28 July 2008

Kenneth Baker is an Elitist Snob

"I don't know what I like; I just know art." Okay, he didn't say that, but the San Francisco Chronicle art critic did say:
...In today's culture, people need not merely critics to tell them what art is, but also artists, curators, art historians, art dealers, collectors - and the viewers' own education and sensibility...
It is this very attitude that crushes budding artistic spirits. A child makes something to help her understand an experience or to express an idea for which she has no words or simply to create something from her mind which no one has ever seen before. Could be art, but how will she know if there are no "critics, artists, curators, art historians, art dealers, [and] collectors" to tell her so, or more likely not? If we need all these experts to tell us what art is, who would dare encourage that expressive child to believe that she made any?
...Most of us would prefer to believe that "art" is a quality inherent in or infused in certain things, but the history of modern art, and of its enveloping social reality, has left us in a much more complex and ambiguous position. Those who refuse to acknowledge this are the very dupes that the culture industry banks on...
Well, he started a little better here, if demeaningly, and then spiraled into exclusionist jargon and plain insult. If art can only be authentic in the context of art history, how were those historical pieces validated themselves? At some point, someone made a sculpture, did a dance, painted on a wall and knew it was art. Someone else saw it and agreed. Somebody else looked at it and said, "Horse feathers!" (or something to that effect). Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder... and the creator. Some is just more popular than most and only the artist knows if it was art when he made it. Now, if a piece is created without heart and mind and soul, it isn't art. But if a stranger experiences it, is moved by it, finds it worthy of consideration, it becomes art. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, cloth and fluff and glass eyes from a factory, experienced by a small boy he became real.

This particular Chronicle critique, which I had not cared to read but came back to because of the furor it generated, was a flat denunciation of the new Chihuly exhibit at SF's de Young Museum.
...Political philosopher Hannah Arendt defined artworks as "thought things," that is, things that materialize thought, things to be thought about and, in rare cases, things to help us think...

...Perhaps dreamy color, glossy surfaces and flamboyant design - the signal qualities of Chihuly's work - should be enough. But in a culture where only intellectual content still distinguishes art from knickknacks, they are not...
I propose what is failing in this whole evaluation is Baker's narrow ability to "materialize thought" for himself. The human mind is a wondrous thing. It can be fertile, stimulated to great thinking by almost anything. Or it can be dry, locked down, and fearful of having a thought which doesn't meld with what the experts currently extol.

So, if you've carved up a block of soap or taken chalk to your driveway or started humming a tune no one has ever heard, call it your art. It still may be unpopular, but if you made it from your heart and mind and soul and say it is so, it is art.

15 July 2008

Obama Family Dog

Whether the man becomes President or not isn't the issue today. The whole world is watching and he's promised his daughters a dog. What an opportunity to speak out for millions who cannot speak for themselves. . . Of course it could be career-limiting to tell the AKC what they can do with their pure bred snobbery. But the positive action of going to a shelter ~press in train~ with those little girls to lift a life out of despair would show the world what it means to be powerful and compassionate.

Even as "just" a father, he will be instilling in his daughters a message: either we value a life by the prestige placed on it by men or by the dignity placed in it by God. When we have the opportunity, do we save the life already pleading for a chance or do we contribute to the demand for more? How can any humanly tender heart look into the faces of those who may die tomorrow for lack of space, and then ask that another life be created for their own satisfaction?

Please, follow the title link to the Best Friends Network website. The petition is simply to show Senator Obama that his potential constituents are watching and we care. While you're there, click through to the Best Friends Animal Society's main page and see the fantastic work they're doing in Utah and around the country.

06 July 2008

All in One Day!

3:45 falls between 3:30 and 4:00 nearly everywhere in the civilized world, which is why I had no reason to expect that my new washing machine would arrive anytime before half past next Friday. But let me back up to the old washing machine.

It has been trying to kill me. But for thick-soled shoes, brushing the metal cylinder would put a tingle in my fingers. (Remember, we run on 220v.) If the clothes were wet, just touching them would give a little zing. If, to balance while bending over to the front-loader's door, I carelessly put a hand to the metal drain board on the counter and touched the metal cylinder... ZAP... and a strong reminder to be more careful in future.

But I had good reason to believe a resolution fell squarely in our court. We would have to buy a new washer. The electrocution was just the last affront in a series of malfeasances from this wretched machine, which Craig had ably addressed as they arose. So, when I went to Flavio ~the real estate agent through whom we pay rent and bills~ on Saturday with the pile of cash, I casually asked if something were wrong with the washer, say it's trying to kill me "zzt!" , what to do? Oh, he'd call Franco to come out and have a look. Hm, and who would pay? The proprietor, of course. It's normal wear and tear. Note to reader: "normal wear and tear" is frequently the renter's responsibility, as are mandatory inspections of various kinds. I still feel a bit guilty for dodging the water heater inspection on the last flat, but not more than the owner should for not repairing the bad plumbing in the wall before we moved in. So, back to Flavio. He called up the electrician and while making the appointment ~I'm pretty sure I heard him say, "She is American, so that is a problem."~ the concept of simply replacing the menace arose. Oh yes! That would be much better. I held my breath as Flavio rang the appliance store. Then we walked up the street, talked to the man, and made an appointment for delivery.

Which is where I had left you in the first paragraph, agog at the promptness and preparedness of said delivery men (on time, with all the tools they'd need). The poor fellows had to haul the thing on a dolly up four flights of stairs. But when they were finished, it worked and hasn't attempted murder once. I am ecstatic over the whole inconceivable process. This very fact reiterates that we do not live in what is conventionally accepted as Europe.

And that's not all. On the same day, Craig managed to work out a ride in the van going to Camp Darby to retrieve not one but two big shiny American Weber gas grills. He and a co-worker have been ogling these behemoths for weeks/months. So a brand new washing machine on the landlord's tab and two wondrous grills were acquired in one day.

The excitement was only beginning at that. Not long after the washer was merrily agitating, I went to dump the mop water down the drain. A beach ball was resting there, and plucking it out I found. . . a scorpion in my bath tub! We live in a seaside 5th story flat. Why is a desert floor dwelling arthropod hiding in my bathtub? Well, it's not anymore. Currently, it awaits transport to a budding young entomologist... in the freezer. But I'm left spooked: there was one, there could be infinitely more, sneaking around in the night when all I want is a glass of water. I've spent 80% of my life with the vague fear of drinking a spider after my aunt told me she'd found one in her cup in the middle of the night. Must I for the rest of my life put on slippers for sleepy sojourns and rinse out the bathroom cup?

So, if they aren't skittering about my feet in the dark, they are cruising through at eye level in the light. Yes, Heavy Attack Wasp is next for The Day When Too Much Happened. We have had bees like B-52 bombers thrumming through the place, but now I don't mind them. They are just big, lumbering, and loud. The HAWs look like something out of that particular style of science fiction where ginormous hyper-advanced insects take over the world, stinging and crushing humanity like the pathetic flesh-bags we are. They are long, almost an inch, obviously wasp-waisted, with creepy dangling legs when they fly and a curved stinger visible to the naked eye. They set off my personal perimeter alarm, as in if they get too close I emit involuntary shrieks.

Could it get any worse? Yes. "Local knowledge," to be trusted only as much as "what some guy down at the pub told me," says the HAWs are really a tricksy variety of fly; the horrific stinger is not, but rather the other thing. They are harmless. Mm hm. And the scorpion? Its sting is no worse than a standard issue bee sting. Great. So now I'll become complacent, allow the Raid canister to rust out of usability, and my last words will be, "See, that's what I thought." Also, "Aaaaaiiiii!"

Now I must go have a lie down. It's been a busy week today.
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