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Old 06-26-2007, 07:49 AM   #1
Barry Cooper
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This is work and family safe. It is a commencement address delivered at Stanford, which discusses our cultural decline, and what to do about it: http://news-service.stanford.edu/new...ns-062007.html

Well worth the read, and the ponder.
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Old 06-26-2007, 12:23 PM   #2
Dwight Deckard
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Barry-

Thanks for the link. Certainly plenty of food for thought.
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Old 06-26-2007, 12:28 PM   #3
Dale F. Saran
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What a truly great speech.
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Old 06-26-2007, 12:32 PM   #4
Russell Greene
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I look at the value of a societal system by whether it gives its citizens the opportunity to take advantage of knowledge, arts, technology, material prosperity, etc., if they so desire.

By that standard, knowledge and arts are more freely available to anyone who is interested now than ever before. Not everyone will choose to take advantage of this, and that's ok.

It is also worth considering whether the phrase "American Culture", has any meaning anymore. Contrast today with the 50's, when there were just several TV stations which everyone watched. Now entertainment and culture are much more segmented than ever, which may have something to do with the separation of artists and intellectuals from popular culture. A person can live in America in 2007, but get his news from the BBC in Arabic and Spanish, read books written during the heyday of the Roman Empire, listen to music from the underground punk rock scene in Tokyo, and never ever watch American Idol, the Today Show, the Sopranos, or the Super Bowl. Rather than being Un-American, I think that such a person is more in keeping with the American ethos of freedom and individuality than the herds all watching and reading and thinking the same things.
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Old 06-26-2007, 01:45 PM   #5
Tom Brose
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I love Japanese punk rock. Thanks for reminding me of that Russ.
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Old 06-26-2007, 02:06 PM   #6
Tim Weaver
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Interesting speech, but not one with which I agree. I don't think it's the government's place to be involved in the arts, in any capacity. While I support Andres Serrano and his First Amendment rights, I do not believe taxpayer money should have funded his "art". (Google the name, I will not explain here who he is or what he did...except that the National Endowment of the Arts paid for it).

Yes, I had music programs available to me in junior and senior high school. Yes, I enjoyed them. However in retrospect, I think the money could have been much better spent on other things, like hard sciences, math, etc.

We are currently graduating "citizens" who cannot make change without a register telling them what that change amount should be. Who cannot diagram a sentence. Who cannot write in any sense of the word "coherent" sentences. Whose goals for the week are to make sure they have the same Coach purse as all their friends.

Dumping more money into the public schools, which is the Battle Cry of the teachers unions and administrators' everywhere, is not the answer. We've been raising taxes and dumping more money and achieve worse results for it.

I would posit that home-schooled and private-schooled children consistently outperform public school kids if one looked at quantitative areas of measurement.
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Old 06-26-2007, 02:55 PM   #7
Barry Cooper
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I don't think most of the artists he referenced as being recognizable back in his childhood relied substantially on government grants, although I could be wrong. Government support is, to me, secondary to a broader cultural vision and understanding.

There are really two issues, in my view, one of which he covered, one of which he didn't.

The first is subordination of our common heritage, of what we hold sacred, to business interests.

To take one example, the internet consists in large measure of what we might term "adult activities", and the industry itself is multiple billions of dollars. Jenna Jamison is nearly a household name, and I would hazard a guess the bulk of the male computers out there have some files that you would prefer your female companions didn't know about.

Yet, who makes these films? Are they not young ladies (and men) who have decided the indignity of being so filmed is worth the money? That they are doing nothing to be ashamed of? That the money is worth it? Is this not erasing some measure of the dignity of an act formerly considered intimate and private? Is it not reducing an action that possesses the possibility of beauty and the expression of love to something available for viewing in unlimited quantity for $39.95 a month?

Note, I'm not moralizing, but trying to expand the discussion to an awareness that he is right, in my view, in noting that some things shouldn't be negotiable, and shouldn't have prices.

The point he didn't cover is that most modern artists are oriented almost wholly around the destruction of our culture, and that they mistake the novelty of shock for profundity. That they have in fact in large measure abandoned even the notion of profundity in favor what I would term nihilistic gyrations.

That is where Tim's artist draws from. If he can shock someone, he considers that profound. Yet, surely that can only be seen as a net detraction from our culture, and the very antithesis of the sort of creativity that builds cultures, that creates great art. The expression, in other words, of failure.

The basic problem is that the possibility of truth has been abandoned in favor of an endless series of reflecting mirrors that nurture only the vanity of the artist, but not his soul. This point has been reached through a several hundred year history of maladroit philosophizing, and intellectual and moral cowardice.

Yet, what we need, and what we may yet see--certainly what we need to demand of ourselves, and anyone who would pretend to the status of culturally elite--is construction. Building. Working to reestablish pathways between our past and our future.

And the first step of that is self respect. I woke up this morning, and the phrase popped in my head: Self Respect is an acceptable form of truth. My feeling is we are calibrated, in some sense, to know the difference between cow dung and the sacred, even though our would-be cultural leaders want to pretend otherwise. They want to pretend that one man's sacred is another man's garbage, and that as a culture we have no means to differentiate the two. Nonsense.

The point of tolerance is the viability of multiple notions of truth coexisting without violence, but also without disappearing. If I can't speak my mind without undue fear of attack--and in our politically correct age, that is precisely where we're at--then tolerance has not been achieved. It is practiced only where it is not needed, and not practiced where it is needed, at least by some portion of our society.

I believe that we have built in moral compasses. When we are doing good, we sense it, and the form it takes is self respect, which is a sustainable virtue. It is the virtue of an intact culture, and an intact human being.

That is something we build here, and one of the reasons I am such an active participant in this community.
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Old 06-26-2007, 04:07 PM   #8
Bryan Veis
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Barry wrote:

I don't think most of the artists he referenced as being recognizable back in his childhood relied substantially on government grants, although I could be wrong.

Barry, those particular writers and artists may not have, but many prominent writers and artists did receive government aid during the Great Depression. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_P...Administration
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Old 06-26-2007, 06:53 PM   #9
Barry Cooper
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If that is true, should they have?

Surely we should support those who build, and NOT support those who destroy?
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Old 06-26-2007, 08:25 PM   #10
Tim Weaver
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I am not in favor of supporting them at all. If private citizens and charities wish to support the arts, they will. The Phoenix Symphony had recently found itself in financial trouble and called upon the public to assist, since the local government said they wouldn't (or couldn't) do so.

The public came to their rescue, and those who didn't wish to contribute weren't forced to.

That is how it should be, IMO.
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