29 May 2008

An email from a colleague (adapted from an Onion article)

Why Can't Anyone Tell I'm Wearing This Business Suit Ironically

By David Cauchi

Is it my fault none of you stupid conformists can understand how hilarious and ironic my cutting-edge fashion sense is? In 1982, I was the first kid in the suburb to wear a Mr. Bubble iron-on T-shirt from the '70s. I was only 10, but I was soaring over people's heads. In high school, I was the only guy to wear Adam And The Ants war paint to the seventh form ball—even though it was 1990. Those fools looked at me like I was 10 or 12 years behind! At varsity, the trucker-hat concept was my masterstroke. Within a few years, everybody was doing it, but by that time, I had so moved on.

Well, now I'm 36, and I'm still leaving all you idiots in mysteriously tongue-in-cheek fashion dust.

About five years ago, I was growing bored with the whole neo-'80s electroclash look that I had mastered years earlier, and the bohemian-intellectual look that followed. I figured, why not go all out and take the concept of ironic fashion to the extreme? Just do something so risky and completely out there that it would blow people's minds. So I dreamed up the suit idea. It was like, just create the squarest possible look and run with it. And I was hardcore about it, too. A lesser man might have just snagged a cheap suit at Hallensteins, but I went all out, choosing a conservative, high-buttoned, dark brown three-piece suit and having it fitted by the best tailor in Wellington. I even had my normally wild curly hair cut in a short, straight, non-descript style. I mean, who the hell does that? I looked like a [expletive deleted] city councillor!

Fresh from the tailors in my new suit, I hit all the hippest spots in Cuba Street, just waiting for the scenesters' jaws to drop at my sheer audacity. To make sure the irony was pitch-perfect, I got the matching shoes, the cuff links, the fob, the tie pin, everything—I even matched my silk socks to my eye colour and the accents in my tie! I could barely keep a straight face! But in every single bar, cafe, and after-hours house party I went to, I got the same reaction—everybody just treated me like some kind of lame-o. They looked at me like I wasn't supposed to be there.

I initially thought maybe they were jealous, but then it dawned on me—they literally thought I was dressed like that for real! Ha! Couldn't these morons get a simple joke? It's like, "Hel-lo... If you have to explain it..."

I resolved then and there to stick it to the mainstream and adopt this bullshit suit as my signature look. If I knuckled under and went back to my drainpipe trousers and Chucks, or my Guevara T-shirt and board short era, or even my black skivvies and cords, I'd just be selling out. Nope. If anything, I was gonna take it further. I perfected the look until it was as hilarious as it could possibly be. No expense was spared—if I cut corners, I wouldn't be doing the joke justice. So I got a leather Hermes attaché case, and I filled it with— you guessed it—actual corporate accountability reports! And my watch? Lame-ass TAG Heuer. Most expensive one I could find. Is that the avant-garde of hipness, or what?

But people still didn't get it. Nobody cracked up when they saw me at Yeah Yeah Yeahs shows or edgy art exhibition openings at the Mary Newton Gallery. If anything, they seemed to avoid me. One of my now ex-friends even called me a sellout. WTF? He worked as a [expletive deleted] secondary school teacher. I was standing right there in my [expletive deleted] suit, for Christ's sake. It's not my fault if some jerks can't handle the extreme and total "[expletive deleted] you" of my next-level fashion statement.

I took it further. I moved out of my Thorndon loft (so 10 years ago anyway) and put a down-payment on a three-bedroom Mt Cook villa. Tidy green lawn, fruit trees, and everything. Hilarious! Then, on a lark, I applied for a job at this hysterical government auditing firm, and—this is the kicker—I actually got the job!

I figured I'd fake the auditing gag long enough to get my first pay, then totally blow off these cheese-asses and frame my uncashed cheque as an irony trophy. Well, I did that... But then, when people still failed to pick up the joke and more and more weeks went by without me getting fired, the wages started to pile up and I figured, "What the hell? Might as well use these extra ones." I had to, really, to pay for all this expensive ironic [expletive deleted].

But what good is all this hilarity if there's no one else hip enough to appreciate it? On the 8:12 a.m. Number 11 bus, everybody just assumes I'm one of them. So does my manager, my team administrator, and every single one of my colleagues at the audit office, where I'm now a supervisor running in-house training programmes. I even got properly paired off with my long-term girlfriend and we now have two ironic kids. I swear, they look like something out of a creepy 1950s Jack and Jill reader—I even have these hilarious silver-framed pictures of them in my cheesy corner cubicle. But still, the humour is lost on everybody but me. I'm probably the most fashionable guy on the planet at this point, but no one understands. God! Do you have any idea how difficult it is being so far ahead of your time? Some days, it's enough to make me want to embrace conformity like all the other sheep.

But who am I kidding? Living on the cutting edge of irony is in my blood, man! I couldn't go straight if I tried!

28 May 2008

Oh yeah

One of my blog posts has ended up in a catalogue by Andrew McLeod. Go here and click on Artistic conscience.

26 May 2008

Ye gods

What is with these people who want to ban things they don't like? Smokers seem to be the one segment of the population that it's socially acceptable to discriminate against. First smoking in pubs and cafes was banned. Then the warnings on the packets got bigger and bigger and more strident, until they got replaced by graphic images of bits of dead people.

Quite apart from the smell of desperation about putting these images on cigarette packets ('oh no, the warnings aren't working, let's make them really repulsive'), there's a real question of balance here. The decision has been made (note use of passive tense) that the interests of everyone who may see what are deliberately disgusting images (who are not just smokers of course, but could be anyone – including children) are outweighed by the so-called benefits of possibly scaring some people into giving up smoking. Is it just me, or is there something very wrong here?

Of course, once the images came in, people simply and quite rightly covered them up or put their tobacco into a different container. I've seen it seriously suggested that selling covers for cigarette packets should be banned. This is the behaviour of monomaniacs and zealots, the kind of people for whom the ends justify any means. It is a very dangerous mindset.

And so now this Poneke person (who of course is anonymous) wants to ban smoking in busy public places. Why? Because the smokers have all the best spots! It's really laughable. Boo hoo! There's nothing stopping non-smokers from sitting outside in smoking areas. My non-smoking friends do it all the time.

To do this, though, you need to tolerate people who are different from you, not try to legislate them out of existence. But not these anti-smoking bigots. They seem to think their intolerant prejudice should be backed up by law.

I don't like the sight or smell of cooked flesh, but do you see me advocating for a ban on eating meat in public? Of course not. If I choose to go out to a restaurant or bar, I know I'll be exposed to it. I accept that. It's part of living in a civil society.

25 May 2008

Song for Piero

Che Tibby's posted the video of a great song about geometry. I love it.

The reading from The Psychic Soviet is pretty bloody good as well.

22 May 2008

Why I have a day job

I recently came across an old business plan I did way back. It had a nifty formula for working out how to price your goods and services.

Ha ha, thought I, let’s look at the numbers for being a full-time artist. Let’s have modest ambitions and work out how much you’d need to sell to get the minimum wage ($25,000 before tax, about $480 a week in the hand).

You need to add two-thirds of the cost of materials (you get one-third back through tax) and then the dealer’s cut. Let’s say (a completely arbitrary) $2000 for materials and assume a dealer’s commission of 40%. If you were doing this for real, you'd work out the cost of materials properly.

Dividing $27,000 (wage plus costs) by 0.6 (to add the dealer’s cut) tells us that, to get the minimum wage, you need to sell $45,000 of paintings each (and every) year.

What if you have larger ambitions than the minimum wage? What if you'd like to live on the average wage ($45,000 before tax)?

You’ll have to assume that, if you’re producing work with a higher total value, your material costs will consequently rise. Let’s say to $3000, because some materials won’t rise much more than a basic minimum you’ve already factored in.

Dividing $48,000 by 0.6 gives you total sales each year of $80,000.

These totals allow us to work out how many paintings of a certain price you need to sell to meet your target. If the average price of a painting is $2500, you need to sell 18 paintings a year to get the minimum wage, or 32 paintings a year for the average wage. That’s a lot (and I don't sell at that price anyway).

If the average price is $5000, you need to sell nine paintings a year for the minimum, and 16 for the average, wage. At $10,000, you need five for the minimum, and eight for the average, wage. At $25,000, you need two and three respectively.

This seems a lot better, but the problem is that, as your prices rise, so the pool of potential buyers shrinks, especially in such a small market as New Zealand’s. Remember that you need to sell this amount of paintings at these prices every year at least until you’re 65 (assuming that the super’s still around then). For me, that’s 27 years.

So, even if my prices were at the giddy heights of $25,000, I wouldn't think I had it made. I'd be worried about selling all the time.

If, on the other hand, you get a job at more than the average hourly rate, you can work part time for the average wage and be able to paint and show what you like, with no regard to whether they'll sell.

Increased prices limit the pool of potential buyers in a highly unsatisfactory way. They select for ability to pay rather than appreciation of the work. For this reason, I'm strongly considering having an application form for people to fill out before they can buy a painting. I'm thinking that they'd need to disclose their religious and political views as well as explain why they want to buy the picture.

17 May 2008

Skeleton Guys

I've finally added some Skeleton Guy pics. I've dated the post so that, if you click on the painting pics label and scroll through the older posts, they fit in chronologically.

There are, of course, also sketchbook pics and exhibition pics for your amusement.

15 May 2008

Documentation of black magic curse on makers of bad hotel paintings

Quote of the day

For Schopenhauer, the object of art is a form which has a universal quality, which rises above the confines of space and time, and can only be seen by one who detaches himself from what is local and personal. This view leads us to a difficulty in the case of lyric poetry.

Lyric poetry is essentially personal and the singer fills it with his own moods, his loves and his sorrows. But lovers are fickle, and sorrows do not last for ever. How is it possible to reconcile this personal, individual, fleeting aspect with the claim that the object of art must be universal and above change?

Schopenhauer is half-hearted, and solves the difficulty by a compromise, according to which the poet, or the singer, alternates between two attitudes, sometimes taking up that of the individual and sometimes that of the universal.

Nietzsche will have none of this; boldly and in accordance with Schopenhauer's own fundamental principles he unites the two principles directly. And surely he is right!

Lyric poetry is personal and the life of the song is a mood. But who is the person? The poet? Yes, but more than the poet. The singer? Yes, but which singer? Surely every singer; and every hearer too.

Everyman is the hero of the song, and therein lies its universality. Again, it expresses a mood, and moods are fleeting. But in the song the mood is lifted out of its context, raised above mutability, and enshrined for ever in a timeless, passionless calm. The individual and the universal, passion and the passionless, time and the timeless come together in the lyric and are at one. In the song the mortal puts on immortality, and the singer becomes the vehicle of something infinitely greater and more universal than himself.

- HA Reyburn, Nietzsche

14 May 2008

Robert Rauschenberg's dead

13 May 2008


There's some vigorous comments action going on.

12 May 2008


Yeah okay, it's not that big a deal.

09 May 2008

Some cheerful Francis Picabia paintings

Oh dear

I am now hungover and contrite. Tempted as I am to simply delete the previous post, I'm going to leave it. Hopefully, it'll remind me to not blog while drunk.

I am such a dick.

And 'an hour's entertainment'? What was I thinking!? Thirty seconds more like.

Drunk and abusive

I've just been ranting in my comments to the last post, and then went out to smoke a cigarette, but it hasn't calmed me down.

We are a disgusting species. I mean, honestly, what are you here for? I have not yet seen any human being satisfactorily justify their existence (and of course that includes me).

What are you doing with your life? What possible justification do you have for the shit you produce? Do you produce anything? What the fuck point are you? Don't tell me you've produced kids. That just defers it. What the fuck point are they?

How dare you think your life has intrinsic value!?! You bunch of idiots, tell me why you matter any more than an insect.

What the fuck is the point in painting? To make something that, at best, gives some arsehole an hour's entertainment!?! Fuck that.

The world is built on suffering. Nature red in tooth and claw. And what do we do about it? Replicate it in our society, everyone out for themself, making money anyway they can. Lazy, self-satisfied, complacent cunts. You are all really horrible.

(Oh man, Rose is going to really hate this when she reads it, and, yes, Steve, you can be offended by this.)

08 May 2008

On alien life

This article explains why the author thinks finding evidence of life on Mars would be a bad thing.

These kind of arguments annoy me because they seem to contain a basic error. Science, like any belief system, is based on faith. In the case of science, it’s faith in the assumptions that underpin the scientific method. One of these assumptions is that the observable universe is solely the product of the operation of natural laws, i.e. that it is pristine and natural.

The problem with the Fermi Paradox is that it uses this assumption as evidence. However, we have no reason for believing that the assumption is true. We just have to accept it on faith.

Let’s assume that an intelligent technological species evolved somewhere in our galaxy several billion years ago. They built von Neumann machines and sent them off to colonise the galaxy.

If I were designing those machines, I’d give them another purpose on top of replicating themselves. I would programme them to seed life in suitable places – for example, rocky planets at the right distance from their sun to have liquid water on their surface, like our planet. The easiest way of doing this would be to reconfigure the stuff that was already there (basic amino acids etc) and let it develop naturally. If one of those machines rolled up here about 3.8 billion years ago and did this, the end result would be what we have now.

More political compass stuff

Dad writes in the comments to the last post: 'I came out six squares north-east of your position. That's still in the bottom-left square, but nearer the centre. Mind you, the answers I gave weren't always entirely serious.'

Those of us who are in this quadrant are not exactly well served by New Zealand's political parties. This is from the 2005 election:

I suspect that, if there's been any movement by the major parties for this year's election, it will be in a north-easterly direction.

06 May 2008

Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans

Rose and I have bought a house. It's a 100-year-old cottage in Mt Cook, and it's got a sleepout out the back that's going to be my studio.

Now I've got to find someone to take over the lease for my flat. If you know anyone who would like a one-bedroom flat near the Botanic Garden, please let me know. My email address is on my profile page. Just click on the silly photo to the right there.

When we told the olds, I joked: 'Now that we're concerned ratepayers, do we have to become right wing? Is that how it works?'

Dad answered (straight faced): 'You're already pretty right wing.'

Well, this is me:

Go here, Dad, and we'll compare.
visitors since 29 March 2004.