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Matters of Taste 
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 12:38 pm
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I used to argue about this with my friends in high school all the time.

I would say I liked a band, and one of my friends was (and still is, a little bit) very outspoken with his opinions on things like music, art, video games, movies, etc., and if he didn't like the band/song that I liked he would usually come back with something like "How can you even like that? It SUCKS! That band has no talent!" Basically he would state his opinion as immutable fact, and that would really get on my nerves and we'd end up arguing, sometimes so violently that we'd spend the entire day mad at each other. He's still super critical about my taste in movies, often pointing out every little thing wrong with a movie if I admit to liking it (there aren't very many movies that he actually likes, come to think of it).
Also, it would go the other way sometimes, he'd get excited about a song or a band that I didn't really care for, and if I admitted that I didn't like it, I would end up basically put on trial, having to explain why I didn't like it and justify my reasons for not liking it, as if not liking it was a crime ("They're just so good and so talented, you can't just 'not like' it.)

In my opinion, "I just don't like it" or "I dunno, I just like it" are perfectly valid reasons. I think artistic preference is a taste, just like taste for food and drink. If you like the taste of mushrooms, and your friend doesn't, you aren't going to go interrogate your friend and try to make them feel wrong for disliking the taste of mushrooms. Most people wouldn't even ask why that is, because "I just don't like mushrooms" is a perfectly valid response. Or you wouldn't ask somebody why blue is their favorite color because you know that they can't really explain it, it's just their favorite color.

I get that there's some objectivity in some art forms - a really sloppy painting, or a halfhearted song, or an unimaginative plot for a story are all going to be pretty hard to enjoy (that doesn't mean nobody will enjoy them, of course). But to just tell somebody that something they like is just awful, or something they dislike is near-perfect, that doesn't really sit well with me. If somebody I'm talking to doesn't like a movie, I might ask what they didn't like about it, but I never once think of them as wrong for having those reasons. Example, Amazing Spider-man 2: I liked it, my brother didn't. We talked about it for a little bit, he eventually just laughed and said "I don't see what you like about it, but okay". I know it was critically ill-received and had its problems, but somehow I just liked it. Should I really be pressured to find out why I enjoyed it? Is having fun watching a movie just not enough?

TL;DR: I hate when I say I like something and the response is just that what I like is dumb, or bad, or something like that, instead of just saying that you don't like it.

That's all kinda why I stopped participating in the "Rate this song" thread, I gave it a shot because I wanted to introduce people to songs I like, but I don't feel music is something that can be objectively rated or given a score, because 200 different people are going to hear the same song 200 different ways. Not that anyone's wrong for participating in it, but hey, that's how I personally feel about it.

[/ramble]

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Mon Jun 02, 2014 6:28 pm
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It seems your friend has a double standard at play. He's allowed to say "I just don't like it" but you have to justify why you feel the way you do.

I think if someone knows what they're talking about enough, they should be able to explain what they like or don't like about something. But that doesn't mean they necessarily have to if they don't want to.

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Tue Jun 03, 2014 7:52 am
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Well he never says that he just doesn't like or just does like anything, he's always super analytical and technical with it and has some lengthy justification for liking or disliking anything. I just don't see artistic tastes as something that needs to be justified necessarily.

Also a lot of the time I can't really easily explain why I like or dislike something, you sayin' I don't know what I'm talking about? :P

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Tue Jun 03, 2014 4:09 pm
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I, personally, like explaining what I like about certain things. Though I'm more than willing to also admit that I like something even if it's dumb. There's no shame in liking "junk food" media!

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Tue Jun 03, 2014 5:23 pm
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Technical explanations for why something is good/bad is okay, but I often found that they can overlook other reasons why things 'work'. Art is often about a whole greater than the sum of its parts, and sometimes even if the parts are 'bad' they still wind up doing something interesting or compelling.

As subjective as art is, the most we can often say when we like something is that we're willing to overlook the inevitable technical flaws, or even embrace them. And so the usual predictor of if something is good or bad is how many flaws there are and how difficult they can be to overcome--but it's still grading on a bellcurve. Some people STILL like it regardless.


Sun Jun 08, 2014 6:01 pm
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I used to do a bit of amateur photography and from what I've found, the type of comments are a bit of a developmental curve; everyone is on there somewhere, but some people think the location they are at is the end of the curve... (Which is never true, learning curves don't end.)

First, there are the people who are just above 'family documentation' photography. They snap what they find in their immediate surroundings; every once in a while they get something that looks nice to them, but they can't really give objective reasons why. Most of their photos are ready to be put into the circular archive, but they usually don't mind. They're having fun.

Further on, there are the people that want to know why some photo's look good and others don't. They strive to become experts. They start learning (but not usually looking and thinking) and they end up with piles upon piles of rules about what makes a photo 'good'. This happens in different areas: some people are on an eternal quest to find the most exotic locations, some have all of their photos conform to the exact rules of composition, some (usually the most clearly visible on forums) are known as 'measurbators'. They are so obsessed with getting the best equipment possible that they take more photos of resolution test charts and color calibration targets than of actual subjects.

The last category are the sages, people that know most of the rules, they know when some rules work and some don't. They know which rules contradict each other and when that contradiction is interesting. They use the rules, but they are no longer bound by them. To the second category of people, they sometimes look like beginners because they 'don't know' the rules; they actually know them all, but they are intentionally sidestepping them. They know the most important rule is 'get a good picture'. A good photographer knows when to use his $15000 digital medium-format SLR camera with a $10000 lens on it, but also which situations work much better with a cheap Polaroid. They can manipulate images into something completely different, but they usually won't. On the other hand, if there is an empty soda can in the foreground of a beautiful landscape, they'll have no issues kicking that aside, knowing full well that that's also 'image manipulation'. They can travel across the world on safaris to capture exotic animals and they can just as easily post a picture about what they saw in their back yard that day. If they 'just like' a photo that has no technical merits at all, it really doesn't need any further explanation.

You don't need to be a sage to meaningfully discuss what you like or not, you don't even have to know the rules that say what 'objectively good' is. However, do try to keep that view on the world in mind... If you like something, there are reasons for that and it's interesting to try and find them and see if they also apply in other situations. Maybe finding those 'rules' will change your mind about what you like, maybe they won't, but at least you'll have an interesting time figuring them out. Of course art is subjective, but even in life nothing you'll find and know is ever completely, utterly objective.

(And for those who like photography: I always admired Michael Reichmanns articles and his view on photography: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/)

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Wed Aug 27, 2014 2:14 am
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Please forgive me for laughing. I'm not laughing at you but at the uncountable number of times some friends have done the same thing to me, telling me that things that I like suck. That's their opinion and they're welcome to it but it never ceases to put me into fits of almost hysterical laughter since I never take it seriously.

To me, musical or artistic taste is like skin, eye or hair color. It's something we're all born with and can do nothing about. It's how we were created.

In the end, I can only interpret such statements from people as really meaning, "stop liking things I don't like."


Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:29 pm
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