Tuesday, April 14, 2015

WINNING WAYS ~ ("Alice thought the whole thing very absurd" )

A rabbit-hole, of sorts. This one unintentionally stumbled down after reading some posts about a recent debacle among fans of science fiction and the Hugo Awards. It seems that there has been a disruptive faction afoot, criticising nominations and the modern sci-fi genre, mainly because of the allegorical nature (usually leaning leftward politically) of stories and embedded messages, and - rather silly this - book covers which do not truly represent the nature of the novel inside (it was ever thus, wasn't it?) See here, and at the links provided there.

After reading a couple of threads of comment on these matters, I came to the conclusion that it's pretty silly to designate what is good, better, best among any kind of writings, art, music, acting etc. Taste is always subjective. End of story. Or is it?

Competition in itself is a healthy part of human nature - heck, human nature is, I suppose, the product of competition: evolution. Competitive spirit, in different measure, in different spheres of life, lies within us all. Astrologers might put this down to a reflection of planet Mars in our nature. Ancient Greeks valued the competitive spirit, honoured it in their Olympic Games, a tradition to which we still cling. That kind of competition seems to me to be a more reasonable deal - there really are winners there - indisputable winners.
"Sport, a healthy body and the competitive spirit were a large part of Greek education and so it is hardly surprising that organised athletic competitions would at some point be created, as they had been in the earlier Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations." (See HERE)

The Greeks had a word for it (didn't they always?) Thumos.
Wikipedia -
Thumos (also commonly spelled "thymos"; Greek: θύμος) is a Greek word expressing the concept of "spiritedness" (as in "spirited stallion" or "spirited debate"). The word indicates a physical association with breath or blood. The word is also used to express the human desire for recognition.
(There's also a good piece on Thumos at Classical Wisdom )

"The human desire for recognition", is a driving force of the competitive urge. Now...dragging this back into the 20th and 21st centuries, returning to consider all those Awards ceremonies like the Hugo Awards, all literary prizes and awards in the world of the arts in general.

James English's book, The Economy of Prestige relates to this topic, and is described at Amazon:
"This is a book about one of the great untold stories of modern cultural life: the remarkable ascendancy of prizes in literature and the arts. Such prizes and the competitions they crown are almost as old as the arts themselves, but their number and power--and their consequences for society and culture at large--have expanded to an unprecedented degree in our day. In a wide-ranging overview of this phenomenon, James F. English documents the dramatic rise of the awards industry and its complex role within what he describes as an economy of cultural prestige................... In the wild proliferation of prizes, English finds a key to transformations in the cultural field as a whole. And in the specific workings of prizes, their elaborate mechanics of nomination and election, presentation and acceptance, sponsorship, publicity, and scandal, he uncovers evidence of the new arrangements and relationships that have refigured that field. "

One reviewer there observed:
He [James English] reminds us of the Dodo in Alice in Wonderland, who cries, 'Everybody has won, and all must have prizes'...English dissects the dishy politics and tawdry tricks, but the author is after much bigger intellectual game. He wants to understand how the awards-biz carries our cultural currency, creating our shared investments in what is art...The Economy of Prestige is rich fare for anybody who has ever been trapped at an awards banquet. It ought to win a prize. (Karen R. Long Cleveland Plain Dealer 2005-11-13)

For a reminder about Alice and the Dodo.

That brought me nicely back to the rabbit-hole entrance from which I set out, and the thought that often accompanies such investigations: instead of "cherchez la femme", in this case it's "cherchez le dosh!" Follow the money!


mike said...

We humans are known for our nefarious ways & means. Where there's competition, there can often be devious attempts to obtain the award-prize-merit by lack of virtue. Our professional sports' leagues both in the USA and Olympic Games have suffered from steroid malfeasance and rigging. The "Miss America", "Universe", likewise (get rid of these!). TV game shows, reality programming, etc, ditto. The USA's involvement in the ME conflict-war-terrorism can be viewed as such deceit.

I'm not a person that enjoys competition, but I understand those that do. I prefer to say that I appreciate excellence and the root term "excel", but that distinction infers competition or identifying those on the far-right of the bell-curve, so little difference...LOL. Overcoming ourselves may be the best competition, but there's something genetic that seems to beckon our comparison to our fellow beings.

Several years ago, I read an essay contrasting capitalism and communism. One difference is that communism has an equal-share ideology and therefore no competition is required...products and resources remain relatively unchanged as a consequence and there is no reward for improvement. Capitalism rewards improvements, higher quality, and beneficial change. Consumers preferentially purchase products that are more efficient and higher quality, which drives costs down.

Liberal Arts is globally recognized by all humans, but highly influenced by society and culture, hence trendy vs cult vs classic. There are too many instances in literature and fine art of the author-artist-musician claiming fame many years after death. I doubt that a truly gifted individual is too concerned whether their work is accepted, as they know it's their best.

BTW - Nasty storms here this morning. No electricity until an hour ago.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, a bit like the con-tricksters we mentioned in a post not long ago, the riggers are with us always, to spoil the purity of sporting competition. Also, as the years have passed and more sophisticated drugs and supplements have become available, some sports-people and athletes have fallen prey to temptations. Sad! All of that on top of the money-making that goes on as an undercurrent, both there and in the literary and arts markets encouraged along by copious numbers of annual Awards and Prizes.

When I was teenage, maybe even early 20s I used to enjoy watching Miss England, Miss World, etc - always have enjoyed looking at well-set members of my own sex (and I'm not gay) - always have liked 1940s/50s pin-up art too. But, as you say, the Miss Whatevers have become a bit of an anachronism now - or should have.

I still enjoy the singing competitions on TV (aka reality shows).

I'm not overly competitive myself, though I did used to enter some of those caption competitions back in the 1970s and 80s ("collect 10 labels and write a caption for.....").
I actually won a national competition like that once, and won a two-week vacation for 2 in Tangier, Morocco (best hotel, VIP room and spending money). LOL!

Well, yes, capitalism has to have something going for it! ;-)

We've had some rain today but missed the storms so far - some still forecast. It's much colder again though - still mid-50s.

mike (again) said...

You could have been a famous advertising executive?! I'll look forward to your tell-all post about your contest and travel to Morocco. Way back in the early 1970s, I knew a married couple that relocated to Morocco...they were the adventurous types. They rented a castle and had a very luxurious life there, but paid little in US$. I attempted to visit them one summer, but couldn't obtain a visa at the border, so I returned to Rome, and was again denied. It's when marijuana and hashish were becoming popularized and I must have appeared to be a smuggler...LOL. I've wanted to tour Morocco ever since, but I doubt that I will at this point in my life, and the ME is risky for American tourists. I vicariously travel via the travel shows on TV now.

mike (again) said...

Wow! The "please prove you're not a robot" captcha is completely different. For the past several months, I've clicked and I pass. The past week has been a series of letters to type...the past several days has wanted the numbers (addresses) from the photo. The NEW and improved captcha for my previous comment was a photo of a hamburger and instructions to select ALL photos that resembled the hamburger out of nine photos provided. I clicked on one, but was rejected and instructed to select ALL that resembled the burger. There were a total of three, but none really looked like a burger. WTF! LOL.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ LOL - hardly! I think I'd written something a bit funny which tickled their fancy, gave 'em a giggle - they described it as "fresh"!

If you haven't seen this post, there's a bit about the Tangier trip there (the "win" was in 1974 btw):



Re catchpa - Oh flippin' heck are they messing with it again? I've had the letters this week too, plus quite a bit of spam to clear - so it wasn't working very well. I haven't come across the pictures yet - that's a wee bit over the top by any measure.