Monday, January 26, 2009

An Age Of Extreme Conservatism - pt 1

For Pete Emslie and Mike Fontanelli:

"CONSERVATIVE" AND "LIBERAL" HAVE LOST THEIR MEANINGS

I have never seen a deeper uglier form of extreme conservatism than what exists today. I don't mean conservatism as in "the conservative party". All parties are conservative today, in the literal meaning of the word "conservative".

What is conservatism but fear of the new? Well that's what it once was. Now it's a much uglier monster. It's fear of the special, fear of the skilled, fear of individual accomplishment, fear of competition, fear even of professionalism.

Today's conservatives bemoan the fact that Hollywood is run by a bunch of dirty "Liberals" but I don't see anything remotely liberal in the way the business conducts itself, or the products it oozes out. It's run by a small handful of huge inefficient corporations - who probably all gave donations to Obama for "change" but who never in a million years would give up their monopolies and go back to a capitalistic "free-market" environment where they would have to actually have to compete with gifted talent.
Their monopolies are what keep out any individual initiative, any skill, any thirst for innovation and anything that anybody in a saner age would call remotely "creative".

We now have music with no melodies, "singers" that win hundreds of awards, "earn" more money than history's greatest dictators and usurpers, just for going on stage and mumbling broken "rhymes" into a microphone, backed up by a monotonous loop of the simplest electronic drum beat.




Masses of robot people in the audience wave their hands in the air as if in a hypnotic trance of ecstasy. They don't dance anymore, because that would require learning a skill - which takes discipline - and discipline is an evil conservative plot against the mass sameness we call individualism.

I'd swear 90% of television is about absolutely normal people, no different than anyone on your block, who by the luck of the draw have been chosen to be made into stars. We have people who are stars because they are fat and can't exercise by themselves. Like it's some amazing achievement to be fat.

http://www.dukehealth.org/HealthLibrary/HealthArticles/whyfattvisanationaldisgrace

1940s STAR

21st CENTURY STAR

We have people who are stars because they were forced to live in a house and bicker with other average people. We have shows about people who can't dress themselves without a wandering Gay guy to take them to the worst clothes stores in the world and drape them in embarrasing clothes that are even more tasteless than the ill fitting jeans and t-shirts they were wearing before they became famous. We have glorious stars who gained their fame and fortune by eating bugs for weeks and stabbing their friends in the back, and now we look up to them for their political advice on talk shows hosted by a panel of other people who never did anything skillful before they became famous.

We have newscasters who don't have strong voices or personality - regular folks just like you and your cousins. We have super expensive movies that look like your Dad's home movies.


The whole idea of conservatism has changed - as has the idea of liberalism. The words are meaningness now.


At one time there was an admirable kind of conservatism, even though I personally don't understand the conservative impulse myself.

Conservatives used to at least believe in skill, discipline, cleanliness and professionalism. They hated change of any kind and would only change their ways of doing things when liberal minded thinkers in the competition invented something that became popular. The conservatives would be dragged along against their wills by the experiments and freshness of the popular new ideas and styles and attitudes. I used to say "Today's conservatives believe in what they despised when the last generation's liberals introduced it - after stealing it from the radicals that we burned at the stake 2 generations ago."



Classic Skilled Conservative

Country singers hated the Beatles and all dirty long-haired hippie freaks in 1967. By 1972, the biggest country stars all were hairier, dirtier and far less disciplined than the hippies they used to drag behind their beaten up Ford trucks. Modern Conservative



next...Conservative VS Liberal Cartoons Of The Past:

98 comments:

Rick Roberts said...

Yes the world is more conservative them ever, That is why nothing in TV or movies is funny anymore. Their is now a fine line drawn between what is humorous and what is "offensive" according to facist hippies.

"We have newscasters who don't have strong voices or personality - regular folks just like you and your cousins"

Yes I don't want the guy from Wal-Mart reading the news.

Barnacles said...

Fun post. Thanks for pointing out that the meanings of both conservative and liberal are lost on current society. It's a shame people don't understand that we aren't functioning in a free capitalist society but instead a mixed system where we depend on our fearless leaders to dictate our needs.

Thanks for maintaining a bad ass blog. Sorry for the short soap box spout.

Paul B said...

WHAM!!

true, nothing more to say.

but, from another topic, do you think that would be difficult the animation of the hair from B.C and ID? especially Spook

can't wait from what's next.

your pal, Paul

Chris E. said...

You're right about music. It's everywhere and gets into everything. You're right--No one does dance anymore because that would require skill. But if they did at least dance, they would have more skill at something than the joke singing in that video you had posted here.

Enclothe said...

Loving the new header graphic.

As always your outlook on a wide variety of topics is inflammatory and spot on.

Ardy said...

Today, people believe the system must never change, yet almost everyone agrees that the results are horrible (some people can still fool themselves, though). So they think they can achieve better results by tinkering with the small details of things, without acknowledging that the entire system is broken (a lot like working on style without understanding construction). Everyone believes they are liberal because of they want to change something they don't realize is minuscule in scope.

I think the analogy applies to Hollywood, TV, and even government.

Adam T said...

It's run by a small handful of huge inefficient corporations - who probably all gave donations to Obama for "change" but who never in a million years would give up their monopolies and go back to a capitalistic "free-market" environment where they would have to actually have to compete with gifted talent.

Inefficiency is exactly it. And inefficiency today is almost always caused by too many managers making stupid decisions. The entertainment industry is the same as all others. When the company hierarchy starts to get top heavy you are going to see a decline in the quality of the company's products. It's the sign of cronyism at work. Talent doesn't get you far after the cronies have infiltrated.

tbrunojr said...

... and we have bloggers, who because they are talented in one particular art-form, feel as though they are the final authority on everything from color theory to political sea-change. J/K John! I agree generally: Screw 'the MAN'! People need to think for themselves and quit lapping-up the mediocre!

Brooks Blair Golden said...

as a fan of the rapper Jay z...i still fond an incredible amount of insite in yer post today...

...talentless hacks are talentless hacks, be it rock, or rap music...
i like to play fair, cuz there is just as many terrible and crummy rockers...

p.s. love the new banner illustration!

J.R. Spumkin said...

First off, may I say great job on the new headline.

And may I sadly agree that we are now in an age of extreme conservatism.

"We have newscasters who don't have strong voices or personality - regular folks just like you and your cousins. We have super expensive movies that look like your Dad's home movies."

On the newscasters thing, does that include parody casters like Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, or David Allen Grier (Chocolate News)?

And plus, if it were a great achievement to be fat, I'd be famous!

Trevor Thompson said...

Only thing I can disagree with you on is about hip-hop. As a former DJ, I feel I can shed some light on the subject.

Just because the popular s--t is 98% unlistenable tripe produced by talentless ghetto trash, that doesn't mean that there isn't any actual talent involved. You've very often and quite rightly pointed out the brilliant work of Jamie Hewlett's videos and designs for Gorillaz, but have you ever noticed how equally well done the music is?

And the 'rhyming' comment. Be fair, Johnny. Have you ever tried it? I have, and it's not easy at all. I only got good after a year or two. Maybe you yodelers have an upper hand on the subject, but it's still a skill to be learned.

Now, doing simple monosyllabic rhymes like DMX does, I'll grant you, is pretty easy. But just listen to Blackalicious' Ego Sonic War Drums, and if you still hear simple robotic beats under simple rhymes, then you're just biased and no amount of convincing, on my part or otherwise, would change your mind.

But hip-hop and rap are in the same throws of conservatism that everything else is. There were a lot of really intelligent and thought-provoking artists working before Biggie and Tupac.

Unfortunately, they became side-stepped by hacks like Lil' Jon who made it so that anyone with a Casio keyboard equipped with a hand clap could consider themselves a bona fide 'beatmaker'.

What's more, people like 50 Cent are now making movies, and other side projects that bring hip hop into the mainstream culture, a place where it never belonged. I blame MC Hammer.

"Rap is not pop, and if you call it that then stop"
- "Check The Rhyme" by A Tribe Called Quest

- trevor.

Paul B said...

John, another question. Sorry but is off topic too.

Do you think that Roger Ramjet characters are appealing?

FerGil said...

Great post, hehehe. Not politically correct, but it actually puts its finger on something quite large. This is material for debate, long lasting and full of disagreement.

I also think there are few liberals in other parts of the world too (I'm mexican), and true liberalism requires skill and wit, which are pretty scarce.

David Germain said...

just for going on stage and mumbling broken "rhymes" into a microphone, backed up by a monotonous loop of the simplest electronic drum beat.

Some of them actually rap over top of a hook from a song made in the 70's by Stevie Wonder or someone like that. That helps confirm your inbreeding theory about today's entertainment.
However, the one thing that turned me off of rap was that many of them seemed to just be bragging about themselves and how nobody should ever "mess with them". I just thought, "is that your only message to society?"
I'm sure there are some rap/hip hop tunes with much more poignant lyrics than that, but I haven't heard any. Not enough of them anyway.

Niki said...

The confusing thing about it all is that, when I read funny bunny it seemed the promoted that everyone should be the same at least by some small bit. Now everyone is supposed to be celebrating all of our differences, although everybody seems to have house personalities, goth, junkie, jock, etc. The world is a very strange place.

Rick Roberts said...

"They don't dance anymore"

They don't even sing.

Eric said...

This is the best rant I've read in forever. Keep it coming! I'll be very interested to see where you take this.

J.R. Spumkin said...

I agree with Trevor in the same respect. Old rappers like Chuck D and Public Enemy, Tupac, Biggie, even Wu Tang Clan are all good rappers. These musicians were intelligent, thinking people (particularly Public Enemy), but its the twisted, the perversion of it that probably sickens you.

And it does to me. Which sounds more poetic?

"It's a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make a change nothin's strange
People, people we are the same
No we're not the same
Cause we don't know the game
What we need is awareness, we can't get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved lets get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness"...

Actual driving lyrics. Compared to...

"To the window,
To the wall,
To the sweat drip from my balls
Down them bitches crawl
Skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet...",

or even

"Shawty had them Apple Bottom jeans
Boots wit da fur
She had the whole club
Lookin' at her.

She hit the flow.
Next thing you know,
Showty got low low low low
Low low low low"?

In the words of Lyle from Blazing Saddles, "What the hell was that shit?! I'm talkin' bout a song! A REAL SONG!"

Hryma said...

Those poor people, they suffer from a desease.

Just like Ballarat chin syndrome or "I lost my phone" cancer, aka "my phone was stolen" or "my phone broke", just so spoilt kids can get their parents to buy them the new and latest phone.
And sell their "old" phone to their less wealthy comfort friend who will agree to everything they say.

They're all deseased so what ever you do don't breed with them!!

The last thing the world needs is a greater population of those things.

Nice banner too, I don't know what he's chewing but the overall thing looks cool!

Paul B said...

hey John, have you read the Gestalt Laws? It's psychological stuff

it could be really helpfull to the development of cartoons.

/\/\ikeB said...

Nice job on the banner.

Trevor: Yeah I'm with you on that. But its interesting to note that those Hip Hop artists with skill aren't in the limelight - at least as much as Jay Z.

mike f. said...

Sounds like your beef - a legitimate one - is really about the lack of craftsmanship and professionalism in modern popular culture. The whole "conservative vs. liberal" motif is really just confusing the issue by unnecessarily politicizing it.

The problems you cited can pretty much all be traced to the following disasterous modern practices, none of which existed fifty years ago.

In no particular order:

1. Executives with delusions of creativity, making creative decisions
2. Focus-testing by advertisers to determine TV and radio content
3. The end of classical training in art, design and film schools
4. Baby-boomers foisting their hoary standards of political correctness on creative artists of all generations, present AND past
5. The end of reading, and the death of literary magazines, newpapers, bookstores and libraries
6. The sudden rise of cultural illiteracy in America, and a generational contempt for the past
7. Lack of legitimate professional training grounds, like vaudeville and burlesque, and the death of the studio system in developing raw talent
8. Anti-block booking legislation, which killed theatical animation and live action short subjects
9. The glorification of prison culture, and inevitably...
10. Rap

Bill J. Barry said...

Rules are good in terms of developing skill and adhering to a discipline. Is this a liberal or a conservative trait?

Too many decision makers are extremely conservative in terms of playing it safe. Ownership of decisions is non-existant unless the decision proves successful. It's not just in entertainment but it happens in all industries.

I think your online beginner training is extremely conservative but is that a good or bad thing? Pulling out a 60 year old Preston Blair instruction book hardly seems liberal/groundbreaking unless its compared to current college training (line of action, form, composition, etc. might seem downright radical to those students). Isn't covering fundamentals largely perceived as conservative, old-hat, fuddy-duddy, old-fashioned and backwards? We know it isn't but aren't we fighting against the masses with this thinking?
Fear runs everything. Greed is a factor but it's fear of losing money that makes people greedy. Fear makes people make decisions devoid of innovation.
Don't you think Leon Schlesinger was a conservative in the strictest meaning of the word? If he was he at least knew how to run a business...let the talent do their job, compete with each other to make a better product while Leon pockets the profits. I doubt Leon was the only conservative Hollywood producer in the day who operated in a similar manner.
Isn't this the kind of conservative you'd want to work with?

Brian "Ayavaron" Jeffrey Ross II said...

Is this about a shift from the idea of, "Let us see the extraordinary." to "Let us see ourselves pretending to be extraordinary?" Is that inherently bad?

SoleilSmile said...

Cary Grant! Oh, I bet that man is even a hottie as a corpse! The modern movie star pic won't load for me. Who is it, John? Either way, no one today can hold a candle to Cary Grant. Hugh Grant and Karl Urban ( as Julius Caesar in Xena) are close, but there is only one Cary. I wonder why Hollywood won't give us girls another Valentino or Cary Grant? Have husbands been complaining or something?

I never thought of Cary as a conservative. To me he was just a charming rarity of a straight man with "gay points", which is why he had so many female friends. He was so beautiful and easy to be around.

I remember you admired Kirk Douglas a lot and used him for many of your male character designs. Do you have plans for Cary Grant in the near future?

Inquiring minds wanna know:)

Patman said...

It's disgusting that America so wants a good cartoon or good music, but entertainment industries refuse it. There's a reason many would rather watch cartoons from the 40's they've seen 800 than any of the dozens of "animated" hits coming out. We're so starved for a good cartoons that when people saw "Presto" which at least resembled some for of fun animation it was hailed as cartoon genius.

Sorry if I sound annoying praising, but this exact sentiment is what I've been grumbling about for a while (I didn't tie it into the word conservative,just yelled about amateurism in everything). The one that gets me the most mad is "artsy" people who draw stupid, meaningless images that need an explantatory essay.

Anyway, I hope some good cartoons come out soon. I had someone tell me they liked Family Guy drawings more than Ren and Stimpy ones, he called them "obnoxious".

And no Brooks, there are more bad rappers.

JohnK said...

>>The whole "conservative vs. liberal" motif is really just confusing the issue by unnecessarily politicizing it. <<

No, I don't think so.


There are ages that are more conservative or stagnant times than others. The Middle Ages was a long long period of conservatism where not much changed for 1,000 years and anyone who tried to change anything got burned at the stake.

Compare that to the much more liberal Renaissance or the completely radical Age Of Enlightenment, or the first half of the 20th Century when everything changed more rapidly. The general mood of the west 50 years ago was much less conservative in the literal non-political meaning of the word.

"Liberal" means open to new ideas. "Conservative' means the opposite.

This is a very conservative time period, whether you call yourself a Liberal or a Conservative.

Barbara said...

"They don't dance anymore, because that would require learning a skill - which takes discipline"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBq3NzIzjMg&feature=channel_page

Alex said...

Completely agree with you here.

There seems to be a missing factor in both groups: intelligence.

It used to be that both conservatives and liberals made their cases based on real observations and critical thought.

Even when groups disagreed, this difference in ideas was present to make a sort of social balance. Liberal ideas were kept in check with conservative thought, else you end up with too many ideas with little progress. On the other hand, conservatives were pushed towards new ideas that succeeded and stuck through the changes brought about by liberals. And even though rhetoric was still in play, those ideals changed as new situations were put into play. It's a powerful system promoting both stability (the "conservative" component) while providing change (the "liberal" component) to succeed into the next generation.

Today, all you have is the rhetoric with little or no reality. The idea of "conservative" has become one affiliated with a lack of progress, religious fanaticism, and complete selfishness. Meanwhile, "liberals" are either fools with little sense of reality watching American Idol or rich bigwigs that merely vote for the party.

It's even worse that the terms seem to have crossed. When has conservative meant spending ridiculous amounts of money on absolute crap? And when has liberal meant the exact same thing?

One other thing to note is that the lack of art we see today reflects the state of society. Mr. K, you mention the decline of music and constantly open your readers' eyes to the decay of animation.

Can you imagine what it means in other aspects of our society? The obvious ones are the decline in American education and the lack of infrastructure in the past several years.

Even the NIH, which funds almost a quarter of all health research and the vast majority of independent biological research, hasn't seen a funding increase in the past eight to nine years.

All of this because we have politcians, let alone common Americans, that have no clue about what cancer actually does. Or how genes act. And yet we have groups of people that think the Bible literally happened.

Heck, we just had a presidential candidate who had at least one bout of skin cancer mock research in fruit flies, when in fact research in Drosophila (i.e. the fruit fly) is what has led us to understand the presence of oncogenes.

Sorry for going off-topic. In any case, what America needs is rational intelligence. It may very well be the underlying cause of what you've commented on.

JohnK said...

Hi Barbara,

some of that stuff is pretty skilled - much better than the music it accompanies.

I was talking about the audience listening to rap or any modern music when I said people can't dance anymore.

At one time, everyone knew how to dance. They taught it in school.

JohnK said...

>>I think your online beginner training is extremely conservative but is that a good or bad thing? Pulling out a 60 year old Preston Blair instruction book hardly seems liberal/groundbreaking unless its compared to current college training (line of action, form, composition, etc. might seem downright radical to those students).<<


Fundamental knowledge and skills are neither conservative or liberal. They are the foundation of skills that you produce work with. Whether you make new imaginative things with them, or just copy what already has been done a million times determines how liberal or conservative a thinker you are.

Bob Clampett is positively radical compared to Friz Freleng or Walt Disney, yet they all use the same tool kit.


Today we use worn and broken versions of the old tools - and use them to create inferior versions of outdated formulaic stories and designs.

wangho said...

Trevor, I have a hard time accepting that "Blackalicious" tune as something as a flagship of "good beats." Not when drummers such as John Bonham and Ringo Starr laid down far more complex drumming on tracks for their respective bands, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.

John K, I've been reasing your blog for a long time now, I'm an artist, but my art is through guitar and music. I still find it intriguing when you break everything down and show the differences between the good and the bad in art, even nodding in approval about the beauty and expertise in the 1958-1959 Yogi Bear cartoons.

This last post compelled me to post. Entertainment... music, movies, tv, cartoons for at least the past 10 years, the quality has been spiraling faster and faster down the drain. I just see it getting worse and worse. I've turned my back on movies and tv and in fact, I've decided to go back into the past to discover a treasure trove of movies that I couldn't be bothered to take a look at in the past.

Actually sitting down and checking out film classics such as Frankenstein, Dracula, Sunset Boulevard, and so on, has really brought it home that the whole "system" was a lot more sane and the people in charge weren't spawns of Satan. People exercised their creativity alot more freely. It makes me wish I could have grown up during that period instead of witnessing the clinical, sophisticated, and sterile mindset mixed with this "ghetto" glory. It's a very strange, nasty, and uninspiring hybrid.

JohnK said...

>>What we need is awareness, we can't get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved lets get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness"...

Actual driving lyrics. Compared to...

"To the window,
To the wall,
To the sweat drip from my balls
Down them bitches crawl
Skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet...",<<


I find those both to be equally retarded.

Kindergarten kids can rhyme better than that - and make more sense.

Niki said...

>>We now have music with no melodies, "singers" that win hundreds of awards, "earn" more money than history's greatest dictators and usurpers, just for going on stage and mumbling broken "rhymes" into a microphone, backed up by a monotonous loop of the simplest electronic drum beat.


I think rap can be good. If they get real instruments. That's the great thing about music, if instruments are used right then and everything flows, only good can come of it. Personally, my favorite right now is big band music.

wangho said...

Here is a good current musical entertainer!

[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74YMBFebIZA&feature=related[/url]

Noah said...

That was brilliant! I agree on every single point. Nothing today was as good as it was several decades ago and it is severely depressing. America used to be a beacon of individuality and creativity, now it's nothing but a bunch of bad, stupid hippie ideals. Bleh.

M. R Darbyshire said...

Thanks John (and mike)

Great(?) stuff to think about.



"Is this about a shift from the idea of, "Let us see the extraordinary." to "Let us see ourselves pretending to be extraordinary?" Is that inherently bad?"

If you're going to summarize it down that far, the latest idea would be "Everyone's extraordinary." Standards have been lowering for centuries. People used to be able to work until they were bloody and bruised, and they would still have no recognition for their work.

Today getting famous is so easy, the new goal is becoming über-celebrities like Angelina Jolie or Steven Spielberg.

Right now, if you aren't famous to any degree, you either aren't trying or you're too busy drooling on yourself.

Trevor Thompson said...

Trevor, I have a hard time accepting that "Blackalicious" tune as something as a flagship of "good beats." Not when drummers such as John Bonham and Ringo Starr laid down far more complex drumming on tracks for their respective bands, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.


Oh, come on. That's like comparing what Pixar does with a computer to what John does with a pencil.

The beats that producers make for hip hop acts aren't even attempting the same thing as Ringo and Bonham. Come back when you've got a better argument.


Kindergarten kids can rhyme better than that - and make more sense.


The essence, the basics,
Without that you make it
Allow me to make this
child-like-in-nature.
Rhythm, you have it or you don't
That's a fallogy.
I'm in them
Every sprouting tree, every child apiece
Every cloud and see.
You see with your eyes,
I see destruction and demise
Corruption in disguise(that's right)
From this f---in' enterprise,
Now I'm sucked into your lives


Show me a kindergartener that can write something as good as that, and I'll show you a midget in decked out in OshKosh B'Gosh.

- trevor.

BadIdeaSociety said...

Fundamental knowledge and skills are neither conservative or liberal. They are the foundation of skills that you produce work with. Whether you make new imaginative things with them, or just copy what already has been done a million times determines how liberal or conservative a thinker you are.

I am going to agree with this. Calling the Preston Blair fundamentals book conservative is similar to calling pencils, pens, or paper conservative.

You can use a computer to cheat without using these fundamental tools (Painter X, Wacom Tablet, etc), but planning the construction of your cartoons is important. Otherwise, you have to rely on your doodles working on the first try.

Jay Taylor said...

Trevor,

That Blackalicious song you linked to is terrible. Anyone could do that. The way he raps is da da da da da da da da, like a machine gun. Monotone, completely uninteresting.

What's hilarious about rap is people are always commenting "what killer beats" and yet they all use the same beats over and over. No one has ears anymore.

Hey John, are you going to talk about how "being deep" ruined everything, too?

Dave K said...

John;

I think you've hit the nail on the head: Creeping mediocrity. It's why we get blah cartoons, blah TV, blah movies. The cartoons rely upon "shocking" and "offend the square" writing. TV is "reality" (30 minutes of preening idiots mugging for the camera and showing off their piercings). Movies almost entirely powered by CGI. Class has been replaced by Glitz, and.. well, dangit, I ran out of stuff to say, except: RIGHT ON, MAN!

JohnK said...

>>The essence, the basics,
Without that you make it
Allow me to make this
child-like-in-nature.
Rhythm, you have it or you don't
That's a fallogy.<<

There is no rhyme, rhythm or meaning in any of that.

Is that for real?

Brendan said...

Don't bother, John. If you make fun of Rap/Hip-hop most people are going to say "You don't GET it man, it's so HARD, you just hear the 98 percent that SUCKS" then give bad examples of whats good.

I will say I do like Beastie Boys older stuff though, and Eazy E for laughs. But no recent hip-hop is good, really

Blammo said...

John,
What a great post!
Right on the money too.
Although I am aware that this blog is mainly a teaching tool it is always refreshing to see you stray from the world of animation and cartooning.
Interestingly though, after reading I realized the subject still relates back to Animation,film and Television.It also brings up a favorite topic of mine...The disintigration of culture.

Culture is homogenizing and eroding simultaneously.It continues to sadden me.
In this time it is important to remember that whenever everything is the same what is unique will stand out and grab our attention.When integrity, quality and skilled execution are missing from cultural expression, that which is unique will rise above it all.
You are a product of that very circumstance.When kids snored through low quality,badly concieved and executed saturday morning cartoons,Ren and Stimpy captivated audiences.It took the 30year erosion of animation to create a lull so bad that your worst cartoons were a cultural renaiscance.Seems to me that the decay started with the electronic media generation.
It is only when YouTubites begin to accept that they are not all creative and that everyone does not have a voice worth listening too that we will grow again creativly.This is the quiet before the storm.
I have hopes that one day entertainment will return to the skilled and artistic and the mainsteam will stop the endless embracing of the mediocre.I remember when the stars and actors on TV were engaging and talented enough that you wanted to be them!Now you just watch like a train wreck thankful that you are not them.
I worry that you will be judged unfairly for your views and misunderstood as an ultra-conservative....or worse a grumpy old man.
“Nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation.”
I hope not.
Keep the Posts like this coming and don't let the bastards get you down;).

Lluis Fuzzhound said...

Right With ya John! on the conservatism and liberalism thang, artist now a days have no knowledge, they think all they have to do is express themselves, If only they would shut up for a moment and listen they might learn something and maybe have something worth saying.
with "Rock 'n' Roll" today, people make things sound complicated and hard to play with BIG sounds, I beleive it's because they have no idea what it is they are doing, the best artists make things look easy, like Johnny Cash, it's got an empty sound but it gets right in there,it sounds simple! but it ain't! like all the cartoon artist you usually refer to in your posts, look simple but once you disected 'em, you realise there is a profound knowledge there!
looking foward to reading more!

Blammo said...

As a side note to the Rap conversation going on here....

Rap sales are also disintegrating at a rate of 30% a year down from previous year.
While country music is on the rise in the double digits.

The rap rhymes posted below are weak and infantile compared to the mastery of a Johnny Cash.

Elana Pritchard said...

preach it brother!

jrhalfo said...

I think we've definitely fallen into a trap where no one creates anymore, just imitates what's already been done, and I'm no exception really. It takes major skill to create something fresh and new. Sadly, fresh and new are forbidden concepts to the industry. People don't think for themselves, especially executives, so of course they're not going to risk their jobs employing someone who doesn't play by the book.

Frankie said...

Awesome stuff John K.

Adam T said...

I have no problem with hip hop when it doesn't take itself seriously. I can listen to MF Doom rap about comics and movies or the Pharcyde rapping about how they aren't getting laid all day.

Hip-Hop is great for dancing and partying with your friends but when it's used as a vehicle for gaining super stardom or used to broadcast paper thin political views then I agree with John that it's retarded.

I also want to add that Hip-Hop culture has also produced breaking which I think is the most liberal style of dance in the world today. B-boys are still judged on merit. Prerequisite skills are required to advance to more difficult moves and a premium is placed on individual creativity.

John Glenn Taylor said...

I loved Outkast's "Hey Ya" and Gnarls Barkley's first album. Just last week, I discovered for myself India.arie's musical charms. One of her songs ("There's Hope") was played after a televised Obama appearance. All of this music I chanced upon. I did not seek it out because 95% of new music in the R&b/rap genre is dreck. This is why I don't follow current trends too closely. I prefer to let the "cream rise to the top" so that I won't waste precious time sifting through miles of garbage to get to what's good. I hope we are now about to exit this age of mediocrity and that truly gifted artists will once again be in the spotlight. Great essay. Very insightful, as always.

Trevor Thompson said...

There is no rhyme, rhythm or meaning in any of that.

Is that for real?


It's real, though before I get into what it means and all that, I should make an amendment.

"That's a fallogy".

Instead of typing out the lyrics as I know them longhand, I just C&Ped it from a lyrics site. The guy who did this isn't too bright, as he's clearly inventing words. The word is 'fallacy", not fallogy.

I would say it rhymes, when you hear it. Click here to hear it performed: 'Clint Eastwood' by Gorillaz. It's the beginning of the second verse.

As for the meaning? Well, I've always seen it as a voice for what's wrong with hip hop ( essentially everything you and Mike don't like ) and the glimmer of hope that still exists amidst a sea of phonies. Let's break it down:

The essence, the basics,
Without that you make it

What Del the Funkee Homosapien is saying here is a perceived notion about how people envision hip hop. Where people who don't even have the bare essentials of talent to make it do so regardless.

Allow me to make this
child-like-in-nature.

He's trying to explain this to people in the simplest way. I think that's pretty clear.

Rhythm, you have it or you don't
That's a fallacy.

The idea that some artists can work without even the barest of essentials is not a good argument although it's accepted.

I'm in them
Every sprouting tree, every child apiece
Every cloud and see.
You see with your eyes,

These lines I think have to do with being alive, and being 'in them' refers to being accepted by other alive and awake people. Not rap fans who simply buy what's hot. Those artists are a dime a dozen, and worth about as much, but they're definitely a product of a corporate empire.

I see destruction and demise
Corruption in disguise
From this f---in' enterprise,
Now I'm sucked into your lives

Again, the sorry nature of hip-hop. Kids buying into prison wear, and these rich white devils are making a mint off the stereotype ( not to mention the lifestyle that others might legitimately have ).

Now, it's possible that this song has nothing to do with that, but most artists would agree that there's a fair amount of interpretation as to what a song is really about, and that it's usually up to the person who listens to it to decide for themselves.

And for the record, I'm not saying rap is the greatest -- and I'm definitely not saying that I've ever heard a single rap artist, DJ or beat producer that comes close to Johnny Cash's talents ( or Zeppelin and The Beatles ).

I'm just getting a little sick of hip-hop taking the blame for crap that was already a problem, and the implication that what hip-hop can be and what it is can't even find some common ground. It's bad, but it aint all bad.

Lotta this crap is the Baby Boomers' fault anyway.

- trevor.

ii said...

This is great, John. The scream for a new liberal emergence is exactly the cry I can echo. The pluralistic/post-modern/sensitive wave of development has long since faded from the leading edge of awareness. We are right on the cusp of a revolution.

What will this new stage look like? I think the central thread running through this new structure will be the impulse to integrate. With the internet we have access to virtually all of the world's traditions, philosophies, disciplines, etc. What we don't have, though, is a way to organize it in our heads. How does all this stuff fit together?

One fascinating subject that needs to fit into our integral map of the world is development...worldviews develop. We have enough evidence that points to this fact. A child sees the world in a certain way, they grow up and their perspective expands to include more...and it continues as long as they choose. From an ego-centric perspective to ethno-centric, to world-centric, and higher.

One thing is for sure...the worldview that got us to where we are won't get us to where we are going. It's up to us, the creatives, to create this new stage. It's up to us to evolve.

JohnK said...

>>Now, it's possible that this song has nothing to do with that, but most artists would agree that there's a fair amount of interpretation as to what a song is really about, and that it's usually up to the person who listens to it to decide for themselves.<<

No, most "artists" wouldn't agree with that. If everything is up to the interpreter then who needs artists? Or language for that matter.

First of all, music has to have a melody to be music. Otherwise, it's just a beat. If that.

and if you have to go to that much trouble to try to figure out what unintelligeable lyrics mean, then what good is it?

If it was musical, then the lyrics wouldn't even matter.

If you are ONLY going to talk, not sing, then you'd better enunciate and have something that actually rhymes for real. Then it could at least be poetry.

None of these rappers can even make their rhymes and meters work. I'll take Dr. Seuss any day.

Hans Flagon said...

I think the rise of traditionally literate African Americans to high office might portend ill wind for the hip hop playas busting their braggadocio, as far as role models go. I suspect that aspect of the music business is going to be going relatively fallow in the next few years, and it might only exist as it is anyway as a multilevel marketing scam, selling a dream lifestyle to those who may never retain a cent of profits themselves.

It is difficult to say that without sounding possibly racist I suppose. I think some of the Rap musicians are actually very self aware and possibly self parodizing; they are surfing that Andy Kaufman edge of "can this be serious" disbelief.

Part of the problem is, much of what Mike F states has led to a great portion of the public in general even having knowledge of a frame of reference other than or outside the narrow views they have been spoon fed for the past 20 years. They wouldn't know a joke if a joke was actually intended, taking too much at a very shallow face value, before diverting their shorter attention spans elsewhere.

Chris L said...

Rap is genre just as Rock is and Folk, and Country. A lot of the popular stuff in any genre of music is asinine and boring because its marketed towards a young, undiscerning audience. But there are exceptions, and there are talented people making hiphop music right now, just beneath the mainstream radar.

If I could just put forward a few tracks that might illustrate my point:

Deltron 3030
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_HW_AQiKkc

The Knux
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPlWs3oQpXE

Santogold
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCeZzW54a2o

Sage Francis
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiV2stUu5RE

Aesop Rock
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1u43KDiWD0

Now, these may still not be your cup of tea, and thats ok. But you have to admit that these do not all sound alike or that they are just unintelligible messes of beats and mumbles. If not, well, I tried.

Blake said...

I honestly went on the exact same rant today.

Mine was tailored, specifically to the animation industry and the direction in which it's going. I'm, honestly, very happy to hear this from someone I respect so greatly. I hope to meet you, sometime.

I've been checking the blog daily. I'm learning so much more. I really appreciate it.

Ebbe said...

If you don't like rap and hiphop, that's fair enough, but trying to dismiss an entire genre of music as bad outright is absolutely pathetic.

Hiphop is extremely broad for such a young genre. You have the fun and socially relevant stuff in the eighties, you have gangsta rap in the nineties (which reads like comic books), and you have the gurrent breed of bland rappers stinking up the airways with monotonous flow and computer generated beats. Like all genres it has its good and bad content.

But few things piss me off more than people trying to prove that hiphop isn't real music by arguing that that rappers just moan about their money and DJ's just play other people's music because they heard 30 seconds of a 50cent track when zapping past MTV. Its a sign of utter ignorance and a rediculous need to affirm your own opinions as the one true way. Its masturbation.

Now, its perfectly alright to be ignorant about hiphop. Its perfectly fine that you don't care, and I'm not gonna link to any examples of what I think is good hiphop unless I'm asked (politely), but please leave the ego at the door. Its insufferable to see people dismiss hiphop entirely because it doesn't like up to their checklist of what they think music is. To me, that is the ultimate conservatism.

Simon said...

First, great header graphic. Perhaps a bit too big, but great nonetheless.

Liked the post. I was thinking the same thing this morning while I was listening to the 2008 music hits. I ended up keeping just a couple of songs because they are all too freaking identical and lifeless. Same tunes, same melodies, same content.

Jizz Wad said...

"I'd swear 90% of television is about absolutely normal people, no different than anyone on your block, who by the luck of the draw have been chosen to be made into stars. We have people who are stars because they are fat and can't exercise by themselves. Like it's some amazing achievement to be fat."

Correct, people crave superiority over the 'talent' they indulge in.

Crappy cartoons make people believe they can draw/have humor. Reality shows make people believe they could be famous.

People can relax when they know something is fake, dubbed, stupid and bland. Stick a few swear words in there and you got the other half of the crowd, those edgy cool guys.

I would say however that 90% of every genre or medium is crap.

crazeziggity said...

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/11/18/116-black-music-that-black-people-dont-listen-to-anymore/

Keepin' it reals, yao!

Thomas said...

Stripped to the core, I think John believes in art that is grounded in logic, AKA art as a medium for communication.

This used to be the pervading approach (in the West at least), but as we have moved into the post-modern age people have become bored or disillusioned with the concept. They don't want art with a clearly readable message. It is thought of as simple or comical - which John's cartoons, intentionally or not, take advantage of.

This plays right in to the 'financial safeness' culture, but is not the predominant cause. I do not think the status quo is somehow due to endemic laziness or ignorance. If lots of people wanted common 'principles' like John espouses, then they would make a way. After all, someone came up with them earlier (and I'm pretty sure they weren't provided from the hand of God descending through the clouds).

John is true to say his methods are not conservative, because they've passed being the traditional position back to being a radical one.

Jorge Garrido said...

I hate to turn this into a debate about rap, since I agreed about everything else you said, but what about this stuff, John?

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out
He's choking, how everybody's joking now
The clock's run out, time's up over, blauw!
Snap back to reality, Oh, there goes gravity
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked
He's so mad, but he won't give up that
Easy, no
He won't have it , he knows his whole back's to these ropes
It don't matter, he's dope
He knows that, but he's broke
He's so stagnant that he knows
When he goes back to his mobile home, that's when it's
Back to the lab again, yo,
This whole rap-city
He better go capture this moment and hope it don't pass him

You have to actually hear it said out loud to hear how brilliant and complex the rhyme scheme is. Eminem is rhyming 3, 4, 5, using combinations of larger and small words, syllables at a time, yet it completely tells the story with passion and emotion. Each sentence doesn't exist by itself as just some brilliant technical rhyme, it fits into a larger rhyme scheme which fits into the verse which fits into the entire song, which tells a story.

Good rap is like what you describe when talking about details on a good cartoon drawing. Each detail wraps around the forms its describing, and each form wraps around a larger form, and so on and so forth. The more skill you have at the technical aspects of rapping, the more creative you can be.

But that's just describing the rhyme on a written page, it's another thing to perform this without running out of breath, and with the kind of passion Eminem gives on the song. He's really giving it his all, and by the time the third verse comes around, Eminem is basically shouting the words, yet he never losing control of his pronunciation, enunciation, breath control, or timing.

And as for the lack of melody, didn't "moldy figs" say the same thing about jazz 65 years ago?

Niki said...

Another thing that really ticks me off is that they were cutting all the classes that required creativity at one point. When someone wanted to do something for a living, it was like the schools were condemning us to being bad at it so we would have to learn all this unnecessary business to reach or goal. It's absolutely terrible! We should direct more money to public schools so kids can learn to dance and to sing! They teach you how to control vocals at my college but not how to dance!

I've been trying to learn some dances but the only thing I can get to is internet videos and they're too hard to understand and I'm a more hands-on learner. I already sing Beatles and Queen whenever possible. We should fix this problem! Or better we should teach everyone where all this comes from, so someday there will a rapper who doesn't make you want to listen to old vinyl records, dancers you could like more because they know how to do classical and new wave. It always perplexed me how they did in the old days but now, most people won't delve entirely into they're profession. You should learn everything you can about what you want to do in life, that's why I'm here, I knew the old cartoonists were great but something happened to them and I wanted to know what.

Moe said...

Yep, you pretty much summed up my views on what's going on atop this spinning ball of dirt.

American culture has run off the rails, and it's sending the rest of the carriages that blindly follow it (like my little berg) right into a bottomless pit along with it.

Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

Beebo said...

Brilliantly put. Our art and culture have become a bland, homogenized gruel and those raised on it have brains to match. I recommend the story "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut.

bluesmokebloke said...

Thanks, John - what a great post.
I couldn't agree more about the steep decline in the arts. How brainwashed is our society, and to hear people defending our culture's worst aspects! There needs to be more discussion on the topic, and I'm amazed that anyone would call it "politically incorrect". Rant on.
And by the way, I've had enough of people defending rap. They've rebranded rap as "hip-hop" so it's still OK for today's hip "sophisticated" youth. It's absolute crap, and 20 years of its airwave dominance is quite enough.

The Editorial We said...

"Their monopolies are what keep out any individual initiative, any skill, any thirst for innovation and anything that anybody in a saner age would call remotely 'creative.'"

While not necessarily disagreeing with this statement, I think it's a bit extreme.

Monopolies can make it difficult for anyone else to enter the market, but the Internet, digital cameras, and a whole bunch of computer programs have made it a lot easier.

If someone has the talent and the drive, they can make their own show no sweat--they don't have to convince a sponsor to give them tons of money or a network to take a chance--and I can't think of any other time in history when that's been the case.

Now of course that doesn't mean that some guy running a YouTube show or blog out of his mother's boyfriend's basement is going to give Viacom a run for their money, but I do think it's a lot easier now for some talented folks to get their work out there. It may be harder to find, but it's worth looking for.

Jeffrey said...

"Today's conservatives believe in what they despised when the last generation's liberals introduced it - after stealing it from the radicals that we burned at the stake 2 generations ago."

This must be why I love the beatniks and hate the hippies. Great post, John. This is why I really don't identify myself with a political ideology. They seem to be fairly meaningless.

Ardy said...

Once again, the important message of John K's blog breezes over the audience's head as they attempt to defend [rap/anime/animaniacs/bruce timm/brad bird/simpsons/disney].

Also, where'd my other comment go (that bad, huh?).

pappy d said...

Amen.

A business person who'd rather compete than co-operate would rather have enemies than friends.

JohnK said...

>>His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgettin<<

Hi Jorge

explain to me where the rhymes and meter are. "heavy" rhymes with "spaghetti"?
"nervous" "surface" Talk about stretching poetic license.

If someone wrote that in poetry class before the 1980s he would get an automatic fail.

This stuff is pure amateurish nonsense.

The people who defend this baby talk seem to think poetry was invented in the 1980s.Like it's some miracle to be able to rhyme - especially when hip hop "lyrics" don't rhyme!


Actual poetry has been around since the dawn of history. ( I can't believe I have to point this out to anybody) And it used to have structure, actual rhyme and built-in meter (rhythm).

Just play any old standard and listen to some real "gift of rhyme" - which has the added benefit (of actually rhyming) and beautiful melodies.

The songwriters who wrote the standards had true gifts.



Hip Hop "artists" can't even make 2 sentences add up correctly.

And on top of that, they mumble so you don't even know what they're saying in the first place until you read the "lyrics" to the song that isn't sung.

This is the most retarded human activity ever invented under the name of art.

Listen to some Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald albums to hear actual gifts - of rhyme, meter, melody and performance.

HemlockMan said...

Corporations rule us. Period.

Fight the power. Fight the power. We've got to fight the powers that be.--Public Enemy.

Chris L said...

@John, yea, that is a terrible example of lyrics in rap.

I still stand by the examples I gave.

What I really don't get is comparing contemporary rap to Sinatra. Its like saying that since Helvetica is a better font than Times New Roman, all Serif typefaces must be shit.

JohnK said...

No it's like comparing retards to nuclear physicists.

"Its like saying that since Helvetica is a better font than Times New Roman, all Serif typefaces must be shit."

Both those fonts are readable.

Chris L said...

What would you say to a filmmaker who dismisses the whole of animation as garbage because all he's seen is the Smurfs?

JohnK said...

If he said all animation since the Smurfs was garbage, I wouldn't argue.

Chris L said...

Even though you're own work contradicts that completely?

Bill J. Barry said...

"Fundamental knowledge and skills are neither conservative or liberal. They are the foundation of skills that you produce work with. Whether you make new imaginative things with them, or just copy what already has been done a million times determines how liberal or conservative a thinker you are."

OK, I get it.

You are not necessarily implying this, but we do not need a definitive liberal political movement to nuture an environment creating great cartoons. Non-definitive Modern Day libs are as apt to suppress creativity as traditionalist conservatives.

As you mentioned "conservative" and "liberal" have lost their original meanings. Politically speaking both groups are so inbred now that they have mutated into an entity of self-justification. They just keep their classifications so We The People vote against their opponents to eliminate enemies.

Again, I don't think Leon Schlesinger was in the minority as a succesful producer in his day who happened to be a conservative. He would be a rare bird in our modern times, however.

I embrace conservative fundamentals such as personal independence and free markets (gone in some industries, present in others). I don't like handouts, enabling people to continue feeding off others without effort, being told what is safe for my family and having alternatives suppressed. Seriously, liberal city government wants to ban fast food restaurants within a number of square blocks because the neighborhood was overly populated with obese people? I have faith in people to make personal choices and if they don't then there are always consequences. If the consequences are bad and continue to be so I don't think government and special interests ought to always swoop in, dust them off and tell them it's OK to screw up over and over again.
Giving new shopping carts to the homeless to replace their broken carts isn't really helping the homeless. Driving a tour bus full of waving Family Guy fans past animators waiting for their bus probably won't make the artist feel better about the crap they work on nor will it help them do better work.

Getting back to cartoons, I don't know that I'm disagreeing with you. I agree that understanding and using fundamentals (the toolbox) is postiviely necessary but being innovative and creative with those skills requires "liberal" thinking. I get concerned that the basic conservative philosophy is branded as evil when I view it as self-sufficiency. Is that wrong or is self-sufficiency a term conservatives have hijacked for their own?

JohnK said...

>>Even though you're own work contradicts that completely?<<

I wouldn't make him hunt for it. If I wanted to convince anybody that cartoons were once creative, I'd hand him a set of Looney Tunes.

Traven said...

Here is a description of the beliefs of my friend, whom I know as a very nice person and who is a Conservative. You might find it thought-provoking:

''I don't have a clear way of explaining my political position. There are two ways of looking at it: when I was fairly young, somewhere between ten and twelve, I fell in love with the idea of Britain as a united expression of collective identity, an identity constantly reinforced by common allegiance to the institutions of this realm under the Crown; an identity reinforced by the way we live, work and believe, and the way these reflect the habits and ideas of the past; by the traditional manifestations of society in many of their guises (to a certain extent, any summary of my views here depends on retrospective explanation; but it's as accurate as I can make it). In many respects, I've moved away from this vision, particularly in its religious aspect; but, on balance, it does exert an emotional pull upon me at a certain level.

Two reinforcing factors were an instinctive attraction towards order, stability, and achieving public goods and public services on the basis of agreed social codes, as amended; against the danger of instability and a collective desire to break the fabric of a society which might destroy more than it created, and, in limiting certain types of power, increase the ability of the strong to crush the weak, through either the triumph of radicalism or reaction. Another was my inability to be convinced, intellectually, by radical alternative theories of social and economic power - not, I hasten to add, all change whatsoever, but basic structural change as opposed to incremental, if sometimes considerable, alteration. I never felt the emotional attachment to a need for a change that I feel is an essential element of radical political action. If, for instance, I'd lived in a harsher economic situation at this time, or somewhere where racial tension had been harsher, this may have had an elemental effect on my outlook. I can, very dimly, see how various particular personal factors could have influenced my views.

The other way in which I'd take the issue is to look at ideology. I believe that most political ideology, in or out of the mainstream, has one essential, if frequently unconscious aim: the abolition of politics as we know it. The objective is to lay down principles of policy that become so generally accepted that ideological debate on the sort of issues we have now - tax, the role of the state, the provison of welfare, fundamental liberties, and the rest - becomes purely technical and non-controversial (or simply irrelevant, depending on the ideology), and conventional political processes cease to become the main way of achieving the public good.

There are two ways in which one can move from this premise. One can either try and find a comprehensive ideology that tries to meet the ideal; but the very process of doing so is dangerous, and nor is it likely that the ideal is capable of realisation. Or, one can concentrate on the political process and an instrumental, ideology-lite, approach to politics, hoping to get closer to the ideal by a process of trial and error. The latter approach is closest to mine. ''

I can recognise a part of myself in this description.

peldma3 said...

Wow,

There isn't even anything I disagree with here in this post. This is the way I see it too. This is the reason I don't talk as much as i used to most people are lost hypnotised robots. I didn't expect to read this here.

Shawn said...

This is off topic, but your new Donald Bastard banner at the top is GREAT!

Lion said...

"If someone wrote that in poetry class before the 1980s he would get an automatic fail. This stuff is pure amateurish nonsense."

Well, maybe, but not because it doesn't rhyme perfectly. The passage in question uses slant rhyme, which is an accepted technique with a history over a hundred years, not a half-assed attempt at something else. Yeats and Dickinson used it.


"Actual poetry has been around since the dawn of history. ( I can't believe I have to point this out to anybody) And it used to have structure, actual rhyme and built-in meter (rhythm)."

Aah! Yes, poetry has been around since the dawn of history, but the end-rhyme you seem to find essential is actually a fairly new phenomenon--only the past few hundred years. The Romans and Greeks didn't use it, neither did the Germanic tribes that gave rise to English. Those languages have a limited number of word endings, so end-rhyme would have looked pretty pointless and unartistic to them.

Beyond that, and perhaps beyond the scope of this discussion, the dominant poetic style of the modern age is free verse... in which the rhythms and language are important, but don't follow a preconceived form. I've followed your blog for a few months and I know how important structure is to you, so I think this may seem like reinventing the wheel every time, but I assure you Ezra Pound and Walt Whitman are not hacks.

Basically, the idea that the only poetry and songs that demonstrate talent are the ones that use end-rhyme... is a misguided mainstream belief, one that modern professional poets with as much training and historical knowledge in their field as you have in animation wouldn't agree with. I don't actually care one way or the other about rap, but the tool set for poetry and song is broader than you seem to think. Isn't judging music only by a limited conception of form (end rhyme, predictable rhythm) the same as everyone aspiring to Walt Disney's conception of aesthetics?

Frank Macchia said...

I love the debates sparked by your posts John.

My theory is that in a culture that promotes “well roundedness” it’s directly producing mediocrity. Even if there is a seed of talent in someone, it’s never allowed to fully bloom.

As human history rolls on it seems like everyone is repeatedly told to become more and more of a “well rounded” individual. This is the “progressive” way of doing things. The days of the mentor-protégé system are over. Instead of realizing ones skills and refining nothing but those skills through discipline and hard work, until you’re the best you can possibly be, we’re all given the same, bland education....then…even when you TRY to specialize in university or college….the skill set your pursuing is STILL diluted with worthless add-ons.

I wish all I could do is focus on refining my drawing and animation skills. I mean, I’m in an animation program for god’s sake….and not even that is allowed. Instead I’m forced to waist half my time on mandatory electives like “sociology of deviance”, “Feminine divine”, and “philosophy of religion”. And THAT is supposed to give me a higher education? Make me a more qualified animation artist? Great. So I won’t be able to draw as well as I might have, but I’ll sure as hell be able to tell you all about sexual deviants. I totally agree with you that every institution today is built on conservatism (AKA fear). We’re left with no choice but to play ball…it’s either conform or be socially condemned and black listed for thinking differently.

This is the way it breaks down. Intelligent and talented people are held down…while mediocrity is shoved in our face and heralded as the all mighty.

Whenever I make this protest…the answer is automatic. Like some worn out brain washing slogan.

“you HAVE TO be well rounded person.”

While I agree a basic knowledge in the world around you is an essential foundation for anyone. When are we allowed to specialize and be good at something?

What kind of a world are we living in, where everyone’s good at everything, but no one is good at anything.

I love the points you make John. Agree with it all…but at the same time the truth deeply saddens me. It’s just a reminder that we are in fact in another dark age.

Mr. Semaj said...

I think your argument can be tied into a current trend where people seem to have an unyielding fetish for poor role models and generally one-sided thinking.

Never mind that Hilary Duff is better known for a ditzy tween show, but the media seldom talks about the causeworthy < http://www.cnn.com/video/?JSONLINK=/video/living/2008/10/16/phillips.gay.ad.campaign.cnn > stuff she's done since then. Instead, all eyes are on Britney Spears' latest crotch shot, and how everybody else must care about it.

In politics, people like Rush Limbaugh are quick to forget that we just came off of eight years of a Texas loon who CHEATED his way into office in the first place, and now created a global mess we can't immediately fix. Now that the Republican Party is already falling apart, they'd much rather bank on Obama to fail than how to be a less stupid organization.

Celebrities are supposed to make us feel bad that we choose to download music for free off the Internet, when much of us already can't afford half the stuff they have. Corporations sue YouTube for properties that they haven't used in decades and have no further use for. Really, anyone can get their butts sued today if someone looks at them the wrong way.

Mr. Semaj said...

BTW John, are you familiar with the movie "Idiocracy"?

JohnK said...

>Basically, the idea that the only poetry and songs that demonstrate talent are the ones that use end-rhyme... is a misguided mainstream belief,<<

It's an idea that the Rappers believe, because they try to do it. They just aren't good at it and have nothing to replace it with.

Which is all besides the point. Even if what they said was skilled or intelligent, that wouldn't make it music or entertaining.

If all they have is "the gift of rhyme" then they should at least be able to rhyme. Otherwise it's the gift of random noise.

Aaron Borst said...

I agree that we are in a dark ages of creativity and ingenuity. This stems from the fact that we have created a culture that is scared to do anything new or "out of the box"(I hate that term). Everyone is scared of not making enough money or getting sued because someones feelings got hurt.

Just as in the middle ages a system in place that depresses new thought and innovation. We are taught to be politically correct ant that failure is a bad thing. We therefore stay in the middle ground and never attempt anything groundbreaking. Just look at the movies the past few years, everything is based on something that has already been established and has a fan base. Then it is watered down and destroyed and people eat it up. It has been at least a decade since I have been excited about a new movie. The same can be said for any entertainment.

Aaron

peterb said...

Don't worry, John. I'm sure those damn kids will get off your lawn any minute now.

pappy d said...

Mediocrity is in the structure of Commercial Culture.

Advertisers matter. Price is an object for advertisers buying time from the network. ("Money is no object" is just an expression.)

Moms matter. The only factor that might come between kids & cartoons is the nation's Moms. They'll hire a PR firm to do a test group of the crankiest fuss-budget Moms in each market & draw broad inferences about the tipping point at which they will write to their congressman or a sponsor. This inevitably comes out of the production budget.

Kids matter....to Santa Claus. Anybody else who would sweeten this "piece of product" with free extra quality beyond what the market demands is goddamn unAmerican. Furthermore, he's in breach of his moral fiduciary obligation to seek the best return on capital for his investors. The spectre of Communism rears its shrouded head in agony! Is this the future you want for our children?

It's to the benefit of someone with a contract for a season of cartoons not to involve anyone who can't be replaced. Disney used to say: "When I discover a genius working for me, I fire him." (Ward K. notwithstanding, in my opinion). If everyone is replaceable, unique talents are worse than useless. If anyone is as indispensible as the guy whose signature is on the contract, the producer's just a poor shmuck who can't draw but who has a legal obligation to provide cartoons to someone else by a certain date. Suddenly, artists rule. Society crumbles, up is down, black is white & "do what thou wilt" is the only law.

Rick Roberts said...

Most under rated rapper of all time:

Mc Pee Pants

Sven Hoek said...

Man, you are right ON! as usual.

What happened to discipline and learning and wanting to improve? It's all been taken over by the "Love of Money". We were warned about that by somebody once. Oh well, probably some hippy-liberal, sandal-wearing freak with new ideas that were stolen by a bunch of "conservatives" who claim to believe that we are created equal and we better damn well stay that way. Anyone who sticks his head up above the others will get a belt in the mouth.

Money has turned the whole world upside down. Now instead of talent being recognized and utilized, the owners try to decide what will make money first and then give the work to their buddies, talented of not. As long as the "Businessman" is in complete control of every process, the money will come.

A talented person will make things of high quality that will make money and be appreciated for a long time. A business man will never make anything of high quality, because high quality wont fit into a bottom line mentality. "Love of money" has squeezed all of the quality out of everything. Now we have a bunch of uninspired, mediocre crap but none of the sheep seem to care.

Thank god John still cares. I love John's work. His focus is in the right place. He makes high quality stuff, and that is rare these days.

Long live the inspired in an uninspired world.

Pete Emslie said...

All right! I'm just honoured to find myself in the same camp as ol' Fontanelli, that rascal! Though I'm just not sure I understand your "conservative vs. liberal" distinction here either. I consider myself a liberal, yet I'm only slightly to the left and actually a bit more to the right on some issues. In regard to music, however, I would have assumed that my love of Sinatra, Dino, Bobby Darin, Peggy Lee, and Nat King Cole, etc. would have qualified me as having conservative tastes. I always figured those who like rap are more on the extreme left, not the extreme right.

What I find particularly interesting these days is that, by today's standards, I'm really more of a "non-conformist" than any of the rap-lovin' kids. They seem to like all of the so-called music today that has such a sameness to it that it sounds like it was all created from the same basic template. I swear that every rapper sounds exactly the same, as does every contemporary rock band, as does every girl pop/rock singer. Whereas the glorious music of the 1940s through early 1960s is so incredibly diverse and unique in terms of melody, rhythm, instrumentation and vocal quality.

Incidentally, I agree with you John in regard to dancing as well. I've been into social ballroom dancing for about twenty years now, and there is a real skill in learning to dance to the various smooth and latin rhythms of the glorious past. Anybody can just get up and move around mindlessly to today's idiot music in the clubs, but there is a real discipline to learning how to waltz, foxtrot, rumba, samba or jive, etc. Ah, if only I could go back in time! Instead, I'll just skulk away quietly back into my Cartoon Cave...

JohnK said...

Hi Pete,

I'm not talking about being a liberal or conservative in today's political sense.

I mean in the literal senses of the words.

Very imaginative people who don't rely on dogma and formula are liberal thinkers.

People who are afraid to tamper with tradition are conservative thinkers.

The difference between Bob Clampett and Friz.


It was a much more liberal thinking age in the 1940s. -The age of progress - when everyone believed in the future. As you said, things changed fast and there was much more invention and variety and much higher standards for everything.

For the last 30 years we have stagnated and worse-slid backwards, because we are in a conservative age - like the Dark Ages in Europe, when time slowed down and change was considered the work of the Devil.

tv_insomne said...

Hey John:

The last posts are very interesting, i must say.

I think skilled and trained people has no place in the enterteinment industry anymore 'cause the people who run it are uneskilled themselves, and talented and trained artists are less object of manipulation by them.

Untrained people is like fast food: easier to made and CHEAPER, but give a lot of money to the corporations. And the consumers are fatter every day.

Peter Bernard said...

I actually really agree with alot of this, I'm surprised to say!

Haggis McCrablice said...

As a conservative author and writer myself, and a fan of old-school 'toons, I say the problem isn't so-called stuffy Republicans in blue suits and red power ties, but the law-and-order fundamentalist liberals for whom politics is not just their pasttime, but their God. One of the most insidious trends in animation--and forgive me if you've discussed this elsewhere--is the whittling down of the female figure in cartoons. Compare the booboluscious curves of the 1987 April O'Neil with her 2008 TMNT counterpart. She looks like a flat, big-eyed 13-year old girl. I blame feminism. The extreme feminists--e.g. the mustache brigade--who seem to have confused equality of the sexes for some weird mutant Japanese anime inspired androgeny that makes all boys and girls in cartoons look virtually indistinguishable (further complicated by most 'toon boys being voiced by thirtysomething women) from each other. Why is the avg. cartoon woman a breastless, anorexic-looking stick? Real women have curves! These Birkenstocked, flannel-clad feminazis fuss about men reducing women to sex objects--yet these same women encourage their sisters to use sex as a weapon and laud girls as young as 14 who proposition random men for sex over the phone on college campuses as "empowered" or "icons". They are truly sick, misguided, and disgusting creatures, far removed from the feminism of old. Somewhere Susan Anthony and Olympia Brown are looking down from Heaven and weeping.