Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Quote of the Day

And it comes to you via Auto-Tune, which is to say it was spoken by Kanye West.

Are you ready for this? Are you sure? Okay, here ya go...

"Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books."

This is excerpted from an article describing that Ye has, ironically enough, written a book. Here is a description...

His book is 52 pages -- some blank, others with just a few words -- and offers his optimistic philosophy on life. One two-page section reads, "Life is 5% what happens and 95% how you react!" Another page reads "I hate the word hate!"

And if all that isn't enough, here's one more atrocity to throw on the pile... To get through 52 mostly blank pages, he needed a co-author.

I officially renounce my coronation of Late Registration as 2005 Album of the Year.


Quinapalus said...

Wow, so if I pull up some equally boneheaded quote from Axl Rose (a feat I'm assuming is so easy, I'm not even going to actually try) will you renounce your Guns 'n Roses #1 pick?

And to be fair, some novels ARE extremely wordy and self absorbed. Have you ever tried actually getting all the way through Blood Meridian? It's like, "Jeez Cormac McCarthy, way to go for the dubious title of trying to out-Faulkner Faulkner. I hope in 20 or so years you find a way to strip your style way down to the bones and write The Road, even if Tex Plush never finishes it."

texplush said...

If there's one thing I've learned from this life, it's that great artists almost always have serious deficiencies in other areas.
That being said,the opinion I have for kanye has almost reached Kobe levels of hatred. I just wish he would shut up. Or at least hire a new publicist.

Eric said...

Also, just for what it's worth, I'm pretty sure Kanye's been saying ridiculous stuff (publicly) since well before 2005. Don't hate! (That said: Stay in school, kids!)

drischord said...

My frustration w/ Kanye stems largely from the fact that I think he has a tremendous natural gift for language. As such, this quote isn't just asinine; it's a societal shame.

I wouldn't care half as much if it was 50 Cent or Mike Jones or some dumb thug spouting off; Kanye's innate intellect makes it much worse.

Anyway, I'm through with him until further notice. Graduation was a big letdown from Late Registration, and 808s and Heartbreak was just plain shitty. (This would be Via Chicago's cue to defend that record if he hadn't been tuned out for the past 4 months.)

Quinapalus said...

I still don't entirely understand why Kanye being a bonehead is any more of a "societal shame" than Axl Rose, or (fill in the pop star of your choice) being a bonehead.

And I also don't agree that 808's and Heartbreak was shitty. But I've made my case about that elsewhere.

drischord said...

Axl Rose's boneheaded-ness (since you mention him specifically) is of a different brand than Kanye's. When you read a dumb quote from Axl these days (and good luck finding any recent quote from him), it's almost invariably a rant against the music industry or Slash specifically. Axl sounds paranoid and vindictive, but that's about all.

The Kanye quote is defiantly anti-intellectual and emblematic of this era in American history, when entire swaths of the population disqualify themselves from higher achievement simply because it isn't cool to be studious or intellectually engaged. And those kids look up to Kanye. No one looks up to Axl Rose at this point. He's too old and too reclusive.

When Axl was at his worst in the early '90s, his issue was mostly misogyny and even that was mild compared to some of the shit you hear in lyrics today. But the issue there is that misogyny, while a legitimate problem, wasn't/isn't a generational epidemic the way that anti-intellectualism is today.

Axl's other biggest vice was basic selfishness, manifesting in the form of walking off stage 3 songs into a set and inciting riots. This was obviously shameful behavior, but it wasn't inspiring legions of teenagers to walk off the stage at their own arena rock shows.

drischord said...

And since we're comparing a black artist with a white one, let me just add that in no way do I feel anti-intellectualism is purely a black problem. Yeah, there are probably more black kids than white kids flunking high school literacy tests at the present moment, but it's white America that brought us George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, anti-intellectualism at its most dangerous.

And all the races watch American Idol.

texplush said...

damn. well put, drischord.
Q, your ball.

Quinapalus said...


1. Kanye has always had an anti-intellectual streak, and it's always bothered me a bit. I have to assume you've noticed it before as well. I'd even argue that if anti-intellectualism is going to be a deal breaker for you, you'd be better off railing against the form which it takes in The College Dropout. He makes a much more plausible sounding case on that album when he says that college isn't worthwhile and won't make you any money, than he does saying something as blatantly knuckleheaded as "I am not a fan of books." A quote like that pushes him so far into cartoon territory that it's a little like listening to Eminem talk about killing his wife one more time: it's repugnant, but it's so hard to take seriously it doesn't really get me riled up.

2. What is your evidence that we are living in an age particularly plagued by anti-intellectualism? If we try to measure it by looking at higher education (an area you specifically cite) a quick google search will tell you that the percentage of Americans with a college degree has been going steadily up for decades. And specifically for African Americans (the group of kids I assume are most likely to be looking up to Kanye) the percentage of adults with college degrees has more than doubled in the past 20 years. So I don't see where you're getting the idea that "wide swaths" of Americans disqualify themselves from higher achievement because it's not cool. At the very least, the swaths which are doing that are probably less wide now than they've ever been.

3. There have always been people who looked down on learning, and especially on higher education. A lot of them went to my high school. A lot of them felt that way I believe partly as a defense mechanism, because they didn't believe themselves capable of doing well in college (and I'm pretty sure at least a couple of the goons from my high school would have been right about that). There have also always been people who looked down on higher education out of a sense of working-class pride, and a sense that there was plenty they understood about life that could NOT be learned in a book, or in the halls of a university. Pick up Chaucer's "The Reeve's Tale" and read about the miller who wanted to show up those snooty college kids by cheating them out of the wheat they paid for. Reflexive anti-intellectualism is probably as old as the very idea of education itself, and it's a conflict that I, as a haplessly snooty intellectual, will always be on one side of. I do believe, however, that it's possible to be a bonehead who doesn't like books, and still make good music. And if you want to boycott Kanye from now on then you can be my guest...but it's not going to stop the march of anti-intellectualism any more than boycotting Axl Rose is going to stop the march of boozing, drugging, and misogyny.

Quinapalus said...

OK, and one more thing: Is American Idol really destroying America? Really? I don't personally like it, but plenty of very intelligent and well-read people do. Is it really demonstrably stupider than past forms of entertainment? In Shakespeare's day bear-baiting was still widespread, and sometimes even conducted right in the theater district. But he still managed to write some good plays, even with role models like the bear-baiters.

drischord said...

We're not going to get into an ad hominem debate. You asked for facts, so now it's my responsibility to provide them. (Click on embedded links for my sources):

1. The National Endowment for the Arts commissioned a study on the reading habits of American teenagers in 2004 compared to 1984. The results? Declines across the board in everything from percentage of students who read for pleasure to overall literacy.

2. Although the rate of high school graduation rose gradually but steadily throughout the '90s, it became stagnant around 2002. While racial gaps did not increase, as Q notes, gender gaps increased across the board, with African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian males doing the worst. And yes, this relates to Kanye, as he is far more a role model for boys, not girls.

3. I definitely concur that anti-intellectualism has been the bane of the elite since the dawn of time. But don't tell me that a George W. Bush-style campaign could have elected the first 35-40 men who served as president of this country. Yes, Americans have always loved men they perceive to be "simple" such as Jimmy Carter, Harry Truman and Northwestern's favorite loser, William Jennings Bryan. But none of them went to great lengths to assure their respective audiences that they definitely could not speak French. Bush, and Palin after him, constituted a new low.

4. And the political dumbing down is not just to be blamed on Bush. It's the byproduct of an era where YouTube clips replace policy papers and TV attack ads, which really did not exist prior to 1968, replace rational debate. And that's an important facet to the era of Kanye. Video is our preferred medium for communication, not the written word.

Now as for Kanye's dismissal of college in the past, that simply is not the equivalent of publicly disdaining books. A lot of smart, learned people (Chaucer is a fine example) would argue with equal vociferousness that college was a waste of time, but books? No way! College can be silly and trivial because the people who teach there get caught up in the foibles of academia, but you can reject that way of life and still immerse yourself in learning. Non-college graduates from Chaucer to Truman proved this.

Lastly, Axl Rose-- paranoid, selfish misogynist that he is-- never abused alcohol or drugs. Too much of a control freak to submit to those.

drischord said...

2 more links, and these ones focus on race's role in contemporary anti-intellectualism. I know it's uncomfortable to wade into this topic, but education experts consider it fair territory.

1. First is a very interesting read from the Hoover Institution at Stanford. The title is "Acting White" and it leads off with a quote from none other than Barack Obama.

2. And this is from the San Jose Mercury News and concerns anti-intellectualism among Latino students in the Bay Area.

There really is a lot of published reporting/research on the topic. It's not something I'm making up.

Quinapalus said...

It may take me awhile to have time to put together a response to your very well researched reply, but I intend to respond, even if not right away.

And I'm glad you backed off your implication that watching American Idol was contributing to the downfall of rational thought.