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Month: July 2009

musings on art

musings on art


or this?

Perhaps this has been discussed before, and I wouldn’t be surprised, but I thought of something last week that I never encountered in five years in art school.  I have a rather obvious dismissal for the value in abstract (or bad) art.  Perhaps everyone knows this but simply doesn’t want to hear it since that would preclude their bad art/abstract art from garnering high prices.

The thought is quite simple.  Up until recently (i.e. basically the last century) nearly all artwork was valued by collectors based upon the content of the work.  Art was a commodity that conveyed a message based on the visible content within.  For example, look at the work of any of the master artists from any period in history after the term “Art” (or Artist) existed and you’ll find that they made their living on commission pieces.  Trust me (I have an Art History minor) these pieces were not abstract paintings.  Even ancient cave paintings were functional – they were the earliest form of history books (and also instruction manuals).  Artists until the 20th century made their living (and many abstract artists IN the 20th century) on commission pieces usually consisting of portraits or religious reenactments.  The content was determined by the buyer in most cases, not the artist first. This is why when you go to the art museum portraits and religious imagery make up the majority of the work.  Yes, we also see plenty of landscapes, some of which were commissioned and some of which were the artist’s personal “free-time” work.  However, why didn’t these same artists do abstract art in their free time? 

The reason artists didn’t really experiment with abstract painting until recently in their “free time” is because it wasn’t profitable.  They weren’t practicing their real craft.  A race car driver doesn’t work on crashing his car in his free time, only if spectacular crashes had a payday would a driver ever deliberately crash a car.  Painting (and all art) used to be about a subject; about the content.  Being able to render subject matter in this way was a skill that the general public didn’t have, and that made it valuable.  In the last hundred years, though, the onset of photography cheapened the value of the painter’s ability.  But what could the camera NOT do?  The camera could not render a scene unintelligible (although it could be blurry – but that would just be a blurry photo) to the viewer.  Painters needed to be able to make money somehow, and it was going to be harder than ever to make money by reproducing the real world.  Cameras could do that job faster, easier and cheaper.

And so abstract art was born to bring value back to painting.  This time the value would be solely placed on the artist, and not a split between the artist and subject.  This was a sad turnabout for the future of art.  Art has always been about bringing content to light through the unique view of the artist.  With an abstract painting the view of the artist is sealed separate from the viewer.  It is only recently that publications have realized the value in using an artist’s view of subject matter.  For example, TIME could have just put a photo of Sonia Sotomayor on their cover and not a Chuck O’Brien painting.  It is this quality, reproducing the world in unique form, that separates us from animals.  Animals use simple tools (click the round button on the silver box).  Painting a masterpiece is anything but simple.

Now, I don’t mean to disparage photography, I have my own “art photography” after all.  However, in the grand scheme of things I do believe that fine art and photography are two very different beasts (not necessarily precluding some photography from the realm of Art).  This post wasn’t about photography though, it was about why abstract art, well… sucks.   If you don’t believe me, keep in mind that abstract (or “modern”) art also includes pieces like Duchamp’s “fountain” and Damien Hirst’s shark sealed in plastic… as well as Terence Koh’s gold plated feces.  What personal value an art collecter gets out of owning a literal gold plated piece of shit I have no idea.  Having a beautifully painted portrait of their daughter I can understand.  The former is no more a piece of Art than a Google stock certificate, it is simply an investment because anything Terence Koh does will (supposedly) increase in value.  Any object that derives its value on this basis is NOT ART.

more musings on health care

more musings on health care

I’m getting tired of hearing the talking points boiling healthcare down to a “competitive market” vs. a socialist model.  This argument is deeply flawed in two very serious ways:

#1 “socialist healthcare is evil

Anyone not in favor of a government “socialist” healthcare plan should never again call 911, the fire department or the police department for help – because it would seem to me highly hypocritical to call the “socialized” police department to find your brother’s killer… but deny someone else the right (note I said RIGHT, not option if you can afford it) to find their brother’s killer if that killer happens to be cancer.

There are a million ways to make this point.  Here is another one… Should we let BlackWater fight our wars for us?  We don’t want a “socialized” military…right?

#2 “Healthcare now is a competitive market

We hear the “competitive market” argument from every republican spokesman.  Which apparently means no republican has ever taken a basic economics course (or has forgetten what they’ve learned).  The healthcare industry is NOT considered a perfectly competitive market by economists.  It is an oligopoly.  Now, oligopolies aren’t per se bad, but I imagine the argument wouldn’t sound as nice if Dennis Prager was insisting on keeping his right to an oligopolistic healthcare system.  Once you start describing healthcare in the same terms (and correct terms) as Ticketmaster and Oil Companies I doubt Joe the Plumber would be signing any “free my healthcare” petitions.  Would you sign a “keep my ticketmaster ‘service charges’ high” petition?  Do you HAVE to buy concert tickets to stay alive?

To anyone that signed a “free my healthcare” petition, could you explain to me how being locked into your “network” of providers is having totally free choice?  Imagine if you had to pick what company to get your driver’s license from, and then you were limited to driving only Ford and VW (for this example imagine you’re leasing the car, not buying) and only getting gas from BP… even though there is a Chevron next door, and furthermore half the roads your car isn’t allowed to drive on at all.  That doesn’t sound like a good example of freedom to me.   Ask yourself this:  why do you have to stay “in network?”  Is it for your benefit, or theirs?  

So what are our options here?  It isn’t “perfectly competitive markets” vs. “socialism.” It is really a restrictive oligopoly looking out for stockholders by denying coverage to customers vs. a government monopoly giving you a right to healthcare.  One places a dollar value on your life and the other a moral value.  Which makes it particularly infuriating when I see these “the government will place a dollar value (rationing) on your life!” comments…  What do you think the insurance company does, you dolt?!  Their number one function (like any corporation) is to increase the value of their company/stock.  And they don’t do that by spending as much on healthcare as possible, they do it by spending the least amount possible.  That means your claim is denied.  And then you can’t get coverage with anyone else because that cancer they found under Kaiser becomes a “pre-existing condition” to Blue Cross. 

Imagine if you paid car insurance since you were sixteen and were t-boned at age 67, only to have Allstate (or whomever) drop your coverage and deny the claim.  You can’t get coverage from Nationwide to get a new car since the accident already happened.  This is how healthcare “should be” to “free market healthcare” proponents.  You can stop driving, you can’t stop living.  Car insurance is an inadequate metaphor.

Another point they bring up is the groaning turtle-like slowness of government services, the shining example being the post office.  Mr. Limbaugh, call up DHL and see how much they want to ship that birthday card to your mother in 3 days across the country – from your house to hers.  I guarantee you it won’t be 44 cents….  (oh, wait, DHL went out of business, good thing you don’t need that letter delivered to stay alive, eh?)

Keep in mind that even from a business consumer standpoint UPS can’t compete with the post office’s ability to deliver bulk standard mail – I know this because it is my JOB – and we just interviewed UPS again last week.  They still couldn’t provide better service than the “bungling government socialist system” for our marketing mailings.

In a modern society healthcare should be a right.  (oh yes, I said it, am I a “bleeding heart liberal” now?) I find it highly ironic that republicans, who are usually “pro-life”, don’t understand this.  Apparently a fetus’ life must be protected at all costs (including the life of the mother), but once that fetus is born – F YOU, you’re on your own (unless you’ve got a trust fund, then we’ll talk).

I think a modern society should protect its citizens from things they have no choice in.  I didn’t decide to have asthma or allergies.  Why were my parents (financially) punished for something I was born with?  My mother wasn’t a crack addict, there was nothing she or they did to cause these conditions.  In fact they were the model (as far as I know) of good prenatal care providers.  Neither of my parents smoked, had particularly bad diets, were overweight or unemployed.  My father was laid off at the same time they found out I had these ailments.  Should he have had to worry (keep in mind this same man served in the air force during Vietnam) about my healthcare?  What would have happened if my mother didn’t have a good insurance plan through her work at the hospital?  Would I have died from an asthma attack at some point?  It happened again when my father’s company tried to deny “coverage” of the cost of my brother’s birth.  My father had to threaten to sue them (because thankfully he had the promise in writing) to get the money.  Is this something that a working productive member of society like my father should have had to spend his time/money on? 

(dad, if any of these details are wrong please correct in comments)

Why would a modern society capable of taking care of it’s own people resist such change for the cause of keeping a few CEOs’ bank accounts large?  No other first world country has.   However, in America, the financial needs of the few outweigh the lives of the many.  Also we don’t seem to understand that capitalism is a model for the economy, the markets, not our lives and bodies.

If Americans on principle were against this sort of thing we wouldn’t have social security, unemployment insurance, police departments, etc.   We all accept these things easily because none of them put an existing trillion dollar industry in jeopardy (that’s a lot of money to “donate” to political campaigns by the way).  With Blue Cross and Kaiser out of the equation I highly doubt we’d have any trouble passing universal healthcare.

Dead Volcanoes

Dead Volcanoes

On Saturday Sam and I decided to get out one last time before the fury of finals week approaches. We went back to Point Dume, all the wiser on where to drive/park/walk this time.  We walked up around the point first, pausing to take some photos in a small cave.

Leaping into the light.

While at the cave we could hear the loud bellowing of sea lions, but couldn’t see them.  We assumed they were frolicking in the sea somewhere out around the rocks.

After a few hits and misses we found the stairway to the beach on the south side of the point.  This area is seen on the right in this photograph:

After making it down there we found a whole new world of crabs, muscles, bollusks and snails scurrying around the black rocks from the dormant volcano/s.  There was a high surf warning that day and the surfers took note.  The waves were the highest just around the bend of the point.  I spent an inordinant amount of time looking for crabs to photograph.  Eventually some other hikers clued us in that the Sea Lions were coagulating just around the next ridge.  As we hiked over the black and red rocks rising into the sky (which was actually more fun than treacherous) we could tell we were headed in the right direction from the stench of bird and sea lion excrement.  We made it to the outcropping where at least twenty sea lions had gathered just after the sun had gone down around the bend.  The scene was one of the kind that naturalists think of when they blabber about “nature’s majesty.”  Black birds with long necks perched on the cliffs in and around fat black and brown sea lions.  All crawled up out of the ocean onto the black volcanic rock.  The waves were continuously crashing on the rocks creating a fantastic wooshing sound almost like low flying planes echoing in and out.  The spray from the waves would sometimes reach us even though we were at least 40 or more feet up on the cliff.  We soon realized that when we’d heard the sea lions before it was because the cave was directly over their perch, we just couldn’t see it.   Afterwards, the way up the cliffs to get back to the sand path circling the point was surprisingly easy, just a thick sandy jog, temporarily exhausting but not necessarily perilous.

Getting a decent photo of these guys was hard enough, but I wanted to get a photo with the water swirling around as well.

Surfers, waiting for the next giant wave to come around the point.  I could tell when it was coming because a very vocal surfer kept shouting when one would come in.

This guy (like the rest) was hiding in the cracks.  Most of the crabs on the rock had adapted to have the same color scheme, a black shell with luminescent red and green areas.

On the way to the sea lion club.

orf orf!

Bergamot Station

Bergamot Station

On Saturday in the early afternoon I took a trip to Bergamot station to see the Monsters show at Copro.  For some reason, I thought that “chuck” painting would be much larger.  In reality it is only about two feet high.

Still an impressive piece, though.  The eyes are more blue in person.

Here are some other good pieces from the Monsters show (click on each to go to the artist’s web site, you won’t be dissapointed:

Jeff Weekley still had a lot of paintings for sale at the same gallery I’ve seen them in for years.  Kind of sad considering stuff like below keeps selling (yes, I’m labelling the following “bad art”!!):

You get the idea, there’s more where these came from, but you can do the research for yourself.

One last piece (in Copro, not the bad art gallery) made me laugh because it made me think of an inside joke with somebody….  This was in a small section at the bottom of an abstract “snake” inspired piece:


posting via email

posting via email

I’ve been resisting posting my daily progress on new work simply because it would be too time consuming.  To post anything on this blog I have to reformat the photos to low-res (created an action in PS for this), then upload them to a free photo host (so as not to use up my paid space on my own server), then copy the embedding code from that free host to the WordPress post entry with the “upload/insert” applet.  Then, when done I hit “publish.”  It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a lot of work if I’m going to be doing this every night.  Instead I thought I would try out posting via email.  If I could do that all I’d have to do is take a photo with the Pre and email it… which takes two seconds.

So I tried in vain to set it up.  I set up a new email account on my server, and tried to copy and paste their footer code.  However, since my blog is my own (i.e. not hosted by wordpress) there are some steps that weren’t clear. I tried multiple things (changing the URL in the “iframe” instructions, etc.) but nothing worked.  My test email went off into a black hole and never ended up here on the blog and I have no idea why.

Of course, after doing all this – I realized that this plan wasn’t going to work anyway – the Pre takes 3 megapixel photos and apparently has no options to downgrade the resolution/size at all… so the photos I email to the blog wouldn’t fit my 600 pixel width restriction anyway.


I almost feel like starting a twitter page for this stuff… almost.

Maybe someday there will be a wordpress app for the Pre….I bet there’s one for the iphone…

UPDATE:  Apparently I should do my research first… there is a plugin for the Pre available for WordPress.  No idea how it actually works, but I’m gonna try it out…..

SECOND UPDATE: Apparently web journalists aren’t too hot on research either… turns out the “manage” part means “look at.”  All that was created is something that switches the viewing of the blog to a mobile friendly format – there is no admin for mobile devices… Here is one of the completely erroneous reportings of the plug-in that lets you “manage your blog on the go.”

one day, but not soon

one day, but not soon

One day in the future, this will be indiscipherable from the “real” opinions about the events of the day.  When it boils down to it, this is exactly the actual factual reporting of what happened.  And no, I’m not sarcastic.  That is why it is “funny,” because it is completely true.  Well, except for the part about Obama actually depending on God to help him with decisions, that would be a more accurate description of a certain Texan that thought “God wanted” him to run for President.