My new radio show, thoughts on the Death of Burning Man, and what makes Great Art?

Happy and relaxing Labor Day Weekend to one and all! Fire up that barbecue, toss some corn, ribs and a couple eggplants on there -thinly cut please- and I’ll be over shortly. In the meantime, we have some business to attend to:

Yes, the Big News is that tomorrow at 8pm Pacific on The Positive Living Vibrations Radio Network, yours truly will host the first of what I hope to many half hour Internet radio shows! The Sexual Symposium will tackle a wide range of issues of concern to both men and women, though initially we will be taking a hard, clear and humorously philosophical look at the subject of sexual betrayal as it relates to men.

The various hosts and their show content at Positive Living Vibrations Radio Network makes this lineup of experts, in my view, one of the most interesting and diverse of any Internet radio network, and I am proud and excited to be included and will do my best not to disappoint. The show goes live tomorrow at 8 pm and you can access the show by clicking the link below; or course, you can listen to it whenever you want, you don’t HAVE to tune in when it’s first broadcast, a very cool feature of Internet radio.

One way or the other, Milt Quibner’s Sexual Symposium launches tomorrow, and I want to thank Sara Troy and her group of techs for all the help and enthusiasm they have put into this project.

I got some guff from more than one reader over last week’s blog, wherein I emphatically stated that the living art installation known as Burning Man has died. Not so, accordingly to Vince B:

“…and you should see it now, there’s gotta be 70,000 people here, more and everybody’s got it organized well and its super efficiently run and I just don’t know why you would say the BM is over. No way! And the cops are OK, I haven’t seen any problems and most people are happy there’s cops there so things don’t get so wild. Makes things run smoother, too.”

Yeah, I’m sure it does, Vince, but if you think you’re attending some event that celebrates pure freedom, you better think again. Not to pick on Vince but here is another ‘statist’, in my view, a guy who’s happy to trade a few freedoms for the illusion of greater security, a trend in our nation since 911.

We got into a little back-and-forth before I finally realized I was shouting against a wall: the guy likes security and safety. And oddly, I see this most strongly in people under, say, 40, who have grown up with the heavy Police State Hand and don’t see any issues with it…as long as their Internet access remains and they’re not confronted by any ‘pauses’ in their ability to ‘choose’ what they want to keep and stay distracted, that is.

I stand my ground: Burning Man was, in its earliest days, a real celebration; now, it has become a corporate-sponsored ‘must-do’ event, sanitized to include more ‘volume’. I am not angry, though, or bitter; Change is the order of all Life and Burning Man has changed and if you enjoyed yourself, Vince, right on, I know others did, too; however, I remember a time, there on that dusty playa at 3 AM under the canopy of a billion stars, when…

Ah, hell, no sense living in the past, I know what has been lost and yeah, I know, too, that people crave events like Burning Man, real celebrations of all things creative, live and free; it’s just that when you call in the cops to keep order on something intended to be truly free, you eventually kill it.

Oh, maybe not this year, but the precedent has been set, and one of these days, something’ll happen out there that brings it all to a close, mark my words…

At a dinner party last night, a friend of mine casually commented, after visiting the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco and coming away bewildered by the various forms of expression that are now considered art, “It’s tough to really tell anymore what’s good art and what’s not,” he said, “And besides, so much of what passes for ‘art’ now, or at least what I saw at that museum, has a political context to it, and I for one want to see art divorced from politics,” a sentiment I am in total agreement with, by the way.

He went on to add, “It’s hard even for me with a degree in literature to tell the difference sometimes between all these pieces of personal expression and true art.”

I had to jump in. “Yes, especially in photography, where everybody has a 50,000 pixel or whatever digital camera and a political agenda.”

My wife, Mia, then asked the obvious: “Well, then, how do you tell the difference between actual art and the rest?”

Everybody then turned to me, a self-appointed expert in every subject.

“This has been a question debated since the Golden Age: how do we distinguish between art and craft, or creative things with lasting value versus those simply created. Every era tends to answer that question differently; for the Greeks, a piece of art represented something essential from life, involving something universal, essential to all people, but gleaned of ornament and device. The Romans loved to adorn, of course, but loved to adorn practical items and had little use for more subtle forms of expression like theater or music. Go through the ages and you’ll see it defined differently, but in every case I am familiar with, what makes great art stand apart from mere craft is that the artist has gone beyond himself to make a great insight into human nature, some observation that we then intuitively understand, and which so many people then revere him for. I, however, do not revere artists or what they create, ever. I respect Man and his thoughts, though, Man and his insights but not his explanations or his reason.”

Another friend then cut in, “But you have a million books on your shelf, and all that poetry, don’t tell me you don’t have a few favorites?”

“Of course I do,” I replied, “I just read Sappho and Rimbaud again, and this weekend I’ll dust of some Baudelaire and maybe finish that Keats book, but I don’t revere these guys, I do not worship or put them on pedestals, nor do I study, say, poetry or spend hours cracking the various word codes of John Donne, who I love by the way but refuse to study. You ask, “Why, Milt?” and I say, “Because I want to feel poetry, I want to be moved by the poet who is both experiencing her emotions and observing them, too, this is why I go to poetry, not to analyze or judge it compared to others but for how it moves me.”

Now, everybody chewed on this a bit and the discussion soon whirled away from such lofty speculative matters but I knew I’d touched raw nerve with one of my guests, a poet who’d been shaping a work of his for years and, from what he’d told me, had just packed the piece with literary allusions that would make Joyce run for a concordance! Every rule I’d ever taken to heart in the creation of real art this guy was violating, and openly, almost to defy me, yet I just couldn’t care less and when I do eventually read his masterpiece -whenever he finally decides that it is, at last, finished!- I promise myself to stick to my guns and read it as I do all poetry, and if it clunks and sucks, I will tell him, but if he is able to lift my soul and move me about, then I will allow that to happen as well, for I make it a point to try not to pre-judge damn near anything, especially works of art.

Later, sitting outside and enjoying the amazing panoply of lights in our Northern California night sky, and being a sensitive soul, of course, I overheard my struggling poet-friend speaking to another guest about developing an audience and how hard it is to do so now, with so many options available to everybody, and so little understanding of what separates great art from the rest. I just had to butt in when this, one of my favorite themes, swam passed me.

“No no, friends, art does NOT have to have or find its audience for it to satisfy, for great artists are possessed anyway and can barely communicate with the rest of us, so why would they need us, an audience, to complete their expression? No, great art stands alone from any need to draw in an audience, great art IS!”

Labor Day, a time to pause and reflect upon our individual and collective labors and take stock before we plunge into our busy Fall schedules. When I was a child, however, Labor Day Weekend was my least favorite weekend of the year; why? Well, it meant Terrible Tuesday, the first day of school after a long, fun-filled summer. I know, today you kids get no damn August anymore, in school by the second week of the month, poor kids, but back in the day, the Tuesday following Labor Day was a horrible event, at least for me and my brother; we dreaded the coming school year and did our best every year to dream up ever-more elaborate excuses for non-participation, which my Mom always saw immediately through, of course.

And I’m a teacher, too, but my sympathies lie with the kids and I’m just not a fan of shortening kids’ summers –and their freedoms– for parental convenience. And, in truth, I’m not a fan of the mandatory 9 month school year, either, or how our public schools have so descended into near-prisons where learning takes a backseat to feel-good socialization amidst an array of security devices.

Nah, as I said, things change and I’m a Student of Change and I don’t/won’t lament; I will, rather, dive headlong into September after first sharing a Dominican with my Dad this afternoon and later, seeing my Mom off to the hospital for long-awaited surgery.

Change happens, just as Life happens, whether you want to participate or not. Thus, we gotta learn to not only deal with Change, but embrace it vigorously. No sense looking backwards into the dimly-lit Past, where only Depression awaits you…

Go read my book, get up to speed with Change, and I’ll talk with you next week!

2 Responses to “My new radio show, thoughts on the Death of Burning Man, and what makes Great Art?”
  1. “I remember a time, there on that dusty playa at 3 AM under the canopy of a billion stars, when…

    Ah, hell, no sense living in the past,”

    On the contrary. Sometimes the past is exactly where we should be living, and where we should be inviting other people to join us. To refuse to ever do that is to uncritically, passively accept every change that happens and hope for the best. That’s what people have been doing, en masse, for decades. You’re right, at least in part – young people, as a group, tend to be very accepting of police state nonsense, and they seem to be more accepting of it with time. But why wouldn’t they be? The world they’re in is the only world they’ve ever known, and their elders, confusing a lack of motivation with the wisdom that comes with age, have abdicated any sort of leadership role. The very people who, having known a world other than the one in which we now live, have enough perspective to see that which is unnatural and regressive for what it is, can’t be bothered to be heard expressing anything but resignation to the coming of a grim future that is inevitable, only because too many people have talked themselves into believing that it is.

    One thing the neocons got right – freedom isn’t free. It has to be fought for, if it is to be held onto, at all. When a mere questioning of the order of things is more than people are willing to let themselves consider, perhaps because they don’t want to make people like your friend Vince get mad, one should ask in exactly what sense is that freedom being fought for, at all, and in what sense would it ever be? Take a good, long look at Guantanamo, and you should have no trouble seeing what the government is capable of, and what is most of the citizenry, yourself included, telling it through their actions? “Do whatever the Hell you want, because we aren’t even willing to risk the horrors of social disapproval.”

    The stakes at Burning Man might not seem so high as to merit such a dramatic level of concern, until you think about what is really at stake. No, the individual annual trip into the desert is, perhaps, not such a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But the idea that no matter how far out of your way you go to be left alone, that you won’t be, that the authorities will track you down and act to ensure that you will live your personal life as they would see fit – there is a word for that, and it’s not “statism.” At the very least, it’s authoritarianism, moving in the direction of outright totalitarianism. The camping trip isn’t of earth shaking importance, but the principle is.

    If remembering that means that one is living in the past, then let’s start doing so, quickly.

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  1. […] My new radio show, thoughts on the Death of Burning Man, and what makes Great Art? […]

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