Monday, October 5, 1998
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The Slate "Arts" Index

Hey, there's this wacky online zine called Slate which, instead of having its own ideas, just goes out and steals them from other online zines like the Wall Street Journal, then says how lame they are and presents its own ostensibly non-lame version of the exact same so-called "ideas."

That's apparently the genesis of the "Slate Arts Index" which attempts to set a baseline against which the relative "health" of "the arts" or "high culture" or "art" or "art forms" or "civilization" can be objectively measured.

To establish this 100 point baseline, Slate arbitrarily assigns a value of 5 or 10 points each to the current value of a "high culture" indicator like "number of opera performances," or "number of opera premieres," or "number of trips to the symphony," or "jazz sales as a share of the recorded music market," or "average attendance at 25 largest ballet companies."

Of course Slate not only ignores what everybody knows -- that "high culture" is really just whatever happens when you blow pot smoke at a Petri dish -- but, by missing this, it also flagrantly misses the following categories where the status of high culture is much more accurately revealed than even the number of Fox sitcoms starring Jane Seymour or Jane Alexander, or whoever:

  • 5 points -- number of times, "What's-his-name" or "or whatever" is used in a New York Times front page news story about life and death situations

    (1997 = 561)

  • 5 points -- number of times "or something" is used as short-hand at the end of a lengthy complex explanation, to indicate that the explainer doesn't really know what the fuck he's talking about, so don't feel bad if you don't either

    (1997 = 33,991)

  • 10 points -- number of people at Nietzsche seminars NOT wearing Austin 3:16 tee shirts

    (1997 = 3)

  • 5 points -- number of mass murders NOT committed per 1000 Twinkies consumed 3 or more at a time

    (1997 = 20)

  • 10 points -- number of operas where the phrase "if you know what I mean," is suddenly spoken in English rather than Italian

    (1997 = 790)

  • 10 points -- number of chamber music ensembles NOT named after some genteel euphemism for "blow job on a freight train"

    (1997 = 2)

  • 5 points -- number of 3-man luge metaphors used in Sunday morning political talking head shows

    (1997 = 17,659)

  • 5 points -- number of times a "Hollywood" film simulates the frame actually burning up in the projector for more than 5 minutes

    (1997 = 12)

  • 10 points -- annual revenue from sale of gray market goods bearing the seal "for sale in prison only"

    (1997 = $57,000,000)

  • 5 points -- dollar value of revenue from sale of instant ads placed on violent highway accidents the moment they happen and targeted directly at the rubber-necker psychographic

    (1997 = $13,098,000,000)

  • 5 points -- number of times the guy in front of you in the comp ticket line is told, "I'm sorry but I can't find your name on the list, you'll either have to leave or go buy a ticket like all the other losers"

    (1997 = 185)

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