html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Specifically

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Specifically

I’ve been reading ebogjohnson and grammarpolice, and marveling at what they do in their posts. Look what Kriston did here (nsfw?). Those are two very dramatic pictures. And while I was still looking at them, thinking things like WHOA! SEX! WHOA! BUGS!, he did useful things. He checked if it was a hoax and settled on a context for the pictures. Given that context, he analyzed elements I didn’t even see. He looked for an underlying concept and gave the reasons it is applicable. He supported that with specific examples from the pictures. He made an assertion about what that concept means to us and to other people, backed up again by examples. He conveyed his opinion and was funny. He did all that in about a page.

That accomplishment is why his post reminded me of nothing so much as Gary’s. When Gary wanted to explain why one comedian’s use of blackface was shallow and public reaction to that comedian unusually hurtful, he did nearly exactly the same thing. First, a qualification for authenticity and establishment of context. A look at a range of ways to evaluate the topic. He drew on his professional knowledge to give me an example of other uses of blackface, so that I could evaluate both. He drew conclusions about what different uses of blackface would mean. He said strong things clearly and led me straight through the transitions.

I am so impressed with that ability. That’s what you get when people do serious work in their fields. And here’s the thing. I wouldn’t have an interest in either field if they weren’t thinking so hard and so well about it. In art, the extent of my opinions is that I like a piece or I don’t, and shamefully, that is mostly about how it would look in my house. I am a distant spectator in analysis of black and white race relations; I’d be petrified if I got dragged into that game. But if they’re going to think and write that well about it, I’m going to read it. I’d read it no matter what the topic was.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Peter said...

Good thing those French AIDS ads didn't use potato bugs!

7:55 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

That's the most disgusting thought I've ever thought.

I must say, I particularly like the way the scorpian's left claw is thrown back. So much abandon.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Good thing those French AIDS ads didn't use potato bugs!

That's the most disgusting thought I've ever thought.

Here's one that's even worse: imagine if the humans and the potato bugs ... reproduced.

8:14 PM  
Blogger grant said...

Here's one that's even worse: imagine if the humans and the potato bugs ... reproduced.

I think they did, and they're living in some quiet rural communities I recently visited...

6:16 AM  
Anonymous gary/ebog said...

aw jeez. THE PRESSURE, THE PRESSURE...

1:27 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Really? I didn't mean it that way. Besides, it looks like it comes natural to you. The rest of your stuff is so consistent...

1:45 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I was telling my friend about those ads last night...we talked a bit about it...then I pondered out loud: "But they shouldn't set up the spider ad that way, since the chance of getting AIDS through oral sex is negligible..."

But then I realized, again out loud, "Oh, but I guess the point of the ad probably isn't that the bugs have AIDS..."

I feel fairly confident that my life would be less amusing if I were smarter.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Oh, I see now that Kriston mentions the oral sex problem...See? If I were smarter, I would've been intellectually engaged enough by the argument to read it all the way to the end - and then my friend and I would never have had a 30-second fit of laughter.

I intend to publish a journal article that proves empirically that smarter people have less fun.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Come to think of it, maybe that's the real causal story behind the "blondes have more fun" observation! It's not a hair color -> fun relationship at all, but rather my argument combined with the "dumb blondes" idea! Man, I might be able to swing tenure at an Ivy out of this...

11:17 AM  

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