Monday, December 09, 2013


"To live is to war with trolls." --Ibsen

The qualities of Norman Rockwell's painting Saying Grace have long been obvious to everyone except a handful of fine art critics.  Now that the painting has been sold by Sotheby's for $46 million, fine art critics are able to see its merits it as well.

The sale offers us a propadeutic moment, shining a spotlight on the scoundrels who encircled  Rockwell.  Such lessons should not be wasted.

As explained in Deborah Solomon's new biography, Rockwell paid a heavy personal price to create this painting:
He did only three Post covers that year and Saying Grace ate up months.  The illustrator George Hughes remembered a night when Rockwell threw the canvas into the snow in a fit of disgust, only to retrieve it the next morning.
Rockwell agonized over his painting; he probably lost money on it, but he was the only one who did.

Saying Grace was one of seven Rockwell paintings in the auction from the "personal collection" of Ken Stuart, who was Art Director of the Saturday Evening Post until 1962.  Illustrators who worked for Stuart complained that he leaned on them to "donate" their original art to his personal collection, in order to stay on his good side when he handed out new assignments.  Illustrations that Stuart didn't want to keep, he sometimes donated to museums to get the tax deduction.

In today's world, abusing his position of responsibility for personal gain would be considered highly unethical and a conflict of interest.  But in the 1950s, because of the lower stature of illustration, artists were largely helpless when art directors, printers and clients embezzled originals. The Post later sued Stuart for walking off with illustrations, but a court ruled that it waited too long to assert its rights.

Stuart left his Rockwell paintings to his three sons, thinking they would benefit from his windfall.  Instead, they took to fighting like scorpions in a bottle.  Accusations of theft and misconduct flew back and forth as the brothers squabbled and sued each other over the best way to monetize the art.

The owners of the Saturday Evening Post watched the Sotheby's auction with dismay, accusing the Stuarts of being  "in it for the money.”  However, it turns out that today's Post is no saint either.  The magazine responsible for those great Rockwell covers and other imaginative illustrations and stories died in 1969.  Its assets were purchased in 1971 by an industrialist who spotted a shrewd way to squeeze additional profits from the corpse of the old magazine.  Today's incarnation of the Post is far more aggressive than the original Post at marketing Norman Rockwell key chains, calendars, gift cards, coasters and other knicknacks.  It became known for aggressively tracking down and claiming royalties for the use of obscure images from the original Post.  In this light, the new Post's indignation about people being "in it for the money" seems comical.

Unfortunately, the war with trolls does not end there.  To add insult to injury, during his lifetime Rockwell had to chafe under misguided political and artistic editorial controls.  For example, Solomon's biography reveals that in another cover,
[Rockwell] was angry at Stuart for overstepping his bounds and altering a painting without telling him.  When Rockwell received an advance copy... of the Post, he was in disbelief.  Stuart had taken it upon himself to paint a horse out of the picture.
The kind of misconduct described in this blog post only comes to light on rare occasions such as the Sotheby's sale, when it becomes economically worthwhile for someone to expose it.

To his credit, Rockwell focused more on his artistic choices in Saying Grace than on fending off the parasites and scavengers around him.  That's part of what enabled him to create such superb, lasting work.  


MORAN said...

Your troll series is very depressing and this one may be the worst.

Laurence John said...

David, have you read Solomon's biography and if so, what did you think of it ?

i'm not surprised by any of the revelations in this post except for the one that - following links to the biography - Deborah Solomon thinks she can 'discern enormous homoeroticism' in Rockwell's work. i think she's imagining things.

Deborah Solomon said...

David, Thanks for this frank and bracing post. I am impressed, among other things, that you used the word "propadeutic" and thereby avoided referring to the sale as a mere teachable moment.

So long as we are on the subject of The Saturday Evening Post's cupidity, I'd like to point out that Curtis Publications charges so much to reproduce old Rockwell covers that even major newspapers and television stations cannot afford to show them. The reviews of my book that have run in newspapers and elsewhere have mostly used images in the public domain -- meaning, pre-1923 Rockwells, to avoid having to pay Curtis's unaffordable fees.

I am concerned that the Post's reproduction fees are inhibiting Rockwell scholarship and preventing his work from reaching a new generation.

Thanks, D.

David Apatoff said...

Deborah Solomon-- Welcome to my little blog, and thank you for using the word "cupidity" in a way that does not involve a lace doily and a red paper heart!

I agree with you 100% about the effect of Curtis' fee system. My view is that they have no interest in honoring Rockwell's legacy beyond wringing every dollar they can get out of it (which is what makes their faux indignation over the Stuarts so entertaining). But the bigger picture is even worse than that. People in my line of work, who delve into dusty archives and attempt to re-introduce long forgotten illustrators to the world, find that Curtis is a significant obstacle, making silly claims about the importance of illustrators they have never heard of, and fabricating outrageous notions about some burning "market value" for the assets they bought at fire sale prices.

The original Curtis company introduced thousands of illustrations to the American public. Today's Curtis is, in my opinion, a short-sighted mortician with no interest in scholarship that might re-vivify an artist.

chris bennett said...

You have mentioned Robert Crumb here before, and this post reminded me of something he said on this subject.

It went to the tune of; 'the artists are the meat, almost everyone else they deal with are the butchers.' (Certainly the words 'meat' and 'butchers' were used.)

David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- Yup, it's pretty bad. Part of the reason for talking about this now (apart from discouraging similar anti-social behavior in the future) is that I think Rockwell deserves additional credit-- he not only painted masterpieces but he did it while simultaneously dealing with trolls who could easily have impaired his mission.

Laurence John-- I am almost through Deborah Solomon's biography, and here is what I think: I think it is a well written, exhaustively researched book, filled with entertaining and revealing anecdotes about an important painter. As a student of illustration, I found it fascinating. Furthermore, I like Ms. Solomon's taste and some of her writing about art is downright poetic. (For example, in describing "Saying Grace," she describes it as "a ballet of gazes" and says, "The boy seems to be breathing a purer kind of air than the figures around him.") However, I don't think she has satisfied her burden of proof for the use of a term such as "homoeroticism" and I would not have used it.

Anonymous said...

In a nutshell, sensitivity is an asset for the artist and a liability for the entrepreneur/business manager.

Anonymous said...

I think for the SEP people to whine and claim the Stuarts' were simply "in it for the money" by selling Norman Rockwell's painting "Saying Grace" is like the pot calling the kettle black.

David Apatoff said...

Chris Bennett-- I certainly understand Crumb's point, and given a choice I would prefer the role of the butcher to the role of meat, most of the time. Still, look at this glorious painting and tell me there are no redeeming features to being meat.

Etc, etc-- and yet, so many business entrepreneurs want to show the world how sensitive they are by paying huge sums of money for art they think will telegraph their sensitivity.

Anonymous-- Agreed. Their lack of self-awareness is dazzling. The Post will be under-represented in a whole generation of scholarly literature because of the attitude of current manmagement.

Anonymous said...


JSL said...

"Parasites and scavengers" are the perfect words for it.

António Araújo said...

David, in a recent post you talked about the nebulous concept of intellectual property. The thing that strikes me in that subject is this: everyone recognizes that the author should have some sort of rights over his creations. The question is how that right should be formally modeled. That legislators should have chosen to model author's rights within the fiction of "property" rather than say, the fiction of "human rights", is not innocent. The fiction of "human rights" concerns inalienable rights, that you cannot sell even if you want to (you cannot "choose" to sell a kidney, for instance). The fiction of "property" has the "advantage", among others, that publishers can pressure authors to give up their "natural rights" for a pittance, and, not only will they get what they want, but they will be protected from social opprobium, since, the argument goes, the author "freely" accepted a contract (freely, within capitalism, meaning as usual that he preferred to submit to richer people rather than starve) and therefore "its his/her own fault".

For instance, I seem to recall the story (vaguely - correct me if I'm wrong) that Tolkien had no copyright protection in the USA and therefore someone was legally selling an edition of the Hobbit (or LOTR?) in your country for a while. The lack of legal protection could not however keep the public, when informed, from recoiling at the injustice and preferring to buy an edition approved by the author. But let the author, under copyright law, be tricked - or forced by market "standards" - into accepting a rotten deal, and he can be placed in the absurd situation where photocopying his own work for a friend will make him a criminal.

This comment properly belonged in your other post, but it was suggested to me by the fact that this story of yours so well illustrates it, by recalling that even actual physical property of the artistic kind (on which the fiction of "intellectual property" is based) can so easily, and legally, be pilfered away from creators. The ease with which property can be legally taken by those who already have most of it is the real reason, IMO, why there is such an effort to extend the fiction of "property" to more and more things, both physical and conceptual.

António Araújo said...

ps: I mean at no moment to imply that I have a notion of how to solve this problem.

I am lately inclined to think, however, that although the problem has probably no ideal solution, its extent and gravity is proportional to the extent of economic inequality in a society. More and more I think that keeping economic inequality within a reasonable boundary (to be determined by experimentation as too little also has known side-effects) is probably more effective than trying to legislate specifically, as powerful people always find loopholes or legislators to bribe. Meaning, the macro problem is probably more amenable than the myriad of micro problems. But now I digress too much.

António Araújo said...

pps: the issue in the case of your story is of course muddled by the fact that Rockwell was hardly the starving artist. He had (some) choices. What people submit to in order to keep their place at the top of a field that works in part on a lottery system is to me less distressing than what people submit to at the lower levels just to literally put bread on their table. But none of this changes the fact that the people doing the pilfering are disgusting and it's repugnant that literally no amount of talent will get you off their clutches completely.

kev ferrara said...

How can inalienable rights also be fictitious?

I do all sorts of things above and beyond the call of duty for clients. And they do the same for me. This is because, in a lot of businesses, relationships are equally (or sometimes more) important than the work.

Rockwell must have known that Breaking Home Ties was one of his masterpieces. If he did give it away, I can't imagine it was an easy decision. So I assume he must have thought he would have a great deal to gain from doing so.

António Araújo said...

>How can inalienable rights also be fictitious?

You are right, this needs context. Here in Portugal, as you know, we are burning offerings to the gods of austerity. In this context, some people (usually the ones who pilfered all the money) are demanding that some constitutional "rights" be abolished. Here's the argument: You can write in the constitution that you have a right to this and that (say, to healthcare, or education) but if there is no money to provide those things, those rights become just useless ink on paper. Hence, "rights are nice fictions".

To this I say that they are correct, but, with what should be the obvious corollary: that in the same way that a poor person's "right" to healthcare is a nice fiction that only takes effect upon the existence of means, so is the right of a rich person to "his property". His "right" to have that property recognized and defended by the state against those who would take it by force, or his "right" to keep a large house all for himself while others are homeless, or to keep a nice private helicopter while a hospital makes do without, or his right not to have his company nationalized, are also nice fictions that may become untenable if means are unavailable.

So, yes, all of these "rights" are fictions that we treat -and probably should treat- as realities, and, in times of distress, it may become impossible to satisfy them all. But what defines our character as a society is which fictions we choose to prioritize and preserve when we can't satisfy them all.

António Araújo said...

Or, a simpler answer: the fiction is that they are inalienable in the first place. They are only inalienable until someone with a big stick decides that they aren't so anymore because... he said so, that's why.

One could argue that a certain taming of capitalism's most egregious excesses took place because rich people realized that their inalienable right not to wake up hanging from street lamps was a nice fiction that they should strive to preserve. Hence all the foundations, and the public relations efforts that worked so well that even working class people now buy magazines with rich people's faces on them. Unfortunately this realization seems to be fading from people's minds and the PR keeps going but the worst excesses are returning.

I do agree that this may not apply to Rockwell. We have discussed this before: there is a big difference between the circumstances of a street hooker who has no options except starving and a luxury escort with a college degree. Real choice only exists after you get to a certain level of assured subsistence and basic comfort. After that point you are negotiating over luxuries and what you are or not prepared to swallow in order to get them. Say, I wouldn't weep if Steve Jobs decided to sell his inalienable kidney to Bill Gates for half the latter's Microsoft stock. :) He had a real choice. Rockwell too could probably choose what to do in a real sense. Which still allows space for people in power to be greedy exploitative jerks, though (and I also bet the guy was in this case). But yeah, it gets much more subtle up there on the penthouse... :)

Richard said...

"discern enormous homoeroticism"?

That's juicy.

I'm interested in hearing more about that. Frankly, I can't see any more homoeroticism in Rockwell than in any other skilled artist who deals as lovingly with male subjects as he does female.

Granted, maybe that takes something akin to homoeroticism, but if Rockwell is guilty, so is pretty much anyone else who can draw.

Richard said...

After a moments thought --

There are definitely artists who not only draw the male with care, but portray a masculinity which is by modern standards very homoerotic (the obvious example here is Frazetta), and that likely has more to do with the culture of masculinity they're working out of.

Perhaps she's detecting something more to do with the innate homoeroticism of masculinity worship period, not just the masculinity worship in Rockwell's work alone.

Is there masculinity worship that doesn't border on homoeroticism? I'm unsure.

chris bennett said...

David Apatoff wrote: "I certainly understand Crumb's point, and given a choice I would prefer the role of the butcher to the role of meat, most of the time. Still, look at this glorious painting and tell me there are no redeeming features to being meat."

Indeed. If I were given the choice... But it depends how I'm feeling. If the mortgage seems under control, and the jobs are steadily rolling in, I'll choose 'meat' over 'butcher' any day. If not, I'll gladly take 'butcher' without a second thought. But if basic food clothes and shelter are sorted, anything extra is fool's gold compared to the spiritual nourishment of trying to fashion art. That is; proving to oneself that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, that life is worth living, that our magic might, just might, be real.

The hunter has his prize. But it is eaten and soon forgotten. The deer, while alive, runs, jumps and leaps in eternity.

David Apatoff said...

JSL-- I dunno, the word "leeches" is pretty good one too.

Antonio Araujo-- You have opened the door to half a dozen worthy topics. It will be impossible to address them all in this context, but let me take a crack at just a few:

Regarding Tolkien and his IP rights in the US, the rules between countries are erratic. Interestingly, as countries develop they usually start out as IP thieves and progress to becoming strict protectors of IP rights. For example, the copyright laws in the US were virtually nonexistent in the 19th century, so British creators such as Gilbert & Sullivan or Charles Dickens were apoplectic that their work was stolen and performed or printed here with impunity. The US public didn't give a damn. Fast forward 100 years and the US is now a net exporter of IP, so it becomes apoplectic that the Chinese copyright laws are nonexistent and US work is stolen with impunity. Years from now, China will be developed enough to be a net exporter of IP and it will suddenly be in China's interest to enforce IP laws. So you have to view IP enforcement with a time line.

There are different property rights at stake in the Rockwell case-- the rights to the physical painting, which Stuart apparently used his position to coax from Rockwell, and the rights of reproduction, which Curtis bought from Rockwell for a mere $3,500 and for which Curtis' successors probably paid 12 cents. They have been aggressively licensing the image ever since. The "fair use" exemption from the copyright laws enables me to use it on this blog without fear of reprisal.

I agree that Rockwell was hardly the starving artist; he did just fine but he did not make as much as you might think. In this wicked world, the country's most successful illustrator might make as much as any of 100 successful lawyers.

Kev Ferrara wrote, "I assume he must have thought he would have a great deal to gain from doing so."

I agree that we all make compromises to maintain relationships. However, the rumor is that Ken Stuart exploited his powerful position as the art director of the Post to feather his own nest and build a personal collection of art now worth tens of millions of dollars. Whether he was accepting gifts voluntarily offered by artists or extorting gifts from artists desperate for assignments, both smell of bribery that would taint the independent exercise of his judgment on behalf of his employer. Was he choosing illustrators based on what was in the best interests of the Post, or based on who was giving him juicy originals to take home?

David Apatoff said...

Richard-- Homoeroticism takes up just a few sentences in a 450 page book, yet it seems to have invaded almost every press account of the book. (You'll note that it took up zero sentences in my blog post, yet here it is invading our discussion). I think Solomon should have recognized that even a few words would have a disproportionate inflammatory effect.

Chris Bennett-- That is one of the most interesting dynamics at play here. By one measure, Rockwell is the big loser here-- his children lose out on all that money, and his legacy loses out on the museum audiences that once visited these paintings. (Sotheby's took these paintings all the way to Hong Kong in search of some foreign oligarch who might want to buy up a cherished piece of Americana, perhaps with corrupt petrodollars or the proceeds of slave labor. It could be that we'll never see these paintings again.)

But the balance sheet is a little more complex than that. Stuart's sons, who were supposed to profit from this great windfall, seem to have been led to a place of anger and resentment by the promise of these works. News accounts say they have become permanently estranged. One brother is reported to have led a profligate life in anticipation of the inheritance that resulted in personal bankruptcy. Allegations were also made that the financial pressures caused improper financial transactions regarding the artwork. In Charles Dickens' Bleak House, he writes about a young couple whose lives are ruined by the anticipation of a large inheritance. The prospect of their windfall prevented them from getting on with real lives and living in the moment. I don't know the Stuarts' situation well enough to draw any conclusions, but it would seem at a minimum that the father's ill gotten gains has not been an unqualified good for the sons.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

Antonio sez
>some people (usually the ones who pilfered all the money) are demanding that some constitutional "rights" be abolished. Here's the argument: You can write in the constitution that you have a right to this and that (say, to healthcare, or education) but if there is no money to provide those things, those rights become just useless ink on paper.

I think the difference here is that a 'right' to healthcare or education is a right essentially to a service, and that service requires action of someone else, with or without their consent. Specifically in this case it requires that people cough up their money to the government. It's a 'right' that requires coercion upon someone else, taking their property and redistributing it.

A person's right to their property, on the other hand, requires nothing of anyone else. It's a negative right. It's merely the right that people can't steal from them. That's not a service, and in no way forces action upon anyone else.

I think forcing action upon someone else and forcing inaction upon someone else are two very different thing, and that's the big difference between a negative right, like the right to property, and a positive right, like the right to an education. A positive right is a 'right' that actively steps on someone else's rights.

A natural or inalienable right does nothing of the sort. My right to my own property in no way effects anyone else's rights. My right's to free healthcare would. A right that requires someone else be stripped of their rights is not a right at all, it's a privilege.

kev ferrara said...

Masculinity is just what it is. How people react to it, or label it is purely a subjective matter. To say masculinity is de facto homoerotic is to essentially declare the feminine or male homosexual perspective (or even the neutered-dweeb perspective) to be universal. Which it isn't.

Richard said...

Masculinity within an individual often is just what it is. Masculinity worship, on the other hand, in a work of art made by a man, often reads as homoeroticism.

E.g. Village People, the roles they play, and their song "Macho Man".

I can definitely see how Solomon, likely experiencing the works in a post-Village People mindset, could read them as homoerotic.

Richard said...

Village People is a very extreme example, but I think it should get the idea across.

Contrast that with characters who show power, but are not expressly a type of masculinity worship; Dr. King Schultz (Django Unchained) & Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption).

kev ferrara said...

Even if one were inclined to concede that what is going on in heroic or violent artwork is "masculinity worship" that still wouldn't equate with homoeroticism.

Your use of both "worship" and "eroticism" is overstated, and your entire argument is based on the acceptance of these overstatements as accurate.

Masculinity worship, on the other hand, in a work of art made by a man, often reads as homoeroticism.

To whom? Again, all you are going on is the truth of some narrow perspective on these things which you have accepted as gospel.

To somebody trained in any kind of "ism", everything is a dog whistle for that idea. Everything is about sex, everything is about class struggle, everything is evidence of racism, everything is about commercialism, or corruption, or white privilege, or cultural conditioning, etc. depending on the respective funnel vision of the obsessive.

Miss Solomon has grown up in a time and culture where there is an obsession with ferreting out homosexual dog whistles. We hear John Lennon is gay, we hear Tom Cruise is gay, we hear that any male friendship is a gay doghistle, any homophobia or gay joke is a gay dogwhistle, hyper-masculinity is a gay dogwhistle, promiscuity is too, if you can appreciate a work of art where there is a nude male or boy that's a gay dogwhistle too, so is male grooming or fashion, so is playing sports or being a sports fan, etc. Its all tendentious to the same degree and amounts to crap scholarship.

Richard said...

>To whom?

Well, to Deborah Solomon, and that's understandable given our current understandings about sexual repression. I'm not saying she's right in Rockwell's case, but that the conclusion is understandable.

That people should now read into Rockwell's Fireman, Policeman, and Navy-man something Village-People-esque is natural.

Homosexual feelings were intensely repressed at the time, so of course people are interested in trying to ferret them out today. It's of historical importance.

Further, it has been shown time and again that often men who display the most cartoonishly extreme examples of masculinity today are those trying to hide their own femininity. This is not from theory, it's from experience.

She is probably wrong in Rockwell's case and I suspect I know where her mistake arises.

I would wager her mistake results from her not being entirely acquainted with realist works of the time. Most artists at the time when showing a male character would show a sort of pre-pubescent wet dream of what a man should be, and not necessarily because they themselves were gay, but because the culture so repressed those feelings that the entire culture of the time ended up intensely faggy.

kev ferrara said...

That people should now read into Rockwell's Fireman, Policeman, and Navy-man something Village-People-esque is natural.

No. There is a big difference between emphasizing masculinity into an archetype for dramatic or comic effect, and exaggerating it and twisting it into poncey absurdity with erotic and sociological/political appeal to gay men. If you can't tell the difference between the two, that only demonstrates your own lack of sensitivity on the question.

it has been shown time and again that often men who display the most cartoonishly extreme examples of masculinity today are those trying to hide their own femininity.

Again, I would argue that you are insensitive to the subtleties of the question. It matters a great deal just which masculine characteristics are being exaggerated. A square jawed, tall, dark, well-groomed man in a suit is surely not the same thing as some guy in the Village People wearing Chaps over a speedo and dancing with his bare legs akimbo.

Also, you are relying on more induction fallacy. There are some examples of fake masculinity (The Rock Hudsons of the world) but most "displays" of masculinity aren't displays at all, just men being men and taking pride in their physicality. This idea of normal masculinity, or even hetero masculine show-offs, seems to not be a part of your world. Or, further, not part of the world most of the chit-chatters in the media and academia inhabit. Which, I would guess, is just why the issue has been so distorted, culture wide. And why so many in the cultural set are hearing gay dog-whistles where there ain't any.

Most artists at the time when showing a male character would show a sort of pre-pubescent wet dream of what a man should be

"Most" eh? "At the time?" You mean most male representations that appeared from 1918 to 1965 (the span of Rockwell's career)? I don't think you really have done the research to make that statement.

I agree that there were a lot of Don Draper types; the tall handsome white dad or businessman figure, between 1940 and 1960, after mainstream illustration was usurped by advertising. But the necessity that this is tied to repression is conjecture. Clearly, advertising affected things. But more essentially, the way most artists were taught was to compose with ideals in order to create clear communication and to elevate the subject matter. This wasn't just ideals of masculine and feminine, but ideals of all objects and props in a scene, even colors, shapes, and values.

Richard said...

I agree that a lot of what I said was conjecture, I don't see that as the problem you do though. This post will be riddled with more conjecture.

That those characters (in Village People) are worshipped as specifically masculine ideals is unrelated to the camp style that glosses over it. Camp evolved in gay communities as the result of a sort of acceptance of effeminacy for themselves. That homosexual men worship specifically alpha male archetypes leads the Village People to ape those looks to appeal to their audience, but not actually be those sorts of men, not to act in an alpha way.

I suspect this has to do with evolved mating habits in great apes in general.
If we look at homosexuality in our closest great ape cousins (not including the entirely bisexual bonobo), it is generally beta-males who attach themselves to alpha-males, and essentially act as females towards those alpha-males.
This makes the alpha-males comfortable with them, plus the alpha-male has the added benefit that the beta-males will protect their haraam and offspring. The trade is that on rare occasion those gay beta-males get it into their heads to procreate with one of the females. That will occasionally produce offspring, which is likely what causes the beta-male homosexuality to continue into the next generation, where we might otherwise suspect homosexuality to be chosen against in a dog-eat-dog world. Those beta-males, if they did not act as females, would be forced out of the group, or killed, and they'd then never get the chance to mate.
That that creates an actual evolutionary drive towards male homosexuality for beta-males in a species is the primary thesis in vogue today.
I suspect this is the same case in humans as well, with slight adjustment and adaptation after several thousand years of monogamy.
So what would that mean? Well, it would mean that homosexuals are generally not alpha-males, but specifically have a desire to please the alpha-males. They would then be expected to "worship" the alpha-males, and those archetypes. Alpha-males may appreciate those arche-types as a goal or a blueprint for themselves, as I think you suggested, but beta-males would be expected to delight in them in a clearer way.
In a society that specifically disallows outted male homosexuality, I believe that the market is swayed such that those beta-males will still get the alpha-male characters they want to drool on, while playing at being straight. The other alpha-males understand the beta-males prefering alpha-male archetypes because they think the beta-males are merely blueprinting with those archetypes, this allows the beta-males to pass. They get their soft-core porn, and can merely pretend they're appreciating a goal.

That is why, I would argue, in a culture with a large portion of repressed gay men, the media of that culture will often show a preponderance in specifically masculine archetypes of the sorts you see in the 1950s. So, basically, as the culture suppresses it's homosexual members from going off and doing their own thing, it basically makes itself extra faggy as a result.

António Araújo said...

>My right to my own property in no >way effects anyone else's rights.

The problem is precisely what "your property" means.
I agree with you, if you mean the ownership of your toothbrush. But if you mean the ownership of land, the ownership of the exclusive right to make copies of a sequence of binary digits, or

your ownership of a derivatives contract (or of a number of "dollars" for that matter), you are talking of wholly fictional things that only exists because society says so. The ownership of stock options ("the right, but not the obligation to acquire bla bla bla") is hardly "natural".

And, yes, most of those notions of ownership affect what could reasonably be called the natural liberties of other people. For example, a person's ownership of land infringes upon the natural rights of other human beings to walk where they please. Trespassing is a most unnatural concept.

How can a person "own" a piece of space? He can because the society he inhabits made such a convention after weighing pros and cons (the very use of "real" in "real estate", which refers to "royal", i.e., land belonging to the king, is a symptom of how notions of "property" are conventional and shift with time and convenience, as David also mentioned regarding copyright - again, what does it mean to own an idea, and doesn't that interfere with my right to come up with the same idea or to use my brain as I see fit?). That same society that convenes to decide you have a right, under some conditions, to keep other people out from a plot of land, may convene to decide that all its members must pay taxes to be used for common causes, and that one of such causes is mutual help in case of medical need.

Both are conventions. Fictions. Rules for reasonable cohabitation under conditions of crowding. I'd say the latter is arguably more humanely justifiable than the former (we can of course disagree on this. I certainly have disagreed with myself over the years).

To say nothing of the fact that if you go back in time, any piece of land that someone "owns" was first owned by arbitrarily putting a fence to keep people out through violence. You buy it peacefully and legally, but you are trading in stolen goods first obtained by murder, and we all politely agree not to mention it. But we should mention it when people start taking their "natural" rights to property for more than what they are.

By the way, the people who are arguing that we cut on social services aren't arguing that we stop paying taxes (that coercive, awful practice). They are just arguing - though not in so many words - that we should use the tax money to stuff their faces instead of paying for healthcare. Also, they are braking contracts with the people who payed for that healthcare over the years with their tax money; all the while invoquing the sanctity of contracts when it is convenient to them to protect their bonuses in firms that have been bailed out with public money. It's all a scam. I say to those people that if they really hate the state, then fine, give us anarchism. But when I say that, I don't see any takers. Behind all the talk of freedom from coercion you'll find a bunch of winning rich leeches who refuse to put down their party hats no matter how much damage they have already done. The rest is camouflage. There is always a Cicero on hand to argue inspiringly for the idea of freedom in a toga washed by slaves. But he only means freedom for his ilk.

chris bennett said...

David Apatoff— You’ve made me want to read ‘Bleak House’! Additional to the influence of promised fortune, the way in which the gain wrought by our greed further corrupts us is a complex, fascinating issue. Are the checks we place on ordinary overindulgence, be it in booze, neglect of exercise, domestic hygiene or whatever, automatically self-regulatory in the well-adjusted person, or are they the result of applied wisdom?

Your story about Rockwell throwing his painting out in the snow is revealing, even if (possibly) apocryphal. Whatever one’s occupation, there is a difference between those who feel compelled to do a job properly and to the best of their ability, and those who try and get away with the least effort for the maximum gain. It’s essentially the difference between the ‘givers’ and the ‘takers’. And of necessity we all spend time in both zones, as I’m sure you’ll agree. How long we do, once necessity has been met, is largely the measure of us.

I would bet that Rockwell’s anguish over his painting was independent of doubt about being paid. His talent was such that most of his paymasters would not see beyond the surface of what he’d done anyway. And had some ‘ghost of transactions yet to come’ rattled it’s moneyboxes in his ear, it would have made no difference to what was going on in his mind as he screwed himself up over how precisely, say, those flashes of intense red passed their graphic baton expressively around his masterpiece.

‘Truth and beauty’ seem too fine, too subtle, for greed’s coarse net. The irony is that the artist’s desire to make manifest allows it to be caught and thrown into the ghillie bag of commerce and cooked like everything else.

Laurence John said...


one of your links states that Kenneth Stuart Sr. owned 'six original Rockwell paintings and sketches'. your post says seven.
i don't know much about the man, but six or seven is hardly a huge amount of work for an artist to 'donate' to an art director who provided work for almost five decades (323 covers).

Richard said...

Antonio, great reply.

I'm definitely empathetic towards your points on intellectual property, and land.

I'm not a big believer in intellectual property myself, and I've always been very annoyed that property law in the US means that if I want to decorate the world around me, it's considered a crime (graffiti).

You're right that most people arguing for classical conservatism do so selectively, perhaps disingenuously, not taking what amounts to a nerfed anarchism far enough.

And you're right that the historical property distribution is the result of crime.

I like how early Judaism dealt with that. They have the concept of Jubilee (I say concept, because it wasn't practiced for long, if ever) where the society works on very free market principles for ~50 years. At that point, wealth has likely accumulates in pockets.

So what do you do? Move towards Socialism? Not exactly. Every fifty years, the land and wealth are redistributed equally, and then the system reverts to libertarian market principles. That way you have the benefit of a very free market organizing your society, but without the long-term dangers of wealth accumulation.

I suspect the problem they ran into is that when your jubilee is scheduled, it removes any motivation to build wealth in the years leading up to it. Jubilees then need to be unscheduled.

António Araújo said...


regarding the concept of jubilee, have you read a book called "Debt-the first 5000 years" by an (anarchist) anthropologist called David Graeber? Really interesting stuff.

I seem to recall that a similar concept existed for certain types of debt in mesopotamia and other places.

It used to be understood that there must be some protection for debtors, but now we seem to be veering towards more and more protection for creditors (bailouts included). Another interesting aspect is the different way in which debt was/is seen according to the debtor's class (for instance, historically, in the striking difference between debt prison for rich people and for poor people).

Which sort of laterally reminds me of something in the news today, that doubles as social commentary and postmodern art project: watch this kid "deconstruct" the justice system while "challenging" the notions of responsibility and plain common sense. Give this guy a Turner prize!

"Ethan Couch Sentenced To Probation In Crash That Killed 4 After Defense Argued He Had 'Affluenza'.

Psychologist G. Dick Miller testified for the defense that Couch suffered from "affluenza," a condition in which "his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences,""

Now, how is this a "condition"? I'd say that feeling "that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences" is not only a pretty accurate perception of reality, but one that is fully confirmed by the sentence.

They'll have the kid "cured" of his accurate perception of reality by sending him to an institution for a treatment that starts at half a million bucks, payed by daddy. As the cherry on top of the cake, I wouldn't be surprised to find that either daddy or his subsidiary or close friends actually own said institution and that it furthermore gets handouts from the state. They'll end up turning a profit, I bet.

Anonymous said...

That reads very much as a distorted explanation of the Jubilee as far as I'm concerned. The intent was to maintain allotment within the twelve tribal regions, so that if a member of one tribe "bought" land within another tribe's allotment it was essentially a prorated lease that expired in the year of Jubilee.

Richard said...


The Ethan Couch thing has been pretty well twisted by an American media playing off of people's jealousy about wealth I suspect.

In reality, in the United States it is very common for adults to get off for drunk driving vehicular homicide (in Montana, or example, 50% receive no jail time), let alone minors.

Also, I was reading elsewhere that the 'afluenza' defense was in actuality mentioned by an expert in the context of a neglect defense -- specifically, the kids dad was jet setting around with women, and the kids mom spent every day drunk at the spa or something like that (I can't find the article now, my apologies), and so he wasn't really raised well.

etc, etc --

You're probably right, I've only read about it in pop internet media.

António Araújo said...

Richard and etc etc,

I don't know much about the nature of the actual jewish jubilee. The term "debt Jubilee" is used in a general way to signify clean slate policies both anterior and posterior to the tradition of the actual jubilee.

I can however make the following notes: it seems clear that, whatever the motivation, the jubilee addressed more than transfers of land between tribes. I've seen in it mentioned in several places that it involved debt cancellations and manumission of bond servants or slaves. The point is sometimes made that land can only be leased, rather than sold, because ultimately it belongs to God (and not just to this or that tribe). The same with servants, since they ultimately serve God.

On that and other (Sumerian, Babylonian)clean slate traditions, maybe try this (I say maybe 'cause I just found it, to substitute for what I wanted to link but failed to find):


>Every fifty years, the land and >wealth are redistributed equally, >and then the system reverts to >libertarian market principles.

a small note: I'm not sure what happened in the mean time was in any way "market libertarian". I'd call it more "business as usual", whatever the usual was. :) I guess what you mean is that *we* could implement it in that way? Or do you know something specific about business practices in that society that I am completely missing?

>That way you have the benefit of >a very free market organizing >your society, but without the >long-term dangers of wealth >accumulation.

>I suspect the problem they ran >into is that when your jubilee is >scheduled, it removes any >motivation to build wealth in the >years leading up to it. Jubilees >then need to be unscheduled.

On this, another small note: actually the predictable jubilee is a practice posterior to the unpredictable debt cancellation. Take this wikipedia quote:

"These Babylonian kings (to whom could be added Ammizaduga[17]) occasionally issued decrees for the cancellation of debts and/or the return of the people to the lands they had sold. Such "clean slate" decrees were intended to redress the tendency of debtors, in ancient societies, to become hopelessly in debt to their creditors, thus accumulating most of the arable land into the control of a wealthy few. The decrees were issued sporadically. Economist Michael Hudson maintains that the Biblical legislation of the Jubilee and Sabbatical years addressed the same problems encountered by these Babylonian kings, but the Biblical formulation of the laws presented a significant advance in justice and the rights of the people. This was due to the "clean slates" now being codified into law, rather than relying on the whim of the king. Furthermore, the regular rhythm of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years meant that everyone would know when the next release was due, thereby giving fairness and equity to both creditor and debtor.[18][19] Hudson therefore maintains that not only was the Levitical legislation a significant advance over the prior attempts to deal with indebtedness, but this legislation was also eminently practical, in contradiction to many Biblical interpreters who are not economists and who have labeled it "utopian.""

I don't know whether it worked better or worse. But it was a later development. A consequence of the predictability was that land sale value changed as the jubilee approached: land became cheaper since the sale was effectively a lease for a shorter period of time. Apparently the amount by which it became cheaper was actually codified into law (wikipedia, again - see biblical jubilee)

António Araújo said...

>You're right that most people >arguing for classical conservatism >do so selectively, perhaps >disingenuously, not taking what >amounts to a nerfed anarchism far >enough.

Most people arguing for libertarianism (in the american sense of the word) do to, since many are in fact economic conservatives with some libertarian lifestyle opinions. It is all very selective and rationalized rather than reasoned out, and I do confess that I have, in matters of temperament, a libertarian streak in me, so I do "want to believe", it is just that I really can't.

I remember one book I read on "free market anarchism" where at least it seemed to me that there was an attempt to take that approach to its actual consequences. It was some time ago, but I recall it pushed some buttons, at least:

Hey, here's the full book, apparently:

I was not convinced, but I found it interesting (by the way, Graeber had a funny quip about "market anarchists" being a curious genus that for some reason seemed to only live in internet forums :)). In fact I've been finding anarchist approaches of all sorts more and more interesting. Not that I find in them "solutions", or ready-made systems, but in the sense that they make me think in more interesting ways. Even if one takes a merely reformist approach, it is good to have some ideas floating in your head that don't limit themselves to the usual boundaries.

António Araújo said...

>Also, I was reading elsewhere that >the 'afluenza' defense was in >actuality mentioned by an expert in >the context of a neglect >defense(...)can't find the article >now

Thanks for the tip, I'll search for it. I just saw it today and don't know any details apart from the huffpo article. I just focused on that funny bit about the guy's "condition" of seeing things as they pretty much are. :)

kev ferrara said...

the very use of "real" in "real estate", which refers to "royal", i.e., land belonging to the king,

Stop reading the internet, please.

I'm not a big believer in intellectual property myself

Might be instructive if the next time you went to get your paycheck, you were told that your time and work, since most of it was merely talking on the phone or writing intellectual things on company paper (or posting on the internet), was no longer reasonably understood to be your property. And that your last two weeks' intellectual effort had been given away by your employers to whomever might want it, in accordance with communal internet principles.

I've always been very annoyed that property law in the US means that if I want to decorate the world around me, it's considered a crime (graffiti).

I'd like to decorate the outside of your apartment windows by blacking them out with tar and melted rubber. Hope you don't mind.

Richard said...


>Might be instructive if the next time you went to get your paycheck, you were told that your time and work, since most of it was merely talking on the phone or writing intellectual things on company paper (or posting on the internet), was no longer reasonably understood to be your property.

I understand the predicament this puts artists and creators in. I once was working towards a career in illustration myself, and had planned on doing so since I was a 5 year old. I'm of the belief that there would probably be enough of a market for me to make a reasonable living if not for our weak IP laws. Instead I'm working a job I never intended on because I have a family and have to pay the bills. I understand whats at stake, and yet I still prefer a world of free IP to one where I may be able to live my life's dream.

>I'd like to decorate the outside of your apartment windows by blacking them out with tar and melted rubber. Hope you don't mind.

argumentum ad absurdum

>In fact I've been finding anarchist approaches of all sorts more and more interesting. Not that I find in them "solutions", or ready-made systems, but in the sense that they make me think in more interesting ways. Even if one takes a merely reformist approach, it is good to have some ideas floating in your head that don't limit themselves to the usual boundaries.

I think that's what Libertarianism attempts to do, no?

António Araújo said...

>"Might be instructive if the next >time you went to get your paycheck, >you were told that your time and >work, (...) was no longer >reasonably understood to be your >property"

This has been happening a lot, to a lot of working people, so you don't have to use "might". It *has been* very instructive since 2008, and that is why I have personally been veering left. It just doesn't happen to the "people that matter". For the rest of us, contracts are broken all the time, and the value of our work - intellectual or not - is arbitrarily reset all the time in one-sided ways.

Also, most creative people I know are being screwed out of the "intellectual property" they create all the time by the hogs who hoard it in large firms.

Even in science this is so. Scientific papers are made at the expense of the state, by people who are payed by the state, and somehow there are private middle men that seem to end up with the copyright and the public has huge trouble and expense to buy the papers back from the private magazines. So yeah, I have just a humongous respect for "intellectual property" as it is currently implemented.

Regarding graffiti, private firms have wrecked havoc on the urban landscape, bribing officials to demolish relevant architecture to replace it for malls and other monstrosities. So a tag or two seem mild by comparison. And lately graffiti has been getting hugely interesting - much more than many art galleries - while the legal defacement of public space by mass advertising is rather less so. I agree that many graffiti artists could brush up on their ethics. But how do you reckon that large companies fare on that regard, comparatively?

The difference is that some abuses are legal and others aren't. If the law was to change, would that also change what is right? For some people, following the current rules is the very definition of what is right - I agree that this view is very functional, but I don't really subscribe.

>Stop reading the internet, please

If that is in error, I would appreciate it if you could supply an authoritative reference. I have seen both claims. In Portuguese and Spanish, the word "real" is used both to mean "royal" and to mean "real" in the english sense, so the connection seemed plausible. It was just an amusing aside that doesn't affect my argument, and since I don't aspire to being a linguist, I readily confess I didn't check it carefully.

Anonymous said...

You're probably right, I've only read about it in pop internet media.

HaShem help you nah be-nee.

António Araújo said...

>I think that's what Libertarianism attempts to do, no?

The difference is that I've found libertarian arguments to be more of a big system thing. And the system doesn't seem workable. The perspective is still useful, though, as one among several.

The anarchists, though...there's many anarchisms, there's no big system, which gets immensely frustrating for my temperament, and strangely, I find it interesting precisely because of that.

But I am sort of a past libertarian free marketeer in recovery. There's nothing worse than a former true believer. :) You feel ashamed for being duped for so long and the last thing you should get yourself is another system. So for now I like to read from an anarchist perspective though I am no anarchist, I think. I guess I'd identify as left leaning tentative reformer. I am willing to put up with bureaucracies though I despise them because I think they may be useful to society, a bit like I used to put up with capitalists in suits (though I always despised them) because I used to think they were useful to society. I now share a bit of the old notion that a trader is only slightly better than a con man.

Oh, by the way, funny story: I got converted out of capitalism in part by reading Adam Smith's famous tome. Wonderful book! If capitalists actually read it instead of selectively quoting it, they'd throw all the copies into a big pile and burn them. Even more dangerous than Marx. :)

Richard said...

>Oh, by the way, funny story: I got converted out of capitalism in part by reading Adam Smith's famous tome. Wonderful book! If capitalists actually read it instead of selectively quoting it, they'd throw all the copies into a big pile and burn them. Even more dangerous than Marx. :)

That's funny, I got converted out of Communism by living on a commune.

António Araújo said...

>That's funny, I got converted out >of Communism by living on a commune.

Hahahaha :D. You just made my day.

I'm guessing it wasn't a free love commune? :) Do share the details! :)

António Araújo said...

By the way, if the "real" in "real estate" actually means just "real"...that sort of makes the same point all over again. A house is "real property" as opposed to what? Property that is...unreal? Surreal? Like copyright? Like stock options? Like the right to occupy seat 7B at the cinema next monday on the 9PM session? Maybe people did have a notion that this property thing was a bit unclear.

The other day I went to the Durer exhibition in Frankfurt. There was this wonderful panel where Durer admonished pirates in terms similar to these: "do you not know that the right to make prints of these works has been ascribed to me by the grace of the emperor? Tremble before greed leads you to infraction or you shall suffer terrible consequences."

It was remarkably similar to the FBI notices on videotapes. I wish I could have taken a photograph of the panel to quote it properly, but, you know, the museum would not allow it. It apparently owned all the photons in the room. :)

kev ferrara said...

argumentum ad absurdum

The absurdity is yours, thinking that other people's opinions and rights don't matter insonfar as they interfere with your "creative" whims. Or, equally absurdly, that whatever you might do grafitti-wise would be considered "decoration" by anybody other than yourself.

By the way, listening to you and Antonio debate politics reminds me of Roger Ebert's review of the performances of Sharon Stone and Sylvester Stallone in The Specialist: It's like watching the Hindenberg crash into the Titanic.

António Araújo said...

ps: going on a wild tangent here, but I just recalled: Durer came off a bit like a douche on the show. They made much of the thing about "Durer beating Apelles"

Which is sort of ridiculous, Apelles being long dead and his works lost.

Mind you, I love Durer for many reasons (he was an artist mathematician no less!) but after his copyright notice, the sucking up to the emperor, the commemorative medals, and the "beating" of Apelles, I could not keep from focusing on the facts that the great geometer and measurer of the human form, in his pencil drawings (not on his final works) too often made the typical error of setting one eye too high or low on the face; that his pretty trick with the fine hairs (on the bunny, on old men, on his damned pubic hairs I suppose) gets a bit old; and that, frankly, after all his measurement he couldn't draw a pretty woman to save his life, unlike the random contemporary italian artist.

And I wonder if all this bad feeling on my part didn't come just from of his damned copyright notice. I mean, I don't really blame him. It's just that it's...simply a damned ugly thing. When you are forced to watch one of those on a DVD you bought - when you are literally held hostage for those seconds on the hardware you own, watching a DVD you bought - don't you just feel like suddenly torrenting the friggin' thing, just out of spite? I do. (though I wouldn't, of course, mr. FBI agent)

kev ferrara said...

By the way, if the "real" in "real estate" actually means just "real"...that sort of makes the same point all over again. A house is "real property" as opposed to what? Property that is...unreal? Surreal? Like copyright?

Antonio, the definition of just what "real estate" means and its origin is out there. Stop flailing and lashing about in eight different direction, like an angry argument octopus™ (soon to be appearing on Nikolodeon's Young Marxist Indoctrination Hour, check it out Friday!)

António Araújo said...

Dear kev,

do you get points for being obnoxious? Or does it happen when you skip your pills?

I ignored your first attempt at rudeness, but you just can't contain it, can you?

Here's my new year resolution: I won't stop coming to this forum just because of you. I won't even stop responding to you when you do make an interesting point or when I feel like it.

But I will selectively ignore you whenever you are unable to be even slightly civil. I am a busy guy and I don't have time for your attitude. Now you are informed, do as you will.

Best regards.

kev ferrara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kev ferrara said...

Antonio, you seem blissfully unaware that your last six posts might be considered obnoxious by a great many people reading them.

And now of course comes your temper tantrum, as usual. God you are immature.

António Araújo said...

ps: By the way, an anarchist is not a marxist. They sort of can't stand each other, actually. If you can't tell the difference, you might ask. A left-leaning reformer is neither of those. A run-of-the-mill european socialist is none of them either.
I know that living in your corner of the world, in a two-party system where you have the business party and the lunatic party, you think that a marxist is anyone slightly to the left of Attila the hun, but it just doesn't work that way everywhere else.

António Araújo said...

Any idea can be considered obnoxious, kev. But *you* are obnoxious, that's a big difference. You attack personally and gratuitously, which is a thing I don't do to you or to anyone, unless of course I am being an asshole that day... which happens sometimes, I guess, but with you it will happen in every exchange. Really, I was wondering if this time might be different. Why do you disappoint me so, kev? Don't you know a little birdie dies whenever you fuck up a conversation like that?

Let's make an exercise: I, grown up kev, will express my profound disagreement with Antonio without being an asshole about it. Just to show that I can, with my good domain of my native language.

Oh, and I am not having a temper tantrum. I'm over being irritated with you. I know you can't help it. I simply told you that I will no longer waste my time rebutting every silly thing you say, because you don't deserve it. I'm not shouting kev, I am smiling. I was just informing you of how much consideration I will give any post where you behave like that.

kev ferrara said...

All you have been doing for two days is spamming this thread with prepackaged political narratives like an ideological zealot.

António Araújo said...

A Zealot whose conclusion is that at the moment he has no clear political affiliation?

That's neat.

Meanwhile, this is your third post or so with no content. I'd be more interested in knowing what your political thoughts are. Apart from the fact that me and Richard are both idiots, of course.

kev ferrara said...

And of course any attempt to call you on this or anything, particularly in a jokey fashion, makes you jump out of your skin. I'm not going to walk on eggshells just to steer clear of your over sensitivity. You want to vomit politics all over this thread, fine. But you shouldn't forget that others might have weak gag reflexes, and will respond in kind.

kev ferrara said...

Politics is the polar opposite of Art. It is the shittiest, most spiritually, intellectually, morally, ethically, philosophically damaging religion ever created. That's my view of politics.

António Araújo said...

>particularly in a jokey fashion

You are as "jokey" and subtle as a sledgehammer to the balls.

You should consider your legacy, kev. In the future, when you are a famous philosopher, your biographers will puzzle over your aggression towards me and almost certainly spin it into "repressed homoerotic desire".

António Araújo said...

>Politics is the polar opposite of >Art. It is the shittiest, most >spiritually, intellectually, >morally, ethically, philosophically >damaging religion ever created. >That's my view of politics.

We all agree it's shitty. Is that your full contribution?

People sharing space must interact somehow, organize in some way, set some rules. That's politics. How is that simple fact of life "a religion"?

Are you so aloof? Are you playing Diogenes? Diogenes you are not. Diogenes wouldn't get pissed off because some guys were questioning the sanctity of the rules of copyright or of private property. Diogenes wouldn't care.

You may not express your political views but you have strong implicit views nonetheless, that make themselves felt in the way you angrily react to particulars regarding the rules of society. People who say they "have no politics" often have an implicit political view that is all the more dogmatic because it goes unacknowledged and unexamined: "the way I see things is not even political, it is just the way things are". Those are our European "technocrats", for example, who assume everyone wants the same for society and it's just a matter of getting it done.

In your case, you are sounding pretty much like a conservative of sorts, in economics at least. I was just trying to clarify that, but you don't have to say it if it bothers you so much. I don't need to know.

António Araújo said...

Thanks to the internets, who some people would berate us for reading, we have found the actual text of Durer's copyright notice we have mentioned above. It is even more amusing than we remembered:

"Hold! You crafty ones, strangers to work, and pilferers of other men’s brains. Think not rashly to lay your thievish hands upon my works. Beware! Know you not that I have a grant from the most glorious Emperor Maximillian, that not one throughout the imperial dominion shall be allowed to print or sell fictitious imitations of these engravings? Listen! And bear in mind that if you do so, through spite or through covetousness, not only will your goods be confiscated, but your bodies also placed in mortal danger."

Isn't it a gem? The FBI could learn a thing or two.

António Araújo said...

So, I guess art being the polar opposite of politics didn't stop Durer from sucking up to good old Emperor Max to put the "bodies [of his adversaries] in mortal danger" if they printed copies of his works. That's not politics at all, that's the way things are.

Just as if some kid copies a few mp3 and has his life ruined with disproportionate sentences, that's not politics, it's just the way things are. No point even bringing it to the discussion.

By the way:

"Dürer was angry at Marcantonio Raimondi, who had made a line-for-line copy of Dürer's work. (...) Raimondi was not just a scoundrel; he worked with famous artists on creating authorized prints. He and other, less-skilled print makers who sold their mass-produced versions served to acquaint the general public with works that were otherwise limited to the wealthy, including the church."

" we should keep in mind that 16th C Europe was not operating under a system of copyrights, but one of privileges. That is to say, there was no sense of the rights of an author as originator, but rather favors granted (like patents of nobility and other favors) by a ruling government to whomever that government wished. Those privileges were in force only within the realm of the granting authority, and in fact when Durer's Life of the Virgin woodcuts first appeared in Venice, they were not protected from copyists by a Venetian privilege. Thus neither Marcantonio nor his publishers were breaking any laws. "
Here's the link to the above quoted:

kev ferrara said...

Two things, Antonio.

First, you are exhibiting all the tell tale signs of politics as a religion: The wide-eyed righteousness and interest in evangelizing under the guise of dialoguing, the concomintant sly efforts to bring about cathartic confrontation (clever to politely beckon, a taunt here and there (Are you above it all, Diogenes?) so as to softly, softly, draw the spider into the web), the constant steering of unrelated conversations into political conversation (which I call "Funnel Vision"), the ready-to-hand arsenal of telling anecdotes from only one side's perspective (the use of which invariably constitutes one form or another of induction fallacy), no sense of fallibilism about the quality of your information, (which is demonstrative of the religious faith in certain narratives and narrative sources, while certain other narratives, of equal truth value, but of competing philosophy you find abhorent and intolerable), and so on. (Hey, I could talk politics all week. But I won't. Because I realized that it was all religious in nature, and my religion must be art, or I'm just another sucker in the grand political ugliness and its televised kabuki show.)

Second, why are you politicking on this page? What do you hope to gain out of it, except turning one of the few sites that is mercifully devoid of the stain of politics into just another crummy battle zone for competing emotionalized ideologies propped up by induction fallacies?

António Araújo said...

Nah...sorry, we played this game before. Not going to touch that with a ten foot pole.

If that's how you see it, fine. I vehemently disagree, but must decline to elaborate. It would never end.

kev ferrara said...


Richard said...

>I'm guessing it wasn't a free love commune? :) Do share the details! :)

Happily, I haven't thought about that in quite a while.

It was in a forest at ~9,400 ft above sea level, not too far from the Taos, New Mexico area for a few months.

Long story short, there was very little food, so we were always starving, the majority of the company were completely wasted hippies (barring the occasional interesting bluegrass musician and botanist).

They spent the entire time talking about conspiracy theories, communism, and drugs.

I spent the entire time reading and re-reading Moby Dick (it was the only book I brought with me), drinking coffee brewed over camp fires, and getting lost in the woods.

No work was performed by anyone, which explains in good part why we were all starving.

That aside, I actually had a really great time, as long as I was completely avoiding the other commune-ers.

The best part of it all was getting completely lost in the woods at six in the morning before the fog lifted off the mountain, finding a stream, and deciding to take a (naked) bath in it.

There is nothing in this world like taking a bath in the early morning in an ice-cold mountain stream, far enough from any living soul that you can scream from the top of your lungs and no one will hear you besides the bears.

Another great moment, a couple days before I ended up having to leave, I met one of the most beautiful women I have ever met in my life. She was walking around in the middle of the forest, and when I approached to talk to her she silently quieted me, and pointed to some animals she was watching. She then silently invited me to walk through the forest with her, and whenever I would try to speak she would simply give me a little grin and put her finger up to her lips. As the day progressed we ended up holding hands and sprinting and frolicking through the mountain woods like a satyr and a wood nymph. I never saw her again, but I'll never forget that strange amazing day.

Haha, so that's my commune story.

Also, Antonio, that Durer quotation is absolutely hilarious! The impotent rage there is really pathetic XD

kev ferrara said...

Fun and interesting story, Richard. Enjoyed reading it. If you care to elaborate further, can you explain how you came to hear about and then join with the commune?

António Araújo said...

>talking about conspiracy >theories, communism, and drugs.
>No work was performed by anyone,

Oh, that kind of commune! :D

>holding hands and sprinting and >frolicking through the mountain >woods like a satyr and a wood >nymph.

Now *that* sounds like ample justification for the whole experience! Let's face it, that's what living is all about. :)

I second the request for more details on the commune thing, as long as it doesn't bring you any PTSD ;). This is interesting. :)

>that Durer quotation is absolutely hilarious!

To my great surprise, it was the best part of the show for me. The silver plates were nice, the "Durer beating Apelles" was amusing, but that one just beat them all.

Richard said...

I actually didn't find the commune myself; a friend of mine called me one night and asked if I wanted to go to New Mexico. I'd never been past the Mississippi, so I agreed, and she said "Great, I'm picking you up in two hours." She was driving out there with a middle-aged divorced surfer dad who called himself Coyote, who apparently had moved to Hawaii after his divorce and gone native, I believe she met on the internet, and I think he knew about the commune.

Not a lot more of note happened at the commune, but a few days after I met the wood-nymph, a friend of mine from Michigan hitched into Taos and we ended up hitch-hiking from there up to Las Vegas, then over to LA, then up Highway 1 into SF, and over the Golden Gate to Strawberry CA.

We were planning on going up into Canada, but that never happened; we ended up staying in Berkeley CA, mostly hanging around People's Park and talking to college girls -- nothing particularly of note. I ended up taking a Greyhound back to Philadelphia for Christmas after a scare with a strange little homeless man named "Little Johnnie" who hangs around The Mission, and my buddy has lived in Berkeley ever since.

kev ferrara said...

So, it sounds like you were really at loose ends when you received the phone call to join the commune. I assume by this time you had already gone to college for art and illustration? Or had the college art thing not panned out?

Before your adventure, did you have a kind of romantic attachment to Communism? Or were you the kind who was hard-core reading the literature and it was serious business to you?

I knew an exchange student from Poland who was kind of driven crazy by Communism. He was hard core, had been born to it as a religion, had grown up under it, only to have the wall fall and his belief system crumble around him. But it remained a constant fire in his mind, even as he came over here to go to school on some kind of State Department scholarship program, which he completely scammed for years. I have never met anyone before or since who hated the U.S. more. Any conversation about politics ended up exploding into screaming and, literally, spitting. (He would spit on any U.S. flag he walked past.) Anyway, his place was the hub of all the communist activism in the upstate NY area, and he had this whole network of communist fellows that stretched across the world who he kept in contact with. His place was so stocked with communist literature, the book piles were literally falling over. Every shelf was packed two-deep. He believed every conspiracy theory there was about the U.S. -- Except the idea of actually getting a useful education in order to better one's station in life. From the age of 20-29, he became an absolute master of communist propaganda, spending most of his waking hours immersed in communism. In that time he could've earned 2 college degrees, and gotten himself a decent middle class life. But instead he became an unemployable activist who raged at anybody who owned a business, wore a suit, or had his own car.

The imagination reels thinking of how "Little Johnnie" gave you a scare enough to send you packing. Was this one of those guys you greet and befriend because you're open-minded and free of prejudice, and then the extent of how damaged they are quickly over-rides any other consideration and all you want to do is get as clear of them as possible?

António Araújo said...

Surfer Dad Coyote, Little Johnny homeless, and the wood nymph? I'd count it time well spent just to get those names into your auto-biography's cast of characters. :)

Richard said...

I'd wanted to go to Ringling, but could never afford that level of arts education, and after a single semester at a state school (with professors who simply didn't know what they were doing) I realized I'd have to rely on myself, and the information I could get for free. Theres a moderately good arts college in Philadelphia called the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and I spent a lot of time at and around the school trying to soak up what I could from the friends I made there, but I could never afford to actually go. At the time I was working as a waiter by day, and renting room in the basement of a friends house, so there was nothing significant to lose by leaving. Still, I suppose there's time to try to go back, I'm only in my mid-20s, but I just don't see it happening, not now that I have a family.

My attachment to Communism was romantic. The literature didn't seem important in the face of the desperate groveling poverty all around me in Philadelphia, I assumed that with adequate social spending programs these people could be lifted from their poverty, and the only thing keeping them there was the greed and ignorance of capitalists. I've known people like your friend, and never understood the draw. It seemed like a lot of talk without any action.

>The imagination reels thinking of how "Little Johnnie" gave you a scare enough to send you packing. Was this one of those guys you greet and befriend because you're open-minded and free of prejudice, and then the extent of how damaged they are quickly over-rides any other consideration and all you want to do is get as clear of them as possible?

Haha, that's about right. I had talked to him a number of times, and was pretty impressed by his poetry, and the people he said he had known around SF in the 1970s (Ginsberg, etc.). We were walking around, and he invited me up to his state-paid effeciency while he grabbed a couple things.

Once inside I immediately noticed the place was coated in bloodstains and the floors littered in spent needles, and I should add that coated and littered here are not hyperbole. You didn't know where to step, it was everywhere.

He then stood between me and the door, and began to interrogate me on whether or not I was a Nazi (I shave my head because I'm a premature balder, XD), then he screamed and cried for a bit about how Nazis killed his daddy and that his life dream is to kill a Nazi. He began to suggest that there was a luger in the cushion of the chair I was sitting in, and that if I got up he'd shoot me with it.

I asked to go to the bathroom and climbed out the second story window and ran away, while hearing him scream from the other side of the door. IT WAS FRIGHTENING. I guess I shouldn't say that's the reason I left, but it was the straw that broke the camels back without a doubt.

>I'd count it time well spent just to get those names into your auto-biography's cast of characters. :)

I'm a little young to be thinking about an auto-biography, although I guess this post is becoming one. X______X

Richard said...

I'm out of stories, but I feel like I've at least derailed the argument, and have thus been successful.

Antonio, what was it about Adam Smith's work that so shy'd you away from his brand of capitalism?

António Araújo said...

Richard: Oh, no, not from *his* brand of capitalism. The "wealth of nations" is a very enjoyable read (even, amazingly, when it gets into accounting minutiae of how many bushels of whatever were consummed per year in some place or other) extremely well written, very well argued, and stands the test of time surprisingly well - he is the sort of guy whose work takes whole generations to pick apart and develop. Further, Adam Smith sounds like a pretty nice, decent fellow (people sometimes forget he also wrote "the theory of moral sentiments"). I ended the book liking him (and it) even more than I expected.

So what is the problem? The problem is that he *doesn't* advocate the kind of deregulated gangsterism that we now call capitalism. You could say His name is used in vain by "His" church. The book is not a long proposal of the "invisible hand" (mentioned in only one or two passages)of the market as a panacea for every problem on the face of the world. It makes very clear that a market is a thing that can easily be derailed and that needs to be intelligently regulated and kept in check.

His general attitude is well summed up in this amusing passage: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

More seriously, he warns about many of the same problems we have today:
-That it is specious that high profits are seen as good but high wages are seen as "inefficiencies", when profits are in fact proxies for the "wages" of owners or managers
-That (the equivalent of) corporations will have managers whose interests are not aligned with either the company's or the public interest.(and therefore, he thought, such entities should only be allowed to exist for very specific purposes). Imagine the horror of, say, Tatcher, to even thinking that "public interest" is "a thing"!
-That companies can become states within states; and petty absolutist states at that (because within a "private" company mostly any rule goes).
-That the division of labour is very efficient in production BUT that it destroys people and turns them the into stupid cogs and therefore the state must regulate to keep it from excess.(people usually quote the first part of this and never read further into the book to get at the second part)

Briefly, he was a figure from the Enlightenment, a pre-capitalist, rather than an apologist of Capitalism proper. He clearly would abhor what we now call capitalism.

Also, there is the fact that I had tried reading Marx's Capital many years before and had balked at "his" labor theory of value. This communist hogwash undermines the whole thing, I thought, and never made it to the second volume! In my ignorance I didn't know that this actually came from Adam Smith. When, to my shock, I found myself recognizing it in the wealth of nations, I guess that this opened my mind to other possibilities. I'm slowly getting the nerve to re-read Marx. I don't recall him as enjoyable, but I should probably get that perspective too.

António Araújo said...

When I say, what "we" call capitalism, I should be more specific: what the 21st century republican party seems to believe capitalism is, which sounds more and more like the views of Ayn Rand. There are many things that are still called capitalism in europe and would be called socialism in the USA (though we are shifting to the "right" too).

By the way, Graeber's book on the history of debt starts by calling to attention that the story about the origin of money that we are still taught in school is not a fact but a reasonable thought experiment proposed by Adam Smith in TWoN; a hypothesis later disproved by better knowledge of anthropology and history. This opens immense new possibilities, whether or not you have anarchist inclinations like the author.

Another interesting avenue is the new reading of the very bad historical press for Athenian Democracy (coming to us from aristocratic sympathizers, from Thucydides to the founding fathers). What we call democracy is terribly distant from the Athenian thing, and not only in the obvious way of not being "direct". Interesting reads on this are for instance "Athens on trial" by J.T.Roberts, or, very quickly, these talks by D. Kagan (lecture 15 and 16) who wrote "Pericles of Athens":

The important thing is not so much that our systems are bad, much less that there is a ready-made "-ism" that would do just the trick, but simply that we've have a narrowing of the political imagination (think Thatcher's "There is No Alternative") that makes us think of many day-to-day things as "just the way things are" when they are in fact political choices.

Even if we choose to be just mild reformers, and to keep our system a representative democracy/ capitalist economy, this can be implemented in many ways, and thinking about completely out-there possibilities like anarchism(s), socialism(s), libertarianim(s), or even, dare I say, Democracy (that maligned and forgotten system of Athens that had never existed before and never existed again :)) can give us ideas of new ways of doing things, or at least of a proper sense of where we really stand in a vast territory. Personally, I don't feel much like implementing any "-ism", but I do think that (much in the vein of the second Roosevelt) we should at least have the guts to tentatively experiment and "perturbate" our system in difficult times rather than sit our asses in our comfortable "there is no alternative" seats while a whole generation of young people are screwed out of a decent future.

Further, in small scales (say, your little commune) that won't harm anyone except the volunteers involved, I very much favor much more radical experimentation in all directions that those volunteers deem fit. I think you learn things, even if only about what doesn't work.

kev ferrara said...

Richard, crazy story. Thanks for sharing.

Paul Sullivan said...

I wouldn't rely too much on Solomon's biography of Rockwell for anything but very basic factual material. Her book is a very poor excuse for a true biography. It is sad that she wrote this because it will be used as reference in the future.

Paul Sullivan