Pity the Poor Rich

April 3, 2013

The other evening I attended the opening of an art exhibit at a tiny gallery in an old loft building on the east side of town. As I wandered among the incredibly high-priced images, I felt sorry for the people who would one day own them. My concern was justified because the people who make art are usually from the poorer classes, and the only people who can afford to buy it have to be affluent. Since the poorer group has a corner on the creative process and the rich have only money, there is a built-in opportunity for unfair trade practices. I’m convinced that the rich folk among us are being systematically exploited by a segment of the poorer population — those greedy men and women otherwise known as “artists.”

Allow me to explain. This tragically unfair situation began a long time ago, when a clever poor person noticed that rich people have more money than they know what to do with. This budding Michelangelo, or Picasso, or Judy Chicago, figured out that the rich were so busy making money that they had no time to learn how to do anything else. So the Artist (having awarded him- or herself a capital “A”) began making cute little objects — sketches and paintings and statues — and selling them to the wealthy folks to use as decorations in their offices, homes, yachts, private jets, and beach condos. Because these objects were attractive, and because the wealthy clients had no clue how they were produced, the various items took on a mystical aspect. For the rich, owning art objects quickly became spiritually chic, and before long they were paying outrageous prices for worthless artifacts and feeling enriched by the process. They were very happy — as were the sniggering Artists.

Today rich people continue on the same foolish path, but the process has been scaled-up. And the higher art prices rise and the sillier the subject matter, the more secure the wealthy folks become in their belief that the things they horde have real value. They rationalize their religious-like belief this way: The importance of an art object, they argue, is inherently aesthetic and therefore unmeasurable in objective terms. (This, by the way, is a theory originally spread by the capital “A” Artists’ themselves, and by their agents.) The rich victims are convinced that they are really buying “beauty” — as if that were possible — and they are willing to pay thousands of dollars for, say, a small painting of a tree. The Artist, of course, would rather look at the real tree for free, and on the side grind out a gross of pictures to foist on the gullible rich. Of course poor people know that any object that cannot be eaten or worn is of no real worldly value. This fact is lost on the rich because, never having been hungry, they have no rational point of reference. Dealing with graduates of the art school of “hard-knocks,” they are at a huge disadvantage. That’s why I pity them. When it comes to so-called art, the rich are little children attracted to bright objects, and they need to be protected from their own ignorance.

Since I believe that most “Art” is an illusion created by self-anointed Artists for one purpose only, to separate the rich from their disposable income (here defined as any money over the amount needed to live comfortably, which is most of what the rich possess), a way must be found to protect the wealthy class from art class grifters. For starters, I propose a law banning the sale of art objects to persons with annual incomes over $500,000. I know that poor people will claim that any money taken from the rich, by whatever method, is simply fair wealth redistribution, but I disagree. The poor may think of it as normal “capitalistic art commerce,” but I say it’s the blatant exploitation of one economic class by another, and in a just society this situation cannot be allowed to continue. After all, what if the tables were turned?

Originally titledPeople Who Buy Art Shouldn’t Read This,” the essay was published in the May 25, 1979 Baltimore Evening Sun. The angry reaction to it by several of my artist friends — who seemed to have taken it personally —  totally surprised me. Oh well, I guess that’s what I get for playing with satire. My “gag” cartoon, above, was not used to illustrate the first version of the essay — it didn’t exist then — but it strikes me as apt. 

This is an edited re-post from August 21, 2008
Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

Peter De Vries On Humorous Writing

June 8, 2011

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.

I cannot honestly recall or retrace the conception or development of a single comedic idea I ever had or developed. They vanish from memory after they are written out. Don’t ask a cow how to analyze milk. One sits in a corner and secretes the stuff. One— But you see how right Kafka is? You have lured me into using the word “comedic,” which makes me sick.

You can make a sordid thing sound like a brilliant drawing-room comedy. Probably a fear we have of facing up to the real issues. Could you say we were guilty of Noel Cowardice?

The satirist shoots to kill while the humorist brings his prey back alive and eventually releases him again for another chance.

Comedy deals with the portion of our suffering that is exempt from tragedy.

Words fashioned with somewhat over precise diction are like shapes turned out by a cookie cutter.

Nonsense is such a difficult art!

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.



Ocean City: Another View

July 18, 2009

The following short essay is adapted from a longer e-mail responding to my post of July 3. The original post was a satire critical of Ocean City, Maryland, delivered by a fictional character called “Mort.” In the late 1970’s and early ‘80s I used Mort to do the heavy lifting in a series of satires on various subjects, most of which were published on the Op-Ed page of the Baltimore Evening Sun. My post of July 3, titled “Down the Ocean: Insulting Remarks from a First Time Visitor,” derived from a 1978 published essay. The blog version can be seen by scrolling down a bit. Meanwhile, I hope you will take a few minutes to enjoy Angela’s very different take on her first “whirlwind” visit to Ocean City.

OC:PCd:blur

By Angela Adams

For a girl originally from a small town near Lansing, Michigan, driving into Ocean City, Maryland, for the first time early last winter, I had the impression that the place was asleep but beautiful — and lacked something. We parked and walked along huge black rocksAngela:4 (the breakwater) out toward the sea. I looked out over the most beautiful, never-ending body of water I had ever seen. The wind was cool but the sun was out and warmed my face. We walked toward the end of the rocks as far as we could without getting soaked. The view simply took my breath away. I had never seen the ocean before.

Later, hand in hand, we strolled down the boardwalk, even though many of the shops were closed for the winter. I noted that the amusement rides did not compare with those of Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, but I could imagine how alive the area would be once people started visiting again in warm weather. We walked the shoreline, picking up special rocks and shells to bring home to my children. The whole time, all I could think about was how badly I wanted to some day bring them to this place.

As we drove the main drag, I saw closed hotels and businesses that gave the impression that the place was recently vacated due, perhaps, to an incoming hurricane. I can’t say that I paid much attention to the presence of storm drains, or noticed an overwhelming amount of power lines, but I will trust Mort’s assessment on those points. I do remember that all the hotels on the ocean side of the road were built almost on top of each other and were very colorful. One was pink, the next blue, followed by a yellow one — I thought: Is it the end of the rainbow? What also crossed my mind was where would all of the cars park when they did return in the summer? On the West side of the drag, there were at least eight miniature golf courses and some go-cart places intermixed between various restaurants, something for just about any taste imaginable.

I couldn’t wait for summer to return to Ocean City. We took my three boys, ages, 7, 9 and 11, there the first weekend inBoys:surf April, during their Spring Break. The sun was bright but the wind was chilly and the water was down right cold. But that didn’t stop the boys, as you can see in this photo. Even though they were shaking from the frigid waves, we still had to make them get out. They can’t wait to go back.

.

Angela Adams is 34, a single mom, and claims that she still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up. She recently moved to Baltimore for the employment opportunities and has a job with a new payroll company, Pay Partners, beginning in August. Angela has a Masters in Business Administration, another Masters in Human Resources, and a Bachelors in Healthcare Management, so I think she’ll be just fine.

Copyright © 2009 Angela Adams.


Confessions of a Camera Bug

March 25, 2009

camerabug2Dear Mr. Photo Magazine Editor:

My name is Asher. You don’t know me but it’s about time you got to. Us bugs who live in cameras are at the mercy of your readers—so-called photographers who always talk about “different angles” and such when in fact they can’t see nothing that doesn’t happen in the viewfinder of their camera—I mean about real life. Maybe hearing about my past history will wise them up some.

Right now I’m living in a Nikon but it ain’t always been this soft. In fact, when I was growing up (in a Hasselblad) things got to be downright tragic. See, my dad liked to tinker around up in the shutter release housing—as much to get away from us rowdy kids as anything. Anyway, he was bouncing on some sort of spring one evening when the “arty” type camera owner decided to do a time exposure of a snow scene at twilight. Dad was punched to death by the first plunge of the cable release. The mess that resulted jammed the shutter and it never did work right anymore. Mom said we had to move on to escape the bad memories—and the wrath of the snap shooter.

We relocated in a big old view camera belonging to a certain Mr. “A.” (I can’t write out his name because he was a big deal landscape guy and thought very highly of in ecological circles to boot.) One day while he was setting up a shot of a pile of rocks in Maine, Mom was munching on his diaphragm—the one in his camera. She claimed it was high-quality protein. Mr. A stopped down the lens and Mom got squished at f/64. Which goes to show when it comes to getting the picture they want, photographers have no consideration for anything else. Mom would be alive today if he’d settled for soft focus. We never did get all of Mom scraped off that diaphragm and Mr. A had to buy a whole new camera, which was poetical justice, says I. But I went into a depression after that— didn’t much care about anything. Popped tiny time pills and staggered from one camera to another with no discrimination.

Soon I was in the very depths of degradation, living in the camera of a sensualist! The picture-box this guy used was one of your reasonably priced SLR’s, but the way the dude handled it you couldn’t tell it from the higher-priced gizmos. All he shot was soft-focus-available-light art compositions of naked young stuff, if you get my drift. The guy always had at least two of them young lovelies hanging around his pad—plus his wife! It was a swinging scene, provided you could hack the company of a gaggle of skinny teen-aged girls with little on their bodies or in their minds. No matter—soon enough I had to leave anyway because I threw-up and clogged the mirror-action of the man’s brand new Minolta SRT-202. (For some reason I can’t stand the smell of a new camera.)

The weeks and months that followed was a blur of wandering. Once I even woke up in an Instamatic nestled between a fat lady’s boobs at Disney World—the very pits. I tried to end it all by frying myself on a hot flashcube but all it did was short out the battery circuit. That’s what finally decided me to shape up.

I’m sorta semi-retired now. It’s a much quieter life I lead in this Nikon than I have ever led before. The camera belongs to a former Life photographer who doesn’t get out much—mostly he just sits around and fondles his equipment and daydreams of past big-deal photo-essay assignments. And since he never uses his camera I can nap with no worry of being done-in by the film-advance lever.

Meanwhile, Mr. Editor, I hope you don’t think my only purpose in writing is to knock the guys and gals who expose their film and themselves for a living. No sir. While it’s true that I myself have it plenty good now, the fact remains I still got a bunch of relatives out there trying to survive under hostile conditions. So this missive is mainly to remind camera people to be more careful in the future—live and let live, so to speak. Us camera bugs may screw-up a mechanism from time-to-time, but we don’t go around steppin’ on photojournalists. And thanks for hearing me out. By the way, I’ll understand if you don’t have the guts to print this.

Sincerely, Asher.

P.S. The guy who typed this for me only thinks he’s a photographer. In my book that’s almost as good as not being one.

Confessions of a Camera Bug was originally published in the November 1979 issue of Camera 35 magazine. The professional photographers Asher references in his “letter to the editor” were the real deal back in the 1970s, all very famous pros in the field. If you think you can name any or all of them, please share the information with us via a comment on this post.

Copyright © 2009 Jim Sizemore.


Doodle Tempest

September 4, 2008

The following represents an e-mail exchange I had today with a fairly well-known “B-list” cartoonist and humorous illustrator about the “Marginalia #2” piece directly below this post. To save embarrassment (to him) I’ll use our initials to indicate which e-mail writer is which. RD began with a snarky one-word critique of my post:

RD: Dull.

JS: Mean.

RD: Honest.

JS: Sad.

RD: My feelings exactly. I love to doodle…as do all cartoonists..but “real” doodles come form the subconscious..often leading to creations of ideas you would never have had otherwise. I’m always amazed at what doodles can often lead to. Your doodles lack that spontaneity. I’m not being mean, I’m just trying to be honest. If you don’t want a response…don’t ask for it.

JS: The funny thing is I totally agree with you about what constitutes “real” doodling. What you don’t get is I’m just having fun with it by doing an “analytical” number on it. It’s satire. Lighten up.

The fact that I had to explain what I was up to indicates that my mild attempt at satire failed, or perhaps it was too clever by half and simply went over RD’s head. But the thing I still can’t understand is why he would go to the trouble to send a mean-spirited response to it in the first place. I don’t understand pettiness in any form. (There was a bit more to today’s exchange, but in the later stuff RD went completely off the doodle track and began to critique my gag cartoons in political terms as “right wing.” Having self-identified my whole adult life as a left-leaning hyper-progressive but fiscally conservative liberal, that’s where he really lost me.)

Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.


Pity the Poor Rich

August 21, 2008

The other evening I attended the opening of an art exhibit at a tiny gallery in an old loft building on the east side of town. You know the one, it’s in that gentrified area near what used to be our run-down but still working harbor. As I wandered among the incredibly high-priced images and sculptures, I felt sorry for the people who would one day own them. At first that seemed a bit strange, but I felt my concern was justified because the people who make art are usually from the poorer classes, and of course the only people who can afford to buy it have to be affluent. Since the poorer group has a corner on the creative process and the rich have only money, there is a built-in opportunity for unfair trade practices. The rich folk among us are being systematically exploited by a greedy segment of the poorer population—men and women otherwise known as “artists.”

Allow me to speculate on how this tragically unfair situation came about. One day, a long time ago, a clever poor person noticed that rich people have more money than they know what to do with. This budding Michelangelo or Picasso or Judy Chicago figured out that the rich were so busy making money that they had no time to learn how to do anything else. So the Artist (having awarded him- or herself a capital “A”) began making cute little objects—sketches and paintings and statues—and selling them to the wealthy folks to use as decorations in their offices, homes, yachts, private jets, and beach condos. Because these objects were attractive, and because the wealthy clients had no clue how they were produced, the various items took on a mystical aspect. For the rich, owning art objects quickly became spiritually chic, and before long they were paying outrageous prices for worthless artifacts and feeling enriched by the process. They were very happy—as were the sniggering Artists.

Today rich people continue on the same foolish path, but the process has been scaled-up. And the higher art prices rise and the sillier the subject matter, the more secure the wealthy folks become in their belief that the things they horde have real value. They rationalize their religious-like belief this way: The importance of an art object, they argue, is inherently aesthetic and therefore unmeasurable in objective terms. (This, by the way, is a theory originally spread by the capital “A” Artists’ themselves, and by their agents.) The rich victims are convinced that they are really buying “beauty,” as if that were possible, and they are willing to pay thousands of dollars for, say, a small painting of a tree. The Artist, of course, would rather look at the real tree for free, and on the side grind out a gross of pictures to foist on the gullible rich. Of course smart poor people know that any object that cannot be eaten or worn is of no real worldly value. This fact is lost on the rich because, never having been hungry, they have no rational point of reference. Dealing with graduates of the art school of “hard-knocks,” they are at a huge disadvantage. That’s why I pity them. When it comes to so-called art, the rich are little children attracted to bright objects, and they need to be protected from their own ignorance.

Since I believe that most “Art” is an illusion created by self-anointed Artists for one purpose only, to separate the rich from their disposable income (here defined as any money over the amount needed to live comfortably, which is most of what the rich possess), a way must be found to protect the wealthy class from art class grifters. For starters, I propose a law banning the sale of art objects to persons with annual incomes over $300,000. I know that poor people will claim that any money taken from the rich, by whatever method, is simply wealth redistribution, but I disagree. The poor may think of it as just normal “capitalistic art commerce,” but I say it’s the blatant exploitation of one economic class by another, and in a just society this situation cannot be allowed to continue. After all, what if the tables were turned?

This post is a slight revision of my essay titled “People Who Buy Art Shouldn’t Read This,” originally published in the May 25, 1979 Baltimore Evening Sun. The angry reaction to it by several of my “Artist” friends, who seemed to have taken it personally, and not in a spirit of fun as intended, totally surprised me. Oh well, I guess that’s what I get for playing with fire . . . uh, I mean playing with satire. (The gag cartoon above wasn’t used to illustrate the first version of the essay—it didn’t exist then—but it strikes me as apt. Click on the image for a larger view.) Copyright © 2008 Jim Sizemore.