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Yes, But Is It Art?

9 Dec

I won’t say I don’t get ALL modern art, but there’s a lot of stuff out there that I don’t understand. Is it just a “genre” of modern art that doesn’t appeal to me or are people just deluded because someone told them it was art?

For example, there is a beautiful place in Houston, Texas called the Rothko Chapel. You are surrounded on all sides by paintings by Mark Rothko and it’s kept very, VERY quiet. It is a very interesting place to pray, but the modern art… doesn’t really add to the experience. It’s just giant black paintings with–maybe–a little gradient. That’s it. I was impressed with the oppressive silence of the place than the art.

Piet Mondrian, the guy with the weird squares, made a hell of a lot more sense when I watched a documentary that actually showed him deconstruct a picture of a cathedral. He could actually DRAW a cathedral! Then it showed him drawing it again, revealing the basic lines that appeared from it, then simplified those lines again, and again, until you were left with the finished product.

Gee, I thought, if only I had seen THAT at the gallery instead of a bunch boxes that I could have drawn myself. Then I might appreciate it! Instead, I’m left with boxes on a canvas. If it has to be explained why it’s genius… maybe it’s not genius after all.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have it. Just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean SOMEONE doesn’t get enjoyment out of it. I may not have liked Robert Mapplethorpe’s “The Perfect Moment,” but I rather enjoyed his flower picture collection (which also looked suspiciously like phalluses). In that case, the controversy back then (1989) was whether public money should be used to create offensive art. My answer – no, it shouldn’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t make it or display it.

In 1937, the Nazis ran two different art exhibitions – the Great German Art Exhibition and the Degenerate Art Exhibition. Modern art was put in the latter; stuff that did not glorify the state or German ideals. They deliberately showed the modern art in the worst way (hanging it off kilter, putting graffiti on top of it) to emphasize its awfulness.

I accept that not all art is for me, just like all books are not for me. Some fantasy fans can’t get past Tolkien’s 50-page birthday party in The Fellowship of the Ring. I certainly didn’t past the 100-page birthday party in War and Peace, although that might have had more to do with keeping track of a hundred Russian patronymics. But if there’s someone who wants it, then someone can have it… it just won’t be me.

Is there art that you just don’t get? Is there a book that you’re told is genius but can’t get past Page 10? (For me, Fury by Salman Rushdie.) Let me know in the comments below!

Heartbeat Away from Having a Heartbeat

23 Nov

Is there a more useless elected office than Lieutenant Governor? If you live in a federal system country, it’s likely you have one, but I’d bet money you don’t even know their name. Their entire role is to fill in if the big guy goes down. So why bother?

The reason we have a lieutenant governor in the United States is because there’s a vice president. And Article 4, Section 4 of the US Constitution says:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

This has usually been interpreted by Congress as “when you write your state constitution, copy ours.” This is also why we have a Senate and a House of Representatives in (almost) every state in the Union, even though after three Supreme Court cases in the 60’s, both houses are elected by population, not county. (It was part of the civil rights movement–preventing newly enfranchised blacks from gaining power. Rural whites could always dominate local senate elections and keep urban blacks in the minority.)

For example, here in Arizona, we’re one of five states in the Union that doesn’t have a lieutenant governor. If the governor leaves office, it goes to the Secretary of State, who is voted in separately. This can be a problem because the SoS can be from a separate party, and in recent history, in the last four unexpected governor changes, the twice it went to a member of the other party.

So Arizona legislators tried to put a constitution change on the ballot to allow for a lieutenant governor. Twice. And since I voted in the last election, I can tell you, it wasn’t there. Enough people realized how pointless the idea was that it didn’t even make the ballot.

So as a minarchist (least government works best), that makes me very happy to live here. The only state I’m prouder of is Nebraska, which got rid of its two house legislature, went with a unicameral, and divides up their electoral votes based on House districts, which honestly makes it more representative.

However, the lieutenant governor’s role has usually been a) reward a party hack who’s been working to get noticed and b) do whatever scut work the governor doesn’t want. And frankly, we don’t need it.

I could be wrong. Do you like the idea of a lieutenant governor? Do you wish we could get rid of more government positions? Do we need a traffic czar? Let me know in the comments below!

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