Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What’s Up, Dach? (The Carrots of Anarchy.)




“Look. Art knows no prejudice, art knows no boundaries, art doesn't really have judgment in it's purest form. So just go, just go.” – K.D. Lang

Hello Blogiteers!

Today’s blog is all about personal hypocrisy, asinine rashness, and the consequences of what happens when you let your inherent narcissism get out of hand. Yes, my faithful readers, today we’ll be dealing with the issue of bad judgment, that most dreaded and insidious aspect sheltered within one’s own personal psyche.

Let’s be honest- we’ve all made some seriously  bone-headed decisions, and we’ll continue to make more as we walk the path- it’s just human nature, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’m almost positive that if one were to take a look at my track record, they’d probably be stunned that I haven’t been given a lifetime achievement award in regards to all the bad calls that I’ve made.

Personally, I’ve always thought of myself as a highly accomplished amateur when it comes to the art of making bad decisions - I’m good enough to turn pro, but I lack the skill set to make it happen. Unlike most people, there truly are no skeletons in my closet- they’re too busy drinking Martinis and disco dancing right up front, and taken as a whole, there really isn’t anything tucked away in my past that would embarrass me if it ever saw the light of day.

That’s the beauty of being an egotistical extrovert- you want everybody to know what you’re about. When it comes to my numerous flaws, I made peace with the majority of them a very long time ago, and if I had any piece of hard-won advice to offer a young man as he makes his way through the world, it would be this: never fall in love with anyone who pays their rent in singles.

I’m just chock-full of useful tidbits like that, all of it based on my past experiences, so trust me, I do know what I’m talking about. However- I’m not here to mindlessly blather on and on about my abundant acts of personal stupidity, nor am I going to recount the tales of such that I’ve heard throughout my lifetime.

Besides… who doesn’t have a “I once took a hair dryer into the shower with me” story? That’s what I thought. However, since our particular blog subject today is all about bad judgment, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the current outrage that at this time, is brewing within the downtown scene, courtesy of one Cindy Dach. So who is she, and what has she done that has upset the gentle sensibilities of the Downtown PHX Community you ask?
 
Well, up until a few weeks ago, Cindy was best known for two things- the first for being on the board of the Roosevelt Row CDC, which according to it’s mission statement is set up to be: “a 501(c)3 non-profit community development corporation established to further the unique cultural character and creative assets of the Roosevelt Row Arts District, to advocate for the continuing presence and role of the arts and small business in the revitalization of the district, and to foster a dense, diverse and walkable urban community.”

Her second accolade is being the co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, and a small boutique called MADE, which is located on the corner of Fifth Street and Roosevelt in downtown PHX. A normally quiet little street, it contains several local businesses, such as Jobot Coffee, Think, Lawn Gnome Publishing, The Lost Leaf, Aside of Heart, and Missconstrued Boutique.

Because this area is so low-key, it remains a hidden gem to most Phoenicians, and for those who oppose the gentrifying effects of local development, that’s a positive so far as where they’re concerned, and I tend to agree. There is one day however, when it literally becomes ground zero for chaos, both real and imagined, and here is where all of our trouble begins.

Unlike Grand Avenue, that singular hotbed of artistic grittiness, Roosevelt tends to lean towards a vanilla wafer blandness that attracts a substantial amount of essentially useless people to mass in a few square blocks come the first Friday of every month.

Yipee.

Largely due to the amount of people that come down for the event, a strong police presence has been a consistent for the last few years, and that presence is crucial to keeping the peace. Yeah, I said it. The police are somewhat essential down here, despite what the local patchouli patrol likes to claim.

Shockingly, if you take several thousand people, cram them into a few square blocks, add alcohol, and let it simmer, you’re going to have the occasional problem. I’ve personally witnessed public/underage drinking, outright public intoxication, fistfights, random homeless engaging in what the cool kids refer to as “that shit be crazy”, and the odd drug bust.

For myself, I’ve always been of the mindset that when the crazy hammer falls, I’d rather have the police coming to my rescue, versus a bunch of drunken beer-swilling Hipsters any day. Overall, I have no inherent issue with cops doing their jobs, and neither do most people with common sense, it seems. But as the saying goes, cops are people too, and just like there will always be the pretentious barista, there will always be the occasionally bad cop.

However, that doesn’t provide evidence to the theory that all cops are corrupt, and using the limited abuses of a few to justify disrespect to all, is a rather ignorant point of view in my opinion. But I’m getting ahead of myself. As I stated earlier, there is a huge brouhaha surrounding Ms. Dach currently, and it involves an interaction with the Phoenix police dept. that went completely pear-shaped.

According to a recently published report,  she sent an email to Phoenix police Sgt. Chas Clements that stated the location and time of an Occupy Phoenix meeting on Fifth Street at the same time as a First Friday event.

Now, to be fair, the information she provided was publicly available and may not have led to any immediate harm to activists- a claim that several members of the Occupy movement regard as blatantly false. Upon first reading, the report also strongly suggests that police used that intelligence to take repressive action, sending undercover officers to infiltrate the movement and gather intelligence. 

For instance- Saul DeLara, an undercover officer, attended several Occupy Phoenix meetings presenting himself as a homeless Mexican national, and another covert officer allegedly was overheard advocating violence on more than one occasion before his presence was discovered. The email that Dach sent alerted police of an Occupy Phoenix meeting at Conspire, a former vegan cafe and art space, according to the report. Dach claimed she sent the email for the intent of maintaining security during First Fridays on Roosevelt Row.

In her own words:  “In 2011, there was a lot of public safety issues on First Fridays, we wanted to ensure an event that reflected the great arts community in Phoenix and that was also a safe event for attendees of all ages.”

What happened instead was that personal social security numbers, physical descriptions, driver’s license/state identification numbers and home addresses of citizens who had been given ‘warnings’ in relation to Occupy Phoenix activity were collected for God knows what purposes, something that I find to be an outright desecration of civil rights.

When all the dust from this settles, I definitely think those responsible for the PD’s overreach should be publically censured, fired, and if the case can be proven- prosecuted, for exceeding the limit of what their authority actually encapsulates. Heads need to roll, and that right quick, be it the Soldiers or the Generals.

As you can imagine, this unwarranted violation has led to a huge amount of backlash, mostly in the form of highly negative comments all across the social media networks, forcing Ms. Dach to offer a public apology for her lack of foresight and breach of trust.

Once again, in her own words: “I am truly sorry. It was never my intention to provide an intelligence-gathering tip to local police, or attempt to disrupt free speech. Reading through the CMD report last night, I’ve come to realize how naive I was in this situation.

To some, that will make me seem like a fool, but I was surprised to discover how my email was used. When this happened back in 2011, it didn’t occur to me that a First Friday crowd safety concern—just one of many that Roosevelt Row merchants were dealing with at the
time—would be used instead to gather information about an Occupy meeting.

These public safety concerns are a matter of public record, and as Roosevelt Row’s interim director it was my responsibility to address them. That was what my email to Sergeant Clements was about. There was no political motivation nor malice intended on my part.

All my life, I have rolled up my sleeves to help my community, and now I can say that I’ve had a reality shock and better understand how good intentions can be used for other purposes. It’s a sobering lesson. I apologize for any harm that was done as a result of my email. I don’t know any other way to say it—I’m sorry. Very sorry.”

Personally, I find this apology to be somewhat weak in the spine, but it does strike as sincere. At worst, she’s a petty little snitch, and at best- a naïve ingénue who apparently is completely clueless as to how the world really works. Getting in bed (metaphorically) with the police has never been a good idea, especially when they’re monitoring the actions of a political movement. Shades of Orwell’s Big Brother and all that, you know.

After this apology was released, one might think that would help settle or cool off the issue, but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Across the social media Serengeti, there were calls for meetings to discuss the issue, poorly debated harangues about her breaching the community’s trust, and not unexpectedly- talk of boycotting her businesses in response to her collusion with the authorities.

And in principle, I agree that all of these should be enacted… up to a point.

Ms. Dach definitely needs to be taken to the woodshed in my opinion, and there should be some consequences in regards to her excruciating lack of common sense. But here’s where I and some people differ in our opinion of how that should be done. Personally, while I feel that boycotts are effective, there’s the issue of what good it would actually do. In the long run, Ms. Dach won’t really be affected that much. The Media really only cares about the big companies, and there will always be a customer base that will ignore such actions anyway.

Want to hit her where it hurts? Take away her ability to make any future decisions regarding the PHX Art Scene, and make sure she remains in the Gulag until she understands why what she did was wrong. Because I can guarantee that three months from now, this will be old news where she’s concerned.

The cops are another problem altogether. See, the real underlying issue at play here is not Cindy’s snitching to the cops, it’s the relationship between the local community and the police- if I were to make an honest observation, I’ve seen warmer interaction between the cast of Glee and the Westboro Baptist Church.

So to say it’s not going well would be the mother of all understatements.

The cops claim they’re protecting the community, the anti-cop brigade says they’re terrorizing it. As with all differences of opinion, the actual truth lies somewhere in-between. I’ve been in the “scene” since 1991 or so, and have observed the gradual buildup of the police presence in downtown, as well as the commercial development of the surrounding area, so I do remember what it used to be like “back in the day” as us old white male dinosaurs are fond of saying.

Has it gotten worse? Well…. sort of, depending on what point of view you ascribe to, of course.

Yes, in the sense that seemingly, there exists no reasoned plan for true community development versus what amounts to a rapidly expanding collection of buildings currently adding to the giant heat sink that is Downtown. Granted, there are a few bright spots here and there, a public bike initiative is under development, for instance- but as a whole, there is a dearth of businesses that can help create that solidification of community we so desperately need.

We don’t need more bars downtown, we need more cafes, bookstores, coffee shops, and parks. Oh, and some form of shade would be really nice too- I’ve been told there are these things called “trees”, perhaps we should get a few more of those, or I don’t know… erect some damn sunscreens?

Either/or. I’m good with both.

Getting back on point, over the last few years, there’s been a growing influx of new residents, the demographic consisting of new condo/townhome owners and students attending the ASU campus downtown. With all this new blood comes the same old problems of society, disturbances, petty crime and the like.

Most of this crime is what is referred to as “soft crime”- think minor vandalism, petty theft, and the like, meaning that police aren’t really going to beat the bushes looking for the criminals who did it, unless they literally trip into luck and find them. Now I’m not saying that downtown has devolved into Gotham City, but with growth there always some form of mild cancer- for instance, I hear about bike thefts about six times a week, and there’s always a burglary story of the day, it seems.

Considering the huge incursion of college students, this is not to be unexpected, after all. Speaking from personal experience, most 20 somethings tend to go a bit wild first time out of the house, so the types of disturbances listed above are sort of par for the course. Leading naturally, to a more prominent police presence within the community.

Something that I myself have barely noticed outside of FF and other similar events. By way of gentle disclosure, I don’t live downtown, but I do spend an amazing amount of time there in regards to my business and social life, and quite honestly can count the number of unpleasant interactions I’ve had with the police on less than four fingers. That BTW, is over a span of fifteen years or so. Granted, since I don’t live there, I may not have the same base of reference than those who do, and I cheerfully will admit that.

But I also find it odd that despite all the claims of rampant abuse, I’ve never actually seen any of this so-called out of control activity. I’ve been to late-night raves, parties, bake-offs, BBQ’s, gatherings, shin digs, festivals, clam bakes, bon-fires, fetes, get-togethers, pot lucks, and soirees, yet I’ve never experienced any of what I would consider abusive authority. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. That could be the case.

Or maybe it’s something else. If I had a dime for every tale I’ve heard of abusive police, I could have retired already. Now, I’m not suggesting that abuse doesn’t happen, nor am I being an apologist for the PHX police department, because as a rule, I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot.

I’m just saying that it strikes strange that it always seems to happen to a third party source. And for those of you who are now sputtering with unchecked and righteous anger, let me say it again: “I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot. I’m not the biggest fan of any law enforcement entity, not by a long shot.”

Having said that five times, I hope everybody understands that as a rule, I don’t like cops. However, I don’t really have an issue with them either- I’m just not a fan of authority in general, whether it be police, bureaucrats, or my boss, so don’t even waste effort on an attempt to slander me with the label of one who is a sympathetic collaborator, because I’m not. I am however, someone who deals in reality, and reality alone, so for me- its all about the facts. I do believe that at times, there are rampant and excessive abuses of police authority, wholly confirmed by the release of the report that exposed this clusterf**k in the first place.

Going one better, I also think that not all of this activity gets reported within the context of local media, as well. But when it comes to focused political activism, it’s also not too shocking that the authorities keep tabs on the key players as well as their worker bees. Anytime you go up against an established power base, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll encounter overkill when it comes to governmental interference, and it’s painfully naïve to think that you won’t.

Is it fair? F**K NO. Is it the reality? Sadly, yes.
 
Utopia is a wonderful concept, but it forgets to factor in one thing: people and all their hard-wired tendencies that undermine a truly collective effort. Involve more than ten people, and its almost certain that you’re going to have a myriad of issues within your movement. Factor in the police spying on you, and the mire increases exponentially.

As is my tendency, I soon jumped in on the various online forums, to offer my two cents about this situation, taking the position that perhaps having a sit-down with the “enemy” might be much more useful in fostering a solution- a nice, neat, common sense approach, as it were. Future suggestion to myself- I really need to learn to listen to my inner monologue, because that cat is wicked smart. His take on my getting involved ran like this:

“Why do you keep doing this to yourself? You know conversing with people who professionally couch-surf is a waste of logic, time and energy!”

That’s my problem… I apparently have the optimism of a four year old girl. Nevertheless, I dove in, thinking surely I could have a civil debate regarding the anti-cop sentiments being expressed in various declarations of anger and outright rage. Oh wait… I forgot that I was on the Internet, essentially the digital version of Tombstone back in 1878. No rules, anything goes, and you’re most likely dealing with someone who’s functionally illiterate.

Almost immediately, I found myself in the gun sights of two people, one calling herself “Ting Ting” and the other, a dude known only as “Justice”… I kid you not.

Essentially, I was facing down the principal cast of a Disney western. After posting my opinion that I personally felt that it was time for a sit-down, these two reacted with all the hissiness of a girl scout troop. Ting, in between all of her anti-cop and police state rhetoric, also felt the need for some reason to point out that I’m a white guy (thanks for that info) and that I was older than her, (your point being?) rather than actually debate what I had said.

This is why you do some research before you engage your chosen opponent- it makes you look less stupid. It’s always refreshing to have someone I’ve never met insult me based solely on gender and skin color, especially when you consider how much effort and art I’ve donated for the causes of Gay Rights, Equal Rights, Voting Rights, along with my numerous campaigns against Domestic Violence.

I’d also like to add that I’ve been dating an ardent Feminist for the last four years, so the thought that I happen to be a sexist pig due to the set of genitalia I was born with is laughable at best, asinine at worst. And as for my age, you’re supposed to treat your decrepit elders with some respect- just saying.

Oh yes. You’re all shades of morally superior… way to put me in my place, Tingbat. Because as we all know, us white males (at our core) just want to enslave the world using the dual chains of Capitalism and Sexism. [*In fact, this was actually the topic of our last Board Meeting at Hooters.]

So to have this ineffectual (and whiny) firebrand attempt to malign my character just because I dare to have a different POV than hers, and also happen to be a male, just makes me giggle like a... well, normally, I would say like a Japanese schoolgirl, but she would most likely label that’s as racially sexist dogma, so let me say instead that she makes me giggle in the manner of a drunken Pokemon.

She also added that she: “could believe in something, even if she didn’t practice it”. Thank you Lord, for the early Xmas gift. Remind me to get you something really nice.

What strikes as funny is that for all her bluster, several of my friends who are heavily involved within the Occupy Movement have pretty much dismissed her as nothing more than a huge pain in the ass, a claim I can easily believe, given her nature in regards to self-aggrandizement. My favorite take from one of these trusted sources concerning the anarchist backlash and some of it’s polarized members was this: “They’re basically the Juggalos of Activists”.

Ouch. That one stung, and I’m not even the target. I’ve noticed that when people are this polarized, they tend to overlook their obvious faults while simultaneously attacking their enemies for doing the exact same thing. Where I come from, that’s called hypocrisy, but what do I know? Apparently being an old white guy changes the definition of the word. Besides… I just can’t get upset with anyone who was seemingly named after a panda.

Justice, on the other hand, took an entirely different tack. Most people who have a differing POV usually launch a counter-argument, complete with bullet points, facts and conclusions. Justice took one look at that approach and decided that was just way too complicated, so he took the most logical and direct approach- he attacked my mustache... my “handlebar” mustache, to be more precise.

As anyone who’s met me in person knows, my “look”, (if you want to call it that) is styled very loosely after the one and only Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as “Lemmy”- he is the lead vocalist, bassist, principal songwriter and the founding and sole constant member of the hard rock band Motorhead, as well as a former member of Hawkwind.

Granted, I’ve never taken as many drugs as him, but then again, I really am quite fond of breathing.

However, Lemmy has never had a handlebar mustache, nor have I- it’s just way too much work, and besides… have you priced moustache wax lately? It’s absolutely outlandish. Insulting me, I can easily live with that, but putting Lemmy on the same intellectual level as Snidely Whiplash… well, that’s just downright despicable, if not outright lazy. Slights regarding my hairline, pony-tail, and occasionally, my well-trimmed beard have been part of my detractors stock in trade as far back as I can remember- but this may be the first time anyone’s ever gone directly after the lip toupee.

Maybe that’s why he got the insult wrong. Maybe the pressure of being a lone trailblazer got to him, and he cracked. More likely, it’s that he doesn’t know a Chevron from an Imperial, and that’s just sad. Never let it be said that I don’t try to educate the youth as to what’s what.
[Link: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/moustache-styles-and-names.html]

Peppered with F-bombs, his already feeble argument proceeded to then degrade into a rambling discourse about the evils of Capitalism, it’s role in causing death and destruction around the globe, and how I was a “tool” for not seeing the truth that was right before my eyes, to which, I say this: For the love of Christ, please shut the f**k up already, you touchy tattooed twit.

With all due respect, I’m pretty certain that the marketing of my art and the feeding of my Ding Dong habit hasn’t wiped out any indigenous Indian tribes anywhere. But if I were to form a solid opinion regarding his pitiable inability to debate like an adult, I would speculate that it stems from his refusal to act like one.

It really is just that simple. See, I have no problems with Anarchists (or any political movement) per se, I just think that the refusal to see an opposing POV is somewhat short sighted, especially when the current stalemate between factions has lead to zero positive forward progress. On a side note, does anyone else think that being a member of an “organized anarchist movement” is kind of amusing, considering that the definition of Anarchist is defined as:

1. a person who advocates or believes in anarchy or anarchism.
2. a person who seeks to overturn by violence all constituted forms and institutions of society and government, with no purpose of establishing any other system of order.
3. a person who promotes disorder or excites revolt against any established rule, law, or custom.

No offense intended on any level, I just can’t see a bunch of people who hate authority and the concept of an organized system coming together to form…well, an organized system. In the end, there’s always a need for a Chief, so how in the heck do you select one when you’re anti-authority? No wonder so many within this group drink and smoke weed. It’s just gotta be a sheer living Hell to have to cope with so many contradictions prevalent within your belief system.

And for a group so seemingly above money and possessions, so above for operating within the system, I just have to ask this one simple question: if you hate cops so much, hate Capitalism so much, then why do you consistently avail yourself of both resources whenever it suits your need or purpose?

Hence the reason why I refer to many in the Downtown Community as “weekend anarchists”. They pull out that particular set of politics to hide behind whenever they feel the need to prove themselves morally and intellectually superior. As proof, here’s a snippet of something I wrote, and the response from one of the community’s noble defenders of the realm, referred to only by her initials:

ARTBitch: “Its been my experience that the artists screaming about gentrification, repression, and capitalism are usually the ones who've already taken themselves out of the box of success. And also generally refuse to see another side while demanding that they alone are correct.

Granted, I DO see the irony in my saying this, but if any progress is to be made regarding the viability of this scene, people need to sit down at the table, discuss the issues at hand and stop acting like a bunch of weekend anarchists.”

KT: you are so closed minded and ignorant.

ARTBitch: "Thanks for your insight. Ill just take my twenty years of working in the real world and go home then. have a nice day."

Did we all see that? I suggest that in the name of beneficial progress we sit together and find a solution, (a common sense approach) and one of the hypocrisy squadron immediately calls me narrow-minded and dim-witted.

Can you now understand why I seriously conjecture how these people have been able to survive so long without being eaten? Fortunately, I’m not completely alone regarding this conviction, as evidenced by this statement posted on my FB page:  “Ive never understood that logic to keep cops out of communities. And a lof of people we know feel this way. Yet their shit goes missing/ripped off on the daily, theres assaults and HARD drug busts all the time downtown.

Yep. Looks like the patchouli patrol is doing a great job of keeping them safe. Maybe they feel less safe because they are doing things that they shouldnt be. I cant even tell you how many times cops were NOT called to occurances downtown because people in the "community" wanted to keep the peace... but mostly because everyone was holding at the times this has happened.

And the next time I go to court for "solving my own problems", Ill just tell them my wack sense of libertarianism was supposed to save me.”

That was soon followed up by a response from Kevin Flanagan, Technical Director at Space 55 and Mindless Drone at The Cult of The Yellow Sign:
[Link to his blog: http://www.principlediscord.blogspot.com/]

“I'll speak from as neutral a standpoint as I can manage: police are to crime as firemen are to fires. By that, I mean that they don't really "stop" crime from happening, they are a "first response" to it having happened. If someone was talking about removing police from communities, communities would need to take steps to train everyone to act as a "first responder."

This, of course, raises difficult questions- each community member would have to be trained in a wide variety of skills, from first aid and conflict resolution to martial skills and other dangerous operations. From where does this training come?

Who are the first trainers? Where did their experience come from?


This training would need to address use of authority, how it can be asserted safely and respectfully, and ways to effectively mobilize in matters of emergency. This is where it gets complicated, because we are not talking about a peace-keeping team of citizens, but a trained and armed militia holding down every city block across the city. That doesn't sound like freedom to me, it sounds like fucking Starship Troopers.

What street level idealists tend to imagine is "schmolice," a group of police-like policers policeing, who aren't police, but citizens helping citizens. Newsflash- that's police. There are alternatives to organized police forces, but most of them aren't pretty and don't work in large, urban settings.


It's not antianarchist to desire a group of citizens to take on the mantle of organized peace-keeping. It's not black-hoodie-crass-patch anarchy, no doubt, but the major problem with that particular brand of anarchistic thought is that it places no value whatsoever on the lives and purpose of anyone who wears a different uniform.

Police officers are people, working class people, under the same boot as everyone else- with children, families, and the same problems everyone in the current structure faces. Our 'little community' is chooses to demonize rather than communicate, where the truth is that self-governance comes from grassroots outreach.


By involving the PEOPLE wearing the uniforms in your community, they cease to be blue-clad automatons and you cease to be dreadlocked roustabouts. However, that isn't cool, so no one is going to reach that hand out to begin that cultural acclimation because, let's face it, the average person hanging out downtown isn't working class, and doesn't understand a police officers life or motivations.

That's right- I called the guy playing guitar a classist.”


Nicely stated, Kevin. But I’m afraid it will fall on deaf ears, given the grudges involved.

Sadly, there are some who will see only what they want to see, and add subtext where there never was any. And despite the obvious benefits of both parties sitting down at the table and finding a workable solution, the impasse remains current and steadfast- and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, whether it be for the better or for the worse.

So my advice to both parties? Get over yourselves, or you’ll never get past this.
And when we come back…

I finally tackle Richard Bledsoe’s obsession with a pure soapbox, and I see whether or not I can still walk into an alternative coffeehouse.

“You cannot compromise unless people talk to you.”- Aung San Suu Kyi









Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Everyone’s a Critic. (Just ask them!)




“Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it's done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves.”- Brendan Behan

Hello Blogiteers!

I am ready to rumble, so to start off this newest of rants, I’ll open up with my standard definition of an Art Critic as: a legless person who teaches classes in running, This to be followed by my definition of Criticism: an exceedingly practical tool for developing your innate talent, through the application of vitally constructive feedback.

So, why do I feel this hostile about Critics and less so when it comes to the act of Criticism?

Well… back in 1987, when I was getting ready to graduate from good ol’ Cactus High School*, I had to have a meeting with my guidance counselor to discuss my “future plans”, all of which I had centered around the study and embrace of all things art related.
[*I’m not kidding. I, in fact, did attend a High School named after a parched succulent, Our mascot was, I kid you not, a Cobra. Because when you think of a Cactus, the first thing that comes naturally to mind is a Viper from India, right?]

Originally, I wanted to be a cartoonist, not a fine artist or a photographer- so it’s a safe bet to say that I was in flux, but I did know that I wanted a career revolving around Art, and nothing else.

The Swami who was to offer me his indispensable insight was a guy named Ron Horn, whom I had avoided like the plague for pretty much all 3 ¾ years previous. As you might imagine, I saw no real benefit to taking advice from a middle aged guy whose life consisted of sitting in a depressing box talking down to uninterested teenagers, but unfortunately I had no choice, so I went- parting with an epiphany that has shaped my career ever since.

I’ll set the scene: an underweight art/drama dork wearing a British flag tee shirt and acid-washed jeans [it was the 80’s, after all] waits impatiently just outside his so called counselor’s office wanting nothing more than to go to lunch and get this pointless exercise over with. Gesturing with one hand while perusing my academic dossier, Ron waves me in, tells me to take a seat, and spends the next five minutes staring at the manila folder in his hand as if it were about to burst into flame before asking me what my plans were.

Naturally, I tell him. Heck- that is what you were supposed to do, right? And that’s when I first noticed the faint line of what appears to be a row of small stitches across his face, starting at the bridge of his nose all the way up to just above his eyebrow. Not deep and ugly, mind you, more like if you had just given yourself the mother of all paper cuts.

Of course, I naturally had to ask what happened, and he informs me that the previous weekend he had been up North, clearing some brush from his property, and the chain saw had kicked back and then proceeded to hit him… in the face. Yeeouch, to say the very least.

Continuing forward, he brushes off everything I’ve said and states that I need to choose a more realistic career path and forget about being an Artist, as it’s “too difficult’ a road to travel, and then suggests that I should maybe think about joining the Army, and would I like to talk about that?

Not too surprisingly, I didn’t- but ol’ Ron was not to be denied. Rambling on, he’s blissfully ignorant of my flat stare and lack of obvious interest, all the while deriding (churlishly) what I wanted to hopefully do with my life. As I sit there listening to his inane spiel of how the Army will “give me direction” and “mold me”, two things hit me like a crystal-clear thunderbolt from above:

One: It’s fairly obvious that this guy has either checked out in relation to doing his job, since my known highest scoring aptitudes were in Art, Drama, and English, not the Military- or he’s getting a sweet kickback from the local recruiter in the form of pastel dress shirts and gruesomely ugly ties.
[The bad haircut I think was just a poor personal choice, so I’ll overlook it out of sympathy.]

And while I know 80’s Fashion lacked many things in the way of good taste- after all, I did dress like the lead singer of Def Leppard- that still doesn’t explain why his clothes consistently looked like they were picked out by a color-blind seeing-eye dog.

Two: With all due respect, if I was going to consider taking such life-altering advice from a complete and total stranger, why, in the name of all that’s holy and pure, would I take it from someone who was too dim-witted… TO GET OUT OF THE WAY OF A F**KING CHAIN SAW?!?!?!?

Therein, my decision was made. Permanently. And I’ve never looked back.

As I leave his depressing glass-walled box, I swore that I would never pay heed to any advice from anyone unless it was constructive and could be applied in a useful fashion. It’s been my sad and consistent experience that most people who attempt to deflect or crush your dreams usually have none of their own, and compensate for this void by being the veiled viper in your sub-conscious ear.

Therefore, as a rule- I HATE, DESPISE, LOATHE, DERIDE, ABHOR, SPURN, DETEST, LOOK DOWN UPON, AND AM REPULSED BY YOUR TYPICAL CRITIC.

If all the Critics of the world found themselves to be inexplicably covered in Honey and then in swift tandem were beset with a biblical plague of carnivorous fire ants, I would make sure to prepare the following: a comfy chair, an excellent vantage point to view the delightful spectacle, and a chilled case of Ding Dongs served alongside a pitcher of ice cold skim milk. Aren’t you just tingly with the thought of it? I’m positively electric myself.

Just so there’s no confusion, let me repeat myself: I HATE CRITICS*.*As with most things in my life, there are exceptions to my rules, and the two that come immediately to mind are these: NT’s Theatre/Art writer Robrt Pela and former NT Food Critic Michelle Laudig.

What makes these two stand out? Well, to begin with- both are outstanding writers whose work has always stood out as a superb example of what truly constructive criticism is. Honest analysis is a viable growth medium for an Artist’s development, just like the honey that condemned those well-deserving Critics in my little revenge fantasy above.

For the record, I would never think of covering Robrt in honey, but Michelle on the other hand…

Sorry, that was terribly impolite of me to even suggest that. She’s a happily married woman, and I’m in a blissfully and solidly committed relationship with a wonderful GF, two ball pythons, two African Uromastyx Lizards, and a severe ongoing addiction to small chocolate covered snack cakes. In retrospect, it was downright sexist on my part, and I apologize.

However- if you’re the lucky man who runs into her socially and that isn’t one of the first thoughts that enters your head, you just might want to take a moment and check your pulse, because in all likelihood, you’ve probably been dead for the last twenty minutes. Let’s move on, shall we? As I was saying, I really hate critics, but as for Criticism, now that’s a horse of a different color.

However, that’s only when it’s actually truly constructive. There is a subtle crowbar separation, which is something that most Critics apparently seem to have forgotten. Internalize it this way: it’s what’s being said, not how. If you can’t take what some self named art expert has told you and utilize it, do what I do: ignore it, mock it, or pick it to pieces entirely.

Depending on the messenger and/or message, I might engage in all three. I’m looking for focused constructive feedback, not unsubstantiated personal opinion, and even for the truly dilettante- there is a fairly easy to construe distinction between the two, and that would be clarity of thought.

Your typical Critic thinks that a rude and dismissive approach is what marks an effective critique. It doesn’t, by the way. To be effectual, a true assessment must first accurately note the bad of a thing, then the good. In other words; first comes the big stick, then the sugar. Sort of what I attempt to do with these humble little screeds of mine… minus that whole sugar thing, of course.

In order to be a successful Artist, you’ll have to understand and accept what true criticism does for you- it forces a brilliant spotlight on areas you need to develop, while simultaneously sharpening the focus on the ones you already have mastered.

Puzzlingly, some Artists think that this shouldn’t apply to them. After all they say, “real” art is all about being in the moment with one’s purity of vision, as it were. To this I would respond with Yes, and No.

Yes: you shouldn’t be distracted by the fear of what you think people may say about your work when you’re done with creating it- ever. Listen, smile, agree… then go do the f**k whatever you were going to do anyway... always.

No: if everyone you encounter seems a tad bit obsessed with a certain factor in your work, you might want to start paying attention, ask some questions, and see why they are. Occasionally.

But there’s a risk to this. You might actually learn something, and as long as I live, I will never really understand why certain people will pose questions they really don’t want the answer to. If you’d rather not know the truth, then don’t freaking ask. Here’s how to avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. And in all likelihood- prepare to still be criticized anyway. Seriously- what would you expect me to say?

I am so the wrong person to expect a coat of whitewash from, whether you’re an incompetent hack, or a self-important Critic. Fortunately, I’ve spent years developing an immunity to this unique brand of inane venom, while honing the skills necessary to drop these poseurs from a distance, if the need ever arises. Lately, it seems to raise it’s ugly head a lot more than it used to.

So, in order to help balance the scales for those less equipped, I will provide my fellow Artists with a spotting guide of sorts, so that they may be better prepared to deal with the varying assortment of Critiposeur they may encounter along their chosen career path. And to lead off, I think we should start with my personal favorite- a Critic who strikes from a dark and mysterious land, armed with limitless bravery, if not an endless void of wit.

Blogiteers, I give you: THE DORK KNIGHT. (AKA: Bruce Lame)

The first of our Critiposeurs is a tad hard to spot, since they don’t normally occupy a physical space, unless you count their Mom’s basement. However, on those rare occasions when circumstances force them to leave their Fortress of Losertude to stock up on Cool Ranch Pringles and Playboys, they tend to stand out due to their sickly pallor and obvious lack of spine.

I find this shocking, since in the uncharted lands of the Interweb where their type propagates and slithers, the impression left by their avatar is that they possess unstoppable bad-assery of a variety never seen before in the entire history of all that has been, or will ever be- bad-assed.

The kind of bad-ass that would call Chuck Norris “Cindy Candypants” to his face, and get away with it… in Cyberspace, that is. In reality, these shadow dwelling dungeon masters could get their asses handed to them by a Brownie Troop riding out a Pop-Tart high.

When confronted with even the most basic logical argument, they’ll resort to an assault that could be easily thwarted by the likes of Jessica Simpson, all the while claiming to be directly descended from the loins of Leonidas*.
[An aside: one day soon , I will launch a Kings of Leon Tribute Band, and call it The Loins of Leonidas. With one major difference… unlike the actual Kings, my music won’t suck.]

I’ve always found it rather amusing that someone who so tirelessly promotes an aura of invincibility via the Internet, would utterly wet themselves if you dared to so much as make eye contact with them in the world of the real.

One of my biggest pet peeves is idiots who talk big, yet use the Internet as a perfect lair where they and their fellow cravens can hide out while chain smoking a carton of American Spirits. To prove my POV, I will make available the following example: quite some time ago, I became engaged in a flame war of sorts with an internet detractor whose screen name was, I kid you not: “Tomato”.

On the NT forums they stood alone, ten feet tall, dispensing acid, clad in the shiniest Adamantium… and then I showed up.  Within minutes of our first encounter, I had them compacted into a diminutive ineffectual mewling cube hissing at me from under the Internet’s bed. Even sadder was the fact that with all of my quirks and past scandals that were open to their perusal, their counter attack was a master stroke that no one could possibly have seen coming- they attacked my poor defenseless pony-tail.

Seriously. With all the highly visible dancing skeletons of mine that could have been chosen, the preferred option was to go after my Hetfield-inspired tresses with a fully charged phaser set to “Feebly Mock”. How did it come to this?

When I was growing up, you settled your issues face to fist if necessary, and you always stood your ground. Apparently, acting like a weirdly obsessed counselor from the Hair Club for Men is the new Macho. I mean… it’s one thing to go after my art, my attitude, and my rather charming predisposition for writing 5000 word rants, but going after my poor defenseless hair? There’s a name for people like that: ice-cold, monkey-masturbating bastards.

Rambling forward, our next faux critic would appear to be someone who’s quite worthy of an Artist’s respect- traditionally well educated and groomed, they’ll have a wealth of knowledge about Art, Life, the Universe and Everything. And therein lies the problem- that being their undeserved air of academic conceit, which will be jammed down your throat every chance they get.

My loyal Blogiteers, I bestow upon you: THE INTELLECTUAL. (AKA: Professor Know it all)

As much as I love to dispense arcane knowledge, I generally don’t assume that everyone else is an idiot like this particular type of critic does. The majority might be, yes- but not everybody. It is after all, statistically impossible- unless your degree comes from ASU, and even then… I’ll still give you the benefit of the doubt.

The fact that you read a lot doesn’t always mean that you’re smarter, it just indicates that you have a lot of spare time on your hands- probably because you have no friends, which is most likely due to your perseverance in talking down to them as if they were six. Great. You skimmed a few books on POP Art, and have watched the awesome documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” about a gazillion times.

It still doesn’t make you qualified to talk about someone’s artistic endeavors, nor does it give you the right to look down on others just because they never knew your random and inane tidbit that Warhol did this or that.
[For instance: Andy apparently was a rabid chocoholic. I never knew that, and now my life seems so much fuller knowing he was just a bit like every woman I’ve ever met.]

If I had a nickel for every time that one of these so called “experts” told me the real meaning behind one of my paintings, I could retire on an island comprised solidly of Ding Dongs. With all due respect, I’m the one who created this particular statement, so I’m pretty sure my grip on the true meaning of my work is way better than yours.

Despite the fairly obvious lack of any common sense, this faux critic will keep soldiering on with their analysis, nonetheless. After several years of working in the PHX scene co-existing with these cretins, I’ve found that there’s really only one effective alternative that exists for dealing with them.

A double tap to the back of the skull. Obviously, I’m kidding…sort of. While it might be therapeutic, murder is still generally frowned upon by The Man, so I’ll guess we’ll go with the option that still works the best- hitting them upside the head with progressively heavier encyclopedias until they stop spouting factoids and start begging for the limited mercy that they really don’t deserve.

The up side to this approach? These idiots tend to breed like rabbits, so the opportunities to build up your forearms will be endless. No pain, no gain, as the cool kids like to say. As we carry on, there is one critical type that stands apart amongst all these others, and it’s the next on my list.

At first glance, they seem sweet, helpful, even harmless to the unknowing, but don’t be fooled- they’re still a viper, albeit one covered in rainbow stickers and sugar.

My friends, I make available: THE TIE-DYED TWIT. (AKA: Granola for Brains.)

Presenting themselves either as an “Outsider” or “Naive” artist, they will be the first in line to publically criticize anyone who is actually blessed/smart enough to sell their artistic endeavors in exchange for (GASP!!) money. Being consistent failures themselves, they possess an almost compulsive need to deride others who are successful as being “commercial”, claiming that “real” Artists shouldn’t care about money, as it devalues the aesthetic and purity of what they’ve created, blah, blah, blah, to which I always say:

SERIOUSLY. SHUT. THE. F**K. UP.

Michelangelo, it could be reasonably debated, was a commercial artist who painted in exchange for the favors of his Patrons, and it seemed to work okay for him. Just ask anybody at the Vatican. Their interior decorating absolutely rocks, and it was done by someone who valued getting his bills paid- in the end, it was strictly business, no more, no less.

Granted, it does take a certain amount of moxie to live on this planet as a tree-hugging, diversity-celebrating, gender-supporting, non insect abusing, composting, Socialist, Marxist, Communist, Anarchist, free-range, rain forest-loving, book-reading, internet surfing, rural community-supporting, bicycle-riding, cruelty-free vegan type who refers to dray animals as “companions”, rather than “food”, but I digress.

Irritatingly, this type is fortified with a level of unsubstantiated self righteous pretention that makes Peter Bugg look like Mr. Rogers on Ecstasy. You don’t think money is important. That’s why you own one outfit made out of hemp, and live in a yurt. For the rest of us who understand that goodwill and ego-stroking doesn’t pay the bills, cash is still a big deal, especially where the reality of life comes into consideration.

You would never dream about selling your work. How fucking noble. I’m sure that the prospect never actually arising for you to do so has played no small part in your decision. I get paid to do what I love, and you don’t- that’s why you cling to your belief system the way that you do. As the saying goes, a Democrat is just a Republican who’s never been mugged, meaning that it’s quite easy to claim nobility when that’s all you’ll ever have to your name.

Everybody has a price, the only difference between these chuckleheads and Artists like myself is that our rates are publically posted. You’re one with the Universe. Awesome. That kind of Zen is hard to attain, and even harder to keep, given the world today. But it doesn’t mean you know jack about whatever the hell you’re spouting off about, especially when it’s in regards to the business I’ve been working in since I was seventeen.

And when we factor in that whole “lack of hygiene” thing you’re currently excelling at, then it’s really not that big a shock as to why you’re the lone occupant on that self-absorbed island you’ve created.

There’s no law that says you have to be part of the system, but if you want to play in the same arena as the rest of the adults, then you have to stop acting less like a whiny weekend anarchist, and more like a true professional. Here’s the deal- when you’ve had over 150 shows, while simultaneously deriving your income from sales of your art for two decades, then, and only then- do you get to sermonize about what a “real” Artist does or is. True professionals make the money, the hobbyists are the ones who will whine about it’s evil influence nonstop. In my opinion, unless you’ve walked the road, you don’t know dingus from dingbat, and I’ll be truly damned if you’re going to lecture me as if I were some sort of neophyte.

So until such time when you figure out what the hell you’re actually fighting for (or against), do us all a favor- sit down, eat your gluten-free Tofurkey, and shut your annoying little yap trap. Next up: a wannabe who is both a Critic and a brilliantly unknown Artist- a rare amalgamation to be found in this day and age.

This type has always reminded me of a pivotal scene from the 1997 Kevin Smith movie “Chasing Amy”, in which a central character, [a comic book inker named “Banky”] is accosted by a Comic book aficionado at a local Comicon-type event:
___________________________________________________________________________________

COLLECTOR: So you draw this!

BANKY: (signing the comic) I ink it and I'm also the colorist. The guy next to me draws it.  But we both came up with the characters.

COLLECTOR: What's that mean - you “ink it” ?

BANKY: Well.  It means that Holden draws the pictures in pencil, and then he gives it to me to go over in ink.

COLLECTOR: So you just trace!

BANKY: It's not tracing.  I add depth and shading to give the image more definition. Only then does the drawing really take shape.

COLLECTOR: You go over what he draws with a pen - that's tracing.

BANKY: (hands book back to Collector): Not really. (calling out) Next!
             
A Little kid steps up, but the Collector lingers.
                                                                       
COLLECTOR: Hey man.  If somebody draws something and then you draw the same thing right on top of it, not going out-side the designated original art, what do you call that?

KID: (shrugs) I don't know.  Tracing?

COLLECTOR: (to Banky) See?

BANKY: It's not tracing.

COLLECTOR: Oh, but it is.

BANKY: (to Little Kid): Do you want your book signed or what?

COLLECTOR: Hey - don't get all testy with him just because you have a problem with your station in life.

BANKY: I'm secure with what I do.

COLLECTOR: Then say it - you're a tracer.

BANKY: (grabbing Little Kid's book) How should I sign this?

KID: (grabs book back) I don't want you to sign it, I want the guy that draws Bluntman and Chronic to sign it.  You're just a tracer.

COLLECTOR: Tell him, Little Shaver.
             
Holden accepts a comic from another Fan.

HOLDEN: (off camera) Who do I sign it to?
             
Before Holden can finish, a loud crash is heard.  He looks to his left and freaks. Banky is throttling the Collector from across the table. The Collector attempts to fight him off.  Security Guards
pull them apart. Holden grabs Banky.
                                                                       
COLLECTOR: Jesus!  All I did was call him a tracer!

BANKY: (to Collector) I'LL TRACE A CHALK LINE AROUND YOUR DEAD FUCKING BODY, YOU FUCK!!!

HOLDEN: (to Security Guard) Could you get him out of here?
             
The Security Guards drag the collector away.
                                                                       
COLLECTOR: Hey, wait a sec!  He jumped me!  And you're dragging me away!? Fucking tracer!

BANKY: (calling off camera) YOUR MOTHER'S A TRACER!!

HOLDEN: Can I explain the audience principle to you?  If you insult and accost them, then we have no audience.

BANKY: He started it!  Fucking cock-knocker! He's lucky I didn't put my pen through his thorax!
_________________________________________________________________________________

Ahh. That’s comedy gold right there, let me tell you, and a lot closer to the truth than you might believe. Sure as the day is long, the most bothersome mosquito that hovers within our scene is the one that’s cut from the same douche-cloth much like our fictitious Collector character above. If I was ever fortunate enough to own a thumbtack factory, there would be a staggering collection of these schmucks pinned to my studio wall.

Dedicated and hardy readers, I put forward the last of our critiposeurs, that being the one and only: CAPTAIN XEROX (AKA:  Mr. I Could So Do That and for half the price!)

Ah, democracy. How I love thee. The act of being able to speak one’s mind freely, to express one’s opinions and random thoughts with all the ease of a stream flowing downstream… however, I do have just one request- can we please stop giving this freedom of public contemplation to outright idiots?

Remember those Nerf bats I waxed so poetic about in my last blog? I’m thinking they should be a standard issue item in every gallery that’s open on First Friday, just to alleviate the stress of dealing with the cretinism of these loathsome mouth breathers. Think of all the fun we could have as a community, bonded by our mutual love of pummeling their ignorant and pointed little heads with our  the old town, so far as I’m concerned.

Plus, it would also serve as a highly visual warning that there are consequences for spouting idiocy in public. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about curtailing the ability to speak one’s mind, I’m talking about certifying that someone has a working brain before they’re allowed to do so. I get it. To some people, art is a difficult thing to appraise, as it isn’t your typical item of purchase. We all have an innate sense of what things should cost, but when it comes to the world of art, the typical rules seemingly don’t apply, and that’s a huge problem where the great mass of lemmings is concerned.

Add to the mix the personal variances of opinion on what constitutes “art”, and you can see why marketing to the general public is such a royal pain in the ass. I can recall hundreds of conversations defending as to why this work or that sculpture costs what it does. Part of the underlying problem is an obvious lack of an educated and culture-sensitive audience, but that issue could easily be fixed, given enough time and a throng who’s willing to learn.

Unfortunately for us, we’re based in Phoenix, and that does screw the pooch somewhat when it comes to finding financially dependable patrons who aren’t encapsulated within the group of useless lemmings that typically constitutes First Friday. By that, I mean that it would be nice to have people appreciate what occurs on FF every month, and be grateful for the fact that such an event exists in the first place. I’m not going to go over my issues (again) with the hoard that shows up to partake in the rolling street party that FF has become, but I will say this: for every true “art lover” we possess, there are seemingly six poster children for the ineffectual Hipsters brigade, and that’s where our last infant terrible comes in.

They’re generally the worst blend of our previous candidates, equal parts of faux artistic savant and pricing gun, topped with jaded cynicism- as a result, our last candidate for my metaphorical shanking is also the most fun to mess with. One of the most aggravating aspects of selling art is that it involves having to present your work publically, and that’s always a crap shoot as to whether it will be worth your time. In PHX, it’s about a 60/40 ratio, and those odds are generally not skewed in your favor- especially when this useless cretin is on walkabout voicing his asinine opinions at your show.

Just like music, art is a singular and deeply personal experience- there’s always going to be stuff you like, and stuff that you won’t. I for instance, despise Picasso and Klee, think Damien Hirst and Richard Prince are hacks, and if truth be known- have never understood why Thomas Kinkade even had a career to start with, unless one assumes that God has a soft spot for lecherous alcoholics who paint cottages.

At the local level, I can’t abide the hot mess that is Peter Bugg’s work, have even less patience for the inflated and whiny narcissism that surrounds Suzanne “Drama Kitten” Falk, but as I’m a big believer in the learning curve, even I will concede that they both have served as superb examples of why it’s never a good idea to let one’s Ego overtake one’s inherent talent.

Or in Bugg’s singular case- lack thereof. Given that however, I would still never go to one of his shows and start loudly proclaiming what I truly thought of his labors- the “open to the public” arena  is not the right venue to express my acidic opinion, no matter how much fun or accurate it would be.

Hell, the man does have a right to make a living after all, and no matter how weak his fluff is, it’s not my place to derail that. Taste and time will do that for me eventually anyway, so what’s the point of quickening an already forgone conclusion? When it comes to walking through a gallery, the unwritten rule is this- keep your brain open and your mouth shut. If you must say something, say it low and with some sense of tact. It’s like telling a blue joke in church- you definitely don’t want to get caught, and if you do, you deserve some level of rebuke just short of being cast into the Lake of Fire.

A dearth of original thought and pretentiousness do not a critic make, but it’s never stopped our current wannabe, and that’s what’s so darn annoying. I do not suffer fools, and honestly have no idea why anyone else does either- if someone’s an asinine moron, you’re actually doing them a huge solid by pointing it out. How, you ask? Well… perhaps they’ve never truly realized what a self-absorbed tool they are- it is possible after all, to go sleepwalking though one’s life, and all that some people require to get back with the program is a well timed and effective, yet gentle- bitch-slap upside their empty little head.

That’s where I come in. No need to thank me… I do it because I love. And what I also love is to watch these self styled experts walk through the door and start showing off their lack of knowledge, decorum, and taste. Several years ago, I was attending a friends show at a now defunct downtown gallery (which shall remain nameless) when one of these walking cultural voids breezed in to share with us mere common mortals his vast deficiency of artistic knowledge.
[In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m being sarcastic- I know. You’re all just terribly shocked.]

Flitting from piece to piece like some sort of drunken pollinator, he loudly gave his critique of each works quality, it’s worth, and most importantly, what the work “represented” as a whole. All of this was being addressed to his far more attractive female consort, who was just hanging on every word.

Seemingly. But we’ll address that later. To be fair, it was fascinating watching him weave his spell- if I were to draw an analogy, it was akin to watching two trains full of glitter about to have a head on collision- part of you wants to stop it, but a much larger facet wants to see the crash, just because you know it’ll be so gosh darn pretty. From an Artist’s POV, there’s nothing funnier than watching someone pick apart your work, and still miss the point by miles, no more so then when it’s painfully obvious that your would-be Patron isn’t that much smarter than the stretcher bar that the work is mounted to.

Personally, when it comes to my work, I let these wannabes ramble- its so much easier to sell a piece if your potential buyer thinks that they, and they alone, have a lock on what you were trying to say, no matter how wrong they are. I make Art that looks good on your wall- Its not gonna change the world, nor does it have any hidden messages contained within, so looking for some sort of spiritual depth is kind of pointless.

In public, I will occasionally suffer fools for the sake of a payday, but in private… not so much, and definitely never in a gallery setting. I’m all for inclusiveness, but there are reasonable limits. Some people are, quite honestly, just too damn dense and ignorant to appreciate the world of Art and it’s adjacent trappings, and therefore- shouldn’t be legally allowed within ten miles of an art opening.
[See: “First Friday, Typical Patron.”]

Yes, yes- I’m being an elitist. Damn skippy. Overall, I don’t think we ask for much- we provide an entertaining venue and culture for no cost whatsoever, so I don’t think its asking a lot to expect the basest of good manners and respect in return.You’re a guest, not a VIP, so please act accordingly.

You wouldn’t let a puppy come in and crap all over your house, so why would you let it’s human equivalent do it metaphorically in your gallery unchecked? Hence, the very real need to put these cretins in their proper place, before they manage to do any real damage to your reputation. And lets be brutally honest, when it comes to doling out the well deserved Snark, nobody does it quite the way I do.

Case in point… as you might imagine, watching a foolhardy monkey spouting random inanities tends to lose its appeal after about fifteen minutes, and I was getting ready to leave when I heard him (with all the volume and subtlety of a Pink Floyd concert) broadcast the following phrase to his beaming consort: “Seriously, I could totally do all of this overpriced crap in like, one hour with my hands tied.”

Looking around, I observed that the gallery was full of disapproving faces, but I could also tell that nobody was going to say anything to this twat waffle either- so as usual, I decided to pick up the tossed gauntlet and dispatch the implied challenge. But in what manner should I return this test of wits? How to be both effectively brutal and snarky with the same breath? 

Only one way. Old School. Seussian style. {Then he got an idea! An awful idea! THE ARTBITCH GOT A WONDERFUL, AWFUL IDEA!  "I know just what to do”, he said, with a chuckle most dreaded, “I’ll stop this display of the truly block-headed.”}

Here’s the part where I have to deliver some brutal honesty- since this occurred over twenty years ago, my recounting of the details might be just a tad bit fuzzy. Given that, if I’m off by a smidge or two, it’s really no big deal. Yes, I’m paraphrasing, but overall- it went down pretty much as I will soon describe.

Back to the show. Taking a spare sketchbook out of my backpack, (yes, I did carry one back in the day) I strode to the center of the room and loudly declared: “Ladies and Gentlemen, Patrons of the Arts, we have a very special treat for you tonight. It has come to our attention that we are in the company of an amazing artistic talent- a person so gifted that I am truly humbled to be in their presence.

Able to reproduce any work they see, they are also blessed with the ability to do it quickly and at a reasonable cost. Ladies and Gentlemen… I give you… this guy here!”

And turning, I offer to him the sketchpad and pen. The look that was plastered on his face at that particular moment was analogous to that of a highly inebriated deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. A really big truck. Loaded with steel plate and broken glass. That had no brakes.

You get the idea. Stammering, he looks at the items being offered, and says: “Um… excuse me?” Responding, I say: “Oh, sorry- I couldn’t help but overhear you speaking of your mad dog art skills, and I’m the type to never let a teaching opportunity go to waste, so I wondering if you could just show us a thing or two… you know, like you just said you could?”

Quickly turning red, he whispers an almost inaudible response: “Um… I’m not an Artist actually, I just know a lot about Art.”
[With all due respect, he really didn’t.]

I, however, was not to be denied: “Oh, c’mon- you’re just being humble- I’ve literally spent the last twenty minutes hearing you brag about your artistic prowess, and if there’s one thing I can spot, it’s false humility. You can draw whatever you want, it doesn’t matter to me.

Wait- I have an idea… how about we ask your lady friend what she would like you to draw?”

At this point, knowing his metaphorical goose was cooked, he attempts to find a symbolic exit, hastened by the fact that his companion is now intently staring at him, which by the way, is NOT a good sign. It’s been my personal experience that nothing should worry you half as much as a woman eyeing you with the look of “impress me…NOW”, especially when the veracity of your presence is comprised almost entirely of ether.

Make way…  Dead Man walking here. And he knew it. But you know what was even sweeter?

So did the assembled crowd, and they were dying to see how this played out. Never let it be said that I don’t know how to play to a captive audience. If you want to factor in the fact that this multitude seemingly craved metaphorical blood, you can understand why this schmuck desperately wanted to be anywhere else at that moment. Cue my particular niche.

Sweating bullets, he stands there as I asked his companion what she thought he should draw. Turning, she looks right at him and says with a dazzling smile: “ Hmmm…. I don’t know… maybe you could sketch me? That would be really cool.” And with that, the coffin is sealed. Have you ever heard the phrase “if looks could kill”?

If there was any truth to that statement, my head would’ve been in New Jersey, and my heart would literally be in San Francisco. The icy glare he was giving me at that moment would have frozen lava, and his body language screamed “I will f**k you up” ten ways to Sunday. Fortunately, he chose that moment to instead storm out of the room, chased by several derisive comments of the assembled throng as he left. See? I can be entertaining when the need arises.

But now, I have a gallery chock-full of people looking at his now abandoned companion, wondering what her reaction was going to be. To be fair, I was a little worried… was I going to receive a stiletto to the head? Was I going to get slapped? Was she going to forcibly remove my most favorite parts and feed them to me? Luckily, none of that came to be.

Chuckling under her breath, she informs me that they were on a first date, and it had not been going well. At all. I offer my condolences in regards to her unfortunate experience, but she brushes them off, saying that all in all, I had actually done her a favor. Sharing with me the intimate details of their date thus far, I see that she’s essentially correct in her assessment. I was regaled with details about his inability to keep food inside his mouth when they had dinner, his failure to raise his gaze above her bustline when they first met, and let’s not forget his charming braggadocio in relation to his implied abilities.

BTW, did I forget to mention that he also went “Dutch” on the dinner tab? Oh yeah… he’s definitely a keeper. The capper to her evening was his insistence that she be the one driving, cause his car “was in the shop”, a tale she didn’t believe for a second. I never did find out how he got home that night, as she stated to me that he could grab a cab- it was obvious that this mishap was going nowhere.

As she leaves the gallery, she compliments both my friend and I for putting on such a good show, and for absolving her of the responsibility of ditching her date. In retrospect, I should have really asked for her phone number, but that’s the beauty of hindsight- it’s always 20/20, and at the time, I had the allegorical vision of Mr. Magoo.

Sigh. Well . That’s enough for now, methinks.

And when we come back… the Cindy Dach debacle, Censorship, Cops gone mild, fellow Artist Richard Bledsoe makes a huge mistake in personal judgment, and I attempt to deal with our local and highly annoying, Weekend Anarchist Brigade.

Good Times.

“Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” – Andy Warhol