Thursday, October 9, 2014

At Last! New "Maladjusted"!

We're just going to let this one breathe on its own folks, and just say that if you ever see a sign like the one at the top (and perhaps agree with it!), you might well have had too much at dinner.

Drive safely. Please.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Art History Lesson: How Making Art Got a Bad Name, Part One

On a site called "New Advent", I found the most comprehensive, exhaustive (by which I mean exhausting), full throated insanity that I've ever read by a 2nd Century (AD) scholar named Tertullian.

Can't imagine he was much fun to be around.

Without getting into the scholarly aspect of his work, which reads like a pronouncement from a court (apparently the guy was a lawyer), Tertullian basically saw idolatry as the principal sin, and he saw it everywhere, infecting every aspect of society, but most particularly in the arts. He saw the arts, "artifice" as he called it, as essentially the means to give form, shape and service to idols, false gods. Idols, he imagines, must have idolmakers, and the "artificers of idols" should be, in his worldview, condemned to the flames of Hell.

Along with idols, he condemned "similitudes", likenesses of anything in the earth or in heaven or in the water. Pretty much the stuff of landscape paintings and still lifes with the requisite bowls of fruit, or ocean scenes. In Tertullian's analysis, those who made art for a living were in league with idolaters, and served demons.
He also saw the teaching of literature as somehow giving praise or acknowledgement to idols and a form of idol worship. Tertullian saw secular education of any sort as a kind of idolatry or at least a path to it. This man was by any measure, a zealot. His writing has a thunderous quality to it, as if attempting to call down the fires of God's wrath upon the unrepentant.

Now lest you think this guy was just a 2nd century crackpot, it should be noted that he was an influence on no less a person than St. Augustine, and what he hath wrought upon the land is well documented. Tertullian was never canonized by the early Catholic Church. Augustine was. Which suggests to me at least that Augustine went further into madness than his predecessor did, if that's even possible.
So if you have any questions about where the thinking originated that these days leads to reflexive cuts in art and music programs in schools or what causes politicians to wax rhapsodic about eliminating funding for things like the Corporation For Public Broadcasting or the National Endowment for the Arts, it started with this guy and people like him. Like St. Augustine, whom we'll cover in Part Two of this cautionary art history lesson.

More Later,


P.S. Apologies for having been away so long. Project work and family obligations have kept me from posting. But I'm back, and there'll be all new "Maladjusted" for those of you who've been looking, in addition to the usual musings.

On the other hand, maybe Tertullian had a point.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams Is Dead

I cannot believe I just wrote the above title. He was here and now he is gone. At 12 PM PDT Monday, he was found dead in his home in Tiburon, CA, an apparent suicide. The possibility of a suicide is what makes this all the more ominous and sad. A man who made us all laugh for decades and displayed such unbelievable comic genius and immense range was also battling a darkness that finally got the better of him yesterday. That he had wrestled addictions into submission for 20 plus years is well documented. But early in the 2000s, he relapsed, and in 2006 sought treatment. I'd forgotten that he'd had heart surgery in 2009. Just this past spring, he ended his run on "The Crazy Ones" on TV. The show, despite Williams' usual schizophrenic riffing, never quite caught on and was cancelled. Another vehicle that could not contain his over the top style.

Somewhere around that time, I'd heard he was selling his mansion because he couldn't afford to keep it up or something. I think the asking price was $6.5 million. So if anyone has that burning a hole in his pocket...

I remember thinking, "Oh, are things getting bad for Robin Williams?" The depression aspect of his persona never really registered with me. In fact, it never even occurred to me that he was battling that. Or that depression is a far more powerful and elusive illness than I'd imagined. Earlier today I mused that I understood it. I may have been mistaken. Everyone has sad moments, everyone gets discouraged sometimes. What Robin battled was more than that. It never occurred to me that this was also fuel for his mad genius. I guess things were getting bad for him. Despite working almost incessantly, that siren song came calling again.

He'd checked into rehab as recently as last month. And then, just like that, on Monday, he was gone.

Robin Williams
born 1951
died just yesterday in 2014 at a robust 63 years old.

Gone too soon.

We were not ready for you to leave us. But leave us you did.
After the shock and the denial, we may be angry. Then we will truly feel the magnitude of the loss. And it may be quite some time before we accept that you're no longer with us.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

In Between Doses of "Maladjusted"

This was shared with me by a good friend, although his version was about a minute shorter. It fits into the Maladjusted category of Stupid Human Tricks. Or, as I like to call it, "bescreweded-ness". And no, that's NOT A WORD. I made it up. Don't go looking for it.

I'm not adding anything to mention that this is by no means high art. It won't rewire your brain (but then, neither will hearing "Happy" 10 million times; of course I could be wrong.) or make your unborn zygote smarter. But you might find yourself laughing pretty hard.

I just curate this stuff, folks.  Enjoy.

Actually, "Happy" is a catchy little tune. Just not sure I want that particular neural pathway forged in my brain.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Maladjusted Update

For those of you waiting for the next step in this particular Maladjusted entry, it's called "Leatherface In Med School". In it we imagine what Jed Sawyer, a.k.a. Leatherface might do if he decided to turn his very particular set of skills to a noble purpose. We try to imagine what the reaction might be from his fellow students or the administration of the school that chose to take him on, that saw his unique and singular talent. Yes, I'm well aware that school exists exactly nowhere but in my tormented imagination. But who knows? According to legend, the previous President of the United States managed to get through 4 years at Yale University with a "C" average and then got into Harvard. The former Vice President dropped out of Yale. So stranger things have happened.

Anyway, for your edification, I present the progress notes below:

Now some of you might say, "Hey that doesn't look like any chain saw I ever saw." You would be correct. On the other hand, this whole scenario exists in a place we've never been to. So let's indulge that for a moment and suggest that this is a specially made chain saw designed to fit in a lab setting. See, you have to imagine how Mr. Sawyer sees this. Of course, not everyone will share his distinctive, albeit peculiar vision.

I'm betting the medical device industry might take exception, for one.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

New "Maladjusted" In Progress

This is taking a little longer to produce than usual, but I thought I'd give folks a tease. I, in my tortured imagination, have always wondered what it would be like if the grotesquely misunderstood Jed Sawyer ever decided that he must use his chainsawing prowess for good. What would that look like in a normal setting, like say a construction site, or even medical school?

Now, bear in mind this is a work in progress. A couple of things need to be tinkered with (like the chainsaw). One might wonder why the woman here isn't more worried. Maybe she should at least look concerned. Or maybe she's dealt with people like Mr. Sawyer before. Maybe she's even had to work around other students (or employees) who chose to cover their faces with human skin.

There was that Myers kid once.

And let's not forget Voorhees. He was a handful.

I guess after a while, you sort of learn how to handle special cases with "special needs". You have to be very calm. Screaming like a banshee and running never ends well. These kinds like to chase. How can you hope to rehabilitate them when you run away, thus encouraging previous destructive behaviors?

So, while the treatment protocols vary, what people like these really need is normalcy. A daily structured routine. And boundaries. But they need to be treated like any other person to the extent possible. For example, calling Mr. Sawyer "Leatherface" is not recommended. Even if he wears his...leather face.

Might trigger a relapse.

Can't have that.

Anyway, when it's finished, you'll see it here.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Well, Someone Was Gonna Say It

Apparently this has been floating around the internet for at least a couple of years, but it's the first time I discovered it. Something on the sign of a church that may or may not even exist. A little research dug up an interesting place called "Church Sign Generator" on a site called You, or I, or anyone could go there, make a sign, make your statement and let your freak flag fly. And it would look like a sign you might see on a roadside encouraging people to come worship next Sunday morning.

This particular sign though gave me pause. You have to wonder who would take the time to create a message like this and why those people would think anyone would be welcome in their sanctuary. It's the kind of thing Westboro Baptist Church might come up with, but the truth is, there are plenty of churches who believe this or worse.

So someone really has an axe to grind whether the Orange Church of God exists or not. Look at the list. Skateboarders? Surfers?

Vegetarians, Occupiers, and Activists all going to hell?

Okay, the addicts and fornicators have been targets for some while now, but whoever wrote this has just widened the tent and created whole new categories of transgression for non-meat eaters, people who work for justice, and...creative people. Musicians and artists.

There's some history to this which we'll look into in future posts. But for now I'll leave you to scratch your head in wonder at the new categories of people "left behind" and who has the time to come up with such utter foolishness.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Art Does Things to Your Brain

This story comes from Hopkinsville, KY (that's KY for Kentucky, not "KY" for the...other stuff). A music therapist there had been working with children with often severe disabilities including one who seemed to be unable to speak or form words. Today, while engaged in regular therapy, the patient began to sing.

Sing. A song.

This really happened.

I cannot provide video since said patient and practitioner are bound by HIPPA laws and other consent regulations. When I heard about this, my jaw hit the floor and I said "OH MY GOD!!"
See, I look for this stuff. It's part of my ongoing mission to re-value art and art practice in this culture.

Being around art, living with art, music, dance, and so on does rewire and re-map the brain. The therapist in KY knows this. That's why she does what she does. It also allows her to connect with her inner James Taylor (or Gordon Lightfoot, or CSNY, or the Eagles, or Dan Fogelberg).

Now, just so you know, we're not entirely sure that playing Mozart to the little zygote you're carrying will turn him (or her) into a creative genius. That was a thing back in the not so distant day. But more evidence is beginning to show that art does something to the neural pathways in the brain. Sometimes the effects are dramatic as in the aforementioned case. This is the stuff of highlight reels. Most of the time, it's more subtle. It takes a while. But I offer this as more compelling testimony to those who still have the temerity to scoff.

Have at thee, then!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Month! New MALADJUSTED!!

Ever since I saw this picture (and heard that women were swooning over it despite knowing better), I have begun to wonder what it is about this culture that confers celebrity status on not really great people. The latest example is Jeremy Meeks, currently awaiting trial in Stockton, CA for a string of felony charges that include "street terrorism", whatever that means.

Apparently Meeks who's just 30, has a look that the camera loves. So even though he's facing serious jail time (and he's already spent considerable time in jail for other crimes), he could have a career in modeling lined up since a Hollywood agent signed him to a contract. "But wait", you say. "Hollywood doesn't do that, does it?" To which I say, "What country are you living in?" Our omnipresent media does in fact turn ordinary people into celebrities, if only for a moment. Usually it's harmless. Many times it's silly. But Jeremy Meeks is a criminal. A good-looking criminal, but a criminal, none the less. Remember when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev landed on the cover of Rolling Stone a year ago? Yes, good looking kid. BUT HE'S A TERRORIST.

Stop your swooning, folks!
These are not sane, stable, or nice people.

So this week's MALADJUSTED is about our very strange need to turn the kind of people you wouldn't even want over for coffee into people we look up to and admire and aspire to be. This would not happen in any other context, and once the spotlight's off, these folks go back to being the crumb de la crumb that they always were.

Creme de la creme
Crumb de la crumb

Speaking of celebrity status for people who shouldn't have it, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase has throat cancer. Send him a card.
Wish him a speedy recovery.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

On A Clear Day In Houston

Crazy, as it happens in these interesting times we're living in (if you believe the Chinese), can be found most anywhere. If you live in TX, you're seeing perhaps more than you'd like to. In the Fifth Ward of Houston, a predominantly black community, members of Open Carry Texas, which supports the open carrying of long rifles, planned a march, but it was postponed due to other commitments (of what kind, God only knows; it's not like these people have real lives or anything). Nothing I've read says the march won't still happen, but to many clear-eyed people, a couple of thoughts emerge regardless. One, reasonable, responsible gun owners don't feel the need to intimidate and threaten those around them by letting them know they're packing. Two, the image of a group of white men carrying long rifles in a black neighborhood evokes memories of a time we thought we'd left in the past. So this "march" carries an ominous echo. It's hard not to wonder what could possibly go wrong. Usually, I do these MALADJUSTED themes with a liberal dose of twisted humor. This one I do and present to with a shudder, and a prayer.

Seriously. These folks need to chill.

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Monday, June 23, 2014


Big family event at my house yesterday. Replete with food, dessert, conversation, screaming children, and a baby who's just figured out walking. So of course, walk he did. Everywhere. Totally delighted with his new ability. Sort of like the day Clark Kent figured out he could burn a hole in something if he stared at it and concentrated. Must have caused quite a stir on the Kent Farm.

Anyway, the point is I'm fried today. A post toastie. I need downtime. The only maladjusted thing I could come up with involved a family member and that stays private.

So...nothing today. I need to rest. Back later this week.

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Monday, June 16, 2014

This Is Just Twisted Enough

My observations yielding nothing over the weekend (although this whole bit of noise over the latest business in Iraq should have inspired something), I turned within to my always fevered imagination, whereupon I found memories of countless hours watching "The Big Bang Theory". Those of you who watch the show for more than another chance to ogle Kaley Cuoco (which would be maybe a half-dozen of you) will make note of the twist on a popular feature of the series. With that, I give you this week's MALADJUSTED. Enjoy.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

If It's Monday, It's Time For "MALADJUSTED"!

We missed it last week, but going forward, there will be at least an attempt to post a MALADJUSTED musing or thought for the day. Because nothing starts the week like scathing social commentary, especially when art can be used to shine a light on an issue, person, or event, or just a trend that seems so bescreweded (not a word; don't look it up) that it qualifies.

Case in point:
According to an article published last week on Yahoo! Education, certain degrees are "overrated" and not as cool as some others. Of course that may not be totally surprising as any high-school junior or senior is constantly being steered into careers that have a certain pedigree. Now, what's different is that the article in question which you can find here, contends that certain careers have a higher rate of unemployment than others. Since being gainfully employed is never not a good thing, people's time and energy should go into careers where there is a lower likelihood of being unemployed. Hey, it's just the Dept. of Labor spinning the numbers, folks. The thing is that careers in graphic design and film, video and fine arts are here perceived as not as cool, but careers in business, marketing, computer science and criminal justice are more secure statistically, and therefore cooler.

And we all want the cool, right?
And we all want to stay employed, right?

But my question is, have we now created a society and culture where a career as a police officer or a jailer is cooler and more desirable than it is to be a filmmaker, or a designer, or an illustrator, or an actor, or a dancer? What does that say about what we value? Does that seem strange to no one but me and my fellow subversives in the arts who could in some perverse reality end up in the hands of those cool police officers and jailers for questioning the order of things? And in case you think it couldn't happen here, what do you think Occupy was about? How do you think it even started?

But anyway, enough ranting from me. Check out the cool graphic, feel free to share it with your networks and at some point, when we have enough of these, we can offer them for sale as posters or T-shirts or mugs or...whatever.

Now without further ado, your weekly dose. Enjoy.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

New Maladjusted!

For those of you whose time on this planet goes back to the 1960s, there was a time when money was referred to in slang terms as "bread". More recently, it's been referred to as "cake". Either way, today's installment of "Maladjusted" is appropriate in this day when income inequality is all over the headlines, thanks to the Occupy movement.

Chew on that a while.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Happy Heresy's Home: Want to "Thank" Me For My Service?

This came to me in the process of browsing this morning. An incredibly simple, direct and powerful piece of art relating to the ongoing practice of "rape and retaliate" in the US Armed Forces serving in our various hotspots around the world and very likely here stateside also. This is NOT, as the artist makes clear here, an isolated series of incidents or the acts of "a few bad apples." This is a pervasive, not uncommon, not even unusual state of affairs in the military and all branches do it. Moreover, the DOD (that's Department of Defense for the uninitiated) has known about this for decades and has done effectively NOTHING. Your tax dollars at work, my fellow citizens. No matter what you think of our efforts to "spread democracy" in these parts of the world, no matter what you think of the current Commander In Chief, this should not happen anywhere, to anybody. And with that, I invite you to click on the link below and listen to what "Jen" has to say.

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See this first, though. Click below.

Happy Heresy's Home: Want to "Thank" Me For My Service?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Artists Making a Difference

Back in April 2010, an oil rig called Deepwater Horizon suffered an explosion and a fire the results of which dumped millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill went on for months. You could see a live feed of the ongoing spill on CNN. The owners of the platform tried various solutions, none of which worked, and people like Kevin Costner lobbied Congress to use a machine he'd had developed to help clean the water. Finally in July of that year, they got the thing capped and BP was put on the hook for the clean up and residual affects to the tune of $20 billion.

Around that time, a fifth grader named Olivia Bouler from Islip, NY had an idea. She would draw and paint pictures of warblers and pelicans and other North American birds and put them up online to raise donations. Since then, her renderings have been snatched up to the tune of $200,000 and counting to help with ongoing clean-up efforts in the Gulf, which contrary to some ads you've seen, is not finished. Despite the eagerness of some tourist-centered business interests to say that the Gulf Coast from FL to MS is "open for business", the truth is a little murkier than that. It will likely take billions to undo the damage wrought by one of the worst environmental disasters in US history, and to make whole the people who draw their livelihoods from the sea. So $200K may not seem like much, but the point is that artists can make an impact even on a catastrophe of this magnitude, as this girl has done. Further evidence of the effect of art on the culture and the power it has to raise consciousness. Just in case you were wondering.

Check out Olivia's work here. She's actually quite good.

Now, I leave you with this for the next Gulf Coast vacation you might be planning, and before anyone gets up in arms, I am NOT saying that you shouldn't vacation down there if you so desire. I'm just suggesting that if you feel a bit of anxiety about going down there, you're not alone.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Something Truly Beautiful To Start Your Day

I'm going to let this just speak for itself. If you're not moved...well, too bad for you.

The Beatles weren't wrong.
Love is all you need.

More Later,


Friday, March 7, 2014

Poetry Sells! (Who Knew?)

Apple Inc, makers of the famed MacIntosh computer, and the now legendary string of i everything,
is pushing its new iPad Air tablet. With Robin Williams doing his very best "Dead Poets Society" character waxing rhapsodic, they might actually sell a few of them. The photography here is really good, and the shots are compelling. But what particularly struck me was the poetry: Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass.

Oh Me! Oh Life!
Of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill'd with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)

Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew'd
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad recurring-What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here...that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

I suppose Apple could've just come up with an ad that said "Hi. Apple Computer here with our newest invention: the iPad Air. We like it because it's so light. We hope you'll buy one soon." I suppose in these days of bland media saturation and sameness, an ad like that may well have worked. But they decided to go for the whirling dervish that is life playing out across this planet, set it to poetry and roll it out. And it works.

The next time I want to throw up my hands in despair thinking that art doesn't move people, I will reflect upon this, that some great photography and poetry helped sell a few million of these iPad Air things.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Up, Up, and Away

This has been viewed 700,000 times. If you have a kid or ever were a kid, you will thrill as this 16-month old does watching the Man of Steel take flight. Something in you soars no matter how many times or in how many ways you watch Superman lift off. It doesn't really matter who's wearing the "S" and the red cape, be it George Reeves, Christopher Reeve (may they both rest in peace), Brandon Routh, or Henry Cavill, there's nothing quite like it.

Of course, if you were never a kid, or if you're devoid of imagination, you won't know what I'm talking about, and this clip will mean nothing to you. More's the pity.

Talk Amongst Yourselves

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Art Heals: A Dancer Beats Depression

Now this comes from the local Central MA area. Arianys DeJesus is a 20-year  old young woman living in Southbridge, MA near the CT border. When she was young, she would cry all the time and be really irritable. Some people might think, well, isn't that the short definition of "kid"? Aren't kids always on about something? Can't have that cookie now. Can't play with that toy now. You need to pick up your room. Can't wear that now. You wore it yesterday. On and on go the irritations in the life of a kid. Just think back. Of course if you're still irritated by these things now, you're either still a kid at this moment, or you never outgrew those childish things, which means you might need help. Get it. Now.

In Arianys's case, these weren't mere childish tantrums. She was battling something. And it took a while for her parents to figure out what it was. Depression. According to the story published in Worcester Magazine back in October, Arianys would hear voices in her head that would tell her to do awful things like...kill herself "just really bad things," she said. Now most people are not really aware of these thoughts, but sometimes in a more lucid moment, you might wonder why it is that the world looks so dark and foreboding and you might wonder why your default response is to just pull the covers over your head and say "wake me when it's over", but you push past it and get up and get on with life because, well, what else is there?

Oh. Yeah. Work. Money. Food. Bills. Survival. If you suffer from depression, you may find yourself asking, "So?" When you reach that point or if you've reached that point you need help. Get it. Now.

Arianys figured out what else is there. Before she did, she was being medicated like a lot of people, and hearing those voices telling her she was ugly, she shouldn't be alive, and take ALL THE PILLS. Before she found out what else was there, she contemplated suicide more than once but never went the next step, never stepped over that line that once crossed, you can't come back from. She began to dance. She had started at 4, but her struggles overwhelmed her and she stopped. At first, when she returned to it, it almost didn't take. But then it did. Then the dance had her, and within months, she was off Prozac, and the voices in her head stopped. By 15, she was teaching dance to others. Now, she has a foundation called Dance to Live, which held its second annual fundraiser in October 2013 to help young people deal with and heal from mental illness by connecting to performing arts like dance. There is of course, an exercise component to dance that medical experts say is very helpful, but the expression, the release that creating art allows is equally vital to healing. Other things help as well. If you find yourself staring into the abyss and waiting for the darkness to notice you, it's time to get help.  Just don't be surprised if the therapist tells you to take up art in some form, and don't be surprised if you find it drawing the pain out of you like poison being drained from a wound.

Arianys says, "I want kids to feel what I feel when I dance." Living with her art heals her. Now she's helping others dance to live. Think about that the next time you hear someone dismiss artistic endeavor as some "frivolous" waste of time. Arianys DeJesus will tell you differently.

You can read Arianys's full story here.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

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