On how it sucks to be an artist

A buddy of mine posted this nice article from Salon called “The Creative Class is a Lie“. Below is my response.

In the creative class a lie? I disagree. Perhaps a better statement would be to say it was oversold. But it has always been this way.

When I moved to LA back in 88, there was a whole group of us young turks out to change the world. We were going to be musicians, actors, screenwriters, directors, artists, etc. By the time we hit our mid 30s, most of us had quit the dream, and taken day jobs. Many moved back home, wherever home was. This is the cycle of the “creative class”. There are always more dreamers than jobs, especially for jobs like “movie star” or “rock star”. There is only going to be a few influential rich in any given field, that is how art has always been.

Has the effects of the Great Recession made things more difficult for these dreamers? Possibly, but I would argue that it also has done a better job of separating the wheat from the chaff. 15 years from now, most of those dreamers will be happy and healthy because they will have found something better for their lives. In contrast, right now they are bitter because their dreams got crushed in the cruel, cruel “real world” of having to pay the rent, and buy food. Time will fix this as it does most things. One only has to look a few years backwards to see.
Perhaps the biggest disservice ever given to young bright-eyed creatives is that no one ever tells them their dreams will happily crush their bones to make its bread. The real world is the crucible. It is harsh, cruel, and has no care for your needs. Many will go in, but only a paltry few will remain. And it is at that point–when you have sold everything for the dream and wake up one day, beaten, tired, and lying at the side of the road–that the real art begins; living your life, not the dream.

A Class of Fancies

A part of this letter is spoken by Orson Wells at the beginning of the Alan Parsons Project album Tales of Mystery & Imagination which is a musical take on Poe’s stories. I got the album from my wife for Father’s Day, and it enjoying it lead me down this rabbit hole of discovery.

Graham’s Magazine, March, 1846

Some Frenchman–possibly Montaigne–says: “People talk about thinking, but for my part I never think except when I sit down to write.” It is this never thinking, unless when we sit down to write, which is the cause of so much indifferent composition. But perhaps there is something more involved in the Frenchman’s observation than meets the eye. It is certain that the mere act of inditing tends, in a great degree, to the logicalisation of thought. Whenever, on account of its vagueness, I am dissatisfied with a conception of the brain, I resort forthwith to the pen, for the purpose of obtaining, through its aid, the necessary form, consequence, and precision.

How very commonly we hear it remarked that such and such thoughts are beyond the compass of words! I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language. I fancy, rather, that where difficulty in expression is experienced, there is, in the intellect which experiences it, a want either of deliberateness or of method. For my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words, with even more distinctness than that with which I conceived it:–as I have before observed, the thought is logicalised by the effort at (written) expression.

There is, however, a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt language. I use the word fancies at random, and merely because I must use some word; but the idea commonly attached to the term is not even remotely applicable to the shadows of shadows in question. They seem to me rather psychal than intellectual. They arise in the soul (alas, how rarely!) only at its epochs of most intense tranquillity–when the bodily and mental health are in perfection–and at those mere points of time where the confines of the waking world blend with those of the world of dreams. I am aware of these “fancies” only when I am upon the very brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so. I have satisfied myself that this condition exists but for an inappreciable point of time–yet it is crowded with these “shadows of shadows”; and for absolute thought there is demanded time’s endurance.

These “fancies” have in them a pleasurable ecstasy, as far beyond the most pleasurable of the world of wakefulness, or of dreams, as the Heaven of the Northman theology is beyond its Hell. I regard the visions, even as they arise, with an awe which, in some measure moderates or tranquillises the ecstasy–I so regard them, through a conviction (which seems a portion of the ecstasy itself) that this ecstasy, in itself, is of a character supernal to the Human Nature–is a glimpse of the spirit’s outer world; and I arrive at this conclusion–if this term is at all applicable to instantaneous intuition–by a perception that the delight experienced has, as its element, but the absoluteness of novelty. I say the absoluteness- for in the fancies–let me now term them psychal impressions–there is really nothing even approximate in character to impressions ordinarily received. It is as if the five senses were supplanted by five myriad others alien to mortality.

Now, so entire is my faith in the power of words, that at times I have believed it possible to embody even the evanescence of fancies such as I have attempted to describe. In experiments with this end in view, I have proceeded so far as, first, to control (when the bodily and mental health are good), the existence of the condition:- that is to say, I can now (unless when ill), be sure that the condition will supervene, if I so wish it, at the point of time already described: of its supervention until lately I could never be certain even under the most favorable circumstances. I mean to say, merely, that now I can be sure, when all circumstances are favorable, of the supervention of the condition, and feel even the capacity of inducing or compelling it:–the favorable circumstances, however, are not the less rare–else had I compelled already the Heaven into the Earth.

I have proceeded so far, secondly, as to prevent the lapse from the Point of which I speak–the point of blending between wakefulness and sleep–as to prevent at will, I say, the lapse from this border–ground into the dominion of sleep. Not that I can continue the condition–not that I can render the point more than a point–but that I can startle myself from the point into wakefulness; and thus transfer the point itself into the realm of Memory–convey its impressions, or more properly their recollections, to a situation where (although still for a very brief period) I can survey them with the eye of analysis.

For these reasons–that is to say, because I have been enabled to accomplish thus much–I do not altogether despair of embodying in words at least enough of the fancies in question to convey to certain classes of intellect, a shadowy conception of their character.

In saying this I am not to be understood as supposing that the fancies or psychal impressions to which I allude are confined to my individual self–are not, in a word, common to all mankind–for on this point it is quite impossible that I should form an opinion–but nothing can be more certain than that even a partial record of the impressions would startle the universal intellect of mankind, by the supremeness of the novelty of the material employed, and of its consequent suggestions. In a word–should I ever write a paper on this topic, the world will be compelled to acknowledge that, at last, I have done an original thing.

More Poe quotes can be found here.

My take on this is Poe attempting to describe the creative process before the language of modern psychological analysis brought to us the term the subconscious. His attempts at his own mental and physical “perfection” are interesting. What do you think?

Oh frabjous day!

It’s 8:30 and already I’ve had the most wonderful morning. You see I was walking Trevor to our local public school, like I do every school day. To get there we have to cross the treacherous and swift moving Burbank Blvd. where more than once I’ve almost been hit by passing cars. So today, when we round the corner and spied the villainous street ahead, we saw there was a roving gang of jack-booted thugs on motorcycles, enforcing the local traffic standards. They even had an undercover “troll” who crossed the street – at the cross-walk, and always with the huge lights flashing – just to reel in more suckers.

Let me tell you, it was beautiful.

12 to 15 motorcycle cops were out, and they just were throwing down ticket after ticket. Half way across the street I looked west down Burbank Blvd., and off in the distance I saw three different sets of flashing lights behind pulled over cars. It was like Christmas in May. On the way home, while I was thanking the fine officers for being there, our corner crossing guard went back and forth across the street twice. Each time two or more cars would zoom past him, and each time another motorcycle cop hit the gas, and that little bit of siren song sounded.

I didn’t feel the least bit bad for the poor unsuspecting cars. That corner has been a nightmare for us for 5 years. I’ve been almost hit countless times while crossing the street with my son. You try crossing a street with a small child, and have the cars miss you only because you jump out of their way, and tell me how you feel about it. Cars will not only fail to stop, but they will zoom right pass you and flip you off.

But not today mother fuckers. Let me tell you. Not today.

So how has your morning been?

A letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,

I have some deep concerns about your recent change in policy vis-a-vis top tier tax cuts. I do not see this change as positive, moreover I do not see it as being fiscally responsible.

I understand that you are the President for ALL of America, and thus represent ALL American view points. I applaud your recent efforts to try and find some middle ground with the upcoming Republican Congress. However, I think your are selling this particular point too cheap. If you are going to “sell out,” then I believe you should get something more than unemployment extensions in exchange for the top tier tax cuts. There is a fine line between reaching out, and caving in (no doubt, some would say they are the same thing). I believe you have crossed this line.

Since there are a lot of voices supporting the conservative rhetoric that tax cuts to the wealthy are good fiscal policy, please allow me to provide an alternate view. I believe a closer following of the European “austerity” movement is in order. I suggest you kill all Bush era tax cuts. ALL of them. Every single one. When confronted by opposition to such a position you could simply say, “The price for being an American citizen just went up. And it has gone up for ALL Americans, not just for the poor and middle class.” To be honest, what I would prefer you to say would be the more simple, “Quit your belly-aching,” or “There aint no such thing as a free lunch,”  but I understand that both concepts are a bit too divisive for you to say.  Mores the pity.

I am a small business owner (sole proprietorship), and unlike a lot of other Americans, my business has been doing very well the past couple of years. Although I am not in the $250k/year range, removing the Bush era tax cuts will hit me harder then average citizen. So what? It is a distinct privilege to own a business and to make money in this country. I would not mind paying more for it. Well, that is not quite true. I would mind. However, I also understand that sometimes the river rises, or the rains don’t come. What I think is missing from the modern political rhetoric on this topic is this simple truth; there is no right to owning a business or making money in American. It is a privilege. And with this privilege comes certain responsibilities. Only a fool would buy the best tractor, and condition the soil to perfection, only to plant the cheapest seed.

Please, Mr. President. I urge you to reconsider your stance on this topic.

Thank you for taking the time to view my email, and give it all the consideration your busy schedule allows.


Eric Tolladay

iPod awesomeness

The other day, I showed up at a client’s office in the morning, and several of us got to talking about art and such. As this kind of conversation often does, something was said that reminded me of a song, in this case, “I’m Big in Japan.” Not the version you probably know, but the Tom Waits song from the CD, Mule Variations. Well I thought it would be fun to play the song on my iPod, so I set the songs order to alphabetical by title, and searched for it that way. I was busy, and didn’t want to mess with the iPod anymore, so I just kept listening in alphabetical order when the song was over. Sort of a fun way to do random songs.

Several days, and 490 songs later, I’m still in the B’s. In fact, I’m up to the Chemical Brothers “Block Rockin’ Beats.

490 songs just to get from BIG to BLO.


Kill Yer TV

A response to a post in political talk forum on the value of cable vs satellite television.

We Americans have gone from a country of people who do things, to a country of people who need to be entertained. The change has not suited us well. Even worse, we act like it is our God given right to have 24/7 entertainment provided to us on a silver platter. Big brash shows, big brash food, big brash tvs. We, as a country, are getting more and more fat and lazy. More and more passive rather than active. And our entertainment is getting more and more tawdry, while our disdain for educated or cultured refinement grows.

Join me brothers in our fight against the norm. Rise up against the tyranny of the ordinary. Trod the road less traveled. I would rather see 100 disgruntled tea partiers, than 100 couch potatoes.

On Mental Illness

It is very hard to describe what mental illness is like to someone who has not gone through it. It is a subtle change that takes place not in the world, but in your head. The changes it brings come slowly, and the mind is quick to mask most of these from the person, so that one generally does not notice it until it is manifest. Even the subtlety of the attack, and the way the brain works to co-op the victim, very much like a virus stricken computer suddenly working hard to help the erstwhile hacker, makes the process all the more unbelievable. You simply cannot imagine you are acting crazy right up until the moment you do. And then you can’t figure out how in the hell you got there.

It’s very much like waking up, and going about your day, only to find at the end, when you go to take a shit, that somehow in the course of your day you took off the white underwear you very carefully chose in the morning, and replaced them with a green pair you have never seen before, and then proceeded to put them on the outside of your pants. The worst thing is not realizing you just spent the last part of your day walking around the block, talking to your neighbors, eating at the local restaurant, all with green underwear on the outside of your pants. No the worst part is not knowing where you got the underwear from in the first place. Like there is some secret store you go to buy green underwear, but only when you are so crazy that you cannot remember.

I am lucky in that I have only a very mild form of depression. Pretty much the worse that happens to me is I suddenly find myself almost entirely rudderless, and with only the littlest bit of ego to manage most adult tasks. I can function, after a fashion, but I have very little initiative to do anything but go home, and crawl into bed. For instance, I can sit on a corner waiting for a bus, but I cannot raise my hand and waive down a taxi. The thought of doing something new, like riding in a taxi, is almost paralyzing, even though it would get me home sooner, and I had the cash in my hand. I can even realize that I am depressed, and need to get myself to a safe spot soon, before it gets worse (like all mental illnesses, it can get worse), but I cannot manage to do anything that is out of routine or unsafe. Mind you, the very next day I can wake up and take twenty taxis, without batting an eye, so the effect is not permanent. I’m lucky in that also know now pretty much when I’m depressed, and have a good handle on my limitations. I am also able to work when depressed because I have learned how to not shut down completely when there is work to do. It’s always in the denouement after late night work that is the hardest.

I can leave a client’s office, after a long day’s work, and walk out to the bus stop to wait for the bus, very much like I did last night, and then at some point while waiting for the bus, suddenly and completely shut down. I was planing on going to a restaurant to celebrate a friends birthday, and sometime after I got off my normal bus, and waited for a new one to take me to the restaurant, I lost it. I could not wait for the bus to come (it never did), and while pacing for it, I grew more and more agitated until I got to the point that I started having a very strong desire to yell at any car that passed, and it was all I could do not to scream at the the occasional pedestrian. Even I know, while in the grips of depression, that this is not normal. So I watched 20 taxis pass, all of them empty, and waited for my normal “safe” bus to come, and take me home. Almost 2 hours after I left the office I stumbled through my front door, and crawled into bed.

On the way into work this morning, I saw several taxis. All of them seemed perfectly safe. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to call a friend and apologize for missing his birthday. Fortunately for me, he is a good friend and will understand.

Gun-lovers. It’s time for a new defense

As I write this there is a lot of talk of the assault weapons ban making a come-back, and this had my gun owning friends worried. Worse still, I find their worry is translated into the same arguments used before, back when Republicans had a majority in both houses of Congress, and the Presidency. Well for gun owners, times are tough, and the world has moved on to a new reality. In an effort of “cross the aisle” support, I thought I would offer my advice to my gun owning friends, to help them through what looks to be a painful transition.

The Football Metaphor (with apologies to those lads who know football as footy)

Think of yourself as a fan of a major professional football team. Not just any team, but a dynasty team; one with multiple Superbowl trophies under it’s belt, and many fine pro-ball players sporting Superbowl bling on their fingers. Now imagine that your team just got beat in the Spuerbowl, for the first time in 8 years. Ouch! Sure it hurts to loose, and sure the feeling of loss is rather novel, but that does not mean your team is completely destroyed. You still have a lot of fine players on the roster, and you still have the same old excellent coaching staff. But even with all those things on your side, sometimes you still loose. Try to remember that the other teams want to win just and much, and that there is always next year. As we all know, crying in our beer is cathartic, but it doesn’t really help. What we need is to rethink our game, and start up with some new training.

First of all, it’s time for a new defense.  Running a tight defense, trying to keep the opposing team from making big running plays, works well if you have the best offense. And lets face it, Republicans have always run a good offsense. As long as you can outscore the other team, your defense really only has to contain the opposing team, not stop them. This works well, as long as you have the best offense on the field. If you can force the other teams to make bad passes, while keeping their running game to a minimum, then your offense can come in an outscore the other guys.

And for the past 8-10 years, that has pretty much been the goal of gun owners. Minimize the weaker opponents, and concentrate on allowing your party to win. And for all that time, it worked really well. You had a good offense (Republicans got elected often, and to majorities), and you could easily contain any movement from your opponents with your tight defense.

That was then, this is now. Now you are facing a whole new team. Last year in the off-season (is there an off-season in politics?) the other side got themselves a new quaterback. And guess what? He has got a real arm on him. Say what you want, Obama can throw spectacular passes. And he has enough fast talking guys on his team to get under them.

In effect,  another team now has the better offense.

So its time to open up your defense. Right now its better if you can limit the other team to a small running game, and defend more against the passing game. Because if you don’t, they are going to pass the ball right through your defense, and you are going to loose again this season. You’ve got to control the ball by rethinking what you are going to defend, otherwise, your in for another loss. Your offense is not going to out-pass this guy,  so your defense has got to take up the slack.

What does this mean in the real word? Well, for starters, you’re going to loose on the assault weapons ban. Really. I know it hurts, and I know you think this means the camel’s nose is under the tent, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Democrats have the votes, AND the momentum. So you might as well know it going to happen, and deal with it. If you try to hold tight, it you try to defend this issue like it is the end of the world, you are going to loose. It’s an ugly truth, but it is still the truth.

But that is not the end of your game, its just the first few yards. What you want to defend against are large bans on guns, not selective bans on certian types of guns. No matter what you do, some of these are going to pass. It’s better to let them go, and defend against the bigger plays, than to try a goal-line defense on the 50, and watch helplessly while the other side passes the ball deep. Because sure as shootin, that is what is going to happen if you kepe to the old defense.

So here’s your stratgy for 2009, and for all the years until you get a stronger offense: Defend against the deep game, and worry less about the short game. Take the sort game on the chin, in excange for containment on the long game.

That, and start shopping for a better quarterback.

Road Trip to Yosemite

This weekend we loaded up the Prius, and drove up to visit my parents in Yosemite. The occasion was to celebrate the birthday of my step-father, who is now 80, and still going strong.

Along the way we saw quite a few wildflowers growing along I-5 in an area referred to as “the Grapevine.” These two shots were taken just south of Gorman, which is just short of the 4400 ft elevation pass.

The splotching looking colors are widflowers. You can see the orange California Poppies in the second photo quite clearly.


Don’s birthday was great fun. Mom and friends put together a big party. Lots of people, lots of wine. Of note was one man (who’s name was Greg, iirc) who was a physician, and who is now a writer that converts physicanese into a language that lay-people can understand. He told me of helping a family who’s 8-year-old son had just died from a very rare blood disease. I guess he spent a lot of time with the family, helping them come to grips with a something that to them must be right out of a horror movie.

We got there early, which means we got to help set up. A good friend of my parents, Bayla, who happens to be an award winning belly-dancer, baked this rather cool cake.


The cake is of a mountain with snow on top. Emblazoned around the sides are the words, “Don Pitts, The Man, The Myth, The Legend.” With his prominent slogan from years of cross-country skiing “Ski or Die”.

The next morning we went to the Ahwahnee Hotel for their amazing brunch (thanks Mom). Afterwards we went for a short hike to Yosemite Falls, to get Trevor out and moving a bit before we drove back home. Thus the obligatory Yosemite snapshot of upper Yosemite falls below.