The customer was the worst of his kind, drunk and questioning his bill. He was part of a large group assembled to celebrate someone's birthday. They called the bar several times in the days leading up to the event, demanding services that the bar does not provide. Collectively they were a nuisance before they ever entered the joint. They were worse in person. They were in the bar for several hours and were drinking steadily the whole time. They sang the Happy Birthday song at least six times and sang Fly Eagles Fly, the Philadelphia Eagles football team fight song. Upon hearing Fly Eagles Fly I remarked to a patron unconnected with the group, "If I was drinking here instead of working I would have left when they started singing that stupid song." He concurred and said, "I just said the same thing to my friends!" Not only were these people a thorn in the staff's side but now they were chasing other customers away. There was almost no amount they would spend that would justify the amount of maintenance they required. One of the members of the birthday troupe was a forty year old, tall, zaftig brunette with hair that extended down to her ample ass. She was proud of the length of her hair but the last two inches of her tresses were a tangle of split ends. She wore a white polka dot dress with no sleeves that called attention to her extremely wide shoulders and her fleshy arms. The dress was a size too small, which called attention to her bulk. She accessorized the ensemble with red patent leather fuck-me pumps. She attempted to look retro but in reality the look was just wrong since it highlighted all of her bad features. The dress had a cut-out at the base of her spine that revealed a tattoo of a pentagram in a circle. I was fascinated by the tattoo, not because it was interesting as a tattoo but because it was at least 3/4" off center. All night this botched symmetry plagued me. She was clearly emotionally unbalanced. Her mug ran through multiple emotions that seemed to have no connection to cause and effect. Her eyes were intense but unfocused. They had the sheen of a person that enjoys mixing her anti-depression medication with booze. Her voice was loud, not just drunk loud but the kind of voice that was loud all the time. Her size, her bulk and her fashion faux pas almost hinted at transvestism but she wasn't put together enough to be a cross-dresser. I must stop here to apologize to transvestites everywhere for even comparing her to your group. At one point I was horrified to see that this plus-size gal had abandoned her shoes and was now barefoot. On average, every weekend night six glasses are broken on the concrete floor. Although the glass is immediately swept up, it is impossible to get every shard in a crowded bar with a clientele disinterested in moving out of your way so that you can do it. With trepidation I approached her to relay my concern. I expected resistance and I got it. "I almost never wear shoes. The calluses on my feet are like leather." Her comment immediately painted a frightening image in my over-active visual imagination. Disinterested in continuing a fruitless conversation with a madwoman, I just shook my head and walked away. At some point she took my advice but not before she ruined my appetite with the lingering image of her callused feet. Another antagonist from the birthday party was a woman who was around 100 pounds overweight. She wore a tight top of synthetic fiber that was the color of a peach. It was an unfortunate choice for a fat woman, emulating the color of a fruit whose shape she so closely resembled. She was crazy as well. I made the mistake of responding to her small talk a couple of times and each time the conversation degenerated into sexual innuendo. Each time I scampered away in fear. She chose to stand in the one opening in the bar, blocking it. It is the only access to the office from the customer side of the bar area. I had to go past her several times, apologizing each time I squeezed by. I did everything in my power not to touch her. I didn't want to talk to her and I most definitely did not want to rub up against her. After the forth time I slid past her sideways I apologized for inconveniencing her again. By the fourth time even a fucking idiot would have gotten the hint to move. Not her, though, she just resumed the sexual barrage. "I told you to stop apologizing," she said. "It's okay, no more apologies. I like you brushing by me." She had her back to me as she addressed me. Then she proceeded to reach backwards toward me, pulling me toward her with her pudgy arms. She pinned me against her massive body. She began to bump and grind her fat ass into my genitals. Although the incident lasted only two or three-seconds it felt like an eternity. I was flabbergasted. She cured me of apologizing but not by persuading me to simulate doggy-style sex. I just quit going to the office until she relocated her corpulent frame. Around closing time the main male customer involved with the accursed birthday party started arguing with the bartender about his tab. He disputed some of the charges. He claimed that there were four beers charged to his account that he hadn't ordered and never received. The disputed amount was $24. At this point in the evening he had been drinking for ten hours straight and his faculties were in question. Plus he was a jerk-off even before he got drunk. He was in his early forties, around six foot five inches tall and fairly fit. He was in a lot better physical condition than his two female playmates. In fact he was chatting up the fat woman while she was grinding her fat ass against me. The more he argued about the bill the louder and more animated he got. He kept thrusting his finger at the bartender to intimidate her. I had seen enough. I had no choice but defend the bartender's integrity. I went over to talk to him and put my meaty hand on his shoulder to get his attention. I have large, heavy hands. Imagine someone placing a pork shoulder on your own shoulder and keeping it there while they talked to you. I made no eye contact. I thought it might be more intimidating to him if I looked crazy. Facing straight ahead I said, "Look, you need to take it down a notch. I won't have you yelling at her like that. Regardless of your bill, you need to address her calmly." "I'm only raising my voice because it is loud in here." "Bullshit, you are being abusive. You either chill the fuck out immediately or get thrown the fuck out." With a look of concern on his face he said, "I am not trying to start a fight." "I'm not talking about a fight. I'm talking about a discussion." He was wearing me out with his bullshit. In the meantime the bartender got the manager. The manager explained that he did not believe that he had been erroneously charged but he would reduce the cost of the disputed drinks in half. Now, by his inebriated estimation, he was only down twelve dollars. That wasn't good enough for the low-grade grifter. He continued whining about the tab to the two crazy women he was with. This seriously pissed me off. I started to move toward the back of the bar to get Jim Black, who is six foot, eight inches tall. Between the two of us we could have tossed him from the curb to the trolley tracks in the middle of the street. But something about asking for help with this douche-bag galled me. I turned around, armed with another plan. I would humiliate him into shutting up. I put my hand in my pocket and fished out six bucks, half the amount of his current loss. I walked up to him, waving the money and said, "Look. This is my money, not the company's. I will pay you half your loss, six dollars to SHUT…THE…FUCK…UP…ABOUT…THE…FUCKING...BILL!" I never expected him to take it. He was standing between the two women, I thought he might try to save face by refusing it but he didn't. To my amazement he pocketed the money. That's what kind of asshole he was. I walked outside to get away from those miscreants and calm down a bit. After a minute or so I came back in. I saw that he was talking to the two women. I screamed, "YOU BETTER BE TALKING ABOUT PUSSY OR BASEBALL OR I WANT MY MONEY BACK!" He assured me that they were off the topic of the bill. They mercifully paid and left. Now the bartender erupted. "GODDAMNIT, HE ONLY LEFT ME SIX DOLLARS ON A SIXTY-TWO DOLLAR TAB!" I asked, in as innocent a voice as I could muster, "It wasn't six one dollar bills by any chance, was it?" She hadn't seen me pay him off. "Yes, how did you know?" "Oh, because I paid him six dollars to stop talking about the bill." Now her anger was vented at me. "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU GAVE HIM MONEY! WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF A MOVE WAS THAT?" I explained calmly, "I wanted him to shut the fuck up." "FUCK YOU," she screamed, "I DON'T EVEN WANT THE MONEY! IT'S DIRTY" and she proceeded to throw the money at me. I tried to persuade her to keep the money but she wasn't buying it. "FUCK YOU! YOU KEEP THE SIX DOLLARS." I snatched up the money, put it back in my pocket and laughed. I got the asshole customer to shut up, wound up the bartender that was getting on my nerves all night and miraculously got my money back in the bargain. Some nights just go your way, against all odds.
THE SWIFT AND THE INDIGNANT It was the end of the evening and the end of an exceptionally long work week. The first few minutes after closing time are usually uneventful. Most of the drama has played itself out by 1:45. The remaining stragglers become docile without access to more alcohol. They are easily herded toward the exit in this state. They resemble wobbly lemmings at the edge of the abyss. They shuffle toward the door in search of some combination booze, drugs and sex. The pragmatists might pursue sleep but drinking inhibits clarity of thought. I positioned myself by the front door, prodding the few remaining people to leave. I was startled by two successive bangs, the sound of hastily breeched security doors. A drunken frat boy coursed across the cobble stones with one of our heavier bar stools in his right hand. This bizarre tableau was well lit by a perigee moon. I ran after him faster than I think either of us anticipated. He began with a fifteen feet lead on me before I could react. At first I questioned what the hell I was even looking at. First I had to convince myself that the blur with the stool wasn't a co-worker with a legitimate purpose. Although I got off to a fast start, I wasn't certain how my knees would fare even over a short distance. It is amazing how quickly information can be processed by the human mind. I refer to my own mind, of course. His was dulled by alcohol and incapable of accurate risk assessment. He was, however, fast and strong enough to carry the bar stool with one hand but he made a series of fatal miscues. He misread his degree of drunkenness and he stumbled badly while turning left out of the courtyard. When I saw the misstep I realized that I might just catch up to him if I got lucky. I had no turn to negotiate, just a clear shot on an angle due to my position. I put it in high gear when I saw that he ran like a drunk. Whatever his usual skills, they were greatly diminished by the booze. I was indignant that he had the audacity to steal a chair in front of me. My anger and the adrenaline rush helped me pick up speed. No way some jackass was going to rob something as large and absurd as a damn bar stool on my watch. I could already imagine the taunts and the laughter of my co-workers if this prick got away. I decided his escape wasn't an option. By the time we got to the middle of the large lot next door I had cut his lead down to five feet. The way he hunched his shoulders broadcast fear as if expecting an imminent blow. It was bad for him that a man his father's age was going to catch his drunk-ass. The whole time I was cursing, hurling epithets and snarling like a feral dog. It seemed to unnerve him. Each step got me even more angry. I had already made up my mind to jump on him and beat him until he quit moving. If I got him down and he made the mistake of facing me I was gong to strangle his dumb ass for making me run. Another step or two and I would be in a position to tackle him. Just then he quickly but carefully placed the stool in the sidewalk and kept running. If the roles were reversed my pursuer would have eaten the fucking stool! He wasn't hard-wired that way, however. He lacked the killer instinct, the ability that made the difference between a win and a loss in a street fight. I have plenty of it. I wasn't certain that I could beat him in a foot race but, although he was bigger than me, he stood no chance against me in a fight. He posed so little physical threat that I never even bothered to take my glasses off. Walking back to the bar with the stool in my hand I was amazed at the size of the audience. I hadn't noticed anyone while I was running. Girls stood open mouthed, amazed that I recovered the stool from someone who started with a significant lead, was larger than me and less than half my age. A man asked me, "How old are you?" When I replied that I was sixty, all he said was "That was fucking unbelievable." Except it wasn't. I had witnesses. Michael Macfeat, 10 August 2014
First, here is the definition of the word "love" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary: 1 a (1): strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties love for a child> (2): attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt bylovers(3): affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates>
b: an assurance of affection love
: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>
a: the object of attachment, devotion, or admirationlove
b (1): a beloved person :darling —often used as a term of endearment (2)British —used as an informal term of address
a: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1): the fatherly concern of God for humankind(2): brotherly concern for others
This is a recent incident that happened in LOVE PARK near City Hall in Philadelphia:
Most of the time I feel that young black men get a raw deal from the police. It is a problem in this society. Also, I almost always take the side of skateboarders against the world. I know a lot of skateboarders. I also don't believe that all the rules should be obeyed by all of the people all of the time. Even after admitting those biases, I must state that the behavior in this video is completely out of line and unjustified. It is bullshit. Even though the officer hand his hands up to fight, he looked more frightened than aggressive. It is unlikely that he would have pursued the kids had they just walked away. It is my job to accurately read threat display. The park guard was just afraid. Judging from the ethnic make-up of the three skateboarders and from their appearance, I would not be surprised to hear that they hail from the suburbs. I think that city kids are too street smart to attack a park guard. These kids were completely out of line. I don't know what went on between the guard and the kids before the video was taken but it would have had to be pretty damn outrageous to justify this cowardly attack. That kid is damn lucky that he chose that guard to fight and not me because I would have beaten his dumb ass from LOVE Park to the Hi-Speedline station at 16th and Locust. My condolences to the park guard.
The shooting of an unarmed man, Michael Brown of Ferguson MO, has caused international outrage and for good reason. Every aspect of this travesty has been mishandled by the police and the city administration of Ferguson. Every move they made caused the situation to deteriorate. Although the police have enough equipment to quell a small counter-insurgency in a foreign land, neither the police nor the local government is sophisticated enough to justify the allocation of military gear. The position of the police is untenable. Everything Ferguson has done in response to people expressing their dissent in the streets has inflamed the situation. The entire episode is a tragedy, a mindless and avoidable tragedy. Nothing can be seen as positive about police murdering young, unarmed black men in their own communities. There is, however, an unexpected and unprecedented reaction to this shooting that deviates from past events. More often than not there is a racial divide in reactions to an event such as this. The incident in Ferguson has joined the African-American community and whites in universal condemnation. This solidarity is long overdue. Philadelphia has a long history of racial strife. Despite our past, the white community in Philadelphia is every bit as horrified by the shooting of Michael Brown as the black community. I have not heard one white person, regardless of economic class, speak in support of the Ferguson police and the incendiary mishandling of events by the city officials of Ferguson. For once the artificial division between poor and working-class blacks and whites in similar economic positions has been erased by the brutality in Ferguson. Every person I have talked to, regardless of race, condemns the situation in Ferguson. I have heard no exceptions. The first-hand response literally has been unanimous in opposition to the shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent events. I cannot recall even one previous event that has galvanized public opinion in this way, ever. Perhaps the more racist elements in white society have collectively chosen to remain silent for some reason. If the racists have chosen to shut up about the events in Ferguson it is a vast improvement over their past commentary. Hopefully we are all getting smarter. Hopefully we are transcending the divisiveness of racial politics. Hopefully this sad situation in Ferguson is the start of a political dialogue that is not crippled by the knee-jerk response of pre-ordained positions determined by solely by race. Hopefully our society is growing up. It is better late than never.
The title was taken from the caption of this newspaper clipping. Harry "The Hunchback" Riccobene was an old school Philadelphia mobster and one very tough little monkey. He was very short, four foot eleven inches tall and had a hunchback. Despite his physical problems he was extremely charismatic and funny. He was initiated into the mob at the age of sixteen. He had a good working relationship with then mob boss Angelo "The Gentleman Don" Bruno and his underboss Phillip "Chickenman" Testa. They shot Bruno in front of a South Philadelphia restaurant which removed his high ranking protector. He was still in good stead with the mob hierarchy when Testa took control. Unfortunately Testa's reign didn't last long. He was blown up while entering his home. The blast was so strong that it ripped the porch right off of his house. "Little" Nicky Scarfo became mob boss after Testa. Scarfo and Riccobene hated each other and it wasn't long before Scarfo began plotting to kill The Hunchback. On June 8, 1982, Harry Riccobene, then 72 years old, was standing in a in a glass enclosed phone booth talking to his 22 year-old girlfriend. On Scarfo's orders beefy 5-foot-10 Wayne Grande jogged up to the booth and shot Riccobene five times. Riccobene, tough as a bull, charged out of the booth, wrested the gun out of his assassin's hand before he collapsed on the sidewalk. Grande fled. When the police got there they asked Harry how he managed to commandeer the gun. Harry's response: "He was done with it. It was empty." There was another attempt on his life that year. Gunmen found him sitting in his car, waiting for his girlfriend to come out of her house. They emptied their pistols into Harry's car. None of the shots hit their intended target. The cops arrived and asked him why his car was full of bullet holes. He said he didn't know. "Probably neighborhood vandals" was his response. In the year 2000 he died in prison at age of 89.
I will be okay not watching European football on every bar television in Philadelphia for a while.
I hope that they don't fill the time slot with poker tournaments because that is the damn dumbest shit imaginable. Poker isn't a sport. While I am at it either is NASCAR, the favorite of peckerwood suburbia. Watching golf on TV is a close third.
When my friend Scot and I were kids, we couldn't make any noise while going through the living room of his family home if Scot's father was watching golf. The guy was scary. He was a first generation emigre from Scotland with a thick head of white hair. He wore glasses and a permanent scowl, the quintessential dour Presbyterian with a hair trigger temper for extra points. The old man was glued to his Barcolounger all day Sunday watching golf. The Scotsman found the American announcers annoying (he found most things annoying, particularly me) so he would sit all day Sunday watching golf with the sound turned off. Can you imagine? The horror...
This is an awesome 8 bit version of Das Lied Der Deutschen.
DESIRE AND LOSS was the opening salvo of THE HERETICAL SOCIETY. THE HERETICAL SOCIETY was an anonymous group critique of the culture industry in Philadelphia. It was the conscience of an art system that had none. THE HERETICAL SOCIETY used humor as a cudgel. The group was founded in 1997 and disbanded in 2001.
In January of 1998, THE HERETICAL SOCIETY sent out 300 elegant announcements to the art cognoscenti asking them to attend DESIRE AND LOSS, A CRITIQUE IN EXHIBITION FORM CONCERNING THE STATE OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN PHILADELPHIA. The address was 1911 Walnut Street on Rittenhouse Square. The Theosophical Society and the Philosophical Society are located on this block so the possibility that THE HERETICAL SOCIETY was also there seemed reasonable. The only problem was that there was no building at that address, no exhibition and no HERETICAL SOCIETY. It was simply a rubble-strewn lot bordered on the eastern and western sides by tall buildings. At the open ends of the lot there was a chain link fence with a locked gate, rendering the lot inaccessible. As people arrived to see the exhibition that wasn't there we videotaped them from a surveillance van with blackened windows. We watched their emotions bounce from confusion to anger. The video was then posted on THE HERETICAL SOCIETY website. For a three year period we were loved and hated. The Philadelphia Weekly said in their awards issue that we were the Worst Art Activism Group in Philadelphia. We said we agreed with them but we were also the Best Art Activism Group in Philadelphia since we were in fact THE ONLY ART ACTIVISM GROUP IN PHILADELPHIA!
Since that time there have been several development proposals submitted for the lot but one after the other failed. It was as if we salted the earth and doomed its development with ancient Druidic spells. Eventually someone cleared the rubble from the lot and planted grass. I love what they did with the place.
It was the first of many provocations executed by THE HERETICAL SOCIETY.
Although the image looks similar to past work, it is a significant departure. The most radical difference is physical. It is actually a painting, not an image appropriated from the Internet and manipulated in Photoshop to resemble a painting. It is the first painting that I have done in at least twenty years. For the past few weeks I have been thinking about the notebooks I assembled during the 80's and 90's. The pages of the notebooks are filled with newspaper clippings. Most of the images are of political figures and events. Any images without any political content were saved on the strength of their weirdness. I had no idea where the notebooks were stored so it took several hours to locate them. It took several hours to locate the binders since they were all in different locations. I love the divine mendacity of Photoshop. It was not the limitations of Photoshop that led me away from it; the physicality of painting and its seductive beauty called me. In painting it was the same as it had been with my sculpture in the past. I have always preferred an Arte Povera approach to material over more costly solutions. Proletarian materials always seemed more appropriate to use given my working-class background and my avoidance of creating decorations for the homes of an oligarchy that repulsed me with their hoarding and their greed. Even if the accursed share would inevitably would end up with the ruling class, I preferred not to contribute to the problem. A painting is much cheaper to produce than work manufactured by photographic process. The printing, mounting and laminating of the Photoshop images were cost prohibitive to bring to fruition. It has been so long since I painted that the old has become new again, a novelty has emerged from the past rather than from futuristic technological advances. Despite the seemingly paradoxical nature of this situation I haven't been this excited about making art in years. I chose the title of this painting, CULTURAL DEVOLUTION, as a nod to the failure and terror of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China. The Cultural Revolution began with the publication of the "little red book" by Mao Tse Tung in 1966. It became an icon of radical Maoist thought and it was waved at rallies and during clashes with the "Capitalist roaders". The book called for China's return to orthodox Communism (in fact a form of Stalinism with all its brutality and purges rather than the economic system of Karl Marx) and the banishment of Capitalist and bourgeoise elements from the political structure. Ironically the Cultural Revolution was the antithesis of the forces that today make China a major financial superpower. The Cultural Revolution spawned the Red Guards, a brutal paramilitary force that terrorized what they perceived as reactionary citizens and politicians for ten years. The Red Guards were the street enforcers of Maoist dogma and the Gang of Four led by Mao's wife Jiang Qing intellectually strong-armed the political elite. Both groups forged the cult of personality that evolved around Mao. After ten years of brutality and right after Mao's death, the Gang of Four were arrested and tried for a variety of crimes. Jiang Quing and one other associate were sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison. The images in CULTURAL DEVOLUTION are not from the notebooks but instead were torn from the pages of a copy of the 200 QUOTATIONS OF MAO, the official title of "the little red book." I acquired this copy years ago but I haven't the slightest idea where it came from. Oddly enough it was a French translation. The painting was done with cheap poster paint on cardboard. I mounted it on a wooden frame to reduce warpage. I like the look of mundane materials because they avoid the precious quality of most art. DEVOLUTION in the title refers to using cheap low tech materials after years of relying on high technology to create images. The schematic of the new work is consistent with that used in the images in my Abstract Depressionism series and the Scrapheap of History work.
“We're artists too, but we do a good job hiding it, don't we?” - Roberto Bolaño
I don't look like an artist. Recently a woman on the street told me that I look like Picasso, but I don't. I more closely resemble the former WWF wrestler George "The Animal" Steele than Picasso. Steele was the guy that had a green tongue and ate turnbuckles. I would rather look like a professional wrestler than an artist that purportedly put a cigarette out on the face of his girlfriend. Eating turnbuckles is a much more civilized activity than misogyny.
Appearance aside, I am in fact an artist and a writer. A voracious reader since childhood, I keep an extensive library of my favorite books in my home. The collection constantly expands, making it is necessary to cull the herd once or twice a year.
I was trained as a sculptor at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) but I am a literary autodidact. I began writing much later in life.
The truth is that most art leaves me cold. Facile painting is a bore and it is not nearly as difficult as it appears to the uninitiated. If slavish reproduction is the goal of art, painting lost the battle with photography during the last century.
I am disinterested in viewing or making an art doomed to be hoarded as decorations in wealthy homes. The entire art system is built on a moribund nineteenth century model that is no longer relevant. The culture industry is entirely the provenance of wealth and is propped up by the dysfunctional and bloated bureaucracies that perpetuate its existence. It is unconscionable to create work for the elite group that holds an accursed share of society's wealth while the vast majority of us barely subsist on a meager wage. Unless the culture industry adopts an inclusionary strategy rather than an exclusionary one, it is doomed to collapse under the weight of it own corruption and greed. The ever dwindling and aging audience for this shell game will insure its disappearance.
Technology is the tool to circumvent the culture industry's rotting corpse. Work can now be produced cheaply and in abundance. It can be distributed in bulk, anonymously or attributed, a Potlatch with few goals beyond making people think. For the first time the other 99% of society will have the ability to own artworks. These new distribution networks exist outside of the taste and jurisdiction of the ruling class. The suburban gated communities where the rich huddle in fear of the rabble from the cities will be an unlikely point of distribution. The exclusion of the lower classes from these communities, except as servants, guarantees their isolation. The unwillingness for the rich to perform even the most basic of tasks results in a reliance on lower class factotums to do the work. This inequitable system also guarantees that the presence of servants will guarantee distribution within these communities should the need arise. The cowardice and racism that fostered these gated communities will result in their exclusion from a rigged game of their own making, victims of their own tactics, losing hand after hand of three card monte and swallowing their own tails like Ouroboros. The ruling class will retreat further into the shadows, unaware that the city has transformed itself into a Pirate Utopia except by rumor. A Temporary Autonomous Zone can rise from the ashes of oppression, one that they can only view from the safety of their armored vehicles through narrow slits. Bell Hooks rightly postulated that oppression is the absence of options. Options will have to be taken, they will not be awarded through grants given by the lumbering bureaucracies left behind after the culture industry falls. In fact, the only remnant of the former system that will exist long after its stated purpose will be these organizations. Their only purpose, solipsistic in nature, will be the survival of the bureaucracies, parasites without the benefit of a host.
Literature, like language, is an extension of reality. As Guy Debord noted, gypsy culture permits lies in any language other than the language of Roma.