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Author Topic: Essay: Beauty and Desecration  (Read 26398 times)
David Sutton
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« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2009, 01:00:03 AM »
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Quote from: Misirlou
That is interesting. My wife and I bought an arts & crafts house in 2006, and we did a lot of research on the movement as part of our semi-restoration. I'm certain that a bit of the arts & crafts ethic rubbed off on us in the process. Of course, our Morris chair is a factory-made reproduction, because we can't begin to afford the real thing. Great chair though.

The house definitely crystalized some vague feelings we'd had. We spent a lot of time looking through "contemporary" McMansions and so forth before we settled on that particular house. In almost every way I can think of, the newer houses are easier to live with. But somehow, they never seemed like home. The troublesome old bungalow is just terrifically comfortable. No way we're ever leaving.

The more I consider the Washington Post and Roger Scruton articles, the more I wonder at the things people pay attention to. I can't help feeling that if you pay attention to ugliness that is the direction your life will go.
I am happy living in the equivalent of an old pair of slippers. An 1880's cottage is difficult to heat, and has to be constantly watched for decay, but is definitely no museum. You can put your feet up. In several rooms I made my own paint with local coloured clay, chalk and the skins of rabbits. The light catches the crystals of chalk in the walls and throws the red and yellow colour throughout the place. Like an endless country dawn at times.
Can't say what the rabbits thought of the matter, but.
David
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Rob C
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« Reply #21 on: November 24, 2009, 04:36:17 AM »
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If anyone wanted something to get pissed off about, they should have seen last night's TV show (BBC) on the Saatchi Gallery's search for the next great thing. They took a dozen hopefuls and cut them down to six, who will be further 'tested' in the days ahead. Of the lot, there was a single, non-art school-trained painter with talent.

One 'artist' had a whistle, tipped in red, hanging from a cord over a hand-rail. Another guy had a wheel turning on a treadmill. Yet get the picture.

There was a life-class test, where they had to draw a nude model. None was very good, but one was so bad that the drawing ended up as a series of scribbled lines without form. This was lauded.

Rob C
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2009, 06:08:12 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
If anyone wanted something to get pissed off about, they should have seen last night's TV show (BBC) on the Saatchi Gallery's search for the next great thing. They took a dozen hopefuls and cut them down to six, who will be further 'tested' in the days ahead. Of the lot, there was a single, non-art school-trained painter with talent.

One 'artist' had a whistle, tipped in red, hanging from a cord over a hand-rail. Another guy had a wheel turning on a treadmill. Yet get the picture.

There was a life-class test, where they had to draw a nude model. None was very good, but one was so bad that the drawing ended up as a series of scribbled lines without form. This was lauded.

Rob C

Perfect. As is documented in The Seven Million Dollar Stuffed Shark, the high-end of the art world is an incestuous club dominated by a handful of extremely wealthy dealers and the even wealthier collectors they gull into buying obscenely priced crap masquerading as art. The otherwise intelligent rich people conned into spending millions on trash appear to be attempting to buy street cred, proving they're 'cool'.

I'm reminded of Tom Wolfe's eulogy for sculptor Frederick Hart, in which he describes the withering contempt for Hart's work in the trendy world of high art. Hart was enormously skilled at the craft of sculpting the human form from life, but was dismissed by the arbiters of taste busily promoting Jeff Koons' ceramic kitsch.
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #23 on: November 25, 2009, 05:24:06 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
They took a dozen hopefuls and cut them down to six
I didn't see the programme (and am glad as I am sure it would have raised my blood pressure unnecessarily), but it sounds as if they ought to be cut down to size rather than six!
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RSL
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« Reply #24 on: November 25, 2009, 11:35:33 AM »
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Having actually had work to do, I’m late to this discussion, but it seems to me that Scruton hit the nail on the head, though it took him a lot of hammering to do it. The guy would be more effective if he were more concise, and if he’d begin a screed like this one by defining some of his terms. One thing I often notice is that when you use the word, “beauty,” most people take that to mean prettiness. Scruton makes it clear that his definition of beauty goes far beyond that, but he spreads the definition over several pages. He covered the field quite well, but I’m sorry Scruton didn’t include something about the damage being done to art by politics, which, when included in any attempt at art, is always terminal.

I’ll be 80 in less than four months, and I’ve been watching art degenerate over most of those years. I’d say, “Don’t get me started,” but you already have. But instead of dumping an extensive screed into this already long thread, I’ll refer you to an essay I wrote a couple years ago on the subject. If you’re interested, go to http://www.russ-lewis.com/essays/articlesframe.htm, and click on “Recessional.”
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bill t.
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« Reply #25 on: November 25, 2009, 11:43:41 AM »
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I have never personally felt the Desperate Drive To Be Different, or to significantly separate myself from that which appeals to the Hoi Polloi.

I long ago stopped trying to Be Cool or even Relevant and the barren face of Significance has never seduced me.

I make elegant, even beautiful landscapes which are bought at moderate prices by ordinary people who find them attractive and who wish to make them important parts of their living spaces.

I am the very Essence of Purity.  And my press release says so.

The Artists' Chant, with apologies to my Dineh neighbors: BS to my left, BS to my right, BS above me, BS below me, BS before me, I am on the BS Path!
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Rob C
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« Reply #26 on: November 26, 2009, 04:32:30 AM »
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Quote from: Geoff Wittig
Perfect. As is documented in The Seven Million Dollar Stuffed Shark, the high-end of the art world is an incestuous club dominated by a handful of extremely wealthy dealers and the even wealthier collectors they gull into buying obscenely priced crap masquerading as art. The otherwise intelligent rich people conned into spending millions on trash appear to be attempting to buy street cred, proving they're 'cool'.

I'm reminded of Tom Wolfe's eulogy for sculptor Frederick Hart, in which he describes the withering contempt for Hart's work in the trendy world of high art. Hart was enormously skilled at the craft of sculpting the human form from life, but was dismissed by the arbiters of taste busily promoting Jeff Koons' ceramic kitsch.




Last night saw yet another UK programme on art: the Contemporary Art Bubble. It was actually rather good, and though some of the big players refused, understandably, to participate in the programme, others did and it was made rather clear that manipulation of the market and insider dealing that would be illegal elsewhere in the commercial world, is running rampant.

A lot of attention was paid to the world of Damian Hirst (he did not wish to participate) and to his auction where he appeared to take on the dealers themselves, and raised around one hundred and fourteen million pounds for his bank account. This seems to have worked because some of the dealers were obliged to bid in order to keep the value of their large inventories of his product at high values.

In the end, the conclusion sems to have been that the modern art bubble has well and truly burst; Hirst has closed several of his 'factory studios' around the globe and now has but his own - if I understood the show correctly. Whether this is actually a reflection of fallen interest in both his work and its monetary value, or yet a further clever move that makes his product now even more exclusive, I am not sure.

Had I even one of his millions as my own, I am certain I wouldn't care too much!

Rob C
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Justan
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« Reply #27 on: November 26, 2009, 11:44:41 AM »
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Hi All,

First, thanks for the many replies! I've been busy and haven't had the time to contribute to this as I’d planned.

While I’d like to respond to each post, time doesn’t let me do it. So instead I'll spare most and only comment on only a few.

RobC> As the author indicates, if you kill off beauty you fill the void with the cult of the ugly, the corrupt and the profane.

I enjoyed your post onto itself. It is an accurate and a good analogy of what has changed in ideal world of Playboy over the time. And it is a fair micro-cosim of the broader changes. This is also a very instructive place to view the advances of photographing women. There is a site somewhere in cyberspace where one can see the centerfolds of each playboy. The site is instructive if only for the changes it portrays.

LKaven> It seems that this author has overlooked the inherent existentialism in modernist art, that which helps to underwrite its humanistic nature. …

He didn’t over look it. He acknowledge it in the 3rd paragraph: “…from the writings of Georges Bataille….and Jean-Paul Sartre to the bleak emptiness of the nouveau roman.”

While existentialism is most definitely a part of life and by accounts has been so since the early 1800s (and by some acute observations there are roots to existentialism that date to the late 1400s), existentialism seeks to explain nature rather than to lead it. Indeed, Scruton takes a very Foucault-like approach to his article in his attempt to show the history of the silence regarding the slow death of beauty in art.

And that is where his thesis develops. Why should all elements of life be about apprehending one’s anxiety? Sooner or later everyone seeks a change of pace. Even Sartre points out that the inherent freedom of existentialism is a dilemma. The quandary is that given infinite freedom to make different choices, why do most people make the same choices over and over?

That said,  yours was a very thought provoking comment!

Geoff Wittig > Modernism in art, as generally understood, sought to drop the sentimentality and ornament of Romanticism in favor of clearly communicated truths and the 'beauty of the thing itself'. In photographic terms the pictorialists were romantics, while the 'group f:64' were modernists. Edward Weston in his prime was a perfect example of high modernism—think 'pepper'. No sentiment or artifice, just the thing itself with its own intrinsic beauty.

Excellent comments!

Geoff Wittig > Katherine Thayer made precisely this point in her elegant essay in Lenswork #53. She notes that ironic, self-referential and intentionally unpleasant art has become such an accepted standard that pictorially beautiful, nature-inspired art is now subversive.

Got link? On the surface, this sounds to lean more to theatrics than analysis.

Taquin > This essay reminds me of the question of whether people attach less importance to beauty now than in the past.

I remember the Pearls Before Breakfast article. That was a topic about people’s sensitivity to music when removed from it’s traditional context. It was a result of that article that I bought my first Joshua Bell CDs. Which I'm pretty sure was the point of the exercise, at least it was for Mr. Bell. Anyway, the article wasn’t about the importance of beauty. It was about if anyone would notice it on while in a dingy walkway by on their hirried way to work. The answer, at least in DC, was an unequivocal NFW.[/i][/u]

Ray> I get the impression that many of the points made in this article by Roger Scruton, lamenting an apparent desecration of beauty in much of modern art, could apply in almost any age. I get a sense here, amongst the flowery language and lofty ideals, of an older person complaining and decrying the fact that 'things are not what they used to be when I was young', as many old people tend to do.

An interesting and not unfair interpretation, even though it’s done in a bare fisted way. I agree it was a lament. But don’t think it is a suitable lament for the ages.

Ray, op cit)> But in general terms, I can say that operas tend to have silly and unrealistic plots. With drama in general (plays and novels), there's a certain capacity for 'suspension of disbelief' required from the audience. With opera, that capacity for suspension of disbelief needs to be very high. One of Mozart's most popular operas, if not the most popular, The Magic Flute, is totally silly. If it wasn't for the music, one might think one was watching an episode of Sesame Street.

Agreed. The tools used in opera (music, plot, dance) take the audience to a place where it’s easier to suspend disbelief. The audience wants this. That’s why most are there. Well that and the girls love it.

Geoff Wittig > I'm reminded of Tom Wolfe's eulogy for sculptor Frederick Hart, in which he describes the withering contempt for Hart's work in the trendy world of high art. Hart was enormously skilled at the craft of sculpting the human form from life, but was dismissed by the arbiters of taste busily promoting Jeff Koons' ceramic kitsch.

Which hints at the pressures placed upon people to conform. In turn, this says what about existentialism and freedom?

RSL > …but I’m sorry Scruton didn’t include something about the damage being done to art by politics, which, when included in any attempt at art, is always terminal.

I think I understand what you are getting at but disagree. Historically nearly all successful artists are supported by the politics of the time. Would the Italian Renaissance had been the same had not Christianity played a dominant role in the politics of the time? Was there ever a time when art didn’t serve someone’s social agenda? Even traditionally beauty is to a large degree about conformity with someone else’s perceptions.

Put in a different light, I've been researching how to get some of my fotos into galleries in 2 different states. Interestingly and of note, most of the opportunities I've come across for emerging artists are sponsored by the state….
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RSL
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« Reply #28 on: November 26, 2009, 01:24:20 PM »
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Justan, Certainly politics mixes with organized religion, but during the Italian Renaissance artists were actually hired by their patrons to produce what the patrons wanted. I'd distinguish that from our current situation where "artists" are gratuitously influenced by political correctness. The modern kind of influence almost always results in crap.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #29 on: November 26, 2009, 03:24:48 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
Geoff Wittig > Katherine Thayer made precisely this point in her elegant essay in Lenswork #53. She notes that ironic, self-referential and intentionally unpleasant art has become such an accepted standard that pictorially beautiful, nature-inspired art is now subversive.

Got link? On the surface, this sounds to lean more to theatrics than analysis.

I wish I could. I haven't been able to find the text available on line. I have it in my 'dead tree edition of Lenswork #53. I'd be delighted if someone else could locate a linkable version. I'm not doing it justice with my brief summary.
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Justan
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« Reply #30 on: November 30, 2009, 11:43:49 AM »
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> Justan, Certainly politics mixes with organized religion, but during the Italian Renaissance artists were actually hired by their patrons to produce what the patrons wanted.

In some cases, yes, but in most, the artists were given a mostly free hand. But none of that had a real influence on the work being propaganda.

> I'd distinguish that from our current situation where "artists" are gratuitously influenced by political correctness. The modern kind of influence almost always results in crap.

That would depend on the skills of the artist(s), wouldn’t it?
« Last Edit: November 30, 2009, 11:44:33 AM by Justan » Logged

Justan
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« Reply #31 on: November 30, 2009, 11:46:00 AM »
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Quote from: Geoff Wittig
I wish I could. I haven't been able to find the text available on line. I have it in my 'dead tree edition of Lenswork #53. I'd be delighted if someone else could locate a linkable version. I'm not doing it justice with my brief summary.

I'll have to look up Katherine Thayer's musings when i get a free moment...
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Misirlou
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« Reply #32 on: November 30, 2009, 12:20:13 PM »
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Quote from: Taquin
The more I consider the Washington Post and Roger Scruton articles, the more I wonder at the things people pay attention to. I can't help feeling that if you pay attention to ugliness that is the direction your life will go.
I am happy living in the equivalent of an old pair of slippers. An 1880's cottage is difficult to heat, and has to be constantly watched for decay, but is definitely no museum. You can put your feet up. In several rooms I made my own paint with local coloured clay, chalk and the skins of rabbits. The light catches the crystals of chalk in the walls and throws the red and yellow colour throughout the place. Like an endless country dawn at times.
Can't say what the rabbits thought of the matter, but.
David

There's an old saying, Jewish I believe: "That which you gaze upon, you become."
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RSL
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« Reply #33 on: November 30, 2009, 08:55:12 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
In some cases, yes, but in most, the artists were given a mostly free hand. But none of that had a real influence on the work being propaganda.

I'm not sure what sources you're reading, but my own tell me that the "free hand" was pretty much confined to the specifics of construction, not to the subject matter. I'm not sure I understand what you're saying about "propaganda" though, so I can't answer that.

Quote
That would depend on the skills of the artist(s), wouldn’t it?

Not necessarily. Even very good artists can trash their work by bringing current politics into it.
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Ray
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« Reply #34 on: November 30, 2009, 11:42:34 PM »
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I like this painting by Caravaggio, around 1598. I think the composition is great. The diagonals of the blood spurting from Holofernes' throat, and the diagonals of Judith's arms holding the knife, the red curtains above, and the totally black spaces in the background reducing any diversion of attention, are all technical ingredients of a masterpiece.

However, one might ask, is this beautiful? Is a representation of the slitting a Babylonian general's throat by an attractive Jewish woman, beautiful?

I also find interesting, the fact that in the original painting, Judith had bare breasts. They've been censored, and a white blouse was later painted over the bare breasts. What desecration! I want to see Judth's breasts   .

[attachment=18268:Judith_B...s_c_1598.jpg]



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Rob C
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« Reply #35 on: December 01, 2009, 02:23:38 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
I like this painting by Caravaggio, around 1598. I think the composition is great. The diagonals of the blood spurting from Holofernes' throat, and the diagonals of Judith's arms holding the knife, the red curtains above, and the totally black spaces in the background reducing any diversion of attention, are all technical ingredients of a masterpiece.

However, one might ask, is this beautiful? Is a representation of the slitting a Babylonian general's throat by an attractive Jewish woman, beautiful?

I also find interesting, the fact that in the original painting, Judith had bare breasts. They've been censored, and a white blouse was later painted over the bare breasts. What desecration! I want to see Judth's breasts   .

[attachment=18268:Judith_B...s_c_1598.jpg]





Be patient, Ray: she's got them covered whilst they recover from her implant job and all will be revealed again in due course. Or she renegotiates her model release.

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #36 on: December 02, 2009, 12:01:02 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
Be patient, Ray: she's got them covered whilst they recover from her implant job and all will be revealed again in due course. Or she renegotiates her model release.

Rob C

I think you might have missed the point, Rob. I'm not after mere titillation here. There's a biblical story of a Jewish heroine basically prostituting herself to a Babylonian general in order to save the destruction of Israel by Nebucadnezzar. She is invited into his tent for a bit of hanky panky, preumably because he fancies her and she's a bit of 'all right'.

The Babylonian general, Holofernes, gets very drunk. Do we presume that Judith was nicely dressed during this episode. Caravaggio thought otherwise and painted her in the nude as though she had just got out of bed.

Now, I ask you. Where is the desecration? The ugly depiction of a man having his throat cut and head decapitated (basically murdered), or the later censoring of Judith's bare breasts which Caravaggio had originally painted?
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feppe
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« Reply #37 on: December 02, 2009, 10:52:41 AM »
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Quote from: Ray
Now, I ask you. Where is the desecration? The ugly depiction of a man having his throat cut and head decapitated (basically murdered), or the later censoring of Judith's bare breasts which Caravaggio had originally painted?

Similar dichotomy is alive and well today in movie and game ratings. Anything to do with exposed breasts or genitalia gets the adult or mature rating no matter how innocent (American Pie), while there can be wanton death and destruction in movies marketed to kids in their early teens no matter how bleak (Dark Knight). This is not so apparent in Europe as it is in the US, though.
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Rob C
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« Reply #38 on: December 02, 2009, 02:42:26 PM »
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Quote from: Ray
I think you might have missed the point, Rob. I'm not after mere titillation here.

...or the later censoring of Judith's bare breasts which Caravaggio had originally painted?


And to think that I'd imagined body painting in the Western World came in with the Sixties!

Life is so complex!

Rob C
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EduPerez
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« Reply #39 on: December 03, 2009, 02:08:41 AM »
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I like to highlight one of LKaven's comments (not because I have something again LKaven, of course, but because I have heard / read that same argument upon extenuation):

Quote from: LKaven
[...]I feel he doesn't understand existentialism at all here.[...]
There it is.

First there is this concept that there is something out there to be understood. Merely contemplating a piece of art is no longer enough: you have to know the artist's statement, you need to talk to him / her and understand his / her motives, you must be versed on the true meaning of art, and keep informed about the latest and greatest in art; that is what you have to do to understand what you are seeing.

But then... then nothing, you just stay there, staring and feeling absolutely nothing. Sorry, but if it does not make me feel something deep inside, I am not interested. Call me primitive if you want, but art that does not transmit a feeling bores me; no matter what it talks about, and no matter how much meaning the author thinks it has.

And there is also this emperor's new clothes emanating from that argument: if you criticize someone's work, it  has to be because you do not understand it (there is no other imaginable reason why you could disagree with the author, of course); thus, unless you want to be called a fool, you must say great things about the most absurd occurrences.

This is what I think; now, feel free to bash me for my rudeness and ignorance: I am young, I will recover.
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