December 24, 2006

Lots of losers

Harjo:  2006 Mantle of Shame Awards

This year's losers include:“Indian Fight Club”--Those who fight living Indian peoples over fictional “Indian” sports references--such as the University of North Dakota, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Washington professional football club--and who fight Native peoples in courts and Congress in order to keep “honoring” us with their disparaging names, imagery and behaviors.

Retro Dartmouth Review--For its full front-page “cartoon” of a scalp-waving “Indian on warpath.” For its relentless effort to bring back the good old days of Dartmouth College's “Indians” sports references, which it dropped over 30 years ago. Kudos to the Native Americans at Dartmouth (Go NADs) for withstanding indignities with dignity and to those administrators and faculty members who backed them.

Director/actor Mel Gibson--For demeaning Mayans (“Apocalypto”), Jews (“Jews are responsible for all of the wars in the world”) and women (“Sugar Tits”). For substituting stereotypes, fictions and his own alcoholic dementia for the known history, culture and reputation of past and present Mayan people. For Disney and “Mad Mel” using the Cabazon pow wow and Chickasaw casino as backdrops of support for this anti-Maya movie.


Anonymous said...

I dunno about her choices; but her writing???? Yeeeeesh.

Rob said...

Here are some quotes explaining why the critic is arguably as important as the artist:

The understanding that underlies the right decision grows out of the clash and conflict of opinions and out of the serious consideration of competing alternatives.

--Peter Drucker, management guru

In order to write really well and convincingly, one must be somewhat poisoned by emotion. Dislike, displeasure, resentment, fault-finding, indignation, passionate remonstrance, a sense of injustice are perhaps corrosive to the container but they make fine fuel.

--Edna Ferber, author, 1963

The power to question is the basis of all human progress.

--Indira Gandhi

See The Clash of Ideas and Why It's Good for more on the subject.

Rob said...

Any serious criticism is a piece of writing just like a screenplay, essay, or novel. Ferber's point applies to all writing, including critical essays.

One can compose criticism of either statements or questions. For instance, "What was Mel Gibson thinking?" is equivalent to "Mel Gibson's motives were unfathomable." Distinguishing between statements and questions is meaningless in this context.

There are a lot more amateur artists producing inferior work than there are serious critics judging their work. Many of the greatest authors were essayists who wrote about other people's work: Asimov, Borges, Calvino, Didion, Emerson, and on through the auctorial alphabet. Their criticism informed their fiction and vice versa because all coherent thought improves one's ability to write.


for a list of some of the great essayists. Note how many were also great fiction writers. If you're not aware of the interplay between different kinds of writing, you're not as swift as I thought.