…But is it art?

Fear not – this isn’t going to be one of those posts that wafts about the idea of whether knitting is an “art” or a “craft” and what that particular semantic exercise means in terms of intrinsic or perceived value of the pursuit or of the finished object, the role of gender differential in determination of worth, etc. etc.

Actually, from my postings of late, probably nobody expects me to talk about knitting at all any more (is this a knit-blog?  Well, no.  Actually not.  It’s the blog of someone who happens to knit and goes through various fits of actually writing about it.  I think the first three years or so of the blog was almost entirely knit-free, as a matter of fact.  Interesting, that – well, to me.  Stop with the parenthetical digressions before you lose your readers, J.  Oh.  Okay).

No, what I meant to dash in and link to and dash away again was more about two ideas I’m sort of holding up next to one another and seeing if they have anything to do with one another or if they’re just two things I happened across yesterday.  One is the re-thinking and re-crafting of an art* form, introduced into my current thinking queue by Steve Martin’s biographical essay in Smithsonian about his early career.  Here is a guy who took the idea of “joke” and turned it on his head.  In my humble opinion, he and some of his contemporaries (Monty Python in particular) enlarged the entire idea of comedy.  Instead of the ordered logic of: setup, punchline, laugh, this group went along with something more along the lines of: setup, pick one or more of the following:

  1. random digression
  2. oddball silliness (e.g. a fish-slapping dance, banjo playing, nonsense words)
  3. OJARIL**
  4. any combination of seeming opposites (stiff authority and silly walks, superheroes and suburbs, scripture and instruction manuals, etc.)
  5. taking a complete and utter absurdity of a premise and carrying it solemnly up to and past its “logical” conclusion (Cf: The Parrot Sketch or Upper Class Twit of the Year, or Martin’s “I gotta get me a pair of cat handcuffs and I gotta get ’em right away. What a drag…I found out my cat was embezzling from me…He’d go down to the bank, disguised as me—little kitty nose and glasses, little kitty arrow through the head…”)

…and in the case of the Pythons, then off to a Terry Gilliam cartoon/fever dream that would end up morphing into the next sketch (because they never could end their sketches, or so it seemed).  I seem to recall that Martin’s bits tended to either trail off or ram straight into the next one as well (not having a cartoonist stashed somewhere on his white-suited person). 

Oh, and by the way, insert “laugh” wherever you like in the above.  There’s no punchline to wait for.

Compare that (or not – like I said, I’m still holding these ideas up next to one another and seeing if they have anything to do with one another) with these “reviews” of milk at Amazon.  It strikes me that this is almost the creation of a new form of expression.  Coleridge poems reimagined as odes to milk, neo-noir vignettes featuring milk, extended absurdist plays on the notion of “jugs” somehow wrapped into a sweetly nonsensical story of a couple’s engagement, and of course the inevitable haiku.  All written as a response to the idea of how innately absurd it is to write a review of a commodity item.

Is there a connection here, apart from the temporal one of my having seen both of these yesterday? 

*Humor is so an art form.  Work with me here.

**The Python’s term for Eric Idle’s rambling and yet rapid fire monologues.  It stands for “Old Jokes and Ridiculously Irrelevant Links.”