Thursday, 7 March 2013

Other people's trivia

I still feel amazed at the fractal complexity of the human world (let alone the natural world).  I watched a bit of Antiques Roadshow, and as usual gasped at the range of extraordinary things that people have spent their time commissioning, or making, which now change hands purely as investments, and get assessed by experts who know their trivia inside out (with perhaps a few reference books to double-check).

What is just old stuff to many of us, has all kinds of mysteries embedded for the expert and the collectors.

You find the same thing in art (sorry, Art) where a whole language elicits the fine details that escape the non-expert.  Similarly classical music, say, or opera.

You could say the same for wines, and the delicate verbal distinctions of connoisseurs, or food (flavourings and spices), and so on.  There's a Cannabis Cup held annually in Amsterdam, where people don't just get stoned, but assess the high of plants from different breeders.

Listen to the football pundits assessing individual players, teams, managers - attacks, defence - the importance of the different leagues, and so on.

Star Wars fans collect a wide range of models, with all kinds of small variations that seem important to them, which others would not appreciate.  How much is perceived investment, or simply competitive, and how much sheer pleasure in 'just noticable differences'?

If you belong to one of these groups (and many more like 'em) you know how meaningful the distinctions seem to you, and cannot understand that other people do not perceive, or care about, the subtleties ("It's a bottle of wine", "Why is kicking a ball around so important?" "it's just an old chair", etc).

We may feel astonished, or aghast, that other people cannot perceive the importance, or the distinctions, that we make - which might explain why it often comes back to using money to measure things.

We are supposed to be impressed by the price or value of the antique, or the bottle of wine, or the transfer fee of the footballer, or the Tracey Emin artefact - even if we would not willingly spend our own money that way (assuming we have any).

The examples above probably give a clue to the things I remain a 'barbarian' about - I would include "Top Gear" (a car is a car is a car), for instance.

I often can't see what the fuss is about.

Having said that, the stuff  on the Antiques Roadshow, that the obscenely rich people got other people to make for them, back in the day, can sometimes have its charms.  I do like a bit of quality, me.