Province of Sorcerers: The Malignant Magick of Our New Millenium

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses- and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism.
– Carl Jung, “On the Psychology of the Unconscious”

President Trump and his administration – implacable embodiments of counter-reality – are symptoms of a profound and perhaps extinction-level form of malignant magick in the Crowleyian sense of causing changes in reality in accordance with acts of will. Symbols, rituals, chants, invocations – all the trappings of magickal practices are being employed on a minute-by-minute basis by all sides of the current political divides… divides that are themselves manifestations of an industry created to generate a self-sustaining frenzy of terror and rage.

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Beyond the personal history of the man himself, Trump’s presidency is the result of a decades-long infatuation with “X-TREEEEEEEEM!!!” behavior, a mass media dedicated almost solely to generating attention (most often through constant hate and fear), and a populace conditioned to accept bullying as “dominant behavior” and the mark of “social Darwinism” – a concept that itself flies in the face of what Darwin actually said – as well as an internet culture that was literally created in the late ’80s through early 2000s by young, angry, socially marginalized white males who bestowed status to peers who “hacked”/ flamed/ burned” people on general principle.

ann_coulter_demonic_book_coverThe “alternative facts” thing is the endgame of a campaign that began in America during the mid-1950s, within a culture war that pitted American progressives (religious and otherwise) against wealthy industrialists and socially regressive evangelicals who in turn forged an alliance to undo the New Deal and dismantle racial desegregation. (For details, see the book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, by Kevein Kruse.) Newt Gingrich pushed this campaign to new extremes in the 1990s by declaring total war on political opponents, using literally demonizing rhetoric as a weapon to turn public opinion against dissent of any kind. (See Gingrich’s essay “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.”) Pundits like Ann Coulter [1] – chosen either for their perceived attractiveness (Laura Ingram, Tomi Lahren, Sarah Palin) blustering “tough” personas (Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Ted Nugent), or faux-concern for “values” and “American greatness” (Glenn Beck, Phil Robertson) employ Gingrich’s techniques to make literal fortunes in careers whose sole intention involves a daily stream of invective and hate which “tells it like it is” to and for its intended audience. The left has its media attack-dogs too (cf. Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Al Sharpton, Bill Maher etc.), and although liberal/ progressive progressive pundits tend to address more genuine abuses than the right-wing ones do, both ideologies love to have someone with a literal bully pulpit express the frustrations we feel behind our social masks, and all sides – regardless of objective assessments of harm – seem to feel equally abused. All of these pundits, in turn, act out shadow-plays in the Jungian sense [2], and direct catastrophic amounts of psychic intensity at whomever their targets happen to be.

This conditioning toward extremity is a literal industry. It generates money and influence by tapping into the shadow-side of cultural divisions, and the only way to keep the profits flowing in is to become ever-more “X-TREEEEEEM!!!!” At this point, empathy is quaint, outmoded, and certainly unfashionable… hell, even culturally treasonous within whichever group you happen to belong to. All forms of compromise are heresy, and “the other” (whomever that “other” happens to be) is quite literally demonized to the point where even considering a dialog makes you “just like them”… or maybe even worse. Internet social media has exacerbated strident disconnection, fanatic tribalism, and hectoring extremity, and the results are literally, perhaps fatally, poisoning our culture, its people, and our world.

We live in an era of global malefica, of destructive spells cast through apparently innocuous means. Things that were once the province of sorcerers are now everyday currency to anyone with a computer, a TV, or an internet connection. Although it’s true that a certain amount of occult influence and technology is being used by certain people in certain subcultures to advance certain agendas, the greater rituals are being enacted without deliberate metaphysical intent. We are, in information-age culture, employing – however innocuously – the most significant tools of classical magick: Symbol. Focus. Intention. Connection. On a daily, even hourly, basis, we invest psychic energy into an ever-growing network of connection, effect, and transformation. The fact that we don’t seem to have the slightest idea what we’re doing with it makes us, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, too damned powerful yet clueless for our own good. The fact that so many people use such power toward malignant ends should terrify anybody with a pulse.

baphomet-barbieAs easy as it is (and as justified, too) to view President Trump’s ascension as some malign act of sorcery, the fact is, it’s not just Trump and his people who are using malignant magicks; WE ALL ARE. Words and symbols and media have become our weaponized rituals, and we have become so caught up in the fight that almost everyone looks like the enemy. I wish I had a pithy solution to this mess, but to be honest – especially speaking as someone who has written and researched these topics for decades now – the situation scares the hell out of me. And we must be our own saviors here, too; anyone’s who’s counting on some godhead to save us from our own mistakes hasn’t read nearly enough history to see where such situations tend to lead.

We need to step back from the brink, but I’m not certain we even want to do so. After all, we are literally invested in this global evil spell, and its tools have become our favorite toys.

And no, I am not attributing our predicament to some otherworldly force. In this case, as in most such situations, we have only ourselves to blame.
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1. Compare the titles of Coulter’s books with the trigger phrases in Gingrich’s essay. There’s a lot of overlap, and I suspect that’s totally intentional. 

2. The change of character brought about by the uprush of collective forces is amazing. A gentle and reasonable being can be transformed into a maniac or a savage beast. One is always inclined to lay the blame on external circumstances, but nothing could explode in us if it had not been there. As a matter of fact, we are constantly living on the edge of a volcano, and there is, so far as we know, no way of protecting ourselves from a possible outburst that will destroy everybody within reach. It is certainly a good thing to preach reason and common sense, but what if you have a lunatic asylum for an audience or a crowd in a collective frenzy? There is not much difference between them because the madman and the mob are both moved by impersonal, overwhelming forces.
– Carl Jung, “Psychology and Religion”

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Health Care: A Social Necessity for a Viable Society

Universal health care, as far as I’m concerned, is as essential to a modern industrialized society as roads, power grids, sewage systems, telephone access, reliable energy sources with long-term viability, relatively untainted sources of food and drink, professional police and emergency-response systems, an efficient and mobile standing military force, a postal system, international trade policies, a standardized currency, a reliable and standardized definition of citizenship, and a host of other things – all of which are underwritten and/ or provided by the federal government in collaboration with the states, and none of which are explicitly defined within the U.S. Constitution, in large part because they did not exist in anything near their present form when that Constitution was drafted to begin with.

health-care

“Why,” as someone said recently regarding this topic, “do the working men and women have to pay for it?” [1] Because as history and current events show us, in countless examples from the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 to the more-or-less containment of Ebola over the last several years, IT IS IN A SOCIETY’S COMPELLING BEST INTERESTS TO KEEP ITS PEOPLE HEALTHY. Especially in a world where an illness can leap continents in a period of hours, and where a single diseased person can infect hundreds of people simply by walking down the street – much less by working behind a counter and/ or serving food in a restaurant – IT IS IN A SOCIETY’S COMPELLING BEST INTEREST TO KEEP ITS PEOPLE HEALTHY. A society in which people can and do “tough it out” when they’re sick because they have no choice otherwise is a society that is itself diseased. It is NOT – provably, according to current statistics and historical evidence – a healthy, viable society with a long-term future.
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A person’s illness is not a reflection of their moral character. You cannot wish away cancer, heart disease, chronic pain, mental illness, sensory processing conditions, infections, injuries, etc. etc. etc. by being bold enough and industrious enough to satisfy some nonsense criteria of “being a hard worker.” (Whatever that means.) The “good old days” were not miraculously free from sickness; history shows that alcoholism, crime, plague, starvation, rampant insanity, domestic violence, crushing mass poverty, political upheavals, and other social illnesses were (and still are) often intertwined with untreated physical and mental illnesses. While certain medical conditions are avoidable, the majority are not, and the idea of forcing people to remain sick or injured until they’re industrious enough to “earn” medical treatment is not only cruel, it is literally suicidal to society at large.

Invoking and debating the jots and tittles of an 18th-century document as some sort of divine mandate for the “freedom” to be sick, go broke, and possibly die unless one is rich enough to afford not to [2]… that’s an absurdist argument. Leaving out the horrific costs in human suffering, that argument still ignores the many realities of the modern world… realities that our federal and state governments already address with such efficiency that we don’t even notice the solutions until and unless we need them… and the fact that a society where the people are sick is a society that is sick and dying as a whole.

An overall standard of health among individual citizens is essential to the health of a society at large. A society in which physical, mental and financial viability are provided only to a wealthy elite is a society that is doomed to fail.
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EDIT: In the time since this article was posted yesterday, I have learned that an especially nasty influenza strain is making the rounds this winter. So far, in the 2016-2017 flu season which officially began in November, there have been over 46 lab-confirmed deaths in Washington State alone. That’s one state, with excellent medical programs, under the ACA, within a few weeks. And that figure is ten days old as of this posting. I know this because a friend’s father-in-law is currently dying of that strain of the flu at this time; oh, and she has it now too. Both of them have contracted said flu within the last 48 hours. She’ll probably survive it. I doubt he will.

Yes, illnesses kill – that’s part of what makes them illnesses. The number of people they kill, how easily they kill, and how widespread the killing is, all depend a great deal upon modern medical treatment or a widespread lack thereof. And again I will emphasize this point: The person behind the counter at the next store you visit, or in the kitchen of the next restaurant you buy food from, is as likely to have this flu as my friend and her father-in-law are. More likely, really, because they come in contact with more people in the course of their job. And unlike my friend and her father-in-law, they’re not likely to be able to afford medical treatment and/ or sick days on their own dime, so they could be spreading that illness on to you, your kids, your co-workers, and so forth. Self-righteous selfishness does not render you or your society immune.

pandemics

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1 – As an even more direct answer to that person: a) Because we all pay into the mutual upkeep of our society, or we all lose it; b) Most of the people who need universal health care ARE “working people” whose employers simply choose not to provide health coverage and/ or viable compensation for their employees; and c) Because a random sick person’s illness is a threat to your health, and the health of your loved ones as well.

2 – See the following graphs:

health-insurance-rate-hikes-20120924-001

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health-insurance-costshealth-care-decline

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In Retrospect – Star Wars: A New Hope

For the first time in quite a while, my wife Sandi and I re-watched Star Wars: A New Hope (aka the REAL “first Star Wars movie”) last night. Certain aspects of it still hold up despite the passage of 40 years (!!!!!!!!!!) as of this coming summer. Other aspects really do not.

star-wars-poster-1977

For starters, this is a textbook example of a movie saved in the editing room and post-production process. Remove the iconic soundtrack, sound effects, editing, and visual innovations, and this film would collapse into a clump of silliness. The younger performers are more or less dreadful; Carrie Fisher salvages her role with sheer attitude, but Chloë Grace Moretz [1] she ain’t. Mark Hamill’s the best of the three, but he’s clearly struggling with a badly written role in what had to have felt like a thankless job. Harrison Ford is cringeworthy; it’s hard, rewatching this movie, to believe that this role made him a star. The veteran actors come across far better, especially the Sirs Cushing and Guinness, plus James Earl Jones and – oddly enough – Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew, who did a lot with very little material; their professionalism anchors the film, but it’s not hard to see why Sir Alec, in particular, considered this movie an embarrassment. The writing is downright horrible, saved largely by a few strong performances that feature an often sardonic self-awareness of the absurdity of it all, combined with a dedication to make the best of a bad situation. Really, this was a kids’ movie that happened to say the right things at the right time, the right way, to resonate with adults as well.

A New Hope‘s real gems, however, still shine: Its soundtrack remains magnificent, a perfect encapsulation of the epic wonder and spectacle that Lucas wanted to convey. The production design, as familiar as it has become, retains its iconic flavor; a lesser effort would have doomed the film. The sound effects convey their primal shiver, and the fact that the model-work looks far better – even now – than the downright awful CGI inserts that Lucas painted all over his masterpiece in later years [2] attests to the skills of the camera, pyro, and model-making crews.

The biggest virtue this movie has, though, and the one which sets it apart from other SF movies of its era, is its deep-universe weirdness. For despite the pulp-action tropes, the setting of Star Wars exudes an enticing sense of the uncanny. The film is loaded with odd bits that hint at a larger universe: the mouse robots, the half-heard lines, the unexplained references to alien concepts, the weird writing and evocative names, the giant skeleton and the bizarre robots… it all feels like an especially vivid dream, and that sensation grants Star Wars a sophistication that its story lacks. Few genre movies, then or now, capture the illusion of depth as well as the first Star Wars does. Even more than its rousing message of triumph over odds, that is, I think, the element that keeps people coming back for more.

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Frankly, I’m sick and tired of seeing folks grouse about the newest Star Wars movies – Rogue One and The Force Awakens. By every measure of film-making craft, they’re both vastly superior to the first trilogy, and leave the CGI atrocities of the second trilogy bleeding pixels in a corner on the floor. People kvetching about plot-holes and character development in Rogue One and TFA either have not watched ANH, Empire or – gods help us! – fucking Return of the Jedi in a very long time, or else remain so spellbound by the effects those movies had on them as kids that they can’t see past how goddamned BAD those movies (Empire excepted) really are as films. By the standards of the Star Wars series, Rogue One and Force Awakens are among the very best of the lot, worthy additions to an epic series.

I still appreciate the original Star Wars despite it flaws. It changed the art and industry of filmmaking (for better and worse), and retains a mythic power well out of proportion with its weaknesses. I suspect that what many folks are searching for in the newer Star Wars films is a return to wondrous innocence and the vast possibilities that first Star Wars film unveiled. Sadly, that ain’t gonna happen again. It’s not 1977, Star Wars is a cultural touchstone, and although a film like Rogue One can bring us elements of that saga that we’ve never seen before (a potential that I, for one, feel it did admirably), there’s no way to recreate that first blare of trumpets in a realm that, once alien, now seems so familiar.

Which means, of course, that we creators can, and must, create new canvases for our imagination, and approach our possibilities – regardless of our flaws – with that eternal attitude of A New Hope.

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* – Until-recently-teenage actress known for her action-movie roles, who brings an impressive emotional complexity to her characters.

** – Jumping fucktoads, George, what were you THINKING? The Jabba footage is especially rank, giving Harrison Ford ample opportunity to shit all over his star cred while emoting badly at a vanished human who’s been glossed over by a CGI space-slug too fakey for a SYFY original movie. Especially considering that Lucas used ILM to “enhance” his “special editions” years after Jurassic Park, The Abyss, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day revolutionized CGI and brought the technique toward its present form, the additions to ANH are inexplicably bad.

 

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50 Rocks: Telesterion’s Debut Album Released!

This post involves moving somewhat ahead of the story with regards to my 50 Rocks series of articles. Still, it’s a rather sweet milestone for me:

My band Telesterion released our self-titled debut album yesterday, and it’s getting a very nice response.

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Arising from a troupe producing a series of rock operas based upon Aleister Crowley’s Rites of Eleusis, our band has been together for roughly two years this month. We’d recorded the album this past summer, just before taking a four-month hiatus because three of our six members were staging productions of the Rite of Jupiter, which wrapped in October. Now we’re back in the swing of things, working on new material, releasing our album, and gearing up for a January 19th gig at Seattle’s Studio 7, less than two blocks from Khaos Studios, where this album was recorded.

I’ll probably be picking back up on this series soon, bringing the story back around to Telesterion in historical order and a bit more detail. For the moment, though, enjoy a sample of our new record, check out the album as a whole, and maybe help support a ragbag bunch of professional creatives who refuse to age too gracefully.

telesterion-concert

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

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Crucibles, Not Comfort

Magic is imagination’s song. Crafted by skillful hands, inspired by able minds, it leaps the gulf between what CAN’T BE and what IS. Cynics dismiss it. Fate undoes it. But with passion, hard work, and will, the future manifests from nothing. It’s not easy, but then, miracles never are… That tale is ours. We craft it every day we are alive. For every day is magical, even the bad ones. ESPECIALLY the bad ones, for they teach us to be strong.

Why faerie tales? Because such tales inspire us. They remind us to see gold within straw, to recognize the prince within the beast. They may invent, but they do not lie. to speak them is to tell the truth, even in the midst of fantasy.

– Satyros Phil Brucato, Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium (2003)

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To put those words in context: At the time I wrote them, I was broke, essentially homeless, freshly divorced from both my then-wife and White Wolf Game Studio, staring down the barrel of over $50,000 in debt, and preparing to leave the city I’d called home for ten years and start off in a virtually unknown new city where the only people I knew were two ex-girlfriends, one of whom had raped me several months before.

I survived that time. I’ve made a lot of magick since, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna stop now.

For over 20 years, I have crafted defiantly optimistic fantasy. And while the “optimistic” part is gonna be really goddamned hard right now, the “defiant” part has dug in its heels.

As I keep reminding myself today, our faerie tales originated in famines, wars, and persecutions. Our myths were forged around firesides where imagination fed flames against the dark. Those comic-book heroes we revere were created by Jews and “others” on the cusp of the Holocaust or in the burning times of America’s civil-rights war. Motown and Stax rose out of Jim Crow’s segregation, while punk rock and hip-hop blasted out of urban wastelands where its founders’ world was being literally torn down around their heads.

Art thrives in crucibles, not in comfort.

Fuck you, America. I’ve survived Nixon, Reagan, the Cold War, both Bushes, and five years of shitty jobs in one of the worst neighborhoods Richmond had to offer. But I came up in punk rock, in neighborhood brawls and family abuse and a ton of other shit as well.

As my sweetheart Coyote Ward once said, Satyrs don’t break easy. And I am not alone.

So let’s do this, motherfuckers.

It’s on.

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Trumpmerica

Day One in Trumpmerica: Three of my friends have already been attacked this morning. One of them is a veteran who works for the VA… but hey, she’s Black, so yee-fuckin-haw. I’ll bet the boys who assaulted her never carried a gun in the field for the USA, but now that open season has begun, nothing matters but the color of one’s skin.

At least one marriage I know of (not ours) has ended in the last day, and a long-term relationship (again, not ours) died last night. My feed is full of suicide notes, and I’m sure at least one of those people won’t live to see next week. An old lover’s workplace is on lockdown; she’s a veteran too, by the way. A longtime member of our Seattle tribe has chosen to join the enemy, and another is returning to Standing Rock next month, where I fear for his chances at survival.

Congratulations, America, and damn you to hell.

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If you voted for Trump, this is on you. Every drop of blood shed, every body on the ground or in the trees, every scream, every tear, every burning building and broken home, each suicide and hate-crime, every Black or Brown or Asian, Indigenous or queer or female or disabled person or progressive or otherwise “other” human being who suffers and dies from lack of care or naked violence – this is all on you.

I’d shame you, but you have no shame.

There’s plenty of blame to go around: the DNC, the GOP, Big Box Media, even my fellow progressives who would rather score points than come together… but really, Trump voters, ultimately it’s on you.

I’ll skip any appeals to your humanity, because humans often suck. We CAN be better than we so often are, but y’all had that chance this week and instead you chose hatred, fear, bigotry, boastful ego and willful ignorance.

You elected President Grabherbythepussy. Congratulations.

If there are any of you left among my Facebook friends, get out. Family, friend or so-called “fan,” we’re done. What you chose is anathema to everything I have ever been, have ever worked and fought for, have ever created in any venue in any medium. You voted against me and mine, you chose to hurt people simply for existing, and if you knew anything about me, you’d know I don’t forgive that shit. Go burn in the hell you just made.

To my fellow progressives: Congratulations. This is on us too. We got smug and stupid and so wrapped up in our own impenetrable self-righteousness that we refused to see that Yes, it CAN Happen Here. We scored points, but they won the game. The white folks who can pass the new standards of Trumpmerica won’t bear the worst of the coming age, but if you think this will be like the Bush and Reagan years, events have already proved you wrong.

Because so many Trump supporters consider themselves “christians,” I will commend you to Matthew 25: 31-46 and remind you that when Jesus said, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” he was referring to you.

I guess I should feel compassionate about your pain. Right now, I’m sickened and I hope your damnation hurts. Your actions have hurt me and mine, and I don’t forget that kind of shit.

It’s morning in Trumpmerica.

We turned a corner last night, and I’d be lying if I said I saw anything but fire.

trump-kkk

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Guns, Media, and Money

The United States was built upon five things that are biting us hard in the ass right now:

Guns, Media and Money

1. A literally religious mythology of divine favor.
2. A culture founded entirely upon buying and selling goods.
3. A revolution conducted by eloquent idealists who also owned slaves.
4. The slavery and genocide of everyone who dared to get in the way of the first three elements.
5. A conflux of mass media, technology and literacy unknown in the world until that point.

That mass-media – from broadsides to newspapers to TV to the internet – has sold Americans the impression that we are the biggest, best, and brightest thing ever to appear beneath the sun. There’s just enough truth in our mythology to seem credible, and so people who really should know better still believe the nonsense we’ve been – and continue to be – taught about American exceptionalism.

Thanks to the death-by-plague of the majority of people who would have opposed us, America has grown up in a land of phenomenal space and resources, with few neighboring nations to hinder the nation’s expansion. The nations that did oppose U.S. expansion were hindered by ocean passages, superior technology, infighting, and often a combination of the three. The sheer SIZE of the U.S. territories also make us damned near impossible to conquer – hell, we learned as much when we went to war with ourselves. And so, the U.S. grew up in virtual isolation, having the upper hand in negotiations with rival powers that we could either outlast (the European nations), outgun (the Native American nations), or outspend (both).

The U.S. was also one of the first cultures to support mass literacy, regardless of class… as long as you were white and male, anyway. And our expansion coincided with the birth and spread of mass-publication technology in the 1800s – a technology that helped to spread our myths and teach our kids that those lies were true. Propaganda, then, became our religion… and our business, too. From Jefferson to Hearst to Disney to Fox (ironically, a foreign-owned corporation), no one – not even Nazi Germany, who copped our best tricks – has been better at selling the propaganda of national identity than us.

All of the Americas were “settled” (read: conquered) by Europe as a business venture, first and foremost. Anything went, as long as it made money for Spain, England, France, Portugal, or Holland. Slavery? Sure. Genocide? Fine by me! All American nations – not merely the U.S. – were forged with commerce as the highest priority. And because we all had enough distance between us and our European “masters,” we were all able to eventually either rebel and declare ourselves independent, or else play the Good Kids (Canada) and get the best of both worlds.

In all of this, guns, media and money have played decisive roles. And no one has ever embraced guns, media and money the way the United States has done.

We claim to be “a Christian nation,” but guns, media and money have always been the United States’ true god. To us, our “freedom” involves unfettered worship and indulgence of them all.

And the saddest part about that? We truly could be greater than we ever thought was possible… but there are still far too many people who are emotionally and financially invested in our anger, ignorance, division, and fear.

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Art, Ignorance, and Educational Anathema

Man, this video pisses me off.

Under the aegis of Prager U – a right-wing think-tank disguised as “the best ideas of the best minds” – a smug jackass named Robert Florczak throws a self-important, historically vacant hissie fit about “How… the beautiful [art] come to be reviled and bad taste come to be celebrated.” Assuming the mantle of an “art expert,” Mr. Florczak “explains the history and the mystery behind this change and how it can be stopped and even reversed.”

His presentation is an infuriating heap of smug, steaming bullshit.

Art - EARTH GODDESS, THE

“Earth Goddess,” by Robert Florczak. Y’know, Mr. Florczak, you might make a better case if your own work wasn’t trite plagiarized mashups of other people’s art.


Mr. Florczak‘s video fails Art History 101 on several very important levels: And before I get into them, I’ll point out something that should be obvious but clearly isn’t: ART, ARTISTS, and ARTISTIC EXCELLENCE ARE NOT CONFINED TO, OR DEFINED BY THE SO-CALLED “WESTERN WORLD.” By using this as his cornerstone and introduction, Mr. Florczak reveals his cultural blind spot, exposes his right-wing bias, and undercuts his own thesis because a big part of “what happened” is that “art” stopped being defined by what a bunch of European dudes did.

Now then… where to start…? Oh, I know…

“What happened” to art? World Wars I and II happened. Industrialization happened. The Enlightenment ideals falling apart in a mess of blood and horror happened. Mass media happened. Recording technology happened. A LOT of shit happened. And as any art historian whose understanding of art goes further than making cheap-shot videos on the internet would understand, art reflects the human condition. The human condition had a collection of radical meltdowns in the 20th century, and part of the ENTIRE IDEA of 20th century avant-garde art is to reflect those meltdowns and the things they say about the human condition.

That’s what modern artists spent roughly 100 years writing about, talking about, and expressing in their art: the idea that the human condition itself was being shaken to its core, and that shakeup was revealing things that previous generations and their art had kept hidden from public view.

Anyone who claims to be a fucking historian of art knows that. Again, this is Art History 101. And he not only failed it, he conveyed his ignorance to other people as supposed wisdom. And as someone who has studied art history, who has taught art history, and whose living has been based in the arts for almost 40 years, that shit just pisses me off.

As for that happy horseshit about artists being all fine and noble in all the things they expressed:

1. Like hell they did. Ever hear of Goya? Kyd? Greek satyr plays?  Pompeii pottery? Commedia dell’arte? The Decadents? The “floating world”? Marquis de Sade? That stuff was every bit as bawdy, obnoxious, ugly, and often obscene as anything dreamed up by Karen Finley or Bob Flannigan, and sometimes worse. Check out Goya’s “disasters of war” series sometime, and see what a “real” artist did when confronted with the inescapable savagery of the human animal on a rampage. Even Leonardo and Shakespeare did porn and gore – that’s just not the stuff folks tend to remember when they revere the name of Art.

 

Art - Goya

Goya’s “Why” – one of the less-disturbing images from his “Disasters of War” series.

2. Avant-garde art’s primary intention involved tearing that idea down and replacing it with something more honest. The “standards of beauty” that Mr. Florczak crows about had not only become prisons of political favoritism and academic disdain, THEY WERE FAKE. Modern art was an intentionally outrageous rebellion against a grinning falsity that obscured the human truths that modern artists strove to expose.

Deconstruction was the goddamned POINT.

Those false standards also – as I ranted about a few minutes earlier – reflected an academic tradition based in a specific strain of European male achievements. Women were almost invariably shut out, and the artistic traditions of China, Persia, Japan, Egypt, India, the multitudes of Native American, Asian, and African cultures, even the “low art” of Europe itself – traditions that predated the “European classical mode” by centuries or even millennia – were either ignored or relegated to “primitivism.”

Even in the 20th century, when those artistic traditions began appearing in European and North American art galleries, they tended to be viewed as “primitive” because their standards of aesthetics and craft differed from the European classical mode.

 

Art - Benin mask
Part of the “ugliness” that Mr. Florczak laments involves the influx of other traditions and other standards from other cultures. And much as folks like Mr. Florczak might whinge about it, that influx revitalized western art traditions too.

To hold a single standard to “art” that’s gauged by a deliberately exclusionary boys’ club is not only racist, sexist and classist, it’s willfully ignorant as well.

And the “Pollock” joke: Jeeze, where to start? Rather than correcting the ignorance of his students regarding Jackson Pollock’s work, Mr. Florczak employs a manipulative “gotcha” that misses the entire point and context of what Pollock was about:

Jackson Pollock – like Warhol, Goya, Picasso, and other artists before him – was a classically trained commercial artist who felt constrained by the formalism required in his work. His “Jack the Dripper” stage began out of sheer frustration and Jungian exploration into his own psyche; once he realized that he was expressing something that his formalism had repressed, he started deliberately tearing that formalism apart in a series of ecstatic and often drunken rages across the canvas. Tearing formalism apart is what Pollock was trying to accomplish, and his art was – and remains – respected not for being random spatters that look like a painter’s apron but for being the deliberate deconstruction of formal standards and techniques in the service of an established artist’s raw emotion.

And yeah – that knowledge is actually kind of important if you want to discuss modern art and not come across like an idiot. but rather than TEACH HIS STUDENTS – y’know, as in, doing his fucking job – he passed along snide ignorance in place of actual knowledge.

That’s like a math teacher making fun of algebra because he disagrees with the way it works.

Art- Jackson

And that’s why shit like this makes me angry. Not because I’m a huge fan of avant-garde art (I rather like some of it, and really hate a lot of it), but because it spreads and enforces ignorance. People like Mr. Florczak are supposed to know better than this, and rather than educating people about what modern art actually MEANS, they keep people in the dark so that they can score points.

From an educational standpoint, and an artistic one, that is anathema.

 

Art- Finley

Karen Finley performing “Groceries.” And yes, this actually DOES have artistic significance.

Yeah, a lot of stupid bullshit has been peddled in the name of “modern art.” And yes, the commercialization of American avant-garde art was ironically underwritten by the CIA, who was using sponsorship of the American avant-garde scene as a form of cultural propaganda. (Another bit of art history that Mr. Florczak really should have talked about, and instead ignored.) A whole lot of rank bullshit has been peddled as “art” to people who really should know better.

 


But the thing is – and this is why I am angry about this video – people should know better. People deserve to know better. And smug garbage like this substitutes elitist ignorance for informed knowledge, which keeps people from learning what art is really all about, and realizing that even the craziest kinds of art actually MEAN SOMETHING when you know what the artist was trying to say.

 

Posted in Art, Politics & Society | Leave a comment

The Path With a Future

I have myself felt suicidal – felt trapped and hopeless and without a shred of a future.

Despair

At that time, I was stuck in a decaying marriage, working two shitty dead-end jobs, trapped by poverty with my then-wife in a building we called Domestic Abuse Central because getting drunk and beating the shit out of their wives, husbands, kids, partners and each other is all our neighbors ever seemed to do. I had been forced to abandon my dream of being an actor, had been kicked out of a band I’d help form, and was constantly overdrawing my bank account. My friends were moving away, my body was falling apart from stress and violence, my student loans were piling up and I lacked the funds to pay them, and my paycheck was spent soon after I deposited it… sometimes – thanks to overdraft fees – before I even got it. I felt so hopeless and frustrated and full of rage that I was in brawls several times a month, and one night I almost decked my wife and became everything I despised. After my then-boss “convinced” a doctor to make all evidence of a workplace injury – one that pains me to this day – “disappear” so my employer could dodge a lawsuit and refuse to pay me for the time that doctor told me to take off from work, I found myself seriously stepping into traffic hoping someone would hit me and end my misery.

That was 25 years ago.

And if I HAD given in, if I had been hit by a car, if I had gotten what I thought I wanted back then, you would never have heard of me, and none of the hundreds of books, stories, essays, articles, blogs and games I have published since those days – and more importantly, all the lives that have been influenced, changed, and I’m told even saved by that work – would never have existed as they do.

I understand despair. I have felt it many times in my life. Sometimes I still do. I tell ya, man, after I left White Wolf in 1999 and wound up unable to write for over a year, wearing a fucking polyester apron at a fucking $6.25-an-hour job at MediaPlay, and wondering if I had just HAD my moment and it was gonna be all downhill from there, I felt like that again.

THAT was 16 years ago.

My friend, your choice is yours to make. No one else can make it for you.

But if you make a choice that can never be undone, you’ll never know what MIGHT have been if you had chosen differently.

And neither will the rest of the world – a world you might have changed if you had chosen differently.

Ultimately, you’re the only one who can decide.

Me, I vote for you choosing to live.

I’m sure as hell glad I did.

*hugs*

Sadness

PS: Thank you for speaking up and reaching out. I’m glad you spoke up about your pain in public now, rather than let the rest of the world know about it when it was too late to help you.

Like I said, I hope you choose the path with a future.

________________________________

(This post was a comment I had left for a friend who had announced that he is contemplating suicide. I thought maybe it might help other people too, so if you want, please feel free to share and/ or link this post.)

Posted in Bio & Interviews, Politics & Society, Sex & Gender, Spirituality & Reflection | 1 Comment

Seeing the Flames

On Fire

(I made this comment as part of a longer thread about sexism; my friend Sherry Baker turned it into a meme. Thank you, Sherry!)

Posted in Politics & Society, Sex & Gender, Spirituality & Reflection | 1 Comment