09 July 2012

Holiday Hangover

Rather a disspiriting end of the week last week, between an unexpected hearing and a depressing company-client visit. Not to mention the news. Or the state of publishing. Or much of anything else.

I still say that celebrating the date we gave the finger to a man who claimed the right of inheritance to us, instead of the date that we actually succeeded in putting that finger into his eye (in October 1783) or welded ourselves into an actual nation (in September 1789), smacks too much of "Mission Accomplished." But that holiday didn't help things with last week, either.

  • Ownership of things is hard enough when they're not unique. However special to Jay Lake the genre car is, it is essentially replicable. With original works of the visual arts, (allegedly) not so much. (I say "allegedly" because to me, a visual arts original that was not painted/sculpted/created specifically for me isn't much different from a good copy; but then, I don't own any such originals...) This problem gets even more complicated when considering the dubious practices of the Third Reich, but also exposes the problem — if indirectly — of why this is unique to the visual arts. Why do we not pay the same attention to an author's original typed manuscript, or to a composer's original handwritten score? After all, forgers in the visual arts are getting pretty darned good, to the point of relatively routinely fooling anyone who doesn't literally deconstruct the painting, so quality of reproduction doesn't seem to be the cause...
  • Just how long should leaders in the arts remain leaders in the arts? And is this a hint about why H'wood and commercial publishing seem so, well, behind the times? Or is it perhaps something simpler... like the abject refusal of future critics to learn how to be harsh when harshness is deserved? Perhaps I spent too long inside the Beltway ("If you don't have anything nice to say, let's hear it"), but it seems to me that one of the ways to improve the quality of the arts is to call bullshit by its proper name, when it is deserved... and to ensure that criticism is of the work and not of the creator. There are, after all, more diplomatic (not to mention helpful) ways of insulting a work; "you're obviously a blithering idiot" doesn't help the artist/writer/composer/musician, while "this piece does not reflect adequate understanding of physically limited viewing angles" does. Presuming that criticism matters in the first place — which that remarkably ignorant piece does nothing to demonstrate either way, or even comment upon. For one thing, statistics out of context are not facts; they're seldom even enough to warrant opinion.
  • Then there's the insanity of the UK's libel system, and I say that with relief given last week's "holiday." Absent the First Amendment, our libel system would probably look a lot more like the UK's... and that would be doubleplusungood.
  • If you really want to understand what's going on with e-readers, you can't ignore patent law... and you should listen to cats. That you have to listen to cats should tell you all you need to know about just how serious and connected to the real world this is.