Anthony Haden-Guest
Cezanne Das Bad

The Big E 2023

I’m planning my once in a lifetime affair
It’ll be the party of everyone’s year 
The beaux and the belles,
The heaviest swells,
The celebs, the smarties,
The funky, the arty, the glitterati,
The hale and the hearty,
The coy and the tarty,
Those mystery-mongers, the Illuminati,
They’ll all take their places, 
Showing us their real faces 
At my Extinction party
Count on it, everyone will be there    .

Covid was a great dress rehearsal for this 
And the way that we’ve handled it shows that we  
Have learned just how to deal with catastrophe
So should the climate just chance to get worse we’ll
All come together and briskly agree
How to put the process into reversal
We’ll then hunker down and do just what it takes 
To retreat from the brink of the threatening abyss
Re-freeze melted ice caps, refresh those dead lakes
Replant the rainforests,
And whoosh all that stinky bad air away
While rebuilding lost species from their DNA!
Do I hear some folk calling for laughter breaks? 
Hohoho! Hahaha! Yuckyuckyuck! TeeHeeHee!

I see some of you wonder
Yes, it’s easy to see,
Why planning this party so matters to me?
Why should I work as hard as this
On fun and games I’ll be certain to miss?
Well, okay, not that long ago
I also felt exactly so
I was sure I’d be well outta here
Before the bad stuff began to appear
And routinely extreme weather events
Would make almost everyone start to see sense
But that was how I felt, past tense,
Now it’s clear I got my timing wrong
We’ve passed several tipping points 
So now before long – 
But I won’t spoil the end,
Let’s get on with the song

We don’t have to go quietly when we just gotta go
So my closing party for the End of Days
Is going to be one helluva show
There’ll be massed choirs singing songs of praise
Marching bands and firework displays
We’re putting on an Extinction ballet
That’ll be quite a laugh, just to choreograph
And, of course we’ll be playing
Cool Extinction Games
The Blind Man’s Buff will be really fun stuff
The Russian Roulette? You can totally bet
That’ll be something no-one will forget
But art will be the beating heart of the show
Art throbbing with concepts, art pulsing with feelings
Will be slathered on every available wall
Sculptural tableaux? No trouble at all
And squads of nouveaux Michelangelos
Will be on hand to have a go on the ceilings

There’ll be multiple dance floors at my Extinction do
So those wishing to say goodbye two by two

Can pick a polka or a Viennese waltz
Get ’em all dancing! That is my goal
And you’ve got to admit that it does take some balls
To bring back dance from an olden time
To a time like just right now when hardly a soul
Could take to the floor and do real Rock and Roll

We’ve chosen our special modes of departure
As we think, when we bother, about what lies ahead
But thinking is boring, act busy instead
It’s a performance event as much as an art show
For most it’s a casual Extinction Trot
Should we take the science seriously? Certainly not
For others of us it’s an Extinction Stroll
Take the news calmly, that is our goal
So let’s bring things down to a leisurely pace 
We’ll give ourselves some breathing space 
We might even win the human race
Others accept it’s dead serious, so
Feel a dignified march is the right way to go
Wow! Here are some folk on Extinction Sprints
Who are these speed demons? I’ll give you some hints
They’re hard-working dudes who wholly despise
Ignorant writers who fantasise
And wicked scientists spreading pure lies
To bring about a great system’s demise 
Green’s the loveliest of colors 
When it glows from heaped dollars
Please don’t spoil our fun!
Some put up their fists for survivalist fights
Let me put this politely, God bless everyone
But soon comes the time to turn off the lights.

In such well-heeled places as Silicon Valley they say

Mega-rich dudes have been working out ways to avoid
The stuff that’s heading the rest of our way
On a ocean platform, they call that Seasteading,
Or find a safe planet, arm your own asteroid
We admire your spirit, you’d have been so missed
But you’re all going to find that you’re till on the list
So you just gotta go when you gotta go
I’ll just say Yoiks! And Tally-ho!
Pip Pip! Ta Ta! And Tootle Ooh!
And everyone’s welcome, no matter who
There’ll be no clipboard Nazis, no turnaways
From the closing night for the End of Days

Then when we’re finally all outta here
That’s just when the UFOs at last will appear
They’ll do their due diligence, plough through the data
Note our brilliant achievements, spot some silly mistakes,
Separate the real pix from hypnotic Deep Fakes
Cruise ruined museums, see breathtaking stuff,
But in such bits and pieces that they’ll find it quite tough
To see why a Happy Ending was such a non-starter,
And then when they’ve taken in quite enough
They’ll be heading right onwards past sun after sun
Searching for a world that’s not totally done.


The Whammy Song

She flew in the window
  They were watching the door
  She hid in a glass of
  Merlot on the floor

  Excuse me, who are you? 
  I don’t really care
  But didn’t we meet somehow
  Sometime, somewhere?

  One wall was heaving
  It panted with lust
  She lifted her legs
 As she rolled in the dust

 Excuse me, who are you?
 I just want to know
 What made you think
 You could treat me so?

 The clock squats there plotting
 It’s so on her case
 She’s on the clock’s menu
 It’ll feed on her face

 Excuse me, who are you?
 I’m feeling no pain
 Do you know who I am?
 I won’t ask you again

 The fridge and the cooker
 Are poisoning her name
 The microwave too is playing that game
 The mixer, the dryer
 They are all just the same
 She can’t understand it
 It’s so underhanded
 She loves her machines, she respects each machine
 Keeps them humming and thrumming and blindingly clean
 Why are they acting so mean, mean, mean, mean?

 Excuse me, who am I?
 Do you truly not know?
 I knew you quite well
 A long time ago
 I might be more forgiving
 If I were still living
 But me? Just who am I?
 That’s my dilemma 
 That’s my double whammy
 I think you should go


The Secret History of Modern Art: The Plot is Hatched

Our story begins with Gustave Courbet
 Who was a Communard by the way
 He knew just which painterly button to push
 A slap in the face with a big girl’s bush
 So it’s goodbye, Boldini, Bougereau,
 Winterhalter, James Tissot
 The Last of the Masters have had their day
 And the War Against Beauty was underway

 It’s a muddy road to Paul Cezanne
 If you like awkward, Paul’s your man
 Inedible apples, unbeddable nudes
 Nature in one of her nastier moods
 If a carpenter made a table like that
 He’d be out of a job in ten seconds flat  
 Your school friend, Zola, thought you’d gone mad*
 But you made it okay to paint real bad 
 And that was your part in the anti-art plan

 So let’s catch up with Vincent Van Gogh’s
 Provencal idyll with Paul Gauguin
 Then that field of corn, those threatening crows
 In the sullen glare of a clouded sun
 Take that yellow chair and lend me an ear
 Madness has entered the picture here
 And Modernism has truly begun

 George Seurat’s stuff looks placid at first  
 But he’s painting a world that’s ready to burst
 Ahead lie Bridget Riley and Op
 And the spots epidemic of Damien Hirst
 They applaud Seurat as a Pointilliste
 Did you know he was also an anarchist
 Like his bomb-maker pal, Felix Feneon?
 Top hats in the park? They’ll soon be gone!
 Those particle clusters were only the start
 Of a negative force-field too strong to resist
 That would tear apart beauty and art
 Pablo Picasso, a giant among men,  
 Said he painted like Raphael when he was ten
 Came La Vie en Rose, then his whole world blued
 Did someone say kitsch? That’s really quite rude!
 Witchdoctors to the rescue! Picasso plunged on
 To Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
 Catch a whiff of the girls’ Barcelona pong!
 He shut it away. Sadly, not for long
 Then he and Braque sliced and diced and glued
 Some called it “Cubism” which sounded crude**
 So as -isms go it was quite a good fit
 Matisse couldn’t make heads or tails of it***
 Luxe, calme et volupte
 That was Henri’s way and Henri would say
 That a businessman after a long hard day
 Should treat his work like an easy chair
 Picasso ripped through styles like a man possessed
 And as if in some eerie way he guessed
 The needs, and the greed, the hungers he’d feed
 Of collectors to come, a predator breed 
 It was Picasso wheeled out the shopping cart
 And created the Supermarket of Art
 Becoming art’s first true celebrity
 But when Gary Cooper and Chaplin dropped by
 His English embarrassed him, and that’s
 Why he pulled silly faces and wore silly hats
 It was David Douglas Duncan’s pix
 In Life that cured his celebrity fix****
 When Picasso grew old, this giant amongst men,
 Didn’t paint like Raphael but a child of ten
 Raymond and Jacques really painted quite well
 Better by miles than their brother Marcel
 But it’s Marcel who’s the toast of the crème de la crème.
While Raymond and Jacques have dropped out of the frame
 They’re goner than gone, buster than bust
 While Marcel is eating Pablo’s dust
 Do you want to know the reason for this?
 Those painful puns, LHOOQ,
 Make people feel cool, like nobody’s fool
 He saw the importance of taking the piss!

 Cocteau said the trick to being a star
 Is knowing just how far to go too far
 Now the Picassoid garden has long gone to seed
 While Duchamp Inc. makes much of product we need
 So anyone can be a belle at the art world ball
 With one half-smart idea, a huge helping of gall
 And no visible art-making talent at all

  (To be continued with Chapter II, The Plot Sickens)

*     Clear from reading Zola’s "The Masterpiece"
**     Louis Vauxcelles both came up with the phrase “Les Fauves” in 1905 and applied the word “cubism” to a Braque in 1908. He meant it as a compliment in neither case.
***    As Matisse told Michel Georges-Michel, quoted in From Renoir to Picasso.
****    Told to me by John Richardson 


Anthony Haden-Guest

Anthony Haden-Guest is a poet, journalist, critic and cartoonist who has been published in The New Yorker, Paris Review and Rolling Stone. He has lately been a contributor to Whitehot Magazine.

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Anthony Haden-Guest