Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

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