Tim McDaniel tmcd at crl.com
Sun Oct 20 23:19:24 PDT 1996

My apologies; this is somewhat long and incoherent.  It's late and I
want to get out *some* reply, and it touches on several hot buttons of

Let me summarize: I'm not advocating putting "this is ugly" into the
commentary, or (worse) spouting it to the submitter's face.  I *am*
trying to defend the value of subjective esthetic judgments.

On Fri, 18 Oct 1996, Vicki Marsh <zarazena at io.com> wrote:
> If the device/name is heraldically correct and adheres to the rules
> set forth by the College of Heralds, then what right does a herald
> have to say that a device is ugly?

Um, the same right you have to say that I look stupid in my best
clothes, or that the gravy is yucky, or that you hate the weather
we've been having lately?  Depending on how and where and under what
conditions it's done, it might be rude or ineffective ... but you're
the one who brought up "rights".

(Hey, *I* think I look stupid in my best clothes.  From the couple of
illustrations I've seen, bliauts are SUPPOSED to emphasize a
pot-belly.  It's like the English barons had a meeting in 1135 and
said "Hey, let's have 20 years of civil war and *really* *bad* *men's*

Anyway, beauty has nothing to do with registrability (though there
have been times that I've wished it did!).  I can grumble on for pages
about how it's ugly and its mother blazons it funny and it won't
affect the decision one whit.

> "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

That's exactly why you can take opinions of ugliness with a grain of
salt, because it *is* subjective.  -- Do I really have to prefix what
are clearly my opinions with "In My Humble Opinion"?

Furthermore, armorial design is an art form, and to do any art form
well requires aesthetic judgments, and that requires knowing not only
what's good but what's bad.

An analogy (one that's not as good as I'd like, but ...).  Suppose
you're a costumer.  I think that you don't serve the cause of
enhancing the art of costuming if, when someone asks "What do you
think of this dress?", you reply only "It appears to be an attempt at
pre-17th Century Western clothing, and it is therefore legal for you
to wear it when attending an event.".

The big problem with my analogy above, many will say, is that a
heraldic submission isn't an entry in an A&S competition -- that
they're not ASKING what you think, just whether it's registerable.
But I think that the heralds' job isn't just to register certain items
in the Big Book-O-Heraldry according to some simplified modern rules
about a subjective mediaeval art.  If that's all the SCA heralds do,
the College of Arms has failed.  The heralds' job is to educate people
to doing the art in a period form, according to period esthetics.
They also have to educate other heralds so that the other heralds can
educate further.  I think that commenting in all ways on submissions
is part of that -- and esthetic judgments are necessary.

You can then object that saying "it's ugly" isn't good education.
You're usually right, but that's not what I'm advocating.  I'm not
suggesting rudeness, but not everything is rude in all circumstances.
For example, I'd never just come out and say that to J. Random
Submitter's face.  ("I think it's registerable, but if I may I'd like
to mention some ideas that you might want to consider.  They'd make
your design much more period in feel, and maybe you'd like them as
much as your current design.")  But I could express dismay at the
artistic choices made by my friend Lord Alasdair MacEogan, or in a
Laurel Sovereign of Arms meeting for a submitter in An Tir.  Or in
heraldic commentary.

(BTW, I think the ideal for beauty in the SCA should be period style,
and people who make comments because they just don't like blue (say)
are missing the point.  But if they object to purple and green, say,
they DO have a point: those colors WERE used much less in the Middle
Ages, so their use in armory makes a design less likely to be period

Let me try to shortstop one other objection -- "Daniel, how would YOU
feel if people called YOUR submission 'ugly'?  THEN the shoe would be
on the other foot!".  Been there, done that, eventually asked Tadhg
Liath to stop harping on it already.  My original arms had rabbits,
ears conjoined, playing bagpipes -- the rabbits playing bagpipes, that
is, not the ears.  Is most improbable, but there are two period
examples of the motifs.

I'm not trying to say "lighten up" -- that's offensive.  I'm not
trying to say "I suffered, so now it's your turn" -- that's wrong.
All I'm saying that I'm not speaking from ignorance of the

> I personally would not want a fat frog on my device, but someone
> else may think it is the most wonderful thing in the world.

Satan, a landed gentleman, is said to have three on his coat of arms.
So it's a period practice, but given the association with His Satanic
Majesty, I'd still advise a submitter against it.  That is unless his
surname was Toad, Frog, or the like (canting arms), or he was a member
of the Worshipful Company of Frog-Fribblers and Toad-Burnishers
(merchant's arms).

But I digress.

> It is hard on the local heralds who are really trying to do a good
> job and put in the submissions for their group.

I'm afraid I don't see why.  I presume they're not reading the
commentary verbatim to the submitter -- if for no other reason that
all the technical terms will lose the average submitter ASAP, as well
as to cover for the lapses in tact of their fellow heralds.
Certainly, the local heralds need to know when they need an extra clue
to improve local submissions.

Let me repeat: I'm not advocating putting "this is ugly" into the
commentary, or (worse) spouting it to the submitter's face.  I *am*
trying to defend the value of subjective esthetic judgments.

Daniel de Lincoln
                             Tim McDaniel
                        Reply-To: tmcd at crl.com
    mcdaniel at mcdaniel.dallas.tx.us is wrong tool.  Never use this.

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