Liberals Envy Trump Voters

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Liberals who hate Trump are the overachievers.  They have gone to college (and send their children) at great personal expense.  There they studied something boring, useless, and irrelevant, or else something boring and scandalously practical.

Because of their industrious genes and this higher learning, liberals worry.  They worry about what they say, they worry about what other people say, they try to control what other people say, they worry about words and word choices, they argue, they worry about dogs in shelters and meat on the table, they worry about the climate, they worry about the economy, they worry about people at the border, they worry about people who might be at the border, they worry about politics, they worry about their cholesterol levels and sleep apnea and the legalization of marijuana, they worry about what smoking legal marijuana will do to their their sleep apnea, they worry about newts going extinct, they worry about hogweed by the side of the road, they worry about someone breaking into their second (or third) home, they worry about the guns they own or refuse to own, they worry about others with guns, they worry about the entire subject of guns, they worry about ozone and coral reefs and ticks and airborne toxic events.

Liberals worry about not reading enough no matter how much they read, they worry about nuclear war with North Korea, they worry about peace with North Korea, they worry about things like Honor Rolls and National Honor Society and Student Council and  things that look good on transcripts or, later, resumes.  They worry about corner offices, raises, things that trigger other things, migraines, hypertension, dementia, overpopulation and, simultaneously, not enough immigrants.

Liberals are diligent.  They work hard.  They not only work hard, they overwork.  They often – usually? – die, at least indirectly, from overwork, or else from escapes from overwork such as alcohol.  To them this is virtue.  They will split their guts to ensure justice – whatever that is – and diversity – whatever that is – as if there is a Cosmic Scorekeeper, even though some liberals are ostentatiously atheistic.

Liberals, in other words, are haunted from birth to death by a need to achieve, or, more precisely, a need to perfect the world.

This is why they envy and hate Trump voters.

Trump voters are less perfect.  They like perfect stuff if they can easily get their hands on it, but they won’t destroy their lives in active pursuit of it.  Many Trump voters are unaware of what an Honor Roll is, and if they’ve heard of Phi Beta Kappa, they assume that’s a place babes hang out.

They more often have not subjected themselves to college life, but instead have driven trucks, shot quail, tracked deer, worried only about today’s weather, and grown their own beef in the field out back.

They only worry about work in terms of not losing their jobs.  Otherwise they do the bare minimum to keep from getting fired or replaced by an immigrant.  They only worry about their health to the extent of asking, “Have I lost a leg today?” and if the answer is, “No, I haven’t lost a leg today, as best I can tell,” then their cholesterol can go to hell.

Liberals have sacrificed their lives to abstract things that they are totally incapable of making a dent in.  They have tossed their lives aside in an attempt to “make a difference”.  They get after others like flies taking to rotting meat, in an attempt to “educate” others into also sacrificing their lives.

When the others fail to be grateful for the alleged “education”, liberals get enraged.  Liberals are always enraged.  They are enraged that others have not given up their peace of mind the way they have.  They envy those of more relaxed mien and lower political standards.

What they really envy is the certainty of mind that many Trump voters seem to have.  Liberals question everything, even their questions.  They have been trained to believe that to question is good, and to have certainty of mind or peace of mind is bad, a sign of stupidity or of authoritarianism.

It’s not a sign of stupidity.  It’s a sign that there are people out there who realize that a driven life is a wasted life.

I think this explains 9/11 as well:  radical Islamists targeted the World Trade Center because it had the greatest concentration of driven Westerners in corner offices.  The terrorists don’t want their societies to be regimented in a New York City way, by achievement-oriented capitalists schooled in business, marketing, public relations, and whatnot.

Same with Trump voters.

There is nothing more unnerving than being envied.  Trump voters feel the Evil Eye of envy against their very being every time they go online or turn on the TV.  They know that liberals are envious of them, but that few liberals would ever see it, feel it, or admit to it.

There is an inversion.  Suddenly liberals are the reactionary Gray Flannel Suit people, bound to their speech codes and their dogma and catechisms and rules aplenty.  And the conservatives, or at least the populists, are the anything-goes hippies, unattached to passing worldly goods.

The Slow Life Movement is here now, and it voted for Trump.  This is the dirty secret of American electoral politics.  It is pro-leisure.  It fishes.

I envy a gentleman in Egypt – or Italy, or Greece – who spends an entire morning sipping coffee and shooting the breeze in a cafe before luxuriously pulling into the office.

So do many of you.  It’s a life you’ve never allowed yourself, isn’t it?

You hate yourself for that.  Which is why you envy and hate others.

It’s a wonderful life the system has made for you, isn’t it?

 

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The Broken Internet

We all know the internet is screwing with the human mind and spirit.  But even the experts don’t know how to fix it.

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With “Frozen in Time” African violet between . . .

Lanier and Williams:  the experts.  One, like, invented reality and the other invented virtuality.  Or whatever.  Google them, if you give a shit.  The big problem with how the internet and social media are messing with us now is that the people responsible for implementing it are not . . . normal.

Even as scientists or engineers go, what these guys do is ineffable.  And even as I/we can not grasp the essence of what they do, they build the framework – the culture – in which we are all forced to live.  These are truly end times.

Lanier has semi-left Silicon Valley, although he still seems to work for Microsoft in some capacity.  Williams has left and become a philosopher.

Lanier suggests that we quit social media – and Google, as best we can – because that’s the only language – $$ lost eyeballs $$ – that Facebook and Google understand.  They’ll then be forced into a better way of making monstrous profits than monetizing our attention and our clicks ‘n’ likes.

Williams suggests that, among other things, we might want to consider a PBS/NPR version of the internet, a (government?) subsidized branch of the internet in which there would be non-profit search engines and social networks.  Maybe it would work.  Maybe it would suck.  Maybe it should be like C-SPAN?

None of his other notions, other than that we might need a total reboot of the internet (!) or of Facebook (Like!) in order to get them off the economic models that make us addled addicts, stuck with me.

Neither of these guys thrill me.  These books both strike me as too little, too early.

We still don’t know wtf the internet does to us.  We still don’t know wtf it does to young, developing minds.  Perhaps it makes certain that they don’t develop at all.  Or, more likely, that they develop the way Facebook wants them to develop.

I would kill for a Lewis Mumford or a Christopher Lasch right now.

If you’re technically-minded and socially-concerned, read these books.  Maybe.

If you’re really socially-concerned, read other books, blog, and grow African violets.

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One Way To Understand Abstract Art

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LAST MINUTE by Gregg Fedchak

Above is my recent abstract painting, LAST MINUTE.

I began it the way I begin most of my paintings, by facing a fresh canvas and applying paint and materials until a way forward becomes clear.  I keep working until it feels finished, until it looks pleasing, or until I am stymied.

Sometimes, I park the painting upstairs next to the TV and keep on eye on it while relaxing, to see if it’s done, to see if it grows on me, to see if it needs more work (and to see what that work might be), or to see if I reject it and paint over it.

It’s only when a work is finished that I try to figure out “what it is.”  More often than not, I can.

I realized, well after the painting was done, that it was my abstract interpretation of an unknown graphic artist’s DVD cover of the movie “Slaughterhouse Five,” as shown below:

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I saw the movie in 1970 or thereabouts.  I went to the American Theater in Canton, NY, with my friends Mark Simpson and Steve Merrill.  Mark’s father took us, because it was an R rated movie and you needed adult accompaniment.

That alone – the nude Valerie Perrine, my first naked movie star – made the movie stick in  my mind.

But the entire movie stuck.  I knew nothing about what happened in Dresden.  I knew very little about World War II.  I was in 8th grade and about 13 years old.  I bought the Betamax version, the VHS version, then the DVD version.

The cover art on the DVD version combined with my viewings of the movie over the years.  My unconscious mind delivered LAST MINUTE when my first doodlings produced images or colors – that “way forward” – that made me move toward an unconscious image in my mind that had excited me many times over.

You might ask, “Why should I be interested in an artist’s stray unconscious images reproduced in abstract form?”  Especially images so personal and possibly so obscure.

Hopefully, the abstract art urpped up by the artist will connect and resonate with the viewer.  The viewer will feel something of what the artist felt.

In my case, hopefully you’ll feel a bit of what I felt of the horrors of Dresden, of the firestorm, of imminent death, of the culpability of the Allies, of Valerie Perrine’s incredibly distinctive breasts as played out in the mind of a forever-13 year old.  Even if you don’t explicitly know the subject of the painting.

You may come up with your own imaginings, your own ideas of what the painting is about.  You should.  They may be completely at odds with what the artist thinks is going on.  Good.  The key is that the life in the painting excites your life, your mind, your imagination.  There is no right or wrong.

The graphic artist did his or her job.  He or she made me buy the recordings.  Their image mated so well with the movie that it’s now a part of me, deeper than I can know – at least until I paint.

And hopefully, just hopefully, a little of Kurt Vonnegut lives on in LAST MINUTE, too.

 

You Will Die When . . .

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. . . your “self-driving” car stops driving during an emergency situation.

My car has rear sensors and a rear camera.  They have not worked since late October, when road salt and sand coated them.

Don’t give me the, “You’re supposed to keep them clean!” line.  Like most average Americans, I don’t and never will keep anything clean, whether it’s the sensors on my car, the gaps between my teeth, or that mysterious tank behind toilets.  I will buy ten assault rifles from a guy in the Price Chopper parking lot before I will bend over once, between now and death, to clean a sensor.

Besides, what does a “sensor” look like?  There are more knobs and protuberances on the front, back, and sides – not to mention that odd little shark fin on the roof, what’s that all about? – of a modern car than there are on a cocklefish’s belly.  I have no idea what to clean.  You have no idea what to clean.

And even if you or I did know what to clean, and how to clean it, why do we need one more thing to do?  I need to remember when to take my meds, 650 cell phone numbers, an ever-growing number of medical and dental appointments, how and when to set 25 clocks twice a year, I have to remember to change my smoke alarm batteries before they go off AT 3 AM AND GIVE ME A STROKE as they kill me in their attempt to save my life, I have to remember when the cats need booster shots, I have to remember several hundred passwords and Social Security numbers and addresses and how to do things I only do once in a blue moon like gap a spark plug, change the oil in a small engine, get my driver’s license renewed, start the rototiller, where the owner’s manuals are, how to get the oven to turn on or turn off, how to get a greasy (or oily or chalky or biological) stain off (name a piece of furniture here), and so on.

But forget about me.

What about the beautiful young 20 year old driver of a car?  Pretend she’s your daughter.  She has a car  – a self-driving car – and it has done all her driving for her.

Oh, they told her that she might have to “take over the wheel” on “rare occasions”.  But in two years of ownership, she has had no driving experience whatsoever.  She has been a rider in her own car, a 2031 Nash Rambler, say.

And then she drives north from Princeton, NJ, to watch her friends play in a hockey game at St. Lawrence or Clarkson in the far North Country of New York State, where we still do not have bandwidth and barely have television and the radio signals from Canada float in and out.

And it’s on Interstate 81 near Pulaski or Adams Center or some other legendary lake effect snow sump hole, during a whiteout, that the Rambler’s sensors fail, and the car says to the woman, “Here, you take over now.”

So there you have it.  Her first “real”, as in in-real-life driving experience.  During a lake effect whiteout on an Interstate highway.

Oh, I know, those of you who are well-informed will miss the point of this essay.  You’ll patiently, in your best “I’m missing the point like I have my whole life” way say that Aspies in San Francisco will have taken this emergency into consideration, that the car has both camera-based and radar-based sensors, that the car talks constantly to road signs, satellites, GPS, sensors embedded in the highways, and so on.

Horseshit.  Are we going to coat the skies with satellites?  I barely have internet service in 2018!  Are we going to tear up every highway in the country when we can’t even figure out how to fill potholes or plow them, let alone AFFORD to plow or fix them?  And are we going to pay to do this at the same time we plan to convert every gas station into an electric charging/hydrogen explosion center?

And even then, what do we do when the Russians or the Mexicans or a 13 year old kid hacks the street in front of his house, just to watch a crack-up?

And how will the beautiful young woman get any driving training when schools can’t afford to teach it, even now when 100% of us have to drive our own cars?  Do we expect the Home Ec teacher (is there still Home Ec?) to teach dough rolling, highway skills, and Basic Marksmanship all at the same time?

My point is simple:  forget self-driving cars.  The mainstream media is nuts.  We’re nuts for paying attention to the mainstream media.  They lie.  They hype.  It’s news by press release.

There will be no self-driving cars.  We do not want self-driving cars.  Nobody does.  Even more importantly, I don’t want them, and that’s what’s key to your proper understanding of this complex and misbegotten topic, one which has been foisted upon us by a malignant and wayward lamestream press that should put sensors on their asses and then keep them clean if they can locate them.

The Strange Case of Charles Sheeler

Was photographer and painter Charles Sheeler a fan of the machine age, or did he hate it?

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GOLDEN GATE Charles Sheeler  1955, Metropolitan Museum of Art

At first glance, Sheeler’s work looks like a celebration of all things modern and shiny.  How can that not be the case when you look at something like STEEL CROTON from 1953:

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STEEL CROTON Charles Sheeler 1953, source unknown

Which, btw, was probably a distant influence on my own even more abstract work, STRUCTURE from 2013:

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STRUCTURE Gregory Fedchak 2013  http://www.greggfedchak.com

Wanda Corn pretty much makes the case for the straightforwardness of Sheeler’s art in her book THE GREAT AMERICAN THING:  Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935.  To be honest, I think Corn is correct.  On a gut level, I think Sheeler is in love with all things modern and mechanical.

But . . . then things get darker.  In his VIEW OF NEW YORK from 1931, we are looking out from a very mechanical place, a typesetting shop, and through an open window seeing clouds, clouds of freedom from . . . the mechanical, the technological, the 9 to 5.

1931 Charles Sheeler (American artist, 1883-1965) View of New York, 1931

Karen Lucic talks about Sheeler’s ambiguous feelings about modernity and the changing scene of early and mid-20th century America in her book CHARLES SHEELER AND THE CULT OF THE MACHINE.  Like most people, he felt a tug toward the traditional, and often painted or photographed early American objects and architecture.  Also like most people, he was comfortable with his powerful new cars and the financial rewards of 20th century life.  He could go either way.

Mark Rawlinson, in his CHARLES SHEELER:  Modernism, Precisionism and the Borders of Abstraction, goes all the way to the extreme and makes the argument that Sheeler may  have been a covert critic of the machine age that he lived in.

Little things in his work are “wrong” in that objects/subjects are inaccurately portrayed in terms of lines, shadows, and perspective.  Everything is odd or edgy, “not right” as in a “Twilight Zone” episode.  But it’s subtle.

Look at STEEL CROTON and GOLDEN GATE.  wtf?  It’s so precise, so realistic, and yet . . . so wrong.  Which is, of course, why Rawlinson titles his book ” . . . and the Borders of Abstraction”.

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I know how I feel about technology in my painting, STRUCTURE.  Tech is broken, shadowy, incomplete, weak, sketchy, dangerous, hidden, evil, ironic.

As I write this, my wi-fi has gone out several times, thwarting the saving of my work.  I don’t know why.  Neither does AT&T or Apple.  I live with it.  My work could die at any moment, for no good reason except that I am working with high tech.

I no longer feel wonder toward tech.  I feel a deep sense of alienation.

We aren’t sure exactly how Sheeler felt.  I’m sure he felt good/bad/ambiguous, but, back in that more optimistic time of the 1939 World’s Fair, it’s the good that (mostly) shines through.

A Burned-Out Society

Want to read some modern philosophy?  Of course you don’t.

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But if you feel compelled to, try some Byung-Chul Han.  If you want to read someone who is arguably the “hottest” thing in philosophy today AND writes simply (for a philosopher) AND writes really, really short bite-sized books, he’s the only game in town.

The downside is that Byung-Chul Han is a Korean-born philosopher who writes philosophy in his second language, German, which is then translated into English.  To me, this makes his pithy style rather robotic, disembodied and humorless.  Trust me, this is a good thing; it makes him far more readable than philosophers who are pressing to impress.

To do the impossible, I’m going to try to summarize his books in the most concise possible way.  This does not do them justice.  But it sure makes my life – and yours – easier.

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THE BURNOUT SOCIETY is about how “achievement society creates depressives and losers”.  “In this society of compulsion, everyone carries a work camp inside”.  Contemplation fades; multitasking is the norm.  We are reduced to bare survival amidst riches too vast to chose among.

THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY says that in our voluntary vomiting-forth of private data, information, and photos on social media we have lost all hope of finding the trail through the useless muck.  We leave our personal breadcrumbs scattered behind us, but they have gotten intermingled with the crumbs of other digital wanderers.  What is important?  What is the point?  The forest has been trampled beyond recognition.

THE AGONY OF EROS is Byung-Chul Han’s call to arms against the impersonal forces of what he calls “pornography” – far more than what we usually think the word means – and how “higher expectations . . . are responsible for the mounting disappointment experienced in contemporary society”.

We expect our lovers to be brain-dead perform-all-night porn stars at the same time we expect them to be world-class fantasists capable of touching our deepest nerves.  Can’t be done.  Can’t have both.  But porn isn’t just sex.

Porn is sport utility vehicles, information, strip highways, the internet, fast food, and if our burger is too dry, we are . . . depressed.  The objects and experiences are sold as erotic, sensual goods.  We soon discover that they are cold, dead steel, meat, and data.  And we have forgotten how to inject our love into them to make them come back to the life they had when we were younger.

Byung-Chul Han’s PSYCHO-POLITICS:  Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power

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attempts to convince us that we are self-Panopticons, achievement machines that patrol ourselves looking for any misdeeds – eating or drinking too much, failing to run five miles a day, not reading enough, not progressing in a career.  Henry Fords used to stand over us, as Foucault pointed out.  Ford’s thugs physically beat us if we showed up to work late.  Now we beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our personal goals or if we don’t achieve.  And not just in work, but in love and leisure.  Leisure and love ARE work now.

This is the Protestant work ethic on steroids.

We can’t just open one restaurant, we have to open a second, then a third, and so on.  We can’t just get a high school degree and flip burgers, we have to get a college degree and flip burgers, or a doctorate and tell people how to flip burgers.  If we get up at 5 am to meditate, we have to move on to the greater achievement of getting up at 4 am and running before we meditate.

And if we fail at constant acceleration, at constant achievement of new goals, we get anxious and depressed.

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Philosophers are never good at giving helpful hints.  None of Byung-Chul Han’s books end with a list of Top Ten Things To Do To Be Happy.

But his books are bestsellers – honest to God – in Germany, and are being internationally translated, because he helps us to see that it is not us.

It is not our fault.  It is society’s fault.

And the old truism that “we help to create the society that we live in” is no longer true.  Technology has gotten away from us.

According to Byung-Chul Han, being an “idiot” is the best we can do, and the most powerful we can be.  Idiots are outsiders, the politically unallied, the heretical, figures who resist by virtue of being surprisingly uninformed news-bite-wise, and mostly silent.

The idiot is like J. D. Salinger in his last decades:  silent and brimming with life, despite the death camps he witnessed.  An antenna beyond trifling Big Data.

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I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For . . .

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THE SCREAM, Edvard Munch 1892, via Popular Science

. . . THE SCREAM!

This painting was revolutionary.  Munch, a Norwegian, went to Paris and got the spirit of a nascent modernism.  He became the father of Expressionism.

Influenced by Nietzsche, early Freud, and a society sopping wet with the thought of Darwin, THE SCREAM was the result:  the first major artistic expression of the sheer terror we all experience every morning when we wake up.

Why terror?  Why Valium and Xanax and Prozac and wine?

Freud took away certainty of mind and made our live-in devil, the unconscious, our master.  Darwin proved that we are elevated and self-important toads and monkeys, thereby killing God.  Nietzsche did the burial by telling us, the toads, that we were each gods, even though we did not know our own minds.

It didn’t help that Munch’s sister and mother died before his very eyes when he was a young child.  It didn’t help that his father was a religious zealot.  It didn’t help that Munch himself was very often seriously ill both mentally and physically.

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AT THE DEATHBED, Edvard Munch 1895, via San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

It is unfortunate that someone obsessed with anxiety and death lived to a ripe old 80.  He died in 1944.

A similar artist, the Belgian James Ensor, made it to over 90 years of age, and he lived when Munch did.  Ensor was just as obsessed with death as Munch, but there is a sense in his work that he enjoyed the subject rather than dreaded it.  Witness:

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SKELETONS FIGHTING OVER A PICKLED HERRING, James Ensor 1891, via The Royal Academy of Arts

Skeletons, masks, emaciated and diseased figures, pockmarked faces, distorted features – Ensor painted a carnival of the grotesque.  Like “Twin Peaks”, he believed that evil is fully embedded in this life.  The grotesque faces us every day.  Sometimes that can be humorous.

You have to realize how progressive and out-of-place these paintings by Ensor and Munch were.  Not just when they were completed (and I mean completed for the first time, because both Ensor and Munch fiddled with completed works and made many versions of many works), but until well after the men passed into what most intrigued and horrified them.