Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Monday
Oct022006

Then It Hit Me


These posters are popping up everywhere in Brooklyn. The make-up applied to Marilyn's mug is my own little addition. An improvement, no?


"Sucess went fizzily to Bernard's head, and in the process completely reconciled him (as any good intoxicant should do) to a world which, up to then, he had found very unsatisfactory. In so far as it recognized him as important, the order of things was good. But, reconciled by his sucess, he yet refused to forego the privilege of criticizing this order. For the act of criticizing heightened his sense of importance, made him feel larger. Moreover, he did genuinely believe there were things to criticize. (At the same time, he genuintely liked being a success and having all the girls he wanted.)

-Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

A few weeks ago I wrote this in which I labor to make a point that, unfortunately, I don't think I nailed. The Surge and I have recently been engaging in spirited conversations about the nature of fame, pop culture etc.. This past weekend he plucked this book from its obscure position on the local bookstore shelf and handed it to me.
"This looks like something you'd dig."
I am staggered by its contents and moreover, I would like to engage in a lesbian love affair with one Ms. Cintra Wilson. In her book A Massive Swelling she outlines exactly what I was sweating and grimacing to impart with an ease that makes me cringe in shame at my own clumsy attempt. Because she so accurately represents my feelings on pop culture I'm going to throw down a few excerpts for y'all to mull over.

"Around 1918 ther was an influenza that killed nearly everyone. Before that there were locusts and frogs. There was an assortment of plagues. Once, a comet wiped out all the dinosaurs. There was a disease in Africa where people exploded.

Then there was this thing that happened to everyone in the twentieth century, where their insides grew small and weak and sad, and they all strove and suffered, and they sold each other down the river and fucked each other into pulp in order to obtain this thing they were all desperate for: Fame.

Some wanted it more than others; they were willing to push much harder, and were more ruthless and even more zealous than the others, and they were rewarded with everything the world had to offer: Constant slobbering attention. Obscene wealth. Armies of anonymous worshipers so hypnotized that they would saw off their own fingers just to be smiled at.

With the Fame came power and prestige. Those who had it were able to visually eradicate any evidence that they were ever slovenly, drug-addled, morally askew, or fat.

If a person in this day and age has two cents' worth of talent, it is considered his sacred obligation to Go for the Gold, to try and grab the big brass monkey ring, and otherwise make six to ten demoralizing career-and-connection-oriented phone calls a day, perform painful Top 40 Hits at all the high-school graduations and bar mitzvahs, pay hundreds of dollars for eight-by-ten photographs of themselves looking like sexually available newscasters and audition with seething positive energy for every Ex-Lax commercial that comes down the pike until the day that the opportunity for Fame reveals itself...

When the fame begins to look graspable, when the hem of the glittering Elvis robe is visible through the thick red haze, the righteously downtrodden Fame seeker is suddenly licensed by history and common consent to achieve Fame by Any Means Necessary, and furiously lie, cheat, fuck, and steal his/her way into various cocktail parties and hermetic inner sanctums until photographers come and the magazines call and the beauties in restaurants swivel and wink and shimmer."

If you have any potential at all and you don't persue Fame, you are considered by yourself and others, to be unambitious, self-sabotaging, or otherwise too fucked-up to do what the good Lord built you to do; you are pissing away your natural gifts if you don't consider your POTENTIAL, which, translated into American, means vast, unrelenting MEDIA COVERAGE.

There is a little bit of talent in most famous people, even if they're only good looking - something for all the attention to stick to. Talent is not, however, the reason for fame anymore, nor is it the thing one really becomes famous for - one earns fame by notoriety, or one gets fame by having fame. The good old way of getting famous was to be very good at something artistic, and have everybody fall in love with you for it. That doesn't really work now, because as many critics have pointed out, nobody is very interested in art for its own sake anymore; now one only does "art" as a necessary part of the equation, the means to the end of getting famous, so one can get plastic surgery and go to parties in order to lick and be licked upon by other famous people like puppies in a basket. Nobody wants to be a real artist nowadays, i.e., a reclusive, self-contained workaholic, because it's no fun-you don't get enough attention.

I was raised in an era when people believed that they should get instant gratification for any small blot of effort spat out into the world. Young "artists" today seem to expect they should be able to drool out a batch of sophomoric short stores or a notebook full of crude cartoon heads an insert them into a Versateller machine and get a tidy wad of laurels; and the problem is, many of them do. This creates false expectations, detrimental to the process of Creation. Our greatest artists through history have always had to wade through years of being broke, misunderstood, and unpopular, spearheading the collective consciousness and having to wait in financial agony while the rest of the world caught up to their fast and advanced way of thinking. Nobody raised with MTV has any interest in this process at all. They want to skip the difficult athletic parts and go straight to having their heads on the Wheaties box.

Fame is a perverse deformity, an ego swelling as ludicrous as an extra sex organ, and the people that have it, for a huge part, are willfully and deliberately fucked-up past the point of ever having anything sweet or human or normal about themselves ever again. It isn't necessarily personal; it is generally not the icons themselves that I jolly and assail, it's the huge tumescent aura of Otherness, the grandiose Largitude and supermagnified glamour of these deranged old musicians and dumb pretty kids and Sacred Cow Ornamental Personages that I attack. These people lead lives of fantastic abundance, a parade of constant fluffing and stroking and free stuff, and beautiful portraits and rare bouquets and plush red carpet and the adoration of brilliant, comely people they've never met at all the best parties. This isn't anybod's Real Life. Life is everybody's personal untrained hammerhead shark, full of thwacking emotional whiplash and spinal emergency, full of weighty grace and random threat."


Apologies for quoting someone else at such length and so unashamedly... but GODDAMN I wish I wrote that. Sadly for me, although I'd like to think I could, I could not have said it better.