Saturday, October 7, 2017

Art: for the people...ALL of the people.

An interesting, and somewhat saddening, recent work conversation: 

Temping for a little while at a warehouse/shipping branch of a reasonably large company in the area, I found myself engaging in some of my usual favorite opportunities to stand on my soapbox. Most people there, both employees and temps,were REALLY nice and easy to get along with...and I found that refreshing...and they were pretty open too. Working class people tend to have less barriers and hangups overall, I've found over the years. 

One guy does fractal art and has some of his work on display at a local gallery. Three of us were discussing it. The third person is a really pleasant older woman from a poor background. The artist encouraged her to check out his work, and the work of almost 40 other artists, at this gallery. 

"Art galleries" she responded, "aren't those just for rich people? Whenever I see art galleries on TV, it always looks like all the people in them are rich." 

"Actually, far from it", I said. "In fact, most art galleries charge nothing for entry...it's one of the few free things you can do anymore." 

"Oh", she said, brightening up considerably, "I'll go down there one of these days then." 

The whole exchange was something I mulled over for a while. It did not surprise me that that was her impression: frankly, I've NEVER seen a scene taking place in an art gallery where people were not dressed to the nines. But there is a further issue, and that is that so many people on the lower economic echelons of this culture have the notion that art is only for an elite few and that there is some sort of boundary between themselves and it. I find this unsurprising, as so many people in the arts world (but not necessarily the artists themselves) present a veneer of classicism and elitism (and then they wonder why the general public doesn't go to bat for them when budgets get slashed by troglodytes like our current Thug-in-Chief). 

(It also brought to mind some of the MOSTLY unconscious snobbery of some of the Trustafarians living in a certain town not too far from me who seem to regard themselves as "It", and everyone who is not one of them as "The Help"...and then wonder why they are so despised by the non-entitled in this area.) 

Food for thought. Art should be for The People. ALL of the people...even the people who park your cars and clean your houses (if you are one who can afford such luxuries): in that way we are ALL enriched and the arts thrive...as well as the minds that perceive said art.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

My Own Personal "Mandela Effect".

A meme that seems to have taken the paranormal world by storm over the past few years is an intriguing phenomenon called “The Mandela Effect”. It is so named for Nelson Mandela and the fact that a substantially large amount of the population seems to remember this beloved elder statesman dying as much as two decades before he actually did. The subject matter of this phenomenon is too broad and extensive for me to do more than give it a cursory description here, so I strongly suggest you do a search for it...and keep your mind open as you do. A fair amount of search results will be of the standard issue debunking type, but a few will take you down some interesting paths. These mass “mis-rememberings” range from things as trivial as the spellings of cereal brands and the titles of children's books to the location of the heart inside the human body (which many of you probably remember being slightly under the left lung...as I do...well it no longer is...and it “never” was...it's in the center of our bodies now...where it always wasn't).

The implications of this phenomenon are something I've played with since I was a young child, as I was beset by what I came to call “reality shifts” from a really early age...and my observations of them and the tentative conclusions reached paralleled nicely with the increasing notion that physical reality itself may not be the firm and fixed thing that our culture assumes it is, but a far more fluid substance...if it actually “exists” in the way we think of as “existing” at all. It may just be a construct or a projection. (That's how I see it myself: a large learning tool...a playground/schoolroom/thrill ride for consciousness.)

When I was in 1st grade I had an initial taste of the Mandela Effect well before I was equipped to emotionally deal with it.

I was a daydreamer...especially when in an environment that did not challenge my intellect, which would be an excellent description of the public school system then and now. Like a lot of scruffy little manlings, I had two or three outfits that I wore constantly, and that was about it. One of these outfits incorporated an olive-colored sweater vest that buttoned in the front with a series of brown mottled buttons, each of which had their own distinct pattern and four holes for thread.

Being bored beyond belief by the curriculum, I had pretty much memorized the patterns in these buttons as I would play with them constantly, taking my thumbnail and trying to ram a corner of it into each of the holes in the button peering up at me from it's position over my belly. I would say that I knew these buttons like the back of my hands, but I knew them much more: the back of my hands were not all that interesting to me at that juncture...but the buttons were my late 60's fidget spinner.

One day while readying myself for a REALLY intense burst of random daydreaming, I looked down and the four-holed buttons now only had two holes. I was extremely startled by this. I looked at each button and verified that the patterns in the mottling of the buttons were the same. I realized that there was NO chance that my mother would have been able to find buttons with the EXACT same random color pattern and sew them on this vest while I wasn't looking, so I did what a lot of young children do when confronted with something totally contrary to everything they understand:

I completely freaked out.

My freak out was so extreme that the principal (an avuncular grandfatherish figure named Mr. Albert) decided to drive me home. Wanting to figure out what I was ranting about, the principal informed me that his car was only capable of making left turns, which allowed him to take a long and circuitous route while asking a barrage of questions.

I'm not sure what he was able to conclude (if anything)...memory fades of these years...but my conclusion was that the reality that I thought was a fixed and solid thing, wasn't. Thus, at a VERY young age I started questioning the fundamental basis of physical reality itself. Once I got a few more years and words under me, I called this a “reality shift”. It was the first of several, but probably the most impacting...it changed the course of my life. Later as I discovered science fiction, Eastern Philosophy, hallucinogens and quantum physics, these incidents made more sense within my expanding worldview. Now when things happen of this nature I don't even bat an eye, as I don't think much of this stuff around us it “real” in the way most people seem to define it.

By my teens I was fairly blasé about my “reality shifts”. For about six years I worked at a hotel in various capacities. The hotel was right next to the apartment complex where my small family lived. For a while I worked an early morning shift and would walk the same path through the same courtyard every morning. At one point after a summer weekend I saw that some reveler had smashed a bottle of blackberry brandy into the ground. It was the same coffee syrup-like swill that I would drink to clear my throat before a gig with my then band, Soft War, so I knew it well. The bottle had a dark purplish label...for about two weeks, at which point it decided that it would be much happier as a broken GINGER brandy bottle.

When I first noticed this, I inspected the area to see if there were any more bottles of this Elixir of the Gods laying about. Nope. This was the lone one...and the pattern of breakage was exactly the same. It would have been practically impossible to fake such a thing without making molds and spending a fair bit of money in a very narrow time window, just to startle some young poor teen whose destiny was to fade into middle-aged obscurity in a glorified tent in a tedious cultural backwater, having accomplished very little of public importance. The bottle remained lodged in the lawn until things warmed up and some groundskeeper decided that it posed a threat to his lawnmower. For my part, I pondered it with wry amusement, always asking myself if it had not always been a ginger brandy bottle and I was just simply mistaken. The brain does things like that.

It's hard to say either way. I always had mixed feelings about the topic until the Mandela Effect started poking it's head into the mainstream culture. Now I have a lot more validation for these experiences, which is comforting in a small way...my brain may be in better shape than I thought it was...but in a MUCH larger way it's pretty disconcerting...as all of physical reality may not be.

Food for thought, basically. If it's just John Ludi misremembering various trivial things, it's one thing...but if MILLIONS of people misremember the VERY SAME THINGS in THE VERY SAME WAYS, it points to something a LOT larger.

Which, of course, points to the question at the heart of almost everything: Why?

And I definitely have no room on here for THAT. Or a clue.