Thoughts from Across the Cultural Divide: #15 (Availability Bias)

September 11, 2012 · Print This Article

Spider-Man at the Rivoli theater Cedarburg, Wisconsin

 

Venerable New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael is often misquoted as having said she couldn’t believe Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election because she didn’t personally know anyone who voted for him. This sentiment has long been deployed by conservatives as a symbol of Northeastern liberal out-of-touchness.

It’s September and school is back in session, which means I’m a frequent flier and again wearing slip-on shoes to get through security easier. I was thinking about Ms. Kael’s statement, and of availability bias when one of the TSA agents in Milwaukee blurted  “you’re not going to vote for Obama now are you?” He laughed after he said it, but only to indemnify himself. It struck be as strange that he would pick me, coming from New York, to needle. He must have noticed the box clipping I tote around of a Chia Obama I found under the seat of a rental van 4 years ago, though I have it as a good luck charm, not a political symbol. As far availability bias, not only can I not name a colleague in Brooklyn who voted for John McCain in 2008, I’m not sure I know anyone there who knew anyone else who didn’t consider the McCain-Palin ticket as anything more than fodder for Lorne Michaels. Yet, over 50 million Americans disagreed. And it appears one of them may work in security at General Mitchell airport in Milwaukee.

 

Really?

Last Tuesday in my Cedarburg, WI studio the furnace maintenance guy barreled in as I was prepping panels. Though it was 79 degrees my father-in-law had called in a pre-emptive strike against what he thinks will be the “most severe winter on record.” Funny, because everyone in New York seems to think this year’s winter will be even warmer than last – which was one of the warmest on record – due to the effects of global warming. For the record, I believe in global warming; however, I also believe that many now tend to forecast weather with politics instead of meteorology, hoping it’s warm in January if only to rub salt in the eyes of those who they see as apologists for unregulated industrialization. And, of course, vice-versa – I tend to believe my father-in-law is personally willing on a cold winter so he can show all the hippies in Massachusetts that the sky isn’t falling.

Anyway, he sent the furnace guy to my studio to make sure everything was ready for the coming ice age. And without provocation and for means of introduction while we shared semi-intimate space together, he blurted, “Did you watch that convention last night, (referring to the DNC) Crazy stuff, huh? If we don’t get Obama outta there soon, some shit’s going to hit the fan.”

I’ll never reveal where I personally stand on politics, but you can be sure that if am ever invited to a dinner with your family I won’t kick off the exchange by asserting my opinions about religion, politics or sex.

The only possible explanations for furnace dude’s remarks are: 1. That he’s incredibly tactless, or 2. He’s so insulated from anyone who would find what he said unreasonable that he considered his remarks as safe as any platitude about the weather, or 3. My father-in-law coached him to try to figure out my politics. If you’re reading this, dad-in-law, you’re out of luck, because I’m a vault.

I agreed that the world was descending into the abyss and kept sanding.

This past Friday I returned to New York for the weekend and went to see a documentary about the artist Wayne White called “Beauty is Embarrassing.” It was an engrossing and surprisingly uplifting 90 minutes of chilly theater time, and the second time in three weeks I had gone to see a show at IFC. The other was for Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me.” At the end of both shows I embarrassed myself by trying to exit just as the Q and A sessions with the film’s subjects were commencing.

Especially in the case of “Sleepwalk With Me,” I felt a mild unease with the nature of the post-film discussion. Ira Glass and Mike Birbiglia fielded questions graciously and humorously, but were conspicuously on message – they were there to spread gospels to their disciples and encourage dissemination to those in the deprived hinterlands. They actually encouraged us to use the social networks at our disposal to disseminate our praises to those outside of New York.

Beauty is Embarrassing

This smacked of desperation to me. “C’mon, you’re Ira Glass and Mike Birbiglia, do you really have to pander like buskers with hats out? It’s not becoming of superstars to beg like hobos.”

I just got back into Cedarburg today and am prepping for class tomorrow. As we do every Sunday, my father-in-law picks me up from the airport and drives me through the main drag of Cedarburg to see what’s new. Nothing ever is, really, that’s the charm of the city. It’s actually kind of ironic that he’s so bent on seeing what’s new, when in fact he’s actually trying to reinforce how not new everything is.

Well, actually one thing is new every week: the movie showing at the one-screen, second-run theater in town, the Rivoli. It’s usually something that plays well with families. Maybe an “Alvin and the Chipmunk, the Squeakquel,” or a Pixar movie. This week it’s “The Amazing Spider Man.” I hadn’t even recalled another Spider Man being made – it must have gotten lost in my mind with all the Tobey Maguire sequences and the whole “Afraid of the Dark” fiasco.

We circled the town one more time, detouring by the fire station to see a new truck that he’s showed me each of my last four visits, before we arrived safely at the homestead. At home I spread out in the living room floor like a fat Labrador to prepare for class. But only before procrastinating with some Art Fag City gossip and looking up box office receipts for some recent motion pictures.

The Amazing Spider-Man                                             Sony                $260,005,361

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel             Fox                  $219,614,612

Sleepwalk with Me                                                          IFC                           $535,948

 

The Squeakquel

 

I thought, Two hundred million dollars? How did it make that much money. I can’t name a single person who paid to see Alvin and the Chipmunks!!!”

You know, it’s hard to teach about Postminimalism with the box office totals for a Chipmunks movie weighing on your mind.

As I placed Eva Hesse images into a Powerpoint, Alvin went on heckling me in a high-pitched voice.

“We’re winning. We’re winning big, Mr. Shane. Bigger than Nixon in 68. Bigger than Nixon in 72.”




Ghosts of Presidents Past

March 3, 2010 · Print This Article

This has nothing to do with Art in even the most remote way but I would be amiss to not post this since it is some of the best comedy for a while and doesn’t appear on TV, Cable or Cinema. No, it’s specifically made and shown on Funny or Die. I could say much more but it would only ruin the best casted skit almost ever.

This is quite possibly the first time you have every SNL Presidential Doppelgänger on screen at the same time ever (just missing Rich Little) and showcases Will Ferrell, Chevy Chase, Jim Carrey, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond, Dan Aykroyd, Maya Rudolph, Dana Carvey & Directed by Ron Howard to promote the Consumer Financial Protection Agency that is under debate/creation right now. Here is a behind the scenes video of the shoot.




LA Times looks into Obama Joker Face Image Origin or Lack There Of

August 6, 2009 · Print This Article

Obama Joker Face of Unknown Origin

Obama Joker Face of Unknown Origin

The LA Times Art Section takes an interesting look at the origin and context of the Obama Joker face that is growing around the net.




The Obamas are looking for art; Artinfo has some suggestions

June 22, 2009 · Print This Article

Jasper Johns, "Three Flags" (1958), courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

Jasper Johns, "Three Flags" (1958), courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art

Which artists should the Obamas add to the White House walls? Artinfo.com asked 21 artists, curators, dealers and bloggers–including Agnes Gund, Shepard Fairey, Andres Serrano (who suggests his own work, natch), Emilio Steinberger (of Haunch of Venison gallery) Edward Winkleman and Paddy Johnson to make suggestions.  Their proposals, and the reasoning behind them, are fascinating to consider.

(Via Culture Monster).




Wednesday Clips 5/27/09

May 27, 2009 · Print This Article

A webchat with Andy, Oliver Laric (http://oliverlaric.com/webchat.htm)

A webchat with Andy Warhol, Oliver Laric (http://oliverlaric.com/webchat.htm)

Here’s what’s got my attention, web-wise, so far this week:

*San Diego Museum of Art director Derrick R. Cartwright appointed director of the Seattle Art Museum.

*Art Institute of Chicago director James Cuno hopes to initiate massive fundraising drive for free Museum admission.

*No Boys Allowed: yearlong exhibition at the Pompidou Center is for women-only.

*Barack Obama: The Freshman.

*Now on Vimeo: watch the NYFA Panel Discussion on ‘How the Recession Has Impacted the Art World’ (featuring Edward Winkleman, Sean Elwood, Stephanie Howe, Kay Takeda; via Edward_Winkleman).

*Scope Basil is only three weeks ago away, and still ‘aint got no permit.

*”I spent a year asking why the contemporary art bubble was the biggest, bubbliest bubble of them all”:  Ben Lewis’ The Great Contemporary Art Bubble preview clip on YouTube ( ART21′s Ben Street has a funny post on the film too).

*Boing Boing writer Joel Johnson chides Wired Online for being clueless about the importance of online media–a great post, but look to the comments for the real dirt. (via ArtFagCity’s Twitter).

*Speaking of Twitter, it could be coming to a t.v. near you.

*Grrr. Argh: Monster Kid Home Movies (via Boing Boing).

*Pierogi’s famed flat files now searchable online. (via Art Fag City).

*A live conversation with a dead Andy Warhol, via psychic via webchat (via Rhizome.org).

*Beautiful/Decay needs YOU to help pick the theme for its next limited-edition publication. Winner gets a copy of the book. For free!

*Applications for the 2009 William H. Johnson Prize are now available. Due date is July 31st. (Via Artipedia).