Is Bitcoin Just Conceptual Art?
From calculating its value in ten years to figuring out what constitutes its “soul”, everyone and their accountant has something to say about Bitcoin these days. And so do I: Bitcoin is the greatest work of conceptual art of the 21st century. Which is not to say I think it’s a joke—in fact, I find the economic experiment extremely exciting—but rather, I think it shares many of the tenets inherent to conceptual masterpieces like Rauschenberg’s Erased De Kooning Drawing, or Nam June Paik’s Fin de Siecle II, or even Yoko Ono’s Fluxus performances.
I feel like dudes who are into Bitcoin wear way too many pairs of cargo shorts to be conceptual artists, but this is still interesting to consider.
Get Rich or High Trying: The Coming Age of Corporate Cannabis
“At this moment in history, you’ve got to choose between being in favor of legalization, or being against ‘the system.’”
Mason Tvert is leading a quick tour of what he irreverently describes as the Marijuana Manor—a genteel, three-story, historically-registered, 1880s-era brick and stained-glass building in downtown Denver that was recently converted into permanent office space for a consortium of do-gooders fighting to make legal cannabis work in America. The building houses four separate activist organizations, a trade association, and a law firm. Tvert is clad in a conservative suit jacket and tie worn above a pair of faded blue-jeans—an ensemble compiled in deference to a remote television appearance earlier in the day that shot him from the waist up. His clashing outfit offers an unintended statement on the split-personality of the pot world right now: Business in the front, party in the back.
Last November, Tvert certainly had plenty of reason to celebrate, after heading a historic campaign that saw voters in Colorado approve Amendment 64 by a wide margin, ushering in a new era of state-legal commercial cannabis cultivation and retail sales of up to an ounce for all adults 21 and over. A similar ballot initiative in Washington State also passed easily on the unforgettable night when pot outperformed the president, while making headlines around the world.
To date, lawmakers in both states continue to work out exactly how to implement the herb-friendly will of their citizenry, ever-mindful that a miraculous crop that can’t kill you, won’t hurt you, and just might heal you remains fully illegal under federal law, even if you’ve got terminal cancer and floor seats to see Phish. Despite the fact that smoking a joint remains a lot less dangerous than swilling booze. Not to mention that the same federales imposing cannabis prohibition ultimately answer to a guy best known in his youth for “roof hits,” “interceptions,” and sharing some righteous Maui Wowie with the Choom Gang.
All Politicians Should Talk As Much As Rand Paul Just Did
Yesterday was one of those rare days when you could feel good about something that happened in Congress: Rand Paul stood up just before noon, started talking about drones, and didn’t stop for 13 hours. The point of Paul’s filibuster was to delay the appointment of drone-policy architect John Brennan as the new CIA director and to draw attention to Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to categorically rule out drone strikes on US soil, in response to a letter Paul wrote. There was no real hope of stopping Brennan’s appointment in the beginning, but as the afternoon turned into night, some mainstream Republicans voiced their support (like Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell), and there’s now a chance that Brennan won’t get confirmed so easily, or at least not until Obama comes out and says, “We’re not going to use drones to kill Americans in America. That’s ridiculous.” The impressive thing about Paul’s effort, though, was that someone spoke in public passionately and at length about something he believes in, which is a pretty rare sight in politics.
There are tons of filibusters in the Senate, but very few are Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-style oratorical workouts. Thanks to rule changes adopted back in the 60s, it’s enough for a senator to announce that he or she is filibustering a bill, and the chamber will move along to something else unless 60 senators vote to overrule. A few months ago, there were various reforms proposed to change this obstructionist state of affairs—one idea, from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, would have forced filibuster-happy legislators to do exactly what Paul did yesterday and literally stand up for what they believe in. But those efforts fell apart, since apparently senators are big fans of being able to quietly stall the progress of bills they don’t like. (The Senate is not a great place to get things done.)
What’s So Bad About Cockfighting Again?
This week, a Utah state senator named Allen Christensen made news by voting against a bill that would turn cockfighting from a misdemeanor into a felony (it’s already a felony in most of the US). The reasons he gave included A) The birds “naturally want to do this thing in their lives” and B) Utah allows women to have abortions, so why doesn’t it allow people to strap knives to roosters’ claws and get them to cut each other to pieces for entertainment? Obviously, Christensen is being a troll here, and he’s probably the kind of guy who mentions abortion when you ask him to pass the potatoes (“UNBORN FETUSES MURDERED BY THEIR LIBRUL MOTHERS CAN’T PASS ANYTHING TO ANYONE BECAUSE THEY’RE DEAD!”) but the story got me thinking: What if there’s a sliver of a point here? Why do we want to send people who run cockfighting rings to prison?
Let’s first go to the Humane Society, who have a pretty good definition of what cockfighting is and why you should want it banned if you give a shit about animals at all:
Obviously, yes, cockfighting is a barbaric blood sport and if roosters are capable of conscious thought, they are almost definitely not like, Hell yeah, I want to get cut up by some other rooster with knives on his claws while drunk humans shout at me! But if American lawmakers want to start passing bills that reflect a concern for poultry, maybe they should start with the 9 billion chickens that are killed and turned into food every year in the US. While a few of those birds no doubt live happy lives roaming around farmyards and pecking at the dirt, many more of those chickens have lives like this:
Camille Paglia Believes That Revenge of the Sith Is Our Generation’s Greatest Work of Art
Camille Paglia, the indispensable art critic and long-serving Professor of Humanities at the University of the Arts, has for over two decades lived in the shadow of Camille Paglia, the polemicist, enfant terrible, expert provocateur and, according the British writer Julie Burchill, “crazy old dyke.” Paglia is the lesbian who doesn’t like lesbians, the pro-drug libertarian who wouldn’t touch the stuff herself. And, through no fault of her own, the extravagances of Paglia’s proclamations have too often lead spectators to overlook the marrow of her ideas.
She became an international celebrity in 1990 upon the release of Sexual Personae, wherein Paglia argues that Western art and culture are underlined by the pagan fixations on phalluses and Earth goddesses that pre-date Christian hegemony. An ardent defender of free expression and inquiry, she was a darling of the British and American talk show circuits on account of her parallel advocacy for Madonna’s tits and Rush Limbaugh’s revulsion at the sight of them.
Paglia’s mission today, however, is less confrontational and yet more ambitious: She wants American culture to embrace the story of art. Paglia has just released Glittering Images, a direct and beautiful volume dedicated to the study of 29 works throughout art history. The book launches her quest to make David’s La Mort de Marat as common in US public schools as Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Crucially, Paglia has the writerly gifts to make introductory art history sing to the uninitiated and old hands alike. It’s an essential work by an essential public intellectual. Paglia hasn’t left behind controversy, either: in the book’s final chapter, fed up with the direction of contemporary art, she argues that George Lucas’ Revenge of the Sith is the greatest work of art in recent memory. So, if you’re just wrapping up that MFA, set your sights on Mace Windu and Padmé Amidala instead of Jessica Warboys and David Altmejd.
Anyway, we were delighted to speak to Camille Paglia about contemporary art, education, penises, her goals for this new project, and Lorraine Bracco’s terrible acting.
VICE: So, Camille, how come contemporary art is so terrible?
Creative energy has migrated into industrial design and digital animation—videogames, for example, are booming! Commercial architecture is also thriving, as shown by amazingly monumental new buildings everywhere from Dubai to Beijing. But the fine arts have become very insular and derivative. There is good work being done, but it too often reminds me of ten other sometimes better things over the past 100 years. The main problem is a high-concept mentality. There’s too much gimmickry and irony and not enough intuition and emotion.
Well, what about Revenge of the Sith? You say it’s the greatest work of art, in any medium, created in the last 30 years. It’s better than… uh, Matthew Barney or Rachel Whiteread or Chris Ware or Peter Doig?
Yes, the long finale of Revenge of the Sith has more inherent artistic value, emotional power, and global impact than anything by the artists you name. It’s because the art world has flat-lined and become an echo chamber of received opinion and toxic over-praise. It’s like the emperor’s new clothes—people are too intimidated to admit what they secretly think or what they might think with their blinders off.
The Wacky World of the Republican Party Platform
The Republican National Convention is all about pomp and speeches and balloons and grand gestures. It’s basically a white guy in a suit high-fiving himself over and over for a week while thousands of reporters tweet about it. Conventions used to be where the presidential nominees would be decided upon and therefore were pretty damn important, but now they mainly exist to give parties a chance to talk about what a great guy their would-be president is. One of the few things of “substance” that happens during the RNC is the writing of the party platform—the painstaking process of putting down on paper all the things Republicans believe in and want to make happen. This should be pretty important, right? Well, it would be,if people read it. The problem is, pretty much everyone, including the candidates, ignores it. I mean, you know what the GOP stands for, right? They like guns, the military, free markets, and religion; they hate gay rights, illegal immigrants, taxes, abortion, and Obama. You don’t need to read a document that’s tens of thousands of words long to understand that.
It’s a shame more people don’t pay attention to party platforms though. Not only do they list the policies that the party actually supports—everyone says they want to talk about policies, not the horse race of campaigning, right?—they also contain some odd, sometimes terrifying, sometimes funny nuggets. The GOP’s platform hasn’t been officially released yet, but in a rather amusing bungle, they posted a draft of it on their website by mistake. Thanks to the Politico reporters who found it, we got a glimpse into the ideas the GOP brain trust is tossing around in their smoke-filled rooms. Like, “Hey, why don’t we think about going back to the gold standard?” Or, “Let’s try to ban porn. All of it.” (I wrote about how terrifying this was during the primary.) Those are fairly terrifying ideas, but there’s also some fun stuff in there. For instance, one thing they’d like to do to reduce health care costs is tell everyone to stop being so goddamn fat, you guys—how this slimming-down would happen is unclear; maybe the federal government should force people to exercise?
Not surprisingly, the platform shows that the GOP is getting more and more conservative as time goes on. Well, duh. Thing is, the platform is written and approved by party insiders and activists, not the plain ole folks that’ll vote for the candidates that (supposedly, at least) are going to try to turn the policies into reality. What do ordinary Republicans want?
Hey, there’s a website that tells us! This time around, the GOP set up a forum where people could submit ideas and vote on them. What fun! Unsurprisingly, many of the platform planks that get tossed around on the site mirror the official positions of the GOP. Under the “Marriage and Traditional Values” section there’s a bunch of posts about banning gay marriage, and the “Sanctity of Life” section is basically just NO NO NO ABORTION NO. Once you start going through the posts, however, you find that ordinary Republicans actually disagree with their party more than you’d think. (As far as I can tell, there are remarkably few trolls on the site.)
For instance, you know how the War on Drugs is an awful policy that is tearing our communities apart? Republicans hate it too. Really! But the Republican Party doesn’t seem to care about the issue—the anti-drug war posts were in the “Traditional Values” section because there’s no proper place on the site to discuss legalizing drugs. Ending the drug war is literally an idea the platform-writing committee can’t conceive of. Christ.
Wide World of Balls
We understand what happened. Your lobster boat capsized and you’ve been stuck off the far shores of Maine since this past Tuesday and have no idea what’s going on in the NFL, in baseball, basketball, hockey, or any other sports, which apparently people also play (e.g. leisure wrestling). But you have a big meeting with the boss tomorrow and need to talk about his favorite team to get that raise. Don’t worry! Here’s everything important that happened in every sport last week. If it’s not in here, it’s unathletic.
- The conference finals are underway. Hooray! Only six more weeks until the NBA finals. How’d we get here? LeBron James and Dwyane Wade finally realized they’re elite and beat Indiana. The Heat now face the Celtics, who took seven games to beat an eight-seed. That should never happen! But it did, and Ray Allen may never get over it.
- Miami should win, since they’re the better, faster team whose players dress better. The Celtics already lost Game 1, but can push it to six if Rajon Rondo shoots incredibly well and Paul Pierce finds his lucky athletic supporter (he lost it drinking).
- The Spurs and Thunder got it started, and the series has been and will continue to be about 1,000 times less boring than any of the Eastern Conference games (ever). I said the Spurs rule, and the stat nerdshave my back.
- The fact that the Thunder is a very good team is no surprise. This is both good for its basketball operations department and bad for Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, who owns 19.2 percent of the team and is currently getting shit upon by the New York City Pensions fund for spending too much money on basketball and not on whatever weird drilling his company does. The fund holds 1.9 million Chesapeake shares, and they consider McClendon’s increased expenditure on the team, which includes three-ply toilet paper and the expensive celebratory balloons, a possible conflict of interest during Chesapeake’s cash flow shortfall. Basically, this is like the gross round dude who lives on your block spending all of his money on Giants jerseys and then getting evicted, except replace the street with a mansion, the Giants jerseys with Aramark compensation packages, and getting evicted with getting a slap on the wrist.
- Metta World Peace got his government holidays mixed up.
- Adam Morrison, seen looking all sorts of fly in this photo last week, wins the coveted Sam Reiss Finest Athletic Hair of the Week Award. His prize is a one-week reprieve of the shame he no doubt feels by being Adam Morrison.
- NFL owners are going to make knee, leg, and thigh pads mandatory for 2013, and the NFL Players’ Association isn’t immediately down with it. For them it’s a change to working conditions, since kneepads = working conditions. What’s wrong with these pads?
- Mark Sanchez smoked Tim Tebow in offseason team activities, throwing six touchdowns in only five passes. If you’re not familiar, OTAs are to regular season games as this column is to the collected works of William Gaddis. Tebow was pretty bummed by his performance—three interceptions, some light crying, and he slipped on a banana peel. So he cut his daily visit to the Parsippany children’s hospital to just three hours.