Robert Nason's Culture Café

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Robert Nason
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Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Tue Jun 10, 2014 11:37 pm

WELCOME!

This is the place to come for the real lowdown on the both the High and Low, the cultural, the political, the personal, and every hybrid imaginable. Put your cards on the table, face up -- and remember the odds usually favor the house, but here every man's a king, every woman's a queen, and there are two chickens in every garage and a car in every pot. But please, no pot in here -- we welcome sober (but not solemn), articulate, clear-minded analysis of all the.news that's not yet fit to print but fit to post; and I'll be fit to be tied if anyone breaks any real scoops here. Remember: Literature is news that stays news. And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Jump right in, the water's brine.
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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FrankChurch
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby FrankChurch » Wed Jun 11, 2014 3:53 pm

Robert, where did you learn culture and you do know that many right wingers think of culture as elitist.

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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Wed Jun 11, 2014 4:29 pm

The editors and writers of the conservative arts journal THE NEW CRITERION not only promote the highest standards in art but urge everyone to learn about and appreciate great art as much as they can.

I learned whatever culture I have from my beloved and very smart parents, my teachers, my professors in the Theatre and Film Department at the State University of New York at Purchase and my professors in the English and Comparative Literature Department at Columbia University (as well as professors from the art, music, philisophy, history, and political science departments in both schools), constant reading, museum- and theatre- and film-going, wide travel on numerous trips to Europe and the Middle East and my own blessed country, conversations with many knowledgeable friends and acquaintances from all over the world....and reading Harlan Ellison, of course!

Welcome to my café. :D
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:50 pm

The great science fiction artist CHESLEY BONESTELL died on this day back in 1986, two years short of his 100th birthday. Long before there was a Hubble telescope, he let us see the universe. Here's just one example of his astounding work:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/514QNT0E0DL.jpg
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

Mark Tiedemann
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Jun 12, 2014 8:27 am

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Yes, Heinlein coined that term, though I suspect something like it had been around for some time.

When I made that remark about Mr. Stossel being unwilling to come to a conclusion, I was thinking exactly that. But not in the way you apparently interpreted it.

Stossel wants the Market to be the main operator in determining who gets what. To a large extent, no one can stop the Market from serving that function, but that doesn't mean it can't be directed. It's being directed now, by the wrong people, at the expense of most of the rest of us. What we're experiencing is the fact that the situation on the ground, financially and otherwise, has changed and the powers that be are still trying to make those changes fit into a 19th century model of economic policy. The suit don't fit no more and as each new factoid and crisis comes along it's becoming more obvious to everyone but the folks invested in defending the way things were.

So my position is this: the 1%, whoever they may be, are currently enjoying a free lunch. I think they're paying for breakfast and leaving a tip after dinner, but they've been getting a big lunch for free since Reagan started rearranging the furniture on their behalf. Those huge profit margins are a byproduct rather than a result of direct production and they keep pretending they've earned it. They have not. It's just that the channel runs that way and as more and more people lose bigger and bigger chunks of the pie, that excess flows naturally that direction. If we do not address this, the disenfranchised (economically speaking) will eventually bring the system down---either by sheer weight of numbers or by active destruction.

Which would be unfortunate and wholly unnecessary. But we need a new system for dealing with the coming realities and that is the conclusion people like Stossel will not accept.

If you do not think this is appropriate for your Culture Cafe, I shall move it elsewhere and refrain from following it up here. But I think this very much is a question of culture.

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robochrist
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby robochrist » Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:43 am

Stossel wants the Market to be the main operator in determining who gets what.

We tried it! To the extreme we're talking about here, we let the "free market" determine the whole game and every time the results were devastating for most of the population. Considering its obviousness, I'll never understand why the debate keeps returning. Stossel, like all Randian libertarians, lives in his own bubble, inexplicably blind-folded to the history that speaks for itself. That's what I refer to as "grade A stupidity". No matter what, it's the same thing over-and-over. Unbelievable.

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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby FinderDoug » Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:29 am

Bonestell was the first space artist to catch my eye and my imagination, on the covers of old issues of F&SF that turned up in one of the bookstores I haunted back in the day. Has there ever been an extensive monograph published of his work? None springs to mind; there's the Schuetz chronology of his work, but that's hardly illustrative.

Tony Rabig
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Tony Rabig » Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:10 am

Not long after Sputnik went up, there was a series of trading cards devoted to space instead of baseball or football; I was in third or fourth grade then & had most of them (wish I still did...). A few years later, I saw many of the same illustrations in books like (if memory serves) Exploring the Universe by Roy Gallant with illustrations by Bonestell; they also turned up in a few booklets on space done by an outfit called the Science Service that did 60 or 70 page booklets on science and technology aimed at kids (the illustrations were on stamps that you put into the book yourself).

Good stuff, that; Amazon shows there was a book in 2001 called The Art of Chesley Bonestell by Miller & Durant, but the price on a copy these days is well out of this kid's reach.
--tr

Mark Tiedemann
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:11 pm

Right in the beginning of vol 2 of the new Heinlein bio there's quite a bit of discussion of Bonestell and the work he did for Destination: Moon. Fascinating history there. I used to think that if we got "there" (wherever) and it didn't look like his work, then we should rework it so it did. :)

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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby FrankChurch » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:25 pm

Even to receive a free lunch you have to get it, which is effort; so in fact, you are paying for it.

There is no ethical basis for starving people, even if those people are shiftless rats.

Good social constructions build a human who is capable of following good art and culture, as long as they can define it for themselves, without all this nonsense about Western canons and the like.

Mark Tiedemann
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu Jun 12, 2014 1:33 pm

I will defend the Western Canon. At least, I'll defend many of the titles supposedly in it. I have my reasons, some of them sound.

Tony Rabig
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Tony Rabig » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:01 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Good social constructions build a human who is capable of following good art and culture, as long as they can define it for themselves, without all this nonsense about Western canons and the like.


I know I'm gonna be sorry I asked this, but on what basis does one decide what constitutes a good social construction, or good art, or good culture?
--tr

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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Thu Jun 12, 2014 2:13 pm

Mark, I just happened to be watching DESTINATION,MOON on cable the other night, and I still felt a thrill when the ship lands on the moon and the camera slowly pans the lunar landscape (Bonestell's meticulous rendering of his 1950 vision of how it would appear) for what seemed like a 360° shot. And I thought, Why couldn't the moon our Apollo astronauts saw look as spectacular as Bonestell's version -- craggy hills with sharp peaks, astonishing lunar mountains casting putch-black shadows on deep craters, all of it bathed in both bright white light and a myriad of (Technicooir) colors. Instead, the moon we saw in 1969 was fairly flat with smooth featureless plateaus and the remnants of ancient molten bubbles, like a giant pancake that had been suddenly fossilized in the midst of baking. Not bad, but not Bonestell. You took my thought further: Why couldn't we reconfigure the moon and planets to more closely resemble Bonestell's paintings?

(I assume there are parts of the moon that do look more like the landscape of the movie, but they're probably on the dark side; and the very unevenness of the terrain obviously made it less suitable for manned landings. There's still an awful lot there to explore.)

In my teens I had a classmate, my closest friend, who had amassed an amazing collection of ASTOUNDINGS (and an astounding number of AMAZINGS), from the 1940s and 50s, and occasionaly he'd let me borrow some. One of them was the 1950 issue of ASTOUNDING with Heinlein's essay on the making of DESTINATION MOON; the cover featured a still from the moon set with Bonestell's painted backdrop. Later on I found many gorgeous Bonestell covers for F & SF as well -- my friend would open the cardboard box in the closet of his parents' finished banement and those covers would just shimmer back at me, the landscapes stately and motionless abd silently awesome, quite different than the pulpy covers of lesser sf magazines featuring BEMS waving tentacles at Vargas-style blondes in metallic bras. (Later on I would come to appreciate those imperiled blondes and cherish them as much if not more than those planetary landscapes.)

Doug and Tony: That Bonestell image I posted earlier was in fact the cover of THE ART OF CHESLEY BONESTELL. Late in life he also did a couple of books in collaboration with Arthur C. Clarke that are quite stunning, one of them about Jupiter. Even the Hubble telescope can't get those views of Jupiter from the standpoint of one of its moons.

On to Stossel and related matters later --
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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Robert Nason
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Robert Nason » Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:15 pm

The point about the Western canon is that these are the books which have made us the people and civilization we are today, whether you like this civilization or not; even radicals like Marx or Foucault were thoroughly versed in the tradition they were fighting against. (Though the case of Marx is a bit complicated, because he believed, Hegelian that he was at heart, that every advance is not just a reaction to previous advances -- the new paradigm doesn't merely replace but subsumes and incorporates what came before it.) It's been said that all philosophy is merely 2,500 years of footnotes to Plato; an exaggeration perhaps, but it's impossible to understand what the Founders were talking about if you don't know the ancient thinkers; you can't understand a contemporary thinker like the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk unless you're somewhat familiar with the Western philosophical tradition that he emerges from. Yes, there are constantly new additions to the canon --.from Asian classics; from new writers and artists; from women, gay, and minority writers; from neglected works from the past which are brought freshly into light (Eliot famously resurrected the poetry of John Donne after it had been largely forgotten for centuries). But they don't replace the touchstones that have continuously guided, inspired, infuriated, and animated intelligent people for millennia.

Take science fiction. Imagine a writer comes up with a story about robots that has them running amok. The kindly editor tells him, "Are you purposively ignoring Asimov's Three Laws of Robots, or will you have an explanation for why the robots were built without built-in safeguards to keep them from harming humans -- and themselves?" The writer says, "Asimov? Who's Asimov? What are these Three Laws of Robotics?" "They're both part of the canon of science fiction. Every serious sf writer is familiar with them." zthe writer is incensed. "I don't care about canons! I'm writing my own robot story! I don't care what other people think is some canon!" The writer may be a genius, sui generis -- but more likely is uninformed about the tradition of tropes and themes, unaware of the groundbreaking work done before him, and his story will no doubt reflect that and not sell. (Just look at the succession of misfires produced by "mainstream" writers when they produce an sf novel without being aware of the canon.)

Dismissing canons may seem trendy, rebellious, and hip; but it's usually just an excuse for ignorance and the daunting task of grappling with great minds that came before you.
"Thought is a strenuous art -- few practice it, and then only at rare times." - David Ben-Gurion

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Lori Koonce
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Re: Robert Nason's Culture Café

Postby Lori Koonce » Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:45 pm

Robert

Don't you think that the fact that our own host has turned most literary cannons on their ears, sort of proves you wrong

Sure, in the beginning stick with the cannon of your genre. I mean ya gotta know the rules before ya break them. But, after that IMO, it's a matter of skill.


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