Spectator-less Baseball

SmashCut Talk thumbnailIf a home run is hit and there is no one around to cheer, did it really happen? We’ll soon find out. The Baltimore Orioles will host the Chicago White Sox in riot-torn Baltimore at Camden Yards sans fans in the seats. Because, even though the streets are on fire, people are getting hurt, and the police department continues to investigate another death-while-in-custody case, the game must go on!  I’d be interested in hearing from those that support this decision to play ball, and from those who would prefer a cancellation or change of venue during this time.

Exit question:  Will the call to keep out the public incite those with violence on their mind to target the Camden Yards?

A New Vessel for Video on the Web

SmashCut Talk thumbnailLast week the video hosting website Vessel.com opened it’s doors to the world, for $2.99 a month.  It’s a bold move, charging a monthly fee for access to videos that will usually end up on YouTube after 72 hours.  Some of YouTube’s most successful content creators were invited to be a part of this new video venture and provide Vessel viewers exclusive early viewing rights to their latest video on Vessel before anyone else can see them for free on YouTube three days later.

One of those YouTubers, Derek Muller of Veritasium, describes it as paying a premium to see the latest film in theater before it hits DVD and then your television months or years later.  While I understand the comparison, it’s not entirly correct. Vessel is using the same medium as YouTube – my computer or smartphone screen.  So if Vessel wants me to pay $2.99 a month, their “venue” has to exceed YouTube’s much like a movie theater exceeds my living room.  So, after signing up for a 30 day trial I can report back that the player appears to run smoother than YouTube, there are no pop-up annotations, ads you have to X out of, or any of the other annoying distractions you find on YouTube.  In fact, it’s almost exactly like Vimeo – which, last I checked, costs zero a month.  So, I’ll stick it out for the 30 days and have a more detailed report for you then. If you want to check it out yourself, watch Veritasium’s video to find out how to get your 30 day trial.

AngelList: Shark Tank on the Internet

SmashCut Talk thumbnailI stumbled upon AngelList, angel.co,  the other day and was thrilled to see it existed, and since 2013 apparently.  Quite simply, and from their site, AngelList is a platform for startups. That’s it.  A startup company lists their business on the site with a profile page, angel investors can check them out and decide if it’s worth pursuing an investment.  It’s like Shark Tank on the internet.

Big time tech founders of sites such as Yelp, Uber, Twitter, and PayPal to high profile investors such as actor Ashton Kutcher (Uber, AirBnB, Soundcloud) and the real Shark Tank’s own Mark Cuban are among the million plus people who are a part of AngelList.  Investment in these companies can start with just $1000.  So while the minimum amount isn’t Kickstarter type money, unlike that crowdfunding program, when you put your money in a company with a service or product you like on AngelList you become an investor.

Of course, not every start up is going to get past the first turn on the track, but the access you have to learning about these companies, the people behind them and the chance to connect feels like a game changer in our culture.  If anything, it’s a great clearinghouse to discover new products and services from Silicon Valley.

RE:RE: When Will the Art Revolution Begin?

SmashCut Talk thumbnailElisabeth identifies a fine point in her reply to my original question which is, perhaps the Michelangelos, Boschs and Rembrandts of today are actually working in other more popular mediums of expression, like film.  I like this train of thought.  It certainly isn’t a stretch to think that someone of Da Vinci’s talent and knack for invention, that if he were alive today wouldn’t have made a few films himself.  Michelangelo most certainly would have.  So, if this is the case, then of course it’s allowed those gatekeeper positions to be filled with the uninspired, the morbid and the depraved.  Artists and their admirers who buck the tradition and lash out for shock’s value.

After an in-person conversation last night at a social meet-up of Los Angeles SCC contributors (yes, it happens) on this same topic, our resident comic strip artist Francesca Parise sent me another name to go along with the ones Elisabeth mentioned – Joseph Lorusso of Missouri.  One look at the painting Soft Eyes (below) was enough for me to immediately put asise what I was doing and look through his entire portfolio.  I’m grateful to my colleagues for sharing and I encourage all of us to support these types of artists who compel us to ponder, study and marvel at how and what they capture of life.

"Soft Eyes" by Joseph Lorusso
“Soft Eyes” by Joseph Lorusso

Re: When Will the Art Revolution Begin?

SmashCut Talk thumbnailIn answer to Matt and Andrew:

a) “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

b) I think it all depends on where you look. I know there are Christian artists not named Thomas Kincaide whose work is breathtakingly beautiful and original–but also usually expressly religious. I’m sure the same is true of Western artists in the mold of Remington and Russell, though I’m not as familiar with what’s current in that scene. On the other hand, there’s fanart. Some, like the work of Alan Lee, is authorized and professional but still not likely to end up in hip LA galleries. Other artists may or may not be professional artists but do fanart for the love of it. My cover designer, Christine M. Griffin, is one. Polish artist Katarzyna Karina Chmiel-Gugulska is another. Yet just as most of the really great composers these days, like Howard Shore, are working in films, a lot of these talented fanartists who are pros are working in sci-fi/fantasy, especially book/magazine covers, illustrations, and game graphics.

I could wax theological about the uglification of culture, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, it seems to be part and parcel of the chronological snobbery and rejection of all things traditional that kicked into high gear in the ’60s. Now, in culture as in academe, those rebels have become the gatekeepers and appear to be actively denying entry to those of us who find their revolt… well… revolting. The problem for the art scene, I think, is that the indie option doesn’t seem to have any meaning there. Not being a professional artist myself–calligraphy’s still more hobby than (fifth!) job for me at this point–I don’t really know how it works or what the solution would be aside from allowing oneself to be pigeonholed in genre work.

(Bring back the patronage system, that’s what I always say….)

ANYWAY. Yes, talented people doing non-ugly work do exist in the art world. The next question is, how do we get them out of the shadows and past the Vogon gatekeepers?

RE: When Will the Art Revolution Begin?

SmashCut Talk thumbnailMatt’s call for a new art revolution reminded me of a question I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.  Has our culture run out of steam?  It certainly seems to have run out of originality.

Just look at other art forms than the fine arts and you will see the evidence.  Music and fashion seem to be nothing but rehashes and remixes of past trends.  The last decade of original fashion and music — heck, even politics? — was the 1980s.

Some say the culprit is the digital age, which enables us to make perfect copies of everything from music to video.  The rise of digital media in the ’90s has been an enormous boon for commerce and comfort.  But has it killed originality?  Can anyone point to something genuinely new today?



When Will the Art Revolution Begin?

SmashCut Talk thumbnailI’ve been out to a few art exhibits here in Los Angeles as well as the Getty Museum over the past couple of months. The modern, postmodern and current art works I’ve seen at these exhibits leaves me wondering if we will ever see the likes of such artistic periods that are represented in the halls of the Getty Museum or the Louvre.  The so-called art that makes its way onto the walls of these galleries here in LA is abysmal.  A terrific piece by Stephen Hicks over at Atlas Society from 2004 asks and tries to answer the question as to why art became ugly.  He doesn’t just claim it that art is ugly, he acknowledges it as fact and asks why.

In the end he wonders when the revolution against ugly art will begin.  Can anyone point to artists who are contributing paintings worthy of study, worthy of admiration, even just worthy of the paint that was used to give it life?   We are long overdue.

Where was Caesar Flickerman?

SmashCut Talk thumbnailDue to circumstances beyond my control, I was obliged to be in the same room as my friends while they watched the red carpet leading into the Academy Awards this past Sunday.  With every revealing gown, wild hairstyle and fawning correspondent that graced the screen, I couldn’t help but think that at any moment, Caesar Flickerman from The Hunger Games was going to show up and take over.

Hollywood, CA (not the actually city, but the label) is Panem’s Capitol.  A collection of citizens more concerned and consumed with the plunging neckline of Jennifer Lopez’s dress, the elaborate nails highlighted in the mani cam, the contents of a $167,000 swag bag, and a flogger that actress Dakota Johnson took home with her from the set of 50 Shades of Grey, than the actual films that the event is marked to celebrate and even more removed from the horrific events occurring in the world.

I hadn’t seen a red carpet production in a while and haven’t watched the actual Oscar awards show since 2008, but when I pointed out the comparison to my wife she became wide-eyed by the comparison.  What is worse however, is us.  Because we watch it.

“You keep using that word…”

SmashCut Talk thumbnailI’ve been busy recording lectures and didn’t watch the Oscars, but there’s been a wee bit of a stir among my friends over the “rural Texas” comment. As one friend pointed out, Houston’s the fourth largest city in the US, and Austin is the eleventh.

I live in the real rural part of Texas, seventy miles from Austin, out where there might literally be more cows than people and the schools schedule holidays around major livestock shows. I’ve also lived in the Houston area. And I can tell you for sure: If there’s one thing Austin and Houston ain’t, it’s rural.

RE: Hip to Be Square

SmashCut Talk thumbnailIn response to Elisabeth, (who I now imagine as the fictional writer Joan Wilder from the movie Romancing the Stone. A film any self-respecting hipster should love,)  and the question of “what’s wrong with liking good things?”  As Lincoln driving Matthew McConaughey has reminded us, sometime we do things not to be cool or to make a statement, but just because we like it.

Hip to Be Square

Maybe it’s because I’m one of those people right on the Gen X-Millennial divide, but I don’t get hipsterism. Sure, I can understand critiquing cultural institutions and attitudes when they’re off base, and there are many ways to do so. But the whole emphasis on being “ironic” reminds me somewhat of a passage from “Unreal Estates” where C. S. Lewis, Kingsley Amis, and Brian Aldiss commiserate over being accused of only pretending to like science fiction–except from what I can tell, hipsters either are genuinely only feigning interest in whatever the Latest Hipster Thing is to make A Statement or feel that they have to pretend to feign interest to fit in.

What is wrong with liking good things?

Let’s be honest: I’m hopelessly old fashioned. I write Westerns with real heroes and real villains. I watch old movies and old TV shows. I listen to old music. I read very old books (and get paid for it!). I like antiques and old clothing fashions. I practice old crafts and demonstrate them at reenactments. Once in a blue moon, I even write alliterative poetry. But I don’t do any of those things to make any kind of statement about Life In These United States or to Stick It To The Man or whatever. I take delight in them–because they are delightful.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” said Keats. Have we seriously forgotten what that means?

Grand Bemusing Hotel

I’d sum this film up in one word “bemusing.”

I wasn’t amused, nor did I laugh out loud, nor did I feel moved – it was one long state of bemusement, which I define as amusement but more cutesy.

I did go the distance, the only one of the Oscars Best Picture noms I’ve seen.  I watched it on a plane and had no erstwhile bed to retreat too.  I’m as anti-hipster as the next Alabama guy, but I admit I actually liked it.  I don’t really see bemusement as the accomplishment of a Best Picture.

My advice to Mr. Anderson, which I’m sure he needs like a headache, is more Willem Dafoe.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: The Hipster’s Swan Song

SmashCut Talk thumbnailAfter about an hour into The Grand Budapest Hotel, this year’s multi-Oscar nominated film from Wes Andersen, I became very agitated.  I wanted to drive the 20 minutes across LA (which would have taken 45 minutes) to the Silverlake/Hollywood/Los Feliz tri-neighborhood capital of Hipsterwood, emerge from my 4wd vehicle with a bullhorn to my lips shouting cries of “Ok, everyone out of the pool. Party is over.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!”

Of course, I didn’t actually do that, I just wanted to.  What I did instead was turn off the film and retire to my sanctuary – the three foot wide section of the bed I share with my fetching wife.  I’ve vowed long ago, that if I wasn’t enjoying a film, book or anything else that I choose to pick up to read or sit down to watch, I’d stop wasting my time and move on.  I’m willing to hear why I should have used up another precious hour of my time on Earth.