Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

Wayne Michael Reich

Author: Darkreich

You Only Live Twice PT. 4 and a 1/3 ( Where there’s SMoCa, there’s Whiners )

“It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that.” As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. “I find that offensive.” It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘”I am offended by that.” Well, so f*****g what.”
– Stephen Fry, The Guardian

Hello Blogiteers!

I’ve got to be honest- there are times, if the truth is to be told, where I really enjoy being a self-styled Artbitch. I get to speak my mind, clear the way for progressive debate, skewer a cretin (or two), and generally walk around with a feeling of a job well done, if not snarkily.

Then there’s the days where I’m really happy. Usually, it’s because I’ve found an extra pack of Ding Dongs that I didn’t know I had, or sometimes I’ll be flipping through the ol’ cable TV and find out they’re playing all of the Resident Evil movies back to back with limited commercial interruptions. You know… the simple pleasures. Granted, the pay is non-existent, but the hours are great, and the perks make it all worthwhile.

No matter what might be happening in my day gig existence, the world where my art-life resides is usually never boring, and that’s just the way I like it. Surprisingly, despite my once being described by a colleague as “saturnly venomous“, I rarely run into what i would consider any concrete repercussions in regards to what I write. Sure, there’s the occasional vulgar e-mail or sporadic sideways nasty glance when I’m out and about among my art peeps, but at worst- these are annoyances akin to a gnat flying in front of a wind machine.

In other words, no sweat, no sleep lost, no actual f***s given, no matter what. I know, I know. I’m a Hell-bound, supremely arrogant, self-righteous, intensely focused bastard of monolithic proportions. And oddly, I’m perfectly okay with this. Do you have any guesses as to why that is? It’s simple, really. Because as long as I can remember, I’ve always been “that guy”- you know, the one that says what everybody else is thinking but refuses to articulate, due to their being either too afraid or too polite.

Fortunately, I have no such hang-ups, and I refuse to apologize for not suffering fools, just because outdated social restrictions and one’s lack of personal spine says that I should. Plus, there’s always this type of comment that I get occasionally via e-mail, which also helps keeps me motivated:

“I give you props! Not many people in this wretched arts scene/state are brave enough to speak up. Go along to get along is the norm. It’s why I stay on the “outside” and travel elsewhere. What you do is valuable and I applaud you.”

The unforeseen side-effect of being honest, other than a clean conscience and unburdened soul, is the amount of simplicity that it brings to your life- for instance, the amount of holiday cards that I have to mail out every year just keeps getting smaller and smaller, and at the rate it’s going, pretty soon I’ll only have to spring for two kinds: my girlfriends card that I spend time looking for (the $3.00 and up kind) and everybody else’s from the year-end clearance sale box.

You know the type: generic, derivative, and completely devoid of any actual sentiment, emotion, or creativity. Its what all cards will be if Hallmark ever decides to make a Peter Bugg product line.

Speaking of my favorite allegedly plagiarizing insect, my last little screed where I gave both he and SMoCA equal drubbing, hit way harder than I expected. And by that, I mean my personal e-mail and FB messages lit up like a Christmas tree on acid at a Pragha Khan concert.

This time however, there was more than the usual one or two negative pieces of correspondence that I’ve become used to as of late. There was six. Yes, six! Not to mention the one fake FaceBook profile created specifically to comment on my anti-Bugg posting located on the Arizona Artists page.

How did I know it was fake?

Well, they had no photo, no info, and no friends listed on their profile at all, yet somehow zoomed right in on me and my comments right off the bat. So given that… and the fact that they fell off the Earth after being called out on it, made me and several others a tad bit suspicious.

But let it be known, “Gordon Bramford”, that we all miss you something fierce.

On the upside, between emails and FB insta-messages, the positive responses numbered over 150- somehow, I can force myself to live with that. The best line in regards to Peter was this:

“You know, he did something that I liked once… now I’m wondering who he stole it from.”

Classic. The last time I can recall getting this much feedback on something I wrote was when I took on the Phoenix New Times, and that seems like forever and a day ago. Ah, good times… no pun intended. It seems that many of my fellow Creatives share the same dim view I have of Peter’s “talent” and SMoCA’s artistic “vision”, even if they don’t always (or ever) agree with my views on anything else. See, there’s always middle ground, you just have to forge ahead and find a commonality that bonds you as a team.

But as usual, there’s always going to be those who get their Underoos in a bunch over something I said or did, and I can’t help that. And even if I could, I probably wouldn’t, anyway. When it gets down to it, I’d rather be right than liked, and it’s been my experience that people who usually have a real problem with me and my opinion are typically the type of people I wouldn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with.

Yes, that’s actually the acid test I use: would I be okay being trapped in an elevator sans Ding Dongs with this person? If not. then us being friends is gonna be a long shot at best. Given my nature to speak my mind candidly, it’s not too surprising that becoming my friend only requires two things: loyalty and honesty- two qualities for membership that I generally don’t waive for anybody.

This Artbitch does have standards, after all.

Shockingly, it does take a modicum of effort to get onto my spit list- I may be somewhat aggro at times, but I’m not that aggro, if you know what I mean. Despite what some of my critics might think, it’s not like I walk around cracking skulls and slicing up people with my tongue on a 24/7 basis.

Sure, recently somebody asked me how did I eat with that switchblade folded up in my mouth, but I’m pretty certain that they meant that as a compliment. And on a more realistic note, who has that kind of time? And more importantly, the energy?

Not me. I’m way too lazy to go on an unchecked smiting spree, and when it comes to the PAS, let’s be honest- it would be a full time job given all the candy-assed human speed bumps we’re presently dealing with at the moment. Speaking of which…

As it happened, I was out and about last First Friday with my GF Ashley, taking in the local gallery offerings: Pela Contemporary had a strong showing with painter Jason Hugger and sculptors Brad Konick and Thad Trubakoff, {9} The Gallery was showing Artists Dino Paul and up and comer Mikey Jackson, and Braggs Pie Factory was host to “Consumerism” an exhibit by members of Phoenix’s Eye Lounge Artists’ Collective.

All in all, fairly solid shows, and a pleasant night was being had, until we decided to drop in at The Lodge Art Studio, located at 1231 NW Grand Avenue in industrially interesting downtown Phoenix. The Lodge is home to Painter Abby Messmer [http://abbeymessmer.blogspot.com/], Painter/Sculptor Rafael Navarro [http://www.rafaelnavarroartes.com/] and sketch artist Joe Brklacich, whose website I won’t link here due to what I’m about to share.

Now, I’ve known all three of these artists for the last few years or so- Abby’s extremely talented and very nice, but we’re not what I would consider good friends, not due to any personality conflicts or anything like that, mind you- we just don’t hang out in that context. It’s along the lines of she’s a much more talented colleague who knows this snarky Artbitch kind of deal. Rafael on the other hand, I know a little better, we get along relatively well, and I’m a huge fan of his work, which is both innovative and stunning. One day, when my income improves, I plan on knowing several people who can afford to collect him.

Rafael is also possibly one of the mellowest Artists I know, being so laid back that if you bottled him, you could market him as liquefied Zen. And yes, I do mean that with complete and total respect.

Joe Brklacich on the other hand, I can’t really tell you anything about. Over the last few years, I’ve never had more than a handful of conversations with the guy, have never seen his work outside the Lodge, and really have no idea what he believes or represents. I can tell you his website hasn’t been updated (at the time of this blog) since December of 2012, so obviously he’s exceedingly busy with commissions or juggling kittens- whatever it is that he actually does to make money.

But more on that in a bit.

As I said, Ashley and I dropped in at The Lodge, where I chatted with Rafael a bit about his newest work currently on display and other various sundries, until Joe walked in and asked to talk to me “outside”. Some insight: as a rule, whenever anybody asks to see me “outside”, I already know that it’s going to be most likely a conversation in regards to my writing/attitude/opinion/tone/ or possibly my love of Swedish pop group ABBA.

Either/or. It’s a toss-up.

Now, before I start telling you what transpired, be informed that I will also be engaging my standard line by line deconstructionist technique not seen here for quite some time, due to the inherent amount of arrogant stupidity I have to dissect. Much like arsenic, it’s best when taken in small doses, so that one can build up an immunity.

So, with that explanation off the table, let’s carry on. As I step outside, Joe proceeds to puff up and ask matter of factly: “You know what your problem is?”

– Wow. I have only one? And here I was, thinking that I was just rife with issues. Thanks, you big sweet-talker, you. I feel better about myself already. And damn, if I don’t feel prettier too.

You take everything personally.”

– Um… yeah, I actually do. It’s both a curse and a blessing. Unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I’m actually trying to make a difference by not sitting on my ass waiting like an artsy Rapunzel for my super studly prince to come. Perhaps it isn’t obvious, but I’ve been writing these first-person narrative blogs for roughly five years now and it’s ALWAYS BEEN personal. I see what I regard as obstructions or ethical lapses within my field of Phoenix-centric vision, I say something about it, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon… if ever.

When I bring attention to an issue to someone [in this case, Lesley Oliver] who is in a prime position to either address it or kick it upstairs for a management looksee and I’m dismissed like a servant at the Playboy Mansion with a trite and condescending politicians’ response, you’re damn right I’m going to take it personally.

Focusing my knowledge and personal energy towards the goal of starting a conversation that hopefully changes the playing field, that’s what I do. This process involves having to put your own self-interest on the shelf, which is why I can see how it might confuse and enrage you, Joey.

“That’s why I un-friended you on FaceBook the first time.”

– Yep. You read that right. He actually said that. The mind reels. Two things: first, I’m not a thirteen year old girl, so shunning me on FB is hardly what I consider a banishment to the social Gulag, and second… I wasn’t actually aware that we were friends on FB in the first place.

What’s next? Going to read my diary and kiss my BGF?

“It happens that Lesley Oliver is a friend of mine.”

– As an aside, anytime anyone uses the phrase “So and so is a friend of mine”, it’s a sure bet that it’s a self-righteous rationalization to engage in behavior that otherwise would be called out as dickish at best, asinine at worst. This may come as a shock, but I too, have friends. More than I need, less than I’d like to have, but they all benefit from one thing in common- I stay the f**k out of their personal business unless specifically requested to dive in. See, here’s the deal: I automatically assume that as an adult, they can handle their own battles- I know, I know… I’m weird that way.

And when one takes into account that Lesley is a professional PR person, it’s even more ridiculous that Joey assumed he could try and threaten me on her behalf. With all due respect, if that’s her chosen field and if I’m the worst person that she’s ever dealt with in regards to someone being a bitch to her, then she should just cash in her 401K and become a macramé artist, to the benefit of all parties concerned.

To clarify, I don’t believe for one second that Lesley asked Joey to get involved, as it’s fairly obvious he took it upon himself to engage me. The level of anger he was dramatically and chivalrously overacting [phrase appropriate] was so ridiculous, I thought for a few seconds there that it was a performance art piece. If anything. I’d like to think that she’d be truly embarrassed by his high school-esque display of hairless Gorilla chest-thumping.

On a more personal note, I guess I should be more impressed, since after all- it is the first time I’ve ever seen him on a First Friday without a drink in his hand. But to be fair, I was probably blocking the path to the beer cooler.

“And if you had said what you said about her to her face and if I had happened to be there, I would have punched you in the f*****g face.”

– Can I ask you a personal favor? Would you please? Because a punch to my shockingly delicate face couldn’t be nearly as painful as that run-on hot mess you believe to be a sentence. All snarkiness aside, are you f*****g serious? Somebody says something about your arrogantly craven buddy and your approach to debating/settling the issue is to threaten them with an act of violent assault?

I just have to ask this simple question Joey- how high/drunk/overconfident are you right now? First, your unfounded optimism that I would let you attempt to inflict harm on my person without pinning your f*****g empty head to the sidewalk is adorable at best, delusional at worst. Don’t get me wrong, your forced faux chivalry is cute and all, but a little absurd- especially when you consider that you’re going to need those hands to make art, which you can’t do if they’ve been snapped off your wrists and jammed up your ass sideways.

Just saying. Given the acidly contentious nature of my writing, I’m not shocked that someone finally threatened me face to face, I’m just surprised that it took this long for somebody to finally do it. Granted, I’ve always hoped that if and when it happened, it would be by someone more impressive than who I got.

But qualified people are hard to find in the PAS, so it’s not too scandalous that I wound up being threatened by a person who has no love for the craft. If you’re going to try and scare me, you need to focus on those things that I find bone-chilling. Normally, I wouldn’t offer up that information, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, I truly want to see the old ways preserved. So in that vein of openness, I put forward this list of what scares the bejesus out of me.

Here goes: The mere thought of President Sarah Palin. Skinny jeans. Paris Hilton as an actress. Stale Ding Dongs. Earwigs. Clowns. All clowns. Dolls- you know the ones with the dead stare glass eyes and the Linda Blair countenance? People who believe that Jesus rode dinosaurs. People who think science is a conspiracy. The Tea Party. Anyone who is in a “militia” and thinks that they can overthrow the Government with camo and ammo. Cockroaches. Bad pizza. AXE body spray. Nickelback. Sharks in my bathtub. The Boogeyman. My mother in a bikini.

My ex-fiance moving in next door. The Tooth Fairy. The Sandman. SMoCA being held in high regard. People who dress up their dog. Waking up naked in a Walmart. Buying something at Walmart. Walmart in general. Zombies. Vampires that sparkle. Lightning. Hellfire. Militant Christians. The upcoming Superman versus Batman movie. Waxing. Constitutionals who’ve never actually read the Constitution.

Diplomacy. Compromise. Pat Robertson and others of his ilk. The Lifetime Network.

But what I find even more disturbing is this- despite the fact that I made a valid argument in regards to SMoCA’s failure to use due diligence where Peter Bugg’s outright plagiarism was concerned, his issue [essentially] was that Lesley was butt hurt, and that was why he was mad.

Not because yet another local Arts organization screwed over the PAS community once again, not because situations like this make us [as a whole] look like unprofessional amateurs to serious patrons, no- he was upset that a grown ass woman whose entire job is dealing with sometimes difficult individuals got tagged for what was at best- a spineless rejoinder to a valid question. It’s always been my conviction that it’s perfectly fine to get upset- but if you are going to, you should at least endeavor to get mad at the right thing.

As I’ve said many a time before, there’s a reason why “candy-assed” is my favorite euphemism to describe certain members of the PAS, and it only seems to be getting worse with time. I’ve made note that there exists a specific demographic within this community who don’t want to shoulder the burden, but have expectations of reaping the end benefits, nonetheless.

To quote the original Avon Lady, AKA Shakespeare: “This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

And Joey’s twisted testes hissy-fit just underscores that point. When the opportunity arises to clear the air or have a serious and well-measured debate regarding the crucial topics at hand that afflict our scene, more often than not- this is how it typically unfolds.

Back to the argument at hand…

Chuckling, I then inform Joey that “we are done”, as I wasn’t going to attempt civil conversation with someone who just threatened me. Granted, there was the qualifier of “if I had been there” to be sure, but at that point, you’ve lost whatever right you had for me to fake interest in whatever topic you’re babbling on about. Wait a minute, you’re asking- aren’t you the guy who always says that if you have a problem with something I said or did, to come and find me?

Yes. Yes I am.

But there’s a subtle crowbar difference between talking to me and talking at me, and I don’t cotton to that. If you want to debate some point that I’ve made, that’s great. If you feel the need to open up your conversational gambit with an insult about my Mother servicing random sailors, even better- especially if it’s one I haven’t heard before and can use next time she condescends to call me.

In addition, if your opening involves magic or card tricks, I’ll willingly stay for days. But when threats are issued, be they real or theoretical, that’s only going to go one of two ways… either I walk away, or I’ll make damn sure you remember my name every time you use a mirror. You want to debate? Here I am.

Gonna act like a Neanderthal? Go pound sand. I’ve got better uses for my energy and intelligence, and they don’t involve getting into a fistfight over what is, essentially an argument in regards to my writing sharply constructed words about Art.

Back to the argument, still in progress: (raising his voice incredulously) “We’re done?!?” 

 – Um… yes. Done. Finished. That’s all she wrote. Over and out. Long gone. That’s a wrap. Completed. That’s all, folks. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Comprende, dipshit? Oh and by way of additional information, when I turn and start walking away from you, that’s what we in the educational business like to call a “visual aid“- it means that no matter how entertaining I may find your rant, I’m off to go converse with a much better type of person. As I turn to retrieve Ashley (who’s still inside the Lodge), he screams at my back:

“Well you can just get the f**k out of my studio, then!!”

– You do see the issue inherent within that statement, do you not? Of course you do, as your brain actually works. In order for me to “get out” of his studio, I’d actually have to be “in it” at the time, don’t ya think? If one were to get technical, I’d opine that at that moment we were in God’s studio, as we were nearly in the parking lot, and without sounding too arrogant- Jesus happens to be my homeboy, so I’m fairly sure I had more pull with his dad at that moment than Joey did.

God may love babies, children, and the drunk- but I’m pretty confident he hates when all three are combined into one mediocre melange of moronicness. Yeah… I said it. Mediocre. When I think of the term studio, I think of this definition: the working place of a painter, sculptor, or photographer. What that means to me is this- it’s a place where inspiration leads to new works being visualized and then produced, on a consistent basis.

This begs the obvious question: what is Joey using the space for exactly? In all the years I’ve been going to that particular location, I have never seen any work of his except the same three pencil drawings that have hung there since God knows when. The other two Artists that he shares space with [Rafael and Abby] seemingly have new work* to look at every time I walk in there, but when it comes to him, it feels like it’s been the same weary offerings for every week, month and year of the last decade.

*[Heck… Rafael probably just finished two new paintings and carved four sculptures in the time it took you to read this.]

To be fair, I could be dead wrong about this observation, but I call it as I see it. Literally. Now I do know that he’s connected with a lot of artists in this town (as am I) but I still can’t recall seeing anything else he’s done… ever. Anywhere. Not Chaos, not any solo show, not any group show I’ve either been in or attended.

That just cannot be right, even as much as I’d like it to be for the sake of my own personal amusement.

Who knows? Maybe he draws under a pseudonym that we can actually spell, or perhaps his commissioned career doesn’t require his having to show in galleries, so that’s one of the ways it could go- but here’s the rub: if that were the case, wouldn’t his website reflect his success? I haven’t had a full show in a long while, but my site gets updated at least every two months, and even my diminutive in-house studio has several examples of my work laying around to impress guests when they come over.

When I look at Joe and his one third of space, I don’t see a studio, I see a mausoleum.

Regarding his banning me eternally from the Lodge, I will have to admit begrudgingly that his plan to enforce it is fiendishly clever in it’s simplicity, as I’m pretty sure that his third of the studio just happens to be where the only door is.

Curses! Thwarted again.

In the end, I guess you’ll have to make the final call on his significance to this scene, as I’ve already established what I think of his level of maturity in how he voices his opinion. And while you may not always agree with me or mine, I still wouldn’t take the position that issuing threats is the most effective way to resolve conflicts of the Ego or the remaining problems lurking within the PAS.

But what do I know? I’m just an adult trying to school the kids.
And BTW Joey, integrity just so happens to be a friend of mine.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
– Albert Einstein

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” -Isaac Asimov












2014 09 You Only Live Twice Pt. 4 ( The Plagiarism of Saint Peter )

“To use for our exclusive benefit what is not ours is theft.” – Jose Marti

Hello Blogiteers!

May I have the envelope please?

And the first winner of SMoCA’s 2014 Good N’ Plenty grant is… Mimi Jardine for her project “Mobile Remittance Unit”! This project as you all surely recall, is “a faux government office that processes and collects litter in an artistic and light-hearted way.” I’m not sure what this entails, but anything that helps makes our beloved 602 look as clean as Downtown Toronto can’t be nothing but good in the end, am I right? Of course I am. When have I ever been wrong about what the people can truly get behind? Rarely.

Sure, I backed Disco and ABBA, but I was totally on David Lee Roth’s side during that whole Van Halen meltdown thing, so as a whole- my ledger balances out just fine when you get right down to it. In fact, I have an excellent track record of calling it right- so much so that I usually win bar bets, can call out the right elevator to take if you like them empty, usually avoid traffic accidents, and when I’m really on, I’ll crush the occasional Nostradamus-themed Halloween party betting pool.

That’s me… Captain Correct. Good old Admiral Right as Rain. I tells ya, some days it just gets so boring being right all the time, but what are you going to do? I guess it’s just a curse I’m going to have to learn to live with. Sigh…. what’s that? There’s still one winner to go? My bad.

May I have the second identical envelope please? Wait a minute… I’ve always wanted to do this- I’m going to predict the next winner simply by placing this sealed envelope to my head in the manner of Carnac the Magnificent* and using nothing but my God- given power of being always correct, I will tell you who the last winner (or winners) are. [*YouTube it. :D]

Here we go…. it’s coming to me… just a sec… that’s strange… all I keep seeing is fuzzy outlines… you know- it’s almost like I’m looking at a copy of a copy… it’s not as sharp. And for some odd reason, I’m also detecting the slightly pretentious and somewhat cloying odiousness of gathered hipster. Sorry. I guess my ol’ mental mojo must be on the fritz, so I’ll just have to make an educated guess.

Since our first winner’s project was a socially relevant one, it makes sense that the runner-up just has to be one that’s more fun and/or cultural, right? So keeping that in mind, ladies and gentlemen, it’s fairly obvious that the second winner of SMoCA’s 2014 Good N’ Plenty grant is and can be none other then… (rips envelope open, reads enclosed card) the one and only…. PETER BUGG!!!

Um… (stops speaking, stares icily at card in hand) I’m sorry. I must have read that wrong. Let me read it again, ok? (reads card for the next 45 minutes) Well, that’s just great. Here I go and rip the guy a new neck hole, and Karma comes along and hands him not only a pony, but a full ride ticket to Disneyland and an ice cream sundae as well. And who wants to bet he got a free t-shirt too?

But in the end, that’s not the worst part of all of this, no siree Bob. The worst part is this makes me look wr… wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… it makes me look less than accurate in the long run. Sigh… I just hate getting things wr… wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… (hrrumph) less than accurate. But I’m a mature adult, and as such, I just need to accept that every now and then I’m going to make mistakes in regards to calling people out for what I perceive to be their personal bullspit.

Besides… it was the audience at the public event that voted for him, and it’s obvious that they felt his project had merit, otherwise somebody else would have gotten the nod, right? Granted, his project would theoretically accomplish nothing in the end, as it seemingly has no structure in place that would help facilitate an open dialogue to move the issue of gay rights forward, but maybe that’s just me- I’m an “end game” kind of guy, after all.

Screw this- you know what? I’m just gonna lick my wounds and move on. In fact, I’ll even take the high road and congratulate Peter on his win using that wholly original and unique idea that he came up with all on his own, which at it’s core, was somewhat creative to say the very least. Yep. even though I thought his idea was a little weak in it’s execution, I’ll give it full points for it’s originality, which let’s face it- is what separates the boys from the toys.

Damn. I actually feel better, I admitted he was more correct and that I was … wor..urk.. wrah… wroooon… um… less correct, and yet I’m still upbeat. I can totally see why people like to apologize every now and then- it’s apparently good for the soul. Who knew I had one? The things that you learn about yourself when you look inward, I guess. So with that off the table, let me check my e-mail real quick and we’ll start towards the end of my tale regarding my hospital stay in 2009. Let’s see…

No, I don’t need any help with my mortgage, nor do I have a need to see nude pics of Jennifer Lawrence, and I’m quite certain that yes, while it might be nice to meet a hot MILF, I’m also pretty sure I don’t need one to talk dirty to me either. I have a girlfriend after all, and other than the fact that she’s intellectual and hot, she also makes really good pumpkin cookies.

Can an Internet MILF do that? I don’t think so. Oh wait a minute… here’s a few messages regarding my last blog- let me just skim these real quick and see how the wind blows, metaphorically speaking. Hmm. Seems most are in my favor, at least in regards to my take on how to beef up Peter’s totally original, wholly innovative, and completely inimitable idea.

Well, that’s strange. This e-mail just says: “I saw that you gave Peter props on coming up with original ideas, what do you make of this?” and it has a link to a New Times story:


Interesting- it’s about last year’s GnP winners… seems like a nice little article, wonder why anyone would send this to me, as it has really nothing to do with what I just recently wrote. Maybe it helps prop up SMoCA’s judgment call that Peter really deserved to be a finalist for that grant, based on nothing more than his truly original concept. If so, I’ll really have to double down on that whole sincere apology thing.

What the heck, I’ll just read it real quick, and then we’ll get back on the path, ok? Oh, that’s kind of cool, it seems my former antagonist Ryan Avery won a grant at this event for his project “Related Records” which would serve as a way to “document some of the more fleeting musical/art/performance acts in the downtown Phoenix scene. He already has plans to record long-time local act Treasure Mammal in the upcoming months and says he wants to start doing more with vinyl in the next year.”

That is awesome. A Phoenix-centric recording concern? I can totally back that 100%, since there’s a lot of local talent here that could benefit from a serious marketing campaign. But Ryan and I have been chill for quite some time, so I still don’t see how this article factors into our past disagreements, do you?

Let’s check out last years’ first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, “The Happy Camper”, is “a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There’s an “I-survived-Mormonism” patch with an  image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience.” Ok… once again, I still don’t see what that has to do with Peter’s project- after all, it’s Girl Scout based, involves contradictory patches to be placed on uniforms, and it’s main focus is to seemingly open a dialogue in regards to the LGBT community.

Why would the writer of this e-mail think I’d be interested in her proj….  NO.

No way. Not after I praised him. Not after I celebrated his originality. Especially not after I apologized. Particularly that. No. No. No. No. I’m just reading the situation wrong, because at my core, it’s fairly obvious that I’m just a mean, bitter, hateful, misanthrope. Yes, let’s run with that. I’m just seeing it all wrong.

However… if I were to play Devil’s Advocate, what was the description of Peter’s project again?

“Equal Scouts” aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America’s infringements on gay rights”

Come to think of it, when you lay them out side by side… is it just me, or does Peter’s “idea” seem like a feebly re-worked retread of Stefanie’s original concept? Certainly, this can’t be the case, right? Nobody could have that much Chutzpah. Even Amy Silverman, the Godzilla-esque Mangling Editor of New Times doesn’t, and she’s basically a singing, dancing, jazz-handing, sparkly shoes wearing,  modern-day P.T. Barnum when it comes to the art of marketing the truly sub-par.

Of course, I infer that description with nothing but respect. Allegedly.

But other than raising the question of outright plagiarism, one also has to wonder: who the hell judged this obvious reconstitution as worthy of inclusion? Ah, here we go: the judges were Ashley Hare, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture’s arts learning director, New Times‘ Katie Johnson, Lindsay Kinkade of Design Republic, and artist and Navajo/Laguna Pueblo cultural attaché Steven Yazzie.

Wait a minute. Minus the random New Times blogger who writes glorified press releases, the rest are individuals that I actually know of or have respect for. Did I, and to a much more worrying extent, the judges at SMoCA- just get Rope-a-Doped ala Damien Hirst style*?

Son of a camel-humping, Libertarian-voting, skinny-tie wearing, Arcade Fire listening, bitch. I think they (and I) just did. Now, I know what you’re all thinking, and normally you’d be right: this humble Artbitch is gonna fire up his old nuclear-powered buffer, polish up his Admantium claws, and make a Peter Bugg salad all over again.

But you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Kind of like Peter’s approach to creating an original project.

When all is said and done, I find his weak appropriation not to be infuriating, so much as just completely pathetic. Here’s the deal: I may not qualify to legitimately call myself one of the best artists working today, but when it gets right down to brass tacks, my work at the very least is honest.

I shoot my own reference for the majority of my painted acrylic works, come up with my own artistic concepts, and when unforeseen circumstances force me into having to use other sources, I’ll cop to the fact in a heartbeat, if I haven’t already gone and mentioned it myself, that is. And while I do regularly photograph both graffiti and architecture (IE: other’s work/art) I have never claimed those two elements as my work- the composition of the photograph is what I lay my name on, and my composition skills are kick-ass, if I do say so myself.

The key here is this: I might not make the cut as the world’s best Artist, but I also won’t go down as a pretender to it’s artistic throne either, and I’m perfectly fine with that possible gravestone comment. Let me be blunt- unlike Peter and others of his ilk, I have never relied on the gullibility of charity to fund my predilection for calling myself an Artist. Yes, grants are necessary and in some cases, they’re the only way that certain artistic endeavors are ever going to see the light of the day, so as a rule, I’m behind them 100%.

In theory, that is.

I’ve consistently believed that something given has no value, but something earned always does- this doesn’t apply to gifts or free Ding Dongs of course, but to anything that comes from a place of hard work and ethical decisions, two innate qualities that Peter and his body of work have sadly and constantly, lacked. In the final tally, all I can state is that it’s a sad day when we casually reward the act of copying somebody else’s notes, and doing it not just brazenly, but without shame. In the interest of fairness, there are quite a few of my fellow artists who do not share my point of view, but that’s to be expected in a scene this small and concentrated.

Mediocrity is a disease, and it should be eradicated as if it were a cockroach. My detractors like to throw around the “commercial” label in regards to my work, but it hardly registers as an insult at this point in my career, and why should it? My so-called commercial work is what funds both my personal projects and the charities I donate to, regardless of whether that donation takes the form of cash, art, or time.

As one of my past artistic mentors said to me quite some time ago: “If you want to be Picasso, you’re going to have to draw a lot of tap-dancing wedding cakes first.” And boy golly, was he spot on about that. In my career, I’ve been (with varying degrees of success) a freelance graphic designer, a muralist, a cartoonist, a screen-printer, a sculptor, a photographer, a POP artist, and at present, I find myself labeled a writer. And it’s all been a gas, no matter what. I’m an Artist, and it ain’t never been a half bad way to live a life.

By it’s very definition, the term commercial implies that one has achieved success, so I guess I can’t really complain when somebody hurls that particular invective grenade at my life’s work- besides, it’s not like it’ll do any real damage in the long run, as after twenty some-odd years, my metaphorical skin is thicker than Paris Hilton’s eye makeup, give or take a layer.

In general, I tend to engage my critics head on, whether it’s in person or typically- on the world wide web, where everybody is ten feet tall and a certified bad ass Constitutional lawyer as well. Not too surprisingly, most of these Internet interactions are usually filled with vulgar language and sadly obsessive remarks about my hair/beard/clothing, rather than an intelligent discourse about what I’ve either said or wrote.

However, there are the rare few that actually take the time to craft their e-mails and ask the tough questions. These people I like- they start with an “agree to disagree” attitude and run with it until the allegorical wheels fall right the hell off. If you look hard enough, civil dissertation isn’t dead, it’s just been knocked over the head and locked up in a dark basement, much to the degradation of all.

But calmly sitting on my hands while Rome burns has never been my style. Depending on the situation, I’m either the one setting the conflagration, or the one making campfire S’mores, utilizing the flaming ruins of what used to be a Starbucks. In other words, I just can’t wait for something to come to a head, I almost pathologically have to make stuff happen. With that mindset, it was obviously time for me to approach this issue from another angle, and get the perspective of someone more closely associated with SMOCA’s process for inclusion- someone who unlike me, actually had the inside track in regards to how the candidates were selected.

So, seeking that knowledge, and in the spirit of free and honest communication, I extended my hand across the wilds of the Internet, and sent an E-mail to Lesley Oliver, Marketing & Public Relations Manager for SMoCA, (AKA: Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art) that said the following:

From: Wayne Michael Reich [mailto:darkreich@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2014 7:02 PM
To: Lesley Oliver
Subject: Regarding Peter Bugg’s Entry for SMOCA’s GnP Awards.

Ms. Oliver-

My name is Wayne Michael Reich and I write a Phoenix-centric blog known as “ArtBitch”.
[Link: https://www.waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com]

The reason for my contacting you is that I am currently writing a new piece that regards Peter Bugg’s recent win at the GnP awards. I was informed that you were the person on point to talk to. If not, I would appreciate being steered in the right direction, if possible.

I’m curious as to know why an almost identical entry of last year’s winning concept was judged to be qualified for this year’s inclusion, as these grants are seemingly deemed to highlight creativity, originality, and above all- community outreach.

For clarity’s sake, let’s check out last years’ first place winner Stefanie Francis. Her project, “The Happy Camper”, is “a series of Girl Scout-esque patches for the LGBT community. (There’s an “I-survived-Mormonism” patch with an image of Mormon underwear, to give you an idea). Francis says she wants to use humor both as a means of overcoming adversity and celebrating shared experience.”

And now let’s compare Peter’s project.

“Equal Scouts” aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America’s infringements on gay rights.”

According to the voluminous e-mail I’ve been receiving, the general consensus is yes, Peter did appropriate her original concept. I’m looking to publish by this Thursday, so any official statement would be appreciated, and I give you my word that whatever you write, it will be published in full, with no editing, if you wish to make any form of rebuttal.

If you choose to just offer a “No Comment”, that is also acceptable, and will be noted in the new piece.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Wayne Michael Reich

I’m actually impressed with myself here- I think I come off as professional, not snarky, and if I would dare to use a term not normally associated with yours truly, I seem almost downright diplomatic. So naturally, I thought that this approach would easily foster a mature and focused discussion on how to refine the selection process so that this type of obvious plagiarism could be weeded out in the future.

Have I ever mentioned my unfounded optimism in regards to people doing the right thing? Good. Because that sunshiny world view is about to be stomped like a narc at a biker rally.

Here’s SMoCA’s response, via Lesley Oliver:

“Dear Mr. Reich,

Thank you for writing and sharing your feedback. The Museum has no further comment regarding Peter Bugg’s project. The Good ‘N Plenty process is an open one and it has reached its conclusion.

We wanted, however, to provide you more information about the Good ‘N Plenty program so that you would fully understand the event:

Each Good ‘N Plenty cycle features completely different community jurors who select up to six presenting finalists and it is the audience at each event who votes to decide upon the “winners.” The voting audience, obviously, changes from cycle to cycle as well. Please see the parameters for the program below.

We hope that you will consider attending future Good ‘N Plenty events.

Attached at the bottom (of course) was a description of the Good n’ Plenty event, which reads like standard marketing boilerplate. Yadda, yadda, yadda, blah, blah, blah. What was missing was one small, minor, almost insignificant detail- an answer to the question I actually asked.

There are few things that are as galling as the “non-answer” answer- typically, I’ve always regarded it as a sanctuary for persons who lack the strength of character to be honest about what they really believe, but in this case, I’ll make a rare exception. She’s probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, but at the very least, she could acknowledge what is so blatantly obvious to everyone, couldn’t she?

What amazes me is the total lack of concern regarding the impropriety of the issue I raised; “oh, this makes us look bad? Well, let’s just ignore it then, and send this guy the standard letter where we don’t actually say anything of substance.” Granted, I’m not the only person who’s noticed this act of weak-ass plagiarism, I just happen to be the one who’s currently the loudest about it. And keep in mind, this was brought to my attention by somebody else- I did not discover this on my own, otherwise I would have definitely noted it in my last blog.

But as I said, she’s probably not allowed (by policy) to say what she really thinks, so a metered and thoughtful response was clearly in order. So, keeping that compulsory set of standards in mind, here’s my response:
Ms. Oliver-

Thank you for your response.
Sadly, it was exactly what I expected.

On a related side note, if plagiarism is an acceptable form of creative expression, then I am afraid I will have to demur your highly generous offer to attend future events.

You know. Personal ethics and all that.

In closing, I wish you much success with next years event.

Respectfully, Wayne Michael Reich

There you go- when it’s absolutely imperative, I can be devastatingly charming, if need be. No vulgarity hurled, minimal snarkiness, and even a upbeat message wishing for personal good fortune at the end- that’s how you tell somebody in the most genteel way that the organization they work for has the ethical strength of wet tissue paper. However, this lily-livered response shouldn’t come as a shock to those of us who’ve watched SMoCA for years, as any museum that would tout a pyramid of oranges as art really shouldn’t be taken seriously in the first place.

And no… I am not kidding. If there exists any question as to why Artists don’t get the respect they deserve, all I have to say is this: Oranges. Stacked. In. A. Pyramid. are being touted by some with the same fervor as work by Michelangelo. I’d take some aspirin for this oncoming headache if it weren’t for the fact that my bottle of Tylenol was taken from me upon entering and quickly put on display.

If truth be told, I’m thinking that next year, I should do the same project as Peter did, but this time I’ll go one notch better and add glitter to the patches. Because everything’s better with glitter. Everything. Even plagiaristic homage.

To give credit where credit is due, I will admit that their “5 Senses” exhibition featuring an indoor waterfall was pretty cool, but I wouldn’t regard it as art so much as a triumph of engineering over indoor plumbing, and Lesley’s duck and cover response fits perfectly with their well-worn and somewhat weak methodology of promoting half-baked Koon-esque installations as the pinnacle
of Art. I guess in the end, what’s important is that the right people got to keep their jobs, and our art scene took yet another hit to its already shaky and corroded reputation. You know… the usual standard operating procedure.

Gah. Sick of this. Between the spineless morality of faux Museums, and the artists they shelter from valid criticism, I’ve had my fill of the pretentiously untalented this week. Thank God for Vonnegut.*
*[Which is somewhat ironic, because he was a Humanist.]

But there is an upside to turning my back on this wretchedly pathetic affair- we can finally start down the path to finishing up my belated tale of being so near Death I could smell his cologne.*
*[Shockingly it’s “Paco Rabanne”- never let it be said Death doesn’t have good taste.]

So, without further ado, let’s get back to the reason we originally came here, to read about me and Fate’s thwarted attempt to shuffle me off this, the mortal coil, back in 2009. Now, where did we leave off? Ah, yes- I was talking about my Mommy issues and waxing poetic about cable TV.

However, It’s late. And I am really tired from being a cultural warrior this week, so I think we’ll take a break here and return to the final arc of this tale in the next episode of Artbitch, or as I like to call it- Mastersnark Theatre.

“Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies; history has no place for them.” – Norodom Sihanouk













You Only Live Twice PT. 3 (Bugg off, would ya?)

“I am as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary”
– Billy Joel

Hello Blogiteers!

Isn’t today just an absolutely wonderful day? The birds are singing, the sun is shining, puffy clouds drift lazily in the sky, and in a very short while, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Agents of Shield” and “Antique Road Show” will have all new episodes for me to completely geek out to.

All hail Headless Hydra who collects 19th century porcelain.

Yes, I can honestly say that Life is sweet. Sure, I’m still having some slight health issues, money (as always) is still super tight, and I still can’t find any adult size Buzz Lightyear Underoos, but overall- I really can’t complain. As my dear sweet departed Oma liked to say: “every day above ground is a good day“, a sentiment that depending on the situation I find myself in, can rank anywhere from adorable cat poster wisdom or outright hokum.

Today, I’m going with the cat, as all around me good things are happening, and some of it is actually happening to the right people for a change. I recently sold two pieces of my photographic art after a long drought of sales non-activity and the client is interested in seeing the rest of the series, so let’s all cross our fingers and hope they spend enough money for me to acquire a black on black decked out Hemi-cuda with matching Asian masseuse. However if that does happen, I’m also going to have to get my GF Ashley her own South American cabana boy and purchase a pool, otherwise we’ll just have a swarthy 20 year old with killer abs hanging around our apartment for no reason. What can I say? I’m all about the balance.

And let’s be honest- providing job opportunities for Antonio Banderas look-alikes is what made this country the powerhouse that it is today. America. F**k yeah.

In current blogvella news, I still have to finish my tale of being hospitalized back in July of 2009, because I know you all are just riveted by my latest opus, but to be honest- I need just a little space to share the rest. Sure, I know this comes a a shock, but it’s somewhat difficult to make an ICU stay an uplifting tale. I will get back to it, but for now, I’d like to make a small course correction by addressing an issue I also want to talk about if that’s ok. 

It is? You guys just kick ass. And you’re looking good too. I can tell from here you’ve lost some weight, and those abs of yours are just smoking. I’m the luckiest blogger in the world to have readers like yourselves. Yes sir, things are pretty nifty, even if they’re somewhat stressful at times.

Granted, I’m still trying to line up all the ducks in relation to my career, but I’ve been in valleys before, and this is just part of the gig, aggravating as it can sometimes be. Speaking of aggravating, it seems my favorite artsy car wreck Peter Bugg is in the “news” again, this time as a finalist in SMOCA’s annual Good and Plenty artist grant competition.

The grant is being chased by five other finalists, all of whom get to pitch their ideas, after which a decision is made based upon the strength of one’s concept and to a lesser degree, the code of the Highlander, which clearly states “there can be only one“.
[The Live event takes place at SMOCA on August 29th if anyone’s interested.]

If only a quip-filled sword-fight leading to a spectral decapitation with backing music by Queen was on the menu. I would definitely pay to see that. Hell, I’d willingly front the grant money if that were the case. And before you jump to conclusions*, this is not a bitter grapes issue, this is the eternal question I’ve always asked myself: what’s allowed to pass as art these days, and how does it gets funded?

*Full disclosure: Fortunately, my art has always been self-supporting, so I’ve never had to apply for grants of any kind, which is how I like my career- no strings attached or hoops to jump through. However, due to several people suggesting that I should, I am contemplating seeking grants related to writing as a means to further my literary reach, which so far- entertains many but has yet to pay the bills in a truthfully effective fashion.

And while I do agree that funding of the Arts is important, most grants seem to fall into the “sustenance” category- that is, it’s just enough to get your project started, but not so sufficient that you can totally concentrate all your energy on whatever it is you wish to accomplish.

If I were to be brutally honest, it also seems that for every gifted artist that gets funded, there’s also an army of highly untalented Damien Hirst / Jeff Koons clones who get access to all that sweet cash as well, a factoid I’ve never really understood.

Just my two cents. Back to the rant.

As I stated earlier, there are five other artistic teams going after the same prize and in the interest of fairness, here are their proposals (and my take on them) before I mention Peter’s.

1) Julie Akerly and Matthew Mosher: “nueBOX”, which is described as a performance and installation residency program for artists.

My POV: Great idea- Phoenix needs more programs like this actually, especially to foster our up and coming talent, as long as it doesn’t turn into an Obi-Wan and Anakin type of cluster-f**k. It’s easy to blow up a Death Star (thank you, incompetent government contractors) but a lot harder to superglue Alderrann back together, if you know what I mean.

2) Dain Quentin Gore: “Exquisite Corpse Hootenanny”, which will involve artists creating puppets using “corpse methods” for performances at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater.

My POV: To be honest, I have no bloody idea what a “corpse method”* is, but I’ve seen Dain’s performances in the past and they’re always a blast. Tack on the knowledge that he’s also an incredible painter as well, and odds are good that he’ll bring something solid to the table. Besides, possibly zombified puppets having a “Hootenanny” is something I’d never thought I’d see until the End of Days, and I’m not going to pass that golden opportunity up, no siree Bob.
*[It was just brought to my attention by fellow Artist Cindy Schnackel* that Exquisite corpse, also known as exquisite cadaver (from the original French term cadavre exquis) or rotating corpse, is a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled.

Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed. The technique’s origins are widely credited to the Surrealists and are similar to an old parlor game called Consequences (AKA: “Prims”) in which players write in turn on a sheet of paper, fold it to conceal part of the writing, and then pass it to the next player for a further contribution.

Thank you Cindy, much appreciated.] 
*Check out Cindy’s work at: http://www.redbubble.com/people/cschnack

3) Mimi Jardine: “Mobile Remittance Unit”, which according to her description, is “a faux government office that processes and collects litter in an artistic and light-hearted way.”

My POV: Something that cleans up Downtown Phoenix and does it with a sense of humor?
Who couldn’t get behind that? Idiots and Conservative Republicans, but then again… I repeat myself. As long as circus clowns and silly hats aren’t involved, I just might be all in. Oh, who am I kidding- I’m in especially if there’s the possibility of silly hats.

4) Ashley Naftule: “The Rides of March”, an interactive Shakespearean bike tour which would take place on the Ides of March and entertain riders with plays performed throughout the tour.

My POV: Simply inspired, along with being elegantly understated as well. Ashley is not only a genuine and amazingly nice guy, he’s also a truly brilliant writer, as anyone who reads his “Tales of the Bus” series on FaceBook will willingly attest to.

Culture, exercise and literary enlightenment- three things Phoenix also definitely needs. Seriously- if Terran-eating space aliens ever invade this city, they won’t bring laser guns, they’ll bring butter, for all the non-reading barely sentient human couch potatoes that this town seemingly has a disturbing overabundance of.

Meh. Gotta take the bitter with the sweet, I suppose. I for one, would warmly welcome our newest and I might add, benevolent, Evil Earth Overlords, as I happen to be in fairly good shape (ie: not worth eating) and fun at parties too. In other words, I’d be fine, but there’s a lot of y’all that would be seriously screwed ten ways to Sunday.

5) Steve Weiss, Leslie Barton, and Katherine Simpson: “Terreno Baldio Country Club”, this concept would turn urban vacant lots into desert golf courses designed by artists.

My POV: Just twisted enough to possibly provide not just entertainment for the PAS and it’s various sub-groups of patrons, but if marketed right, could also be a consistent source of income for the same.

In the grand scheme, everybody could come out a winner- the vacant lot owners who could take a pre-negotiated cut of the profits as long as they agree to re-invest it back on some level, the downtown denizens who would no longer have to see such sterile eyesores, and don’t forget the PAS community, who just might see a theoretical upswing in the fortune of the local economy being fed by the spending habits of patrons who could be lured downtown by the hopefully ongoing and changing face of the project.

Think about it. An interactive art display that changes yearly, if not monthly, for some of the more manageably sized lots. That’s how you build local as well as national interest. Personally, while I’m fond of all of the above concepts, I like this one a heckuva lot.

Finally, we come to Peter Bugg’s project: “Equal Scouts”, which aims to get Eagle Scouts to wear Human Rights Campaign symbols in place of their usual American flag badges to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts of America’s infringements on gay rights. Here’s an unforeseen surprise… I actually like the idea behind this concept, but as usual with most of Peter’s artistic aspirations, it falls flat.

In the past I’ve noted his disrespectful appropriation of other peoples’ work under the guise of creating an “homage” and lashed out at his consistently puzzling (and truly irritating) inability to cross the artsy finish line while trying to make a creative point, whatever that may be. In fact, I wrote a little scribe* about it, back in April of 2012.

If there’s one thing that gets under my skin, it’s the public display of poorly executed work- whether that’s in the construction or the presentation, it makes no difference to me if it’s done half-ass, and that seems to be the one aspect of his work that’s seemingly consistent. In fact, Peter strongly reminds me of the character that Kurt Vonnegut featured in several of his novels, that being the persona of Kilgore Trout. So who is this fictional person exactly?

You ask, I deliver: Kilgore Trout is a fictional character created by author Kurt Vonnegut. He was originally fashioned as a fictionalized version of author Theodore Sturgeon (Vonnegut’s colleague in the genre of science fiction- Vonnegut was amused by the notion of a person with the name of a fish, Sturgeon, hence Trout), although Trout’s consistent presence in Vonnegut’s works has also led critics to view him as the author’s own alter ego.

The character of Trout has supposedly written over 117 novels and over 2000 short stories, which are typically used only as filler material in pornographic magazines. Trout is consistently presented as a prolific, but unappreciated science-fiction writer, the main criticism of his work being “if he could only write!”. This rather dismissive view of his life’s labor is due to Trout’s puzzling aptitude to come up with great ideas for stories, but his lack of ability to actually execute them into a viable work is what keeps him nothing more than a literary footnote.

And that’s what I’m apt to be reminded of when it comes to Peter’s work: “if only he could create!” I will give the guy credit, as he does have really good concepts to start with, but then when it comes to their execution, it’s like he’s decided that all the hard work is done and he can just phone it in from where ever he’s currently hipstering. Heck, half the time it’s like he sent it in via cuneiform, which I as an Artist find almost maddening, and this latest concept to open a discussion about the way that the LGBT community is treated is really no different than the rest of his previous works that I’ve seen.

Now before you get all up in my grille and start lighting up torches and sharpening your pitchforks, I completely support Gay Rights 100%, and I’ve donated my time, my money, as well as my art to help further the cause. For the record, I find it appalling that we’re still having to debate this issue in the year of 2014, and in a related aside, weren’t we also promised that we’d have jet packs and flying cars by this point too?

However, I’m willing to forgo those luxuries to assist Humanity in it’s quest to become that much smarter and stronger by granting the same civil rights to all. It’s our unique diversity that makes this country better, whether it’s form takes that of faith, gender, or even one’s personal sexuality, which to be blunt, is nobody’s business, save the people who are involved.

Keep in mind though that the moment LGBT marriage is legal in all fifty states, there better be a radically sweet flying car parked under my carport with a flamed-paint jetpack in the trunk like yesterday, or I’m gonna open up a case of whup-ass on whatever science-fiction writer is within the closest vicinity for getting my hopes so high.

I’m looking at you, Piers Anthony… just a heads up. And don’t even get me started on my own personal transporter and TARDIS- we’ll be here for days. So what issue could I possibly have with a sorely needed awareness campaign that champions equal rights? Well, it’s not so much about the campaign as it is about it’s execution, or lack thereof. On the surface, it seems like a solid concept, but as an OCD afflicted and somewhat cynical Creative, I see my share of flaws. I know… it’s a curse.

And as one of my friends recently asked in regards to my bitching: “Well, if you’re so smart, why didn’t you come up with the idea first?” A fair question, to be sure, but I do have a ready answer for that… um… well… you see… I… ah… oh heck, it’s just not the way my brain works in relation to sparking up the Creative Method. I know, I know, it sounds like a cop-out, but it truly is not. I’ve just always been very good at taking a weak concept and girding it with class 4 armor, no matter how frail the internal structure is.

Even back in Kindergarten, I kicked ass in this particular arena-  just ask my teachers. If any are still alive, that is. Flavored paste? Totally my idea. Waking up from nap time to green tea and soothing sitar music? Booyah- all this boys’ doing. And let’s not forget my successful and widely popular helming of Monkey Bar Monday.

Seriously. Never forget. So how would I go about taking Peter’s idea and making it that much more effective? Well, let’s start with the issue at hand: the BSA’s maddening ban on gay scouts / leaders- an action they justify by citing their “Christian” beliefs. Mind you, this is also the same line of bulls**t that was employed when they practiced segregation back in the day, so in the end- their whitewash refuses to stick.

Let me be clear, I have no specifically personal axe to grind with the BSA other than their inherent and ignorant homophobia, but given their reluctance to be progressive, mirrored against the current century we live in, I find their assertion of being brothers with Christ to be both hypocritical and absurd. Granted, if I were to address a fashion note, their uniforms do remind one of the Sturmabteilung- minus that whole Aryan master race thing of course, so I do empathize with Peter’s desire to shake it up a bit.

But there’s a small problem in implementing such a process, and it starts with the Eagle Scouts themselves, who lets be honest- might not be comfortable being publicly 100% on board with the whole acceptance thing. Even if Peter could find some Eagle Scouts that share the growing world-view of inclusion and tolerance, there’s still a small hurdle he would have to circumvent- it takes years to become an Eagle Scout, and it requires a massive amount of hard work to do so. Despite this, they can still be stripped of their accomplishment if that person goes against what the BSA deems that they shouldn’t do- in this case, publicly standing up for Gay Rights.

When petty retribution is meted out as a means of control, It’s not hard to see why so many choose to keep their own counsel. While there have been several public outcries from former BSA members regarding the ban, I think we can all agree that as a whole the majority of the organizations’ more influential members have remained silent, at least in public. If you’re going to compel change in one’s attitude, then you almost need to rebuild them from scratch- especially if your program contradicts what they’ve chosen or been forced to believe.

I for instance, was raised Catholic, and despite my inherent love of crucifixes and candle-lit statues, my inclination was to become a fierce and proud Liberal, with some Conservative shadows in my psyche. As an example, I despise most authoritarian structures, yet I also believe in gun control. I’m also Pro-choice, a feminist, anti-Republican, anti-Tea Party, and I think that it’s perfectly fine to eat anything and everything that’s made out of meat. If God wanted us to be vegans, he wouldn’t have created the wonder that is bacon, enough said.

The point I’m trying to make in a roundabout way is this: despite the public pressure that they have been placed under, by both the news media and the social networks, they’re still sticking to their guns, and the odds of the BSA’s entrenched elite changing their minds anytime soon are probably akin to the prospect of me meeting Milla Jovovich while she’s wearing a whipped cream bikini. So given that realistic outlook, I think we need to attack this problem from a different point of view.

If we take an honest look at the average American, they’re really not that observant, which has nothing to do with their level of their intelligence- it’s just that most people don’t pay attention to what’s generally around them. I once watched a segment on some news show (20/20?) where a group of behavioral research scientists plastered  “missing child” signs all over a mall’s entrance- these posters prominently displayed an image of a very young boy, who was in fact, part of the social experiment.

Here’s the interesting part: the so-called “missing child” was standing right inside the mall entrance in a highly visible area wearing the same clothes as in the poster… and was completely overlooked or ignored by the majority of the people walking in. If my memory serves, the ratio was around 85%, and some of those people had actually taken a minute or two to read the poster. My theory is that if something doesn’t affect one personally, they tune it out. Social blinders, for a lack of better explanation, if you please. And that’s where I think Peter’s concept hits the metaphorical iceberg, the quandary being that of social blindness.

Let’s look at this realistically: in an average day, how much stimuli are you unwillingly exposed to? Garish and invasive advertising, loud noises, obnoxious people who have full blown conversations on their I-phones in public, the constant barrage of social media, telemarketers, bad drivers, rude and disinterested customer service, corruption of the fifth estate (looking at you, FOX “News”), and the general coarsening of our society, to name just a few.

As a rule, we all try to filter this out. Some days we can, other times we cannot. Given all this, I don’t think it’s out of bounds to suggest that if Peter did manage to find a few like minded Eagle Scouts who were willing to risk the very real probability of being stripped of their rank, that the overall impact of adding a few new patches to their uniforms would be nil at best, due to that whole “social blinders” thing I mentioned earlier.

If they did choose to wear these new patches, would anyone [other than their fellow Scouts] really notice? I seriously doubt it, unless they’re also manning a booth at Gay Pride as well, something I really don’t see happening. I couldn’t tell you what a BSA Eagle Scout uniform looks like other than they’re beige, maybe have a kerchief, and somehow make your posture look fantastic. So how could one go about and give this concept the gravitas it needs to have the social impact it requires?

My idea: reach back into past History. The LGBT community has always had to deal with exclusion, harassment and persecution in regards to their lifestyle, and even with all the progress that’s been made in the last few years, it can still be very dangerous to be “out” in certain parts of this country, even now.

In fact, I know personally three people who’ve been physically attacked here in Arizona for being gay, the most recent being less than three months ago. It has always struck me as strange that it seemingly always takes three “straight” guys to beat up one gay person- a weird factoid that if truth be told, consistently pisses me off.And despite all the ad campaigns attempting to change the animus that exists towards the LGBT community, I sadly know people who think it’s still okay to judge others on a lifestyle that doesn’t affect them directly at all.

I not only support Gay Marriage, I support gay adoption, gay families, gay puppies (as well as gay kittens) and even the sport of gay Curling, because seriously- that Scottish game needs a fabulous makeover and that right quick. But getting back on track, here’s my take on how to do it- use the most ubiquitous symbol of gay rights, that being the singular pink triangle and it’s ability to capture the eye as the basis for a new approach to raise awareness. But before I explain my concept, a brief History lesson:

The pink triangle, currently rendered in hot pink as a gay pride / gay rights symbol, was originally used as a Nazi concentration badge to denote homosexual men. Depicted in a more subtle shade of pink than the one used today, it was typically displayed on prisoners uniforms with the pointed end facing downward.

Unlike male homosexuals, lesbians were not generally regarded as a social or political threat. Even after the Nazi rise to power in 1933, most lesbians in Germany were able to live relatively quiet lives*.
*[Source: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005478]

Here’s where my idea splits off from Peter’s- I think it would be safe to assume that the whole point of this is to encourage an open and civil dialogue about equal rights for all (see: 14th Amendment) something that you and I already have, and take for granted on a daily basis. In order to accomplish this, you have to make people stop and ask the questions that your approach hopefully raises- if there’s no serious interaction, then there’s no forward movement in changing anothers thinking, hence the reason why I think the gay community embracing what was once a symbol of defamation as a pure icon of inner strength (by literally and figuratively turning it upside down) is truly inspiring.

One of the difficulties that exists in establishing civil discourse is to humanize yourself to someone who only views you as nothing more than a a label- take the world of Politics, where the common tactic to besmirch someone you disagree with is to mark them with a negative connotation before the conversation even starts, as a way of not having to see your opponent as an equal. This tactic has also been employed with great success against the LBGT community, as a way of marginalizing both their existence and their contributions to our culture, which are way too numerous to list here.

So here’s where I take a page out of Peter’s playbook and origami it into existence. Peter’s work has always [weakly] taken it’s cue from POP culture, and despite his tendency to appropriate other  people’s work for his re-fabricated world view, I have to give him points on one thing: he is quite good at employing the carnival-like atmosphere of Shock to promote his otherwise unremarkable body of work.

As I once stated in a previous blog about his then current gallery show: Although I wonder how many hours went into the “research” of this odious piece of faux artistic detritus, the idea of scanning the web for shots of Britney Spear’s vagina as a creative endeavor leaves me cold. Call me a prude, but if I wanted to attend a gynecology exam thinly disguised as art, I’d go to the Great Alaskan Bush Company.

As an Artist who’s never used Shock as a marketing tool, I’ve always taken the position that if you have to offend/disgust/anger/ someone as a means to move your work, rather than stirring up such emotions as a way to enact social change, you’re cheapening both yourself and your craft by taking the huckster’s way out. Personally, I’m no huckster. Peter, on the other hand… well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.

But this may be the one time where his modus-operandi may actually be the best approach to get the point across- that’s right, what we need here is pure, undiluted, over the top, full on gonzo, Shock.

Five words: Bright Pink Eagle Scout Uniforms. Stay with me… I’m going somewhere, oh yes.

This is what I’m thinking: use the past to help move Humanity forward a few notches, by taking authentic Eagle Scout uniforms, dyeing them bright pink and in place of their standard patches, attach the more subtle pink triangles in their originally used connotation- now that would definitely stop the blinded herd, I think. If you can find actual Eagle Scouts to don those uniforms, great. If not, then fill them with people who can civilly (and clearly) discuss the issue, the history, and the significance of LGBT rights in this country but are also able to put a face on the discussion, no matter who they happen to be engaging.

The key as I see it, is that the uniforms will pique passersby’s’ attention to the point of their opening a dialogue, something I can’t see a few swapped (and subtly underplayed) patches doing with the same efficiency. Overcome their pre-formed labels by literally shocking your targeted audience into civil focused discussion, and hopefully you’ll also change a few minds as to how they view the gay community.

And while the uniforms are figuratively [and literally] in your face, the discussion should not be.
I’ll explain.

Sadly, one of the tenets of our society that finds itself marginalized due to the 24/7 news cycle and the proliferation of the Internet is the concept of non-polarized discussion. These days we don’t talk to each other half as much as shout our opinions loudly and into the sky, usually to no avail. We claim to be truly civilized, yet act like slavering barbarians while we hide behind keyboards and our virtual avatars.

And I’m just as guilty as everyone else, thank you very much. I do try to use these claws for good most days, but when you’re constantly dealing with people who regard facts in the same way as Superman views Kryptonite, it sometime tends to pop your diplomacy cork more often than not. No matter where you stand in regards to the issue, gay rights can be a “hot button”, even to those who feel that we’ll eventually be proven correct in our view that equality for all is the only path for us as a society to take.

Some respectfully disagree with this point of view, others move straight to taking their Books of Holiness and beating others about the face with it. BTW, the King James version of the Bible doesn’t leave bruises, but it does pack one heckuva wallop. Just saying. And let’s not mention the Torah, cause that sucker comes with handles. But when it comes to my take on Peter’s concept, I really do believe that respectful discussion of this issue is possible, no matter what side of the fence you find yourself next to- but only as long as the debate is courteous right from the start.

There are none so deaf as those who refuse to hear, so equal respect must be given to each side’s POV, otherwise there’s no reason to attempt changing their attitude.

An “agree to disagree” approach as it were. Now, given that optimistic outlook- I think that this project could even be taken one step further using the Internet as a viable means of education. Perhaps there could be a corresponding website not only full of oral histories that might help chronicle/explain the repression, un-warranted violence, and social harassment that the LGBT community has experienced over the years, but also additional links that lead to further information or support groups for those who might be undergoing such discrimination at this time as well.

Remember- my angle is all about humanizing the cause to people who necessarily don’t see the LBGT community in the same way as they see their own, by making them stop and confront whatever prejudices they carry by replacing their labels they carry in their head, with actual people in their stead. [Hey- that rhymed!] Would my beefed-up distillation of Peter’s original concept work?

I’m pretty sure it would, and with far more effectiveness, I’d like to think. But what do I know… I’m not even smart enough to fill out the paperwork to take other people’s money. And when we come back…

I end my tale about my adventures in cheating Death, finally get to wax poetically about vanilla pudding, elucidate on why I would kick your ass in Trivial Pursuit regarding anything mob related, and set the possibly lowest speed for the 50 yard dash ever recorded, all while humming the entire Michael Jackson catalog.

You know… all that stuff I promised you last time.

“It happens; incompetence is rewarded more often than not.” – Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter


You Only Live Twice. PT.2 (My Dinner with Elvis)

“You only live twice: once when you’re born, and once when you look death in the face.”
– Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice.

Hello Blogiteers!

Welcome back to the Snarklands.When last together, I had just started to expound upon my near-death experience back in June of 2009, after engaging in a one-sided battle of wits with the human equivalent of a house plant, an internet twit who went by the name of “Uniquesparrow”. Despite all my best attempts, it never did rise above a minor annoyance, leading me to speculate that if this is the level of adversary that’s available in the PAS these days, I might just have to outsource to Pakistan* to acquire the type of antagonist I’ve grown accustomed to.*

[ can see it now: Hello, my name is Akbar, how may I serve your needs for bitch-slapping today?“”]

Say what you will about former Artbitch scratching post Amy Silverman, PHX New Times’ Mangling Editor and her innate talent for being a triple platinum-plated bitch, but at least she had claws and knew how to use them. Granted, not to any real effect, but at any rate, that shriveled black lump of coal she carries around in her chest and wittily calls a heart was in the right place. There’s an old saying that you judge your success by your enemies, and if we were to get brutally honest, I think it’s fairly obvious that I need to upgrade right quick and get my hands on some better enemies.

A Sherlock to my Moriarity, as it were. Skywalker to my Vader. Batman to my Joker. Skinny jeans to Kim Kardashian. Reality to the Tea Party. Sobriety to Lyndsey Lohan… you get the idea. When the finest someone can throw back at me is the threat of an imaginary lawyer, that’s when I know it’s definitely time to look for a better class of detractor. But as I stated in my last blogvella, there’s been a disturbing development when it comes to my efforts to remain a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, and that is this- everybody lately has just been so damn nice where I happen to be concerned, and quite frankly… it’s kind of freaking me out a bit.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say there’s some sort of loose conspiracy in regards to making me feel good and/or important. As to what their end game is, I have no idea, but I am sure of one thing- when I’m the one person that some are seemingly turning to for advice on both their career and the PAS, there just has to be an Angel in proximity consecutively blowing a horn while breaking open a sacred seal.

[See: “Revelation”. “End of the World.” “Forthcoming Apocalypse.”]

After years of being marginalized, it’s still feels a little odd to have people ask me for advice, whether it happens to be personal or theoretical. I don’t consider myself smarter than the next guy/gal, nor do I think I truly have a lock on what’s really cooking behind closed doors either. To quote Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors; “Maybe God has just been around a long time and knows everything” an apt analogy as to where my point of view is concerned. After two decades of carving out my niche, I have picked up a nugget or two of sometimes useful information, which occasionally does come in handy.

This small aside: a while back, I was asked by a fellow Creative out to coffee so they could “pick my brain” about their next career move, and as to how they might/should go about it. Naturally, since this was an opportunity to talk at length about my favorite subject hat being me and all the wondrous things pertaining to such, I took them up on it. Plus, to a lesser degree, there was also the fact that someone else was going to be picking up my soda tab, and as an artist, I can never pass up the possibility of free food or drinks.

Actually, come to think of it, I believe that might actually be an actionable clause of my artist union membership. Anywho… after about two hours of thorough and intelligent questioning, I asked why of all the people they knew, they decided that my brain was the one to mine for info. Their response?                 

Dude- you’ve been around forever…  you’re like an artsy dinosaur “

In their defense, they did follow up that with: “I mean that as a compliment.” Ouch. If that is indeed a compliment, I’m sure I don’t want to be around for an insult, as it probably involves the application of both fire and rabidly feral weasels to my favorite body parts.

Some small, yet important, advice: if you want to get on my good side (yes… I do have one) I’d suggest that you never imply that I’m ancient, reptilian, and possess a physiology dependent on environmental heat sources, which permits me to operate at a very economical metabolic rate, while subtly inferring that I may possibly have tiny arms like a T-Rex.

Just saying.

Granted, I may have taken his words a little too hard, due not to what was actually said with good intent, but as to what was stated to me a few days later when I had lunch with a fellow colleague who had started his career at about the same time as I. After hearing my complaint, he merely nodded and said: Well, when you look at it… you kind of are standing right next to me in the tar pit.” Excuse me…Tar pit? Tar pit?!?!?!?

Sure, I may be getting somewhat long in the tooth, but I’m still one of the cool kids, right? You know, the ones standing on the grass, with their Walkmans, and the spiced clove cigarettes, rocking the acid-washed jeans and the British flag t-shirt? Oh, holy ****… I am a dinosaur. A sad point driven home when he followed up with:Ok. You’re not technically IN the tar pit, but at the very least… you ARE standing on my head.”

Great. Now I’m depressed. And I’m all out of Ding Dongs, so I can’t even eat away my emotional pain like I normally would. I seriously need a vacation, and I need it right quick. However. I have a job to do, as I just can’t leave you stranded in the middle of a story, and when it comes down to the brass tacks, seeing it through to the end just happens to be one of my better character flaws. Lately I find myself on the brink of a conundrum, and it’s been a bitch hacking through the jungle with only a metaphorical spork to aid me. The problem is this- recently my health has taken a few knocks due to my Diabetes, and if one were to be honest, I’d have to admit I’m nowhere near fully recovered from my near-death incident in 2009.

By all outward appearances, I look fine, but even though I’ve bounced back from Death’s door, the battle isn’t over yet- not by a long shot. When I finally checked out of the hospital’s ICU, I strode out (gratefully) with my life, but I also left carrying multiple diabetic related issues as well, the two biggest being neuropathy and some serious short/long term memory loss. I’m pretty sure I don’t have to give you the textbook definition of what memory loss is, but when it comes to neuropathy, it’s likely there’s more than a few of you wondering just what in the hell that is, so here goes, straight from the dictionary:

“A disorder of the peripheral Nervous system, It may be genetic or acquired, progress quickly or slowly, involve motor, sensory, and/or autonomic nerves, and affect only certain nerves or all of them. It can cause pain or loss of sensation, weakness, paralysis, loss of reflexes, muscle atrophy, or, in autonomic neuropathies, disturbances of blood pressure, heart rate, or bladder and bowel control; impotence; and inability to focus the eyes.

Some types damage the neuron itself, others the myelin sheath that insulates it. Examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, poliomyelitis, and shingles.

Causes include diseases (e.g., diabetes mellitus, [my issue] leprosy, [not me, as I have all my body parts] syphilis, [what killed Al Capone] injury, [possible.. I did play a lot of twiddly-winks back in the day] toxins, [do Ding Dongs count?] and vitamin deficiency. [see: diet of, Ding, Dongs.]

There… doesn’t that sound like fun? Not too shockingly, it really isn’t, as the effects of said condition affects my life in a number of ways. On a good day, it feels like I have a bad sunburn, and on the worst- it feels like I’m being fed feet first into a wood chipper. I also suffer random stabbing attacks in my legs, chest, and sometimes in an area that personally, I feel should be off limits to pain in general as clearly stated under the rules of the Geneva Convention.

A Forbidden Zone, as it were. Strictly Forbidden. Verboten on all levels. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. Recently, the decreased sensitivity in my feet [another side effect] led to a rather worrying incident- I woke up in the middle of the night to grab a drink, experienced an intense onset of vertigo (aka: a “head rush”) and wound up almost passing out.
[Which BTW, has happened almost a half a dozen times in the last two months. Why? Not a clue.]

This led to my dropping the glass container directly on my left foot, a fact that I didn’t notice until almost 14 hours later when I observed that one of my toes was the color of Prince- black, purple, and just a touch of golden yellow.

Sadly, the toe still lacks Funk.

What’s truly upsetting is the fact that I didn’t [then and now] feel it at all, which as you can imagine, could become quite problematic in the long run. If I inure myself unknowingly and said wound goes untreated or septic, then not only do I run the risk of illness, but I could also be facing the very real risk of amputation in the not too far future. Personally, I don’t know about you, but I’d like to keep all of my parts- for all I know, there could be a trade-in policy regarding your body when you die, and I’d hate to have to tell God he’s not getting back a pristine model because my foot got taken out by a pitcher of lemon-flavored Crystal Light.

The end result of all of these maladies is that for the last few years, I’ve been relatively dormant as an Artist, and have turned most of my personal energies towards the dual role of being a highly vocal arts activist and writer- not because I don’t still feel like painting, but because I now suffer from some severe physical challenges in regards to producing work. Besides random hand spasms, which usually manifest as uncontrolled tremors, I sometimes also undergo severe pain in my right hand which directly affects how well I can control a brush and/or pen. Considering how vital focused control is to creating an original work, you can see why this is a huge problem where producing new ones are concerned.

Fortunately, I do have an artsy backup with my archive of original photography in regards to my painted and illustrative work, but I still have a troubling issue- my eyes. My Diabetes can alter my corneas to the point [depending on my blood sugar] where every now and then my vision is akin to looking through a vibrating set of lightly tinted sunglasses, while riding a roller coaster, on a boat that’s sailing the English Channel… holding a seasick cat.  And when you’re handling a medium sized camera, the hand tremors certainly don’t help in keeping your focus steady, either.

So given all that, it’s no wonder why I turned to writing to burn off some of that backed-up creative energy.
But as usual, I am getting ahead of myself. I really need to stop doing that, methinks. So, let’s start where it all began- late June, 2009.
And like most things that go South in my life, it all started with my mouth.

Despite my best efforts to keep my teeth healthy and in line, I had one that decided to cross the tracks and join the oral version of the Hell’s Angels. Speaking as a diabetic, tooth health is a big deal- it’s just one of the many paths that this disease can use to take you out, and as I stated in the first installment of this tale, I plan on living long enough to be a burden to others, much more so now than then.

But there were a few problems I had to contend with before I could take the appropriate action. At the time, I had no health insurance, and even though the dentists fee was small, money at that point in my life was fairly tight. Fortunately for me, my GF Ashley wound up buying one of my framed photographic works and insisted on paying full price for it, which allowed me the opportunity to both get my tooth fixed and keep my valuable man card points all at the same time.
[One day, I’m going to make clones of that girl and sell them online- yes, she rocks that much.]

The truly sordid thing about searching for a dentist? If you have insurance, most will get you in that day or the next, but if you don’t…. well, maybe they can see you in a few weeks. If they have an opening, that is.

Obviously, I needed to have it pulled, so I cashed Ashley’s check, and after ten or so calls, found a dental clinic using the Yellow Pages [For our younger readers, it’s like Google, but in book form] and made an appointment to have the offender yanked out of my mouth hopefully faster than Sheriff Joke can get in front of a camera crew. Ashley had been visiting relatives in Salt Lake City while this process was going on, and when I went to pick her up at the airport, it was fairly apparent that I was really sick- I was listless, in great pain, and physically exhausted. [The rest of my tale is cobbled together from the unaffected remembrances of my GF Ashley, translated into Artbitch snark by yours truly.]

On June 26th, I go in for the dental appointment, feeling sick as a dog, and with a face chock-full of swelling and infection, I meet the clinic’s resident Dentist, chat briefly about my medical history, and have some X-rays taken. After those were done, I leave with two prescriptions, one for pain pills and the other for antibiotics to crush my occupying infection, and make an appointment to have my tooth (which has gone black) to be extracted on Monday the 29th.

So that night, all is relatively well- granted, my mouth still hurt and I was feeling slightly nauseous, but I wrote that off due to the fact that I had taken a large amount of aspirin for the pain, and as someone who doesn’t generally take painkillers of any kind, I unwisely assumed this feeling was normal. The next day, Ashley goes and picks up my prescriptions for me, and after taking the first dose, I started having flu-like symptoms, which led to my throwing up said antibiotic a few hours later. Once again, I just assumed that was a normal reaction, which in retrospect, was a big mistake. Turns out that I was deathly allergic to the antibiotic proscribed, a rather important detail which was clearly listed in my medical history, but more on this later.

Ashley and I were supposed to attend a party that night, but I demurred due to my being under the weather and the continuing feeling of being physically exhausted. When she returns later that night, I’m still suffering the flu-like symptoms, pain, and in an even more concerning development- I am starting to show signs of not remembering whether or not I had been adhering to my insulin routine. Over the weekend, my symptoms get even worse- I’m throwing up almost everything I eat or drink, and I’m so disoriented that I have to arrange for someone to drive me to the dentist the following Monday.

Stupidly, I’m still of the opinion that I’ll be right as rain once I get my tooth pulled.

So, Monday finally arrives, and I am picked up by my former artist rep, who later describes my countenance to Ashley as  “that of a homeless person”, due to my uncharacteristic rough-looking appearance. Never let it be said I don’t know how to dress to impress- thank God I clean up nicely when it really counts. The extraction goes quickly and smoothly, and despite the fact that I’m having issues with my medication. my dentist offers no additional information or recommendations towards the betterment of my symptoms. In fact, the extraction took longer than the consult.

But here’s where the fun really starts- within several hours of the procedure, my symptoms become more severe, and I find myself experiencing what one could tactfully describe as apocalyptic delusions- think visions of Hell on steroids, and you’d be in the right neighborhood. That’s one of the downsides of being a Creative- when we hallucinate, it’s a full throttle, balls to the wall, over the top, completely gonzo, THX Sound, chock a block Michael Bay experience.

Initially, Ashley suggested I call my Mom for help, as she lives less than 15 minutes away from me, so after I had a really good laugh about the idea of my Mother doing something that required an act of selflessness, I emphatically put my foot down and said that no, we weren’t going to be doing that anytime soon. I’ll flesh out this particular razor-ball later on, but for right now, let’s get back on point. Now, for some unbeknownst reason, my visions of seeing Satan riding a pale horse while strumming Stairway to Heaven on a lute freaked Ashley out to the point where she called in my best friend Cale Richardson to ask for his assistance in getting me to the closest hospital, which in this case- turned out to be the John C. Lincoln located at Third Street and Dunlap Avenue.

[Cale by the way, is literally the last American Boy Scout- loyal, dependable, and one of the best people I know by far. He’s also 6’2′, good-looking and single, so if anybody’s out there looking for a good Christian boy with an impeccable work ethic who loves his Mom, (and dogs) let me know, and I’ll arrange a really entertaining lunch.]

Despite my strenuous objections about going to the hospital based on the fact that I had no insurance, Ashley and Cale managed to get me down stairs and into Ashley’s car, a trip I in all honesty, have no recollection of. In fact, there are 13 days missing in total from my memory- the last thing that I can clearly recall is sitting on my balcony two nights before watching the sunset. Poetic, but in the end, pointless.

Arriving around nine a.m., I am quickly admitted and in swift procession receive initial treatment for severe dehydration by having saline administered via an IV line. Testing my blood sugar, the ER staff learns to their horror / amazement that my index is at 1482- despite that, I am fully conscious, if not fully cognizant.

Apparently, it seems that in this day and age, having a fairly lucid conversation with Elvis in regards to Southern cooking while laying on a hospital gurney makes you “out of it” from a medical point of view. That’s the problem with doctors… no imagination. Until it comes to the bill, that is- then it’s like you’re stuck in an elevator with the animators from Fantasia. Seriously… if telling me “good morning” is considered (and billed) as a medical consult, then my response of “f**k you” should count as a one night stand.

Now to give you some perspective of the overall seriousness of the situation I was facing, a blood sugar reading of over 500 can affect mental processes, and once your numbers hit where I was, well… it’s best to probably not make any long term plans for the weekend. What can I say? I like to set the curve for the rest of the class. Essentially, I was suffering from severe (and life-threatening) ketoacidosis, which is defined as:

“Ketoacidosis is the accumulation of substances called keytones and ketone bodies in the blood. Acidosis is increased acidity of the blood. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include slow, deep breathing with a fruity odor to the breath; confusion; frequent urination (polyuria); poor appetite; and the eventual loss of consciousness.”

From an outsider’s POV, it would seem that with those symptoms, I’d share much in common with a slightly addled, undernourished, narcoleptic apple with poor bladder control, but I digress. I know what you’re thinking…  I’m in the hospital, a crack team of dedicated professionals is working on me, and at this point, it’s clear sailing ahead. That’s why I like you people- you’re all eternal optimists. I did happen to mention that I was pretty delusional at this point, didn’t I?

Good. Because that little nugget of knowledge is going to come in really handy right about now.

Despite Ashley’s assurances that I led a life of clean living and even with my established medical history, the doctor in charge of the unit (a pint-sized twit named Dr. Idriss) was adamant that I had to be a heavy drinker or drug user due to my symptoms. Now, I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but when it came to the “diabetes” classes offered at whatever online med school he graduated from, I can only assume that he was too tired from his shift at the Wonka Candy Factory* to pay attention, as he seemed relatively ignorant as to what the widely documented effects of an insanely high blood sugar can do to one’s psyche.*

[The Wonka Candy Factory staff is comprised solely of Oompa-Loompas, a race of vertically-challenged people, in case you missed the joke. Not that I have anything against Oompa-Loompas, mind you- their noble culture based on morality tales delivered in the form of catchy songs is truly inspirational, and their traditional native dress which incorporates Joker green hair, orange body-paint, and snazzy striped socks is truly a visual smorgasbord for one’s eyes.If you ever have a chance to share a Snozzberry with one of these  fine and I might add, dignified people, I’d advise that you take it- you’ll have stories for days.]

Shortly after being admitted into the ICU, I started slipping deeper into a delirious state, leading to my being severely sedated and restrained against my will, [an action I agree with in retrospect] as I was becoming combative due to my ongoing suffering from further apocalyptic delusions. And on top of it all, one has to remember that I was still fighting the original infection that had landed me here in the first place.

When I eventually regained consciousness, my nurse informed me that my blood was so septic that if we had delayed my visit to the hospital another 24 hours, I most likely would have died- a condition that might help my art sales, but would definitely limit my future plans of becoming the ballet dancer I always knew I could be. I remained sedated for the better part of the next three days, during which time a staff psychologist informed Ashley that they wanted to do a psychological evaluation regarding my mental state, to which Ashley asked her how that was going to happen, as I was still delirious and so heavily medicated that I was unable to speak. 

Finally seeing the obvious problem, she asks Ashley if I drank or did drugs and was answered with an emphatic “no” yet again. Ashley explained why I don’t drink [the combination of my diabetes and past relationship with an alcoholic fiancée has made me exceedingly adverse] and went on to further state that I don’t take any drugs, as I don’t like and/or approve of the *majority of them.

*[For the record, I don’t consider weed an actual drug, as I see it more along the lines of a conduit to help keep local musicians employed via the pizza delivery industry. Speaking of which, I actually have a joke that relates to both pizza and hospitals, so here goes:: “A man wakes up and finds himself in a hospital room, one with only himself in it. He has no recollection of how he got there. While pondering it, his bedside phone rings, and he answers it.

A doctor on the other end identifies himself, and tells the man: “I have really bad news. You’re very sick. After your collapse yesterday, we ordered several tests, and got the results back this morning. I’m afraid you have Avian flu, Ebola, and you’re positive for HIV and hepatitis.”

Stunned, the man asks “Well, what’s next!? What are you going to do?” The doc replies: “Well, for starters, we’re putting you on a strict diet of only pizza.” 

The patient asks: “Will that really help me, doctor?”

“No”, the doc responds. “But it’s all we can fit under the door.” ]

Wahahaha!!! Um… I’m sorry. Let’s get back on track. Giving her my business card, Ashley suggests she go to my (then) web site and look at the media interview that was originally on the front introduction page, as a means to observe my normal demeanor. Ashley is later informed by my daytime nurse Eric that she did so, and after that, she is not asked again about my behavior by anyone. So the message here is this: give good interviews, as it might just improve the perception of how others see you.

Despite her glowing assessment, the ICU staff under the direction of my Smurfesque doctor still have me under heavy sedation and are inflicting endless MRI’s and spinal tap procedures upon my person, which leads Ashley to break down and call my mother, who to her limited credit, informs the hospital that she objects to them keeping me sedated and states that if it comes from Ashley, the staff is to follow what she says as Gospel from my family. As you can imagine, Ashley immediately orders them to lift my heavily medicated veil, and that is when I start slowly coming back from the land of hellfire and gauze. Several hours later, I come to, my first recollection of hearing the beeping of an EKG machine next to my bed.

Obviously from my still groggy point of view, things had gone awry- a theory made fact when I looked down and saw that I had IV lines in both arms, and a catheter in a place where no length of tubing should ever be. In the future, let it be widely known that given a choice for what method to use for voiding my bladder, I’m perfectly fine with a bedpan.

Just saying.

At about 8:30 that morning, my daytime nurse on duty calls Ashley to inform her that I was awake and talking.  After asking whether I was the “f**k you” Wayne seen in the ICU or the normal “lets talk about me” Wayne, she and I have a brief conversation, of which I have a somewhat limited recall.

Remember my mom? Well, when Ashley calls and tells her I’m conscious and that she needs to come to the hospital, my dear sweet mother states that she would like to come and visit, but her car has two bald front tires and then goes on to say that one of her very good friends had died the night before, so could Ashley come and pick her up? Here’s why this particular moment has become such an issue with me- she can get to her job halfway across Phoenix, but she cant take a cab or bum a ride to a hospital less than 25 minutes away to visit her son in the ICU who came within 24 hours of dying?

As one of my friends who has a gaggle of kids told me later: “If one of my kids was trapped in a bank vault, I would chew my way through the door to save them.” Apparently, my mom never got that memo. But it only gets better. That “friend” my mother claimed had died? After I get out of the ICU, I ask my mother about them, and within the span of a few hours of our conversation, her close friends name changes… twice. And as for those so-called bald tires, she claims not to know what I’m talking about.

In other words, it was business as usual. Or as I like to call it- Friday with Mom.

So, for those of my really close friends who’ve always wondered why I never mention my mother, there you go. Ashley did pick her up, but after visiting less than then ten minutes, [another void in my memory] she asks to be dropped back off at her house. In her limited defense, people have told me that at the time she seemed concerned, but after she leaves, I don’t hear from her for almost three weeks. But I’ll talk about that later, near the end of my tale. So the next day arrives and I’m feeling slightly better- granted, I’m still weak as a newborn kitten, almost 30 pounds lighter, and thanks to the massive amount of antibiotics they had to pump into me, everything I eat tastes like wet cardboard.

But I was alive, on the mend, and that’s what counts. Not to mention I also hit the couch potato jackpot by having the best free entertainment known to Man in my private room- CNN and the History Channel. At the time of my unwilling stay, it was also the week that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson unfortunately died, and the station that now prominently and sadly features alien abductions as fact was showing an all day marathon of the history of the Mafia in America.

Seriously… how lucky can a guy get?

But that’s for the next installment, I think. And when we come back…

I finally get to wax poetically about vanilla pudding, elucidate on why I would kick your ass in Trivial Pursuit regarding anything mob related, and set the possibly lowest speed for the 50 yard dash ever recorded, all while humming the entire Michael Jackson catalog.

Well… the three songs I know anyway.

“The meaning of life is that it stops.”- Franz Kafka




You Only Live Twice. PT. 1 (Death becomes you.)

“Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It’s the transition that’s troublesome.”
― Isaac Asimov

Hello Blogiteers!

I’ll admit it. I have a serious problem.

Recently, I find myself trapped between a rock and a T-Rex in regards to my writing, and it’s starting to become an irritant of epic proportions. It’s well known that I tend to flow best when I’m ticked off at something, and to be quite honest- that’s just not happening as of late, due to the unchecked flow of positivity running rampant throughout the PAS.

There’s murals popping up unchecked all over town, new restaurants, cafes and art-spaces opening on what seems an almost hourly basis, and heck, even my ol’ buddy the PHX New Times has had at least three articles this year that were actually well-written, and more importantly- worth reading.

(I know. I honestly didn’t see that coming either.)

To add to the big rock candy mountain, interest in my limited artistic endeavors has blown up (mainly in countries whose name ends in “akia”) thanks to the magic of Instagram*, my latest media interview by Douglas Proce of the Valley Spotlight** is getting good reviews, although my Twitter*** account could use some serious love- and in an even more shocking development, I’m receiving non-sarcastic invites to all the cool kids parties as well.

[*Link: http://instagram.com/wayne_michael_reich_art# ]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyM8G23CJN0   ]
https://twitter.com/DarkreichAZ  ]

And since I’m practicing shameless self-promotion, let’s throw in my Tumblr as well:
http://waynemichaelreich.tumblr.com/ ]

It’s all highly unsettling.

Factor in that my normally solid river of hate mail has actually slowed to an almost tranquil trickle, and you can understand why I feel all shades of off-balance these days. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost believe that people are starting to respect my point of view, and that feels just downright wrong somehow.

I’m actually worried that I might lose my amateur Snark status and be forced to turn pro- in which case, I’m grabbing all the personal endorsements I can before my 15 minutes are up. If Bob Dylan can hawk Victoria’s Secret, then I’m pretty sure that my choosing to pimp Midol wouldn’t seem all that strange in the long run, now would it?

I can totally see the billboards, if not the magazine ads: “Artbitch here to tell you about personal relief in a tiny little pill…” and if I could somehow score myself even a small chunk of that John Stamos Greek Yogurt marketing action, I’d be set for life.

Granted, I’m not nearly as cute, but I’m definitely cheaper to hire.

Regardless, while all this influx of awesomeness is definitely a positive for the PAS, it’s also cutting into my niche- I am the “Artbitch” after all, and focused kvetching is, well… sort of my established forte. It’s great that everybody is so happy, and it’s terrific that all of us are seemingly holding hands and singing Kumbayah while simultaneously painting community murals full of rainbows and unicorns, but speaking as a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, it’s highly detrimental to those of us who live to complain about the obvious.

Usually when things get lean in the annoyance department, I’ll reach out to whatever god-awful sub-par event is being touted, but even that particular fruit tree has been denuded of late. Joseph Sentrock Perez’s solo effort, and the incredible group show “Crosscurrent” are two of the most recent happenings that come to mind when discussing what the PAS is capable of when the truly creative people are allowed to think outside the white gallery box.

For a brief and shining moment, there did exist the possibility that a minor irritation could evolve into a full-blown brouhaha with a twit who went by the internet moniker “Uniquesparrow”, but sadly, it never rose above an insignificant annoyance, due to the fact that it’s hard for me to take anyone seriously whose name sounds like it came out of a comic book for basket-weaving vegans.

As usual, some context is required.

Recently, one of the public art projects on Grand Avenue was vandalized, an action which to be quite honest- ticks me off something fierce. A lot of hard work went into the project (the mosaics alone are ridiculously labor intensive) so when a group of smug rat bastards comes along and destroys hundreds of hours of work in under five minutes, you damn well better expect me to respond.

When the three works I created in 2008 for the City of Phoenix Beautification Program got stolen last year, I was mad, but at least I knew somebody was taking care of it, at worst. Besides… it is kind of an ego stroke to discover your stuff is good enough to steal. I may not have my paintings, but I do apparently have street cred, and that’s almost sufficient enough to soothe my aggravation at not knowing where my work is or who has it.

So, feeling rather irked by the news that yet again, we seemingly can’t have anything nice, I posted on a FaceBook thread the opinion that perhaps a swift kick in the ass and some outdoor community service in July might make said perpetrators think twice about doing that in the future- yes, yes… meting out consequences for bad public behavior is so 1950’s, but what can I say?

I just simply adore the classics, and besides…

I’m an awful, terrible, heartless, person as you already know.

Oh, the walking horror-show that is me.

“Uniquesparrow” was having none of that, and she immediately posted that “violence” was not the answer, and implied that all these punk kids needed was [I kid you not] some art classes and human understanding, something that I actually do agree with up to a point, but in my opinion- only after their requisite punishment has been dealt out.

Here’s the thing- the reason these kids did it is due to of one of two things: either they’ve done it before, got caught, and nobody ever punished them the way they should have been disciplined, which has led to their belief that in the end, they’ll face no consequences whatsoever for their inane destructiveness.

Or the more likely scenario: they were never taught civil manners in the first place. Either way, it’s time for a trip to the woodshed for a few lessons in civility and respect for one’s community.

But apparently “Uniquesparrow” thought my take was just too harsh, too medieval, too inhuman, so she threw out the comparison that I was just like Sheriff Joe- you know… our puzzlingly re-elected scumbag who profiles and terrorizes Latinos, allows their children to be sexually assaulted without consequence, abuses the power of his office to settle personal scores, and has cost the taxpayers of Arizona over 40 million dollars in both overruns and lawsuit settlements?

I, on the other hand, am of the outlook that if you destroy community-based art, you should be held accountable for your actions, financially, judicially, and most importantly- publicly.

When you look at us side by side, it’s almost like we’re twins, isn’t it? (Rolls eyes.)

She further went on to rant on her FB page that I was a “bully”, a “joke of an artist” and that I was personally “what was wrong” with the PAS- an observation I immediately burst into laughter over, since just a few weeks ago she was interested in soliciting my services as an art framer. I guess when it comes to framing her “art” economically I’m cool, but somehow having a contrary opinion makes me the worst thing to happen to PHX since they built Cityscape*.

[*See: “Ugly Box”, “Drunk Architect?”, “Thinking Inside the Grey Ugly Box”, “Vacant Lot Preferred”]

Two things that you need to realize, Captain Slack Sparrow- first, I’ve been in the PAS trenches since 1991, so have a care with my name. I helped lay some of those floor bricks that your self-righteous arrogance floats above, so I will be damned if I let you or anyone attempt to screw with the art temple so many others and I helped construct.

Second, speaking as a guy whom you regard as a joke, I’ll call attention to the fact that I do seem to be the topic of discussion way more than you on a daily basis, so whether they’re laughing at me or laughing with me, I still win either way. See, here’s the deal: I don’t really care about the opinions of twits who I don’t like, fear, respect, or in your case- have the pleasure of not knowing personally.

Hate mail? Bring it. It’s how I pass the time during commercials.
Want to call me names online? Thanks for the publicity.

Shun me in public? I appreciate that. It means I don’t have to pretend to give a f**k about you.

My gut tells me I won’t be doing any framing for her, but that’s okay by me, as I’m really not into showcasing derivative and uninteresting work to begin with. In the name of honesty, I was the one who launched the first FB message in regards to her lumping me in with our corrupt Sheriff, and frankly- I don’t regret it, as she needed the trip to the woodshed.

If you’re going to quarrel with me, come armed with an actual point of view, not generalized hysterics. Granted, the most amusing part of all of this was her threat that she would send her “lawyer” after me due to my asking her to stop sending me FB messages that were equal parts whiny and chiding.

That’s right kids… asking someone to stop contacting you [after they’ve publicly slandered your character and work] is apparently now considered “harassment”. Here’s a thought to ponder, my dim-witted sparrow- perhaps I should return the favor and sue you for libel, because unlike yours, my lawyer happens to actually exist on this planet.

You’d like him. He’s tall, good-looking, and smells like Golden Grahams. Just ignore the fact that he and Satan have never been seen in the same room at the same time. I’m sure that’s just an amazing coincidence.

To be fair, she did try to assert that her initial response was a “joke”, a statement that I perceived as nothing more than backpedaling, due to the fact that it wasn’t funny in the slightest. If this is her sense of humor, I’d love to see what sort of jokes she cracks while walking through a hospital.

And despite her very public assertion that this situation was “not worth her time” and was “tiring”, she continued to keep the conversation going while simultaneously stating that she wasn’t keeping the conversation going- all the while posting what she thought of my character, while still implying she was the one being harassed.

Now from where I come from, that’s defined as hypocrisy, but hey- maybe I’m the only one whose smart phone has a working dictionary app. To quote The Princess Bride’s Inigo Montoya:

“That word you keep using? I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Truly, she has a dizzying logic. I can’t wait until she calls the FaceBook police, as they’re probably just as terrifying as her lawyer. Gah. I’ve given this insignificant gnat way more attention than she deserves, and my blood isn’t even riled up half as high as it should be- how sad is that?

I mean… I used to have epic battles, and now it feels like I’m going up against the Tuesday morning “B” team of zombies from the Walking Dead. Seriously. With adversaries like these, not only could I phone it in, I’m pretty sure I can ask my ten-year old nephew to do it for me instead.

The smart and mature thing to do here would be to just take her trifling insults on the chin, secure in the knowledge that when it gets right down to it, she’s just another rudderless dinghy floating adrift on an ocean of fools.

However… there is one small, teeny, tiny, minute, diminutive, almost petite issue I have with the situation overall, and it is this: despite my lack of warm fuzziness, it’s also a well-established fact that I’m rarely wrong when I choose to call it as I see it.

And, no this isn’t a sour grapes case of “can dish it, but can’t take it”, either- you can freely call me whatever you want- I’ve literally heard it all, and to be fair, most of it is usually on the mark. I am an arrogant, judgmental, scathing, overly opinionated, venomous bastard at times, and that’s when I’m in a good mood.

But when it comes to my life’s work, you don’t get to say bupkus.

I’m no Eric Cox by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m goddamn good at my gig, and have been consistently so for two decades. I may not make socially relevant or groundbreaking art, but I’m not a hack either. I take my career seriously, which is one just one of many reasons why I’m still around and relevant in possibly one of the worst art markets in the United States.

I can sculpt, silkscreen, write, photograph and last but not least, paint. And when it comes to my proficiency in regards to all five of these skill-sets, let me just say this: at my worst, I’m highly competent, and when I’m truly at my best*, firing on all cylinders, I will take your head clean off.

[ *I also rock pretty hard at the craft of Pysanky- Google it.]

So as to be expected, I took her insults quite personally, more so than normal. Nevertheless, as I stated earlier, the smart and mature thing to do here would be to just take her trifling insults on the chin, like an adult should. So despite my natural tendencies, I will take the high road for once.

Not gonna take the bait as it were. I’ve got better things to do, after all- like organize my collection of My Pretty Ponies, for instance. Come to think of it, I could use this time to read a good book, maybe something by Neil Gaiman- he does write wonderful stories, and focused reading I’ve been told, is an excellent way towards helping lower your blood pressure.


If I were to hypothetically react to what she said, [in theory of course] I might have said this:

“We already have enough human speed bumps within the PAS, one more cretinous spanner in the works hardly counts as “unique” by any means of accounting.

Some friendly advice, my not so distinctive twit- the next time you’re in your studio painting, or screen-printing, or whatever the hell it is that you do, may I suggest that you also make sure to open the windows, because I’m starting to truly believe that all those art-related chemicals you’ve been inadvertently huffing over the last few years are beginning to affect your already dangerously limited intellect and decision-making skills.”

That’s what I might have said…. you know… if I felt the need.
Damn, I’m bored with this already.

Sigh… where’s a Peter Bugg artistic train wreck when you really need it?
Or a Suzanne Falk public meltdown?

What’s this world coming to when you can’t even rely on Richard Bledsoe’s craptastic Remodernist group to tick you off? I swear to God, it’s like everybody got together and decided all of a sudden that making me happy needed to be a community project.

There’s an old saying that goes: “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, but in this case, I’d rather find Life, shove those lemons down it’s throat, all the while demanding to know what the hell it’s done with my sour apples and asking for it’s boss. If this feeling of goodwill and brotherhood continues, it’s a pretty sure bet this blog will eventually turn into an ABBA discussion forum.

You don’t want that, do you?

Of course not.

However… there is a lot to be said for discussing the pros and cons in regards to the band’s use of rather flamboyant Japanese-themed jumpsuits during their 1974 World Tour, but we can always come back to that later.

See? The madness is already starting, and we haven’t even begun the long overdue debate on who the sexiest member is- my money will always be on Frida over Agnetha, but let’s be honest: Benny looks like he would cuddle and then make you a really hearty breakfast. And since he’s Swedish, you just know it’s gonna be all shades of berry-flavored pancake yumminess when you wake up.

Great. Now I’m annoyed and hungry.

So, since I have nothing to complain about except the absence of complaints, what will I write about then? Hmm… we could talk about current events, but the political and cultural landscape is already so absurd that there’s really nothing I could add to the discussion that hasn’t already been said, ad nausea.

Perhaps I could write about co-starring in a documentary in 2008, while simultaneously noting that six years later I still don’t have my promised copy of the damn film due to a music licensing issue which when viewed from the outside, looks like it should be an easy fix. Seriously- if George Lucas can add a few extra Ewoks in “Empire”, how hard could it really be to swap one or two tracks of music with suitable replacements?

But even given the aggravation in dealing with that minor annoyance, the best I’d be able to muster  would be a few sulky paragraphs at best, and let’s face it- brevity really isn’t my style, now is it?

Dagnabit to H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

I could write about Music, but you’ve already seen what I consider to be good tuneage, so that’s a wash. I’d write about Sex, but I think I covered that well enough in my last two blogs, so that too, will be a no-go area. Perhaps an in-depth blog about Life would be an interesting diversion, but I just remembered that I loathe both the cereal and the board game, with a hatred hotter than a million suns wearing a parka.

So what’s left? What’s interesting? What’s truly hip?

What would make my loyal readers and to a lesser extent, my loyal detractors, want to sit down with a club sandwich and a cold beer and peruse my latest magnum opus? I honestly have no idea, and seriously- what could possibly make both groups happy?

Got it! A light hearted take on my almost dying of diabetic kedoacidosis back in July 0f 2009!

It has everything- a life and death struggle, an incompetent dentist, a love story, medical-themed drama, arrogant doctors, heroic nurses, a reformed gang-banger with a torqued testicle andkidney stones, and to top it all off- surprise cameos by Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Alphonse Capone and some truly amazing vanilla pudding.

That’s right… celebrities and a snack. Take that, Bluebird of Happiness!

And the best part? It’s a win-win for both sides- my fans can rest secure in the knowledge that I survived the experience (albeit with some ongoing health issues) and my haters can revel in the fact that for one brief shining moment, they came this close to being rid of me.

That’s what I do best- I bring diverse people together, using nothing but the sheer raw magnetism of my inherent awesomeness. I’m sort of like Shatner, but without the obvious toupee and man girdle.

So, today’s little screed will be all about the subject of mortality, or to be more accurate, it’s all about being near Death. For the sake of clarity, I’m not suggesting hanging out with Death or having Death as a neighbor, I’m talking about going through the experience of almost dying and it’s aftereffect.

Yep. It’s going to be all shades of cheery up in here.
And if you thought I couldn’t bring the sunshine and the happiness, you’re just wrong.

Dead wrong.
[See what I did there? Sometimes I just crack myself up.]

When it comes to the subject of mortality, most people do their best to avoid thinking or talking about their inevitable end, which is highly understandable, as giving credence to the mere thought of one’s personal non-existence can be a somewhat terrifying prospect.

As Woody Allen once said: “I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

In fact, I’d wager that most of you reading this rarely (if ever) give any consideration to the notion that one day you too, will shuffle off the mortal coil into the ether, and face the unknown just like your ancestors. When that moment comes, some of you will choose to face death with dignity and resolve, others will fall apart like Jello in a hot car, and a select few will fight with all their strength to hang on to this plane of existence- an act of final defiance that I find to be straight up noble.

No matter what form your end takes, it isn’t going to be a cakewalk by any means, and I’ve often said that when Death finally comes for my soul, he better be wearing Class Four body armor and one heck of a seriously girded groin cup, because he’s gonna earn that sucker, let me tell you.

In fact, he’s already tried to collect me twice and failed, much to my relief. However despite all that, I will grudgingly admit that when it comes to getting his job done, the guy is focused– and in this era of half-assed and increasingly incompetent customer service, you almost have to admire that kind of singular dedication to one’s career, and give credit where credit is due.

My game plan is to live long enough to be a burden to others- that’s the goal. But whether I live to be 105 or more realistically, 65- which is the average life-span for persons afflicted with Diabetes, I still don’t want to die- who knows, maybe they’ll find a way to keep my singular consciousness alive [Google “Brain in Jar”] via the Matrix or possibly even the Quickening.

Either/or. One can always hope.

I’m not really interested in immortality, I just want a few hundred years extra to see if they’ll ever make a truly watchable Star Wars movie again. My money is on “No” as long as Disney is still involved, but I think with the right Kickstarter program, maybe we could raise up enough capital to buy their share of the creative property outright.

Getting back on track and all kidding aside, immortality would just outright suck- you’d lose all your family, the people you truly love (not always the same group) and just think of how many times you would find yourself telling the same stories over and over again.

I do that now, and I’m not even 46 yet. Think about it- if listening to your 90 year old Grandfather tell the tale yet again of “The Great Spaghetti Incident of 05” is a real chore, imagine 400+ years of similar caliber yarns ad nausea.

Heck, when I regal my eight-year old nephew with stories of having to look up phone numbers using nothing but my wits and a magical mystical yellow-toned book, can you just imagine what that oft repeated tale will sound like when we’re all walking around with Google Implants?

Horribly boring, would be my guess, if not downright excruciating. And that’s why Death is the Yin to the Yang of existence- because while it can be unpleasant to think about, in the end, it’s what makes Life worth living in the first place.

Well, that… and watching Milla Jovovich kill Zombies in a mini skirt.

Let’s face it- they’re both really good reasons to make one want to strive for the better, even if it’s only for an 80 year run. As someone who’s been through a near-death event, I can definitely state that for myself, every day above ground is a good day, no matter what might be happening to me at that particular moment.

No matter how much things might suck in my life, at least I’m here to experience it, and that beats being dead by miles. If there’s one deep thing I can take away from the incident that almost killed me, it’s this- after surviving such an occurrence, I really don’t sweat the electric bill anymore.

In fact, what I used to consider a priority has definitely gone through a paradigm shift of sorts, especially in regards to what my former definition of “suck” meant. Thanks to my week and a half stay in the ICU, I discovered where that particular bar should be set, and trust me, it’s at a much higher level than it used to be.

Much higher. Snoop Lion kind of high, to be exact.
But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself, so maybe we should take a break right here.

So go grab a snack, get in your comfy jammies, situate your self in your favorite interweb surf spot, and when we come back…

June, 2009. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and I’m afflicted with a tooth that’s gone bad.
Wrong side of the oral tracks kind of bad.

Plus, I tell of my journey through an Apocalyptic wasteland, wrestle nurses, discern that “catheter” is never a happy word, learn more about Alphonse Capone than I ever wanted to know, surmise that my doctor might just be a refugee from the Land of the Oompa Loompas, have my hopes for a “Charlie’s Angels” reunion movie crushed, and discover the exact moment when I realize I never ever ever want to hear Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” song again.

In addition… there’s also pudding, and who doesn’t like that?

“If Death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character, would you slow down… or speed up?”- Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

What Happens in Vegas… (Should probably stay there.)

“One man’s pornography is another man’s theology.”- Clive Barker

Hello Blogiteers!

Greetings and best wishes to you in this, the third month of the sparkling New Year of 2014. I’ve been assured repeatedly by the hourglass wielding baby that it’s not going to suck nearly as bad as 2013 did, but since he was obviously smashed on formula when he shared his observation with me, I’m gonna have to take his opinion with a few grains of salt.

I’ve been somewhat absent the last few months due to some personal issues in regards to my family and health, and the majority of my vacation time was spent in beautiful Salt Lake City, which at the tail end of December (surprisingly) legalized gay marriage*– an action which causes this here Artbitch to simply state: way to go, you sexy bitch.

*[Sadly, this was shot down a few weeks later, which just goes to prove why it’s essential to raise your kids with science and common sense, rather than a 2000 year old book where people get supposedly turned into salt by an angry and petulant demigod . Just sayin’.

And don’t send me any hate mail on this issue either- I’m Catholic, I already have enough guilt.]

Now, if only the rest of the states who are still standing on the wrong side of History would follow suit, we could get back to the truly important business of choosing who gets to become America’s next Top Model/Chef/Singer/National Embarrassment, etc.

And speaking of shocking developments, I turned 45 at the beginning of January, something that apparently happened without my permission or input. Granted, I’ve celebrated my 36th birthday nine times since it actually happened, but it’s not like that’s a bad thing, right? Of course it isn’t- how could it be?

So, as you can imagine, a whole lotta partying has been taking place as of late, the most recent location being Las Vegas where I was a full access VIP attendee at the AVN Expo, which is the American adult film industry’s take on a scrap metal convention in Duluth.

Albeit one with more cleavage and less plot development, that is.

But before I get into all that, I need to address the vitriolic reaction to my last screed which tackled the issue of society’s puzzling reticence regarding male nudity. Note to self: next time you chose to address this issue, make sure that you throw in a few photos of Hugh Jackman riding a horse shirtless while cradling a puppy. Just a suggestion.

To be honest, some negative feedback was to be expected- after all, I was addressing a fairly touchy subject, and I did include a full frontal nude portrait of myself (painted by fellow Artist Hugo Medina) as an epilogue of sorts to the point I was trying to make.
Hoo boy. Did that ever hit a high note.

Imagine Freddie Mercury getting his fallopian fiddler caught in a jumpsuit zipper, and you’d be in the neighborhood of what I’m talking about. As I said, I did anticipate some of this, but I wasn’t really expecting the gender line that was drawn in the allegorical sand via my email.

Out of the numerous positive responses that I received, the majority [better than 90%] were from women- a first for anything I’ve ever written.

Score one for the old Ego… as if it needed any additional help.

Given the fact that I took the position of supporting truly fair play in regards to how the sexes should be represented in Art and POP culture, I’m not surprised that my female readers were fairly positive in their assessment of what I wrote, I’m just stunned by how many I apparently have.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to harness that demographic like Oprah does, and I’ll be set for life. Conversely, when it comes to the male side of the fence, it seems that there are still a few lone Neanderthals currently swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool whose access to the Internet only highlights how un-evolved they are when it comes to their personal lack of respect for women.

Keep in mind that I didn’t suggest that female nudity itself should be abolished in popular culture, I simply proposed this: Here’s how it would work: for every second / minute / whatever that an actress has to be naked or topless in a movie, there must be an equal amount of male nudity as well to add balance.

Seems fair, doesn’t it? I thought so too, hence the reason why I wrote it in the first place.

Nonetheless, when it came to the men who wrote in, you would have thought I suggested that Victoria’s Secret should replace all their runway and print models with fat middle-aged guys who make their living impersonating George Wendt. The term “over-reacting” comes to mind, but that’s only the tip of the idiotic iceberg, where the hysterics of the opposing email are concerned.

I’m going to share with you a deep dark secret: I actually like women.

Screw that… I LOVE women.

And to be perfectly clear, I’m not just talking about sexual attraction or anything along those lines, I’m talking about the respect that I have for women, versus some of the Cro-Magnons who wrote me in regards to my opinion that perhaps it was long overdue that men should have to experience some of the more exploitative aspects that women have dealt with for centuries.

As someone who’s dating a woman far more advanced than he is, I can honestly say that I love being with someone I don’t have to rescue every five seconds, like I constantly had to do with my ex-fiancée.

Seriously. I used to go through white hats like they were Ding Dongs, and trust me, you don’t want to know what happened to my noble steed when that particular nightmare was laid to rest- let’s just say I have glue sticks for days, and leave it at that.

That’s one of the things I’ve always found funny about 30 year old manboys- they always claim that they want a smart woman… until they actually get one and realize that she’s way more intelligent asleep than they are awake. As I get older, I actually become less and less tolerant of my fellow apes in arms who act like idiots for no other reason than their inability to manage their testosterone.

Yeah. I said it- I’m sick and tired of the “bro” brigade, and all that it doesn’t bring to the table.

Now, don’t get the wrong impression, I’ve had more than my share of the… let’s call it “diversity” that exists within the bat-spit crazy that constitutes dating, so I have a fairly well-researched data bank to cull my supposition from in regards to what is out there for the taking.

And while I’ll admit that are some truly difficult and somewhat dense women out there among the feminine flock, I won’t paint all women with the same ignorant brush that some would like to use.

As a life-time member of the “just us men” club, I know I shouldn’t really be surprised by the sexist attitude contained within some of the missives I’ve been reading, but it’s still disheartening at best, especially when we’re all supposed to be living in an enlightened age and all that.

The one fact I have gleaned from all this correspondence is this: there’s a lot of really scared and intellectually weak men cowering around a fire somewhere out there in the caves of the Internet.

Unfortunately however, it also seems that these knuckle-draggers will not be denied their soapbox.

Sure, they have figured out how to both type and hit the “send” button on their own, so I guess  asking for some well-earned points for doing so is probably not out of the question, but I’m afraid some of those gold stars will have to be taken away due to the amount of misogyny that my Email has been vomiting up.

Between the missives telling me (at length) how women should “know their place” and the others that were chock-full of braggadocio regarding imaginary sexual exploits, it’s clear to me what’s really going on out there in the world of the real- a lot of men whose previous “girlfriends” came with an air pump and a patch kit are lashing out at society the only way they know how…

With testosterone fueled fantasy... minus the talking flying dragons and the large-breasted chain-mailed heroines, of course.

Look… I get it.

Women can be, and sometimes are, downright terrifying. I went to high school just like the rest of you, and have many stories of being blasted out of the sky by the feminine Death Star when the circumstances clearly called for the use of a Tie fighter, but I digress.

[The fault may have been my own, due to my love of both Star Wars analogies and dork culture, but let’s not split hairs here.]

However, just because you’re personally afraid of strong capable women, there is still no reason to hurl a box of vulgar invectives in your sad attempt to control them. News flash: a woman that smart will take you on and take you out, everytime. As sure as the day is long, you my friend, are gonna be metaphorical toast.

Count on it.

Now, the fact that some of my male readers reacted with such brain-dead misogyny is in of itself, not that shocking, to be honest. What caught my attention initially was how ferocious the response was.

If I were to be brutally frank, I have had more than my share of moments where my caveman DNA has overridden my normally genteel common sense, but even given that, it’s not like I have a reputation for being an out-and-out knuckle-dragger, even when fueled by alcohol.

Truth be told, I actually tend to get much more respectful around women, despite the fact that at those moments I turn into your average drunken prom queen who’s pretty much up for anything.

However, that’s a story for another time, so let me complete my thoughts regarding some of my fellow “men” who wrote in… y’all got some serious growing up to do, and that right quick.

Otherwise, you should plan on getting really used to having threesomes with your hands. Moving on…

After having to wade through all that hip-deep testosterone, I definitely needed a break from all the self-absorbed stupid, and I found it in the most unlikely of places… Las Vegas. Or to be more specific, in Las Vegas at the annual AVN Expo.

What exactly is that, you ask?

Ask a simple question, get a simple answer- each January, the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo takes place in Las Vegas, and is attended by everyone who is anyone in the adult industry. Serving as both a trade convention and an adult extravaganza, it’s definitely not family friendly by any means.

Thank God for that.

As everybody knows, I love kids. My GF Ashley often jokes that if you put me near small children my biological clock starts ticking to a 2/4 backbeat. However, despite all that, I’ve often suggested that LV should be a child-free zone, at least on the Strip- a position I espouse even more after attending the AVN at this years’ chosen location, the Hard Rock Hotel.

Between the bigger than life posters scattered throughout the casino featuring porn stars Asa Akira and Lexi Belle whose collective attire left very little to the imagination, along with the occasional sighting of a porn star wearing a see- through top, the scenery was enough to fry your average 14 year old boys’ brain at a distance of 500 yards.

Being a mature adult, I was perfectly fine, of course.

I’m sorry… what was I talking about?
Oh yes. see-through clothing.

As I was saying, it’s not for the kids.
And I’m not complaining. At all.

Nor will I ever. Vegas, in my opinion, has always been the designated off ramp between Sodom and Gomorrah, and it should remain that way, so far as I’m concerned. Keep Vegas for the adults, and send the kids off to Disneyland with the grandparents.

You know, the set that your kids absolutely hate.

The reason I happened to be there was due to the generosity of Los Angeles based adult film distributor Black Market Entertainment, [http://www.blackmarketxxx.com/] whose co-owner is also the sister of one of my best friends, so remember kids- it does pay to network.

After getting my VIP pass, touring the casino at the Hard Rock, and taking in a late dinner with the team from BME, I was then introduced to a few of the better known stars found dining alongside us, namely [in order] Missy Monroe, industry legend Nina Hartley, who as you can see from the photos apparently found my cross really tasty, and blond bombshell Julia Ann.

Nina BTW, absolutely rocks. She’s been in the biz since forever, and while I can’t repeat the story she was telling over drinks here, I will pay witness to the fact that she has a razor-sharp sense of humor, and intellect- and as I like to say, you meet the nicest people in the strangest places.

[I also met the following stars over the course of the three days while I was there, but they were more of a “hi-ya, bye-ya” type of photo op. In order- Brandi Love, Jesse Jane, and Sophie Dee, who is literally Smurf size.]

But more than just an opportunity to blow off some personal steam, the AVN also serves as a perfect counterbalance to what I wrote regarding the reticence in regards to male nudity, for the adult film industry is largely borne on the backs [no pun intended] of the female talent, and after walking among the scores of attractive women wearing booty shorts and five-inch stripper heels, it’s pretty obvious that women dually serve as both figurehead and the preferred product- a major detail that is notably promoted throughout the several day-long event.

When I woke up the next morning and headed into the Expo, entering fully charged after downing an amazing breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, a French-themed café located on the strip, I was surprised to find that despite the industry earning an estimated two billion dollars a year, the event itself was actually quite diminutive, and housed in two mid-sized rooms; one strictly for the vendors, and the other for the toy manufacturers.

Now, when I say “toys”, I’m definitely not referring to your basic Kids R’ Us store stock- I’m describing those kinds of accoutrements that are shipped to your house in very discreet brown paper packaging so as not to set the nosy neighbors’ tongues a wagging- you know, the clichéd this was such a nice neighborhood until those freaks moved inkind of discussion?

And if those same neighbors saw what was readily available for your purchasing needs at said Expo, I’m pretty sure they’d build a functional moat around their house and never say hi to you again.

Granted, most of the products for sale were your stereotypical items (dildos, vibrators, etc.) but there were a few that were truly amazing for their uniqueness- the two that come immediately to mind were the life size sex dolls that replicate popular porn stars right down to their sexual preferences, and the ride and bounce ball toys of our childhood, disturbingly re-imagined with the addition of a very lifelike… um… appendage.

Use your imagination… if you dare.

A small, yet disconcerting, thought slowly formed in my mind as I contemplated the products that were for sale in that small room, and it was this: if any of these toys ever develop the ability to take out the garbage and reach the top shelf, we men will be royally screwed, no pun intended.

Three different vibrating modes? Neon colors? Internal lights? And you can ride it to run out for Hagen Das?

Yep- as far as the male gender would be concerned, our end would swiftly race towards nigh, because there is no way in Hell that we could ever hope to compete with that.

And keep in mind- I’m huge in Japan. You have no idea how much, unless you’ve actually seen Hugo’s painting, in which case- you got all the info you need to make an informed decision.

If there does exist a woman out there who can willingly and comfortably take on one of these molded latex monstrosities, Lord grant me that I not meet her until such time that the need arises for a truly unique hiding place that no one would ever dare search.

Eager for a much rosier future, I fled the Frankentoy room and headed over to the Vendor’s area, where all the major players in the industry had pitched their respective tents to hawk their wares, ranging from on-demand videos to webcam sites.

Scattered among the various movie proprietors were a number of random companies selling everything from lotions to custom fetish clothing, and as you can imagine- the space was packed wall to wall, partially due to the numerous industry booths featuring the chance to meet (and be photographed) with your favorite porn star.

Here’s Nina working her fan-line, which stretched around the room almost twice.
[I came this close to almost wearing the same outfit- how embarrassing would that have been?]

Once again, I made some interesting observations while casually watching the crowd flow through, the first being that there’s apparently a huge love for porn within the Asian-American community, as evidenced by the number of Japanese guys who looked like they had just arrived from the set of the Tokyo Drift sequel- if I was going to cast the live-action version of AKIRA, I’d definitely start here.

The second thing that caught my wandering eye were the “camera guys”, and when I say that, I’m definitely not referring to the electronic Media, be it television or web-based. There were literally scores of roving doughy middle-aged guys wearing shorts and flip-flops who had three to four cameras strung around their necks, which to be honest, piqued my curiosity more than a tad.

Considering my D90 can shoot 600 Hi-Res Images (per large capacity card), I was somewhat baffled as to why anyone would need so much digital firepower, but choose not to ask, due to the inherent fear that I would be drowned within a sea comprised mostly of flop-sweat and sheer desperation.

It was later brought to my attention that this particular contingent is labeled by those in the industry as “porn geeks”- fans who collect adult cinema the same way I collect Buzz Lightyear toys. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a hobby and all that, but I have to wonder just how many times you can watch two blondes ingeniously tip the pizza guy before you just get bored with it all.

But when it came to some of these guys… the term “creepy” doesn’t even begin to come close to painting an accurate description.

Ever watch Animal Planet and see the raw footage of a pack of wolves stalking sheep? Replace those wolves with barely sentient pizza rolls wearing sandals, and you’ll have a fairly precise idea of what it felt like to be among these hairy-palmed mouth breathers.

And before you get all up in my grill about being unnecessarily harsh to the socially awkward, I will tell you this: I’m actually being quite kind, given what I witnessed more than once at the event.

Granted, I was at a convention that centered around the selling of sexualized fantasies as if they were hamburgers, but even with all the half-naked women walking around, the overall feel of the place was that of focused maturity, believe it or not. Most of the interactions I witnessed between the talent and the civilians was respectful, (if not downright funny) as a rule of thumb.

[Best statement at a fan photo-op: “You’re cute… you can totally grab my boobs.”- I didn’t take her up on that offer BTW, although I’m sure many behind me did.]

While I do understand the awesomeness of getting to be next to someone you find stunningly attractive, I also know that said hottie of smokingness you’ve been watching for years is in fact, a complete stranger, and that goes both ways.

Just because you bought their poster/album/movie/life-size cut-out/blow up doll, etc.. doesn’t mean you have a license to say or do anything you want.

For instance, I met Debbie Harry back in 1999 and I was a perfect gentleman. Sure, one could argue that was partly due to the size of the security guys and to a somewhat greater degree that pesky retraining order, but I’d also like to think it was a shining testament to my innate chivalry.

Come to think of it, let’s take a look upon that seminal life moment:

This was taken backstage at Celebrity Theatre in PHX, with my part time model and full time friend Sharley, and even though you can’t see it in the photo, Debbie just happens to have her hand on my upper thigh, an area I later had bronzed to mark the occasion.

You know. Like you do.

She autographed my “Autoamerican” album, posed for a few pics, and traded a few jokes, all while smelling like sugar cookies, and it was great.

However, I still didn’t propose marriage, suggest we go out for coffee, or go into detail about that recurring dream of mine where she and I are in a bathtub full of crumbled Ding Dongs and marshmallow fluff giving Joan Jett a back rub.

Not only because it might come off as creepy, [as it should] but because it wasn’t appropriate. Meet your idols, throw down a few compliments, take your pic, and move to the end of the line, cause others are waiting.

Not too surprisingly, those guidelines don’t change just because the object of your obsession happens to have sex on camera for a living, no matter what you may believe.And don’t hand me any of that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, crap as an excuse to justify your asinine and immature behavior either- there’s a limit to that slogan’s stretchiness too.

If you do engage in truly wretched conduct, it will be found out eventually, no matter how much you try to hide it. Sadly, it’s been my hard-won personal experience that people who go to Vegas to let loose their inner brotard eventually get shanked by their own metaphorical ego shiv.

The process usually goes something like this: douchebag / bitch does something awful, takes great pride in it cause they’re a self-centered moron, and more often than not, is compelled to share their debased story with someone- typically, it’s a close friend, but not always.

That person in turn is either truly appreciative or utterly horrified by said story, and successively passes it on to the next person he or she knows to either brag or ease their burden of conscience, and so on and so on, until it reaches the right (or wrong) set of ears, and then all Hell breaks loose.

And we all know how that goes, don’t we? That’s right… badly.

When it comes to me, I don’t really worry about my past in regards to personal embarrassment- I’ve posed nude, had various body parts casted, engaged in drunken shenanigans, dated more than my share of independent erotic dancing contractors, and once got caught having sex inside a parking garage elevator, so obviously I’m ok with revelations that others would find highly mortifying.

And given the fact that I also proudly own the ABBA box set as well, I think it’s a safe bet that I’m virtually Teflon coated against the humiliating awkwardness that others fear so much. Heck, I almost look forward to making most people uncomfortable- it’s really fun, and costs virtually next to nothing. But even I have limits as to what I would do in full view of the public.

In general, I don’t fly my freak flag in front of civilians, and even when you factor in my penchant for occasionally dressing like a leatherier version of Mad Max meets gay pirate, I still try to maintain some of my innate privacy.

However, among certain elite members of the masturbatory menagerie, my sense of personal decorum is a rarity, at best. Between the stories of obsessed fans from the various cam-girls I talked to at the event, and the personal interactions I witnessed, let me be the first to say that some of these man-boys desperately need to get a real girlfriend, and that right quick.

After they move out of their parent’s garage, that is.
One stunning example of an “urk” moment: remember my mention of Nina’s fan line?

Well, what she was doing for the better part of the time I was walking the floor was basically just standing there and posing for fan pics, or signing autographs. In other words, not moving much, if at all. Not dancing, not stripping, and most definitely not performing faux fellatio Madonna style on  water bottles. In essence, not doing anything that would justify the 25+ cluster of man-boys behind her snapping photos as if their very lives depended on it.

And as an addendum, let me also mention that within that group, that at least half of them were shooting low-angle video… of her non-moving ass. I actually left the venue, grabbed a bite to eat, and upon my return, observed that the same people were still where I had left them an hour ago, in the same positions, doing the same thing.

Naturally, I had to say something, for the heart of my core is that of a people person, and when it gets right down to it- I’m here to help.

Focusing my gaze upon a middle-aged Asian man with three cameras around his neck and dressed in what appeared to be a fishing outfit resplendent with matching tackle adorned hat and vest, I said the following: “Hey dude… I’ve never said this before in my life, but if there was ever the situation where the phrase “take a picture, it’ll last longer” could be applied, this would be the one… just saying.”

As you might imagine, this did not endear me to the cluster of pasty bologna boppers, but the half dozen cam-girls within earshot immediately burst into effervescent laughter, making his public shaming that much more discomforting and awkward.

That’s me… bringing joy and mirth to a cold dark world.

Properly chagrined, he hurriedly puts away his mini-camcorder and peevishly stalks off, giving me a look that could only be described as soul withering- a fierce gaze that seems to be communally shared by the dolphin-floggers who are now glaring at me as if I were a defective set of D&D dice.

Seizing that as my cue to exit stage left, I decide  to go wander about the hall, and in the course of doing so, meet renowned fetish model Masuimi Max*, who was there promoting a custom vinyl clothing company.
*[http://iamtrouble.com/masuimi/] [https://www.facebook.com/Official.Masuimi.Max]

Other than being obviously striking, she and her husband Morat were two of the coolest people I met at the AVN, and the conversation that followed covered a wide range of topics, from obsessive fan-boys to the fact that she’s triple jointed.

Believe you me, when someone that cute demonstrates that particular skill-set by easily bending their hand all the way backwards to their wrist, it definitely grabs your attention, and it’s a detail that should give any red-blooded American male a moment or two of inner contemplation.

Seriously. Just think of all the vending machines she could break into. You would never have to pay full price for a Snickers bar ever again, and that is just stone cold sexy, no matter how you slice it.

by the way, is also a kick-ass photographer, whose list of previously shot rock gods include everyone from Ozzy to Slipknot, and he also contributes a large amount of his wife’s content, so go do yourself a favor, and check out their respective websites- you’ll be glad you did.
**[http://www.morat666.com/rock/] [https://www.facebook.com/Morat.Photography]

And on a more personal note, I would also recommend that if she comes to your town to perform, that you go check out her stage show, as I was lucky enough to do at Vegas’ Club Paradise*, as it was all shades of stunning.

[*Once again, it pays to network, especially if it gets you VIP access to an awesome strip club.]

Having left the floor on a high note, I proceed to hit my hotel, take a quick shower, and head out to dinner with my friend at the legendary Hofbrauhaus* German restaurant located across the street from the Hard Rock. What makes this place truly special is that from the sausage to the beer, the entire menu is directly imported from the Fatherland itself, and that particular facet is the key to it’s well-deserved success.

Set up in the style of a traditional “beer garden”*, the long tables encourage mingling with your as yet unknown dinner companions- which in our case, happened to be a lovely family of four from the city of Cleveland. Other than a briefly awkward (yet amusing) moment when we explained the reason why we were in Las Vegas, dinner went off without so much as a hitch.
[*By definition, a beer garden (taken from the German “biergarten”) is an open-air space where beer and food are served, and seating is communal.]

My Ego did appreciate the moment when the Mom asked me if I was “talent”, to which I answered honestly… “Hell, yes- what… it isn’t obvious?” [Just kidding.] So, buoyed by a small drink [see photo] and stuffed full of yummy bratwurst, I enjoyed the in-house band which served up both traditional beer hall standards along with blistering covers of Neil Diamond songs.

Trust me, you have not really lived until you’ve heard “Sweet Caroline” sung by 100 knockwursted diners, and all of this entertainment was to be had for less than fifty bucks, a bargain no matter where you’re at, but an especially good deal for Las Vegas.

And with that uber-karaoke moment under the ol’ belt, my adventure slowly starts winding down to it’s end.

After getting up the next morning, my friend and I grab a late breakfast in the downtown partition of what’s considered to be “old” Las Vegas at a place called Hash House A GoGo*, a joint known for it’s disturbingly huge portion sizes and to a lesser degree, it’s rather bizarre farm themed décor.

Now when I say “huge portions”, I want you to think of the biggest meal you’ve ever eaten, and then triple it, because that’s what I’m talking about here. The plate my friend ordered, the Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Benedict, could have easily fed three people and their cats, and I don’t even want to foster a guess as to what the salt content was, but judging on no more than it’s sheer size alone, I feel pretty confident in saying I could have sculpted a pretty accurate rendition of Lot’s wife from it.

In a rare display of self-restraint, I ordered a small bowl of Froot Loops, with a side of toast and three slices of bacon. Don’t judge. I’m trying to maintain my girlish figure, and besides… I did roughly polish off about four pounds of pork, beef and lamb at Hofbrauhaus the night before, so all in all- I think that I have put in the hours regarding my personal crusade to eat everything on the planet that has a face.

So loaded up on sugared lard and crispy carbohydrates, my friend and I begin the four hour trek back to Phoenix, buoyed by satellite radio and mix CD’s, of which he is a true master. If you have to travel long distances, I’d highly recommend his unique blend of punk rock and quirky underground classics, which can run the gamut from The Buzzcocks to Stump.

Overall, the trip home was uneventful, as most journeys typically are, but there is one last thing I do need to show you that we discovered on our way back to our respective lairs, and that was kitsch.

Good old Americanized China-made kitsch.

If you’ve ever taken a major highway anywhere in this country, then you’ve experienced first hand the amazing amount of cheap products promoting a certain region or state that are to be found in a majority of the gas stations and truck stops across this great land without fail.

Most are small, say, like an emblazoned “ I Love ____” shot glass or a scorpion encased in resin and turned into key chains- you know what I’m talking about- the stuff you buy on impulse.

But sometimes you find a place that tries a little harder, and we stumbled into it. Unlike most, this particular gift shop/restaurant in the middle of nowhere was blazing it’s own truly unique path by promoting higher end products, in this case, it was stocked to the gills with sculptures of Indians and dream-catchers of all shapes, sizes, prices and colors.

Now, for those of you who don’t live in the Southwest, the definition of a dream-catcher is this: “A small hoop containing a horsehair mesh, or a similar construction of string or yarn, decorated with feathers and beads, believed to give its owner good dreams by “catching” the bad ones within it’s netted structure.”

Typically, these are rather benign looking pieces of craftwork, and usually don’t attract my attention much, if at all. But there was one hanging on the wall nearest the bathrooms that I just had to snap a picture of:

I don’t know about you, but that is some truly soul-stirring work right there.

Seriously. I’m not sure if it’s the majestic and noble wolves in the background, the acid-washed jeans, the fur wrapped Thor hammer, or the hair he borrowed from David Coverdale of Whitesnake, but there’s something about this piece that just screams for days about truly authentic Native American culture.

I’ll even overlook the fact that it’s a white guy being depicted here, because let’s face it- they did add those feathers, and that’s what ties the whole ensemble together.

Ahh… roadside America. You never fail to fill my heart with joy.
So. How to sum up my trip? Well…

I’ve learned that there can be too much of a good thing, as I am now so jaded to the sight of random thonage and overinflated boobage that I’ve become virtually immune to it when it’s laid out before me now, much to my chagrin.

On the upside, I’ve taken up macramé, and have knitted about thirty sweaters so far. On a related note, does any one want some oven-mitts?

I learned that it was a probably best that I was more interested in girls than playing Dungeons & Dragons in my Mom’s basement, especially after seeing what happens when you watch way too many DVD’s by yourself.

I learned that VIP is always better than the common area. By far. And the drinks are usually free.

I’ve learned that there is a limit to how much sausage one can comfortably eat, but it can be offset by drunkenly singing Neil Diamond songs at the top of one’s lungs, as long as you don’t compare it to your late Oma’s cooking.

I’ve learned that good and dignified people from Cleveland don’t ask a lot of questions after the words “porn convention” have been uttered. They will however, take your recommendations for what to eat when they find out you’re from good German stock.

I learned that my friend snores like a goddamn buzzsaw. Next time, I’m getting my own room, as I really like to sleep more than two hours at a time. Also, having my own room means I can steal all those little soaps and other random toiletries rather than having to split the booty with others.

But mostly I learned that what happens in Vegas should probably stay in Vegas, if only to avoid potential lawsuits, divorces, and the like. And no matter what you do… never bring a camera.

“I love Las Vegas. I like that Las Vegas has everything. Everything and anything you want to do, you can do in Las Vegas.” – Drew Carey.

Fear and Clothing (A View to a Thrill.)

WARNING: The following blog contains images of nudity, including an unclothed image of this here Artbitch, so all you people who are easily freaked out or otherwise sensitive to such things should stop reading this right now, and perhaps go have a nice relaxing cup of tea, or maybe even cocoa.

However, if you aren’t into beverages, then might I suggest the joys of a good book?

Neil Gaiman writes wonderful stories, as does John Connolly- either way, you can’t go wrong. And if reading isn’t your bag, then perhaps you’d let me steer you towards a superior film- “Avengers” is pretty kick-ass, as was “Expendables 2”.

Seriously… it’s much better than you’d think.

But whatever option you do choose, please enjoy it to the fullest potential.
For the rest of you, please read right this way…

“Men’s magazines often feature pictures of naked ladies. Women’s magazines also often feature pictures of naked ladies. This is because the female body is a beautiful work of art, while the male body is hairy and lumpy and should not be seen by the light of day.” – Richard Roeper

Hello Blogiteers!
How are you?

For my part, I feel great. The year’s slowly winding down, the Artbitch book project is still being hammered out, and as soon as I can take the time to get off my butt and add new content, the website showcasing my art (www.WayneMichaelReich.com) will be up and running like a Swiss watch after being relatively inactive for the better part of a year and a half.

This time around however, it will encompass all that I do: art, photography, and lastly- critical writing. Plans are also in the works to post the various interviews that I’ve done, but that’s still quite a stretch down a very lengthy road.

So why was it down so long? 

Well, it’s a time-consuming story, and not even an interesting one at that- let’s just say there was some personal medical drama involved, some faith placed in the wrong people, and a whole lot of hassle in-between that I’d rather not re-hash.

Where moving on is concerned, the traditional “what’s done is done” approach is what I’m trying to espouse here, and so far, it seems to be working, much to the betterment of my own inner squishy tranquility. When the Artbitch is happy, then everybody’s happy, more often than not.

And “happy” seems to be the buzzword flying around the ol’ Fortress of Snarkitude as of late, due to certain personal pressures being lifted off my shoulders- which just feels awesome, no matter which way you choose to slice and dice it.

Zen at last.

Now to be honest, part of this “up with people” vibe I’m experiencing stems from all the positive stuff that’s been happening lately in PHX, a peppy mélange that incorporates both the business side of the PAS, as well as it’s aesthetic. In fact, I attended a laid-back meeting of Artlink a while ago at the Japanese Zen Garden that was, hands down- actually quite inspiring.

[Yes, I did use the word “inspiring” in relation to Artlink. I know… it kinda freaks me out too.]

Granted, I’m sure this particular warm and fuzzy feeling of serenity will evaporate once something rises to the surface and truly annoys me, but until then- I plan to ride this wave much in the manner of Kim Kardashian at an NBA playoff.

Strangely, its been somewhat quiet in regards to my corner of the PAS for once, and while there’s been the random morsel being presented here and there to yours truly, nothing has really jumped out at me as being appropriate for this here Artbitch to gnaw on.

So either I’m mellowing, or the scene is growing up a little, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it comes to our overall economic stability and future growth.

But today, I’m not really feeling the shop talk. I’m just in too good a mood, and given the fact that I tend to be somewhat focused on business as much as I am (read: obsessive) it stands to reason that even I need a break from time to time.

So what shall our group topic be today? Kirk or Picard? Briefs or boxers? Scooby Doo or Scrappy Doo? Coke or Pepsi? Shall we debate the question of why hot dogs come in packages of 8 and hot dog buns come in packages of 12?

The answers are simple: Kirk, briefs, Scrappy needs to die painfully and slowly, both taste like malted battery acid, and it’s because Lithuanians secretly control the entire meat bun industry.

I‘m serious. Look it up on the Internet. I’m sure there’s a link somewhere.

Nope, I’m thinking that today’s topic should be something that most of us truly appreciate and that we all willingly support at a truly intimate level- in fact, it’s actually one of my favorite off-work hobbies, which I’ve always strongly advocated for whenever appropriate.

And what would that be?

Walking around in the ol’ birthday suit. In the buff. Letting it all hang out. Au naturel. Showing off what the Good Lord gave ya. Starkers. Going buck-naked. Not decent. Wearing the pink pajamas. In the raw. Pants down for a full house.

To boil it down to the pure concept, today’s blog is all about being nude. Or to be more specific, today’s blog is all about my experience posing nude for a fellow artist. That’s right, baby- it’s gonna get all shades of super freaky uncomfortable in here, so prepare yourself.

Now, for a number of people, the topic of nudity is a very touchy subject, and not for the reasons you might think. Whether it stems from self-image issues, religious hang-ups, or just simple plain fear of the naked human form, there are some who just can’t handle even the merest thought of anyone walking around sans clothes.

To be honest, I have never ever really been one of those people, thank God. If I could somehow have the body that I really wanted, I’d make it a point to go get my mail every day wearing nothing but Hai Karate aftershave and sparkly cowboy boots, cause hey… you gotta protect your feet.

Personally, I say let everybody know that those Yoga classes are paying off for you. Show them that those crunches you do every morning before work are worth the pain. Testify to the sky that if God really wanted you to be clothed all the time, he wouldn’t have blessed you with an ass like that, and he sure as heck wouldn’t have given you those abs if his true intention was to keep you humble.

In other words: if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Like most rules however, there are exceptions, and being nude for public dissection is no different.

For every person I’d pay to see naked, (Milla Jovovich, Angelina Jolie, that hot Goth Girl at my local Starbucks) there are at least ten I’d willingly bribe to keep their clothes on- Ernest Borgnine comes immediately to mind, as well as Ann Coulter, but that’s only because her particularly unique type of Hermaphroditic idiocy freaks me the hell out.

But I digress.

What has always struck me as strange is the weird hypocrisy that Americans have always displayed in regards to the unclothed form- we utilize half-naked women to sell us everything under the sun, yet lose our collective mind when Miley Cyrus shakes her ass on what used to be a channel worth watching some twenty odd years ago.

Now I’m not saying she didn’t deserve criticism, I just think the emphasis should be placed on the real issue- her goddamn awful “performance”. And if we’re going to throw stones in regards to her truly tasteless display of her lack of talent, then we should also be throwing equal amounts of gravel at her partner in crime, the equally dreadful Robin Thicke– a married man with two little girls.

Way to set that future bar for your kids, douchebag: “Sure, you can be anything you want to be honey, but remember… if you really want to get ahead, you have to be willing to exploit your sexuality for old white guys.” I won’t speak for anyone save myself, but I’d like to think that if I had daughters, I’d raise them to value the space between their ears, not their legs.

But then again, I also live and work in a world awash with moral contradictions: part of my artistic repertoire involves the producing of nude images, both in photography and paintings, and while that work might seem hypocritical in light of what I’m currently discussing, I’m fairly confident that I can defend what I do quite easily. 

And this is where the old joke about what constitutes the boundary between artistic photography and it’s smuttier cousin known as porn comes into play, along with it’s many subtle shades. The eventual punch line being that if a Corvette is a necessary element in regards to the posing of your model, it’s almost a sure bet you’re not shooting work for the ages.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the end result of what happens when a pizza guy runs into two blondes who can’t pay for the delivery, but I would never defend such “work” as a statement of true artistic expression. For me, it’s always been about context and focus. If the crux of your endeavors focuses on the aesthetic of the nude form in relation to it’s surroundings, then odds are you’re making an artistic statement.

However, if the collected feel of the work brings to mind a gynecology exam as performed by a flexible amateur, let’s just say that your creative path has probably gone somewhat awry.

By way of example: this is considered to be Art.


|[(C)Wayne Michael Reich.com] 

And this is considered Porn*, no matter how great the lighting is.

*[On a related note, I’ve actually met this model- she’s very pleasant, quite pretty in person, and allegedly possesses a Mensa level IQ, which just goes to prove the old adage that you always meet the nicest people in the strangest places.]

For further clarity, the generally accepted definition of pornography is usually defined as: “material provided for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying a user and is often viewed in isolation of others.”

As a rule, I would agree with this, since I’ve always believed that the special bond between a man and his bathroom Playboys should be respected and preserved albeit with some occasional mocking.

But here’s the rub- when it comes to the crucial definition of what artistic photography is, the answer that is generally ascribed is somewhat more vague. The underlying idea is that the creator of a given picture has aimed at something more than a merely realistic rendering of the subject, and has attempted to convey a personal impression.

So take that art-speak at face value if you will, if just for the sake of forwarding the conversation. Moving on…

As I stated earlier, for some people, broaching the subject of nudity violates their personal no-fly zone, and that’s okay- “Live your own life” has always been one of my favorite private affirmations and I try to lead by it’s example whenever prudent and applicable, but sometimes… ya just gotta comment on what you see laid out on the plate before you.

If one were to ask my really close friends what I’m like, they’d probably tell you I’m a mixture of many different archetypes: I’m an extrovert that prefers calming solitude, an intellectual that lists comics as one of his favorite reading genres, and a rampant exhibitionist who’s cursed with a severe streak of prudish Catholicism running concurrently alongside.

In simpler terms, a paradoxical mess.

So who better than me to talk about the subject of posing nude for a fellow artist? Well… everybody else who’s done it I guess, but they don’t seem to be hanging out at the Lair of Snarkitude right now, so I guess you’re stuck with me.

You lucky bastards.

Now for those of you who know me personally, it’s not really a shock that I did this, since I used to get my body “cast” on a regular basis for a few of my sculptor friends back in the day. There are literally parts of me scattered throughout the United States, mostly in gardens and other randomly serene places of contemplation, which I always thought was pretty cool in the end.

Me. King of the Koi pond.

Happily, one of the unexpected side-effects of having 3 to 6 people pouring plaster all over your nude body is that you get over being shy real quick. Plus, if you play your cards right, you can also walk away with a phone number or two.

I’m kidding of course, but it’s hard to get hung up on body issues when you’re constantly being turned into a statue or possibly a birdfeeder.

This time around however, things were going to be a little different- for one, I was going to be posing for reference photos that were to be used as the basis for a painted portrait, and that is an entirely different beast then being cast, when you get right down to it.

But before we get into all that, let me share with you the vision of the man behind the figurative exhibition that I posed for- Phoenix based Artist Hugo Medina.

His statement regarding this excellent show:

“In society, and the art world old and new, the figure of a women has been exploited and depicted for centuries. You can find thousands of nude paintings of women in all their beautiful glory, but there are very view paintings of men, and if you do- usually never full frontal nudity.

Yes, unfortunately there is and will always be that double standard. A full frontal painting of a women is acceptable by all standards, movies, FaceBook, ect. Full frontal paintings of men are viewed very differently.

In this exhibit I hope to challenge that “accepted” status quo.

The show will consist of full frontal paintings of men, and balancing that with paintings of smart, strong, beautiful women that are making a difference in our society.”

Thoughtfully declared, but it does spark a question: even given the fact that Hollywood’s creative process is statistically run by old white men, it still strikes strange that this hypocritical standard continues to exist in the first place- especially when one takes into account all the societal taboos that have been shattered over the last decade.

In general, when it usually comes to shaping the status quo, Hollywood has been the preeminent forerunner in regards to collective change, but some obstacles puzzlingly remain.

For instance, you can have full frontal female nudity in an “R”-rated film, but if that stereotypical exploitation is reversed, it’s almost certain the film will receive either an NC-17 or “X” rating, which from a marketing point of view, is considered the kiss of death. The success of 1997’s thus-rated “Showgirls” notwithstanding, mind you.

Although to this day, I still have no idea why it was given that NC rating in the first place. Seriously.

“Striptease” should have been tarred with that rating just for showing off those hideously deformed basketballs that Demi Moore was calling her boobs at the time. Gah. I just threw up in my mouth a little remembering them.

Thank God I’ve always been a neck and ankle man.

Getting back on point, let’s take stock that this hypocritical rating is bestowed not for displaying a fully erect love rocket, its for showing the albino asparagus briefly, as opposed to your typical starlet’s walking around nude without so much as a second thought ever given by the laypeople of censorship.

Don’t misunderstand me- I’m not yearning for a return to 1974, where going to see a blue movie in a seedy porno theater was once considered a daring night out, nor am I keen to see Hugh Jackman’s twelve-foot long giggle-stick up there on the big screen.

However, I’ve always felt that if the female lead has to take her clothes off for no other reason than to sell the film, my Sisters in Solidarity should get some sexy eye-candy too.

And if the scuttlebutt among my female friends is even half true, the actor who plays Thor could possibly have a whole new audience* for life if he’d just display his hammer, if you know what I’m getting at.

*[Best line regarding his inherent hotness came from a model friend of mine who stated publically that if the day ever came, she: “Wanted to serve him flagons of Mead and random salted meats, as I watch over our strong and golden blond children… I also really want to comb his hair”.]

If you look back in History, the stance regarding male nudity has been strangely checkered- on one hand, depictions of the male form in sculpture have generally displayed the subject as heroic and virtuous, [by way of example, fighting a dragon while naked] but when it comes to the act of painting the male nude or it’s depiction in photography, the paranoia regarding homo-eroticism usually rears up it’s dreadfully misshapen head and takes notice.

Interesting side note: in the beginning of the golden age of photography, if you wanted to showcase the male nude as a subject, it was considered prudent to pose said model much in the way of a classical sculpture, to deflect potential charges of homoerotic intent- regardless of whether that allegation was accurate or not.

Let’s just say that there’s a lot of photos where the models are posing next to plaster copies of Roman busts and columns, and leave it at that.

Even now, the merest suggestion that a work might contain analogous undertones is typically greeted with a volatile range of emotions from the absurd to the outright hostile. By way of   example, I give you two controversial modern Artists known for their figurative work, that being Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe.

But the final verdict in regards to their retrospective body of work seems varied, depending on who you ask for it. Wallis Annenberg, president and CEO of the L.A.-based Annenberg Foundation, said of Newton:

“If Newton’s work was controversial, I believe it’s because he expressed the contradictions within all of us, and particularly within the women he photographed so beautifully: empowerment mixed with vulnerability, sensuality tempered by depravity. Newton deepened our understanding of changing gender roles, of the ways in which beauty creates its own kind of power and corruption.”

Newton’s women are generally depicted as strong, independent, and in charge of the moment, even when they’re not the ones seemingly in control. His cinematic inspired tableaus center around a fantasized jet-set lifestyle, where his typically androgynous (yet essentially feminine) models are posed with a various array of fetishistic props such as guns, handcuffs, stiletto shoes, orthopedic braces, stockings and bold lipstick to create a feeling of erotic voyeurism.

 His exquisite eye strived to find the beautiful within the flawed, by idolizing the female form into an almost goddess-like example of perfection. Shunning the artificial “feel” that was in vogue with most magazines at the time, he preferred to create images that recalled the film noir stills of his youth, as well as the aesthetic of today’s modern paparazzi.

[(C)Helmut Newton]

As Writer Jose Juan Barba once wrote:

“Menacing yet refined, provocative yet aristocratic, his models appear as manipulative ringleaders, dominating temptresses and aristocratic Amazons in settings highly inspired by Expressionist cinema. Predominantly black and white, the overall ambience of his photographs is that of erotically-charged elegance, set against atmospheric backdrops of darkened rooms and hallways in lavish hotels and mansions or the patios and gardens of bourgeois villas.”

Despite the occasional outcry/protest from feminists and those of sensitive temperament, the main reason why Newton’s work is more generally accepted within the public sphere over Mapplethorpe’s is best summed up by this quote from American human rights activist Aryeh Neier:

“Consider Helmut Newton’s photographs: they treat women as objects, they are violent and they are sexually explicit. Yet they reflect a certain level of talent, more talent certainly, than is on display in the pornographic magazines one can buy at newsstands. And so Helmut Newton’s photographs are called erotica instead of pornography”.

Whether or not that’s an accurate assessment, I’m not entirely sure, but I do feel that between he and Mapplethorpe, Newton’s work is by far definitely more accessible to the masses as a rule. And I believe that’s due to the fact that his base is built on the form of a female, the commonly accepted standard of artistic beauty.

Mapplethorpe, on the other hand…

Well, I think his legacy is a little harder to pin down depending on one’s POV, but reasonable and valid arguments can be made for the classification of his work under both of the aforementioned aspects of Fine Art and Porn. A self-taught (and self-made) Artist, Mapplethorpe is often sadly remembered more for his personal extremes, both in his lifestyle and catalogue raisonné, which at times, crossed the line into the controversially explicit, due to his choices regarding subject and technique.

Starting in the 1970’s, Mapplethorpe’s rise to fame began with his photographs of male nudes and sexually explicit gay-themed imagery- a collection in later years that became infamously known as the “X Portfolio”. Even by today’s standards, the images are hard to peruse through more than once, owing to the rather extreme subject matter that is highlighted within: urolagnia*, piquerism* and the shadowy world of BDSM are just some of the darker topics he documented.

**[Go ahead and Google those terms if you dare, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.]

As his career progressed, his subject matter grew to encompass celebrity portraits, studies of still lives as well as flowers, a widely dismissed attempt to break into the world of fashion photography, and a ground-breaking series of photos featuring female body builder Lisa Lyon, later collected and published in book form under the title “Lady”.

[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]

Other than that singular series where Lyon’s personality is allowed to shine through, Mapplethorpe’s archetypal take on the female nude bordered on the classical approach of what I like to refer to as “statuary” posing- that is, the primary focus is on the form, not the person who inhabits it, and therefore any vestiges of personality are negated by the framing of the subject to “erase” the head.

[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe] 

While his approach of turning a model into a prop is less prevalent in his numerous figure studies of males, (mostly African-American) it still pops up occasionally and provides insight into his psyche, nonetheless.

[(C)Robert Mapplethorpe]

Despite his softer and more commercially viable work, Mapplethorpe was attracted by what the majority would consider the shocking side of human nature, and that’s where I think the center of discomfort with his work as a whole lies- not with his consistent use of non-white models as a primary focus, nor his alternate sexuality (although that is a factor) but with his expression of it using the male form as a conduit.

But the issue still puzzles: why does the male nude illicit such unease? We could hit the obvious hot buttons- homophobia, body image issues, fear of the unfamiliar, etc… but I think the solution goes a little deeper than that.

One: the male nude represents a threat to the established status quo- that being the men are in charge and women are the objects to be lauded like so many trinkets. By switching roles, it forces men to traverse through the same mire that women have trod for scores of centuries- that of being judged solely on how one looks, and I honestly don’t think the male psyche is designed for that sort of concentrated and overly focused scrutiny,

As my GF Ashley puts it: “Think of it like this-, when it comes to looks, women are streamlined, neat, and compact- you guys are designed for utilitarian action, not prettiness.”

By way of example, here’s a visual representation of exactly what she was talking about:


In this, the age of technology, I’d opine that women are Macs, Men are PC’s.
Big, clunky, inelegant PC’s.

Now, as someone who’s cursed with the burden of being ruggedly handsome to a ridiculous degree, I’m obviously not too worried about being critiqued on a purely physical scale in general, but I can see how some of my less photogenic brothers in arms might get a tad bit uncomfortable.

Especially if they feel that they’re let’s say, “coming up short” in a certain department, to be blunt.

Robin Williams said it best: “Men cannot take laughter at the mighty sword.” And the private paranoia of whether or not one’s personal butcher shop is well stocked with premium beef, is seemingly where the majority of the enmity that men have about male nudity tends to boil over, which leads to my second point: the male body is kind of an awkward looking object at best, and a past consensus from one of my ex-girlfriends was that it was probably designed and built on a Friday just before quitting time, given the glaring flaws inherent in the finished product.

As she bluntly put it: “ So… if you guys are supposed to be the mighty hunters, why would you want something that just gets in the way all the time?”

I have to admit she had a valid point. I can’t imagine what it must have been like back in the day, running after your Tyrannosaurus Rex dinner, clad only in a saber-tooth print loincloth with your spawn-hammer swinging in the wind, snagging on bushes, slapping against your inner thigh in a style much akin to Cher belting Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck.

Can you?
All I can think to say is yeeouch.

Just the mere thought of catching the old thunder-sword on an outcropping makes me squeamish, to tell you the truth. I once snagged mine in a zipper, and that’s the second closest I’ve ever come to actual Death- I won’t bore you with the gory details, but I had to wear sweat pants for like a month.

On the up side, I no longer wake up in a cold sweat screaming… so that’s good.

However, since I am one of those people who believes in getting to the bottom of a problem, Hugo’s call for male models provided a perfect opportunity for me to do some research from an insider’s point of view. Surely, this experience would grant me a new perspective, and as an additional perk, I’d get to find out if all that roller-blading was really doing me any actual good.

As I stated earlier, I have no problem being sans clothing around other people and overall, I’m fairly comfortable with my body as it is, even if others aren’t. For my part, I still have no idea why that security guard at Target was so upset- it’s not my fault that all the dressing rooms were occupied.

Geez. Some people are just so damn touchy.

All kidding aside, the posing session at Hugo’s studio went like clockwork, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable, as evidenced by this edited shot posted here:

[(C)Hugo Medina]

See? No issues whatsoever… for me, at least.

If however, you’re now clawing out your eyes, I do genuinely apologize for your trauma. Considering that when I did my 20th HS Reunion back in 2007, where most of my male classmates had put on an average of 75 pounds or more, I think I still look pretty damn good for my age, which is 45.

And when it comes to the 25 I’ve personally gained over the years, my outlook could truly best be summed up by saying “meh”, but who cares? I’m typically ok with myself, and that’s what counts in the long run.

Now as a rule, I don’t have many weak points in the old ego armor, but they do exist, and every now and then they like to make themselves known, much to my chagrin. Although the truly worrisome moment still lay just ahead, when the finished series of portraits were to be publicly debuted.

In retrospect … I might have been a tad bit concerned. You’re never more vulnerable then when you’re naked, and as someone who‘s well-known for putting things out there, I can verify that there’s truly nothing more personally nerve wracking than literally putting your thing out there for a public critique.

Remember that nightmare you had in high school about showing up in your underwear for a test and everybody laughing at you? Well, lose the underwear and fill the entire classroom with cheerleaders and you’ll get a sense of what I was feeling just before I walked into Willo North Gallery and saw my portrait on the wall.

Mercifully, I found it to be awesome, as did my GF Ashley, who stated that Hugo had gotten the representation of my body pretty dead on. My face on the other hand, seemed to have a bit of a Genghis Khan vibe, which I personally thought was completely kick-ass. I looked good and evil all at the same time, which suited me just fine.

But more importantly, the assembled throng seemed to appreciate the show and the four fully nude male portraits that were on display without so much as batting an eye.


However, there were a number of people who when they talked to me, couldn’t
(or wouldn’t) look me in the face despite giving my likeness on canvas high marks.

So naturally, I made sure that everytime they caught my gaze, I made direct eye contact as much as possible. What can I say? I’m German. Being a bastard comes naturally.

Even better though, were the emails that I received over the next week or so praising my portrait, and more specifically, certain parts of my um… personality. Granted, some of those compliments came from guys, but it’s always good to have options, I guess.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to know that apparently all that roller-blading IS paying off on some level, even if it isn’t in regards to my preferred go-to demographic.

Ego strokes aside, I found the whole experience rather enjoyable, even given the fact that it might have made some of my less secure peeps somewhat uncomfortable.

Not to worry- they’ll be right as rain, given enough time and intensive psychotherapy, I’m sure.

As I see it, the act of gazing upon a nude painting can’t possibly be nearly as traumatic in the same sense as seeing a full color photograph, or in a worst case scenario- the actual model standing right before you au naturel.

But there’s only one way to test that theory, so here goes.

Now, if you have any impressionable children or small pets, this would be the time to ask them to leave the room. However, if there’s anyone you’d like to make really uncomfortable or watch squirm, feel free to make them sit down before your computer monitor, because it’s about to get all shades of  “I so didn’t need to see that” up in here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe it’s time to unveil my portrait as….

(zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap)














(zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap) (zap)

…and that’s why I always insist on being the back part of a horse costume, all kidding aside. What? Oh that’s right- the portrait. Sorry, I just got to talking about my favorite subject and got a little carried away, as I’m prone to do.

So without further ado, I present to you my nude image as painted by Hugo Medina:

[(C)Hugo Medina]

That wasn’t too horrible was it? No ugly tattoos, no weird piercings in areas that should never have metal near them in the first place, and despite my insistence that he paint some in, no devil horns or busty sword-wielding Asian maidens laying at my feet.

Maybe next time. A boy can dream.

Overall, I’m really proud- you didn’t even so much as… oops, sorry…I honestly didn’t notice you horking up your lunch right there. My sincerest apologies all around. But since your stomach is now empty, perhaps there’s room for just a few more pictures:

I like to call this one “Before Tequila… and after Tequila.”

[Photo by Lisa Albinger]

And here’s a nice one with Hugo that I posted on Instagram, causing my friend Emily to point out that I had just gone and inadvertently photo-bombed myself- seems even my image is an attention whore, which lets face it, is really not that big a shock.

[Photo by Ashley Smith.]

C’est la vie.

So in the end, what did I learn from this experience? A lot, actually. I learned that there’s still a very long road to travel regarding the acceptance of the male form on the same level as the established feminine base, and I personally discovered that I’m way too comfortable walking around naked.

Ok… that part I already knew, but it’s nice to have confirmation from my peer group.

To be serious for a moment, I can honestly say that I came away with a new perspective on a possible solution for our societal concern when we broach the issue of nude male imagery for general discussion.


I’m dead solemn about this. If we can seemingly allow the Twilight novels, gun violence in our schools, various sexual assaults posted on social media, exploding heads on television, all of the new Star Wars movies, not to mention the reality show that stars genetic mistake Honey Boo Boo, we most certainly can handle the occasional artistic manifestation of a Bavarian Beefstick every now and then within our midst.

Wrapping this up, I don’t have all the answers, and heck, I may not even have one, but I do have an idea, and it harkens back to the concept I alluded to earlier- plain and simple equality.

Here’s how it would work: for every second / minute / whatever that an actress has to be naked or topless in a movie, there must be an equal amount of male nudity as well to add balance.

Like I opined previously, I feel that my Sisters in Solidarity should get some sexy eye-candy as well.

After a few years of this who knows what the end benefit would be: enhanced acceptance of the nude male form, or perhaps something even better: movies that actually rely on plot, rather then T&A as a selling point. Now, for the majority of guys reading this and cursing my name, relax.

There’s always the Internet, and I didn’t say I’d get rid of the Victoria’s Secret catalog, did I? 

You’ll always have access to an unrealistically skinny (and sharp-boned) model who’s ribs are showing through, strutting around in uncomfortable underwear to ogle over in the privacy of your bathroom, no matter what happens. This is still America, after all.

Or it was when I woke up this morning… I haven’t checked FOX News yet.

“Then she looked at the man on the tree and she smiled wryly. “They just aren’t as interesting naked,” she said. “It’s the unwrapping that’s half the fun. Like with gifts, and eggs.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Happy Happy. Joy Joy. (Chaotic Zen)

“This is a song about a whale… NO!!!! This is a song about being happy.”

– Your old pal, Stinky Whizzleteats

Hello Blogiteers!
Isn’t it just an absolutely glorious day?

The birds are singing, the sun is shining less intently, and the clouds are all puffy and floating in that vast blue sexiness that we like to call a sky, and that’s just swell. Sigh… isn’t Life just nifty?

Um… why are you looking at me like that?
Oh, I get it- you’ve never actually seen me happy, have you?
Calm down. It’s all good. Really, it is.

Sure, at the time of my last Blogvella, I was somewhat depressed due to the veracity of my fellow Creatives displaying all the strength of microwaved Velveeta in regards to bettering their personal self-interest, but that was the recent past, and I tend to be an “in the now” kind of guy, always keeping one eye on the end goal.

In fact, I’m in such a good mood that I feel like writing a blog that’s just chock full of sunshine, unicorns, and otters doing endearing things with their adorable paws.

Doesn’t that sound just great?
I thought so too, so we should get moving- but before we do, I have to address a small issue first.

As I noted, my last screed focused on the troubling aspect of PHX’s artistic apathy and it’s chilling effect on possible future success. Along with my take on that particular problem, I also meted out a well-earned artsy bitch-slap to a local non-entity, also known as “Scooter” Harris, a never-was who constantly bags on the PAS, despite his never actually contributing anything of substance to it.

If I were to draw you an analogy, his theoretical critiques are akin to having Pat Robertson conduct a symposium regarding the works of Motley Crue- it’s just that asinine, and yet- still strikes as highly comical to those of us who know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes and in the river.

Concerning his weak attempt at character assassination in regards to myself and curator/gallery owner Robrt Pela, I wryly stated the following: “Every village has its’ idiot, and apparently… the village next door loaned us theirs as a courtesy “.

An observation that NOBODY disagreed with, I might add.

Granted, I don’t truly believe that this general opinion is based entirely on his exorable writing, I’m also pretty sure a lot of it has to do with the irrefutable fact that nobody in the PAS knows who the hell he is.

Normally, when I engage in a battle of wits with an obviously unarmed opponent, I don’t usually give them both barrels, mainly due to the fact that when it comes to this scene, it’s sort of comparable to shooting at kittens with an ICBM.

An egotistical overkill as it were, especially when the majority of my detractors seemingly lack the ability to fight back effectively. But I do appreciate it when they try. Honestly, I do. It gives me hope that maybe, someday soon, they’ll be a worthy adversary- the kind that has a secret handshake, a flying car, and a nifty laser decoder ring.

Creepy Asian henchmen optional.

Seriously, is it too much to ask for a right proper antagonist who can go the full ten rounds without needing a diaper change and a bottle? In this town, apparently it is, and here’s some proof: the only person who’s ever knocked me for a loop is Connor Descheemaker, and he’s essentially on the same side as me.

However, his approach to the inherent issues within the PAS has been much more diplomatic than mine, and for that I have to give the kid some mad dog props. Staying on the path without killing someone is almost damn near nigh impossible in this scene some days, but he manages to do it, and do it well.

Along with having a much better sense of self-restraint, he also has done the following, much to the betterment of the PAS: at Modified Arts he worked as a Gallery Assistant; doing PR, installing shows, sitting gallery hours, serving as a member of the Phoenix Gallery Coalition, while also representing Roosevelt Row/Modified Arts as a Phoenix location for the temporary public art project IN FLUX begun by Scottsdale Public Art.

Served (via the Sustainable Communities Collaborative) as Project Manager & Curator of “Exit to Left: History Along the Light Rail,” a three-city photo exhibition, lecture series, and website dedicated to documenting historic properties along the light rail line in Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa.

As if that wasn’t enough, he was also the Director of Community Initiatives, and responsible for organizing the monthly Downtown Devil Discussions, a panel discussion series devoted to critical issues facing downtown Phoenix, one semester of which was focused on arts and culture.

Topping it off, he then added the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to his impressive list of accomplishments, where he honed his skills as an Installation and Curatorial Intern; researching exhibitions and artists, compiling reports, and installing shows in all media.

See what I mean? That’s the definition of “worthy opponent” right there kids.

Unlike most of my detractors, he came at me head on and at full speed- an approach that garners a lot of respect from this here Artbitch, hence the reason why we’re all cool with each other now.

I don’t mind losing, I just don’t want to lose to the mediocre, and he is so not that.
As to how it was possible for him to ring my bell…

Well, I was tired that day. The sun was in my eyes. Somebody put something in my drink. He was lucky my girl was in the room. I was stone-cold pimpin’. My trick knee started acting up. The dog ate my assignment. Jesus is my Homeboy. I was workin’ in a coal mine, going down down. It’s all the [insert group here]’s fault. I ran out of crayons. I blame my parents, mostly. I was practicing charity. I was distracted by something shiny.

I was flying my freak flag. My other suit of armor was in the shop, and I had to go with the cheap one. I was standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. Thanks to my deep concern over who would win American Idol, I forgot I was supposed to defend myself. It’s all Obama’s fault. I was working the dance floor. My battery died. I ran out of hair gel. I left my wallet in my other pair of pants. I was getting down with my bad self. I was teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony.

Not to mention that I was also partying like it was 1999.
And did I mention that he cheats?

Yes, he most definitely cheats… because that’s the only way one could best me within the halls of the Lair of Snarkitude. Seems like a perfectly plausible explanation when you get right down to it, so far as I can tell. Sure, that whole “energy of youth” thing he’s got going can be a tad bit vexing, but mark my words… one day he’ll be old and tired.

Granted, I’ll have been dead for decades by that point, but vengeance will be mine, this I swear.
And if Time refuses to help me on my quest?

Well, there’s always the fall back position of cutting his brake lines.
Or hitting him with my walker.

Moving on…

Other than my now fellow ally Connor, I honestly can’t think of anyone who’s ever been able to lay a glove on me, whether it be metaphorical or reality based. It’s not that I haven’t had my share of confrontation within this scene, trust me, I have- it’s more along the line that my adversaries seemingly have no ability to get to the heart of who I am, and that’s why they fail so miserably.

To those of you who just perked up, cease thy optimism- I’m not going to give you a primer on how to get under my skin. I may be snarky, but I’m also not stupid. In fact, I already can see the question forming in your head in regards to my always being ready for battle: If I don’t like, respect, or fear you, why should I care what you say about me?

Overall, I don’t. But there are a few caveats to that way of thinking, nonetheless. The only opinions I have ever valued come from those rare few that I truly respect. Whether that esteem stems from your abilities, character, or intellect matters not to me. What is important is that once you have earned my admiration, it’s very hard to lose. Moreover, while it has happened in the past, it’s been quite some time since I righteously abandoned anyone to the dark side of the moon, sans the album.

Here’s the truth of the matter- when it gets right down to brass tacks, I loathe two specific types of people: spineless cowards and/or ignorant bullies. Characteristically, they’re usually one and the same, but not always, and if there was any sort of contest for failed social experiments, the Internet definitely would qualify as a serious contender for allowing these arrogant cravens to propagate in the manner that they have.

It’s been my observation that in the world of the real, very few people would dare say what they unconditionally spew without a thought all over the web. As I’ve often noted, the net is a lot like numerous shots of tequila- after consumption, everybody’s ten feet tall and fearless as f**k.

Until someone dares to get in their face, that is.

Then it’s akin to watching Jello under a heat lamp, as they liquefy back into the candy-ass pond they crawled out of. If I had a dollar for everyone who’s ever uttered their honest opinion about me behind my back rather than to my front, I’d be comfortably ensconced on my private Ding Dong island, being served Mojitos by my cyborg monkey servants.

You know… like you do.

See, I don’t go after my critics because I’m thin-skinned, I go after them because I don’t believe in letting arrogant inanity flourish, even if it’s just for a second. I’ve always been of the mindset that the truly dense need to be put down ASAP, regardless of whether they’re a person or a cow.

To be clear, I’m not talking about someone who’s naïve, I’m talking about those that are immune to proven facts or logic. In essence, it’s anyone you look at and the first thought that comes to mind is:

“Seriously… how have you survived this long without being eaten?”

While I am known (or hated, depending on your POV) for being intensely harsh about the PAS, I still believe in what it’s trying to do, and imagine what it might be if we could all just make that sucker run lean, mean, and clean. We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the space, we just have to get that art-car in the garage and make it as bad-ass as we see it in our collective mind.

[Starts singing “Greased Lightning” inside his head…]

Criticism doesn’t always imply disdain for forward progress, nor does it want to be cast aside- it can (and should) be used as a blueprint towards strengthening the base for whatever concept you’re attempting to construct from the infinite ether of creativity.

As I’ve often said with a fair amount of glee: “Critics are legless men who teach classes in running”, and when it comes to describing a rather large portion of the PAS’s detractors, I think that quote is  fairly apt.

But not always. Not by a long shot.

I’ve always striven to provide a balance of sorts to my assessments of the PAS and it’s pond of Creatives- a sweet/sour approach, as it were. For every metaphorical swat with the belt, I also try to offer a resolution to the issue at hand that I’m griping about.

Seriously- I’ll never understand people who complain endlessly about something, yet refuse to entertain the thought of being part of the solution due to their own self-importance or pettiness.

[See: “Scooter”, “Tingbat”, “Justice O’Donnell”, “Weekend Anarchist Brigade”, etc…]

Willful ignorance should never be tolerated or disregarded, and it most certainly should not be rewarded, unless said compensation involves getting publicly dope-slapped upside the head,

To my sorrow, I have noticed a lack of committed effort within the PAS to exile such cretins, a regretful Achilles’ heel that’s been incorporated into the bedrock of any steps forward we attempt to make. But progress is being made however, and here’s where our tale starts with the dispensation of warm fuzzies and fairy wings.

Over the course of the last two years, much has been done in regards to the visibility of the PAS- highly effective gallery associations, artist groups and new spaces have been popping up and getting proactive with lightning speed.

Heck, even the Phoenix New Times is starting to write articles worth reading about the PAS, and while I’m pretty confident that Mangling Editor Amy Silverman still hates Phoenix with the heat of a thousand suns, it’s nice to see that even she has to acknowledge what’s going on downtown, albeit it grudgingly.

I know, I know- give the poor lady a break. I will concede that it must be exceedingly galling to get up every morning and have to start your day off by eating a giant bowl of crow-flakes in regards to your long held belief that this town sucks, and seeing glimmers of growth on the horizon, nonetheless.

To be fair, they’re still churning out the same yellow journalism fluff they’ve always produced, but who cares? Andy Warhol once said: “Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.” – an ideology I can fully get behind, and one I have lived with for most of my so-called career.

As far as I’m concerned, all ink is good ink, regardless of whether it’s upbeat or pessimistic- at least they’re talking about you, and that’s what truly counts in the end. And most recently, what was being discussed was the 14th installment of the group show that’s known as Chaos Theory, or what I like to breezily off the cuff refer to as “The Artists’ Prom” or “The Artsy Super Bowl”.

In spite of my flippancy, I do mean that with respect- I freaking love CT.
Why is that, you ask?

Well for me, it’s the opportunity to interact with my fellow Creatives and network like a boss, while simultaneously having one hell of a good time. As I noted in a related blog last year, CT is the one time that the Tribe is all gathered under one roof, and that’s just awesome, especially if you’re a manic chatterbox like yours truly.

For me, CT has always been a two-tiered event- one level is the show itself, the other is the rare social interaction that we get to have with our fellow Creatives under the guise of an art show.

I get to catch up, meet the new blood, hang out with my fellow dinosaurs, all the while gauging the depth of the creative sea in PHX. This year was no different, and despite the objections by some that CT has gotten less innovative and more “mainstream” as the years have rolled on, I personally could find no fault with this years’ offering as a whole.

There are always going to be pieces that I don’t care for, but that’s my aesthetic quibble, and it’s really not worth splitting hairs over when it gets right down to brass tacks.

If I were to play Devil’s advocate, I’d forward the thought that CT hasn’t mellowed, it’s matured. I for one, am nothing like I was 14 years ago, and I seriously doubt any of you are either. Sure, those core values remain, but as we move through our lives, the perspective is bound to change, which isn’t always a bad thing.

My outside take on the whole dismissive “Chaos isn’t as cool as it used to be” mind-set? If you don’t like it, then start your own yearly group show. It really is that simple, depending on one’s inherent ability and dedication to promote and curate such a monstrous behemoth.

And if you’re not willing to do just that, then please stop droning on about it already.

Happily, there was no sign of the faux slanderous drama that was inflicted upon CT last year by the PAS’s resident artsy crazy cat lady, Suzanne Falk*, whose childish rant within the pages of the PHX New Times did absolutely nothing except help swell attendance and publicize the show.

That success by the way, was partially due to her ludicrous (and ultimately baseless) charges of homophobia and misogyny falling on deaf ears- a self-serving move that in the end, backfired, and elevated Randy’s public profile via all the publicity she unwittingly helped create for him.

*[Link: http://waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html]

And while I’m on the subject, I’d also like to point out Suzy’s latent hypocrisy, as she did attend this year’s show, despite not having any work displayed in it. So, I guess that it’s okay to attend an event that you publically (and loudly) claimed was ubiquitous with homophobia and a sexist agenda, just so long as you didn’t contribute a piece, right Suzy?

Furthermore, it’s an art show, not a dog park- so please leave your stupid pet at home next time, too. If I wanted something furry with bad breath to dry-hump my leg, I’d have called up my ex-fiancé.

That minor irritation not withstanding, Chaos 14 was packed to the rafters with the PAS’s art elite and their protégés, along with the art-curious. And if there was a singular emotion running through the show that night, it would have to be one of “I’m ok, but you… you’re just great!

When I left after closing the show down, I seriously felt like the hottest bitch in the room, and not just because I was wearing leather pants. Which by the way, is the first official sign that Winter has come full swing in PHX. At the risk of sounding a tad bit sycophantic, I’d put forth that when it comes to putting together a show of this magnitude, nobody has done it as well or as consistently as Randy Slack.

To speak the Truth, haters gonna hate, but they’re going to be doing that hating within a very small circle- everybody goes to Chaos, and whether they like the show or not, I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t enjoy themselves on some level, even if that’s only to bitch about what Chaos is or isn’t. 

There was so much love floating around in that room, I’m surprised we all don’t have to go get our blood tested. My already unwieldy Ego was the size of the Goodyear Blimp when I left, due to all the compliments I received in regards to my latest writing and advocacy efforts occurring within the PAS.

If I were to be entirely honest, it still feels really weird when people come up and tell me that they love what I do- especially when you consider how long of a slog it was to get to the point where people are starting to pay attention to what I say, and not focusing on how I say it.

But in the end, maybe remaining constantly uneasy is a good thing for your development, as I’ve always felt that self-doubt is still one of the paramount ways of making sure that you remain as sharp and relevant as you were when you started your career.

Many moons ago, I once had a teacher tell me that when you no longer got butterflies in the stomach before a show, that’s when you know to quit and walk away- because you’re done, kiddo. For me, it’s close to 25 years that I’ve been involved with the Arts in one form or another, and I don’t see the end of the road just yet.

When it comes to local promotion, CT shows off the talent and passion that exists within this scene, and serves as an excellent barometer of where the PAS is going creatively. And while it remains the defacto model in regards to putting on large art-related events in this city, I do hope that it won’t be the only one in the years to come.

Imagine it. Being paid to do what we love, and being respected for it at the same time.
That’s the kind of warm happy vibe I think everybody can get behind, even this snarky bitch.

Hopefully, one day serious and well-financed Patrons will help shape PHX into the “must see” destination for all things creative and visionary, viewed by the world stage in the same way that NYC and LA. are- a serious contender that holds it’s own while maintaining it’s unique identity.

But until that happy day arrives, I say embrace the Chaos.

“The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.”- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Bridge Over the River Why. (An Army of None.)

“I take things like honor and loyalty seriously. It’s more important to me than any materialistic thing or any fame I could have.” – Lloyd Banks

Hello Blogi…oh, the hell with my standard cheery greeting, I’m just not feeling it.
Not today, anyway.
Granted, I am truly heartened by how many kudos my last blog received concerning the vile and unprincipled censorship enacted by the Herberger Theater Center, and I’m extremely appreciative (and honestly shocked) to hear that even the Mayor’s office thought it was a fine piece of writing, but I remain downcast, nonetheless.

This is the kind of bummed out that even a full-on Ding Dong bender couldn’t ease.

Sad to say, the black cloud that hangs over me these days is fairly tenacious, and given all indicators, it doesn’t seem like any dissipation is on the calendar for quite some time.
So why am I all moody?
Well… in my last screed, which I knocked out in less than 12 hours, (a new personal record) I issued a call to arms (of sorts) to PHX’s Creative community- I asked for a show of solidarity and strength in helping protest the cancellation of Robrt Pela’s curated show at the Herberger Theater Center- an issue I naively believed would “rally the troops” as it were, since Censorship is just not an ongoing and major problem here, but in most metropolitan artistic centers as well.

See, this is my problem- I have faith in Humanity, but I always forget that people are involved in the dispensation of it.

To quote Tommy Lee Jones from his role as Agent K in Men in Black:
“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.”

And when it comes to following the herd, nobody does it better than the PHX Creative community. I’ve often commented on the lack of professionalism that runs rampant here, along with an almost pathological apathy that tracks alongside, and yet- I still truly believed that my fellow creatives would rise up, fight the good fight, and vanquish the metaphorical Barbarians back to Hell.

Hoo boy. Did I ever get that wrong. George Clooney as Batman kind of wrong.

Note to self: stop watching movies where everybody comes together via a montage and musical number to save the community rec-center/summer camp/school/church/park/ independent record store etc.. it’s starting to seriously warp my sense of reality in regards to the subject of people stepping up to do the right thing.

Here’s a small insight into my psyche: I don’t really expect much.
After my horrific near-death experience in 2009, I’m actually fairly grateful for almost everything that occurs, including, but not limited to, stuff that is at it’s core, quite bad.
Far as I’m concerned, every day above ground is a good day, even if it sometimes sucks donkey wahaunga.

So as a rule, I keep my expectations realistic, and my hopes limited.

Let me put it this way- I really don’t sweat the electric bill. Almost dying definitely spins your perspective in regards to what matters, and what doesn’t. Having touched the bunny slippers of Death, my point of view has unquestionably been sharpened, and it’s main focus has been on rehabilitating the PAS into a viable entity of economic success and unity.

Sadly, I think that I’ve been asking too much of my fellow Creatives, the lack of turnout at the HTC protest serving as a litmus test of sorts. One of the theories I’ve been harboring for a while in regards to the creative community is this- the majority seemingly don’t give a damn unless a situation affects them directly.

Need proof? Just look around.
For every Robrt Pela or Laura Dragon (of {9} The Gallery) that we have, we’re negated by ten useless wankers, just sitting on their ass, doing nothing. Yet… they’re the first ones to gorge on the rewards brought forth by the others who’ve actually walked the walk, and talked the talk.

In other words, they’re the problem. If the PAS were a human body, the poseurs within this scene would be cancer, As I said I’m a realist- I know that no matter where you have a vibrant and creative scene, there’s always going to be the occasional human speed bump.

Another insight: I absolutely loathe, despise, hate, deride, abhor, detest, and cannot stand the way too common phrase “I’ll be there in spirit”. So… you won’t help or do anything that is actually useful and constructive, but at least you approve of all the hard work we’re doing.

That’s just great. Way to commit to a cause.

In my humble opinion, that’s akin to telling someone who desperately needs a life-saving transplant that “I’d love to donate a kidney, really I would- but I’m catching up on Breaking Bad.” By the way, that was an ACTUAL excuse that one of my fellow Creatives said to me when I asked him why he wasn’t at the protest- he was watching a DVD, and couldn’t be bothered to show up.

I tell you this: I don’t get nearly enough credit for not going on a murderous killing spree.

Of the forty or so people who assured me that they’d be there, only two showed up, and at best, there were maybe twenty people protesting- a number I find to be equally sad and maddening. When the call to arms was issued, I was hoping to witness a groundswell- a veritable sea of creative bad assery charging the gates of Mordor, if you will.
In all honesty, I would have been happy with a small pond of support- instead all I saw around me was a puddle. Granted, the cultural warriors who were standing alongside me in said puddle kicked some truly serious ass nonetheless, but it fell far short of what was needed to send a serious message to the elitist pinheads at the HTC.

Looking down from their ivory tower, I wanted the collective heads of the HTC to see a unified and strong Arts Community, an astounding mass of people standing up both for their craft, and for what was right. I wanted their family friendly walls to shake with our collective outrage.

I wanted them to know that we as a whole, would not, could not, and never will, allow ourselves to be condescended to by the likes of persons such as them.
I wanted them to feel the unease that comes with the knowledge that occasionally your bad judgment comes back home to roost, and every now and then- it likes to bring friends.
I wanted them to realize that we are a force to be dealt with, and that fucking with our combined strength would be a sure fire means to becoming a cautionary tale that old people tell over campfires.
In place of that, all they saw was that given enough time, the storm would pass, and they could get back to business as usual, or so they hopefully thought.

I am happy to report that several artists cancelled shows, a number of guest curators resigned in disgust, and since the Mayor’s office got involved, along with a nationally recognized anti-censorship group calling for change as well, it’s highly unlikely that they will emerge completely unscathed.

In fact, my last blog may have opened that particular door- the following is from a FB message that Robrt Pela sent me earlier this week:

“Keep in mind that it was your blog that first got the mayor to call me. So, you made a huge difference. I did not approach the mayor’s office; they called me.”

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right… I so totally need to call my Dad and brag like a adolescent boy who just scored with the town MILF. As you might surmise, I am more than happy that one of my rants seems to have had a positive effect for once, and I earnestly hope that some good comes out of all this.

Yes, the HTC has been dinged, but the fact remains: the PAC dropped the ball on this one, and dropped it hard. In fact, when I posted on the Arizona Artists page asking the question of why there was such a problem with artistic apathy in this town, I received the following response:

“I’ve realized a ton of our problem is perspective, which I tried to explain way up there. I’m thinking less about Phoenix’s specific issues and instead look at this more globally. In terms of censorship and protest, that was basically an unchangeable position, seemingly from the two party’s perspectives. My feeble achy boots on the ground will be used for issues I think demand it.”
Now, I can respect this position. But I still disagree with it as a whole.
Yes, the two parties were intractable in their differing points of view, and I understand
that there was probably no way that the issue could have been settled to the satisfaction of both, but a stand needed to be made, and for that you need warm bodies, not a blizzard of internet postings.
Social media can and has been very effective in launching boycott campaigns and calling attention to the injustices of the world, but it’s also a sanctuary for the ignorant, the racist and the cast-asides of our society.

Factoring in the chaotic twenty-four-seven news cycle, today’s outrage is tomorrows water cooler joke, hence the need to have a sizable presence to go with the story- otherwise, you’re just spitting into the wind.

There is mammoth disparity on the Internet in regards to culture, and it rarely sways towards the betterment of our social order. Don’t misread me- I love living in a world where I can order books online while simultaneously downloading clown porn and

images of cute kittens, but some things still need to be done face to face, and this was
one of them.

Would a larger crowd have changed the outcome?

Most likely not.

But would it have given the HTC some serious and well-needed pause?
Hell yes.

The psychological effect of scores of loud angry people blocking your way and calling attention to something stupid that you did cannot be underestimated. Not by any means. And when the public opens up its eyes and gets curious about why all these people are surrounding your building, you’re pretty much living on borrowed time before the real hammers come down.

As to the concept of thinking “globally”, until my career takes off to the extent that I get to jet-set ala Saint Bono style, I’m gonna be focusing on the local, mainly due to that’s where I live and work. Yes, I’m a citizen of the world, but I have to pay my electric bill here, so I don’t have the luxury of being able to turn a blind eye to what’s occurring in front of me.

Even if your action turns out to be purely symbolic, at least you stood up for what you perceived to be right, and that beats a worn-out turn of phrase hands down, every time.

Boots on the ground is the means by which the world gets changed, and while it can be used productively in conjunction with a social media campaign, it is still the ideal method if you want to get things done for the better good.
Deeds count.
Words without direct action behind them?
Not so much.

Understand this- I’m not marginalizing how effective the Internet was in publicizing this situation. In fact, it was amazing to see just how fast the word got around, and the number of people who joined in on the discussion was stunning. What does dismay is how many of those same cultural warriors couldn’t spare two hours on a Thursday night to support a cause they claimed to be so concerned about.

Just sayin’.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve been witness to such indifference within the PAS, but it’s certainly the most visible display of it in quite some time. Not to beat a dead horse, but seriously… why won’t the majority of the Creative base just get off their apathetic asses and start kicking out the jams?

It’s not like we’re all shiftless milquetoasts, if one were to be honest, and while we are somewhat deficient in the infrastructure that other cities take for granted, we as a group still have no truly defensible excuse for our puzzling consistency in rolling over and showing belly every time an obstacle appears in our path.  

After a while, it gets to be a little annoying, if not downright infuriating. Nothing aggravates me more than a lazy zealot. I’m constantly hearing from artists about how they wish things were better, how great it would be if people were more professional, etc.- and yet, when it comes time to put up or shut up, they climb into their race car beds and wait for the art fairy to arrive with a satchel of happiness.
Magical thinking. The bane of my existence.

Believe me, I do understand the underlying feeling of pointlessness that some artists feel in regards to their career- I am an Artist myself, after all.  So I do get why it’s sometimes really hard to get out of that there comfy bed and go kick metaphorical ass. It’s even worse when you feel like you’re taking on the whole damn world by yourself.

Trust me… I feel your pain. I really do.

One of the main issues that I have with the PAS is the fact that some within our community also tend to mete out a unique form of passive aggressiveness warfare against their fellow Creatives- the old “crabs in a bucket” analogy.

For those unfamiliar with this idiom, here’s a description:

“Crabs in a bucket is a phrase that describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase “if I can’t have it, neither can you.”

The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless “king of the hill” competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise.

The analogy in human behavior is that members of a group will attempt to “pull down” (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy or competitive feelings.

This term is broadly associated with short-sighted, non-constructive thinking rather than a unified, long-term, constructive mentality. It is also often used colloquially in reference to individuals or communities attempting to improve their socioeconomic situations, but kept from doing so by others attempting to ride upon their coat-tails or those who simply resent their success.
The popularity of the phrase has made accusing opponents of crab mentality a common form of defense against criticism, whether the criticism is valid or not. In logic, this tactic is considered a common logical fallacy known as argumentum ad invidiam, or appeal to envy.”
And there is a lot of envy, let me tell you. If I had a penny for every time I heard a fellow colleague bitch about a certain “you know who” doing well, I’d be sitting on my private island enjoying a whipped cream back rub from Milla Jovovich right about now.

[Don’t worry about my GF Ashley- she’d be getting the same from Richard Armitage, so it’s all good, as I tend to share the wealth.]

Speaking of mentally deficient crabs, out of all the feedback I received there was only one detractor who lashed out publically regarding my protesting the HTC’s censorship, and in a not too surprising revelation, they’re someone that no one has ever taken seriously or even heard of in this scene, that being the personage of one “Scooter” Harris.

For once, I can honestly say that the negativity that’s being directed at me is not of my doing. I know… it feels really bizarre to me too. Normally, I’d be the one throwing the
acid-coated knives, so it’s somewhat off-putting to be attacked by someone named after a puppet from the Muppet Show.

After several years of my stirring the pot and asking the uncomfortable questions, it seems that this part-time scrawler and full time non-entity has named me and curator Robrt Pela as the source of all drama-fire in the PAS.

Ok… he didn’t actually have the cojones to name us directly, but he did hint at who we were an awful lot, so that’s almost as butch, right?

The source of all drama-fire… don’t I wish!

Can you imagine the t-shirt sales? They’d be huge. Not to mention the bumper stickers, mugs, phone apps, bobble-heads, mouse pads, whimsical pens, etc.. Given my penchant for self-promotion, I’d milk that particular cow until powder was shooting out of it’s desiccated udders, and then proceed to wring the marrow out of its bones.

What can I say? I’m a mercenary capitalist. But I digress.

*Link to the hot mess he wrote can be found here:

[Its the “We fight on Friday Night” Blog.]

I apologize in advance if you actually decide to read it to the end. Even given the low standards of the Internet, the darkest of all netherworlds where cat videos and Anime tentacle-porn coexist side by side, his diatribe is just excruciating.

And despite the fact that I do truly appreciate being granted honorary authority over the flame height in the PAS (as ascribed by Scooter) I’ll actually have to demonstrate some uncharacteristic modesty and dismiss his transcendent affirmation of my inherent powers.

Long before I jumped into the fray, ASU’s Downtown Devil and the Phoenix New Times were already on the scent and crafting their stories- a point Scooty Dupe deliberately overlooks for sake of his retelling of the sequence of events.

Both stories, BTW, were excellently done, I might add.

As for my part, I just came along and patched a few minor holes in the narrative, that’s all.
Anywho, Scooter (like me) also writes about the PAS, but his approach has always followed the typical blog format in regards to the critique of local art, whereas my focus centers on the dissection of issues that tend to affect the PAS directly.

To each his own, I always say, but this time it’s taken a turn. Up until about a week ago, I’ve never had any sort of issue with Scooter, so his rather disjointed assault upon Robrt and myself literally comes out of left field.

It just strikes as strange that after several years of relative friendliness, someone who has never had any stake whatsoever in the PAS gets riled up and decides to charge in, guns-a-blazing, to take on the Queen Bitches of the Universe for no clearly defined reason.

I’m not even really sure how to take in it’s sheer incoherence, to be quite honest. However, I do know what your thoughts are, and I appreciate the incongruity. You’re thinking:
“Aww… is the Artbitch feeling all ironically butt-hurt cause someone insulted him?”
Not exactly. I’m used to getting flak in regards to what I say and write, so I’m pretty immune overall to snark grenades and the occasional kitten swipe- but when it’s this
badly put together, I can’t even begin to fake the required respect in regards to his lame attempt to take me on or out.

Even if I took the high road, I’d still have to point out the rambling pointlessness of his candy-assed harangue, as well as his justification of using a homophobic slur, again and again. Just because someone (not I) refers to themselves that way (on occasion) doesn’t mean that you get to fling it around like you’re blood brothers.

[I often refer to myself as “His Royal Lord High Sexiness”, but I notice that he didn’t use that.]

And yes- I do call myself the “Artbitch”. However, that moniker was bestowed on me by a former enemy (now friend) who thought it fit my personality at the time. Fortunately, he doesn’t get a cut of the merchandise sales, so it really does pay to make sure you fill out all the copyright paperwork ahead of time.

Normally, I would take what someone’s written and pull it apart, in my distinctive and snarky style, but not this time. First, I don’t want to be held accountable for repeating the asinine vileness that he’s spewing, and second- it’s such a dreadful piece of commentary, that mocking it seems more or less an effort in focused futility.
If anything, I’m almost tempted to offer Scooter some lessons in smack talking, for when it comes to me, there are literally scores of open ammo boxes laying around that he could have dipped into instead.

For instance? My love of all things ABBA, my addiction to Ding Dongs, my fondness for dressing like Mad Max, the fact that I find nude Ukrainian folk dancing irresistible, and let’s not forget my ponytail, the classic go-to for almost all of my enemies.

And that’s just the stuff up front- imagine what he could have found if he had nutted up and decided to look under my bed. It’s as if he couldn’t spare the four seconds to “Google” me, and that’s just sheer laziness, in my opinion.
Whatever happened to the love of the craft?
The number of emails & instant messages I’ve fielded regarding this white trash meltdown all boiled down to everybody pretty much asking the same question:
“What in the Hell is he babbling about, and what in the Hell is he on?!?”

In regard to that, I couldn’t even begin to tell you, and I’m somebody who actually understood the end of “Inception”. But I do have a theory… or two.

Theory One: He’s always wanted to play in our sandbox, and just couldn’t cut it.

If this is spot on, then yeeeeouch, he must be way more inferior than I thought.

Granted, I really hate to keep flogging a dead horse, but the PAS is a lot like a Catholic School- we’ll pretty much take anyone if they’re possessing a pulse. So if you can’t get us to go out on a date, Scooter, I’m gonna have to be honest and say that it’s not us, it’s most definitely you.
But look on the bright side. All that time you’ll spend at night sitting home can only help sharpen your art skills, and that’s a win for everybody. Especially for the theory of quality work. And sure… I tend to bag on the PAS as a whole, but I (unlike you) actually believe that we’re in a transition to becoming a leaner, meaner model of economic viability that in the end, will prove to kick some serious financial and critical ass.
You seemingly don’t like, respect or love the scene, so why waste time writing about it? Especially when you’ve never been one of “us” to begin with, I might add.

Oh wait…

Theory Two: Somebody seems to be in denial, I think?

For those of you who were brave/foolhardy/self-hating enough to read Scoot’s invective all the way to the end, you’d note that it begins with an ode to the world of professional wrestling, the NASCAR of contact sports. Now, as a rule, I’m really not into athletic pursuits- sure, I played soccer as a kid, but my heroes have been always artists, writers and musicians first.

But if that’s what floats your boat of testosterone, so be it.

I just find it bizarre that someone would feel so liberated using a homophobic slur when their favorite form of entertainment entails watching greased up steroidal giants wearing makeup and gold lame speedos slamming into each other.

As I stated, if that’s what you’re into, that’s fine. I believe in personal freedom over everything else.
But if you’re going to stand your ground in the manner of a homophobic dick, perhaps you shouldn’t pick a sport whose athletes make the cast of “Glee’ look like Seal Team Six.

Gah. That’s enough in regards to Scooter, I think. Every village has it’s idiot, and apparently… the village next door loaned us theirs as a courtesy.

Fortunately, he does serve a useful purpose, mainly as a prime example of why the PAS is seemingly stuck in the artistic mire. Given the naysayers, the wannabes, the speed bumps and the egocentrically insignificant like him, it’s not too shocking why we can’t get our fellow Creatives to rally around the causes that affect us all directly.
I’ve witnessed all sorts of approaches through the years and there doesn’t seem to be one that has ever truly unified us as a whole. Whether it’s been the approach of strengthening professional ethics, attempted economic enticement, the feeling of camaraderie, or just plain common sense, they all seem to peter out after a while.

But there have been some changes on the horizon, and hopefully, they’ll blaze a new path towards fostering the self-empowerment and creating the strong community leaders we so desperately need.

Along those lines, we’ve seen the gallery association created by Laura Dragon stitching together our local Art-spaces into a marketing concern, and along with Artist Travis Field’s artistic juggernaut on FaceBook, [Arizona Artists Collective] certain long-closed doors are opening in regards to networking and planning possibilities for Creatives within the PAS.

To be honest, they’re not the all encompassing panacea that we require, but they’re definitely a healthy and aggressive start towards healing our innate illness of spirit.

So what’s the answer? This time, I’m honestly flummoxed, as I don’t think that there’s a one size fits all solution to the myriad of issues we need to prevail over. A multi-pronged approach seems like the best conduit to a successful outcome, but only if everybody is on the same page.  

And my biggest worry is that in the end, we’ve all been reading different books.

“As an artist your first loyalty is to your art. Unless this is the case, you’re going to be a second-rate artist.” – Margaret Atwood