18 January 2011

First Day of Spring (Semester) Link Sausages

More minor Life and health stuff for the past few days (which never seems minor while going through it), plus the holiday yesterday (one of the few I respect), so this isn't an especially large platter of link sausages. Nonetheless:

  • One dictator out... and one returns. To put it another way, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I can't see too many winners here.
  • Tony Scott, the NYT film critic, ponders whether critics have a chance of influencing public taste... or should. Although he makes some salient points — particularly in the penultimate paragraph:

    There is a cultural elite, in America, which tries its utmost to manipulate the habits and tastes of consumers. It consists of the corporations who sell nearly everything with the possible exception of classical music and conceptual arts, and while its methods include some of the publicity-driven hype that finds its way into newspapers, magazines and other traditional media, its main tool is not criticism but marketing.

    (emphasis in original) he ultimately misses the point of criticism, theory, and virtually all other conversation about individual works of art (in any medium). Art is, at its core, about communication; and what criticism, theory, and the rest of the conversation ultimately do is provide feedback to the artist(s). It's often unwelcome feedback; but, more importantly, observing the feedback offered to Artist A for Work A' helps Artist B, in the throes of creating Work B', work in the negative spaces of Work B' (cutting away the parts of the slab of rock that don't look like the intended sculpture). In that sense, criticism and theory are an artist's means of time travel and a way of avoiding obvious mistakes made by others.

  • Or, of course, you could just be Jeff Koons and use every aspect of the arts — including copyright law — as a tool for your own enrichment. Remember, the economic incentives built into copyright law are there to advance progress in the useful arts and sciences. They are incentives, not goals... which, in a roundabout way, is part of Mr Scott's point in the preceding item.
  • First it's a bowdlerized Huck Finn (and remember, the new president is a n!). Now it's a classic Dire Straits song. Guys, there's a difference between use of "offensive words" in direct discourse and by less-than-admirable/self-aware/postmodernhipster characters in works of fiction. But don't tell antiintellectuals like Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp (and, for that matter, Sarah Palin) and other celebrants of the blue-collar bottom third of the public high school class as the only Real Americans.