Back after a long hiatus, to wish you a happy Easter.
Faithful readers of this blog, all 12 of them, may recall the 3 Weird Sisters classic, “Touchdown Jesus” Smited from several years ago, in which a monumental tacky Jesus sculpture erected by an Ohio megachurch was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Well, several months ago that church finished their new tacky monumental statue to replace the one that burned, and I have been saving the pictures from then until today just so I could use this headline. Behold the new, and one presumes, fireproof Jesus:
Which of course reminds me of this classic from the lamentably departed Poor Man:
This, however, is my favorite picture of the resurrection of the giant tacky megachurch Jesus statue:
Easter is, I must admit, about the most impenetrable holiday for me. The meaning, for those of us raised in homes that were at most religiously apathetic, extends to bunnies, baskets of goodies, and hunting for hidden eggs; in that context, it’s a holiday you outgrow in adolescence. It becomes even more confusing when you consider the way it moves around on the calendar. Then there’s the whole thing about breaking out the white shoes, buying new outfits, and celebrating by eating ham of all things, which Jesus as a Jew would not have eaten. Maybe the message there is that after he died for our sins and was resurrected, the reward was bacon. Well, as Eddie Izzard says in the clip below, you tell me.
Alternately, because wordpress apparently no longer supports youtube videos, see it here.
Also, because what would a religious holiday be without rightwinger outraged butthurt, the culture wars have erupted all over Fox News and the nutosphere, thanks to Google’s unconscionable recognition of the day as Cesar Chavez’ birthday, 20 years after his death. The offending doodle:
On Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy (or as I call it, Tweaker) conservative alternative to Twitter, it was suggested that Google could have used a more holiday-appropriate theme, such as eggs, which of course reminded me of the Eddie Izzard bit above. As I told one complainant in blog comments elsewhere, who insisted the doodle was a “slap in the face” to Christians and claimed that from here on out, he would be using bing as his search engine…”so, what you’re telling us is that Google, a private company, only recognized your portable religious holiday with a doodle on the date in the past 14 out of 15 years, but because they skipped one year, it’s a slap in the face and you’re going to switch to using an inferior product for conducting web searches as a result? That’s a pretty weak-sauce version of getting thrown to the lions, bro.” Funny how flexible that idea of a “free market” is when the actors in it don’t mindlessly conform to the religious preferences/prejudices of the conservatives who are its most ardent defenders.
Silly me. I should know by now that Easter, like Christmas, is meant to remind us of the untold suffering and oppression the Christian majority in this country has endured as a result of the fact that not everyone believes exactly the same things they do.
Recently an amateur artist tried her hand at restoring a century-old painting on a church column in Spain. The pictures below show the results of her attempt:
Over the years, the work began to deteriorate, as shown in the second image. According to the Centre de Estudios Borjanos, the unnamed amateur artist (without permission from the church, needless to say) thought she could improve the work and set to work with paints and brushes. The third picture is the result.
But wait…here comes the good part:
The BBC Europe correspondent described the painting’s current state as resembling “a crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.”
This reminded me of a classic from back in my college days, a book called Thrift Store Paintings by Jim Shaw. Thanks to Shaw’s deadpan descriptive titling of the works, I was able to find the book again on amazon, by googling the memorable title of one of the works, seen below:These works are bad, but at least they’re fun. I would consider hanging some of these in my house. Not so for our third subject, the Thomas Kinkade of the teabagger set, Jon McNaughton:
This is titled The Empowered Man, because as you can see, Joe Sixpack has just wrestled the sacred Constitution from the evil clutches of Black Hitler, as previous socialist presidents look on in alarm, while True Patriots™ (standing behind the man on his right, natch) applaud. This is from what McNaughton calls his “Patriotic” gallery; noted art expert Sean Hannity claims to be a collector of these fine works, which include others showing Black Hitler setting the Constitution on fire, standing on the Constitution, being showered with money while an audience in chains looks on, and etc. Dude’s about as subtle as a sledge hammer; in one painting he’s got Kim Jong Il standing in the background behind the Kenyan Usurper. His technical painting ability surpasses that of the two previous subjects, but not by all that much – check out the kneeling, praying man in the image above. I think that’s supposed to be James Madison, but it looks more like
Newt Gingrich Antonin Scalia in a wig to me, or maybe some TV preacher. Also note how he’s placed Dubya in with all the socialists (though he has given him the bloat appropriate for a guy who’s back on the sauce).
His other stuff ain’t much better. He reveals himself to be a member of the Kinkade school with his “cottages” collection and his “temples” collection (yes, he is a Mormon). Maybe on Kolob this shit is recognized as fine art, but here on Earth, it’s just shit, and the people who buy it deserve to be fleeced even more than the people who bought Thomas Kinkade’s hobbit fantasy crap. At least Kinkade redeemed himself somewhat by pissing on Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland. It just makes me happy knowing that Sean Hannity is one of the rubes he’s fleeced, though of course Hannity lacks the self-awareness to recognize he revealed himself as a hayseed by publicly proclaiming his enthusiasm for this crap.
I’ll take hairy monkeys in ill-fitting tunics any day.
Thomas Kinkade, self-described (and trademarked) “Painter of Light” died Friday at his California home of natural causes.
I wasn’t going to post anything about this, until I saw that the screed I posted on Kinkade’s work almost a year and a half back got over 10,000 reads yesterday, a big deal for a small family blog like this one, and that, of course, in the comments there have been a few on the theme of “Leave Britney ALONE!!”
So I’d just like to say, for the record, that even though I found Kinkade’s work trite, I never wished the man dead, or even ill, even though I did find his foibles amusing – mostly because he so openly pandered to religious sentimentality and strove to portray such bucolic innocence in his work. This, you must admit, is very much at odds with whipping it out and pissing on Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland. All of that has to do with his body of work and his public life; of course I did not know the man and so have no insight as to who he was in private, whether he was a really great guy or not, or anything else, and offer condolences to his family and friends.
But I would like to address those who commented on the original post to the effect of “who are you to judge” and “if you don’t like it you shouldn’t critique it.” First of all, I’m not judging anyone’s like or dislike of Kinkade’s work. If you like it, fine. We all have what I like to call “guilty pleasures” – things we like even though we know we should know better. Mine is Duran Duran’s Greatest Hits, which I’ll pull out and actually play once every 3 or 4 years (in my defense, I got it for only a dollar when I worked at the used record store). I know it’s not good music; I know there’s nothing remotely artistic about it, despite all the videos of Simon LeBon cavorting with models. It just is what it is – meaningless pop that I for whatever reason will listen to and enjoy occasionally. That’s the point – there’s nothing wrong with liking Thomas Kinkade’s work – as long as you recognize that it’s not fine art and is not an asset that will appreciate in value.
Why does the distinction matter? Because of stories like this: Thomas Kinkade’s death sparks run on his paintings at West Michigan art gallery. There are several things just wrong with that headline, the primary being that the stuff for sale at Thomas Kinkade and other galleries weren’t paintings – they were prints of original works by Kinkade that had been “enhanced” in a few areas of the image with a few brushstrokes by an assistant. The Hand of the Master touched none of them, and with an estimated 1 in 20 homes in the US owning a Kinkade “painting”, the print runs were in the hundreds of thousands. These things have the same approximate value as commemorative plates from the Franklin Mint; they just aren’t worth anything more than the nominal value of the materials and labor that went into making them, and never will be.
That all deals with the actual value of Kinkade’s work, but the other point is that Kinkade’s work isn’t art because there’s simply nothing behind it other than an idea to paint a pretty picture. Again, if you think the pictures are pretty, fine. But there’s no emotion or idea going on behind it, other than “what will sell?”, which makes it impossible to connect with on anything other than a very superficial level such as “the colors match the sofa.”
Here’s the thing: Thomas Kinkade had technical painting ability. I can’t paint anything like he did (I wouldn’t want to, but that’s beside the point). And this is what he chose to paint. He chose to make a business empire rather than be an artist. That’s ok, again, as long as the people who paid hundreds of dollars or more for prints of his work re-touched with paint by assistants also understood it. I think a lot of them did not. But he most assuredly did, and as evidence, I offer the following:
When Kinkade created or agreed to having his name put on these objets d’crap, you can be certain that he wasn’t thinking of himself as an artist.
So, that’s pretty much it – Thomas Kinkade died, I’m sorry for his family and friends, and I still think his work was dreadful, but you should feel free to like it if you must – just please don’t call it art.
And….just one last thing, because I’m a bad person and can’t help myself, but I’m left wondering if, at the end, the Light Kinkade walked into featured a radioactive glow and lurid colors, and if somewhere, a Hobbit got his Ring.
This comes courtesy of John Cole at Balloon Juice. I don’t recommend watching the whole thing, but there is one bit that’s almost inspired in its lunacy at about 10:30 into the clip. This comes from the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Oklahoma – a state which, I have long averred, would be where God would stick the tube should He decide in His infinite wisdom to give the United States an enema.
Of course, I was reminded of this:
Not surprising that Oklahoma bellies right up to the part of Texas featured in True Stories; folks in more enlightened lands might not have realized it when the movie was made back in the late ’80’s, but it was a very accurate representation of that part of the country. In the 25 years since, the views of the majority of people in this area have not moderated; if anything, they’ve only grown more extreme. Oklahoma and west Texas rival South Carolina for the title of most reactionary area of the country.
It’s long, but stick with it. It gets worse and worse, I promise.
Thanks, Perry. At least the tune doesn’t stick with me like that Worst Music Video EVER.
First, the good. I’ve always loved this one because…Eartha Kitt, what’s not to love? She went on to play Cat Woman and I have a pet named after her. This one is kind of the ultimate Christmas gold digger’s anthem and plenty sexually suggestive without being all whiny soul about it, but it retains its charm almost 60 years later:
The following is bad as in “not nice”, but it’s one of my favorite Christmas recordings, one that you don’t hear on the radio these days, probably because we’re all getting old and YOU DAMN KIDS GET OFFA MY LAWN!!! Anyway, since it’s not a regular radio feature anymore, I looked it up on the youtube, so here it is:
This next one isn’t ugly itself but the song it covers is. It’s ripping on the worst Christmas song of all time, which I covered in some great detail last year. I didn’t know this bit existed then, so it’s a relief to know that others hate that song every bit as much as I do:
Trivia about the topic of that last video – they actually made that shitty song into a made-for-TV-movie (I posted a clip of it last year – !Rob Lowe!) and it was the second-highest-rated TV movie of 2002, proving that A Very Brady Christmas‘ ratings coup in 1988 was no fluke and that we are indeed a decadent and dying culture.
The whole “War on Christmas” thing has always amused me for a lot of reasons, the primary one being that Christmas is so ubiquitous in this culture that you probably couldn’t kill it even if you rammed a pine tree with an angel on top through its undead heart, and anyone with even two brain cells to rub together must be able to see that with their own two eyes. Hell, it’s so obvious that even a blind person could see it.
I think that’s what most of these posts this month have demonstrated. We co-op Christmas and its symbols and lore for literally everything, creating mash-ups with the popular culture of the moment and in some cases, creating new lore and traditions that become part of the whole ball of wax going forward.
A good example of how the holiday gets co-opted for everything might be 1988’s A Very Brady Christmas. I watched this probably a few years after it first aired, though strictly for my own sardonic purposes. When I told friends about it at the time, the response was, “why didn’t you call – we could have talked you through it.” In my defense, at the time I got only 4 channels with the rabbit ears on my 13″ TV, so it’s not like I had a lot to choose from, and I’ll further note that when it premiered in 1988, it was the highest rated movie shown on TV that entire year. Which just goes to show that the rot from within has been going on for a very long time now.
I said I had my sardonic reasons, and to be honest, primary among them was I was checking Robert Reed for visible signs of illness, or as a friend put it, “looking for lesions.” Hey, I’ve never pretended to be a good person, but I am a better one now than I was when I was younger. I’ll further admit that around this same time I had this idea stuck in my head of wanting to see Robert Reed doing a commercial and saying “I’m not a heterosexual, but I play one on TV…” like all those “I’m not a doctor…” commercials of the time. The humor there for me was not “hee hee, Robert Reed is gay” but rather playing off the stupidity of the whole “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV” thing. It’s like saying, “I’m not an actual authority on this but I pretend to be on TV, so take my word for it.” Which could explain much of our current pundit class, when you think about it. Like I said, the rot has been going on for quite some time.
So my reasons for watching could be summed up under the heading of sick fascination, which pretty well covers the ground. It wasn’t just Robert Reed – I wanted to see what lame-ass adult lives they had concocted for the kids. I don’t remember it all, but I do remember these bits: Greg has grown up to be a porn-stached Ob-Gyn, who’s banging a nurse in his office (of course, this is depicted as a very chaste relationship onscreen – it was a made-for-TV movie – but we know what was really going on.) Peter or Bobby is now a race-car driver. And so on and so forth. The “dramatic tension” occurs when there is a structural failure at the jobsite for a skyscraper Mike Brady has designed (not at all surprising when you consider the only thing he had ever designed up to that point were insipid tract homes like the one they all lived in) and they all think Mike has been trapped or killed in the collapse. In a true made-for-TV Christmas miracle, Mike escapes unscathed, and there is much rejoicing:
Like I said, this is just an example. Other examples of holiday puerility as egregious or even moreso abound.
So it’s little wonder that the malcontents, the smartasses, and the curmudgeons feel the need to retaliate and take the holiday back from the Bradys and the Smurfs and Lifetime and everyone else with degrading depictions of Santa, observances of Festivus and Cthulhumas, and other not-socially-sanctioned traditions which lie outside the mainstream and probably always will.
That doesn’t stop them from developing their own holiday lore and traditions. Cthulhumas has reached its tentacles out in several directions, encompassing not only the Christian but the more secular and commercial aspects of Christmas as well. Below we see a depiction of the birth of the Hello Cthulhu Christ Child:
…and here is the more secular, commercialized version of Hello Cthulhu:
That depiction of Cthulhu Claus is downright warm ‘n cuddly compared to this next one:
…and of course, what would the holiday be without caroling?
That’s just one of many. Other classics include: Do You Fear What I Fear?, Great Old Ones Are Coming To Town, Have Yourselves A Scary Little Solstice, Away In A Madhouse, I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth, and several more.
With this creative conflation of popular culture with both the religious and secular aspects of the holiday, how long could it be before the Shithouse Troll as Santa tradition takes root?
(h/t to B^4 for tipping me off to the Cthulhu carols.)