Act One: Chapter 7 – Max Rants Again

I am imagining PUNCH getting an earful of what he wants to hear. I can see it now: Boo Dolly, his new best bud with her nervous red head full of unkempt mad-lady hair. Why are the girls doing that to themselves these days, deliberately looking like they just got rolled out of an opium den?


I can feel that glow of resentment taking on heat and I know Punch: he scouts out pockets of love and piles into them.

I see them holed up, passing a joint. Kids. Only that sad ass bastard is forty-whatever. I feel the vibrations of mutiny for sure. PUNCH would rather take me down than admit that he’s floundering creatively: it’s a mid-life crisis, I tell you.

But now — in his defense: you’ll want to know the creative atmosphere that PUNCH is working in. It’s bleak.

I know I know I know: EVERY generation says that the next one is murdering culture, but that’s not what I’m saying. I don’t see a moral downfall; I’m with Punch in spirit — I think his dedication, for instance is real and pure. So it’s not that I think that the arts are decadent, or that society is. I’m thinking deeper.

Or maybe, shallower: yes, on a meta-level— before we drill down to the PUNCH’s and the Boos and the Mondays of this world, there’s this: that every system starts slow, builds speed and intensity until it reaches a climax, then goes through a period of inertia where events move through the energy built up during that frantic period. And then, the process dies down. That’s just the way things happen. And that’s my personal metaphysics, if you will, applied to political systems, and social and cultural ones as well. Shit, that’s metaphysics of my very relationship with our good Mr. Benjamin Punch.

So, on overview, then: all the arts…. PUNCH’s world in sum — Okay? And we’ll begin with literature, because that’s where we’re at right now, correct?

So –Fiction: fiction has managed to ward off the rapid decay that the other arts have been prey to, mainly because of an unspoken movement back toward narrative. Just look at what you’re reading right now. It’s hardly Barthelme, right? So fiction slips backward, in a way — but there is a NEW narrative, I’ll have you know. And I’d like to see some art that parallels this movement. You take William Gaddis: he replaced Joyce’s stream of consciousness with the chaos of real-time thought events: it’s that kind of thing that I hope to see come out of Monday’s work, that’s what I see in Boo’s stronger stuff—that’s what I want them to inspire in PUNCH. If things develop in a positive direction.

Postmodern interactive works have an entertainment quality that translates into this hyper-exposed world of fast news, social media, and smart data saturation: that Tristram Shandy layering of alternating awareness. It holds potential for the visual arts. I’m thinking these days about how to capture that. And even though I don’t know how, I’m guessing instinct has led me to artists who will discover it.

And yet you look at how things pan out. Gaddis is largely ignored save amongst academics and connoisseurs — and the rest of the world will take another decade to digest what he did.

So how can a guy make money off of innovation, I ask you? I suspect you have to exploit charm and surface. You have to be exciting. Can Boo Dolly bring me that? Can Monday drag PUNCH kicking and screaming away from his introspection and into a social media light? I’m hoping so. I’m hoping Monday can bring the spectacle, the dazzle and the dazzle while Punch plugs on, stalwart, earnest, studied.

But I digress.

Back to the states of the arts! The rest are more discouraging still… Poetry? Dead. Really, truly, utterly dead (“dead, dying will die, want, morning, midnight, I asked you”). Poetry, my friends, is merely the ivory tower equivalent of scrap booking! The best poetry now can be found in song lyrics. Rap is the last hope for verse.

So, then ,music!  Music — can we put that all in one lump? Sure, why not? This is my monologue: so I’ll do what I want. So, Music: successful in its popular mode—again, as with literature, by ignoring experimentation and maintaining a popular vein that continues appealing to the mass market. Music stays alive, almost solely, by stubbornly refusing abstraction. Recent innovators: none; and that’s the point. I wanted Punch to go that way: like fucking Brice Marden — you know? Plug away with the paint and the formal canvass — ok. But, you know, step away from the subjective and back toward expression.

Too much to ask, I know: “I’ve got a new direction,” he likes to tell me. My god: all I ask for is product and this guy’s sitting on a floor prying keys off of typewriters.

What about experimental music you’re asking? You want to speculate about that: knock yourself out. Take John Cage and Fluxus and all that Bang on a Can stuff: Please. Squeekfart is the best we can do for an example of recent notable developments in music. Because the classic stuff doesn’t’ develop: I mean, that’s become what we mean by classical, right? I mean, Opera? Stagnating with great success amongst the pretentious, the fogies, eccentrics, and small pockets of the gay community. A bog. A time warp.

Dance: ditto at worst, choreographed silliness at best.

So. Hmmm: what’s left? Oh, Film! Yes, what about film? State of the art: inertia. Recent innovations: DOGME? What did it do? Forced filmmakers to keep “Vows of Chastity” in a fascistic move toward erasing what it deems “the excesses of the individual movie” — take that entire modernist movement!  Big fat shining example: Julian Donkey Boy.

Maybe there’s something to be said about theater? Get real. The theater is just as bedridden as Opera and Dance: the EMS assistants have brought out the paddles. Recent innovation: sponsoring contests to bring talented writers to prepare scripts for small theater companies. And those plays? More and more and more of same.

Now I know there are some of you who’ll say I left out TV. You’re right. I did. Know why? There’s some really great, some really inspired stuff there. There’s hope on TV. That’s what I think. I see art on TV.

Meanwhile, I’ll have you know that Boo is, this very moment, doing my bidding. She doesn’t know it: but it’s true. She’s a breathless little borderline case, perched skinny and cross-legged on his couch, telling him that I said that Monday does it right. That Monday is a rising star. That, upstart as he is, he could school Punch on the business of art.

And I can tell you this: If she can get PUNCH worked up enough he’ll call Monday. Out of sheer jealous curiosity, he’ll call Monday.

You think it’s kind of scary? Kind of Big Brother, the way I’m peeking in?

Look: it’s self-defense. These two, right now, sitting there acting like kids at camp, trying to bring my entire enterprise down around my shoulders—just for a lark? I keep on top of these things.

I understand Punch’s resentment, mind you. Of me and of the entire art establishment. I get it. He wants to be free to follow his inspiration. Today’s artists have come to think that’s their birthright. Okay. So I get that. What I don’t get is how blind he is to the dynamic — the symbiotic relationship we are involved in here. I’m supposed to take the losses and keep fucking supporting him while he keeps fighting me.



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