Art and it’s Obvious Subjectivity

In my Global class, we’re learning about the Renaissance.  I love to learn about it; it’s a fascinating topic.  But here’s what gets me: the art of the era.  I’m talking specifically about Leonardo da Vinci.  Yes, it’s very well done.  But let’s face it: there’s nothing particularly fantastic about the Mona Lisa.  Hell, when it comes to the Vitruvian Man, it wasn’t even anatomically correct.

All art is subjective – that’s one of the most basic rules of it.  That’s why we have massive debates going on around the online art community.  Here are some of the bigger questions, and arguments for and against them:

-Is anime art? 

For: Yes.  It’s drawing, and most of the time it shows the emotions of the artist just as much as, say, realism or cubism does.  It’s just a question of how well it’s done.  A lot of people say it isn’t art, simply because of it’s increasing popularity.

Against: No.  It’s childish cartoons that doesn’t require any real talent.

-Is photography art?

For: Yes.  There are just as many components to photography as there are to drawing or painting.  There’s composition, lighting, angle, and many other things to consider.  Also, if you’re using film, there’s the process of developing to consider.

Against: No.  It’s just aiming a camera and clicking a button.  It’s nowhere near as complicated as more traditional forms of art.

Is it easy to tell which side I support for both?  It should be.  I don’t know if anyone remembers it, but there was an instance where an artist chained up a starving dog in a gallery and called it art.  Now that, I am dead against.  Anything that involves harming a living thing is not art.  In some extreme circles, it could be performance art.  What amazes me is that the artists were surprised when the art patrons complained.  I mean, come on.  If you’re going to do something that controversial, don’t be freaking shocked when people are against it.  It’s to be expected.

Another thing in online art communities: people get freaked out when they get critiqued.  Now, this isn’t, obviously, on ConceptArt, because it’s a community for critique.  I’ve seen it mostly on deviantART.  They get showered with “OMG so cute!” comments, and they get spoiled.  Then they freak and say they’re being flamed when they get critique.  That kind of annoys me.  They’re posting their work on the Internet, where there is no censorship, and anyone can say what they want within reason.  Some people will be harsher than others.  It’s just another thing to be expected.

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Maximum Ride: The Final Warning

It comes out tomorrow.  The date snuck up on me, without me even realizing it.  They always manage to do that, lately.  I should’ve been rereading the first three books in the series, but I don’t think there’s time to do that now.  Although, it’s likely that it’ll be a few weeks until I get it.  I still have a stack of new books from Christmas that I haven’t read.  I haven’t really read any plot synopses, or early reviews or anything like that for The Final Warning.  Here’s one from the Wikipedia entry:

“Fourteen-year-old Maximum Ride and the other members of “Flock”-Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman and Angel–are just like ordinary kids.

Only they have wings and can fly (they are 98% human and 2% bird). It seems like a dream come true–except that they’re still being hunted by new threats at every turn like the Flyboys , which are like Erasers except they are machines. This time, the U.S. government wants to keep the Flock under observation, offering a safe haven and schooling in return. But after their incredible adventures in books 1-3, Max and Flock have grown to love freedom. After all, haven’t grown-ups always found a way to ruin their lives?

After escaping the control of the feds, they are surprised to find themselves allied with a group of environmental scientists who just might be trustworthy. And besides, what enemy could find them in one of the most remote locations on earth? They’re in Antarctica, on an expedition studying the effects of global warming up close. There is one Person who threatens them: The terrible Director. Literally, brains on a stick-an evil being who has developed mechanical soldiers far more frightening than Erasers.

Their quest? To retrieve the Flock and sell them in a global auction for billions of dollars. Will the Director that calls Max her daughter nab them before she, Fang and the flock succumb to the dangers of the harsh Antarctic wilderness? And will Max and Fang’s personal relationship develop? Only time will find out.”

It sounds quite dramatic, doesn’t it?  Also, does anyone know if this will be the last one in the series?  I hope not.

Human Body: Pushing the Limits

I’ve been watching the Human Body special on Discovery (yes, I’m the person who stays home on Saturday nights to watch documentaries).  I mean really watching it.  They’re showing it on a loop, and I swear I’ve seen the Brainpower episode three times.  It is truly fascinating.  I’ve always been interested in biology, although my science classes have really only done human body units this year.  Learning all these new things has made me realize: we are bloody miracles.  Every last one of us.  We can do extraordinary things that nothing else can.  The scary part?  So few of us do.  Most people are content to live an ordinary life.  That’s always annoyed me.  I can’t understand it for the life of me.  I want to do things with my life.  I want to meet new people, learn new things, and make experiences.  But not everyone wants that.

OK, this has gone off into a philosophical tangent, which it wasn’t supposed to.  The narrator just said, “…which is no longer compatible with life.”  I admit, I laught.  That’s great.  Compatible with life…nice.  But, getting back to my original point, humans are a truly remarkable species.  The impact we’ve had on the Earth is tremendous.  Maybe not always in a good way, but it’s true.  This is like when I watched the Life After Man special on History Channel.  The things we’ve done to the world wouldn’t truly be gone for at least 10,000 years if we were to suddenly disappear right now.  Yes, some big things would happen within a week, but the Hoover Dam, the Pyramids at Giza, even Mount Rushmore would last for millenia.  It’s almost reassuring to know that it hasn’t all been for naught.  And by “it” I mean thousands of years of human civilization.  It really is a fascinating concept.  I can tell my brain is being rewired to accommodate new ideas, new knowledge.  I’m easy to rewire.  Does that make me an Innovator?

For those who don’t get the So Yesterday reference (Scott Westerfeld  http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/), Innovators are the people who think of new trends.  Here’s how he explains it (or rather, the main character, Hunter explains it): “At the top of the pyramid are the Innovators.  The first mythical guy to wear his baseball cap backwards.  When you meet them, most Innovators don’t look that cool, not in the sense of fashionable, anyway.  There’s always something off about them.  Like they’re uncomfortable with the world.  Most Innovators are actually Logo Exiles, trying to get by with the twelve pieces of clothing that are never in or our of style.

“Next level down the pyramid are the Trendsetters.  The Trendsetter’s goal is to be the second person in the world to catch the latest disease.  They watch carefully for innovations, always ready to jump on board.

“Below them are the Early Adopters.  Adopters always have the latest phone, the latest music player plugged into their ear, and they’re always the guys who download the trailer a year before the movie comes out.

“Further down we have the Consumers.  The peopel who have to see a product on TV, placed in two movies, fifteen magazine ads, and on a giant rack in the mall before saying ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool.’

“Last are the Laggards.  Proud in their mullets and feathered-back hair, they resist all change, or at least all change since they got out of high school.”

Even for a work of fiction, it’s surprisingly accurate.  I’d say I’m mostly a Logo Exile with flashes of being an Innovator.  Where do you fall on the pyramid?  If you’re an Innovator, what’s your one special thing that makes you one?  Mine would have to be slang.  I invent words nigh on constantly (and they miraculously catch on), bring back old words, etc.

Getting back to the original point, few people are easily rewired like that.  It doesn’t take a lot to change my entire outlook on life.  Even a simple documentary like this one can.  You know, if I could, I would download all the documentaries I’ve really liked over the years and put them all on an 80 GB iPod.  I would carry it around with me and watch them all the time.  I could educate the pervasively stupid masses!  We should all take that upon us as a task.  A New Year’s resolution, of sorts, without the New Year.  To teach people things.

 OK, I’m setting a new goal for me, and all who read this (which I’m sure isn’t many).  Teach someone something new everyday.  Sort of like a twist on the old proverb, “You learn something new everyday.”  And don’t teach them in a dry stuffy manner that so many teachers use.  Casually bring up something relevant to the topic at hand, get your audience interested, and hit them with the facts.  It doesn’t have to be anything big.  It can be something as simple as a trivia tidbit.  Knowledge is power, even in a world ruled by seeming idiots.  Don’t be afraid to put opinion into your little lessons, either.  Hell, get into a debate over it.  It’s a good thing.  Debate stimulates rational thought (don’t be afraid of overreaching that part of your brain, people; it gets enough rest while you sleep) and it usually provokes emotional responses.  Anything to reach through the little bubble of ignorance that so many people like to keep floating around their heads.

In my last entry, I mentioned rereading Good Omens.  Once again, it’s a phenomenal book.  I’ve also noticed that it’s better if you read it in one session, than if it’s spread out.  The plot is so complex that it only gets jumbled if you stop reading for a while.  When I finished that, I reread Elantris, also mentioned in that post.  I noticed something in a scene that I hadn’t noticed before: Sarene, at Roial’s party, runs away from all the happy couples because it reminds her that Raoden is dead and that they could’ve been happy.  I noticed that I do that a lot.  Not when I’m single, but when I’m in a relationship, because they’re usually happier than I am.  I’m happier when I’m single.  Not that I would ever scorn love (being a romantic, and all), but I’m a teenager.  Teenage relationships very rarely end well.

So, to summarize: humans rock, social hierarchies are easier to describe than I thought, we should all go out and teach people things, and teenagers are hormonally fucked up.  The end.

Spring!

Even with two feet of snow on the ground, it was a beautiful day.  The sun was out, the sky was a brilliant blue.  I can just tell that spring is on the way.  I just can’t stop dreaming of summer, lately.  Really, it happens every winter.  My friends and I came up with a name for it until we found out it was a real thing.  We called it Sunlight Deprivation Disorder, I think.  It’s not even that I like the weather of summer that much; I’ve always liked autumn more.

I spent all day reading.  I reread Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce, and I started to reread Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  Good Omens is one of the best books I’ve ever read, flat out.  It’s not the type of book that’s really for everyone, as it can be complex and the humor can be difficult to understand for the average fourteen year old.  Most adults would understand it, at least.  While I’m here making recommendations, read Elantris by Brandon Sanderson.  Do it.  Now.  Trust me.

Rest In Peace

The creator of the legendarily awesome game, Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gygax has died.  He has influenced so many lives, including mine.  I don’t think I could say it any better than Rich Burlew’s tribute here:  http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0536.html  He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered in gaming groups around the world.  http://www.weregeek.com/2008/03/05/  Thanks for the adventures, and may there be many more to come.