Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Házunk előtt kedves édesanyám"

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More Hungarian Fun

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How my great grandparents got down when they were back in the homeland.   Magyar Állami Népi Együttes, néptánc páros
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Hungarians Getting their Folk Groove on:

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:  Szólótánc Gála - Füzesi ritka és sűrű fogásolás
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

More than Art: Kipling and Professionalism in an Increasingly Credentialed Culture

In what follows, I pose a challenge to you, my dear readers and conversants, to consider what it is to be a professional.  And I hope to hear your responses.  Rudyard Kipling provides a searing review of art and professionalism in his poem, The Conundrum of the Workshops.  His poem brings this post to a close, following a brief look into Kipling's own background and philosophy.

As an insatiably curious beast, jack of all trades, polymath, dilettante, self-obsessed, immodest dreamer (however you might address me), I often wrestle and rant over the idea of "professional."

Question One:  Is a professional someone who earns money for her craft?  What percentage of her income must be earned in this pursuit until she is a professional tiddly wink player?

Question Two:  Must you have a degree, accreditation, or must you be published?

It appears we now live in a world of self-published individuals, each of us a mini media mogul of our blog, youtube, and facepage, each lording over our one pixel in the digital collage of humankind.  And now droves of people of all ages are turning to
MOOCs:  Massive Open Online Courses.  Ivy Leagues leading the charge to offer their courses to anyone who understands enough English to complete the coursework!  Some of these courses offer their own certification of completion.

But there is a significant backlash to this increasing availability of knowledge and DIY spirit.  New professional associations are unceasingly coagulating from the primordial ooze of unlicensed amateurs.  Their message: you must have letters at the end of your name in order for you to be trusted and to water at the shrinking pool of clients/customers.  Only the most naïve would deny that commodification drives professionalization.  And to be frank, commodification is an extension of hoarding.  And hoarding is derived from such base emotions as fear, however justified and rationalized by economic nomenclature.

I must agree that there is an endless list of reasons for professionalization of skills, and many are beneficial.  I want to know that my dentist is not wholly self taught. Despite all the economic and safety reasons, there is one thing that professionalization ultimately cannot guarantee:  Skill.  I can't tell you how many failing teachers, harmful physical and psychological therapists, and barely helpful accountants I have met.  

Here is the conundrum: A certification does not make you good.  It means you jumped through some hoops and shelled out a good bit of money to clear the threshold:

"Matters of economic policy should be reserved to a priesthood with the correct post-doctoral credentials, which would of course have excluded David Hume, Adam Smith, and arguably John Maynard Keynes (a mathematics graduate, with a tripos foray in moral sciences)." ~ From the Humble Libertarian 

I hope we take the time to consider this inquiry.  I am taking on my own challenge, as I hope you do, to observe unlicensed workers and consider them for their talents.  Where do we ultimately draw the line for necessity of credentials?

So, what does Rudyard Kipling have to say about professionals and  artists, writ small or large?  And how did his social position and upbringing influence his insightful evaluation?

"Rudyard Kipling was never one to accept accolades for his work. He was, I'm sure, called an artist by many, but refused to make a distinction between craftsmen and artists. He refused honors most of his life, and I rather think he did so because he saw himself as one of the people for whom he wrote. He was a commoner in his own eyes and resented being elevated above the average man. He was capable of the aires of the upper middle class, but also loved the music halls, placing him at elbows with many of the lower classes. Match that with all the years he spent as correspondent travelling with Her Majesty's Boys in Red, and we see an appreciation for the commoner, and less so for the elevated.My take on the conundrum? He's thumbing his nose at "artistes" in general, trying to distance himself from them."   ~Bruce Graham, 2007, from an online poetry forum

 The Conundrum of the Workshops

When the flush of a new-born sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mould;
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves, "It's pretty, but is it Art ?"

Wherefore he called to his wife, and fled to fashion his work anew -
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;
And he left his lore to the use of his sons -- and that was a glorious gain
When the Devil chuckled "Is it Art ?" in the ear of the branded Cain.

They fought & they talked in the North & the South, they talked & they fought in the West,
Till the waters rose on the pitiful land, and the poor Red Clay had rest -
Had rest till that dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: "It's human, but is it Art ?"

They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: "It's striking, but is it Art ?"
The stone was dropped at the quarry-side and the idle derrick swung,
While each man talked of the aims of Art, and each in an alien tongue.

The tale is as old as the Eden Tree - and new as the new-cut tooth -
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art ?"

We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,
We know that the tail must wag the dog, for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art ?"

When the flicker of London sun falls faint on the Club-room's green and gold,
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mould -
They scratch with their pens in the mould of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start,
For the Devil mutters behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art ?"

Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
By the favour of God we might know as much - as our father Adam knew!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

All Things Pass

I am inspired by the likes of Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte.  Harry was on Kojo Nnamdi today speaking about how Robeson inspired his activism, well before he became a known singer.  He initially pursued celebrity and entertainment through acting.  Robeson met with his theater cast and crew after a show and spoke about how one can influence the world in a positive way.

I am most inspired by those who find their way late in life, or after a series of dead-ends.  Many of the people that inspire me in this way are my friends, in particular those who have had less than ideal childhoods.  Some of these people are those examples I have read about in articles and heard on television.  They give evidence that there is re-birth after difficulty.

Their stories say: keep going, keep trying, moments of possibility are always.

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