Last week, on our commute to her school, my daughter made a rather dismissive comment about cars. She said "Ian, cars aren't cool anymore". I've heard quite a few kids say that recently, and studies show that more and more kids are opting out of learning to drive, partially due to the financial climate, but also out of dissatisfaction.
And I think it's true that cars aren't cool anymore. There was a time when cars were cool - back in the 1920s, when most of them had an open cockpit, when you started them with a crank and when you needed to wear goggles and a heavy driving coat. But now? She's right - they aren't cool, and I think they're not very 'manly'.
My daughter made me realize that, as far as 'manly' commuting goes, driving a car leaves something to be desired: it's air conditioned, you sit in a comfy chair, you can drive in your shirt even in a blizzard, there's a radio, cupholders, GPS, etc. It's hardly 'Scott of the Antarctic'. The motorist's motto is something akin to "Hope the seat warmer is working" or "Glad I've got my coffee".
Meanwhile, those on bicycles and motorbikes have a different and much more rugged experience: you're out in the elements, you're on a saddle (how manly is that!), no radio, no cupholder (other than a cage with a bottle of near freezing water), no GPS, you must balance and wrestle the bike through rain, wind, snow. Your motto, like that of the Post Office is "Victory or Death". If you cycle more than half a mile you get more excitement than a motorist gets in a week.
Even car ads have a sort of desperation about them - they're all about danger, thrills and driving fast somewhere exotic, but when the ad gets to the interior, it always just looks kinda weak. And the outside... well, they all look the same - and they're almost always offered in shades of grey. And you know that when you actually drive it, it's not going to be an experience of driving like a bat out of hell on the Nurburgring - it's going to be pottering along at 5mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic while cyclists and bikers pass you by. The fact is, the modern car experience is slow, frustrating and BORING!
So, assuming other members buy the premise, what happened to make cars go all wimpy and boring? And when did it happen? Was there some key moment when the car lost its manliness? Why is it that modern cars just don't have that 'manliness quotient' anymore?
But if you're driving a car that gives you pleasure for any reason whether it be functionality or extravagance then what does it matter what other people think? One of the measures of a man is that he does what he does for his own reasons and not to fulfill others' ideas of 'manhood' or their reasons.
I was thinking about this last night, and how we bought my wife a car back in May. Her biggest concern was that it was cute and that she looked good in it. It was up to me to take her desire for cute and do the research on gas mileage, price, utility, etc, etc.
The way things worked in our house, Wife = beauty, Husband = reality/utility/practicality
Style vs substance.
You're getting close. Shields, take Chuck's argument: Manliness is only good because it serves pleasure. Then what you really want out of life is pleasure. For some, beauty is the dominant source of pleasure. At least you can climb that far!
Now, did you think your wife looked good in that car? Does it occur to you that it may reasonably be said to contribute to her happiness, which presumably is in some tenuous way connected to yours? Has marriage done anything for your style?
I'm saying children and women share a dominant source of pleasure out of beauty over practicality. That isn't to say that men can't derive pleasure out of beauty, but that it must become a secondary source.
You may have a point there; men are a more serious & a more focused race.
But then again, there are several arts which live or die by beauty, & the men practicing them are celebrated--like moviemakers today. What if the buildings in DC were ugly? What's the point of having architects if beauty does not matter? But the fact is that beautiful buildings are an aristocratic thing; a thing of the past. Ugly architecture, however pretentious, is the price everyone pays because men are generally incompetent about beauty.
Further, aside from the men who live for beauty, without which it would be impossible to have a music industry or Hollywood, there are the men who understand that beauty is an insight into being. Men dedicate themselves to nobility. Without them, America would never have won any wars, & would be a bunch of slaves today. If danger ever returns, the same will be true again. TR was so vain he took his damned pistols with him to North Dakota to play cowboy; he was tough, but he felt the need for ivory inlays or what have you; Churchill was an accomplished painter, to say nothing of his other unserious interests. The style of his writing as he matured ended up controlling the substance. He wrote the greatest histories of his century... & of course, Washington & Lincoln had a great love of the theater, & allowed it to be understood that somehow some writings are most important. Lincoln's oratory is a testimony to the beautiful; & to style, as you might say.
But I think I would have problems giving you more recent, or up-to-date examples. I think beauty is fast disappearing from the world--things are not memorable anymore. What could hope to last for centuries or to endure as long as men live, as the most beautiful things of the past have? Somehow, there are beautiful things that have survived where all the useful or good or serious or practical things have been wiped out by ugly necessity...
Or people pick out 3 or 4 amazingly different from the norm examples over a 200 year period and expect to have the same percentage of results in only a 6 month time span.
Again, I think you have a point. But when the beginning of the period is quite loaded--& the end is sparsely populated, then you begin to see a problem. America, we may say, chose the good, as shown by prosperity, over the beautiful, as shown by strange notes like the Declaration's 'sacred honor,' ominously replacing 'pursuit of happiness.' Who would not make the same choice?
But even today there are some who dedicate themselves to beauty; they are just not as good as others were before. America used to have very good novelists; no more. Americans used to like at least some of their poets; there is none left; as for people who write at least song lyrics, they are hardly worth mentioning, nor do they come close to what America once boasted. Universities also used to have something to do with teaching; now, activism pretty much has replaced teaching. If you look specifically at those places that dedicate themselves to beauty, as opposed to the good, the difference becomes glaring.
If you contrast beauty with science, which is continuously advancing, the difference, though different, is again glaring--beauty has made no such advances as the theoretical sciences & their applications, nor is it likely to, but in fact it may even be losing ground previously conquered.
You are arguing perceptions. There are some amazing writers, song writers, performers, directors, actors and so forth still today.
Yes, there are. They just are not as good as previous ones. & it is most obvious in the case of the finished artwork, the movie. Look at another thing that has not changed: Blockbusters are still the best movies Hollywood makes, at least as a genre. The Dark Knight was well loved & popular--& also some of the most serious thinking on justice & chaos you will find in public discourse in America, & in the world. But movies are not what they were...
As for the other matter, of course I'm arguing perceptions. All judgment of beauty, taste, nobility is what you call perceptions. It also teaches you that perceptions go to the fundamental human thing: Human beings are opinionated. Without opinions, nothing would ever get done, nor anything would be learned--with opinions, much can be done & learned, including that some opinions are wrong.
Think of someone you respect & who thinks history is an important thing. That guy, I'll bet, thinks of nobility. You cannot convince young people to learn history unless they see something about nobility. It simply does not serve anyone's good, or if it does, it takes too much effort to see it from the beginning. But if you get a sense of why some great man was great, then you love to learn about it. Somehow, when you see a great man, you see man as such. The perception you have of that man is what clever people who bother about the human things insist on, always & ever, up until they figure what's what... Everything having to do with the past depends on nobility: Because it hardly has anything to do with your good anymore...
You are going to have to define what you mean by nobility so I can even come close to understand what you are referencing when you keep using it.
"--beauty has made no such advances as the theoretical sciences & their applications, nor is it likely to, but in fact it may even be losing ground previously conquered."
In some cases you may be right. However, I will argue about the 'goodness' of artists, poets, musicians, and authors. Although some strain the boundaries of what may be considered art others are doing quite excellent work even compared to 'yester-years' standards. For example there are several novels which I have enjoyed immensely in recent years most of which are in a genre that did not exist prior to the late 19th Century. If one of today's novelists can capture your imagination and through his words create a world that envelopes you with sight, sound, and feeling then how is that any different than an author from, say, 1724, or 1853 doing the same? Just because it is old does not always mean it's better, sometimes it just means it's old.
The old is not necessarily better. The old concerning beauty tends to be. People like me make it their live's business to figure out why we get that idea. Without this kind of man, there would be no education--the best you could get is learn skills, because they are atemporal.
I do not doubt that people can write good novels today. Hell, there is this guy, Donald Westlake, I must have read dozens of his novels. The ones he wrote in the last two decades seem even better than the ones five decades ago. I do not think there are many writers as clever as that guy. But I have no illusions about him contending with the great novelists.