Decluttering my mind

1. Vomit blue ink all over the agenda book with how cluttered and chaotic the mind is until clarity ensues. It may or may not take 14 pages, front and back.

2. Take the Female Tax Deduction to her art class. Walk through the park barefoot in the grass (for the first time in years) to get to the art gallery. Think about taking a yoga class. Finish a cross stitch. When XX TD is finished with her art class, solve a glass labyrinth with her. Walk (in the grass) (barefoot) (this is crucial) up the terraces to the gallery. Talk to tourists and answer questions about the new exhibit (the Green Man-ish sculptures) and good barbecue. Stroll through the art gallery after having responded to nature’s call. Sit and let XX TD sketch a medieval knight on a horse.

3. Share pictures that don’t even come close to capturing the magic that was yesterday.

I am an expert witness because I say I am*

don_henley_-_actual_miles_2528front2529-300x294Someone sent me to an interesting article on a book I haven’t read, The Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset. I hesitated to write this because I haven’t read the book, but I’m actually commenting on the post itself.

“The Smartest Book About Our Digital Age Was Published in 1929. How José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses helps us understand everything from YouTube to Duck Dynasty.”

Are you, like me, puzzled to learn that Popular Science magazine recently shut down comments on its website, declaring that they were bad for science? Are you amazed, like me, that Duck Dynasty is the most-watched nonfiction cable show in TV history? Are you dismayed, like me, that crappy Hollywood films about comic book heroes and defunct TV shows have taken over every movie theater? Are you depressed, like me, that symphony orchestras are declaring bankruptcy, but Justin Bieber earned $58 million last year?

Why yes, I AM wondering what’s up with Duck Dynasty. I AM pissy about the constant retreads coming out of Hollywood. I AM annoyed that Justin Bieber can finance a country’s worth of symphony orchestras. (I’m not really sure about the Popular Science thing, though.)

All is well. I’m intrigued. I’m invested in this piece. I’m even slightly nodding at this:

Put simply, the masses hate experts.

It’s so true! They so do!

But there’s a little tickle in the back of my mind at the use of the word “experts.” Then come a few more phrases that make me squirm a little.

If forced to choose between the advice of the learned and the vague impressions of other people just like themselves, the masses invariably turn to the latter. […] The upper elite still try to pronounce judgments and lead, but fewer and fewer of those down below pay attention.


  • Experts.
  • Learned people.
  • Upper elite.

Ortega couldn’t have foreseen digital age culture, but he is describing it with precision. […] He would understand why Yelp reviews have more influence than the considered judgments of restaurant reviewers. He would know why Amazon customer comments have more clout than critics in The New Yorker. […] a friend who is affluent, educated, and a noted wine connoisseur. [who] now relies more on wine advice from websites where anyone can post their evaluations of different vintages.

And this is where the article loses me, but not because I’m in high dudgeon over the key words.

There are several practical/pragmatic variables here that the author of the piece hasn’t accounted for:

1. product accessibility
2. expert accessibility
3. artificial restrictions to #1 & #2
4. fallibility of experts
5. accessibility of product and information
6. unfulfillment of desires

1. The masses aren’t likely to have access to the restaurants a critic would. They may not have access to the symphony. They may not have access to wine.


a. The masses aren’t going to be reading reviews of restaurants they can’t afford to go to. Further, before Google, one had to know where to look for this information, and one isn’t likely to look for that information for places they can’t afford.

b. There are only so many experts for so many things that we as a culture experience or want to experience. Not every book can be reviewed, much less in the New York Times, the holy grail of book review sections. There are not enough restaurant critics or column inches to review every eatery in any given town.

3. The point of an expert review isn’t to educate or recommend or dissuade or make such things desirable/accessible to the masses. It’s to put up a wall between the “experts,” “learned people,” “elite” and the masses. It’s a bright line: This is our turf. Do not cross. Who chooses which books and restaurants and wines get the column inches? The experts, the learneds, and the elites, who have absolutely no interest in talking to the masses at all. Those column inches are jealously guarded.

“Amateur” reviews on Yelp and Amazon are plentiful and varied. Every thing that the masses are interested in have an opinion behind them that they can use to evaluate their own choices. There are no column inch limits. There are no carefully curated lists, leaving off what the masses are actually interested in.

4. Experts. Now there’s an interesting concept. Expert. One who is more learned in X thing than all the other learneds in X thing. A synonym is “consultant.”

Except the masses have seen the experts. They have listened to the experts. They keep listening to the experts, because the experts are more learned than they are—and they know it.

And then … what they see is that the experts are wrong quite a bit of the time. They are confused. “This expert is saying X, and I want to believe him, but my lying eyes are telling me something else. Which one do I believe? DAMN MY LYING EYES!”

So they go on about their business because, in the grand scheme of things, people aren’t going to change if something’s working for them, even if an expert tells them they’re wrong, even if they want to believe that the expert is right. They’d rather just live with their vague feeling of being wrong because they can’t reconcile the viewpoint of the expert with their own experience.

5. The masses will go for what’s accessible, be it product or information, and they will turn away from carefully curated lists to find what they actually want. If they don’t find what they actually want, they’ll go for a substitute. Miley Cyrus is not Britney Spears is not Madonna is not Cher. But Madonna’s a decent substitute for Cher, and Britney’s a decent substitute for Madonna, and Miley Cyrus is—

My apologies to Britney, Madonna, and Cher.

Not only are these things accessible, they are in their faces. I do not see experts in their faces, giving them a reason to find a more erudite alternative.

6. The masses can’t make what they really want to have, what their ears and eyes want, so they have always had to take what they can get, whether they like it or not.

This is why genre self-publishing has taken over NY genre publishing. People found authors who will give them what they already know they want, but were not being provided. Authors don’t make tastes and trends. People who are looking for stories that resonate make those tastes and trends. Publishing takes pride in its gatekeeping, but it has a lousy record on what people actually want.

The article goes on with this:

The same people who denounce expert opinion about movies or music will praise a skilled plumber or car mechanic.

An expert opinion about movies or music is just that: an opinion. It has no basis in skill or objective measure. Further, movies and music are not staples of life; they are spices.

A skilled plumber will come out in freezing weather to replace a hot water heater. A skilled car mechanic will keep a piece-of-shit car running so someone who can’t afford a new car can get to work to feed their families.

How is this apples-and-Volkswagen comparison being made without irony and with a straight face?

The value of blue-collar expertise is accepted without question. The same people who get angry when I make judgments about the skill level of a pianist, would never question my decision to pay more to hire a superior piano tuner.


This is a peculiar state of affairs …

No it’s not. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is to be part of the masses.

At one point in The Revolt of the Masses, he complains about a woman who told him “I can’t stand a dance to which less than 800 people have been invited.” So how would the Spanish philosopher respond to the crowd mentality that seeks out viral videos with a hundred million views?

This is not difficult to comprehend. There are more people to choose from. This is not analogous to how many people vote for a YouTube video. This is analogous to having a billion YouTube videos to choose from.

Lastly, some more vocabulary:

… the possibility for barbarism to flourish in tandem with technology; or the unbalanced specialization which favors science over the humanities; or (in his words) “the loss of prestige of legislative assemblies.”

  • Barbarism.
  • Unbalanced.
  • Not prestigious.

The masses are asses. My dad used to say that when observing what made popular culture. The case can be made, yes. Mobs have regularly shown themselves to be asses.

I’m not above making judgments on the taste of the masses, although I’ve learned that it’s wise not to do it publicly.

But to say that the masses are asses because they don’t listen to the experts is missing the point: they know who the experts say they are, but they don’t trust their advice and they know that the self-proclaimed experts aren’t there to sweep them into culture and a better appreciation of the humanities.

The experts are there to keep them out.

* “In the Garden of Allah” by Don Henley lyrics | audio

I am God (part 2)

Lisa at Feminist Mormon Housewives had asked Giselle Galen about her creative process for a series of compare/contrast posts for fMh, and Galen kindly brought me into the conversation of creating art; more specifically, art as a form of worship.

This coincided with a post on AML wherein a novelist/publisher wondered if God cared about our art or even wanted us to cease making it.

After using Galen and Theric as a sounding board, I wrote a bit for Lisa, and figured I’d share it here, too:

I’m a novelist. I write Mormon characters (in varying states of grace with the church) who have sex. On the page. While I’ll admit that can be seen as gimmicky, it’s really not. I write what I want to read, and I want to read characters who are like me and not The Other, The Freak, The Cultist, The Satan Worshipper, The Molly Mormon, The Longsuffering Sister, The Polygamist, The Weird Neighbor, The Prude.

Other than writing what I want to read and expressing myself in my chosen art form, my broader goal is to plant our culture and traditions and jargon into the national consciousness the way Catholicism and Judaism permeate it—a common vocabulary even if one doesn’t believe or practice that faith. Everybody knows what a rosary is and what it’s for, what mass, diocese, parish, and priest mean. Everyone knows what a yarmulke is and what it symbolizes, what synagogue, Passover, Hannukah, and bar mitzvah mean. Nobody knows us by anything but our magic underwear. They don’t know what sacrament meeting, stake, ward, and bishop mean. If we don’t define ourselves for the world, the world will define us for us, and they do. And it sticks.

I’m also an active, practicing Mormon with a pagan streak a mile wide. If it weren’t for the belief that we can become gods and spend the eternities creating, I wouldn’t bother with the church at all, and I probably wouldn’t even bother with Christianity. I am willing to jump through whatever hoops I need to just in case what I believe—what I hope to be true—is, in fact, true. If it’s not, it won’t make any difference in the long run because I refuse to believe any other alternative. If I burn in a lake of fire, so be it.

That forms the core of my artistic philosophy: Creating art is practicing to become a god.

Specifically, creating paper people with souls, intellect, and free will is practicing to become God.

(Most days when I watch the news, I wonder if the Creator we worship isn’t still practicing and just hasn’t gotten it right yet. If that is so, I like to imagine we’ll all get an abject apology.)

My favorite thing to imagine is that one day, Father or Mother, whichever one likes the detail work, looked into the ocean and said, “Hm. Those could use some color.” He or She picked up a brush in one hand, and a dory fish in the other and went to town.

I like to think Father was doodling in His lab, doing some structural calculations, sketched something out and said to Himself, “They’ll call that the Fibonacci sequence and I’ll laugh my butt off while they try to figure it out.”

A dildo fit for a goddess

I express my spirituality not in small part through sexuality. I think once one starts down the path of the Mother, then pagan philosophies, it winds up there anyway. Hello, Beltane.

So I like to think Mother was sculpting in the afterglow of some really good sex and sculpted anthurium to hold onto her lover when He was off doing something else. Galen phrased it “a dildo fit for a goddess.”

Because sex is where creation begins with human beings. We created offspring before we created the tools to hunt, before we learned to farm. We started off with the Tree of Life, not the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but we needed to eat of the Tree of Knowledge to understand the Tree of Life.

I drew it in sacrament meeting. Sue me.

But then the doubt sets in and leads to: Are we created in God’s image or are we creating God in ours?

Does it matter? For better or worse or whatever reason or by whatever mechanism (why are creation and evolution mutually exclusive?), we’re here and we’re living our lives and there’s no getting out of it and no finding out the truth until we’re released from the bonds of mortality (or choose to take the bolt cutters to it ourselves).

When I form people and their worlds, and their characteristics, beliefs, and philosophies, then set them loose to see what they’ll do when I give them a particular set of circumstances, I am not worshipping God.

I am God.

Foci and projects for 2010

1. Finish Magdalene.

Magdalene cover; release date April 24, 2011.

2. Make some pretty things.

a) An afghan (Tunisian crochet, the only kind I like) for XX TD.

The beginning of XX TD's coverlet.

b) A Hobbes doll for XY TD.

3. Get better at the ebook formatting thing.

a) Continue self-tutoring in SVG so I can get The Fob Bible completely digitized (text, no problem, but it’s graphics heavy).

b) Give more priority to embedding fonts.

54. Shamelessly rip off RJ Keller’s 2010-in-photos idea.

65. Get my foyer, living room, and dining room decorated and my art up on the walls, including my kitschy matadors ~1950 and my cheap bought-out-of-a-car-trunk-in-a-parking-lot-but-expensively-framed Pissaro.



76. Expose my real identity to you all (in case you haven’t figured it out already and no, my real name is not famous in the least bit) and my artsy-fartsy business because I think you might like it. But to do that, I need to work on the super-outdated website.

87. Get The Fob Bible into college curricula, where I think it belongs best.

98. Implement some fun ideas I have for The Proviso et al.

109. Get back on the low-carb wagon, exercise, and load up on the probiotics/coconut oil.

110. Sit down and relax, watch a movie with Dude once a week or so.

There. I fixed it.

And another thing…

…if you didn’t have a touch (or more) of madness, of moodiness and emotional lability, of doubt and depression and fear, of uncontrollable rage and joy, things you should probably go see a therapist about… You wouldn’t be an artist. You wouldn’t be driven to write or create or paint or compose or or or or or or whatever it is that you do…

My high school physics teacher said he didn’t believe in artistic temperament and that it was a copout. I struggled under the guilt of having one of those (an “artistic temperament”) off and on ever since. But you know, the key word there is “physics.” Naw. He didn’t get it. But I still try to hide it, even though it comes out here and there. It’s a lot easier to hide online, but Dude lives with me. He knows.

I’m never more emotionally stable than when I’m doing the bookkeeping and shipping and inventorying and filing. Or the sheer repetitiveness of coding e-books, building and fiddling with websites. It’s engaging. It’s cleansing, cathartic.

There’s only so much of that I can take before I must go back to the madhouse.