posting (reference 1 from the link), but it just happened to be the only on-topic reference from google

better reference for white curve (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by Ricdude on Thu May 03, 2001 at 11:35:42 AM EST

White Curve, by Ellsworth Kelley, on display here, about two-thirds down the page

[ Parent ]
Say what you will about 4'33"... (none / 0) (#108)
by sec on Thu May 03, 2001 at 04:29:56 PM EST

but it's the only piece of music that I can actually play. :)

It's versatile, too... You can play it on any musical instrument you want with no modification!



[ Parent ]

Art is.. (3.50 / 2) (#100)
by infinitesin on Thu May 03, 2001 at 12:42:45 PM EST

at its most fundamental crux, self-expression. Anything that is personal and has a reflection on the belief and life of the artist is considered art. Where it becomes sticky is the funding from the NEA and other public endowments. For example, lets say an artist decides to paint a huge mural of Hitler leading troops in Austria. And lets say the physical beauty of the piece is exquisite. Now, for the sake of argument, should public monies such as endowments for the arts be subsidized for art that can potentially be offensive to certain taxpayers?
--
"Just wait until tomorrow..I guess that's what they all say..just before they fall apart.."

If throwing poop at a canvas counts as self (5.00 / 1) (#117)
by marlowe on Thu May 03, 2001 at 09:21:07 PM EST

expression, what doesn't?

And just what sort of self does that express, and is that self perhaps best left unexpressed? If throwing dung is expression, then it expresses the mentality of an angry chimpanzee.


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
An odd opinion (none / 0) (#128)
by goosedaemon on Sat May 05, 2001 at 04:36:49 PM EST

I like pop music. I like feedback. I like the sound of babies laughing, and of babies crying. I like the sound of almost anything you play for me ... I would not, however, call it art. However, here is a very interesting s3m for you to listen to. The samples are made from pieces of qbasic.exe.

art (none / 0) (#132)
by Rainy on Sun May 06, 2001 at 07:50:28 PM EST

First, in the context of this discussion lets define art as something intended for the audience to contemplate and be entertained by, in various proportions. The higher the proportion of 'contemplation' is, the more high-brow and less subjective to being labeled as kitsch. So, we're talking about a sliding scale here. Obviously, when Markes is describing violence directed toward women, it's going to be taken differently than Eminem doing the same. Is it justified? Of course, as they *are* different. On the other hands, alot of you will say that we can't quantify this difference, we can't have a law that can objectively say, this one's okay and this one isn't. I agree, except that laws don't have to be purely objective in any case. They all deal with uncertainties, with judge's perception of how things happened, with jury's perceptions, and that's precisely have judges and juries and lawyers and D.A.'s, instead of some dude walking around with a large book where all the rules are written down and telling people who was right and who wasn't.
--
Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
Art, music and violence | 137 comments (123 topical, 14 editorial, 1 hidden)
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