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James Franco: Renaissance Man

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Rob4Broncos, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. Rob4Broncos

    Rob4Broncos
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    Watch this first

    Interview: Part 1

    Interview: Part 2

    FOCUS: Discuss. Does either James Franco or Stephen Colbert fit the definition of a "Renaissance Man?" Why or why not? If not, are either of them on the path to becoming one?

    ALT. FOCUS: Are there any other contemporary figures who you believe are Renaissance Men/Women? If so, why?

    Just so we're all clear:

    "A polymath (Greek: 'having learned much') is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable. Most ancient scientists were polymaths by today's standards.

    The common term Renaissance man is used to describe a person who is well educated or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields. The idea developed in Renaissance Italy from the notion expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472): that 'a man can do all things if he will.' It embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance humanism, which considered humans empowered, limitless in their capacities for development, and led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible. Thus the gifted people of the Renaissance sought to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, in physical development, in social accomplishments, and in the arts."

    List of Renaissance Men

    "The above list provides examples of notable polymaths (in the secondary meaning only, that is, Renaissance men). Caution is necessary when interpreting the word polymath (in the second meaning or any of its synonyms) in a source, since there's always ambiguity of what the word denotes. Also, when a list of subjects in relation to the polymath is given, such lists often seem to imply that the notable polymath was reputable in all fields, but the most common case is that the polymath made his reputation in one or two main fields where he had widely recognized achievements, and that he was merely proficient or actively involved in other fields, but, once again, not necessarily with achievements comparable to those of renowned experts of his time in these fields. The list does not attempt to be comprehensive or authoritative in any way."
     
  2. DrFrylock

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    I'm much more a fan of Gladwell's concept of 10,000 hours than, say, 127 hours.* (See what I did there?) As such, there's simply not a lot of time to become a true polymath anymore. If you are working 40 hours a week at something - concentrating on it, like a full-time job, that's still 250 weeks or almost 5 years before you can be truly proficient at it.

    I admire Franco's tenacity, but I question whether he's just barreling through things too fast. Acting, writing, modeling, performance art, poetry, and getting an MFA and a Ph.D. effectively all at the same time is a lot. Some of that stuff really just requires your full attention, and I don't see how he can be giving it. The most productive people I know could be doing maybe two of those things at a time, proficiently. Three if they're really in overdrive all the time, but you can't sustain that forever. Beyond that, something's gotta give.

    I am sure it helps that he has the resources to not worry about anything mundane in his life. I heard a rumor (unsubstantiated, but then again who knows) that he occasionally sends his personal assistant to class for him. Even if that's not true, he HAS a personal assistant (and others in the entourage?) who are likely doing a lot of things that soak up much of the day for the rest of us. If you didn't have to drive yourself around or manage your calendar or clean up your house or pay your bills, I'm sure a lot of your time would be freed up for other things.

    To his credit, instead of just using his time to play Xbox and watch porn (like most of us would), he seems to be doing something productive with it. I hope he's happy.

    * Actually 127 hours was a great movie and I highly recommend it.
     
  3. LessTalk MoreStab

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    Dr Karl

    Love this bloke, how many people can fix you, your car and program your computer while depolarising anthrax and arranging a gig in your backyard all while wearing the most revolting shirt you have ever seen? Dr Karl can.

    <a class="postlink" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Kruszelnicki" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Kruszelnicki</a>
     

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  4. ghettoastronaut

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    Going by what I remember of the original interview, there's some merit to the idea that simply being able to do a few things, or being a slightly contradictory personality, is enough to get someone credited as a "Renaissance Man" these days. Another part of me thinks that simply getting a few different university degrees is a bit too easy. More power to someone who wants to educate themselves, but frankly, university is too much of a cookie cutter world. "Want to study x? We have programs about x." Well, that's convenient. And then, there's the other part of it: James Franco could always read and write poetry in his own time and make friends with authors and sit around a table and discuss them. But doing it at a university garners headlines and makes people ooh and aah; it instantly confers the credibility of the institution onto the individual.

    In any case, Colbert (I don't know that much about Franco) is definitely a talented guy with a breadth of knowledge. He's a musician, a singer, knows his Catholic theology inside out, a brilliant performance artist (which unlike the acting of Franco's world, is creative) and has a razor sharp sense of humour. It's strange that he is, apparently, a very serious Catholic. It seems the conventional definition of a "Renaissance man" means someone with advanced university degrees in various subjects. I think that's unfortunate. Some Renaissance types - I'm thinking of Feynman here - may have had advanced degrees, but it was Feynman's entire life and personality that gave him the Renaissance spirit: he was curious, clever, he bent rules, he was a decent enough philosopher and could pick up women with the best of them. He could, and would, have lived in the same spirit without the titles and honours, things which he actively disavowed. I prefer the Feynmanian model of dabbling, experimenting and having fun with whatever subject takes my fancy than acquiring as many post-nomial letters as possible.
     
  5. Juice

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    Bodybuilder. Actor. Philanthropist. Politician. Robot.
     
  6. Guy Fawkes

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    I think Franco might be on the path to becoming a modern renaissance man if he continues the pursuits in his areas of interest. I also strongly agree that society has greatly lowered the bar for what the general public defines the renaissance man as.

    The larger question for me is if it's truly a symptom of having busy lives where job, "chores", & family take up so much time that varied pursuits to a level of expertise are immensely difficult to come by...

    Or we're just so busy filling voids and gaps in our day with Facebook updates, celebrity lifestyle minutia fascination, and other time wasters that we find ourselves without time to pursue areas of true enrichment.
     
  7. Franky

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    Bruce Dickinson: singer, airline pilot, fencer, broadcaster, author, director, musician, screenwriter, actor, marketing director, entrepreneur and songwriter
     
  8. Frank

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    Anytime this subject comes up, Dolph Lundgren pops into my head, I defy you to find anyone more well rounded. Bullet points from his wiki:

    -Won the European championships in 1980 and 1981 as well as a heavyweight tournament in Australia in 1982 in Kyokushin Karate.
    -Graduated from the Royal Institute of Technology
    -Has a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney (1982)
    -Was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983
    -Speaks Swedish, English, Spanish, some German, some French, some Japanese, and some Italian
    -Served in Sweden at the Amphibious Ranger School

    Just give up on life now.
     
  9. Jimmy James

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    You forgot that he killed Apollo Creed.

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    Brian May (ripped from the Google)

    Queen's lead guitarist originally had degrees in math and physics, and was working on his Ph. D when Queen finally took off, so he left his astrophysics to go embark on a musical career that would eventually get him named the 39th best guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone. He went on to complete that Ph. D in 2007, publishing a thesis whose abstract -- in its very first sentence -- uses the phrases "pressure-scanned Fabry-Perot Spectrometer," "photomultiplier and pulse-counting electronics" and "high-resolution spectra of the Zodiacal Light." Oh, and he's currently the chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University.
     
  10. Harry Coolahan

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    I don't know if James Franco can really be considered a Renaissance Man. Yes he obviously keeps very busy, and is doing very well for himself.

    But, I think a lot of what he's doing is similarly related. Short stories, poetry, English—we can file this under "writing." Acting, being a hollywood celebrity, teaching directing—we can file this under "Movie industry."

    I think he's a very accomplished person but it's only in a couple fields. He does a lot of interesting stuff but I don't know if it's well-rounded enough to make him the traditional Renaissance Man that we imagine.

    I think the whole concept of Renaissance Man is kind of bullshit anyway. Many people won't have the opportunity to pursue many different interests because they're just too damn busy. Some people dabble in a lot of different activities and others want to be the very best at one single activity—I don't know why one lifestyle should be lauded over or valued more highly than the other. As long as you're accomplishing something you're proud of and not being a lazy sack of shit, more power to you.\

    That said, I think what separates someone who has those qualities from others is their ability to immerse themselves in a new subject ("immerse" being the key word). For example, you could become proficient in a martial art, a language, a field like economics or emergency medicine, etc. if you dedicated yourself fully to each one for one year ("dedicate fully" meaning spending more than 20 hours a week at each one). You spend 5-6 years dedicating yourself to 5-6 different pursuits and you would qualify to be described as a Renaissance Man, probably.
     
  11. MoreCowbell

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    There's also the fact that that back when the prototypical Renaissance Man walked the earth....mankind didn't know very much.

    Consider the following:
    • High school students know more physics than Galileo.
      More books are probably printed in a month today in New York City than in a year worldwide in Da Vinci's time.
      Calculus didn't even exist yet.
      "Doctors" of the era were mostly making silly guesses.
      We've not only invented new styles of art (impressionism, etc.), but whole new mediums (film)!
      Many fields that we think are important today (economics, for example) didn't exist back then, or at least not in a state that we would recognize as advanced or even intermediate today.

    It was easier to know "everything" when "everything" was a much smaller pile.
     
  12. selective misogyny

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    How is that any different from, say, Galileo's time? You think people weren't busy back then?

    I'm admittedly a bit confused about what exactly a renaissance man is. I read the definition and I understand it, but the quintessential "renaissance men" being quoted here (Galileo, Newton, etc) were inventors of new ideas, not simply people who took a lot of classes in a lot of different stuff.

    If you think a renaissance man is simply someone who knows a lot about a lot of different subjects, then I would suggest that because of the vast amount of information available in modern society to anyone with an internet connection, there are many renaissance men out there. Much more than there were in the Galileo's time. In fact, maybe the fact that there are so many is the reason nobody stands out anymore.

    However, if you think a renaissance man is an inventor of new ideas in a lot of different fields, I would say that we haven't had one of those in a very, very long time. And I would attribute that to what Cowbell said; there's just too much information out there for one person to make a significant effect on more than one or two fields of knowledge. There's only so many hours in a day, after all.
     
  13. BL1Y

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    Max Hardberger: pilot, English teacher, lawyer, and now the only person in the world who steals ships back from pirates.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Captain Apathy

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    Exactly. Franco is seriously impressive. (Read this article and tell me when he finds the time to sleep), but his interests are all related to film or literature. If he was getting a phd in chemistry while working as an actor and preparing a new translation of Cicero, then he would be a real Renaissance man.

    Alt. Focus: I'm with IWantSomeJuice. Schwarzenegger rose to the top of three very different and very challenging fields (granted he wasn't the BEST actor, but he was a leading man nonetheless). That's probably the best you'll get in this day and age.
     
  15. Frank

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    The issue I have with this is that he became a famous actor BECAUSE of his work in body building, not because he worked at being an actor. Same with politics, it's not like he was someone who's brilliant and unique visions launched him to the top, he got there because of who he is in pop culture more than merit.
     
  16. Harry Coolahan

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    So it launched him into that field—his talent is what made him the best.

    Look at all the classics he has produced and try to imagine someone like Van Damme or Steven Seagal (both one-trick ponies) filling that role and you'll see what I mean.

    As for his political career, he really has done a pretty good job in that field (whether you agree with his politics or not, he has been successful at getting elected and being taken seriously).
     
  17. KIMaster

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    As much as I love and respect Arnie, and am consistently impressed with his planning, talent for interacting with other people, and general intelligence, he is no Renaissance man, and would probably laugh at the label himself.

    Rather, he is a really smart, hard worker who maximized his God-given skills and always looked for new opportunities to exploit. That's very impressive in its own right, but his actual subset of skills is neither wide nor particularly unusual.

    I agree with some of the earlier picks in this topic (Dick Feynmann, Bruce Dickinson), but agree with MoreCowbell; the days of someone like Mikhail Lomonosov, Leonardo Da Vinci, or even Rene Descartes are long gone.
     
  18. Crown Royal

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    Viggo Mortensen. Probably my favourite actor to become famous in the last ten decade or so. The man cut his teeth as a bit character actor for 20 years before hitting it big but he is a top drawer actor, photographer, musician, author, artist, nude bath house street fightin' man, and can also speak Spanish, Danish, French, Norwegian, Swedish, and some Russian.
     
  19. LatinGroove

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    I've always held that the reasoning behind this is because people no longer pay large sums of money (at least not readily) for great men like this to exist anymore. Having a livable wage while pursuing these passions is something almost every single one of these men have in common. For example Leonardo da Vinci was either commissioned or had a good salary to dedicate himself to his passions. Decartes sold all of his possessions and invested in bonds.

    In the past when people found out about my hobbies they called me a renaissance man. I feel like Colbert in the fact people have been intellectually bankrupt and consider anyone with a modicum of intelligence or intellectual hobbies to be a renaissance man. It always angered me to no end when people referred to me as this because I felt it was an insult to great men like Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo Da Vinci.
     
  20. lust4life

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    I was thinking more along the lines of these guys...

     
    #20 lust4life, Apr 27, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2015