Sub-Prime

In the afterglow of our last gathering, the recurring thematic elements of art, “quality”, and what “should be created” have been simmering in the back of my head. In the midst of this, it has occurred to me that I am grateful for a number of “low-quality” products. I’m not talking about Velveeta here. I’m talking about stuff that dares enter in to the domain of “artistic endeavor”.

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  • Sometimes it’s simply an indulgent streak.

    For instance, I love country music. Many would be loathe to consider this an art form, but that does not change the fact that it shares some attributes (motif, evocative nature, melody, rhythm) with other more “respected” forms of musical endeavor.

    Other times, my taste for things at which the literary or musical learned may scoff is a matter of exploration. Perhaps a memoir of a particularly interesting person in a particularly interesting time or place would never qualify as artful by traditional definitions, but perhaps the person or subject they are discussing are a virtual “voice in the vacuum” of the topic/time/place.

    Still other times, the reading/listening/viewing of a thing is not so much about the content read/listened to/viewed, but rather about the reaction/imprint/resonance it creates. Hearing what a speaker doesn’t say, how a child perceives history in an oral report, the choices an “angry” musician does or doesn’t make, or the opinions of a fringe opinion maker (however poorly communicated) all come to mind as examples.

    We’ve spent time discussing what is “good” or “art” on a number of occasions (and even whether such terms have meaning). Is it possible something can achieve the mark of merit by indirect means?

    66 Thoughts on “Sub-Prime

    1. There is a such thing as artistic, even smart, slapstick comedy. Watch Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Lucille Ball, Stand Laurel.

      Though I will agree that most “modern” slapstick is pretty stupid and awful, there was a time when it could be an amazing thing.

    2. I have no problem with violence.

      So I guess there are no “Old Boy” fans here?

    3. I hate the fact that I’m supposed to get that reference and that at some point within the last five years I would have still possessed the synaptic clump necessary to coo in response, but…”Old Boy?” Is that a Tarentino thing? Or are we going farther back?

      I admired the precocity of Pulp Fiction’s structure and the high snicker quotient of the non-sequitur fueled dialogue. But I’ve never felt so deeply the absence of a missing moral compass. And I have a strong tolerance for roaming about without a strong moral compass (as a filmgoer, of course). I think its an accurate illumination of the anti-metaphysics of Tarentino’s Seventies Celluloid Sensationalist Universe. Now that I’ve been there and sat alone in the resounding silence, I’m ready to move on. “Hey, wasn’t that QT we just passed back there?” “Yeah.” “Should we turn around and go back?” “No.”

    4. Morality has no place in art.

    5. If by “morality” you mean “Western Christian Ethics” (or any other cultural ethos), I agree. (Although pace Pat Robertson, art has no reason to exclude any of that either.) But I do think art is to illuminate our condition, to show us what it is to be human, for better or usually worse, and to make us think about the kind of human we want to be. For me, that is morality.

    6. I can go with that.

    7. I just stumbled upon the “morality” rejoinder.

      You didn’t tell me what “Old Boy” refers to.

      When I speak of morality, I’m not talking about putting skirts on piano legs.

      Watching QT is not like reading Jim Thompson. Both explore the absence of the moral compass. I nod and smile a somewhat grim and somewhat gleeful smile at the end of a Thompson novel. But QT is a psychotic playing with his poo…in awfully clever ways from time to time, I grant you. But you watch something like that enough and…Call me on an elliptical cop out.

    8. Old Boy is a totally immoral (but ass kickin) Korean flick. I’ll loan it to you when I give you BSG s2. Also … Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.

    9. Sort of like “Ichi the Killer?”

      Can’t remember the director’s name. Also made “Audition.” Not Amoral Noir, but a wonderfully nasty piece of work. A Romance.

    10. Dinner at Golden Corral.

      X-Men comic books.

      Penthouse magazine.

      Iron Man.

      IRON MAN!

    11. Turff on April 27, 2008 at 9:42 pm said:

      Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics.

      Fray, on the other hand is prime, not sub-prime.

    12. Five Guys Burgers & Fries

      American Idol

      Lost

      Pet rabbits

    13. Galaxy Quest: prime or subprime? Or just lukewarm?

    14. I enjoyed Galaxy Quest, but sub-prime.

    15. Terry on April 30, 2008 at 6:28 am said:

      I also thought Galaxy Quest was enjoyable but sub-prime.

      Is sub-prime the same as “guilty pleasures” the reviwers used to admit having?

    16. turff on April 30, 2008 at 8:04 am said:

      To me, the concept intended in the original post was a bit more complex than “guilty pleasures”, but on re-reading it, the country music reference does seem to invite that definition.

      What I was originally going for was to suggest that the value of a thing be considered not strictly on its intrinsic “artishness”, but rather a broader interpretation that included both the work and its impact.

      The lice experiment to which I have referred in a separate post, would not even qualify for sub-prime in my mind, is its impact has been limited to (in my view anyway) derision.

      On the other hand, one of the inspirations for the post is a book I have recently read. Literary reviews have criticized the quality of the writing. However, the story (it’s non-fiction) that emerges is so compelling that I am extremely grateful for the work. The truth that emerges from the underlying historical events recounted by the book overrides the frailty in the writing.

      It is not my intent that this argument degenerate into “the ends justifies the means”. As someone that lacks (gratefully perhaps) the formal training in the medium to understand, beyond a few over the top metaphors, what the literati find so offensive about the writing, I found the book to be quite readable and engaging. If it had not been, I would not have called it sub-prime. My argument was more centered on the fact that run-of-the-mill writing may have made the difference between prime and sub-prime.

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