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Fortunately, I have no such hang-ups, and I refuse to apologize for not suffering fools, just because outdated social restrictions and one's lack of personal spine says that I should.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 [], painter/sculptor Rafael Navarro [] 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:

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*?


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 []
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".

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,

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.



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.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

You Only Live Twice PT. 3 (Bugg off, would ya?)

“I am as I've said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary”
- Billy Joel

Hello Blogiteers!

Isn't today just an absolutely wonderful day?

The birds are singing, the sun is shining, puffy clouds drift lazily in the sky, and in a very short while, "Sleepy Hollow", "Agents of Shield" and "Antique Road Show" will have all new episodes
for me to completely geek out to.

All hail Headless Hydra who collects 19th century porcelain.
Yes, I can honestly say that Life is sweet.

Sure, I'm still having some slight health issues, money (as always) is still super tight, and I still can't find any adult size Buzz Lightyear Underoos, but overall- I really can't complain. As my dear sweet departed Oma liked to say: "every day above ground is a good day", a sentiment that depending on the situation I find myself in can rank anywhere from adorable cat poster wisdom or outright hokum.

Today, I'm going with the cat, as all around me good things are happening, and some of it is actually happening to the right people for a change. I recently sold two pieces of my photographic art after a long drought of sales non-activity and the client is interested in seeing the rest of the series, so let's all cross our fingers and hope they spend enough money for me to acquire a black on black decked out Hemicuda with matching Asian masseuse.

However if that does happen, I'm also going to have to get my GF Ashley her own South American cabana boy and purchase a pool, otherwise we'll just have a swarthy 20 year old with killer abs hanging around our apartment for no reason. What can I say? I'm all about the balance.

And let's be honest- providing job opportunities for Antonio Banderas look-alikes is what made this country the powerhouse that it is today.

America. F**k yeah.

In current blogvella news, I still have to finish my tale of being hospitalized back in July of 2009, because I know you all are just riveted by my latest opus, but to be honest- I need just a little space to share the rest. Sure, I know this comes a a shock, but it's somewhat difficult to make an ICU stay an uplifting tale. I will get back to it, but for now, I'd like to make a small course correction by addressing an issue I also want to talk about if that's ok.

It is?

You guys just kick ass. And you're looking good too. I can tell from here you've lost some weight, and those abs of yours are just smoking. I'm the luckiest blogger in the world to have readers like yourselves. Yes sir, things are pretty nifty, even if they're somewhat stressful at times. Granted, I'm still trying to line up all the ducks in relation to my career, but I've been in valleys before, and this is just part of the gig, aggravating as it can sometimes be.

Speaking of aggravating, it seems my favorite artsy car wreck Peter Bugg is in the "news" again, this time as a finalist in SMOCA's annual Good and Plenty artist grant competition. The grant is being chased by five other finalists, all of whom get to pitch their ideas, after which a decision is made based upon the strength of one's concept and to a lesser degree, the code of the Highlander, which clearly states "there can be only one".

[The Live event takes place at SMOCA on August 29th if anyone's interested.]

If only a quip-filled sword-fight leading to a spectral decapitation with backing music by Queen was on the menu. I would definitely pay to see that. Hell, I'd willingly front the grant money if that were the case. And before you jump to conclusions*, this is not a bitter grapes issue, this is the eternal question I've always asked myself: what's allowed to pass as art these days, and how does it gets funded?

*Full disclosure: Fortunately, my art has always been self-supporting, so I've never had to apply for grants of any kind, which is how I like my career- no strings attached or hoops to jump through.

However, due to several people suggesting that I should, I am contemplating seeking grants related to writing as a means to further my literary reach, which so far- entertains many but has yet to pay the bills in a truthfully effective fashion. And while I do agree that funding of the Arts is important, most grants seem to fall into the "sustenance" category- that is, it's just enough to get your project started, but not so sufficient that you can totally concentrate all your energy on whatever it is you wish to accomplish.

If I were to be brutally honest, it also seems that for every gifted artist that gets funded, there's also an army of highly untalented Damien Hirst / Jeff Koons clones who get access to all that sweet cash as well, a factoid I've never really understood.

Just my two cents. Back to the rant.

As I stated earlier, there are five other artistic teams going after the same prize and in the interest of fairness, here are their proposals (and my take on them) before I mention Peter's.

1) Julie Akerly and Matthew Mosher: "nueBOX", which is described as a performance and installation residency program for artists.

My POV: Great idea- Phoenix needs more programs like this actually, especially to foster our up and coming talent, as long as it doesn't turn into an Obi-Wan and Anakin type of cluster-f**k. It's easy to blow up a Death Star (thank you, incompetent government contractors) but a lot harder to superglue Alderrann back together, if you know what I mean.

2) Dain Quentin Gore: "Exquisite Corpse Hootenanny", which will involve artists creating puppets using "corpse methods" for performances at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater.

My POV: To be honest, I have no bloody idea what a "corpse method"* is, but I've seen Dain's performances in the past and they're always a blast. Tack on the knowledge that he's also an incredible painter as well, and odds are good that he'll bring something solid to the table.

Besides, possibly zombified puppets having a "Hootenanny" is something I'd never thought I'd see until the End of Days, and I'm not going to pass that golden opportunity up, no siree Bob.

*[It was just brought to my attention by fellow Artist Cindy Schnackel* that Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled.

Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.

The technique's origins are widely credited to the Surrealists and are similar to an old parlor game called Consequences (AKA: "Prims") in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution.

Thank you Cindy, much appreciated.]  

*Check out Cindy's work at:

3) Mimi Jardine: "Mobile Remittance Unit", which according to her description, is "a faux government office that processes and collects litter in an artistic and light-hearted way."

My POV: Something that cleans up Downtown Phoenix and does it with a sense of humor?
Who couldn't get behind that? Idiots and Conservative Republicans, but then again... I repeat myself.

As long as circus clowns and silly hats aren't involved, I just might be all in. Oh, who am I kidding- I'm in especially if there's the possibility of silly hats.

4) Ashley Naftule: "The Rides of March", an interactive Shakespearean bike tour which would take place on the Ides of March and entertain riders with plays performed throughout the tour.

My POV: Simply inspired, along with being elegantly understated as well. Ashley is not only a genuine and amazingly nice guy, he's also a truly brilliant writer, as anyone who reads his "Tales of the Bus" series on FaceBook will willingly attest to.

Culture, exercise and literary enlightenment- three things Phoenix also definitely needs. Seriously- if Terran-eating space aliens ever invade this city, they won't bring laser guns, they'll bring butter, for all the non-reading barely sentient human couch potatoes that this town seemingly has a disturbing overabundance of.

Meh. Gotta take the bitter with the sweet, I suppose.

I for one, would warmly welcome our newest and I might add, benevolent, Evil Earth Overlords, as I happen to be in fairly good shape (ie: not worth eating) and fun at parties too. In other words, I'd be fine, but there's a lot of y'all that would be seriously screwed ten ways to Sunday.

5) Steve Weiss, Leslie Barton, and Katherine Simpson: "Terreno Baldio Country Club", this concept would turn urban vacant lots into desert golf courses designed by artists.

My POV: Just twisted enough to possibly provide not just entertainment for the PAS and it's various sub-groups of patrons, but if marketed right, could also be a consistent source of income for the same.

In the grand scheme, everybody could come out a winner- the vacant lot owners who could take a pre-negotiated cut of the profits as long as they agree to re-invest it back on some level, the downtown denizens who would no longer have to see such sterile eyesores, and don't forget the PAS community, who just might see a theoretical upswing in the fortune of the local economy being fed by the spending habits of patrons who could be lured downtown by the hopefully ongoing and changing face of the project.

Think about it. An interactive art display that changes yearly, if not monthly, for some of the more manageably sized lots. That's how you build local as well as national interest. Personally, while I'm fond of all of the above concepts, I like this one a heckuva lot.

Finally, we come to Peter Bugg's project: "Equal Scouts", which 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. Here's an unforeseen surprise... I actually like the idea behind this concept, but as usual with most of Peter's artistic aspirations, it falls flat.

In the past I've noted his disrespectful appropriation of other peoples' work under the guise of creating an "homage" and lashed out at his consistently puzzling (and truly irritating) inability to cross the artsy finish line while trying to make a creative point, whatever that may be.

 In fact, I wrote a little scribe* about it, back in April of 2012.

If there's one thing that gets under my skin, it's the public display of poorly executed work- whether that's in the construction or the presentation, it makes no difference to me if it's done half-ass, and that seems to be the one aspect of his work that's seemingly consistent.

In fact, Peter strongly reminds me of the character that Kurt Vonnegut featured in several of his novels, that being the persona of Kilgore Trout. So who is this fictional person exactly?

You ask, I deliver: Kilgore Trout is a fictional character created by author Kurt Vonnegut. He was originally fashioned as a fictionalized version of author Theodore Sturgeon (Vonnegut's colleague in the genre of science fiction- Vonnegut was amused by the notion of a person with the name of a fish, Sturgeon, hence Trout), although Trout's consistent presence in Vonnegut's works has also led critics to view him as the author's own alter ego.

The character of Trout has supposedly written over 117 novels and over 2000 short stories, which are typically used only as filler material in pornographic magazines. Trout is consistently presented as a prolific, but unappreciated science-fiction writer, the main criticism of his work being "if he could only write!". This rather dismissive view of his life's labor is due to Trout's puzzling aptitude to come up with great ideas for stories, but his lack of ability to actually execute them into a viable work is what keeps him nothing more than a literary footnote.

And that's what I'm apt to be reminded of when it comes to Peter's work: "if only he could create!" I will give the guy credit, as he does have really good concepts to start with, but then when it comes to their execution, it's like he's decided that all the hard work is done and he can just phone it in from where ever he's currently hipstering.

Heck, half the time it's like he sent it in via cuneiform, which I as an Artist find almost maddening, and this latest concept to open a discussion about the way that the LGBT community is treated is really no different than the rest of his previous works that I've seen.

Now before you get all up in my grille and start lighting up torches and sharpening your pitchforks, I completely support Gay Rights 100%, and I've donated my time, my money, as well as my art to help further the cause. For the record, I find it appalling that we're still having to debate this issue in the year of 2014, and in a related aside, weren't we also promised that we'd have jet packs and flying cars by this point too?

However, I'm willing to forgo those luxuries to assist Humanity in it's quest to become that much smarter and stronger by granting the same civil rights to all. It's our unique diversity that makes this country better, whether it's form takes that of faith, gender, or even one's personal sexuality, which to be blunt, is nobody's business, save the people who are involved.

Keep in mind though that the moment LGBT marriage is legal in all fifty states, there better be a radically sweet flying car parked under my carport with a flamed-paint jetpack in the trunk like yesterday, or I'm gonna open up a case of whup-ass on whatever science-fiction writer is within
the closest vicinity for getting my hopes so high.

I'm looking at you, Piers Anthony... just a heads up.
And don't even get me started on my own personal transporter and TARDIS- we'll be here for days.

So what issue could I possibly have with a sorely needed awareness campaign that champions equal rights? Well, it's not so much about the campaign as it is about it's execution, or lack thereof.

On the surface, it seems like a solid concept, but as an OCD afflicted and somewhat cynical Creative, I see my share of flaws. I know... it's a curse. And as one of my friends recently asked in regards to my bitching: "Well, if you're so smart, why didn't you come up with the idea first?"

A fair question, to be sure, but I do have a ready answer for that... um... well... you see... I... ah...
oh heck, it's just not the way my brain works in relation to sparking up the Creative Method. I know,
I know, it sounds like a cop-out, but it truly is not. I've just always been very good at taking a weak concept and girding it with class 4 armor, no matter how frail the internal structure is.

Even back in Kindergarten, I kicked ass in this particular arena-  just ask my teachers. If any are still alive, that is. Flavored paste? Totally my idea. Waking up from nap time to green tea and soothing sitar music? Booyah- all this boys' doing. And let's not forget my successful and widely popular helming of Monkey Bar Monday.

Seriously. Never forget.

So how would I go about taking Peter's idea and making it that much more effective? Well, let's start with the issue at hand: the BSA's maddening ban on gay scouts / leaders- an action they justify by citing their "Christian" beliefs. Mind you, this is also the same line of bulls**t that was employed when they practiced segregation back in the day, so in the end- their whitewash refuses to stick.

Let me be clear, I have no specifically personal axe to grind with the BSA other than their inherent and ignorant homophobia, but given their reluctance to be progressive, mirrored against the current century we live in, I find their assertion of being brothers with Christ to be both hypocritical and absurd.

Granted, if I were to address a fashion note, their uniforms do remind one of the Sturmabteilung- minus that whole Aryan master race thing of course, so I do empathize with Peter's desire to shake it up a bit. But there's a small problem in implementing such a process, and it starts with the Eagle Scouts themselves, who lets be honest- might not be comfortable being publicly 100% on board with the whole acceptance thing.

Even if Peter could find some Eagle Scouts that share the growing world-view of inclusion and tolerance, there's still a small hurdle he would have to circumvent- it takes years to become an
Eagle Scout, and it requires a massive amount of hard work to do so. Despite this, they can still be stripped of their accomplishment if that person goes against what the BSA deems that they shouldn't do- in this case, publicly standing up for Gay Rights. When petty retribution is meted out as a means of control, It's not hard to see why so many choose to keep their own counsel.

While there have been several public outcries from former BSA members regarding the ban, I think we can all agree that as a whole the majority of the organizations' more influential members have remained silent, at least in public.

If you're going to compel change in one's attitude, then you almost need to rebuild them from scratch- especially if your program contradicts what they've chosen or been forced to believe.
I for instance, was raised Catholic, and despite my inherent love of crucifixes and candle-lit statues, my inclination was to become a fierce and proud Liberal, with some Conservative shadows in my psyche. As an example, I despise most authoritarian structures, yet I also believe in gun control.

I'm also Pro-choice, a feminist, anti-Republican, anti-Tea Party, and I think that it's perfectly fine to eat anything and everything that's made out of meat. If God wanted us to be vegans, he wouldn't have created the wonder that is bacon, enough said.

The point I'm trying to make in a roundabout way is this: despite the public pressure that they have been placed under, by both the news media and the social networks, they're still sticking to their guns, and the odds of the BSA's entrenched elite changing their minds anytime soon are probably akin to the prospect of me meeting Milla Jovovich while she's wearing a whipped cream bikini.

So given that realistic outlook, I think we need to attack this problem from a different point of view.

If we take an honest look at the average American, they're really not that observant, which has nothing to do with their level of their intelligence- it's just that most people don't pay attention to what's generally around them. I once watched a segment on some news show (20/20?) where a group of behavioral research scientists plastered  "missing child" signs all over a mall's entrance- these posters prominently displayed an image of a very young boy, who was in fact, part of the social experiment.

Here's the interesting part: the so-called "missing child" was standing right inside the mall entrance in a highly visible area wearing the same clothes as in the poster... and was completely overlooked or ignored by the majority of the people walking in. If my memory serves, the ratio was around 85%, and some of those people had actually taken a minute or two to read the poster. My theory is that
if something doesn't affect one personally, they tune it out. Social blinders, for a lack of better explanation, if you please.

And that's where I think Peter's concept hits the metaphorical iceberg, the quandary being that of social blindness. Let's look at this realistically: in an average day, how much stimuli are you unwillingly exposed to?

Garish and invasive advertising, loud noises, obnoxious people who have full blown conversations on their I-phones in public, the constant barrage of social media, telemarketers, bad drivers, rude and disinterested customer service, corruption of the fifth estate (looking at you, FOX "News"), and the general coarsening of our society, to name just a few.

As a rule, we all try to filter this out. Some days we can, other times we cannot.

Given all this, I don't think it's out of bounds to suggest that if Peter did manage to find a few like minded Eagle Scouts who were willing to risk the very real probability of being stripped of their rank, that the overall impact of adding a few new patches to their uniforms would be nil at best, due to that whole "social blinders" thing I mentioned earlier.

If they did choose to wear these new patches, would anyone [other than their fellow Scouts] really notice? I seriously doubt it, unless they're also manning a booth at Gay Pride as well, something I really don't see happening. I couldn't tell you what a BSA Eagle Scout uniform looks like other than they're beige, maybe have a kerchief, and somehow make your posture look fantastic. So how could one go about and give this concept the gravitas it needs to have the social impact it requires?

My idea: reach back into past History. The LGBT community has always had to deal with exclusion, harassment and persecution in regards to their lifestyle, and even with all the progress that's been made in the last few years, it can still be very dangerous to be "out" in certain parts of this country, even now.

In fact, I know personally three people who've been physically attacked here in Arizona for being gay, the most recent being less than three months ago. It has always struck me as strange that it seemingly always takes three "straight" guys to beat up one gay person- a weird factoid that if truth be told, consistently pisses me off.

And despite all the ad campaigns attempting to change the animus that exists towards the LGBT community, I sadly know people who think it's still okay to judge others on a lifestyle that doesn't affect them directly at all. I not only support Gay Marriage, I support gay adoption, gay families, gay puppies (as well as gay kittens) and even the sport of gay Curling, because seriously- that Scottish game needs a fabulous makeover and that right quick.

But getting back on track, here's my take on how to do it- use the most ubiquitous symbol of gay rights, that being the singular pink triangle and it's ability to capture the eye as the basis for a new approach to raise awareness. But before I explain my concept, a brief History lesson:

The pink triangle, currently rendered in hot pink as a gay pride / gay rights symbol, was originally used as a Nazi concentration badge to denote homosexual men. Depicted in a more subtle shade of pink than the one used today, it was typically displayed on prisoners uniforms with the pointed end facing downward.

Unlike male homosexuals, lesbians were not generally regarded as a social or political threat. Even after the Nazi rise to power in 1933, most lesbians in Germany were able to live relatively quiet lives*.

Here's where my idea splits off from Peter's- I think it would be safe to assume that the whole point of this is to encourage an open and civil dialogue about equal rights for all (see: 14th Amendment) something that you and I already have, and take for granted on a daily basis.

In order to accomplish this, you have to make people stop and ask the questions that your approach hopefully raises- if there's no serious interaction, then there's no forward movement in changing another's thinking, hence the reason why I think the gay community embracing what was once a symbol of defamation as a pure icon of inner strength (by literally and figuratively turning it upside down) is truly inspiring.

One of the difficulties that exists in establishing civil discourse is to humanize yourself to someone who only views you as nothing more than a a label- take the world of Politics, where the common tactic to besmirch someone you disagree with is to mark them with a negative connotation before the conversation even starts, as a way of not having to see your opponent as an equal.

This tactic has also been employed with great success against the LBGT community, as a way of marginalizing both their existence and their contributions to our culture, which are way too numerous to list here.

So here's where I take a page out of Peter's playbook and origami it into existence. Peter's work has always [weakly] taken it's cue from POP culture, and despite his tendency to appropriate other  people's work for his re-fabricated world view, I have to give him points on one thing: he is quite good at employing the carnival-like atmosphere of Shock to promote his otherwise unremarkable body of work.

As I once stated in a previous blog about his then current gallery show: "Although I wonder how many hours went into the “research” of this odious piece of faux artistic detritus, the idea of scanning the web for shots of Britney Spear’s vagina as a creative endeavor leaves me cold.

Call me a prude, but if I wanted to attend a gynecology exam thinly disguised as art, I’d go to the Great Alaskan Bush Company."

As an Artist who's never used Shock as a marketing tool, I've always taken the position that if you have to offend/disgust/anger/ someone as a means to move your work, rather than stirring up such emotions as a way to enact social change, you're cheapening both yourself and your craft by taking the huckster's way out.

Personally, I'm no huckster. Peter, on the other hand... well, I'll let you be the judge of that. But this may be the one time where his modus operandi may actually be the best approach to get the point across- that's right, what we need here is pure, undiluted, over the top, full on gonzo, Shock.

Five words: Bright Pink Eagle Scout Uniforms. Stay with me... I'm going somewhere, oh yes.

This is what I'm thinking: use the past to help move Humanity forward a few notches, by taking authentic Eagle Scout uniforms, dyeing them bright pink and in place of their standard patches, attach the more subtle pink triangles in their originally used connotation- now that would definitely stop the blinded herd, I think.

If you can find actual Eagle Scouts to don those uniforms, great. If not, then fill them with people who can civilly (and clearly) discuss the issue, the history, and the significance of LGBT rights in this country but are also able to put a face on the discussion, no matter who they happen to be engaging.

The key as I see it, is that the uniforms will pique passersby's' attention to the point of their opening a dialogue, something I can't see a few swapped (and subtly underplayed) patches doing with the same efficiency. Overcome their pre-formed labels by literally shocking your targeted audience into civil focused discussion, and hopefully you'll also change a few minds as to how they view the gay community.

And while the uniforms are figuratively [and literally] in your face, the discussion should not be.
I'll explain.

Sadly, one of the tenets of our society that finds itself marginalized due to the 24/7 news cycle and the proliferation of the Internet is the concept of non-polarized discussion. These days we don't talk to each other half as much as shout our opinions loudly and into the sky, usually to no avail. We claim to be truly civilized, yet act like slavering barbarians while we hide behind keyboards and our virtual avatars.

And I'm just as guilty as everyone else, thank you very much. I do try to use these claws for good most days, but when you're constantly dealing with people who regard facts in the same way as Superman views Kryptonite, it sometime tends to pop your diplomacy cork more often than not.

No matter where you stand in regards to the issue, gay rights can be a "hot button", even to those who feel that we'll eventually be proven correct in our view that equality for all is the only path for us as a society to take. Some respectfully disagree with this point of view, others move straight to taking their Books of Holiness and beating others about the face with it.

BTW, the King James version of the Bible doesn't leave bruises, but it does pack one heckuva wallop. Just saying. And let's not mention the Torah, cause that sucker comes with handles.

But when it comes to my take on Peter's concept, I really do believe that respectful discussion of this issue is possible, no matter what side of the fence you find yourself next to- but only as long as the debate is courteous right from the start. There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear, so equal respect must be given to each side's POV, otherwise there's no reason to attempt changing their attitude.

An "agree to disagree" approach as it were. Now, given that optimistic outlook- I think that this project could even be taken one step further using the Internet as a viable means of education.

Perhaps there could be a corresponding website not only full of oral histories that might help chronicle/explain the repression, un-warranted violence, and social harassment that the LGBT community has experienced over the years, but also additional links that lead to further information or support groups for those who might be undergoing such discrimination at this time as well.

Remember- my angle is all about humanizing the cause to people who necessarily don't see the LBGT community in the same way as they see their own, by making them stop and confront whatever prejudices they carry by replacing their labels they carry in their head, with actual people in their stead. [Hey- that rhymed!]

Would my beefed-up distillation of Peter's original concept work?
I'm pretty sure it would, and with far more effectiveness, I'd like to think.

But what do I know... I'm not even smart enough to fill out the paperwork to take other people's money. And when we come back...

I end my tale about my adventures in cheating Death, finally get to wax poetically about vanilla pudding, elucidate on why I would kick your ass in Trivial Pursuit regarding anything mob related, and set the possibly lowest speed for the 50 yard dash ever recorded, all while humming the entire Michael Jackson catalog.

You know... all that stuff I promised you last time.

“It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not.” - Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter