Wayne Michael Reich

Writing ∙ Photography ∙ Art

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