Many times I have heard Saints season ticket holder Pants tell of the goings on in Section 617 in the Superdome. And he has written about it well enough over the years. But I just wanted to add a few observations about it from an outsider’s perspective. I mean, I felt like a freshman up there. It felt exotic. It was a micro environment. I loved it.

A few observations…null

I just call it Section 6000, Seat 6000 because that really drives home just how far up and back this place is. It’s like an outpost. The beer vendors are Himalayan sherpas in the off season. But I will add that it is not so far back that you couldn’t see Rob Ryan on the sideline. Pants did mention that Rob Ryan and the Great Wall of China are the only two human-made objects that can bee seen from space. And you can see Rob from space even when he is inside. Just think about that. That’s how much he sticks out. I have heard of, and even experienced one for myself, many Rob Ryan sightings all over New Orleans since his arrival. People think he’s a man about town but really, Sean Payton or Drew Brees or Pierre Thomas could scoot on past unnoticed but there is no mistaking Rob Ryan when you see him. No one says, “You know, I think I saw Rob Ryan today…” Never happens.

But I digress. Back to Section 6000, Seat 6000.

First, because it is so high up in the Dome, with your back literally against the wall, there is no fuller a view of the field. I know this sounds like poor folks making tricandilles out of pig parts but there is something truly unique about having a full scope of the field. Everyone always wants to be up close and there is certainly an enjoyment to be had by being by the action. Sounds are clearer for example. But, with an expansive view of the field one can not help but analyze the science of the game. You see who was open on what play. You see how offenses and defenses line up. You see plays unfold before they happen because you know where all 22 guys are at all times. On television, a player with the ball is running downfield and tacklers just sort of fly into the shot. But at the game, especially from Section 6000, Seat 6000 you can see whether a guy is going to break the play or not almost from the moment they get the ball. You can see the line move when a rusher takes the ball and you know if it is going to be a big gain or not.

Then there is the wall. The wall of the Dome is at your back. And nobody cares if you bang the shit out of it. Or at least no one cares if someone cares. This is really something special to a guy like me who loves the spirit of things, who gets caught up in the atoms all around us. I mean the Superdome itself is your noisemaker. This hallowed ground. This scene of so much history. This chamber of a million magic moments…and Katrina. There was a certain strange intimacy to it and I banged the fuck out of that wall before every defensive play and after every score just because I could. I bruised both thumbs (incidentally, the thumbs are the second celebration related injury I have sustained. I sprained or strained or did something to my rotator cuff high-fiving after the 2009 NFC Championship).

Nobody sits down. The people in Section 6000, Seat 6000 stand up the whole game. Because they can. No one can complain because they aren’t obstructing anyone. So why sit when you can stand right? It ups the intensity.

And there is a sense of certain lawlessness up there. Nobody got rowdy or anything but I had the feeling you could get away with a little bit more because any law would have to make a trip just to get up there to sort the thing out. If it wasn’t already sorted out by the time they arrived. I mean, I felt bad making the beer man climb up there. You could probably smoke cigarettes up there if you wanted.

Due to the architecture of the Dome, there are all sorts of little nooks where you can put your beer or cocktail or whatever. It’s very loungy.

And within the micro-environment there is this sub-culture. I know season-ticket holders develop relationships with other ticket-holder in the same section. But this being the Machu-Picchu of the Superdome, it felt a little more special. The group in front of us (who looked to be fellow card carrying members of the National Liquor Lobby) had special songs they sung after a particular player scored or had a big play. And they were singing the Sproles one quite a lot this night. I gathered that you could maybe substitute any song that had the word “roll” or “rolls” in it and substitute “Sproles.” For instance “Sprole With It,” “Sprollin On The River” or “Like a Sprolling Stone.” Though, I never actually confirmed this and was quite spirited. And the fella in this group who seemed to be the leader had one of the most fashionable DIY Saints outfits I have ever seen. He was also quite spirited in all usages of the word.

Many thanks to my host, the “Crunk Crown” sporting Ros for allowing me into this realm.

French Market Corp. hires Jon Smith as executive director after first pick declines job over salary dispute

The first four paragraphs of this story are reminiscent of some passive aggressive cocktail party conversation. It’s all like, “Well…she KNEW we weren’t trying to pay her that much and, we ARE just a “public benefits corporation” that “returns a portion of its revenues each year to the city” so, why was she asking for more?

We don’t know because she didn’t return calls for comment.

Anyway…

That’s not what this post is about. But I should at least give Jon Smith one bit of advice, be very fucking careful with those parking lot contracts!

What should be stated here of course, the obligatory “wants to transform the flea market into a place known more for art made in New Orleans and Louisiana than a dumping ground for cheap products largely made overseas.”

This is what everyone has seemed to want for the French Market for years and years, presumably back into the days when the thing began to change in the first place. I don’t know the history of it and how it happened but its return is an ideal that even an idealistic person may begin to think is increasingly more and more unlikely simply based on the fact that the French Market is actually fine the way it is. People shop there. They buy stuff. There are local artists. I remember there were local artists there in the ’90s. Not every vendor is all that great. Most aren’t. But it seems there is an effort to change people’s tastes simply by not offering them any choice and that won’t work.

Let’s say that everyone’s dream comes true and the tenure system is dissolved, people who have built their lives around it go away and the market becomes open and available for local artisans. I mean, no cheap Chinese crap, all local artists. Are there enough to fill it to the level of revenue it generates now? Will Bywater H-words and their sorta local crafts be enough to provide the revenue the vendors of cheap Chinese crap do? Will visitors be appreciative of this?

And let’s be honest. The tenure system and the expulsion of the current vendors is going to be next to impossible. They sued last time and I didn’t blame them. Sucks that it was set up like an oil field in the past with no real future plans in place but that’s how it went down. And when Jon Smith says, “People will either come along for the ride or phase themselves out and once their leases or contracts are up they are free to go if they don’t want to work within the grand vision of the market” Sounds like a big “fuck you” to them. Unless I am reading it wrong. Forecast: Shitstorm. And really, a shitstorm for something that really isn’t as horrible as it is made out to be. Efforts to improve it have worked to some extent.

And let’s talk about this dream, this return to the way the French Market used to be before 9/11, I mean Katrina.. I mean…wait, what happened to destroy it? I am assuming it went away because systems weren’t in place to protect it (like they are in Jackson Square I might add). But was it even sustainable economically anymore? So I don’t see how a return to it could really be supported economically. But, it is a good thing to say if you want a little love from the folks you have to live around so it was a smart thing for Jon Smith to say. And maybe he is going to give it a go, who knows? It sounds hard and the end result will have a dubious benefit. I wouldn’t be too heavy handed.

Sure a nice genuine Farmer’s Market will seem to fill the needs of French Quarter and Bywater and Marigny residents but really, how often are they truly looking for local art? Every weekend? A few times a week? As an artist, I can say I sell to quite a number of locals. They sustain me some months. But visitors are the meat and potatoes. So they need to be considered. And they do sometimes buy the cheap Chinese crap too.

Of course, full disclosure. I AM a local artisan. And I actually don’t mind cheap Chinese crap. I try not to buy it and do well at that. But above all, it makes me and my art look better. I am not losing money to cheap Chinese crap because those who buy it were never going to buy my art in the first place. I look at most of my customers as having been destined to buy my or a few select others’ art and pretty much nothing else. It’s a slim, slim margin I work but I net gains from it. And all the cheap crap in China simply provides the negative space that my recycled architectural salvage shines against.

A lot of people, myself included, have a specific image of what they expect from King Bacchus in the Bacchus parade during Mardi Gras.

First, he has to be kingly. He has to be up on that float, behaving royally. Not with sunglasses on like Val Kilmer.

If Bacchus is an actor, he should approach it like a role. He is a king. He should behave like one. He can sit on his throne or stand or do whatever, but it should, if nothing else, be played royally and with imminence.

Hulk Hogan I thought was a poor choice initially. But when I gazed my judgmental eyes upon him actually in the parade, giant, chin up, regal, tossing beads and doubloons from the float like offerings to his court, it elevated him in my eyes. A good king. Perhaps it was the years of posing and posturing in front of throngs of live fans that made him a natural fit. But he played the role well.

Will Farrell was entertaining enough. Drew Brees was Drew Brees. G.W. Bailey, eh. These were decent Kings.

But let us not forget what Bacchus is in his essence. He is the god of wine and ecstasy. Andy Garcia played this role too well. When his float rolled by I didn’t even see him up there and the never-confirmed rumor was he had passed out. Raucous but not so kingly.

One man played it best: James Gandolfini.

In 2007, from my perspective on Canal Street I saw him go by. He was perched atop that float, a jovial gregariousness spewing forth from him and necklaces and coins coming with it. Large bundles of beads he haphazardly threw without designated targets, like an erupting volcano of trinkets. Not able to sit still, he rocked back and forth in his throne and dug into piles of plastic and flung them far. He had a large crowd of riders around him and the energy was frenetic, they were loving it.  I saw him grab a handler and excitedly shake him. The guy loved it. It seemed like such a thrill.

And then there was Gandolfini’s face. He had this great big smile, large, ear-to-ear across that huge head of his. His cheeks were rosy red, flushed all the way up to his balding hairline. And his excitement and energy were unconstrained. He wasn’t some elevated, dignified king. He was a jolly, jubilant monarch of the people. Most importantly, he certainly appeared true to the essence of the great Dionysus by appearing to be quite spirited.

It was only for a few seconds but, he was a sight to see. It was glorious. He was the best Bacchus.

——————————————————

In the clip below he says “You got the right guy for Bachus” and he was right.

Actor and former Bacchus James Gandolfini dead at 51

 

 

 

 

 

I’m donating a piece of art to the medical fund for the great Big Red Cotton. For all she has done for us over the years. This is a great opportunity to get a soulful piece of art for a good cause. Details below:

100% of the final sale price will go to her fund.

The piece is large, approximately 4′x4′.
 
It is on 1/2″ plywood, painted and carved and mounted with found objects.
 
To get an idea of the scale, the eyes are made from gallon paint can lids.
 
The piece is titled “it’s alright to be afraid (sometimes)” and addresses the acceptability of anxiety and the true nature of bravery.
 
I thought it would be an excellent piece to donate due to the event and the ongoing issue of street violence within the culture of New Orleans.
 
I will deliver to local buyers.
 
National buyers will need to arrange shipping.

I get this a lot. It’s difficult to answer but, I’ll try and explain it here for the first time. Stream of consciousness style. I have fore a while just insisted that I’m not a “real reverend.” Meaning I just don’t think I am in a position to advise people on pious living. But then I thought…fuck pious living. Especially by someone else’s definition of it.

Be a good person. Don’t be perfect. Accept yourself and always try to improve. Be respectful of others so long as they are respectful of you. Turn the other cheek when you feel the urge but if you aren’t feeling it, don’t. Understand your unconscious and don’t always fight it but let your conscious win some battles also.

So now it occurs to me that, given the low standard of spiritual leadership in the world today, I might as well go ahead and assume the model for my friends and loved ones who, honestly, don’t need much anyway.

It’s like being a weatherman in San Diego.

That said, I’d like to just briefly explain how things are and perhaps always will be…or perhaps won’t.

……………….

Sermons…

Why use that word? Sermon? So closely connected with Christianity?

Because I tend to believe all the religions of the world are one. They all essentially bestow the same values. Some have been twisted to control others or profit financially but, within them all are certain basic human philosophies. So, like they borrow each other’s words, traditions and myths, so shall I. And sermon is a great Southern way to describe what we are doing. And they take place in front of St. Louis Cathedral often. So why not borrow that from Christianity? Let’s take it.

In fact, the basic framework of Christianity is mostly appropriated because it is so familiar to people. It certainly is repulsive to some and the systems of religion are certainly to blame for that. By using sermon to describe these simple missives, perhaps we can make the word a little more benign that the demonizing, pious works of the past. And having Christian structure is actually more comforting to some.

There is no higher power required to understand the 86 sermons I’ve written over the last few years. They are not inclusive or exclusive of Jesus, Buddha, snake gods, Zeus,Vishnu, R’hllor or any other deity. They are as they are. And they aren’t complicated either. I call it “bacon and eggs” spirituality. It’s just breakfast. A simple philosophy backed up by a gospel from science or literature or some spiritual text. It doesn’t require “faith” and it is all take it or leave it,with no threat of Hell or Heaven or anything else.

But that’s not to say I don’t reject those concepts. I just think of them more terrestrially. I think every one of us has a uniqueness to explore. “Heaven” so to speak is realizing that uniqueness and doing with it the most you can do to define your experience on Earth before it becomes a cinder or a lifeless rock (whichever of those two outcomes you happen to believe). Hell is not doing that. Evil is not doing that.

And all the sermons eventually contradict each other because there is simple no way to have any one construct of thought that exists through all instances of space-time. No one thing is ever the same for long. All actions will be swept away with time yet the entire Universe is changed forever after each one. If a particular sermon hits a particular person in a particular way on a particular day –  amazing. If it doesn’t, no big deal. Because there will be another one that might.

And the gospels we draw them from can be from anywhere. We’ve used a variety of them. My favorites are Emily Dickinson, William Blake, Carl Sagan, Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. But we have looked for meaning in Charles Bukowski, Stephan J. Gould, Lyle Saxon, neuroscientist David Eagleman. Even Drew Brees was a gospel as he coped with losing to the 49ers in 2012. There is meaning in everything. It is all human experience.

So the sermons are composed from previously published texts and mean all sorts of things. None of them too deep. All very comprehendable by anyone. They simply provide an opportunity to stop and think about oneself. Usually for only a few moments but, it’s a stopping point at least. Sort of a brief reset. A few minutes to say, “Consider your existence. Maybe the thought will reappear and develop into something more hours, days, years later. Maybe it won’t. This reverend only intends to deliver it. His work is finished there. No change necessary.

And of course, I am not the only one who can pick gospels. Anyone can and several have.

And I try not to say “do this” or “dont do this” as much as possible. No absolutes. Absolutes bad.

The Reverend…

I will admit it would be a funny thing to do to sell folk art at first. But I quickly realized I had myself pinned into a crisis of legitimacy.

So after decades of thinking critically about my existence in my spare time, I figured I could do it on a more applied basis.

What’s most important to dismiss is that myself as the “reverend” does not and should not communicate that I am somehow more enlightened than anyone else. I’m not.

Most who know me know my struggles and shortcomings. Some probably more than I do. But, I am dedicated to thought, free and critical thought in myself and others. And I am willing to devote a little time on Sundays to just explore thought and share it with others, consider ways to think and things to consider. If one is doing this already, one extra instance shouldn’t matter. If someone feels they should do it more, here is an opportunity. It couldn’t hurt. Might help.

I don’t have it in my head that I am the only person who can show people the way as many of the more, ahem, successful reverends have done. I’m just like a grill cook at a diner. Providing the proteins and carbs of spiritual thought. No saffron or truffle oil, just salt, pepper and hot sauce.

And what I have discovered in the last few years is people like having a reverend. Especially one that doesn’t judge or threaten to send them to Hell or believe in “spooky” stuff. People love the ritual of religion but hate the piety and dogma. They want the frosting and not the cake. And while that euphemism often means doing something you don’t want to do to get what to something you do, it’s not necessary in this scenario. You can jump right into the frosting.

And a lot of times people want someone to say a few things. Toasts, house blessings, marriages, birthdays, people recognize the ritual and importance of these things and just want someone to think of something nice or poignant and a “bacon and eggs” minister can provide that.

I have been surprised at how much people really enjoy the ritual of our Sunday readings on Jackson Square. For a few weeks, I was doing the sermons privately with different people because it was harder and harder to get everyone gathered. But people said they hated it and insisted on one public reading with everyone gathered and they would put up with waiting on each other. I was surprised that the ritual was so valued.

There is also the delivering of resin spirit animals and lately, the more refined act of creating folk art weaponry for people who regularly attend sermons. These are just benefits for showing up. No real precedent for this stuff. Just part of the ritual.

Of course there is a bit of an issue relating to my being “ordained.” Yes, I did get a pretty much meaningless ordination from the the Universal Life Church, something that pretty much anyone can get and many have gone ahead and gotten. In my defense I did get the entire ordination package.

I knew there were some legitimacy issues that needed to be rectified regarding this. Not relating to the state (who will let me marry someone legally) but with everyone else. People who ask, “What kind of a reverend are you?”

So that’s where the sermons come in. It’s hard to argue with 86 sermons, written and delivered, sometimes with annotations as to who attended and what their reactions were. Anyone who does take umbrage with it will first need to explain how ANY minister or reverend has the standing in the Universe to do what they do. Because I’m at least doing as much as many of them. And for no money.

This last one is most important. I never, ever, ever-ever-ever-ever-ever hope to hold myself up as any sort of sterling example to be admired. No, no, no. I am in no way up to the task. No man or woman ever was. Not even the ones you think were. Just give up on the concept. I am an “irreverent reverend” and always intend to be. I like cussing, boobs and butts, drinking, carousing, honking my horn and all sorts of lowborn activity. . It’s the “revel” part of “Live, love, revel, rejoice.” All this allowed in the Spirit anyway

Oh right, the Spirit!

The “Spirit”

If I had to pin down any one philosophy it would be this simple one:

Know yourself.

Know the Universe.

Know yourself in the Universe.

That seems pretty simple and hard for anyone to really debate. It’s not exclusive of anything. It’s a search, a personal “Hero’s Journey.   There are simpler “ways of our way” of course. “Be skeptical,” “Think critically,” “Be here now,” “Rituals are important,” “Own thy struggles.” These are all just good advice. But mainly, most things are about your hero’s journey. And of course living, loving, reveling and rejoicing along the way.

But all this does leave some folks out; People who are suffering. People so far away from self actualization because they are at the base of Maslos hierarchy of needs. And I just don’t know that a “bacon and eggs” reverend can really take that on. It would fall under “Know the Universe” as in “Know the CRUEL Universe” and do what you are in the position to do to help. As the 5/12/2013 gospel by Albert Camus said, Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?

The closest thing to a real religion would be the ethics-based Humanism.  There is a value placed on the self, on the dignity of the human. A bit different than Secular Humanism because I’m not quite so hung up on attacking other spiritualities so much. Only when they are used to oppress or demean others. But, I have a lot in common with humanism. And it has a lot in common with the more empowering and just plain decent aspects of the world’s religions.

……

So that’s what kind of reverend I am. A very simple soul. Not essentially ordained by anyone. No better than anyone. Not contrasting himself with others by greatness or wretchedness, without zealotry, allegiance, fanaticism, fealty,  ethnocentricity,  jingoism, narrowness or sanctity. A friend to most. Not a leader by example by any means. Just a few sentences to contemplate per week, weather permitting.

Am I a bit crazy or egotistical or living in some fantasy realm?

Yes!

But conformity stifles creativity

And thinking a lot of oneself is fine with me. So long as it doesn’t come with superiority. We are all magnificent or can be at least.

And sometimes the imagined world is better than the real one.

We should all be explorers of self, the stars and self in the stars.

I’m not trying to lead the way but hope to help.

A portrait of the Beowulf monster Grendel as he is written in the 1971 novel “Grendel.” Title of the piece is lifted from a line in the book. Composition is directly depicted from cover portrait on paperback version of the novel by Emil Antonucci.

On rough-hewn heart pine wall stud salvaged in New Orleans.

Original painting by Antonucci below…

'Betty and the black dog' by Varg Vargas on salvaged Indian wooden cabinet door, spray paint and found objects.

A few times a year, for no emotional reason, out of nowhere, I get depressed. My “medicine man” theory is that it is tied into my gut and there is certainly some science to back that up. My genetic bad stomach is often acting up around the same time the depression shows up and the chemical difference along with the symptoms of the tummy trouble generates the glum. Again, just my theory.

Winston Churchill called his bouts with depression, his “black dog” and though it wasn’t he who originated it (Wikipedia credits his childhood nanny), his use of it helped spread the metaphor. It seems to me the use of the black dog probably sprang from British folk lore in which black dogs were used to symbolize more than anything else, apparitions and death. Both metaphors are apt. The ghost symbol fits because the condition seems to be controlled by something else, something unseen and beyond control. The death symbol fits because life seems not worth living. More on the latter a few paragraphs down.

During my unfortunate descents into chemical depression, I am allowed by the Universe to walk around in the skin of a person who can’t just “snap out of” their mood by going on a roller coaster ride or for a long walk on the levee or buying a pair of boots.

It’s pretty terrifying.

The most disheartening aspect of the black dog is the immediate awareness of it upon waking. In the first few moments of the morning (or early afternoon), I know it’s there. It’s not a physical feeling like a headache or a sore throat. It’s not within my five senses. I feel it, but not on my skin. It’s a presence, like something pressing down on me. This is a pretty accurate image.

I call the first few minutes of any day my “coming to terms.” Overnight, I have departed this Universe and ventured out into the ethereal and, upon waking, returned again. In that first 15 minutes, the Universe is recreated again and I sort through what has been unsorted. Is it all the same? What’s different? Where will I go. What will I do? What has happened? For the depressed person, this space is occupied by the black dog convincing them that getting out of bed would be the worst thing they could possibly do. There is defeat from the onset.

So they eventually rise and the black dog follows. They walk around with what I call “the filter.” A mask over everything that makes it all shit. A very dangerous, utterly uncondensed philosophy that consumes everything. All colors are desaturated. All enthusiasm is unwarranted. It’s all a cliche. Everything is finite and meaningless. Songs ring flat. Supper can’t be indulged. Company is a hardship, awkward. Relationships strained. Most bitterly for me, I see the Earth is as it will inevitably will be, a lifeless ashen rock. Then, just behind the bright faces of my friends and family are the images of their fetid, rotting corpses. Children are not the hopeful energetic inspirations but rather wheelchair bound and broken.

And this is everywhere. The black dog is a loyal dog. It follows.

Gratefully, I am only visited by it perhaps twice a year, sometimes less and never for very long. Whatever brings it, takes it away and I have not been able to conjure up why it enters or leaves. Some suggest probiotics will balance out the production of serotonin in my lower GI tract. Imagine that. I swallow little sprites that I go into my gut and fix my soul. Our Universe is so folk. We think sometime sit isn’t but it is.

There are so many others for whom the black dog is a regular visitor.

Its wiser, more knowing companions know it well. And they endure it with a bedrock truth that its effect on them is just a spell. A “spell” that is something they are under the influence of but also a “spell” that is something that will go away with time. They will eventually “come around” but certainly can’t “snap out of it.” But after many years and many visitations, they never do really overcome it as much as they simply just endure. They often bravely forgo medication because it makes them robots, incapable of feeling anything at all.

But younger people, whose human spiritual development has been arrested because of this black dog, who perhaps don’t have the spiritual armor against it, who perhaps don’t have supporting figures in their lives, who are misunderstood, who are self medicated, seeking solace, who have been victimized, whose failure to thrive proceeds for decades, for these sons and daughters the black dog’s visitation is most delicate and critical. They forgo medicine for ego, convinced nothing is wrong.

I have so much empathy for them all. To help me cope with this, I made “betty and the black dog.” Beware the black dog brothers and sisters.

After five years of working alongside, being associated with and thankfully developing friendships with visual artists, and since I avoided art school where perhaps a lot of this comes from, I find myself a bit vexed by a certain impulse I’ve noticed in them from time to time: Many deeply want to commodify their work, desperately want to commodify their imagery. And I don’t mean make a lot of money creating work after work of art and developing a great body of work in collections everywhere. I mean the opposite. I mean transforming their imagery into aprons, coffee cups, calendars, greeting cards, puzzles…schlock basically.

This isn’t the growing development of an artist through years and years. It’s getting good enough to create a singular image that everyone wants and then just creating that image over and over again for as much money as possible.

I can certainly see why. It’s more money for less work, an enterprise I have jokingly said I have desired for many years. You create one image that gives people their emotional need (“This New Orleans scene makes me soooo happy! It reminds me of when I was there!”) with their practical need (“How am I going to keep this food from getting all over my clothes? I know!  An apron!”) and that is where art gets very lucrative. But it certainly isn’t the only way to do so. Look at Rodrigue, who has done well for himself while doing his best to control his imagery and, time-after-time, rejecting the commodification of his Blue Dog image. But then, the richest painter of all time did indeed do this and made a ton of money in the process. Though, he wasn’t spiritually rich.

I always wondered why Rodrigue never made a Blue Dog plush. Now I know. He “kept it real.”

What has happened time after time though, in conversation after conversation with artists, has been this alpha priority, over being compelled by the Muse, to commodify the art from the get-go. There is no bliss following. I have even spoken with a fellow salvaged-wood artist who was looking into making resin renderings of his wooden wall hanging sculptures. That’s fake, plastic salvaged wood made in China. Some artists want to find that image that sells and mass produce it either by making those awful “series” of prints or by putting it on as many Chinese-produced products as possible. Ties, mousepads, iPhone covers, if you can put R2-D2 on it, they would put their art on it. At that point, is it really art anymore? Or is it a product? And is the artist a producer?

For something to be mass-produced and to be successful, it needs to be a pretty tame image. It can’t really challenge you in any way. And it must be consistently appealing. So no one is really evoked. The person buying it is safe. The artist / producer is safe. Whoever the third party is, is safe.

And let’s not forget this third party. Or the fourth party. Or however many parties there are going to be between the artist and the buyer. By the time the art lands in the buyer’s hands there will be such a separation between the artist and buyer they will relate to each other about as much as they relate to the Chinese factory worker making the shit.

And I suppose that is ultimately what is bothersome to me about mass produced art and it’s commodification. It’s also why Jackson Square or any outdoor market is such a great place to buy and sell art. There is a direct connection between the artist and the Universe he or she is tasked with capturing . You meet the people and if you did your job right, you exchange an idea or two with them. It’s suspicious to me why this richness would want to be exchanged for some other kind.

Beast of the Southern Wild review making the rounds in my social networks…

If this is the case against the film, I’m not sure it’s going to get past the grand jury.

That reviewer admits the cinematography, score, locations and imagery in the film are top notch. Now, those things are huge. I know narrative is most important and I’ll get to that but, let’s not toss out the ethereal aspects of the film simply because the reviewer has an issue with the story. Because they were pretty amazing. They weren’t just good. They excelled. They greatly enhanced the narrative, enriching the story so much that viewers were immediately captivated. This is something that many, many films fail at from the start. Reviewer asks us to “see past the craft.” Fucking why? So we can understand your point better without this huge aspect of the film’s greatness getting in the way?

So, the Narrative. Some things that should be addressed…
- Hushpuppy wants people in the future to remember her but the viewer knows they won’t. She thinks her writing on a cardboard box will be enough. But we, the audience, are supposed to know better. Most of us did and recognized the helplessness of the character. Probably because no one is going to remember us either. This is a universal plight. Mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation and so forth.

- The Titanic stuff, it’s an age old narrative that probably started before the Buddha but was most historically done by him wherein the privileged child casts aside the networks of their society to a simpler, stripped down existence. Buddha did it. Yuppies do it. Gutter Punks do it. People do it. We have fucking reptile brains deep in there. Smooth, unbundled, savage reptile corpus callosums and we like to sometimes get in touch with it.

Unoriginal? Monomyth!

The rest of the review is the critic making some statements about what he didn’t like about the film but he doesn’t really say why it’s bad. Unless he is suggesting that because he didn’t like it, we shouldn’t. With more critics in the Universe than ever, a simple snarky ripping of a flick isn’t good enough anymore. There are 6.5 billion opinions out there. I need to know why yours is valid. You need to show me why yours is valid. Simply stating “Phony. Phony. Phony” doesn’t quite do it.

But hey the accusation was that noodling was depicted as too easy right? What don’t you know in that scene? Had Wink already seen the Catfish before his dialouge? Was it a spot he knew they lurked? It’s not a 65-pounder they pull up. They are out there to catch fish. The man has supposedly done it his whole life. The film is being critiqued because it looked too easy? It was a small aspect of the flick anyway. And why is it supposed to look hard? How would that advance the narrative?

Then we really get to the real heart of why this critic dislikes Beasts and yes, it involves … standing. It’s his premise and ultimately the basis of his critique that:

Also, call me cynical, but watching po’ black characters deliberately misuse words and grammar in folksy phrases written by white people (“cavemens,” for example) feels hokey at best and offensive at worst. Keep in mind, I knew nothing about the filmmakers before I watched this film. It just reeked of theater kid fantasy, and I’ve seen enough Hurricane Katrina narratives written by liberal arts students in New York to recognize this as one. Art students be lovin’ Katrina narratives like fictional Cajuns love crawdads, you all.

So, there is no way these white art school kids could possibly have anything meaningful or non-stereotypical to say about these poor people who live in the Bathtub? Even if they could tell this story adeptly (which they do) they really can’t because of who they are. The art isn’t allowed to stand alone because it’s this critic’s prejudice against the artist that gets in the way. The story can be told, but not by them so that gives it its cheesy quality. I guess it is safe to assume real poor folks wouldn’t have glamorized their plight but I live in and among them and I see it glamorized all the time. The notion is they can do it, these art school kids can’t, and that’s a case of standing.

And if the film was such a manipulation of poor hurricane-struck folk in Louisiana, wouldn’t Dwight Henry’s starring role have at least added some credibility to that? A life-long New Orleans resident and 7th Ward baker?

And let’s not forget that the Bathtub is indeed a fucking FANTASY WORLD. Yes, the flick is a fantasy movie. So that’s how you approach it. That is dictated to us by the filmmakers pretty early. And that is the mindset in which the film is to be approached from then on. There is magical realism at work here and this critic never even addresses it. It’s based in reality but, once we are shown that huge boars are floating toward Hushpuppy in melting blocks of ice why quibble about noodling? Maybe in the fantasy world of the bathtub, noodling is easy.

And also not mentioned despite it being a huge testament to the film’s greatness is the fact that these were not even actors in these roles. Both Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis acted exceptionally and brilliantly. Astounding because THEY HAD NEVER ACTED BEFORE IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES.

So the film excelled in score, setting, cinematography, imagery and acting. I don’t mind monomyth. I prefer monomyth over the overtold stories in flicks today. The original Star Wars was a monomyth. The latest Star Wars films were so overly-complex no one knew what was going on. I don’t mind a complex story but the framework needs to be simple and the complexities within it.

I don’t mind art students writing about Katrina. The more the better. So long as they get it right and these folks did.

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