April 29, 2005

Zen and the Art of Art

Luke spit out one of his typically brilliant music reviews tonight. You know, the kind where I just may be enjoying the review more than I'll even enjoy the art in question.

But the comments section there touched on something near and dear to my heart: What makes art ART.

This is not intended to be a long drawn out thesis so I'll get right to the decidedly plain point. The act of creating art of any kind, be it music, sculpture, cartoons, performance, is an act only completed by the engagement. The viewer, listener, the victim, whomever, actually "engages" with the piece, even if just for an instant, and has a conversation.

That might sound too new-age-like. I'm not talking mind-meld here. I'm saying that the information offered by the piece is never the same for any two viewers, because the information is processed differently in each viewer. The conversation is completed by and within the viewer, and is unique.

I personally dig site-specific monumental sculpture or environmental pieces. It's just my thing, because there is such an immense variety of possible interactions with viewers. Whole corporate plazas are created by artists and architects to create interplay with thousands of individuals, families, groups; most have no idea of the artists' intentions any more acutely than, maybe, that rock over there looks like I want to sit on it, and that purple chain link fence over there changes color when shadows walk by on the other side.

But the issue of "who defines art as art" has always intrigued me. Is such a plaza art? What if photos of it hang in a museum? What if the stones were hand-picked and polished by an established sculptor, yet sit un-named outside the entrance of a bank? What if a porn afficionado grows a huge flowering shrubbery in the shape of a puppy at the front door of the Louvre?

What if a neighborhood guerrila group puts up a red watchtower outside a gated community to highlight their impression that such communities are divisive Gestapo trappings?

What if some guy named Banksy sneaks his own little drawings and paintings into world reknowned art museums and his pieces hang undetected on the walls for days?

Oddly, the actual sinister act itself is performance art at its best. Author, author.

We the real viewers see documentation, photos of people looking at the rogue pieces on the wall of the museum, so now the viewer becomes the viewed and is only interesting in that what they are viewing is unintentionally hosted and framed by an institution that by the fact that you entered its hallowed halls indicates to you that what you are viewing therein is art. Not only does each of the unknowing art subjects affect each of us differently when we see the story, but they too were all each engaged by the piece individually. While one perhaps could tell something was amiss, another may have wondered what would merit the piece hanging there, and a third found it to be the piece sublime.


You know why blogging is so huge? We all want to be artists.

And so, we are.

Read The Rest HERE

April 25, 2005

Mayor Spins Out, Explodes

Last November - and December - I told you about Our Crazy Mayor's Race.

The "winner" was incumbent Mayor Dick Murphy, who, after half a million votes were counted and re-counted, came out on top of a goofy 3-way race by about 2,000 votes.

The race was goofy because a write-in candidate was allowed to join a Two Candidate Run-Off Election. The result was that the expected clear winner of the campaign, Ron Roberts, somehow ended up 3rd after splitting the vote with the write-in. Amusingly, the write-in all but won except that 5,000 of the voters who wrote her name on the ballot didn't fill in the bubble.

To be fair, Dick Murphy didn't even want the job. Really. He announced a couple of years ago he wouldn't run for re-election. Later he changed his mind. He came in second in the primary, and was bound to lose the run-off to a popular, enthusiastic critic. Then came the sneaky hippie write-in trick and Murphy's hopes for a quiet retirement were dashed.

After protracted and somewhat ridiculous legal maneuvering on all sides, Mayor Murphy fell across the finish line in December and was sworn in to his office, with a smile on his face.

That was stupid of him.

An SEC probe into city finance fraud, a U.S. Attorney and FBI joint investigation into public corruption, repeated city bond-rating downgrades by Wall Street, and a burgeoning recall effort have combined to tear the wheels of Murphy's vehicle. All in just 4 months.

This morning he resigned.

His interim replacement will be Deputy Mayor Michael Zucchet.

In case this fact isn't too exciting to anyone, Zucchet's own trial on Federal Corruption Charges begins next Tuesday.

I am not making this up. See?

Read The Rest HERE

April 14, 2005

Life Without Parole

A couple months back I replied to a Luke post about the death penalty. I support the death penalty, with it's myriad avenues of appeal and delay, giving every last ridiculous opportunity to question the validity of the original verdict, and the original sentence.

The 20+ years that the doomed man appeals his case and sits in solitary confinement is 20+ years without the perks that he definitely doesn't deserve and which ordinary lifers do get. Books. TV. Sunlight. I guess you could include gang affiliation and rough sex.

Oh, and a decent night's sleep. The great thing about a condemned man's twenty years of appeals is that every sleepless night gets him one day closer to that nagging final beyond that sits smiling right down the hall. What a monkey to have in your cot with you.

But secondly, more importantly, I threw in a practical concern that I don't think enough people appreciate: Bargaining power.

Seriously, say what you will about the death penalty not being a deterrent to capital crime. Honestly, I can understand that taking upwards of 25 years to actually execute a death row inmate, isn't scaring anyone straight on the outside. Fair enough. "BUT," I said:

If we never in fact execute another death row inmate I still think the death penalty has done its job. How so, you ask?

I'll answer with a question: Under what other circumstances could you ever see a convicted criminal BEGGING AND PLEADING for Life in Prison with No Parole?

Well, time's up. None. I'm perfectly thrilled to live in a state where the heinous special-circumstances worst of the worst scum, have to actually HOPE for Life without Parole (LWOP) instead of the alternative.

And, if we didn't have this system in California where LWOP is a BEST ALTERNATIVE for a Special Circumstances defendant we wouldn't have nearly the number of guilty pleas for capital crime as we do, either.

[Hey - I blockquoted myself! Very very cool.]

Anyway, the Olympic Bomber Jackass is my told-ya-so CASE IN POINT.

If there were no death penalty then he would have no reason to plead guilty - we would be spending the next five freaking years having a trial for this noodlehead that would have allowed him and his ilk to filibuster the process and make statements of their righteousness, all for possibly ending up with a hung jury or lesser charges or, worse, an acquittal.

I always just wonder, if a decade ago, L.A. had announced their intent to rigorously pursue the death penalty in the O.J. trial, you know, for the murders he sloppily committed, would O.J. have simply pled guilty and accepted life without parole?

Actually, I don't wonder at all.

He would have.

Read The Rest HERE

April 13, 2005

I have a gun to my head, and if you don't buy a box of pens from me right now, I'm going to blow my brains all over the ceiling.

When I worked at a sales office for a promotional products company in the 1980's, I actually heard those words spoken by a fellow colleague in his miserable little cubicle, directly behind my own miserable little cubicle. It was kind of a hoot for the sales room, we chuckling and wondering if someone was really on the other end of the line, Mike stringing the prospect along, presumably to a triumphantly impossible sale, everyone ending their own phone calls to watch this train wreck of a pitch. Thing is, it was funny, at that moment. A little break in the tedium. Comic relief.

But when that call was over - "you just killed me!" - he picked up the phone and slid his ruler down the page to the next line and dialed. He got the owner on the phone, introduced himself, and told him he had a gun to his head blah blah blah.

All day he did this. Eight hours of the same line to gas station owners, chiropractors, real estate agents, and the like. It was his plan. His angle. His new system. Just devised it over lunch. He wasn't trying to be funny. He had just gone insane.

Mike who had a system for winning at craps but never had a buck to play. Mike who had allegedly walked away from a sports talk radio show in Phoenix to be a professional gambler at Del Mar. The surf meets the turf meets Mike.

Mike, 40-something and never not drunk, who later went to jail for forging his own mom's signature on a whole book of checks he stole from her on one of his visits home. Mike holding a loaded gun to his head, and if you don't buy a box of pens from him right now he's going to blow his brains all over the ceiling.

I thought of ol' Mike when I saw THIS GUY'S SITE.

See, now, Mike didn't think about making people care about him first. Mike was not a cute little bunny. That's where he goofed.

Read The Rest HERE

April 06, 2005

What a Week


Now, with the death of Prince Rainier of Monaco, the heads of the 2 smallest states in the world have died less than a week apart. Not only was Rainier head of the world's 2nd smallest state, his reign was the 2nd longest of any current monarch in the world.

So, curious about these things as I am, for just no good reason....

I wonder if Jesse Jackson is heading to the Pope's funeral on Friday? If so, he can stick around Europe another day or two for Rainier's funeral too, and we will have seen his face plastered on FIVE world media events in less than two weeks. Has he been to Iraq this month?

Give the man credit.

Since standing next to Actual Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King at his tragic moment of death, which was the last time his attendance at a media firestorm was involuntary, he's made quite a nice living chasing around scandals and scuffles and getting his mug into every significant front page in some 37 years.


Hear that?



Tink. Tink. ta Tink.

Know what that is?

It's either a moth around your kitchen light, or
it's Jesse Jackson bouncing off the camera lenses at:

The Michael Jackson Romance Nov-- uh, trial.

The Terri Schiavo spectacle

Pope Watch '05

Johnny Cochran's 3-ring funeral today

Talk about frequent flier miles. Good thing all those businesses he shakes down pay their fines in a timely manner.

Didn't this post start out with the passing of a Monarch in a tiny municipal enclave whose predecessor nobody could even remember and who brought the itty bitty nation-state into the 21st century with class and world respect?

Or two?

Read The Rest HERE