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Month: September 2010

Creative processes

Here’s another post from Elizabeth King, whose blog I critiqued in an earlier post.  This post is really just a graphic, but it’s still interesting…

Overall, I appreciate (that is, I like) the author’s overall goal of encouraging people to be more creative.  This graphic though seems to suggest that an artist’s creative process involves a lot of consideration for the “rules” of art, and then decisions as to whether or not to follow them: “risk taking,” “innovation,” etc.  This also suggests that an artist is very concious of where his or her artwork fits in the big scheme things.

And I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that, if that’s what the artist wants to think about.  (Though I do think an artist can think he knows more about the role of his and other artists’ work in the big scheme of things than he is actually capable of knowing.  Things like influence are like stock market prices; they’re chaotic systems.  They are not linearly-defined cause-and-effect patterns, even though they can be simplified to look like that, and we humans tend to simplify things into cause-and-effect patterns quite naturally.  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, anyone?)

I don’t think any art is created in a vacuum.  An artist is going to be influenced by all the artwork he’s seen before, especially work that really resonates with him.

But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an artist’s creative process not involving consideration for “rules” (which often aren’t really “rules” in the first place, so I don’t know why people keep calling them that), or consideration for how “innovative” they think they’re being.  After all, one can only judge “innovation” based on what one’s seen before, thus it is a subjective property, a matter of opinion, not objective academic analysis (though such analysis might be interesting for the sake of getting new ideas).  Innovation for the sake of innovation is, of course, worthless.  It’s kind of annoying how many music composers out there could, for example, spend their time trying to create something “new” despite sensing any beauty, hoping the beauty will be found by future generations.  The point of creation is then a hope for later fame, later recognition for being the first, even though they claim to be entirely unselfish in their creative act.  But I guess that’s all beside the point…

I don’t really understand the concepts of “safety” and “bravery” in relation to artistic creation, so it will be interesting to see those concepts expanded upon.  Perhaps it has to do with an artist asking “will this creation of mine work for others?”  If the answer is: “Gee wiz, I just don’t know!  But I believe in it!” then the artist is brave.  If the answer is: “Yes!  I have followed all the rules!” then the artist is being safe.  Or perhaps it has to do whether or not the artist even cares what other people think.  If the artist thinks: “I’m going to do what I wish to do and I shall not compromise for the sake of the masses!” then he is brave.  If the artist thinks: “Well, gee wiz, I sure don’t want to confuse anyone and I hope everyone likes me!” then he is being safe.

Again, though, I don’t think this necessarily has to be a conscious decision, or even a decision at all.  If an artist is just trying please himself, then “safety vs. bravery” just doesn’t apply.  It’s not like you can be “brave” to yourself; you’re never going to do anything outside of what you would do.  To me, “brave” seems to mean you have something to fear, but do something despite that fear.  If you’re not afraid of anything, then you cannot be brave.  And maybe I’d go so far as to say that a fearful artist is a stupid artist, and therefore no good artist can be brave.  After all, if you’re truly fearing something, then your creative priorities are probably wrong.

So, overall, I don’t think this diagram describes a lot of people’s “creative process” and I don’t think that’s bad.  I think it’s a lot more automatic for most people.  It basically goes: What would I like to see exist? –> Create it.  That simple.  No thinking about innovation, rules and rule-breaking, being brave or safe, studying long artistic histories, etc.  Just creating for the joy of it.

Perhaps I will at some point launch my own site dedicated to encouraging creativity… but first I will have to study whether or not such a project will be innovative enough…

Legend of the Guardians

I saw the animated film Legend of the Guardians the other night.  Seeing a movie like that late on a Tuesday night, I had the entire theater to myself!  A reminder of what it’ll be like when I’m rich!

Anyway, visually, the movie is one of the most beautiful animated films ever made; the fantasy world with giant trees and mountains is just so… welcoming.  You just want to fall into it.  They also did an amazing job with the feathers and fur on the creatures.  The character design was also fantastic, and they’ve done something no other animation studio has done (that I can think of); they were able to find this wonderful balance between the stylized and cartoony design, which allow you to read a facial expression on non-human creatures, and realisticity.  These animals (mostly owls) don’t look Disney-ified (or Pixar-ified), which leans to the more cartoony side.  Yet they definitely don’t look like real owls either.  To me, the balance they came up with is just awesome.

And, should you desire to see the movie yourself, I do highly recommend the 3D version.  I know a lot of people don’t like paying extra, but to me it’s worth it, it just looks some much richer, more tangible.  Some say it’s distracting.  Well, you can be just as distracted by any aesthetically beautiful non-story element, so what does that matter?  As long as it’s not distracting because it’s awful… and it’s not!

Oh, some of the action sequences reminded me of the movie 300… which I suppose makes sense, since these movies were directed by the same guy!  Zack Snyder.  He loves those epic action slo-mo closeups.  Really fun style.  According to IMDb, the director is working on a sequel to 300 called Xerxes.  I usually don’t much like the idea of sequels, but I do hope there is a sequel to Legend of the Guardians.  It seems like there is still more story to tell here… unfortunately I’m not sure the film will make enough money to warrant a sequel.  We’ll see…

Finally, I loved the 3D animated Looney Tunes short before the film!  My only complaint is that it was too short!  But I hope they continue the trend, and bring back even more animated shorts before films, even for non-animated films.  Pixar has always done it.  (Except for Toy Story, I guess.  And they sometimes cheated and used shorts they had made in the 80s.)  Anyway, film distributors should bring back the tradition!

owls

Semester’s first Animation Mentor Q&A!

Had my first Animation Mentor Q&A just a little while ago, and it was great; I’m really looking forward to the new semester! Unfortunately our Internet connection seems terrible here at the moment, so the video streaming stalled every now and then… ugh! But it was still good.

Our mentor made a good point about the grades, saying after most universities, potential employers will want to see your grades, but in animation, they don’t care about your grades, they want to see your reel, what you’ve actually done. So you shouldn’t view your grade as: “Ugh! Why didn’t I get an A?” You should view it as a guide to constant improvement. Which is a reason I prefer Animation Mentor to traditional schools. But still, when I mention my “online classes” to other people, what’s one of the first things they ask? “What’s your grade? What grade did you get?” Another thing people ask me is: “Are you still doing it?” As if it’s as tough to stay interested in as traditional school material… it’s animation! It’s the stuff you see in movie theaters! (Of course, most people hear “online classes” and think, oh, meh!)

By the way, it’s just awesome to be able to interact with so many others who are just so passionate about animation and love it so much, since it has a reputation for being “childish” most of the time. Oh, dear fates, please let me work in an animation studio some day!

More boring old novel plotting…

Animation Mentor semester 2 has official begun! So it’s back to having no free time again, but I’m looking forward to it. My new Q&A time is on Wednesday nights, at 10 PM EST, with professional animator Shaun Freeman. I’ll try to upload my progress reel from last semester some time soon, so that y’all can watch it and be jealous of my professional ambitions…

In other news, I’m continuing to plot my novel. I’ve got an outline, detailing what happens in each of the 45 chapters I think I’m going to have. Now, for each chapter, I’m spending an hour or two outlining the chapter itself, making sure I know how it begins and ends, what the characters are feeling and what they want, what the tone is, what the characters might say, etc. It’s like I’m writing notes to some other writer who’s going to write the novel.

I already feel that this will be a great help for when I actually write the novel, as sometimes when I’m outlining a chapter I feel the need to go back and edit my outline for the chapter before it for the sake of continuity, so I think this attempt will be much better than all my other novel writing attempts.

That said, I’ve only outlined 4 of the 45 chapters so far, so this will take a pretty long time… hopefully it will make the writing itself go faster though, as I’ll have a much better idea of what exactly I want to write… I’ll have already figured out a lot details.

My biggest concern, however, is loss of interest. Well, not so much loss of interest as gain of other interest, if that makes sense. I have other novel ideas floating around in my head and they seem like a lot of fun, and it’s tempting to just go work on them instead. So it may be challenging to keep myself focused on this one novel until it’s finished… but I’ll try.

The Khan Academy is not that good

UPDATE (March 24, 2011): The Khan Academy has changed a bit since I originally wrote this. My original post appears right below, followed by some updated observations.

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It seems there are plenty of people, both students and parents, who are unhappy with our current education system, myself included. Unfortunately everyone seems to have different ideas of what exactly is wrong with it and how to fix it.

Google had a link on their homepage to their Project 10 to the 100, in which they gave millions of dollars to organizations that won voting contests. You can see they’re giving Khan Academy $2 million. A lot of people really love Khan Academy (including Bill Gates) and think that it is a great step in the right direction. [The Khan Academy is basically a large collection of cheaply produced educational videos. Being videos, they can only teach fact-based material, like math, science, and history. They can’t teach skills that require feedback.]

I don’t think Khan Academy is bad, but it’s not a replacement for our current education system. It’s not that good. It’s not worthy of praise from Bill Gates (or maybe it is, since he seems to have completely wrong ideas about what steps the education system should take), and it’s not worthy of this $2 million gift. Khan Academy is great because it makes a lot of educational material available for free. But education is not about just knowing stuff.

The big thing people seem to forget or ignore is that everything ultimately comes down to employment… whether or not you can do a job, and whether or not employers will recognize that you can do a job and hire you. Unfortunately people seem to think education is about getting a degree. But the only reason a degree has any value is because employers give it value. It has zero value by itself.

Or people think education is just about knowing stuff, and the more you know the better. The more facts you can cram in your head, the smarter you are. But knowledge is useless if you don’t use it. Oooh, there’s a profound idea! But people don’t always seem to believe it. Going through Khan Academy’s resource is just, in the end, really not that helpful. You’re just not going to use most of it in everyday life, even when you’re employed. It’s a nice resource to have available if it turns out you do need to learn some of it someday, which is the same reason it’s nice for colleges to have libraries. But it doesn’t replace or change anything important in the education system. It’s just a nice reference resource.

Which leads us to what is wrong with our education system. It’s become thought of as separate from the life you’ll live after it, and thus has little focus. Rich people and rich organizations can throw all the millions of dollars they want at it, but until there’s a widespread fundamental shift in employers’ and educators’ and students’ attitudes towards it, things aren’t going to get much better.

The Khan Academy does plan to expand and offer more than just videos, so we’ll see what happens with it. Ultimately it’s currently just a library. A library is a great resource because it means you don’t have to learn stuff; if you ever need certain info, you can go find it in the library when you need it. The point isn’t to try to learn or memorize as much of it as possible.

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Updated comments from March 24, 2011:

(Really this is just copied from one of my comments, but I thought it was important enough to move it up here with the original post.)

Since I first posted this, I think the Khan Academy has added practicing software and coaching abilities, so it’s no longer just a bunch of videos, but does include some form of feedback. If they continue this trend, adding more features that allow more personalized feedback, I think they can certainly come pretty close to replacing the classroom experience, maybe even making it better in some ways: no more needing permission to go to the bathroom, no more disruptive paper airplanes, children can work better at their own pace, etc. There would still be a great deal of challenges (funding probably a big one), but if Khan’s goal is to replace the classroom setting with something more personalized, I think it’s definitely possible with today’s technology and we only await someone with enough tech savvy, time, and money to get it going.

But making a bad education system virtual doesn’t really help. It’s like adding new fancy fonts and pictures to a poorly written textbook.

That is, my main criticism isn’t that the Khan Academy is (or was) just a resource. The specific information is still mostly useless to most students, no matter what form they learn it in, whether it’s a physical or virtual classroom.

If you’re just learning something so you can spew it back out on a test and then forget it next year, that information is serving you no real purpose. You’re just wasting your time learning it. (I shudder to see “California Standards Test” lessons now listed at the Khan Academy.)

The Khan Academy videos seem like Mr. Khan spent some time learning the content out of a textbook and then just regurgitated the material in video form. That *can* be useful in some situations, but to me it implies that Khan, like most public education systems in general, doesn’t really question the applications of the content, doesn’t question why or how that specific content is worth the teachers’ and students’ time and effort. In many cases, it’s just not.

Novel plotting progress

My break between Animation Mentor semesters is almost over, just got the weekend left.  I look forward to studying animation again, but it’s sad to say goodbye to the free time, and it will be tough to get back into the daily grind.  And some of the upcoming animation assignments look hard, so I’m kinda scared.  *Gulp*

Anyway, I didn’t spend much time playing computer games as I sort of wanted to (still got the weekend though, I guess), but I did finish writing my rough novel outline for The Designers, which I am now going to start calling The King of Diaden.  Not sure that’ll really be the title, but it’ll work for the purposes of blogging about it.

So, the outline is done, and there are 45 chapters.  Normally I’d begin writing at this point.  But not this time, oh no no. I really want to finally finish a novel, so I’m going to spend some time laboring over this outline and adding more details to make sure everything works and there aren’t any plot holes or missing elements. What I plan to do next is to go over this outline and really think about each scene individually. What exactly happens? How does the scene begin and end? What are the characters feeling? What is the tone of the scene? What is the point of the scene in relation to the rest of the book and to its theme? I might write some rough draft descriptions and pieces of dialog here and there if something I like pops into my head, but the focus won’t be on writing, it’ll be on making sure the scenes connect to each other well enough and the story works as a whole.

And… that’s pretty much it. This book will be some wonderful high art!

High art and snobbery

[All uses of the word “you” are general; they are just to you, the reader, not to any particular person.]

Yesterday I blogged a response to an article about art education, and I used the word “snob” a lot, which angered some people (of course… it reads very insultingly, and not very many people want to be considered snobby).  My use of the word “snob” was in response to a few ideas I was getting from the author’s writing.  (Whether or not the author truly holds these ideas is another matter.  This can be a pretty complex issue.  There are probably entire books dedicated to the subject.)  The main idea I attribute the word “snob” to is the idea of there being a “high art.”  Does that not seem snobby?  Doesn’t that imply the existence of “low art” that “high art” is “better” or “more important” than?  If not, why use the phrase?

Dictionary.com defines a “snob” as:

a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field

Using the phrase “high art” or “serious art” seems condescending to me.  If that’s not snobbery, what is?

What’s considered “high art”?  That’s probably subjective, but what comes to my mind is opera, symphonies, art galleries, Shakespearean theater, and university professor-approved literature.  What’s “low art”?  Brittany Spears, Spongebob Squarepants, heavy metal, Nancy Drew, etc.

(I am definitely NOT saying that anyone who likes opera, symphonies, Shakespearean theater, etc, is a snob.  Nor am I saying that anyone who doesn’t like them is not a snob.  But if you think the symphony orchestra is important for reasons beyond personal interest, if you think there’s something about it that all citizens should know about and appreciate, that’s snobbery; it’s false, and it’s condescending to people who don’t want to go to the symphony.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support or advertise a symphony; it’s about why you feel the need to.)

I think most people in our culture are certainly aware of a difference between these artistic areas, separating them on a mental spectrum, whatever their personal artistic tastes.  And there is a difference, obviously; I’m not trying to claim all art is the same.  What I find snobby is the notion that “high art” is innately and/or intellectually superior to other art.  The idea that only certain art is “high” or “serious” connotes this.

I’m surprised more people don’t have an issue with using phrases like “high art” or “serious art” … I suppose it’s because these terms and the idea of there being a big difference between “high art” and “non-high art” has just sunk too deeply into the mindset of our culture, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.  (Especially if you enjoy “high art” and want it to be more popular.)

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The big complex issue, I think, is in trying to answer the questions: Why might some art be considered “higher” or more “serious”?  What exactly is the difference between “high art” and “low art”?

There may be as many answers as there are people.

What comes to my mind the most strongly are the intentions of the artist.  For high art, the artist intends his art to be high; the artist creates his art in a conscious effort to have his or her artwork become a part of the high art world.  For low art, the intention is just to decorate something, or to make money.  The high artist strives for quality, the low artist for a quick paycheck.  The high artist has something deeply important to say to humanity and wants the audience to think deeply, the low artist just wants to have fun.  The function of the high artist’s art is to only to be considered art.  The function of the low artist’s art is to entertain.

I reject this notion.  It would mean we’d be basing our evaluation of a work of art on the intentions of the artist.  We’d be evaluating the intentions and not the art, only how well the artist’s intentions are executed.  And we’d have to be sure to know the intentions of the artist.  How do we know the intentions of the artist?  Just ask him?  What if we’re wrong?

You might say “Well, can’t we see in intention in the art itself?  Or in how the artist shares it?”  I don’t know.  How can anyone know?  You can certainly get a message out of art (especially in literature or theater or film, perhaps the least abstract arts), but how do you know that’s the message the artist was trying to communicate?  What if you don’t get a message or you’re confused about a message?  If the artist’s intentions (apart from what intentions we see in or infer from the art itself) should matter in our evaluation of art, our own opinions of the art itself become invalid and our understanding of other people’s artwork can only ever be incomplete.  We wouldn’t be able to think for ourselves, we’d have to look to the rest of society and make sure the people we want to be associated with agree with us.

Of course, some artists have known this and have played around with it.  What happens if you draw a can of soup?  What if your sculpture is a urinal?  What if you call random noise “music”?  How did we get to the point where we had to ask these questions or think them profound?  Methinks snobbery had something to do with it.

I could go on about this point, because it’s a complex one, and wording my argument isn’t easy.  Maybe I’ll dedicate an entire future blog post to this point.

Anyway, moving on…

One could also bring up the matter of influence… high art influences many high people.  But it’s easy to see why this explanation breaks down.  It turns art into a popularity contest; the more popular something is, the better.  And low art becomes popular all the time, yet it can never join the ranks of high art.

What about complexity?  High art is complex, and high artists spend years of practice and dedication to create their works.  Low art is simple.

Too subjective, right?

What about timelessness?  High art lasts hundreds of years, low art is soon forgotten.

Well then we got a long wait before knowing what high art is being created today.  (Perhaps there is none?)

What are some other answers to these questions?  I’m not sure off the top of my head, but they’re out there.  If there’s one out there I don’t reject, I’ll have to change my beliefs and take back what I say in this post.  But, come on, that’ll never happen!  Bwah ha ha ha ha!!  Aha ha ha!  Aha!  *Narf*

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In conclusion: the term “high art” and “serious art” and “high culture” and related phrases (and the world-views they imply) are snobby.  I hope you now understand why I think this.  And if we truly want “high art” to be more popular, we’ll have to rid ourselves of any appearances of snobbery.

... no, I don't think anyone can do it.

“You know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?”

Stop blindly defending arts education

I’m not against people defending arts education.  I just don’t like seeing people doing it blindly.

I read this article from a link I saw on my twitter feed: Arts Education and Civilization: This Isn’t Child’s Play

[UPDATE: Please also check out the comments!  I throw around the word “snob” a lot below, but my intent is not to personally call the author of this article a snob; it is in response to the actual ideas.  Just in case you’re mad at me already.]

Now, Elizabeth King, the article’s author, isn’t being blind.  It’s people who support arts education and, in turn, support articles like these without reading them, or without reading them closely enough, just because the conclusion agrees with theirs.

About the article: I don’t like it.

The article’s author seems to suggest that arts education should be funded in public-funded schools because…

Because why?

Just because.

Because, you know, smart people think arts are good.  It’s just the “smart” thing to think.  So we all just defend it because we like it.

I’ll state my own opinion at the bottom of this blog post, but first I want to go over why this particular article annoys me.

The article starts off with two quotes, which I’ll reproduce below.  The first quote is from Doris Sommer, Director of the Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University:

Some people mistake the arts as only a vehicle for expression. That’s a very limited view. Art is a vehicle for exploration, learning, and trying things out. If people are serious about reducing violence and educating youth to become productive citizens and more satisfied in their own lives, supporting and expanding art is a major opportunity for developing intellectual capacity. All of the rhetoric about empowerment gets immediately grounded when a youth is working on an art project. This person is authoring something that didn’t exist before.

I’m guessing King quotes this because of its general support for arts education.  Of course.  But it’s a vague quote.  It doesn’t really say much beyond “youth that is creating art is good.”  But why is it good?  Well, it reduces violence.  Evidence of this?  Oh, it just does.  What else?  It educates youth to become productive citizens (whatever those are) and more satisfied in their own lives.  Again, evidence of this?  Oh, who needs evidence, these seem like truisms!  How could they be wrong?

Firstly, maybe their “art” is rapping about having gangsta wars and shooting each other.  Maybe they want to make violent films.  If expanding art education reduces crime simply because youth won’t have as much time to do crime in the first place, you could equally support sports, religion, couch-potatoness, and prison sentences for pre-crimes for the same reason.  Secondly, I’d like to say there are plenty of artists who aren’t satisfied with their own lives.  They’re miserable.  But this is probably beside the point, because “satisfaction” is not something that can be objectively measured.

The second quote is from Tim Smith from the Baltimore Sun:

… [Glen] Beck singled out cities with budget crises where they’re cutting back on police, but not slashing the funding for such things as libraries, museums and, in Baltimore, the Lyric Opera House — a.k.a. the “stupid, snotty opera house.”

Beck claimed that $750,000 was in the budget for that historic venue in our fair city, while “cops are on the chopping block. This is like my wife saying we are broke, we have to cut down our expenses on food. I turn around and say, OK, when you grocery shop, no more meats, organics, milk — we’re cutting that out. Just get Mountain Dew and Cheetos … How about we get the rich who never pay their fair share to buy their stupid snotty opera house? Would you cut the opera house or the cops? … What does your gut tell you? That everybody involved in this is moron?

I suppose this quote supports art, and that’s why King posted it.  But to me this seems to be more about “art vs. cops” and their funding.  So cities are not cutting back on funding for an opera house?  Why are they funding opera houses in the first place?

At least, that’s the message I get from this little quote.  Things are probably somewhat more complicated (read the full article).  But I do think the government can stay completely out of the arts and both the arts and the government will be just fine.  Using public funds to fund only a specific type of art is not fair to people who don’t enjoy that kind of art.  To support such a fund is to be stupid and snotty.

OK, to the article…

King writes:

Most high art

Woah!  Hold it, hold it!  There goes my snobbish rhetoric alarm.  “High” art?  Some art is “low” and some art is “high”?  Already we must have completely different definitions of what “art” is.  Tsk, tsk!

OK, King goes on to try to define art:

Most high art—visual art, music, literature, dance, theater—intends to examine a group of people, comment on society, recount experience, investigate social norms, and challenge them, highlight them, or reinforce them.

Woah!  More snob rhetoric!  “Intends”?  You now think you know the intentions of dead artists?  Another big tsk tsk!  I disagree with this definition.  It might be true for some art, but I don’t think we can state a definition so objectively and self-contained like that.  Maybe King didn’t mean to do that, but that’s what she wrote.  You think Mozart’s 40th symphony had anything in particular to say about society?

King writes:

High art strives for better—better execution, better message. It looks for continuity between what has come before and its own sense of direction; it’s aware of its own longevity.

Ha!  You wish!  Wouldn’t that make the subject easy to understand!  But King is over-generalizing immensely, and the rhetoric is still snobbish (“high” and “better”).

After snobbishly attempting to define art, King then writes about a survey from the National Endowment of the Arts (which, ideally, does not need to exist) about how participation in snob, er, “high” art is declining:

The 2008 survey results are, at a glance, disappointing. As reported in Arts Participation 2008, a summary brochure of the survey’s findings, a smaller segment of the adult population either attended arts performances or visited art museums or galleries than in any prior survey.

Why are the results disappointing?  Why is attending arts performances or visiting art museums and galleries automatically good?  People should like and pay for this stuff, otherwise they are dumb, uncultured, uneducated fools?

The quote from the NEA goes on to try to guess at why there’s a decline, and guesses that the decline in arts education has something to do with it.

So… we should support arts education so attendance at NEA-surveyed places goes up?  Again, why would this be automatically good?

Finally, King attempts to answer this question:

When we let go of cultural traditions and inquisition, the after-effects are more than a momentary disruption— it’s not just some blip on the screen in our society. When we consistently replace cultural exploration with pop culture consumption we ultimately create a hole in our connection with each other across society. Ignoring art means breaking our bonds with each other. Truly, abandoning the arts puts us at risk for increased violence in our communities. Ultimately, if our culture is one of the defining elements of our civilization, if it propels us forward and connects the work we do now with that of the past and, even more importantly, that of the future, then to destroy that continuity and meaningful connection actually puts our society and civilization at risk.

Whew, that’s a lot.  Let’s go over this paragraph more finely.

King writes:

When we consistently replace cultural exploration with pop culture consumption we ultimately create a hole in our connection with each other across society. Ignoring art means breaking our bonds with each other.

What?  I don’t think so.  The problem here is that King has snobbishly separated art into an elite “high” art and the lowly “pop culture.”  Just because attendance at symphonies and art galleries goes down doesn’t mean that art isn’t being consumed, it’s just not the kind of art you think is “high” enough.  That “high” art is not some invisible important cultural glue keeping us all functioning properly, while “low” art does nothing.  How do we bond with each other through “high” art?  What sort of “bonds”?  That’s not a rhetorical question; answer it!

I, of course, completely disagree.  Art is something that comes natural to humans.  We will always involve ourselves in art, whether it’s taught in schools or not.  There is not some higher subset of art that keeps us all bonded nicely.

King writes:

Truly, abandoning the arts puts us at risk for increased violence in our communities.

Evidence?  No?  It’s just a truism?

And, again, not going to art galleries is not “abandoning the arts”!  If what you call “pop culture” is “high art” to someone else, then you have nothing to worry about, do you?

Ultimately, if our culture is one of the defining elements of our civilization…

Uh… OK, culture is a defining element of civilization.  But culture emerges naturally.  People don’t sit down and consciously design a culture.  “Well, we’re a great civilization, we just don’t have much culture…” No.

…if it propels us forward and connects the work we do now with that of the past…

We move forward in time because we have to.  Cultural changes do not go backwards and forwards (unless you mean in a moral sense), they just change.  Artistic trends, likewise, change; they do not “progress.”  And I have no idea what King means by “connects.”  That word is too vague.  Makes grammatical sense, seems fine if you’re reading quickly, but if you stop and think about what it means… what does it mean?  I don’t know.  I could guess, maybe that’s what King wants readers to do, but I don’t know.  The word is too imprecise.

…to destroy that continuity and meaningful connection actually puts our society and civilization at risk.

So ultimately this is all about a vague sense of “connection”?  This isn’t good enough for me.

King then gets patriotic:

The American experiment is still new. The work we’re doing to perpetuate a democracy is still, in terms of global history, extremely fresh. By abandoning the arts we are abandoning ourselves. By offering exceedingly paltry arts education we are abandoning our students now and future generations. We are abandoning the first Americans who risked their necks so we could be here. Finally, we are abandoning our potential for continuity, the creative economy, and, most fundamentally, the luxury of relative safety that we enjoy on a daily basis.

Again, King makes the snobbish assumption that art museum attendance (and such) and the cutting of art education programs are signs of the public “abandoning the arts” when in reality they’re just abandoning a certain definition of it.  King claims we are somehow thus abandoning “the first Americans who risked their necks so we could be here.”  What in the world do they have to do with it?  Saying that you’re “abandoning your parents who took their time to raise you” makes equal sense.

(Oh, and I guess art education isn’t as important for non-Americans?)

King then lists some other vague ideas we’re abandoning.  “Our potential for continuity” … what does that mean?  “The creative economy” … what does that mean?  And “the luxury of relative safety.”  Absolute safety would be more of a luxury.  But… what the?  How does safety have anything to do with this?  Oh, are you going back to the idea that crime rates go down with more arts education?

King writes:

The discussion about Arts Ed is heated, but it’s tough to talk about when so few Americans actually engage in the arts.

Well, yeah, isn’t that your problem to begin with?  That’s like saying “it’s hard to talk about why math books should be more popular when so few Americans actually read math books.”

King then makes a commitment that her blog, or website, will start talking to artists…

The vast majority of the artists we’re going to talk to are going to be full time, established artists–people you should know about.

Just had to get one last moment of rhetorical snobbery in there?  “People you should know about”?  Gee, thanks!

My own opinion

I hold the rare position of being against our whole system of public-funded education in general.  I think there are worse things to worry about, like the actual reasons behind why we even have to question whether or not to fund education about the arts.  What other things are we teaching and why are we teaching them?  What’s the point of education in the first place?  To be ranked #1 in the world and dominate it?  To stay busy?  To just learn as much as we can just in case we might use some of it someday?

If a work of art isn’t influential enough by itself to pervade the public’s consciousness on its own merit, then we don’t have to artificially extend its influence by forcing students to be conscious of it.  Works of art that were once considered “great” can be forgotten, and that is OK.  If you think that is not OK, if you think that is sad, then you are a snob.  Being conscious of works of art that used to be popular and influential does not make you “smarter” or “better.”  Just because something is helpful or interesting to you does not mean we should, as a society, force everyone to know it.

Having said all that…

In some ways, I’m playing devil’s advocate here, because I’d rather align myself with people like Elizabeth King who support arts in education rather than these stupid school officials who just want more compulsive testing.  But in some other ways, I’m very annoyed, because so many people don’t seem to have objective reasons for supporting this stuff; they just do it because they like the arts themselves.  And if that’s all that’s guiding them, they’re really not helping much.

“Support the arts in education!  A way to shove art chosen by other people down the public’s throat for its own good!”

We don’t need that.

What to do with free time? And stuff…

Animation Mentor progress

It’s week 12 (of 72) and therefore the end of Semester 1!  I’m 1/6th of the way through this!  The weeks have flown by.  Last week was by far the hardest week, not just because the assignment was a challenge, but because I was trying to balance my part-time work with some freelance work, plus a few extra part-time hours, plus a long concert on Friday, plus my Animation Mentor work.  Busiest week of my life, I think.  (Which, I think, shows that I’m ready to be film director!)  But everything turned out OK, save for some major sleep deprivation by the end of it.

So… it’s the final week of semester 1… there actually doesn’t seem to be any homework this week, we just have to put together a reel of all of our work this semester, which I’ll also upload to YouTube so’s that y’all can watch it and whatnot.  So I may have a bit more free time this week to work on some personal projects (though I definitely want to spend some time editing/revising some of my animations) and I’ll definitely have some free time next week, between semesters… what should I work on?

(Vote for up to 3.  Poll closes this Saturday.  No purchase necessary.  Restrictions apply.  Void where prohibited.  Many will enter, none will win.)

What do you think of the WizardWalk.com redesign?

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Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King concert at WolfTrap

rotk On Friday my mother and I went up to the WolfTrap performing arts place to see the film Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  They projected the film in HD on a huge screen and had a live orchestra play the score.  It’s really the best kind of concert there is (or was) and probably the best movie to experience such a concert with.  (They could do it with Star Wars; that has an amazing score, but the movie itself isn’t as good, in my humblest of opinions.  They could do it with Jurassic Park.  Hmmm… I can’t think of many… they just don’t make very many epics like Lord of the Rings.)

I had bought the tickets many months ago, before I knew anything about Animation Mentor, so I did not anticipate seeing the concert during such a busy week, but it was a nice break at least!  Now I need to find some orchestral concert to go to in 2011; I think one should go to at least one orchestral concert a year to keep… uh… the orchestra going or something.  For fun, really.

Anyway, WolfTrap’s Filene Center is a great place for a concert.  It’s built “open-spaced” … that is, it doesn’t really have walls, it just has large columns.  So sitting in it is like being not quite outside, but not quite inside.  It’s kinda cool.  It also allows you to buy cheap “lawn seats”, so you can bring some food and sit on the grass.  Though for this concert I wanted to be able to actually see the orchestra, so I went for the more expensive inside seats.  If I lived closer and had a real job, I’d probably buy a subscription/membership, get really good seats, and go to a bunch of their performances.  But that won’t happen anytime soon.

The concert was great.  Don’t really have much to say that I didn’t say in my reviews of the last two concerts of the trilogy here and here.  It wasn’t flawless; there was a moment when the screen went black for 10 seconds and had me in a panic… oh no!  But it came back quickly.  And there were some flubbed notes hear and there, but they weren’t too bad.  For the film, I’m sure they had time for retakes and audio engineers, mixing engineers, recording professionals, etc, had time to make the mix perfect, which you don’t get at a live performance.  Still, it was quite a glorious sound, especially when the ring hovers over the fires of of Mount Doom and choirs are singing at the top of their lungs.  Oh, so awesome.

It’s also fun to hear the audience applaud at the film’s epic moments and laugh when Gimli says something funny.  (Gimli really gets most of the comedic lines.)

Now I really wish they’d redo all the concerts with the extended editions of the trilogy.  I would definitely pay the $165+ to see them all again.  Meanwhile, these concerts are touring the world.  Not the orchestra, just the rights equipment to do it I guess.  So definitely go to one if you can.

And remember, the book about the music comes out October 5th!  Though I might wait until Christmas to get it, as I’d like to sit down and really spend some time with it; if I get it while I have animation work to do, it might distract me with its awesomeness.

No time for anything… and books

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It’s been a super busy week. I got some more freelance work, which is good for a little extra $$$, but on top of my animation work, leaves no time for anything else really. I’m almost done the freelance work though, just a few hours more worth of work I think. And this Friday, on the 10th, will be great… going to see Lord of the Rings at WolfTrap! Can’t wait! MAN, did the last couple months FLY by… staying very busy does that I guess.

Library visit

Last night I went back to the university library. (I had to, my books were due, and you can only renew so many times online, unlike a public library.) So I turned in my last set of books and got out some more. These aren’t books that I plan to read cover to cover (I’d love to, but I definitely don’t have the time); they’re just books to flip through, read a chapter here and there.

So, those are the books to kind of scan through for the next few weeks…

Life

I’m not up to anything else lately, just my part time job, Animation Mentor, and some freelance work. They’re keeping me busy enough! My projects on the backburner include that novel and that cartoon show. I’ve got two weeks of Animation Mentor Semester 1 left, then I’ll have a week break (just from Animation Mentor, not from my part-time work!) and I’m not sure what I’ll do then. I’d like to get some TV watching and computer game playing in though… heh.

And whenever I graduate from Animation Mentor, I definitely want to take a little vacation to California, go to the graduation ceremony, and just see the California sights…