Mar 8, 2011

A Lighter "Names of Horses." Charlie Sheen. Madness and the Arts

PA and everyone, you won't want to miss this short clip.

Best horse name ever. [VIDEO]

In case you're new here or have forgotten, here is the dignified, sad alternative, Donald Hall's poem, "Names of Horses." The discussion was posted here on February 22.

Name of Horses - A poem by Donald Hall - American Poems

With little or no segue . . . "That is one delusional, narcissistic, overwrought mess. What's he on?" This sentiment describes which of the following?

Macbeth, King Lear, Hamlet, Prince Hal of Henry IV, Part One, Blanche DuBois, Charlie Sheen, Richard Nixon, Billy Pilgrim, Holden Caulfield, Alan Strang (Alan Strange??) in Peter Shaffer's magnificent play, Equus, plus the celebrated 1970s (cult?) movies King of Hearts or Harold and Maude. And that's an extremely short list of art's celebration of madness, along with a dismissal of conventional, prosaic, pedestrian life.

In books or on stage or on canvas, we like madness in our heroes. They speak for and to whatever psychological upheaval we feel in ourselves. In real life, however, we're skittish about psychiatric conditions; we keep our distance if we can. You might say it's a horse of a different color in real life.

"It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road."

The Catcher in the Rye
Holden Caulfield in Chapter 1



Anonymous said...

My, that's a broad statement.

Banjo52 said...

AH, I'm not sure which statement you mean. I did tweak the post just now--does that change anything?

I'll risk misunderstanding your point again: do you think people rush to embrace and celebrate real-life mental illness the way readers/audiences embrace madness in heroes?

Also, notice that I said "I SUSPECT . . . ." But yes, it's an impression I've had for decades, and I wonder about it.

The approach to the Charlie Sheen issue perplexes me. The subtext or overt theme seems always to be that he's just a wacko jerk, even a criminal. But look at our fascination with him, the OVER-coverage of one celebrity's situation. What does one make of that and similar situations?

Why is there not a similar fascination with the psychological issues involved in coke-snorting Wall Street tycoons who have nearly ruined us and still could?

(I know they're not all snorting coke, but according to the movie Inside Job, many were or are. And with or without the cocaine, aren't there psychological issues there, both in those characters AND in our passive acceptance of them, submission to them?). Maybe Wall St. recklessness is to America what cowboys or Al Capone used to be?
Main St. is tame and timid; it flocks to its opposite.

Banjo52 said...


Brenda's Arizona said...

"Main St. is tame and timid; it flocks to its opposite" - means what? Those who aren't are fascinated by those who do (and flaunt it)?

Main Street spends it time peering in, hoping to see their opposite?

And Donald Hall's poem still has the same ending. Why did I hope it would be different this time - in March?

Jeff M said...

Our obsession with Sheen reflects our overall obsession with the darker parts of ourselves. What I find interesting about Sheen is that he has carried the persona he depicted in Two and a Half Men and transferred it into reality, similar to what Jeff Daniel's character did in The Purple Rose of Cairo when he stepped off the screen and into reality. Perhaps this illustrates our unease with true insanity as compared with insanity portrayed in fictional realms. I don't know. But I can say that I appreciate Sheen's insanity. Anyone who calls himself the Malibu Messiah and says "dogspeed" and refers to himself as a "raven-wise, Gibson-shredding napalm poet..." Well, you gotta tip your hat.

Banjo52 said...

Brenda, yes, I think that's what I had in mind. Of course, I'm not POSITIVE it's true, but the upper floors of Wall St. sure roll bigger dice (other people's dice!!) than anybody I'm aware of in my old village or current neighborhood. So with celebrities and high rollers, maybe Main St. is like little kids looking through a peep hole at the major leaguers.

Did Main St. lack the capital or the guts to be that kind of major leaguer? Who knows? Besides, now I'm REALLY painting with a broad brush. But I don't hear inaccuracy in my hunches.

Jeff, I like your observations. I've done a little volunteer work in mental hospitals, and what I saw there bore little resemblance to literary and film heroes. Ditto for some troubled students I've dealt with. It was all very sad--and sometimes infuriating, depending on the case.

ANd Jeff, what you say about Sheen is what caught my attention and pushed me in this direction. Some of what he's saying is . . . creative? . . . enough to sound as if it belongs on stage. Is "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" the best comparison?

But I guess I don't feel up to being in Sheen's company as friend or some kind of helpmate. And from there it was a short step to, "Well, Banjo, what if he were King Lear, your elegant prince of poetry?" So maybe I thought that if I have to face up to my own . . . inconsistency? . . . on the mental health issue, then I'm gonna make y'all look in the same mirror.

Does that make ANY sense?

Pasadena Adjacent said...

One of my favorite art pieces of all times is Mike Kelly's (Michigan born and bred) "Pay for Your Pleasure." You walk down a hall way of heroically large monochromatically painted portraits. Rimbau, Wagner, Artaud etc. Each one has a one of their romantic quotes about violence/madness. Finally when Kelly has you in his grip, you reach the end of the hallway. At the end a plexiglass donation box awaits you and a (poorly rendered drawing above it). When shown in California, the drawing is by William Bonin Dependin

let someone else explain

At the 1988 debut of "Pay for Your Pleasure" in Chicago, a painting by mass murderer John Wayne Gacy was shown in the hall. At the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which owns the installation, a drawing by "Freeway Killer" William Bonin has been displayed. And, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts here, in the compact, 12-year survey of the L.A.-based artist's work that has been traveling in Europe since April, the corridor leads to a blocky portrait-bust, created in cement in 1977 by Glasgow gangster Jimmy Boyle. The piece gets made wryly site-specific, as the murderer's art changes with each location in which "Pay for Your Pleasure" is shown.

Kelley's provocative installation gaily throws a monkey wrench into all sorts of entrenched assumptions about art. One is the romantic faith in art's value as a universal gauge of personal authenticity and worth. Another is the blandly sentimental assumption that art's highest purpose is to be redemptive."

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Here is the rest of the LA's own Christopher Knight

Banjo52 said...

PA, where do you stand on the monkey or elephant, or whatever animal it was, who painted something that fooled some experts a few years ago? Maybe the question was whether an ape could convincingly imitate a Jackson Pollock.

By the way, I'm one of those who do think art can be redemptive, depending on one's definitions of "art" and "redeem". "Personal authenticity and worth"--that's another matter.

PJ said...

I just really, really like horses.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

You'll need to get an expert to judge the qualifications of the "experts"

Banjo52 said...

P, how do those skinny legs hold them, especially at such speed.

PA, or a whole panel of experts!

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