Saturday, December 06, 2003


I’ve never spent much time pondering the life of the artiste for a good reason.

The movies or books I’ve been exposed to on the subject are typically depressing stories of poverty and angst, followed by more poverty and more angst until the hero is consumed by a ponderous death and is feted with a pauper’s burial. This is where our abject failure of a protagonist is mourned by the good hearted woman who loved him yet, couldn’t convince him to take the junior executive, sycophant–in-training position at daddy’s bourgeois Wall Street firm; the one specializing in trading on Florida ski resorts and hounded by the persistent rumor of being the money behind a hermaphrodite escort service operating at Euro Disney.

The principled pallet pusher inevitably perishes in a pandemic of pneumonia and clichéd alliteration. He is huddled in a cold, damp abandoned tenement flat that has just enough room for an average human to lie down if he accepts the diagonal plane. It’s long been given up by the rats because it fails to comply with acceptable standards agreed to in the Geneva Vermin Convention.

His last words are never, “What the fuck have I done? I could be home in a warm, cushy upper-east-side apartment financed by my lifeless, but well paying anal-probe of a job; an ear to ear grin on my face as my sassy hot Latino maid/manicurist/masseuse dips my feet in hot wax by and massages my aching, browning nose. I could be admiring the new diamond earrings I am about to bestow upon my true love (and bosses daughter) knowing they will be good for two or three blow jobs over the next month and least one hand job on next weekend’s drive to Vermont”.

Nope. He usually expires after a maudlin moment of high-minded philosophy and desperation intoning that someone, somewhere will champion his genius (not to mention make a Martha Stewart load of cash selling all that genius) His typical last pronouncement serves as a final act of bravura and defiance; “I leave this world knowing that even the earthworms will treat me with greater dignity than have my critics, but I leave a legacy of beauty where they will only …..leave.”

Don’t know about you, but I’d rather remove a molar filling with an ice pick and replace it with cold aluminum foil than contemplate that kind of existence.

That was until recently, when I realized that despite all my best efforts to the contrary, I’d finally become a bona fide artist without the “e”. I know this because I had the great fortune to view several “studio” apartments that fit my, “Oh shit, am I ever broke” price range.

(What is the origin of the “studio” apartment? Could it be that it was named such because of its poverty appeal to so many artists?)

The fact I’ve accepted my plight as a studio renter is both an acknowledgment of my current poverty and a declaration that as an unpublished writer who chooses to keep writing, I don’t expect any short term change in my financial status (the aforementioned, “more poverty”, being the exception).

What I saw in the marketplace of supply and demand West LA style, ranged from the horrific (“Hmm, I remember this building from a ‘Save the Children’ poster”) to the merely horrifying (“What is the legal variance for an apartment and an Interstate Hwy?”) Port-a-pottys have more living space than most of the places I toured and they have the advantage of actually being equipped with a toilet.

The first place was advertised as “bright and everything new”. The landlord was especially quick to point out the new door he had installed and the brightness of the apartment was apparently supposed to mitigate the not-so-newness of the sink and bathroom. I’m not sure about the landlord’s port of origin, his accent was a puree of indeterminate origins, but something tells me that his native tongue – to - English dictionary had confused the word ‘door’ with the word ‘everything’

The studio I decided on is actually clean, freshly painted and attended to by a seemingly conscientious building manager. Despite having the lone phone jack painted over and rendered inoperative by an overzealous or incompetent painter, everything seems to be in good working condition. Unlike my previous experience where hot water was unavailable in the kitchen for over a month until the plumber of choice returned from the “Fall Landmine Harvest Festival” in Croatia, things get fixed here within a 72 hour period from the time I’m promised.

Now that I have a place to write, research employment opportunities, lay my head at night and boil Raman noodles, I can take the time contemplate the life of the artist.

Or, then again, maybe not.

Friday, December 05, 2003


The intensity and competitive fervor of this year’s ALCS has spilled over into the off season. The Red Sox believe they are ever so close to overtaking the Yankees and George Steinbrenner is dead set on not allowing that to happen. The rest of the baseball world sits by as the two wealthiest franchises in the game play a high stakes game of “Top This” with Boston signing Curt Schilling to its starting rotation and the Yankees retaliating by adding Gary Sheffield to its batting order AND signing several key pitchers. Rumors have the Red Sox have showing interest in acquiring AL MVP Alex Rodriguez, and right-hander Kevin Brown is destined to be a part of the Yankees staff come spring training.

You have to admire the Red Sox for their pluck, but despite their best efforts once spring training begins the Yankees will have a superior line up for once reason; they have a superior checking account.

In some ways, this is reminiscent of the Cold War where the Soviets kept trying to out spend the US in building its military arsenal. Believing it could achieve superiority because the will of the Americans would cave, the Big Red Machine didn't have the cash to keep up. (Obviously, the Politburo had never experienced the wonders of MasterCard or being the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee with a giant defense contractor in its backyard)

The outcome of that strategy was rather simple; the US drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy by consistently raising the bar on military spending; Kruschev and Brezhnev always took the bait and while the US was spending 2% of its GDP on defense, the Moscow crowd was doling out 40-50% of its GDP just to keep up.

The Red Sox are wealthy, but the Yankees have resources that allow them spending latitude no other franchise can match. The Bostonians should be careful they don’t spend themselves into collapse before they have the opportunity to play themselves into same come next October.

Thursday, December 04, 2003


Once again politics and personal agendas are clouding reality when it comes to alleged police brutality. (And yes, I know that police brutality does occur and when it does it should be punished poste haste).

In Cincinnatti, Nathaniel Jones, a black man intoxicated with PCP and cocaine, dies after struggling with white police officers. He had an enlarged heart, was obese (350 lbs) and apparently was acting erraticaly enough (couldn't be the Angel dust or coke, could it?) that the manager of the White Castle ( home of the "Enlarged Heart Special Meal Deal")where Mr. Jones was misbehaving decided to call for help.

As expected, the usual 'activist' clowns are falling all over themselves to get their shameless faces plastered on newsprint and broadcast on TV. To hear them tell the tale, no responsibility what so ever rests with Mr. Jones: The poor soul was just another mild mannered monster of a man, Angel Dusted and Coked up, looking to bestow love and affection to all.

The so-called "community leaders" (a fine euphemism for self appointed, 'where is the camera?" opportunists) rush to judgement without the facts and employ the emotional turbulance of a death to fan the flames of irrationalism. Moreover, they inject racism as a result of prima facie evidence: Let's see, black man + white cops = dead black man, therefore it must be racism on the part of the cops.

Jones is dead because he was on killer drugs, morbidly obese and he decided to confront rather than comply with police intructions. The coroner has ruled that in his exertion his oversized heart gave out. Well, no shit his heart gave out. With all the crap he had in his system his heart might have given out lifting his 17th White Castle slider to his mouth, or worse, while he was driving home, turning his car into a potential murder weapon.

Knowing several cops as well as I do, had Jones been white, he'd have been beaten about the head and shoulders, and probably more severely. By targeting only Jones' legs, the Cinci cops showed significant restraint given the whacked out behavior he exhibited.

Moral outrage is a limited resource that when used appropriately can do a world of good. In the hands of demagogues and publicity hounds, it becomes formulaic, insincere and actually fosters the opposite sentiment it had intended.

If these 'activists' are so sincere in their desire to protect the "community", they should volunteer to be first on the scene the next time a PCP, coked up giant causes a disturbance.

Sunday, November 30, 2003



Hugh Kenner passed away last week. The obituaries said he had been suffering from heart ailments. If that is the case, I hope that it wasn't a viewing of "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", that caused his ticker to lose its tock; no reason to fade to black with mediocrity as your last image.

Though admired and known for his criticism of literary modernism, (especially his work on that Daffy Duck of poets, Ezra Pound), Kenner wrote a wonderful critique on the work of Chuck Jones, who with Tex Avery, was the creative genius behind Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Wiley Coyote and the aformentioned ferociously flawed fowl. "A Flurry of Drawings" lovingly and sparingly lays out what made Jones the most enjoyable and important animator of the 20th century.

Sad to say, I plucked down $10 to see Warner Bros latest attempt to revive its signature cartoon franhcise. What I got, with the exception of a very entertaining scene where the characters race through the Louvre acquiring the style of the work they inhabit, was a violation of just about every tenent of Jones' ouvre. The current creative team would do themselves a world of good by reading Kenner's book and gaining an understanding of why Jones' was sui generis.

So was Hugh Kenner.


Did they ever find the greeter?

Excuse me here, but doesn't a 6:00 AM, day after Thanksgiving foray into the consumer wilderness in order to bag the really BIG bargains come with inherent risks? Who in their not-so-right mind joins a herd of coffee tweeked, bargain sniffing shop-a-holics in a rugby scrum/cattle stampede where saving a few bucks is the Holy Grail? This is one of those incidents that clearly point out the danger of reducing the danger of daily existence in modern society.

Unfortunately because the WAL-MART buyer puts their life on the line by travelling to Beiging or Ho-Chi Minh City to negotiate a slave labor deal for manufacturing a DVD player retailing for $29.95, the consumer has been lulled to sleep believing that all the risk has been extracted from the hunt. Obviously, that is not the case and consumers should be educated that the inaliable right to buy cheap electronics may come with some sacrifice on their part.

Credit Card interest rates are not the only dangers facing the Big Bargain Hunter. Competition with fellow gluttons is ferocious with limited sale hours and fixed inventory conspiring to create a Darwinian fever of consumer survival.

Do yourself a favor, before planning one of these expeditions, shop WAL-MART for a choice selection of firearms sure to make your next Friday after Thanksgiving a safe and successsful one.

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