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Musicians In Society


Eric Iverson

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Starting the cowardly gypsy Django thread over, hopefully with more light and less heat:

 

Why is it that some great musicians (and other artists) are less than sterling members of society?

 

Yet some others manage to pay their bills, go to work every day, and still play great and write great music.

 

To what degree does a person's sins and shortcomings influence whether we can enjoy their music?

 

For example, if you found out a musician you admired beat his wife, would it influence whether you supported his career any further or not? Where do we draw the line on these things?

 

I hope I don't regret starting this tread. I troll not... but don't ask for whom the bell trolls, it trolls for thee...

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Some are too buried in their art to live normal lives - work, begin families, pay bills, drive, etc. I don't necessarily admire these people, and far too many of them develop vices society can't abide, but I can't dicredit Jimi, or many others, due to drug use, or other shortcomings, as their contributions have withstood the test of time. I like some G&R, but wouldn't want to put up with the behaviors that became their undoing.
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I think there's a certain expectation (among a certain slice of the critics and the audience) that musicians will be like these Wild And Crazy Guys and a bit lawless and so on.

 

That's why so many bands go for the bad boy facade, even if it just means posing in front of some old and crummy building. It's hardly new.

 

When Carl Perkins (?) toured the US, he initially disappointed the promoters, who thought him too straight and bland. Fortunately, he turned out to walk with a limp and was later presented as some sort of weird Quasimodo character. Or so I've read. Moral of the story, if you have to look like something, you're better off looking like a badass.

 

Nick Hornsby makes an interesting point about this: he points out that a lot of rock critics live very sheltered lives. They receive their CDs in the mail, they play them in their home stereo and then email their review. They don't even risk being hit by a bus on the way to the postbox. In that light, it's not surprising that people who seem to be part of a rougher, more adventurous world will make a big splash.

 

In other words, I'm saying that if people aren't badasses, they'll pretend to be. If they already are badasses, they'll play it up for all it's worth. Usually.

 

Would I support someone who beat up his wife?

 

Kinda sorta. Nothing's stopped me liking Leadbelly or Jerry Lee Lewis. The one was jailed for murder, the other has always been a bit suspect. Chuck Berry is a bit of a perv too, apparently. **shrug**

 

Mind you, if I don't like somebody's music, hearing they're turds gives me an even better reason to avoid their music. :)

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Art is the most personal of professions and one of the most difficult to be succcesful in. If your work is not accepted, you are not accepted. There are a lot of dynamics that are very personal and it takes a strong willed person to be succesful and sane, or sane and succesful. It is hard to say why artists as a whole are prone to drug abuse, violence, suicide etc... This much is true: Artmaking is at times rewarding, at times disappointing. The artist must not hinder themselves with fear, doubt, or in many cases common sense. That's a lot of faith to ask from a mere mortal, who is by very nature flawed and prone to these very feelings. A book I am reading deals with many of the pitfalls of artmaking and it is very focused on identifying the things that affect the artists work and self perception. I think the degrees of behaviour vary from personality to personality but that ultimately all creative persons suffer from the same ills. It is part of the the deal. I don't really care about the shortcomings of artists personal lives. I'm more interested in what they create.
Live long and prosper unless it is a good day to die.
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Miles Davis was kind of a bastard, particularly to women, but look at what he contributed to the world in his music. I must say I have particular admiration for musicians who don't do drugs and maintain a stable family life but in the end music stands entirely on its own merits.
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Ask your neighbor how attached to society he is. Ask the people who are addicted to Reality TV shows how well they know "reality" (whatever that is). Go to a sports bar at happy hour and ask everyone simple questions about how society works, or history or geography questions (like Jay Leno does), etc. Ask the executives at the biggest office building downtown, ask the janitors. Ask all these "normal" people why they aren't better human beings.

 

Artists stand out b/c many people, for some stupid reason, feel like they need to follow their life's every step. That's bullshit. Everyone has his/her life to live and no one should be forced to function as an example to anyone, especially if all they want is to create or perform art and/or entertain ...or express themselves or their opinions in a unique way or whatever it is they do as artists. If the artist(s) in question create art with a message, then I guess they should live up to that message's standards.

 

How many cowards in daily life don't do what we've always been told is the right thing to do. Do we give a shit? No. Some idiot decides to say Django was a coward because he didn't say "vive la resistance" during one of his shows in front of the Nazis and he's a horrible human being. He tried to escape. So those that make all the Jewish immigrants throughout the Americas cowards? NO! They wanted to keep on living!

 

Britney is a fucking idiot. So what? I know/know of plenty girls who are fucking idiots, minus the millions. People magazine and all those 'jet set' mags and media exist b/c "normal" people want to ESCAPE their own realities. Brainless girls and boys love to watch other brainless girls and boys do stupid shit and get in all sorts of silly and embarrasing trouble for money, I guess b/c they want to escape their own troubles, and in a way maybe seeing others in a compromising situation makes them feel like better people. I don't consider Britney an artist, but go to the streets and ask if she's an artist. "Normal", "attached" people will tell you she is.

 

Personally, most of the time I think I'm more 'in-sync' with, and aware of, the real world than many 'normal' peeps are. Maybe that's why I'm not a great artist :(:rolleyes::thu::D .

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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Vincent Van Gogh was, in my opinion, the greatest artist of his era. Anyone with the sensitivity of a burnt match cannot fail to be moved in some way by his paintings(the originals, not the prints, and if you ever get to see an original Van Gogh up close, you'll know what I mean). I have immeasurable respect for the man's work.

Even so, I wouldn't want him as a guest in my home. Why? Because from everything I can gather about the guy, he was just as likely to jump on your couch in in his muddy boots and pee on your coffee table as he would be to say thank you for putting him up. I don't know how true that is, but I wouldn't really want to find out the hard way. Inescapable, though, is the fact that 18th century Europeans were not noted for personal daintiness, and my guess is ol' Vinnie was to preoccupied with his art to bath even as often as some of his contemporaries. So, he would probably be a trial just to stand next to on a hot day...

 

Leni Riefenstahl made great movies, some of which promoted Hitler and the Nazis in Germany. Her movie,"Triumph of The Will", is still used as an example of documentary in courses on the subject(as well as courses on propaganda). She was a despicable human being in smoe people's eyes, but her skill and vision as movie maker are unassailable. After the war, she said she was duped and used by Hitler, mesmerized by his personal charisma, so much so that she was sucked in by his insane vision of Germany, as were so many of her contemporaries. These days, folks might say she had a blond moment. Or, a blond year...

 

Poor dumb Leni's lack of common sense and my man Vinnie's lack of interpersonal skills and sanity do not diminish their work as artists one iota. But being a great "anything" doesn't make you a great "everything". Very likely, being a great something will not even make you very happy. A lot of great artists end up diciding to, as Johnny Cash sang, "go down suicide". That's about as unhappy as you get.

 

I guess we should thank God for those people single minded enough to produce great art, however flaky, self absorbed, egocentric, drug-addled, pissed-off, unpleasant, or depressed they were. But, we should also remember that a lot of them were not the sort of folks you'd want to hang around with for long, and just take their work for what it was without lionizing them as great human beings. Mostly, they aren't.

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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One sad fact is that as adults we have been around long enough to differentiate between artistic talent and personal character.

 

Teenagers admire their heroes and want to imitate them, the hell with what their parents say (old stick-in-the-muds anyway!), and sometimes what they are imitating is harmful to them: drugs, for example.

 

 

Speaking for myself, I did think it was cool to smoke pot and drop acid because the rockers I admired did... thank God it didn't cause any permanent damage. (I never was into speed or heroin, though, because I knew they dangerous!)

 

Having said that, I still love the Beatles' and Hendrix' MUSIC; and listening to it doesn't cause me to be overcome with a passionate desire to get high!

 

I hope we can help kids understand that you don't necessarily have to do EVERYTHING somebody does just 'cause you like their guitar playing (or rapping)! And that a lot of stuff is just glitz and glamor and show biz, it ain't real!

 

Re: Miles - he may have been a bastard in some ways, [Craig T's term not mine], but he DID do a great deal to help up-and-coming young musicians! We ought to give him that much!

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Originally posted by Picker:

...I guess we should thank God for those people single minded enough to produce great art, however flaky, self absorbed, egocentric, drug-addled, pissed-off, unpleasant, or depressed they were. But, we should also remember that a lot of them were not the sort of folks you'd want to hang around with for long, and just take their work for what it was without lionizing them as great human beings. Mostly, they aren't.

Ok. But there's a giant chasm, IMO, between Johnny Cash's uncontrolled drug use (which I do abhor), Van Gogh's mental illness and its' effect on his personality and John Wayne Gacy's killing more than 30 young boys and burying them in his basement.

 

I listen to John's music and am glad he made peace with his demons. Van Gogh certainly created masterworks. But I was overjoyed when someone stepped up, bought every one of Gacy's paintings and burned the lot of them. I don't care how talented he might have been, I don't want anyone to hear of John Wayne Gacy and think anything but murderous bastard who was deservedly executed by the state. I certainly don't want people 50 or 100 years from now commenting what a gifted painter he was.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Originally posted by Picker:

...

Why, Picker, U should B censored 4 no-geetar content ! I&I'll at least mention Syd Barrett & Peter Green.

 

Seriously, should I&I (or U& yourn) B concerned at the near universal placing of the responses so far tending 2ward the capital-T nutty artistEs ?

If Rtists seem so wild & wacky, the villagers might blame 'em (& here, that would B any of us, artists, right?) for what's wrong, like the Pied Piper, & try to lynch us.

& how'd J W Gacy get N here? although any Xample of the diff Btween art & nutty self-Xpression may B useful.

 

That whole eccentricky Rtist thang's 2 much mixing up the idea that cah-raziness is a set of genes that wear arty types around. U know, the bad kinda tereo, a stereotpye. The fact that a certain %, whatever it may B,have the same ailments or shortcomings of any folks ia sorta 2 b Xpected but there B far, far & still further on farm more jes' reg'lar old folks slipping around doing their thang nice as cab B!

Charle Ives, one of the most artistically odd musicians we might cite, was a k-reakN Nsurance agent his Ntire life, although we can never B sure what's Bhind the doors...

 

Now wonder so many seem obliged 2 adopt personae.

Dali, Zappa, Bizzy Diz Gallespie...Bob Dylionaire, the folk singer seems driven 2 have a new one just 2 keep ahead of the crowd...OK, I&I seem 2've drifted N2 some poor Xamples of level headedness there at the end but there's enough XY&Zamples of responsible but highly creative people 2 even play that version.

I&I'll go further N suggest that2 whatever degree it Xists it's regularly Xaggerated for effect or, a separate issue, used as excuse, as some have observed N their own way.

 

There's a quote N here which I&I won't quote (but U know who U R ;) ) about artists B-ing rejected when their work is. That's taking things a bit personally I&I'd say, kinds like juju investing the pbject with our spirit.

& don't start on I&I about aristic sensitivitE, OK ;) ? U know my wackE typN Ndicates I&I'm as artE as anE.[That's silly-serious there, F U follow the bouncing E.]

 

Not that there's not genuine cases of inspiration crossover with shadowy territory but rill "art-chetects" can hold their own liquor & Bhave just like the rest o' societE, even musicians, at least F they didn't have 2 work N nightclubs 4 a livN. ;)

 

I&I would suggest my contributuion 2 the thread would B revisiting my idea that conscious, well-considered decisions made by others may have more 2 do with things than some get credit 4, & that we may sometimes not really know that what is criticised could B an actual byproduct of an Ntention (the art itself, or it's communication) that goes over our heads.

We know that R appreciation of art develops & grows so it should B clear that there can B parts of "the picture" that we don't get.

 

I&I find that the best Rtists often don't want 2 deflate something by making it all clear but there R also some of the best who R quite fluid, & simplE reject rejection & roll onto the very next idea, evn 4 the same project, cause they have a varietE of ideas waitin' & don't self-identify with everything likes it's all they got.

 

That brings U & I&I around to anotherthing mentioned. That art (& we can narrow that 2 music biz, I&I reckon, 4 R chat here) iz a difficult field 2 plow. All the better 2 B a self-possessed, artist able 2 manipulate the creation than have it maul U like it's some uncontrollable force.

There's "driven" Rtists & there's artists that drive.

 

Wait, I&I recognize that idea, sometimes Rtists may have such cntroll their like majicians (or mujicians ;) ) & B operating , or Boperating, N ways like hypnotists or therapists so that U don't rilly know why U never saw things that way B4.

 

 

--------------BTW, KF3, That wasn't Quasimodo OR Carl Perkins...it was Gene Vincent! :D

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Judge the person for their acts, but judge their work by its merits. IMO, we should hate Milli Vinilli's songs because they were fraudulent, but we shouldn't necessarily hate Micheal Jackson, R. Kelly or Gary Glitter's art just because they're pederasts. We should resent Mark McGuire and Barry Bonds' athelic records because they are fraudulent, but we should still cherish Michael Jordan despite his documented gambling problems. We should vilify Nixon's presidency for Watergate, but we shouldn't judge Clinton's presidency by Monica Lewinsky alone.

 

I'm an atheist, but I know many of you claim to be Christians. Whatever happened to "loving the sinner and hating the sin"? If you're willing to dismiss John Wayne Gacy's paintings based solely on the crimes he committed, aren't admitting to yourself that you hate the person as much as the sin? Doesn't the bible imply that everyone (Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler, John Holmes, etc.) is one of god's children? Wouldn't it be more Christian to cherish Charles Manson for the handful of decent tunes he might have written, rather than revile him for the evil he committed? Just playing devil's advocate.

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What about Miles Davis? Let's see...

 

Heroin addict - quit cold turkey and instead of turing into a drain on society, became an uplifting part of society. However...

 

Known asshole. Admits in his autobiography to pouring beer over the head of a guitar player during a rehearsal. Single minded visionary, or single minded jerk? However...

 

Mentor to titans of jazz over the course of 5 decades. Look at the major, MAJOR artists who came up through his bands. However...

 

Known womanizer. And proud of it, read his autobiography.

 

Also to consider: His paintings, and patronage of other art. And on the flip side of my calling him a "known asshole", how much of that might be attributed to sheer candor, when honesty is something we value, but is often neglected?

 

Miles never poured beer on me, or called me a honky, or stole my wife or girlfriend; he recorded and performed wonderful music that I listen to often. So to me personally, the positives outweigh the negatives. How many people did he lift up through his art, vs. how many people he trod on in his personal life?

 

And who are we to judge?

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Originally posted by I & I mjrn:

Why, Picker, U should B censored 4 no-geetar content ! I&I'll at least mention Syd Barrett & Peter Green.

Hey, I'll stop if you will, kid. It wouldn't break my heart, either.

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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I & I mrjm...

 

Next time you buy a keyboard, can you make sure they give you all the keys? :evil:

 

I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to have an argument with you, but seriously.

 

You have some intelligent points to make and all that, but it's a shame if your "cr8iVe sPeLliNg" detracts people from reading your posts. Well, it makes it hard for me to read them and I'm part of your audience too.

 

Thanks for jolting my memory about Gene Vincent though.

 

 

Vince.

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Originally posted by KPB:

I&I,

 

Sorry to say, I'm in agreement with the others about your writing style. It's annoying and I end up not reading it at all.

I&I, yes very difficult! It's not that I don't want to read your posts it's just so difficult because it does not flow normally. Why do you do that? is it somehow faster for you to type that way? Maybe English is not your primary language and if this is true I apologize and will continue to try to read it.
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Originally posted by fantasticsound:

...I was overjoyed when someone stepped up, bought every one of Gacy's paintings and burned the lot of them. I don't care how talented he might have been, I don't want anyone to hear of John Wayne Gacy and think anything but murderous bastard who was deservedly executed by the state. I certainly don't want people 50 or 100 years from now commenting what a gifted painter he was.

I never heard Gacy accused of being anything worth talking about as an artist. Probably, his art was as sick as he was. So, the only way his paintings would have been lauded is if the society we live in would get as sick as he was...oh...I see your point...

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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Originally posted by jrob:

Wouldn't it be more Christian to cherish Charles Manson for the handful of decent tunes he might have written, rather than revile him for the evil he committed? Just playing devil's advocate.

Err... no.

 

You point out that Nixon was worse than Clinton because, even though Clinton indulged in sex with Monica Lewinsky, that had nothing to do with how he used his power as a POTUS. Nixon, on the other hand abused his power.

(Well, I can just hear Lee revving up on this one, so let me preempt him by saying that I am well aware that Bill Clinton may well have had less chances with Monica had he been just plain old Bill Clinton the mechanic or Bill Clinton the gardener rather than Bill Clinton, President Of The United States).

 

 

Anyway, in some way that I can't quite explain, it seems to follow that had Charles Manson devoted himself primarily to being a singer songwriter one might overlook the murders as a sort of footnote. But since he decided to devote himself primarily to being a cult leader, and his leadership of the Manson family led to the murders, then it is as a cult leader that we should judge him.

 

Same as Hitler. Had Hitler remained an artist that occasionally went to party meetings, we might forgive him his extreme views. But because he decided to become a political figure, it is as such that we must judge him.

 

Does that make any sense?

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Yes, it does. Great post.

 

Now, here's an interesting character: Richard Wagner, philosopher and composer, known to the world primarily as composer, but important to the Nazis and all facists for his writings.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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Why are some great musicians and other artists less than sterling members of society? Probably for many of the same reasons that celebrities of many fields (TV, politics, sports, and so on) do so. Whenever things go really great in our lives, and people start telling us how great we are, we are tempted to believe the hype, to believe that we ourselves are responsible for that greatness, to get full of ourselves, to think that we're "above the law" and "an exception to the rules", and to even think that we're immortal and better than everyone else around us. And if we give in to those temptations, then we behave accordingly. Those who don't give in to the temptations are the ones who keep themselves grounded, who have accountability in their lives, and who realize and remember that there is Someone higher up, and not themselves, who is responsible for the greatness in their lives.

 

When I listen to a person's music (or watch their TV show or read their book or look at their paintings or whatever), I don't stop first to investigate what kind of lives they live or have lived, and I don't allow their sins or shortcomings to be a factor in whether or not I enjoy their artistic works--that is, unless, their works center around and lift up those sins and shortcomings (i.e. lyrics in songs that promote immorality, violence, etc.). Admittedly, if I did know that an artist was a wife-beater or child abuser or something like that, I would have a harder time enjoying their work, but that would be my personal conviction. Overall, I endeavor to always remember that none of us are perfect, that we all have our pasts and our failiings, and so as a general rule I don't allow how an artist lives or has lived his/her life to automatically determine whether or not I partake of and enjoy their work.

Robert J. ("Bob") Welch III

 

"If you were the only person who ever lived, God still would have sent Jesus His only Son to die on the cross for YOU, because that is how much HE LOVES YOU!"

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Originally posted by MILLO:

Yes, it does. Great post.

 

Now, here's an intersting character: Richard Wagner, philospher and composer, known to the world primarily as composer, but important to the Nazis and all facists for his writings.

The Wagner family financed much of Hitler's interests in his path to power.

 

During the Beer Hall Putsch, when he escaped, he was hidden by the Wagner family.

 

Yes, Richard Wagner had a very big influence on Hitler from what I read in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer.

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Originally posted by KPB:

Originally posted by MILLO:

Yes, it does. Great post.

 

Now, here's an intersting character: Richard Wagner, philospher and composer, known to the world primarily as composer, but important to the Nazis and all facists for his writings.

The Wagner family financed much of Hitler's interests in his path to power.

 

During the Beer Hall Putsch, when he escaped, he was hidden by the Wagner family.

 

Yes, Richard Wagner had a very big influence on Hitler from what I read in "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer.

Great book, read it last year. :thu:
Live long and prosper unless it is a good day to die.
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Originally posted by Kramer Ferrington III.:

Originally posted by jrob:

Wouldn't it be more Christian to cherish Charles Manson for the handful of decent tunes he might have written, rather than revile him for the evil he committed? Just playing devil's advocate.

Err... no.
It seems to me that Jesus was a prophet who spent most of his ministering to the dregs of society: thieves, murderers, lepers, psychos, whores, tax collectors, etc. IMO, that implies the "son of god" thought even the wickedest lives should be valued for something. Now, I'm not saying we should think of Hitler and Gacy as painters first and villains second ... I'm just saying: #1. We should evaluate their art by its merit, not by the artist's other misdeeds, #2. the fact that these villains attempted to make art shows that even the most evil among us share some common thread of humanity. If Gacy's paintings suck for artistic reasons, then by all means burn them because they suck. But it would be stupid to burn good art just because it came from a bad person.

 

Wagner was a great example of what I'm talking about. Even though Wagner was a terrible racist, I still enjoy hearing Elmer Fudd sing "kill the wabbit ...". On the other hand, Wagner's "Ring Cycle" is a bunch of pretentious sh*t. See, I'm judging Wagner's art for its merit, not for Wagner's misdeeds. Again, I'm not a Christian, but as a human being I can point to "Ride of the Valkyrie" and say to myself, 'Wagner may have been an a**hole in real life, but at least he wrote a nice melody'. Now, if I subscribed to a belief system that claimed every life was precious, then I would think any kind of artistic accomplishment could be viewed as the "spoonful of sugar" that allowed me to place value in a wicked life.

 

You point out that Nixon was worse than Clinton because, even though Clinton indulged in sex with Monica Lewinsky, that had nothing to do with how he used his power as a POTUS. Nixon, on the other hand abused his power.[/i]
Careful, I said we should judge Nixon's presidency for Watergate, not Nixon as a person. Likewise with Clinton. We shouldn't judge Clinton's presidency harshly because of Monica Lewinsky.
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Originally posted by jrob:

#2. the fact that these villains attempted to make art shows that even the most evil among us share some common thread of humanity.

No once again.

 

Just because somebody attempts to make art it doesn't mean jack. I remember back at school, you'd have the "cool" kids who all wanted to be in a band, any band, just so they could be the singer and be even cooler.

 

So, in a way, they were trying to make "art", but it was only as an accesory to their own vanity. They weren't any "more human" for trying to be A Cool Rock Singer, they were just jerks whose jerkdom had become more nuanced, so to speak.

 

See how complex this gets? :)

 

In fact, I'm not even too sure that "art" has any realation to being "human". It's just something people do.

 

They're even teaching gorillas to paint, fer chrissakes.

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