Sunday, October 5, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 5 (Is that a catheter or are you just happy to see me?)



"Diabetes is a lousy, lousy disease."- Elaine Stritch

Hello Blogiteers!

Do you hear that?

Those are the forceful, yet calming, Winds of Change. Granted, they're a bit tardy in getting here, but it's nice to see them eventually show up, nonetheless. With all that's happening in the PAS, I'm hoping they hangout a while, and keep things on track to a better and shinier future.

Besides... those bitches owe me a fitty, as 50 Cent likes to say.

Speaking of owing somebody, I offer my apologies to those of you I haven't got back to in regards to your Emails. I was crushed by the reaction to the last three blogs I wrote, so I'm a bit behind the metaphorical 8 ball, as it were.

But I promise to address whatever you've written me about- I just need to either stop time, or find a way to take two weeks off, which I can assure you, will not happen anytime soon. But I'll get those last missives squared away ASAP, no matter what.

It has, to be honest, been a very draining couple of weeks- the last three pieces of writing comprised a total of 13,701 words, which let me tell you, is a LOT of freaking vocabulary to issue forth. So it should come as no big surprise that I'm a tad bit on the burned out side, and looking forward to finishing up my tale of being hospitalized back in 2009.

In fact, I can't wait to get started. Seriously chomping at the bit, as it were. Raring to go. Full of hellfire and brimstone. Once more into the breech. Up and at them. Geronimo. *Allons-y!
*[Dr. Who fans will get this.]

But first... I have to touch base on a few things. Seems the Peter Bugg/plagiarism thing just keeps getting more interesting the longer time passes. I've been wondering why SMoCA didn't even bother to do the merest of checks in relation to what I wrote or the troubling question I raised of his "alleged" plagiarism in regards to his winning a SMoCA grant.

As it turns out, there's a rumor that I'm attempting to vet that Peter Peter the Idea Stealer from time to time actually does work for SMoCA, photographing their events and the like, which if proven to be true, would sort of make him an employee, albeit one that might be classified as an independent contractor. I know I may be splitting hairs here, but wouldn't having someone who works for you being allowed to compete for a grant you're sponsoring constitute some version of a conflict of interest?

Hear me out: if you work for the state lottery for instance, you're generally disallowed from winning the Powerball, and while the SMoCA Good N Plenty grant is only $1000.00, would it be ethical to allow an alleged employee to compete for it?

I'd say no, but I'm kind of an old school stickler when it comes to rules.

However, if this rumor does turn out to be accurate, it could explain why SMoCA [in the personage of Lesley Oliver] blew me off with a boilerplate politico's non-answer. A protection of one's own, as it allegedly were. As she stated in her letter, "we consider the matter closed" a stance which strikes as odd, since doesn't the matter at hand have to be actually open first before it can be closed?

I'd say yes, but then again- I happen to be a straight to the point kind of guy, something that seems to be a rarity in this town. And since I am, I'm planning on firing off an Email to SMoCA's top kick in the next couple of weeks or so, to see what he has to say about this topic. I'm sure it'll go one of two ways: either he'll ignore it [what I expect to happen] or he'll dismiss it (also a distinct possibility) as curtly as Ms. Oliver did.

Although her tacking on a sales pitch at the end of her Email [the section which I didn't publish, because really?] was brassy as f**k, I still consider her position to be cravenly due to two things, the first being her lack of even attempting to acknowledge or debate the obvious similarities between Peter's "concept" and the Artist he "allegedly" stole it from, and the second: if I was wrong in my original summation, why not just flat-out say so?

Granted, you can only say so much as a representative of a so-called professional arts organization, but even still, wouldn't it be easier (and smarter) to prove me wrong? Once again, I'd say yes, but there's a whole lot of wobbly happening where SMoCA's unofficially official position is concerned.

Keep in mind, I asked these questions first on SMoCA's Facebook pages, and was met with stony silence for two days. After the blog dropped, they were removed [with no comment given] and I was "blocked" from all their sites. Let me tell ya, nothing says "we got nothing to hide" better than refusing to answer a few simple questions and hiding under the Internets' bed like a 13 year old girl.

Thank God for Yelp and Travel Advisor, where I gave a short but sweet summation regarding their lack of interest to address this issue and advised those who might be curious to see one of SMoCA's attempts to redefine Art for the worse, to perhaps spend their money elsewhere.

What can I say? I'm all about helping out the occasional wandering traveler.

Besides, the PAS could use that money so much more than a faux-arts temple that charges a fee to see pyramids built out of slowly rotting fruit. Hint from me to you: save the ten bucks, and go visit your local Safeway. On the upside, they have reasonably priced beer and sandwiches, as well as a totally bitching candy aisle.

And some advice: do not start drinking and eating before you pay. They just hate that.

Getting back on track, if there isn't anything "allegedly" shady going on, then why delete my rather tame comments at all? I wasn't vulgar, heck, I wasn't even rude- I was direct. And if you're going to claim that you serve the community, shouldn't you then? Keep in mind, I received over 200 total emails and FB messages in regards to this issue, and there were only six negative* responses.

SIX.

*[And one fake FB profile created to attack me anonymously. On a related note, I miss you so much, "Gordon Bradford"... why don't you call? I promise I won't get too clingy.]

Remember this- I'm not the one that noticed the similarities in the two projects until one of my readers brought it to my attention, so I can't (and won't) take credit for that, either. And if someone else noticed this, it's not an unreasonable stretch to assume others probably may have too, they just haven't commented on it, due to either social fear, politeness, or not knowing what to do.

Speaking of comments, this little gem was FB messaged to me recently, and it made my week:


"You are forthright with your opinion & that is admirable. That means people always know where you stand. It's the wishy-washy fuckers you have to keep an eye out for."

Damn straight. I despise wishy-washy people too, as I do get that not everybody is wired like me, willing to go to the wall for what they think is right- most people sit down and wait for somebody else to do the hard lifting first. So in that regard, I'd surmise SMoCA does know it's audience- that being people who think that 3 canvases painted the same unbroken shade of white that's virtually indistinguishable from the wall they hang on is truly the pinnacle of pure artistic expression and enlightenment.

You know... morons, idiots, blockheads, dunces, ignoramuses, simpletons, halfwits, imbeciles- in a phrase, stunted cretins who think they're art savvy. Call me a snob, but if your "art" can be easily duplicated by a toddler having a colic attack, or a gibbon in a zoo, I'd suggest that perhaps your ass needs to get back to art school/the streets/the public library/a real artists' studio to see what art actually is, and maybe this time, let the relevant info stick.

And on a correlated note: f**k Richard Serra too. Preferably with Damien Hirst's skull.
Either the diamond-studded sculpture* or his real one. I'm really not gonna split hairs over which.
*[Link:
http://www.damienhirst.com/for-the-love-of-god]

Gah. Done with this. For now, at least. So.... what else is on the table?

Ahh, yes- Joe Brklacich, my fellow artist who implied that he wanted to "punch me in the f*****g face" for what he perceived as my insulting his good friend Lesley Oliver two blogs back.

Fortunately for me, there wasn't a playground nearby, so I was able to stave off his grade school chest thumping with a flippant chuckle and the turn of my back. But if there had been a swing set in the vicinity, rest assured that I'd have been morally obligated to get my best kindergarten poker face on, something I haven't had to do since... well, kindergarten.

So, what's been going on with that situation?

Well, just like the inside of Joe's studio and his all too familiar art hanging on the walls, nothing.
Nothing at all. Figuratively, metaphorically, and literally. Simply zilch. Zero. Nada.

Sorry. I did my best to see if I could get his head to implode, but I've heard through the grapevine that he's been distracted lately by a particularly shiny set of keys, so I guess we'll just to have to wait and see how it all turns out in the end.

My take? If he throws a punch as well as he debates, then I'm fairly confident that I'll be in my grave two decades before his fist ever reaches my ruggedly handsome face.

Gah. Also done with this. For now. So then... what ever shall we talk about?
Wait a minute, I have an idea- how about I finish my tale of touching the Bunny Slippers of Death?

Trust me, it's gonna be a really good read, and the ending will be both touching and infuriating.

However- despite my love of being an earnest yarn-spinner, I find myself forced to reveal one major spoiler about my narrative due to an unusually thick email I received in regards to it, which in it's pure essence asked me this:

"So what eventually happened? Did you ever leave the hospital, and come out okay?"

Let that sink in for a moment. Savor the level of the density, and know that this person is allowed by the laws of this great land to have the right to both vote and breed, and yet you still wonder why I sometimes think that Noah and the Ark needs a sequel. Unless Heaven has one hell of a Wi-Fi, I think the answer is quite apparent.

Now here comes the standard boilerplate: if you hate knowing major plot points before the end of a story, I'd skip ahead a few paragraphs and pick up my account there, lest ye be tempted to foresee the end of my tale. I'm only adding this disclaimer because what I'm about to reveal is such a twist that knowing what it is might just ruin the story for you, and I would never want that.

Here it goes. You still have time to skip ahead, you know. Last chance before I open the box and let Schrödinger's cat out of the metaphorical bag, which raises the question: why would he be in a bag when he's already sealed inside a box?

Question for another time, I guess.
Back to the spoiler!

The spoiler that is about to be revealed, the secret of my tale, the ending to my narrative is this:

I DON'T, AT ANY POINT, DESPITE HOW ILL I WAS, DESPITE HOW CLOSE I COME TO BEING DEATH'S ROOMATE, DESPITE BEING IN A MEDICALLY INDUCED COMA FOR FOUR DAYS, ACTUALLY DIE. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. YES, I ALMOST DID, BUT IN THE END I DON'T.

SORRY. I DID GIVE IT MY BEST COLLEGE TRY, AND BY ALL STANDARDS AND STATISTICAL RECORDS THAT ARE ACCESSIBLE, I SHOULD HAVE DIED, BUT I DIDN'T. IN FACT, MY NIGHT NURSE SUGGESTED THAT I'D HAVE STATISTICALLY BETTER LUCK GETTING HIT BY A SPARKLY GAY METEOR THAN SURVIVING WHAT I WAS GOING THROUGH.

IN ACTUALITY, I START GETTING BETTER, AND EVENTUALLY, I DO LEAVE THE HOSPITAL.

So... there's that.

I know, I know, I just gave away the ending to the movie, and I'm truly sorry. But let's face it, you're not here for the all-singing, all-dancing Disney ending, you're here for the pathos, the drama, the reality of my tale. The Lifetime mini-series, as it were. I'll try not to disappoint you, but remember... you're getting all this for free, so you've got very little room to bitch.

Where were we? Ah, yes- the Hospital.

At this point, I was starting to slowly come out of the med-induced haze they had been keeping me under, but I was still not out of the woods yet- not by a long shot. I was legally blind, due to the amount of high blood sugar distension my corneas had suffered, could barely raise my arms above my waist, and my favorite man part was attached to a catheter.

I have previously mentioned the catheter, right? Sorry, but it's just this: while the rest of my physical symptoms were definitely no bowl of chilled Ding Dongs, that whole catheter thing just sucked. As I stated in Part 2 of this tale, that in the future, let it be widely known that if given a choice for what method to use for voiding my bladder, I'm perfectly fine with a bedpan. Or an open window. Or a pickle jar. Or the mouths of any of the GOP's top politicians.

Just saying.

However, I was at least on the road to making a full recovery, and that's always a good thing. On the downside, every channel was seemingly blasting "news" about the death of Michael Jackson, so I'm now way more informed about his life than any skinny straight white boy should be.

Don't get me wrong, he's definitely one of my top five for Entertainer of the Century, ranked just slightly below Freddie Mercury, but for a go-to babysitter, not so much.

Please don't make me explain why.

I kid you not, one station showed an aerial shot of the hearse parked outside the funeral home on and off for almost two hours straight, all while the anchor-people repetitively discussed their
love of the iconic "Thriller" album over clips of the "Thriller" video.

[Ok. That video is still a creative masterpiece, but even so... give it a rest, would ya?]

Know this: if there's one thing more painful than watching really elderly people trying to figure out how to program an I-phone6, it's watching an over-bleached version of Ken and Barbie wax poetic about an album that came out while they were going to high school back in November of 1982.

Plus... did he really have to die that week? He totally stole my thunder, and I just hate that. Sure, CNN in all probability might not have covered my stay, but now we'll never know, will we? And it's all thanks to that amazingly talented moon-walking schmuck picking the wrong check-out date.

*sigh* Some days you just can't catch a break.

Conversely, the History channel was playing a marathon of documentaries that focused upon the colorfully vibrant [AKA; violent] era when organized crime was just starting to come into it's own.

Now we were cooking with gas, let me tell you. And a fair amount of bullets, as well. Genteel businessmen these Thompson carrying mooks were not. After three days of exposure to all
this trivia, I'm fairly certain I could easily kick Alex Trebeks' ass when it comes to gangster related questions.

Go ahead... ask me anything.

The Saint Valentine's Day massacre?
A Capone fronted attempt to kill his rival, Bugs Moran. The out of town hitmen dressed as police missed Moran due to his arriving late, and his seeing the faux cops pull up [whom he thought were real] led to him quickly hiding in a close proximity coffeehouse- but they did succeed in killing off most of his gang and their mechanic, whose dogs name was "Highball".

How did Lucky Luciano get his nickname?
He was taken for a "last ride" by rival mobsters in the 1920's which he survived, despite being severely beaten and having his throat cut. As an aside, he's also considered the most powerful American mob boss of all time, and is credited as being highly instrumental in developing the National Crime Syndicate, which is not to be confused with the Mafia, as they are two distinct things.

And people say you can't learn anything by watching TV. Pshaw! Says I.

But in between the hysteria concerning Michael Jackson's death and learning the art of how to smuggle Canadian Whiskey into Chicago, I was making small steps in regards to my health. The first hurdle I had to overcome was the loss of strength overall. You wouldn't think that being in bed for four days would affect your weight and stamina that much, but oh golly gee, it seriously does.

I could barely sit myself up, let alone stand, and when you take into account that I had also lost close to thirty pounds as well, I was in no shape to do virtually anything physical. I pretty much looked like Iggy Pop after a four day bender in Thailand.

True story: I exhausted myself taking a drink of water. Seriously. Took a sip, and it felt like the glass weighed 300 pounds. Almost immediately I fell asleep due to the strain, and woke up to an unexpected visitor looming in my hospital doorway- my estranged younger brother Chris, whom I hadn't seen or heard from since my Opa's 100th birthday party in New York City back in 2005.

As you might have surmised, we ain't exactly close. The Reich clan is scattered far and wide, and when people talk of us, the term "touchy" would be the most likely used by way of description. We're not warm and fuzzy, nor are we the kind of family that likes to hang out with each other on a regular basis. Let's just say emails and phone calls are the main way we stay in contact with each other, and leave it at that.

So seeing my brother in the flesh (of which he has a lot) was, to be fair, a bit of a shock to the ol' system, as you might imagine. Also, seeing how Chris is not known as being the "funny" one in the family, his opening gambit was surprisingly witty, especially for him.

To quote: "Yes, it's me... and no, you're not in Hell." Immediately followed up by: "If you wanted a family reunion, you could have just called, you know." That kids, is pure comedy- I don't care what anybody says. He then settles in, as we proceed to catch up for the next thirty minutes or so, until my GF Ashley shows up and not surprisingly, is stunned to see him sitting there.

After he introduces himself, he then proceeds to converse with her "rack" the entire time, staring with an intensity I've only seen in people who cut diamonds for a living. Yep. That's my family.

When we decide to give you the worst first impression, we go full throttle.

Don't get me wrong, my girl does have a great rack and all, but it's usually not what I'd refer to as a conversationalist, and if I were to get all caveman here, I'd have to point out that I happen to be renting it with an option to buy hopefully soon, so please keep your eyes to yourself, ok?

After this awkward conversation ends, Chris leaves, followed by Ashley, as she had a long day at work, leaving me alone with my day nurse, whose name was Eric. Now by all outward appearances, Eric seems like a nice guy. His scrubs are usually adorned with cartoon animals, and as a rule of thumb, he's quite upbeat- all of which hides the fact that at his core, he's actually a sadist.

A cartoon clad, mildly perky, somewhat amusing and relatively easygoing sadist, to be sure, but a sadist nonetheless. All that's missing is the dungeon and standard issue leather-clad gimp playset.

How can I say this with such a degree of certainty? Because while I was hovering on the edge of life and death, he made me exercise. No offense, but typically when given the choice between dying and working out, it's usually a coin toss for me. I loathe working out- not because of the truly physical challenge, but because of all the idiots you have to put up with at the gym.

And believe you me, Spandex does have a limit as to what it can safely contain.

See, here's the deal- one of the perks of being in the ICU ward is that people don't expect much from you in general. You get to lay around, watch tons of TV, and sleep quite a bit. It's a lot like being a government employee, minus the pajamas and IV saline drip.

So, because I was getting comfortable with this setup, I obviously wasn't expecting to be doing any Tai-bo or working out to a Richard Simmons DVD anytime soon. By way of example, my night nurse would come in, give me a shot (or two) of morphine, and leave me be.

Eric on the other hand, wants me to be up and about, and goes to great lengths to make sure that I am. He sets up chairs every ten feet or so all around the perimeter of the ICU ward and tells me he wants me to walk at least one full circle, no matter how long it takes, which at the time, was forty-five minutes for me, versus three minutes for a healthy person.

Naturally, I tell him I'd love to do so, especially since I can barely move, but gosh darnit.. this dang catheter is in the way, so I guess I'll just have to take a rain check on that whole exercise thing, which I just feel terrible about.

Really. You have no idea the guilt that was eating me alive. Unfortunately, this isn't Eric's first time at the rodeo, so he just looks at me and says: "Oh, I can take care of that." And then gives me a smile.

A big, way too happy, shark-toothed, James Bond villain stroking a white cat kind of smile.

Future note to self: learn how to keep your mouth shut, especially when you have a tube running up your spawn hammer. Charitably, I don't remember them putting in the catheter as I was really out of it when I was checked in, but now I'm fully aware and conscious of what's going on.

Oh, great goody gum drops of freaking sunshine, am I ever aware.

As I'm laying there in my bed, weak as a kitten, Eric tells me that he'll remove the catheter "on the count of three", so I start psyching myself up, secure in the knowledge that I'm in the best of hands and that he's a true professional, even if his Spongebob scrubs are somewhat disconcerting.

Know this- I'm a real man. I may be intellectual and urbane most times, but I can take whatever's thrown at me. Go ahead... pour boiling water down my throat and I'll belch ice cubes. Bad Pizza? Bring it. Circus clowns? I'll drink mead from their severed skulls and mount their giant floppy shoes in my den. The Tea Party? Since logic is like kryptonite to these people, I'll just read the Constitution out loud and watch their heads explode.

A PAS wannabe dares to get up in my grill? Oh please. I'll climb up inside and hollow them out like a chocolate Easter Bunny. I'm not afraid of much, to be quite honest, and as proof of that, I also eat at Taco Bell... on a regular basis. Like I said, I can handle anything. Everything that is, except a certain back-stabbing, under-handed, black-hearted, treacherous, soulless, deal-breaking bastard pulling the tube out on "two", and not "three".

To be fair, the removal didn't hurt nearly as much as the insertion, which apparently required my having to be strapped down to a gurney [so I've been told] but it's not something I ever want to repeat in my life. As a rule, that's one part of my body I've tried earnestly not to expose to anything boiling, sharp edged, sparking, freezing, sizzling, metallic, burning or internal.

I know, I know... I'm way too boring.
But this cautionary approach has served me well, and I'm not abandoning it anytime soon.

As I traverse through the ICU's version of musical chairs, hell-bent on getting back to my not so comfy bed, I take notice of the other rooms within, and recall a conversation I had the evening before with my night nurse, whose name was (I kid you not) Angel.

She comes in, checks my vitals, administers my regular dose of pain killers and sleeping agents, and then tells me how she was just bragging in the nurse's lounge that as her patient, I was going to survive and eventually walk out. Noting my somewhat shocked reaction, she states:

"We usually don't have a lot of wins- in the ICU you take the victories where you can."

Granted, I can see the logic behind this unique worldview, but at the time, I was just hoping she hadn't placed any bets on me, as I really don't perform well under that kind of pressure. Especially when it's fairly obvious that I'm not going to see a cut of the vig in the end.

I think I need to get a better agent to handle these details.

There were 12 rooms (AKA: "pods") in the ICU unit that I was convalescing in, and at that particular time only I and one other person [a car crash victim] were expected to leave under our own power, versus being carried out in a human-sized Ziploc bag.

As you might imagine, there's not a whole lot of joy to be found in a land that has a perpetual death watch, so I came to interpret the nursing staffs black humor as a self-imposed form of protection from the depressive aspects of what the job demanded. It brought to mind something my dear departed Oma might have said in relation to the overall vibe of the place:

"It feels quite a bit Catholic in here, doesn't it?"

Oddly, I'm at my best in a place with that sort of attitude, as I tend to deal with stress by being sarcastic, so I fit right in with nary a hitch. Just like when I travel, I try to be a good and gracious guest. You know the basic rules- keep your room neat, clean off your plate, and don't be a pain in the ass to your host, no matter what the situation is.

And if the circumstance calls for you to don lederhosen, I say go for it.
Sorry. Let's get back to the story.

As I was slowly traversing what was the great circle of the ICU, the reality of all those families hoping against hope that their loved ones might just survive their personal trauma was humbling. In retrospect, I got damn lucky, and the only reason I survived what should have killed me was a simple luck of the draw- no more, no less.

I don't believe in miracles. I'm too much of a realist. If I can't see it, touch it, or rub it all over my body in a fugue of joy, then it doesn't exist.

Understand that I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic.

I credit the fact that despite his arrogance and lack of verticality, my doctor knew his chops and had one hell of an ICU team behind him to aid in my recovery. Add in the fact that God apparently needs me to serve as a bad example, and you can see why I'm not planning on checking out anytime soon.

Speaking of checking out, I believe this would be an excellent time to take a break, as I and most likely you, are starting to nod off. And let's face it, a well-rested reader is a happy reader.

And when we come back...

This tale concludes with gang-bangers and kidney stones, visits from warring friends, I finally explain my obsession with John C. Lincoln's vanilla pudding, enjoy some illicit Taco Bell, and discover the true cost of wanting to go home.

"It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."
- Jackie Mason



















Saturday, September 13, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 4 and a 1/3 ( Where there's SMoCa, there's Whiners )



“It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that." As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. "I find that offensive." It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. '"I am offended by that."

Well, so f*****g what." - Stephen Fry, The Guardian


Hello Blogiteers!

I've got to be honest- there are times, if the truth is to be told, where I really enjoy being a self-styled Artbitch. I get to speak my mind, clear the way for progressive debate, skewer a cretin (or two),
and generally walk around with a feeling of a job well done, if not snarkily.

Then there's the days where I'm really happy.

Usually it's because I've found an extra pack of Ding Dongs that I didn't know I had, or sometimes I'll be flipping through the ol' cable TV and find out they're playing all of the Resident Evil movies back to back with limited commercial interruptions.

You know... the simple pleasures.

Granted, the pay is non-existent, but the hours are great, and the perks make it all worth while. No matter what might be happening in my day gig existence, the world where my art-life resides is usually never boring, and that's just the way I like it.

Surprisingly, despite my once being described by a colleague as "saturnly venomous", I rarely run into what i would consider any concrete repercussions in regards to what I write. Sure, there's the occasional vulgar e-mail or sporadic sideways nasty glance when I'm out and about among my art peeps, but at worst- these are annoyances akin to a gnat flying in front of a wind machine.

in other words, no sweat, no sleep lost, no actual f***s given, no matter what. I know, I know. I'm a Hell-bound, supremely arrogant, self-righteous, intensely focused bastard of monolithic proportions.

And oddly, I'm perfectly okay with this.

Do you have any guesses as to why that is? It's simple, really. Because as long as I can remember, I've always been "that guy"- you know, the one that says what everybody else is thinking but refuses to articulate, due to their being either too afraid or too polite.

Fortunately, I have no such hang-ups, and I refuse to apologize for not suffering fools, just because outdated social restrictions and one's lack of personal spine says that I should. Plus, there's always this type of comment that I get occasionally via e-mail, which also helps keeps me motivated:

"I give you props! Not many people in this wretched arts scene/state are brave enough to speak up. Go along to get along is the norm. It's why I stay on the "outside" and travel elsewhere. What you do is valuable and I applaud you."

The unforeseen side-effect of being honest, other than a clean conscience and unburdened soul, is the amount of simplicity that it brings to your life- for instance, the amount of holiday cards that I have to mail out every year just keeps getting smaller and smaller, and at the rate it's going, pretty soon I'll only have to spring for two kinds: my girlfriends card that I spend time looking for (the $3.00 and up kind) and everybody else's from the year-end clearance sale box.

You know the type: generic, derivative, and completely devoid of any actual sentiment, emotion, or creativity. Its what all cards will be if Hallmark ever decides to make a Peter Bugg product line.

Speaking of my favorite allegedly plagiarizing insect, my last little screed where I gave both he and SMoCA equal drubbing, hit way harder than I expected. And by that, I mean my personal e-mail and FB messages lit up like a Christmas tree on acid at a Pragha Khan concert.

This time however, there was more than the usual one or two negative pieces of correspondence that I've become used to as of late. There was six. Yes, six! Not to mention the one fake FaceBook profile created specifically to comment on my anti-Bugg posting located on the Arizona Artists page.

How did I know it was fake?

Well, they had no photo, no info, and no friends listed on their profile at all, yet somehow zoomed right in on me and my comments right off the bat. So given that... and the fact that they fell off the Earth after being called out on it, made me and several others a tad bit suspicious.

But let it be known, "Gordon Bradford", that we all miss you something fierce.

On the upside, between emails and FB insta-messages, the positive responses numbered over 150- somehow, I can force myself to live with that. The best line in regards to Peter was this:

"You know, he did something that I liked once... now I'm wondering who he stole it from."

Classic. The last time I can recall getting this much feedback on something I wrote was when I took on the Phoenix New Times, and that seems like forever and a day ago. Ah, good times... no pun intended. It seems that many of my fellow Creatives share the same dim view I have of Peter's "talent" and SMoCA's artistic "vision", even if they don't always (or ever) agree with my views on anything else.

See, there's always middle ground, you just have to forge ahead and find a commonality that bonds you as a team. But as usual, there's always going to be those who get their Underoos in a bunch over something I said or did, and I can't help that. And even if I could, I probably wouldn't, anyway.

When it gets down to it, I'd rather be right than liked, and it's been my experience that people who usually have a real problem with me and my opinion are typically the type of people I wouldn't want to be trapped in an elevator with.

Yes, that's actually the acid test I use: would I be okay being trapped in an elevator sans Ding Dongs with this person? If not. then us being friends is gonna be a long shot at best. Given my nature to speak my mind candidly, it's not too surprising that becoming my friend only requires two things: loyalty and honesty- two qualities for membership that I generally don't waive for anybody.

This Artbitch does have standards, after all.

Shockingly, it does take a modicum of effort to get onto my spit list- I may be somewhat aggro at times, but I'm not that aggro, if you know what I mean. Despite what some of my critics might think, it's not like I walk around cracking skulls and slicing up people with my tongue on a 24/7 basis.

Sure, recently somebody asked me how did I eat with that switchblade folded up in my mouth, but I'm pretty certain that they meant that as a compliment. And on a more realistic note, who has that kind of time? And more importantly, the energy?

Not me. I'm way too lazy to go on an unchecked smiting spree, and when it comes to the PAS, let's be honest- it would be a full time job given all the candy-assed human speed bumps we're presently dealing with at the moment.

Speaking of which... as it happened, I was out and about last First Friday with my GF Ashley, taking in the local gallery offerings: Pela Contemporary had a strong showing with painter Jason Hugger and sculptors Brad Konick and Thad Trubakoff, {9} The Gallery was showing artists Dino Paul and up and comer Mikey Jackson, and Braggs Pie Factory was host to "Consumerism" an exhibit by members of Phoenix's Eye Lounge Artists' Collective.

All in all, fairly solid shows, and a pleasant night was being had, until we decided to drop in at The Lodge Art Studio, located at 1231 NW Grand Avenue in industrially interesting downtown Phoenix.

The Lodge is home to painter Abby Messmer [http://abbeymessmer.blogspot.com/], painter/sculptor Rafael Navarro [http://www.rafaelnavarroartes.com/] and sketch artist Joe Brklacich, whose website I won't link here due to what I'm about to share.

Now, I've known all three of these artists for the last few years or so- Abby's extremely talented and very nice, but we're not what I would consider good friends, not due to any personality conflicts or anything like that, mind you- we just don't hang out in that context. It's along the lines of she's a much more talented colleague who knows this snarky Artbitch kind of deal.

Rafael on the other hand, I know a little better, we get along relatively well, and I'm a huge fan of his work, which is both innovative and stunning. One day, when my income improves, I plan on knowing several people who can afford to collect him. Rafael is also possibly one of the mellowest Artists I know, being so laid back that if you bottled him, you could market him as liquefied Zen.

And yes, I do mean that with complete and total respect.

Joe Brklacich on the other hand, I can't really tell you anything about. Over the last few years, I've never had more than a handful of conversations with the guy, have never seen his work outside the Lodge, and really have no idea what he believes or represents. I can tell you his website hasn't been updated [at the time of this blog] since December of 2012, so obviously he's exceedingly busy with commissions or juggling kittens- whatever it is that he actually does to make money.

But more on that in a bit.

As I said, Ashley and I dropped in at The Lodge, where I chatted with Rafael a bit about his newest work currently on display and other various sundries, until Joe walked in and asked to talk to me "outside". Some insight: as a rule, whenever anybody asks to see me "outside", I already know that it's going to be most likely a conversation in regards to my writing/attitude/opinion/tone/ or possibly my love of Swedish pop group ABBA.

Either/or. It's a toss-up.

Now, before I start telling you what transpired, be informed that I will also be engaging my standard line by line deconstructionist technique not seen here for quite some time, due to the inherent amount of arrogant stupidity I have to dissect. Much like arsenic, it's best when taken in small doses, so that one can build up an immunity.

So, with that explanation off the table, let's carry on. As I step outside, Joe proceeds to puff up and ask matter of factly:

"You know what your problem is?"

Wow. I have only one? And here I was, thinking that I was just rife with issues. Thanks, you big sweet-talker, you. I feel better about myself already. And damn, if I don't feel prettier too.

"You take everything personally."

Um... yeah, I actually do. It's both a curse and a blessing. Unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I'm actually trying to make a difference by not sitting on my ass waiting like an artsy Rapunzel for my super studly prince to come.

Perhaps it isn't obvious, but I've been writing these first-person narrative blogs for roughly five years now and it's ALWAYS BEEN personal. I see what I regard as obstructions or ethical lapses within my field of Phoenix-centric vision, I say something about it, and that isn't going to change anytime soon... if ever.

When I bring attention to an issue to someone [in this case, Lesley Oliver] who is in a prime position to either address it or kick it upstairs for a management looksee and I'm dismissed like a servant at the Playboy Mansion with a trite and condescending politicians' response, you're damn right I'm going to take it personally.

Focusing my knowledge and personal energy towards the goal of starting a conversation that hopefully changes the playing field, that's what I do. This process involves having to put your own self-interest on the shelf, which is why I can see how it might confuse and enrage you, Joey.

"That's why I un-friended you on FaceBook the first time."

Yep. You read that right. He actually said that. The mind reels.

Two things: first, I'm not a thirteen year old girl, so shunning me on FB is hardly what I consider a banishment to the social Gulag, and second... I wasn't actually aware that we were friends on FB in the first place.

What's next? Going to read my diary and kiss my BGF?

"It so happens that Lesley Oliver is a friend of mine."

As an aside, anytime anyone uses the phrase "So and so is a friend of mine", it's a sure bet that it's a self-righteous rationalization to engage in behavior that otherwise would be called out as dickish at best, asinine at worst.

This may come as a shock, but I too have friends. More than I need, less than I'd like to have, but they all benefit from one thing in common- I stay the f**k out of their personal business unless specifically requested to dive in. See, here's the deal: I automatically assume that as an adult, they can handle their own battles.

I know, I know... I'm weird that way.

And when one takes into account that Lesley is a professional PR person, it's even more ridiculous that Joey assumed he could try and threaten me on her behalf. With all due respect, if that's her chosen field and if I'm the worst person that she's ever dealt with in regards to someone being a bitch to her, then she should just cash in her 401K and become a macramé artist, to the benefit of all parties concerned.

To clarify, I don't believe for one second that Lesley asked Joey to get involved, as it's fairly obvious he took it upon himself to engage me. The level of anger he was dramatically and chivalrously overacting [phrase appropriate] was so ridiculous, I thought for a few seconds there that it was a performance art piece.

If anything. I'd like to think that she'd be truly embarrassed by his high school-esque display of hairless Gorilla chest-thumping. On a more personal note, I guess I should be more impressed, since after all- it is the first time I've ever seen him on a First Friday without a drink in his hand.

But to be fair, I was probably blocking the path to the beer cooler at the time.

"And if you had said what you said about her to her face and if I had happened to be there, I would have punched you in the f*****g face."

Can I ask you a personal favor? Would you please?

Because a punch to my shockingly delicate face couldn't be nearly as painful as that run-on hot mess you believe to be a sentence. All snarkiness aside, are you f*****g serious? Somebody says something about your arrogantly craven buddy and your approach to debating/settling the issue is to threaten them with an act of violent assault?

I just have to ask this simple question Joey- how high/drunk/overconfident are you right now?

First, your unfounded optimism that I would let you attempt to inflict harm on my person without pinning your f*****g empty head to the sidewalk is adorable at best, delusional at worst. Don't get me wrong, your forced faux chivalry is cute and all, but a little absurd- especially when you consider that you're going to need those hands to make art, which you can't do if they've been snapped off your wrists and jammed up your ass sideways.

Just saying.

Given the acidly contentious nature of my writing, I'm not shocked that someone finally threatened me face to face, I'm just surprised that it took this long for somebody to finally do it. Granted, I've always hoped that if and when it happened, it would be by someone more impressive than who I got.

But qualified people are hard to find in the PAS, so it's not too scandalous that I wound up being threatened by a person who has no love for the craft. If you're going to try and scare me, you need
to focus on those things that I find bone-chilling.

Normally, I wouldn't offer up that information, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, I truly want to see the old ways preserved. So in that vein of openness, I put forward this list of what scares the bejesus out of me.

Here goes:

The mere thought of President Sarah Palin. Skinny jeans. Paris Hilton as an actress. Stale Ding Dongs. Earwigs. Clowns. All clowns. Dolls- you know the ones with the dead stare glass eyes and the Linda Blair countenance? People who believe that Jesus rode dinosaurs. People who think science is a conspiracy. The Tea Party. Anyone who is in a "militia" and thinks that they can overthrow the Government with camo and ammo. Cockroaches. Bad pizza. AXE body spray. Nickelback. Sharks in my bathtub. The Boogeyman. My mother in a bikini. My ex-fiance moving in next door. The Tooth Fairy. The Sandman. SMoCA being held in high regard. People who dress up their dog. Waking up naked in a Walmart. Buying something at Walmart. Walmart in general. Zombies. Vampires that sparkle. Lightning. Hellfire. Militant Christians. The upcoming Superman versus Batman movie. Waxing. Constitutionalists who've never actually read the Constitution. Diplomacy. Compromise. Pat Robertson and others of his ilk. The Lifetime Network.


But what I find even more disturbing is this- despite the fact that I made a valid argument in regards to SMoCA's failure to use due diligence where Peter Bugg's outright plagiarism was concerned, his issue [essentially] was that Lesley was butt hurt, and that was why he was mad.

Not because yet another local Arts organization screwed over the PAS community once again, not because situations like this make us [as a whole] look like unprofessional amateurs to serious patrons, no- he was upset that a grown ass woman whose entire job is dealing with sometimes difficult individuals got tagged for what was at best, a spineless rejoinder to a valid question.

It's always been my conviction that it's perfectly fine to get upset- but if you are going to, you should at least endeavor to get mad at the right thing.

As I've said many a time before, there's a reason why "candy-assed" is my favorite euphemism to describe certain members of the PAS, and it only seems to be getting worse with time. I've made note that there exists a specific demographic within this community who don't want to shoulder the burden, but have expectations of reaping the end benefits, nonetheless.

To quote the original Avon Lady, AKA Shakespeare:

"This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."


And Joey's twisted testes hissy-fit just underscores that point. When the opportunity arises to clear the air or have a serious and well-measured debate regarding the crucial topics at hand that afflict our scene, more often than not- this is how it typically unfolds.

Back to the argument at hand...

Chuckling, I then inform Joey that "we are done", as I wasn't going to attempt civil conversation with someone who just threatened me. Granted, there was the qualifier of "if I had been there" to be sure, but at that point, you've lost whatever right you had for me to fake interest in whatever topic you're babbling on about.

Wait a minute, you're asking- aren't you the guy who always says that if you have a problem with something I said or did, to come and find me? Yes. Yes I am.

But there's a subtle crowbar difference between talking to me and talking at me, and I don't cotton to that. If you want to debate some point that I've made, that's great. If you feel the need to open up your conversational gambit with an insult about my Mother servicing random sailors, even better- especially if it's one I haven't heard before and can use next time she condescends to call me.

In addition, if your opening involves magic or card tricks, I'll willingly stay for days. But when threats are issued, be they real or theoretical, that's only going to go one of two ways... either I walk away, or I'll make damn sure you remember my name every time you use a mirror.

You want to debate? Here I am.
Gonna act like a Neanderthal? Go pound sand.

I've got better uses for my energy and intelligence, and they don't involve getting into a fistfight over what is, essentially an argument in regards to my writing sharply constructed words about Art.

Back to the argument, still in progress.

(raising his voice incredulously) "We're done?!?" 

Um... yes. Done. Finished. That's all she wrote. Over and out. Long gone. That's a wrap. Completed. That's all, folks. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

Comprende, dipshit?

Oh and by way of additional information, when I turn and start walking away from you, that's what we in the educational business like to call a "visual aid"- it means that no matter how entertaining I may find your rant, I'm off to go converse with a much better type of person.

As I turn to retrieve Ashley (who's still inside the Lodge), he screams at my back:

"Well you can just get the f**k out of my studio, then!!"

You do see the issue inherent within that statement, do you not?

Of course you do, as your brain actually works.

 In order for me to "get out" of his studio, I'd actually have to be "in it" at the time, don't ya think? If one were to get technical, I'd opine that at that moment we were in God's studio, as we were nearly in the parking lot, and without sounding too arrogant- Jesus happens to be my homeboy, so I'm fairly sure I had more pull with his dad at that moment than Joey did.

God may love babies, children, and the drunk- but I'm pretty confident he hates when all three are combined into one mediocre mélange of moronicness. Yeah... I said it. Mediocre. When I think of the term studio, I think of this definition: the working place of a painter, sculptor, or photographer.

What that means to me is this- it's a place where inspiration leads to new works being visualized and then produced, on a consistent basis. This begs the obvious question: what is Joey using the space for exactly?
In all the years I've been going to that particular location, I have never seen any work of his except the same three pencil drawings that have hung there since God knows when.

The other two Artists that he shares space with [Rafael and Abby] seemingly have new work* to look at every time I walk in there, but when it comes to him, it feels like it's been the same weary offerings for every week, month and year of the last decade.
*[Heck... Rafael probably just finished two new paintings and carved four sculptures in the time it took you to read this.]

To be fair, I could be dead wrong about this observation, but I call it as I see it. Literally.

Now I do know that he's connected with a lot of artists in this town (as am I) but I still can't recall seeing anything else he's done... ever. Anywhere. Not Chaos, not any solo show, not any group show I've either been in or attended. That just cannot be right, even as much as I'd like it to be for the sake of my own personal amusement.

Who knows? Maybe he draws under a pseudonym that we can actually spell, or perhaps his commissioned career doesn't require his having to show in galleries, so that's one of the ways it could go, but here's the rub: if that were the case, wouldn't his website reflect his success?

I haven't had a full show in a long while, but my site gets updated at least every two months, and even my diminutive in-house studio has several examples of my work laying around to impress guests when they come over. When I look at Joe and his one third of space, I don't see a studio, I see a mausoleum.


Regarding his banning me eternally from the Lodge, I will have to admit begrudgingly that his plan to enforce it is fiendishly clever in it's simplicity, as I'm pretty sure that his third of the studio just happens to be where the only door is.


Curses! Thwarted again.

In the end, I guess you'll have to make the final call on his significance to this scene, as I've already established what I think of his level of maturity in how he voices his opinion. And while you may not always agree with me or mine, I still wouldn't take the position that issuing threats is the most effective way to resolve conflicts of the Ego or the remaining problems lurking within the PAS.

But what do I know? I'm just an adult trying to school the kids.

And BTW Joey? Integrity just so happens to be a friend of mine.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” - Albert Einstein

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." -Isaac Asimov
















Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 09 You Only Live Twice Pt. 4 ( The Plagiarism of Saint Peter )




"To use for our exclusive benefit what is not ours is theft." - Jose Marti

Hello Blogiteers!

May I have the envelope please?

And the first winner of SMoCA's 2014 Good N' Plenty grant is... Mimi Jardine for her project "Mobile Remittance Unit"!

This project as you all surely recall, is "a faux government office that processes and collects litter in an artistic and light-hearted way." I'm not sure what this entails, but anything that helps makes our beloved 602 look as clean as Downtown Toronto can't be nothing but good in the end, am I right?

Of course I am. When have I ever been wrong about what the people can truly get behind? Rarely. Sure I backed Disco and ABBA, but I was totally on David Lee Roth's side during that whole Van Halen meltdown thing, so as a whole- my ledger balances out just fine when you get right down to it.

In fact, I have an excellent track record of calling it right, so much so that I usually win bar bets, can call out the right elevator to take if you like them empty, usually avoid traffic accidents, and when I'm really on- I'll crush the occasional Nostradamus-themed Halloween party betting pool.

That's me... Captain Correct. Good old Admiral Right as Rain. I tells ya, some days it just gets so boring being right all the time, but what are you going to do? I guess it's just a curse I'm going to have to learn to live with.

Sigh.... what's that? There's still one winner to go? My bad.

May I have the second identical envelope please? Wait a minute... I've always wanted to do this- I'm going to predict the next winner simply by placing this sealed envelope to my head in the manner of Carnac the Magnificent* and using nothing but my God- given power of being always correct, I will tell you who the last winner (or winners) are.
[*YouTube it. :D]

Here we go.... it's coming to me... just a sec... that's strange... all I keep seeing is fuzzy outlines... you know- it's almost like I'm looking at a copy of a copy... it's not as sharp. And for some odd reason, I'm also detecting the slightly pretentious and somewhat cloying odiousness of gathered hipster.

Sorry. I guess my ol' mental mojo must be on the fritz, so I'll just have to make an educated guess.

Since our first winner's project was a socially relevant one, it makes sense that the runner-up just has to be one that's more fun and/or cultural, right? So keeping that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, it's fairly obvious that the second winner of SMoCA's 2014 Good N' Plenty grant is and can be none other then... (rips envelope open, reads enclosed card)

the one and only.... PETER BUGG!!!

Um... (stops speaking, stares icily at card in hand) I'm sorry. I must have read that wrong. Let me read it again, ok? (reads card for the next 45 minutes) Well, that's just great. Here I go and rip the guy a new neck hole, and Karma comes along and hands him not only a pony, but a full ride ticket to Disneyland and an ice cream sundae as well.

And who wants to bet he got a free t-shirt too?

But in the end, that's not the worst part of all of this, no siree Bob. The worst part is this makes me look wr... wor..urk.. wrah... wroooon... it makes me look less than accurate in the long run.

Sigh... I just hate getting things wr... wor..urk.. wrah... wroooon... (hrrumph) less than accurate. But I'm a mature adult, and as such, I just need to accept that every now and then I'm going to make mistakes in regards to calling people out for what I perceive to be their personal bullspit.

Besides... it was the audience at the public event that voted for him, and it's obvious that they felt his project had merit, otherwise somebody else would have gotten the nod, right? Granted, his project would theoretically accomplish nothing in the end, as it seemingly has no structure in place that would help facilitate an open dialogue to move the issue of gay rights forward, but maybe that's just me- I'm an "end game" kind of guy, after all.

Screw this- you know what? I'm just gonna lick my wounds and move on. In fact, I'll even take the high road and congratulate Peter on his win using that wholly original and unique idea that he came up with all on his own, which at it's core, was somewhat creative to say the very least.

Yep. even though I thought his idea was a little weak in it's execution, I'll give it full points for it's originality, which let's face it- is what separates the boys from the toys.

Damn. I actually feel better, I admitted he was more correct and that I was ... wor..urk.. wrah... wroooon... um... less correct, and yet I'm still upbeat. I can totally see why people like to apologize every now and then- it's apparently good for the soul.

Who knew I had one? The things that you learn about yourself when you look inward, I guess. So with that off the table, let me check my e-mail real quick and we'll start towards the end of my tale regarding my hospital stay in 2009. Let's see...

No, I don't need any help with my mortgage, nor do I have a need to see nude pics of Jennifer Lawrence, and I'm quite certain that yes, while it might be nice to meet a hot MILF, I'm also pretty sure I don't need one to talk dirty to me either. I have a girlfriend after all, and other than the fact that she's intellectual and hot, she also makes really good pumpkin cookies.

Can an Internet MILF do that? I don't think so.

Oh wait a minute... here's a few messages regarding my last blog- let me just skim these real quick and see how the wind blows, metaphorically speaking. Hmm. Seems most are in my favor, at least in regards to my take on how to beef up Peter's totally original, wholly innovative, and completely inimitable idea.

Well, that's strange. This e-mail just says: "I saw that you gave Peter props on coming up with original ideas, what do you make of this?" and it has a link to a New Times story:


http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/jackalope/2013/09/good_n_plenty_announcing_smoca.php

Interesting- it's about last year's GnP winners... seems like a nice little article, wonder why anyone would send this to me, as it has really nothing to do with what I just recently wrote. Maybe it helps prop up SMoCA's judgment call that Peter really deserved to be a finalist for that grant, based on nothing more than his truly original concept. If so, I'll really have to double down on that whole sincere apology thing.

What the heck, I'll just read it real quick, and then we'll get back on the path, ok?

Oh, that's kind of cool, it seems my former antagonist Ryan Avery won a grant at this event for his project "Related Records" which would serve as a way to "document some of the more fleeting musical/art/performance acts in the downtown Phoenix scene. He already has plans to record long-time local act Treasure Mammal in the upcoming months and says he wants to start doing more with vinyl in the next year."

That is awesome. A Phoenix-centric recording concern?

I can totally back that 100%, since there's a lot of local talent here that could benefit from a serious marketing campaign. But Ryan and I have been chill for quite some time, so I still don't see how this article factors into our past disagreements, do you?

Let's check out last years' first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, "The Happy Camper", is "a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There's an "I-survived-Mormonism" patch with an image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience."

Ok... once again, I still don't see what that has to do with Peter's project- after all, it's Girl Scout based, involves contradictory patches to be placed on uniforms, and it's main focus is to seemingly open a dialogue in regards to the LGBT community.

Why would the writer of this e-mail think I'd be interested in her proj....  NO.

No way. Not after I praised him. Not after I celebrated his originality. Especially not after I apologized. Particularly that. No. No. No. No. I'm just reading the situation wrong, because at my core, it's fairly obvious that I'm just a mean, bitter, hateful, misanthrope.

Yes, let's run with that. I'm just seeing it all wrong. However... if I were to play Devil's Advocate, what was the description of Peter's project again?

" "Equal Scouts" aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America's infringements on gay rights"

Come to think of it, when you lay them out side by side... is it just me, or does Peter's "idea" seem like a feebly re-worked retread of Stefanie's original concept? Certainly, this can't be the case, right?

Nobody could have that much Chutzpah. Even Amy Silverman, the Godzilla-esque Mangling Editor of New Times doesn't, and she's basically a singing, dancing, jazz-handing, sparkly shoes wearing,  modern-day P.T. Barnum when it comes to the art of marketing the truly sub-par.

Of course, I infer that description with nothing but respect. Allegedly.

But other than raising the question of outright plagiarism, one also has to wonder: who the hell judged this obvious reconstitution as worthy of inclusion? Ah, here we go: the judges were Ashley Hare, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture's arts learning director, New Times' Katie Johnson, Lindsay Kinkade of Design Republic, and artist and Navajo/Laguna Pueblo cultural attaché Steven Yazzie.

Wait a minute. Minus the random New Times blogger who writes glorified press releases, the rest are individuals that I actually know of or have respect for. Did I, and to a much more worrying extent, the judges at SMoCA- just get Rope-a-Doped ala Damien Hirst style*?

*[Link:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/31/the-plagiarisms-of-damien-hirst/]

Son of a camel-humping, Libertarian-voting, skinny-tie wearing, Arcade Fire listening, bitch. I think they (and I) just did. Now, I know what you're all thinking, and normally you'd be right: this humble Artbitch is gonna fire up his old nuclear-powered buffer, polish up his Admantium claws, and make a Peter Bugg salad all over again.

But you'd be wrong. Dead wrong. Kind of like Peter's approach to creating an original project.

When all is said and done, I find his weak appropriation not to be infuriating, so much as just completely pathetic. Here's the deal: I may not qualify to legitimately call myself one of the best artists working today, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, my work at the very least is honest.

I shoot my own reference for the majority of my painted acrylic works, come up with my own artistic concepts, and when unforeseen circumstances force me into having to use other sources, I'll cop to the fact in a heartbeat, if I haven't already gone and mentioned it myself, that is.

And while I do regularly photograph both graffiti and architecture (IE: other's work/art) I have never claimed those two elements as my work- the composition of the photograph is what I lay my name on, and my composition skills are kick-ass, if I do say so myself. The key here is this: I might not make the cut as the world's best Artist, but I also won't go down as a pretender to it's artistic throne either, and I'm perfectly fine with that possible gravestone comment.

Let me be blunt- unlike Peter and others of his ilk, I have never relied on the gullibility of charity to fund my predilection for calling myself an Artist. Yes, grants are necessary and in some cases, they're the only way that certain artistic endeavors are ever going to see the light of the day, so as a rule, I'm behind them 100%.

In theory, that is.

I've consistently believed that something given has no value, but something earned always does- this doesn't apply to gifts or free Ding Dongs of course, but to anything that comes from a place of hard work and ethical decisions, two innate qualities that Peter and his body of work have sadly and constantly, lacked.

In the final tally, all I can state is that it's a sad day when we casually reward the act of copying somebody else's notes, and doing it not just brazenly, but without shame. In the interest of fairness, there are quite a few of my fellow artists who do not share my point of view, but that's to be expected in a scene this small and concentrated.

Mediocrity is a disease, and it should be eradicated as if it were a cockroach.

My detractors like to throw around the "commercial" label in regards to my work, but it hardly registers as an insult at this point in my career, and why should it? My so-called commercial work is what funds both my personal projects and the charities I donate to, regardless of whether that donation takes the form of cash, art, or time.

As one of my past artistic mentors said to me quite some time ago: "If you want to be Picasso, you're going to have to draw a lot of tap-dancing wedding cakes first."

And boy golly, was he spot on about that. In my career, I've been (with varying degrees of success) a freelance graphic designer, a muralist, a cartoonist, a screen-printer, a sculptor, a photographer,
a POP artist, and at present, I find myself labeled a writer. And it's all been a gas, no matter what. I'm an Artist, and it ain't never been a half bad way to live a life.

By it's very definition, the term commercial implies that one has achieved success, so I guess I can't really complain when somebody hurls that particular invective grenade at my life's work- besides, it's not like it'll do any real damage in the long run, as after twenty some-odd years, my metaphorical skin is thicker than Paris Hilton's eye makeup, give or take a layer.

In general, I tend to engage my critics head on, whether it's in person or typically- on the world wide web, where everybody is ten feet tall and a certified bad ass Constitutional lawyer as well. Not too surprisingly, most of these Internet interactions are usually filled with vulgar language and sadly obsessive remarks about my hair/beard/clothing, rather than an intelligent discourse about what I've either said or wrote.

However, there are the rare few that actually take the time to craft their e-mails and ask the tough questions. These people I like- they start with an "agree to disagree" attitude and run with it until the allegorical wheels fall right the hell off. If you look hard enough, civil dissertation isn't dead, it's just been knocked over the head and locked up in a dark basement, much to the degradation of all.

But calmly sitting on my hands while Rome burns has never been my style. Depending on the situation, I'm either the one setting the conflagration, or the one making campfire S'mores, utilizing the flaming ruins of what used to be a Starbucks. In other words, I just can't wait for something to come to a head, I almost pathologically have to make stuff happen.

With that mindset, it was obviously time for me to approach this issue from another angle, and get the perspective of someone more closely associated with SMOCA's process for inclusion- someone who unlike me, actually had the inside track in regards to how the candidates were selected.

So, seeking that knowledge, and in the spirit of free and honest communication, I extended my hand across the wilds of the Internet, and sent an E-mail to Lesley Oliver, Marketing & Public Relations Manager for SMoCA, (AKA: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art) that said the following:

From: Wayne Michael Reich [mailto:darkreich@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 7:02 PM
To: Lesley Oliver
Subject: Regarding Peter Bugg's Entry for SMOCA's GnP Awards.

Ms. Oliver-

My name is Wayne Michael Reich and I write a Phoenix-centric blog known as "ArtBitch".
[Link: https://www.waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com]

The reason for my contacting you is that I am currently writing a new piece that regards Peter Bugg's recent win at the GnP awards. I was informed that you were the person on point to talk to. If not, I would appreciate being steered in the right direction, if possible.

I'm curious as to know why an almost identical entry of last year's winning concept was judged to be qualified for this year's inclusion, as these grants are seemingly deemed to highlight creativity, originality, and above all- community outreach.

For clarity's sake, let's check out last years' first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, "The Happy Camper", is "a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There's an "I-survived-Mormonism" patch with an image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience."

And now let's compare Peter's project.

"Equal Scouts" aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America's infringements on gay rights."

According to the voluminous e-mail I've been receiving, the general consensus is yes, Peter did appropriate her original concept.

I'm looking to publish by this Thursday, so any official statement would be appreciated, and I give you my word that whatever you write, it will be published in full, with no editing, if you wish to make any form of rebuttal.

If you choose to just offer a "No Comment", that is also acceptable, and will be noted in the new piece.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Sincerely,
Wayne Michael Reich

___________________

I'm actually impressed with myself here- I think I come off as professional, not snarky, and if I would dare to use a term not normally associated with yours truly, I seem almost downright diplomatic. So naturally, I thought that this approach would easily foster a mature and focused discussion on how to refine the selection process so that this type of obvious plagiarism could be weeded out in the future.

Have I ever mentioned my unfounded optimism in regards to people doing the right thing?
Good. Because that sunshiny world view is about to be stomped like a narc at a biker rally.

Here's SMoCA's response, via Lesley Oliver:

"Dear Mr. Reich,

Thank you for writing and sharing your feedback. The Museum has no further comment regarding Peter Bugg’s project. The Good ‘N Plenty process is an open one and it has reached its conclusion.

We wanted, however, to provide you more information about the Good ‘N Plenty program so that you would fully understand the event:

Each Good ‘N Plenty cycle features completely different community jurors who select up to six presenting finalists and it is the audience at each event who votes to decide upon the “winners.” The voting audience, obviously, changes from cycle to cycle as well. Please see the parameters for the program below.

We hope that you will consider attending future Good ‘N Plenty events.

Sincerely,
SMoCA "

_____________

Attached at the bottom (of course) was a description of the Good n' Plenty event, which reads like standard marketing boilerplate. Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. What was missing was one small, minor, almost insignificant detail- an answer to the question I actually asked.

There are few things that are as galling as the "non-answer" answer- typically, I've always regarded it as a sanctuary for persons who lack the strength of character to be honest about what they really believe, but in this case, I'll make a rare exception. She's probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, but at the very least, she could acknowledge what is so blatantly obvious to everyone, couldn't she?

What amazes me is the total lack of concern regarding the impropriety of the issue I raised; "oh, this makes us look bad? Well, let's just ignore it then, and send this guy the standard letter where we don't actually say anything of substance."

Granted, I'm not the only person who's noticed this act of weak-ass plagiarism, I just happen to be the one who's currently the loudest about it. And keep in mind, this was brought to my attention by somebody else- I did not discover this on my own, otherwise I would have definitely noted it in my last blog.

But as I said, she's probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, so a metered and thoughtful response was clearly in order.

So, keeping that compulsory set of standards in mind, here's my response:
-------------------------------------------------
Ms. Oliver-

Thank you for your response.
Sadly, it was exactly what I expected.

On a related side note, if plagiarism is an acceptable form of creative expression, then I am afraid I will have to demur your highly generous offer to attend future events.

You know. Personal ethics and all that.

In closing, I wish you much success with next years event.

Respectfully,
Wayne Michael Reich
-------------------------------------------------

There you go- when it's absolutely imperative, I can be devastatingly charming, if need be.

No vulgarity hurled, minimal snarkiness, and even a upbeat message wishing for personal good fortune at the end- that's how you tell somebody in the most genteel way that the organization they work for has the ethical strength of wet tissue paper. However, this lily-livered response shouldn't come as a shock to those of us who've watched SMoCA for years, as any museum that would tout a pyramid of oranges as art really shouldn't be taken seriously in the first place.

And no... I am not kidding. If there exists any question as to why Artists don't get the respect they deserve, all I have to say is this: Oranges. Stacked. In. A. Pyramid. are being touted by some with the same fervor as work by Michelangelo. I'd take some aspirin for this oncoming headache if it weren't for the fact that my bottle of Tylenol was taken from me upon entering and quickly put on display.

If truth be told, I'm thinking that next year, I should do the same project as Peter did, but this time I'll go one notch better and add glitter to the patches.

Because everything's better with glitter. Everything. Even plagiaristic homage.

To give credit where credit is due, I will admit that their "5 Senses" exhibition featuring an indoor waterfall was pretty cool, but I wouldn't regard it as art so much as a triumph of engineering over indoor plumbing, and Lesley's duck and cover response fits perfectly with their well-worn and somewhat weak methodology of promoting half-baked Koon-esque installations as the pinnacle of Art.

I guess in the end, what's important is that the right people got to keep their jobs, and our art scene took yet another hit to its already shaky and corroded reputation.

You know... the usual standard operating procedure.

Gah. Sick of this. Between the spineless morality of faux Museums, and the artists they shelter from valid criticism, I've had my fill of the pretentiously untalented this week. Thank God for Vonnegut.*
*[Which is somewhat ironic, because he was a Humanist.]

But there is an upside to turning my back on this wretchedly pathetic affair- we can finally start down the path to finishing up my belated tale of being so near Death I could smell his cologne.*
*[Shockingly it's "Paco Rabanne"- never let it be said Death doesn't have good taste.]

So, without further ado, let's get back to the reason we originally came here, to read about me and Fate's thwarted attempt to shuffle me off this, the mortal coil, back in 2009. Now, where did we leave off? Ah, yes- I was talking about my Mommy issues and waxing poetic about cable TV.

However, It's late. And I am really tired from being a cultural warrior this week, so I think we'll take a break here and return to the final arc of this tale in the next episode of Artbitch, or as I like to call it- Mastersnark Theatre.

"Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them."
- Norodom Sihanouk