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Wednesday, 11 October 2017


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From Merriam-Webster
“Definition of iconic

1 :of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an icon
2 a :widely recognized and well-established an iconic brand name
b :widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence an iconic writer a region's iconic wines”

The examples you cited seem more like “epic”.

Not long ago over some really fine BBQ a friend commented that a former favorite joint had declined to the point where it "was just sh*t" while the slab we were working on was so wonderful that it elicited "man this stuff is so good, it's just THE sh*t!".
I feel sorry for adults who have to learn English.

The linked JPEG is awesome* and is clearly Damien Hirst “having a laugh”**.

* very nice*** as we would say in UK.
** meaning taking the 50 gallons of urine not actually laughing, though it is.
*** I know, I know, but at least two meanings work here.

And what about "sick"?

James Turrell's Roden Crater Is a 20th Century piece. Turrell bought the site in 1979. Maybe work was completed in the 21st Century but the concept is from the 1970's.

No. As in it's a good thing, no.

So I'll ax you again, please don't say no when you mean yes. BTW there ain't nothin' more pathetic than a whiteboy trying to sound black 8-)

In todays surreal world of dilettantes and poseurs, if it ain't banal it ain't art.

Quite a few years ago a friend said something that I've remembered and quoted from time to time: "Isn't it high time someone took Post Modernism out in a field and put a bullet in its head?"

Pudenda. There is a word you don't see every day. Especially on a photo blog...

The Falling Man- there’s no contest. The most important photograph (and art work) from the defining moment of our time.

"O-kay. Statement, of sorts. But art?"

I saw in person two of the four "iconic" pieces of art you list, and I have to say that a short description, perhaps of any art, is inadequate to allow any sort of judgment about whether it works as art. Being in its presence is the only way to know whether a piece works or not, to decide whether it's pretentious twaddle or literally awesome. (And I'm perfectly willing to concede that the vast majority of the art I see in person fails to be awesome, or to achieve any other goal it aims for.)

But iconic? Yes, the word has a real meaning (it's not a personal phenomenon, it's a cultural one, isn't it?) and we can certainly judge whether the art in question rises to that level.

You can hear the Forty‑Part Motet at the National Gallery in Ottawa, a few hours north of the Finger Lakes.

It may or may not be iconic, but it is quite wonderful.


When did the perfectly appropriate word “affected” get usurped by the inappropriate word “impacted”? It used to be that people only suffered impacted teeth or bowels.

My wife sings in an early music vocal group, and notes it's so much more fun to be in the middle, and hear the music parts flying around you. The audience doesn't get to enjoy that when listening at a distance.

After reading your post, I wanted to look up "Icon" to see where the word came from. I put it in Google, and the first thing that came up was an advertisement for "Icon Pee-Proof Panties -- it's ok to pee a lil -- iconundies.com"

Is this a great country, or what?

In Australia, the word 'deadly' is sometimes used as a synonym for good. In years past many of my friends used to call me Deadly Ernest (often shortened to just, Deadly). I might now make that my stage name. That would be terrific.

Must agree with Stephen Gillette. Any photo column that can work in the word pudenda is truly iconic.

The 40 voice motet was at the High Museum here in Atlanta. My wife and I went. First, I sat down in the middle of the speakers on bench and I just started weeping, it was so moving. Then I got up and walked over to each speaker to hear each singer sing -- it was like I was standing next to them. Amazing. As an audiophile, you would have loved it. It was a unique experience. I could have stayed there all day. It was a deeply human experience.

In the almost-awesome Doonesbury comic strip long ago: somebody had met God, and tried to describe the experience to a journalist: “Remember what ‘awesome’ meant before it was used to describe basketball players? That’s what he’s like.”

I am always impressed when a reviewer can stand apart from the cliches of the day and find a new way to say "this stuff is good".

I was most impressed when someone described my photographs by writing "they transcend the evocative and become emblematic". Wow! Was I ever impressed. This was shortly after my one fragment of review in The Washington Post (not anywhere near this flattering) and when I still thought it might be possible for me to break into the "photography as art" world. Of course the writer was paid by the museum that was putting on a show of my work so that writer, Bonnell Robinson, was not unbiased.

But still I was and still am impressed by her word craft. I should contact her and thank her again.

For most of us awesome or unique (a pet peeve for me) or some other tired term has to fill in.

"An oval of loudspeakers recreating, one voice per speaker, a 40-voice choir performing a 16th-century motet. Heard of it?"
Oh Mike you should hear it if you get a chance.
It was installed at MoMA for a while and I think the proper over the top descriptor might be "transcendent" The description provided is sort of like describing a painting as "a piece of canvas with paint on one side"

Sandro Miller's photos of John Malkovich (google images does a pretty good job) might be iconic in one sense of the word. I'd link one in but have no idea where to start.

an interesting opinion on modern art:

WARNING- there is some foul language.

Mike, you said, "I have to write fast and never have an editor." But what happened to that "Mike Johnston, editor", fellow that you listed among the staff a while back? He hasn't moved on to other work, has he?

I hope all the other Mikes are still sticking with you!

I have had the undeniable pleasure of experiencing “40 Part Motet”, the Janet Cardiff work I think you are referencing. I have a word for it, and that word is "sublime". One of the best sound works I have ever experienced and certainly a worthwhile work of art regardless of genre. I spent a long time with it, moving around and re-experiencing it in different ways. If you should ever get the chance to hear/experience it you should. It is widely known and has been widely exhibited around the world.

Part of the problem with dealing with art and writing about it, which I have done in the past for a local magazine, is finding ways to communicate your experience within tight word limits and style guidelines. Then the subeditors take over and cut out and “simplify” things. Or in some case re write completely…

Some words become an accepted code to the general public who after they become overly used to them get replaced by new code words like astounding, earth shattering and such. Never ending battle.

I understand the wrong use of a word as you write about. I hear unbelievable a lot on the radio by one host. Every time he uses the term I answer back that the subject that he states is unbelievable -- is actually believable.

About a year ago I also noticed another trend in people speaking (again on the radio). Someone would make a statement about a subject, such as an explanation. Then immediately say "I mean" and then go on to make the statement again but slightly different. It seems that the speaker cannot make a clear statement the first time and has to restate it a second time. I find it annoying.

Some words in news media seem to gain currency in a flash, then almost immediately a sort of lingual Gresham's Law comes into play, as these words are repeated ad nauseam.

My wife and I have both made a good living in the IT world, which seems particularly afflicted by the same syndrome. Certain words and phrases through over-use have become gag-able.

"Our software 'solutions' are quite 'robust,' though some 'knowledge transfer' is required to 'deploy' them. For 'break/fix' support, our help desk 'team' is available '24/7.'" (I'd go on, but I'd just be going on.)I recall one sales 'consultant' straying into neology territory, claiming that his company's solution had "great robusticity."

Without hyperbole we'd all die of boredom.

My favourite better-than-good superlative is the indigenous Australian superlative "deadly".


The English speaking world has a stunningly awesome talent for overstatement. Best ever!

Ugh. The current trendy overused word (at least locally) is "perfect". You'll have fries with your burger? Perfect.

Really? Apparently I'm living in an area that's the ne plus ultra of human existence, because everything around me is perfect.

A Subtlety is the one thing I regret most not experiencing since moving from NYC. It is Iconic in just about every sense few great works of art encompass: grandeur, context, irony, history, beauty, meaning...

There's a 4 x 6 inch brass plate set in the pulpit of Christ Church, Denver in such a way that only the person giving the sermon can see it. It reads:

"I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you fully appreciate that what I said is not what I meant."


Tom Turnbull

I find myself deeply annoyed by this Spem in Alium thing. A previous commenter says it is "art which is only made possible by modern technology." No. Modern technology has made possible a technological demonstration. The art was made possible hundreds of years ago by the amazing technologies of pen and paper and musical theory. Go and hear it performed live by forty human beings, who have to stay in time with each other while each singing something different. THAT is amazing.

Television advertisers now use "two times more" when they mean "twice as much" (I think - maybe it means three times as much?). It's maddening.

Outside of an advertisement, I've never heard anyone say "two times more". It sounds like something my three-year-old might say, but even she has more sense than that.

The constant use of absolutely drives me mad.
Absolutely right etc;
I end up counting how many are used!

Awesome and iconic also iriitate me, "absolutely".

Dan Neil opens his review of the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF ...

About a decade ago I had hoped that auto makers would relent in their abuse of the word “icon.” Instead it got worse. Ladies and gentlemen, the iconic Lincoln Navigator, and so forth.

The word they grope for is canonical. The Mazda MX-5 Miata roadster, now nearly three decades in production, belongs to the canon of great cars—inimitable, essential and timeless, a Hall of Famer.

He concludes ...

Put it all together, paint it the color of Dorothy’s slippers, and park it at intersection of good taste and moderate means. The RF draws a crowd.


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