Page Two: Pablo Picasso Was Never Called an A......
On money, politics, voting, and Daniel Johnston
"Remember the story of Pablo Picasso
He could walk down your street
And girls could not resist his stare
Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole
Alright this is it"
– "Pablo Picasso," Modern Lovers
One of the pleasures of a column is the kind of self-indulgent potential for a not always required last word, in which one can weigh back in on any issue of his choosing. Answer the arguments offered to counter the positions expressed in the previous week's column. Someone writes that they have seen no evidence of dishonesty in the pro-Prop 1 campaign. Then they haven't looked. When 8 million dollars is spent to tell you that any way you feel about the situation can be addressed by voting yes on Prop 1, then you are obviously being misled.
If you don't care, or if you think all political campaigns are dishonest, or you are unconcerned about the impact of big money on campaigns, or you feel the city overregulates – fine. Whatever reason, obviously the vote is yours. But to pretend that there is no dishonesty in the pro-Prop 1 campaign or that the Vote No on Prop 1 group is as or even more dishonest, when they've spent 8 million dollars less, is just silly. You want to vote yes. Vote yes.
But to deny the dishonesty or accuse the other side of equal distortion simply isn't true.
What it really boils down to is, why are Uber are Lyft spending 8 million dollars on this election? If that doesn't give you pause, nothing will. I began to take deep notice of this campaign when I saw a TV campaign that presented every reason for voting against Prop 1 then came out and endorsed voting for it. I was startled at the concluding "Vote yes."
The dishonesty is not subtle. It is to promise all things to all people. Regardless of what you want, just vote yes and you'll get it. And there are people who are fine with this and people who don't care.
We all navigate differently. But we should accept what so obviously is. In a very lightweight Texas Monthly piece ("The Debate Over Ridesharing," April 29), the argument is made that the city has done such a poor job handling the cab licensing situation in the past they should be denied the opportunity to license here. The reasoning is fragile but, given the overall lighter-than-air quality of the piece, appropriate.
This situation seems so perverse. Spending 8 million dollars on a local election. If Prop 1 fails Uber and Lyft may leave. But they probably won't. And if they leave they'll be back.
Now, in light of Trump being the presumptive Republican nominee all else fades to quiet in one of the great black comedic political moments of our lives. Where Saturday Night Live becomes real, The Onion is mimetic, and Mad Magazine finally triumphs as the ultimate source for modern-day media. The tabula rasa, so to speak, of how to make sense in the modern world.
It all swirls around me. Dream and nightmare, waking and hallucinating, real news and fake news, heat and smoke, I've taken the kaleidoscope plunge into the coldest, clearest mountain lake but can't seem to break through the surface as I try to get through to the other side. I'm lost in the moment in Los Angeles where it becomes old Austin. A couple of nights ago I was backstage at Cinefamily with Daniel Johnston and his brother Dick. Our friend the amazing Simon Oré had set up two shows with Daniel at Cinefamily (the old Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax). Daniel and I were chatting in that way we often chat over three decades into our relationship – half-formed sentences and partially offered memories. Daniel still insists once or twice that I promised to make him famous and wants to know when I will. I never promised, I point out, he insisted that I do ... and he is plenty famous, quite independently of me.
Usually he lights up when recalling how he used to drive me crazy. Get me to smash the phone on the desk or sputter at him. Reminding me of the old days while in the background Bobcat Goldthwait looks at Daniel's art and who knows who else is there.
It's like Wooderson in Dazed and Confused – Daniel gets older but the audiences stay the same age. There is this remarkable sense of discovery and rejuvenation. Many who have long felt alone, finally know they have found a kindred spirit. Having seen Daniel beginning with his first public performance in Austin 30 years ago, I'm used to it. But people start trembling, fading into the mystic. Witnessing and testifying.
This time we debuted a short sampling from Marie Javins' archives of hours of unreleased Daniel Johnston material. It is quite a show. The young Daniel, the old Daniel, Austin past and L.A. present.
So many of the stories of Daniel are mostly told from stories told from stories. So distant from the sun as not to be in the same galaxy. Daniel is warm but also taunts the audience a bit.
Backstage talking to Daniel as we are getting ready to go on, a Modern Lovers song comes over the loudspeaker, "Pablo Picasso." It causes me to think back to Austin, where currently one friend traverses Austin traffic with a strict calculation. Anyone who drives rudely or cuts her off she assumes is voting for Prop 1. It's certainly not fair or reasonable, but it is neat.
Over the loudspeaker in the open-air gathering space behind the Cinefamily theatre, the Modern Lovers' "Pablo Picasso" seemed so appropriate. All kinds of L.A. cinema trendies, die-hard movie lovers, and Daniel Johnston fans hanging out. Daniel getting ready.
Daniel Johnston could walk down the street and not get called an asshole!
Now Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or I, as well as random proponents and opponents of Prop 1. If we walked down the street, "asshole" is what we would be called. If we cut off my pal, that would be just the beginning.