Tag Archives: Hunter S. Thompson

Persons of Interest

Persons of Interest was a series of blog posts about artists, writers and thinkers who have had an impact on me at some time in my life and have continued to have an impact. I wanted to write a personal history of art, telling it from my own view, to examine how the art and biographical details have influenced my own critical judgements. It was not an easy process and the posts did not attract many readers; maybe it was too self-indulgent or my choose of persons too obvious. Maybe, the posts didn’t come with enough images; anyway, I don’t think that I will continue it.

Who to include and who to leave out? This is always the question in making such lists. Influences come and go in waves of interest by the public and at various times in your life you get caught up in that wave of general interest. As a kid I must have been reading Robert Hughes in Time Magazine as my parents subscribed to it but I wouldn’t want to count Hughes as an influence or a person of interest. I played on synthesisers and so I was interested in Brian Eno. I am not claiming that I am major fan of Eno but Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World has been on high rotation for decades.

Here are all my Persons of Interests posts. They were written roughly in the order that they started to influence me.

Jan #1 – Desmond Morris

Feb #2 – Andy Warhol

March #3 – Salvador Dali

April #4 – Marcel Duchamp

May #5 – Laurie Anderson

July #6 – Various, Notes from the Pop Underground 

July #7 – Keith Haring

August #8 – William Burroughs

September #9 – Philosophers

December #10  – Hunter S. Thompson

It is not surprising that I am interested in influences when the subject of my thesis was the influence of Max Stirner’s philosophy on Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. I started reading Max Stirner because of one remark by Marcel Duchamp but as I was investigating his relationship to philosophy, both the influence on and the influence of, I felt I had to read him.

“When he (Duchamp) was asked later in life to identify a specific philosopher or philosophical theory that was of specific significance to his work, he cited Stirner’s  only major book – Der Einzige und sein Eignetum…” (Francis M. Naumann “Marcel Duchamp: A Reconciliation of Opposites”  p.29)



Persons of Interest – Hunter S. Thompson

I didn’t want to write about Hunter S. Thompson (1937 – 2005) even though he has been an influence on my journalism and my life. Another lifetime ago I went to my interview for a journalism cadetship with his book Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas my briefcase; it was not a good omen. I used to read a lot of Hunter, I even went through back issues of Rolling Stone Magazine looking for original articles, in the stacks of Monash University Library. It was a great educational experience.

However by early 90s I was getting tired of the Hunter S. Thompson show. I didn’t want to write about him because I don’t like him that much anymore and didn’t want to acknowledge him as an influence. I was definitely tired of Thompson, the sports writer and drunk macho man because I’m not into sports, guns or machismo. Maybe it was reading Ralph Steadman’s book on Thompson, The Joke is Over that summed it up and then Thompson shot himself.

I didn’t want to read Hunter S. Thompson: An Insider’s View of Deranged, Depraved, Drugged Out Brilliance by Jay Cowan (Lyons Press, 2009) a book about Thompson written by Thompson’s residence, Owl Farm’s former caretaker and handyman but Catherine had given it to me. (Think Doonesbury: would you want to read book written about Raoul Duke written by Zeke?) So I put the book aside for a few years before shoving the book in my satchel planning to read it on public transport. Actually I’m surprised that I even started it after my experiences with Seven Years With Banksy. Actually the book is well written (so forget that Doonesbury image of it being written by Zeke) and has allowed me to unravel the twisted tale and make some sense of the life of Hunter S. Thompson. Cowan’s biography is not a kiss and tell exploitation book but it does tell all about Thompson’s sex, drugs, lawyers, guns and money. Cowan doesn’t just report his experience with Thompson he has done his research and sorted out the facts.  In the final chapter Cowan writes about Thompson’s suicide in 2005, his two memorial services and the start of his legacy. Cowan works carefully up to and around Thompson’s death and I’m glad that he did because I didn’t want to wade through all the gibble written at the time.

Sometimes when I’m writing this blog Thompson’s words of wisdom come back to me. I appreciate that Thompson dealt with some serious issues in journalism, especially in his Fear and Loathing: On The Campaign Trail. Gonzo journalism is more than drugs, guns and lawyers, it is more that just trying unsuccessfully to imitate Thompson. It is the knowledge that you can not be unbiased on some issues, that it is realistic to not remove the participant/observer from the report and ethical to acknowledge the bias and involvement of the reporter. Thompson was a real journalist, the man could write, and I have to admit it, confess it to this keyboard and in front of this congregation of readers that Hunter S. Thompson has been a major influence on my life.

Yes, I share a middle initial with the man, like Hunter S. Thompson, T.S. Eliot and William S. Burroughs – I am Mark S. Holsworth. Yes, I wanted to be that “hired geek”, hitting the keyboard in a quest to report the facts in a way that would do some good in the world. Yes.

Political Junkies

“The trouble with Nixon is that he’s a serious politics junkie. He’s totally hooked and like any other junkie, he’s a bummer to have around, especially as President.” Hunter S. Thompson

The 2010 Australian federal election campaign is boring. Even the scandals, leaks, debate, stunts, party back fighting are obvious and insignificant – who cares? If this is the best that Australia can do in discussing the important issues then Australia has a major problem.

Van Rudd’s election campaign as art is a very technical exercise; there is nothing utopian, idealistic or humorous about it. Van Rudd is a serious political junkie, steeped in Marxism, even though he is rejecting “the careerist path into the parliamentary system”. The campaign will all be documented as part of his fine art Masters research at the University of Melbourne.

“The significance of this project will be its contribution to the ongoing art world debate regarding the conflation of art and life. Its innovation lies in its direct relationship to the reality of Australian and global politics, while demonstrating that art is on par with every aspect of living.” Van Rudd emailed me.

Making art on a par, an equivalent with every aspect of living is boring. Trying to make every aspect of living on a par with art is interesting, utopian and creative, even though it might not always work. Van Rudd has set the benchmark for art to be on par with life, too low. To be fair to Van Rudd a lot of contemporary art is dull and boring, on a par with the dullest parts of everyday life, but that is no reason to continue this trend.

I thought that covering Van Rudd’s campaign would add some interest to the federal election but his campaign is one of the dullest. Van Rudd’s campaign might be more interesting and effective if it were a prank like the Chaser’s Yes We Canberra on ABC. The Chaser is full of pranks, fun and humor but Van Rudd’s campaign isn’t a prank. You can do both. The Australian Sex Party’s campaign is serious, confronting serious issues like the Internet filter with sensible policies and ending the tax-exempt status for religions.  But they aren’t political junkies and Alexander Gutman (aka: Austen Tayshus whose comedy record, Australiana went to Number 1 in 1983) is their candidate for Warringah. Is there any difference between a serious campaign election and a prank?

Even the serious media is can’t keep a straight face in the election/joke. “Gillard and Abbott go gangbusters over gas-filled shark darts” (Mark Davis The Age July 29 2010) That will put more fear and loathing into the election campaign. I’m trying to bid for a gas filled shark dart now on Ebay at $495US. I’m on a political junk high and I’m channeling Hunter S. Thompson, the great geek of political journalism everywhere. Hell, I might as well – I was going to cover Van Rudd’s campaign as art but he has been dodging my questions. And I’m failing to understand why Van Rudd’s Marxism is focused on consciousness raising when according to Marx the material world needs to change before people’s minds. If running for office is “direct action”, as well as, art, it might simply be a political junkie trying to get another fix.

This is the second part of my examination of Van Rudd’s federal election campaign as art. See the 1st part: Van Rudd vs Julia Gillard. And for more art related election junk read Marcus Westbury (The Age August 9, 2010) on the arts vote in the seat of Melbourne.

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