Tuesday, March 26, 2013

We are all artists now.

We are all artists now.

Unfortunately we all get paid like artists.

Marshall McLuhan said all this would happen. He said that in the 1960s. I knew him personally because I went to St. Michael's College at the University of Toronto, where McLuhan taught on the English faculty.

McLuhan described the future -- "we won't have jobs anymore, we will play roles, we will all be artists and actors, not wage earners" -- so he said.

Incredibly, that happened, There are no jobs anymore, jobs went out with objectivity. Now we play roles according to our body types and habits. The horror is that's how we get paid. When we had jobs we all got paid, some more than others, but we all got paid. But now we are all artists, so we are paid like artists -- one-tenth of one percent makes millions, and the 99 make close to nothing.

McLuhan saw this coming. He was detached. He said, "I see the future, that doesn't mean I welcome it personally. I would prefer to have lived in the time of the Middle Ages." -- Really, he said that.

I shoulda never went to his class. McLuhan had tenure, he kept HIS job all along. But role playing? McLuhan famously played himself in a cameo appearance in Annie Hall, predating Steven Colbert by 30 or 40 years. But who the hell is going to pay you for playing yourself?

The jobs are gone, my friend. They're not coming back. You're on your own, like a rolling stone (Help! I'm having flashbacks!)

No jobs, unless you move to Midland, Texas, where the shale oil economy is booming and Wal-Mart is hiring warm bodies at $17 per hour.

Back to McLuhan. He described the global village, he didn't say he wanted to live in it.

I was his student, I didn't say I understood him. Nobody understood McLuhan, not even McLuhan. I am also good friends with his biographer Philip Marchand....... McLuhan, in his personal habits, was quite conventional and conservative -- as well as being a fairly traditional Catholic.

A friend of mine in his class submitted a paper in a multi-media format, partly taped recorded and partly illustrated -- thinking McLuhan would like that, but McLuhan rejected the submission --- stick to the standard format he told my friend.

The lecture I remember the best was McLuhan on TS Eliot the Wasteland. This was given in the Elmsley Lounge as part of an overall celebration and bounteous sherry was served to students and faculty alike. I don't actually remember anything he said, but we drank a lot of sherry and had a wonderful time.

After that lecture they stopped serving unlimited free sherry to undergraduates.


President Obama recently visited Israel and Jordan, while John Kerry was in Iraq. Here is my reaction:

I found this poem in a drawer,
Labelled 1954.

"No breathing allowed," said the Iranian priest.
"Israel does not have a right to exist."

But we grew these oranges, we built Tel Aviv,
Our children were born here, we're not going to leave.

"You can go back to Europe, to Spain or Morocco,
Go back to the shtetl, the shul, and the ghetto.

We don't want you here......"

But this song, can't you hear?

Jerusalem is golden, isn't that true?
The color of our flag is white and blue,

We welcome the green of your Islamic faith,
We will live together until our last breath,

Breathing is living, we breath and exist,
We are you, and you are all there is.

Jerusalem of Gold

This uplifting song ends Schindler's List. Spielberg's film and this song have the flavor of 1954 -- the rhythm of Golda Meir, Abba Eban, and Herman Wouk, with notes of triumph and hope. Imagine the shining look in Sal Mineo's eyes in the 1960 movie Exodus.


I'm not a big fan of anyone's historic claims, but I do recognize existence when I see it. Israel -- there it is. It gets quickly complicated after that. Do people who exist have a right to continue to exist? You could tell them that they have no right to exist, and yet they are still there.

This analogy may not spring to your mind, but I think of plants -- weeds, native species, invasive species, plants growing where you want them to, plants you wish were not growing there.

But it really helps if you first acknowledge the existence of same. You can't get rid of something by saying it doesn't exist. Unless it doesn't exist, in which case you don't have to do anything.

Excuse me, Martin Buber just called collect, gotta run.

Baby Boomers.

We are a generation distinguished by the fact that we exist -- going to the grave and still celebrated for our collective birth -- you can't brag on that.

Our numbers cause a bulge in the American population. We are in that human age which is naturally conservative -- old -- so the whole country is old right now.

We out-sourced pregnancy and child-rearing to Mexico and points south. Those young brown men and women are the babies we didn't want to bear, and the children we didn't want to raise, so we hired it out, and then they grew up and were mystically drawn to the US.

I Wish

I wish I was John Steinbeck,
With his mice, his men and his truck.

I wish I was Ernest Hemingway,
He had all the luck.

He made his days in the sun,
Then he killed himself with a shotgun.

I wish I was TS Eliot,
He came from St. Louis , you know,
Then he worked in a bank,
And became Anglican,
Writing poems with his elbows and toes.

I wish I was a Buddhist or a monk,
Or an acolyte,
If that's all right,
Anyway to escape this funk.

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