Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friends Like These

In what I hope to make an on-going series, this is the first installment of Friends Like These. In this, I will post unedited and raw the transcripts of conversations between myself and either of my two best friends. Depending on which one it is, they will be addressed as "K" or "B." All three of us have very different philosophies from one another, and I honestly believe some of talks worth recording for posterity.

With this, I hope to not only let the reader gain some insight into issues they may not otherwise consider, but also hold up a mirror and let people hopefully see in us all the greatness a conversation with friends has to offer. The tangents, the asides, the insults and arguments, and everything else that comes with simply hanging out to shoot the breeze with your buddies.


Today on Friends Like These, David and B discuss: The Arts

Me(23:36:14): Magic Johnson is doing commercials for Rent-a-Center.
Me(23:36:29): Why would Magic Johnson need to do commercials? He's crazy rich.

B (23:36:55): It's probably just AIDS-cure cash. Direct injections of cash can't come cheap.

Me (23:37:08): True. Maybe that's what he gets in exchange.
Me (23:37:51): Though Magic is on the cutting edge of HIV research, he's probably able to take it in pill form.

B (23:38:00): That's true enough.

Me (23:44:58): Scrubs is so funny.

B (23:45:24): Yes. Yes it is.
B (23:45:57): I had an idea for a TV series that would be like Cops meets Scrubs. It was really funny. I wrote a pilot and another episode. I thought it had a good mix of fantasy, reality, heavy plots and hilarity.

Me (23:46:20): "Hey, your shoelace is untied."
"Oh, thanks man. My uncle's whole family was killed by an untied lace. They were all running down the steps on Christmas, they tripped, and a madman hacked them to pieces."

B (23:47:14): That must be new, I haven't heard that one before.

Me (23:47:26): It's from season 7.

B (23:47:33): Is that the latest season?

Me (23:47:38): Nah, they're on 8.
Me (23:47:55): Haven't seen much of either season.

B (23:47:56): I only watch the syndicated episodes on Comedy Central, I almost never watch primetime TV.

Me (23:48:01): But I've seen all of 1-6.

B (23:48:59): Yeah, me, too

Me (23:57:21): So I've been thinking up a new post for my campaign blog.
Me (23:57:44): There was a big flap about money for the arts being included in the stimulus package, and it was eventually all taken out.
Me (23:57:58): Because the criticism was that the arts don't generate income or new jobs.
Me (23:58:19): Now, anyone working in the arts will tell you that we're always the ones who get screwed over in cases like this.
Me (23:59:33): So I've been thinking; what if we have one day set aside each year where the arts pay for themselves?
Me (00:00:00): My idea is a National Music holiday, to occur on the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) each year.

B (00:00:05): "Why would I save a world I no longer have any stake in...?"

Me (00:00:24): EXACTLY. And that's a great example, too.
Me (00:00:26): On many levels.
Me (00:00:30): For one, no art, no Watchmen.
Me (00:01:05): But in reality Dr. Manhattan had the miracle he was looking for in every living person, he was just so accustomed to it he forgot it was a miracle.
Me (00:01:18): Just like a great play, or song, or painting.
Me (00:01:41): So on the music holiday, we'd put together concerts in every major city across America.
Me (00:02:05): Major artists would be invited to volunteer their time to put on a show.
Me (00:02:20): They would not be paid, nor would their be a fee for admission.
Me (00:02:47): Smaller towns and venues would participate as well, with local artists being able to sign up to perform on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Me (00:03:08): Now, food and merchandise would still be sold, and direct donations taken.
Me (00:03:20): And all the profits from those sales would go directly to the National Endowment for the Arts.
Me (00:04:07): If it ends up being as profitable as I estimate it would be, we would even be able to end federal funding for the arts and free up the grants for other things.
Me (00:04:16): Because the holiday would set the budget for the rest of the year.

B (00:04:42): My disagreement is and always will be that the arts are a luxury and they don't deserve government funding, period.
B (00:04:46): And I say this as an artist.
B (00:05:24): It's a luxury. If anything, they should be GIVING money back. Actors, writers, ESPECIALLY musicians who make all this money, they should be taxed well over what the average rich person is.
B (00:05:53): If you can't make a living as an artist, too damned bad. I've never made a red cent off of one piece of art that I've come up with and I know most of my shit is better than a lot of what's out there.

Me (00:06:18): Uh huh.

B (00:06:19): I work my ass off, risking my life might I add, for a PITTANCE, but people who literally just throw paint on a canvas can drive Porsches?
B (00:06:23): There's no justice in that.
B (00:06:39): And I don't think a government holiday is a good answer to that problem.
B (00:06:49): But you're not really asking my opinion are you?

Me (00:07:01): Well

B (00:07:05): Don't get me wrong, do what you want.
B (00:07:19): But if you bring me these ideas, I'm going to tell you what I think.

Me (00:07:33): your opinion seems to be "the system is grossly unfair so I'd rather see everybody else suffer like me rather than let others get ahead."
Me (00:07:57): I worry sometimes that my ambitions are that of a super villain, but then we talk.
Me (00:08:39): By the way
Me (00:08:51): I work primarily at a theater.
Me (00:08:57): This next month I'm not getting any hours.
Me (00:09:02): And it's likely I'll soon lose my job.
Me (00:09:19): Because the theater relies completely on donations and grants to stay open, and it's just not getting enough.
Me (00:09:24): So since I was the last person hired, I'm the first to go.
Me (00:09:39): I have no investment in the art itself. I just sell tickets.
Me (00:09:47): But because there's not enough money to be had, I'm out of a job.

B (00:10:25): Meanwhile, broadway theaters and the like support themselves off of ticket sales.

Me (00:10:38): There is no "and the like."
Me (00:10:47): There's Broadway, and then there's the rest of the nation.
Me (00:11:05): Broadway is the only for-profit theater in the country.
Me (00:11:11): The rest are non-profit.
Me (00:11:23): Because they can't survive without the grants they get from being non-profit.

B (00:12:05): Do you know that a couple years ago the bus drivers in Honolulu argued that they deserved to be paid more than cops because they work in a for-profit field and said that cops don't deserve more money simply because what we do doesn't generate revenue?

Me (00:12:52): Does this have anything to do with the previous argument or did I just remind you of that incident?
Me (00:13:12): Because that's really shitty.

B (00:13:17): A little of both. I'm trying to make a point.

Me (00:13:18): And wait a second.
Me (00:13:25): Don't cops generate revenue with tickets?

B (00:13:36): brb

Me (00:13:46): I mean, besides the part where they serve and protect the citizens, including bus drivers.

B (00:17:19): Depends on the city. In Honolulu, all the citation revenue gets eaten up with the operating costs of PROCESSING them. In places where there's an actual profit, it gets used to fund other programs NEVER the Department itself (which actually DOES make a little bit of sense becuase it would be a conflict of interests, in a way, if we made money off of how many tickets we write, you know?)

Me (00:17:42): I can understand that.
Me (00:18:40): The point I was making is that I have nothing to do with the arts anymore.
Me (00:18:53): My boss doesn't either, he has a degree in business.

B (00:19:00): But the point I'm making is this, you're asking me to agree that we should be giving government money, which COULD be used to buy things like matchgrade ammo or, better yet, BODY ARMOR that MIGHT actually stop some of the rounds that the scumbags are loading into their guns, to a theater, just because they can't support themselves on their own. I don't deny that it's a shitty situation, but, art SHOULD pay for itself. Many, many art-based businesses do.

Me (00:19:14): But I work in a place that's dependent on federal funding.

B (00:19:16): Things that have no way of making their own revenue, like police departments, deserve the money more.

Me (00:19:18): B -
Me (00:19:24): you may have missed some of what I wrote.
Me (00:19:33): Re;
Me (00:19:43): the part where I say "if it's as profitable as I estimate it could be

B (00:20:12): Oh, right, I do see that now.

Me (00:20:15): we could free up the grant money were going to give them for other things instead."

B (00:20:21): Okay, I missed part of that, so yes, that'd be a good idea.

Me (00:20:33): I AM asking the arts to pay for themselves.
Me (00:20:40): I'm just not going to be a dick about it like Congress usually is.

B (00:20:43): But I fail to see how this would work without sinking some money into it in the first place. That's the only thing you'll have to sell me on.
B (00:20:52): But yes, that's actually a pretty bright idea.

Me (00:21:00): Well, the artists who perform would be there voluntarily.
Me (00:21:12): And the venues they perform in would be asked to donate their space and equipment.

B (00:21:22): I like my idea of taxing entertainers at a significant amount higher.
B (00:21:55): Like, for example, if a businessman makes a million dollars, he gets taxed about 50%. If an entertainer makes a ticket, you should take about 75% of it.

Me (00:21:58): The trade off would be that more money goes to the arts, so if they can sacrifice one day out of the year, they have greater potential for increased revenue to follow.
Me (00:22:24): That doesn't make any sense.
Me (00:22:28): And I'll tell you why.

B (00:23:21): I'm listening, but i have to get ready for work in about 10 minutes.

Me (00:23:31): If a businessman makes a million dollars, he likely has a strong business model and his million dollars is the start of a larger income to follow. He may, over the course of his life, make many many millions of dollars. His children could continue on the legacy of making millions of dollars.
Me (00:23:47): When an entertainer makes a lot of money, like a comedian or a musician or a football player, there's no business model there.
Me (00:24:06): Their success is entirely dependant on their health, the demands of the public, and their ability to keep performing.
Me (00:24:12): They have no assurance of more money to come.
Me (00:24:27): It's just not fair to take more from them.

B (00:25:31): I disagree. It's not my problem that they don't have a guaranteed income. I have a guaranteed income (and it takes an act of Congress to fire me) but I can barely make ends meet. If they want a more stable income, they can get a real job.

Me (00:25:53): A lot of them do have real jobs.

B (00:25:56): Moreover, they really contribute nothing to society. It's a luxury. Yes, I enjoy entertainment and the arts as much as they next person, but I in no way shape or form think they deserve as much money as they get.

Me (00:26:04): Spend a week in L.A.
Me (00:26:08): Well, don't.
Me (00:26:12): It's a terrible place.
Me (00:26:15): But I'll make the point anyway.
Me (00:26:32): It's packed to the brim with people trying to make it in the arts. Looking for a break.
Me (00:26:45): And in the meantime, they support themselves any way they know how or can learn.
Me (00:26:54): You're asking to make it even harder for them to accomplish something.
Me (00:27:04): Because you think dreams are a luxury.

B (00:27:24): No, I'm saying they deserve to do the EXACT same thing as they are doing. They need to get real jobs and support themselves and make money off of art IF they can.
B (00:27:34): And I'm talking about basing the extra tax off of their income.
B (00:27:54): A struggling artist who clears 50 stacks off of moving a few paintings or books or whatever, that's okay.
B (00:28:20): A pop star that doesn't write her own songs or music clearing 10 tickets in record sales? I think she owes the government seven of those ten.

Me (00:28:44): Well that's a completely different argument.
Me (00:28:53): The record company is going to take 8 of them first, or more.
Me (00:29:04): So we should be going after what they get from their tours.

B (00:29:06): Right, but I'm talking about what they take home.
B (00:29:14): The government needs to get gangsta about they paper.

Me (00:29:16): But even then

B (00:29:28): They need to be up in there like, "yeah, motherfuckers, its a jack move, you know what the fuck this is, now run that shit."

Me (00:29:33): that's money that people chose to pay them.

B (00:29:42): Right, and I don't see anything wrong with that.

Me (00:29:48): I really do.

B (00:29:56): Like I said, I blow PLENTY of money on movies, music, whatever the case.

Me (00:30:01): I don't think it's right to tell someone, even that mega-phony pop star
Me (00:30:16): "people like you a lot, so you owe us a ton of the money that they gave you."
Me (00:30:40): This isn't someone who runs a corporation and decided "hey, $60 mil sounds like a nice number for a bonus, that's what I'm taking home."

B (00:30:46): Is that any better than, "You almost died protecting the public. Now let me have a quarter of your paycheck."

Me (00:31:04): The money they have is the money that people willingly shelled out to see them.

B (00:31:16): I've almost been killed three times, just in my time as a policeman. I've never gotten a bonus, nothing.

Me (00:31:58): Hey, my brother just had to have knee replacement surgery because of his injuries. He's expected back on base on Monday.
Me (00:32:29): I'm not arguing with you about the way we treat our civil servants.
Me (00:32:42): I just think you're misdirecting the sense of injustice.

B (00:32:42): Yeah, and he makes about twice what I make. Not to mention that I couldn't get into the military because I don't have enough education to pull a trigger.
B (00:32:58): Anyway, I need to get showered. To be continued?

Me (00:33:06): Sounds good.
Me (00:33:14): Peace.

B (00:33:22): Deuces.


Max Nova said...

Edit, hon.

Stephen said...

This tax on entertainers B talks about sounds punitive.

David Pratt said...

I don't agree with B at all (as evidenced by the conversation) but his comments do make me wonder. How many other people working jobs dependent on state or federal funding would hold a similar opinion about the arts? Coming from an arts background I know the common sentiment is that arts are a necessary part of culture, but like B argues, so are police officers. How do we tell which is more important?

I don't think we should tax entertainers for not having a "real" job, but the insight into the other side of thinking is nonetheless enlightening.

Damo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damo said...

"B: Moreover, they really contribute nothing to society. It's a luxury."

You sound like Jack's right brain telling someone that Jack's left brain is useless.

I respect police officers, I really do. I have some friends who have gone on to be cops and they deserve better compensation for risking their lives for the stability of our society. But what do police officers actually contribute to HUMANITY?

Do they advance technology? Do they inspire and connect the world through common theme, thought and emotion. Do they spark debate through direct or abstract interpretation of the nuances of life?

No. All police (supposedly) do is make sure people are playing by the rules. But what are we (human beings) doing here aside from playing by the rules (that we made up to begin with)?

It is not enough for us to survive, we must also learn, grow, and change, and in that way art is about 50% of what drives society and humankind forward, the other 50% being engineering.

The po-po just be keepin' da peace, and sometimes they aint even doin' that, biotch.

(deleted previous comment due to typo)

Jason Heat said...

The fact that police officers don't make enough is a completely separate issue to whether or not art is valuable to society, and as you accurately point out in your discussion your friend is obviously transferring frustration in his own field to a field he doesn't understand/appreciate. And while I also think cops/firefighters/teachers nbeed to be paid more - he chose the field he went into knowing the situation he was getting into. Just like any artist, or any other job out there. we pursue what we feel are important and our personal and financial success come both out of drive, luck, and skill.

No one should be taxed extra for what they choose to pursue.

And the idea that art is a 'luxury' in anathema to everything I personally believe as well. Art and culture are ESSENTIAL parts of society - they help define us as human beings, they offer a context of the world for future generations, they link disparate peoples together, and actively change the world perceptions. Is your friend going to attack painters and authors next? Does anyone say that books aren't essential (also art)? It's an extraordinarilly limited viewpoint being presented.

Jason Heat said...

And you know what? Outside of all those lofty ideas I just batted around, Art and Arts based programs and jobs have another very real and significant factor in urban development and the lowering of crime in areas. Whenever a bad area is being looked at for renovation, it becomes an 'Arts District,' usually federally subsidized because the local government knows that having theaters, galleries, concert halls and the like is one of the most effective ways of attracting new and younger people to an area, that then leads to further night life, food businesses, followed by residences and offices. This entire process usually helps to lower crime in a given area over time and almost always starts with an increased focus on the arts.

Damo said...

Great perspective Jason!

Damo said...

(primarily because it agrees with mine, but also because its a GREAT PERSPECTIVE JASON!)

Jason Heat said...

Thank you sir, you're a scholar and a gentleman.

Ozkirbas said...

I concur. Given, I actually don't know that much about the stimulus package. I don't know what else is specifically being cast aside or where exactly the money is coming from. However, generally speaking, the argument that "the arts aren't a necessary function" seems, to me at least, one used to ensure an easy exclusion - allowing more money to trickle down over other interests and to provide more bargaining power for politicians involved with the budget. Something thrown out that's easily bought without apology. Money used to guarantee the votes of politicians on other issues. A bartering system allowing Congressmen to build bridges and roads in their home states, hoping to hold an edge in future elections.

'tis a cryin' shame, really.