Year of the Scavenger, Season of the Bitch

Avatar

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does a bunch of other stuff.

Related Post Roulette

50 Responses

  1. Avatar Stillwater says:

    What do you think, Leaguers?

    “Master Po Chang once set a pitcher between his two disciples, saying “Do not call it a pitcher, but tell me what it is.” One of them answered, “it cannot be called a piece of wood.” But Po Chang considered this answer beside the point, whereupon he asked the other the same question, and in reply he came forward, pushed the pitcher over, and walked away. As a result, Po Chang appointed this disciple his successor.”Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Stillwater says:

      I understand that the point of the story is to illustrate the importance of doing something rather than studying it or analyzing it, so the moral of the story is separating the successful disciple who experiences the pitcher rather than the unsuccessful one who describes the pitcher. So the successful disciple uses the pitcher, interacts with it, demonstrates what its purpose and function are. Doing is more important than knowing.

      But, by knocking the pitcher over, the disciple has subverted the pitcher’s purpose. No longer does it contain a fluid (such as water or tea), but rather the fluid will pour out from it and it is rendered an empty vessel inert upon the floor and the liquid, formerly controlled and confined within the container’s walls, is now all over the floor and wasted. Had the disciple used the pitcher to pour a glass of water, I think the lesson would have been much better demonstrated and with substantially the same ease.

      And more to the point, the master specifically tasked the disciples with describing the pitcher. The one who used the pitcher, even if incorrectly, did not fulfill the master’s instruction. The master did not say “Show me what it is,” he said “Tell me.” The successful disciple told the master nothing and a fairly high level of interpretative abstraction is needed to render the second disciple’s act communicative at all.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Burt Likko says:

        And more to the point, the master specifically tasked the disciples with describing the pitcher.

        Did he tho?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “Do not call it a pitcher, but tell me what it is.”Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Burt Likko says:

        A belly itcher?Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Burt Likko says:

        I understand that the point of the story is to illustrate the importance of doing something rather than studying it or analyzing it, so the moral of the story is separating the successful disciple who experiences the pitcher rather than the unsuccessful one who describes the pitcher…

        But, by knocking the pitcher over, the disciple has subverted the pitcher’s purpose.

        I believe that is the point. Or at least that is the point that I found.

        The distinction is not so much about experiencing vs describing, but about how best to describe the experience of something. Often, the best way to understand something is to have it fail in its purpose. The purpose of a pitcher is to hold water. You can likely never understand a pitcher better than when it is overturned, the water is no longer contained, and it is flowing everywhere.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The purpose of a pitcher is to convey water. By releasing it, he completes the action that filing the pitcher began.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

      “Do not call it a pitcher, but tell me what it is.”

      A thrower. Someday it may learn to pitch.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    We’re a little off for a twenty-year cycle

    The PMRC hit its peak around 1985. That’s when Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, and John Denver (!!!) testified before congress.

    We’re right on track.Report

  3. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Politics, culture, art, music, sex, public square… doesn’t matter, really.

    Given enough time and victories, the guardians of morality always turn to eat their own to continue atop their chain.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      +1. I’ve bemoaned the GOP’s period purges of pretty conservative members as being insufficiently ideologically strident as bad for the party and bad for the country; I’m less familiar with but unsurprised to hear of similar dynamics on the left — and just as concerned, particularly if, as the OP suggests, it’s something happening in the world of the arts because the arts of today set the tone for the culture of tomorrow.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @burt-likko @tod-kelly

        The difference being is that the people who are attacking Richard Prince (an artist mentioned in the Saltz article) and Jerry Saltz are not going to topple either from their positions (probably). The people who tweet and facebook against Saltz and Prince have no influence, no name, no money, and no power. There are also probably not that many of them. What they have are incredibly cheap communications platforms where their message can be amplified and given to a lot of people. But not necessarily the people with decision making powers.

        The demographic truth is that there are much more people on the far-right in the United States than there are in the far-left. The far-left has announced very loudly that there is no difference between the Republican and the Democratic parties* and that the whole American political process is nothing but a scam. There are people out there who think Bernie Sanders is too conservative but they won’t achieve power because they would rather be leftier-than-thou and not get involved in politics.

        This section of the left might have some influence on a few college campuses, some magazines that only they read, and other media outlets like Pacifica radio but nowhere else.

        *I was a junior in college during the 2000 Presidential Election. I remember that the Nader supporters liked to taunt the Gore supporters for being “Demopublicans” or “Republicrats.” The Bush II supporters on campus were a very small and largely silent group of people.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The people who tweet and facebook against Saltz and Prince have no influence, no name, no money, and no power. There are also probably not that many of them. What they have are incredibly cheap communications platforms where their message can be amplified and given to a lot of people. But not necessarily the people with decision making powers.

        That’s what the conventional wisdom used to be about the tea party.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The Tea Party was always part of the Republican Party. These people are not part of the art world in the same way.

        They don’t own galleries, they are not on the staff or board of directors of museums, and can’t afford the prices that people normally pay for Richard Prince art. Richard Prince works can sell for tens of thousands of dollars or even millions.

        http://news.artnet.com/market/art-market-analysis-richard-prince-vs-christopher-wool-at-auction-15857

        The dynamic is completely different. There are still a lot of gate keepers in the art world also barriers to entry like gallery owners who need to pay the rent on expensive prices of real estate, those Chelsea galleries don’t come cheap. I’ve seen artists try doing direct sales or the Deviant Art crowd but it tends to be for radically different stuff than the art world and media is interested in.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @burt-likko

        I remember people thought that the tea-partiers were an astroturf kind of populism very early on.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    I lose track of how many “post”s we prepend to “modern” these days.Report

  5. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I remember the political correctness wars of the early 90s because I was an early adolescent and just starting to get into art and culture on my own. FWIW I also thought my early 20-something life would be like Singles and Reality Bites. In some ways it was but I have a theory that young adult culture has basically been continued since the early 1990s and we are a bit stuck. Today’s indie rock stars are not really that different from the alternative rock scene of the early 90s. What Lollapolloza has wrought is still around. SF has three major outdoor weekend music festivals (Hardly Strictly, Outsidelands, and Treasure Island). A lot of the Gen X early fashions are still around but in somewhat slimmer versions. Hipsters would not be out of place in 1992 largely.

    That being said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with shocking art if done well. I like art that is truly and sincerely shocking because it compels thought on serious issues and makes people question their assumptions and biases on things. Kara Walker’s exhibit is brilliant in all ways from where it is staged to what it is and how to brings up the history of western beauty archetypes, colonialism, capitalism, slavery, profit, racism, and Orientalism and sexualizing the other. On the other hand, Paul McCarthy had an exhibit at the Armory in Summer 2013 called “WS” seemed to be shocking for the sake of shocking. “Oh you have Snow White performing oral sex on a tree while you prance around in a mask like a deranged Walt Disney.” My friends looked at this piece and said “that’s interesting….” Snow White performing sex on a tree was not the most extreme image from the exhibit. Popular entertainment also seems prone to a rather dull kind of shocking for the sake of shocking because it is like click-bait.

    I think the Internet gives rise to a lot of people who are seemignly looking for things that really offend them and they want to tweet about it fast, early, and often. They are also willing to take things out of context. Most people who jumped down on Jerry Saltz, probably never got farther than thinking it is morally wrong for a white guy (by their guess) to comment on the work of an African-American woman.
    Before the Internet, the communications were small. Now they exist in a roar from tens of thousands of twitters.

    I read the Saltz article and googled the Richard Price Instagram prints/paintings. Price’s work reminded me of American Apparel ads from around 2002-2005. These ads were very controversial then and they are now. The AA ads were controversial because they looked like a lot of elicit pornography and featured very young woman. One ad I remember featured a woman who must have been between 18-20. She was on her knees in a wood paneled room with an expectant but dazed look in her eyes like she was about to give an unseen man a blowjob. The ad seemed to cast the model as a teenage runaway in a sketchy 1970s LA and she is given a place to stay and drugs in exchange for sex and shooting porn. We live in an age where stories about sex abuse and covered up sex-crimes are becoming increasingly frequent. There is the recent Rolling Stone shocker about how rape and sexual abuse were par for the course at U.Va. Dov Charney was known for his mistreatment of women for years. I can see how a person can just launch into reaction and think that that Price is praising Charney instead of critiquing him. I don’t think this is a great thought process and the left can have just as many stupid people as the right.

    Why does this seemingly happen more on the Left? Perhaps because the left simply cares more about fighting against injustice, racism, sexism, and other prejudices but we disagree on the methods and techniques and how far to go. This can be seen in my Ferguson thread where I disagree with the effectiveness of looting as a response to the Grand Jury’s horrible decision. It is also my general experience that left protests and movements go more for inclusion and have a horrible time sticking on message. I was at the 2004 Protests against the Republican Convention in NYC. You had everyone from standard liberals (including elected politicians) to radical anarchists who want to turn the world into a pastoral commune. The general left view is that everyone needs to be given the right to speak even if what they say is radically off-message. The right is generally much better about being on-message and on-point.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Stealing people’s babies from a baby carriage (for the purposes of advertising) makes more people angry than stuntmen breaking into a house, tying the owners up, and frogmarching them to the door.

      … The More You Know!Report

  6. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I think these fights also happen a lot more on the left because you get into these really strange identity fights about what it means to be X.

    There were people who whom the Gay Rights movement simply meant being allowed to be openly homosexual while fully participating in the social and economic life of the United States. Gay people can be patriotic, hardworking Americans, respected in the professions, good parents, etc. There were people who argued against this kind of bourgeois homosexuality and wanted to keep homosexuality as a radical act meant to shock normal and decent society and upend how we think about everything. The mainstreaming variant won the day but I suspect that there are still radical seperatists out there.Report

  7. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    ‘Secondly, there is art that offends “conservative” sensibilities, usually irreligious in some way, and art that upsets “progressive” sensibilities, usually to do with society’s treatment of marginalized groups.’

    I think this is an interesting point. I can’t say that I am shocked by Kara Walker’s art. I am intrigued by it and want to think about it but she does not shock me or make me go pearl clutching. I’m probably more likely to raise an eyebrow at something on t-shirt hell like this:

    http://www.tshirthell.com/funny-shirts/slavery-gets-shit-done/

    Though it might largely depend on the weater.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      It was even more convoluted than that. People weren’t upset by her work, but by Saltz’s way of praising it. He said they should put it on a Macy’s Parade float as a reminder of the history of slavery. She’s African American and he’s white and they said his praise was racially insensitive.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        If Saltz is Jewish than he should just remind people that his ancestors were slaves in the land of Egypt.

        This gets us into the very tricky field of cultural appropriation. In certain quarters, cultural appropriation of minority cultures by the majority group is the big thing to get upset about these days. Saltz’s critics might have thought that as a white man that he had no business saying where Kara Walker should put her art even if he was praising it.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @rufus-f

        I was going off on a tangent and a riff on myself. Not talking about the Saltz article 🙂Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @leeesq

        If Saltz is Jewish than he should just remind people that his ancestors were slaves in the land of Egypt.

        Well, I’ve seen plenty of gay dudes say something terribly racist and then say “I can’t be racist, I’m gay,” which seems like a pretty clueless thing to say.

        I know this, if call-out culture is getting out of hand (and it is), folks who get defensive when they are called out remain a dime-a-dozen. Which is to say, the call-outs can get boring and predictable, but the “defensive privilege-bro” is just as dull.

        And the ponderous dudebro cries out, “It’s almost like I can’t be a pretentious douchenozzle anymore!”

        My heart fucking bleeds. No really. Totally. I can barely contain my pity for poor Mr. Saltz.

        Honestly, the whole conversation is boring as heck.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Rufus F. says:

        @veronica-d, I was making a joke. People can interpret a particular work of art, movie, book, essay, or anything else however they feel like it. Alternative or misinterpretation has always been a career hazard of artists, intellectuals, scholars, philosophers, politicians, and clergy. That doesn’t make the alternative or misinterpretation from audience members necessarily correct. One of the serious downsides of the Internet is that people are to quick to jump on things rather than digest and reflect for a little before posting on twitter or Facebook or a blog. I’ve seen this done across the political spectrum. This leads to a serious of accusations and cross-accusations rather than actual dialog.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Only in America, folks.
      That people can laugh about other people’s lives, when other people are in dire straits…Report

  8. I actually just read an interview with Chris Rock where he talks about how he doesn’t do college shows anymore because the audience is too stifling these days.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

      Comedians need the folks throwing beer bottles. You can’t get an accurate read on your jokes unless folks are really willing to boo ya.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

        That’s not exactly his complaint. Here’s the quote from the article that I suspect Will is talking about:

        http://www.thefire.org/chris-rock-explains-doesnt-want-perform-college-campuses/

        Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.Report

      • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Kimmi says:

        A year or so ago, Wal-Mart did an ad campaign for their lay-a-way program featuring a black woman getting extremely excited about lay-a-way. I’m sitting there thinking, “um, I hope that the guys who did this at least know about Chris Rock…”Report

  9. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The third comment in the comment section got it right. Art audiences have not grown more conservative than they were in the past. Its just that the Internet gives incredibly publishing power to people offended by something. Its very easy to tweet or write a blog or Facebook post on why something was so terribly offensive these days. In the early 1990s, it was considerably more difficult to get people agitated about something because the Internet was in its infancy. At best you could write a letter to the editor or complain to like minded friends in hopes of starting a protest. Now, its really easy to stir up a controversy.Report

  10. Avatar David Ryan says:

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t build boats.Report