While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Frank Paynter. He is a writer who blogs at Listics, tweets @fpaynter and aggregates a lot of his online activity at friendfeed. He posts photos on Flickr, collects public bookmarks at delicious and has accounts with most of the usual social networks. He spends entirely too much time online when he could be gardening, reading, watching movies or at least doing the dishes.
A few years ago, the originals of two of those Dogs Playing Poker pictures that were painted by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge in 1903 for a cigar company, sold for over half a million dollars. When I was a kid I loved those pictures. The art critics called them tasteless schlock or kitsch at best.
Sadly, somewhere along the way - in college or maybe in high school - I fell in line with the critics' conventional wisdom and picked up the belief that "art appreciation" required "discriminating taste." I also let the pretensions of those critics dictate my preferences.
Fortunately, I've pretty much shed these prejudices and can today simply and sincerely say that I like art. I like literature, music, dance - really any creative use of the mind and body to make something, to communicate, to evoke feelings. [4:30 minutes]
Stripped of critical pretension, I can allow myself to like those Keane pictures of children with big eyes. I can like the pictures of dogs playing poker, and the velvet paintings of matadors or horses or Elvis - Elvis is always a great subject for the velvet paintings.
Maybe you'll see these admissions as an embarrassing confession, but it has taken me a long time to shed the snootiness and simply to appreciate what's right in front of me: a visible tattoo, a magazine advertisement for shoe polish, a photograph of a row of mailboxes on a country road - I dig it all.
In the 1950s, the black leather jacket was a fashion statement and nothing spoke louder than a jacket with an eagle on the back. That was art, but who knew? Another medium that's been too long under-valued is the hand painted hot rod and its variant, the motorcycle gas tank painting. The stylized flames, usually laid on by an expert with an airbrush, actually do help the machines go faster. They are also high art!
Airbrushed art is all around us. Before the rise of digital images, photographers often improved their prints with an airbrush. The airbrushed image on a tee shirt, like the black leather jacket with an eagle on the back, is an example of the artistic fashion statement.
And, of course, I have my preferences: I like the simple statement represented by my neighbor's second mailbox atop a twelve foot post with the words "Air Mail" stenciled on it, better than the airbrushed image of the white-tailed deer on black enamel that adorns the "real" mailbox.
Some other preferences...
- I like The Far Side more than Dilbert.
- I like the Shirelle's version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow better than Amy Winehouse's, but for pure repressed cold war angst with that emotional twist of guilt and shame, Brenda Lee's cover is the best.
- Francis the Talking Mule over Mister Ed, of course.
- Twilight Zone over Outer Limits, as if there was any question!
I like reading a "long-form" blog posting better than a bunch of squibs. I prefer the quiet communities in the blogs to all the social media fanfare and foofaraw that goes on in Facebook or Friendfeed or twitter. Here at Time Goes By we know we will be treated to Ronni Bennett's thoughtful and informed opinions regarding the issues facing us as we age.
Other long-form bloggers such as poet Ron Silliman and journalism professor Jay Rosen share their expertise and perspectives in much the same way Ronni does. These are "bloggers with a beat" who focus their talent and influence each on a specific area. There are thousands of them, many of them quite good. Professional. And their work is an art form that is evolving as we participate by reading, commenting, and linking to them.
It's a new generation of writing that echoes the new journalism that Tom Wolfe introduced in the mid-sixties with his collection of essays, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.
I would much rather read the blogs than most of the newspapers being published today, all sucking information from the same source, be it the Associated Press or Agence France. Of course, I would rather read Donald Westlake and Robert Parker crime stories than Shakespeare, and Dogs Playing Poker do it for me as much as the Mona Lisa, so - in this as in all things - consider the source.
EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.