Saturday, October 24, 2009


The Revolution will not be sponsored by Bud Lite, Taco Bell, or Toyota. It will not be back after these important messages. It will not be out on Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday available at Wal-Mart for $6.99 to be shown on high-definition TV. The Revolution will not be televised.

The Revolution will not have six-pack abs and Botox smiles and skin that looks ten years younger and have more taste and be less filling. It will not have whiter teeth and fresher breath and less calories and fewer polyunsaturates and it will not make you lose weight so you can have sex like a porn star. The Revolution will not be televised.

The Revolution will not be recommended by four out of five doctors. It will not get the Goodhousekeeping Seal of Approval. It will not be the choice of a new generation it will not go better with Coke and it will not be “the official Revolution of NASCAR and the New York Yankees”. It will not soon be made into a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie coming soon to a theater near you because the Revolution will not be televised, brother.

The Revolution will not be up ten points on the Dow Jones it will not make Wall Street rich and famous it will not have its picture taken with Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton and have stock in Halliburton and send more troops to Afghanistan and Iraq. The Revolution will not tap our phones invade our homes spy on us at work know what library books we read monitor our every movement with computer chips satellite surveillance and nosey neighbors and call it “patriotism”. The Revolution will not be televised.

It will not lock up habeas corpus and throw away the key and give us euphemisms for torture like “rendition” and “enhanced interrogation techniques”. It will not treat the Third World like a cash cow to be milked to the last drop or as a supply of lab rats for Big Pharma’s assembly line of legalized drugs. And it will not stop unions and free speech and turn the workers of the world into slaves of the global-plantation as the global-bank counts its money (which used to be our money) to the last Euro-penny. If you wanna know about any of this then don’t look on TV cuz the Revolution, my friend, will not be televised.

The Revolution will just say no to ChaseVisa, it will not do a commercial for American Express, it will not buy now with no interest till 2012! It will not want to be a billionaire (or a millionaire even) and it may just want to live simply again so that others might simply live because all of this, sister, will not be televised.

There will be no theme song by Britney Spears or Madonna no fund-raiser by NPR no tie-ins to Burger King and McDonalds and the words that are said won’t be trademarked or copyrighted or used as a catch phrase on Saturday Night Live because, my friends, the Revolution will not be televised.

There will be no reality shows or virtual games of the Revolution on Myspace or on Facebook because the Revolution is real, my friends, it’s three-dimensional, it exists right now in every action that comes from an idea that says no to globalization and corporatization, to monopolization and homogenization (which might be good for milk but it ain’t right for human beings, ya hear?). It says yes to any action that comes from an idea like those crazy ones that say we might all be able to live in peace, that we should treat others as we want to be treated ourselves, that nobody should go hungry, that diversity is what it’s about, that our differences are what make us unique, that religion serves to separate us from our brothers and sisters, that we should watch out for any god who tells us to kill in his name, and that most of mankind exists for something more than just to make a handful of people really fucking rich. This Revolution will most definitely not be televised.

The Revolution does not exist on a piece of paper in a book or in a fortune cookie. There is no recipe for this Revolution. It is not in the history books or the newsreel footage or in some politician’s mouth but it exists in our minds when we know when somethin’ just ain’t right, when the words and the actions don’t match up. When they keep us busy with a million distractions (like mice on a treadmill) so we can’t see what’s goin’ on right in front of us. When it’s easier to go back to sleep and turn on the TV, and this is why the Revolution will not be televised.

Because the Revolution is real. It’s the program we join already in progress with no commercial interruptions complete and unedited. It’s what we see in living color when we reclaim our own minds when we think for ourselves when our ideas become action. And then, when enough of us do this the world will begin to change. This is the Revolution. The Revolution will not be televised. The Revolution is live, it’s happening right now, it’s already begun.
*It's been 40 years since the original protest poem/song was written, and I figured it was due for an update. So here's my version written the other day. Imagine a band behind it with a jazzy soul groove as the words are spoken, or perhaps a solo upright bass...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The painting itself is spare. Abstract. Black and white. From ten feet away the composition becomes clear, what looks like a charcoal eye staring out from the center behind a milky cloud of gauze, the paint itself tenuous, as if the white and black are filmy ephemera vanishing and emerging with the play of light. And then, the bold strokes of black scratched across a window pane to further obscure the eye. Like calligraphy—India ink flashed on rice paper in an improvisatory testament to immediacy and of going forward beyond thinking. Lines of another language, cryptic and old, and there’s the feeling of happening upon something most intimate. A close-up of an emotion itself, but what does it mean? What does this say? The lines dance as if blown by a forgotten wind and yet they are immutable as a cave painting on ancient rock.

From four feet away the texture is revealed. The canvas with swirls of paint in contradictory motion; huge slashes through plaster through cement through rock as if the unstable surface itself was scraped and gouged with a chisel before it had a chance to solidify. This had been alive once—liquidy and hot, captured in the first moments after it began to cool. Moving closer there are ridges like mountain ranges, raised fingerprints, scars. Thick paint of white and gray in web-like counterpoint to the black which seems deeper now, almost sinister in its blackness. The closer you get the eye disappears.

From two feet away there is a rip of white in the upper left corner. A wound showing the paper-like skin in its fragility. Small stones are embedded in the paint, the surface a slice of rock a sixteenth of an inch thick, this weathered paper which seems at once still wet and older than papyrus. There are colors now, the whites give way to grays to the color of sand to a shadow of blue to the blacks like bamboo reeds obscured by mist, blending into the thick viscous air. Another glance, a gaze at the eye which seems now to be an opening through trees, a dense snow-covered forest. A step closer, the cold can almost be felt.

There are people now. The museum’s piercing stillness is now the blank canvas to footsteps on thick carpeted floors. Four people walk as in procession. Their words are as spare as the paintings: “Hmm...” “Look at that...” Closer they get as they continue their pilgrimage around the walls. A Frankenthaler, a Cárdenas, and then the Liberman, no more than three seconds before each until they pass to David Smith and continue on.

“Hmm...” they say. “Look at that.”


Thursday, October 8, 2009


The other day I thought of an old flame
. In third grade we were childhood sweethearts. We sat next to each other in class, we walked home from school together, we sat side by side on the bus during our class trip to Turtle Back Zoo. We were the two smartest kids in class, smitten with puppy love, and everyone assumed we'd eventually get married and have a brilliant future. But then in fourth grade she moved away and I never saw her again, and years later I ended up as an artist and ne'er-do-well. Wondering what became of her I Googled her name and was surprised at what I found. She had recently been named by one of the top investment banks in the world as its chief of European mergers and acquisitions, the only woman to head a mergers business at a bulge-bracket investment bank (whatever that is)*1. Obviously quite the muckety-muck, rolling in dough, elbow-rubbing with the rich and super-rich. Which got me to thinking about the paths that people take, the callings that summon us.

I would never recommend being an artist to anyone. First of all, the hours are terrible, being constantly on call to the Muse who oft times wakes you in the middle of the night with an inspiration that must be heeded. On top of that the pay generally sucks, which forces you to have a second job (one that actually pays the bills). You don't get much recognition, and if you diverge from the marketable and refuse to "brand" yourself, then there's a good chance of everlasting anonymity. In addition, this working all the time for little or no pay and recognition is not that great for the morale. For some, depression is as much of a companion as the Muse. For others, it's addictions (and other self-destructive behaviors). For others, suicide (be it fast or slow). And needless to say, relationships are a challenge--the instability of the artist's life an impediment to all but the most steadfast. And a life spent as an artist is at times like being a building on the edge of the ocean, understanding erosion on a daily basis as the tide ebbs and flows, as one's foundation is undermined. So why does one do it? The poet Robert Bly says that someone who spends 20, 30 years in their art "goes down to the countryside of grief"*2 where they become a friend to sadness. And this somehow sustains. I think of what the Brazilians call "the sadness that is beauty"--an intuition of the very nature of things that is all-encompassing, between nothingness and eternity; a glimpse into our humanity and the maddening transience of our existence. For someone who has spent a lifetime in their art this feeling is the drug, the high, the reason--at times almost godlike.

So what of someone whose calling is to make money? Personally, I have as much insight into this as a rock would have into doing the breast-stroke. I am sure there is a passion to it, in amassing great wealth, but I wonder if there is humanity? I think back to the article about my third grade girlfriend's success. The very next paragraph began with an announcement, about her bank laying off 300 people, accounting for 15% of its investment bankers. I wonder where the humanity is in this.

*1. Her latest success is being named recently in Forbes as one of the 100 most powerful women in world finance, routinely brokering billion-dollar deals.

*2. "When anyone seriously pursues an art--painting, poetry, sculpture, composing--over twenty or thirty years, the sustained discipline carries the artist down to the countryside of grief; and that descent, resisted so long, proves invigorating. As I've gotten older I find I am able to be nourished more by sorrow, and to distinguish it from depression."
--Robert Bly