What do the makers like?
September 6, 2009 11:42 AM   Subscribe

In the art forms you are experienced or well versed in, what kinds of stuff is notorious for being only liked by the experts, and what kinds of stuff is notorious for only being liked by less experienced or educated casual consumers?

For example I compose experimental music, and in music the weird atonal / noisy / structurally complex stuff is notoriously only liked by other composers (though not by every composer of course), and disliked by most folks who are not composers (there are exceptions to this, but that is the general tendency and the cliché). On the other hand most composers are not all that fond of techno or new age / ambient relaxation music like that made by Enya.

This probably applies to other things that are not always regarded as art too - I am pretty sure that there are foods that are notorious for only being liked by chefs or only being liked by people who never cook, and I know that there are a certain variety of programs for general non programming use that only programmers like.

So, in the areas you know pretty well, what do the experts like, and what do the rest like?
posted by idiopath to Media & Arts (159 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
Question inspired by the crayon artist post.
posted by idiopath at 11:44 AM on September 6, 2009

Noobs think Godsmack is metal. Experts will gladly disembowel one another in the scramble for a copy of Pavor's Catharsis demo.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:44 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I once heard Richard Thompson described as a "musician's musician". I saw him once live a few years ago, and I did get the impression (not sure how) that most of the folks in the audience were musicians - guitarists, songwriters, etc.
posted by jquinby at 11:51 AM on September 6, 2009

In programming, LISP is appreciated by experts, but generally ignored by people who program just to get their job done.

In typography, the whole Ikea Futura vs. Verdana controversy is another example. Designers see Verdana as outright ugly and inappropriate for print, whereas many non-designers can't tell the difference and think the debate ridiculous.
posted by lsemel at 11:56 AM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nickelback is infamous for a popularity with casual rock fans, matched only by the hatred with which it is regarded by rock critics.
posted by ewiar at 11:58 AM on September 6, 2009

Chicken Marsala. Loathed by chefs and loved by casual diners.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine described Guy Maddin as a "filmmaker's filmmaker".
posted by pxe2000 at 12:02 PM on September 6, 2009

Mark Rothko and his surrealist, abstractionist paintings is the first name that comes to my mind as invoking a "I could do THAT!" type of reaction from art outsiders, but is considered a genius by those in the know, while the fans of Thomas Kincaid and his ilk send shudders down the spine of every art snob out there.
posted by msali at 12:04 PM on September 6, 2009 [11 favorites]

Seconding Thomas Kincaid and his ignorant idolators.
posted by dfriedman at 12:06 PM on September 6, 2009

Fine art connoisseurs recognize style, technique and level of skill in a painting. They tend to understand concept and executed symbolism more easily, and allow a painting to speak to their heart.
Philistines just want the picture to match their decor.
posted by Acacia at 12:11 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Jackson Pollock elicits similar reactions to those of Rothko.
posted by dfriedman at 12:12 PM on September 6, 2009

Jackson Pollock is another artist that warrants the "I can do that!" reaction more so than Rothko. I am in an MFA program (Sculpture) and have never heard anyone claim that they can do Rothko.

Thomas Kincaid is a hack (truly) and is loved by all the uninformed housewives of America.

Damien Hirst is reviled by most artists, actually, but personally I think he's great. Look up Stuckism. They'll give you a general idea as to what level they hate anything involving Damien Hirst (or anything else that isn't what they like, for that matter).

Jeff Koons is another classic example of being hated by all artists (mostly) but loved by the public for his giant puppy dogs made of flowers and his giant balloon animal sculptures. Before he "made it big", he worked on Wall Street for 6 years and amassed a huge sum of wealth, and now he just tells everyone what to do to make his art.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 12:16 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eva Hesse (sculptor) and Agnes Martin (painter) are two more art-world examples of those who are worshiped in the field, but sadly don't seem to translate as well for the average viewer.
posted by Fifi Firefox at 12:17 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Miles Davis vs. Kenny G.

Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Real football vs. American football.

posted by dfriedman at 12:17 PM on September 6, 2009

Everyone I know who listens to Venetian Snares makes electronic music, and he's probably painfully unlistenable for everyone else. See also: Matmos, who has the added pretension of lofty concept albums (ex: Supreme Balloon is 100% synth, A Viable Alternative to Actual Sexual Contact is constructed out of gay porn samples).

matmos and vsnares please forgive me
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Miles? Pfft. How about Cecil Taylor?
posted by box at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tie-dyed shirts and intaglio relief etching have very distinct followings. Despite the, "would you like to come up and see my etchings," gambit, Ill bet a really distinctive tie dye will tally more favor.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:22 PM on September 6, 2009

In conversation last week, my interlocutor, a tympanist, claimed that Hadyn was a composer's composer. I don't know that I believe that statement entirely, but I do believe there is an extra nuance and beauty in Hadyn not found in say, Carl Orf. But I'm not a composer, or a professional musician by any stretch. I might suggest that in general, with music at least. the more subtle and subdued the virtuoso gestures are, the more likely the are to be appreciated only by people paying really close attention... i.e. experts.
In thinking about this more there is, I believe, a reasonably tight analogue of this notion in the sciences. I can't think of a really good specific example but I believe that there is, within some disciplines a high value placed on the work that answers a deep fundamental question using very simple, elegant measures. A blazing new brilliant technique or bold claims towards curing death/cancer/misery is cool and all and gets press, but if you can uncover or explain a basic, yet complicated mechanism using rigourous yet straightforward methods, mainly by thinking a lot about what you're doing, other scientists seem pretty impressed. Impressed, that is, if they've spent some time previously thinking about the same thing and can appreciate what nuanced, novel solutions you've applied to an old problem. No one outside your field will value it as highly, but that's okay.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 12:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

From a film student: Peter Greenaway, Orson Welles, Yasujirō Ozu.

"Ozu is the ultimate director for directors. He's so slow that most people are just like, 'I can't stand this.'"
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Also, Cloud Gate is entirely lost on the public, whereas most artists in the know think it's one of the greatest sculptures ever made. It's sheer size and reflectivity make it a huge tourist attraction, but no one really knows anything about it, other than that it looks like "a bean".
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 12:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hey, I would just like to say that I am looking for answers about things the experienced vs. inexperienced tend to like, not judgment or direct insult to those who are less educated or experienced.
posted by idiopath at 12:26 PM on September 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

More broadly, though, I think this kind of thing is so widespread and ubiquitous that the question borders on a survey.

I don't know anything about mariachi music, or modern dance, or romance novels, but I strongly suspect that there are people that have millions of casual fans, and then there are people that are beloved by critics and cognoscenti. After all, that's how it goes with hip-hop and jazz and detective novels and documentary movies and stand-up comedians and video games and everything else.
posted by box at 12:26 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

box: my interest in this question comes from wanting to learn to better appreciate a wider number of artistic media, and knowing what kind of thing only is liked by the expert may help in learning what to look for that that medium in particular has to offer. I should have made this more clear in my question.
posted by idiopath at 12:31 PM on September 6, 2009

Real football vs. American football

You've got to have some sort of expert training to stay both awake and away from the remote for a whole soccer game.

Anyway, my contribution: soft and mushy dinner rolls versus something with a good crusty texture.
posted by codswallop at 12:33 PM on September 6, 2009

What, bread ain't art?
posted by codswallop at 12:33 PM on September 6, 2009

Something interesting I've noticed: certain types of weird or absurdist humor appeal in an inverse bell curve. People who don't really 'get' humor like it because it's so wacky, people who really appreciate humor like it because it's unexpected/daring/subversive, and everyone in between thinks "What is this shit?"
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Have you read Carl Wilson's terrific Let's Talk About Love: A Journey To The End Of Taste, about Celine Dion but really about rock criticism/snobbery vs. popular appeal and the recent turn in criticism towards a more sociological/empathetic approach towards thinking and writing about music, rather than taste judgments from on high? Because it is terrific.
posted by Casuistry at 12:39 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ulysses, Finnegan's Wake
posted by kathrineg at 12:39 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Loved by the masses: chicken tikka masala, Chuck Palahniuk (knew lots of people in high school who loved him; haven't heard his name mentioned since I went to grad school for writing).

Loved almost entirely by those with English degrees: Ulysses.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Damn, kathrineg beat me to it!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2009

I teach foundation in the visual arts and showing Paul Klee to a group of nonmajors is very difficult. Most experienced artists appreciate the difficulty of achieving the elegance, grace and symbolism of his works, yet nonartists catcall when I show his work as child's art. Breaks me heart.
posted by effluvia at 12:43 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

One more little nudge to your answerers: even if you think it is obvious and self evident, please specify which things you are saying to be liked by the experienced / inexperienced because, for example I am a little dense about dinner rolls, which is which?
posted by idiopath at 12:43 PM on September 6, 2009

posted by synecdoche at 12:48 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

(Even within this graduate English program at a Canadian university, the Americanists seem to love it and everybody else wonders why the hell we ever slogged through it in the first place.)
posted by synecdoche at 12:49 PM on September 6, 2009

Yarn. I knit/crochet casually, so I don't mind using acrylic yarn. Others would balk at using anything other than merino wool. I think this would apply to any art--the more experienced "masters" will want to use only the best materials and equipment while the casual hobbyist doesn't really care to make that kind of investment.
posted by asras at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2009

I'll take a shot at romance novels:
Loved by the masses: Harlequin romances, Mills and Boons
Loved by the people who write crappy romance novels (and me): Georgette Heyer
posted by peacheater at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, I find the whole [x]'s [x] thing rather bogus. In my opinion if you are playing music that can only be appreciated by other musicians and not by regular people, you have failed rather badly, because to some extent you are just perpetrating a masturbatory inside joke. That said, great art does tend to have "levels" to it- it can be appreciated on both a simple and more in-depth "insider" level.

In screenwriting/filmmaking, I would say the people who are not taken seriously by those in the craft are the style-over-substance "indie" people: Diablo Cody, Sofia Coppola, and most of all Paul Haggis ("Crash") - the term "faux-teur" was, I believe, coined specifically to describe him. There are also "Oscar-grubbers" like Ron Howard, and I think it goes without saying most people who care about film don't take Michael Bay seriously.

Charlie Kaufman on the other hand, is someone who's work is taken extremely seriously by anyone who cares about screenwriting.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:53 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

posted by kathrineg at 12:54 PM on September 6, 2009 [8 favorites]

Re: music: people who don't take music very seriously tend to discount certain artists because they are "pop" - if you hear someone speaking dismissively about ABBA or especially The Beach Boys, they are not serious about music.

And anyone who claims to like "everything but country" is emphatically not worth having a conversation about music with.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2009 [10 favorites]

Oh, and this is kind of veering off into the side area of "academics vs people who actually like books," but if you ever hear someone criticize Hemingway because he "never wrote a strong female character" or was "too macho," run a mile from that person.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:03 PM on September 6, 2009

Once more: fewer judgment calls and insults about the experts or the nonexperts, if you please, thanks in advance.
posted by idiopath at 1:05 PM on September 6, 2009

DJs like Basic Channel. Trancers like Tiesto.
posted by dydecker at 1:06 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Transformers vs. Citizen Kane
posted by jasondigitized at 1:13 PM on September 6, 2009

The yarn thing goes further than what it's made of, even. People who spin their own yarn can make it better suited for one application or another (like spinning yarn with different qualities for socks and sweaters). Once you get into processing raw fleece for spinning, you can even get picky about which parts of a fleece you use for what, or what breeds of sheep produce wool that's best for the purpose you have in mind. Fibre artists who use millspun yarns exclusively don't have fine-grained control over that sort of thing and may not know what to look for.
posted by bewilderbeast at 1:14 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Bukowski -- "That is why he is so easy to love, especially for novice readers with little experience of the genuine challenges of poetry; and why, for more demanding readers, he remains so hard to admire."
posted by pracowity at 1:14 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know about that, drjimmy -- there's stuff that I love to work on, critically, because it's interesting, challenging, or provides masses of lovely textual/rhetorical/cultural hooks to hang critical responses on. And then there's stuff that I enjoy, simply, as a pleasure to read or a great night of theatre -- sometimes the two overlap and sometimes they don't.
Anthony & Cleopatra or Coriolanus are fascinating works to dig into, but rather dull in performance. Much Ado About Nothing is much less critically rich, but it's my favorite of the comedies, and I almost always enjoy it, even when badly done.
posted by jrochest at 1:14 PM on September 6, 2009


Inexperienced: Perennial punchline Rob Liefeld still sells books, though his heyday was in the early nineties. Basically, his the comic equivalent of a Michael Bay movie, ignoring coherency and story in favour of loud and brash spectacle.

Experienced: Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy is considered by many knowledgeable folks to be one of the purest examples of cartooning in terms of structure and storytelling while many just see a hokey gag strip. Here's a brief analysis of the strip (Direct link to PDF).
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2009 [8 favorites]

The proper golf ball can make a difference. The Titleist Pro V1 vs. something off the K-Mart shelf. The three-piece Pro V1 has an ionomer casing for better spin control, as well as dimple arrangement that aids flight consistency. The urethane elastomer cover of the Pro V1 is abrasion-resistant yet provides a nice soft feel. Yes, the Pro V1 is expensive, but if you have become a better than average golfer, it can make a difference in your game.
posted by netbros at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2009

In photography, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand are hailed as masters by those well-versed in the medium. Whereas Ansel Adams or Annie Liebowitz are popular with the masses and often derided by the cognoscenti (though I happen to like all four of them).
posted by johngumbo at 1:23 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

In Science Fiction, writers like Gene Wolfe, Samuel R. Delaney, Gardner Dozois, Frederik Pohl, Stanislaw Lem, and Kim Stanley Robinson get a ton of critical praise, but the average fan has heard of none of them and thinks Orson Scott Card is the pinnacle of the craft (Ender's Game was just so awesome, man!).

In literature more generally, the phenomenon is so widespread as to be meaningless. Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, McCarthy, Pynchon, Nabokov... all are considered greats by “experts,” but I know almost nobody who has read them. I know a few people who have read McCarthy and bounced off Faulkner because of Oprah's book club selections, but that's more the exception that proves the rule than anything.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

Ayn Rand is, in my experience, only appreciated by people who have never read any other philosophy (and her novels are hated by most literature buffs). Zen and The Art of Motorcycle maintenance has essentially nothing to do with Zen, but again, hugely popular.

Richard Dawkins is generally not viewed kindly by more informed atheists.

Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, and Martin Buber are names that many hardcore abrahamic theists adore that most casually religious people will never hear about. Televangelists are reviled by most serious Christians, but again, gather a huge flock.

As far as your example goes, Atonal music has been a popular topic in academic music for almost a century, and is listened to almost exclusively by musical experts.

Malcolm Gladwell seems to be hated by any discipline he attempts to popularize. He's also one of the most consistent bestselling authors.

Within the electronic music community live coding is appreciated mostly by other electronic musicians - I have yet to meet anyone who enjoyed it who wasn't interested in doing it.

Girl Talk is not well liked amongst people who have used Ableton Live.

Typographers hate popular fonts like Papyrus and Arial, amongst others.

Really coffee aficionados hate Starbucks.
posted by phrontist at 1:36 PM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

DTM, WRC, etc. vs. NASCAR
posted by Thorzdad at 1:38 PM on September 6, 2009

John Ashbery seems to be loved only by poetry experts.
posted by jayder at 1:41 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd never call myself an EXPERT on anything, but I have spent a fare chunk of my life writing, making, seeing, reading about, writing about cinema.

Quentin Tarantino then is a very interesting discussion point because I can instantly see him on both sides of your point. To my mind, the two Kill Bills are really substandard, self-indulgent crap and I deeply regret the three plus hours of my life I spent with them ... and yet, their popularity among the "less experienced or educated casual consumers" is undeniable.

Inglorious Basterds, on the other hand, succeeds in every way that the Kill Bills do not (ie: it's a genuinely "meta" work of art that succeeds precisely because Tarantino is using it to unflinchingly examine his deep love of the cinematic art form). Granted, it's proving successful with a fairly wide demographic but I suspect that only a true so-called expert with a firm grasp of cinematic history (both as an art form and a cultural force) "gets" how standalone brilliant it really is ... right up to the last line of dialogue.
posted by philip-random at 1:54 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

What The Bleep Do We Know?!?! is where most people who have an opinion on quantum mechanics got it. Not a single person who knows anything about the subject will endorse it.

Feynman is the physicist's physicist. Paul Erdos fills the same role in math.

Times Square is only the center of New York to people who don't live there.

Amélie represents french film for a huge number of people who neither have nor will watch other french cinema.

The Dalai Llama is thought to be extremely important to Buddhism only by non-buddhists.
posted by phrontist at 1:57 PM on September 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

Loved almost entirely by those with English degrees: Ulysses.

I would guess that a fairly sizable number of people who love Ulysses do in fact have English (or related) degrees, but I wouldn't guess that a fairly high number of English majors in general love Ulysses. (This is because -- and I say this not to be judgmental or snobby, but merely as an observation -- most of them haven't read it, as its length/reputation/etc. mean that it's entirely possible to get a degree in English without ever going anywhere near Ulysses.)

That said, I do agree that Ulysses is probably one of the best examples of a novel that is general viewed (unfortunately, in my opinion) as only able to be appreciated by experts, and unreadable to everyone else. Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway is another good example.

For literary works outside the high modernist canon, one of the first that jumps to mind as well for me is Paradise Lost. It's extraordinarily good, and I am grateful that I was essentially forced to read it in the course of acquiring my own English degree, because its reputation as being hideously boring would have probably kept me from ever reading it on my own.
posted by scody at 2:08 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

In longform improv, audiences unfamiliar with the form tend to love really broad scenes with crass humor or outrageous dialogue. I've seen a room of experienced improvisers regard the same type of scenes (unless done extraordinarily well) with a polite silence tinged with some pity claps thrown in at the end, and a few murmured conversations afterwards about how hard it is when you're "still learning".

Likewise, I've seen amazing alt comedy performances that wouldn't even read as comedy to the average Dane Cook fan - someone pretending to be asleep for five minutes, two guys eating sandwiches in silence, a very awkward family therapy session with no punchlines, etc. I've also seen serious comedy nerds go to all 5 performances of a comedian's 5-show engagement - to hear the same jokes over and over - just to see the chemistry experiment that is tone, delivery, the audience's reaction, etc.
posted by SassHat at 2:10 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

Everyone I know who listens to Venetian Snares makes electronic music, and he's probably painfully unlistenable for everyone else.

Hello there. I like Venetian Snares. I don't make electronic music. Though I do prefer something like Rossz csillag... which is tempered with the melodic, orchestral bits. I guess all I'm saying is that something like Squarepusher's Red Hot Car had broader appeal and if you look at some of the other stuff on Go Plastic, it's not that far a leap to get to Venetian Snares.
posted by juv3nal at 2:16 PM on September 6, 2009

Oh, and I just wanted to chime back in to agree re: Rothko, Pollack, et al. with the whole "what's the big deal, my kid could paint that" thing (though it definitely comes up more, in my experience, regarding Pollack). This also holds true for lots of non-abstract modern art as well, from Picasso and Duchamp to Johns and Warhol.

The flip side to being viewed as an expert in modern and/or contemporary art, however, is that you're often assumed to like everything that's popularly viewed as unable to be understood by "the masses." I am frequently asked to explain by my non-art pals why Koons is so damn great, for example, and my answer is always "he's not."
posted by scody at 2:23 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Board games: Most people enjoy games like Cranium, Pictionary, or Monopoly, while board-game aficionados tend to prefer German-style board games which most people have never heard of (Settlers of Catan being the most well-known)
posted by lsemel at 2:26 PM on September 6, 2009 [8 favorites]

Folks not so versed in juggling love Chris Bliss while the initiated swoon for the likes of Anthony Gatto, Tony Pezzo, Vova Galchenko, and Wes Peden.
posted by ThomThomThomThom at 2:32 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nthing so-called "atonal" music, including but not limited to modernist and aleatoric styles.

I'm thinking along the lines of John Cage's 4'33", Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne's Maggot, and Birtwistle's Punch and Judy.

Oh, and Boulez. Ayep.
posted by AAAAAThatsFiveAs at 2:41 PM on September 6, 2009

The initiates in the world of IDM electronica go for Aphex Twin, Autechre, and Squarepusher. The more knowledged run for Gridlock, Hecq, or likewise.

(I guess this can be broken down label-wise, too; Warp is the big label while smaller ones include n5MD.)

Great question!
posted by zer0render at 2:51 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

In literature more generally, the phenomenon is so widespread as to be meaningless. Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, McCarthy, Pynchon, Nabokov... all are considered greats by “experts,” but I know almost nobody who has read them. I know a few people who have read McCarthy and bounced off Faulkner because of Oprah's book club selections, but that's more the exception that proves the rule than anything.

I feel like this doesn't quite fit. It'd be like calling Pucci a musician's musician. Opera is no longer a popular form, but within his genre he's central; anyone who likes opera knows who he is and admits his importance. If you're looking at "all readers" then plenty of the practicioners of literary fiction aren't widely read, but I don't think it'd make sense to call Hemmingway or Faulkner writer's writer's; anyone who reads literary fiction knows who they are and has probably read one of their books (whether or not they liked it is another matter).

If we're talking literary fiction...well, shot story writers often get the shaft anyway, but I'd say Alice Munro, Raymond Carver and Lorrie Moore are all writers who are widely praised by writers but not perhaps as well known to the average reader. And I'd say Keroac and William Burroughs are quite popular with a certain stripe of young 'un but not as well regrded as sytlists as their reputations would suggest.
posted by Diablevert at 2:54 PM on September 6, 2009

Sweet wine. A wine connoisseur will (with the exception of a handful of styles) not smile on sweet wines. People who are not win connoisseurs want Kool-Aid with a hint of tannin.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:56 PM on September 6, 2009

Oh man, one more music one: the naive can believe that Green Day and (I hesitate to say this) the Sex Pistols are "true" punk. The true old-school anarchist punks will take Crass any day.
posted by zer0render at 2:58 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The theatre world sort of loves to play this game since most companies make money by producing the most popular pieces. Sometimes the lesser known works are better, other times it's just the excitement of seeing them with fresh eyes and/or snob appeal that makes them seem better, so I really wouldn't attach a judgment to most of the pairs listed below. In no particular order and totally off the top of my head:

Macbeth vs. King Lear
A Midsummer Night's Dream vs. Winter's Tale
Getting really excited about the histories is pretty much marks you as an insider.

Arcadia and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead vs. Travesties and The Real Thing

Ibsen vs. Strindberg (and you could further divide this into Miss Julie vs. A Dream Play)

Raisin in the Sun vs. Les Blancs

La Boheme vs. Turandot (with the appropriate amount of hand-wringing over the cultural appropriation, emotional manipulation, and the unfinished ending- bonus points for wanting to end the opera where Puccini died instead of picking one of the endings by other composers)

Gypsy and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum vs. Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park With George

There's also a lot of insider love for Woyczek in any form and anything by Caryl Churchill or Sarah Kane. Community theatre staples like Our Town, Noises Off, and The Importance of Being Ernest, despite being good plays, are for outsiders.

And of course insiders write "theatre" outsiders write "theater".
posted by Thin Lizzy at 3:08 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I practiced Iaido for about a decade (and keep meaning to go back to it). It's a category of Japanese martial arts that deals with the Japanese sword.

A good number of clueless people like stuff like this.

Experts and traditionalists prefer this.
posted by splice at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

In classical music, twelve tone (or serialism) is generally appreciated by people who have studied it and been forced to absorb a lot of it, to other people it can sound like a 5 year old slapping their hands on the keyboard.
posted by Admira at 3:22 PM on September 6, 2009

I'll just add a few re classic jazz:

Stan Getz- no, Warne Marsh - yes
Ray Brown - no, Paul Chambers - yes
Oscar Peterson - no, Bud Powell - yes
Stan Kenton - no, Duke Ellington - yes
Wynton Marsallis - no, Don Cherry - yes
posted by charlesminus at 3:24 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Architecture: the unwashed masses love so called "Georgian" or "Victorian" knockoffs, or any kind of regional pastiche, whereas most architects, of my aquaintance at least, like high modernism, Mies, Le Corbusier etc., concrete, steel and glass boxes, or highly intellectual neo-post-whatever-modernists like Koolhass or Hadid.
Gehry is sort a halfway point, hated and admired by Architects and non-Architects in uneven measures.
posted by signal at 3:29 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

The wine comment above reminded me of cheese aficionados. I have even found myself, as a beginner cheese snob, making a distinction between the kind of cheese produced in bulk and sold through distributors verses the small-batch artisinal cheese. You've got your fancy cheeses sold in the Safeway deli area, then you've got your Whole Foods cheeses, a definitely step up and then you've got cheeses from the Farmer's Market or bought directly from the cheesemaker. The smaller the batch, the more funky the taste, the better. And when you get to the stinky cheeses, it's like the more atrocious it is, the more sought after it becomes. I have to remember that the large batch stuff from Whole Foods is just as good and my guests will be happier.
posted by amanda at 3:31 PM on September 6, 2009


Please. OpenBSD.
posted by dubitable at 3:41 PM on September 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Newcomers to anime usually like Deathnote and Naruto, and have only seen the English dubbed versions, either through legally purchased DVDs or on video streaming sites. Hardcore otaku like Pani Poni Dash, Bakemonogatari and Paranoia Agent, subtitled, obtained through members-only torrent trackers.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:42 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

phrontist: Feynman is the physicist's physicist. Paul Erdos fills the same role in math.

Not all mathematicians would say this about Erdos. Some people would probably say that Erdos solved lots of problems but didn't do much "theoretical" work -- in the "two cultures" view of mathematics that people like Gowers have proposed, with problem solvers on one side and theory builders on the other. These people would perhaps not appreciate Erdos' work, and probably say Grothendieck fills the role of "mathematician's mathematician", at least if we're restricting ourselves to known eccentrics.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:43 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

The Dalai Llama [sic] is thought to be extremely important to Buddhism only by non-buddhists.

False. The Dalai Lama ("the one-Lama, he's a priest") is extremely important to thousands of displaced Tibetans living in the United States, at the very least. It's wrong and a little offensive to claim they aren't Buddhists.

Also, to add to the various "art" answers above, almost all of geometric abstraction and minimalism mystifies people when they first come to it. Sol Lewitt's wall drawings, in which the work consists of a set of geometric instructions for creating the drawing which can (and should) be executed literally by anyone, are good examples.

Perhaps the most famous example of this -- in which the issue was actually tried in Court and the "public" "beat" the "experts" -- was Richard Serra's Tilted Arc (aka "The Ugly Fucking Wall").
posted by The Bellman at 3:49 PM on September 6, 2009

Television writers watch a lot of the things that sophisticated non-professionals like. The Wire is held in high, high regard. However, they also know how hard it is to produce well-crafted mainstream stuff and therefore tend to hold the golden ages of shows like Law & Order and Friends in higher esteem than the educated amateur.
posted by Bookhouse at 3:50 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Please. OpenBSD.

In that vein: AIX.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 4:02 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Minimalists and Post-Minimalists. Even beginning art students are mystified by these artists, as well as grad students in the art program I am in. Hell, my husband doesn't know why I like Eva Hesse so much. It's so hard to explain unless you are in that initiated club and trying to explain it to the uninitiated usually leads to the "well that's not art!" argument (at least in my experience).

On the whole, personally, I think that once "art" leaves the canvas, leaves marble/bronze, a lot of viewers don't see what the experts see. The Sots-Art duo Komar and Melamid examined this phenomenon in their painting series called The People's Choice.

No one gets this either.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 4:32 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, McCarthy, Pynchon, Nabokov... all are considered greats by “experts,” but I know almost nobody who has read them.

As Diablevert says, this is way too broad a generalization to be meaningful, and really underestimates just how many people do, in fact, read 20th-century literary fiction. Among my circle of friends, I know virtually no one who hasn't read and enjoyed at least one or two of these authors, and yet the vast majority of my friends are neither literary experts nor even English majors. My boyfriend didn't go to college, and yet he happens to love Joyce's Dubliners and several Hemingway novels.
posted by scody at 4:40 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


madcaptenor said what I would have said about Erdos and Grothendeick.

Some world-changing mathematicians whose work is hard to explain to outsiders: Alexander Grothendieck, William Thurston, Jean-Pierre Serre, Henri Poincare.

Some mathematicians who are authentically really great, but who play a disproportionate role in the image of mathematics among non-mathematicians due to a combination of a) proving results that are (relatively) easy to describe, and b) having popular biographies written about them: Paul Erdos, Srinivasa Ramanujan, John Nash.

For what it's worth, I tried my very best to provide a layperson's description of the Grothendieck revolution here.
posted by escabeche at 4:52 PM on September 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

underestimates just how many people do, in fact, read 20th-century literary fiction

Oh, and by this I don't mean to suggest that 20th-century literary fiction is as widely read as other types of popular fiction; obviously, Harry Potter sells more than Hemingway. But Hemingway is in fact no slouch when it comes to sales; his titles still sell about a million annually. So clearly it's more than just a few experts who are reading For Whom the Bell Tolls.

posted by scody at 4:53 PM on September 6, 2009

Fascinating thread. I'll throw in an example, I used to be quite into comedy and Chris Morris was always the avant garde option.

I've thought quite a lot about this phenonenon and for me I think it's quite central to a lot of criticism. People tend to believe that the opinions of those who know more about a given subject are more valid than those of non-specialists. They then take these expert opinions to be 'true' in some way.

The way I see it, all the opinons are equally valid, but specialists simply appreciate more complex and subtle works that would go over the head of the average punter. You then get the tragedy of aspirational non-specialists desperately trying to enjoy things that they don't really like because they feel they should, be it jazz or opera or whatever.

I reckon that if these people followed their interests and consumed the works that really interested them, they might find that in a few years they were drawn to the more complex works as they'd gotten bored of the more mainstream, simpler fare.
posted by greytape at 4:59 PM on September 6, 2009 [9 favorites]

Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, McCarthy, Pynchon, Nabokov... all are considered greats by “experts,” but I know almost nobody who has read them.

Gah! Sure, lots of non-mefites haven't bothered with Gravity's Rainbow, but most post-war American schoolchildren are assigned "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," Old Man and the Sea, As I Lay Dying, etc.

Literature's status in modern culture complicates this question, as there are plenty of excellent writers out there who aren't read, not because they're inaccessible, but because lots of people just don't like reading. Lorrie Moore, mentioned upthread, is enormously accessible and funny, but you won't know that until you resolve to sit down and read her.

There was a huge division in high modernist poetry in the post-WWI era that pitted erudite polyglots like Ezra Pound against plainspeaking poets like William Carlos Williams. TS Eliot and Pound, among others, felt poetry was an elite occupation intending for an educated, sensitive audience. Williams saw their poetry as bombastic grandstanding formulated to alienate the typical reader, hence his poems about every items like plums, red wagons, and trains. This isn't to say his poetry wasn't as smart or plotted-out as the high modernists, but Williams steered clear of writing in Sanskrit and referencing ancient Japanese runes.

Recent poet laureate Billy Collins writes such simplistic poetry that, to my picky English major ears, resembles a diary entry. He's quite popular with people who like poetry to be basic, hefty, and vastly non-academic. On the other hand, I spend lots of time selling people on Anne Carson, who's beloved in the poetry world and absolutely unknown elsewhere. She's repeatedly been called a poet's poet, which is not always a flattering epithet, because she often uses classical references, confining poetic structures, and terse, academic language.
posted by zoomorphic at 5:01 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Literature is assigned but rarely enjoyed, so remember that many of those Hemingway/Faulkner copies go unread forever. I know a lot of people who are otherwise intelligent who don't read at all after high school and college; I also know a large number of people who read but only read Stephen King, or Dan Brown, or Twilight. That's why I said the phenomenon is too widespread to be meaningful in literature as a whole. To some degree, the people who read and enjoy Nabokov, Pynchon, McCarthy, etc. are “experts;” it's just that the population of readers is so large that it is harder to discern the “writer's writers” in literary fiction than it is to do so in a subgenre like SF or another medium entirely, like, say, Japanese cinema.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:08 PM on September 6, 2009

I was actually gonna give Koons as the opposite example... or maybe a slightly different example.

In my experience Koons (Hirst creates a similar divide) creates three camps:

1. The complete layman who "just doesn't get it," or maybe thinks the ceramic sculptures are funny.

2. The dabblers and/or elitists/purists who are pissed off by him. The only thing that people in this category almost ever say about him is that he was once a stock broker, and that his flower puppies are not good. Sorry, but I'm gonna digress here.

So what if he was a stock broker? It's expensive to make those things, and by his own account he took it up to pay for his pieces.

And about the puppy... those who mention it as a negative either don't know or fail to mention that it was created after thinking about another installation centered around Louis XIV for some biennale or other. There was a room decked out in this comically Victorian style with Louis featured prominently. The view from this room's window would have been the flower puppy, the obvious choice of topiary for an absurdly Victorian monarch. C'mon. He uses the word "banal" regularly in talking about and titling his work and shows.

3. The (in my experience) more thoughtful people, mostly artists, who recognize the ballet of commerce, culture and banailty that he directs.
posted by cmoj at 5:17 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Wii is generally owned by casual gamers. Hardcore gamers will have more than one console, and will add fuel to the 360 vs PS3 fire.

Games like Deus Ex and Planescape: Torment are generally considered more "highbrow" due to their story.
posted by movicont at 5:30 PM on September 6, 2009

The (in my experience) more thoughtful people, mostly artists, who recognize the ballet of commerce, culture and banailty that he directs.

I'm a thoughtful person, I work in an art museum, I know a ton of artists and art historians, and I (and plenty of the artists and historians who also don't like him) recognize perfectly well that Koons's work represents an intersection of commerce, culture, and banality. "Ballet" is not the word I'd use to describe it, though. That doesn't make me an elitist; it makes me tired of the same multi-million dollar joke he insists on telling.
posted by scody at 5:32 PM on September 6, 2009

Fussy, Frenchy, haute cuisine vs. barbequed, grilled, tailgate food.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:32 PM on September 6, 2009

I'm sure this question is more than answered but, I'd like to add:

Radiohead and Coldplay

The amusing addendum is that Chris Martin of Coldplay is aware of their status in the art/pop/rock heirarchy. I remember reading an interview of his in Q magazine a few years back and he was attributed with saying "I don't think we'd exist if Radiohead didn't exist. I think we're like why Diet Coke was big. Because some people couldn't handle Coke. That's how I see Coldplay."

It was an interview with Ricky Gervais, on his site.
posted by swimbikerun at 5:41 PM on September 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Literature is assigned but rarely enjoyed, so remember that many of those Hemingway/Faulkner copies go unread forever. I know a lot of people who are otherwise intelligent who don't read at all after high school and college; I also know a large number of people who read but only read Stephen King, or Dan Brown, or Twilight.

I don't really want to derail this fun thread, but the assumption that literature is "assigned but rarely enjoyed" is facetious at best. Yes, literature has suffered in the late twentieth and twenty-first century, but I'd seriously bet this has a lot less to do with literature's intrinsically palatable nature and more to do with raising a nation of kids on attention span-killing video games, TV, internet, and the like. The fact that enduring classics assigned in school (Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grendel, Old Man and the Sea, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice) are still wildly popular among teens and adults testify that when people are, yes, made to use their brains for something more than cruising Google News Reader, they actually quite enjoy their reading material. Most of my friends have read all the authors you've mentioned above, and we do discuss them on a regular basis. Add David Foster Wallace, Lorrie Moore, Amy Bloom, Coetzee, and Zadie Smith to that mix. The sheer number of "What other authors should I read?" threads on Ask Metafilter testify that plenty of people do not see quality literature as a chore.
posted by zoomorphic at 5:57 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but you and your friends are not typical, zoomorphic. You should work in a public school sometime, or a local community college. This will expose you to a different demographic of readers.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:03 PM on September 6, 2009

Cmoj, the point is not that he worked on Wall Street and has a lot of money (and yes, it is exorbitantly expensive to create art on that scale), it's the fact that he makes the same thing over and over again, like Scody said. I sincerely hope that I'm not coming across as an elitist jerk just because Mrs. ThaBombShelterSmith is in an MFA program, but this a perfect example of how some people see his work by either being 'in the club' or just by being the normal viewing audience. I'm not saying one way or the other that you're one of those people, but this disagreement is the whole point of the thread.

This is the best MeFi thread ever.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:21 PM on September 6, 2009

In spite of occasionally writing beautiful songs like this and this, Television are barely appreciated outside of guitarists, rock critics, and CBGB fans.

Unrelatedly, you might want to check SnobSite and their guides to rock and film snobbery.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:21 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have noticed that a key distinction between the true experts and "aspirational consumers" (as someone upthread referred to them) is that the true experts are often less dismissive of things that aspirational consumers dismiss.

Aspirational consumers are afflicted by a kind of status anxiety --- they are quick to dismiss things as a way of signalling that they are "in the know."

True experts --- being well-versed in a field, and with years of experience --- are often drawn to productions for reasons that go "over the heads" of aspirational amateurs. So while a pretentious college student may eschew Billy Joel's music (totally random example) as pitifully low-brow, there may be an avant-garde composer who really enjoys some very refined aspect of what Billy Joel does. So when the avant-garde composer is being interviewed about American music he likes, heads spin when he answers "Billy Joel." The avant-garde composer's taste credentials are beyond question, so he feels freer to admire things that are widely regarded as middlebrow.

Aspirational amateurs often hold tightly to romantic notions of what art should be, where true experts may have more democratic tastes because, having strong knowledge of the formal requirements of their art, they see merit in a wide range of art.

This is why I agree with whoever upthread said that many thoughtful artists and art theorists "get" what Jeff Koons does.
posted by jayder at 6:24 PM on September 6, 2009 [35 favorites]

Fussy, Frenchy, haute cuisine vs. barbequed, grilled, tailgate food.

I call shenanigans on this answer. While many top chefs study French cuisine, it's place at the top of the culinary world is quickly fading. Meanwhile, things like well-made barbecue are worshipped by foodies and chefs.

If you're looking for an answer of what experts like in the food world that amateurs don't, my best guess would be offal.
posted by Bookhouse at 6:31 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Just as a side point: another good question would be to ask about pieces of art that are both accessible and enjoyable to laypeople AND critically rich for the expert.

Flannery O'Connor, for example.

also, n-thing atonal/modern music.
posted by chicago2penn at 6:32 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

The shift in tastes of wine drinkers can also be seen with beer drinkers, the Budweiser/Miller/Coors watery lagers vs. IPAs or other assertive beers.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:54 PM on September 6, 2009

I can't believe that no one has yet mentioned Stephen Sondheim vs. Andrew Lloyd Webber! Or perhaps Stephen Sondheim vs. Jerry Herman: Sondheim's innovative musical "Sunday in the Park with George" won the Pulitzer Prize but was defeated at the Tony Awards by Herman's musical comedy "La Cage Aux Folles," and some people are still angry about that.

Other plays seen as middlebrow: Neil Simon comedies, "The Miracle Worker"

I agree with the previous nominations of Sarah Kane, Caryl Churchill, and Georg Büchner (Woyzeck) as favorites of theater insiders. Also perhaps Anton Chekhov: his style is hugely influential, but the characters and plots he created haven't really seeped into the popular consciousness.
posted by clair-de-lune at 7:01 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

The shift in tastes of wine drinkers can also be seen with beer drinkers, the Budweiser/Miller/Coors watery lagers vs. IPAs or other assertive beers.

There was a recent New Yorker article dealing with the beer industry, and a very distinguished European brew-master was interviewed about what his favorite American beer was, and he said, "Budweiser."

It sort of goes along with my comment above, to the effect that the people with the most elevated tastes and educations often end up admiring things that are widely regarded as middlebrow.
posted by jayder at 7:22 PM on September 6, 2009

Aspirational amateurs ...

Generally between the ages of 18-26, old enough to actually be COOL. Too young to realize how stupid that sounds.
posted by philip-random at 7:33 PM on September 6, 2009

I reckon that if these people followed their interests and consumed the works that really interested them, they might find that in a few years they were drawn to the more complex works as they'd gotten bored of the more mainstream, simpler fare.

I thought this post was the most insightful one I've seen so far, and said what I wish I could have said in a completely non-judgmental, useful way. Yes, most definitely.

Plus, I fucking love Chris Morris. That guy is hilarious.

Oh, and in response to AIX, which was responding to my post, yes, I've heard this is great...never messed with it myself. To be perfectly honest, I spend most of my time dicking around on OS X these days, so I'm pretty far from elite in that sense. I don't really care, although I'm always impressed with real sysadmins. I also think Linux is just fine (I know it better than any other *nix, that's for sure) and the guys writing it are certainly smarter than me...I've just always had a soft spot for OpenBSD. Only installed it once though.
posted by dubitable at 8:00 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum
Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code
posted by carsonb at 8:16 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

While I think Guy Maddin, Lars Von Trier, Ozu, Jim Jarmusch, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean Renoir and other filmmakers mentioned here are right on, in terms of analagousness to the crayon pictures, a good filmmaker whose talents would not be properly appreciated by lapeople, and seen as something quite different from what experts see in it, is Douglas Sirk.

Spielberg is actually shockingly vapid as art and unloved by the really high echelon of cinephiles as an artist, but film is also an industry and all that, so there's no single-mindedness allowed, and many ways to love different kinds of junk and gems.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:28 PM on September 6, 2009

Wagner's music is better than it sounds.

Or is that the opposite of what your asking?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:37 PM on September 6, 2009

n00b H2O: Evian, Fiji.

H2O 501: Volvic, SmartWater.

H2O PhD: NYC tap water, Brita/Pur + reusable BPA-free canteen
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:41 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the food world (and from an American point of view):

Sushi newbies stick to familiar neta like tuna, yellowtail, salmon, cooked shrimp and egg, while self-appointed sushi afficionados mix it up with octopus or raw red clam or 'hikarimono' (blue fish); the 'sushi expert' always lets the chef choose (omakase). And then there are the über-trendy who regard sushi as passé and say ramen (or okonomiyaki, or whatever) is where Japanese food is at now.

Chefs and foodies rave about 'umami', others wonder what's the big deal and regard it as a fad or something. (Well, in the U.S. anyway. In Japan umami is just regarded as one of the five basic flavors.)

The casual eater just goes for generic Chinese and doesn't mind the kind served at food courts, while serious eaters have their favorite Szechuan, Hunan, Hakka, Cantonese, and so on, and draw a distinction between Shanghai style dumplings vs. Hong Kong style dim sum, etc. (They tended to look down on Cantonese until recently, but I think this is changing.)

The casual diner thinks spaghetti and meatballs is Italian; on the other end of the spectrum are those who insist on calling the same spaghetti and meatballs as Italian American, draw distinctions between various regions of Italy, rave about stuff like fennel pollen, and regard eating pasta with a spoon to be too unauthentic.

And then there are the barbeque purists...

Also: While many top chefs study French cuisine, it's place at the top of the culinary world is quickly fading.

Not really. There is a lingering anti-French cuisine school of thought, and then there are people who fall in love with it. I do not think that any experienced chef would denigrate the fundamentals of French haute cuisine, though it may not be their own style. On the other hand, a lot of people are suspicious of any food/cuisine that they regard as 'too fancy'.

(The current Cookbook bestseller list on Amazon is interesting. Granted, the appearence of both volumes of Mastering The Art of French Cooking in the top 5 is mostly to do with the release of the movie Julie/Julia, but people are still willing to pay for the hefty volumes. Also interesting that The Pioneer Woman Cooks book is at no. 2, because The Pioneer Woman is as populist and All-American (with the requisite hipster-ishness thrown in) as they come.)
posted by thread_makimaki at 8:42 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

False. The Dalai Lama ("the one-Lama, he's a priest") is extremely important to thousands of displaced Tibetans living in the United States, at the very least. It's wrong and a little offensive to claim they aren't Buddhists.

But they understand he is the leader of one Buddhist group, and that he is not important to the majority of Buddhists.
posted by phrontist at 9:33 PM on September 6, 2009

Seems that most rock musicians like Rush (especially drummers and bass players), but most non-musicians have only heard a few Rush songs. Other artists that come to mind are Michael Manring (bass) and Michael Hedges (acoustic guitar).

In programming/software development there is a continuum of snobbishness with varying degrees of expertise (each one looks down on the one to the left): Visual Basic <>
Most casual computer users and even most software developers cannot comprehend why anyone would want to use the vi text editor, but experts wonder why the others are wasting their time without it.

@ synaesthetichaze Does anyone really like AIX?
posted by kenliu at 9:39 PM on September 6, 2009

For science reporting: Any paper, journal, or blog which does not provide citations or links to the actual published work being discussed is usually crap. Almost everything you read in the newspaper about either cancer or diet is garbage science (or reported so badly as to confuse the actual point of the paper), with rare exceptions. Retrospective studies without double-blind controls are very dubious when it comes to establishing causation, but TV and newspapers make no distinction between well controlled studies and survey-based junk (e.g. subjects on fixed diet +/- blueberries vs. a survey asking how many blueberries you ate in the last twenty years).

I dislike the New Scientist a lot personally for their breathless hyperbole - I haven't read SciAm or Discovery lately so can't vouch for the quality of their articles.
posted by benzenedream at 9:43 PM on September 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

George Jones is widely recognized among afficianados as one of the very greatest artists in the history of country music. People unfamiliar with the genre (or better acquainted with the pop-country prevalent today) sometimes find him difficult to listen to. Same goes for The Carter Family, whose work was the blueprint, the foundation, of recorded American roots music.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:48 PM on September 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Jack Vance seems to be admired by a lot of writers without managing to sell many books.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:56 PM on September 6, 2009

As far as science goes, the general public reads Scientific American, Popular Science, Discovery magazine, etc, while actual scientists read journals (Nature and Science being some of the most high profile and general in scope). I guess this is more an issue of knowledge rather than opinion or taste, but experts in the arts have a level of knowledge/jargon of their trade comparable to that which a scientist has in their field.

The important difference here involves the nature of science itself: to really get an accurate picture, an accurate understanding, you need ALL the facts. You need to take into consideration all the minutiae of a scientific article in order to really discern bogus science from solid science. Often times the difference between crap and solid is some nuance in the methods section or a discussion section with subtle flaws in logic. Most of these minutiae don't get picked up on the radar of a Popular Science article, and as a result, even intelligent people who might read it will have a slightly-to-extremely skewed understanding of the experiment/findings.
posted by captain cosine at 10:18 PM on September 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

While the general and perhaps casual rap consumer seems to like Lil Wayne a lot and a staggering amount think he is the greatest rapper ever, an equally staggering amount of people who fashion themselves rap connoisseurs hate Lil Wayne with a passion and think he is one of the worst rappers ever. I think it is notable because I can't really think of a similarly polarized case where people simultaneously look at someone as the best ever and worst ever.

So for example, in the Kenny G debate, I can't imagine there are a ton of people claiming he is the best Jazz musician to ever do it, with a ton claiming he is the worst ever to make a record. Similarly, Koons, Kincaid - I think though many love their work, there isn't a major movement claiming they are the best ever at what they do (disclaimer, I have a postcard book of Koons' work, via Taschen). I don't think the Dalai Lama is viewed by some as the most important figure in Buddhism and simultaneously as completely inconsequential.

I am of the Little Wayne sucks variety, while fellow mefi folks I respect like dead_ are among the he's-good variety. I sometimes playfully act like he's the worst of all time, but I'm just kidding since that bar is set extremely high.
posted by cashman at 10:26 PM on September 6, 2009

oops, my post on programming languages got eaten. users on the right look down on the ones to their left. and vary inversely in terms of popularity

visual basic - PHP/JavaScript - Java/C# - Ruby/Python - LISP/ML
posted by kenliu at 10:37 PM on September 6, 2009

So for example, in the Kenny G debate, I can't imagine there are a ton of people claiming he is the best Jazz musician to ever do it, with a ton claiming he is the worst ever to make a record.

I think you're wrong here. There are definitely a lot of people who think he is the worst. He has a dedicated fan base and I really think some people consider him the best.
posted by phrontist at 10:39 PM on September 6, 2009

Fair enough. If there is a notably large group of people who believe Kenny G is the greatest Jazz musician of all time, wow. I don't really think it is on the same level, but I'm too tired to argue the point. I don't think the casual Jazz consumer thinks Kenny G is the best jazz musician of all time. The Wayne example is surely not exclusive and unique, but it definitely intrigues me.
posted by cashman at 10:51 PM on September 6, 2009

Douglas Hofstadter is not well-regarded by many philosophers, in my experience. (This is not my opinion.)
posted by painquale at 11:19 PM on September 6, 2009

This isn't an art or field of study, but . . . People who don't actually have anything to do with horses are notoriously obsessed with Arabians, Friesians, Andalusians, and sometimes miniature horses.

There is nothing wrong with these breeds, but these particular horses tend to have very limited usefulness outside of breed competitions and, in the case of Arabians, endurance riding.

Those who are not breed enthusiasts, but desire to actually perform and compete with their animals (other than endurance, at which Arabians are unparalleled) generally choose breeds that are less "beautiful" or photogenic but better suited to the task.
posted by po at 11:33 PM on September 6, 2009

Real football vs. American football

You've got to have some sort of expert training to stay both awake and away from the remote for a whole soccer game.

Are you guys kidding?? On a world-wide scale American football is the obscure sport, but really this is not a good comparison as I think they are both pretty mass-market.

The better comparison would be to say the casual fan knows who Wayne Rooney is. The hard-core fan goes to away games.
posted by like_neon at 1:05 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for an answer of what experts like in the food world that amateurs don't, my best guess would be offal.

Thats an American perspective, I suppose. A big chunk of the world has grown up on and enjoys offal without being any kind of expert.

If I had to answer the food question I'd say this - and this applies across any range of cuisines - French, BBQ, Italian, etc.

To the amateur, food can usually be improved, to their eyes, by adding salt/fat/sugar/portion size. More is better.

To the professionals/food lovers, well-prepared food is already a delicate balance of flavors. (If you need to add salt to it then the chef failed.) The expert craves variety and flavor. Food is never about gluttony.
posted by vacapinta at 1:48 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've never met a serious writer who didn't have a deep abiding love for Kafka and few non-writers have read anything by him besides the Metamorphosis or the Trial; stories like the Judgement, the Castle, In the Penal Colony, seem to mostly be for writers only.

Outside of critics, directors, and professors, very few people actually get any enjoyment out of the early filmmakers like D.W. Griffith (for Birth of a Nation, that's totally a good thing), the Lumière brothers, or Georges Méliès. Silent film in general is usually loved only by film nuts. A lot of people have seen a Chaplin scene, few have sat through a whole movie.

Steven Spielberg was mentioned above as being only popular among the masses. I don't think that's actually correct. In my experience cineastes seem just as likely to bend over backward to heap praise on Jaws, Duel, or Munich as they are to pan movies like Hook (deservedly) or Crystal Skull (very deservedly).

It's kind of been pointed out that a lot of the artists being named here are simply cases of being unfairly obscure. Subtract from the general population all the people who never listen to classical music, and then take away all the people who wouldn't listen to a piano concerto, and you're left with people who 1) probably appreciate and love Glen Gould, and 2) almost certainly are musicians of some type.

Breakthroughs happen though, Cormac McCarthy definitely was someone who basically only writers loved, but now thanks to Oprah and the Coen brothers he's got a well-deserved mass following. And that's great.
posted by Locobot at 2:46 AM on September 7, 2009

Expanding on signal's comment:
I really think that much of the entire field of architecture is an insular, self referential business, where the average person doesn't give a shit about architects, and just wants it to be bigger, with more flat screen TV's.
But, there is some really interesting stuff going on the world of architecture right now, because there is no dominant style that exists at the moment. So, you end up with experts who think that everything that has happened in architecture since the AEG Turbine factory is just absolute pointless shit (see: Leon Krier, especially Architecture: Choice or Fate.) On the other hand you have Deconstuctivism, which strives for fragmentation, and complete subversion of classical concepts of what a building should look like. So, you have two sets of experts who disagree completely on what good architecture is, which can basically be broken down into Classicists v. (Post)Modernists. The Classicists love Krier, Andres Duany, Robert Adam, Thomas Gordon Smith (these are working architects. They also love a whole host of other architects, from Andrea Palladio to Gian Carlo Bernini.) The Modern/Postmodernists, however, like Robert Venturi, Michael Graves, Norman Foster and Santiago Calatrava, among working architects, and the architects that signal mentions from the past (to his list I would add I.M. Pei as the apogee of the Intenational Style, Walter Gropius for the Bauhaus, and Alvar Aalto and Eero Saarenin for mid-century modernism
Another interesting architecture point: Frank Lloyd Wright is the most written about architect ever, and is known and loved by large swaths of the public. But also, most critics agree that he was an amazing architect.
Frank O. Gehry, however, is just complete rubbish.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 2:49 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you're wrong here. There are definitely a lot of people who think he is the worst. He has a dedicated fan base and I really think some people consider him the best.

But do any Kenny G fans consider themselves to be connoisseurs of jazz as a genre? I thought they'd be mostly people who are not that into music, but want something inoffensively pleasant that offsets the Thomas Kincaid print above their sofa.
posted by acb at 4:19 AM on September 7, 2009

Also, "indie" music. To those not in the know, it's NME cover bands like the Killers, the Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, &c. Young lads in meticulously styled haircuts and skinny jeans churning out dumbed-down, streamlined replicas of 1970s garage rock/1980s new-wave. To those more in the know, there are Belle & Sebastian, Pavement, Animal Collective and other more credible though still reasonably accessible bands. Further in, people are into more obscure bands (New York neo-C86 bands like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, LA noise-rock collectives) and semi-obscure labels like Sarah, Postcard and K Records. At the very top, though, things come out the other end and you get the hipsters who can split hairs about krautrock and then, shielded by their credibility, entirely unironically profess their love for Phil Collins.
posted by acb at 4:33 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have to respectfully disagree with Dr. Jimmy. The working screenwriters I know tend to respect Diablo Cody a lot, although usually their respect comes in the form of "I wanted to hate Juno but I ended up loving it," or "All that publicity made me very suspicious of her but I have to admit that Diablo Cody can write." To put it in the context of this question-- I think most writers got the sense from the trailers and/or hype that Juno was going to be something that writers don't like, and then were surprised to turn out that it's something writers DO like.

However, my experience accords with his when it comes to Paul Haggis--I think CRASH deserved all its accolades, but I seem to be in the minority among my writer friends for thinking so.

And I agree that pretty much every screenwriter respects Charlie Kaufman, although I'm not sure he's quite in the spirit of this AskMe question-- sure, screenwriters love his work, but so do non-screenwriters.

One weird thing about screenwriting is, the public doesn't actually get to experience the art form directly; it's always mediated through directors, actors, and producers. So there's a category of scripts that are recognized as brilliant by fellow writers but are never produced, or are produced in a disappointing way. "The Brigands of Rattleborg" is an example of the former, and the original script for "Troy" by David Benioff is an example of the latter.
posted by yankeefog at 7:45 AM on September 7, 2009

Oh, and another unproduced script that scriptwriters like: Balls Out. As you'll see by the quotes, it's beloved by a lot of big-name pro writers. But if you google for it, you'll see a lot of puzzled comments by non-writers who think it's just dumb.

Actually, this brings up an interesting subset of your question--artists who are appreciated by the lowbrow and the highbrow, but not by anybody in between.

In comedy, Norm MacDonald is hugely respected by the comedy writers I know, who appreciate his sly metahumor. He's also respected by frat boys who like the fact that he says "dick" a lot. People in between tend to be baffled by him. Take a look at his truly brilliant roast of Bob Saget, and notice how many of the commenters completely miss the point.
posted by yankeefog at 7:50 AM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

yankeefog: "artists who are appreciated by the lowbrow and the highbrow, but not by anybody in between"

showbiz_liz made a similar point, and it kind of resonated for me - I am fond of harsh noise and free improv, and they seem to have a similar curve. They can be appreciated as mindless unrestrained energy if you are 100% ignorant of the rules of music and can handle some dissonance. If you know some music theory they are incredibly braindead and painful because they have so little to do with any sort of 19th century musical tradition and anything they start to do that is interesting in relation to 19th century tradition they immediately ruin as a matter of principle. And then on the other side of the curve, when you have listened to half the other genres out there and have an OK grasp of the history of 20th century academic music, they can start to be really interesting again (even if shallow).
posted by idiopath at 8:30 AM on September 7, 2009

Most sewing hobbyists use patterns from Simplicity, McCalls, or Butterick to make their own clothes. They're the ones more likely to be found on sale at the fabric store. That's not to say that there are not good patterns at the big companies, but connoisseurs are more likely to be fond of Burda World of Fashion patterns, or vintage patterns; ones from the Vogue couture line are especially sought after. The truly advanced will have their own custom-fitted sloper to help design patterns and/or will create patterns through draping.

Some people have no problem buying and using cotton-poly blends, 100% polyester 'silky' fabrics, acetate lining, or fabrics with acrylic fibers. People well-versed in making clothes that last are more likely to avoid those kinds of cheap fabrics and use well-made, more expensive fabrics, usually with 100% natural fibers.
posted by Alison at 8:30 AM on September 7, 2009

Delicious thread, thanks! It kept bringing up for me a distinction I find interesting: Being an insider because you're in the same field and can see aspects of the work that outsiders are unaware of, is quite different from being a fan with relatively more or less "taste."

The first seems based on knowledge and experience; the second is more likely to be cultural or neurological/sensory, i.e., based on how you experience, and how you identify.

The first, as many up-thread have pointed out, tends I think to broaden your capacity to appreciate what other are making and doing, while the second tends to shrink it. I think it's also usual that fellow makers can appreciate in both ways simultaneously, and sometimes contradictorily.
posted by dpcoffin at 11:55 AM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

dpcoffin: "Being an insider because you're in the same field and can see aspects of the work that outsiders are unaware of, is quite different from being a fan with relatively more or less "taste." "

I think also that a work of art plays multiple roles in a social situation. It is a thing to experience, on the one hand, and on the other it is a signifier of social status. When people talk about taste they tend to digress subtly into negotiating social status: who is an insider, who is a credible speaker, who should be ignored, who is an outsider, etc. Pretty primal stuff that seems to be the subtext in almost every public discussion.

My working theory so far (helped by the discussion in this thread), is that an artist is less likely to be pulled into those games in some ways (because they have such a deep interest in the technique and the behind the scenes action they are so familiar with), and much more vehemently so in others (ie. so-and-so gets all the critical attention, grant money, etc. This could be envy in some situations or lamenting the social legitimacy of a particular artist causing their poor quality art to be more widely broadcast than it deserves, in others).
posted by idiopath at 12:18 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I should be more clear: when I say "almost every public discussion" I mean every discussion regardless of topic, not just public discussion about the arts.
posted by idiopath at 12:21 PM on September 7, 2009

Are there any Steve Vai or Joe Satriani fans that aren't guitar players? I've never met any.

Also, as a subdivision of Linux, emacs versus vi: never mind the flamewars, they're both considered to be the hallmark of the connoisseur user, as opposed to the dabbler.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:25 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

@ synaesthetichaze Does anyone really like AIX?

For myself, AIX is the only operating system I would trust to run a business on ( and maybe z/OS [can you tell I'm an IBM bigot?]). It's very much in a separate category from the other unices for me; I consider it to be an industrial strength OS. Not that Linux isn't, but AIX is simply more solid. This is largely because IBM engineers it specifically to run on the hardware/virtualization platform (pSeries), and so the integration with the lower level stuff is superb.

You can essentially do anything on AIX without bringing it down, as well, up to & including moving the running server & applications to another physical box without interruption (Live Partition Mobility, never tried it though; this might apply only to WPARs, not LPARs; really not sure).

It's almost not fair to compare AIX to linux systems, because it is kind of its own world. IBM has grafted so much stuff onto what started out as a *nix (like the ODM, and the panoply of hardware manipulation tools [which I believe they ported over to the pSeries linux distro they produced to run on the p5/p6 systems!])

I can patch the running kernel of an AIX system without bringing it down (I think you may be able to do this on linux now as well, with ksplice), I can extend or reduce filesystems on the fly, I can migrate data from 1 set of physical disks to another without downtime, add/remove memory, add/remove processor, etc. It's been around 20 years, they've pretty much got this shit figured out. But it is explicitly a *product*, not free software like BSD or linux. IBM sells it to you, you buy it, you can't modify it, and they pretty much expect you to be doing some sort of economic activity with it. AIX is not a hobbyist's OS, so that's why I think it's simultaneously an excellent example of what the Asker is looking for, and kind of completely different from the other unices that people will inevitably bring up in the grand OS question.

tl;dr: yep, me.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 12:58 PM on September 7, 2009

To clarify: I'm not ragging on Linux. I think within 10 or 15 years we will not be having this discussion, because Linux will have absorbed all of the wonderful things I love about AIX (including its rock solid stability), and it will be the only *nix left standing.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 1:00 PM on September 7, 2009

The working screenwriters I know tend to respect Diablo Cody

We don't know the same screenwriters.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:00 PM on September 7, 2009 [5 favorites]

Yankeefog made a great point about screenwriters - artists whose work is primarily evaluated through the lense(s) of other artists - directors, actors, cinematographers, etc. Composers are also in this class, and as a professional interpreter of the work of composers, I often feel that the credit (or blame) goes to the wrong artist.

Take serial or atonal music, which has been mentioned a number of times in this thread. I have seen audience members shifting uncomfortably (even walking out) during Schoenberg, and I have seen similar audiences go absolutely wild for... Schoenberg. I really feel that the near-universal public mistrust of these composers is directly caused by decades of uncommitted, unpersuasive, and downright incompetent musicians, but the composers unfairly get the blame. The next time you find yourself suffering through Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Boulez, or late Stravinsky, consider that it might be a failing of the interpreter. A famous name is no guarantee of a sympathetic performance.

So, to answer the question, most of the pro violinists I know have a special regard for violinists who create interpretations in an individual, thoughtful, and innovative way. Mark Steinberg, Leonidas Kavakos, Richard Tognetti, Fabio Biondi, and Gidon Kremer are not as well known as Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham, or Pinchas Zukerman (who are all FANTASTIC in their ways), but in my circles their achievements are inspiring on more levels.
posted by violinflu at 1:04 PM on September 7, 2009

Electric Bass players often have a lot of respect for Jaco Pastorious. Portrait of Tracy (SLYT) is a song frequently referenced on bass forums (about a million, views, there!), but totally unknown by virtually any non-bassist.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 3:37 PM on September 7, 2009

I love jayder's observations above about the true experts and the aspirational. It applies very well to hip-hop. Hip-hop snobs, backpackers, etc. will often dismiss rappers like Jay-Z, Redman, Eminem as too commercial -- and instead will favor mediocre indie acts like Sage Francis -- but true experts, or "true hip-hop heads" appreciate Jay-Z's longevity, Redman's flow, and Eminem's complex rhyme schemes and overall technical MC mastery. Everyone loves Outkast though and rightfully so.
posted by AceRock at 9:30 PM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

On some level this applies to sports. Take basketball for example: Lebron James is widely considered the best player in the world and you'd have a hard time arguing against that. And so he is appreciated and adored by casual and serious basketball fans alike (including other basketball players). But there are other players who fly below the radar that basketball players just love to watch and that casual fans might not even know the name of: Kevin Durant, Shane Battier, Deron Williams, to a lesser extent Chris Paul, maybe Mike miller.
posted by AceRock at 9:38 PM on September 7, 2009

More on the knitting aspect:

General population is happy enough to use the 12" aluminum Susan Bates straight needles and whatever yarn feels "soft" (aka acrylic) from Michaels.

Those in the know, know that interchangeable circulars are the future and the real question is metal vs. bamboo and the answer depends on if you're knitting with "slick" (cotton/silk) or "sticky" (wool) yarn and even then are we talking 10/90 merino/cashmere or cashmere/merino? And they will argue about this for hours at the next knitting convention.

The true expert will actually use the 12" inch Susan Bate's and acrylic yarn to make something so gorgeous it reminds us it isn't about the materials you use but what you do with it that matters.
posted by like_neon at 3:13 AM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, Celine Dion and her male equivalent Michael Buble are definitely loved by "casual consumers."

I have a ballet dancer friend who did not have nice things to say about "Dancing With the Stars" style ballroom dancing, and that is one of the most popular shows on TV.

This is kind of meta, but the interesting thing about software development is that many programmers view software and the act of writing code as a kind of art form, whereas outsiders would never think to view it as such.
posted by kenliu at 6:30 AM on September 8, 2009

Metafilter, versus Digg or Reddit or Plastic.

(Too obvious?)
posted by Asparagirl at 9:31 AM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

jandek and tom waits are in the category of "acquired taste". i found it interesting to read tom waits on beck's irrelevant topics, specifically this part: "My theory is that the innovators are the ones that open the door to things, and then behind them there's a huge crowd and they are trampled by the crowd behind them. And then you have to peel the innovators off the ground like in the movie, The Mask. Like a Colorform."
posted by nadawi at 10:34 AM on September 8, 2009

this point has been made by a few others but i wanted to add my two cents.

art needs to be understood within the context it was created in. this isn't to say that art can't be enjoyed in any context, but not all art is meant to speak to everyone.

the art of artists that only other artists like is usually because those artists were creating in a context accessible only to other artists (if you correct the sample for those artists who simply never got the audience they deserved for whatever reason). their work is (if successful) important to a limited group.

i dislike the snobbery of some people who hate (to use an example) Kincaid. i personally don't like Kincaid (his work is too sacharine for my tastes) but to deride him is to insult the lives of millions of people. Kincaid might be a fabulous artist who chose to create art that spoke to a specific audience (one that happens to be very big). If you deride him, you in turn deride those to whom his work may mean a great deal because it speaks articulately to their context.

to compare Kincaid to Cezanne isn't fair. they had very different objectives i think.

to bring myself back to my main point. i found this thread interesting because the question of what artists do only other artists like vs what artists are popular has the potential to give insight into various contexts. it gives insight into the culture of that particular genre of art.

i think though, the question of which is better is moot. success should account for the context, not just the raw number of fans.
posted by walljm at 1:22 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

In photography, zoom lenses are favored by novices for their versatility and relative economy, whereas pros generally favor primes (i.e., fixed focal length lenses) for their superior image quality.

There is a similar division between novices and pros with respect to digital images shot in JPG (a compressed, processed format favored (if at all) for its small file size) versus RAW or other uncompressed formats (which allow you far more control over the final image in post).

Back in the film days, pros often favored transparencies/slide film, whereas consumers generally shot with negative film.

There are many exceptions and caveats to each of the foregoing, of course...
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:06 PM on September 8, 2009

The shift in tastes of wine drinkers can also be seen with beer drinkers, the Budweiser/Miller/Coors watery lagers vs. IPAs or other assertive beers.
There was a recent New Yorker article dealing with the beer industry, and a very distinguished European brew-master was interviewed about what his favorite American beer was, and he said, "Budweiser."

It sort of goes along with my comment above, to the effect that the people with the most elevated tastes and educations often end up admiring things that are widely regarded as middlebrow.

This. I find that people who know very little about beer tend to laud the big 13 percent stouts and barley wines as being the finest beers. Brewers and aficionados tend to think of beers in terms of context, the balancing of flavors and the technical skill of the brewer. In my brewing experience it's very easy to hide mistakes and off flavors behind a profoundly dark and alcoholic ale, but getting a delicate lager to taste correct is much more difficult.
posted by JimmyJames at 12:59 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

For chocolate: the average person will like it sweet and go for milk chocolate or white chocolate, while the gourmand usually prefers dark chocolate (which the average person will think is too "bitter") and will even pay attention to cacao percentage (~75%) and country of origin.

For liquor: first-time and casual drinkers will like it sweet and non-alcohol-tasting as possible (the "girlier" the better) while a seasoned alcoholic appreciates the bouquet and will want something that hits you in layers, like whiskey.
posted by Lush at 1:23 PM on September 9, 2009

I'm not sure I agree with the tag 'atonal' which is being widely abused in this thread. Serialismis a better descriptor.

Having said all that, let me throw my bit in re: guitars. People who don't know much about guitars will be a cheap instrument to learn on. These cheap instruments are sometimes impossible to play, almost always sound like utter dogshit and are a complete waste of time and money. These factors lead to most people giving up rather quickly because, well, even a master guitarist can't get blood from a stone. Spending that extra £100 means that you will actually become a guitarist, rather than a person with a cheap guitar in his cupboard.

In other words, newbies like Squires and Epiphones, rather than Telecasters and ES-335s. In rare cases, you can find a decent cheap guitar (plays well, good intonation, etc) but it's just dumb luck.
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:30 AM on September 10, 2009

...will BUY a cheap instrument...
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:43 AM on September 10, 2009


I don't think preference for cheap guitars quite applies to the OP's question. People buy cheap guitars because they don't want to spend a lot of money, not because they prefer the sound or think they are better. I am sure every newbie would be perfectly happy if they were given a new Tele or PRS (or could buy one for $100).
posted by kenliu at 12:43 PM on September 10, 2009

MetaFilter experts like using conversational directed indicators like italics and username: when quoting and/or addressing another MeFite. Proles and n00bs and twits use '@'.
posted by carsonb at 1:27 PM on September 10, 2009

Tripath amplifiers, and little 3-watt tube amps.
posted by krilli at 4:55 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


"In programming/software development there is a continuum of snobbishness (...) Most casual computer users and even most software developers cannot comprehend why anyone would want to use the vi text editor, but experts wonder why the others are wasting their time without it."

Exactly. Serious programmers love command line text/code editors like vi/vim and emacs because they are far more efficient in the hands of an expert user. The learning curve is steep, but the reward is worth it.
Everyone else loves Word (for text) and Visual Basic (or similar) for coding.

Online Content Management Systems

Pros love things like CodeIgniter (for PHP) and Django (for Python).
Non-pros love things like Drupal (for PHP) and DotNetNuke (for ASP).

(Complete noobs, of course, prefer things like Blogger and Wordpress -- and they're both fine products for sure, but for a different audience and purpose)

Cartoons (warning: may contain slight bias):

Pros love Futurama (*elitist* pros love anime, but that's a different story)
Amateurs/fucktards/losers/funny-bone-amputees love Family Guy
posted by JensR at 8:43 PM on September 12, 2009

Speakers and hifi are a really interesting field in this regard.

Legend has it that "naive home users" like the smile, namely a sound that has big bass, big treble. It looks like a smile on an equaliser. And supposedly they also like impressive multi-way speakers with large but simple speaker cabinets with an open port to resonate bass. Often the boxes are low-efficiency, with one watt giving maybe conversation-level volumes. They also like high-watt amplifiers, because more watts is more power!! Dinosaur thump! Crashing glass!

Then there is "pro audio". These speakers usually have much higher sensitivity, putting out rock concert volumes with a single watt. There are directive horns to guide the higher frequencies and distribute them over the audience. Lower bass usually isn't emphasized a lot in pro rigs because it's pretty difficult to reproduce and control, especially outside. The amplifiers are usually high-powered, but more for flexibility than excitement. Most of all the gear is reliable, and there are often rather noisy cooling fans in the amps.

Then there are studio monitors. There are different theories about what is the best speaker to mix and master on. Usually the frequency response is as flat as possible, perhaps with an exaggerated midrange; This creates a "harsh" speaker, and the mixes subsequently tend to be mellow and work well on the average demographic speaker. Also the boxes are sealed, so there's less bass for the same volume of box, but the bass is more controlled.

And then there are the weirdoes. DIY'ers. There are open baffle speakers, which have no box, just speaker drivers on a board. There are single driver speakers, with a small driver outputting all the frequencies, in a complex cabinet to create complicated resonances to squeeze all the bass out of the little driver. There are tiny tube amps, and incredibly low-efficiency Class A amps that may put out 30W into the speakers and 200W of heat, and there are homebuilt self-oscillating switcher amps that trick a transistor into creating an audio wave by switching it on and off a million times per second.

Then there are the fools that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on record players made out of marble, and thousands on gold cables, and power conditioners, and speakers made out of exotic materials and not much reason.
posted by krilli at 7:14 AM on September 13, 2009

Not to digress too much into a discussion of the finer points of beer, but I don't think that even those with very refined tastes come back to the "middlebrow" of Coors Light. While it is much more difficult to brew a clean pilsner than it is a hoppy IPA, Coors Light isn't a good pilsner.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:26 AM on September 13, 2009

I'm not sure who would be the experts-only favourites in burlesque; I'm pretty sure they cross over to popular acclaim (at least within burlesque enthusiasts). Dita von Teese is usually considered populist and not very representative - she's working on a much larger budget and is more "pretty girl" than "parodic flamboyant storyteller". It's burlesque for anyone who doesn't want to look further into burlesque.
posted by divabat at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2009

Oh, for burlesque in general: I have heard of people that have derided clever erotic performance art performed at burlesque reveus as "not burlesque" because the performer did not look like Dita von Teese and/or did not do something pretty. A lot of professional burlesque is more about the story than the looks, and there are plenty of excellent performers that do not fit the conventional beauty mold - but they're not nearly as accessible to the mainstream.

Also the sort of dancing you see at stripclubs and gentlemen's clubs is very different from performance burlesque and pole, but people who aren't into burlesque/pole don't appreciate the difference. They think that what's in the stripclubs is representative of the artform, which then leads to comments like "oh, burlesquers are just too proud to call themselves strippers" or some such. (Even though many pro performers have come from a stripping background and hold no grudges!)
posted by divabat at 4:42 PM on September 13, 2009

A typical philosophers' philosopher (and frequently regarded as such) is Paul Ricoeur.
As the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts it: "Paul Ricoeur was among the most impressive philosophers of the 20th century continental philosophers, both in the unusual breadth and depth of his philosophical scholarship and in the innovative nature of his thought. " Outside academic circles, though, his name seems to be hardly known.
And, yes, I do consider philosophy an art form (at least more than a branch of science).
posted by megob at 3:50 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

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