Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst is a British artist who's famous for installation pieces featuring dead animals floating in formaldehyde that sell for exorbitant amounts of money. He also does "spin paintings," which are created by someone (not Hirst himself, but one of his employees) dripping paint onto a flat, revolving surface. His piece For the Love of God, pictured here, was fashioned from a real human skull to which he affixed 8,601 diamonds. Whenever I think of Damien Hirst, I'm reminded of the painter Rabo Karabekian from Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, who "with his meaningless pictures had entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid" (Vonnegut 214). Hirst doesn't even paint most of his own pictures, and I think the idea of the mastermind conceptual artist taking all the credit for merely signing his name on the work of others, especially as some sort of "ironic" critique of capitalism and mass production, was fraudulent and boring when Andy Warhol did it 40 years ago.

Damien Hirst's work is smug, nihilistic, and morally and aesthetically disgusting. He's not an artist, he's an artiste, and celebrity bullshitters like him are the reason why most people don't visit art galleries.

(Image from Originally posted at Reviews! Reviews! Reviews!)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Big Bottle O' Pee

The worst thing about collecting a 24 hour urine sample is that you can't leave the house for very long.

YOU: Whatcha got in the bag?

ME: Oh, nothing, just 2 litres or so of cold, frothy piss. Mind if I put in in your fridge for an hour or two until I have to go again?

YOU: No problem, as long as I can still get at my 8-pack. Maybe I'll call some ladies and we'll have a party.

Fucking nephropathy. In the next life, I want to come back as a powerful cyborg, or maybe a nematode.

(Image from Land Line Media Blog)

MTV's 16 and Pregnant

According to MSN News, MTV is making a reality show called 16 and Pregnant. The programme was apparently inspired by the popularity of Juno (a film I hated) and will feature pregnant teenagers whose experiences are documented on camera and aired on MTV.

As any mother who takes her job seriously will explain, getting and being pregnant are the easiest parts of being a mom. The real challenges (and rewards) come afterward, along with late-night feedings, diaper changes, fevers, diarrhoea, trips to the emergency room, headaches, tears, frustration, a thousand tiny betrayals and reconciliations, frequent disagreements with one's partner (if he's around), disruption, improvisation, constant second-guessing, and, most of all, an often crushing and nearly overwhelming sense of total responsibility for the life of another human being.

A better idea for a show would be to send cameras to document the lives of 19 year old single parents of toddlers, who work all day at dead end service sector jobs while mouth-breathing daycare staff raise their kids for them, or their conversations with patronizing social workers who don't have an iota of genuine feeling for these women or their children. Maybe the show could also interview young fathers who have abandoned their kids and ask them how it feels to know that their children will grow up wondering why their fathers didn't love them, or that they are unlikely to ever meet their grandchildren, who also stand a decent chance of growing up fatherless.

Of course, MTV would never encourage today's teens, pregnant or otherwise, to grow up and take life seriously. Teenagers and childish twentysomethings can be persuaded to buy all kinds of crap they don't need, while hard-nosed adults who actually have to think about where their money goes probably give far less of it to the vacuous, opportunistic fashion peddlers at MTV.

I wonder if we'll see 16 year old girls getting pregnant in order to have a shot at making it onto national television. Let's hope today's young women are smarter than that.

(Image from Jupiter Images)

Juno Was a Lousy Movie

SOAPBOX ALERT: I usually try to avoid both preaching and critiquing movies at TPM, but sometimes a guy's just gotta harangue. So here I go:

Juno is only barely a movie about bringing new life into the world. It's primarily a postmodern moral experiment to see if ironic, near-weightless characters can have their cake and eat it too. To achieve this, it has to abandon the traditional stuff of reproductive drama, like territoriality, responsibility, and the powerful, conflicting bonds that exist between lovers, parents and offspring, in favour of an idealized grrl-topia where men behave like passive, indulgent milquetoasts or sexual predators, and mothers-to-be are somehow empowered by acting like selfish, irresponsible babies themselves.

The infant that arrives at the film's end is passed off to Garner's character with hardly a tear (says Juno in the voiceover: "She was never really ours, anyway"), and comes off more like an afterthought or prop than an actual human being. This child is inexplicably delivered from a promising domestic situation in which both parents are present (and in love!) along with three biological grandparents and a committed step-spouse, and into the hands of a single mother who has demonstrably poor taste in men--the equivalent of this in poker would be to throw out an entire royal flush for a queen and a joker. No one with any real-life childbearing experience could write a movie in which allegedly sane people think and act this way.

Juno tacitly encourages young women to think that pregnancy is all about them. It isn't. Juno also falsely suggests that giving up a baby after carrying it around for 9 months isn't much harder than getting one's appendix out. Whether one is pro-choice or pro-life is irrelevant--everyone should be pro-responsibility and pro-reality, and Juno is neither. It is a travesty, a celebration of narcissism and immaturity, and it's sad that real teenagers who don't know any better are going to take cues from this ridiculous film.

Blinkered selfishness and intelligent self-interest are not the same thing at all. The sooner more feminist-influenced artists figure this out, the sooner they'll stop making shitty movies like Juno.

(Image from