June 30, 2005

Just What We Need: Another Anti-American Arizona Pendejo

by Jerome du Bois

There's an amazing sculpture up now at the Heard Museum, part of a new show called La Realidad, by some artist with a forgettable name. Anyway, the sculpture:

It's a 20-foot statue, made of papier-mache, of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Although she's fully clothed, it's obvious she's visited a breast man in BevHills. The traditional needles of light have been replaced by syringes, like the Acid Queen from Tommy, and, like Her, she bears a look of wide-eyed fanaticism. Most tellingly, she is lifting her right leg and foot to send a bunch of little brown Indians flying northward to the USA. Inscribed on the base: Andale! Andale! Reconquista!

Heck. You don't believe me. And you're right not to. Who could get something so un-PC past some piss-elegant committee at the Heard? But if you're American citizen (born here) Hector Ruiz, who loathes the USA, you may do stuff like this:

Like the King Kong blonde, who clutches a tiny, hapless businessman in her manicured hands. Misogyny? Nah, because no one in this tableau comes off as noble. Not the lasso-wielding Dubya-esque cowboy straddling the airplane piloted by Jesus. Nor the Stetson-hatted Hoss who sits behind him, clutching a missile as if it were a spear. Not even the Statue of Liberty gets off Ruiz's hook. In his version, Lady Liberty's foot is raised as if she's about to kick the shit out of the huddled masses yearning to be free.

He's not just a typical clichéd leftist artist. He's a whiner, too.

"America is so appealing to the rest of the world," Ruiz says . . . But the things that are appealing are so in your face, so harsh."

Awww. Somebody got in his little sensitive face. Somebody was harsh to him. Maybe more than one person. Maybe --we need to hear this-- maybe more than once! Horrors! And this:

Ruiz, 34, says his take on his native land comes from spending two years abroad and experiencing a sort of reverse culture shock when he returned home. He says he could suddenly see Americans the way the rest of the world sees us. "There's this arrogant American [persona] that comes across as stubborn and unbending," says Ruiz.

I've been asking myself which countries this guy travelled to. Australia? I doubt it. Too brash, stubborn, unbending, and in-your-face. Israel? No, for the same reasons. Maybe England, where it's illegal to defend yourself against muggers and burglars. They bend over good there. Same with most of Western Europe. Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands . . . nothing harsh there except the muffled cries of the dhimmis being strangled by Islam. He probably didn't notice, or didn't care, if he had been anywhere there.

I don't give a rat's patootie which country or countries he has or hasn't been to. He has his head up his own ass if he prefers any other country to this one, which raised and educated his parents, his siblings, and himself without so much as asking for a thank you. It's part of what the country does for its citizens. And all it asks is an acknowledgement of the mutual achievement between the citizen and the rule of law, the giant invisible structure which makes this whole sonofabitch's life possible. (God! People!)

And I guarantee you that the United States of America has never harmed this man. Tell me I'm wrong, pendejo. But don't thank Liberty, Hector, and all the men and women who stood on a wall for you and yours. Instead, make fun of Her, belittle Her, as you probably do to the real women in your life. (If the misogyny fits . . .) Other so-called artists have done worse. You couldn't possible think that you are original in those images above. It's idiotarian boilerplate, and it's getting soooo old.

Catherine just reminded me that this ungrateful man --and Mark Newport, from the previous post-- are the same age that my father was --34-- when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, about twenty miles from where he lived with his new bride and infant daughter. To protect them, and the country, he went away to fight, and fought as a hero. A real one. He kicked ass all over the Pacific Theater. He prevailed, came home, and started his life over.

So what the fuck are you wankers whining about?

You know, when you get a life, a real life, when you do something besides papier-mache --isn't that so fourth grade, Hectorette?-- when you can make art that takes on Reality, one-on-one, not your made-up MoveOn mash-up Spanglish fantasy-- until then you're just part of the problem, mucking about in the rebarb.

By the way, did you visit Mexico, Hectoroonio? They just published these stamps about Memin Pinguin (HT:Malkin), who makes L'il Black Sambo look like Louis Farrakhan. Why not, this first Friday --yeah, I know it's short notice-- why don't you feature this series in the half-gallery-space you usually devote to Minority Artists?

By the way twice, I'm descended from French Protestants who came here in 1650. I'm pretty sure I qualify as a member of a minority. But somehow, I doubt you'd turn over half your oozy brown gallery to me.

LIke I'd take anything from you, Hector Ruiz.

Posted by Jerome at 06:30 PM | TrackBack

Superwimp The Non-Protector

I'm trying to push the idea of hero as protector, and the idea that a soft, warm sweater also protects.
--Mark Newport

"What did you do in the Islamic War, Daddy?" asked Mark Newport's children.
"I knitted," he answered.

--Apocryphal

by Jerome du Bois

There's an Arizona State University (ASU) professor of fabric arts named Mark Newport who knits superhero costumes, using himself as a model. He also embroiders comic-book covers, makes quilts from comic-book pages, and will soon be featured in a series of digital images of himself in his costumes "in the role of protector."

Meanwhile, we all have a scimitar at our throats. You want to call this twinkiedoodle for help? Think he'll protect you? He can't. He'll hand you something soft and pretty, though. He is impotence personified, even glorified. Knitting is his kryptonite for us all. He knitted and sewed right through 9/11 and probably didn't drop a stitch. He says,

his work represents "how I see the world, instead of how the world is supposed to be seen, or tells you how to be . . ."

Damn that pesky reality! Knit a sweater for Osama and maybe he won't chop your head. If I close my eyes, you can't see me. It's a super-power.

Oh, wait, it's just art, it's not about real life. No need to get angry.

The contrast between the masculine icons and the soft, knitted suits provides a provocative visual, says curator John Spiak. "It opens a broad dialogue on gender identity --more specifically, characteristics of masculinity and how they are perceived in our society. Newport's use of knitting and embroidery, combined with superhero imagery, provides an unexpected surprise [what other kind is there?--CK] that immediately engages the viewer."

The only broad dialogue this opens is series of wide-mouthed yawns. Spiak's buddies have been undermining masculinity for years. See Jon Haddock, for example, who has paintings of himself and his wife in superhero costumes.

This is an old, old story of envy. As a teenager and young adult, I speculate, Newport gazed for long hours upon the pictorial forms of well-formed men, fictional and real, from the Marvel Heroes to the real marvels, whom he collected in sports trading cards. He spread them out on his floor and gazed at them and felt . . . small and inadequate and unable to measure up. (Perhaps, in a household of women, he had few male models and maybe too many earfuls about untrustworthy men.) He studied the heroes, the powerful and competent heroes. For years, apparently.

And then he started poking holes in them with pins and needles. I don't know why, but he did.

And poking and poking and poking, with his long needles, for many years now.

Then he fills the holes, covering up these heroes up with various materials --beads, thread, cloth, ribbons-- transforming them, emasculating them, redefining them, obliterating them. They're gone, the way they were, the way they were supposed to be. They're his now. He's safe. It's all about you, Mark.

And he hasn't stopped. He created beaded sports trading cards back in the early 1990s, and now he's graduated, so to speak, to entire knitted jumpsuits, which are just tightened-up holes held together by knotted geometry. Holes helpless against any sharp steel.

They offer no practical protection whatsoever. So why does he go on about protection? I could say:

Because he wants to undermine and ultimately destroy the notions of protection, masculinity, femininity, integrity, courage, human dignity, and all the other components that distinguish us from the knuckle-draggers and sycophants.

Maybe --at the beginning, and maybe these motives still apply, but they're secondary now, part of the package. You see, his voodoo worked, and he worked his gimmick --the high-touch, labor-intensive, feminine craft, pop culture mash-up-- through school and college and graduate school. So now I don't think his motivation even rises to that level of sophistication. It's stupider and uglier than that.

It's all about his career. Nothing more. No world exists outside of that orbit. It's either that, or, in wartime, he wants to suffocate courage with his stinky blankie. Either way, I can't let either get by without comment.

Newport says,

"Turning the superhero inside out is a way for me to present an understanding of masculinity . . . Superheroes suggest strength, but knitting them or covering them with embroidery provides a softness that is contradictory to their image."

And? So? Just because you begin a thought, Mark, doesn't mean you have followed through. And he just betrayed his shallowness. I haven't picked up a comic book in forty years, I think the first Batman movie was the only Batman movie, so I'm no expert; but I can say that superheroes do not suggest strength, they embody it. And that many of them are no strangers to softness, heartbreak, conflict, or fear. They have no problem acknowledging weakness. That's what makes them interesting, and not just seamless robots. It's a continuum, not a contradiction. People are complicated, and even one-dimensional comics can communicate that fact.

But Mark Newport doesn't want to go there --too complex. It's got to be simple --hard / soft-- because he's got the soft part covered, doncha see, so to speak. Like Spiak, he thinks he's making some kind of strong social comment, as if the definitions of masculinity (especially in art) haven't been a dynamic topic in the social conversation for fifty years. We even have room for metrosexuals now, a category fit for Newport and Spiak.

[I pity both of these two young fathers' children. Or perhaps they already have the little t-shirts that say, "It's all about me."]

Even I can predict some of Newport's next "career" moves. (But if he dares to poke holes in Pat Tillman, I hope someone will tie a knot in his nose.) Like Beverly McIver with her various painted racist faces, like Heidi Hesse with her gumball Humvee and comfortable anti-American shtick, these academics or institutional artists are as safe and coddled as little puppies. The world and its roiling is just material for their advancement and comfort. They keep reality at a distance, and insult our pain in the process.

Or maybe I'm wrong, and Mark Newport just wants to help us, people, help us all understand more about what it means to be a man in the new millennium. But despite Spiak's big promise of a broad dialogue, Newport has very little to say about what kind of man we need to face the future. Instead,

"I've been making work related to gender issues for fifteen years or more, and a lot of that has to do with my background," says Newport. "When I said I wanted to pursue art, my family encouraged me, and it didn't matter if it was painting, sculpting, crafts, or if it was supposed to be a boy or girl craft."

More fluff. "Work related to gender issues." The guy sewed and knitted, but not in order to explore gender issues. It's his talent, but of course he needs to tuck this theoretical dickey into his wardrobe.

And he has nothing to offer the man of the future except an adult-baby jumpsuit.

I'll pass.

[Update: Catherine reminds me that when it comes to standing up and facing reality, the 11-year-old babysitter she used to be, not to mention the single mother she became, could kick both Spiak's and Newport's asses with both hands tied behind her back. I concur.]

Posted by Jerome at 08:10 AM | TrackBack

June 27, 2005

Thumb In The Eye: The Problem Of The Drawing Center At The WTC

by Jerome du Bois

Imagine that the Pearl Harbor Memorial to the USS Arizona had an art gallery inside which had nothing to do with the Memorial. The rotating shows presented in the gallery would routinely be completely irrelevant to WWII or the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. Animation gels from Disney, Marsden Hartley, Rauschenberg, Martin Mull, Elizabeth Peyton, whoever. But what if the gallerists decided to show Japanese ink drawings of the wartime Imperial period? Or Japanese soldiers' sketches of the same time period? Who would object?

It is my contention that the motivation of those people behind getting the Drawing Center smack dab in the center of the 9/11 Memorial complex at the WTC site is to trivialize that nation-shaking, world-colliding day as soon and for as long as possible. (Read the DC's pdf about their programs and plans for the new site, from Google. There is no mention of 9/11.) They want to make it all so ho-hum. They want 9/11 to take a back seat to art, of all things. Art! To make it so that visitors will come to the WTC for the venues like the Drawing Center and the International Freedom Center (how ill-named can an institution be?), and that morose thing next door --haunted by the 3,000 innocent dead-- will fade into insignificance, like some forgotten statue.

But it won't happen. For many, anyway. The horror, for those who stand there in the Memorial and think, and look, the horror will not fade. For some it may, but not for most, if we can continue to see it as it was. Still, the fools who somehow secured this corner of our pain hope for our amnesia, no matter their protestations otherwise.

Consider the possibilities at the Center:

Ignore 9/11.

Attack 9/11.

Pay tribute to 9/11.

Though only the last would ever be proper, it would end up being lugubrious; they're all losing propositions. The only justification for the Drawing Center's existence is to trivialize 9/11/01. What is a little twee art engine doing there in the first place? The Memorial should have been the only institution at the site. Any addition is a subtraction from the solemnity. It's hallowed ground: they died there. You want to lay your loopy-doopy vinyl-tape installation all over those nice new hardwood floors, while deep underground and all around the restless dead are shaking their heads? Yeah, too many of you do. That's the problem, it's no problem.

Let's consider the options.

Option 1: Ignore 9/11. Mount all kinds of shows --William Pope L. drawing with peanut butter and tubes of newspaper, Art Spiegelman filling the walls with trembling figures like R. Crumb's fancy brother, Leonardo Drew flooding the floor with popsicle sticks collected from around three boroughs, Will Cotton painting the walls with confectionary sugar . . . whatever. It's whistling past the graveyard, spitting on our shoes, and pissing on our graves.

No art is stronger than reality. Put down your brushes, your pencils, your hammer, your video camera; behold reality and tremble and try to be strong. Art these days is a shield of tissue, a selfish illusion. In a time of war, when we're all under the sword of Damocles, this five-sided joker --contemporary art-- wants to share the stage with warriors and engineers and policy analysts, with those who report the truth under fire, with those who stand on a wall for us all, with the wartime dead, and with the innocent dead of 9/11. And all the time he wants to tell us the secrets of his navel. We should not let this joker take the stage.

The secret anger and envy of many artists post-9/11 is that the veil was ripped down the center of their stumpy temple, exposing these pomo poseurs as the naked mole rats they are. While serious people grapple with our precarious future, these wankers wallow in their psychological coprophagy.

Option 3 --let's take the last one second: Pay tribute to 9/11. But this exposes the weakness of art. How does one encompass an event of this magnitude? Tumbling Woman? I think not. How can it be reduced? It shouldn't be, that's our answer. It should not have any artistic interpretation. It should be presented as is, on a scale of 1:1. How? Here's a suggestion.

Take the square footage of the Drawing Center and clear out everything but the load-bearing walls. Then go collect all available physical remnants of the impacts and collapses which a human can comfortably carry --say fifty pounds maximum-- and assemble them in that space on the floors in neat rows and on shelves on all the walls. Cell phones, twisted metal conduits, briefcases, lots and lots of clocks, melted rolodexes, congealed file drawers, thermostats, computers, monitors, printers, purses, watches, perfume bottles, framed desk photos, unidentifiable combinations of matter . . . Thousands of them, everywhere you look, an organized disaster site, and completely unambivalent: This horror happened, it says. Could any art approach such a display? Should it? Should it ever? Maybe in a hundred years, but to bring it down to triviality in five? No. No. No.

[Another suggestion, which if it hasn't already been done would surprise me: get Christian Marclay, or someone like him, to archive every appearance of the Twin Towers in any film, ever --except the last exposures, of that day-- and splice them together in his inimitable way.]

Finally, Option 2: Attack 9/11. And here's where it really gets ludicrous. New York Governor Pataki announced yesterday that it will simply not be allowed. He doesn't seem to realize that every other artist out there bloviates about "site-specific installations," so anyone in the know will know all the America-hating artists, such as Richard Serra, who will want to "respond to the site," giving them the excuse they need to attack the United States. Who is going to babysit the Drawing Center curators to make sure they don't allow artists to violate Pataki's rules? After all, their most recent statement refers to the "inevitable tensions" between "remembrance and cultural activity." Remembrance is one of the most profound and mysterious of cultural activities, since it triggers thoughts of transcendence, death, and the obligation to go on, to do good, to try to figure out why the dead died, and to make sure these innocents did not die in vain.

Yet these Drawing Center people, as good pomo sociopaths, wish to privilege the second-hand scrapings, noodlings, and ruminations of living, mostly New York, artists over the reverberating chasm of pain which many Americans from coast to coast, including we two, carry around with us every day.

Art used to help heal. Artists used to care about the future. These days art is almost always salt in the wounds, so let me stick my thumb in your eye, Contemporary Art. Go fuck yourself.

Go away until you can do us some good.

[Update: Jeff Jarvis argues, as we do, that the IFC and the DC should be moved offsite. And readers can sign a petition here, at TakeBackThe Memorial.com.]

Posted by Jerome at 07:25 PM | TrackBack

June 25, 2005

A Note About The Nobodies

by Jerome du Bois

We recently wrote about how, in our opinion, the downtown Phoenix art scene was being victimized and stifled by inferior cultural leaders, some of whom we named. (See the Pride of Phoenix Series sidebar.)

Well, we got blasted with a series of nasty comments full of personal attacks, and a blizzard of scattergun resends, and finally threats to take over the site and shut us down if we didn't take down the posts they objected to. Skeery. Very skeery. So I got sick of it, especially since one or more of these Mals, these nanophoenicians, these nobodies, tried to get our phone number and address out to everybody. There are some very unbalanced people out there, and these assholes want to bring them to our door. Think, for a moment, about the kind of heart that harbors that desire.

I shut down the comments. Now everything these nanobodies yapped about is gone from public view, except what I choose to share of their stinkiness. Arrogant jerks tried to tell me stop eliminating their filthy fisking and waaaay-off-topic foamings.

Since I shut down comments, we have received a nice, supportive email from a member of the downtown Phoenix art scene, complimenting us on the Amy Silverman profile and Our Grand (Avenue) Vision --The Spoke. Thanks. I am not going to name this person, because I am afraid they would be the butt of verbal and even physical abuse.

Is that unfair? You haven't read some of the comments I received toward the end of this ugly affair. The person or persons makes demands, fulminates, strings out insults, and makes grandiose claims ("When shall I take over your site?" As for me, I'm no internet ninja; I got no kung-fu; I'm just a blogger.).

Since I shut down comments, the nobodies have fallen silent, probably thinking that they have silenced us on this subject of Phoenix and downtown art. Well, we will continue to champion Phoenix over some of its representatives, cultural and otherwise, and they will remain legitimate targets of criticism. We want a better city. They want the status quo. You can keep the art so far, thanks. There's more to this city than some silly painters constantly whining for public money.

One final point about the nobodies, and, since they stay anonymous, I have no idea if they speak for the Phoenix art scene, or are trying to monkey-wrench discussion for reasons of their own. So I certainly do not claim that they speak for the Phoenix art scene in any way. But this is the only voice (which is common to these commenters) that we've heard. That voice at the end of those comments --grandiose, megalomaniacal, insistent, tireless, irrational. I've heard that voice before: it sounds like tweak.

I hope I'm wrong. Phoenix deserves better.

In the meantime, we decide which posts stay up and which posts come down.

CODA: This just occurred to me. I feel it's relevant. A Joke. Once upon a time, there was a person of limited intelligence; these days, the least-offensive and simplest description is a simpleton. Anyway, this simp worked in a Cadillac factory for twenty-five years, until he retired and got his dream: his own 1967 Cadillac, fins out to here, cream metalflake like a moving cloud, purrs like a dream. He's driving down the highway, enjoying his retirement, just tooling along, when for some reason he annoys a big-rig driver, who forces him off the road.

The driver confronts the simpleton, who can only muster an innocent grin.

"You tryna stall me down, drive me off the road, make me miss my connection?" the truck driver taunts.

"My new Cadillac!" the simpleton responds.

"Oh, yeah?" growls the truck driver, taking his slow measure. "Come here." And he takes a tire iron and draws a large circe behind the Cadillac. "Now get in the circle and stay there until I tell you to come out."

"Okay, Cap," says the simpleton, stepping into the circle. And the truck driver goes to demolishing the Caddy: jamming the tire iron into the tires, deflating them all; bending the great fins and blinding the taillights; smashing all the windows and mirrors, denting all the fenders and doors, smashing the headlights, turning the aerial into a coat hanger, slashing the seats, and then huffing and puffing back to the simpleton in the circle, who stood tall with a big grin on his face.

"What are you grinning about?" wheezed the truck driver.

The simpleton answered: "When you weren't looking, smartypants, I stepped out of the circle --twice!"

Posted by Jerome at 08:15 AM | TrackBack

June 23, 2005

A Note From A Member of The League of Anonymous Writers

by Jerome du Bois

I'm going to take care of one last anonymous comment, about Writers' Bloc, writing, and risk, which has been blocked since I closed comments the other day. The original comment and my fisking is here.

When Catherine read this latest one she said, "Why bother fisking it? Why not just say:

'You're just mad because the blogosphere doesn't care who your rich daddy is.'"

I don't know who this commenter is, but that sounds right on. The whole tone, beyond the boring syntax and total lack of humor (hence my Zombie digs), and despite all the repetition of the word "risk," is smug, complacent, and entitled. For example:

Living 53 [sic; it's 55] years is about as meaningful as having babies; folks do it every day. Nothing new there.

She left out the part about the seven hells. Oh, yes, I think it's a she, I even think I know who it is, but Blog forbid I say anything. You see how wankers get to weasel around? I could say so much more if I knew this woman's identity; of course, that's why they stay shy. They can read what happens when I know their names.

Reread the sentences in italics. Sounds like someone who's never been hit, never slept in an alley, never been broke, never been jobless, never been without wheels, and never been more than one phone call away from lawyers, a warm bed, and money. As if 55 years ground out in South or West Phoenix --or Washington, DC, or East LA-- is identical to the same sailing 55 in Paradise Valley or North Scottsdale or Carefree.

One of the marks of a sociopath is this: Life is as meaningless as death. Sounds heavy, I know, but I do believe having babies is a very meaningful life course, new or not. The commenter is so damned flippant. And all lives are not lived out the same, and living any length of time against adversity is something to be proud of, something meaningful, something to stand by and for; that's so obvious that having to point it out reflects badly on the commenter's intelligence.

There's more.

The comment begins:

J & C,

Notes on your frisking . . . that's also spelled correctly.

"Frisking . . ." No. That implies touching; yech, no thanks. Or maybe it's her way of getting "risk" in there yet again.

Of course I have a "you" for reference; I'm one of a league of anonymous writers to your site.

Baloney; if only. Hardly anybody writes to us. There may be a league of anonymous readers to our site, or seven leagues for all we know; but very few writers, though we invite civilized discourse.

One member of Writers' Bloc, Amy Young, always signs her name, so we're pretty confident this present commenter isn't her. We don't admire her work, but she steps up and steps out, and we give credit where credit is due. You're not in her league, Anonymo.

Is there a reason why you don't list your personal email address?

It's kinganddubois@cox.net.

Or your mailing address? Or your address at your domain name? Perhaps because you wish some privacy?

Yes.

For that same reason, I'll use the anonymous route. Certainly, I don't resort to name-calling, but I'll stay this way, thanks, and you're welcome to continue to censure me.

Thanks. I will. What you call "name-calling" in many instances is just passing judgments, demanding accountability, calling for high standards. And anonymity is baloney. You're just scared. And if you mean name-calling, cite some examples, please, such as wanker, stupid, and Zombie.

Living 53 years is about as meaningful as having babies; folks do it every day. Nothing new there.

You spend time writing, you can afford to. But you don't risk anything by that. Does it take you away from the process of making a living?

No. And how does risk get in here? Instead of writing, am I supposed to be out playing in traffic? Training pit bulls? Catching javelins? Am I supposed to be suffering in some way? What the hell is the matter with having free time to write, loving it, and doing it? You just resent it, and most of all our freedom to say what we want without a gatekeeper --like you, maybe.

Regarding editors and such, that's not my point.

This is a dodge. You're an editor, I'm going to guess, or have been one in the past, or hang out with them.

You self-publish on the net. It's cheaper than dirt.

Really? My monthly internet nut is almost as much the members spend every month to hang out at the Writers' Bloc house. (I don't know how much dirt costs, by the way; maybe you're more familiar with dirt than I am.)

No risk in that. Now if you paid for the dead tree process and risked whether you'd sell them or not, that's risk. Especially if it made any financial risk.

The Risk. The Risk. The All-Important Risk. Now I know you're at the editorial/publishing end of the dead-tree process here. A writer submits his story to a magazine, absorbing the opportunity costs lost. But only in vanity publications does the writer submit a fee as well. It's the publisher who takes the financial risk, as usual. The editor makes an aesthetic judgment, and risks her reputation and her job. Again, as usual. Meanwhile, the writer does whatever he does, taking risks elsewhere, perhaps.

All the people you want to frisk have actually risked their finances, futures, time away from work that brings in an income. This is your personal hobby, and as a hobbyist you risk nothing.

It is entertainment for you and a side-show for us.

Rave On.

It's Blog On, okay? Get it right.

I don't know all the people that you didn't mention. I mean the ten members of Writers' Bloc. How do I know any one of them risked any of those things you do mention? Esser, Dach, Silverman, Young, Susser; they're all doing fine, sitting pretty. And how do you know that we don't risk those things every day we live?

You want to talk about hobbies? How about having the free time and money to get out of the house and go down to a Clubhouse and pretend to be a writer with other writers? So far, nothing has issued from Writers' Bloc for the wider world. Nothing in six months.

But I have an idea, Ms. Riskydeadtree. A zine! A real one, made of precious paper. Don't tell me, you're working on it already. Well, if you're not, there's this wonderfully inspiring piece on Style.com that features over a dozen just rilly neat zines. Handstitching! Found material! Mail-in art! What's old is new again!

And, best of all, they imply that blogs are so yesterday.

You'll love it.

UPDATE / CODA: Blogs versus Zines.

Compare and contrast, the oldest school exercise.

[I point these obvious differences out only while we're waiting for the ultimate media vehicle --setless television, or maybe the morphing newspapers of Minority Report.]

A zine is short, small, limited in time and space, bound by physical front and back covers, and bound by one-dimensional print limitations (e.g., no streaming video). If one refers to someone else's work, one cites it, but that's a far as it can go. The reader must wait a fixed amount of time before the next issue appears, either in the mailbox or at the newsstand or bookstore. If anything comes up relevant in the meantime --say, a newly discovered alt-indy musician who knits-- the zine has to wait until the next cycle. Letters to the editor take a lot of time. Meanwhile, they'll get scooped by knittingmusicians.org, if there is such a thang. A zine is, I conclude, a fetish object, a collectible, much more of a vanity project than a blog; it is a limited-edition talisman one passes around among the initiated. (On the high end, think Parkett, or, before it folded, nest. I don't know about the low end.) Rather quaint in a disposable culture. We don't archive our magazines, for example; we cut out what we want and recycle the rest. It's paper, not gold.

A blog is as physical as a computer, I say, not some ephemeral thing, since the computer (and all the physical infrastructure of the internet) creates and supports the blog. But a blog is unlimited in time and space, can be updated continually, can change instantly, has no front or back cover, and nearly every point on the screen can be activated to point to a whole other world. Need I belabor the multimedia capacities, from full-color digital photos, poppable, to podcasting, to videoblogging? Whaddaya you got? Paper. A blog has a free entry to every publicly available web page. Anybody in the world can read the blog without paying for it. The reader doesn't have to wait very long for new stuff. And, if the blog only has one story, post, or entry that day, it doesn't matter. Since the blog is connected to the blogosphere, it's like being connected to millions of pages, just a click away. So each blog is every blog, I say, thicker than ten thousand telephone books, which makes your skinny zine look, well, paper-thin.

Zines are safe. Blogs are risky.

Posted by Jerome at 09:00 AM | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

Two Tall Trees

Yesterday, in the early evening of the longest day of the year, the wind was blowing especially strong and steady. As always, whenever it gets windy, I went out into our big back yard to watch the two tall trees in two of our neighbors' yards swing and sway, like two many-armed giants glorifying their hair in that unstoppable energy.

These trees are huge and healthy, one a pecan and one a eucalyptus; I think the eucalyptus must be seventy feet high. Anyway, as usual, my mind stupidly turned the experience into an art video. You know, you could capture all that incredible swaying, and edit it, and project it on three screens with music by --oh, Scriabin or somebody. Or --wait! I know! Tony Oursler-type projections! They would appear and disappear like apparitions! No wait no wait no wait-- remember Bruce Nauman's desire to present an idea directly; just let the trees be who they are, film them for however many hours the wind blows, and then project it onto three screens et cetera. With helpful rolling-wheel office chairs . . . and that's what brought me back.

I've developed this stupid habit over the years of trying to make art out of reality. Even after I decided that reality trumps art big time, the habit persists. So I caught myself, mentally cleared my throat, and looked again.

I thought about all the birds now clinging, huddled, in all their nests and nooks and hidey-holes in those trees; about all the creatures who for thousands of their generations knew these trees as home, or rest stop, or flight marker. About cleansing; sometimes rotten pecan branches crash into our yard. The wind bent the trees in long, slow, swaying rushes, the tallest branches scraping the clouds around, it seemed. I just watched and tried to empty myself of all the anger and frustration and knotted pain of the last few days. People are a trial . . .

Art --and all the pomo concretion that has deadened it --has been a millstone around my neck for long enough. I'm sawing it off, but it takes time, so I go out when it's windy and watch the swaying trees, and try to empty my mind, and wait . . . for what? For the message. There's always a message. And after a few minutes of leaning back entranced in that giant green-and-gray hula, it came to me, in one of the earliest songs George Jones ever wrote (with Roger Miller) and sang:

If it's lovin' you want, I've got it,
and if it's money you need, I'll go and get it.

I'll buy you tall tall trees
and all the waters in the seas
cuz I'm a fool fool fool for you.

Tall tall trees and all the waters in the seas! What innocent bravado! What bootheeled heart! So I start to sing it. "I'm a fooool, for you, it may take a while but you know it's true . . ."

But then I turn from the trees and the wind, and there's my darling Catherine, smiling, and she twines her arm in mine, and we watch the two strong tall trees swaying in the wind.

These are the two trees I'm talking about.

Posted by Jerome at 02:50 PM | TrackBack

The Zombie's Heart

by Jerome du Bois

I'll call him Mal, which stands for both amalgam and malevolent. Amalgam because there's more than one, each anonymous, and malevolent because they enjoy bayoneting the wounded.

When this latest and last local art brouhaha began, we were inundated with vile and bullying comments. Well, the damn discussion was going nowhere, and so I posted our modest Grand vision and was getting ready to move on --when I received another comment which claimed that my wife was the same Christian Scientist woman who allowed her own daughter to die back in the Eighties.

It's false, of course, and the facts are easy to check. But it was very important to Mal that my wife be the CS woman, so he has been sending this accusatory comment to every post that's been open. So I'm closing them all, since Mal includes a phone number and address with it. How helpful that he wants hell brought to our ears and our very door. What a nice man. Oh, yes, most of these people, and the main Mals, are probably men.

And then it struck me that Mal had this information at the beginning of the whole comment thread, passed it on to others --and then began a whole flurry of disgusting fisking, including sexual slander about Catherine and I. In other words, whether they believed the CS story or not, they wanted to --and that didn't stop them from piling on and trying to hurt her, and me, even more. And when we objected, they just sneered back that we if we couldn't take it we were weaklings. Yeah, yeah, yeah --this from faceless ambushers. Well, we're not weak, we'll keep on blogging about more important things than Phoenix art, and all the Mals can fold it six ways and put it where the sun don't shine.

I think I know who the main Mal is. If I'm right --Phoenix, you've got what you asked for. With him around, Phoenix will remain a drone among cities.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with Theo van Gogh. We're working on a new screenplay together. I've found that the innocent dead are so much human than many of the living, and the zombies who pretend to be.

Posted by Jerome at 09:00 AM | TrackBack

June 20, 2005

You Win Again, Wankers

by Jerome du Bois

We should never have touched on Phoenix art again.

I was wrong to think that anotherphoenician was Kimber Lanning.

I apologize for that, but for nothing else I've said about her or her operations. She's still a lousy role model for Phoenix in damned near every way.

What changed my mind? The undeniable stink of testosterone.

There's a malevolent man out there who hates Catherine and I, it now appears.

And now I know why.

Because we love each other more than anything, and it shows. Well, he can choke on it until he turns purple and strangles himself to death, for all I care.

I mean it.

For the last six days this subhuman has sent us fifty-eight comments to this blog, using 17 different IP addresses. Most of these are resends of his fiskings of our postings. I'll let somebody else do the math on those nose-pickings. He harasses us about misidentifying him as Lanning, but he has become increasingly stinky, and threatening to take over our site. If he can, he can. Fuck it. Go ahead and do it, asshole, or drop your idle threats. Do it. We'll retire and go travelling until the internet can handle shitbirds like you; because if it can't now, I don't want to be part of it anymore.

And now, since there are so many cowards out there, I got the straw that broke the camel's back --again. I hate it that we care. I don't know who sent it, maybe this worthless turd, maybe some other one. Guess what moniker they used?

anonphoenician@hotmail.com

Fucking cowards, every single one of them.

These local sonsofbitches always seem to go after Catherine. I should know better. Now this anonidiot posts a comment about a Christian Scientist Catherine King who, along with her husband, killed their daughter. The jerk helpfully includes a little news story and wonders, luridly, if this was the cause of her PTSD.

You fucking idiots. You've got the wrong Catherine King.

Clear it up any? But I know you're disappointed. And now, as I've been writing, the dumbass --yeah, it's him-- sends another comment, only now violating our privacy by including our phone number.

Look, Phoenix, this is someone who is defending your arts community, setting us up now for harassment. Hope you are proud this spokesman, because you can have him.

Oh, and thanks, all the rest of you, for your support. What a pissant town.

I think it's time I turned my attention to gentler subjects, such as the Iranian slander of kidnapping Palestian children's eyeballs for the benefit of Israelis.

You zombies ate too much of my flesh.

Posted by Jerome at 11:44 PM | TrackBack

Signs of Inferiority, Plus A Grand (Avenue) Vision

by Jerome du Bois, with Catherine King

The human calling him/herself anotherphoenician posted a new ad hominem comment on the piece I wrote about her/him, which of course I deleted because it also contained personal insults and sexual slander. (I won't edit comments. Stay in the lines or you're out.) For some reason, she/he cannot resist talking about such irrelevancies; it's a sixth-grade level obsession. He/she also tries to irritate us by calling us "Jerry" and "Cathy." Whoa, we got the alloverfidgets on that one. Naturally, this person can set the record "straight" by emailing a copy to all his/her friends. Fine. But I won't have that crap here.

Let's recap the discussion we were trying to have before this narcissist crashed in. Amy Silverman wrote an article claiming that Phoenix has an inferiority complex. We disagreed, and counter-argued that Phoenix's cultural leaders, such as Beatrice Moore and Kimber Lanning, because of their own insecurity and need for control, have encouraged a dependency on them, and on city and state money. This behavior and this policy drive away or stifle talent, foster financial laziness, increase their already-overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and create coteries of sycophants who just want to please.

But the response, as usual when we enter this fray, refers not at all to the subject, but insults about our mental stability (that old chestnut), how we think we're all that because we dress well, and how we're bitter because we couldn't make it in this town as artists. Sprinkled with general claims like "Kimber Lanning has done more for this city than you ever will"-- but they always trot out only that one lonely, skanky example: modified arts. Oh, yeah, long may that freak flag fly.

anotherphoenician followed this script to the letter, but does manage to drop a few gems I'd like to examine. But first let me clear up a couple of misconceptions.

I don't care if this person ever identifies him/herself. Period.

About our professional failure: we've published the whole story, which is strung out along the blog for two years. Read it yourself, if you're interested and if you can find it all. We're relieved to not be part of the Phoenix art scene, or any art scene, anymore, and have no wish to participate in them. Period.

The way we dress . . . Sheesh. The deleted comment went on and on about it. This person does not want us to think or feel anything good about ourselves. We cannot brag or stand tall or stand apart. No matter what we say, we're out of date or not in any men's fashion mags or yada yada yada. Anything we try to lift up, she/he tears and tears away at. We cannot look good. Why? Or, to use a line we get a lot from the wimpies out there: Why so angry? As I recall, in this person's first comment, he/she, in a totally unsolicited manner, mentioned our "nice clothes." A belated thanks, wanker. (I'll get back to fashion later in this post.)

This person has zero sense of humor. I wrote a line saying I didn't care if he/she was a "one-legged transgendered Pakistani pole vaulter," and he/she comes back with:

What would it matter if I was transgendered?

Anybody besides me find that hilarious? Maybe it's a clue, too. This person seems gender-obsessed. I don't care. We just think she's Kimber Lanning, that's all. If Kimber Lanning was a man --but we're not going there!-- we'd be hoisting his petard in the proper manner. Gender, schmender, gay, straight, no matter to us. We hate stupidity and evil and bigotry, not what people do in bed or which way they dress their genitalia.

Then he/she says something about modified, which is finally on-topic:

Kimber has done more for this town than you could ever do. Modified brings many muscians to town that would not otherwise come here. Modified provides a alcohol free venue that underage teens can go and enjoy themselves. But I'm sure you are against teens enjoying themselves.

Not at all. But the scene down there is just Kimber Lanning's little engine; it put-puts away, and keeps her in business, and allows spoiled young people to feel edgy, but it sends no inspiring ripples out into the larger culture. It's middle-class young people indulging in a new rite of passage; instead of travelling to Europe, they form a garage band, or some progrock derivative, and tour the country on daddy's plastic. They put out demo cds, and when you read their professional biographies, they're all former members of something: Mocket, Sprocket, Wocket, Spawnic Youth . . . It's not a bad circuit, and it's fairly harmless. (I'd be double-checking that "alcohol-free" schtick, though.) I don't care what they do. It just doesn't mean much in the larger scheme of Phoenix's cultural development. Besides, I think when ASU downtown comes as into its own, modified's alt-noodlings will be wiped out by music venues that mimic the Tempe ones. In the meantime, I consider modified more a blood clot than a heartbeat.

In the last post I included a long list of dysfunctions and syndromes. I'll reprint it here, because it I really want to repeat the last line:

Catherine wrestles with a condition called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is the only mental illness caused by other people. Some people suffer from clinical depression. Some people have conditions like OCD and mania and fetishistic infantilism --all recognized mental illnesses, syndromes, or conditions. Some people dress up like superheroes. Some people make so-called art from their urine. Some people are addicted to tattoos. Some people believe in teleportation and telepathy and alien beings. Some people are Adult Clowns; they paint the face in black, in white, in blue. Some people snort too much white powder, or live a lurching existence of eat-and-purge. Some people think our President is in league with The Devil. Others would describe these people, at least tentatively, as mentally ill, but I've just described a significant number of the downtown Phoenix art population, so why can't you sonsofbitches keep your fucking hypocrisy away from Catherine's pain!

anotherphoenician responds:

Consider that it may be a dysfunction if someone is fashionably challenged, but you have to spew about it here.

Unless this is a joke --which I doubt; see above-- this person is saying that bad fashion sense might be a borderline mental illness, and to insult it is tantamount to insulting someone with, say, Downs' Syndrome.

Hoot city. This is rich. Being "fashionably challenged" translates to just laziness, and any woman knows it, and this person going out of his/her way to mention something so farfetched . . . well, draw your own conclusions, reader.

This person does mention another relevant topic --signs:

Some gallery owners downtown are financially challenged but you skewer them for the look of their buildings or the cost of their signs.

If one looks through pictorial histories of businesses, one encounters thousands of images of proud owners photographed hoisting their first sign; or group shots of the whole company beneath a great big new beautiful sign. It's about pride. It's about not making any excuses. It's about really doing your best.

This isn't anybody's best, it's stenchworthy:

stinkweed1.jpg

And then there's this Beatrice Moore slap-in-the-face:

ffejklaf1.jpg

(And if one considers the uncertain face of the new Paisley Violin, one thinks, "What's this? Rusty Muffler Shop?" [the "'s" fell off long ago])

And the city is giving out more money to many of these people.

Consider the whine in the above comment: I'm poor, so you have to give me a pass because I'm a lazy slob, too. If you're financially challenged, don't open the fooking gallery. See, these people have been pumping the funky for far too long. They like it that way because then they don't have to do much work. This is the 21st Century, and sneaking your pally down the alley past the supine drunks to the bare bulb crackling at the end, with its black door leading to degrading disappointment --those days are over, pete.

It's long past time for clean, well-lighted places. Proud and upscale. Retardaires like Steve Gompf can shudder about yuppification, but look at what they have now: skuzz city.

All the venues should be well-advertised ones, including their signage. Catherine and I often discuss the blight of the Big Diagonal, which has so much unfulfilled promise. And when life hands us stinkies like anotherphoenician, we see how can turn their twisted vituperation to better purposes --such as, hopefully, the last three posts. We don't want to fight anybody. We want to talk about making the city better for art, artists, artisans, and citizens.

Now, pretty soon a lot of these downtown artists will share a $500,000 grant from the city to improve their storefronts. We don't think it will make much difference, and the reason is as plain as when you're standing in the middle of Grand Avenue: it's Skankytown: the sidewalks, the lighting, the poorly-tended trees, the blasted lack of any hope in the very dust before the exhausted storefronts.

This is the vibe that everybody is celebrating down there, as written by Amy Young in the now-defunct shade magazine:

As I open the door to leave the gallery and bookstore that I operate with my partner on the corner of Grand and 15th Avenues [Perihelion Arts], I never quite know what may be in store for me. From having to roll out a breathing but immobile body from beneath the car to bumping into one of the local artistic geniuses to reminiscing with an old-timer about neighborhood history or to just being in awe of the agility of the teens racing in the alley behind the long standing Rodriguez Boxing Club just across the street as they gear up to go inside and take it to the ring, I always experience a wealth of emotions. I inhale it all in and maintain the general conclusion, as I release my breath, that I absolutely love my neighborhood. And that’s often all before I even have a chance to close the door behind me.

She loves the smell of stale male urine in the morning. It smells like --her life.

Anyway, Catherine and I have been having conversations about downtown improvement for over a year, usually stimulated by our frequent but irregular drive-bys of the area, and the subsequent teeth-grinding, moaning, and exclaiming, the wasted potential! being the constant theme.

So when Catherine read Mr./Ms. Poormouth's whine above, she really went into high gear and together we cobbled together this vision, and it is a grand vision, though just a beginning of what seems obviously needed:

Next time --and there will be one-- don't give the money to the artists and gallerists. They have had their chances, one after another, and look what you've still got: fly-by-night galleries (Dem No Dere No Mo') and The Bikini Lounge and the StopNLook Window and the Paper Heart, which is halfway to becoming a strip joint. It's time to stop pretending they care about quality down there, and it's time to stop handling the whole notion piecemeal, and it's time to stop handing over money to self-centered losers.

Take it to the street. Put the money on the Avenue, into the Avenue, instead. No more money for the gallerists and landlords.

Make the street beautiful, and force the gallerists to live up to the street --and fine them in incremental steps to drive them out if they don't go along.

To begin with, create another Special District --here's a name: Special Structural Improvement District --for The Spoke, which would consist of the Grand Avenue Diagonal from 7th Avenue to 15th Ave, and one lot deep on both sides. Those are the boundaries. Why so small? One reason: close financial control, but also because the improvement is restricted to public improvement: the streets, sidewalks, sidestreet curbs, public lighting, shading --but not storefronts or facades or any private property --with one exception: signage.

Another reason is to be able to legally renegotiate all contracts and leases with the city's leaseholders and property owners in that District, so that the landlord-gallerists are put on legal notice of their new obligations.

For the whole project, think permanent beauty. Hire local metal sculptors, neon artists, industrial glass people, lightbox technicians, custom masons, and tile people, even some auto body workers who know metal better than some artists. Some of them are right there on the Avenue, or close by. Think Chris Duran and his crew, and Pete Deise and his, and Corey Paisley, and those they would recommend (as long as they're all legal, of course; that's crucial). We don't endorse these people; they're just examples.

They need to make planters and awnings and light-pole extensions and benches and fountains and brickwork and grottoes and waterfalls and tree-protectors and so much else. We want to light the Avenue from end-to-end with neon art, sculptures that cool you off, shading that seduces you, benches that relax you, the sounds and sights of water to soothe you. And public art installations (as in Olafur Eliasson) and permanent sculptures (think the Dublin Spike). Laser beams shooting from one end of the Spoke to the other and bouncing back. Anchored dirigibles with videos projected onto them. Truck-mounted video screens parked here and there. Special shuttle buses with rotating themes. Public-input video cams.

[Imagine sitting in a new, improved Paisley Violin. This one has huge clean windows along the front, with a row of bench-like tables which feature chain-mounted binoculars and small telescopes. Why? Because right across the street is the newly-vitalized, actually eye-catching new installation at the StopNLook Gallery, which has got to be under new management. Diners crowd the tables to scope it out and discuss it.]

Give these core artisans exclusive contracts to make hard, permanent signs for the galleries up and down Grand Avenue, with half the funds provided by the gallerists and half by the city. After a very short while, gallerists who don't comply would stand out like red noses, and there would be legal steps in place to force them away. We need to get rid of the tweakers, pretenders, pole dancers, and runaround artists.

The centerpiece: a funicular streetcar-pair to run that single diagonal. One named Liberty, the other named Freedom, the pair simply shuttle back and forth between 7th Ave and 15th Ave --no turnarounds, a controlled speed zone, lighted glass blocks embedded in the street at all stops, and, on both sides, embedded in multicolored stone and tile, visual story after visual story of America and Arizona, all along the Spoke, clearly visible for the riders' contemplation as they roll along. The retail-friendliness of a streetcar should be obvious enough not to need emphasis.

And be clear that this is not an Arts District but an Improvement District: that is, it shall not necessarily welcome or encourage artists over restauranteurs, florists, boutique operators, bakers, confectioners, dry cleaners, cobblers; the Spoke could boast cafes and bookstores and stationers and auto detailers and antique stores and niche grocers and art galleries. And much more.

Of course, it's all a dream. But we imagine that the City Council hearings would bring out every roach who wants to defend the status quo, and that would be an unforgettable object lesson in itself for all involved. I sure would be taking notes.

Posted by Jerome at 09:30 PM | TrackBack

ÜBERCOOL

Flower Arrangement and Photography by Catherine King.

I liked this one so much I made it bigger than usual. Enjoy.

Posted by Jerome at 09:27 AM | TrackBack

Another Brave Soul Zombie Heard From

Zombies have one big advantage over us: They don't think.
--George A. Romero

by Jerome du Bois

When we got a comment from "anativephoenician" on the Writers' Bloc post, I felt like the Anasazi had sent me a spiritual gift. For reals! A Native Phoenician! It's a privilege to hear from one.

The originanity --that's spelled correctly-- of these creative class types never ends. The text of the missive follows, with a fisking.

Whether you stand for anything is irrelevant.

You don't risk anything. There is absolutely no risk in blogging. Even writing for free is a risk; you might not get published. Writing for money, especially for income, implies risk.

But what you do; your writing, your art, even the way you approached but wouldn't enter downtown galleries, choosing instead to write about the outside of the buildings...it's risk-free.

And as a result, it's great side-show but valueless.

Pass me my knife and fork.

Whether you stand for anything is irrelevant.

Since you are anonymous, anything you say may be used in irrelevance against you, or something like that. How can you speak of relevance when there's no you for reference?

But that's a chilling statement: for me, Jerome du Bois, or Catherine King, to hear from you, some anonymous, cowardly twit, hiding under an electronic rock somewhere, that whether we stand for anything is irrelevant? My first response: Fuck you, with your khaki shorts on!

We each are fifty-five years old, we've been through the seven hells. NOBODY accuses us of being irrelevant. We have thousands of words right here on the blog, for all the world to see. Our beating hearts, right here. What have you got that is so goddamn RELEVANT, anativephoenician? Well? Where? Don't see anything. And yet you, without an ounce of bone in your spine, have the goddamn gall to write to us about ANYTHING! You are nobody. At least we're King & du Bois.

You don't risk anything. There is absolutely no risk in blogging.

Only our reputations, our good works, our good names, our reasoned arguments, our standards, our writing skills, our broken hearts, our love for our country, our consistency --remember, this is a river, everthing's there-- our patience, our precious time, our money, our stamina, our physical safety, our mental stability. All this is on the line, on the table, all the time. And your stake is . . . where? You got nothing in the pot so far; you haven't even anted up, tiddlywink.

Even writing for free is a risk; you might not get published. Writing for money, especially for income, implies risk.

I risk writing, I write for free, I get published. I do it myself. Oh, you mean dead tree! Let's see. You need someone else, some editor, to vet your writing, put their stamp of approval on it, before it's real. Only then, only when Coagula or Vomit Launch prints your poem on page 64, has anything been risked. That's a rather cramped view of the new publishing world, but a person's no better than their dream, so hang onto it if you want to.

For us, quality will out.

But what you do; your writing, your art, even the way you approached but wouldn't enter downtown galleries, choosing instead to write about the outside of the buildings . . . it's risk-free.

Again with the "risk" thing. This is plain ignorance and lazy research. It's a matter of record on our blog. We went in and out of those galleries every month for years and most of the work was worse than forgettable, it was insulting. And our Pride of Phoenix series was about the facades as signs of commitment. I mean, read the damn thing; the thesis is stated right up front. Look at the photographs. And don't tell me risk-free. Taking those photographs was not risk-free, not for us, not with some of the comedians cranking off down around there.

And as a result, it's great side-show but valueless.

The Arbiter of Value has spoken! And the measuring stick is right . . . here . . . somewhere . . . No, no.

In the meantime, all the Zombies read every word. I don't know why they love to hate us, but our strategy is always to come right back at them under a black flag. So, anativephoenician, go back to the mooning cows and spoiled weenies at Writers' Bloc, and see what you can squeeze out from under that constipated moniker.

Posted by Jerome at 07:35 AM | TrackBack

June 19, 2005

ENCHANTED 09

ENCHANTED09.jpg

Captured by Catherine King June 19, 2005

Posted by Jerome at 04:53 AM | TrackBack

June 17, 2005

ENCHANTED 08

ENCHANTED08.jpg

Captured by Catherine King June 16, 2005

Posted by Jerome at 02:44 AM | TrackBack

June 16, 2005

Inside The Writers' Bloc Clubhouse

by Jerome du Bois

According to downtown grant-grubbing gallerist Cindy Dach, Writers' Bloc Phoenix was realized at the beginning of this year. That is, the all-important House (Sixth Street Studios) was finished:

Writers’ Bloc is located in a 1200-square foot California bungalow style house with wrap around porch and small yard. There are three rooms that have two desks each and one room with one desk. Desk space is reserved weekly. The community space has comfortable chairs and tables for additional quiet workspace. Gallery space can be reserved for exhibits and community space can be reserved for workshops and seminars. Bookshelves have references books and lockers are provided for storage. The kitchen has a full-size refrigerator, microwave, oven and dining table. There is one bathroom. Desk space is reserved online.

Writers' Bloc Studio Space for Writers is a Phoenix, Arizona U.S.A. area writers collective that provides emerging and established writers, working in all literary genres, with quiet and affordable workspace in downtown Phoenix. In addition to workspace, Writers’ Bloc offers wireless Internet, printer, community workspace and occasional use for workshops and seminars on subjects of interest to writers.

So in January, I guess, writers began applying clamoring at the electronic doors. Today, six months later, June 16, 2005, these are the members of WB:

Greg Esser -- co-founder of WB, Dach's husband
Cindy Dach --co-founder of WB, Esser's wife
Amy Silverman --associate editor of Phoenix New Times
Amy Young --local gallerist and writer
Deborah Sussman Susser --local writer and . . . something
Nadine Kachur --no information
Maggie Lineback --local television producer
Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker --aka Transonic. Poet, musician, actor. Works for Arizona Commission on the Arts.
Rebecca Love --no information
Steve Jansen --local freelance writer

Ten members. Subtract the two founders, and you've got eight people who will pay $100 per month to hang out at this house and write the living ass off a thing. Big turnout. Still, how many do you need? That's $800 a month clear income to E&D, and with their own contributions, I'm sure they meet their monthly lease payment, including wireless access. Suhweet. Any new members will be gravy, baybee.

Why sit at home alone writing, where you have the most control of your environment, everything within reach, when you can drive downtown, park on the street, lay your money down, lug your laptop into the house, say hello to everyone, get set up, get a cup of coffee if there is any, talk to Cindy, talk to somebody, go back to the desk, get connected, get interrupted, head down to the bathroom, have to wait, talk to Greg, end up on the porch . . .

Cindy Dach said in January:

Why a home office isn't always enough: Home is a great place to work, but I think sometimes if you don't know other people working,[?!] and the dishwasher needs to be emptied, you do that instead. Here, there's no dishwasher to empty.

Well, hell, sign me up, I just fell off the turnip truck! (How long does it take to empty the dishwasher? How long does it take to craft a sentence that brings you to your knees in gratitude?)

Who cares if she can hardly speak English? This is Cindy Dach in the same interview:

Who's welcome to join: I like to say serious writers, which means anybody who wants professional space to work in. I would love to see novel writers, journalists, play writers, even people who do poetry.

Well, she gets one right. Correction: novelists, journalists, playwrights, even poets. (Note: no humorists.) And a lot of poets not only do poetry, they even write it. But not anywhere near this website.

Both Catherine and I have scoured the internet for some real writing --any writing-- by most of these people, and there's nothing. Most telling, of course, there's none of it on their own blog, where one would most expect to find stories and poetry and essays by the members. Or links to them. For example, NT reports that Dach "contributes to national and regional magazines." Rilly? Well, they must have zero online presence, or else she is contributing letters or filler.

Hey, kids! [Knocking on door.] What are you DOING in there?

Right now there's exactly one entry on the home page. We think we know several reasons for this state of events, all depending from the multiple puns of bloc.

Bloc, a French word from French politics, refers originally to a disparate group of people formed temporarily for a common purpose. Coalition would be the grander, international term. I use it here to point to the political aim of these people, which is to squeeze money out of any and every grant-giving agency that sticks its head up. Right now on the website, under the heading "Writing Workshops," only a lonely announcement appears about future workshops. "Check back for updates!" Don't hold your breath. But under "Special Events" they hot link to

The Grant Institute's Grants 101: Professional Grant Proposal Writing Workshop will be held at the Arizona State University (Phoenix), June 15 - 17, 2005. All participants will receive certification in professional grant writing from the Institute.

Well, it's a fact that Greg Esser can scam the ass off a grant --he's been doing it since Denver-- so they've got the right operator at the dials for that purpose.

Nonexistent workshops after six months of existence. I think workshops are crap --more sponging and bullying-- but if you're going to advertise them, follow through. And no writing on a writers' blog? It makes no sense unless you're just operators working the dials.

The French word means block, the noun, a solid thing like a battering ram that can jam legislation through all resistance; no daylight, no cracks to exploit. But that block can also block the passage of --create a blockage for-- any light or progress. These blockheads surely don't leak a word of their creativity, their projects, not even a two-line poem, to the public. (What, you have to go down there and listen to them? Well, that's a tell.) Hardly any of them have blogs or websites or even online resumes. You can't read their stuff, by yourself, at home --you know, like a reader. On an internet where thousands share their hearts, not a electronic peep from these privileged ones. You know why?

They want to be paid.

Stop laughing, it's true. They think their words are gold, and they won't let you see a single one until they get money for it --in advance.

Again, Dach in January:

Why Writers' Bloc matters: As the arts are growing in Phoenix, it's important to make sure it's not only about visual artists. It's important that writers, dancers and musicians are involved.

Translation: Give us money, too.

Meanwhile, we've posted almost 400 pages of living prose, including a novel-in-progress (be patient).

A final interpretation of bloc would be the verb "to block" --meaning, there are gatekeepers at this clubhouse. You need to be vetted by The Special Ones. In other words, it's about strong people who want power exploiting the present weakness of people for the warm, fuzzy comfort of what they sell as community. BS. This is just an extension of the after-school writers' club at Sweet Valley High, or Hill Valley College.

Dach "teaches a writing group for high school girls called Fems With Pens." Pens? Why not, as Catherine suggests, Quills for Grrls? Also, while we're at it, notice that it's "Cindy," not the more musical and dignified "Cynthia." Which just about fits the tiny paper-doll outline, just asking for it, that you display on your website, Ms. Dach. You're 38 years old. Grow up!

For the members, they get to pretend to be writers; but more importantly, collectively, they get to belong, to blend in, to go along, to be fuzzy, to, oh, "benefit from the experiences of more experienced writers," and to pay a minimum of $700 for six months. Astounding. Just because someone won the $200 Schmucknoodle Prize for a 600-word essay does not amount to a hill of beans in a world where I can do better in my sleep.

For the founders, it's about power, and pushing others around, and some easy money, as usual:

What Dach has learned from the first collective she started, eye lounge: Being able to look at the group of people sort of with a bird's-eye view and seeing people's strengths. This is a small, private space, and the truth is, there's not going to be room in here for a competitive person. You want a competitive nature within yourself, but you don't want that person running around and knocking on everybody's door.[my emphasis]

I hear the voice of the alpha bitch.

This crew will probably get a grant or two from the new Phoenix Artist Storefront Pilot Program. Five grand at least, maybe as much as fifteen. Money ill spent. Pearls before swine.

They'll just write more grants.

Why do I write? Why does Catherine? We can't help it. We have to. Partly because of the way we're made, constantly wanting to make sense of the world, and partly because of the ways we've been bent, broken, and had to bootstrap ourselves back to reality, we know we're on our own; we know we have to grab every day by the biceps and wrestle it down.

Crazy is a place: you go, you come back. When you go, nobody wants to know; when you come back, they want to read all about it. We two have to know what we are trying to say to ourselves and to others. That's why we write.

By comparing our life's experiences, Catherine and I know we have always been outsiders.

By reading others --I mean thousands-- we know our thoughts are not of the common type, but run against the winds of convention, and are therefore worth nourishing.

By practice, one hones one's words for future use.

Why are we giving it away? Because I believe our ship will come in. When La Pionera and the New Mango is finally polished it will glow with undeniable fire. In the meantime, we are full of ideas. Hell, we even give them away. We'll put The Collective I or Furthur The Backward Bus up against anybody else's mojo. Our Bentley Projects installation, American Gothic, profoundly elegiac, would have been an important notch in American Historical Art, if only they had been serious from the beginning. No matter in the long run. The important points are these:

Just Show Up.
Show Your Work.
Show Your Hand.
Show Your Name.

Every Word Flesh.

Posted by Jerome at 06:45 PM | TrackBack

ENCHANTED 07

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Captured by Catherine King June 15, 2005

Posted by Jerome at 08:26 AM | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

People Love Mediocrity Best

by Jerome du Bois

If one Googles "Amy Silverman Phoenix" my recent post on her cover story about Phoenix's mythical "inferiority complex" still hovers near the top of the first page. This encourages me, because just as her piece was not really about Phoenix, but her, my piece was not really about her, but Phoenix, and I want to keep that conversation alive. Which is why I ended my post this way:

. . . I myself answer the [Silverman title] question this way: No. No such complex.

But Phoenix has inferior cultural leaders. Besides those we've mentioned in our series [including Kimber Lanning, the subject of this present post on mediocrity], the management at the Phoenix New Times are prime culprits and have been for years. Fourteen years ago, when I covered art for them, I told them they needed to create a staff position for a professionally-trained arts writer, so that the professional art world would take both Phoenix and New Times more seriously. Someone who could dig, travel, schmooze. But they never have taken the plastic arts seriously. After all, look who they trot out to cover them: Amy Silverman, Benjamin Leatherman, some new clowns. If the reader can stand it, go check out the first couple of sentences of Douglas Towne's squib on the "Wet" Show at SMoCA. And then go read the first couple of sentences in Niki D'Andrea's tiny review of the Rezurrection Gun Show. Filthy talk, eh? You're reading the future of art writing in Phoenix. Read it, as we say around here, and weep.

Since the beginning of this blog we've had a category, and purpose, called "Elevating the Local Discourse." We satirized the insipid talk and writing of local artists, for example, to get them to really think. It didn't work, because all the responses we got were ad hominem attacks or general claims without justification. Still, we continue, sometimes seriously, sometimes tongue-in-cheek. But always to make Phoenix better. (Check out The Collective I, or the recent piece on the nonexistent Arizona Art Blog.)

Now, same as it ever was, we get the following comment early yesterday morning on the Silverman piece, from the pseudonymous "anotherphoenician."

Comments:

Although Silvermans article was insipid, Jeromes vitriolic criticism was simply tasteless as well. Jerome once again throws arrows from his ivory tower revealing a life full of self-hate and loathing. Oh yeah, you got the clothes and eat the good food: I'm sure to assauge the feelings Jerome has for being p*ssywhipped into the being he is today.

Well --I nearly fell off the floor. I'll fisk this weirdness after the jump, but first . . . Catherine and I have reread this note several times, and talked about it, and we think we know who wrote it, so we will address anotherphoenician as she; also, we think it was more than the article, and the Pride of Phoenix Series, which prompted these words. It was re-stimulated by something that happened two days ago, out in public. Catherine looks fabulous, doesn't she?

(Since I always pay close attention to word iconography, I note that anotherphoenician follows the common pomo practice of the lower-case lifestyle. Such as "modified arts" or "eyelounge." To me, it's a psychological tell: don't stick out, keep your head down; please don't think I'm important or anything.)

Anyway, the comment begins:

Although Silvermans article was insipid, Jeromes vitriolic criticism was simply tasteless as well.

I call Amy Silverman all kinds of names, but I sure do justify them from within her own article. For example, she doesn't mind ending her article with a kind of burglar's calling card, when she and her boss, Rick Barrs, compare the neighborhood around NT as a "complete shithole." (But I'm tasteless.) For that I call her jaded, cynical, shallow, self-centered, priveleged, arrogant, and a lot of other things, and I'll stand by them all.

Remember, I don't know this woman; I've never met her. Everything I know about her comes from conclusions I have drawn from her own writings, and reasonable inferences about her behavior. Reader, if you think I'm misrepresenting her, step up with something besides generalities.

Jerome once again throws arrows from his ivory tower revealing a life full of self-hate and loathing.

The jaw drops. For one thing, she's got the hate direction wrong. For the last five years, for the first time in my life, I love and nurture myself. I hate some people, damn right, and I won't apologize for it, and I don't mind adding ourselves to new enemies' lists. I'm also angry at a lot of the hell we live with, and I'll attack that, too.

Another target: we loathe mediocrity, which Silverman embodies and advances in her article. She's a bad example of a Phoenician, and a lazy, unreflective person. She went away to New York City for years, and all she brought back was the same person that left. Hence my counterbalancing post.

But I love life, and Catherine, and every morning. That's all I need. And if I had arrows, I would shoot them from a bow or crossbow. Who throws arrows? And "ivory tower" implies academia, a realm very very far from us, thank God.

Oh yeah, you got the clothes and eat the good food: I'm sure to assauge the feelings Jerome has for being p*ssywhipped into the being he is today.

I can see how she would know about our style, having seen us around, but how does she know about the good food? We don't go out to eat that often, but when we do, of course we go first class. And I've posted only one recipe so far, even though we both do serious cooking at home. That's part of what I mean about loving life. And what's wrong with nice clothes and good food? Answer: they are not mediocre. To repeat the phrase Catherine coined: People Love Mediocrity Best. (That's what we're changing around here.)

But it's the p*ssywhipped part that floored me. This woman seems to think that Catherine has me cowed in some way, and that I am weak. First, Catherine and I are partners. As for weak, I rather think my electronic profile comes across as combative, cantakerous, obnoxious, honest, sometimes even noble, funny, broken-hearted, often long-winded, consistent, damned well-written, and, above all, consistent. But never wimpy.

Then, there's the sexist aspect, which I'll expand on below. Trying to sting anyone with this minimizing epithet, no matter the gender of the sender, is sexist as hell.

Also, there's a hint that anotherphoenician knew us both very casually awhile back. And here I'll adopt Ms. Silverman's trope and tell a true-life story, mainly for local readers, one I don't think I've ever told before, about Catherine and I and Kimber Lanning and mediocrity.

There was a time, way back when I was working the music department at Borders, and making art on the side, that I was determined to do the best job I could at the store, and that I would try to be the best person I could in my daily encounters with people there. I was a nice guy, ask anyone.

Those times are over. These days, I trust nobody and keep everybody at a distance. I walk around armed. No hay problema. I know where I live, and I know our position in this city. We've pissed off artists, Muslims, some educators, and illegal immigration activists, so far.

Four years ago, Catherine publicly represented me before she began doing her own art again, and before our King & du Bois collaborations. One day as I left for work, I asked her to call a gallerist, Kimber Lanning, and cancel a show of my word art I had scheduled for a couple of weeks later at her second-rate venue, Stinkweeds Records in Tempe. It would have been my very first show in the Valley. I had two reasons for changing my mind, but I asked Catherine to mention only one: I thought my stuff was at least as strong as anything at modified arts; that was the more proper gig, not a record store. Well, Catherine finally got through to her, late in the afternoon.

I'm going to slow down and expand on this conversation, which reveals a lot about Kimber Lanning. First, when Catherine announced herself as my representative and told her about the cancellation, Lanning got all huffy and up on herself, saying things like "This just isn't done" and "Who else do you represent?" and "Can't he speak for himself?"

Reader, ask yourself, would she say those things to a male art representative? Honest answer: no. Sexist as hell. At another point she said, in what Catherine, a veteran teacher, called "a classic nyah-nyah sneer," "You're just mad because you haven't found a gallery with the right fit." Talk about fits. This was a professional phone call, people. At least on Catherine's side. Again, would this woman, who didn't know Catherine, say the same thing if a man was talking to her? I detect the markings of an alpha bitch with an imposter complex threatened by a strong woman, and a stranger to boot, someone out her ken, someone she didn't vet..

She told Catherine my stuff wasn't as strong as the stuff down at modified. (I had to jump through some hoops, in other words.) When Catherine asked to come down to modified so Kimber Lanning could explain the strengths of the works down there, Kimber Lanning declined.

A few minutes after the phone call I got home from work, and just as Catherine was telling me about it, Lanning called back. I said hello, listened for several minutes as she repeated her last call, but to me, and then I said, "Okay, bye," and hung up.

And that's the last we've had to do with Kimber Lanning, face-to-face, but she seems like the kind who needs to get in the last word, so you never know. And, given her side of the conversation, and her controlling mindset, she might very well have thought that Catherine had me p*ssywhipped. You see where I'm going here?

Most of our other public encounters, and there haven't been many, are recorded on the blog. Odd, but true. It's part of maintaining the integrity of the public electronic profile. In none of these, nor in any emails, do either one of us come across as weak, vacillating, spineless, or compliant. Quite the opposite.

So that's why I'm implying that Kimber Lanning and anotherphoenician are one and the same. If I'm wrong, correct me, but the two personalities line up to my satisfaction.

And I'm not a "being," I'm a mensch.

The second reason I changed my mind about that exhibition had to do with an earlier visit to Stinkweeds, months earlier, when I picked up my portfolio. At that time, Lanning asked me to work on more stuff, and then come back. She had nothing specific to say about my work.

This was the third person I'd asked to examine my portfolio, and so far they all gave it back mum, no comment. So this time I asked Lanning what she thought of my work, which features larges depictions of words, phrases, and sentences, like --well, look for yourself at six examples. (Catherine uses words in her artwork, too.)

Lanning said she really liked the colors, the graphics, the layouts --but she could do without the words. She felt like she was being lectured at. I considered what she said for a moment, and then silently reflected that I had been studying and making art longer than this woman had been alive. I thanked her and took my portfolio home.

Words form the heart of my artwork, as the reader can see. I'm good at surrounding them with beauty, but I'd never make a completely wordless piece. What for? There are plenty of beautiful natural images to get lost in. That's not what my stuff is about. Even Iscillation, which uses the shortest word I can think of, reverberates with psychological and intellectual significance. (She didn't see all of these pieces, but she did see most of them.)

Having to think while looking at art seems to intimidate Kimber Lanning. My words --my ideas and challenges-- bothered and scared her. Sure. They ask people to stand up and be counted. Later, when I got to know her public persona better through written media and visits to modified --Lanning prefers small, quiet, crafty, oblique, twee artworks-- I decided that was a good sign. And later still, when my stuff hung in two different places for two months without a single word of feedback, I decided those were good signs, too.

My work asks people, myself included, to do some serious thinking and feeling, and to rise above themselves. Not popular in Phoenix, which seems to want to skate, and Lanning embodies the vibe. At any rate, I wasn't about to let my work be hung anywhere near her. And that's why I cancelled my show. (It is also, I claim, the seed that grew into a blackball. If I'm wrong, someone step up and deny it. And this piece isn't sour grapes, but it does taste of the water that already went under the bridge.)

This woman, like Beatrice Moore, is a so-called cultural leader, or at least spokesperson, for downtown Phoenix and its so-called coming boom. But, like muppetsmom, she acts only to keep the playgroup she leads in a state of arrested development.

Supposedly, she's all about promoting the promise of "the bright young people," but I think it's the reverse. She wants to keep her present kid loop rotating. From a recent letter from Kimber Lanning to the NT about the Silverman piece, let me quote two paragraphs:

But it's the "squishy stuff" missing from Phoenix that Joel Garreau referred to that makes a place home. How do we develop culture, tradition or pride when all of our best young people are scratching and clawing to get out of here as soon as they're out of high school? Lately, I've noticed a slow, steady tide of young people moving here with great enthusiasm from places like Seattle and L.A. I hope this is a sign that the hemorrhaging of bright young people from Phoenix to other cities may be slowing.

It isn't realistic to assume that just because the census says people are moving here means everything's okay. Young, creative entrepreneurs are not the same as middle-aged couples with young families who want to live in the suburbs. One is not necessarily better than the other; I'm merely pointing out that the numbers do not betray the horrific problem lying underneath: We are losing our greatest assets --young people-- by the truckloads because we cannot figure out how to make them feel rooted here.

The first time I read the first paragraph, it reminded me of something Amy Silverman wrote in her article. I'll reprint it, along with my comment:

No one wants to live in Phoenix.

Of course, that's not true. People are streaming in here like crazy. They're also streaming out, not as quickly, but they are. And I've always noticed that smart people seem to leave the fastest.

[My fisk] Those first four sentences are just filler, unsupported and therefore stupid, irrelevant, meaningless, and unedited. Give us some figures or leave the statements out. The last sentence conjures up for me the fantastic image of Amy Silverman, like the troll goddess of exodus, multiplied like a squinting avatar at all exits, checking everyone who's leaving town for their, you know, smartness level, and conveniently calculating it all for us peons: yep, jest as I thunk, the smart ones leave the fastest.

Was Kimber Lanning the source for Amy Silverman's statements? ("I stood in Stinkweeds . . .") If so, neither "expert" has provided any figures. But I will say that if "bright young people" are leaving in droves, Kimber Lanning is one of the ones driving them away. (Is she running out of volunteers, maybe? Only tweakers left?) She talks big, loud, and long about culture, tradition, and pride, but her latest venture at Central and Camelback is just as skanky as her poster-laden, blasted-looking modified arts, down in the Dead Zone, where the obedient Zombies arise the First Friday of every month. She is a brake upon the imagination and energy of this city, not one of its champions, and certainly not one of its sources.

[Quick aside with two questions: What's wrong with young people running off for awhile? Been doing it forever. When they come back, unlike Amy Silverman, they usually bring some gifts for us. Second: What's so great about young people, anyway? Lanning dismisses middle-aged couples and thirtysomethings as being somehow different than young creative entrepreneurs, stagnant or burned out or dull. Tell you what, genius; go figure out the average age of the people who developed SpaceShipOne, and then go suck some rocks.]

Finally, let me end on a rather nasty, personal note about Ms. Kimber Lanning. I don't like being called p*ssywhipped. No one strikes me with impunity. Another reason young people might be leaving her presence in droves is her own personal style. When Catherine saw her two days ago out in public, she reported to me later:

"She dresses like a high-school business teacher of ten years ago. The Junior Achievement Mentor. Plain black shell --the same one I've seen Kathleen Thomas wear in a dozen pictures-- and cropped khaki slacks, clunky black shoes. She dresses like the Governor. Her hair? In style, cut, color, and attractiveness --completely modified. Do you think she goes out to music clubs looking like the school counselor? Didn't she say in her letter that she drove visiting musicians around town? Imagine meeting her. Maybe she's driving them out of town."

My point exactly. Why don't you go ahead and call us mean in advance, but still we insist:

How can a so-called curator and gallerist and music maven have no fashion music in her head? Like NYC not rubbing off on Amy Silverman, like the words in my word art bouncing off her head, like the moldering facade of modified, like the blank screen face of her stinky record store, like the last thirty years of fashion never happened, Kimber Lanning, like rotating vinyl, goes round and round, droning the same mediocre tone, getting nowhere.

Some may say: easy to be cruel. I answer: Easy for you --too easy, that's the problem-- and Catherine and I know it.

Posted by Jerome at 12:40 PM | TrackBack

June 13, 2005

ADD ROSES AND STIR

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Flower Arrangement and Photograph by Catherine King

Posted by Jerome at 06:57 PM | TrackBack

June 10, 2005

Salvador Reza, Our Arizona Can Kick Your Aztlán Any Day

What most people don't know about me: I'd rather be running the continent than getting involved in politics.
--from Salvador Reza's information page on azcentral.com

Reza sees himself as a victim of racism, stemming back to his days in kindergarten.
--Sonoran News.

by Jerome du Bois

The funniest part of Hispanic exploiter Salvador Reza's latest opinion piece in the Arizona Daily Star comes after he calls for an international Boycott Arizona Now:

This is not a boycott against Arizona's indigenous nations. In fact, we encourage conventioneers who want to honor our call to contact the beautiful facilities available throughout these sovereign nations as an alternative to Arizona's business facilities.

Unless he means "Come climb down to Havasupai Falls," or "Come climb up to First Mesa," or "Come get fry bread at the Window Rock Inn," or "Come to the Pow-Wow in the White Mountains," then what he's saying is:

Come gamble, sucker.

Come to Fort McDowell to hear Paul Revere and the Raiders do "Indian Nation." Come hear Air Supply at Gila River Casino, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and Rick Springfield. Come to the Endless Buffett. Slug down fake champagne handed out by half-clad fools with no self-respect while you flog the clanging bandit with your forefinger. Forget the unshakeable truth that Chance Has No Memory. Nourish the most craven instincts within you while filling the pockets of people who should be ashamed of what they are doing, and who, so far, have built nothing substantial for the future with their legal-loophole enrichment without crucial help from the United States of America and its ingenious people. (Go read about Ivan Malkin, for example, and take away all references to non-tribal infrastructure and support, and see how far he would have gotten performing his undeniably good deeds. We are interconnected here in the 21st Century. Mr. Reza wants to obliterate this intricacy, this balance, this consensual agreement.)

Well, go ahead, conventioneers, get on out there . . . But the problem is, if you're boycotting Arizona, which I assume means its private bus companies, its limousine services, its highways, its surface streets and restaurants and quick-stops and gas stations and streetlights, then how the hell are you going to get out to the Beautiful Facilities of the Sovereign Nations without trespassing on your own declarations and contributing to the Arizona economy, and without directly piggybacking on the law-abiding contributions of millions of legal Arizona taxpayers? The Sovereign Nations (how dare you say Reservations) are smack dab in the middle of lots of Arizona, Mr. Reza. Anybody who drives to any one of them would be Violating the Boycott. (Unless they snuck into the Tohono O'Oodham Sovereign Nation from the border they share with Mexico. But maybe you know more about that than I do.)

I know: helicopters! Small planes! Oh, but you can't hire any Arizona helicopter companies. And even if you managed to fly in from New Mexico, say, you're still using Arizona airspace, protected by all kinds of regulations, radar, supervision, and actual aircraft, all paid for, in part, by Arizona taxpayers. You would be supporting all those workers. (Do illegals pay the same taxes, Mr. Reza?)

But what about the economic engines inside the Sovereign Nations themselves? Tell you what: follow the money. Mark the money flowing around in them and see the percentage that comes from off the Rez. Start with the hard-earned dollars of the non-Indian gambling fools, earned off-Rez, which is huge. Then move on: Where does the food come from? The bricks and mortar and wood and cement? The martini glasses? The very neon? Sovereign? Hah! They are as dependent on the foolish spenders (and bonded contractors) of Arizona as a drunk on crutches. I would truly like to see them become sovereign, or at least strong, but I view the New Casino Indians the way I view the people who run Las Vegas and Atlantic City and the plying riverboats: they're grifters, every smirking one of them, from Donald Trump on down, people who have a basic contempt for other humans, working other people's weaknesses to line their own pockets, and praying their marks never grow smart or strong.

I look at Salvador Reza the same way, only he's worse. His capital is poor brown human beings, the more the better to expand his power base. He wants power. He wants to run his own little nation. (So then maybe he can lead raids on Ward Churchill's tribe.) He wants as many illegals in this land as soon as possible, preferably ignorant Indians from Chiapas, who he thinks may be easy to push around. He thinks the sheer weight of their numbers will make them undeniable. And he's right. He will exploit them, and they will crush our schools, hospitals, and all social service agencies. Salvador Reza doesn't care about that. He hates the United States of America, and wants it brought down.

And he doesn't care how many die on the Arizona desert to get what he wants. I say it. I claim it. I'll repeat it: I say that, given his druthers, he would say to bring them on, bring them all on, men, women, and children, and let the dead bury the dead. How do I know? He's got a column on pluggedin, and he hasn't said word one about the recent 11 poor dead people scattered like forgotten firewood from Yuma to Bisbee, some abandoned by their own smugglers.

It's not so funny anymore, is it, reader?

Here's another quote from his latest opinion piece:

In consultations with people in the migrant community, we are truthful and tell them a boycott may cause the loss of some jobs. The answer comes from the people themselves: "They can't hurt us any more than they already do when they deport us, separate our families, exploit us without paying us because they call us 'illegals.'"

No real person said the sentence in quotes, of course. These are Reza's words, neatly summarizing the "migrant view"; Salvador Reza, who fancies himself some kind of Heron Jefe of the New Aztlan.

we are truthful and tell them a boycott may cause the loss of some jobs.

But not his job. Don't worry about that. No matter what happens to anyone else, Mr. Reza will miss neither a paycheck nor a meal, though he could do with fewer of the latter. And now that I've brought up his weight, let me add a personal inquiry to this insult: In your new world, Mr. Reza, when The USA has collapsed into indigenous chaos and squabbling sovereign tribes, where will you get the insulin and other supplies you will surely need, if you don't need them already? You'll steal them, of course, because a person of limited and amoral vision like you can't see the how the whole system hangs together by law, and by the consent of the governed, and by dedication to a rational future. Typical bully.

The answer comes from the people themselves: "They can't hurt us any more than they already do when they deport us, separate our families, exploit us without paying us because they call us 'illegals.'"

And the reply to this manure comes from this person --me-- himself: "They can't hurt us legal Americans (including legal Mexican immigrants) any more than they already do when they invade our land, destroy our property, raise our crime rates, bog down our schools, exploit our health care and legal systems without paying for them, all because they spit on the rule of law and any distinction between 'legal' and 'illegal.'"

Who is this guy, anyway, whom the Arizona Republic and Phil Boas implicitly endorse by giving him space to bray his hatred?

Who has always lived off the contributions of others as a "lobbyist" or "activist"? Who would destroy the best country ever designed for the sake of a tribal, barbaric ideal?

Who has grown literally fat off this land? (Don't tell me he doesn't know that his size is an instrument of intimidation. He loves to loom. I've known lots of these bliveys, as has Catherine. Which is why we know the bigger they are, the harder they fall, one and all. Gordos.)

Who makes his living by making sure the jornaleros, the day workers, stay that way?

Here's a précis Linda Bentley of the Sonoran News wrote a couple of years ago, on April 3, 2003 as part of a larger article on several of these corrosive immigration activists:

Tonatierra's coordinator, Salvador Reza, was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. His family moved to Ysleta, Texas when his father, a farm worker, was granted a work permit under the bracero program. Reza sees himself as a victim of racism, stemming back to his days in kindergarten.

After graduating from the University of California, San Diego, Reza began working for immigrant advocacy groups. He says he came to Phoenix because he believes it is the center of Aztlán, the original land of the Aztecs before they migrated south to Mexico. Of all the stories about where Aztlán might have been, Reza is the only one who believes its center is in Phoenix. Reza, one of the major lobbyists for the Palomino Day Worker Center in Phoenix, was quoted in an interview as saying that jornaleros, or day workers, are "forced to stand on street corners and suffer the scorn of a society which utilizes them to clean their houses."

One of Tonatierra's initiatives was the Macehualli Project, to organize the hundreds of day laborers in Phoenix. Reza believes the Macehualli Union de Jornaleros (Day Laborers Union) will achieve justice and dignity through the establishment of day labor centers.

Tonatierra and Reza's goals go far beyond the day laborer centers he wishes to create throughout the city. He is pushing for increased Latino political representation and expanding the Xinachtil Program (Xinachtil means "seed" in the Aztec language) in the public school system to teach "traditions, culture, art and science of indigenous people."

Immigrant advocacy groups no longer promote legal immigration, citizenship, learning English or any other assimilation into this country. Hispanic-rights groups talk of reoccupation and repatriation of the southwestern United States, the land of "indigenous people."

And what's with the Aztec obsession? What was it about the "traditions, culture, art and science [!] of" this "indigenous people" that attracted him? Here's a clue:

Best Known Features: In modern times, the Aztec are best known for human sacrifices. On special occasions, a slave was sacrificed. His flesh would be elaborately dressed and would be the center ornament of the banquet. Cannibalism was not a daily occurrence in the Aztec life, but it was common on special religious and social occasions. Human sacrifices were necessary to honor the gods and to perpetuate human existence. They believed that humans were responsible for the pleasure or displeasure of the gods and, therefore, they aimed to make sure that the deities were happy. Twenty to fifty thousand people were sacrificed yearly.

Salvador Reza's dream come true. He would slay you and flay you. I say it. Why else even try to resurrect any Aztec references? It's a psychological tell. The Aztecs were bloodthirsty, short-sighted, and illiterate. They never even developed a real written language. They spoke Nahuatl --picture-thought, accompanied by hieroglyphics; they were tribal, hermetic, and stunted; their language was transliterated by others later-- so it helped them not at all when it came to the future. Nor anyone else. Maybe that's the attraction for Reza. Keeps them ooga-booga that way, eh, bwana Sal? The Feathered Serpent will save us all! Not likely.

The Aztecs. The Mayan. The Toltecs. What marvelous social models to emulate. From Camille Paglia's recent article on "The Magic of Images":

Though most major studies of Meso-American culture acknowledge the enormity of human sacrifice that occurred, particularly in the two centuries before the Spanish conquest, the issue has been de-emphasized over the past thirty years in the ideological campaign to convict Christopher Columbus of genocide. Otherwise well-produced picture books of Chichén Itzá, for example, the mammoth Mayan complex in the Yucatán, document the great step pyramid, the ball court, the domed observatory, and the temple of a thousand pillars crowned by a raffish Chac-Mool statue holding a belly plate on which freshly extracted, still-quivering human hearts were laid. But it is difficult to find photographs, much less comprehensive ones, of Chichén Itzá's centrally situated Platform of the Skulls, where the severed heads of sacrificed prisoners, ritual victims, and even losing ballplayers were displayed on wooden racks to bake in the sun. Around that imposing stone platform, which I have personally inspected, runs a complex frieze of stone skulls still bearing remnants of bright red paint. The widespread view of the Maya as peaceable, compared to the bloodthirsty Aztecs, certainly needs adjustment.

Such platforms, called tzompantli, date from the prior Toltec era in Central Mexico and northern Yucatán. Among several eye-witness accounts by Spanish soldiers and priests in Cortés' expedition, one extravagantly estimated that 136,000 skulls were displayed on the tzompantli in the main Aztec temple complex of Tenochtitlán on the site of present-day Mexico City. A codex ink sketch by Friar Diego Duran shows tiers of skulls tightly strung like an abacus with rods piercing the cranium from ear to ear. In their orderly symmetries, these vanished skull racks resemble Byzantine icon screens as well as the tall magazine shelves of modern libraries. The grinning, pre-Columbian skull also appears in isolation on stone altars and on the heads, crowns, or trophy belts of ferocious earth goddesses like Coatlicue ("She of the Serpent Skirt"), who represents the cycle of fertility and death. Even more striking are unearthly masks worn by Aztec priests: an example in the British Museum, which may have belonged to king Montezuma himself, consists of the front half of a real human skull surfaced with mosaic and tied around the face; it was worn with an elaborate feather headdress. The finest of these mosaic masks are faceted with brilliant turquoise jade, with detail work in red or white seashells and obsidian, a black volcanic glass.

I don't remember reading about Thomas Jefferson or James Madison or James Monroe drawing upon these kinds of inspiration, or finding resources in this kind of history, to help develop the tools to shape the future. And as far as I know, not one of these men ever had the inclination to place another human's physical features upon his face.

But I believe that Salvador Reza would do so in a heartbeat. It may be a cruel thing to say, but I've read this man's careless words for months. His latest piece celebrates a pugilist from a recent movie --a man who hits other men for money and the basest pleasures of other men-- so that Reza can make this plug:

I went to see Cinderella Man and it broke my heart every time Jim Braddock went out as a day laborer to feed his kids and the labor gang boss would pass him up.

It reminds me of the Home Depot corners where the modern labor bosses pull up and start pointing at the strongest and younger workers while passing up the elderly and the weak.

Pass the fooking kleenex. If Salvador Reza drove by these guys, he couldn't give them a job if his life depended on it, but he sure wants every one of them to be there, old, young, and in-between, keep them coming, the more the merrier --for him, not them. He wants them to justify his borrowed existence.

It's completely appropriate that Salvador Reza would glorify a movie where men pound other men with their fists. It's his kind of language. Boxing aficianados call it "the sweet science," believe it or not, compounding all kinds of linguistic felonies. Reasoned arguments go bye-bye. Hit me.

Bullshit. Nobody gets to hit me. You ever been hit, Sal, punched with a fist? I have. Ain't no fun. Want some more? Some more? Some more? Want to glorify it? You sure? You're tapping the most primitive instincts inside us. You sure? Yeah, he's sure. He's retro. He's not about growing up. He's about growing down.

Just because Reza can't imagine a heroic movie about a machinist or inventor or farmer or folk scientist, doesn't mean those people didn't make a bigger contribution to our country than some idiots with fast hands and nothing else. They did. Boxers do nothing, nothing, nothing at all, to help the human race. They draw blood, and trigger testosterone atrocities. They contribute nothing to what we need.

And neither does Salvador Reza. Read the title of this piece, Sal: we can do it without a bit of violence, because Aztlan is dayud. And because it never was. The United States of America, though --that's real, and alive, and booming.

The bell's rung. Your time is over. You just don't know it yet.

Posted by Jerome at 02:00 AM | TrackBack

June 04, 2005

So This Is Where They Come From: The Zombie Dispositions

[This is number five in our informal series on Rebarbarization In The Academy.]

I revel in my biases.
--James Ryczek, Professor of Social Work, Rhode Island College

Woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.
--Was/Not Was

by Jerome du Bois

For over a dozen years now, the professoriat and official policymakers of many education colleges have proudly established and enforced a dismaying monoversity of political thinking --serve others, not yourself-- promoted by a uniform Zombie newspeak --an explicit attack on the English language-- that they use as a bludgeon on their teachers-in-training.

If you, as a teacher in training, do not agree with an evaluation committee or test score that there is no higher, or more admirable, individual behavior than social action toward social justice --a vague, collective, and frankly stinky socialist goal-- you may never become a teacher, you selfish, antisocial jerk. Getouttaheah! or get with the current academic program. Amazingly, the resentful twits who lost the public political culture to sanity continue to want to shape teachers into their stunted, dated mold. Ain't you academia nuts heard? Collectivism is dayud. Identity politics is dayud. And gay studies? C'monnn. Despite the current plethora of overripe fruit in academia --deader than Andy Warhol. They all went the way of the other chimeras.

But, like some kind of recurrent, accursed stain, the professors still foreground the forlorn and discredited "white male oppressor" meme. The first caricature they drug out so long ago to whack us with they now unashamedly abandon as the last one on the stage, rack-ribbed, nearly naked and shivering-- only now they want to extend this rusty voice-vise to the entire English language. English itself, they insist, is an instrument of oppression. Even as they use it, over and over, retreading dead ideas. I guess it doesn't affect them because they know better. They must be immune. Cuz they smart.

Uh-huh. All time kukai moa, I say.

These arrogant dummies claim that the most sophisticated, flexible, accommodating, liberal, capacious, and evolutionarily-stable language for the Western World --English-- the best verbal stew men, women, and children in this hemisphere ever cooked up, and to which we're still adding ingredients-- that this gloriously alive, future-facing, transcendental physiomental organism was whomped up by some wizened old ofays trying to squeeze everybody else's peaches!

And if you believe that . . .

But they do! Thousands of credulous students have been accepting this crap, becoming teachers, and passing it on to other malleable fools. (One vivid proof and result, supported by many posts on this blog: local Phoenix art, culture and writing.)

Think, people, think. What --there's some evaluation committee declaring what is a word, or an allowable word to put into the stream of the Great Conversation? No way. Whereyat, mon ami --France? Since the English language became interesting, several hundred years ago, Edmund Spenser, John Donne, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, George Gordon, William Blake, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, James Joyce, scientists, philosophers, philologists, and millions of other self-reflective human beings, most of them multilingual, all invented new words that eventually became part of the common coin of English that we all pass around. My own wife creates words in an ongoing fashion, flashy new florins tossed into the stream of the verbal trade; that may seem disjarring to some, but to me it's enlifting, and you don't have any problem deciphering either word, do you, reader?

We gotta get the chin music back into our heads.

In the meantime, I won't let any twisted turkey try to hijack my wonderful language. Nobody's going to dumb it down into a machine to shrink everybody else into a pinched, Procrustean view of the world.

They're on a doomed mission, of course --controlling a language like English!-- but the PC Police still patrol, in their increasingly ragged uniforms. There's an assistant professor at Brooklyn College's School of Education, Priya Parmar, who keeps fumbling with whatever handles, dials, and buttons that still function. From Jacob Gershman's article in the May 31, 2004 New York Sun:

A case in point, as Mr. Johnson of Brooklyn College has pointed out, is the way in which the term [social justice] was incorporated into Ms. Parmar's course, called Language Literacy in Secondary Education, which students said is required of all Brooklyn College education candidates who aspire to become secondary-school teachers. In the fall semester, Ms. Parmar was the only instructor who taught the course, according to students.

The course, which instructs students on how to develop lesson plans that teach literacy, is built around themes of "social justice," according to the syllabus, which was obtained by The New York Sun. One such theme is the idea that standard English is the language of oppressors while Ebonics, a term educators use to denote a dialect used by African-Americans, is the language of the oppressed.

A preface to the listed course requirements includes a quotation from a South African scholar, Njabulo Ndebele: "The need to maintain control over English by its native speakers has given birth to a policy of manipulative open-mindedness in which it is held that English belongs to all who use it provided that it is used correctly. This is the art of giving away the bride while insisting that she still belongs to you."

Among the complaints cited by students in letters they delivered in December to the dean of the School of Education, Deborah Shanley, is Ms. Parmar's alleged disapproval of students who defended the ability to speak grammatically correct English.

You read that right. Jaw-dropping, eh? More:

Speaking of Ms. Parmar, one student, Evan Goldwyn, wrote: "She repeatedly referred to English as a language of oppressors and in particular denounced white people as the oppressors. When offended students raised their hands to challenge Professor Parmar's assertion, they were ignored. Those students that disagreed with her were altogether denied the opportunity to speak."

Students also complained that Ms. Parmar dedicated a class period to the screening of an anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore, "Fahrenheit 9/11," a week before last November's presidential election, and required students to attend the class even if they had already seen the film. Students said Ms. Parmar described "Fahrenheit 9/11" as an important film to see before they voted in the election.

"Most troubling of all," Mr. Goldwyn wrote, "she has insinuated that people who disagree with her views on issues such as Ebonics or Fahrenheit 911 should not become teachers."

This is fascism. But it is explicity codified in the profession as dispositions, and it is policy. One of the progenitors of dispositions policy is Linda Darling-Hammond. Gershman again:

Officials of the accreditation council said their policy on dispositions was heavily influenced by a consortium of state education agencies in 34 states, the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium. In 1992, the body drafted a report containing model standards for licensing new teachers that included the idea of dispositions. The chairwoman of the drafting committee, Linda Darling-Hammond, is a leading advocate of multicultural education and the author of the book "Learning To Teach for Social Justice."

If they formalized the notion in 1992, that means they have been yakking about it since probably 1985, scraping up the leftover asafoetida of collectivism and relabeling it. So the dispositions notion --very old vinegar in opaque new bottles-- has been bobbing back and forth through the concourse of academia for almost twenty years. Teachers College Press published Learning To Teach for Social Justice in 2002 ($54 hardcover: ouch!). From a review of that book:

In Part I, the authors look at the concept of diversity, the importance of inclusion of others’ perspectives, the danger of labeling individuals as part of a group and the value of incorporating the history of marginalized groups into the core of the school curriculum.

Yet I can easily believe that Priya Parmar wouldn't acknowledge that she doesn't believe these things, or believes in them in only one direction. Any teacher who even implies "that people who disagree with her views on issues such as Ebonics or Fahrenheit 911 should not become teachers" has trampled on all four points in the quotation above. But that wouldn't matter to her, because she delusively believes that, like Humpty Dumpty, language serves her. Well, we know what happened to that bad egg.

In what follows, in grammatically correct and decidedly incorrect English, I'm going to attack two stupid ideas: that anybody could ever control English, and the antihuman and hellbound notion of "social justice."

I'll state my case for English briefly and sufficiently with two examples: first, a sweetly relevant recent anecdote from Christopher Hitchens, one of the language's best exemplars and champions:

They'll say, “Don't use the word 'Promethean.'” Actually, that happened recently. I used the word “Promethean” and the [magazine editors] said, “Take that out because people won't know what Promethean means.” I said, “Maybe they won't. I'll cut it out if you give me another synonym for it. You give the words that would stand in for it and I'll change it.” “There doesn't seem to be one,” they said. “No, there isn't, is there?” You either know what “Promethean” means or you don't. If you do, it saves you about 50 words. And if you don't, then you can look it up! So I said, “No. I'm going to keep it, because it's an important word and it's actually not condescending to Americans in the least. You have to condescend far more by finding the 50-word substitute. No, I won't change it. Fuck you. And I don't mean to publish in your magazine, either, for that matter.”

I love this guy! He's got all kinds of music in his head. And his remark applies also to "Procrustean," which I used above. I certainly don't know the whole story of Procrustes, the Greek bed-freak whom Theseus did in, to know that the term refers to shoehorning, another wonderfully allusive word. It also recalls, for me, the strange word "blivey," which, my father told me solemnly long ago, refers to "ten pounds of manure in a five-pound bag." Got the picture now, mes amis?

How you gonna keep down on the farm when they seen the big city? How you gonna put the cat back in the bag once it's out and running around? How can any so-called educated person think they can control a language like English?

Well, why not? They think they can control people, don't they? They, in their own shriveled insecurity, think people need controlling. But we believe that people are born for self-control, so that when my wife says, for my second example here,

Abortion is a lifesaver

mature human beings reflect on the words, kneejerkers react. But the sentence is in the world, free, intact, intense, reverberant.

Peter Berkowitz recently pointed to an important new book by Alexander Downs called Restoring Free Speech and Liberty On Campus (Cambridge U. Press, about $30). An excerpt from Berkowitz's review:

What forces have driven universities to clamp down on the free play of ideas and to collaborate in the vilification of moral and political opinions that depart from campus orthodoxies? One factor involves a transformation in the idea of the university. The last 25 years have witnessed the return of what Downs calls the “proprietary university,” which sees its central mission not as the transmission of knowledge and the pursuit of truth but rather as the inculcation of a specific —in this case ostensibly progressive— moral and political agenda. Another involves a transformation in the progressive sensibility itself. As late as the mid-1960s, the dominant opinion on the left was that free speech and due process were essential to the creation of a more inclusive and just society. But belief in the progressive character of liberal principles has been under intense attack by influential scholars since the glory days of Martin Luther King Jr. Radical feminists such as Catharine MacKinnon argue that the oppression of women is itself a product of liberal commitments to fair process (notwithstanding that never in history have women enjoyed the freedom and equality achieved in contemporary liberal democracies). Critical legal theorists maintain the same about the oppression of the poor, and critical race theorists press the claim concerning the oppression of minorities (notwithstanding the reduction in the number and poverty of the poor and the unprecedented inclusion of minorities in public life in liberal democracies). At the same time, many campus theorists drew inspiration from Algerian social critic Frantz Fanon, whose The Wretched of the Earth argued that sympathy with those who suffer is a higher priority than respect for individual rights (even though respect for individual rights has proven over time the most successful means for alleviating suffering). Meanwhile, postmodern critics, believing themselves to be following Nietzsche, argued that individual rights were fictions invented by the strong to control the weak (never mind that Nietzsche decried modern liberalism as an invention of the weak to tyrannize the strong). Taken together, these opinions encouraged the idea of “progressive censorship,” the policing of speech to ensure that it conformed to standards deemed necessary to lift up and liberate the oppressed.

I hope many will join me in saying, Shove your progressive censorship and shove your proprietary university.

Not to mention the insane idea that one can produce character by extortion, intimidation, or bribery.

K.C. Johnson, Professor of History at Brooklyn College and CUNY Gradutate Center, identifies some of these collegiate incubators of rancid radicalism in the May 23rd online issue of Inside Higher Education:

At the State University of New York at Oneonta, prospective teachers must “provide evidence of their understanding of social justice in teaching activities, journals, and portfolios. . . and identify social action as the most advanced level.”

The program at the University of Kansas expects students to be “more global than national and concerned with ideals such as world peace, social justice, respect for diversity and preservation of the environment.”

The University of Vermont’s department envisions creating “a more humane and just society, free from oppression, that fosters respect for ethnic and cultural diversity.”

Marquette’s program “has a commitment to social justice in schools and society,” producing teachers who will use the classroom “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture.”

According to the University of Toledo, “Education is our prime vehicle for creating the ‘just’ society,” since “we are preparing citizens to lead productive lives in a democratic society characterized by social justice.”

This rhetoric is admirable. Yet, as the hotly contested campaigns of 2000 and 2004 amply demonstrated, people of good faith disagree on the components of a “just society,” or what constitutes the “negative effects of the dominant culture,” or how best to achieve “world peace. . . and preservation of the environment.”

An intellectually diverse academic culture would ensure that these vague sentiments did not yield one-sided policy prescriptions for students. But the professoriate cannot dismiss its ideological and political imbalance as meaningless while simultaneously implementing initiatives based on a fundamentally partisan agenda.

Instead of downplaying the issue, education programs have adjusted their evaluation criteria to increase its importance. Traditionally, prospective teachers needed to demonstrate knowledge of their subject field and mastery of essential educational skills. In recent years, however, an amorphous third criterion called “dispositions” has emerged. As one conference devoted to the concept explained, using this standard would produce “teachers who possess knowledge and discernment of what is good or virtuous.” Advocates leave ideologically one-sided education departments to determine “what is good or virtuous” in the world.

In 2002, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education explicitly linked dispositions theory to ensuring ideological conformity among education students. Rather than asking why teachers’ political beliefs are in any way relevant to their ability to perform well in the classroom, NCATE issued new guidelines requiring education departments that listed social justice as a goal to “include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice” when evaluating the “dispositions” of their students. As neither traditional morality nor social justice commitment in any way guarantee high-quality teachers, this strategy only deflects attention away from the all-important goal of training educators who have command of content and the ability to instruct.

Barbara Winslow, a professor at Brooklyn College School of Education, wrote recently, according Gershman's NY Sun story:

"The School of Ed is trying to be more systematic in looking at what educators call 'dispositions,' that is behaviors necessary for being a successful teacher in the public schools. Being able to do excellent academic work, does not always translate into being a thoughtful, self-reflective and effective teacher for youngsters."

Later in Gersham's NY Sun article:

Officials of the national accreditation council said it provides a guide for teacher education schools but relies on the individual schools to develop their own specific definitions of dispositions. The president of the council, Arthur Wise, told the Sun that dispositions "deals with the softer side of teaching."

"It recognizes the fact that a person may have content knowledge, may well understand pedagogy and may be able to use it effectively on command," Mr. Wise said. "But the question is: How does the individual relate to children both individually and collectively?"

To paraphrase the bolded passages: "Don't know much about geometry? Not to worry. The most important thing you can learn is to never hurt a student's feelings."

Think I'm kidding? Then listen to the President of DePaul University in Chicago, the serendiptiously-named Suzanne Dumbleton, after firing Thomas Klocek for refusing to be a dhimmi to Palestinian students:

The students’ perspective was dishonored and their freedom demeaned. Individuals were deeply insulted . . . Our college acted immediately by removing the instructor from the classroom.

And this:

No students anywhere should ever have to be concerned that they will be verbally attacked for their religious belief or ethnicity. No one should ever use the role of teacher to demean the ideas of others or insist on the absoluteness of an opinion, much less press erroneous assertions.

One rarely reads such starry-eyed kumbaya anymore; it would charming if it wasn't just a cruel lie. (The students Ms. Dumbleton defends spend most of their time verbally equating Israeli Jews with Nazis, loudly advocating the destruction of Israel, handing out The Protocols of The Elders of Zion, and glorifying homicide bombers in posters and pamphlets.)

I know the old word for this tendentiousness: coddling. And the quality these teacher-trainers value most is in their charges is malleability. They even have seminars about it at their conferences.

So this is what I see: Bullies training sycophants to turn entitled brats into self-loathing Zombies who serve the needs of whoever their fascistic masters point them to. And the beat goes on, downhill all the way into the muck. And those who don't go along, who don't get molded, get gone, one way or another.

Here's just one example from the Foundation For Individual Rights In Education's (FIRE) online newsletter (which has many more):

PROVIDENCE, R.I., May 26, 2005—Rhode Island College’s (RIC’s) School of Social Work is requiring a conservative master’s student to publicly advocate for “progressive” social changes if he wants to continue pursuing a degree in social work policy. RIC’s appalling disregard for student Bill Felkner’s freedom of conscience is the latest in an ongoing string of abuses by RIC administrators and faculty members that violate the right to fundamental freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution.

That's like requiring a pro-choice activist to stuff envelopes for an anti-abortion church group. Or forcing a Democrat to campaign for the President's agenda. It is a transparently totalitarian practice, and it is widespread and officially sanctioned.

If you read Professor (and I use the honorific only formally) Ryczek's email to Mr. Felkner, it's couched in a faux-friendly style, but one can easily see the outlines of the fascist fist under the latex glove. It's long past time to strip off that glove and expose that fist.

Since the mid-1600s, one colorful and encouraging thread of Western culture, from the British Isles to the United States to Cuba, shows bright university students running their worthless, time-serving, and bullying professors off the campus precincts on a rail, or worse.

It could happen again, it could happen here, and it's long overdue. Real social justice.

Posted by Jerome at 12:29 AM | TrackBack

June 03, 2005

ENCHANTED 06

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Captured by Catherine King June 2, 2005

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ENCHANTED 05

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Captured by Catherine King June 2, 2005

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ENCHANTED 04

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Captured by Catherine King June 2, 2005

Posted by Jerome at 04:20 AM | TrackBack