No, donnie, these men are cowards

I have a pain in my guts that I can’t even begin to describe. I think it comes from eating all the pepperocinis at my work. I’m old. I mean, that’s what it is, right? Because I never got this kind of rotten stomach action before. Jesus. Nowdays it’s all sleep and mild foods and no more than a few cocktails or it’s some kind of dazed craptacular the next day. It’s a real dick punch, man.
Last night I watched the Big Lebowski again and I realized something pretty hilarious. I have no real idea what that movie is about. I mean, sure, I dig that there’s two guys named Lebowski, some mistaken identity and a slutty trophy bride who gets kidnapped and theres a ransom plot and a guy who makes the porn is somehow involved and what’s her name, who’s super hot even though she’s real old…uh, you know her…Julianne Moore! She’s the one with all the money and she wants Jeff Bridges’ child (explained with paper thin reasoning, I’d say) but really…there’s so much of that movie that just breezes by and I don’t have any fucking idea what’s going on, or what it has to do with the plot, or anything. Then, at the end, I’m not really sure what the results even are. It’s definitely not got traditional story arc where something either works out, or doesn’t or someone grows or they don’t or stasis is returned or things are heartbreaking or happy, that much, at least, I got.
Now, before this goes on too far, I’d like to point out that I’m not asking for anyone’s interpretation of the movie. I understand it as well as I’d care to (though I bet [watch for it in the sock drawer] I get at least one dumb asshole explaining the whole thing [poorly, mind you] to me anyway, but hey! That’s why god built the internet. So idiots could explain stupid things poorly to everyone else, whether they wanted an explanation or not).
My point is, I’ve seen this movie somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen times, and the fact that the story is so nebulous that I STILL don’t really know who the nihilists work for (I think they work for themselves but are friends with bunny from porn, right?) really says something about art and making shit for brain consumption, and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.

People forget that art is entertaining. It’s supposed to entertain. That’s what it does. Now, that doesn’t mean that people have to enjoy it. People can hate it. Hating something can be very entertaining. That’s why people love pro wrestling, throwing tomatoes at the bards in the theater in the round and going on internet message boards. People can be scared, people can be revolted, turned on, whatever. The objective to art is a visceral reaction, be it music, painting, film or uh…’performance art’ which, let’s be honest, is dumb. Heh.
-Now, let me pause for a moment here to talk about this last sentence, because it’s not entirely my opinion. The idea of performance art can be amazing. Especially when you take it to the philosophical, situationist or even Nietzsche-ian kind of level and you’re living your life as some sort of piece of art. That’s a pretty interesting way to go, art wise, even if it’s probably (like most art) not done well very often. However, usually, ‘performance art’ is a term for people who don’t quite dance, but do something that’s kind of not too far off from acting/dancing and/or stand in parks painted up like the tin man waiting for people to drop dollars in their dunkin donuts coffee cup. And that shit is just pussified half stepping (in the first case) or just a way to make crack money (in most cases). I mean, if someone tells me they’re a performance artist, my first instinct is to kind of laugh at them. It’s like calling yourself cutting edge. If you were REALLY cutting edge, the idea of defining yourself that way would be fundamentally at odds with what you’re doing, you know? Sure you do. So, anyway, to end this digression, performance art is dumb, unless you’re a genius or you’re real hot and you leave your tits out while you do it, then it’s fascinating.
Where were we? Oh, right. Visceral reactions. My point (and I’m running out of time, so I’ll be brief) is that people who get into the habit or business of making art tend to get to a point where they’re searching for perfection in what they do. The Perfect Manifestation of Brendan Kelly the Songwriter, for example. And that tends to lead into a process that I’d refer to as ‘softening the edges’ and ultimately ‘getting into a box.’ After a while, there’s such a catalog of things you’ve done, things that may have at one time been huge risks for you (or for the medium in general) that have worked out well, that it becomes very VERY hard to get away from those tropes, or tricks or techniques. This can be everything from doubling vocals to the way you paint noses to the gear you use, to the meticulous detail that goes into making everything just-so. The problem, though, is that though these things started out as risks, or interesting ways of interpreting some outside source, now they’re things you’ve done, and you’re being inspired by yourself, and it’s only gonna be diminishing returns at that point. To use the analogy from yesterday, it’s like eating your own shit for nutrients.
THE OTHER THING, and this is the big one, is that suddenly, you’re creating based on a set of expectations about you, and that’s the stupidest reason to create something in the world (except maybe for ‘to save the marriage’). The reason you should be creating is because you have an idea about something that looks/sounds/feels/ cool and you want to do it. That’s it. And ‘cool’ is subjective, sure. Your “cool” can be my “totally fucking repugnant” but you get the idea. People get to a point where they feel like they have to weave a message into things in order to give them value, but the opposite is true. If you’re making art that’s really based on the notion of doing something that just kicks ass, there will BE a message in it, because art, when it’s good, is ALWAYS rooted in something deeper than just being a painting or a song or a dance. But you don’t PUT IT IN THERE!!!! IT ENDS UP IN THERE WHEN YOU CREATE FREELY! When you put it in there, 100% of the time, you wind up with didactic crap. Period.
And, to bring it full circle, if you really just have fun with what you’re creating, it doesn’t even really matter if it all makes sense, or comes together. If it’s fun enough to view or listen to over and over again, people will love it, even if they don’t understand it. Even if it doesn’t wind up really tying the whole room together, man.
That’s the lesson for today people. Get out there and live. Have a good weekend.

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19 Responses to No, donnie, these men are cowards

  1. planespotting says:

    Nice post – I (like seemingly all of my facebook friends, and you too, apparently) watched one of the two broadcasts of the Big Lebowski on the VS network last night. And I had the same feelings as you did, even vocalizing them to my fiance, who agreed.

    It's a hilarious movie … and I love some of the quotes (Vee are NIHILISTS Lebowski; vee believe in NOTHING!!"), but at any point that you turn it on, there's really no need to remind yourself or think about exactly why something is happening other than that it all goes back to the guys who stole the Dude's rug. All the details beyond that are kind of foggy.

    The plot in the BL is not as ambiguous as, say, The Big Sleep (that movie has so many plotholes that even the director admits its hard for the viewer to follow what happens … funny that that movie also as "the big" in the title).

    I guess that even though the BL is a movie about a caper, the real juice of the movie is in each scene, and not really in the sum of the parts of each scene. Like, you can still get great enjoyment out of the BL without caring about who the Nihlists are working for or who stole the Dudes car.

    And btw, that wasn't an explanation of the BL – it's an explanation of why it doesn't matter that the details are vague.


  2. nd says:

    This was my all-time favourite entry. I think I'm gonna leave work right now and go play my guitar for the rest of the day. I feel inspired.

  3. Candice says:

    I met the main nihilist guy at a bar last year. My friend is obsessed with the movie so he made me take a bunch of pics of us with him. The nihilist was VERY uncomfortable with how low-cut my dress was and kept trying to make me button it up

  4. Robb says:

    Candice – that's Peter Stormare. He seems like he'd be an extremely cool guy to smoke expensive cigars with or something. Anyway today's entry pretty much just reminded me how badly I want to see A Serious Man (Coen Bros and all)

  5. Jerky says:

    Oh my god. This entry was mind-blowing. I just had a read-gasm.

  6. dustyfloors says:

    I love how all my friends always argue about what a song means. How can an interpretation of art be wrong?
    Loved this post, though.

  7. Candice says:

    Yup, that's it! Couldn't think of it off the top of my head. He was very nice and obliged all our drunk photo requests and even did some shots with us.

  8. planespotting says:

    I just realized I said "the dudes who stole the dude's rug." What was I thinking.

    I meant, "the dudes who peed on the dude's rug."

  9. Jayzilla says:

    at least youre eating pepperchinis and not cocktail onions — barf in my mouth in regards to cocktail onions

  10. alex icon says:

    Brendan, it is my opinion that you make the best posts. The very best ones.

  11. christa! says:

    This is a great post and it's defiantly something I've struggled with before. I didn't want to call myself an artist until I created something meaningful, but that kind of expectation tends to inhibit you and impedes any real progress. I'm a lot more relaxed about it now and as a result I feel a lot better about the work that I put out.

  12. JSIN says:

    "I have a pain in my guts that I can’t even begin to describe."

    Sounds like a lyric to a Falcon song.

  13. Maximilian says:

    man… i'd really love to be the asshole to explain the movie, but as i think about it…. i can't. and still it's one of my all time favorite movies.

  14. Sean says:

    The Big Lebowski?

    Isn't that the documentary about what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass?

    …. or am I thinking of "Grand Theft Anal 11: starring Sasha Grey?"

  15. kylewagoner says:

    You used the "shit for nutrients" before yesterday. It was on the same topic as you used today. I remember it because I thought it was a great analogy…you probably used it like a year ago. Anyway! I don't catch up often enough! Damn!


  16. egodiego says:

    My boyfriend and I had a very similar Big Lebowski conversation earlier in the week with similar conclusions. There don't seem to be lines between who gets it and who doesn't, but there seems to be between who does and does not like it. I guess you're entertained by the characters or you're not (but how can you not be?!).

    The TBS version of the movie is extra hilarious. I guess the Jesus was too obscene for television, because he's cut from the movie completely.

  17. L says:

    apparently you have a video of me kissing a girl. nice. believe it or not i'm not gay…

  18. Jorge says:

    "Do you see what happens when you find a stranger in the alps?!?!?!"

    Best. Overdub. Ever.

  19. oksweetdude27 says:

    nice marmot

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