According to tvbythenumbers.com “Saturday Night Live: Presidential Bash 2008″ got the highest ratings for broadcast television on election night. At the time of the writing of this column the ratings for cable television were not available yet, but I’m willing to venture that “The Daily Show,” with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert anchoring, captured a large portion of cable viewers. Since the show was posted on November 5 at comedycentral.com, there have already been 67,419 views of the program.
Does the fact that Americans turned to comedy shows on election night prove that TV viewing Americans just can’t take anything seriously? Or does it prove that Americans have a hard time taking the pundits seriously, and gravitate toward the art of comedy for a deeper truth? Yes, I said the art of comedy. Children and jesters speak the truth when everyone else is embarrassed (or is that bare assed?) And what do people do when they are exposed and nervous? They laugh. Laughter can be complex, a sign that we recognize contradictions or suddenly see something in a new light that we had not considered or even thought of before.
It’s not good or bad that people turn to comedy. The truth is they probably switched channels between commercials and got different angles from different channels. What the ratings do show is that the Arts are more integral to politics than is generally acknowledged. In fact the Arts are major tools for propaganda and can be quite dangerous and cruel in the hands of dictators. Corporations have their own reasons for using artists and the Arts to manipulate behavior.
Whatever your politics or particular point of view, you as a creator, have your own tremendous power to influence the world around you. You, the arts professional, have honed your skills and should recognize that you belong, and are integral to the way our society processes information and current events. In this new era of change, go forth and create!
I watched as much as I could stand of the presidential debate last night. I had to quit early anyway to host the weekly Listen & Be Heard Radio Hour. (You can listen to that show by clicking on “October 7” in blogtalkradio player in the right hand column of this page.) Of course Arts, Arts Education, Culture, these topics aren’t important enough to enter the discussion when everyone’s worried about their bank accounts and where in the world to shoot bullets. But it is the Arts that will sustain us even when the stock market fails and our sons and daughters die in foreign lands. It would save us all a lot of pain and sorrow if we would pay closer attention now to the world we are constantly creating around us. Continue reading
Last night I hosted a radio show about the state of the arts. (Listen & Be Heard Network Radio, every Tuesday night at 8pm.) I mentioned an experience I had recently when I went to a party and someone asked me “what do you do?” My answer to that question tends to be different every time I give it a whirl. So this time around I said I was a writer, a poet. The next question was inevitable. It doesn’t seem to change no matter what my answer to the first question is: “do you make a living doing that?”
None of us created the world we were born into. We didn’t get to decide what kind of talents we were born with either. You could argue that those of us who have chosen to create art in all its myriad forms, were destined to be creative artists. Or you could argue that anyone who spends the majority of their time “working” on things that don’t generally turn a profit, is not fulfilling their destiny, just crazy. What’s the point? Why do you put enormous energy into pulling off yet another theatre production? Why do you shell out more money for more paint supplies? Why do you keep going to poetry open mics or writing books that never make it to the New York Times bestseller list? Surely it’s not for the money.
I’ve been thinking about money lately. Who doesn’t think about money whether they want to or not? Those printed pieces of paper that are only worth something because we are told they represent worth, they cause a lot of heartache either way. If you have too much it transforms the people around you. If you don’t have enough your life can become a tragedy. This system that we were all born into here in America dictates that if you are ambitious about producing and presenting big arts projects you will have to go out with your hat out and ask people, companies, corporations and governments for money, because your work will not have any dollar value on its own. It’s time to get away from all that and find a different way to manifest what must be expressed.
Back in the nineties I wrote a few grant applications for a not-for-profit that required many hours of preparation, and gave no assurance that there would be a reward at the end. Many not-for-profits operate solely on budgets with strings attached to foundations and other charitable entities. The arts are nothing but a charity in the United States. Few public school children get any kind of arts education these days. Even less people even seem to care. But I care. And if you’ve read this far, you care too. It occurred to me that one thing we can do as a group is begin to think about ways to operate without money, or beyond money or even in spite of money.
Last week I brought up the idea of an international event on the scale of the Olympics, for the Arts. Now I know this is a far stretch, but can you imagine if it could be mounted without any corporate funding? Could it be done without asking anyone for money? Maybe, maybe not. I do know that it would take cooperation and creativity. When we talk about a concentration of power, we are usually referring to a concentration of resources which a few people have control over. They’re the ones who get the lion’s share of the money that’s in circulation. What do artists have? The power of creativity. Creativity is a great resource or renewable energy. It’s also the thing that can get us out from under the boot, and elevate the artist to an appropriate stature in society.
What do you think? Should the government solve our problems? Should corporations solve our problems? Can we communicate with each other and create new avenues for freedom of expression? Please join me on Tuesday, September 9 at 8pm PST, for a call in radio show discussing the arts and arts professionals in today’s world. You can also start a new topic or join one of the existing ones on our bulletin board. I will refer to suggestions and ideas posted on the bulletin board during the radio show, and use the bulletin board as a tool to continue the discussion between each second Tuesday of the month radio show.
Wishing you Peace and Poetry
Martha Cinader Mims