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?
So how do you think things stand between what may be called the science that explains what is meant by beauty & the opinions that men hold about their women, or others'?
Beauty is in the eye of the be(er)holder.
I'm not sure if I would say it is a science per-se although it (the study) attempts to use some scientific methodology. There can be beauty in structure and form, which may be universal across cultures but once you get into the emotional aspect it is out the window. Pheremones play a large part in attraction as do personal preferences (otherwise I would find Angelina Jolie attractive). We speak of classic beauties when talking about women but most women are not such, although beautiful in their own right.
We're not talking pheromones here. It is only the look that concerns us. Otherwise, as you suggest, it might merely be the beer; or the darkness, for that matter.
There is much to be said for facts which probably can be ascertained scientifically regarding symmetry & proportions--of the kind you mentioned before. I do not mean science in the sense of theoretical physics. I mean science in the sense in which reasonable men use the word: The search for causes & structures by use of reason. That seems like the basis of science--everything else requires much more specialized assumptions about what is what.
But there is something else, too; call it emotion or perception or God knows what. My political education inclines me to the term insight. I am unsure how to account for it. It inevitably exists: All bodily things are particular; variability is their rule. It is a deficiency of the intellect, assuming that reason can fully know the universe. But that assumption is unproven. So I prefer to think of it as insight: Man sees what is in front of him at some given time; this leads him, though not in a fully predictable way, to think about what what he sees means.
It is a good question as to why we see beauty in what we find beautiful and insight or whatever term you use for the indefinable way of seeing has a large part in that acknowledgement of beauty. Some find beauty in that which others find not-so-beautiful or even down-right ugly (thank God for that otherwise I'd be alone). As a student of science I can point out symetry or the Golden Mean Ratio and there is beauty in that which is symetrical but you're right in saying that that is not all there is to beauty and that other thing is not-measurable by, current, scientific means; I mean can we measure emotions, sure we can see that which happens in the brain but is that where the emotion starts, is that activity the actual emotion, or does start somewhere else and what is it that does the starting.
Surely, there are ways of moving toward knowledge regarding beauty. Poets would be out of business if it was pure chance that did it--after all, they have to persuade people about beauty, they have to craft their works beautifully; or they would never outlast their audience, if they pandered to whatever was popular! So it's not merely an opinion people share; but to know what it is would be to know what it means to see or to know-
I think you're correct that there are ways of obtaining knowledge of beauty, but I believe that that knowledge is constrained as to the why it is beautiful or the what characteristics (form) make it beautiful. Even as a young boy I could look at a rose and know it was beautiful the question that wasn't answered at the time was 'why'. I knew the smell of a rose was beautiful and that the smell of rotting garbage was not, again 'why'. I also knew the sound of my mother's voice was beautiful but not the why. Later, I learned of symetry of form, physical verbal olfactory etc. These are some of the physical manifestations of beauty what the 'science of beauty' cannot explain is the emotional impact of beauty. Why is it that we have such emotions in the presence of such beauty.
Political science used to deal with certain aspects of this. Beauty is not immediately of concern to politics. Political questions are immediately concerned with justice & authority, not beauty.
But it comes up because nobility is a political matter. Heroes seem beautiful; stories about them seem to be the most important part of political education. Architecture, like in DC, means to evoke beauty, not particularly justice or the public good. If it is for the good of the country to spend the public monies on monuments, then the noble is important to politics--think of it that way. The paintings from the Revolutionary era, for example, they are one of the precious inheritances because they give us the look of the actors in a more immediate way than the writings do. But also the histories, biographies, & commentaries from the age are also meant to give you the look of things. That is what educates beauty.
I do not think there is anything like it today. In a sense it is fitting: The age is far less noble. But one of the reasons is that education is supposed to make men ugly. In the case of the sciences, maybe it is mere neglect, maybe requried by specialization. But in the humanities & in pol.sci, the ugliness is considered desirable: It is the value-free social science that keeps trying to predict elections or what have you... Trying to deform or mangle anything previously thought noble is not merely a matter of resentment, envy, or pettiness--it is a scientific program. Great men somehow go hand in glove with great danger, war, death; quiet times & prosperity require smaller horizons.
If instead of the crap that passes for pol.sci, you'd have American history, biographies of great men, kids would have to ask themselves how they measure up--they might get the idea that they should measure themselves up against serious standards--they might get the idea that they should investigate these standards. So far as I know, poetry & politics educated men to see the noble things, which is easier for men than the beauty of flowers or paintings.
Knowledge in this case is simply not as easily acquired as in grammar or arithmetics. A man needs to use his judgment, to educate his taste. Science, I am advised, is an instrument, or organ. Beauty is an implicit claim about what is important in life, it separates things into great & lowly, noble & ignoble, important & merely expedient...
Beauty in politics and poetry is far harder to educate to than that of paintings and women I think. One must first understand language and then move on to the poetry unless one is simply bathing in the beauty of the beat pattern of the words and not the meaning; which brings up another difficulty of understanding the beauty of words. With words there is a requirement for meaning and interpretation of those words in the context in which they are written. An example of this is a post by a person quoting a line from Shakespear, I disagreed with his interpretation and provided my own. Simply put two people could read a simple poem and come up with two interpretations of the 'meaning' of the poem, which could impact the percieved beauty of that poem for them.
I like the idea of nobility in politics, which seems so lacking today and I live with the beauty and lack thereof of the architecture of the buildings built at certain 'eras' of the US.
Not haven taken a single poli-sci class at any level I will take your word on the 'ugliness' of the teachings. I certainly am one of those who wish we had more nobility in our culture than exists today, maybe there would be far fewer problems than we have.
I've been watching this sub-discussion on beauty buried here in automotive. Really cool stuff guys, as a purveyor and pursuer of beauty, I find this topic fascinating.
Someone posted on the decline of beauty last summer and the thread was mostly ignored; something real men don't talk about I guess.
Automobiles are appliances these days, and have been for quite some time.
If you really want a 'manly' vehicle, there are plenty out there if you really want one. Your definition of a manly car sounds more like 'spartan' to me. If all you do is commute, then why bother. Ride a bike.
I think cars get less and less "manly" and "cool" as they get more and more computerized. There's something exciting about working on an engine, getting dirty, seeing how it works and all that. Now, with on board computers and all, you either have to be sufficiently into cars to buy a whole bunch of equipment and basically become a mechanic, or give up on working on the car yourself. Throw in that people have roadside assistance and I've found that most people my age aren't even sure what a jack or jumper cables are.