Speaking of narcissists, looking out the window of my daughter’s house this morning, I saw her self-infatuated neighbor watering the wood chips in his backyard, so I said, hello. Attempt at communication with the cretinous is seldom rewarding but it gave me chance to observe his astroturf hairdo, the result of supermarket hair color products and bad taste, perhaps, color blindness? A little man, he speaks through his nose, because he has to hold his breath to keep his chest from sagging. Small people sometimes turn out that way and there’s nothing to be done about it. Nothing can.
There’s a place for kitsch, of course, but when art is replaced with kitsch, you eventually get the 3rd Reich.
To say that art is political is not to confuse art with polemics. These words distinguish concepts that are easier to describe by example than by explanation:
The films of Agnes Varda, Jean Luc Godard, Akira Kurosawa, Mel Brooks, Jacques Brecker, F. Murnau, Charles Chaplin, Robert Flaherty, Vittorio de Sica, Woody Allen are political and art. The films of Michael Moore and George Clooney are Polemic and well-crafted kitsch.
Clooney’s and Moore’s films are kitsch because they are polemics. Arguably, polemics and kitsch have their place in commerce but they typically associated with manipulating public opinion and are not art and in the wider, longer view of life per life, they are politically irrelevant. Shakespeare’s Tempest is art. Cervantes’ Don Quixote is art. Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2 is art.
Polemics are kitsch and irrelevant because their effect is to divorce viewers from personal responsibility, like going to the confessional on Sundays to feel better about pedophilia during the week.
This isn’t to say that Mssrs. Clooney and Moore should be singled out, nor that they don’t mean well. In my estimation, they are well-meaning and misguided by a commercial structure that filters out art by what is thought to be commercially successful, a system that constrains and knit picks at a project until it is sufficiently compromised to be ambiguous. Polemics fit through the grid–not all polemics, of course, they must be entertaining.
Einstein’s Rings are light emissions from distant points that lie behind huge spherical objects made of matter that doesn’t interact with our organs of sight or instruments we’ve invented to detect faint electromagnetic energy, which in the humanly visible range is called, light and at frequencies above and below the human visible range, radiation.
The rings show up in images of distant galactic clusters, which are contained within the huge spheres. They can be seen in Hubble images of galactic clusters, where the curve of the otherwise invisible sphere forms an angle of refraction, such that, if we moved our point of view, perpendicular to the axis of our current view, i.e., if we move around the invisible sphere, the rings would appear to change as our relationship with the angle of refraction changes, analogous to how a rainbow seems to change as we observe it while driving at 60mph.
The gravity of the invisible sphere changes the direction of light that arrives at various points on the sphere like a spherical or conical lens, while light from the emitting source that arrives in a direct line of sight appears at the intersection of radials drawn from the curve of opposing arcs of the ring. The phenomenon is as fascinating to see and contemplate as a rainbow and also like a rainbow is disappointingly real when the magic of imagination is dispelled.
Never mind, because the magic of the giant invisible spheres remains to inspire curiosity.
Consistent with their infatuation with the mysteries of nature, the empiricists and mathematicians further invoke our imagination by calling the composition of these huge, galaxy holding spheres, “dark matter”. Dark signifies mystery and a sinister, Sherlock Holmesian significance. Moriarity must be behind it! Computations describe the spheres that are only tangibly seen by their gravitational effect on visible energy as described above, as accounting for 25% of the total mass of the universe. The mathematicians also predict that an even greater part of the unseen (but present all around us) universe, consists of undetectable energy that amounts to 60% or more of the total mass and although, the nature of this undetectable energy is unknown, in the same spirit that proves empiricists are human, they call this, the “dark energy”. Cool. Dark energy and dark matter. Dichotomies have always been effective in belief systems. Mystics in particular love a paradox.
Given the enormous amount of human capital expended on refining our understanding of the physical mechanisms that constitute the natural universe, it is at least sensible to ask of what importance it is to us, beyond the elaboration of a creation story impervious to indefatiguable empiricism. In other words, not only, why bother but who gives a fuck? Or more pragmatically, who on earth is making the decision to build electromechanical monstrosities like the Large Hadron Collider and its brethren and why? Ironically, this is the one question that science not only can’t answer, but prefers to pretend is irrelevant. On the other hand, a would-be entrepreneur or filmmaker would be well-served to watch a video of the pitch for LHC made by physicist, Brian Cox.
Putting this irrelevancy aside other than to note that LHC stands in wonderful comparison to the artifacts commemorating the creation mythology of ancient Mayan, Inca, Aztec, Egyptian and permutations of numerous Mesopotamian, Indian and Asian civilizations, mathematics predicted the phenomena known as Einstein’s Rings and mathematics predict that a preponderance of “un-visible” matter and “undetectable” energy in our universe is that these things exist in dimensions in which we live but don’t recognize as part of our experience. These very words are trying to distinguish things literally outside the capacity of language to describe. In fact, computations that fit the existence of Einstein’s Rings and the non-visible spheres of matter they imply, predict six “spatial” dimensions of space of which we live in blithe ignorance, if I’ve got this right. Perhaps, I place too much emphasis on it but it appears there is one notion arising from this mathematical proof, which the professional empiricists are not prepared to analyze, which is that, within this complex multidimensional network of so-called, physical reality, there is one dimension of time that is common to them all. In fact, it all depends on simultaneous glimpses, frames, moments, segments, and rather than distinguishing ever more detailed elements of natural phenomena (qwarks, bosuns, higgs, etc.), they are distinguishing ever smaller instants of view. Zeno predicts there is no end to this and fractal geometry appears to prove it empirically. But, so what? It’s still a nice story.
“The quest for a unified theory will come to be seen not as a branch of science, which tells us about the real world, but as a kind of mathematical theology.”
-John Horgan, Scientific American, Dec 17, 2011
Have you noticed that the oligarchy today is populated by individuals who seem more retarded than Juan Carlos. At least, the imbecility of the Hapsburgs can be understood as the result of inbreeding over generations but the current crop of leadership at all levels of government in North America seems remarkably retarded, unobservant, deceitful and as leadership goes, with few socially redeeming qualities like tolerance and compassion.
I’ve noticed a correlation between the banality of U.S. media, the irrelevance of academia in the U.S. and the phenomenal stupidity of U.S. leadership; representing a high-water mark in the metaphorical toilet bowl of thoughtless, destructive social organizations–throughout known history.
The U.S. film industry has achieved the epitome of banality and lost touch completely with the Art at the heart of the invention of cinema and this has happened since the end of WWII (the war itself was the product of a period of previously unparalleled thoughtless xenophobia and greed). In retrospect, the Nazis lost their war in Europe but they won it here and if you believe this is a frivolous assertion, read up on the international financing of the 3rd Reich–you will find it was funded preponderantly by people we associate with the “Allies” during the war (as opposed to the “Axis”), men like Ford and Rockefeller and their corporate facades.
I assert that It is not commercialism or television that castrates U.S. cinema, consigning it’s output to ever more irrelevant, Disneyesque kitsch, it was the successful efforts of the minions of the reactionary right wing in America who appeal to mentalities here that resemble the German lower middle class whose leader was Adolph Hitler. Led in this nation by Senator Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon and others in congress, they were known for awhile as the House UnAmerican Activities Committee and though their repugnant behavior was staunched, they were able to cause the purge called, the Hollywood Blacklist that drove out of the film industry and broadcasting and eventually from the shores of this nation, all effective artists who regarded cinema as an art form, and in fact, those who weren’t purged, in Soviet fashion, agreed to sign their allegiance to self-censorship, hence, in New York and Hollywood, art itself became the enemy of the state and despite Jane Fonda, remains so.
If you were not here to see it, during Reagan’s reign, people with this same reactionary ideology took over the public and private universities as well as the mainstream press and media and during the latter part of the 20th century, bought up almost all local newspapers and broadcasters. The elimination of the corner store was not caused by Walmart. Walmart merely followed in the footsteps of Costco (neé Fedco) in facilitating the demise of Main Street.
The cost of this transformation, as well as the understanding of it is not popularly appreciated since the media characterizes the problems as if they were not related to each other. As if drug addiction, poverty, increases in cancers and pesticides are all unrelated episodes from unrelated causes. They are by definition related to the leadership of the social organization in which they have occurred and we have only to look no farther than the Senate’s recent cynical actions and at the end results in the redistribution of wealth during the past 30 years to see.
The most xenophobic of German Nazis during the Reich appear intelligent in comparison to Perry, Buchanan, Gingrich or most civic leaders, while the liberal/progressive leadership, represented by ciphers like Obama, Gore and Clinton are more exactly representative of the impotence reflected in their counterparts in Europe during the early 1930s. And, just as it came to be in Nazi Germany and Italy, this political frame of mind is seen in the leadership of every city, state and small town across North America and no one can miss the comparison between the militarization of policing in Nazi Germany and in present day America. And the pepper spray at UC Davis shows this pervades academia here just as it did during the Reich.
In fact, the only major difference between prewar Germany with it’s “fatherland” and contemporary America with it’s “homeland” is the lack of a lucrative scape goat–there is no “Jewish Problem” and the Latin Americans aren’t a good target because they have no gold teeth and they pretty much control the production of our food since they’re the ones who plant and harvest it. And our Lily Reifenstahls are creating grand illusions to numb the lower middle class on TV during halftime and in countless “action adventure” films and “games”.
The nexus between the nightmare that our national government has become and the banality our cinema has become is clear but complex. What happens to a population that is deprived of the benefits of literacy that is conferred on literacy only by art? Essentially, the population goes back to medieval superstition and xenophobia that is typical of tribes but in the context of huge social organizations that looks like the 3rd Reich and what we got here. And that is why it is important to understand that kitsch is not art and that art is political or it is not art. Through our neglect and misunderstanding, we have allowed our cinema industry to become artless and to see the cost of it, look at the last ten years, since 2011–watch George W. Bush stumble over his tongue trying to remember two syllable words, watch the Republican “debates”.
The difference between kitsch and art is that art is political.
Our oligarchy is led by cretins more imbecilic than the most deformed Hapsburgs.
The U.S. film industry has achieved the epitome of banality
And lost touch completely with the art of invention.
In retrospect, the Nazis lost their war in Europe but they won it here.
It is not commercialism or television that destroyed U.S. cinema,
But Joseph McCarthy and the purge called, the Hollywood Blacklist.
In Reagan’s reign, they took over the universities, press and media,
Today, the most xenophobic of German Nazis appears intelligent
Compared to Perry, Buchanan, Gingrich or most civic leaders
Of every city, state and small town across North America.
The difference between kitsch and art is that art is political.
There’s a place for kitsch, of course, but when art is replaced with kitsch, you eventually get the 3rd Reich.
The miracle of life is such that a human being, after assessing itself would feel compelled to either invent God or give up the possibility of Art.
Lewis Carroll wrote a story about a king whose ambition was to produce the finest map ever made and hired the world’s best mapmakers. They started with a resolution of 1″ = 1000 miles but all they got was the outline of a potato. So they went to 1″ = 100 miles, they could see locations of major places and geographic features. At 1″ =10 miles, major roads appeared. At 1″ = 1 mile, you could see the locations of particular buildings. They continued refining the resolution: 1″ to 1/4 mile, 1″ to 100′, 1″ to 10′ and finally, they produced a direct 1″ to 1″ map of the entire kingdom. Unfortunately, when they unrolled it, the kingdom disappeared.
The miracle of life is such that a human being, after assessing itself would feel compelled to either invent God or give up the possibility of Art.
Or, if not a cult, an infestation by an alien nation, cone heads in disguise, perhaps, or subterraneans that plan to take over our food supply first and then dine on our corpses. Trader Joe’s is hidden within a larger cult, which by the way is not above suspicion, the cult of the gainfully employed, which, though larger than any of its sub-distinctions (such as IBM, Sony or Geico), is still but a smallish piece of the current human pie.
Why do I suspect this? To begin with, although, I encounter people in businesses, whom I presume to be gainfully employed (like the cops who ride around in black and white automobiles, dodging behind dark glasses, or the counter people at Vons or Walmart, who are among the first to claim they are if anything, just barely employed), I have not one solitary friend who receives salary or wages. Of course, there are the illiterate crop pickers who live next door, an extended family of several dozen souls, who work in the fields for cash but these people are not even counted in census data, let alone numbered among the employed vs. unemployed in statistics the government hands out daily. Yes, there is my son-in-law, who, although he wears the uniform of the Southwest Airlines cult, I have harbored certain suspicions about since the day we met.
You may be thinking, why Trader Joe’s as the subject of this diatribe? Why not Channel 10 or the Disney Channel or Disney World, for that matter? Why not Wells Fargo Bank, for instance, as predatory an institution as ever clothed itself in button-down oxford shirts and predictably pompous logos? Yes, why? For no good reason except for the innocuous appearing sameness of the help at Trader Joe’s, not only because they dress as much alike in their own way as do the employees of the bank, but also, they wear the same kind of haircut, speak English with similar accents and they are seamlessly middle-class, preponderantly American Caucasians. They all give the same answers to the same questions, and are likely to say to you, without reason or provocation, “are you finding everything OK?” After hearing this question repeated more than as many times as I’ve been in the store, which I visit at least once each week, I have begun to wonder what they mean by it. Is it a question about my state of mind, a philosophical inquiry or perhaps they view customers like distracted cattle in a herd, who have forgotten that their primary purpose in being in the field is to graze? What are they thinking? Perhaps, they are not thinking. Are they as much robotic as they appear to be and act?
With the state of the economy and all, isn’t there a possibility that, surreptitiously, human beings are being replaced by life-like robots that are much less expensive to maintain and far more dependable than any human beings and that this is the reason why there are no jobs? It seems far-fetched but it isn’t out of fear of imminent danger that this question arises. What possible difference could it make to me if human beings are reduced to a robotic existence to stock shelves of organic produce at Trader Joe’s or if they are robots? Food prices could be lower in the latter case, an improvement since I live primarily on social security. Do I care if a robot helps me find my seat on an airplane, given that the plane is operated by a computer? This could also be happier for me than with my son-in-law’s help. But a cult is another matter. You can never say what might happen with a cult. Look at Yale and the Bush buddies and Wall Street, for instance—total mayhem.
Can we study the effects of cinema on individuals or culture? Such a study requires an assessment of individuals and a society both before and an analysis of the subject of the study for an extended period after a particular film is viewed. Although, this may seem a difficult task, it is an enlightening way to describe what happens in our brains when we expose it to any kind of media, so, why not cinema?
Recently, I viewed Oliveira’s Belle Toujours, Jacque Breckers’ Touchez Pas Au Grisbi and an American screwball comedy called, Syriana. The choice was random—I picked up a dozen DVDs at the public library in San Luis Obispo to see what I hadn’t seen or don’t remember and at home, these three films drew my attention first. Isn’t that the way life is? Who chooses the films producers decide to make or that exhibitors show? Because of the phenomenon described in the opening statement above, I viewed these films in light of each other, and although I saw them consecutively, the timeframe allowed me to hold them all in focus, simultaneously. This is critical for otherwise, biases from the bombardment of conditioning disguised as news, etc., would likely have prevented me from seeing how and why Syriana is a screwball comedy even though it’s makers were in absolute earnest in thinking they were “making a difference”. Have they?
Manoel de Oliveira drew some useful distinctions between film, theater and literature: his first premise is that each of them employs the total range of art, using words, sounds, images and, music. His distinction between theater and cinema is enlightening; actors in the theater are part of the experience as they present their characters, while in cinema, the actor is not present, he is a phantom, there is only the image of the character. Literature, he said, is a private medium vs. the public nature of cinema and theater and Oliveira said he admired Luis Buñuel for the respect he showed for the private nature of experience.
I watched Belle Toujours last and Grisbi first with Syriana stuck in the middle like the round of baguette taken between flights at a wine tasting and though, I reviewed a few scenes in Grisbi out of curiosity about framing, sequence and camera, I was compelled to watch Toujours twice and not just because Oliveira’s comments in an interview on the DVD aroused my curiosity. I also viewed interviews of Clooney, Gaghan and Damon and Ventura, Gabin and Truffaud on the DVDs of the other films. (Only Oliveira’s comments were more than anecdotal or promotional, i.e., they are substantive.) I had to watch Toujours again for the same reason I find it hard to take my eyes off a beautiful Vermeer or a woman I find attractive, for that matter. Something in my brain seeks to know qualities about which my mind has not the resolution to distinguish. There, you have it.
Admittedly, the description of civilization, below, is like a single layer of understanding about relationships over four dimensions but the extrapolation describes a context in which principles can be applied to national and international “events” so they may be acted upon effectively. Without this simplification, the effect of the plethora of broadcast, press and internet information, although it may be described as mere data, shapes our perceptions according to the will of its source: often organs of government or corporations, and serves the purposes of the source, appropriate to an agenda and needs of a hegemony. Information we receive, when not directly shaped by such an agenda, is often in reaction or response to the agendi and this has an even stronger effect since, by opposing artificial constructions, we give them weight and make them seem more real.
Independent of self-serving agendi of content producers, information from science and philosophy pecks around the edges of that which may possibly be known and, as often as not, stumbles upon something not previously known to be possible and which, previous to revelation, wasn’t exactly inconceivable, just not imagined. The boundary between the inconceivable and the unrecognized is vagrant since our perceptions are shaped by expectations and by subliminal mechanisms operating on stumuli within the brain. In this century, understanding about both the brain and media technology increases our ability to shape audience expectations and recognition and thereby, to enable widespread conceptualization of the inconceivable and it doesn’t matter whether it is based on reality or imaginary ideas, giving opportunity to enhance both superstition and potentially useful views of nature and culture. Albert Einstein is frequently quoted about this:
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it…The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education…The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination…We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them…The only real valuable thing is intuition…There comes a time when the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge but can never prove how it got there…The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion…”
Dispensing with the “natural” history of human social habits (pardon the redundancy) to focus on effective political action in the modern context, it is revelatory to see that the context in which political action is seen and occurs determines the outcome and this in turn reveals how and why the context, which media confers by implication on its content has been rendering political action on global as well as local issues, literally, impotent.
If we understand that civilization is the appropriate context in which to weigh political acts relevant to global issues, principles beyond negotiation of interests of hegemonies emerge. Civilization, as a contextual term, distinguishes the whole of social organization over time and without limitation. The distinction, civilization, is historical and refers to a unity beyond geographic or political boundaries, nor is it defined by ethnicity, religious belief, nor the linguistic, cultural, legal, technological, economic or familial structures that define levels of social organization. Civilization includes the totality of it all. Relevant political action regarding global issues must be in the context of civilization.
The parameters of civilization are changed by observation—in the moment any individual becomes aware of a planet circling a star 600 light years distant from Earth, the bounds of civilization expand to include it. Every event or act and thing belongs to civilization and it is possible to distinguish concepts and ideas that inform our understanding of who we are individually and severally, related to historical global effects rather than to myths and beliefs about them, which, historically, are superficial and irrelevant.
For instance, the regime that murdered Allende and Neruda, though attributed in current popular myth to the Chilean dictator, Auguste Pinochet, in the context of our civilization was done by the same regime that killed Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers. Real interactions of international interests, including the funding of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the use of those funds and paramilitary activities within the United States and all of Latin America were involved in these murders and their cover up. It is useful to understand such events in the context in which they actually occur, while not doing so promulgates confusion and sustains universal ignorance and resignation.
When we view macro effects of our civilization in real time, we can see the mechanisms and social structures that led to conditions such as, global warming, outside the paradigm in which we normally talk about and describe them, where effective action is impossible, and where we are led to a kind of impotent drama, which media ironically calls, “protest”.
Viewing civilization as the only relevant context for political action is consistent with economic realities but we are presently conditioned by media, public education and social networks to view local, national and ethnic social organizations in a way that deifies the existing hierarchy of hegemonies negotiated between beneficiaries of both geographic localities, states and regions and corporate entities in a traditional, tribal fashion. The territorial domains of drug cartels exemplify this but it may also be seen in the music and film industries and in elemental fashion in the energy and oil industries and in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Russia and Saudi and bureaucracies throughout the United States and Europe. Our acceptance of this view at local levels, in academia, and so on, makes it impossible to see, let alone act effectively in the broadest domain of international action, and this allows an informal global regime with tribal values to flourish such that we can’t address critical issues of environmental degradation, global warming, over population, extreme poverty, injustice, ignorance, violence and disease, and these are but side effects of an international social order outside the rules of influence that negates individual will and can and does routinely kill effective initiative that opposes it, with impunity.
Empowering individual will means enabling individuals to act in concert together. History shows a constant negotiation of the rights and interests of the many vs. the powerful few, in which the many are occasionally organized ad hoc, while the few are persistently well-organized in tight, defensible hegemonies in hierarchic structures. The problem that prevents progress is that ad hoc organizations that oppose the will of established hegemonies may be defined as revolutionary conspiracies and suppressed. This has been screamingly obvious in the streets of Libya, Syria, Egypt and in the responses of police to the Occupy movement throughout the United States.
Each hegemony is a constituent part of the global hierarchy and a micro-social organism within civilization, composed of individuals who work together (legally) to maintain, defend and expand their hegemony. But the global regime that results from negotiations of hierarchic order supersedes laws that govern lower levels, while it mirrors principles of hierarchic authority, adhering to the same precepts, having the same tribal values with superficial differences, for instance, there are regional hegemonies that bear names like, China, Mexico, Europe and United States, that are organized around written laws of order, while the relationship between individuals and corporate bodies at the meta-level are not defined in code of law but in terms of effect, they are tribal and not ambiguous.
The global regime’s lack of definition disguises the strength of their inter-relationships, which are not based on ethnic, geographic or political boundaries since differences that characterize hierarchies at lower levels are irrelevant to the regime. At the global level of civilization, members of the regime are defined by their ability to exercise economic power. Those who understand this may gain temporal advantage up to a point determined by the hierarchy on which they are pegged. For instance, computer-assisted data mining could be orchestrated to create the “credit” industry as well as a complimentary set of mechanisms to exact taxation in support of cooperating levels of hegemony within a state in which enterprises are symbiotic with established hegemonies. However, political action must progress beyond the hierarchies of tribe-like hegemonies to solve global problems. Archaic terms, such as, socialist vs. capitalist, secular vs. religious, democratic vs. autocratic, conservative vs. progressive are useless to understand and discuss effective political action in the context of civilization, yet these terms are still the heart of academic political science curricula. Effective global action must occur in the presence of diverse existing geopolitical identities, ethnic and cultural differences and economic practices and requires that we be undifferentiated from each other outside the hegemonies of established political orders in a context that filters out irrelevant biases and xenophobia. Because we are conditioned to honor the reality of geopolitical hegemonies, current political processes, such as, the Occupy activism seem relevant, while, as with all previous forms of revolution, including those we see now in the middle-east, they are ineffective over time in the global context because the ad hoc political organizations evaporate, while the regimen persists, supported by bureaucratic organizations and their local, internal relationships. There is no practical way of undoing this. The Nazis tried with murderous conviction to upset the balance and after the war ended, their bureaucracy reassembled itself, minus the Jews, and plodded on.
The question is how to empower individuals to combine in joint action that avoids the reconstitution of hegemony that otherwise resumes after protest and revolution. While, it is true that “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” if “the only real valuable thing is intuition”, the problem requires new, intuitional thinking, and in this case, intuition suggests that global problems can only be solved in a global context and since all politics is local, that context must unite the two.
In 2007, just before I left Del Mar, I began to describe an implementation of advanced technology that may have the potential of allowing civilization to address global issues through solving some local problems. Before describing this approach, it is important to describe a more complete image of the problem and context, in particular, these notions: 1) All politics is local. 2) Bureaucracy. 3) Commerce.
 The reader is advised to look into Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, 1992, Ann Druyan & Carl Sagan
“It’s not the ones that come here to work the fields, it’s the ones that come and stay that are the problem.”
“The damn Mexicans.”
“You mean those people over there that live next to me—and half the people who live in this park?” (Highway Trailer Park, Santa Maria, CA)
“I guess so.”
“Why? What problem?”
“They come here for the schools, the medical care, cars—they can’t get all that stuff in Mexico. The ones ‘come here and go back home are OK. It’s the one’s that stay that are bad news.”
“Oh. Because they get the benefits they don’t pay for?”
“Hell, yes! They get paid in cash. They send the money home. They ain’t payin’ taxes!”
“What about all the stuff they buy here…”
“An’ that’s another thing! All these stores around here are owned by Indians ‘n such. I don’t mean natives, I mean Indians from India.”
“Iraqui’s own the market next door.”
“Them, too! And Asians, too! Pakistanis! They’ve been buying up everything around here for years. You know the Ocean Cliffs Hotel in Pismo? A friend who used to own the place told me that one day, a realtor came by and asked him if he wanted to sell. My friend said, no, and the realtor said, how much would you sell it for if you were offered enough? The guy told him. A couple weeks later, a half dozen little Japenese guys came walking up carrying bags—you know suit cases.” Tom is a big man and his imitation of the nodding steps of a little Japanese businessman lugging a suitcase and looking around was implausibly characteristic. “My friend invited them into the office and they opened the suitcases that were filled with money—three times the amount he told the realtor and my friend said he’d told the realtor $15 million. Fuck, yeah, he sold out, fast! I would.”
“That’s a lot of cash.”
“They’re laundering the money up here. Same way with scrap I take down to LA every week.” Tom’s the manager here at Highway Trailer Park and he parks a big white Freightliner semi, sometimes it’s in the park and at other times on Bunny Street near the entrance. Early every Wednesday morning, he fires it up and takes it down to LA with it’s open container full of scrap metal he collects from scrap dealers in the area. “They pay in cash,” he says, “Japanese company. Every week I come back with loads of cash—six, eight, sometimes over twenty thousand dollars.”
“I would have thought something like that, they’d have to be more careful.”
“Hah! Like anyone’s watching. They’re laundering money just like the guys where I pick up the scrap! Nobody reports nothing.”
Surreal, surreal, surreal,
Crawls on this putrid peace,
From day to day
And all our dreams and hopes,
Like tattered fragments of desire,
Return to haunt us
Beneath our present tense.
Yesterday, at a concert I attended in San Luis Obispo, I had a conversation with a computer sciences student at Cal Poly. Picture this scene: a smallish venue of modern design, excellent acoustics, 400 theater seats comfortably upholstered in faux deep vermillion, about 250 well-dressed people of all ages and a smattering of students in shorts and jeans. The Calder quartet brilliantly performed a Beethoven “Razumovsky” (Op. 59), Mozart’s “Dissonance” (K. 465) and an exciting piece by, Jacob Ter Veldhuis, titled, There Must Be Some Way Out of Here (Q. #3), a composition based on a song by Bob Dylan in the manner of Schubert (the program explained).
D., the computer scientist, is also a viola virtuoso and I know a little about computers (McGraw Hill published a book I wrote on the subject) and I’m studying composition. D. explained that because the current state of the art of computer science is moving so rapidly, students learn to adapt and create rather than learning specific programs. We laughed about the implications of Unix and the unpredictable nature of artificial neural nets and I told him about R. P.’s Galatea 2.2 and the remarkable assumptions from 4-byte genetic code.
At the Art Academy University in San Francisco, where I’m a rare artifact, a token artist, the mindset is to teach students how things are done. In truth, they are being taught how things were being done just within the last decade or two. Only cursory attention is paid to the legacy of any tradition and the primary focus is on technique, which, since classes are taught by “professionals” who worked with software and ideas that are or are about to become obsolete, is already passé. Even the relatively recent past is hidden because teachers are a product of a similar education who learned just enough to find employment before their knowledge became irrelevant. When it comes to anything wider or deeper than their niche, they are possessed of bizarre conceptualizations of history such that, when confronted with an extraordinary work by Renoir, they go blank.
It seems extraordinary that in the arts, which are supposed to epitomize the creative and revolutionize our views of the world, we have become less interested in the innovative than those on the leading edge of science. Science has no other choice–it must create and innovate. Art may do so merely out of curiosity, joy and love but unlike science, art can fall silent and just make cheap copies.
“The God of the scientists, one is tempted to suggest, created man in his own image and put him into the world with only one Commandment: Now try to figure out by yourself how all this was done and how it works. …”
Dr. Hannah Arendt, Life of The Mind
Doesn’t it seem perverse to you that with the communication possibilities of the worldwide web and satellite telephones and universal broadcast media, the result of better communication is a world of greater social inequity and widespread violence?