Monday, November 12, 2012



What is art?                                

Is it smart?

Is it Sunday before Saturday except on Tuesday?

Does it fart?

Does the Monkey guzzle bourbon to the content of her heart?
Does that heart ache when she reads the CM mizzzereee?

Is Frod a painter of pictures in the sky?

And what color should those paintings be?

Do my students ever know me?

Can we teach?  May we?  Do we?

Are we not merely artists in the classroom?
Or are we as much as that?

Let it be.

Truth with a capital T.

I silly myself only if I care?

Do I?
What then?


  1. The hyperlinks made this totally worth reading. I loved the intertexuality of the piece.

    And this, the week before Thanksgiving, when students leave a week early for their break, is one in which I care less than a pear.

  2. Replies
    1. Especially if said art is of the culinary variety.

  3. If CM is seeking new correspondents, you might scare them away with asking "What is art?" since it's quite a difficult question.

    Ever see "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" starring Lily Tomlin, originally a Broadway play but still available on DVD? While much of the show has dated, she has a good bit about trying to explain to extraterrestrials what art is. She shows them a can of Campbell's tomato soup, and says, "That's soup." She then shows them Andy Warhol's painting "Campbell's Soup," and says, "That's art." Soup, art, soup, art, soup, art.

    By the end of the show, she takes them to the theater. They pay no attention to the play, but they are greatly entertained by watching the audience.

    A similar complex discussion can be had about "What is news?" As I believe you know, Karl Popper wrote at length about "What is science?" So did Paul Feyerabend, but I don't think he got it right, but then that's a practicing scientist talking. People at least since the ancient Greeks have been asking "What is truth?" It cracks me up, since when either a five-year-old or a sniveling, grade-grubbing undergraduate tell you a lie, it's obvious.

    By the way, what color paintings of the sky should be is also a complex issue. One reason for this is that human eyes go color-blind in the dark, so that when one looks through a telescope's eyepiece, one usually can't see the brilliant red colors that the camera can show. This isn't a case of the camera telling lies: the camera can show what's there, which the human eye is not capable of seeing.

    I think Space Telescope Science Institute's Office of Education and Public Outreach gets a good, simple answer here. They will release images to the public even if they don't look like what the eye would see, if they help with understanding the nature of the subject. Wasn't the whole point of a telescope to show you what they eye can't see, anyway?

    Also by the way, we're not allowed to say "naked" eye anymore. Sky & Telescope magazine found that kids couldn't access their web page on "Naked Eye Astronomy," because parental supervision software was flagging the word, "naked." They ran an editorial in which the naked eye was declared dead: long live the unaided eye!

  4. Art never tells you what you think you want to know.

    1. @Stella: What do you want to know? Perhaps you want to know what Ray Bolger's Scarecrow would look like naked? No clothes. Unaided!

      Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down!

    2. I think we all want to know that we are right about everything. And art tells you you are wrong about everything.

    3. Again, I can't dig it. I am not a good enough artist to be able to copy anything exactly, but I am surprised and delighted to find that more than half the time I try, things come out better than I'd imagined.

  5. Yes it does. One example is Percival Lowell's detailed maps of the canals on Mars, which he wanted to see with all his might, but do not exist.

  6. This is at least as coherent as the surrealist poems in the anthology I'm using right now, and more fun to parse (or at least speculate on multiple possible meanings).

    And I'm delighted to see Harvey make an appearance on this blog. He's a close family friend (i.e. one of my father's favorite movie characters), and seems quite at home in this space.