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Old 06-29-2007, 10:15 AM   #21
Barry Cooper
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I think perfectionism is an issue, in that people think "art" is something "artists" do. This may have something to do with a tendency in our culture to want to be the best at things, and the types of art and creativity I'm talking about aren't competitive. They are done solely for the satisfaction of creating some shape or image or sound that wasn't there before, and which came from you. And not even the actual result matters, but the process, which ultimately is intended to more fully balance the person.

The Tibetans have this ritual where they create temporary art in butter or sand, then ceremonially destroy it. I've always thought that was pretty cool. It prevents attachment to the work.

Schools, depending on the city, will sometimes make trips to museums, and the kids will see "professional" art, art which is deemed "good", good enough to be in the museum. There is a profound disconnect between that, and art created at home. The popsicle stick scultures, and paint by dot artworks, and painted Union and Confederate soldiers, in papier mache landscapes. Yet, the latter is actually more useful in the vast bulk of cases.

With respect to CrossFit, my view is we are first and foremost recreating or tempering our spirits and wills. This is perhaps not creation, per se, but the grounds of creation, of renewed possibility, of which physical health and vigor is a supporting element.

And it is a craft, in the sense that we have created a sphere permitting continual improvement, continual refinement. Who can truly say they have mastered Olympic Lifting, or gymnastics, or even running?

Now that I think about, what would be the appropriate aesthetic comparison of a perfectly executed clean and jerk, and a perfectly executed pas de deux in a ballet, an aria in an opera, or even the Mona Lisa?

I have to be honest: the Mona Lisa does nothing for me, and I don't like ballet or opera. So perfection in those forms is effectively lost on me. It generates no passions, no feelings, no socially reconstructive energy.

But I like O-lifting, and it's very motivating to see it done well. In terms of actual effect, it may as well be a form of art, as far as I am concerned.

Which raises the question of the social utility of various forms of spectacle, which would include things like football games, and maybe even poker.

I'll have to smoke on it a bit. There's something there I can't quite make out.
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Old 06-29-2007, 11:16 AM   #22
Tim Weaver
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So...given that some might consider good O lifting an "art form", is that worthy of funding from the public coffers?

IMO, no.

Yes, I use highways. And, to be honest, I am conflicted about the highway system to a small degree. However, given that the alternative is 100% private ownership of land, which itself isn't a bad thing, having to negotiate access to travel within the country would be a logistical nightmare that even this 'libertarian' would have difficulty supporting, let alone defending.

An argument in favor of nationalized/"state" owned highways is that it favors the concept of freedom of movement/travel that the Supreme Court interpreted in Article IV (Corfield v. Coryell (1823)). Having a national highway system prevents any individual or state from barring the free movement of people within our country.

One example of this is here in Arizona, where we have several large Indian reservations through which state and federal highways pass. The carrying of firearms in Arizona is of a long tradition and legal, including in vehicles.

Generally speaking, most Indian tribes prohibit the carry of firearms on their lands...their perfect right to do so as long as we decide to play the "sovereign nation" game. However, absent a national or state highway system, reservation police could easily set up roadblocks to search, detain and arrest those carrying firearms in their vehicles.

What our current system of transportation allows, though, is that I may pass through a reservation, fully armed, as long as I don't exit the highway. While technically the reservation police could do something, I am skeptical that they would unnecessarily molest a traveler who exited to get gas or a quick bite to eat....but I am unwilling to take that chance.

Back to your point on someone with a montage on the benefits of the 2nd Amendment (or any other): Again, I wouldn't support public funds for it, however I could equally argue that such funding does, in fact, promote the purpose(s) that our founding documents espouse.

It would be a tough argument to make, though, since an anti-2nd Amendment montage could be covered under the auspices of the 1st Amendment. And while I honor such a person's right to exercise their 1st Amendment rights, I wouldn't support public funding for it...just as I wouldn't agree that THEIR money should be used to promote the 2nd Amendment.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that the government has interpreted the 14 or so things they were tasked to do in our Constitution to encompass nearly everything they desire to control.

Where does the DEA get its authority from within the Constitution to say that doctors cannot prescribe marijuana to Glaucoma or cancer patients, given the language of the 9th and 10th Amendments?

Where does the BATFE get its authority within the Constitution to regulate nearly ANYTHING relating to firearms or arms, given the inherently clear language of the 2nd Amendment and the writings of our Founding Fathers and other historical documents?

Where does the US Congress get its authority within the Constitution to say that I cannot play online poker?

Where does the Constitution give the US government the authority to create the Department of Education, out of whole cloth, back in the mid-1970s?

If one reads our founding documents, it's clear that, in my opinion, the government in general has bought into the concept of "mission creep", expanding into areas of our lives that I believe was never intended. We can speculate for hours on the reasons behind such mission creep, but I do not think it can be argued that such "creep" hasn't occurred.

Further, I also opine that the citizenry, in looking for the easy way out, has abdicated its own personal responsibility for so much, that it further encouraged such mission creep.

I think that if our Founding Fathers were able to see what's happened with our government, that they would wonder why another revolution hasn't already taken place. On the flip side, perhaps they might see all the advances we've made, and the current society as a whole, and think nothing of it on balance.

So, as a curmudgeon, I look at my "job" in life to explain to people that governments routinely overstep their authority and scope, and just as routinely get away with it. Anyone wanting to challenge their actions needs (generally) deep pockets to fight them, whereas the government has the never-ending spigot of tax dollars to spend on lawyers and legal research.

I am really enjoying this discussion.....
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Old 06-29-2007, 11:39 AM   #23
Darren Zega
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[Begin soapbox rant]

I completely agree with you. I'm a complete beginner in terms of O-lifted (hence getting involved with CrossFit) but something I know exceptionally well is martial arts, karate in particular.

It's exactly in the title - martial ART. Self defense is something we do, a useful skill. Art becomes involved when the element of perfection is adopted. I practice self defense when I roll on the ground with a sparring buddy deflecting punches, or hop in a ring to come out bruised and bloody three minutes later at the end of a round. Art however, becomes incorporated when I spend hours working with a student to perfect a kick or a punch, when I observe the inherent grace of a well executed technique perfecting footwork or hip movement. I love the slow, agonizing fight towards perfection of technique in my own practice. Maybe its obsession, but I become genuinely excited when I get to watch myself in the mirror of our dojo and see a cleaner and stronger punch or kick slip out for the first time after several months of work.

There’s a poster I like to keep in my basement next to my heavy bag and newly acquired Olympic starter weight set. It’s a quote by Gichin Funakoshi: “The ultimate aim of the art of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in the perfection of the characters of its participants.” Coincidentally he was also the master responsible for popularizing the etymology “Karate-do” as opposed to just “Karate” – the way of empty hands vs. referring to a collection of techniques using empty hands.

In terms of social exhibition, I think it’s a mixed blessing. I think often about the popularization of martial arts in movies by Hollywood martial artists - your Bruce Lee’s and Chuck Norris’s, as a mixed blessing, not unlike other forms of athletic romantification. Even if some of the meaning of what the practice of the martial arts is really about, it has served to popularize our practice and bring it more into public awareness, which I love.

However, the flip side bothers me just as much. Century Martial Arts, for example, is one of the largest martial arts supplies companies around. I remember when I first strapped on a white belt looking through their catalogs, seeing picture of sweaty old men in black belts using the best quality wing-chun striking dummies or holding quality leather pads for younger students. I earned my black belt just before leaving for college and when I came back after my senior year I picked up one of their catalogs again and saw a sixteen year old girl on the cover wearing a pink “Black Belt Princess” shirt…

…a little piece of me died inside.

But it all comes back to drawing the line at the pursuit of perfection. I think any past-time can be an art of some sort. Like fitness again – there’s a sort of art in watching and learning the perfect form of a snatch or deadlift – and then there’s the guy or girl who goes to the gym, hops on the treadmill and watches their favorite TV show without breaking a sweat, proud of how fit they are. Where art starts and stops all comes out to, like you said, perfection.

[End soapbox rant]
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Old 06-29-2007, 11:56 AM   #24
Barry Cooper
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I think two related, but ultimately very different ideas need to be differentiated: liberty for the individual in isolation, and liberty within a social context. The first might be: "I want to carry my gun on the reservation", but the second involves the right of the Indians to regulate what goes on on their land.

I have decided to call myself a classical liberal. You need some sort of criteria by which to evaluate all of this, or you go crazy. In my case, the criteria is the maximization of personal liberty, within a context of sustainability. That latter is the defining element.

Obviously, we could all just abolish the law, and do what we want, but very quickly this would reduce the individual liberty of each of us, and result in a net loss of liberty. Defining the line of what increases and what decreases liberty, on balance, is hard, but necessary.

We have had government creep in large measure because our society has become more complex. We would not be the nation we are today, economically or militarily, if Eisenhower had not build our national freeway system. Our economy depends on it, and having it makes all of us wealthier, and thus more free, in many respects.

This is why it seems to me that insisting on the rights of the invididual dogmatically, in all cases, is not necessarily the stance which best fosters the actual, functional freedom of that person. Government is a necessary evil, and thus it is important to evaluate these sorts of issues on their individual merits.

In fact, perhaps we could treat issues like individuals, with their own rights of life and liberty. There's a funny twist there somewhere I can't quite pull out.
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Old 07-01-2007, 02:22 PM   #25
Tim Weaver
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Pragmatically speaking, you are correct that sustainability is a key element in the quest to maximize personal liberty.

Where the rub is, in my opinion, is that there are areas in which we have more liberty, and areas where we have less liberty...some circumstances decidedly so.

Unfortunately, the discussion of specifics within this could require the names of previous administrations (or at least direct references to same), which would then cause this discussion to be shut down.

I suppose a generic way to put it would be "are we more, or less free, as individuals because of XXXX?", and conversely "Are we more, or less, free as a society because of XXXX?"

I surmise that in some/many cases the answers will not be the same. An area in which this is can be argued is the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. However, that's another discussion for another day.

Given that the original speech had to do with The Arts, and in the public funding of same, we can present arguments thereto.

"Do I have more liberty, as an individual, if my tax money, taken from me (ultimately) at the barrel of a gun, is used to pay for high school band programs, or football programs, or drama programs? What about used for NEA grants?"

I would say the answer is clearly "no." Because taxes are extracted under penalty of law/jail/death, the idea that my personal liberty is expanded or maximized is laughable.

The counter argument I presented being:
"Does society have more liberty if someone's tax money is used to pay for high school band programs, or football programs, or drama programs? What about used for NEA grants?"

Arguably, the answer is at least a "possibly" to perhaps a "yes". While Serrano's "art" is of questionable merit to many people, there is no arguing, IMO, that his ability to do it promotes the continued strength of the Bill of Rights in general, and the First Amendment specifically.

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Old 07-01-2007, 03:10 PM   #26
Barry Cooper
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Artists chafe at this, but I think it is perfectly acceptable to ask of them that they produce communally useful work. If they want to engage in self absorbed, nihilistic attacks on the basis of our civilization, they can, but not with Federal money. Who decides? The people with the money.

Obviously, the devil is in the details, and the case can be made on either side of the "freedom line", depending on the specific implementation of the program.

In all of this, you are going to see things bouncing up and down, going too far in one direction and then the other. This process of constant self correction is in the nature of democracy, which is what provoked Churchill's quip that we have the worst possible system, until the alternatives are considered.

The bottom line is that all of us, at some point, have some degree of input. We can elect people who support or oppose the NEA. We can elect people who support a specific construction of the NEA. We can debate these issues in public, and generate situations where we maximize agreement, with the understanding that ANY position will leave someone somewhere dissatisfied.
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Old 07-02-2007, 02:33 PM   #27
Dale F. Saran
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Tim and Barry:

A very useful framing of the argument, so to speak. Tim, I think you may be giving short shrift to the "maximizing liberty effect" (that's awful) of arts in public school. Here's why - in the maximizing liberty equation, how do you measure it? What are the units of measurement? I'm not trying to be a pain, I'm just thinking that if a high school band program inspires and produces a Winton Marsalis (which it did) or photography class produces Ansel Adams (bad example, because it did not - he left school at 12 and was inspired by another photographer who attended private school. But my point remains) how do you measure that value of liberty maximization? I believe we would be certainly lesser as a society without this "art" stuff - but we would never know it - so how can you measure that lost opportunity?

When doing a little skimming for this post, I found this quote from Marsalis. I thought it apt to our discussion about art.
"You have the conception of New Orleans jazz: group improvisation, cooperative ensemble playing, which functions exactly like a democracy. Which means each person has the right to play what they want to play, but the responsibility to play something that makes everybody else sound good."

Seems like his conception of jazz could well function as a working definition of art's role (or the artist's) in society.

Just some niblets.
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Old 07-03-2007, 08:37 AM   #28
Tim Weaver
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While it might be hard to measure the maximization of liberty effect, I can tell you that it's easy to measure the minimization of liberty tax rates.

Locally, several school boards continue to float bond measures at election time, all with the mantra "no tax increase". Since bonds are paid over time, with interest, just where does this money come from? And, if they continue to ask/receive bond measure after bond measure, does that not increase the total financial obligation of said school district?

From an individual liberty perspective, these bond measures decrease my liberty because they obligate me, as a taxpayer, to repay those bonds...something that I never vote in favor of.

One argument is that I am merely displaying Sour Grapes because the vote didn't go my way. In some cases, this is correct, because I did, in fact, participate in the process and legitimized the outcome.

Simplistically speaking, this is akin to 5 of us sitting around and having a beer, when I say "Hey, let's take a vote to split Dale's beer. All in favor?"

4 of the 5 of us vote to split your beer, Dale....yours was the lone dissent. Since we're a democracy (right?), you lost fair-and-square. Heck, you even voted....but you lost. Now it's just sour grapes.

Rewind. Same situation, but when I say "All in favor?" you turn and say "anyone trying to take my beer gets a fork stuck in their hand." Four of us vote, you do not. The outcome is still 4-1, but instead of participating in the process, you put us on notice that what we're attempting is theft, and that a thief will be punished.

Regardless of how simplistic this is, this is the process that occurs to each of us when it comes around to local, state and federal tax issues. Those who have the desire to take what is yours without your consent, only to redistribute it to others (for whatever reason), are thieves. Just because they have a clipboard and shiny badge does not make it less so.

In my world, those who want to vote in favor of those bond issues, do so, but the money to repay comes from YOUR taxes, not mine. I have no children (that I know of), will not be having children and, thus, have absolutely no incentive to put money into bonds for the various crap the school districts want (and who cannot explain where all the OTHER money went).

Unfortunately, NOT participating in the process has no effect on the matter, and ultimately will get you killed when you try and "enforce" your idea that those taking your property w/o your consent are thieves.

Finally, a problem with Marsalis' quote, is that we're a Republic, not a democracy...a point lost on most citizens and some/most politicians. In a democracy, it's essentially "mob" (majority) rule, where there IS no responsibility to do anything for the minority (the "everyone else" in his statement).

Call me myopic, but I don't see the connection of art or an artist's role in society like that.

Are we more free because we have artists who can crash into the boundaries afforded by the First Amendement? Absolutely.

One need only to look at what happened in Europe regarding the cartoons of Mohammed and the outrage it sparked, or the laws in Germany against anything having to do with the Nazis, etc., to see how our Liberty is much greater than other places.

However, is my liberty decreased because the government decides to give money to artists? Yes, because the money (my money, earned with my work, etc.), is taken from me by force, and I have hardly any say in the matter.

So, it all depends on if you subscribe to the concept of individual liberty over that of society.

I choose individual.

As Spock said "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or of the one."

That's how government operates.
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Old 07-03-2007, 10:05 AM   #29
Bryan Veis
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"In my world, those who want to vote in favor of those bond issues, do so, but the money to repay comes from YOUR taxes, not mine. I have no children (that I know of), will not be having children and, thus, have absolutely no incentive to put money into bonds for the various crap the school districts want (and who cannot explain where all the OTHER money went)."


I hear a variation of this from time to time from the childless or the empty nesters about property taxes to educate other people's children. One can certainly argue concerning whether the money is well-spent in specific cases, but do you really think that tax-supported public education is categorically a bad idea? I just look at it as my contribution to the education of the healthcare workers who will staff the nursing home where I will end up eventually; I hope they are very well-educated and very patient. I'd rather not have some illiterate doing the job because he can't find anything else.
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Old 07-03-2007, 10:54 AM   #30
Tim Weaver
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but do you really think that tax-supported public education is categorically a bad idea?

I don't necessarily agree that publicly funded education is a good idea, nor can I categorically argue it's a bad idea.

However, one need only look at what's being "turned out" by public education to see that, however noble the idea, it's failing miserably in many instances.

I just look at it as my contribution to the education of the healthcare workers who will staff the nursing home where I will end up eventually; I hope they are very well-educated and very patient. I'd rather not have some illiterate doing the job because he can't find anything else.

You assume that only the educated and patient will be willing to be nursing-home workers, and not the folks who find it an alternative to learning "want fries with that?"

What drives the quality of workers in an industry, generally, is the reward for said work. Someone who has spent time actually learning something in school, and being in a school where learning could actually take place, won't likely take a job changing adult diapers and wheeling around my sorry , since they would be able to get jobs that pay better wages (yes, there are always exceptions to prove the rule).

We spend more on public schools now than ever before, yet the "product" we're turning out isn't any better and, arguably, is worse.

Would we really reward a company that habitually charged more and gave less, or would you look for an alternative product?

Hence, private and charter schools, let alone home-schooling.

I and my wife are happy we don't have children, for the very state that public schools are in. Social promotions, political correctness run amok, and any myriad of other ills demonstrate to me, at least, that the experiment of publicly funded education is generally a failure, or at least so dysfunctional as a whole that it needs a complete reworking....something the other NEA (National Education Association, teacher's union) won't allow to happen. But that's another argument.

I have several teenage customers, more on several Internet boards for which I am a moderator, and teenage neighbors and a teenage niece. Out of the nearly dozen geographically and economically distributed group, I have found about 2 that can hold a reasonable conversation, understand basic grammatical concepts and generally aren't losers. That's 16% of an admittedly small sample.

Most of these individuals aren't stupid, but they are "losers"...either their teachers didn't inspire, they had crappy parents, they were lazy, I don't know. And, I don't care. But someone's tax dollars went to "educate" them.

If I could opt out of all tax payments except that which directly affected safety, sanitation and police, I would and wouldn't feel bad about it.
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