NOTE: The following was written right before a power outage hit the neighborhood. I’m posting this using the new backup battery, which only gives me 43 minutes.

NOTE: the power came back on earlier than expected. Fried my wifi router.

NOTE: the backup battery, which arrived a few days ago, was supposed to prevent such things, and I imagine it would have, if I’d set it up.

Anyway. Special emergency-edition Bleat here.

The funniest thing I’ve said in years, according to my daughter, is the story of the inadvertent pocket-email. I don’t know why. Busts her up. A few weeks ago I was working in the back yard, wearing loose shorts. Phone was in the pocket. I heard my phone give the WHOOOOSH sound that indicates mail had been sent.


I got out the phone, checked the email SENT folder. There was indeed a freshly-sent email to an executive at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, consisting of the following message:


I quickly sent an apology, explaining that my phone had done this on its own. It’s really a remarkable series of actions, when you think about it: jostling around, the phone thought I had pressed the MAIL icon, then the NEW icon; a letter was detected and it called up the CONTACTS list; it selected one, then auto-corrected the gibberish - after activating CAPSLOC - and sent a letter that contained the one word people use to someone who disparages technology.

Whoooosh! I never want to hear that from my pocket again.

The rinse-repeat nature of recent existence - with lots of added rinsing, given the persistent weather patterns - has, as noted, ground my enthusiasm for things down to a crumb that could be carrie by a reasonably hale ant. But there’s always some trip to look forward to, a new experience. Unless it’s the same old experience, repeated so many times you realize that the last time you went should have been just that.

Usually for the fall break we go to Disneyworld. I don’t think daughter cares much about that, unless a friend could go. That would rekindle her enthusiasm and provide a new characteristic for the parents as well! An entire new experience, really, with all the old standard routines revitalized and OH I FEEL SO OLD

Well, God never closes a window but He opens another, thought the depressed man on the 36th floor tugging the sill and wondering if he’d split his pants when he climbed out. The true end of all things from the Innocent period of childhood - which goes from walking and talking to the day your kid comes home and says the teacher in health class put a condom on a Sharpie (which made me wonder if she tried to make marks on the whiteboard with a banana) - is replaced by seeing your child gain new skills and experiences. She’s singing a lot, and she’s getting good. I hear a truly distinctive voice. She’s in a class and they’re doing “Annie.”

I wonder if there were any betting organizations that accepted one’s bottom dollar for a wager on the sun coming out. Wonder what that paid. Wonder if anyone ever thought “I’m down to four bits. Makes sense to wager it on the likelihood of cloud cover dissipating, without any consultation of the newspaper’s predictions.” Then the sun doesn’t come out, and they come to collect, and you insist that it came out somewhere, didn’t it? The bet didn’t say where. And they beat you up. The Depression was horrible. But we got some good songs.

I know everyone misses the motels; I do. A correspondent pointed me to a page about a Ft. Worth building, and because I was staring at the screen with time making a slow circle around the drain in the floor of the world, I clicked around to see what else there might be. There was a picture of a motel with a curious name.

Here’s the illustration on the sign:

It’s a drummer, you know. The term not only meant someone who thumped the tubs in a real gone fashion, daddy-o, but a traveling salesman. I first encountered the term in a Lum & Abner movie; the old fellows at the Jot ‘Em Down Store and Library were always fending off drummers coming in to sell them something or other. Hence the term “drum up some business,” I suppose; perhaps the phrase spawned the term. One of those things that reminds you how language is a strange amorphous thing whose idioms baffle the outsider.

That was the basis for a fine Star Trek episode in which an alien spoke entirely in allusions to mytho-historical events. Made for a fine story, but it’s hard to believe that a space-faring civilization wouldn’t understand that no one else would get what the hell they were talking about. Darmok when the walls fell, yes, you’ve said that. Moses, drunk in his tent. Did you get that? No of course you didn’t. Rothko, when the sneer faded. No? So you didn’t read yesterday’s Bleat. Sigh.

But if you did . . .




. . . you may think me a Philistine. Well:

Growing cultural conservatism is threatening the status of the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda as an artistic enclave, following a police raid on a gallery over child pornography fears, a local Labor MP has warned.

Several hundred people gathered on Saturday to protest at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, which has been closed since police raided the gallery on 1 June.

Police removed several works from an exhibition by artist Paul Yore called Everything's F*cked which allegedly features images of sexual acts with children's faced superimposed.

Allegedly? Seems like the sort of thing one could nail down. By the way, there's no asterisk in the original title of the exhibit; bravery - edgy bravery - demands the full effer.

If you don’t feel growing horror at the rise of artistic repression, you’re not paying attention:

Martin Foley, state Labor arts spokesman and MP for Albert Park, attended the protest and told Guardian Australia that the controversy harmed St Kilda's "edgy" image for arts and dissent.

"For generations the St Kilda community has painted itself as haven for artistic dissent, to not just tolerate difference but to celebrate it," he said. "To take a view that a conservative blanket goes over one element of that puts at risk the edginess that drives it forward.”

He’s got a point; unless you remove that blanket, the forward progress on edginess might be stalled, and then you find yourself in a situation where any sort of attempt to put child pr0n in the museum makes curators dither and wince and look at their shoes, thinking how do I put this? Objections have been raised in certain quarters.

He continued:

"That's not to justify paedophilia and exploitation, but I'm not sure that Paul Yore's non-binary view of sexuality is a major risk to society.”

By “non-binary” I think he means “unwilling to say there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong.’” I also think that anyone who begins any sentence expressing his disinclination to justify pedophila as a means of covering his But has communicated his priorities quite clearly.

An opinion article on the subject opines:

Art can only mirror the culture which produced it. It shows us all of the positive aspects of humanity, but it is also the duty of art to examine the uncomfortable, dark stuff. Sometimes art will be troubling, but then so too will the society it is depicting. Intelligent, rational viewers of art acknowledge that while a work may sometimes challenge us or we may not agree with the artist’s point of view, a different perspective might be equally valid.

I'm surprised Truism isn't a recognized art movement. All of this is obvious and banal. The act of examining “the uncomfortable, dark stuff” - real Vasari-level writing here - does not make something art, and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s good art. It just means it’s something someone says is art, Others are welcome to judge it. You are free to call it hopeless, sloppy, amateurish, sophomoric nonsense; you are free to call it brilliant. You are free to buy it.

You ought to be free from being obligated to pay for its exhibition.

It is also disingenuous to note that “a different perspective might be equally valid,” because such advice would not be offered if the art in question violated the social norms most prized by the cultural classes who mount these exhibits.

The opinion piece continues:

Like America, isolated Australia is puritanical in mindset and prudish about sexual matters, mistakenly confusing its deep-seated anxiety over sexuality for moral rectitude. This boils into moral panic when it comes to “difficult” art.

I can't speak for Australia, but I wouldn't call America puritanical, at this late date, unless you define it as "objecting to spotty-bottom bohemians copulating on an altar to protest a vaguely-defined social issue." If you want to look at a Puritanical society, look at Saudi Arabia, not a country where you are standing in line at Target with your young daughter and the magazine rack includes a COSMO cover braying sex tips. In a Puritanical society you do not click on a news story and find a link at the bottom offering to whisk you off to a gossip site that has the latest on the Teen Mom Sex Tape, okay?

Mind you, I have no desire to live in a pursed-lip culture of prudes that gets the vapors if someone shows an ankle. It's the witless, moronic, mechanical dreariness of the Flasher Culture that gets so boring. Or so I think. That's my mistake. Thinking I know what I mean. Hah! It's really deep-seated masquerading as rectitude.

That's a handy way of dismissing the primary argument. You may say you feel annoyed - in that weary, oh must you really sense - when the Cosmo cover says "Eight Ways to Make Him Have a Grand Mal During Sex" but it's really panic. It's really anxiety.

In a sense, yes, but not in a way the author would understand. I just watch these folk paving over the graveyard of inherited standards, and marvel that they think the reconstruction of acceptible norms ends with their own standards. As if the introduction of childhood sexualization into the art galleries stops with the examples of which they approve. As if something they find truly offensive couldn't be defended with the same words they used.

In Australia, concern over a photographer who took glamorous "edgy" pictures of naked girls gave rise to “The Protocols for Working with Children in Art,” which are necessary when you have state money going to people who want to put nude children in publically-funded art. They include:

If your project involves working with anyone under the age of 15, and they are to be fully or partly naked, this may be prohibited by state law4. In addition to complying with any legal obligations, you will need to get, and send to us, evidence of the permission of the parent(s) or guardian(s) stating that you have explained the context for the work to the parent(s) or guardian(s) and the child and:

they understand the nature and intended outcome of the work

they commit to direct supervision of the child while the child is naked

they agree the context is not “sexual, exploitative or abusive‟

Artists who are receiving money from the state must agree to these things if they want to put naked children in their work. An Australian artist of some reputation protested:

Moorhouse described the creation of these funding protocols as "the most dangerous movement in the arts in my life time". "Creating protocols is itself an infringement of freedom of the arts, especially when they form part of the guidelines of the central, publicly funded, arts funding body.”

Got it: the state, when distributing money it has taken from individuals and businesses and various other economic entities, is obliged to hand it over to people who want to take pictures of naked children, and not ask any questions.

Well, don’t take the state’s money, then. There’s a thought.


That's when the power went off.

Looking back and rereading - a rare thing for a Bleat, you understand - I realize that difficult cases do test our limits, and it is easy to misconstrue the intentions of Edgy Artists who seek to challenge us and make us think about Dark Stuff, but at some point you'd think people would look around the table, and say "we have a piece of art that puts children's faces on pornography and it's called 'Everything's Fucked,' and we're worried that closing such a thing will harm our reputation. Does any of this strike anyone as odd?"

I'm not in favor of obscentity trials, except when children are involved. You can make the case that a talented photographer forces us to confront adolescent sexuality by taking pictures of naked young people, and I can make the case that he's a creep, because there has to be something . . . askew in an adult's makeup to find this a compelling subject that must be expressed explicitly. There is something lacking in the hearts of people who dasn't admit to themselves that the artist might be trusting the critical establishment to give him cover precisely because he dresses up his dank needs as Art.

If someone wants to protest child abuse, well: a painting of a child with haunted eyes, a dim room, a figure in the background. Color, composition, tone, shadow, the horrible truth implied with all the power Western representational art accumulated over the centuries.

Or, you can glue pictures you got from a google search, printed out and cut up and pasted on screen grabs from a porno movies. Because you're working in the new vernacular, the new global interconnected web of mysterious source material given meaning by recontextualization.

Also, you can't draw worth a damn, so that whole "painting" thing is off the table.



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