Sunday, April 27, 2008

Disneyland weekend

Some people don't like Disneyland...

...but I had a great time.

Then I went surfing. It was great until I spotted a three foot long sand shark. They're pretty harmless though, but it's hard to put out of your mind when there was a great white attack just a couple of days ago in San Diego. I just imagined the shark as a friendly Disney character (Finding Nemo?) and kept on surfing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back in NYC...

The first time I saw New York was just after 9/11. After years of thumbing through The New Yorker, I was dying to see the city, but kept putting it off. That strange autumn seemed like a good time to stop procrastinating and get on with life.

I visited a friend who was living in Battery Park City, a few blocks from the pile, and explored the city in a surreal daze. Lower Manhattan was eerily silent, save for the songs spilling out of St. Paul's Chapel, which echoed like a lost whisper down Broadway (now named The Canyon of Heroes). There were other tourists as well; Americans from across the county who came to lend some quiet form of solidarity to the moment, to look at the images of missing family members and to try to grasp the meaning and scope of such a tragedy. It was an noble moment in a noble city, with a spirit that was all too fleeting.

Since then, I've breezed in and out of New York many times. Standing in front of Wall Street with my brother, spending a few hot August days with Shelly on my way to Botswana, circling the Statue of Liberty, huddling against the wind on the top deck of the Empire State Building, rifling through the souvenirs at the United Nations gift shop. The last time I was here was for my Oxford admissions interview (got the MBA, lost the girl), but that seems a lifetime ago.

Now I'm here again and miss the charm and fascination the city once held for me. Now, it just seems like a city; a bit too crowded for my tastes, but well within the navigable geography of experience. Through the alchemy of time, the charm of the big city is now a weighty nostalgia and I miss my home in LA.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What I've been up to...

The past two weeks have been crazy busy. Last weekend, I saw a couple of Pepperdine alumni on Friday, went surfing Saturday, and did the Brewery Art walk on Sunday. It was alright, but I wasn't seeing a lot of fresh work. I think the colony needs some new blood.

This week, my work held a conference in Newport Beach for a couple days. It was really great to spend time with the whole team and to relax after hours. Still, I feel a bit out of water in the OC since I grew up in a lower-middle class/upper-lower class family. Bentleys and 100ft. yachts just aren't the norm for me. Neither is modern subdivision architecture, but that's another matter.

This Saturday I went to the beach and got some nice surfing in, followed by lunch and a hike through the Temescal Canyon loop. Saturday night was Sinister and today was the Rose Bowl flea market. They had some cool period furniture, but I couldn't find an endearingly amateurish painting to hang on my walls.

Oh yeah, I'm also learning HTML, CSS, Dreamweaver, and Flash. Slowly and fitfully, but learning.

Two weeks later...

Anything new in Zimbabwe? I'm sure the results of the presidental election have been announced and he's well on his way to some dank prison for his crimes. No? Really? We tolerate this? Good thing the media is all over it.

Nope. Instead we got coverage of the Olympic touch relay. What's funny is China's assertion that protesters shouldn't policise the Olympics. Oh boo-hoo, China's a sensitive boy and we'll hurt his feelings. Grow up. Part of becoming a mature society is tolerating criticism (Tiananman Square anyone?). Besides, the Olympics have always been political.

The Olympic torch relay begin as a propaganda stunt by Adolf Hilter for the 1936 Berlin games (sidenote; he also gave us the Volkswagen, aka The People's Car). At the time there was a jaunty debate over whether America should boycott the games for Hitler's anti-semitism. We competed anyway and Jesse Owens, an African American, won four gold medals. Owen's victory was then used as American propaganda in the leadup to WWII, despite the fact that Owens enjoyed better treatment in Nazi Germany than he did in segregated America. Or how about the 1976 Munich games that brought the PLO to the world stage and inaugurated the first (largely forgotten) era of global terrorism. Not to mention the 1980 Moscow games that the US boycotted. Nazis good, commies bad? Point being, the Olympics are fair game for political theater and China should take their lumps and hire a PR firm like everyone else. Just don't jump onstage and expect the audience to be free of critics.

I've got a problem with abstract modernism

This is why people hate art. It hangs in some gallery with a $20k price tag on it and conveys nothing more than pretension. It's mute. It does not take skill to produce this. It only takes skill to convince people that the outrageous price is somehow justified.

I think the art of painting has been in a long decline. Somewhere in the late 1940's, novelty supplanted skill, abstraction replaced emotion, and art became disconnected from reality. Today, 50 years after Pollack dripped his paint (again, no skill), not even novelty remains.

There was a brief respite with pop artists like Warhol. They brought back accessibility. People could understand the language of iconography and apply the experience to their lives and times. Then it was lost again.

My core complaint is this; if art does not communicate in a visual language that is naturally accessible, if it requires a pamphlet, art history class, or knowledge of the artist's back story, if art requires explanation, then it doesn't have anything to say. It's gibberish and therefore irrelevant. Most people wouldn't indulge a film that was nothing but static or music that was random noise, so why should painting and sculpture be exempt?

Fortunately, accessible art has returned in the form of pop surrealism. Artists like Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia have created engaging paintings that connect to the human experience in a tangible (albeit nostalgic) way. They use a visual language grounded in the actual. People, places, and things can be identified as such. Instead of a nebulous fog, we are given form, we are given color, we are given emotion, we are given art.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Nice Guy...

The dude with the Hitler 'stache is Robert Mugabe, president/brutal dictator of Zimbabwe, a pleasant little place next to South Africa that was once called the breadbasket of Africa. Not so much now. After a decade of increasingly incompetent misrule which featured a botched land grab, thuggish political militias, and failed price controls, Mugabe now presides over 80% unemployment and 100,000% inflation.
This Saturday, Zimbabwe held elections for local, regional, and national office. The run up was hardly free or fair. The main opposition leader had his head cracked open and the state run media was a propaganda fest (are you taking notes Russia?). However, many are projecting an outright opposition victory. Now it's up to the US, EU, African Union, and South Africa to speak up and demand that the will of the people of Zimbabwe be heard. Thabo Mbeki needs to finally grow a spine and condemn this tyrant. Just because Mugabe fought the British does not mean he deserves a free pass to destroy a nation and a people.