Archive for January, 2009

January 21, 2009

Obama as poet

I was just discussing the absurdity of  a president, cultured or not,  influencing the arts in America.

Then I read this:

Pop

by Barack Obama

Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes,
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies . . .
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Two fingers.
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; ’cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.

— Barack Obama


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January 21, 2009

Obama as muse

shepard-fairey-poster_348x3031

Much has been said and written recently about the potential impact our new president could have on the arts in America. Obama is literary and tech-savvy. When he described the prose from a book he was reading as “sparkling,” the loins of writers everywhere briefly tingled. There’s even a petition circulating to add a culture czar to Obama’s cabinet.

While it’s true that artists were drawn into the Obama campaign in record numbers (not that surprising, artists tend to be politically liberal) and maybe were even inspired by his message of optimistic realism, I have a hard time understanding how the man himself–his taste and perception–will influence artistic expression or somehow set cultural trends, which is what is being implied.

Did watered-down country music thrive under Bush’s reign? Was literature dumbed down in response to W’s malnourished vocabulary? Maybe the anger he inspired influenced certain works, especially in music but it’s doubtful his own cultural ouevre had an impact on the arts.

Even Shepard Fairey’s (pictured) rise to fame via his iconic portrait of Obama was not a departure. He translated his response to the man in his signature style. The fact that the mainstream finally caught on to something many of us were already hip to doesn’t say anything to me about Obama’s influence on art and culture.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan. I voted for him and I wept all the way through the inauguration ceremony, but I’m having trouble with the idea that the leader of our country, a political figure, will influence the arts. I don’t even think it’s a question we should ponder. The creative process is deeply personal and organic. Why would we even entertain the notion that a public figure could somehow sway the artists output? This idea must be a product of the cult of celebrity much of our culture is currently under the spell of.  Obama is our president and that’s a great thing. But, is our muse? God, I hope not.

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January 12, 2009

Scott Jacobs: the soup thickens

On Friday, I received a letter from the woman Scott Jacobs rented from, whom he alleged kicked him out for “being an artist.” If I am to believe her letter, and I have no reason not to, then my instincts were right: Jacobs was lying about the circumstances surrounding his celebrated unoriginal painting of Obama. Stay tuned for more on this…

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January 12, 2009

Treasure hunting at the F.O.T.M. yard sale

I dropped by the Focus on the Masters‘ fundraiser sale on Saturday only to find them practically cleaned out by 11 a.m. I was hoping to find an art piece in my price range for the office. Unfortunately for me, much of what was unsold had a Native American theme, which I’m not so keen on. There was a sketch of the female form by Gayle Childress that I liked but it was beyond my means.

I imagine we’ll be seeing more of these kinds of sales as non-profit arts organizations get a bit hungrier. Donna Granata et al seemed quite pleased with the turnout and I ran into an old friend which was a lovely surprise. God, this is a small town.

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January 12, 2009

New Spires

One of my favorite bands from Ventura, the Spires—who also operate Beehouse Records—have released a new songrecordvideo. Enjoy!

January 10, 2009

Calendars and resistance to change

From the time I was about 12 until my early -mid ’20s, every Sunday morning (whether morning was at 8 a.m or 3 p.m.) I would furiously flip through the delicious layers of the Los Angeles Times to find the Calendar section.

Back then it was all about music critics Robert Hilburn (loved and hated by many) and later Kristine McKenna. Despite his frequently annoying perspectives and overuse of adjectives, Hilburn was pretty much the final word on music in the greater Los Angeles area. Come to think of it, he’s probably one of the reasons I was attracted to journalism (along with Hunter Thompson and of course Lester Bangs, who yes, I am old enough to have read in Creem magazine).

My love affair with the Sunday Calendar endured through my adolescence, the punk years and the trying to be “normal” years, until with one bold editorial decision from the Times staff, everything changed.

What had previously been a pull-out, non-glossy, weekly magazine style section was replaced with a non-descript, unwieldy monster, the full length in inches of the rest of the paper.

It was a departure I couldn’t warm up to and after about 3 weeks of failed attempts, I gave up entirely.

On a recent Sunday morning, freshly pressed coffee in hand, I sat at my table and read the Los Angeles Times Calendar cover to cover, with my previous relish.  I was sated. 20 years later and I’m finally over the Calendar’s format change. It occurs to me what a creature of habit I am and I’m sure I’m not alone. I wonder if the Reporter has any such loyal readers who would be as ruffled by such a change?

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