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09 July 2012 @ 01:56 pm
The Real LJ Idol: "Committee for Reworking Artistic Potential"  
Committee for Reworking Artistic Potential (C.R.A.P.)
real lj idol | week 33, prompt 1 | 1225 words
Ensemble.




THE COMMITTEE:
Chairman Ed McMahon: TV personality and longtime co-host of the Johnny Carson show.
Danielle Steel: a highly prolific and often formulaic romance novelist.
Jonathan Kellerman: psychologist-turned-mystery writer, specializing in stories featuring a glorified version of himself.
James Cameron: movie director of The Titanic, The Abyss, and Avatar.
Guy Ritchie: movie director of Sherlock Holmes and various heist/caper films.
Yanni: self-taught world-touring new-age musician of the 90s.
John Tesh: former Entertainment Tonight TV show host who left the profession to pursue his dream of composing and performing feel-good pop and new-age music.
Thomas Kinkade: a hugely popular mass-marketed American landscape painter, who specialized in greeting-card-style cottage and country scenes.


~*~


"Hi-yo everybody, gather round," Chairman McMahon said.

He ushered Yanni and Danielle Steel away from the pastry corner and over to the conference table, and took his place between Guy Ritchie and John Tesh. "We've got lots to do this afternoon, so we might as well get started. Mr. Kellerman, would you take the notes for this meeting? And Mr. Cameron, if you could just run the overhead projector, that'd be great, thanks. All right, is everybody ready? Then let's bring in the first person. He's an artist, likes to work in oils. Mr. Vincent Van Gogh, please show your work to the committee."

Van Gogh bowed before the group table. "Hello, everyone. Pleased to meet you. I have four paintings to display. The first is The Potato Eaters, a study in minimal contrast. This next one is Starry Night, then Sunflowers, and finally, a Self Portrait. These offer a broad representation of my talents."

"Huh. The dude with the headband seems kind of out of place," John Tesh offered.

"The bandages were necessary after I cut off my ear. This is a depiction of my true state, afterwards."

"Excuse me," said Chairman McMahon, "you're missing an ear?"

"Yes, this one." Van Gogh turned his head to the left. "It was a very difficult time."

Danielle Steel wrinkled her nose. "That's certainly lurid. And distasteful."

Yanni pointed to one of the middle pictures. "I don't really get the point of the curly clouds. Or the halos around the stars."

"Yes, and the Sunflowers are rather crude," Guy Ritchie added. "You've glopped so much paint on there, the whole thing's a bit bumpy and curdled-looking now."

Van Gogh frowned. "I like to work with texture. Do you see how the flowers appear to be coming out of the canvas? Just so. They are nearly three-dimensional."

"Please," said James Cameron. "I know all about 3-D. You'll never get anywhere with that Kindergarten-level technique. Audiences just won't go for it."

"He's got a point," said Chairmain McMahon. "Mr. Kinkade, any thoughts from you?"

"Well honestly, where to begin? The first painting is so dark, I can hardly see what's going on. Work with the light, man!" Kinkade said. "And when you consider the dull colors and the hideous people, you might as well forget it. That one's completely hopeless. The starry one is kind of pretty, though not at all realistic. The Sunflowers are colorful, but the colors are garish. Soothing pastels, that's what people like, not those horrible oranges and yellows! And the last picture, well… I will simply say that it lacks artistic interest."

"If you really want an audience, put some cleavage on those canvases," Danielle Steel added.

"Okay, then," Chairman McMahon said hastily. "Mr. Van Gogh, I think we've given you enough to work with. Good luck! And remember, we're here to help."

Van Gogh muttered his way out of room, as the Chairman read the summary for the next person on the list. "He's a guitar player, and he says he likes Rock and Roll. Folks, meet Jimi Hendrix."

Hendrix walked into the room and nodded at the committee, then plugged his guitar into the outlet and demo-amplifier. He stepped into the light, brought his fingers to the strings and—

"Hold on, what's happening with that hair?" Yanni burst out.

Hendrix lowered his arm. "You've got to be kidding me," he said.

"No, I agree," John Tesh nodded. "It's really distracting. People will never notice your music with a look like that. The clothes are pretty out-there, too."

Hendrix looked pointedly at Yanni's outrageous mustache and burgeoning locks. "If you say so." He positioned his fingers once again, and began. A burst of static and amp-fed distortion screamed out with his opening notes.

"God, my ears!" James Cameron howled as he dived under the table, bumping into Guy Ritchie. Ritchie was crouching down below and attempting to wrap his entire head inside his leather jacket.

John Tesh teetered in his chair and his eyes watered a little bit, but he nodded encouragingly as Hendrix kept playing.

"—while I kiss the sky!" Hendrix sang, articulating through a series of crunchy, sliding notes.

Jonathan Kellerman waved his arms. "Stop already, just stop! I can't even think, with all that racket going on!"

Guy Ritchie spoke up from under the table. "Yes, and the lyrics don't quite make sense, I'm afraid."

Yanni was staring at the wall with a shell-shocked expression, while Thomas Kinkade nervously smoothed his button-down shirt. John Tesh cleared his throat and drummed his fingers. "Well, I can see that you have a lot of ... enthusiasm for music," he finally said. "Have you thought about something with broader appeal, like pop music or even working as a lounge musician?"

"This is bullshit." Hendrix yanked the cord out of the amp and strode out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

"Well." Ed McMahon worked his way upright again. "That was certainly… something. For a moment, I thought my pacemaker had stopped."

Danielle Steel looked dazedly at his lips. "What?"

"You don't even have a pacemaker," James Cameron remarked.

"You're right. Though I think that's probably even worse," McMahon said.

Yanni finally tore his gaze away from the wall. "I don't think we got through to him," he said sadly.

Danielle Steel's eyes shifted in his direction and she squinted at him in confusion. "What?"

Chairman McMahon looked down at his roster, and tapped it with his pen. "All right, let's move on. This next person is one of Mr. Kellerman's referrals, a writer by the name of Melville. Jonathan, can you give us the overview of his current book?"

"Sure can. The way he described it to me, it's basically the story of an obsessed weirdo and a giant whale."

"Okay, definitely unusual," Chairman McMahon mused. "What else?"

"That's it. The whole book. Over 500 pages, so far."

"You're kidding. That'll never sell on the open market!"

"Exactly," Kellerman said.

Guy Ritchie glanced at Danielle Steel, who was still out of commission. "Is there a lot of action, or is the main character at least charismatic?"

"I don't think so," said Kellerman. "Herm said the character was suffering from a tragic flaw, whatever that means. Sounds completely overblown. You need characters with tiny, insignificant flaws at most, or you'll alienate the readers. I don't know what Herman's thinking."

"All right," McMahon sighed. "Bring him in, and we'll get started."

Kellerman got up and went to the door.

"Might as well have everyone else out there come back tomorrow, while you're at it," McMahon added. "We've really got our work cut out for us with this one."




Voting for all stories for this LJ Idol prompt is here. Only 18 stories, so they're a quick read!

 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 06:47 am (UTC)
I doubt he would have put up with it in real life, either!
No kidding! He was a non-conformist among other Rock-and-Roll artists, and those were people who should have had a better idea of what he was all about. But a group of successful hacks? There's no genius in their minds, there's only commercial reward!
medleymistymedleymisty on July 9th, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
OMG, it's SimSecrets IRL!

Your dystopic stuff always scares me. And yeah, I see this as dystopic.

*shudder*

But then also - this is a good lesson, a good story to show why you shouldn't listen to criticism, why you shouldn't care about haters, and you should keep doing what you're doing and being true to your work and yourself.

Thank you.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 06:51 am (UTC)
And yeah, I see this as dystopic.
I actually hadn't thought of it that way, though I can see how it might come of as sinister instead of as the work of well-meaning buffoons.

this is a good lesson, a good story to show why you shouldn't listen to criticism, why you shouldn't care about haters, and you should keep doing what you're doing and being true to your work and yourself.
Exactly- you have to do what speaks to you. It may not make you as successful as others, or even as successful as you might be, but is it true to what's inside you? Would you rather think of your artistic legacy as being Van Gogh's masterpieces (largely unregarded while he was living), or that awful dreck that made Thomas Kinkade rich? Honestly, when I think of Thomas Kinkade believing so strongly in his "vision", I wonder how exactly that would even have been possible. How could he not know it was awful? How?
Kristenpixiebelle on July 10th, 2012 01:22 am (UTC)
Hehe what an interesting concept! I loved reading how they reacted to Van Gogh!Makes you really see how people might judge the work of these people by today's standards and that's rather entertaining!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Starry Nighthalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 07:04 am (UTC)
I'm not sure even artists of Van Gogh's time really understood him at all. The interesting things he did with texture and occasional disproportion... mistakes? Genius? Clearly, they spoke to him, because he used them as technique in repeatable ways.

But even to a random person, I can see most people then or now thinking, "Potato Eaters: drab colors, ugly people. Sunflowers: Why? Self-Portrait: What the hell?"

I got on an Impressionist kick awhile back, and read up on one of the few women in the movement (thought it was Cassatt, but perhaps not). Her later style skewed more and more toward the abstraction of light, and critics flipped. They went on and on about how she had lost her way, and just didn't get it. She essentially took the Impressionist focus on light and diffusion, and gradually pushed it out to the absolute extreme, where the paintings almost implied their subjects rather than directly depicting them. Not for everyone, but to me, it was absolutely clear what she'd done-- even if no one else thought to try it.
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on July 10th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
This was very creative! I could see this being not far from the truth, sadly.

Poor Jonathan Kellerman. I liked some of his books when I was younger. Haha.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 07:10 am (UTC)
I could see this being not far from the truth, sadly.
The "misunderstood genius" is an archetype for a reason, that's for sure. The panel here is more convinced of their own input even than most people would be, because after all-- they make a lot of money at their various pursuits! Clearly money==talent!

Poor Jonathan Kellerman. I liked some of his books when I was younger. Haha.
Me, too. Actually, I think I kind of liked his first book, and then I wanted to grind his insufferable Mary Sue narrator into the ground right next to his pretentious koi pond and overly understanding "beautiful, artistic, instrument-making" girlfriend. Ugh.

But I've always liked Milo, his detective character. My husband theorizes that Milo was added in to show how "well-rounded" and "open-minded" the too-perfect main character was-- Look, he has a gay friend! And is not threatened!

But the reality is that I could read whole books about Milo. It's as if he's accidentally fabulous, because the writer wasn't trying so hard. On the surface, Milo is kind of a failure at being gay (except where he scored the good boyfriend), and nobody fears or respects him. They don't fawn on him (the way they do on the main character), and they don't go on about his reputation. But Milo actually is a good detective, shown and not told, and he will keep after a case relentlessly until he cracks it. People should fear him, but they underestimate him. To their eventual peril. ;)
cindy: spn - dean facepalm (by mixedbatch)tsuki_no_bara on July 10th, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
"herm", heee. i love the idea of thomas kinkade critiquing van gogh and finding him wanting, and by "love" i mean "i facepalmed a lot but in a good way". there's some nice satire in here, i have to say.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Starry Nighthalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 07:13 am (UTC)
and by "love" i mean "i facepalmed a lot but in a good way".
Hahaha!

Really, this whole story began with the thought of Kinkade daring to "teach" Van Gogh anything, and the inevitable unmarketability of Moby Dick.

I looked at more of Kinkade's paintings while writing this, along with Van Gogh's, and god, the comparison-- it just makes you cringe. :0

It's actually worse to find out that Kinkade "really believedtm in" the style of paintings he produced. Wow.
notodettenotodette on July 10th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)
I effing love this. What a poignant portrayal of art vs. pop culture and their many levels. This is something my husband and I talk about often, only we're not funny and cool while doing it. Hats off to you.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
So glad you enjoyed it!

We joke about this a lot around my house, too, whether it's how badly Janis Joplin would bomb out of American Idol (not "attractive" enough, and too distinctive a voice), or why exactly it is that things of no or modest quality sell so big on a mass culture scale. Still mind-boggling. :0
whipchickwhipchick on July 10th, 2012 02:17 pm (UTC)
Augh...mass-market art! I've always struggled with the line between art and craft, and I think your piece says a lot about that distinction. Danielle Steel is certainly a competent writer; Kinkade's work is horrible, but it's well-crafted for what he's doing - maybe it has something to do with whether one is creating for the market or primarily to express an idea? Maybe all great artists are also great craftsmen but most craftsmen are not artists?
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
I've seen people complain that Steel essentially writes the same character over and over again, which drives me nuts (helloooo, John Grisham), though if she can still make the story compelling and interesting for her core readers, she's doing better than most. And discovering that Kinkade really likes the dreck he makes is kind of horrifying. You assume he must, or he'd do something else, but how does the preciousness of it escape him?

Maybe all great artists are also great craftsmen but most craftsmen are not artists?
That's a possibility. And you also have, with someone like Van Gogh, the pain doing something a little different from the mainstream. He was Impressionist, but ultimately not in the way that Monet and Manet were, because he moved on beyond that. His images had harder edges on them than his contemporaries, and yet were not quite post-Impressionism either. So even his contemporary artists, who were themselves actually talented, did not understand him very well. It hurts to know that his works never sold well during his lifetime. Never. So much effort, so much creativity, such stunning results... but too far out of the mainstream even for his own time.
the_day_setupthe_day_setup on July 10th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
I knew I was going to love this 100% from the moment I read the cast of characters. And I was right.

A few weeks ago we were... um... in an altered state with Spotify open on my phone, and decided to see what Kenny G sounded like in such a scenario. There was much tearful laughter. This brought us onward to Yanni and John Tesh, which neither of us had properly listened to before. John Tesh's music is far worse than I ever could have believed. I mean, "they" always tried to tell me, but I just couldn't believe that it was true. How could anything THAT horrid sell so many copies, minor TV celebrity or no? Yanni's is barely better, but at least his song titles consistently provide lulz.

And on the other hand, I've been wondering if I'd be any good at becoming the next Danielle Steel.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
I knew that if anyone else got a kick out of this, it would be you. It all makes some kind of terrible sense, doesn't it?

John Tesh's music is far worse than I ever could have believed. I mean, "they" always tried to tell me, but I just couldn't believe that it was true. How could anything THAT horrid sell so many copies, minor TV celebrity or no?
It's pretty much dreck, but as you noted in last week's entry, inoffensive dreck often sells pretty well. My husband says he admires Tesh, though, because Tesh stepped right out of a lucrative career when there was money to be had, simply because he really, really wanted to pursue his dream of making Tesh-music. I'm kind of surprised that he dreamed of making that, but clearly he loves it.

And on the other hand, I've been wondering if I'd be any good at becoming the next Danielle Steel.
If you can embrace the romance-novel format, and tell a compelling story, there's a lot of opportunity. You just have to... get past that first part.

It makes me think of the Pops Concert gigs I occasionally did in Peoria (summertime). It was purely for the money, because the music usually made me want to stab myself with my own bow. But could I ever have stood to be in a Pops Orchestra, full time, playing that dreck as a regular profession? God, no. Death first!
Myrnamyrna_bird on July 10th, 2012 11:26 pm (UTC)
I think you certainly take the prize for the most original and outlandish ensemble to ever come together. If we didn't live in linear time, just imagine some of the symposiums that could occur!
Really fun to read.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 10th, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
Haha!

It's true, at this point all of the artists being "helped" are dead, and so are two of the panel members.

I thought about Stravinsky, but he seemed too obscure for most readers. But I can virtually guarantee that the Rite of Spring premiere that cause a riot in 1913... would probably also cause one today.

Some things, audiences will just never be ready for!
alycewilson: Alice underwateralycewilson on July 11th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
So THAT's how it happens! I wondered who was to blame for the current state of affairs. This was fun.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 04:07 am (UTC)
It seems as if there's always some unhelpful armchair critic in the background, though how sad that so many of the modestly talented succeed and the really talented may get passed over.

I'll say this: it rarely pays to be avant-garde. You're almost always scorned, and when the mainstream catches up they'll run you right over!

Thanks for reading and commenting!
(no subject) - alycewilson on July 12th, 2012 08:59 am (UTC) (Expand)
beldarzfixonbeldarzfixon on July 12th, 2012 03:10 am (UTC)
I was hooked from the moment I saw the acronym.

I'm sure they weren't too pleased that Hendrix was playing left-handed, too.

Melville did over-write that novel, though. Good story, with about 30 chapters of tangental crap to wade through. Was assigned it in high school and my folks got me the unabridged version.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 04:11 am (UTC)
:D Glad you liked the approach to this. So many well-meaning people, so underqualified to offer advice!

I can't disagree about Melville. That's one of those cases where it isn't the premise or executional detail so much as the kind of thing that needs a good editor. Some outside (intelligent) perspective that could say, "You've detoured too far afield here, and your pacing suffers."

Thanks for reading and commenting!
(no subject) - beldarzfixon on July 12th, 2012 06:37 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 06:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alycewilson on July 12th, 2012 09:02 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alycewilson on July 12th, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alycewilson on July 12th, 2012 08:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - beldarzfixon on July 12th, 2012 06:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
java_fiendjava_fiend on July 12th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Very cutting and very subtle in its bite. This was pretty damn funny. Really nicely done. I enjoyed the sarcasm and satire quite a lot. :-)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 12th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I can see that you like satire and sarcasm as much as I do. They really come in handy for stories like this.

Nothing like tarnishing a character (via implication) with his or her own truth. ;)

Thanks for reading!
(no subject) - java_fiend on July 14th, 2012 02:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
m_malcontentm_malcontent on July 12th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
I'm glad to see the wry satirical side of you here.

This is very well done with all these great icons of mediocrity.

For a second I was going to say you "played it safe" by picking mediocrities no one was likely to be a fan of. Then I realized you had the highest grossing director of all time on the list, which just shows how out of touch my tastes are with the mainstream.

I love this entry.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 13th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
Then I realized you had the highest grossing director of all time on the list, which just shows how out of touch my tastes are with the mainstream.
Mine too.

I've seen The Abyss, and thought that was two movies crammed together in need of editing. I haven't been able to bring myself to see The Titanic, or Avatar, because they just don't interest me. Especially the 3D Blue People version of Pocahontas, which says everything you need to know about the movie right there.

Glad you enjoyed this! Casting the chairman was actually the hardest part-- finding someone who was basically well-meaning, famous, oversold, and of a certain age. He was the last part cast! Whereas Cameron and Kinkade were the first. :0