Slightly tardy Tuesday questions, inconceivable edition

This week’s Question comes to you courtesy of NewDealer.  Take it away, amigo:

“I have two Tuesday question submissions that come from a reoccurring theme in my life.

I am not a fan of the Princess Bride. I think it is a cute enough movie but this still causes a ton of gasps and shock and awe because it is apparently the best movie ever made (to seemingly everyone in the universe except me). This often gets people to tell me that I have no soul or am dead and a zombie. During a recent conversation about this on my facebook feed I learned.

1. A lot of people seem to make a distinction between “movies” (purpose: entertainment) and “film” (art). I do not make this distinction and it never occurred to me to do so.

2. That it is reasonable for a person around my age to have seen the Princess Bride and regard it as a classic but to have never seen Citizen Kane, Jules and Jim, The Conformist because the Princess Bride is “modern American pop culture” (I suppose this one makes sense).

So this produces three questions in my mind:

1. What are universally loved pieces of pop culture that do nothing for you? (Because I would love company on this one).

2. Does it make sense to categorize between culture meant for entertainment and culture meant as art and have different judgment standards? (I suspect I am in the minority here)

3. What is a piece of culture that you wished people knew more about?”

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. 1. There’s almost too much to mention, but I would describe the entirely category of oppressively sad movies – even highly regarded ones – as something that I have no interest in no nor understanding of those who embrace them. What is the point of sitting there crying?

    2. Differentiating between movies and films is intellectual masturbation and nothing more. We do this so that we can feel superior about our own choices while excusing our own predilections. It is a hugely frustrating cultural concept that worsens when deployed against art (of whatever variety) that is found to be unacceptable. This is true when cultural conservatives declare that certain things are obscenities in the same way that it is true when intellectual critics dismiss certain things as cultural trash. It’s all just human output. Whatever else is said about it is our own reflection upon it, not objective evidence of some deeper truth.

    • “What is the point of sitting there crying?”

      catharsis sez whut?

      • I don’t get the catharsis of crying at something I could have avoided.

        • I have to admit this never occurred to me.

          “Why are you burning your hand on that waffle iron? That’s gotta be painful!”

          Me, crying: “Catharsis!”

          • Why are you watching that game when your team might lose?

          • Because I’ve got hope. There’s no hope it something as scripted as a movie.

          • “I don’t get the catharsis of crying at something I could have avoided.”

            if you’re crying, you couldn’t have avoided it. or by avoiding it you’re just dodging an issue that requires expression.

            entertainment through pain.

          • I can’t imagine a life in which all of the art I voluntarily experience is happy art. It would severely limit the art available to me. Hell, most poetry would be out, and a lot of music too. Hell, most of the novels I love don’t have particularly happy endings. Is there something about movies in particular that might make me want to only watch happy ones?

          • In music I have a pronounced bias for darkness/sadness. I definitely like some happy/upbeat stuff (though even there, I often prefer it shot through with some streaks of melancholy), but as a percentage there’s no question outright happy stuff is in the minority, and gets far less repeat plays.

          • It doesn’t have to be “happy” art. There’s lots of art out there. But brutally sad films? Something like Leaving Las Vegas? No. There’s too much pain in the real world to roll around in it on a Friday night.

          • Eh, I suppose it comes to what you think the purpose of art is, and what the purpose of experiencing art, particularly narrative art (which would include movies, literature, music, and poetry, though not all of any of those). If it’s just for entertainment, then there’s no reason to worry about “brutally sad” narrative art. If, however, the purpose is to engage, to experience, and to understand, then “brutally sad” seems necessary, because it’s part of the landscape. I mean, if I’m just trying to relax on a Friday night, I’m not going to watch Leaving Las Vegas or read the end of Narcissus and Goldmund, but I don’t just watch movies or read books while relaxing on a Friday night.

          • I kinda see a difference between, say, Lear and Leaving Las Vegas.

            Lear gives you a good cry and you’re flushed out. You are better equipped to face the world.

            Leaving Las Vegas leaves you clogged.

          • At the risk of starting an all out civil war…

            What you’re doing with your art when you watch the end of Leaving Las Vegas or reading the end of Narcissus and Goldmund is no different than what I’m doing. You might have a preference for those things, but that’s all they are: preferences. My preferences steer me clear of brutally sad emotional experiences; your steer you toward them, at least occasionally. In other words, I’m not doing any less engaging, experiencing, or understanding if I’m avoiding things like Dancer In The Dark. I’m just engaging, experiencing, and understanding something else instead.

            As for Friday night – that’s just an example. I don’t listen to Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” on Monday mornings either.

  2. 1. What are universally loved pieces of pop culture that do nothing for you? (Because I would love company on this one).

    Every single game that anyone ever played on Facebook. To my knowledge.

    2. Does it make sense to categorize between culture meant for entertainment and culture meant as art and have different judgment standards? (I suspect I am in the minority here)

    Yes. Art is an ongoing conversation. As I believe Proust held, true art is always an attempt to take a next step beyond what previous artists have done. A step that will in its moment appear radical and perhaps inexplicable, but later, with the benefit of hindsight, will appear the inevitable product of all that has happened before. The artist’s genius, then, is in part the capacity to understand previous art better than those around him, as well as the ability to build on it.

    Pop culture requires none of this.

    3. What is a piece of culture that you wished people knew more about?”

    I wish more people cooked as much as I do.

    • Although I have no doubt we’d enjoy one another’s company Jason, there is so much that we so often disagree about. The idea that pop culture requires neither the understanding of what has come before nor the ability to build upon it? My flabber has been ghasted.

      • Gotta agree with Sam here. It may be the case that, in many cases, pop culture requires a shorter memory for individuals, but part of the “pop” is that it’s more of a collective enterprise than an individual one, and the collective memory is everything.

        • Anyone can quote. That’s pop culture. A quote and a wink, which says “hey, I just quoted something.”

          Art aims to quote, yes, but also to go beyond merely quoting.

          • both have novelty as the driving force at their heart, however.

          • I think a lot of pop culture does as well, because one of the motives behind being a pop culture “artist” is to drive the trend or the fashion, to move pop culture, and do so visibly enough that you get credit for it. Pop culture may be full of followers, but it has its explorers as well.

          • Jason,

            As abhorrent as he became later in life, what do you make of Michael Jackson’s body of work, particularly what he was doing throughout the 80s? Just pop culture? Or something more?

    • 1) People play games on facebook?
      2) I bet you like five handed piano duets. (I do have recommendations, if you’re interested).
      3) How is cooking culture? I would have noted it as a craft… (which is not to say it’s not ART).

      • How is cooking culture?

        Cooking the the root and essence of culture.

          • Cooking something and forgetting to refrigerate it can make a really interesting culture.

          • Bread, beer, wine, spirits, cheese, salt-brined pickles — all are where ‘cooking’ and culture intersect.

      • Culture and cooking are inextricably intertwined, just as life itself is inextricably intertwined with food. Cooking is how food is lifted from a means of survival into a means of pleasure and sharing. How you prepare your food is a fundamental part of your cultural identity.

        • ” How you prepare your food is a fundamental part of your cultural identity”
          … if so, I guess my cultural identity is discordian.

    • Pop culture is self-referential, art doesn’t need to be.

  3. Pop culture that does nothing for me?

    Disco. A polka played in double time.

    The difference between art and pop culture?

    Often, the first appearance of something that becomes ‘pop culture’ is art; a new take that’s so catchy it suddenly seems to be everywhere. Most of the follow ons are copies. Otherwise, I agree with Jason, art is an ongoing conversation.

    Culture I wished people knew more about?

    Jazz, or perhaps better, improvisational music. We get improve acting — a troupe making it up on the spot. Same thing goes on in improvisational music; it’s a conversation that tells a story at its best. And unless it’s recorded, it’s ephemeral.

  4. 1. Star Wars. At its best, it’s fun, mindless, and forgettable, but it’s rarely at its best (say, two films out of 6.)

    2. It’s not just movies, also books, music, TV, etc. Some things have depth and are can be discussed at length, some appeal to the viscera and are then forgotten. (The Princess Bride is, by the way, the former. )

  5. This guest post was timely, since I’d had a related question brewing in my head.

    My submissions pertain particularly to the League community, in that I know I’m an outlier. But I simply don’t get the appeal of video games. They’re fun enough when I play them, but I would never choose to do so rather than… pretty much any of my other leisure activities.

    And the bits I saw of “The Dark Knight”didn’t seem all that fantastic. I thought the pacing was frenetic, and Gary Oldman’s accent didn’t seem particularly Gotham to me. Plus Christian Bale’s “Batman voice” gives me the giggles.

    I wish more people read.

    • The Dark Knight is a great answer, because outside of The Joker, that movie is utter garbage.

      • Hah! I was just saying this over at MD. TDK (that’s what the kids are calling it) is definitely on y list of pop culture the response to which I do not get.

      • Fortunately for the film, the Joker is so dominant a personality that the movie can stand strong.

        • There were some really standout visuals in the films, especially when considering that there was no CGI used. Many involved the Joker, though didn’t necessarily have him on screen the whole time. The bank heist at the start, the truck flip, the hospital explosion… when seeing it in theaters, those all made me go, ‘WOH!’… especially the middle one. Seeing that in IMax was worth the price of admission.

          • My favorite moment in the film, and perhaps the only moment I genuinely liked, is when he blew up the hospital, but the trigger didn’t work at first. That was perfectly acted, and funny.

          • I just wish Nolan knew how to direct a fight scene. But he’s not alone in substituting lots of quick cuts for communicating coherence/spatial clarity.

          • I just wish Nolan knew how to direct a fight scene. But he’s not alone in substituting lots of quick cuts for communicating coherence/spatial clarity.

            There’s only… like… er. Okay, there aren’t many directors who know how to direct a fight scene.

        • Every time I have this conversation, and I’ve had it a lot, I feel like I have to say, “Yeah, Ledger was really good, but…”

          Here’s the problem: Ledger was good, and his character drove the film, but even the Joker was kinda uninteresting. I mean, I suppose it’s interesting that the contrast to the strict Appollonian law and order of Batman is purely Dionysian chaotic disorder in the form of the Joker (and by “suppose it’s interesting,” I mean I’ve seen that before a few times since 500 BC, but I liked The Birth of Tragedy as much as Nolan clearly did), but everything else about the dynamic is either annoying or wholly uninteresting. The prisoner’s dilemma thing at the end, with actual prisoners? Bleh. Making Batman choose and then switching out Rachel for Dent? Bleh. Working with cartoonish mobsters? Bleh. But most of all, one of the things that I think made both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises interesting, to me, is how human they made Batman, but Nolan must have felt that in order to make his humanness apparent, they had to produce a purely cartoon villain as a contrast, and so gave us the Joker. Ledger acted well, but he didn’t have a lot to work with.

          Plus, the ‘splodey stuff in TDK wasn’t as ‘splodey as in BB and TDKR. So it wasn’t even as good as just enjoying watching stuff blow up.

  6. The Princess Bride deconstructs and winks at fairy tales. It does so with a big heart and a wry smile. It is the movie equivalent of the lover who woos you with laughter as well as charm. It does not pander to the lowest common denominator but rather assumes that the viewer is intelligent and in the know about the constructs and the jokes; the framing of the story told by the kindly grandfather is the only nod it makes to “You need to know other fantasy stories first” and even then it also nods to the story’s origins as a similarly-joyous book. This is why it is so beloved. On to the questions.

    1. American Idol. Dancing With The Stars. America’s Got Talent. And their various clones from other nations. I kind of got into one season of The Voice because there was a very talented crop of singers, but really, I don’t understand how these can be so resonant with so many people.

    2. I don’t see a bright line or a segregation between popular culture and art. The continuum runs from salability to salience. There is a sweet spot, sometimes attained, where both objectives are realized.

    3. There is some culture I wish I knew more about: hip hop. There’s a lot of critical praise and analysis of hip hop music and personalities and many critics insist that some of them have great depth and interesting things to say. I find the vast bulk of the music unpleasant and the aggressive attitudes of the personalities off-putting, so I find myself shying away from it again and again. I wish I could find it in myself to explore it further.

    • While not a music expert, I’d venture to guess that what you describe with hip hop is probably fairly parallel to other musical genres. I have no doubt that there are rock musics with great depth and interesting things to say, but you probably wouldn’t know it if all you knew was Limp Bizkit. But rock is probably more accessible to you and makes it easier to wade through the mud to get to the good stuff. There might still be some aspects of hip hop that make it unique, but you are probably always going to have the divide between what is popular and what is good, with only a few things crossing over.

    • 1.) A knowledgeable guide is probably a necessity. I knew very little about hip-hop, nor cared for too much of it, until I got to college and had a friend who was a big hip-hop-head. He was able to separate the wheat from the chaff for me, explain the history, etc.

      2.) Another way to approach it (and the way I usually do, though I freely admit I still consider myself more of a tourist than aficionado) is to approach it strictly as dance music – ignore the words, try to appreciate the productions themselves as rhythmic/sonic constructs. I also frequently have a problem with some of the lyrical themes – guns, money, violence, misogyny, egotistical boasting – not that these themes aren’t ever present in rock, but they are definitely more predominant tropes in (at least some styles) of hip-hop. I can sometimes get past this if I like the productions (RZA/Wu-Tang) or if they somehow otherwise get past my defenses (it was easy to miss how violent some Cypress Hill songs were, because B-Real sounded like a cartoon character, and the beats were bumpin’).

      3.) But like I said, at the end of the day I am still a tourist, and freely admit I mostly listen to the subset of hip-hop that is sometimes disparaged as “backpacker” stuff – the stuff that is less aimed at mainstream audiences, and is maybe a little more eccentric in its concerns – the line that runs from Ultramagnetic MC’s through Kool Keith and Madlib (though the classics, like Run-DMC, and PE, and Eric B. & Rakim, still rule).

      4.) Basically, you need to talk to Sam and Chris about this stuff. And also buy It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back.

      • You know what, scrap my suggestion of Nation as a starter kit, it’s still pretty intense after all these years.

        Ease into things with Eric B. & Rakim, or Handsome Boy Modeling School.

      • I read somewhere once that the lyrics ARE the music in hip hop. I’m not doing the quote justice, but their speaker/writer was contrasting the different relationships between the music and lyrics in rock and hip hop.

        • I don’t doubt it. The best rappers are praised for their flow – the complexity and smoothness of their rhymes, the rhythm of the words they choose and how they emphasize them, the allusions therein – basically, the same things poetry does, with bits of percussion thrown in.

          Unfortunately, I usually don’t care that much for most poetry (and I usually ignore the words in rock too, unless they are really good, or really bad, in favor of melody). So this is a hugely important piece of hip-hop that is largely lost on me, unless the lyrics are funny/weird like Kool Keith or Beastie Boys/Pharcyde.

          • In the war between ornamentation and plainspokenness, hiphop/rap seems on the side of plainspokenness — with opera on the other.

          • Hip hop is a lot of things. There is rap you dance to, and rap you listen to, and much of the latter is almost conversational, or part of a larger hip hop discussion, so the lyrics are important. But hell, I listen to French rap while I work so that the words won’t distract me, and it doesn’t seem to diminish the experience much.

          • You won’t hear me complain about any song with Kweli. In fact, if I were giving a hip hop class, I’d probably use Talib’s oeuvre as my primary text. Between Black Star, his collaborations, his mixtapes, his solo stuff, and then his Idle Warship stuff with my celebrity crush Res, I think you have a lot of hip hop covered.

    • I’m like Glyph: I didn’t know much rap until I had someone teach it to me, much as I had to have someone teach me jazz. It can be difficult to just jump into an entire subculture, or to try to get it from the outside, without a guide.

      • on the other hand, there are so many guides now that i think there’s actually some value in just trying stuff at or nearly at random. sadly the “i’ll try everything else on this label” method doesn’t work as well anymore.

        but there’s something to be said for learning on your own.

        • I think there’s something to be said for that, and there are definitely too many guides, but there’s also a hell of a lot more hip hop now than there was in the early/mid 90s. Wading through it can be a chore. I worry that someone might hear Drake and think, “This is hop hop? Then I want nothing to do with it!” Or worse, they might hear Wale.

          • The amount of material to wade through has always been a problem, and it’s only getting worse, since nothing is getting lost, stuff is constantly being rediscovered, and it’s all a click away. Filters/guides are needed now more than ever.

            I alluded above to being a tourist – there’s a few genres where I have deep knowledge, and a LOT of others where I skim off the top, and I use either trusted individual guides (people, or labels, or sites/books) or general fan consensus to do that skimming.

            In some ways it’s bad to be a tourist, and they are rightly looked upon as interlopers, taking in only the easily-accessible consensus best, while missing some of the more idiosyncratic deeper pleasures.

            But the flip side of being a huge, deep fan of any given genre, is that you’d rather listen to the worst that it has to offer, than the best 10% of something else.

            I’d rather hear the 10% “best” of everything, than find myself listening to something just because it belongs to a genre I prize.

          • if someone’s going to be turned off from a huge body of work by a misfire or two then they weren’t going to dig in the first place. and for some people drake *is* hip hop, and not in a negative way. for some people daft punk is the beginning and end of dance music. etc. if i’m never forced to see a play or a “musical theatre” thing ever again it’ll be too soon, and my life is better for it. every day i don’t have to think about going to a play is a day that’s a bit brighter. god save me from the theatrical.

            maybe i’m missing out. or just “missing out” which is where i tend to lean. i love making mix tapes for people to this day, even if i’m just shouting at the wall, because it’s a romantic gesture in an age of, and because it’s just enjoyable to curate, to re-experience, and re-imagine. maybe they fall flat, which has happened more than once. did the recipient miss out? hardly. did i miss the target? at least somewhat.

            you gotta free up your mind so your ass can tag along – i can hardly keep up with all the good stuff i want to hear and i mostly listen to niches, though those niches have expanded as the general tolerance for noise, distortion and aggression have expanded among the general public. but still. too much good stuff, at least in this case, is a really good thing.

            it’s hard out there in a media saturated environment, which is why i think cutting out on one’s own isn’t the worst thing. not everything needs to be broadcast or shared, and maybe a few more individualized experiences make for a sharper understanding of one’s own taste in expression, the uses of their free time, and the things that really communicate and resonate. maybe some of that is community, be it in the gospel choir or burning man sense of the term, and one way to find that out is by experiencing things alone, without a guide or pre-populated list of “good” and “bad”.

            the other benefit is that it helps teach one not to give a fig what other people think, which is probably the worst side effect of the internet’s mass culture sharing platforms.

          • My girlfriend is a Drake fan. I think he’s just a Lil Wayne knockoff, and I don’t even like Lil Wayne, but she loves Lil Wayne, so I guess that explains that.

            And I don’t really worry that someone will just hear Drake and think that’s hip hop. It’s just that pop hip hop has its elements that are just like some of the less appealing elements of top 40 or dance pop or whatever it’s called these days: hip hop’s Britney Spears and One Direction, and that’s what you’re likely to hear on the radio (Chief Keef!), so it is what I think isto be most likely to influence “outsider” opinion. Of course, if you listen to mainstream hip hop radio, you’ll also get a song or two from Kanye, maybe even Nas, but you still gotta wade through the Chief Keef, and people who aren’t sure whether they want to invest the time to seek out good stuff might be turned off.

          • i love making mix tapes for people to this day

            Me too. I still often do them for friend’s b-days, and I still make a few mixes for my wife a year – usually Xmas, Valentine’s, B-day. For her it’s on CD, uncompressed files /80 minutes max, so it’s an object she can play on any boombox or car stereo.

            You would not BELIEVE the “awwwws” she gets from the other gals when they realize her man still makes mixes for her. That .75 cent piece of reflective plastic gets me more points than any nice gift I ever buy for her.

            What I am saying is: people, your S.O. would still like to receive a mix once in a while. Even now, in 2013.

          • What y’all are talking about here is a barrier to entry into hip hop music. I hear one person say “Jay-Z is da bomb, yo” and someone else says “No way, Jay-Z is whack. You want 50 Cent.” And I listen to both and they sound pretty damn like one another to begin with, so I certainly lack the skill to determine who really is da shizzle and who is whack.

            The mandatory canon, it seems to me, is Eric B. and Rakim, Run-DMC, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre (seemingly both solo and with N.W.A.), and Public Enemy. Snoop Dog is fun but I get the sense he isn’t really meant to be taken seriously so much as he’s playing up his persona for laughs.

          • Eric B. and Rakim, Run-DMC, 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre (seemingly both solo and with N.W.A.), and Public Enemy.

            Now, I love some of those artists (Biggie is the smoothest person ever to walk the planet!), and I recommend them often (ask Glyph), but we’re talking hip hop that is now college aged or older here. If your taste in music only extends to the mid-90s, this will be fine, and I know people who are like that. But I would recommend, if you were building a Mix Tape for Beginners, that you include some more recent stuff on there. Hip hop’s palette is ever-expanding.

          • So is Jay-Z da bomb or is he whack? Does he make it on to my mix tape? How about Kanye West?

            And I notice there’s, like, no women at all.

          • MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Miss Melody come to mind for me.

            Sigh. So many memories.

          • Butt, Lauryn Hill raps as well as anyone ever had (look up “Doo Wop” on youtube).

            I bet collectively we could put together a list for an intro to hip hop mix tape.

          • Chris,

            I’m in if we ever decide to play that game, but capturing hip-hop into a single disc (or, if we’re being liberal, a double disc) would still be problematic, given hip-hop’s incredible regional variety. I’m not sure a “Here’s The Best Of The Best Of The Best” compilation would really flow. That said, “Bombs Over Baghdad” is going on there somewhere.

          • Sam & Chris – why don’t you guys do a series of “Wednesday Mixtape” music posts, each one focusing on a region/style, or theme, or artist/concept?

            Whenever you get to “rap that makes you feel like someone put something in your drink” I want in, because The Doctor and Quas are goin’ on that one.

          • Works for me.

            Also, Outkast is an excellent choice, because I think in addition to making some of the most interesting hip hop, they made some of the most accessible. So did Goodie Mob, now that I think about it. Maybe Atlanta hip hop is just easier to ease into than most.

          • Glyph,
            aww, that’s cute.
            I’ve received more mixtapes from girls trying to sleep with me than from guys.
            (though the one my husband gave me was on a shiny gold CD. That counts for something…)

          • Chris,

            Maybe we both ought to create a 13-song tracklist and see what’s on there? I don’t know if you use Spotify, but if we were really creative, we could put them up in such a way as people could listen on their own?

            Worth noting: although I noted regional variations, I don’t have the expertise in any particular area. I know what I like. I know the sound I’m looking for. So that’s what my playlist would reflect.

          • Sam, why not just use YouTube and do posts with linking/descriptive texts so people know what they are listening for? If you don’t want to break the flow between tracks, you can actually do mixes on YouTube itself (never done one, but I have seen them on there – you need a YT acct, and then you can create playlists so that each vid plays continuously after the last).

            Is the worry that YT won’t have all the tracks you need?

          • Glyph,

            I never fool around with Youtube. I didn’t realize you could make mixes on there. I’ll try that. Where are we going to post these? Your subblog?

          • Sam, I don’t use Spotify, but I think I have an account. Glyph’s Youtube idea would work too. I will be away from computers for most of the next four days, but I’ll think about what I want to include. I’m sure I can get 13 songs.

            I’m not sure I have any particular “regional” expertise, either. When I think about it, most of the West Coast stuff I like is old (though Kendrick Lamar is the future), but I still listen to a lot of East Coast and Atlanta stuff, and my girlfriend loves New Orleans hip hop so I can bother her (I dig Curren$y), and there is of course that Kanye-Kid Cudi midwestern thing that I sometimes like.

            I think I’ve linked this before, but here you get New Orleans, East Coast, and West Coast all in one, with three of my favorite current artists (it’s got an f-bomb or two, and the n-word, so if that’s not safe for your work, beware):


          • You guys are welcome to put these up as a series of Wednesday Music Posts at MD. Here’s an example of a YouTube mix.


            I was thinking you could make one of these, embed it at the top of the post like normal, and write descriptive text explaining what the mix is about.

            But when I try to click “embed” it is deactivated – not sure if that is something the user who made the mix did, or if YouTube disables embedding on all mixes (though obviously you can still link to it even if it’s not embeddable).

            Anyway, just a thought. Do it however it makes most sense to you.

          • I think Kanye’s first two albums are excellent, even if he was still in the process of developing his own style. It’s hard to think of another rapper or pop star that openly self-conscious and insecure, which, given hip hop’s tendency towards self-aggrandizement, was very refreshing. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is really good, and “Monster” is one of my favorite songs of the last several years, but the album is… well, it’s a lot. My girlfriend loves Watch the Throne, but it wasn’t my thing, even though I like Jay-Z too (though man, he’s gone off the deep end lately; I blame Blue Ivy). I haven’t heard any of Yeezus yet.

            Oh, and the Katrina telethon moment is one of my favorite moments in television history.

          • I can’t find what the program was called, but my wife and I watched the whole thing (I think it was about an hour) that this clip comes from:


            I have to say…we didn’t get it. But that’s about all I know about Kanye (except that Lou Reed apparently likes the new one?). I have an amazing ability to somehow miss huge chunks of popular culture.

          • I went a long time not really listening to any music. I knew who Kanye was but didn’t really know any of his music. When I read the reviews of “Dark Twisted”, I actually went out and bought it, I was so intrigued by the positive press it received. I then realized a lot of songs I had randomly heard over the preceding years and enjoyed were also his. A question I have about him is whether he still qualifies as hip hop or if he has crossed over into something else. What that is, I don’t know.

            I liked “Watch the Throne” because I thought JayZ brought his strength to what is typically Kanye’s biggest weakness: lyrics. So you sort of had the best of both worlds, with Kanye dropping beats and JayZ rapping.

            Regarding his newest album, one thing I’ve gotten from reading friend’s Facebook responses (for whatever those are worth) is that it has a certain grandiose narcissism that stands out given the vulnerability he showed earlier, as you noted.

            But among people making popular music… basically what you’d hear on the radio… my limited knowledge tells me he is easily the most talented person out there right now.

          • Also, per the reference to Outkast above, I rediscovered Big Boi’s “Speaker Boxx” recently and forgot how much I liked it. Again speaking as a noob, there is an experimentation to it that is similar to Kanye, which I guess tends to draw my attention. Also, I’m a sucker for horns.

          • Kanye is definitely a pop star at this point, but the line between pop and hip hop is pretty blurry in 2013 (and has been for a while). So I have no problem thinking of him as some of both.

            Oh, and Kanye is a good producer too. For example, one of my favorite Jay-Z songs: “Lucifer.”

            Also, a couple years ago, I saw Big Boi live in a parking lot. I was walking by, and there was a crowd, so I walked over to see what all of the fuss was about, and found out it was Big Boi. I don’t even know how that happened.

          • I should clarify: that clip was from a Kanye performance of some kind that we watched in its entirety, we didn’t just watch him do that one song.

            IOW, the whole program we watched was Kanye performing in that lighted room. (And if anyone knows what it was, much obliged).

            Why it was important to belabor that, I don’t know. I didn’t want people to think I was judging him on one song. It was a whole performance’s worth of songs! 😉

          • Yea, Kanye’s live performances have long been panned. Which is surprisingly, given that the few performances I’ve seen tend to be energetic and he seems to enjoy the limelight. He just doesn’t know what to do with it.

            I’ve long suspected that Kanye has some sort of social disorder, which explains his erratic behavior. It would fit with the whole tortured artistic genius thing. Though he might just be a weirdo.

            Regarding seeing Big Boi in a parking lot, some friends and I were walking through downtown Boston, near Government Center, and thought, “Some bar is playing Gin Blossoms REALLY loud because there are no bars particularly close to where we are yet we hear the music clear as day.” We turned the corner and there was GB, performing right on the steps of the plaza. We stayed for the entire show, which was awesome in a goofy way. Everyone else in the crowd was either in their 40’s or the children of the 40-year-olds. We were a random crew of college students rocking out to “Hey Jealousy”.

  7. I’m with you on “Princess Bride”. I don’t know that I’ve ever even seen it beginning to end. Some cute scenes, but I don’t know that I’d ever go out of my way to tune in.

    I’m not with you on art vs. entertainment. More specifically, I think we should evaluate something against the goal it was attempting to achieve. We don’t classify a marathoner as a worse runner than a sprinter because his time is worse. The guy who wins the NY Marathon is a better runner than the sprinter who fails to qualify for the Olympics. Likewise for art… a great B movie, if it is trying to be a B movie, can be a “better” work (not higher… but better) than an epic movie with Oscar aspirations that flops.

      • Ha! I’m not saying it is bad… just that it didn’t resonate with me. As Burt mentions above, it is perhaps a commentary on fairy tales. I generally don’t do fantasy well, which I’m sure is a factor.

      • Like Kazzy, I don’t think it is a bad or unenjoyable. I just don’t quite think it deserves the place of OMG Greatest Movie Ever that so-many in my generation seem to give it.

        People born between 1978-1992 seem to suffer from a serious problem of early onset nostalgia. This seems to cause a heightening of the pleasure and memories of childhood over new exploring in adulthood. There are probably very good reasons for this like coming into adulthood during 9/11 and the Great Recession/Jobless recovery/everyone getting priced out but part of me sees the whole list of Buzzfeed stuff as being potentially troubling. How many variants of “Top 65 signs you were an 8 year old boy who owned a Sega Master System in 1988” do you need?

        • No kidding. Best Video Game Ever, and the closest one to today is seven years old?

        • A few of the kids (read: teens to twentysomethings) I’ve spoken to have sometimes longed for the good old days when the Cold War helped the world make sense and they could see their loved ones off at the airport gate. And I say, “You were born the year the Berlin Wall fell. Do you have any conscious memories of the Cold War?” “No, but it sure seems like it must have been easier, and there were plenty of good-paying jobs, and the music was all cool then too.”

          Is there a word for this? Nostalgia for something one has never actually experienced personally oneself, but only heard about from others?

          • FYI I was nine years old when the Berlin Wall fell 🙂

            I once had to explain it to young actors I was directing in a play. Also I had to explain what 33 meant in terms of records.

            I like Kazzy’s term. But it is interesting. Graduating into a recession (and working johs that don’t use their college degrees) causes young people to yearn even more for childhood when their only responsibilities were chores and HW.

          • I also think this nostalgia might explain the current fascination many hipsters seem to have with old-timey things like turn of the century styled barber shops (I don’t recall Gen Xers making a big deal out of old-school shaving with a straight razor) and other stuff.

            Last night in the East Village, I saw a young hipster guy selling shaved ice. This seemed very old school. He could have been doing something his great-grandfather did at the turn of the century. The people who did this during my youth were rather old-school Italian gentlemen. Most of whom are dead now. I find it interesting that people about ten years my junior are making all this old-world stuff cool again while many in my generation did not think to revive it when we finished college.

          • I don’t know if the barber shop thing is as much hipsterdom as it is a response to standardization and automation. The former might be a subset or more extreme version of the latter, but I’m not sure they are one in the same.

          • “Nostalgia for something one has never actually experienced personally oneself, but only heard about from others”

            I’m losing my edge to the art-school Brooklynites in little jackets and borrowed nostalgia for the unremembered eighties.

            I hear you’re buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record.

          • Kazzy,

            I think it could be both and probably is. Don’t get me wrong I do like the stuff. Love most of it even but it strikes me as being psychological in a way that people don’t want to discuss often.

          • FYI I was nine years old when the Berlin Wall fell

            That I remember there being a West Germany and an East Germany is one of the things that makes me feel old.

          • You want to make a Yaz record.

            Like, winning a batting title hitting only .301?

          • Will,

            I had a teacher in elementary school who was German. Much later, I realized she escaped before WWII and avoided the Holocaust but she did not tell this to little kids. She did tell us she was from Germany and I allegedly asked “East or West Germany?” I was young enough that this was apparently impressive according to my mom.

          • “Is there a word for this? Nostalgia for something one has never actually experienced personally oneself, but only heard about from others?”

            fantasy, really. nostalgia for a past that only happened in the imagination, because no one ever had to strive or try before or whatever.

            nd, i think some of the throwback stuff also has an obvious commercial application, in two directions. it’s either cheaper (safety razor) or more expensive (all the fancy shit you can buy for your safety razor), so it serves a niche desire while supporting one of two economic aims.

            the other side of it is clearly just experiments in living. being able to share ideas and literal and figurative blueprints so quickly helps stir the blood.

    • Try watching it beginning to end (not a big investment; what is it, 90 minutes?). You might be surprised. Even better, read the book.

        • According to the Urban Dictionary:

          an object used as a coaster, to increase the height of small children, or to stabilize poorly built furniture.

          • You forgot the beginning. “Noun. Archaic.”

      • Agreed, while the movie is a fine work (and studded with stellar comedic actors) the book is amazing.

    • Here’s why I don’t like Princess Bride:

      There are scenes in it I’m expected to laugh at. When I’ve watched the movie with friends, I laughed at those scenes because I was supposed to (i.e., the movie wants me to). But my friends didn’t laugh. In fact, they had this look of seriousness on their faces, as if to suggest they were witnessing the sublime incarnate, a mystical (yet somber) experience so transcendental (but yet, again, somehow somber) that none of them will ever experience again (in all its somberness). And yet days later, when the same friends talked about the movie, the referred to the “funny” scenes as if they were the funniest things ever.

      That’s also why I don’t like Dr. Strangelove.

      • That sounds more like a problem with your friends than with Princess Bride. Come watch it with my wife and kids–I promise laughs.

      • If they looked solemn for Billy Crystal (“Dead? I’m good at dead!”) there’s something wrong with them.

      • I might have pretty boring, pretentious friends. (Well, I probably *do* have boring friends, and who know?….maybe I’m the pretentious one.) But my point is that Princess Bride is the type of movie that appeals to these types of people. If we were to all watch “Dumb and Dumber” together, I’d bet they’d laugh right along with me.

        It’s hard to explain. And I agree that PB is not a bad movie. However, maybe I’d ought to give it another chance.

        • Honestly, I’ve never experienced that with anyone, so I can’t wrap my head around PB being “that kind of movie,” in such a sense. In my own experience watching movies with friends there never has been “that kind of movie.”

          There’s a house for sale down the street from me…

        • Here’s my take on PB: if you didn’t watch (and enjoy) all those Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn swashbuckler films, PB won’t make any sense. If you haven’t read bedtime stories aloud to children, PB won’t make any sense.

          Old Woody Allen joke. So a scholar asks a famous rabbi, “Who did God like better? Moses or Abraham?” The rabbi replies “Abraham.” Scholar responds, “But Moses led the people to the Promised Land.” The rabbi replies, “Ecch, Moses, then.”

          Nothing is funny out of context. Most of a good joke is setting it up, getting the pause right — then delivering the punch line. PB makes absolutely no sense without the context of Errol Flynn in Robin Hood:

          Lady Marian Fitzswalter: Why, you speak treason!
          Robin Hood: Fluently.

      • Oh, my god. you should come watch Jumanji with us.

  8. 1. i would not mind if the incessant quoting of the big lebowski stopped at some point.

    2. outside the realm of professional film criticism (or professional arts criticism and research in general) that distinction is largely some kinda weird social signalling thing that i am simply not into. or perhaps i am far too middlebrow to appreciate the difference, to get all #bloomsbury on the sitch.

    3. it would be nice if more people in my immediate surroundings were into the music i’m into so we could be into it at the same time. on the other hand, learning how to properly turn evangelism into seduction is a good thing, because it improves communication skills and leaves both parties richer for the experience.

      • But those quotes really tied the comment section together!

        • say what you will about being totes boring, but at least it’s the internet’s ethos.

          • The sad part is I don’t even LIKE Lebowski all that much.

          • i honestly don’t think anyone does, really. it’s just cheap communitas.

          • On the contrary, I think a number of people really like TBG un-ironically. It’s a very Los Angeles movie. It’s really a masterpiece Los Angeles movie, on par with The Big Sleep (which is a Los Angeles movie about a Los Angeles that isn’t any more).

            But I think you’re correct that a number of people like TBG because people like it.

          • It is The Big Sleep, if Phillip Marlowe had been a slacker.

          • When i looked at TBL as The Big Sleep with a slacker lead i retroactively enjoyed it much more. It’s an enjoyable movie but it seems to be made for middle age dudes to quote lines from like they did when they were teens.

            And what the F is with a White Russian? Do people really drink them?

          • And what the F is with a White Russian? Do people really drink them?

            Hell, yeah. It’s a great cocktail; very smooth. Plus it’s good for your teeth and bones.

    • I get it, but I don’t like it.

      They are not terrible, and on their first album were drawing on some of my favorites, almost to the point of plagiarism; but they were never original, and now they are ripping off BRUUUUUCE instead (blergh) and they are often pretty blatantly emotionally manipulative.


      But I still think a few of their songs are OK.

          • That made me laugh out loud. I’m going to steal it.

          • Do you know why Hipster Dog loves dog whistles?

            Because you’ve never heard them.

        • I admit I have an irrational beef with rock bands that seemingly have too many people onstage.

          • i like bands that have just the right amount of too many people (swans, gybe)

          • If you have a string section (GY!BE) or a horn section (you are a Two-Tone ska band and it’s 1979) it’s all good.

            If, however, you are making the kind of epic theatrical pop that the Bunnymen made handily with only four players onstage and it takes you eight, then I question why that is, and conclude that it is because you are, mathematically, only half as good.

          • If they’re only half as good, you should laud them for acknowledging that and compensating.

            Plus, I like bands that basically just invite their friends over to record and hang out (eg Broken Social Scene).

          • My country(‘s bands), right or wrong, eh, Jonathan?

            I freely admit some of my beef comes from the “they’re OK, but not GREAT, calm down” kinda backlash.

            I remember a thread a couple years ago on another site where people were trying to claim AF was totally sui generis, an original accomplishment on the order of Reed and Bowie, and I had to shut THAT nonsense right DOWN.

            I do like a good chunk of the first AF album just fine, especially the song that sounds like Siouxsie, the song that sounds like Bjork, the two songs that sound like Peter Hook rather than Johnny Marr jamming with Modest Mouse, and all the ones that sound like the Bunnymen.

          • I fully agree that AF is overrated. It seemed like a lot of people loved them before they’d heard more than one song. It was just the thing to like AF.

            I tend to enjoy their stuff, though there’re some hits and misses. The hype seems to have died down (or I’m just old an out of the loop), and I’m quite thankful for that.

          • In grad school, when we put our experiments into the computer system that intro psych students used to sign up for them, we had to give them names that had nothing to do with what the experiments were about, in order to prevent students from selecting studies that way. This one guy named all of his experiments after The Arcade Fire or songs of theirs. That dude was really, really annoying.

      • I like two of their songs, “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Sprawl II,” and the second one doesn’t even sound like The Arcade Fire.

        Every other song sounds the same. Slow guitar, drums start pounding slowly, softly, then louder, then CHORD CHORD CHORD on the guitar and YELLING YELLING YELLING, and we’re THERE!

        I also love that silly thing they do where someone (usually Chassagne) yells without a mic at some point in the song, so it’s essentially picked up by someone else’s mic, and then they put it on the album.

        • They definitely have a formula. But I have seen some live footage and it seems effective, in much the same way Hitler’s practiced speech/mannerisms got his audience pumped up.



          • I’ve actually seen them live. It was like a Flaming Lips show without the balloons, bears, or good songs. Also, there really were a lot of people on stage. The hipsters seemed to really enjoy themselves, though.

            Also, Godwinning The Arcade fire is just plain winning.

          • The Arcade Fire was a false flag operation designed to purge the indie rock scene of opposition and cement Win Butler’s status as supreme hipster.

  9. I loved the Princess Bride. What I don’t get is the love of Dr. Who. I see people referring to it everywhere and I’ve watched a few episodes but have no desire to watch more. I think it would have been better if I hadn’t heard about it before I saw it. For the same reason I will never see Titanic(or The Dark Knight). I heard way too much about it.
    Your second question applies to me if I go see a movie that I know will be frivolous or corny. I know that I shouldn’t expect it to be anything more, but I wouldn’t say that it was better or worse than some inspiring drama. That isn’t what it was trying to be.

  10. Princess Bride is “modern American pop culture” …well, I have never seen it. I think “Jules & Jim” is an amazing ménage a trois well-a propos in a sexually liberated society; something we cannot even portray nowadays. That was Roche and Truffault’s chez d’oeuvre. Not sure we can compare both films. Not sure we can compare art to entertainment; different goals and different populations.
    Art may have a purpose (to educate and free up) while entertainment has a commercial goal (to focus attention on a commercial object).
    Perhaps “Princess bride” is for the crowd while “Jules & Jim” if for the cultured elite?
    Perhaps “Jules & Jim” is a reality (from facts) while “Princess bride” is a fantasy = art is real, entertainment is fake?

    • Then Shakespeare is not art, as its goal was in the main to entertain, by means both puerile and lofty.

    • A plus on knowing about the Roche novel for Jules and Jim. I’ve read it in translation and also Two English Girls.

      Alas my foreign language skills are atrocious.

    • Princess Bride is “modern American pop culture” …well, I have never seen it.

      Then perhaps speculating about it is unwise. It is, in fact, a consciously created work of art that uses multiple levels of framing story, unreliable narration, and subversion of the viewers expectation, to name a few of its story-telling techniques.

      • And it bears more resemblance to Shakespeare than to fairy tales.

  11. 2. Does it make sense to categorize between culture meant for entertainment and culture meant as art and have different judgment standards? (I suspect I am in the minority here).

    When you’re reviewing something, or assessing the type and extent of enjoyment you get from it, a distinction makes sense. There are pieces of film and literature that I could acknowledge as technically proficient without strongly enjoying them, wanting to watch them again, or feeling a strong emotional connection. Movies where I notice things like, “oh, that was well-shot” or “that was a strong piece of dialogue” without having any emotional reaction. (The Hurt Locker is an example.) I watched Citizen Kane in a high school course, found it completely boring, and remember next to nothing about it. There’s more than a few classics that I think fall into this category, and while I recognize their merits I find them inferior to works that are technically well-done as well as being absorbing. And then there’s works you can thoroughly enjoy and be attached to despite recognizing their technical flaws.

    When you’re recommending something to other people, there’s often likely to be a difference between things you recommend because they’re skillfully-made, and things you recommend because you simply like them. Both reasons are perfectly justifiable.

    I’ve never watched “The Princess Bride,” but I’ve read the book and wouldn’t expect the movie to add a lot; the book is like Pratchett in that much of the humour comes from the narrator’s voice, and I don’t think conversion to film is ideal for that kind of book, though the movies’ high level of popularity means they must have done a reasonably good job.

    • Skill is what I tend to think of as polish… it’s what Arrested Development has that sets it apart from a lot of other comedies…

      I think there are a lot of ways one can evaluate a movie, and if I’m ever going to review one, I’m going to need to come up with categories.

    • William Goldman adapted it himself, and he did a hell of a job. It was important to him, not just a knockoff: the story goes that one studio had bought the screenplay but was never going to make the film, and Goldman bought it back with his own money (this is unheard of) so that it could get made someday. I highly recommend you give it a chance.

      • I do enjoy other stuff by William Goldman like The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway. It is probably one of the most insightful books about theatre ever written.

        I’ll give Princess Bride another try when people give After Life by Kore’eda Hirokazu a sincere try instead of dismissing it as art house pretension. I think After Life is one of the most compassionate and humane films ever made.

        • “After Life,” the movie about taking a scene of one’s life to heaven with you?

          I love that movie. A lot. The idea behind it has stuck with me since I saw it, and informs the whispery notion of heaven that I now have. I think it’s beautiful.

          So yeah, give “The Princess Bride” another try.

          • You had the same reaction as me. I found the movie’s concept of the afterlife to be heartwarming and I loved the homage to low-tech filmmaking when they were trying to recreate the memories. After Life has some of the best acting I have ever seen in the movie, there is an almost documentary/cinema verite feel to scenes in the movie and I wonder if he used non-professionals for some of the dead people especially the older ones. Though I don’t know if it is heaven per se. That is too Western. They are just going to the next stage whatever that may be.

            However, when I describe the movie to most people they find that conception of the afterlife to be too horrifying to contemplate for some reason. I found it very compassionate and acknowledging that people have tricky and complicated lives.

          • “I’ll give Princess Bride another try when people give After Life by Kore’eda Hirokazu a sincere try instead of dismissing it as art house pretension.”

            what’s with the horse trading?

          • “what’s with the horse trading?”

            Isn’t that how cultural exchange works? Try a bite of my weird sandwich, I’ll try a spoonful of your stinky soup.

            I don’t think ND is wrong to point out that a lot of the cultural pressure goes one way, towards the stuff that is already more-accessible or better-known or more easily-digested. I LOVE the Princess Bride, but it’s not a hard film to love.

            It’s not unreasonable for him to say “OK, I will give this thing I have struggled with one more shot, but you should try to step out of your comfort zone once in a while too.”

          • DHX,

            Glyph is largely right and it is one of the reasons I reject the “film” v. “movie” dichotomy. The reasons for this are largely what Sam said in the first comment.

            I’ve discovered that people can hagger after me constantly for not liking The Princess Bride and other stuff in pop culture that are fluffy and spectacle. I’m willing to try these again but when I try to get people to set outside of their comfort zone and try something new, there is often a lot of handwaving about how something like Jules and Jim or Masculine Feminine is art and it takes people a long time to get into art. A lot of people also stay stuff about how they like movies that can be enjoyed passively and don’t require active viewing. Even the Seven Samurai can be refused to watch on art grounds even though it is essentially an adventure/action movie. There are people out there who will probably love The Magnificent Seven but refuse to watch The Seven Samurai and do this even if told Seven Samurai was the basis for the Magnificent Seven.

            Old Hollywood movies can also be dismissed easily. I once went to a study break party where a Ryan Renolds romantic comedy won in ballot over the old Adventures of Robin Hood with Erroyl Flynn and Basil Rathbone. And the Adventures of Robin Hood is not exactly the height of avant-garde and is jaunty and enjoyable.*

            I’m rather tired of the one-way street as Glyph points out.

            *In hindsight, some people did wish they followed my suggestion and picked The Adventures of Robin Hood over movie watched. People who were not present that night also approved of Robin Hood.

          • “It’s not unreasonable for him to say “OK, I will give this thing I have struggled with one more shot, but you should try to step out of your comfort zone once in a while too.””

            i dunno man, in my circles we’re a lot like french bread in that we don’t roll that way. it’s more like “i think this would be up your alley” or “this was so up my alley i peed a bit, let me tell you the best parts”. the horse trading stuff only works in marriages, and often poorly. especially with trading one’s spouse for a horse. it’s apparently illegal? damn bloomberg.

            on the other hand, what if we split the difference and everyone watches defending your life?

          • dude, at this point i’m kinda of the opinion you hang out with the wrong people. you got hella taste mismatches that seem to cause you consternation if not outright dismay, and possibly even despair.

            yet on the other hand i agree with them. because “art” means “boring”. part of this is the whole media environment thing, and stereotypes, and whatnot. and some of it is that art is boring. if someone wants fun, offering not fun is, in some sense, going to be perceived as insulting. real or imagined, mind you. and it’s probably a little bit of both since we all know the hunger games get you hella frothy. unless you’re permanent press it’s going to bleed through in some ways.

            “There are people out there who will probably love The Magnificent Seven but refuse to watch The Seven Samurai and do this even if told Seven Samurai was the basis for the Magnificent Seven.”

            yeah this is basically what i’m talking about. so what? why does this injure you so? you admitted they’re basically the same film. the difference is that one has subtitles and is kurosawa and the other has yul brenner and bronson being heartwarming-ish.

            if you’re going to go on these crusades you gotta seduce, not pickup artist. the main reason people equate “art” with “boring” is because a) class differences in upbringing and b) most of the people they meet in their lives, even as children, who are promoting “art” are, subconsciously or not, dicks about it. or they’re terrible at conveying things because to them it’s so obvious why seven samurai is so worthy but so terribly bad at actually selling it like the other person’s time and life is as valuable as their own.

            every time you recommend a work of something you are asking someone to give up part of their life on your say so. that’s a hell of a responsibility, and should be treated as such.

          • dhex, you are not wrong, but it can’t all be one way. People are, in this very thread, recommending that people like ND or Kazzy give up part of their lives to try AGAIN to watch something they have already said they struggled with.

            Instead of two hours lost to them, it’s now four hours, if they sign onto watching TPB again.

            If ND is coming across as snooty about it, I think it’s partly frustration that he feels like he is making the effort, that he has made the effort, that he will make the effort again, but he feels that others don’t feel any desire to make the effort in a reciprocal direction.

            Of course, nobody is obligated to make an effort.

            But if you keep telling me, “Listen to Kanye, listen to Kanye, listen to Kanye” and I do, and I in turn say “Listen to GbV” and you’re all like, “nope, that’s weird”, it’s understandable that I’d be kind of frustrated.

            I tried your stinky soup, try a bite of my smelly sandwich.

          • “People are, in this very thread, recommending that people like ND or Kazzy give up part of their lives to try AGAIN to watch something they have already said they struggled with.”

            which is definitely the chronicles of ridic – the princess bride is kinda like the big lebowski in that its legend overshadows its reality and its fans can be kinda annoying. i like the pb (and certainly do not like the bl) but sometimes you gotta let it go.

          • To be fair (to me, which is the important part), my suggestion to Kazzy was “Watch it all the way through, once, rather than settling for bits and pieces.”

  12. 1. If the artifact of pop culture were indeed “universally loved,” then your question would make no sense. But rather than quibble: Disneyland does nothing for me.
    2. I find it useful to differentiate between entertainment and art; it gives me room in my life for guilty pleasures “Dexter” anyone? In the realm of art, I will return to classics “Great Gatsby” the novel, not the movie, for the perspective age gives one in appreciation. I don’t expect I will ever be drawn to reruns of “Dexter.”
    3. Fine Art as opposed to paintings by Thomas Kinkade, painter of light.

    • ” then your question would make no sense. But rather than quibble: Disneyland does nothing for me.”

      Except you just did 😉

      And Thomas Kinkade should not be forgiven from taking the title Painter of Light from JMW Turner. Turner was the true Painter of Light. He received the title from others and did not trademark it. The most artistic thing Kinkade ever did was take a drunk and public piss at Disneyland and say “This one’s for you Walt!” very loudly.

      • JMW Turner’s work is incredible; I’d not been aware of it before.

        Thank you, N.D. Painter of Light indeed.

  13. 1. I don’t think there are any with truly near-universal appreciation that I don’t like at least a little, but there are plenty of niche examples that do nothing for me. Kentucky Fried Movie, most noticeably.

    2. Does it make sense to categorize between culture meant for entertainment and culture meant as art and have different judgment standards? I don’t see it as a clear dichotomy, but I do have different wants from different kinds of culture. It’s like the different responses I have to two different things that are part of the same cultural movement, only magnified.

    3. What is a piece of culture that you wished people knew more about?
    I wish people made more music together. Not, like, to a professional standard, but just in the “oh, are we having a party? evidently there should be singing, musical instruments, and/or dancing involved” way. (See above, re: having different wants from different kinds of culture – I *love* house party music and I *love* classical music concerts and I don’t use the same criteria to determine their respective success levels *at all*.)

    • 1. But you’ll get the chance to kill 20, maybe 30 men!

      3. This is my greatest failure as a human.

      • 1. See, if the movie would even stick a little bit, I bet I would’ve found that highly amusing.
        3. Can you hit things with sticks? I don’t think people need to be *impressive* to participate in such things; actually I think the socially-generated need for people to be impressive is part of the reason we don’t do it enough. Or were you referring not to lack of musical talent but to lack of making musical parties happen? In which latter case, GET ON THAT.

  14. 1. What are universally loved pieces of pop culture that do nothing for you? (Because I would love company on this one).

    Seinfield. A show about nothing that is NOT funny.

    2. Does it make sense to categorize between culture meant for entertainment and culture meant as art and have different judgment standards? (I suspect I am in the minority here)

    Yes, and as others have said, it’s not mental masturbation. There is no way anyone is going to convince me that Iron Man 3 is ART. It’s candy. March of the Penguins, however, was informative, and beautiful.

    3. What is a piece of culture that you wished people knew more about?”

    I’d call them “the lost arts”. The old craft skills of the various countries. There was a show on PBS long about about Japan’s “living legends”. People still making ceramics, swords, noodles, the old fashioned way. I once met a WW2 British vet in Hutton le Hole (IIRC) who was nearly blinded in the war and was not wove cane for chairs the traditional way. I talked to him for about 30 minutes and he story and his work were facinating….

    • Fuck the lost arts. SG2 is a modern miracle — something that folks thought was impossible 20 years ago. I’ll take it any day of the week.

      • Or better yet, me dear, lets preserve them. If we move into an advanced post (or reduced) scarcity economy then artisian crafts could be an excellent outlet for people.

        • But, instead of saying, “lets keep this because it’s old”, why can’t we keep things because they’re better than newer things??
          I mean, it’s like you’re advocating not using horse collars…

    • When I lived in Japan, it was largely expats that were interested in learning how to play traditional Japanese instruments. There was a lot of decrying about how young people did not want to learn how to play them and were more interested in guitar. Though I did have a student with a hobby of amateur Noh theatricals.

      The issue with a lot of Japanese traditional theatre is that it seems to be dynastic. In Kabuki, actor names get handed down for generations from father to son. I think I saw performers who were the 7th or 8th in their family to perform under a particular name.

  15. I have a theory about Cultcher and Art. Classical music is just popular music which happened to retain its popularity long enough to enter the classical music lexicon. Thereafter, it was stuffed like the Great Auk on display in the Natural History Museum on the Cromwell Road in London, with a little placard below it. Nowadays, Serious People attend classical music concerts where old chestnuts by Mozart are much loved and modern orchestral composers shall never be heard.

    Ditto for most of what passes for Antiques. Let no man disturb the veneer of some fusty old cabinet or remove a toy from its box for they will lose most of their value.

    All that soft-core porn depicting the mistresses of the royalty of France and the bankers of Florence? It’s become classical art. See, it’s not porn if it’s 200 years old. Younger than that, it still has the Geschmack of prurience.

    Art is a con game. The art market, knowing this, foists ever more ridiculous crap onto people with more money than good sense. There are no Classics: every attempt to promote a artefact into the halcyon realms of Culchural Reference requires the embalmer’s arts.

    • High art is indeed a con game.
      Commercial art on the other hand…
      Art for the people, by the people.

        • “Captain Shit and the Legend of the Black Stars”
          One of my favorite paintings that I’ve seen this year.

          … what’s yours?

        • Truth has many facets, but to refuse to understand the amount of asskissing done in the artistic world is to close your eyes to entire methods of understanding. It’s like being colorblind…

          • I don’t think you are being quite as radical as you think you.

            Tell me what is asskissing to the rich (because you seem to think of artists as being whores to the rich) in these works:

            1. Still Walking by Koreeda Hirokazu

            2. The Last Metro by Francois Truffaut

            3. Young college grads forming their own theatre company because they can’t get work anywhere else.

            You attitude towards anything that you seem to deem liked by people of a certain income bracket borders on the crass

          • In this wicked world, there are artists and there are art dealers. There are musicians and A&R weasels. There are film makers and producers. These sets do not overlap.

            Truffaut pissed ink on everyone else’s films until he decided to make a few of his own. Thereafter, he became the darling of the Ass Kissers. Truffaut married his money and we have his wife’s Jewish family to thank for producing all those early films he made. He richly rewarded them by screwing his starlets and eventually divorced her once he was no longer a mere ink-pisser.

            Ars gratia artis is pretty much nonsense. Ars gratia pecunia. Art for money’s sake. Even Starvin’ Artists gotta eat.

          • Newdealer,
            I think you mistake me, both in terms of understanding and perspective.
            All three of what you reference, I would term commercial art (at least as far as I’ve researched it).
            Wagner wrote commercial art too. No shame in it — I like art that is designed for broad appeal.

            What isn’t commercial art? Art tuned for a person — even if the end objective is to get the person to kill himself.

            Time was, when you need a sponsor to be an artist of any kind. I thank the gods above that we no longer live in that time.

            I despise those who would only buy a painting after the painter was dead “It’s more unique that way”. But I despise them because of their utter shallowness, not their income bracket.

    • Where would you place people like Philip Glass, Stephen Reich, etc?

      Art is not a con game. The desire and need to create and view art is what makes us human. It is the true separation of humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom. We have being using art to interpret our world and experience since we were in caves. Art also makes the world a nicer place to live in. Humans care about aesthetics. There is art in your furniture. art in your utensils, clothing, etc. We would wear potato sacks if we did not care about aesthetics.

      • If everything is art then nothing is.
        Art, as it once was, was the art of flattery. Why do you think Jesus was blond and looked suspiciously like your ruler?

        • Do you ever have any idea what you are talking about?

          • I’ve said it before, but I have to say it again: if there is a League meetup and Kimmi commits to going, I will find a way to go if I have to hitchhike, because I am dying to see if she is like this in person, and if so, what the hell that entails.

          • Chris,

            Perhaps or maybe it is just all a matter of signalling and weird proxies for tribalism and exclusion and identity as Dhex is often fond of suggesting.

            I’ve been thinking a lot about signalling and tribalism lately and how people tend to identify but unconsciously this leads other people to feeling excluded.

          • That one made perfect sense to me.

            1. If there are no standards for what is art and what isn’t art, the term “art” becomes useless.
            2. Go back a few hundred years, and art was largely produced for some rich patron, and tended to flatter the patron as a way of eliciting further commissions. We tend to ignore that part in order to ooh and aah over the technique.

      • The art market is a con game. All this hooey about how art makes us human. Nonsense. We are human, we make art. Every child makes art. We have to go to school so our teachers can tell us we’re no good at making art or music or any other creative endeavour without their imprimatur. But then we go to Art School, where we enter into the demimonde of the Big Con, where we are told everything must be fine and new and original and assorted bidi-smoking lunaticks with impressive degrees tell us half a pickled cow is worth a million dollars.

        Of course it’s all a con. Philip Glass went to Juilliard and got a Fulbright. Thereafter, his shit was deemed to smell like a bouquet of Parisian violets by various Important Persons. He’s been impersonating a classical composer ever since. Stephen Reich, pretty much the same sad story. Frank Zappa wrote some fine symphonic music, too. At least Zappa knew the score, quite literally, and had quite a few disparaging things to say about that vast steaming calliope of bullshit called the Music Industry, upon which I have opined myself from time to time.

        The trouble started when people started signing their names to this stuff called Art. When it’s more about the Artist and less about the Art, it’s a con, folks. I care about aesthetics, to the limited extent that form follows function and beautiful things are intrinsically beautiful and not because some Famous Person designed them.

      • Not all of it. A good deal is in video games (or anime), and Love Solfege has some cool pop-orchestral (or operatic) stuff going on.

      • I’d agree, to the extent that films provide a healthier venue for orchestral music than the funeral parlours called Orchestra Hall where we meet up with all the rest of it these days. All those old trouts, swanning around in their penguin suits and pince-nez glasses, drinking the obligatory and overpriced champagne-‘n-strawberry concoctions served at intermission….

        However, when I go to such functions, I’m always on the lookout for those scruffy kids in the mezzanine, the people who truly love orchestral music. I used to be one of them.

  16. It occurs to me that I ought to weigh in on question #2 — I think it’s a false dichotomy. It doesn’t get more arty than Shakespeare or Mozart, and when they wrote their plays and operas they were meant as entertainment. That the entertainments happen to be brilliant works of genius doesn’t change the fact that they were meant to be enjoyed outright by their audiences, without needing to be passed through filters of “artistic appreciation” or what have you.

    And to answer a question posed upthread, Michael Jackson was a pop artist and a genius, all at the same time. It would be ridiculous to deny that his music was undeniable pop. But, back before he lost his mind entirely, he wrote wonderful stuff that will endure the test of time just like the great music of earlier eras.

  17. how appropriate to the topic:

    i sympathize, as i have a fairly negative reaction to the guy as well. but the metaphor of the allergy – a work or artist or group that, while you appreciate the appreciation of others, cannot actually tolerate yourself – is rather useful.

    the comments are uh yeah just skip ’em. too much enragement that misses the point, as one would expect on the topic of that particular author.

    • Working from the bottom up, thanks for the warning but the League is the only place in the whole Internet where I read the comments.

      And I (mostly) love David Foster Wallace, so the essay had to work extra hard to get through to me. (I think its author is being laughably disingenuous when he says he doesn’t dislike DFW on the merits, and then lays out precisely why he dislikes DFW on the merits.) But I think I can relate to what he’s saying.

      I think the closest analogy for me would be a horror movie, or (relatedly) an apparently-excellent television show like “Hannibal.” (I’m taking you on your word, Glyph.) I have an intense, negative and visceral reaction to such entertainments, such that I cannot form a meaningful judgment of what would make a good one vs a bad one. I suspect that “The Shining” counts as a “very good” horror movie, but since I’ve found any experience of trying to watch it deeply unpleasant I couldn’t really say one way or the other. Call it an allergy.

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