The Original “Link”

601px-united_states_penny_obverse_2002Although Monday 2/16 has been designated “Presidents Day” (is it legally “President’s,” “Presidents’,” or “Presidents”?  I’ve seen all three), today, February 12th, is the actual date of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.  In fact, he’s 200 years old today.  The other president whose birth we used to celebrate this month is the first (and infinitely superior) George W., born 2/22.

VD is 2/14, my mom was 2/13, and Guido is 2/24.  The post office closes for none of these, though, and all three have cost me a lot of money over the years.   Guido took advantage of a leap year and proposed marriage — she stripped naked, so most of my blood was diverted from my brain — on 2/29.  February is just hell, I tell ya.

But back to Honest Abe.  Millions of words have been written on Lincoln’s life and presidency, and he remains as revered today in much of the country as he was (and is) despised in parts of the former Confederacy.  Today, his attitude toward Black people would have him drummed out of the Republican party and damned as an elitist liberal.  A lawyer, no less.

You’ll find Lincoln’s face on the one-cent piece.  Uniquely, the same individual appears on both sides of the coin, something true of no other coin in American history.  It’s also worth noting that it costs 1.4 cents to make each penny: their manufacture is a negative-revenue activity.  Only the United States government could literally lose money by making money.   Certain economists predict the same negative ratio will soon be true of the dollar bill once the stimulus plan passes.

Lincoln was killed by an actor while watching a play.  Ever since, the Republican party has been hostile to the arts, repeatedly attempting to kill appropriations for the National Endowment for the Arts.  (They’re at it again right now, as you read this: there’s a $50 million allocation at stake.)  “We need this expenditure like a hole in the head,” is their attitude.

Lee Harvey Oswald would understand.

PS  If you’re googling “penny” for images, try this one, too. Warning: NSFW.

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16 Responses to The Original “Link”

  1. Camiel Toe says:

    That’s a unique take on conservative hostility toward arts funding, and much more sensible than voter outrage over projects like Mapplethorpe or the crucifix in urine painting. Not.

  2. Kent Standit says:

    Wow, Valentine’s Day! I’m taking my girlfriend out for dinner at a romantic steakhouse called “Crimson & Cleaver.”

  3. Ted End says:

    Is this true? I didn’t know Presidents Day had anything to do with Lincoln or Washington, I just thought it was for all the presidents.

  4. ya'gotta'guessit says:

    Squatty, old sport…why should taxpayers *ever* be called upon to endow “The Arts”?

    And whose “Art” would get endowed, anyway? Not the kind that I go for, I’ll bet.

    The neat thing about being an artist is that it doesn’t preclude having a day job, so why the touch?

    And if you write ONE WORD about funding art & music education in the public schools, I shall visit you in the small hours and put a bat up your night-dress.

  5. Agustin R. Farinas says:

    Squatty,
    could it be that some people balk at funding sacrilegeous garbage like the Mapplethorpe exhibits in the name of funding for the Arts? I certainly do not want my tax money going to that kind of worthless trash which is also very offensive to those of us who consider ourselves Christians. If he wants to insult JesusChrist he has every right to do it under the First Amendment, but let him do it with his own money, not mine.

  6. Squathole says:

    yggi: I believe the lion’s share of NEA fund underwrite such controversial arts programs as metropolitan orchestras, mainstream museums, theater and opera companies, and the like, This happens through direct payments as well as through state arts agencies. This strikes me as a far better investment of taxpayer funds than (e.g.) price support for tobacco and ACORN.

    Other funds that support individual artists and art projects (these are the ones that upset most people) are determined by panels of artists and administrators. You can always sneer at and rail against them and their choices, as even people in the arts do all the time. Again, acting to make cultural experiences available strikes me as damn worthwhile — and a review of the literature (Americans for the Arts, for example) has convinced me that its impact on employment, education, crime, and quality of life presents an impressive ROI.

    As for arts education in public schools, I’ve spent the last 6 years writing proposals lamenting its demise and making the case for its replacement by private, non-profit organizations. A good chunk of those proposals aimed at public funding at the local, state, and federal levels. Again, the documented research on the impact of arts education on school children has me convinced, along with my own personal experience, like placing pencils on piano strings to make it sound like a harpsichord, flummoxing the boney-wristed music teacher.

    So, I guess I’ll see you soon in my nightie.

  7. Squathole says:

    Auggie: I’m willing to bet that you, like the thousands of other outraged citizens whipped to a frenzy by wingnut radio, never actually saw a Mapplethorpe exhibition. Did you know his specialty was photos of flowers?

    The controversial photo that got the religious right and wingnuts all bent was “Pis Christ,” which wasn’t even Mapplethorpe, but Andres Serrano. Google it if you like.

    Tossing out the entire program because it contains material that offends people makes no sense, any more than it would be sensible to close down entire police departments because a handful of cops are corrupt.

    Also, art needs to provoke as well as to inspire and educate. Look at its role throughout the ages. It wasn’t all about writing square dances and painting portraits of wealthy European hags.

    Wingnuts were badly played by their demagogic heroes all throughout the administrations of Presidents Alzheimer and Bubba. The arts suffered as a result, and so did American society.

    In protest, I drew nasty pictures on walls, but my mom made me clean ’em off. The Fascist.

  8. Ortho Stice says:

    That’s interesting about arts needing to provoke. Considering how our government provokes us all the time, they might as well do it through art projects as wars and stupid ass laws.

  9. Agustin R. Farinas says:

    Squatty,
    Sorry friend. Christ in a pool of piss, art does not make. I wish Mr. Serrano would have made the same art form with Mohammed in it and see how far and how long his life would have lasted. It is easy to offend Christians because they do not go around decapitating, stabbing or blowing up anyone who offends them. Now, but when it comes to Islam it is a totally different ball game. Just try that crap of Mohammed in a pool of piss and we will see how long you have to live.

  10. Piles says:

    “Christ in a pool of piss, art does not make.”

    With all due respect Agustin, your statement is one of personal opinion, not objective fact. The great thing about art is that nobody has all the answers or a lock on judgment. The fact that this particular work, tasteless as it may be, remains well known and controversial 20 years later tells me that it just may be art for that reason alone.

    It doesn’t have anything to do with federal funding either.

    The contention that followers of Jesus are less likely to become inflamed than follows of Muhammed has nothing to do with it. You may be right about that, but what does this have to with art?

  11. Camiel Toe says:

    I saw that exhibition in Washington. It was okay, I’m glad I went. Until the brou-ha-ha started up a month later, I wasn’t even aware that anything was especially controversial. You’re right, Squat-o, the right used it as tool to rile up their base.

    I’m intrigued by your commenter Agustin’s red herring about Islam. He’s probably right — if that was Muhamed instead of Jesus, there’d be some corpses by now. I don’t see what that has to do with deciding what is art and what isn’t.

    Just for laughs, riddle me this: how many abortion clinics in this country have been bombed by Muslims? Seems to me that’s been an exclusive Christian activity, like Easter.

  12. Red White & Blue says:

    Sweet talk and distract all you like, but do it on your own dime, not mine. Precious federal money should pay for more important priorities, like caring for damaged soldiers back from Iraq.

  13. Travis T says:

    I don’t see why it’s one or the other, Red White & Blue. Besides, speaking of priorities, $50 million is a fraction of the cost of one bridge to nowhere.

    Conservatives don’t like the arts because the arts are often anti-establishment, even when the establishment puts up the cash.

  14. ya'gotta'guessit says:

    Squat-meister, I’d rather give “the lion’s share of NEA funds” to actual lions, rather than to orchestras, museums, opera houses, etc., nevermind some panel-selected slacker who won’t take a day job to support his muse.

    In fact, I’d rather *burn* the money than be forced to buy into taxpayer support of institutions that have found a way to place themselves out of competition with what currently passes for entertainment.

    We have both orchestra & opera subscriptions, as well as museum memberships, and we really prefer to vote with our own wallets – and if our tickets are more expensive because the NEA endowment goes away, then so be it.

    ARF’s point concerning piss-Christ isn’t that it’s not art, but that it’s insipid, gutless art – if Serrano had submerged Muhammad in urine, it would still be uninteresting, but at least he’d be showing some backbone.

    And the notion that “Conservatives don’t like the arts” is the kind of thing that only a Progressive would feel safe in uttering – to these myopic fascists, it’s inconceivable that someone who has a Retirement Fund could ever enjoy cutting-edge art – it just wouldn’t fit into their little world-view of the slope-browed “wing-nut”.

  15. NME says:

    As I recall, the artist (Serrano) got death threats from the Klan and other hate groups after this exhibit attracted notice. No car bombs, but they weren’t in style yet (except in Miami). Remember, this was the late 80s.

    Mapplethorpe’s troubles had nothing to do with this. He was just too openly gay for the time, and as usual, conservatives got uncomfortable.

  16. Agustin R. Farinas says:

    Piles,
    “The fact that this particular work, tasteless as it may be, remains well known and controversial 20 years later tells me that it just may be art for that reason alone”.
    Jeffrey Dahmer remains well known and controversial too. So, do we need to enjoy eating human flesh because it will be known and controversial 20 years hence?
    After all is said and done, the fact remains that Serrano’s “work of art” is plain garbage and it was done with the sole intent to offend Christians and nothing else. It was tasteless, filthy and gutless. Now, you may want to call it art, but 200 years from now I doubt very much whether anyone will even remember it.
    If this is the kind of garbage that passes for art, maybe I should try defecatong in one of Obama’s pictures and open an exhibition in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and demand that the federal Govt. and the NEA gives me money to pursue my artistic inclinations.

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