Friday, October 29, 2021

art versus Art & the organicism of industry

A month or two back, a very smart friend asked me in an email if I believed comics can be art. 

Naturally, I showed him Punisher 2099.

(June 1994)

Beautiful. It's poetry, is what this is.

At some point I got sick of asking myself whether video games could be or always have been art, what qualifies Super Mario Bros. (1985) as art (if it is art) and what disqualifies Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude (1992) from being art (if it isn't art), if a basic but economical and ingeniously designed game like Ms. Pac-Man (1982) has more artistic value than a beautiful, evocative, poetic, and utterly muddled game like Chrono Cross (1999), et cetera, et cetera. The partial solution I arrived at was to refrain from asking the "art" question at all.

The ancients recognizes no boundary between art and craft, and if our doing so results in more carping disagreement than clarity, then we might be better off abandoning the distinction. Let's call all of it craft, art, artifacts, whichever term we prefer, and say that we ought to judge any individual object or work in terms of how well it fulfills its intended function, while encouraging critique concerning the impacts of its creation and use.

For example, we could consider an Egon Schiele painting, an iPod, and a pornographic film that won several industry awards. We may agree that in terms of the respective standards by which we judge portraiture, portable .mp3 players, and jerkoff material, each item is outstanding. But we can (and should) also be asking whether the quasi-cult of the artist, the gadgets industry, and porn are things we ought to be celebrating in the first place. 

This was more or less how I answered my friend. Even if it's not a perfect solution, I'm confident that reframing the issue this way would be a step in the right direction—and preferable to listening to partisans of one medium or genre to bicker with partisans of another until the collapse of civilization. At least we're brought the debate out of the realm of private "aesthetic experience" and into our external, shared world.

Nobody has to make the case that a gory seventies giallo film is just as deserving of being called "art" as a painting by Titian or Raphael. Why would anyone in their right mind argue that a claw hammer is any less worthy of being called a "tool" than a chef's knife? If what we really want to argue is that society ought to ascribe more value to oil paintings than horror movies, then let's make that our case instead of miring ourselves in circumvolutory debates over semantics and abstractions.

Bob's Burgers enacts the "is knife better than hammer?" controversy.

On second thought: rebranding British Petroleum as "BP" didn't fundamentally change the company's operations or its product, and prescribing different language for a dispute isn't the same thing as solving it. Even if we declare that it's all art, without exception, people will still contend that if universities offer seminar courses on James Joyce's Ulysses (1920) and Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), then why not dedicate a semester to analyzing a landmark video game like Final Fantasy VII (1997) or Super Mario Bros.? What makes Pulp Fiction and Ulysses more important, anyway?

Moreover: why should we believe an Andy Warhol film is more deserving of exhibition in an art museum than a Tex Avery film? Why should "classical" composers and their soporific, excessively long songs receive more commendation than the pop musicians and producers who make music that actually captivates people? Why shouldn't high school students be assigned to read contemporary YA fiction hits instead of musty old "dead white men" novels like The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Brave New World (1932), Beowulf (ca. 1000), or the Iliad (400,000,000 BCE as far as the kids care)?

At some point, somebody listening in will throw up his hands and declare that the works of Warhol, Bach, Steinbeck, et al. are Art (note the capital "A"), while video games, Droopy Dog cartoons, and YA novels about likable teenagers Doing The Right Thing and learning important life lessons are entertainment. Once this stage is reached, it's all moot. Entertainment can be Art, his opponents fire back. Art can be entertaining, he and his supporters counter. And then everyone splits hairs and tries to trap the opposing camp in their own reasoning until they all realize they could be spending their time in a hundred more productive and satisfying ways.

At the heart of the disagreement is the conviction that there resides in some certain cultural artifacts or events a kernel of the transcendent whose propinquity endows them with a value that goes beyond their mere use as devices for diversion, or as spectacles staged to amuse an audience. Erudite readers of novels are likely to believe that Dostoevsky's  The Brothers Karamazov (1879) possesses this quality, while a collection of Takekuma and Nozawa's Super Mario Adventures comics (1992) does not. Arthouse film buffs and museum curators are more likely to suppose Fernand Léger's experimental film Le Ballet Mécanique (1923–4) has it than a given entry in the Fast and the Furious franchise. A fine arts major who works with charcoal and oil paints is more apt to vouch for it in Vincent Van Gogh's self-portraits than Gawr Gura fan art on Twitter.

Whatever the nature of this property, the artifacts in which we perceive it, we call Art—or so the idea goes. The ones lacking it are either entertainment, "design," or lowercase-a art. What's being contested seems to be how widespread it is among different forms of media or genres within one medium.

So what is this property? It seems to be something dignified and numinous, but otherwise difficult to define. Any of us can offer a dozen examples of things in which we are certain it can be found, but most of us will be at pains to isolate and explain the common characteristic. Saying that every item we cite is "beautiful" simply directs the conversation into a tangent about the nature of beauty, the precise character of which is as elusive as that of Art.

Okay then, somebody proposes; if it's Art, it must demonstrate a technical mastery of the medium.

That's fine, provided we're content with Johns and Jimenez's Infinite Crisis miniseries (2005–6), Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001), and the movie Die Hard (1988) from joining the works of Vermeer, Dante, and Bergman under the Art tent. Who's going to say that Infinite Crisis isn't magnificently illustrated and doesn't show a comprehensive understanding of superhero comic serials in terms of how they work and what they're about? Or that Melee isn't the best platformer-fighter ever made? Or that Die Hard isn't one of the greatest action flicks of all time?

Probably that isn't the result that apologists for the "canon" had in mind (if it was indeed them who suggested the "mastery" criterion).

They take another stab at it: what if it's a work's intellectual content? Whatever Art is, it's got to be something that makes you think, that eloquently communicates Big Ideas.

In which case, will a polymathic aficionado do please tell me what "ideas" are communicated by Ellsworth Kelly's Green (1951), Gertrude Stein's "If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso" (1924), or a harpsichord concerto by Bach?

Okay, okay, they try again: whatever Art is about, it's not necessarily Big Ideas. What's important is the sublime "aesthetic experience" which engagement with a work of Art makes accessible to us. That sense of wonder, the intimations of eternity and of truth, the elation of contacting the transcendent and realizing it was something you already knew, that has been with you all along. There needn't even be a grand sense of revelation; the perception of it can be as brief and simple as the moment when one whispers "ah," to herself after she reads the last line of an elegant haiku, watches the seamless jump cut at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey's (1968) first act, or stands in a quiet, clean room surrounded by Rothko paintings. Don't be obtuse; don't pretend you don't know what I mean.


Despite our preoccupation with art and amusements, the nature of the "aesthetic experience" remains obscure to us. (All the better, perhaps, since clearing up the mystery might dispel the magic, and so much depends on the reliability with which the culture industry holds us spellbound.) Public language will never be adequate to private sensation: the exemplars through which concepts are acquired must necessarily be external to both the speaker and the listener, the teacher and the student. Mangos, cream soda, and Hershey bars all stimulate the taste buds differently, but we've been trained to discriminate a common property we can communicate as "sweetness." To convey the flavor of durian to a listener who's never tasted one, all we can do is stack generalizations on top of comparisons—and it's probably impossible that their actual gustatory experience of durian will correspond exactly to what our description led them to expect.

So it is with aesthetic experience. Imagine: I'm in my bedroom, looking at the pictures in a primer of ancient Egyptian art. My neighbor across the street is in his bedroom, looking at a full-page photo of a female nude in a dirty magazine. Shirley is one room over from me, looking at pixiv illustrations on one of her weeby message boards. Based on what each of is looking at, one can reasonably infer how each of us is responding to it (i.e., what we're "getting out of it"), but how can an outside viewer know exactly of what our aesthetic experiences consist?

What if my neighbor is an eccentric gay man with an armchair academic's interest in the presentation of female nudes in pornographic print matter? What if I'm looking at an ostracon painting of a half-nude dancing girl with my hand down my pants? As Shirley views a glossy digital drawing of an anime girl, is she appreciating the coloration and shading details in the clothes and hair, enjoying the sisterly or maternal affection aroused by the subject's neotenic features, or is she faintly titillated by the picture's sexual undertones? If it's a combination of all three, how would we know? How would she know? Which of these, or what combination of these responses, and at what relative strengths, results in the aesthetic experience that decides if what she's looking at is indeed Art?

(circa 1300 BCE) ooh la la

For a bit of clarity, let's consult our old friend BF Skinner. I'm pretty sure I've reproduced this passage from Verbal Behavior (1957) elsewhere in the past, but it warrants another look here.

A predilection for things sometimes leads to absurd consequences in the search for defining properties. We try to assemble a set of properties in order to compose a thing. Professor I. A. Richardson considers a particularly good example in his Principles of Literary Criticism. The quotation is from G. W. Mackail's Lectures on Poetry.

Poetry, like life, is one thing....Essentially a continuous substance or energy, poetry is historically a connected movement, a series of successive integrated manifestations. Each poet, from Homer or the predecessors of Homer to our own day, has been, to some degree and at some point, the voice of the movement and energy of poetry; in him, poetry has been for the moment become visible, audible, incarnate; and his extant poems are the record left of that partial and transitory incarnation....The progress of poetry, with its vast power and exalted function, is immortal.

The central theme of this passage is apparently the present point. What is the referent of the abstract tact poetry? Professor Mackail appears to be arguing that it is something that is never quite present in any one stimulus presentation yet characteristic of a long succession of stimuli. But since poetry is a noun, he concludes that poetry must be a thing. A single property is too evanescent. And so word is piled upon word to prove that poetry is both substantial (substance, energy, movement, power, visible, audible) and enduring (continuous, successive, integrated, immortal). [Skinner's footnote: These responses are examples of the impure tact...The function in this case is to reduce the speaker's anxiety lest poetry escape description altogether.] We might try to substantialize the referent of pyramidal in the same way:

Pyramidality, like life, is one thing....Essentially a continuous substance or energy, pyramidality is historically a connected movement, a series of successive integrated manifestations. Each builder of pyramids, from Cheops or the predecessors of Cheops to our own day, has been, to some degree and at some point, the voice of the movement and energy of pyramidality; in him, pyramidality has for the moment become visible, audible, and incarnate; and the extant pyramids are the record left of that partial and transitory incarnation....The progress of pyramidality, with its vast power and exalted function, is immortal.

....The referents of abstractions——properties of stimuli which control abstract tacts——can be discovered only by certain methods of empirical investigation. What do pyramidality, poetry, chair, red, or foxy really "mean"? If we try to answer this by discovering what they "mean to us," we are behaving empirically, although under a certain handicap. It is easier to discover what they "mean" to someone else.

We learn what Art is (or what it seems to be) the same way we learn to speak about any abstraction and be understood: through exemplar training. If we've been exposed to a great deal of Japanese art and architecture, we may encounter an unfamiliar object and say something like "it has a Japanese aesthetic." Even if we can't articulate precisely what nonarbitrary stimulus features constitute Japanese-ness, we can still credibly make such a claim if our "education" has been extensive and consistent. This would entail us having not only spent a lot of time studying or being immersed in Japanese art, culture, language, etc., but that there have been many instances where we've been reinforced by the consequences of our developing knowledge: occasions where it has helped us navigate the environment, make sense of a cultural object, converse intelligibly with others, and expand the "network" of our relational responses to the abstract property "Japanese." It also means we must have been consistently corrected when we've gotten something wrong.

Consistency, or a lack of it, might be the cause of our confusion about what Art is, and what is Art. We inherit the concept of "fine art" as a vestige from an earlier stage of the bourgeoisie epoch, where the production and use of visual arts reflected the transfer of power from a feudal order propped up by the Christian churches to an upstart caste of merchants, landowners, financiers, etc. Painting and sculpture, once subsidized and regulated by nobles and churchman who understood such impressive artifacts as an effective means of conveying and legitimizing their temporal power (and in the case of the church, of communicating the substance of the Christian faith in an iconographic language which could be understood by an illiterate public), became so many moveable goods to be collected, traded, and displayed in the homes and offices of a burgeoning middle class.¹ As social controls over the content of art were relaxed, the "use" value of an artwork came to be spoken of not in terms of promoting religious devotion or any programmatic or didactic content it "contained," but in projecting the "good taste" of the owner, which was held to correspond directly to his or her moral stature.² Knowing what good Art was and being able to understand why it was good art required that one possessed the insight and cultivation to engage with a work in terms of a quasi-occult "aesthetic experience."

In the digital age, more emphasis and attention is paid to aesthetic experience than ever before. Moreover, its discourse has been democratized, and as such, has become subject to factional rivalries far greater in scope than, say, the division between the Impressionists and the Academic traditionalists over the principles of their craft. The questions about Art and where it abides are the surficial ripples of a cultural schizophrenia.

Maybe "schizophrenia" is too loaded a word. It might be better to say "discordance"—as in a lack of coordination. 

Charles Schulz's Peanuts (2/16/1958)

Assuming public school curricula haven't changed much since the turn of the century, the early exemplars of "art" in which a student will be trained are photographs of well-known paintings and sculptures by famous artists, typically produced before the advent of electric media and the maturation of the culture industry (or made in spite of it). A child's formal, guided education will impress upon her that Art is a faintly suggestive painting of flowers by Georgia O'Keefe, a Rodin sculpture, a still life of a fruit bowl painted by somebody whose name she can't be bothered to remember, anarchic Pollack canvas, and so on. How captivating is any of this really going to be to her if she spends her leisure time with an iPad, a Nintendo Switch, and Netflix, and if her parents aren't in the habit of drawing or working with clay, and seldom if ever visit any art galleries?

Maybe if she has an aptitude for drawing or painting and receives scrupulous encouragement from her teacher and classmates, she'll develop an interest in "fine" art—although probably not without a lot of coaxing. If she's immersed in television cartoons, manga, cel-shaded video games, fanart, etc., she probably won't gravitate towards "traditional" painting unless she is programmatically guided in that direction.

It will not escape her attention that the cartoons, comics, and video games she takes such pleasure in and to which she ascribes such personal significance are typically excluded from her art teachers' instruction, absent from the official-looking coffee table books with titles like Understanding Art and Art from the Renaissance to Today lying around the school studio, nowhere to be found on the walls of the galleries she visits on field trips, and unmentioned the Introduction to Drawing course she takes as a general education requirement when she attends a state university.

Her brother, who has long aspired to be a writer because he loves comic books, Netflix dramas, and/or narrative video games, has noticed something similar. Every now and then he'll encounter a crusty teacher, a classmate, or a combative Reddit user who tells him that all of his cherished influences are cheap commercial pablum, while real Literature (a subset of Art) consists of very long books full of difficult words nobody uses in real life, and devoid of illustrations, fight scenes, abstruse paranormal mechanics, and snarky humor.³ It will not escape his attention that virtually all of the people who are really passionate about John Milton, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Raymond Carver, et al. are people who are (1) being paid to care about them, and (2) people directly under their instruction.  

I'd like to submit a spot test by which Art can be identified in contradistinction to mere art, or to entertainment. It depends on how much conditioning a person must undergo before he or she will view (or otherwise engage with) a given media artifact in the absence of social compulsion.

The media we often call entertainment are seldom an acquired taste. Children don't need much guidance to look at a television screen or computer monitor, admire the narrative art in a picture book or comic, or "explore" the onscreen world of a video game—nor do they need their arms twisted before they'll do it again. The Capital-A art of the orthodox aesthetes and literati, on the other hand, requires that a person receives a substantial investment of time and instruction before he'll engage with it in the absence of social motivators (say, a teacher assigning it to him), and when "easier" media artifacts are readily available.

To put it in incredibly basic behavioristic terms, watching television or listening to recorded music aren't primary (unconditioned) reinforcers, but conditioning somebody such that they become reinforcers is clearly a less protracted process than making her into an avid reader of Herman Melville novels and appreciator of Cy Twombly paintings. 

Is this a perfect definition? Absolutely not. But I think it helps to shed some light on a social process from which conversations about Art and its constituents emerge.

All things being equal, electric media is a stronger reinforcer than printed text; if we chose at random a person from the general population who has both a television (with cable and streaming services) and a bookcase in his bedroom, we're likely to observe that he switches on the TV more often than he reaches for a book. Pop music developed for a mass audience and optimized for a recorded format will have a broader following of more frequent listeners than baroque compositions intended for performance by an orchestra, and aimed at educated and wealthy "society people" for whom an appreciation of "learned style" music was a signifier of good taste. A colorful, glossy comic book with a fast-paced sequential narrative and imagery that emphasizes realism less than expressiveness is likely to hold a person's attention longer than a single Rococo portrait of some French aristocrat or a series of Gustave Doré engravings. If the comic is being read on a device with a backlit screen—and if the reader has been frequently reinforced while looking at screens—then they may prefer digital comics to printed ones.

Advocates for a more exclusive standard of Art tend to cite as their examples artifacts in media formats that predate the industrial revolution. This isn't always the case, though. Sometimes the debate concerns the virtues of an older electric media format over a newer one, such as when household-name film critic Roger Ebert declared "video games can never be art." In other cases, the conversation may be about whether a legacy genre or form is degenerating rather than evolving. Artists who work in physical media occasionally grumble about digital artists skirting by without "learning the fundamentals," and there are writers and English professors who lament the abandonment of formal structure in poetry (which did begin during the industrial revolution).

If the sheer volume of prevailing opinion was sufficient to settle the issue once and for all, we'd probably never hear another peep out of the orthodoxy. Fortunately for them, they've got the backing of social institutions that still wield a considerable degree clout.

Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes (7/20/1993)

The primary education system, academia, art museums, and certain media platforms (think NPR, highbrow journals, etc.) keep the old-schoolers' preferred Arts on life support. They may have any number of reasons for doing so. Simple institutional inertia must be a factor, as when an academy trains students in the humanities using syllabi similar to those in which its current instructors were versed. 

Though the academic canon has come a long way from the Trivium and Quadrivium, the "ivory tower" still observes its old emphasis on the text as the principle object of study and discussion, advances painting and sculpture from the sixteenth through mid-twentieth century as benchmarks of fine art, and uses orchestral instruments as the basis of education in music. Revisions occur incrementally, and periods of accelerated change coincide with social reorganizations precipitated by technological development. Despite its reputation as a liberal bastion, the academy is far more conservative than the rest of society in terms of its attitude with regard to neoteric art and culture.

Example: an undergraduate chooses to major in English. Nobody is surprised: in high school, his teachers frequently praised his written work, he was selected for AP English, he got a significantly higher score on the verbal sections of the SATs than the math section, his abilities received acknowledgement from his peers, and so on. Afterwards he goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate, and eventually acquires a position on a university faculty as a professor of English literature. Maybe he believes there are texts and authors that are owed a more prominent place in the curriculum, or that this or that book's use as a pedagogical tool could be better fulfilled by a different one. Perhaps he might find himself in a position to make such changes. However, it's unlikely that he would have sought a professorship to begin with if he held the whole canon in contempt and demanded it be thrown out.⁴

In any case, he will insist upon the importance of his discipline and the necessity of its place in primary and secondary education. After all, teaching the material he spent his life studying and mastering is how he earns his living, and we can't doubt that he genuinely wishes for the media that has been so enlightening and pleasurable for him to be transmitted to successive generations, for their own benefit.

Anybody who wishes to teach primary school must first pass through the university system, where people like our professor friend administer their training. An art, music, or English teacher enters the high school classroom inculcated with the values of the academy. The members of the board which determines the curriculum have as their template their own experience in primary and secondary school—and the recommendations of learned experts, who have varying opinions about what kind of cultural exposure should be mandatory for students. At least for now (after all, we're in the middle of one of those reevaluations precipitated by technological disruption), Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, and their ilk remain classroom fixtures.⁵ Students who excel at "working" with these texts will be encouraged to keep reading and writing; some will attend university and major in English; and the cycle is sustained.

A similar process plays out in the spheres of fine art and classical music. We needn't review them separately.

To make a long story short: the social position of Art (the sort that requires extensive training to appreciate) is kept tenuously secure by a powerful social organ with a central role in determining the cultural training children receive in primary education. That training is compartmentalized from the actual, active "life" of society. Students are made to discuss Homer in the classroom, but in the "real world," they discuss the events and ideas of Netflix series. In art class, they examine and have observations of Impressionist paintings drawn out of them; at home they look at Instagram, watch cartoons, and play video games, about which they freely and fluently converse with their peers. Maybe in a high-level history course they read excerpts from Locke, Hobbes, or Rousseau—but the most of the political education that will serve them in their roles as citizens will come from social media "discourse," YouTubers, and memes.

That's what I mean by "schizophrenic." The institutional "brain" within the organization of society is completely out of phase with what we truly value in practice, and this is especially true with regard to the younger generations who have no recollection of a world without smartphones and YouTube.

If Shakespeare ceased to be required reading in primary school and in general education courses at the university level, the Bard would fade from memory. Like his contemporary Ben Jonson, his relevance would be limited to postgraduate students writing dissertations about Jacobean theater. By contrast, children aren't required to watch Star Wars movies or play Pokémon games, but engagement with them evidently needn't be made compulsory in order to make them a constituent of common cultural experience. As things stand, Star Wars and Pokémon command more social "power" than the work of any pre-World War II artists or writers enshrined by the academy. In a perverse sense, industrially produced culture seems more organic than indoctrinated devotion to the canon—more like what Homer actually was to the ancient Greeks, and what Shakespeare was to London around the turn of the seventeenth century.

Seems ought to be underscored in the last sentence. The Star Wars and Pokémon franchises stand just as far from "grassroots" folk art as David Foster Wallace novels and Damien Hirst installations. The culture industry is a centralized, oligopolistic cartel that manufactures demand for its product as much as it caters to popular tastes. However, it is more labile and receptive to feedback from a wider array of social and economic sectors than a university curriculum, whose curators are less disposed to care if the students who enter their classrooms don't necessarily want to study the contents of their syllabi, or are more habituated to watching movies and playing video games than reading a fifty-page excerpt of anything.

Maybe we're justified in calling the proponents of a "gatekept" standard of Art snobs. They had to learn to like it at their hoity-toity schools, were fortunate enough to attend concerts and museums with their affluent urbanite parents, and can afford the leisure time to read centuries-old tomes and longform articles in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Don't tell us we're not legitimate aesthetes. We recognize the perplexities of the human condition delineated for us in the drama of of premium television series; we find relatable, heroic, and often tragically human exemplar-heroes in movies, comics, and YA novels; the touchstones of our teeming emotional lives are in the hooks and lyrics of pop music. We're captivated by the beauty in Instagram photos, digital illustration, manga, and the environments of games. We're immersed in electronic interfaces; we're more receptive to the elegance of design than any cohort that ever lived. Don't presume to tell us that these things which mirror back to us the significance and poignance of our lives are anything other than Art.

Who knows? Maybe they're right, and we'll be no poorer when even educated people have no grounding in the Art of the old guard. The English departments will probably be decommissioned sooner than the art museums; there's too much money in old paintings, and they're still a hit with the tourists. But probably fewer fledgling visual artists aspire to be in a museum than to be employed as an illustrator or animator, and the paintings on the gallery walls are far less important to them than the content of anime, comic books, and digital pin-ups on their Twitter feeds—though again, maybe that doesn't matter. There will still be talented people bringing to our eyes images of the impossible and the fantastic in which the real stands in illuminating relief. And we'll have no shortage of artful, intelligent stories, at any rate. All we're losing is the cultural dissonance for which an obstinate, entrenched orthodoxy is responsible. Perhaps not for much longer. 

Are any of us still worried that something irreplaceable could be lost if such an iconoclastic break from tradition comes to pass? Maybe we feel strongly that cultivation in canonized Art actually makes for more discerning, empathetic, upright, and well-rounded people? Or, we may suspect that certain works of Genius composed in the old media contain kernels or adumbrations of Truth, approximations of subjective but universal facts of human life and experience that modern culture industry products, developed for spectacle and diversion even when they purport to "have deeper meaning" or "speak to the moment," cannot quite approach. If this were so, allowing such artifacts to pass into obscurity would be a grave loss, as though the body of society were an Alzheimer's patient who'd been divested of the use of a method, a memory, or a mode of perspective. It would amount to a cultural regression facilitated by historical and technological Progress.

Deciding the veracity or misplacement of these doubts is an empirical matter. We're sure to have better data as the grand experiment commences, provided we've arranged for a large enough control group.

1. cf. Peter Bürger.

2. Nowadays it's less a signifier of cultivation or morality than of tribal affiliation—although the modern tribal mindset is nothing if not the operational belief in a Manichean moral universe.

3. "Abstruse paranormal mechanics" is the best descriptor I can think of for something like, say, the
"rules" governing the use of Stands in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Is there a recognized term for this that I don't know about?

4. Unless he's an ideologue engaged in a long-term campaign of institutional capture. 

5. When I read angry comments or tweets railing against the discourse about "decolonizing the classroom," I have to wonder how many of the people asserting the perennial value of "the classics" to public education have read Homer or Shakespeare recently—or can honestly say their lives would have turned out differently had they not been made to read the Iliad or Othello. Perhaps they're of a kind with the Christian who professes the importance of his faith and its ethics to society, but hasn't attended a liturgical service in years and has only flipped through the Bible a few times in his whole life.


  1. On some level it does seem like keeping the " old " days alive seems in a lot of ways to be about ensuring that the old centers of culture still have power, like worshiping the Greek or Norse gods because its the culture of the land. Still, in some ways its important to know the history of art to know where it comes from, the whole those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat themselves and all.

    In the end anything can be art, successful art, art that becomes the culture of a nation or something is another and that has many factors, one factor is what is taught, what is remembered. Still hope both of are books will be remembered someday, however a long shot it is lol.

    In a sort of related note, kind of, any thoughts on Hickmen's X-men run being cut short because Marvel does not want to give up the current status quo even if it breaks what he was building up because the memes of how they currently are seem to be more important then any narrative?

    Between how Hickmen's X-men story got taken out of his hands and how the last Spiderman writer's story got taken out of his hands to keep some status quo from going its clear brand has become far more important then the story. I know, maybe it was always that way but it just feels even more in your face after these last " Judgment" calls from the higher ups.

    I guess it seems just showing how with Stan Lee dead the Marvel hero's feel even more just like brands then a story anymore...and yah maybe that's how it always was but it just feels even more so with how its been going, a brand to be talked about as talking points, organic process be damned. Well, hope that makes sense.

  2. Sorry, forgot one part. I guess another thing that made me wonder about the state of super hero's was seeing the result of the Death Metal event. Don't know if you read it but the end result was that as of now DC no longer was going to have a stable timeline, focusing on events based off popular movies and cartoons like the old Batman movies, I guess that's when it hit home that they seem more and more seem to be giving up on any semblance of a story anymore and just go for meme bait. Ah well sorry for the extra layer of rambling.

  3. Calvin & Hobbes < Lichtenstein < Peanuts = Shakespeare

  4. Comics/manga/graphic novels absolutely can be art. It all depends on the artists.

    There is an argument about video games because most of the things the medium excels in (and the reasons people play video games in the first place) are not necessarily conductive to serious artistic expression. Roger Ebert's issue was the interactivity. He implied that a linear visual novel could be art because it isn't a game. A game would need challenges and other video game things. Even one with mostly high brow ideas/content made by serious artists.
    However we categorize it, i'm of the opinion that video games can be very imaginative, engaging and enriching. The medium is still evolving and creators bring in new ideas every year.

    Also, there is interest in literature and not just the classics. There are still (contemporary) writers with serious artistic aspirations.