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Archive for December 2005

real and pseudo intellectuals

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Intellectual. I’ve been thinking a lot about that word. I’ve especially been wondering – does an intellectual have to be smart? Now I live in Central New Jersey, and the “intellectual scene” is something you frequently hear about, especially when people talk about New York City. It’s as if anyone can just go to New York and live the intellectual life one experiences in Woody Allen films. But no one ever considers that there may be a prerequisite for that life – intelligence. Here’s how dictionary.com defines “intellectual”:

1.
1. Of or relating to the intellect.
2. Rational rather than emotional.
2. Appealing to or engaging the intellect: an intellectual book; an intellectual problem.
3.
1. Having or showing intellect, especially to a high degree. See Synonyms at intelligent.
2. Given to activities or pursuits that require exercise of the intellect.

OK, those are a lot of different things, most of them having to do with “intellect” or “rationality”. But I don’t think they are all true. I mean, many scientists are very smart and rational, but I wouldn’t call them intellectual. I think intellectuals have to be humanistic, at least. For one to be intellectual, one needs to have the right tastes in music, writing, and art.

It’s likely that intellectual is an identity or a lifestyle open to the smart and dumb alike. One simply gains exposure to certain authors, artists, and musical styles and knows who to talk about – the art of Bruce Nauman, the writings of Michel Foucault or Simone de Beauvoir and the films of Goddard or Woody Allen. Oh, and maybe the music of John Cage. One should in any case appreciate classical music to be intellectual, especially the German classical music like Wagner. It’s very intellectual to say you loved “Nibelungen” (as opposed to myself, who can only say I enjoyed “Apocalypse Now”, but as I said I live in New Jersey).

I guess that’s where harsh reality hits. If you are an intellectual and you’re not smart, you’ll read “Ulysses” but it will consist only of about 1000 pages of meaningless words. You won’t enjoy it. You may see “Nibelungen” – and sit for 3 nights bored silly. I guess in this case you are only a “pseudo intellectual” and sometimes it’s very hard to tell the difference. Only a smart intellectual can enjoy the fruits of intellectual culture. As an example, female Woody Allen characters often resemble pseudo-intellectuals. Take Diane Keaton in “Manhattan”. She spent the entire film giving opinions about artists and writers, but most of her comments were fairly superficial and facile. Perhaps that is part of Allen’s point, making fun of all those in NYC who think they are intellectual.

So what is a real intellectual? In my opinion, it is someone who experiences high-level cultural works and genuinely enjoys them. Someone who is thrilled to see a Joseph Beuys and to hear the music of Schoenberg. I think it’s a combination of being intelligent and having good taste. Of course one can also make up for intelligence with determination and hard work, you just can’t enjoy good works as fast as a genuinely smart person can.

Am I an intellectual? Hopefully not according to Woody Allen’s definition. But I honestly like video art. I’m interested in postmodern philsophy and critical theory. One day I hope to understand and enjoy Wagner. That’s where the hard work will come in.

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Written by nattie

December 18, 2005 at 4:39 am

Posted in editorial

activism, not spam infestations

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I think my old blog at heatherlyland.blogspot.com is deteriorating. Why? Because I am suddenly getting a lot of comments to my blog entries which look for example like this:

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Then you have to check out my blog. I have found a FREE and Legitimate way that will increase your earnings.

Come Check us out. How to Boost Your AdSense Revenue

Yes, blog comment spam. It’s like a rat infestation. Each comment about granite countertops of increasing my husband’s potency or respresents another little rodent scurrying through my old abandoned blog. The spammers have come and if I don’t exterminate, no real person will ever visit again.

This leads me to wonder – If spam is something that seeps into communications channels which we neglect (by giving out our email address or phone number) and we go to such lengths to ease the task of eliminating it, then there cannot possibly be any audience for spam. So, are people sending spam just out of malice? To get noticed? Perhaps they aren’t aware of this one vital fact, which I will now share with them for absolutely no fee and no interest – sending 1000’s of spam messages which will be deleted is a waste of one’s life! It’s true! Listen up spammers: You could be spending your energy and your prose-writing talents on something which will not only get you noticed, but also remembered and perhaps even liked (or hated!).

Why not take up a political cause, spammers? You know about how to communicate with thousands of people. You know how to be provocative! Why not be sincere instead of cynical? I can see into a bright future where all spammers began bombarding people with petitions and local government with convincing emails calling for political change and discussion. A whole new era of internet activism run by the spammers – the streetwise inhabitants of the dark internet underworld – who just want to be noticed.

Written by nattie

December 7, 2005 at 5:17 pm

Posted in editorial

Memories

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Whenever I read about a postmodern book or some postmodern art, it is always described as being “about” memory. Memory is big in the arena of postmodernism. I can understand why. If Frederic Jameson described postmodernism as a state of being surrounded by free-floating symbols and images, with no connection to the past, then we become increasingly dependent on our memories to create the context and narratives of our lives. This allows us more creative freedom, but less of a common experience. I have been reading a “postmodern fiction” book, entitled “The Emigrants”, by W.G. Sebald. The book is wonderful. Sebald creates a story entirely from his memories and the memories of his characters. It is not an “official” story or account of anything or any official history though the story is roughly interconnected by the experience of emigrating from Germany and Switzerland at the time of the Nazi movement, and roughly about the experience of German Jews. At times it’s vague and foggy, like memories are. It’s also very personal and chronicles little details of life, instead of big important events like battles or political movements. I really enjoy it.

The book also makes me think of the importance of my memories in my own time and place. It seems like some memories are acceptable, while others are discouraged, if not downright insurgent. For example, I am welcome to laugh and share in the good-natured criticism of tacky late-70’s styles while looking at “retro” advertising or a “retro” film like Napolean Dynamite. If a corporate creative department encourages me to remember, that’s ok. But what about my real memories of a period? For example, I have memories of airline travel during the late 70’s, having been lucky enough to be able to fly to Greece as a little kid. I remember being treated like royalty on the airline, given free food and top-notch service, etc. Of course, if I bring these memories up to an airline rep today as evidence of a decline in service, they treat me like I’m wasting their time. I know because I tried it once.

So go ahead, share your real memories with people, even if they’re critical. The real memories of individuals are far more interesting than the official memories with which corporations and entertainment industry would like to program us.

Written by nattie

December 2, 2005 at 6:08 pm

Posted in Heather