“We Suck and We Can’t Not Suck”

thWe all have a sense of what’s right and wrong, long-term. We all know on some level not to have the extra slice of pizza. Many of you have probably set up retirement accounts. Many of you probably haven’t contributed enough. Even when we know we’re doing the right thing for the future, there’s no immediate reward for that, and we naturally want what’s rewarding now. It’s why we splurge on unnecessary things and then justify it by saying it’s been a hard week, or we’ll save money later, or what’s one little extra expense? We suck and we can’t not suck. Even when we know what’s absolutely right, it can be unappealing if we don’t get a short-term benefit. Save money for retirement and you actually lose money, effectively, today.

More here.

And here.

DISTURBING UPDATE HERE.

Poor Banished Children of Eve

I am sitting at a custom Parnian Executive Desk in my office at DreamWorks. I recall that I am President of Production. I observe the object dimensions and study the intricate knotted pattern of the desktop’s Carpathian elm burl. It is 4 feet wide by eight feet long. My secretary rings to tell me that “Mr. Spielberg” has dropped by the office for a visit. He is interested in discussing the post-production details of something starring Jessica Alba. I remember that it is a motion picture involving a fictional story of some kind. Mr. Spielberg enters my office. He is below average height. One percent of his body mass is comprised of bacteria. His words and body language reflect comfort with my presence and the space known as my office. If he understood my mental condition he would not be so comfortable. If he knew that I experienced a level 1 head trauma this morning due to a two ton automatic garage door falling directly on my head as I attempted to realign the chain mechanism, and that I stopped in at a sporting goods store on my way to Universal City and purchased a Ruger 10-22 with an extended magazine and a brick of hollow point bullets, he would be alarmed. His life is in my hands, just as the post-production is in his hands. I begin to wonder why we are making this movie. I am the arrogant general played by Adolphe Menjou in Paths of Glory, sending our audience into the maw of Ludendorff’s machine guns. The details of the film are too tiresome to relate. It will receive a combined Rotten Tomatoes score of 57. I can see the end from the beginning. I am Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I am a god. I will say that the 81% of men respond favorably to Jessica Alba’s ass based on a sampling of 150 respondents in a market test conducted by Frank Luntz. The frames depicting Jessica Alba’s ass will translate into 35% above break-even DVD sales volume, off-setting a likely 8% below margin theatrical gross. This is because of masturbation. The Director’s extended cut will have extended ass frames. In other words, for reasons unrelated to artistic merit, Spielberg will never confront the fact that he produced a movie that should never have existed. Masturbation lines my pocket with gold as well per the post-theatrical gross clause in my contract with DreamWorks. Mr. Spielberg discusses the production and I am encouraging. I am Brad Dourif beguiling King Thioden of Rohan.

“Mr. Spielberg” of course is a type of reference common in Hollywood. If he were not both powerful and famous his first name would be included in third person references. This has a mark of irony which is an anachronism, as if it could refer to any “Mr.” Of course, the irony is long forgotten and it has become an empty practice of obsequiousness as mindless as the movement of a cow to a feeding trough. I am dead set against wit. The wag who first used the form referring to “Mr. Selznick” or “Mr. Hitchcock” never anticipated the custom being a shackle of malaise confining souls in Hollywood hell for generations. All wit descends into malaise as it becomes emptied of its original discovery.

At this moment I am feeling like a bent thing. While Mr. Spielberg is talking in a casually self-conscious master of the universe way, my mind organizes the factual content of his words, which is not substantial, and I wonder about his life force and how a single act of will can take it away and how strange I would be to myself during a brutal act of murder. Cold blooded murder. Star Trek II said that revenge is a dish best served cold. Murder could be just a word with a value judgment attached. I am Hannibal Lector, a moral superman. I live in feudal Hollywood. Mr. Spielberg is now discussing a new property in pre-development. He is following a pattern I have previously analyzed; initial enthusiasm followed by diligent effort becoming complete disinterest masked by a face-saving mock enthusiasm. It would be at the disinterest phase that my real work will begin. What had started as an innovative script will become a pre-packaged running cliché that could just as easily be generated by a computer. This is a necessary work of spiritual destruction which must occur prior to the invasion of my people from Gamma Six. I have been sent as an advanced force to bring about spiritual lethargy and make the Earth an easy spoil for my humanoid race. Right now, a brilliant scientist who doesn’t play by the rules has come to this conclusion, but no one will listen. I must stop him from getting to the President. We have conquered many planets through their entertainment industries. At the beginning we offer novel concepts to impress the masses as fresh and self-referential. However, these modes are dead ends. Furthermore, once universal self-consciousness has been achieved there is no going back. The fruit of the forbidden tree has been consumed. The average man will occupy the main part of his precious life watching the most venal individuals imaginable, actors who smoke crack and shave the pubic hair of prostitutes, actors who have been carefully selected to be objects of fantasy. Jessica Alba was created on this basis, her butt genetically designed to distract a docile Earth population from seeing our insidious work right before their eyes.  Many people might be inclined to believe that once dominance is complete we will destroy or enslave the human race. This is not true. We seek only to control it that we may harvest its spiritual life force at the point of death. It is in the fourth dimension where our lives are primarily spent. We use the souls of other races as dumb beasts of burden to ride and haul cargo. As Mr. Spielberg discusses the property, tentatively titled Children of Eve, my secretary brings in coffee and teacakes. The property is about a corporation which has been taken over by aliens. I realize immediately that I must assume control of the project and begin a diversionary brainstorming process. Fortunately, Mr. Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, is one of us. Perhaps my secretary is too. Or, maybe I am experiencing severe head trauma. I am viewing myself participating in a Hollywood executive discussion and believing that I am an alien and also experiencing the pain and abstraction resulting from a severe head injury. I have a Ruger in my top desk drawer and can shoot Spielberg right now. Then I can go across the hall and shoot Chief Executive Officer Stacey Snider. I could shoot myself. Or not. I have the power to green light a wonderful film about a boy without a father and lonely star in the night sky. I also have the power to green light my own death.

The office I occupy is twenty by forty-two feet. Here, my sins are hidden behind glass and steel. I could walk out in the street in front of Universal City Plaza and hold a sandwich board listing all the horrible things I’ve done. It might read, “I dishonored my parents; I have committed numerous acts of adultery; I have bore false witness against my neighbor to advance my career.”

I could leave the office without explanation and begin my mid-life crises. It could be an adult comedy.

I could shoot Spielberg while he raptures, then cut to me having never shot him. The audience will realize that it was just my fantasy. It could be Adaptation, or Up the Sandbox. I reach for the pistol in the top drawer. Something tells me no. How close you came Steven. Capture that on film. Try 3-D.

“Steven, I was reading Thomas Aquinas on falsity this morning. Aquinas says that no falsity can exist in things that belong to God. It can only exist in voluntary agents who withdraw themselves from what is so ordained.”

He looks at me as if waiting for a punch line.

“There is no punch line,” I say. “It was a stand-alone statement.”

“What are you getting at,” he asks.

“Kate is one of us.” I am the villain and this is the moment of revelation. “Now at the last you understand.” I ponder my professional demise. My career will be destroyed for an unrelated reason like Gentleman’s Agreement. What to do, what to say? There is meaning or meaninglessness. God is the Word or God is the Void. I choose. I am free. I am getting lightheaded.

“DreamWorks should make movies that are true and beautiful, beautiful and true. We shouldn’t make movies to make society better. I don’t even know what ‘society’ means.”

“I disagree,” he says.

“I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

“Pardon?”

“Fred Zinnemann.”

“What about him?”

“A Man for All Seasons.”

“Good film.” Spielberg looks alarmed now.

I realize that my fingers are numb. “Call 9-1-1,” I say.

“What’s that?”

“Do you have a cell phone?”

“I have Blackberry Satellite phone.”

“That’s good. Can you dial it?”

“I can speak a number.”

I am losing consciousness. “Would you speak 9-1-1?”

“I don’t get it.”

“There is something wrong with me, will you call for help.”

“I get it.”

“I can’t move my arms, please call for help. Dear God, forgive me for the horrible things I’ve done. Jesus save me.”

“David, if you’re not happy here…”

“You’re a nitwit. I should have shot you. I forgive you.”

Spielberg removes the phone from his belt. He tells the emergency operator what is happening, and sheepishly asks me the address.

“You don’t know the address of your own company?” The world is going dark. “One Hundred Universal City Plaza, Building Ten, eighth floor” I say with my dying breath. I am the redeemed Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi. This is the end of the movie.

 

Epilogue

It is a surprise ending. I wake from a coma. I have a subdural hematoma. I have been asleep for three weeks and awake for three hours. My ex-wife, Corinne, is sitting at my bedside. It took something like this for us to realize the love that was always there. I hope it is a happy ending. Somebody knocks and comes into the room and asks how I’m feeling. It is Steven Spielberg. Corinne kisses me goodbye and tells me to call her if there is anything I need. I feel happy.

“How was the Dead Zone?” Spielberg asks.

“Shake my hand and find out,” I say. He laughs.

“Stacey and I have been talking…”

“Stacey and I” can’t be good. Of course he doesn’t fire me after being in a coma. That wouldn’t look right. They are making me head of a new development company for “serious films.” It will be called Buried Treasure. They will put me in a basement. They will bury my projects. I broke the code of silence and must be punished. I respectfully decline.

“I’m going to buy a motorcycle,” I say.

“That’s great,” he says.

“I’m going to ride around the country and help people.”

“Like Then Came Bronson.”

“Or, Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction, except real,” I say.

My wife and I will not get back together. She remarried. I will never remarry. Spielberg offers me a sip of water.

“I don’t know what Spielberg means in the big life picture, Steven. Maybe nothing. Maybe I don’t mean anything either. When I see a hungry child on one of those infomercials I think that he might be poor for a short time and that I might be rich for a short time and it makes me very worried. I also know that eternity is longer than a movie. By the way there is something you should know.”

“What’s that?” he asks.

“Shindler’s List was fakey. Public virtue is a conceit. We are not good people, you and I.”

Spielberg stands up, touches me on the shoulder, tells me to get better soon and leaves the room. I am alone. The camera pulls back slowly to show how small I am in the big picture.

FIN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘… on the sand, / Half sunk, a shattered flattered visage lies …’

At the very end of Lent 2012, the six members of the Korrektiv Kollektiv received, as a gift from Matthew Lickona, cartoon portraits from the pen of the wonderful Daniel Mitsui. What Mitsui memorialized in those small and startling figures, with unobtrusive allusiveness and an unsettling but corrective touch of the grotesque that exemplified the Korrektiv ethos of the classic period, was a golden age: a flowering, a ripening, the sun at zenith.

But flowers fade; ripeness turns to rot; light declines toward a slow, final failure; and shadows lengthen and coalesce unto the great shade, Night, who is herself the shadow of Death.

You couldn’t have noticed all that fading, rotting, and declining, though, since none of it showed on the surface — until November 1. On that day — All Saints’ Day (bitter irony!) —  a mistake was made.

Now, at the beginning of Advent 2012, Mr Lickona has once again hired Daniel Mitsui — not to memorialize glory this time, but folly.

Fittingly so: Our Faith teaches that wrongs can be not merely prevented, not merely undone, but actually redeemed. And this is true.

For example: Though my addition to this blog’s roster may be a loss for you, the reader (not to mention the dragging-down it entails for Jonathans Potter and Webb, Mr Finnegan, Mr Lickona, Mr JOB, and Ms Expat), I get a brilliant Mitsui portrait:

Enigmatic, spooky, funny, and a good likeness to boot, though enough obscured to provide a useful degree of plausible deniability. I could hardly be happier with it. If only it had not come at such awful cost to you, dear friends.

Thank you for the picture, Mr Mitsui. Thank you for the present, Mr Lickona.

Thank you (in advance) for forbearing to sting, scorpion.

DCCCVIII

I went to a readers’ theater presentation of The Real Inspector Hound yesterday (which was absurd), and found myself a half-stroll from here. (Thanks, notrelatedtoted!)

Mr Potter, was that poem you wrote about throwing baseballs at a target autobiographical? If so, we need:

  1. A Spokane-to-SoCal plane ticket for Potter;
  2. A copy of Surfing with Mel in Word or PDF format, saved on a flash drive; and
  3. A baseball with a cavity carved in it to accommodate said flash drive.

Now then, Mr Potter: See those big corner windows?

Dana Gioia

Our coreligionist Dana Gioia — ex-General Foods executive, ex-NEA chairman, really good essayist/critic, pretty good poet — has a book due out next Tuesday, the 8th of May: Pity the Beautiful. Here’s one of the poems, which, though not one of his very best, takes a feeling I’ve felt while browsing through liturgical art in museums, and gives it an extra twist. I bet at least one or two of you out there can sympathize:

‘The Angel with the Broken Wing’

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadows up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.

Gioia’s also done a double-triolet, if you can believe that.

His interviews are always worth reading, and the ideas he expresses seem quite kongenial to Korrektiv. He knows a thing or two about trying to arrange marriages between money and art, and about cultivating patronage. He is a member of two groups — believing/practicing Catholics, and cultural Catholics (he’s of Sicilian and Mexican descent), and envisions a Catholic presence in American arts and letters that includes both groups. We might say he is interested not only in Catholic writers, but in Catholicish writers. JOB’s writing on Seamus Heaney has a similar spirit.

Here’s a short and pointed poem to punctuate this rambling post.

‘Unsaid’

So much of what we live goes on inside–
The diaries of grief, the tongue-tied aches
Of unacknowledged love are no less real
For having passed unsaid. What we conceal
Is always more than what we dare confide.
Think of the letters that we write our dead.

The Korrektiv: Bright Youn… um, Bright Somethings?

Via the BBC: ‘In a sense… the history of every medium is also, at least in part, the history of using that medium for fakery, for hoaxes and all kinds of practical jokes.’

When pranksters create internet hoaxes for fun – or for profit – it becomes difficult to trust what we read or see online.

Jokers and for-profit marketing companies are now devising elaborate online hoaxes, taking advantage of the in-built desire among consumers and media outlets to believe what they really know is unbelievable.

Hacking giant video monitors in New York’s Times Square? Kanye West launching a web startup? Fakes like these are just about believable enough.

Fakes that are just believable enough? Sounds familiar….

In the accompanying video, one of the kids behind the ‘Kanye West web startup’ hoax explains why he dragged Kanye West’s name into his little personal prank: ‘We realized this would probably only be funny to us and our friends, and so we need a name bigger attached to it’ — which sounds very familiar… very VERY familiar. Am I right, friends?

But the Korrektiv Konnektions don’t stop there. About halfway through the video, a professor type mentions that Evelyn Waugh and friends staged a fake art exhibit in London in 1929! Did everyone else know that already? I didn’t know that.

But, sure enough:

This celebrated hoax involved all the leading social figures of the time, and was the brainchild of Brian Howard, the effete socialite dilettante, upon whom Evelyn Waugh modelled the languid Anthony Blanche of Brideshead Revisited. Flushed with the success of his twenty-fourth birthday party, a ‘Great Urban Dionysia’ with Greek mythology as its theme, Howard then dreamed up a project that would not only be a good prank, but might also serve the dual purpose of launching him as an artist.

With his great friend Bryan Guinness, who was at that time married to Diana Mitford later to become the wife of Oswald Mosely, he carefully planned an exhibition of paintings by an imaginary artist. The show opened on July 23 1929 at Bryan Guinness’ house at 10 Buckingham Street, London SW1, advance information having been leaked to the press. Lady Eleanor Smith was suitably duped when she reported in the Sunday Despatch: ‘BRUNO HAT. What will be almost a cocktail party, is the private view of the exhibition of paintings by Bruno Hat to be held in London next week. Bruno Hat is a painter of German extraction, and his work is mainly of the abstract type, seemingly derivative from Picasso and De Chirico….’

snip

This natural, intuitive modern artist was in fact Tom Mitford, Bryan Guinness’ brother-in-law in heavy disguise and with a very affected German accent, who sat in a wheelchair and answered questions during the packed private view.

And Waugh himself even wrote an introduction to the exhibition catalogue, called ‘Approach to Hat':

Now everyone is aware that what has come to be termed “abstract” painting has only just begun to be “taken seriously” in England. Some years ago Mr. Roberts and Mr. Wyndham Lewis achieved a certain success in that direction, but the acknowledged masters, such as Picasso, Gris and, perhaps, Marcoussis, have only recently found a market in this country. Artistically, we are incurably unpunctual.

snip

The painting of Bruno Hat presents a problem of very real importance. He is no Cezanne agonisedly tussling to reconcile the visual appearance of form with his own intuitional perception of it. Like Picasso, he creates it. Though the experienced eye can see at a glance that his work is entirely free of Picasso’s influence, it is to that artist that we go so far as to compare him. Picasso is the greatest painter of our time for one reason: this reason is that he is the most inspired of all the creators of abstract pictures. Those experts who have seen Bruno Hat’s work definitely accredit him with a similar power, developed, because of his youth only, to a less degree. The significance of this cannot be sufficiently stressed. It means, among other things, that Bruno Hat may lead the way in this century’s European painting from Discovery to Tradition. Uninfluenced, virtually untaught, he is the first natural, lonely, spontaneous flower of the one considerable movement in painting to-day.

Hitherto, good abstract painting has been the close preserve of its Hispano-Parisian discoverers. Bruno Hat is the first signal of the coming world movement towards the creation of Pure Form.

And that got me thinking… and thinking… and thinking…

GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN!

Patronage

This deserves to be known, especially in light of the discussion/investigation of Catholic patronage of the arts that Ms Expat and Ms Speed have been leading —

The Korrektiv is not the only group to have commissioned original work from the Lord’s talented servant Daniel Mitsui in the past year.

Mitsui says:

In 2011, I was contacted by the Executive Secretary of the Vox Clara Committee, a Vatican committee of senior bishops from episcopal conferences throughout the English-speaking world that advises the Holy See on English-language liturgy. The Committee will publish in 2012 an interim edition of the Roman Pontifical, including new translations of certain texts drawn from the revised Roman Missal. I was commissioned to create a series of five color illustrations for this Pontifical, depicting the Crucifixion, the Last Supper, the Presentation in the Temple, the Descent of the Holy Ghost and Christ the High Priest. The central images are surrounded by appropriate symbols and Old Testament prefigurements, and the corner scenes depict liturgical rites contained in the Pontifical[.]

This is remarkable. Mitsui himself keeps a web log, and (I believe) first gained wide recognition on the Internet. He is a traditionalist unafraid to express unpopular — usually thought-provoking — opinions (e.g., regarding film, he has repented of his earlier cinephilia and now says ‘the cinema [since the dawn of the talkies] has been a blight upon culture, producing nothing valuable enough to justify its existence.’). He is still in his late twenties or early thirties. And here he is, designing witty avatars for the Korrektiv and sacred illustrations for the Vox Clara committee, within the span of a year.

I hope Mr Mitsui will not mind one of these Vox Clara images, appropriate to the day, appearing below at reduced size. Please click through to view a larger version.

Roman Pontifical, Drawing 2: Last Supper – by Daniel Mitsui

 

Click here to view more illustrations in this series and to read about the Roman Pontifical project. And click here to view more of Mitsui’s work, both sacred and secular.

Of his religious work, which has a special reverence and integrity, Mitsui says:

In my religious work, I attempt to be faithful to the instructions of the Second Nicene Council, which stated that the composition of religious imagery is not left to the initiative of artists, but is formed upon principles laid down by the Catholic Church and by religious tradition… The execution alone belongs to the painter, the selection and arrangement of subject belongs to the Fathers. [...] My hope is to be faithful to the ancient traditions, but to express them in ways that correspond to the needs of the present.

Needs of the present, indeed.

More good news coming out of Wisconsin…

And just in time for the summer! In a rare display of bipartisanship, Cheeseland politicians came together, pretty much unanimously, in a political climate that is (to put it mildy) contentious. Both the governor and many senators are up for recall this summer; the state supreme court has allegedly come to fisticuffs on at least one occasion, and the Packers lost to the New York Giants in the playoffs.

So this bit of news, reported in the Milwaukee Sentinel, comes as a welcomed break in the tension for all four branches of Wisconsin government: the executive, legislative, judicial and domestic!

I Manifested a Manifesto!

Thanks to Mr. Lickona for the snazzy title for this upcoming blog series, someday to turn into a Thing In Print – Art For the Sake of Grace.

I’d like to explore how we can bring about a revival of the arts by coming to understand our own role as patrons – the value of supporting artists, the tradition that our Catholic artists can both maintain and add to, and how to tell a cornball from a Work for the Ages. It underscores the value of a liberal arts education even for those who enter other professions – the responsibility remains to invest some of our wealth in the renewal of the culture.

I’m going to be featuring interviews with various Catholic artists over the next several weeks, focusing on getting the word out about whatever their current works include and trying to learn how the Internet has helped them to connect with patrons.

I even linked to Korrektiv, so that means you all have to come over and read. Even you, Churchill.

(Mr. Lickona suggested the lion be holding a copy of Twilight but lo, my graphics skills are meager indeed.)

Vulcan Revealed: The View From Aetna

I wrought for Zeus, his holy bolts in hell,
And arrow heads for Cupid’s pricked pursuit
Of thunder-mounting clouds. My fiery hall

Unfettered forgeries for love and war.
But one unfavored by the gods, hirsute,
A gimp, I’m toyed with by a cloying whore.

Her stomach, full of fire, is but the pain
In mine; in dull breast, a dull flame still burns:
Trade art, seal fate, sell out, but do not pine

For love and deal with her in chains and ropes.
Mine is a flagrant heart which knows what turns
A dream: so catch fire and sculpt traps. These rapes

Of justice spill spleen’s bile into your craft -
Her pearl-shelled belly’s big with his war-sperm;
So trick them from your own cuckolded croft.

The flesh shrifts lust like a short winter’s day;
The golden bough is sucked of sap by worm;
So forge the art and cast the life: one die.

They grasp and heave together, love with war
In perfect pain: the roll of flesh and power,
Here stuck together, warrior and whore.

Now bent low, love is gathered like a flower;
The armor falls away behind my door,
And wounded petals whisper to the floor.