Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Constraints, Constraints

Clearly I'm still not back in full blogging mode, due to a variety of constraints, including getting ready for an upcoming summer semester of teaching. We'll see if I can get back on track soon.

I found this article in today's Boston Globe quite interesting. Yes, it's about Kelly Clarkson, and the pop world isn't really my territory; but, what I like is Joan Anderman's nuanced take on the conflict between artistic independence and commercial constraints. Anderman both salutes Clarkson's desire to let self-expression be her guide and laments the fact that the artistic results might not be as satisfying as when a savvy pop producer had guided her efforts. I've written several times before about the sometimes surprising value of constraints that might first seem limiting and even opposed to artistic ideals. It's nice to see a writer present such a balanced assessment of a complex aesthetic problem.

I was a little taken aback after my recent LOL caption binge to discover that there's a pretty well-defined syntax to that of thing, stupid as it is. I now realize that many of my efforts didn't really fit the mold. Who knew there'd be constraints involved in doing a good job of making a really silly and awkwardly phrased cat (or other) caption? Like so many kinds of humor, half the fun in such fads is the feeling of recognizing how something fits some existing pattern; the recognition provides one with a satisfying sense of insider-ness. But even in more exalted arts, that feeling of grammar recognition is an important part of why we enjoy what we hear/see/read, etc.

And now, constraints compel me to end this post already.


Anonymous said...

You know, it occurred to my mother and I (while we were listening to your daughter recite Madeleine) that she sounded very Germanic or something. My mom asked if she was raised overseas or something, and I said "Not that I know of...". Then it came to me that she was probably read the story with a French accent, and was just repeating what she heard, pretty convincingly. So...did you?


Yeah, I think she always heard it read with a pretty exaggerated French accent, especially the guttural 'r' on "Something is not rright," which becomes "Something is not fffflight." (For those who have no idea what this is about, go here and fast-forward to about 1:40.)