Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

Character Study (Would you to like to borrow some of mine?)

“The world is not fair, and often fools, cowards, liars and the selfish hide in high places.” – Bryant H. Mc Gill

Greetings Blogiteers!

I have missed you, and according to your Emails, you’ve missed me too! Or to be more accurate- you were missing the so-called normal version of me. I do understand. My last blog where I actually apologized to a past Artbitch scratching post confused and/or concerned some of my more dedicated readers. A whole lot, it would seem.

Matt Spastic of PHX’s The Complainiacs wondered if I was “losing my edge”. Well, I did lose my keys this morning- so anything is possible, I guess. Merrill278 opined that I was “waging some artistic form of office politics”. Not likely- I hate cubicles, and I happen to be terrible at filing my TFP reports. Risko wrote that “it’s always more interesting when you don’t play nice”. Cannot argue with that, methinks. It is definitely much more fun, if not easier. Camboy1945 suggested that my heartfelt apology was due to Kara’s being [his quote] “totally hot”.

Now if that were true, I do not think that I would have insulted her in the first place, as it tends to make the act of hooking up a lot more difficult. Let’s be honest- I am way too lazy to work that hard, and strangely- I have this very strong feeling that my GF Ashley wouldn’t approve. At all Scottz dared to suggest that I “was getting soft in my old age”. A note to Scottz: I am only 42.

This means I am still young enough to hire some teens to kick your ass. Despite all the concern raised, I am still the Artbitch, thank you very much. To quote Kid Rock, I am here to remind all the bitches who I be. Specifically, one in particular. So, who is this lucky person? Claire Lawton of the Phoenix New Times, and she is worth keeping, let me tell you.

And speaking of the New Times…….

I ran into Martin “Marty” Cizmar on First Friday outside the Lacheln & Tate Hemlock co- show which was  at the Atelier M art space, and it was bizarre- to say the very least. Marty and I engaged in some serious bitch slapping on the NT forum a few months back, and apparently, he is under this impression that I, (or anyone else for that matter) still take him seriously.

After one has read the lackluster wit that is The Cizmar, you’ll surely now realize why I consider him a gaseous douche bag, no more, no less. Ergo, not exactly someone I have to keep my eye on. Then, now, or ever. So, what exactly happened? Well….

Marty comes out of a crowd of FF hipsters who were milling about, introduces himself in an overly ecstatic manner, shakes my hand like a limp wristed Labradoodle, and before I can utter a word- struts off as if he had just won an Olympic medal. Since Marty came across as such a wuss, I was more confused then concerned, actually. Thank God that I always carry hand sanitizer.

Nevertheless, the attempted passive aggressive hit and run seems to be standard New Times procedure. However, as usual, I am getting slightly ahead of myself. I am truly sorry. And since we’re speaking of apologies, it seems Kara Roschi has accepted mine. Ashley and I attended the packed FF opening of Terry Pisel’s manipulated photography at Kara’s store, Practical Art- and I highly recommend checking it (and the store) out.

In between her playing host, we had a rather friendly discussion where Kara paid me a unique compliment: “Well… you have helped make my skin thicker, I can say that.” That may be the first time I’ve ever been sincerely thanked for being a bastard. I have this feeling it possibly may be the last. So, to recap: Kara Roschi: More gracious than I originally thought. Marty Cizmar: More gaseous then I originally thought. Overall, a perfect balance for the night, and a perfect lead in to this new blog, which is all about:

Character. The definition of character is described in the dictionary as such:
1: The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.

2: A distinguishing feature or attribute, as of an individual, group, or category.

3: A structure, function, or attribute determined by a gene or group of genes.

4: Moral or ethical strength.

5: A description of a person’s attributes, traits, or abilities.

Whew. That’s a lot of words to convey a simple idea which in essence, boils down to a simple question:“Are you a person with character, or do you just happen to be Claire Lawton? Oh yes, the Artbitch is back. And he is pissed. So, what happened to the kinder, gentler, apologetic Artbitch of our past blog? Coffee. He was just going out for coffee, that’s all. As usual, an explanation is in order.Those of you who read my blogs/rants on a regular basis are familiar with Ms. Lawton from a past blog where I detailed a little tongue in cheek e-mail that I sent her.

BTW, did I mention her email?

It’s ClaireLawton (at)NewTiumes,com, just in case you wanted to ask why she’s so uptight. I’m sure her being an elitist hipster has nothing to do with it. Almost. In response to my obviously humorous email, Claire’s response was to run and whine to PHX’s Dark Bore of the Sith, NT’s Managing Editorzilla, Amy Silverman. Amy’s candy-ass reaction was to assign Steve Jansen a hatchet article on yours truly, which blew up in NT’s face, as evidenced by the comments following the article.

At the time, I did understand why this piece of tripe was written, but what I didn’t get was why Ms. Lawton didn’t have the cojones to do it herself. With no due respect, she was the one who couldn’t take a joke- and since she is supposed to be a journalist, a profession that is centered on personal integrity- she should have owned up to it. Instead, she pulled a page right out of the Amy Silverman playbook, which is this: when caught and/ or embarrassed- blame everybody else, but have an underling do the actual dirty work.

In simpler terms, act like a petty little bitch, deny that you are doing so, and then- stick to it no matter what. But I’m not griping about one little article. Far from it. Hell, I appreciated all the web traffic NT sent my site. There is no such thing as bad ink, even if it happens to be electronic.

However, there is bad writing, and Claire much like Amy, is just full of it. In more ways than one. The majority of Claire’s writing can be read on NT’s bastard web-child known as Jackalope Ranch, which bills itself as “The Phoenix New Times Culture Blog”. Excuse me for the briefest of moments: WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I’m sorry, where was I? Oh yes. “The Phoenix New Times Culture Blog”? Seriously? Why do I find this funny, you ask? It’s because of this little story snippet written by JR’s Managing Editor Amy Silverman back in 2005- feel free to track it down via Google, read the entire article at your leisure, and then be sickened like I was. [Title: “Phoenix Has an Inferiority Complex”]

“My birth certificate claims I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve been telling people I was kidnapped at a very early age from the Upper West Side of Manhattan by a very nice couple named the Silvermans, and brought to live in this disgusting hellhole.”

I prefer the term mildly nauseous heck-hole, thank you very much. As a native New Yorker, I can say nothing like you has ever emerged out of the Upper West Side of Manhattan- at least not since the advent of indoor plumbing. Getting back on point, I find this little confession to speak volumes:

“I went to high school in the ‘80s, the last time preppy was big. The Preppy Handbook was published, and I got my hands on a copy and memorized it. I was no dummy, I was president of the Speech and Debate club at school (quit laughing), but I had no idea this book was supposed to be a joke. This was my bible, all about people I knew nothing about, but wanted to be, people who vacationed at a place called Martha’s Vineyard, drank cocktails and did not shop at Yellow Front.

I poured Lauren cologne on everything I owned and came to school layered in my favorite outfit: a hot pink polo shirt, with a bright green polo over that, with a pale pink button-down Oxford shirt over that, khakis, pink espadrilles, a pale pink/hot pink/green striped grosgrain ribbon headband, a pink belt with green ladybugs embroidered on it and a purse with a button-on madras cover in matching hues.”

Oh yes… that’s the person you want in charge of reporting on the state of the Arts in PHX.  Someone who hates it here, has zero cultural sense, and once dressed like a rainbow lollipop. And while it was written six years ago, Amy’s attitude has remained virtually unchanged.

So with “leadership’ like that, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why Jackalope Ranch is a dismal failure in regards to covering PHX’s unique art scene. Now exactly why does Jackalope Ranch suck so bad?

One idea comes from local Artist & Writer Peter Petrisko: “When it comes to Jackalope Ranch, research and details are too often sacrificed for what amounts to Doodle Journalism.

The best talented and undiscovered artists can hope for is coverage of what they’re wearing or how many tattoos they may have, possibly with a hyperlink to their art website included. Instead of writing about what these artists do, and why – even if in the context of a more superfluous topic – the new standard is that hyperlinks are used to fill the void left by a lack of more relevant story content in such articles.

My criticism is less about what’s NOT written about but more of what isn’t included when it is written.”

Nicely put, I think. But I can’t blame everything on NT’s cadre of intern writers. And I don’t have to either, thanks to my loyal NT fans. That’s right -I’ve got eyes and ears inside Amy’s pathetic bastion of arrogance, and they are sharing their first hand knowledge with the Artbitch as of late. In future blogs I will be sharing some of that knowledge about Amy, but today it’s all about Claire, so let’s start playing with my newest chew toy.

 According to my insiders, Claire is so far up Amy Silverman’s keister that she can use Amy’s mouth as a window. She does however, have a very expensive piece of paper that says she is an actual journalist. Claire graduated with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Walter Cronkite School in May, 2010 with a specialization in print media and a concentration in French language, and if that doesn’t just scream “qualified to cover PHX. Culture”, then I don’t know what does.

 With her overpriced education under her belt, she proceeded to contribute a slew of hard hitting stories to New Time’s impressive archive, with the following impressive titles: “PoolBoy Magazine: A local source of Nude Dudes” “Paddle Boarding on Tempe Town Lake: Looking like a Tool on a Big Board’s Never Been Easier” “A Bong Hit Ring Tone- I’m lovin’ it” “The Bow Thong: because nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day like a Gift Wrapped Ass Crack” “The Manzilian: A whole other (Hot, Hairy) Ball of Wax” “Pajama Jeans: Because Spandex Cameltoe Never Looked Better”

 Going to the next level, Claire then sharpened her game by scribing the “What are you eating/wearing?” series, which lamely asks artists what they are eating or wearing, without asking anything at all about the art they produce. Daring stuff. Bold stuff. Pointless waste of space stuff. But I didn’t really care, to be quite honest. As an adversary she was hardly worth my time, although she did have one thing in her favor that was unforeseen.

Namely, an Artbitch fan who works with her.  This person is someone I respect a LOT, therefore their word carries serious weight with me.They came to Claire’s defense, and in the nicest way possible requested [in my interpretation] if I could cut her some slack. So, I acquiesced, my rationalization being that Claire was under Amy’s thumb and as such- did only as she was bidden. And there the matter was set to rest.

 See? I can be nice, and to a lesser degree, swayed. .Then came a carefree jaunt to my favorite coffee shop, and the tone was reset. Before I talk about that however, a revealing insight into Claire’s character is offered for your pleasure. A few weeks ago, Claire wrote an article for NT entitled “Can Third Thursdays save Mill Avenue?” Composed in Claire’s typical “praise it and then bash it” style,  this article kvetches non-stop about Tempe’s Mill Avenue, and informs us dumb masses how NT’s smarter than thou hipster has all the answers.

Its tone reminds of a condescending preschool teacher informing you that you will never be good enough. But there is a light at the end of the article. And it arrives straight from the dedicated readers of NT. Imagine that. What could they possibly have to say?

“J.J.” wrote this: “If you are going to cover an event, it would be nice if you would actually go to it. I was on Mill last night for third thursday and can tell from your review that you didn’t even bother to make the trip.

First, if you had gone to the market, you would’ve seen the tortoise and known what it is. It’s quite large and kinda hard to miss as it pushes itself around the garden on three legs and one wheel. The Mallet Masters are a kids group that actually pulled down a decent size crowd to see them perform. It’s a community event, so I’m not surprised to see a kids group performing. 2nd, Neither Trucking Good Food nor Paradise Melts was present. This made it obvious that you didn’t even bother.

 Third, the only a couple of retailers and restaurants participated in the “street shopping” you mentioned. None of the “Big Box” stores (which is what exactly, Urban Outfitters?) participated. While I would have liked to see more businesses take part, at least folks like Brand X and Rula Bula are stepping up their game.

Finally, your captioned image of the Mojo yogurt stencil is from a promo they did over a year ago. It was not there last night or today. And to help you understand the nature of creating any type of environment similar to what you would like to see, IT TAKES TIME. First Fridays took at least 16 years to be viewed as a success, and about 20 to get where it is today. Third Fridays is just starting to take off after years of Downtown Phx studios trying to get people to care about what they were doing.

Mill will come back in time. It will take some nurturing and some patience. Perhaps next time you decide to “review” something like this. You will consider those things or maybe even take the time to show up to the event.

And this is why New Times is viewed with such little regard.”

Ouch. I can actually feel the blisters forming. Certainly Claire would offer a valid and strong defense, right? Wrong.

“Hi JJ, Thanks for your feedback. I was at the event last night and did see the tortoise and the mallet masters. I apologize if my comment was confusing. More than a review, this post was meant to bring up future possibilities and examples of good ideas from around town (and across the US) that have worked in places like Mill Avenue.

I also understand that good things take time and that a community can’t be built after a single event … but that’s kind of the point—I think Mill Avenue would be more successful if it focused less on hyped, one-day-a-month events and more on supporting great local businesses like Brand X and Rula Bula, and experimenting with the ideas I mentioned.

Again, thanks for your feedback. I look forward to keeping up with the event’s progress and hope you do the same.”

Shockingly, JJ wanted an honest answer, and said so: “Your response does not address the fact that you printed wrong information about the food trucks, misrepresented the street sales, or dug up a picture from years ago. That is as unprofessional as not going to the event.

Also, if you want to support local business and grow the community, refocus your efforts to writing something positive. Cover those businesses and their efforts in what they are doing. That is what will help them. Instead, you hurt them by insulting what efforts they make. And you do it under the guise of someone who wants to “help” the community.”

Once again, Claire dug deep to counter his scathing criticism: “Thanks again for your reply. More than the specific food trucks, which the DTC said were coming, and the street art photo, it’s about ideas. And now that I’ve offered mine, I hope the community voices their opinions as well. That’s how progress, support, and positive action materializes.”

Um…excuse me? Could you please just answer the man’s question?

I do like how she manages to lay blame on someone else, while simultaneously attempting to deflect her responsibility for obscuring the true facts. What an unexpected shock.

“J.J.” may have been done with her, but  “Makephxbetter” was just warming up: “What kind of business background do you have that qualifies you to give advice such as “I think Mill Avenue would be more successful if it focused less on hyped, one-day-a-month events and more on supporting great local businesses like Brand X and Rula Bula, and experimenting with the ideas I mentioned.” How many businesses have you owned and what kind of events have you been in charge of?”

“Makephxbetter” immediately followed up that missive with yet another query: “Clair, I’m really sorry the rest of us can’t be as hip as you. Clearly “cultural diversity” has a different meaning for you than it does the rest of us. It means “something for everyone”. If you’re going to spend time publicly bashing things that other people who clearly think differently than you enjoy, I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make our metro area a more livable city. Run for city council, get involved in making the decisions about some of these events you don’t like.

Otherwise, DON’T GO if you don’t like them and spend more time practicing your writing skills and less time hating what others are trying to do for their respective communities.”

Claire’s heartfelt, fiery, deep from the gut response to this acidic harangue? (Cricket chirps…tumbleweed rolls by.) ZIP. ZILCH. NADA.

Or as I like to call it- S.O.P. at The PHX. New Times, practiced by Amy Silverman, Marty Cizmar and now Claire- who is apparently one quick study. As am I. I’ve just noticed my claws need sharpening, so we’ll take a quick break. Claire? You stay classy. And don’t you worry my loyal Blogiteers, I’ll be right back.

“He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.” – Charles Peguy