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The gloves of  Bob Allison,  Babe Ruth,  Brooks Robinson, Jerry Koosman,  Ray Hayworth,  Red Murry

Lindytown, West Virginia, coal town abandoned after mountain-top strip miningBoston under lighteningChicago, South Water Street Terminal, 1943, Photo: Jack DelanoEllen McLaughlin in Angels in America

Chuck BerryRichard and Pat NixonSurvivalist’s stockpileDollar store, Saddlebrook, N.J.Aggragate pit, Irwindale, Ca.Abandoned commercial buildings, AlabamaMug shot, John Henry1919 Chicago White SocksBarry Bonds
Gillette, Wyoming, coal and gas boom townDetroitJ.P. Morgan Library   LizGrant Wood, Daughters of the American Revolution

Edward Hopper, Movie

The boys of spring are out on the diamonds, though some have skipped onto the courts.  And not the basketball ones.  The pressures of commerce, which as has been said is America’s purpose for existing,  naturally warps the great American past-time, no less than it warps the doctors who prescribe mountains of pills at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry.   “The business of America is business,” said Calvin Coolidge, and for the most part it seems Americans have taken that mantra as their own.  We live, it seems, to make money.   The politics of the moment merely underline this old American adage, as Representative Ryan sells his snake-oil “plan” and President Obama retorts with his.  Shall we or shall we not throw Granny and Gramps under the bus?  Or when and how?

Inexorably the nation moves towards its fiscal truth, which certainly no elected politician can utter, except in the most oblique of manners: the bill has come due, and it must be paid.  We don’t really say from whom the bill comes and we don’t really say why.  Instead we discuss who must pay it, and how.  The reason is that an honest look all points to the very system which America has raised to a religion, that good old Free Market Economy Capitalism, which, left to its own devices does whatever is needed to make a bigger faster buck.  If towards that end ravaging the landscape, selling sugar and oil saturated food to ever bigger and sicker customers, peddling fast gas guzzling cars, shipping factories and production systems to lands of cheaper labor and less onerous regulations,  building a giant near-private military establishment to protect our global “interests,” and developing an all pervasive mass media to sell lies to the citizenry all looks to make the quickest fortune, then America will do it.   That’s how capitalism works, and it has worked its magic on America. 

The current end result is that a tiny one or two percent sliver end up owning about everything – especially those things, like the mass media, the educational systems, and the military, which serve its purposes best.  And of course, the political system, which now is pretty much totally under the control of the corporate systems which that most rich segment has devised and uses to control the rest of us.   The reckoning perhaps has already arrived, or it is arriving now – it depends on how we slice and dice our view of history.

The ship of state has run aground on the usual shoals of empire (that forbidden word which we Americans dare not utter):  an over- extended and overgrown military gobbling up our remaining resources and busy making us unwelcome where ever it goes; a fat and complacent hoi polloi happy to be distracted with trivial circuses  (the Super Bowl, the World Series, American Idol), and a bickering political class in panic as the last pieces of imminent collapse fall into place.    It is, of course, all the others’ fault, though they all agree we can only put it right by carefully avoiding reality.

Pumped on the latest designer drugs our colosseum gladiators take brain-dimming hits, swat homers, collect the hottest chicks and take home millions, to the adulation of the crowd.   Our stars and CEO’s are swamped in “earnings” for their secret labors, the stock market curiously goes up each time unemployment figures head higher, and outside the gate the bread begins running short and the circus begins to grow stale. 

The Sultan of Swat


  1. We elected a President who stirred us with his rhetoric, and once the office was attained, he refused to fight for those very things he assured us meant as much to him as to us. The GOP’ers persist in their desire to transfer as much wealth as possible upwards to their wealthy contributors, while forcibly screwing the middle-class and the poor. Every day it seems we suffer another insult by those who hold the power, and we take this callousness and arrogance in stride. I don’t know, it’s hard to stay angry. There’s no outlet for it, and carrying it around, consumed by it, is just not healthy. Short of a national strike, or other militant action, what can we do? One opts instead for a more sanguine approach: critical, but detached.

    This can’t end well.

  2. I read your comment in the NY Times, “Stripped of Dignity”, I could not agree with you more. You call it the soft-fascist phase, that America is in. Yes I believe the TSA body searches are a form of soft torture that is preparing Americans for the hard fascism to come. It is in steps fascism happens in a Republic, it follows the same pattern elsewhere if you read 20th century history. It is psychologival warfare that is being implemented against the Domestic population of America. This TSA soft torture is similiar to the incidents reported about the scandal of secret military bases where accused Islamic terrorists were humiliated in prison, using soft torture teachniques to break their will down. Nudity, and other forms of sexual violations to destroy their will to resist. etc..This torture that was formerly committed on foreign soil, is now being implemented Domestically, they have been practising and they will be able to successfully apply it here in the US, to US citizens. How else can you explain that we are the only country that is doing this at the airports! My God this is fascism, and Americans are taking it! People in Australia, and Europe wouldnt tolerate this! I am ashamed to be an American.

    • I think these TSA things (and many others – the last times I was in US I was stopped from recording video in a train station, and I know taking pictures of anything that could remotely be considered a “terrorist target” is likely to bring a cop or security guard trotting over to say “no no”) are but a prelude – likely unconscious on the part of many of those doing it – to hard fascist behaviors. And given the government instigated paranoia now about anything just might be such a target, so “if you see anything suspicious report it”. Like the frog in boiling water story, this is merely a kind of softening up. Somewhere behind the curtains someone though is conscious about doing this. I think in various other countries they have “neighborhood watches”, the Stasi, etc. When they do it, it is bad. When we do it it is good. Not in my book. However the end result of social distrust, which our wonderful American government has certainly done its bit to stir up, is that the society ends up collapsing because it’s not really a society anymore. So we’re due for the same. My guesstimate is 20 years, maximum.

  3. Jon, read your long NY Times comment on Ai Weiwei et al and followed your link here.

    I am a recidivistic “representational” or “realist” easel painter who has little regard for conceptual art, in part out of a concern about craft and aesthetics and, importantly, out of a natural distrust of anything propagandistic, but also because of coincidental concern about some of the points you made in your comments, vis: a lot of the wrong people and works get all the attention and garner gross amounts of money as part of a commercially motivated, intellectually bankrupt insider system that ultimately corrupts and disables art.

    My opinion is that all art is conceptual and can speak for itself. Whether the concepts have merit is for the viewer to decide and the artist to hope. But your “pastorals” and suites, created as they are deliberately as conceptual art, impress me as brilliant. They would be more so if you would leave off the textual preaching at the end. They say it all, better, without the words.

    I’ll bookmark your site now.



    • Hi Did the NY Times print it – if so they didn’t send me the usual notice or I somehow missed it in my email. I sent them the same text as a Letter to Editor to comment on the later Salmon Rushdie Op-Ed. If you could send me the url of the posting it’d be appreciated. Re the “comments” in the blog. Well, I’d like to think that imagery and juxtaposition/editing said it all, but while it may do so artistically, it doesn’t in a down and dirty political way. Most people really need it spelled out. I do the same thing on many of my films and many have said “what does that have to do with it?” to which I can only say the stories to which I append these – discreetly, indirectly political – all are sourced in whatever hard text/history I tack on at the end. The statements are what the “art” is about. I know it is ungainly, but I don’t like mixing the hard socio-politics into the art in the usual “political work” manner. But once I’ve messed with your soul I think, unpleasant as it often is, its important to know why your soul got messed with. Glad you like the pastorals and suites. best

  4. I might actually take exception to the notion that it is only the GOP who answer to their corporate overlords. I don’t really see my party being much different.

    Ultimately, as running for political office has become an exercise in one’s own wealth management it would seem politicians are really working to maintain a status quo which enriches them as much as their corporate overlords.

    • Well, as a cursory reading overall would show, I of course agree with you. Both our authorized approved political parties are as it were bag men for our corporate overlords, and naturally caught inside their beltway system they see their self-interest first and anything else later. Stuff them pockets. I myself am seriously doubtful we can have a “third party” as the system is so corrupted it is not amenable to change from the inside. It will have to become a worse mess – the USA – until it becomes utterly untenable and collapses and we can pick up the pieces from there. Of course it sounds fantastical to most, but then so did the collapse of the great monolithic Soviet Empire. In those terms, I think we’re next. 20 years?

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