Friday, March 08, 2013

Amateurs, Professionals And Magic

This week my posts have felt to me to be a little random, a little unstructured and maybe even a little scattered around, topic-wise. But they are what they are, and I’m going to end the week that way, too, because today I’m going to end the week with a couple of quotes that aren’t directly related to each other and they aren’t directly related to posts from earlier in the week, but they’re kind of related, both to each other and to earlier posts.

Just vaguely.

But I want to put up these two quotes because I’ve been thinking about them for some time and I haven’t been able to work out a more structured way of putting them up. And sometimes once I put up a quote just by itself I relax a little and then think of a way to link back to it.

At any rate I’m going to do it so here goes.


This first thing is related a little to Miranda’s Words And Caliban’s Music, and “The Tempest” in general.

I still haven’t read “The Tempest.” At least not straight through. I’ve read individual sections, though, so I’ve probably read the whole play, but I haven’t started at the beginning and read straight through. I’m still hoping to do that on a boat.

But I have, many times, watched the movie “Forbidden Planet” straight through and in the science fiction world that film is often compared to “The Tempest.”

One thing I’m interested in about both stories is why the main character would want to leave his magical location to return to “civilization.”

(This business of “going someplace” is important to me because all my life I’ve been on the fringe of one or another aspect of the entertainment world and without exception all of my friends have made the trip to Los Angeles and it seems inevitable that I will, too. But, again without exception, nothing good has happened to any of my friends out there. But, still, it feels inevitable to me that I will get out there, too.)

So I’m interested in these two stories, “The Tempest” and “Forbidden Planet” because a pivotal point in both stories is a plot point of a person in a reasonably interesting situation and location feeling an imperative, for one reason or another, to “go someplace else.”

In both stories the imperative to go someplace else seems to be centered on issues of legacy, and offspring.

In “The Tempest” Prospero has magical powers and communion with magical beings and his island isn’t such a horrible place. But, of course, it is understandable that he is concerned about his daughter, and would rather see her back in civilization and living the kind of respected life he knows she is entitled to.

In “Forbidden Planet” the situation is pretty similar. Morbius has given his daughter a wonderful education and his mastery of the Krell technology has made it possible for her to create anything she desires. But when the spaceship from Earth arrives and she meets other people—handsome young spacemen—Morbius reflects on going back to Earth.

MORBIUS: “Yes, I suppose one day I shall be obliged to make the trip to Earth with her. For the sake of her natural development.”

And they look over and she’s flirting with one of the spacemen.

I don’t have a daughter, but I’m wondering if I’m thinking about work as something like a daughter. I’m wondering if I’m thinking that if I consider myself a writer, well, the place for writers in today’s world is in Los Angeles. And if writing is going to survive, for better or for worse, that writing has to be some kind of Hollywood writing.

I don’t know. If I’m thinking that way, somewhere in the back of my mind, it is madness and nothing good will come of it. But, nonetheless, we are what we are.

I don’t know.


This second quote is from a book about Impressionist painting techniques. The author, a painter himself, reviews the overall context of art in nineteenth century France, and then discusses the differences between the highly skilled and detailed work of traditional painters, so-called Salon painters, and the more personal and much less finished paintings of the first generation of Impressionists. He writes:

Remnants of earlier studio practices were still evident in the 19th century, but by then the technical knowledge of painters was in serious decline. The master painter’s studio had been replaced by an academic system of teaching led by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, which provided little or no practical training. A new kind of painter was emerging—enthusiastic, naturally gifted, but poorly trained and in many respects not very different from an amateur.

I’ve always been struck by that characterization—that the Impressionists were in some ways similar to “amateurs.”

It’s true and it’s not true. They certainly didn’t carry their technique through to the finely finished, almost photographic, effects of the traditional painters. But at the same time they didn’t think of themselves as simply working to please themselves. They all thought of themselves as part of a larger continuity, Degas and his friends with followers of Ingres, and Manet and his friends with the followers of Delacroix.

It’s a very interesting characterization, that “amateur” business.

The Impressionists were “amateurs” in some of their effects, but certainly not in their intentions and aspirations.

It’s a very interesting characterization.

And it is interesting to think about this same issue in terms of the art and entertainment worlds today.

Technology gives entertainers and artists today tremendous control over their means of production. Images and sounds can be as intricate and controlled as anyone may choose to make them.

But is it really necessary?

I wonder about this.

What place, for instance, is there for an amateur—a real one or a person who accepts, even embraces, the “effect” of amateur work—in Los Angeles? In the Establishment world in general today?

I don’t know.

But it seems to me the contemporary world is in many ways similar to the era of the Impressionists, only instead of being concerned only with painting the current world is at something like a crisis point with all of the technologies of arts and entertainment.

Everything seems to be separating itself from human needs.

I don’t know. But I think back to that old cassette of John Lennon singing “Free As A Bird” that I posted in “Underwear Distance Of Love” (Reprise).

Pop music nowadays, arts and entertainment nowadays, is created to unbelievably detailed and exacting quality standards.

But how many songs are as cool as just listening to Lennon sit at a piano and sing into a cassette recorder?

It seems to me a new kind of Impressionist movement—but a movement dedicated to all the arts, to all of entertainment, not just painting—might be a good thing right about now.

Bringing humanity back to the arts and entertainment.

But I don’t know if such a thing is even possible. People today seem to have other things on their mind.

But wouldn’t it be cool if it were possible?

It would be something like magic. But real.

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