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Desprolijo minibalance 2016

Proeza: las dos series producidas por Louie CK (Horace & Pete y Better Things)

Decepción: Black Mirror

Peor serie: 11.22.63

Episodio: S01E07 de Vinyl


Serie subvalorada: Braindead

Actor: Tony Shalhoub (Red Wheatus en Braindead)

Hallazgo: el «Previously» de Braindead por Jonathan Coulton

Disco: Bust Free

Canción: Kill the lights

Podcast: La casa del transformador

App: Showbox

Sitio: Magnet


Nota: The Playlist Professionals At Apple, Spotify, And Google

Libro: Irrupciones, de Levrero


Cuentas de Twitter: @cl_diff y @ln_diff

Programa periodístico: «Last Week Tonight»


David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture

david_foster_wallacePercy Shelley famously wrote that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” For Shelley, great art had the potential to make a new world through the depth of its vision and the properties of its creation. Today, Shelley would be laughed out of the room. Lazy cynicism has replaced thoughtful conviction as the mark of an educated worldview. Indeed, cynicism saturates popular culture, and it has afflicted contemporary art by way of postmodernism and irony. Perhaps no recent figure dealt with this problem more explicitly than David Foster Wallace. One of his central artistic projects remains a vital question for artists today: How does art progress from irony and cynicism to something sincere and redeeming?

Twenty years ago, Wallace wrote about the impact of television on U.S. fiction. He focused on the effects of irony as it transferred from one medium to the other. In the 1960s, writers like Thomas Pynchon had successfully used irony and pop reference to reveal the dark side of war and American culture. Irony laid waste to corruption and hypocrisy. In the aftermath of the ’60s, as Wallace saw it, television adopted a self-deprecating, ironic attitude to make viewers feel smarter than the naïve public, and to flatter them into continued watching. Fiction responded by simply absorbing pop culture to “help create a mood of irony and irreverence, to make us uneasy and so ‘comment’ on the vapidity of U.S. culture, and most important, these days, to be just plain realistic.” But what if irony leads to a sinkhole of relativism and disavowal? For Wallace, regurgitating ironic pop culture is a dead end:

Anyone with the heretical gall to ask an ironist what he actually stands for ends up looking like an hysteric or a prig. And herein lies the oppressiveness of institutionalized irony, the too-successful rebel: the ability to interdict the question without attending to its subject is, when exercised, tyranny. It [uses] the very tool that exposed its enemy to insulate itself.

So where have we gone from irony? Irony is now fashionable and a widely embraced default setting for social interaction, writing and the visual arts. Irony fosters an affected nihilistic attitude that is no more edgy than a syndicated episode of “Seinfeld.” Today, pop characters directly address the television-watching audience with a wink and nudge. (Shows like “30 Rock” deliver a kind of meta-television-irony irony; the protagonist is a writer for a show that satirizes television, and the character is played by a woman who actually used to write for a show that satirizes television. Each scene comes with an all-inclusive tongue-in-cheek.) And, of course, reality television as a concept is irony incarnate.

For the generation that came of age during Vietnam, irony was the response to a growing distrust toward anything and everything. In the 1980s, academics such as Mark Jefferson attacked sentimentality, and Neo-Expressionists gave sincerity a bad name through their sophomoric attempts at heroic paintings. Irony was becoming a protective carapace, as Wallace pointed out, a defense mechanism against the possibility of seeming naïve. By the 1990s, television had co-opted irony, and the networks were inundated with commercials using “rebel” in the tagline. Take Andre Agassi’s Canon camera endorsement from that period. In the commercial, the hard-hitting, wiseass Agassi smashed tennis balls loaded with paint to advertise Canon’s “Rebel” brand camera. The ad wraps with Agassi standing in front of a Pollockesque canvas saying “Image is everything.” For all the world, it seemed rebellion had been usurped by commercialism.

This environment gave artists few choices: sentimentality, nihilism, or irony. Or, put another way, critical ridicule as experienced by the Neo-Expressionist (see Sandro Chia), critical acceptance through nihilism like Gerhard Richter, or critical abdication through ironic Pop Art such as Jeff Koons. For a while, it seemed no new ideas were possible, progress was an illusion, and success could be measured only by popularity. Hot trends such as painted pornography; fluorescent paint; sculpture with mirrors, spray foam, and yarn were mistaken for art because artists believed blind pleasure-seeking could be made to seem insightful when described ironically.

* * *

Recently, the Onion spoofed an ad campaign in which Applebee’s encouraged hipsters to visit their restaurants “ironically” and middle-aged adults to make fun of hipsters. The parody describes four “with it” young folks “seriously” eating their dinner at Applebee’s while ridiculing the food, service and atmosphere. Behind them sit three sad, middle-aged adults mocking the hipsters, sarcastically saying “because I know who the latest bands are I am too cool to eat a cheeseburger without making fun of it.” Neither group is genuinely happy about their meal or station in life. The Onion’s satire points out that irony and formality have become the same thing. At one time, irony served to reveal hypocrisies, but now it simply acknowledges one’s cultural compliance and familiarity with pop trends. The art of irony has lost its vision and its edge. The rebellious posture of the past has been annexed by the very commercialism it sought to defy.

Early postmodernists such as Robert Rauschenberg broke the modernist structure of medium-specificity by combining painting and sculpture. The sheer level of his innovation made the work hopeful. However, renegade accomplishments like Rauschenberg’s gave way to an attitude of anything-goes pluralism. No rules governed the distinction of good and bad. Rather than opening doors, pluralism sanctioned all manner of vapid creation and the acceptance of commercial design as art. Jeff Koons could be seen as a hero in this environment. Artists became disillusioned, and by the end of the 1980s, so much work, both good and bad, had been considered art that nothing new seemed possible and authenticity appeared hopeless. In the same period, a generation of academics came of age and made it their mission to justify pluralism with a critical theory of relativism. Currently, the aging stewards of pluralism and relativism have influenced a new population of painters, leaving them confused by the ambitions of Rauschenberg. Today’s painters understand the challenging work of the early postmodernists only as a hip aesthetic. They cannibalize the past only to spit up mad-cow renderings of “art for no sake,” “art for any sake,”  “art for my sake” and “art for money.” So much art makes fun of sincerity, merely referring to rebellion without being rebellious. The paintings of Sarah Morris, Sue Williams, Dan Colen, Fiona Rae, Barry McGee and Richard Phillips fit all too comfortably inside an Urban Outfitters. Their paintings disguise banality with fashionable postmodern aesthetic and irony.

Likewise in contemporary fiction, Tao Lin has made a reputation off reproducing disaffected, hipster malaise. In “Shoplifting from American Apparel,” Lin inserts himself as the protagonist Sam, a vegan writer who lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Sam often feels vaguely “fucked” in a generally affectless world of name brands, Gchat and Facebook. He shoplifts a couple times and winds up in jail for a night. Occasionally, he mindlessly mistreats others for a laugh: inexplicably throwing a friend’s drink, hitting someone with a stick, and ordering someone to jump over a bush. The entire narrative is as disconnected from the larger society as the characters are from each other, and therefore it reads as a mimetic rendering of a soulless world rather than satire. New Tao Lins publish every day, feeding the culture’s desire to watch its own destruction.

But David Foster Wallace predicted a hopeful turn. He could see a new wave of artistic rebels who “might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels… who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles… Who eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue.” Yet Wallace was tentative and self-conscious in describing these rebels of sincerity. He suspected they would be called out as “backward, quaint, naïve, anachronistic.” He didn’t know if their mission would succeed, but he knew real rebels risked disapproval. As far as he could tell, the next wave of great artists would dare to cut against the prevailing tone of cynicism and irony, risking “sentimentality,” “ovecredulity” and “softness.”

Wallace called for art that redeems rather than simply ridicules, but he didn’t look widely enough. Mostly, he fixed his gaze within a limited tradition of white, male novelists. Indeed, no matter how cynical and nihilistic the times, we have always had artists who make work that invokes meaning, hope and mystery. But they might not have been the heirs to Thomas Pynchon or Don Delillo. So, to be more nuanced about what’s at stake: In the present moment, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does art build on the best of human creation and also open possibilities for the future? What does inspired art-making look like?

In the visual arts, an analogous form to recursive irony emerged with non-painting. Magnus Plessen had been the most adept innovator of the style. Four years ago, his work included paintings such as “Ladder,” which was composed of a largely white canvas and an image of a ladder created using blue and brown tape. The few brushstrokes that had been applied were scraped away by a palette knife. His thoughtful pictures of vapidity and antipainting permeated the painting culture until every MFA program included a painter using tape as decoration rather than tool. But instead of resting on the motif and style of a new convention, he now makes paintings that describe creation rather than destruction. His recent work is, dare I say, beautiful. Magnus Plessen moves against the reductive provisional trend he helped create by making increasingly intricate paintings of richer color, form and complexity. His 2013 painting, also titled “Ladder,” is now a top-to-bottom color spectacular of blues, blacks, yellows and purples. Now, the only areas of white are the ladder, rather than vice versa. Feet and hands are now rendered with a sensitive touch rather than being wiped away. He has turned from tiny steps toward nothingness and begun leaping toward eternity.

* * *

In the history of this country, no artistic tradition has done more to elevate the human spirit than black American music. If one wanted to write a book that advanced the novelistic tradition and the possibilities for humankind, one could learn something critical from studying, for example, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.”

The opening words:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory Hallelujah

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Professor James Cone of Union Theological Seminary explains the seeming contradiction between the grief of the refrain and the promise of the closing exaltation.

And you sort of say, sure, nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow. Sure, there is slavery. Sure, there is lynching, segregation. But, Glory Hallelujah. Now, the Glory Hallelujah is the fact that there is a humanity and a spirit nobody can kill.

One can hear that abiding spirit in the voice of Sam Cooke in his pop adaptation of the song, and in renditions by others like Louis Armstrong and Marian Anderson. Cornel West elaborates on the contradiction between the refrain and rejoinder.

Glory Hallelujah is a tragicomic moment. Going to struggle anyway. Cut against the grain anyway. Never view oneself as a spectator but always a participant. Never view oneself as somehow outside the struggle but always meshed in it.

Both West and Wallace call for participation over spectatorship. We must move toward the Glory Hallelujah, toward the possibility of something greater. The best art can inspire us and push us closer.

One attribute of a move toward something greater is to reject the safety of ironic remove and risk the possibility of failure. In the mid-2000s, an acclaimed novel was published nearly annually that heralded a turn toward meaning-making, sincerity and redemption. Interestingly, each of the following novels had a few critical detractors who cried “sentimentality,” which goes to show the risk was taken. Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” (2004) is a novel of letters written from a dying pastor to his 7-year-old son. The old pastor’s reflections are mixed with anxiety and loneliness, but most of all, a deeply-felt reverence for the richness of everyday life. He revels in the beauty of two friends laughing, sunlight on a child’s hair and two kids “dancing around in [their] iridescent little downpour, whooping and stomping as sane people ought to do when they encounter a thing so miraculous as water.” He finds forgiveness and gratitude in the present, overcoming the grief of unresolved feelings and the pain of troubled relationships. In Mary Gaitskill’s “Veronica” (2005), the narrator Alison is an ex-fashion model sorting through bits of her life and friendship with Veronica, who died of AIDS. Alison’s memories arrive as powerful feelings that bring meaning to her present life as a middle-aged office-cleaner with hepatitis C. Her friendship with Veronica is a locus from which self-reckoning and release arises. Lastly, it doesn’t get much bleaker than the post-apocalyptic world of “The Road” (2006). Cormac McCarthy chronicles a father and son attempting to survive among desperados in the ashen ruins of modern society. They travel toward the rumor of a human community. When the father dies, the hope for this possibility lives on in the son, who continues their journey on faith. From reverence, to reckoning, to redemption, these three novels mark a larger shift in tone from the ironic to the sincere.

Skeptics reject sincerity because they worry blind belief can lead to such evils as the Ku Klux Klan and Nazism. They think strong conviction implies vulnerability to emotional rhetoric and lack of critical awareness. But the goal of great art is the same whether one approaches it seriously or dubiously. To make something new, to transcend, one must have an honest relationship with what is: history, context, form, tradition, oneself. Dishonesty is the biggest obstacle to making original, great art. Dishonesty undermines a work’s internal integrity — the only standard by which a work can succeed. If the work becomes a vehicle for one’s ego, personal or political agenda, self-image, desire for fame, adulation, fortune — human as these inclinations may be — the work will be limited accordingly. Even a desire to affirm human dignity and elevate the human spirit can be corrupted by dishonesty in the form of sentimentality. For James Baldwin, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” serves as a prime example. Baldwin writes:

Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.

Great art must be achieved through the integrity of its own internal principles. Irony alone has no principles and no inherent purpose beyond mockery and destruction. The best examples of irony artfully expose lies, yet irony in itself has no aspiration to honesty, or anything else for that matter.

So, where does art rise above ironic ridicule and aspire to greatness, in terms of challenging convention and elevating the human spirit? Where does Glory Hallelujah meet integrity?

* * *

Every two years, the Whitney Museum of American Art celebrates the best and brightest American artists in an exhibition known as the Whitney Biennial. For decades now, the exhibition has been showcasing work that results from relativism and ironic parodies of Western art history (See Dan Colen). However, the latest Biennial includes more than just banal cynicism and retro restyling. It rebuffs “everything goes” regionalism and pluralism. Instead, irrefutable achievement is celebrated. For example, Amy Sillman and Dan Walsh continually bring their paintings to a higher level through relentless rigor and introspection. Take for instance the color used by these two great painters. Rather than resting on a trendy palette of black, white, fluorescents and metallics, Sillman makes paintings, such as 2010’s “Drawer,” that invoke inspiration from innumerable greens and purples. She uses color to demonstrate new ideas rather than remind us of what’s stylish. Likewise, Dan Walsh has spent years willing brilliant articulations of color onto canvas. “Grotto” (2010) weaves together brush marks of brown and yellow. Colors that could be viscerally off-putting become a seductive tapestry. Both Sillman and Walsh execute painting with a desire to make history rather than capitalize on it. Their work depicts the human experience of toil and triumph through paintings that can be described all at once as lame, beautiful, emotional and thoughtful. And, if there was any question the Biennial is extolling sincerity, the exhibition also includes David Foster Wallace.

Audre Lorde riffs on Shelley’s poet legislator line:

[Poetry] forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action… The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

For Lorde, poetry is the practical means by which we sustain ourselves and chart a new world. Artists must take responsibility for finding the form to make our dreams real. They must assess a work as honestly as possible, seeking integrity. At one time, irony served to challenge the establishment; now it is the establishment. The art of irony has turned into ironic art. Irony for irony’s sake. A smart aleck making bomb noises in front of a city in ruins. But irony without a purpose enables cynicism. It stops at disavowal and destruction, fearing strong conviction is a mark of simplicity and delusion. But we can remake the world. In poetry, in music, in painting, we can reimagine and plot coordinates into the unknown. We can take an honest look, rework and try again. The work will tell us if it has arrived or not. We have to listen closely. What do we see? What do we hear?

Matt Ashby lives and writes in Greenfield, Mass. Brendan Carroll is a painter based in Atlanta. His most recent show was reviewed in April’s edition of Modern Painters.

vía David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture –


On Muppets & Merchandise: How Jim Henson Turned His Art into a Business – Longreads

Elizabeth Hyde Stevens | Make Art Make Money, Kindle Serials | September 2013 | 17 minutes (4,102 words)


Photo by Eva Rinaldi

In 2011, Longreads highlighted an essay called “Weekend at Kermie’s,” by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens, published by The Awl. Stevens is now back with a new Muppet-inspired Kindle Serial called “Make Art Make Money,” part how-to, part Jim Henson history. Below is the opening chapter. Our thanks to Stevens and Amazon Publishing for sharing this with the Longreads community. 

The Artist’s Problem: Art vs. Money

In 1968, Jim Henson performed a skit on The Ed Sullivan Show called “Business, Business,” which he cowrote with Jerry Juhl. In it, there are two kinds of creatures, and they are locked in conflict.

On one side, the creatures make sounds like a cash register and a slot machine. They recite a poem written in business-ese: “Corporate profits, exculpates, mutual fund, interest rates.”

On the other side, the creatures have naïve voices and lightbulb heads. They ask, “Love? Beauty? Joy?”

Ca-ching! The battle is on.

“Brotherhood, hope, peace!” says one side.

“Option, market, possibility, eight-point-one over counter utility,” says the other.

It’s a war of ideologies.





Business opens fire. The idealists fire back. Business explodes! Then disappears. Silence.

Cautiously, the idealists look around. They have won. “Peace?” says one. “Success!” says the other. Their lightbulbs go off.

“Victory? Opportunity! Comfort … security …” The lightbulbs flash faster. “Benefits, growth, wealth, diversity, dividends, profit, capital, economy, business, business, BUSINESS, BUSINESS!”

Ed Sullivan’s adult audience laughs at Henson’s goofy puppets. One man in a suit turns to his wife and raises an eyebrow.


If you’re an artist, an innovator, or a creative person, this scenario should sound familiar to you. We may go into a career because of our values, our ideals, our art, but the reality of capitalism opposes us. Our dreams just don’t pay the bills. So what exactly is an artist to do?

In The Gift, poet-professor Lewis Hyde writes that “There are three primary ways in which modern artists have resolved the problem of their livelihood: they have taken second jobs, they have found patrons to support them, or they have managed to place the work itself on the market and pay the rent with fees and royalties.” Hyde’s book is an amazing exploration of the problem of money in art. In my book, I propose asolution, the path less traveled, the dimly lit third avenue, Jim Henson’s Muppety “shoot-the-moon” route. In a word—entrepreneurship, a very uncommonentrepreneurship.

Henson’s Solution: Make Art Make Money

In “Business, Business,” Jim Henson’s idealists fight back and beat the business-heads, but when they do, they turn into capitalists. Its irony may seem fatalistic. Yet it’s not that Henson was pessimistic or perverse; it’s just that he saw things from a different perspective. It may seem sad to young idealists, but this seemingly contradictory evolution is actually the solution to the artist’s problem.

“Business, Business” was a comment on the times. In 1968—the year of this sketch—a generation was coming of age that outnumbered its parents. It was tuning in—to free love, drugs, rock music, and youth collectives. The children of 1968 were rejecting the old order and trying to live more authentic lives. The lightbulb idealists in “Business, Business” were flower children, baby boomers, hippies.

But Henson was not. In 1968, he was thirty-one—placed just in between the boomers and their parents. In generation theory, Henson was a member of the Silent Generation, Americans born in the hardship of depression and raised in war, and yet paradoxically this time produced many of the creative visionaries who would inspire the boomers to mass hippiedom. The popular musicians of the sixties—the Beatles and the Stones—were ten years older than the boomers. They weren’t the flower children of the sixties; they were more like the babysitters, the gurus. In America, Grace Slick and John Fogerty were both born before the 1946 baby boom. It is to these Silent Generation pied pipers that we should rightly attribute much of the sixties’ cultural change, more so than the generation who followed their song.

Only six short months after 1967’s Summer of Love in San Francisco, Jim Henson made “Business, Business.” It clearly reflects the events of its time, but from the perspective of someone living halfway between both worlds. Not a boomer at all, he lived in New York City with his wife and a few kids and made a good living. Having made hundreds of television ads, Henson was already a capitalist when he made “Business, Business.” And we could even conclude that the skit describes his own conversion from idealism to capitalism. In 1968, he had an agent who got him TV appearances on Ed Sullivan and freelance commercial gigs hawking products as unhippielike as IBM computers and Getty Oil.

Yet Jim Henson’s business wasn’t oil—it was art. While today, most artists are too timid to admit it, Henson freely referred to himself as an “artist,” and his agent went even further, calling him “artsy-craftsy.” Henson may have worked in show business, but he’d also traveled in Europe as a young man, sketching pictures of its architecture. He owned a business, but his business rested on the ideas the idealists were shouting—brotherhood, joy, and love. He wore a beard. Biographers would say it was to cover acne scars, but in the context of the late sixties, it aligns Henson with a category of people that is unmistakable. Though a capitalist, he was also a staunch artist.

Growing up in the 1940s, Henson was a self-described Mississippi Tom Sawyer who played in the swamp, often went shoeless, and loved to sketch. He joined a puppetry club at his high school in Hyattsville, Maryland, and in 1954, at the age of eighteen, made his first puppet for a television audition. Henson had fallen in love with TV when his family bought their first set only four years earlier. His show Sam and Friends aired on Washington’s WRC-TV from 1956 to 1961, when he also made humorous, tongue-in-cheek commercials. At the age of twenty-seven, Henson moved his family to New York City, where in the 1960s he did many variety appearances on Ed Sullivan and The Jimmy Dean Show and made experimental films, pilots, and projects like Time Piece and The Cube.

In 1969, at the age of thirty-three, Henson collaborated with Children’s Television Workshop to make Sesame Street, the first nonprofit children’s show on television, which made him a worldwide star. In the early 1970s, he used this success to makeThe Muppet Musicians of Bremen, The Frog Prince, and other TV specials as well as recurring characters for the first year of Saturday Night Live. After Henson spent years pitching, British entertainment mogul Lew Grade funded Henson’s Muppet Show series, which ran from 1976 to 1981 all around the world. After an HBO movie called Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, Henson made his first Hollywood film, the 1979 hit The Muppet Movie. In the 1980s, Henson became a mogul himself, making two more Muppet movies, the elaborate fantasy films The Dark Crystal andLabyrinth, classic TV specials like The Christmas Toy, The Tale of the Bunny Picnic, andA Muppet Family Christmas, and lush TV series like the Toronto-based Fraggle Rockand The Storyteller. Henson’s spin-off series Muppet Babies ran for eight years, encouraging creativity to a new generation on Saturday mornings.

The artist was creating the Disney World attraction Muppet*Vision 3D when he died suddenly in 1990 from a rare infection. When you think of leaving an artistic legacy of lasting good, I don’t think you can aim much higher than Henson’s—the work he created is beloved by so many, twenty-three years after his death, in more than a hundred different countries.

So let us return now to “Business, Business.” If art and money are at odds, which side was Jim Henson really on? If you watch the skit, the clue is in the characters’ voices. Of the Slinky-necked business-heads and idealist-heads, Henson was really both and neither, because in “Business, Business,” he parodies both. Locked in conflict, they sound like blowhards and twerps, respectively, but they were both facets of his life. As an employer to two other men, Henson was the boss man—the suit, cash register, and slot machine—who wrote the checks. But he also got together with his friends to sing, laugh, and play with puppets in the kind of collectivism that hippies celebrated.

In the same month that Henson performed “Business, Business” on Ed Sullivan, he was working on a documentary called Youth 68 that aired as part of the NBC Experiment in Television series. In it, Henson interviews both street hippies out in LA and weary grandparents in Omaha with smoking pipes. Musicians slurred poetic about revolution and old folks complained, “They don’t have respect for their parents like they used to.” It took someone like Henson—living forever in between them—to give us the full picture. There is a saying that goes like this: “Beware of artists. They mix with all classes of society and are therefore the most dangerous.” In order for Henson’s art to have the universal power it did, this mixing had to include “the establishment”—what we could call “the business class.”

But today—especially with Generation X and Millennials—serious artists often refuse contact with business. Large numbers of liberal arts graduates bristle when presented with the corporate world, rejecting its values to protect their ideals. Devoted artists move home to a parent’s basement to complete their masterpieces, while the more pragmatic artists live in cloistered “Neverland” artist collectives, grant-funded arts colonies, and university faculty lounges. Youth 68 still feels contemporary, because we never solved this conflict. The clothing choices of suits and hipsters still mean what they did in 1968. In 99 percent of cases, you can tell if a man on the street works in finance or acrylic—not because these are mutually exclusive professions, but because we wear our battle colors to show we have chosen a side. It is as if the 1960s opened up a rift in American culture that was never healed. It’s 2013—more than forty years on—and if you squint your eyes, the flamboyant artist culture in Brooklyn’s coffee shops could be Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love.

Yet Henson’s work suggests that it is possible to heal America’s split personality. At the end of the Dark Crystal, the gentle race known as “the Mystics” leave their quaint reservation with its sand paintings and wooden bowls and return to the castle. They don’t displace the power-obsessed Skeksis, they do something strange—they merge with them. This occurs at the same time the missing piece fits into the Crystal, which itself is “healed.” The peaceful artists return to the castle, join with the cruel lords who are its current occupants, and the race returns to its proper form; they are whole.

What is a human being? Complex to the point of absurdity, a whole person is both greedy and generous. It is foolish to think we can’t be both artists and entrepreneurs, especially when Henson was so wildly successful in both categories.

Since he was in college, Jim Henson was a natural capitalist. He owned a printmaking business and made commercials for lunchmeats. In the 1970s, he became a merchandizing millionaire and made Hollywood movies. By 1987, he had shows on all three major networks plus HBO and PBS. Though he didn’t like to discuss his net worth, the price tag was revealed when he sold most of his characters to Disney for “nearly 150 million.” Of course, Henson was not just another Trump. Believe the beard.

The Dark Crystal, released in 1982, is an artistic masterpiece, which Henson himself described as “a rich fruitcake, full of different ingredients, and every bite you discover something new and delicious.” Its art-for-art’s-sake–ness is undeniable. Muppets may at times be made of hardware-store items and discount-priced eyes, but when it came to creating the world of the Dark Crystal, it was impossible to do on the cheap. Henson was “notorious for going over budget,” because he made it a point to hire and retain good artists. Unlike fur or doll eyes, that cost can’t be skimped. If Jim Henson were only a shrewd businessman seeking nothing but licensing profits, he would have spent all his time and energy on the profitable Muppet toy lines. A businessman would never have made The Dark Crystal, a film that cost more to create than it made back in over a decade. Such is the definition of a gift.

When Henson joined on to the experimental PBS show Sesame Street in 1968, he was underpaid for his services creating Big Bird and Oscar. Yet he spent his free nights in his basement, shooting stop-motion films that taught kids to count. If you watch these counting films, the spirit of Henson’s gift shines through. I think any struggling artist today could count Henson among their ilk. He had all the makings of a tragic starving artist. The only difference between him and us is that he made peacewith money. He found a way to make art and money dance.

“How,” Hyde asks, “if art is essentially a gift, is the artist to survive in a society dominated by the market?” It is a dance of timing, he answers:

First, the artist allows himself to step outside the gift economy that is the primary commerce of his art and make some peace with the market…. The artist who wishes neither to lose his gift nor to starve his belly reserves a protected gift-sphere in which the work is created, but once the work is made he allows himself some contact with the market. And then—the necessary second phase—if he is successful in the marketplace, he converts market wealth into gift wealth: he contributes his earnings to the support of his art.


The dance involves art and money, but not at the same time. In the first stage, it is paramount that the artist “reserves a protected gift-sphere in which the art is created.” He keeps money out of it. But in the next two phases, they can dance. The way I see it, Hyde’s dance steps go a little something like this:

1. Make art.
2. Make art make money.
3. Make money make art.

It is the last step that turns this dance into a waltz—something cyclical so that the money is not the real end. Truly, for Jim Henson, money was a fuel that fed art. According to Fraggle Rock producer Larry Mirkin:

He viewed money as energy, the energy that makes concrete things happen out of worthy ideas. Money was not an end in itself. It could provide physical infrastructure or it could help him hire other artists and technicians to realize a nascent idea. I don’t ever recall him being the least bit concerned or afraid of money or obsessed by it, which many people are. It just wasn’t what drove him—at all.

In Henson’s creation mode—step 1—money was not a driving force. And once he had money, he used it to make more art—step 3. But step 2 is the hardest one for artists to negotiate, since it requires you make money without destroying your art.

Participation in the market is tricky, and Henson once told a Canadian reporter:

Maintaining a balance between art and business has always been a part of what I do. You operate with as much honesty and integrity as you can afford. Success has brought the ability to pick and choose what we do.

This balance is difficult to maintain. Yet, as Henson suggests, if you have no money, you cannot afford to be honest. Without step 2, you run out of money, and then you can’t do step 1. Henson’s legacy proves that there is such a thing as making an honest buck, and though it isn’t easy, it gives an artist the ability to control his own destiny.

We may not want to run a business like Henson’s, but we can take Henson’s approach to money as far as we want—starting a video game company or simply selling more sketches—becoming the most successful version of yourself. Whatever art you make, the first step to making money is an emotional one—to “make some peace,” as Hyde says, “with the market.” There is a time to eschew the market, and there is a time to join with it. There is no list of steps that can accomplish “making peace.” But know that Henson did accomplish it, and because he did, you felt inspired by art throughout your childhood and perhaps through your children’s as well. You know Jim Henson by name because he made peace with money.

You may not work in show business, but whatever your art, there is some business in which you participate. Scientists, inventors, and teachers all in some way resemble Henson in that they are professions of “the gift,” of working for the benefit of others. If you simply want to do work of higher quality than business-as-usual seems to allow, you know the spirit of the gift, and you are not alone. It may be crazy to take turkey feathers, make them supple, cut their spines in half, bleach and clean them, dye the tips bright yellow, dye the bases golden yellow, adjust the tones so they look “gorgeous” on both the US and British electron-firing color systems, separate them into five grades, take the top three grades, and have them ready at every shoot to replace anything that falls off of Big Bird. It might seem crazy, but to an artist like Henson, those are all necessary steps. And if you are reading this, you probably don’t think it’s crazy at all—intuitively we know that the magic of Big Bird depends on the spirit of the gift—in a careful dance with the market. It is the goal of this book to illustrate that dance. By closely examining Jim Henson’s relationship with money, we can derive a philosophy that will serve us in our own careers—no matter what they may be.

In his office, Henson hung a “Shrine to the Almighty Dollar”—a comically-large dollar bill with a small pyre at its feet. Decorated with paint and pennies, it may have been “tongue-in-cheek” as the Henson Archivist writes, but what is a shrine? It is a place—a physical object—upon which to focus one’s thoughts. Like the restaurant owner who frames his first taste of success, Henson must have meditated on that shrine, thanked the dollar for its generosity, and hoped for more of its abundance. The dollar meant something to Henson—it meant more art. How might you make a shrine to the money that will fuel your art? A shrine may not actually do anything, but as artists, you know the value of focusing one’s thoughts.

And what is a hero but a person upon whom to focus one’s thoughts—to imagineone’s dreams? I would not have written this book if I did not believe that a Henson-like path is possible for today’s artists. In search of that path—for myself and all the artists I know—I’ve read everything I can find about Henson and money.

For simplicity’s sake, here are ten Muppety lessons. Use them to develop your own ideas, to notice new ways to look at your own career and jot down things that you might like to try. Use this book as an object to focus your thoughts about art and money. And then go beyond it.

Lesson 1: Find a Good Reason to Sell Out

The real breakthrough in Henson’s career—the thing that would make him a mogul—was Sesame Street. It debuted in 1969, a good fifteen years into Henson’s television career. Because it taught children across the country, Henson became a household name, and through Sesame Street toys, Henson became a millionaire. In short, merchandizing is the “secret” to Henson’s success. However, licensing toys, to Henson, felt like selling out. Before he became a mogul, he had to find a good reason to do so.

For Henson—like any artist—finding funding had always been a problem. From 1957 until 1969, Henson funded his workshop, his experimental television, and his films with commercials. This had been a “second job” as catering is to actors and teaching is to many poets. One of the virtues of the second job is that Hyde says it makes it easy for artists to “mark the boundary between their art and the market.” Henson didn’t confuse his commercials with his shows—there was a clear boundary. And the money from these commercials insulated him from the market to a great extent. He could spend as much money as he wanted on his projects, using this second job for income. Similarly, Hyde notes that for many years Edward Hopper did commercial drafting for magazines before his real work became profitable. In the meantime, the magazine money allowed him to keep painting.

But with commercials, there were drawbacks. No matter how reputable the product or how honest the company, some part of Henson’s content was always dictated by the sponsor. Later, he would look back on commercials and say, “It was a pleasure to get out of that world. If you’ve ever worked in commercials, it’s a world of compromise and a world of…” He trailed off mid-sentence in this interview, suggesting a kind of self-censorship—commercials were more than a compromise for Henson. They were something he didn’t want to describe on record. Even when he was highly respected in the industry, he said, “The whole process is really not easy on a creative person.”

So, in 1969, Jim Henson decided to stop making commercials. He had a good excuse—he felt it was confusing to the impressionable viewers of Sesame Street to use his characters to both sell snacks and teach the alphabet. Artistically, this was a good decision, giving Henson more time to focus on Sesame Street. The only trouble was that Henson no longer had the buffer of commercial pay to keep his projects funded. Henson essentially cut a deal for the nonprofit Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) for his first-rate services on Sesame Street. As Sesame profiler Mike Davis wrote, his pay was “modest by show-business standards.”

To keep funding his high-quality work, Henson needed another option to emerge, and almost like karma, one did—merchandizing. Davis writes that “within weeks ofSesame Street’s debut there was no shortage of opportunities… [Co-creator Joan Ganz] Cooney began fielding cold calls from marketers eager to attach the likenesses of Muppet characters on to products, in exchange for a licensing fee.” Like commercials, toy merchandizing offered Henson a way to be his own bankroller, and it would be better than commercials, because there would be no boss above his own creative vision; however, at first, Henson refused.

In 1970, two years into Sesame Street’s production, Jim Henson argued the issue with his agent, Bernie Brillstein. In his memoir, Where Did I Go Right?, Brillstein wrote:

Jim Henson and his wife, Jane, dropped by my house at 1240 Loma Vista. Soon we were pacing around the kitchen, arguing. If it was 110 degrees outside, it was definitely hotter inside.

This was the problem: I wanted Jim and Jane to make a merchandizing deal for the Sesame Street characters. They thought it was a bad idea. The Children’s Television Workshop needed the deal because the revenue would ensure continued independent support for what had become a huge public television hit. But Jim and Jane owned half the rights, and both sides had to approve any arrangement.

“You have to merchandise,” I said.

“No,” said Jim and Jane at the same time. Jim hated the idea of selling out…

The Hensons were artsy-craftsy. They always wanted to do things for the right reasons. God bless them. They thought educating kids on public TV and then selling them toys based on the characters didn’t mix… [T]he whole idea of merchandising made them feel like sell-outs. As artists, they couldn’t live with that perception.

Despite his vehemence, Henson came around. In 1970, he started merchandizing theSesame Street characters, and the rest, as they say, is history. Jim Henson sold out—by his own standards.

Make Art Make Money, by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens. Purchase the full Kindle Serial here.

On Muppets & Merchandise: How Jim Henson Turned His Art into a Business – Longreads.


Rebelde con pico de oro – El

Una introducción a Christopher Hitchens
Martin Amis

¿Qué significa ser un rebelde? En el prólogo del libro The Quotable Hitchens, el autor de La viuda embarazada construye una definición a partir de los rasgos más polémicos e irreverentes de su gran amigo Christopher Hitchens.

“La elocuencia espontánea me parece un milagro”, confesó Vladimir Nabokov en 1962. En el prólogo de Opiniones contundentes (1973) retoma esta idea de forma más personal: “Nunca le he dado a mi audiencia un trozo de información que no haya preparado anteriormente con una máquina de escribir… mi tosecilla y mis risas vacilantes en el teléfono hacen que las personas que llaman de larga distancia dejen de hablar en su inglés materno para hacerlo en un francés patético”.

”En las fiestas, si intento entretener a las personas con una buena historia, debo retroceder cada dos frases para agregar o borrar cosas… nadie debería pedirme que me someta a una entrevista… lo intentaron al menos dos veces en el pasado, una de ellas con grabadora incluida; cuando devolvimos la cinta y terminé de reírme supe que nunca más en mi vida repetiría una actuación semejante”.

Nosotros simpatizamos con él. Y la mayoría de las personas que pertenecen a la especie literaria desearían incluirse en algún lugar de la escala de Nabokov: “Pienso como un genio, escribo como un autor distinguido y hablo como un niño”.

El señor Hitchens no es así. Puede que precisamente él invierta el paradigma de Nabokov: piensa como un niño (sus juicios son mucho más instintivos y morales-viscerales de lo que parecen, y están animados por el escrúpulo infantil de lo que se siente justo y verdadero), escribe como un autor distinguido y habla como un genio.

Gracias a esto Christopher es uno de los retóricos más intimidantes que el mundo ha visto. Lenin solía presumir diciendo que su objetivo en el debate no era la contradicción y la posterior refutación, sino la destrucción de su interlocutor. Ésta no es la política de Christopher, pero sí lo que hace en la práctica. Con su gran cantidad de referencias y precedentes geohistóricos, es casi como si fuera Google. Pero Google, con sus diez millones de resultados en 0.7 segundos, no es más que un idiot savant; el motor de búsqueda de Christopher está mucho mejor afinado. No importa cuál sea el tema, yo lo apoyaría en un debate contra Cicerón o Demóstenes.

El hábito de decir las palabras apropiadas en el momento preciso tiende a ser relegado a la categoría de réplica impertinente. Pero el desaire, la respuesta rápida, cuando es precisa, da un falso sentido de finalización. Se dice algo, tan rápido como un relámpago, y ése parece el final de las cosas. Me he dado cuenta de que las respuestas más memorables de Christopher se quedan en el aire, resuenan y eventualmente se combinan como los movimientos en una partida de ajedrez. Una noche, hace cerca de cuarenta años, le dije: “Sé que desprecias todos los deportes, ¿pero qué tal una partida de ajedrez?”. Con una mezcla de perplejidad y diversión, me acompañó en los 64 cuadros. Dos cosas salieron a la luz. Primero, no se mostró combativo en absoluto, no ofreció ninguna resistencia (porque se trataba de un juego y en eso la honestidad es lo único que realmente importa). Y segundo, mostró una tierna indiferencia ante el sentido común. Esto lleva a una reflexión paradójica.

En Estados Unidos y el Reino Unido hay excelentes comentaristas que usan el sentido común mucho más de lo que Christopher lo haya utilizado jamás (en Londres tenemos un columnista con un título de caballero muy merecido, en el que siempre pienso con admiración como sir Sentido Común). Pero es difícil amar el sentido común y lo más representativo de Christopher es que es amado. Lo que amamos es la inestabilidad fértil, la agitación de lo inesperado, y Christopher siempre viene del otro lado de la cancha. Él no es un orador plano. No es, repito, un hombre plano.

De eso dan fe las docenas de frases inolvidables que ha soltado espontáneamente a lo largo de años. He aquí tres de ellas:

1. Estaba en televisión por segunda o tercera vez en su vida (si excluimos el programa de concurso University Challenge), es decir, a mediados de los años setenta, cuando Christopher tenía unos 25 años. En esa época éramos amigos cercanos (y colegas en el New Statesman), pero recuerdo haber pensado que nadie que se viera tan bien en matiné tenía derecho a ser tan excepcionalmente elocuente en pantalla. En un momento de la conversación, Christopher salió con uno de sus lirismos políticos, una ornamentada pero inteligible definición de (creo) soberanía nacional. Su anfitrión –también un matón con las palabras– se detuvo, frunció el ceño y dijo con escepticismo y sinceridad impotente: “No entiendo una palabra de lo que está diciendo”. “No me sorprende en lo más mínimo”, dijo Christopher, y cambió de tema.

2. Todos los escritores que lo conocen quedan fascinados, no solo como amigos sino como novelistas. La réplica que estoy a punto de citar (cada una de sus palabras) me parece tan epifánicamente devastadora que la puse en una novela –sí, yo puse a Christopher en una novela–. Mutatis mutandis, Christopher “es” Nicholas Shackleton en La viuda embarazada.

Era 1981. Estábamos en un pequeño restaurante italiano en el oeste de Londres, donde pronto nos acompañarían nuestras futuras primeras esposas. Dos hombres elegantes vestidos con trajes de talle bajo esperaban un grupo grande de personas y se quejaban interminablemente con el personal para que reorganizaran las mesas, tanto que era imposible para nosotros ignorarlos. Era una época en la que había mucha conciencia de las clases sociales (porque el sistema de clases estaba muriendo); Christopher y yo éramos cándidos bohemios de clase media baja, y los dos jóvenes eran miembros vulgares de la baja nobleza (tenían el aire de aquellos que esperan con estoicismo épico la muerte de sus parientes mayores). Al fin, uno de ellos se acercó a nuestra mesa y hundió suavemente su cadera en el sillón, mientras hacía un puchero bajo las finas hebras de su flequillo. La forma de agacharse, el flequillo y el puchero claramente habían funcionado muchas veces para convencer a otros de hacer su voluntad. Después de una pausa coqueta dijo: “Nos van a odiar por esto”, a lo que Christopher respondió: “Ya los odiamos”.

3. Por último, nos trasladamos a 1999. Para ese momento Christopher y yo habíamos conseguido nuevas mujeres y ganado tres niños más (para un total de ocho). Era media tarde en Long Island, y teníamos un plan que con seguridad nos proporcionaría placer: buscábamos la película más violenta posible. Al final nos acercamos a un multiplex en Southampton (tristemente reducidos a Wesley Snipes). Yo dije: “Nadie ha reconocido a Hitch por lo menos en diez minutos”.

¿Diez? Veinte minutos. Veinticinco minutos. Y a medida que se prolongaba la situación más me molestaba. No dejaba de pensar: “¿Qué les pasa? ¿Qué pueden sentir, qué pueden saber si no pueden reconocer a Hitch?”.

Frente a las puertas del teatro había un viejo norteamericano vestido de colores dulces y extrañamente apoyado en un hidrante. Con sus manos temblorosas levantadas en un gesto italiano, le dijo débilmente: “¿Usted nos ama o nos odia?”. El viejo no se refería a la humanidad o a Occidente, se refería a Norteamérica y los norteamericanos. Christopher dijo: “¿Disculpe?”. “¿Nos ama o nos odia?”. Mientras Christopher empujaba la puerta para entrar al vestíbulo dijo sin calidez y sin frialdad, con absoluta equidad: “Depende de cómo se comporten”.

Christopher se aburre con el epíteto de contradictor que lo ha seguido por un cuarto de siglo. Es un autocontradictor: no solo busca la posición más difícil, sino la posición más difícil para Christopher Hitchens. Casi nadie está de acuerdo con él acerca de Irak (sin embargo casi nadie muestra mucho interés en debatirlo). Recordemos también su apoyo a Ralph Nader, su connivencia con la impugnación de cargos contra el odiado Bill Clinton (quien en su nuevo libro, The Quotable Hitchens, ocupa más espacio que ningún otro personaje) y su apoyo a Bush-Cheney en 2004. A menudo, Christopher sufre por sus aislamientos, lo cual es ampliamente conocido y contribuye fuertemente a su magnetismo. Mientras observamos las contorsiones de un Houdini que se encadena a sí mismo, el propio Christopher es el drama. ¿Podría ser ésta la cruz de su carisma? ¿Que Christopher está encerrado en una discusión con él mismo? Sin embargo, la palabra “contradictor” comienza a sonar gastada y si debe haber un epíteto sugiero una precisión: Christopher es un rebelde por naturaleza, con lo que quiero decir que no tiene un respeto automático por nada ni por nadie.

El rebelde es un tipo de ser humano muy extraño. En toda mi vida he conocido solamente a otros dos (mi padre, más o menos hasta sus 45 años, y mi amigo Will Self). Así se detecta a un rebelde: no hacen reverencia o siquiera un gesto de cortesía a sus supuestos superiores (eso no hay necesidad de decirlo); tampoco hacen reverencia o siquiera un gesto de cortesía a los que se puede demostrar que son inferiores a ellos. Si es necesario, Christopher será despiadado con el príncipe, el presidente, el pontífice; y, si es necesario, será despiadado con el taxista, el dueño de un bar (“¿No cambia monedas para usar el teléfono? Está bien, voy a reportarlo con el Consejo de Consumidores”) y con el mesero (“Veo que la propina está incluida, pero usted está diciendo que es opcional. ¿Cuál de las dos es? Escuche, ¿si usted es tan inteligente por qué le sirve a esta gente en semejante pocilga?”). Los modales de Christopher en el día a día son impecables (y completamente democráticos); por supuesto que lo son, porque él sabe que en los modales comienza la moral, pero cada caso es tratado por separado. Tal es la forma de actuar del rebelde. Es una posición vigorizante e incluso seductora y hace que el señor Promedio o incluso el señor Por Encima del Promedio parezcan seres involucionados. La mayoría de nosotros reinamos sobre un caos de vestigios de piedad y prejuicios, inhibiciones casi subliminales, tabúes e instintos de manada, algunos antiguos y otros dinámicamente contemporáneos (como el relativismo moral y la xenofilia apasionada que, al menos en Europa, excluye siempre a los israelíes). Para hablar o escribir sin temor y sin favorecer a nadie (para no escuchar presiones internas), este tipo de voz es invaluable. Por otra parte, como bien sabe el rebelde, la insubordinación compulsiva lo expone a uno al maltrato con heridas autoinfligidas.

Tomemos como ejemplo sus ensayos sobre literatura. En la última década escribió tres reseñas escandalosamente hostiles sobre Ravelstein de Saul Bellow (2000), Terrorista de John Updike (2006) y Sale el espectro de Philip Roth (2007). Cuando las leí me vi una vez más farfullando el consejo de maestra de escuela que le había dado en persona más de una vez: “No les respondas a tus mayores”. El punto es que en estos casos el respeto es obligatorio, porque se ha ganado tras muchos libros y muchos años. ¿Alguien cree que Saul Bellow, quien tenía entonces 85 años, necesitaba que Christopher le recordara en varias ocasiones que los poderes bellowianos estaban desvaneciéndose? (De hecho, si uno lee Ravelstein con respeto, llega a la conclusión de que se trata de un exquisito canto de cisne, lleno de integridad, belleza y dignidad). Si eres un escritor, todos los escritores que te han dado alegrías –como las que le habían dado a Christopher Las aventuras de Augie March y El legado de Humboldt de Bellow, Golpe de estado de Updike y El mal de Portnoy de Roth– están entre tus padres putativos, y los ataques de Christopher fueron fríos y nada filiales. Aquí el irrespeto se vuelve el vicio que con tanta insistencia ejercitó Shakespeare: el de la ingratitud. Y todos los novelistas saben, gracias al rey Lear (que pensaba en sus hijas), cuánto más aguda que los dientes de una serpiente es la ingratitud de un lector.

El arte es libertad. Y en el arte, como en la vida, no hay libertad sin ley. El principio literario fundamental es el decoro, que significa realmente lo opuesto a su definición de diccionario: “Comportamiento que mantiene el buen gusto y la corrección” (es decir, sumisión a un consenso de ovejas). En literatura, decoro significa la concurrencia de estilo y contenido –junto a un tercer elemento que solo puedo expresar vagamente como darle a la obra el peso justo–. No importa cuál es el estilo, ni cuál es el contenido, pero los dos deben coincidir. Si el ensayo es algo así como un arte literario, y lo es, entonces se rige por la misma ley.

He aquí dos citas indecorosas de The Quotable Hitchens: “Ronald Reagan le está haciendo al país lo que ya no puede hacerle a su esposa”. Y sobre el empresario político George Galloway: “La naturaleza cruel, que hubiera podido hacer un perfecto trasero de su cara, ha arruinado el efecto al tomar un ano y tacharlo con colmillos mal pintados”. El crítico D. W. Harding escribió un famoso estudio sobre Jane Austen llamado “Odio regulado”. Aceptamos que el odio es un estimulante, pero no debe volverse un vicio.

La dificultad se ve en su forma más cruda en la desconcertante debilidad de Christopher por los juegos de palabras. Esto no importa tanto cuando el contexto es poco trascendente (simplemente lleva al lector a una pausa), pero un juego de palabras puede estar fuera de lugar en un planteamiento serio. Henry Fowler, el gran vigilante del uso y la gramática de la lengua inglesa, atacó la “suposición de que los juegos de palabras son por sí mismos deleznables… los juegos de palabras son buenos, malos o indiferentes”. En realidad, Fowler estaba equivocado. Christopher acepta en otra parte que “los juegos de palabras son la más baja de las habilidades que se pueden tener con el lenguaje”, pero la verdad es que son el resultado de una ineptitud: irrespetan al lenguaje y lo único que logran hacer es que las palabras se vean estúpidas.

El Christopher verdaderamente citable está lejos de los juegos de palabras. Lo que recordamos de su discurso son las ocurrencias lacónicas; lo que nos emociona de su prosa es su magistral extensión (la antología ideal tendría varios miles de páginas e incluiría capítulos completos de sus memorias recientes, Hitch-22). Los extractos que siguen no son chistes ni burlas, son momentos de cristalización de la lucidez que llevan al lector a preguntarse una y otra vez: ¿si esto es tan obvio, y lo es, por qué teníamos que esperar a que Christopher nos lo mostrara?

“Existe, en los medios norteamericanos, una profunda creencia en que las verdades a medias son mejores que la ausencia absoluta de verdad”.

“Una razón para ser antirracista es el hecho de que ‘raza’ es una construcción sin validez científica. El ADN puede decirte quién eres, pero no qué eres”.

“Una lección melancólica del paso de los años es darse cuenta de que no se pueden hacer ‘viejos amigos’ ”.
Sobre el matrimonio homosexual: “Ésta es una discusión sobre la socialización de la homosexualidad, no sobre la homosexualización de la sociedad; demuestra la propagación del conservatismo, y no del radicalismo entre los homosexuales”.

Sobre Philip Larkin: “La terca persistencia del chovinismo en nuestra vida y nuestras cartas debería ser materia de un estudio crítico y no la ocasión para escandalizarse”.

“Estados Unidos, tu internacionalismo puede y debería ser tu patriotismo”.

“Éste ha sido siempre el absurdo central de la ‘moral’, contrario a lo que pasa con la ‘censura política’: si la cosa tiene, en efecto, una tendencia a depravarse y corromperse, ¿por qué los más depravados y corruptos deben ser los censores que mantienen un ojo vigilante sobre ella?”.

Y uno podría seguir. La máxima de Christopher: “Lo que puede afirmarse sin evidencia, puede desecharse sin evidencia”, ya hace parte del lenguaje y predigo que ocurrirá lo mismo con la siguiente: “Quien niega el Holocausto lo afirma”. ¡Qué justo, qué definitivo! Como las mejores cosas de Hitchens, tiene la fuerza simultánea de una prueba y una ley.

“¿No hay nada sagrado?”, pregunta. “Por supuesto que no”. Y ningún occidental, como señaló Ronald Dworkin, “tiene derecho a no ofenderse”. Aceptamos los errores de Christopher, sus imprudencias, porque son inseparables de su coraje, y la verdadera valentía, axiomáticamente, no da lugar a la discreción.
Como todos saben, Christopher ha dado recientemente el paso del mundo de los sanos al de los enfermos. Se podría decir que lo ha hecho sin el menor estremecimiento y ha escrito acerca del proceso con honestidad y elocuencia incomparables y con el más grande decoro. Sus muchos amigos e innumerables admiradores han llegado a temer el tono de “obituario en vida” de estos textos, pero si la historia tiene que terminar demasiado pronto, entonces su coda incluirá un triunfo.

El demonio personal de Christopher es Dios o, mejor, la religión organizada o el deseo humano de “rendir culto y obedecer”. Él entiende a profundidad que el deseo de adorar y todo lo demás es una reacción directa a lo inmanejable que es la idea de la muerte.

“La religión”, escribió Larkin, “ese vasto brocado musical comido por polillas / creado para pretender que nunca morimos”. Y hay otros indicios imparciales de que la mente secular ha prevalecido. “La vida es una gran sorpresa”, observa Nabokov, “yo no veo por qué la muerte no puede ser mejor”. También por parte de Bellow, en palabras de Arthur Sammler: “¿Es Dios solo el cotilleo de los vivos? Vemos los pájaros que van veloces por la superficie del agua y alguno se sumergirá en ella para no volver a la superficie y no ser visto nunca más… Pero no tenemos pruebas de que no haya profundidad bajo la superficie. Ni siquiera podemos decir que nuestro conocimiento de la muerte es poco profundo. No hay conocimiento”.

Esas ideas todavía nos persiguen, pero ya no tienen el poder de diluir la tinta negra del olvido.

Mi querido Hitch: se ha hablado mucho entre los creyentes de tu inminente adopción de lo sagrado y lo sobrenatural. Esto es una locura, por supuesto. Pero sigo esperando convertirte, a fuerza de fanatismo, a mi propia creencia: el agnosticismo.

En tu influyente libro Dios no es bueno, marcas una distancia muy corta entre lo agnóstico y lo ateo; lo que nos divide a ti y a mí (para volver a citar a Nabokov) es un surco que cualquier rana podría saltar. En otro lugar, escribes que “la medida de una educación es que adquieres alguna noción de las dimensiones de tu ignorancia”, y eso es todo lo que “agnosticismo” significa realmente: un reconocimiento de la ignorancia. Me parece que ese cambio mínimo (que sé que no harás) estaría en consonancia con tu carácter, con tu aceptación de las inconsistencias y las contradicciones, con tu romanticismo intelectual y con tu amor por la vida, que he llegado a considerar mayor que el mío.

El ateísmo es una postura digna de un adjetivo que ninguna persona soñaría con aplicarte: cuaresmal. El agnosticismo, sugiero, es una respuesta ligeramente más lógica y decorosa a nuestra situación –a la indescifrable grandeza de eso que ahora llaman (con vacilación) el multiverso–. La ciencia de la cosmología es un constructo asombroso, a pesar de que todavía es incompleto y aproximado, y que en los últimos treinta años ha cosechado poco más que unas cuantas humillaciones. Entonces, cuando escucho a un hombre declararse ateo, me imagino a una termita emprendedora que, mientras continua en sus tareas, se declara individualista. No puede ser del todo frívolo o ingenuo hablar de una “inteligencia superior”, el cosmos es en sí mismo una inteligencia superior en el simple sentido de que no lo entendemos ni podemos entenderlo.

En fin, no sabemos qué va a pasar contigo ni con todas las demás personas que habitan este plantea. Tu existencia corpórea, oh Hitch, se deriva de elementos liberados por supernovas, por estrellas en explosión. El fuego estelar fue tu útero y el fuego estelar será tu tumba: un camino justo para alguien que siempre ha ardido tan intensamente. La estrella progenitora, ese Útero-H en estado estacionario que llamamos el Sol, pasará de enana amarilla a gigante roja y se hinchará hasta consumir lo que queda de nosotros en unos seis billones de años.

El || Rebelde con pico de oro.

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Desprolijo minibalance 2011

Libro: “God No!”, de Penn Jillette
Serie: The Hour
Película sobrevalorada: El Estudiante
Película subvalorada: Operación regalo
Spotify Playlist: Originals that are less Famous than the Cover Versions
Frase del año: “Conmigo no, Barone”
Blog lamentablemente cerrado: The J-Walk Blog
Fenómeno periodístico: La decadencia de “Barcelona”
Disco nacional: Se puede, de Varias Artistas
Mejor idea de producción de la tv argentina: El cuarto giratorio de Showmatch
Mejor extensión de Firefox: Who stole my pictures?
Libro para periodistas: “Steve Jobs”, de Walter Isaacson
Sitio web:
Mejor hashtag: #NegradasdeMercadoLibre
Hashtag más exitoso: #LiberenOrsai
Hashtag menos exitoso: #Liberenaloslibros

Desprolijo minibalance 2010

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La semana de la salud

En la semana que se consagró la ley seca de cigarrilos, los celulares cancerígenos y los saleros asesinos, viene bien rescatar esta columna para Noticias que escribí con Jorge Bernárdez hace unos años:
La dieta sana de hoy te matará mañana

Esta semana los medios se hicieron eco de un estudio que afirmaba que comer pocas grasas no evita el cáncer ni las enfermedades cardíacas. Cada tanto nos desayunamos (valga la expresión) con la novedad de que ese alimento que veníamos evitando ahora es bueno y que aquél con el que nos atiborrábamos pensando que consumiéndolo viviríamos 104 años, de repente se ha vuelto un asesino letal.

Una persona cuya dieta incluyera pizza, vino y chocolate está, según los cánones clásicos de la buena salud, más cerca de terminar como Homero Simpson que como Ova Sabatini.

Sin embargo, según un estudio realizado en Italia, comer frecuentemente pizza puede prevenir distintos tipos de cáncer.

Las noticias también nos informan que la teobromina presente en el chocolate es mucho más efectiva en la prevención de la tos que la sustancia usada comúnmente para combatirla: la codeína. Y parece que los flavonoides contenidos en el chocolate nos defienden frente a las enfermedades cardiovasculares.

Beber vino tinto, por otro lado, protege contra el cáncer de pulmón. Y diarios y revistas nos revelan que una o dos copas de vino diarias disminuyen el riesgo de enfermedades cardiovasculares.

La dieta del Dr Atkins en los setenta era la panacea para todos aquellos que sumaban kilos de más. Luego pasó a ser la perdición para la gente con excesos de triglicéridos. Atkins terminó sus días apaleado por los colegios de medicina. Hoy, sin embargo, su apellido ha sido reivindicado. Aunque claro, eso al doctor ya no le sirve de nada.

Basta esperar unos años y seguramente encontraremos nuevas refutaciones y nuevos hallazgos. Hoy, ¿el huevo es bueno o es malo para la salud? ¿La carne vacuna es letal para nosotros, además de serlo para nuestras cuentas bancarias?

Las apologías y las condenas de los alimentos no son sólo un tema cíclico. Basta poner en Google cualquier comida y la palabra salud para encontrar conviviendo a cientos de páginas a favor y en contra.

¿Qué actitud tomar frente a estas alertas y revelaciones?¿Seguir comiendo como hasta ahora o atiborrarnos con lasagna si un estudio nos promete que comiéndola tendremos menos caspa?

Estos trabajos, además, siempre provienen de ignotas casas de estudio ubicadas en territorios lejanos cómo Wichita o Wyoming e invariablemente contienen frases que ponen una distancia considerable y advierten que “la investigación está en su fase preliminar” y que “es prematuro hacer proyecciones”, etc. Además, ¿quién va a ir a reclamar a la Universidad de Pittsburgh porque dijeron que la carne de caballo frenaba la diarrea?

Probablemente los que hoy dirigen estudios sobre alimentos que prolongan la vida ya estarán muertos cuando tengan que dar explicaciones. Algo que, a la larga, por otro lado, nos pasará a todos.

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Estoy en el club

Desde hace un mes sumé a la lista un nuevo blog. A mis blogs personales, Malas Palabras, Buscadoor (abandonado, pero pronto a retornar), Posts Urgentes, Archivo de Cibercultura y La Pared y mi espacio en Twitter ahora le agrego mi participación en Club del eBook, un espacio colectivo dedicado a los libros electrónicos que fundamos con @capitanintriga, @matiasfernandez, @aizkiub y @princessxflo.

Allí podrán leer noticias, tutoriales, tips y opiniones sobre el mundo del libro electrónico. No es un blog exclusivamente para gente que ya tiene un lector de ebooks, sino que aquellos que están pensando en comprarse uno o simplemente quieren leerlos en la notebook o en la máquina de escritorio, también lo van a encontrar de utilidad. Está principalmente orientado a los usuarios de Argentina, pero muchos posts son universales.

En el primer mes de vida, nos presentamos, contamos los objetivos del blog, logramos subrayar, comentar y citar y usar Twitter desde el ereader, comparamos al Kindle con el iPad, conocimos el Mobipocket y el Calibre (los mejores gestores de ebooks) y el Kindle trucho (que no es tan trucho), mostramos la funda más barata y la más original, aprendimos qué es el DRM y el Duokan, debatimos sobre si comprar o no un ereader en Argentina. Y por supuesto, bajamos libros gratis para nuestros lectores de ebooks.

El Club del ebook está en, pero también tiene un feed de RSS, está en Twitter y en Facebook.

cibercultura cine cultura gadgets libros música medios moda periodismo periodismo digital slipups tv visual weblogs

Desprolijo minibalance 2010

Software: Spotify
Programa de tv: Breaking Bad y Mad Men
Gadget: Kindle
Mejor blog de autor: Il Corvino
Mejor blog informativo: Arturogoga
Herramienta de Twitter más útil: Twitter Times
Fenómeno periodístico: Revista Orsai
Programa de radio: Tom Schnabel (KCRW)
Sitio web más útil: EZTV
Happening: Festival Pantalla Chica
Disco nacional: Pesebre
Playlist: Banda de sonido de Treme (Spotify)
Película: Shutter Island
Libro: La felicidad paradójica
Sitio nuevo para periodistas:
Rescate: la colección de Hortensia en


Los aportes del Mundial Sudáfrica 2010 a la cultura

Ahora que terminó el Mundial es tiempo de reflexionar sobre su legado. ¿Qué deja Sudáfrica 2010 a la cultura? Si suponen que la respuesta es “Waka-waka” están equivocados: el único aporte que hizo esa canción es dinero a la cuenta bancaria de Shakira. Como el resto de los temas mundialistas, pasará rápidamente al olvido y se desempolvará con tibieza cada cuatro años.

Otras costumbres, objetos, tradiciones y personajes que no existían antes del certamen tendrán, en cambio, una vida un poco mayor:

Riquelme en el Mundial

Esta modelo paraguaya se hizo famosa gracias a un malentendido: varios medios de todo el mundo la sumaron a sus galerías de las mujeres más sexies en las hinchadas de Sudáfrica. Lo cierto es que Larissa Riquelme no había salido de Asunción. Igual le alcanzó para cobrar notoriedad, conseguir 197.000 fans en su página de Facebook, que se rescate un viejo desnudo que había hecho, que prometiera que se iba a desnudar si Paraguay le ganaba a España y que prometiera que aunque Paraguay no le ganó a España igual se va a desnudar. O sea, un futuro asegurado en la televisión y la temporada veraniega argentina de 2011 y, por supuesto, madre de un hijo de Lugo.


Este Nostradamus alemán lleva un 100% de efectividad en sus pronósticos, entre ellos la derrota que dejaría a Argentina afuera de la copa. Sus predicciones son verdaderas conferencias de prensa donde fotógrafos de todo el mundo retratan sus augurios y hasta tiene tres sitios creados en Argentina que refleja los insultos de los hinchas locales en Facebook y Twitter. Nadie mejor que él para predecir su futuro, pero intuímos que se lo consultará antes de elecciones y eventos deportivos. No descarten sucedáneos vernáculos (pingüino adivino, perro vidente, mulita astróloga, etc.)

Mick Jagger es stone

La contracara humana del Pulpo Paul: partido al que Mick acudía, su equipo era derrotado. Pese a que en Argentina se lo ama, después de Sudáfrica 2010, la relación con sus fans ya no será la misma, sobre todo en un país donde se privilegian las cábalas por sobre el juego. Como con Carlos Méndez, Robert Mitchum y Juan Alonso, al nuevo piedra se lo comenzará desde ahora a llamar Miguel Jaguar. Después de la frase anterior, teman por la continuidad de este blog.


Este Mundial convirtió un estúpido objeto de cotillón en fetiche. Aunque este instrumento musical no puede tocar más de una nota, no hubo un solo periodista deportivo que no se haya ocupado de la vuvuzela. Se lanzaron juegos, el infaltable video de Hitler, una orquesta, una de 30.000 dólares, una foto malintencionada contra Maradona usándola, un vuvucelador de sitios web y hasta YouTube fue de la partida.

Dios no es argentino

No es nuevo que la publicidad promete para no cumplir. Pero el abominable aviso de Quilmes llevó el chauvinismo sensiblero a al grado de mesianismo, con un Dios argentino que pronuncia la “ll” como “sh”. Tanto triunfalismo solo logrará conseguir más agnósticos.

El fracaso publicitario también se extiende a Gillette, que eligió como jugadores a Messi, Kaká y Ronaldo y obvió, por ejemplo, a Forlán. Al final con Wanraich les fue mejor…

ACTUALIZADO: A Nike le pasó algo parecido.

Por suerte podemos descansar de los Himnos, las cámaras lentas, los papelitos y las orquestas hasta Brasil 2014.

Faltan 49 cuotas

Aprovechándose de la calentura pre Mundial, los negocios de electrodomésticos hicieron su agosto en junio vendiendo televisores de una tecnología obsoleta en el resto del mundo al triple que en el resto del mundo.

El fenómeno inauguró la era de las 50 cuotas, que hará que estos artefactos estén en la basura antes de que se terminen de pagar.

Más vocabulario

Gracias al fútbol, nuestro idioma es más rico. Insultos como “que la sigan chupando” y “la tenés adentro” ya se incorporaron al habla cotidiana. A este ritmo, Maradona, de no seguir como DT, debería postularse a una silla en la Academia Argentina de Letras.

bloguitos buscadores cibercultura covers cultura gadgets idioma juegos libros música medios moda periodismo periodismo digital politica publicidad slipups tv twitter weblogs

Mesa de saldos XX

Especial autobombo

A punto de tomarme unas merecidas vacaciones, este blog no va a actualizarse, al menos, hasta marzo, cuando cumpla sus primeros cuatro años de vida.

Para que no se aburran durante todo ese tiempo, acá va un listado de otros sitios, blogs y espacios en redes sociales que tienen que ver conmigo.

Malas Palabras: empezando por acá, mi blog personal tiene casi mil entradas para leer. Acá, acá y acá hay una selección de los mejores posts. Recomiendo también el «Manual de Zonceras Digitales», una especie de manifiesto contra los lugares comunes de los medios online. Este es su índice:

Introducción a la zoncera digital
El mediopelo digital
Fe de erratas se busca
Apología del enlace
Free vs. fee, un falso debate
“Festina lente”
Lo que la gente quiere
El pantalón sin agujeros
Cinco minizonceras
Los tres pecados de Soitu
En el Congreso de Medicina Ciudadana

Malas Palabras II: La caída del bulo de Merlín fue un post para recordar a una de las primeras radios truchas argentinas. Allí lamentábamos que no hubiera material online para recordarla. La magia de Internet hizo que llegaran hasta acá fans de la emisora y tres de sus integrantes: Pablo Avelluto, Fernando Collazo y Santiago Salgado. Santiago subió, además, varios momentos para escuchar que reproducimos acá. ¡Misión cumplida!

Malas Palabras III: En hay un miniblog llamado «Malas Palabras, posts urgentes» con mucha música y algunas perlitas de los medios. Se puede escuchar el primer programa de Radio Barcelona, repasar las mejores cortinas de los programas de Nicolás Repetto o de la época de oro de la Rock & Pop y muchos covers y mashups de canciones conocidas.

Buscadoor es un blog que también mantengo con tips, tutoriales y recursos que se pueden encontrar en Internet. Desde allí podrán buscar amigos en Facebook sin registrarse, consultar y debatir dudas del idioma o descargarse libros gratis en español para leer en el Kindle, en la PC o en el celular y otros 176 posts más.

Cibercultura: artículos de cibercultura de distintos medios online que hasta ahora archivaba en privado, desde hace un tiempo los estoy guardando en un blog. es la dirección. Ahí muchos de los textos son en inglés, como la nueva tendencia de los grandes blogs a suprimir la opción de comentarios o por qué los periodistas aman a Apple. Pero también hay notas en español, como el lado oscuro del crowdsourcing o cómo evitar «meteduras de pata» en internet.

Redes Sociales: también estoy en Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin y YouTube. De estos cuatro, recomiendo Twitter, donde tengo publicados 1543 tuits y varios favoritos de otros usuarios.

Otros sitios que tienen que ver conmigo. Van a seguir actualizándose en estos días (no por mí), Noticias Locas y También pueden leer Vida de Averchenko, la primera novela argentina publicada en Internet. O hacer un curso de periodismo a distancia en las clases empiezan este lunes.