Thursday, September 6, 2012

Consortium of Mediocrity (An Army of None.)



When small men attempt great enterprises, they always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.- Napoleon Bonaparte

Hello Blogiteers!
How are we today? Better than average, I hope.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being average, mind you- it’s just that if given a choice, why would you be? Nothing is more boring than being just like everybody else, and while vanilla may be the most popular flavor in the world, it’s also the least exciting.

Try it next to Rocky Road just once, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. I, for one, am not a vanilla kind of guy, nor do I ever want to be. But for some people, being less than vanilla seems to be their ultimate life goal, and wherein we find our topic for today.

I’m not talking about Hipsters, whom I was hating long before it was cool- no, I’m referencing the subject of Mediocrity, a quality that
America seems to have gleefully embraced wholeheartedly lately. From what we consider literature  to our movies to our Politics, it seems we just can’t get enough of half-ass and the half-witted.

So, is it really a shock when our local Arts organizations are any less sub standard?
Hardly.

In the past, I’ve touched on organized Mediocrity (First Friday, The Phoenix New Times) practitioners of Mediocrity (Peter Bugg, Claire Lawton, Amy Silverman) but this time around I’m aiming at the highest pinnacle of the lowest form of thin-skinned narcissism, that being self-congratulatory Mediocrity, personified as of late in the guise of one Mrs. Elena Thornton.


So who is she, and what’s the story as to why am I feeling the need to issue a bitch-slap?


Well, in the short version, she’s the Artbitch’s newest scratching post, and in the long version she oversees The
Arizona Consortium of the Arts Charity, whose Mission statement is to do this:

Nurture an inspirational environment for individuals to self express through the Arts, and to develop their creative abilities.”


That’s a noble goal, albeit one that’s worded really badly.
Six words for Elena: Hire. A. Copy. Writer. Like. Now.

In principle, I’m all for fostering growth in the Arts, but not when it’s being championed by fluffy lightweights such as Elena, who seemingly thinks that everyone should act as if they’re in UP with People, no matter what the reality of the situation is. Having a positive attitude is great, but not when it gets in the way of making rational decisions.

As usual, I’ll have to explain, so as not to make you think I’m going after a charitable organization, ala half-cocked. Even I have boundaries, despite my reputation for crushing bluntness. Granted, most of those boundary lines have been forcibly instituted by the Court system, but… they are there.

Trust Me. I’m an Artist.
 Would I lie to you?

Several months ago, I was introduced to Elena, while attending an event where the ACOTA was presenting a “show”
  of it’s accumulated collection of works by local Artists. To call it truly awful would be an understatement of biblical proportion, and this is coming from someone who’s eyesight has literally survived hundreds of First Fridays.

Now, if I were forced to say something nice about her substandard effort,
 the only straightforward compliment I could grant regarding this train-wreck is that it was hung well, but that’s only because she had nothing to do with that part of the process.

Possessing all the charm and ability of a High School Art Fair, it also managed to have absolutely no connection with where it was being displayed- that being the
Arizona Historical Society, located at Papago Park.

To give you some context on the depth of my dislike, I’d sit through a Peter Bugg retrospective, TWICE, before I’d ever go see crap like that again.

Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that I’ll never be faced with the threat of having to do either, mainly since  her wannabe Arts organization seems to have less support than Sherriff Joe at a La Raza meeting, and Bugg’s chances of having an esteemed retrospective are about as likely as mine becoming the star forward for the Redwings.

Sorry. That was a little harsh, I think.

On second thought, my chances of playing for the Redwings are actually pretty good overall, and Bugg might deserve a retrospective, if only to serve as a practical example of what unbridled pretentiousness in the Arts truly looks like.

My sincerest and deepest apologies all around.

Back to the grind.

Several little artsy birds have informed me that the only reason this show was approved to occupy a free space at the Society was because it was pitched as pertaining directly to the Museum’s Mission Statement, which is listed as such:


“The Arizona Historical Society is a state agency whose mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate the history of Arizona, the West, and northern Mexico as it pertains to Arizona.”


Keeping that in mind, I have no idea as to what low quality art depicting Egyptian Pyramids, and Russian Onion Domes has to do with AZ, but hey… I tend to use actual logic in my day to day life, so maybe that’s what has been keeping me from seeing the deeper meaning that was inherent there.

To be fair, there
were two or three pieces that were of good quality, but the odds are fairly strong that those were solitary glitches in her collection of mediocrity amber. But that’s not the reason I’m annoyed with her- far from it.

Standards are meaningless if you have nothing (or no one) that can serve as a ready-made foil to deftly illustrate your point. Hacks and wannabes have always infected the Arts, and our little microcosm of pointless endeavor is no exception.

However, despite my loathing of said artistic poseurs, I’d be hard-pressed to admit that they aren’t indispensable to the cause, and if I were to draw an equivalent parallel, I would cast them in the analogous role of a tick to a dog.

Bothersome- but easily dealt with once discovered. Unfortunately for the scene, our dog is covered by scores of these artsy parasites, and no matter how tough our mangy little mutt may be, eventually he’s gonna drop dead from blood loss, if not Lyme disease.

I admire most of the people who attempt to compel change in the PHX Art Scene, but there are way too many schmucks running amuck, doing more harm then good, and at the end of the day, they accomplish absolutely nothing of benefit.

Now don’t get me wrong- I’m not of the mind-set that my humbly acidic screeds are changing the world, but if every now and then, they facilitate a dialogue that gets the art-peeps talking about the future of this scene, then that’s nothing but good, in my opinion.

Debate. It moves a civil society forward, and it is absolutely vital to the alteration of a problem, since no revolution was ever started by people who were happy about their situation.


Irritatingly, one of the more maddening things about working in PHX as a Creative is the thin-skinned attitude that persists within- if I had a nickel for every time I saw a fellow “Artist” get his or her nose bent out of joint over a perceived slight, I could have bought that evil volcano lair complete with matching Death Ray and retired years ago.

[Granted, I may be directly responsible for a majority of those slights, but I digress.]


For the record, stating a
fact doesn’t make you insufferably rude, it means you’re honest, and you’d think that a rational person would appreciate that. But seemingly, it’s considered bad form if you call attention to an issue that someone else would rather ignore, and here is where our tale begins.

Just like Betty White, I’m on the FaceBook, keeping up to date with what’s going on in regards to the Arts community, and whether you’re a fan or not of Social Media, you’d still have to admit it’s an excellent way to disseminate information, and call attention to certain problems that need fixing.


Going Viral” is how the cool kids put it, I’ve been informed.

Because of the fact that the web is mostly an economical resource, it’s been utilized for both propaganda and educational platforms, porn being somewhere in between, depending on your needs. I of course, never look at the naughty stuff myself, but I’ve been told it’s very
exciting.

(Rolls eyes.)

The downside to the torrent of all this data is that everybody now thinks they’re a Rhodes Scholar when it comes to talking about the issues of the day. The Web provides a haven for the sort of people who, in the past, were relegated to shouting on street corners or picking fights in bars when you disagreed with them.

These days, they’re just given jobs on FOX News and asked to be Vice President.

There’s nothing quite so infuriating than having a battle of wits with an obviously unarmed opponent who believes that they’re the ones who are winning.

Facts are NOT supposed to be open to erroneous and random interpretation, that’s why they’re called
facts, not: wow, I think I may be on to something here with this pile of collected data .  

As soon as something is proven, it’s no longer a theory, nor a hypothesis- it’s a concrete block of Truth hung around your neck. Which, when you think about it… could come in real handy for solving a wide range of problems within our community.
Nah. I’m still way to cute to go to prison, so I’ll just move on, I think.

But there’s the rub- we really don’t want to hear the Truth, we want to be told a version of it that we like, preferably one that’s all light and fluffy. It’s never worked that way with me, and with God as my witness- I’d rather take the pill without the sugar coating any day.

When it comes to helping the Arts community, if you’re paying no heed to what’s happening right before your eyes, then you’re not blazing a path- you’re creating a roadblock for the rest of us. If you really want to help, then either accept the veracity of what is, before you embrace what could be.

What can I say… I’m a realist.

But as to my current fray, it all started innocently enough, as most of these things do. I was cruising through the ol’ Internet wasteland, answering my E-mail and arbitrary FB messages, commenting on friend’s status updates, and downloading random photos of cats doing adorable things, when I came across the following link posted on the FB page of the ACOTA.

[Link: http://www.jetsetextra.com/the-extra/mary-anne-been/arizona-an-oasis-of-art-and-culture.html]


At this point, I’d like to point out a few issues I was having so you can understand the context.

In my opinion, just re-posting links is not what I consider being an active supporter of the Arts- it just proves that you can hit the “Share” button, and that your less than brilliant plan for publicizing the local Arts community is based on an over-optimistic view that your collective links are far more interesting than anything that George Takei has posted that hour.

Being a fan of his page and witticisms, I can tell you that right off the bat- you’re already screwed.
 

Need examples of people doing good things for the community?

Look at Hugo Medina, Stacey Champion, Aaron Johnson, Kara Roschi and Shannon Youso for a start. That kind of ego-less contribution is exactly what this town needs, and it’s way overdue, no matter how you look at it.
 

So pick a path, get off your ass and do something useful already.

On the subject of Arizona being an “oasis of art and culture”, as this article claimed, if this is actually true, then Detroit must be safer than a bank vault. This vile brand of journo-fluff is exactly what I hate to read in regards to promoting the Arts, especially in a scene that needs as much exposure as it can get.

Let’s assume that someone actually used this so-called article as a point of reference- they might logically presuppose that the only thing that PHX offers up as cultural highlights are a  few places to eat, two museums, one of which bleeds staff like an open wound and isn’t even accredited- and a place where  you can buy... Olive Oil.

Yep… that’s some deep and Artsy roots there, let me tell you. Nothing says “culture” like a T-shirt and some salad dressing. Seriously… when did Olive Oil become a tourist attraction?

Whiskey? I understand that… but salad dressing?
Not so much.

Small wonder why we’re becoming the go-to punch line for America and lately- the world.

With no due respect, if I was going to summarize what is worth seeing in PHX, I sure as heck wouldn’t mention places that already have an in-house publicity department- they don’t really need the additional PR, and they have a staff working 24/7 on their behalf.


The PAS doesn’t have that, and we’re the ones who need it the most.

It’s the Artists that need the hand up, and this article failed miserably in that regard, due to it’s puzzling omission of the entire downtown scene- something that I noted on ACOTA’s FB page in the form of a comment.

Now, I wasn’t vulgar or threatening, nor was I flippant either. I plainly stated that this article was badly written, the end result being that PHX is widely considered to be a non-entity in the Art world due to incomplete coverage like this, and suggested that perhaps posting it was not a great idea.
 

Big mistake on my part, apparently.

Within the hour, I noticed my comment had been taken down, a move which prompted me to post again, noting that if they didn’t want comments, perhaps they shouldn’t have posted it in the first place. I’m of the mind that if you post it on your wall, then that must be something you believe in.

For instance, I don’t repost any of the Libertarian / Conspiracy / Game Links that get sent my way, because I find them annoying. However, if you see something posted on my wall, that’s a pretty good indicator that I stand behind it 100%, and am willing to defend it, if necessary.

 
After my little bon mot was taken down, I received the following FB Message from Elena:

“Michael, before you write comments on our all volunteer organization's wall - please learn about us. At Arizona Consortium for the Arts - we are all volunteers. we provide FREE arts and cultural events for our communities. we provide venues/programs and activities to give voice and visibility and opportunities to artists in all genres. I do not know why you are posting negative comments on our wall. all we did was repost an article that was posted by another arts org - Mesa Arts Center. Please direct your comments to people who write articles that you do not like... if you are not happy what they write - please start writing your own - through blogs, etc... help us - volunteers help support arts and cultures!!! your disappointing comments upset our volunteers who wrote to me and alerted me about your negative comments...our volunteers work very hard to help promote arts and cultures and help artists spanning all disciplines! thank you”
 

I’m sure some of you have already noticed a few things about this message. For those of you who haven’t, let me point them out to you- trust me, it’s gonna be fun.

ONE:

My name is “Wayne”, not “Michael”, not “Wayne (hyphen) Michael”, just Wayne. If you want to really kiss up, just call me “His Awesomeness, the Incredibly Bitchin’ Funk God Wayne Michael Reich” and we’ll get along just fine. As a suggestion, I would recommend that if you want to send me a personal message in the future, whether it be happy or not- that you do a little research and get my name right before you attempt to talk down to me or deride my opinion.

After all, I got your name, and I got your number- the least you can do is return the favor.


TWO:


Until I met Elena, I had never heard of her organization, and after a quick survey of my artsy peeps within the PAS, neither had anyone else, apparently. Heck, their FB page only has 626 “likes”, so they’re hardly a powerhouse of change for the community. especially when you consider that a FB page dedicated to pickles has more friends than her.


[Pickle Page Link:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Can-this-Pickle-get-more-fans-than-Twilight/338654499096?ref=ts ]
 

Way to use the available tools. You’re an inspiration to dial-up users everywhere.

THREE:


You’re all volunteers.
Whoopity fricking doo.

So what?

Its not about how many hours you work, or who you work for, or even if you do it for free- it’s about how effective you are getting your point across and heightening awareness. Most of the people I’ve talked to who’ve actually heard of Elena regard the ACOTA as a joke at best, and considering the quality of the events they’ve been putting together, I’d say they’re being charitable at best.


In reference to my earlier comment about roadblocks, one of the giant spanners in the works are the wannabes such as this, who, because they don’t have the chops to be Artists, decide that they’re going to be Art supporters. They go to all the events, name drop at every opportunity, and pat themselves on the back for doing absolutely nothing of worth.


For the record, scarfing down free cookies, drinking multiple glasses of wine, and being pretentious while chatting non-stop like a magpie, is not a talent, nor is it noble. It is however, exasperatingly annoying, and in the case of Elena, I’ve been informed that she makes my well-honed arrogance look like child’s play.


On second thought, that IS an impressive skill set… so maybe I’ll just call this one a draw.


FOUR:


To quote: “
your disappointing comments upset our volunteers who wrote to me and alerted me about your negative comments...

I’m terribly sorry. If I had known I was dealing with a bunch of impotent thin-skinned twits, I would have been much more blunt. Not because I’m a jerk, but because it’s just so much fun to screw with somebody so uptight. God forbid that someone has a different (albeit accurate) opinion than yours.

Don’t like my opinion? Then try finding out why I believe it, rather than hiding under the covers- you might actually learn something, and maybe so will I, if your argument is persuasive.


As a side note, does anyone else think that it’s really strange that her loyal and trusted volunteers had to E-mail their concerns about what I had posted?

Can’t the ACOTA afford a phone, or even two cans connected by a string? Maybe her “volunteers” are like Snuffleupagus- they can only be seen when no mature adults are around.

Getting back on track, if this is the attitude they display when negotiating with someone to provide free space (yet again) to host one of their dreadful train wrecks that they call a show, it’s no wonder this group doesn’t have a permanent space or a measurable presence in the local arts community.
But more than that, it serves as a perfect example of why certain “organizations” in this town are seemingly so ineffective at making a dent in our current situation of malaise. You can’t make changes that are necessary unless you’re effective with your message, and sticking your head in the sand isn’t the best way to achieve that.

And not to come off as a grammar snob or anything, but damn- that sentence structure is just painful, and I simply have to ask this question: were my comments disappointing or negative?

Cause Lord knows, I’ve never been both.

FIVE:

To quote yet again:if you are not happy what they write - please start writing your own - through blogs, etc... help us - volunteers help support arts and cultures!!!"

This suggestion is just thick beyond belief for one simple fact: I MET HER, WE THEN EXCHANGED BUSINESS CARDS, AND WE TALKED FOR NEARLY TWENTY MINUTES ABOUT THIS EXACT SAME THING.

Ego aside, most people don’t fail to remember talking to me- the word “intense” comes to mind, and it’s rare that anyone I’ve chatted with completely blanks me out. That’s not pride, that’s just the sad Truth.

With Ego full on, I did mention what I do, what I write, and the title of my little screed world as well- it’s something that usually sticks with most intelligent mammals, but not with her.

So, being the nice guy that I am, I decided to retort and wrote the following response:
 

“Mrs. Thornton-

Actually my name is Wayne, so I can see that paying attention is not your strong suit. If you can't handle different points of view, then don't post.

And BTW?
Posting fluff is not helping anyone within our struggling community, either.

In regards to your message, I HAVE been writing about the Art scene for the last two years or so, and am both fairly well known and somewhat infamous for my skewering of the pretentious and those devoid of talent within the PHX Arts Community.

If I were to be honest, I was totally stumped as to what to write about this month.

But now, with no small thanks to you, I now have something worthy to share with my readers, and the best part is that it was your suggestion that inspired my upcoming tale of your laughable reaction to my post.

The fact that you and your apparently thin-skinned volunteers reacted with such overkill to the legitimate question I posed only underscores why you're an all volunteer organization.

Mature professionals aren't afraid of negativity, nor are they afraid to tackle such issues head on, as this usually leads to solutions which are beneficial to all.

It's truly a shame you lack such essential skills, but considering the high school quality of the "shows" I've seen come out of your organization, it's really not that much of a surprise either.

So... as to my soon to be published blog about y'all, feel free to check out previous samples of my past screeds at: http://www.WayneMichaelReich.Blogspot.com to see just how "negative" I can really be when I give it my best college try.

Respectfully,
Wayne Michael Reich

PS: If all goes well, your blog should be up within a week or so. Don't thank me, it's the least I can do for such a dedicated amateur.”

See? I can be nice. Downright friendly. The Milk of Human Kindness, as it were.

Consequently, there I was, sitting at home, waiting for a response of some sort. Perhaps it would be a half apology, or more likely- a “why don’t you go f**k yourself” which is usually the norm where I’m involved. I received neither. Instead, I was blocked on FaceBook like a former BFF.

Apparently, she can dish it out, but she can’t take it.

No big surprise there, as I correctly called her out for being a thin-skinned candy-ass, but that still isn’t the reason I’m ticked off at her, shockingly enough. I like a good old fashioned bare knuckled kind of fight, whether it’s verbal or physical, and I detest anyone who organizes said fight and then flees like a craven.

Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, arranges art shows like a duck.
Must be a thin-skinned duck.


Now after that juvenile lack of response, I figured I was done with this ineffectual dingbat, filing her away under “small annoyances”. I wasn’t even thinking of writing anything about her impotent arts group to be honest, as she really wasn’t worth my time or interest.

In fact- this blog should have been about critics and the ongoing Manifesto project.
So, what derailed that particular screed, you ask?

Well… she attempted to blindside me by using my friends, and that’s never smart. But it is the act of a coward, and it is something that is guaranteed to get my attention. You mess with my friends or those few I consider family, and I will make you reconsider the wisdom of your actions, as sure as the day is long- count on it.

It seems that after I sent my affable little message, Elena took it upon herself via the old FaceBook to contact a fellow Artist and personal friend, to “warn” them about my supposed lack of amiability.  

A perplexing act that she tried to repeat [unsuccessfully] amongst other colleagues affiliated with me, I might add. Now, if this scuttlebutt turns out to be accurate, then she’s not only just ineffectual as an Arts advocate, she’s also someone who’s backbone is evidently constructed from Velveeta.

Entertainingly, they had no idea who she was [see: that whole “ineffectual twit” thing] and because they’re the non-confrontational type, wide berth was given in relation to her request of their direct involvement in dealing with yours truly. Predictably, her tween approach to problem solving just backfired by confusing and annoying them.

Did she seriously expect them to jump in on her side?

News flash Elena: my friends know better than to get involved with my personal battles, and as the old Adam Ant song goes: “All those who get to know me, become admirers or my enemies.”

There really is no gray in my life in that regard, and I like it. Keeps the Christmas card list easy to manage, cuts down on those pesky wedding invites, and it does make organizing a dinner party a breeze.


So to sum up- she starts a fight, runs away from said fight, blocks any attempt to debate, and then in a spineless and uncalled for action- attempts to create a rift between me and my friends.

I’ve always said that if anyone has an issue with me, real or imagined- they can always step up.

Don’t sit in the dark writing anonymous E-mails, don’t talk behind my back while I’m in the room, just walk up and bring it to Daddy. You’d be amazed by how level headed I am, if only you have the stones to show up in person and state your case.

Nevertheless- whatever you do, don’t involve my friends in your personal and somewhat pathetic cowardice, because I will metaphorically smoke you where you stand without thinking twice.
 

So these are your options: stand your ground and face me like the adult you claim to be, or I’ll drag you symbolically out into the light like the coward I know you are. It’s that simple.

Overall, I find the pitiable Mrs. Thornton to be more of an opportune example of the stereotypical amateur who screws up the scene with their ineffectual idiocy, and less the dreaded adversary that hides under my bed. After all, I’ve watched with some bemusement as what she considers her best shot bounced off, and it’s fairly clear that she “shoots” as well as she advocates for the Arts.

But then again, should we expect anything less from a wannabe?
I think we already know the answer, but she’s not the one to give it to us.

However, I know who can. Despite Mrs. Thornton’s petulant sniping, I’d like to point out that the true professionals are already putting thoughts into action, while she and her amateur volunteers simply disappoint.

That’s the true negativity.


There are certain things in which mediocrity is not to be endured, such as poetry, music, painting, public speaking.” – Jean de la Bruyere