The autobiography I didn’t want to write

I was born with a stainless steel spoon in my mouth, no hair whatsoever on my head, and twin genetic bullets of depression and addictive tendencies aimed point blank at my head. The downmarket spoon came with hand-me-down silver rattles with ancient toothmarks and thorny inscriptions. Our ancestors did a lot of great things, managed to arrive in America soon enough to get mixed up in the Revolution to a very minor degree, and then proceeded to make descendants. The hair problem was self-correcting; seemingly even more so as I get older and have to pay for my own beauty salon visits. If you’re worried about the genetic jackpot I mentioned, well, I managed to duck one problem but get grazed by the other.

The family I’m from succeeds in spite of itself. We’re related to Governors and Presidents (by marriage and distantly), and then, on the other hand, some fool is such a mess he gets tanked on lighter fluid during a blizzard and thinks it might be a good idea to chain-saw a picture window in the side of his vacation cabin (and he actually does a good job of it). We have spry oldsters complaining about politics and Kids Today and raising Cain in their nineties and beyond, and then we have youngsters and grandpas alike who can’t seem to get the hell out of the way of a train in time (one case in particular was due to an ear trumpet malfunction), and it’s a sad heritage to have more than one relative meet his Maker via locomotive, as it implies a certain lack of common sense. We have religious ancestors like Great Uncle Josiah, who used to recite the entire Bible before each family meal, doing so in a deep, booming voice that sounded like something dredged up from the bottom of a well. His children were surprised when they married and discovered that food could sometimes be warm when you ate it. There were the ninnies who had so much money they didn’t know what to waste it on first, as they bought airplanes and houses and fur coats and small countries and then lost it all, rather inevitably so, during the Great Depression. Then there were the working poor, like my grandmother, who thought getting two walnuts and an apple from Santa was a coup, and who excelled in high school and earned a full scholarship to several colleges, but had to give it all up to go to work as a secretary so her brother, who was less gifted intellectually, could learn how to become a doctor. Which he did, and which he was, until he drank it all away. The bellydancers, the polka players wearing live crabs on their heads, the lawyers, the deejays, the inventors, the British stepmothers, the hippies, the warhawk Republicans, the yellow-dog Democrats, the dirt-eaters and the oenophiles, they are all my family members, the whole human potpourri.

One side of the family is stark raving mad, in varying degrees. Everything from a slight touch of seasonal affect disorder to full-blown paranoid schizophrenia. It’s like a rainbow of psychiatric maladies. That was my father’s side, and when I was almost 12, he up and shot himself one day, out of the blue. In his case, there was no warning at all. Then again, if you look at the family tree, it seems inevitable. Me? I have your garden variety depression, and it resists medication, which, if I may be blunt, sucks. Medication acquaints you with what “base normal” feels like, so you learn what situational depression is (things actually are pretty bad at the moment, and being unhappy is a reasonable and highly logical response) and what clinical depression is (life is going fairly well, all things considered, but you still have to think of a list of reasons to get up in the morning and interact with other humans every day, and being unhappy makes no damn sense whatsoever). The good news is that I’m not planning on doing anything drastic about it. There is nothing quite like a dramatically bad example to get you to reject permanent solutions to a problem. I don’t even blur the edges by playing with sharp things and listening to emo music. Maybe it is my destiny is to be the first person on this side of the family tree to get mushed by a train, but it won’t be on purpose. If getting out of bed is a battle, then I am a victor every day, and that’s something to feel…well, not good about, but it’s a step in the right direction. I pull myself up by my own bootstraps, and if I don’t like it, that’s too damn bad. I don’t come from a family of quitters. Well, I come from a family of everything, but for every quitter, there’s a bunch of ancestors who didn’t know when to stop. You should hear some of them talk, sometime.

Some of my acquaintances have no idea I’m a professional party pooper in disguise. I can be sociable and fun and witty and personable. I just get mysteriously busy every now and then, and avoid having to confess I’m hermiting at home, staying guiltily in bed feeling like something a rational person would scrape off the bottom of a shoe. When you’re a depressive, and let’s pretend this isn’t a thinly-disguised first person account for a moment, you might be likely to spend a lot of time alone, so you’re not a huge drag to be around.. The upside to all of this nonsense is that you get addicted to media in most of its forms. It beats being addicted to something else. So you read a lot, and have time to do art projects and write, and that’s not all bad. Also, everything seems important, even the little things. Depression magnifies the act of brushing your teeth into a nearly unbearable feat of will, and, if you’re lucky, this focus on detail may inspire your art and writing. Everything’s so darn important, it’s hard to edit it out. You learn to hide layers of meaning in a sentence, and symbols and images within a larger painting or sketch. You may mangle proper nouns because you read too much and get names and places mixed up, but all of that input comes out making sense every once in a while. Your friends, for you do manage to be bearable enough to collect a few here and there, think you are out of control with your vinyl records, your nine bookcases crammed into three rooms, your stacks of art supplies, your various half-hearted collections of Things,  and they absolutely hate to help you move. The downside is being the only person in your generation to have depression issues of any kind, and a family full of smart folks who read all the literature about it they can but fail to really understand it on a personal level. They do, however, eventually stop trying to argue or threaten or cajole or jolly you out of a sad mood, at least some of the time.

I tend to set small goals. I can’t say what my life’s dream is, because I don’t have one. My small goals are attainable goals. I will write a good paper. I will finish this proposal for my boss. I will not eat an entire carton of Haagen-Daaz. I will go to the concert, meet the musicians, dance for a few hours, have some fun. I will learn how to illustrate with a mouse instead of a Prismapencil. I will take better photographs. I will run a literary magazine. I will think nothing of dropping everything and driving out west for a few months at one point, but be paralyzed at the idea of having to move across town at another. I’ll gladly fly to a foreign country alone and have a wonderful time exploring the places that are off the beaten track, then feel panic when I have to go to the grocery store because I’m running low on paper towels. I will annoy the public library workers by checking out as many books as I can physically carry by myself every month, and then read them all. I will become good at Tetris. I will learn a new painting technique. I will feed and care for the ferret I got guilted into adopting, and will do it every day. I will not use my crappy brain chemistry as an excuse to be lazy or impolite. I will accept too many responsibilities, and then fret about how the day only has 24 hours in it, and worry about how to juggle everything. I will accept an offer to have all my graduate student tuition paid if I leave my circle of friends, my home, my job and my comfortable way of life far behind, then deal with it when I am nominated to care for my suddenly terminally ill grandmother, until she dies and breaks everyone’s hearts for leaving us behind, and to shoulder tens of thousands of dollars in debt I was originally not going to have to pay for myself. I will learn how to make a web page with cascading style sheets…and I will learn how to shift gears when things are too painful to talk about at length.

My art tends to be layered and deceptively simple. I start off with an idea, and it nags at me until I put it down on paper somehow, with words or images. Everything has to mean something, but viewers or readers have to look at it for a little while to see what, precisely, it does mean. It’s fine with me if someone doesn’t do that. It can be our secret, mine and theirs, if they hang around a little longer and suddenly notice something hidden. That’s the reward for seeing some value in my work, for caring enough to pay attention. I’m the kind of person who reads footnotes and looks up translations and squints at the brushstrokes when looking at what other people do, but if people looking at my art are not, that’s okay, too.

I have never made any real money from my art. Then again, I have never made any money from either of my Bachelor’s of Arts degrees, or from managing to walk upright and feed myself, or from having a good work ethic and being a conscientious employee. These are all things I have had to do to learn how to be me. 

Davids versus ”Goliath”

Because this sort of thing pisses me off, I’m spreading the word (again; I’ve discussed this before). You can Google “Todd Goliath Goldman art thief” and verify the links yourself. He seems to have laid low in 2012, but he was still ripping people off as recently as 2011.

From wired.com:

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dave vs. Goliath: Shameless Art Thievery, Ahoy

Keenspotbox Once upon a time, I was strolling with two people down at the Grove shopping complex in Los Angeles. We passed a gallery with giant windows, a gallery packed to the gills with the most insipid, offensively dull paintings we had ever seen. We stood in awe that this person had conned someone into giving them an entire retail space to soil. There were paintings of lamps that looked as if they had been done by “getting old ain’t so bad” greeting card illustrators. Mr. Bill-like cartoon faces, with no perceivable expression or appeal, stared sightlessly off white canvas. Seemingly random depictions of household objects bore zany witticisms scrawled atop.

“Jesus wept,” someone said, “this shit is TERRIBLE.”

Instantly, he was upon us. The artist himself, lurking at a nearby cafe table and supervising the reactions of the gallery’s passerby, leapt to his feet and verbally laid into us. Sputtering and red, he demanded to know what we had said about him, if we knew who we were dealing with, and who the hell we thought we were. We pointed and laughed at the poor crazy man who couldn’t draw, and went to a movie.

I have just found out that the shouting hack was none other than Todd “Goliath” Goldman, renowned “artist” and accomplished plagiarist. He’s ripped off designs from sources as far ranging as ancient Windows animated cursors, Threadless t-shirt company, spooky comics scribbler Roman Dirge, and most blatantly, internet cartooning legend Dave “Shmorky” Kelly. As the panel at right illustrates, one of Goldman’s recent paintings is a near-exact trace of a panel from Kelly’s “Purple Pussy” webcomic.

Goldman’s publicist has released that his client has vowed to cease any and all marketing of the stolen design, and to forward the proceeds already collected either to Kelly or the charity of his choice. However, Goldman’s other plagiarism is extensive, and unredressed.

Now that he’s been called on his bullshit, and the Internet vs. Todd Goldman onslaught has begun in earnest, the man has retreated to slander, hacking, and douchebaggery to make his point:

The girl who originally reported the theft of Shmorky’s artwork also had her MySpace hacked. Some of the MySpace pages were replaced with an image saying TODD WAS HERE. (Note that the image is hosted on Goldman’s website, indicating it is either Todd or an employee with access to his webserver)

This is one example among many. What can be done about it, besides spurting reams of textualized nerd rage into every venue that will tolerate it? Shmorky’s got the original design up for sale on a shirt. And one can always Digg, of course. Otherwise, I encourage the perusal of the following links, so that you may familiarize yourself with his myriad offenses and be able to hold forth on the subject at parties, whist drives, and strawberry teas. Do it for ART.

Holy cow, Todd (Goliath) Goldman ripped me off! [Something Awful Forums–Schmorky speaks]

Todd Goldman: Art Thief [Mike Tyndall–lots of examples; see some below]

Todd Goliath Goldman, Art Thief [Digg]

Did Todd Goliath (Goldman) Steal His Art? [You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice]

Blog About Art Swipes [boing boing]

Todd Goldman’s Lawyers Sending Nastygrams [boing boing]

Artist Roman Dirge, creator of Lenore, is a victim of plagiarism and complains.

Artist Liz Greenfield may also be a victim, and she complains as well.

Some excerpts from Mike Tyndall‘s site:

Theft by Goldman on left, original Dirge piece featuring “Lenore” on right.

Theft by Goldman on the left, original Jim Benton “Happy Bunny” character on right.

Shirt by American Apparel on the far left, Neko (‘an old cursor-chasing desktop accessory that was created for older computer systems such as Windows 3.1″) in center, Goldman theft on far right. Another comparison of  “Neko” with Goldman’s theft below:

More kitty theft (save the kitties!):

Goodman theft on far left; original art in center and at far right. Reader Christopher Rhodes told Mike Tyndall that the purse was probably made by Faster Pussycat. (In Atlanta, those stickers were sold by Cookie Puss and Pussy Scented.)

Bot angry yet? This image from goon Joe Anglican (View post) shows what Goldman earns, on average, from his paintings.

This is just gross.

 

And he’s still at it.

Tales From Grad School: The ‘Double Dunkers’

In 2006, I was in the process of earning my Master’s and ended up bonding more with the professors, who were closer to my age, than the other students, many of which were undergrads.

My prof and I were discussing an Amish school shooting (the shooter was not Amish) and that led to discussions about the difference between Mennonites and Amish (as far as I can figure, the Amish are slightly more strict than the Mennonites, but outsiders would easily confuse the two sects) and the similarities. They are both Anabaptist sects. That led to this conversation:

Prof: What’s that? Anti-Baptist?
Me: No, ANAbaptist. And I am not positive, so I must invoke the power of the Internet…hold, please. *wikipedia search*
Prof: ‘kay.
Me: Ah, I get it. They are double dunkers.
Prof: *laughs* What?
Me: You get dunked once as an infant, and re-dunked as an adult. Apparently the original dunking comes with a limited warranty.
Prof: “Double dunkers.” Holy crap.
Me: Well, sort of, yeah.

Then we both had a good LOL over that. It was nice being a grad student.

I’m back in school working towards getting an AS Paralegal (you may have noticed the paralegal-related stuff I post on Mondays), and it is mostly online and my classmates are mostly very, very young or very, very old. It’s weird.

My grad school prof  that I had that chat with had a class of undergrads after my class and if I was hovering about doing work on a project, the children would say the most entertaining things. Apparently I missed some real doozies on Tuesday. The prof started discussing current events and polling the class about films that they thought were culturally significant and important and so forth. I tuned out when I overheard half the class ask what “Citizen Kane” was. Even if you haven’t SEEN it, it’s culturally illiterate not to even have heard of it. AT AN ART SCHOOL.

Then again, this art school has a football team and tons of conservative Christian Republican activists. Yay, Georgia. It’s a way to rebel and be non-conformist at an art school, I suppose, where the default settings / stereotypes are liberal, culturally-cognizant youths who are far more interested in the fine arts than in chasing the pigskin around. A few quarters back, there was a big kerfluffle over whether or not the art school should have fraternities and sororities. NO! Go to a party school if that’s what you want. For chrissakes. They don’t make art students like they used to, people.

Also, most of my professors were in a semi-permanent state of despair because hardly any of the children knew how to speak or write using proper English, and few of them read. Anything. Ever. Even if it was an assigned article. On the plus side, most of these kids did get weeded out after tackling the core courses they had to take as undergrads…those who were stubborn about remaining illiterate and those who decided that going to art school would be the equivalent of getting a degree in Advanced Basket Weaving (even the Fiber Arts program requires its students to be able to communicate clearly) were quickly disabused of that fantasy.

Twenty years ago, the school was desperate for applicants and it let pretty much anyone in who could stomp their hooves on the floor to do basic maths, but now only 20% of all applicants are accepted, and far fewer manage to make it through the various hoops and obstacles involved. Ha, joke’s on you, this particular art school is actually FREAKING DIFFICULT. Who knew?

In the meantime, my professor and I would sit and chat, and that particular day the newbies hadn’t had their first midterm yet, and they were actually all being rather gleefully ignorant and lazy, and acting as if The Olds in the corner were stone deaf and unable to hear them…and I am guessing that my professor probably took a lot of Tylenol every day.

We’re still friends on Facebook and LinkedIn. I am not friends with any of the children.

Project Meatway

Tim Gunn: Good evening, designers! Previously on Project Runway we had you design outfits out of garbage you dug out of the dumpster behind the Safeway. Mikael won with his brilliant confection made out of moldy Wonder Bread wrappers, plastic meat trays, plastic shopping bags and Pop*Tart wrappers.

Viewers: Yay, Mikael!

Tim: Sadly, Andie failed to appeal to the judges when she wrapped her humungously fat size-2 model in brown paper grocery bags and twist-ties. Everyone knows that size-2 is zaftig and that brown paper adds forty pounds of fat on camera and makes you look like a Shepherd’s Pie. That’s Bad! Auf, auf, bad designer.

Viewers: Good-bye, Andie, we hardly knew ye! It’s an honour just to be accepted to Project Runway! Who is going to be the inoffensive quiet chick on the show now?

Heidi Klum: Hello, designers! There were fifteen of you and now there are seven! I’m the skinniest pregnant lady that ever existed! Check out these boobs, my top is holding on by sheer force of will and defying gravity. Do you trust my taste when I wear things like this? These are caprants, a new length that looks good on no one except supermodels. Much like the bubbleskirts Bobbi keeps inflicting on us week after week.

Mikael: No fucking rosettes. DAYUM!

Viewers: Amen! And No Basket Hats!

Lora: I think Vinnie is totally whack, he’s not mentally stable…

Heidi: This week you will be designing outfits out of meat!

Designers: (o_O ) (>_<) (O_o) (O_O) (x_x)  (>_<)  ( O_o)

Tim: Welcome to Project Meatway!

Designers are given $140 and a Kroger Valued Shopper card that steals their personal identification in order to send them a hundred crappy coupons every week for stuff they don’t want to buy.

Designers lug back piles of stank meat to the design studios.

Ken sings an aria from the Broadway production of “Sweeney Todd,”

Vinnie attempts to make earrings out of a pair of chicken livers.

Geoff is doing interesting things with USDA stamps and expired hamhocks.

Lora admits she is pregnant with her 19th child.

Helga is braiding some bratwursts.

Tim comes in, is skeptical.

Geoff: *rude surliness* I was hoping we would get to design something out of vegetables this week. These people lack my superior artistic vision. I am an ex-homeless ex-junkie neck tattoo’ed guy! I make meatsuits for the rich and famous. This is beneath me. I will win the show.

Tim: Steak, it’s work.

Vinnie: I love headcheese, it turns me on, I really get off on it.

Tim: Hmm. I just don’t know.

Ken: Too bad Brad got auf’ed, he could make his outfit out of squid. Or eagle. *examines the iridescent gleam on a slice of somewhat elderly ham* Shiny! I love it!

Viewers: We feel compelled to make portmanteau names out of two total stranger’s names constantly, and feel CHEATED that Kenbert, I mean Roben, got AUF’ed!! WAH!!

Ken: Shiny.

Tim: I really like this! Good work.

Mikael: They will expect me, a proud black man from The A.T.L., to make an outfit out of fried chicken. I will defy their foolishness! No chicken!

Tim: This concerns me.

Helga: I vould really like a beer to go mit all zis vurst.

Bobbi: I’m thinking that I will put some twirls of turkey loaf along the hem, here. Lots of twirls. Lots and lots. And I will make some fringe out of crablegs. Is crab meat? I think it’s meat. It’s so elegant, just like Audrey Hepburn. Ooh, rack of lamb. Just the thing for my skirt! I love, love, love patchwork, so I’m going back to what I know.

Tim: It may be a bit much.

Lora: *badmouths everyone* Hey, I’m pregnant. Maybe my hormones are making me act like Bad Mommy! Don’t hate me. Hmm, how low cut can I make this A-line dress? Will the roast beef slices look tailored on the Meatway?

Viewers: Yawn, yawn, yawn. What would Santino do? WHERE’S ANDRAE?!

Tim: Okay, designers! Carrion!

Models come in and complain about how they are vegan, then go outside and smoke ten cigarettes and do some coke off the slick patent-leather surface of fave model Minka’s Kate Spade purse.

Heidi: Okay, designers. Six of you will be in, and one of you will be out. Let’s start the show!

Ken’s model parades down the runway in a frock made of ruched deli turkey slices decorated with pepperoni dots.

Judges: We love it! So original!

Ken: And the pepperoni, secretly, is also turkey. In case the model is watching her figure or something.

Judges: You can tell he really put a lot of thought into his design.

Lora’s model appears wearing an A-line confection constructed out of proscuitto and melon.

Judges: So elegant! But you’re in the bottom three. Melon, while a logical accompaniment to proscuitto, is not a meat.

Mikael’s model storms the stage in a smart hotpants outfit constructed entirely out of chitlins, T-bones and a wrap braided out of thin pastrami slices.

Judges: Fierce!

Heidi: I’d eat that. And, as we all know, the biggest criteria on this show is “would Heidi eat that?” And I would.

Mikael: I think this outfit channels the spirit of Foxy Brown, who was one badass chick.

Helga’s model slinks down the runway adorned in an empire-waisted frock cleverly constructed out of braided strings of bratwurst and kielbasa.

Judges: That Helga has such a way with patterns.

Tim: The braidwork is really exquisite.

Nina: It’s very well-constructed. I really, really, really care a lot about that.

Bobbi’s model appears wearing a dress made entirely out of rack of lamb. Each little bone has a frilly paper rosette cap attached.

Michael Kors: Tch. The granny circles again.

Heidi: So eccentric. She’s so inconsistent. Every week she makes clothing out of meat with a bubble skirt or rosettes, and we act surprised each and every time.

Geoff’s model scowls down the runway in a dress comprised of two slices of ham strategically placed over each boob and a skirt made entirely out of cooked and uncooked bacon strips.

Nina Garcia: Her tootie is showing, how vulgar.

Heidi: But I like bacon!

Guest Judge: EAT MOR CHIKIN!

Heidi: I totally agree. Moo!

Vinnie’s model levitates down the walkway draped in organ meats all stapled together. Cow tongues function as shoulder straps. Vinnie has also cleverly placed a raw sirloin atop his model’s head.

Nina: I was so distracted by the steak on your model’s head, I could hardly notice how cute your kidney and liver dress was, Vincent!

Heidi: What were you thinking? That’s weird, not cute.

Guest Judge: EAT MOR CHIKIN!

Nina: It’s unanimous, we hate the steak cap.

Heidi: Ken, you win for your madcap outfit with the cute little pepperoni dots. Helga, you almost won again! But…denied. So sorry. You’re in, you can leave the Meatway.

Viewers: Yay, pepperoni! Yay, Ken!

AUFed Robert: I would have made something boring out of salmon.

Viewers: We heart you, Kenbert!

AUFed Mulan: *Brit-esque accent* My mum never made me any meat dishes. *sobs*

Viewers: We heart you, Mulan!

AUFed Betty: Which one was I, again?

Viewers: We heart you, Mulan!

Heidi: Vinnie, there’s a fine line between creative and bizarre. Keep exploring it each week, you’re great for our ratings. You’re in. Geoff, you’re AUF’d. Ham is not a brassiere. You showed a lack of taste.

Geoff: You all suck. I rule. I am the greatest. This was all done in the 1980s anyway. Meat is so passe’ as an art supply.

Ken: I won, I won! I’m as happy as can be!

Viewers: We love Daniel Vosovic. What? What?! We can dream.

Heidi: Next week on Project Runway…another crazy challenge with a kooky theme, unconventional models and materials, a low budget and an unreasonable deadline. Yay woo! Ta-ta!

Celebrity “Artists”

These celeb art shows make me ridiculously angry. How did Courtney Love get an art gallery to show her art? Let’s get real: Her work would never be shown by a reputable gallery if she did not have any celebrity cachet or notoreity.

I know too many non-celebs living in squalor and creating actual ART-art, not childish doodles, and do they get gallery shows? Fuck no. There are people I know who are either autodidact folk artists or people who went to school for years to learn specific techniques, art history and skills: do they get art shows? NO.

I’m not even talking about lazy asses like me who can’t afford art supplies or a space to work, though the 20 minute doodle I made on my power bill when I was put on hold the other day is better than that crap.

This is not to harsh on actual artists who also happen to be musicians. I like a lot of their work. If the pictures I have seen are typical examples of Courtney’s oeuvre, I was drawing like that when I was SIX YEARS OLD and can prove it; I still have the crap I churned out as a bored child tossed in the bottom of a storage box somewhere. I also have a milk carton that was papier-mache’d and then painted to look like a duck. Where’s my gallery show? Shit, man.

 

And she’s not even a professional artist!

 

To be fair, the picture above looks more like a doodle rather than a real finished work of art. Also, I have seen worse.

It just rankles when people who merely dabble in art get benefits and exposure that people who are artists full-time struggle mightily to get…much like when actors play at being musicians and form D-list bands, or supermodels get a chance to show off their non-existent acting chops. It is stunt casting.

Hey, celebrities: If you think it is so glamorous being a poor, starving artist, why not give it a go for a couple of decades and report back? I know some of you went through that when you were striving for success in your current fields. How did you feel when “stunt casting” bullshit happened? Did you find it appropriate?