Proof of Concept (The Anti-TED)

My friend Rinku once said she thought TED talks were fascist.

I don’t know that they are that, exactly–but I understand why she said it, given the way they manage to absorb all sorts of things–scientific research and business innovations and journalistic narratives including sometimes tales of horrendous personal tragedy and survival–and then insidiously re-present it under a kind of hopey-changey Stuart-Brand-y progress-as-panacea propaganda branding.  Not to put too fine a point on it.

TED-talks stand for something–a particular performance that reflects the dilemma of our present moment.  Frankly, I think of it as positivist capitalist New World Order propaganda that doesn’t reflect the values shift needed to actually save the world.  When I think of how we are failing in our society, I feel like TED talks and Fox News are two sides of the same coin, two poles that reflect a basic underlying lie:  that our world can be repaired without a change in our lifestyle.  That we can have all our technological conveniences and have a better more healthful more “sustainable” world, we can have our cake and eat it too.   It’s the fantasy upon which Silicon Valley exists, something I’ve been thinking about for years.

It shifts the Great Leader of Fascism to the Great Innovation.  Shifts racial nationalism to a fantasy of global community that acknowledges suffering peoples, but doesn’t shift daily life to incorporate those people into our daily consciousness.

Several articles came out this week, none of which are about TED, but which, taken as a collection, resonate for me as the anti-TED, which, taken together as an outline, reveal the hollowness of the claims of TED-talks-philosophy.

Princeton study concludes that the United States is no longer a democracy, but an oligarchy.

Review of Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital, which pits capitalism against the hopes of democracy.

Article in the NY Times Magazine on a radical environmental activist who essentially has given up.

Silicon Valley settlement talks between software engineers and four major corporations about manipulating the system to exploit their labor.

Performance Tonight for RECAPS: Rethinking Environment at Human Resources LA


Tonight at 8:30pm I’ll be doing a performance–a Scrapping Ceremony–as part of RECAPS Magazine’s fantastic weekend of programming around Rethinking Environment.  Come on by!

Human Resources
410 Cottage Home Street
Chinatown Los Angeles!



James Turrell and the Body at Notes on Looking!

I am delighted to share my essay on James Turrell and the body, up today at Geoff Tuck’s wonderful Notes on Looking.  The marvelous Maura Brewer and I each wrote an essay challenging the discourse around the past Year of Turrell in New York and Los Angeles to mark the closing of the LACMA retrospective.

Read both and let me know what you think!


The Honda-pocalypse at the Awl

Check out my piece on Honda’s recent attempt to pander to Millennials at the Awl!

The Years of Lyndon B Johnson


At some point I was sucked into making profile on Goodreads but don’t really keep up with it–never got into making those notches on the bedpost.

And yet I feel like I must somehow commemorate the occasion of having just binge-read my way through all four currently published volumes of Robert Caro’s magisterial Years of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Not out of some humblebrag.  I don’t feel like it is an impressive achievement–the books are so entirely gripping, pleasurable, riveting, I can only compare how I felt reading them to how I felt watching The Wire.  It stands out as one of the outstanding reading experiences of my life.


Some find Caro repetitive over the long march of the series.  I didn’t–I found his leitmotifs musical, the events and interviews whose reiteration allows the reader absorb them, make them such familiar touchstones that she can begin to wrap her head around the extreme contradictions that existed and fought for expression within LBJ’s outsized personality, the yawning gaps between his cowardice and his heroism, his expediency and his risk-taking, his confidence and his paralyzing fear.  LBJ, the power-hungry grotesque, political savant, coward and risk-taking visionary, ass-licker to his superiors, sadistic brute to his subordinates, wretched husband and great statesman, a man whose moral code only came into play when it matched up with his desperate, bottomless ambitions–and yet when those did match up, was able to take risks, be bold and brave and strategic in ways that Kennedy never could have.

I’m sure this has been written a million times but the sweep is Shakespearean–LBJ is right up there with Lear, Falstaff–all the more so when you read with the knowledge that you are being set up for the tragedy of Vietnam blighting the enormous legacy of the Great Society.  Caro manages to make so much material whose outcome is known so entirely suspenseful–from LBJ’s 1948 Senate win to the transition into the presidency.


Then there are the juicy contextual nuggets, the berries and cream in studding the cake, the awesome rocks around which the river flows.  The books follow the years of LBJ–and those years include biographies-within-the-biography of Sam Rayburn, Richard Russell, Coke Stevens, JFK, RFK, Alice Glass, Lady Bird, Hubert Humphrey (who really felt like the love interest of Master of the Senate).  A 100-page institutional history of the Senate, a minutely detailed description of women’s life in the Hill Country before rural electrification, the corrupt years of Washington politics that birthed the necessity of the New Deal, the turn of the century Populism through the lens of Sam Johnson, LBJ’s father–all of it made me feel like I was learning American history for the first time.

Every one of the books ends with Debts, acknowledgements to his colleagues and collaborators–and a journey through the Sources that made the book possible.  Especially in Path to Power and Means of Ascent, the Sources chapters are must-reads for any student of journalism.

Books that have piled up over the past three months but am having a hard time starting because I’m just walking around, processing this material–I’m kind of at a loss with myself. Instead I read essays on the details Caro missed, interviews in which he promises the fifth and final volume (hopefully soon, Jesus Christ, the man is pushing 80), crappy toffee Kennedy tell-alls I’m buying off Amazon for one cent.

What do you do when something like this has happened to you?

Lyndon B. Johnson 3

Artists Read Baldessari: A Tally

Often, when issues of inequity come up–whether on the Hollywood screen, or in Congress, or in publishing, people take tallies.  Tallies can be illuminating.  Artist Micol Hebron has been recently taking such tallies of the art and gallery world as a way of trying to have some hard conversations about continuing gender inequity in art that we would prefer to think no longer exist.

So here’s a tally from yesterday’s For Your Art event, Artists Read Baldessari, a celebration of a new two volume set of John Baldessari’s writing edited by Meg Cranston and Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Of the 51 artists who read:

  • 33 were men
  • 18 were women

So almost twice as many men as women.

And also, of 51 artists who read:

  • 47 were white
  • 4 were people of color (there was one woman of color.  ONE.)

The overwhelming majority of the artists who read were young, under 40–all Los Angeles artists.  What’s going on here?

Small Appreciations on a Tuesday Afternoon

Women Screaming In Joy /  Finally watched Magic Mike.  An easy watch with enough going on that it isn’t an entirely somnolent experience.  Soderbergh’s effortless and perfect camera work gently absorbing the Florida coastline and club life.  An undeniably charming and confident Channing Tatum shaking his very fine ass.  Plus and obviously Matthew McConaughey in a role that seems absolutely written for him, sleazy and ridiculous and menacing and buffoonish and banal all at once.


But what stays with me the most were all the shots and stretches of women really fucking enjoying themselves, in a state of free and joyous and uncomplicated pleasure, screaming and laughing and having a hell of a time.  It was one of those times when seeing it makes clear how rarely we ever get to see it–if ever.

Cinefamily’s Lost and Found Film Club / They must have known I needed it for my research–this past month, the Cinefamily has been screening films around the theme of Sects, Cults and Mind Control, and last night Hadrian Belove and Tom Fitzgerald took us on a 90-minute lecture tour through old footage of various cult leaders (they located, dug through and edited together what seems like it must have been an unimaginable pile of lost and found footage–news clips, investigative documentaries, internal Scientology corporate films for middle management from the 1980s, etc), curated with remarkable thoroughness, thoughtfulness and humor.  I will absolutely be back for this  series, which takes on a different theme every month.  (If anyone wants to join me for the Scientology panel on Wednesday night, buy tickets now).

The Spurs Defense Against LeBron in Game 5 on Sunday Night / There were so many moments when LeBron had the ball in his hands and a basket seemed all but inevitable–a wicked Heat steal, or defensive rebound, or stupid Spurs slip-up followed by a lightning fast transition down the court that all but demanded the other team simply surrender to King James.  And normally, even great players and teams do surrender–they chalk it up to a defense that just isn’t worth the energy, and reserve themselves and settle in for the next play.

And over and over and over again,the Spurs fought all the way to the very end of James’ efforts–and, incredibly, made blocks.  The play was fearless and hungry and wasn’t going to give up a single easy bucket, not even to Lebron.  I hope they can keep it together for tonight’s game.

Pig bottoms / On the window of a Vietnamese restaurant in Westminster, the All American City of Orange County.


And finally / Watching a woman sitting in LA Mill, clearly interviewing for a job.  She’s in her mid to late 40s, wearing a suit, a resume on cream colored textured bond paper lying between her and a portly fellow in his 50s, also in a suit, going on and on in a gaseous fashion.  I saw her face tighten into the expression of resigned patience as this guy mansplained his way through his importance, for long, long minutes.  Lady in a black suit, I appreciate you.

The Whore’s Dialogue–LAST WEEK!

This is the final week of my installation, The Whore’s Dialogue, being up at the MCA Denver.  I’m so glad for everyone who has made it to the show–if you want to see it, or want to see it one last time, now is the time to go!  It’s been amazing to work with the MCA, and a pleasure to see the piece there.

From earlier:  an interview with me, by curator Elissa Auther,on the MCA Denver blog–-they have a QR code in the space that links to this interview for people who come through the show and want to know more and have smart phones that read QR codes.

Mixed Taste is happening for real right now–try to catch one!

MG at MCA Denver

As many of you know, my piece, The Whore’s Dialogue, is up at the MCA Denver right now.  I just wanted to share this interview with me, by curator extraordinaire Elissa Auther,on the MCA Denver blog–they have a QR code in the space that links to this interview for people who come through the show and want to know more and have smart phones that read QR codes.

I’ve been excited that so many folks have actually made it through Denver and gotten to see the show.  For those of you who might be passing through that part of the world, the piece is up at the MCA until June 23.

While you’re there, check to see what other events are happening–the MCA is always doing freaky fun stuff.  I’m a big fan of their Mixed Taste lecture series, and if you play your cards right, you can see both my piece AND lectures on Zombies & Raw Milk Cheese (June 6), Honky Tonk & Paper Recordings (June 13) or Comedic Opera & Vulcan Steel (June 20).

MG on Avidly!

In which I write about the strangle pleasure of terrible women.