Show "Blandness"

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Christian, thank you. I decided to look up the definition of blandness because I think that "blandness" is often misunderstood. Blandness. according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means:
1 a : smooth and soothing in manner or quality - a bland smile
b: exhibiting no personal concern or embarrassment : unperturbed -a bland confession of guilt

2 a : not irritating, stimulating, or invigorating : soothing
b : dull, insipid - bland stories with little plot or action
To me, your two photos have the smooth and soothing qualities in the colors, tones and mood.
 

pictor

All-Pro
Jul 14, 2010
124
BB, please remember that English is not my native language and hence it happens sometimes that I don't get all connotations of some words and phrases. Some years ago I read the book "Über das Fade. Eine Eloge: Zu Denken und Ästhetik in China" by Francois Jullien. This is the German translation of an original French book whose English title is "In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics". If you are heavily interested in Chinese aesthetics, you may want to read this book. The intended meaning of the german word "fade" is not "boring", which is also an English word for "fade", but something different. I supposed that the translators of this book used the correct word and thus I chose this word, too.
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Oh, I can see what you were after very well, Christian. That's why I decided to post the definition because I think many of us English as our first language types, give the word "bland" a negative meaning, which it clearly does not have as its first meaning. I can understand the use of the word "fade", as well. Perhaps "understatement" is another related description?

The book you've mentioned sounds fascinating. I'll see if I can find a copy because now you've gotten me even more interested in the whole idea!
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
123
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Among the thousands of shots I brought back from Europe last summer was this rather quiet little shot of a solitary gent reading the paper at the breakfast table. I couldn't bring myself to trash it, but it was always too..... I guess the word would have to be "bland".... to use or do anything in particular with. I didn't know what I was saving it for. Until now. PERFECT, a thread for bland photos! I think this meets any of the definitions discussed above. Its not bad, not exciting, mildly soothing in a sense. In a word, bland. So, thanks for presenting this unexpected opportunity!

-Ray

View attachment 30741
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Ray, that photograph of yours is a thoughtful, quiet portrait. I think you're wrong - it is one of your best. Since this is not a W/NW thread, I'm going to ask if you have tried cropping in from the left in order to remove the electronic controls. I know it will cut off the vine, and the small potted plant, too. Your call, obviously. This portrait could be of Picasso, from times past. The tones of black and white are lovely and it has a real sense of place, weight and time. Very painterly and strong in it's quiet way.

Mayank, what can I say? So soft and subtle cloaked in natural beauty. I am a huge fan of the way you distill landscapes to their essence.
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
123
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Ray, that photograph of yours is a thoughtful, quiet portrait. I think you're wrong - it is one of your best. Since this is not a W/NW thread, I'm going to ask if you have tried cropping in from the left in order to remove the electronic controls. I know it will cut off the vine, and the small potted plant, too. Your call, obviously. This portrait could be of Picasso, from times past. The tones of black and white are lovely and it has a real sense of place, weight and time. Very painterly and strong in it's quiet way.

Mayank, what can I say? So soft and subtle cloaked in natural beauty. I am a huge fan of the way you distill landscapes to their essence.
A fine suggestion, as always. I'd already cropped a bit out of the shot and I do like the vine framing the left side, so rather than crop it anymore and losing both the vine and some sharpness, I just retouched the electronic stuff off of the wall (and replaced the shot in the post above). You can see it if you look close, but its not something you'd probably look at closely unless you were looking for remnants. So, thanks for the idea!

As for Mayank's shot, that one almost strikes me as just too beautiful to qualify as bland! Its beautiful in a very subtle way, so maybe the term applies, but I have trouble thinking of it that way...

-Ray
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Wow, that was fast! I don't know how to do that magic, Ray - wish I did.

I think you're reading too much of the second definition of bland into its meaning.:wink: Perhaps we'd all better get a hold of the book that Christian has recommended Amazon.com: In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics (9781890951412): Francois Jullien, Paula M. Varsano: Books: Reviews, Prices & more Here is the description via Amazon's site:
Review
"Blandness is a sub rosa self-help book and a map to the sublime."
— Village Voice
Product Description
Already translated into six languages, François Jullien's In Praise of Blandness has become a classic. Appearing for the first time in English, this groundbreaking work of philosophy, anthropology, aesthetics, and sinology is certain to stir readers to think and experience what may at first seem impossible: the richness of a bland sound, a bland meaning, a bland painting, a bland poem. In presenting the value of blandness through as many concrete examples and original texts as possible, Jullien allows the undifferentiated foundation of all things--blandness itself-- to appear. After completing this book, readers will reevaluate those familiar Western lines of thought where blandness is associated with a lack--the undesirable absence of particular, defining qualities. Jullien traces the elusive appearance and crucial value of blandness from its beginnings in the Daoist and Confucian traditions to its integration into literary and visual aesthetics in the late-medieval period and beyond. Gradually developing into a positive quality in Chinese aesthetic and ethical traditions, the bland comprises the harmonious and unnameable union of all potential values, embodying a reality whose very essence is change and providing an infinite opening into the breadth of human expression and taste. More than just a cultural history, In Praise of Blandness invites those both familiar and unfamiliar with Chinese culture to explore the resonances of the bland in literary, philosophical, and religious texts and to witness how all currents of Chinese thought--Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism--converge in harmonious accord.
About the Author

François Jullien is Professor at the Université Paris VII-Denis Diderot and director at the Institut de la Pensée Contemporaine. He is the author of Detour and Access: Strategies of Meaning in China and Greece, The Propensity of Things: Toward a History of Efficacy in China, and In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics all published by Zone Books.
I'm sure there are better explanations, however even by reading this, I think one can come away with a much better idea of what this blandness is about. The book sounds very thought provoking. I may have to buy it for myself sooner, rather than later. Thank you Christian!
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
123
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Wow, that was fast! I don't know how to do that magic, Ray - wish I did.
Depending on the complexity of the background, it can be extremely quick and easy (as with this shot) or a bit laborious. And, in some cases, almost impossible. But with something like this, its about a 10-20 second adjustment in Aperture. If I'd done it to the clean image before applying any other processing, I could have probably made it totally invisible. Because it was a non-critical part of the shot, I just went ahead and applied it on top of the image that had already been processed in Silver Efex Pro and already saved back to a jpeg. And you can see the outline of the change. Like I said, VERY quick and easy. I have one landscape type shot that I did a couple of months ago that I was able to remove a power line, two power line poles (fairly prominent ones at that), and a car and, if I didn't know where to look, I'd never know the difference. That took about 10-15 minutes worth of messing about though.

-Ray
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Ray, perhaps you might consider giving a more detailed explanation over in the Image Processing forum, when you have some extra time on your hands. I'm sure other Aperture folks would like to know the "how to" parts in detail.
 

BBW

Administrator Emeritus
Jul 7, 2010
123
betwixt and between
BB
Since I've had time to read that pdf translation that Christian referenced above, I'm going to quote from the review by Philip J. Ivanhoe in order to explain better what the author Francois Jullien may have been after in his book "In Praise of Blandness: Proceeding from Chinese Thought and Aesthetics". I'm very glad that I read this review and may yet read the book. I suggest that at the very least, contributors to this thread consider the excerpt I've quoted, while noting the boldly highlighted section is my doing - for those who really hate to read.:wink: Reading the complete review is worth it and helps explain what I think Jullien may have had in mind when he chose the word "bland". "Bland" does not seem as though it was the best choice for translation. Nevertheless, we all can continue to reflect and add our own contributions to what I think will turn out to be a surprising and very good thread - thank you Christian!:flowers_2:

Jullien’s decision to translate dan with a single French word fadeur, which is faithfully rendered into English as “bland” by his translator, contributes to the homogenized, essentialist account that I have criticized above. Why, though, should we assume that there is any adequate single-word translation for words like dan? Of course, there may be, and translators have a prima facie duty to look for good single-word translations of such terms. However, this duty is defeasible; it can be overridden by the imperatives to make sense of and be true to the texts we are working on. Terms of art excavated from the history of philosophy—e.g. eudaimonia—often introduce new meanings or senses into their home traditions; even when we attempt to find equivalents, we spend time qualifying and seeking to embellish the sense we choose and noting the dissimilar ways different thinkers understood and made use of such terms. We should expect the study of other cultures to offer at least as many opportunities to expand and enrich our conceptual repertoire. Examples are easy to come by. Who translates dharma or karma? The latter term has become an English word. Would it be wise to translate wabi or sabi? Shouldn’t we just transliterate and explain such terms rather than translate them? The process of enrichment works equally well in either direction, though given the nature of the Chinese written language, the expression of adopted words has distinctive features. There is no adequate single-word translation for words like “rococo” into Chinese, but with a little explanation, anyone can come to understand what the transliteration of this word (luokeke 洛可可) means.

Dan is used in an irreducibly diverse variety of ways throughout the history of Chinese thought, within as well as across individual traditions. There is no one concept, notion, or experience in play, and so we should not even attempt to provide a single-word translation appropriate for all contexts. Jullien’s book offers good evidence for regarding the word dan in this way. He and his translator go to considerable pains explaining how dan actually has a diverse and complex range of meanings that are very hard to pin down. They must and do spend a good deal of energy and time explaining that their preferred translation should not be taken as implying a negative quality or state. However, the simple truth is that “bland” means not just the absence of flavor or taste but a lack or inadequate amount of flavor or taste. It is like words such as ill or impoverished; there is an evaluative as well as descriptive dimension to the senses of these terms. With this in mind, it is clear that “bland” is a poor translation in cases where dan is used to describe things like the character of a sage. Sages are understated, unassuming, unpretentious, mild, subtle, etc.; they are not lacking in good and desirable qualities. Contrary to what Jullien claims, “perfect character” is not “without character”; it simply does not make a show of itself. (Jullien seems to sense this but obfuscates things with phrases like “plentitude inseparable from platitude.”) Bland does not work very well for the most widely employed analogy used to describe dan: the contrast between water and wine. The sage is like water; his more popular competitors are like wine. When I read such lines, I am reminded of what I keep telling my young son (my daughter is now old enough to decide for herself): that a good glass of water is better than the bubbly, sugar-laden soda he finds more attractive. When I say this, I am not saying that water lacks adequate flavor; I am saying that it has a pure and subtle taste not found in soda. I also am saying that water is good for you and that soda is not; that the latter is seductive but misleading and that the former is honest and reliable. The Way may seem insipid and without relish, but this is only apparent, not real. Most people rush to the wrong judgment, but only because their palates have been corrupted by the saccharine, syrupy, ornate, pretentious, and florid fare to which they are addicted.

For reasons such as those I have endeavored to sketch above, Jullien’s work falls short as a study of some quintessential Chinese quality; it is not a careful account of the notion or experience of dan and no work could be, because there is no single, unified notion or experience underlying the different expressions of Chinese culture that Jullien explores, much less all of Chinese culture. The book does succeed in conveying Jullien’s knowledge of, devotion to, and enthusiasm about Chinese culture, and that is most admirable. It also manifests his impressive command and creative readings of large expanses of Chinese and Western cultures. I can recommend the book not as a scholarly study of “the bland” in Chinese culture but as the meditations of a learned and creative intellectual who has been inspired by and reflected upon various aspects of Chinese and Western culture and synthesized a novel view of his own. The impressions his reflections leave upon one are anything but bland.
P.S. Mayank - many thanks for that death defying image of those two young kite flyers! The subtle image doesn't betray the real danger involved in their child's play.
 

olli

Super Moderator Emeritus
Sep 28, 2010
123
Sofia, Bulgaria
olli
"dan is...one of a number of words used to convey ideas about the value and integrity of what is honest, simple, straightforward, mild, and unadorned."

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