Monday, October 18, 2021

Does the world really need a connected cologne bottle? (I'm looking at you, Paco Rabanne.)

Sex has always sold. And one of the products that sex has always sold has been men's cologne.

A late 1960's ad for English Leather featured a beautiful woman uttering those famous words, "All my men wear English Leather...or they wear nothing at all." Aramis was "peppery and potent." (I'll just bet.) And then along came Paco Rabanne, with the come-hither artist, hanging around dialing-for-whatever in the rumpled-sheet bed - Rumpled? Gee, why would that be? - with the mirror propped up next to it. 

I found all these ads cheesy. But when it came to cheese, Paco Rabanne, with the after-the-fact phone call "narrative" was the cheesiest. 

Admittedly, men's cologne doesn't factor that prominently in my life, but I would have thought that all of these brands were defunct.

But, nah. They're all still around.

It's just that it looks like, when it comes to their latest story, Paco Rabanne is all sexed out. That naked guy engaged in a sexy, phone convo has been replaced by a robot. Tech sells! Or at least the folks at Paco Rabanne think that's the case.

The Phantom bottle is a retro-futurist piece of visionary design, but the shiny silver robot-shaped bottle is more than that. It’s also the first connected bottle, turning that shiny silver robot into your “wingman.” (Source: Happi)

Gee, I know that the always-on generation loves all things virtual, but a cologne bottle replacing the classic wingman. Seriously, bro?

A contactless communication NFC chip is embedded in the spray caps of the 100 ml and 150 ml bottles. Just touch Phantom’s head with your smartphone to connect to the Phantom universe, featuring exclusive content curated by Paco Rabanne: interactive filters, personalized playlists, augmented reality, interactive games and more.

Content curated by Paco Rabanne? All my content's curated, or it's not content at all

I know that all sorts of consumer brands are looking to engage their users, build brand loyalty via clicks and eyeballs and likes and Instas and retweets and sharing (is caring). But I really don't quite get the desire or need for a consumer to have a relationship with items that they buy. I really like my Asics sneakers, my Bombas socks, my Brigham's Mocha Almond ice cream. I'm brand loyal - I inherited it from my mother - to Scott toilet paper. I swear by Teddie's peanut butter. But I really don't look to any of these products for personalized playlists and interactive games. Augmented reality? No thanks. Plain old reality is plenty real enough without augmenting it.

And I really don't want or need any product, no matter how keen I am on it, to know where I am at any given time. Does L.L. Bean need to know where I'm going when I put that new fleece on? Hell, no. 

Then there's what's in the robot bottle. And here, I guess, we're back to sex sells, even if the sex has been conjured up by AI-deploying brainiacs. 

The ingredients and the way they’re combined were selected because neuroscientists have demonstrated they can activate brain areas associated to seduction, alertness and energy. 

Just spitballin' here, but I'm going to go out on a limb to say that the guys who want to commune with a cologne via a wifi-enabled bottle cap on a jar that looks like a robot doesn't have all that great a need to "activate the brain areas associated to seduction." 

Maybe I'm just old school, but if I had to pick between a fellow following a Paco Rabanne inspired playlist, sent to his smartphone by a cologne bottle, and the cheesy guy in the rumpled bed communicating remotely the old fashioned way, give me the Bakelite phone man any old time. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

The lost art of accordion repair

Although I don't play the accordion, I guess you could say I have accordion in my blood. Somewhere, anyway.

My Grandpa Wolf played the accordion. I don't remember him at all: he died before I was two. And it may have been a concertina that he played, not an accordion. But both of my Wolf uncles - Bob and Jack - were full-blooded accordionists. 

Jack even had a country-swing-polka trio, Jake Wolf and the Midwesterners. This was in the early fifties, and Jack was in his early twenties. 

I never saw the group perform, but when we were in Chicago for our every-other-year trips, it was always a thrill when Jack and/or Bob took out their case and started running their fingers up and down the keyboard. (They both played piano accordions, not button accordions.)

What songs did they play? I don't remember. "Beer Barrel Polka"? "Pennsylvania Polka"? I do know that "Blue Skirt Waltz" (as popularized by Frankie Yankovic) was a family favorite. 

The only piece I actually remember either of them playing was "After You're Gone," played by Jack on the piano. (My mother's family was pretty musical. Everyone played at least one instrument. My mother played the violin and a bit of piano.)

I did hear quite of bit of accordion music growing up. My father couldn't stand Lawrence Welk, but we watched his show every week and were thus exposed to both Lawrence (a-one-and-a-two-and-a...) and the accordion meister Myron Floren. 

But I didn't know many kids who played the the accordion. The only one who comes to mind is Teddy B, an older kid on our street who went to Polish Catholic school, not our parish school, so it wasn't like we were big buddies or anything. His claim to fame was an appearance on Community Auditions. This was a weekly talent contest on Channel 4 which billed itself as "New England's showcase for talented amateurs." Teddy didn't win. Talented amateurs from Worcester never did. (Proof point: Teddy's sister Roberta also appeared on Community Auditions, twirling her baton. She didn't win, either.)

Anyway, my uncles Bob and Jack are both long gone. (They died young. Bob was 45, Jack in his early 50's.) And I don't give much thought to accordions.

Having spent a fair amount of time at sessions in Irish pubs, I have heard a fair amount of accordion music over the course of my adult life. (Those accordions would probably have been button, not piano accordions.)

But mostly, if I gave any thought to accordions, that thought would have been that accordions are currently played by old schoolers, Tex-Mex bands, Zydeco bands, and hipsters. And that, while not exactly a growth profession or avocation, accordion playing is still sort of a thing. (Mostly thanks to Tex-Mex and hipsters. They aren't making any more old schoolers, and we're dying off.)

It turns out that lack of accordionists is not the issue. The issue is that accordionists are facing a shortage of accordion repairers. 

There are a couple of repair shops out in Western Mass, but one focuses primarily on button accordions and concertinas. There's a fellow on the Cape who inherited his know-how from his father. Paul Tagliamonte, Jr. outlined the complexities of accordion repair for Boston Globe writer A.Z. Madonna, herself an accordion player who believes that she'll need to become an accordion repair adept for self preservation. Here's what repair entails:
There are three essentials to the art of accordion maintenance. First is the know-how; second is spare parts such as keys, reed valves (usually leather strips), and metal rods; and third is tools, though most of these can’t be found at your average hardware store. Tools like a set of bellows to test reeds without having to put the whole instrument back together again; a setup to melt wax at a low enough temperature to set reeds without burning them; maintenance and tuning tools that look like what a dentist might use to scrape plaque off someone’s teeth; even a tray that indexes bass buttons to make sure they go back onto the instrument the same way they came off. (Source: Boston Globe)
Yikes, even if I were going to consider taking up accordion repair in my great old age - which I most decidedly am not - just the gathering of the required equipment would have turned me away.

It's not just an American problem.

Castelfidardo, in Italy, is something of the capital of the accordion kingdom. They're having a hard time finding young folks who want to commit to the life of accordion repair. And a lot of their master technician have taken the tricks of their trade to the grave with them.

I don't want to see accordion music die out. 

Sure, it can be sappy - think "O Sole Mio" - but mostly it's lively. And, seriously, how can you not smile when you hear polka music. Or even the old accordion classic of my childhood, "Lady of Spain."

Sure, repairing an accordion is probably not as much fun or glamorous as playing the instrument, but I sure hope some folks take it up. 

And what I wouldn't give for a recording of Jake Wolf and the Midwesterners to suddenly appear...

Thursday, October 14, 2021

High anxiety about racism

Years ago, Sean McDonough was the regular TV announcer for the Red Sox. I liked him, and thought he did a good job. I can't remember why he was fired: Wanted too much money? Too candid for the powers that be were? He's been back doing part time radio announcing for the Sox, but - even though I think baseball on the radio is great - I don't usually listen to games; I watch them. 

Anyway, McDonough is in a bit of hot water for making a crack the other night about the name of SF Giants executive Farhan Zaidi, who is of Pakistani descent, and the first Muslim GM in Major League Baseball. (Not to mention a brainiac, with an undergraduate degree from MIT and a PhD in economics from Berkeley.)

When one of his colleagues in the booth mentioned Zaidi, McDonough's off the cuff reaction was, “Their GM’s name is ‘High Anxiety’?”

Not exactly a grand witticism, but not the end of the world, either. 

To me it was kind of dumb. A junior-high level comment making light fun of someone's name. Because, at the junior-high level, people's names get made fun of. Even a dirt-common last name like Rogers came in for a jape or two back in the day. C.f., Roy Rogers (and Trigger), Ginger Rogers (vs. people who aren't great dancers). 

One of my brothers had a high school friend named Butts. You can just imagine what came his way.

While McDonough's comment was by no means uproariously funny, it was a tiny bit funny. I'm guessing that, if they let themselves, every baseball GM would be in a state of high anxiety pretty much all the time. Of course, they didn't get to where they are by not being able to manage the pressure, channel their anxiety, etc.

The Giants were the winningest team in baseball this season, but nipping at their heals - finishing just a game back - were their archrivals the LA Dodgers. Maybe "high anxiety" isn't the exact feeling, but the pressure sure is on for them to beat the Dodgers in their series, and go on to win it all. 

And, let's face it, the name Zaidi does sound like anxiety without the anx. 

So dumbish joke, but no big deal.

Not so fast.

All of a sudden, McDonough's being accused of insensitivity at best, and racism at worst. 

Boston, of course, has a long and sometimes well deserved reputation for racism. I suspect that it's not all that much worse here than in most other large American cities, but we do have our share of iconic (in a terrible way) incidents. Who can forget the picture of the young white guy (Irish, South Boston) charging Ted Landsmark, an African American lawyer, using an American flag as a spear, just outside of Boston City Hall during the busing crisis of the 1970's? 

And I suspect that, when it comes to racism, Boston gets judged more harshly than other places because we have an equal reputation as a liberal bastion full of smug, holier than thou progressives, looking down our smug, progressive noses at the rest of the country. 

All this said, we haven't had anything near the types of racist cop incidents that have been recorded in NYC, Chicago, or Minneapolis. It could be worse... 

Still, there's no denying that we're a city with a largely white male entrenched power structure. (And plenty of virulent racists, most of them not, I'll venture, part of that entrenched power structure.)

Whoever our new mayor is, come November, the entrenched power structure will be placed a bit on its ear. Two women are running, one an Asian-American, the other of half-Tunisian descent who identifies as a POC. Whatever happens, our mayor is not going to be an Irish- or Italian-American for the first time in, like, forever. (Make that mostly Irish with one Italian disruptor/interruptor, Tom Menino, along the way.)

But the September primary run-off brought up all the old accusations of racism. There were five candidates. (It's a non-partisan position and election, but everyone who runs is a Democrat.) Three were African-American, but the two candidates who advanced to the final were not. Out came the cries of racism. But not if you do the math. Blacks make up about one-quarter of Boston's population. Black candidates for mayor received 40% of the vote. Since Black turnout was proportionately lower than white turnout, it looks like a lot of whites voted for a Black candidate. And every voter voted for a person of color. 

But the day after the primary, out came the cries of racism. Once you get a reputation, it's hard to live it down.

As for Boston baseball, the charges of racism are built on a solid foundation. Tom Yawkey - not a Bostonian, I will note; he was from South Carolina - was the old-school racist owner of the Red Sox who made sure the Red Sox were the last team to have a Black player on the roster. Yawkey rejected the opportunity to bring up Jackie Robinson. And waited until twelve years later to bring on Elijah "Pumpsie" Green to break the Red Sox color barrier. (Supposedly, Tom Yawkey came around in his old age.)

So there's that lurking in the background of Sean McDonough's clumsy comment.

And that's all it was. At least IMHO.

He wasn't making fun of Farhan Zaidi for his Pakistani origins, making a crack of the why isn't he running a cricket team variety. He wasn't laughing about Zaidi's being a Muslim. He was just remarking on the fact that his last name happens to sound a bit like the word anxiety. Trite, not racist. As we used to say in Worcester, "Count to three and I'll laugh for you." One. Two. "Ha-ha, couldn't wait."

There's plenty of problems with racism in Boston, in Massachusetts, in the United States, in the world. 

Words matter, but making Sean McDonough's little not-so-bon-mot the center of anyone's attention is, to me, a diversion from the really ugly things that are happening out there. 

We should all have some level of high anxiety about racism, and we should be doing more about it than freezing in place in our anxiety. As white folks, however, we deserve to experience anxiety over racism. 

Maybe I'm just not the sensitive type, but I'm not sensing racism in Sean McDonough's crack. 

Nothing to see here, folks. Let's move on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Trading in basketball court for criminal court.

I was never all that much of a pro basketball fan. Basketball was more my husband's thing, and I haven't followed it any too closely since Jim died. 

A few times, when out and about, we - but which I mean he, as Jim was a far better celebrity spotter than I ever was -  spotted NBA players.

Not that I came up empty. I saw Celtic great Don Nelson near the Boston Garden. (Admittedly, guys as tall as the average basketball player are pretty noticeable.)

But mostly it was Jim.

Once, in NYC, we saw a former Knick. I think it was Willis Reed. Or it may have been Earl "The Pearl" Monroe.

We saw Kevin McHale at Logan Airport. And K.C. Jones and his wife in a restaurant once. 

And it was Jim who recognized Celtic (at the time) Tony Allen, cruising Newbury Street in a big, shiny, black, pricey car. Mercedes? Beamer? One of those...

I haven't heard the name Tony Allen in years, but he's in the news now, thanks to his having been implicated in a scam bilking the NBA's benefits plan out of $4M in fake medical and dental claims. From 2017-2020, the players pocketed $2.5M; the "providers" of the faux services got the rest. 

Tony Allen is one of 18 players - another is former Celtic Glen 'Big Baby' Davis - named in an indictment by the US Attorney's office. The other day, the FBI branched out around the country and arrested most of them, including Terrence Williams, who was the mastermind of the scheme. He made the arrangements and got kickbacks from the former players.
[US Attorney Audrey] Strauss said prosecutors have travel records, email, and GPS data that proves the ex-
players were sometimes far from the medical and dental offices at the times when they were supposedly getting treated.

In one instance, she said, an ex-player was playing basketball in Taiwan when he was supposedly getting $48,000 worth of root canals and crowns on eight teeth at a Beverly Hills, Calif., dental office in December 2018.

...Williams was also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a potential penalty of up to two years in prison, for trying to frighten a co-defendant into paying a kickback by impersonating a health plan employee. (Source: Boston Globe)

None of these guys were ever household name superstars. Tony Allen probably had the best career. 
Still, the 18 combined to make $343 million in their on-court NBA careers, not counting outside income, endorsements, or what any may have made playing overseas.
It's likely that most of these men have little to show for their years on the court, rather than before the court. One of them is so broke he qualified for the services of a public defender.

A very sorry story about a lot of professional athletes is that they don't handle the financial side of the business very well. Total earnings, that should have been enough to provide a comfortable cushion for 'what's next', if not enough to retire and go golfing, evaporate. Agents scoop out a hefty sum. Many of the athletes come from poor backgrounds, and the expectation when a son/brother/buddy makes it to the pros is that he'll take care of the folks he knew back when. A house for mom. And everyone else. An entourage of schoolyard buds. Not to mention the quite natural (but - easy for me to say - sad) desire of a young man - especially one who grew up with precious little - to buy the flash car, the expensive clothing, the bling. 

So, there they are. In their thirties, maybe forties, with little to show for their life's work. And here's someone they know, someone who's maybe a lot like them in terms of background and career, promising them some walking-around money. And that money's easy. And no doubt positioned as a "no one gets hurt" kind of thing. Who cares if the NBA takes a hit? The league is rich. They won't even miss it.

What the NBA 18 might end up missing is their freedom.

Trading in basketball court for criminal court may turn out to be a really stupid play - a play that gets them fouled out of the game for as many as twenty years. Sad...

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Knocker Uppers

Britain may have been the home to the Industrial Revolution, ushering in the brave new world of mass produced goods, anomic urban living, and toiling in the factory. Unfortunately, those who toiled in the factories, especially if they wanted to be consumers and not just survivors, mass produced goods were not as cheap and widely available as they are now. And unfortunately alarm clocks and watches weren't readily available to, or affordable by, those toilers. 

In plenty industries, in plenty parts of the world, factory work remains dreadful: dangerous, smelly, noisy, ill paid. (Would you want to work in a meat processing plant? Me neither. I did work one summer in a shoe factory, and that was quite enough for me. It was only quasi-dangerous: fumes to inhale, ancient elevators, protruding nails that could shred your fingertips as you felt around the bottom of a boot to find the protruding nails you needed to pull out. But it was plenty smelly, noisy, and ill paid. By the end of the work week, there were some workers in my section who went without lunch because they'd run out of money.) 

But factory life was especially terrible in early industrial Britain. You worked hard under harsh circumstances. Brutalization of workers was the norm, and you'd better not be a minute late for work or you could get your pay docked. (I think that in "my" factory, if you punched in a minute late, or out a minute early, they docked you for a quarter of an hour.) In some factories, the gates closed after the workers entered for their shift. If you got there a second too late, too bad. You'd lose a day's pay, and maybe even your job.

None of this flexible, make your own hours that many of today's professional "knowledge workers" enjoy - especially if you're working from home in your comfy pants. Back in the day, you really didn't want to be late. Which meant you really didn't want to oversleep. 

What was a worker to do? Unless you had whatever they used to call a built-in alarm clock back in the day before they had alarm clocks, you needed whatever they would have called a wake up call. If they'd had such a thing as a wake up call. Back in the day.

What they did have in Britain, especially in the industrial north, in the docklands, in the mining towns, was someone called a "knocker-upper." Knocker-upped came around and tapped on your window with a long pole. Or, used a pea shooter to wake you up. 

I don't suppose it paid all that much, but I do suppose the job of knocker-upper had its charms. You got to work outside, rather than in a fetid factory or in a mine where you always had to fear a cave-in. You were an entrepreneur, your own man - or your own pea-shooting woman. After you covered your shift, the rest of the day was your own. Sure, this probably meant scrounging around for other work or seeing if you could find a lump of coal that had fallen off the coal cart (male division), or figuring out how you were going to feed a family of 8 on one turnip, or scrubbing diapers by hand (female division). 

On the other hand, the pressure must have been immense. You miss a window, a bloke gets fired, it's on you.

I was this years old before I'd ever heard of a knocker-upper, which I learned about when this picture of a knocker-upper floated across my Twitter timeline. But they were apparently still a thing up until the 1970's, which is pretty shocking, given that there were plenty of cheap alarm clocks and watches around by then. Timex, anyone?

Now it's another one of those lost professions. No great loss, of course. But a little bit of color and a historic artifact, gone. Today, most of us - even, I'm guessing, most of those still toiling away in rancid factories, at least here in the States and throughout Europe - have a smartphone to wake them up.

But I do have one chicken-and-egg question about the knocker uppers. Who knocked up the knocker upper? 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Better late than never. (The Boston Marathon's back.)

Patriot's Day is pretty much my favorite holiday. I like it because it's peculiar, and pretty much particular to Massachusetts and a couple of other states. And it's OFM (Originally from Massachusetts): one-if-by-land, "where once the embattled farmers stood" and all that. 

And, of course, it's the day that the Boston Marathon is run, which is always - almost always; always up until 2013, anyway - a great time to be in Boston.

It's held in April, so the weather tends to be a crapshoot, everything from hellacious ice rain to unseasonably warm to perfect early spring weather. The city is buzzing, and while I preferred the Marathon back in the old days before it became a big "thing", I enjoy seeing the crowds out and about, especially the runners. So many of the amateurs hang around for a day or two and can be seen wandering and/or limping around in their jackets and finisher medals the day after. 

The city gets decked out in blue and yellow - the Marathon colors - and, the best part of it: the Red Sox play a morning (11 a.m. start) date, so the game is over while the runners are still streaming through Kenmore Square, just a bit down the street from Fenway Park. Much my favorite game to be at. It's been a pandemically bad last couple of years, so no Patriots Day game. 

But the Boston Marathon 2021, postponed from its traditional April date, is being run today. And the Red Sox, somehow, are still playing in October. And they'll be playing the Rays on Marathon Day. In Boston. I read that they are exploring an 11 a.m. start time, but the broadcasting gods may not allow. And I'm pretty sure they won't be able to resist wearing their hideous yellow-and-blue salute-to-the-Marathon unis. Baseball players are notoriously superstitious, and are guys believe that the yellows bring them luck. (Note: not always.)

As for the Maraton, there will be fewer runners, and the timing's different, but IT'S ON! And this will be the most lit that Boston's been since covid first crept in via the BioGen super-spreader conference, which was held in late February 2020. 

I may mosey around a bit in the morning, just to see what's up, but on Friday, while walking around Boston's Back Bay, I was starting to see plenty of runners, many wearing older Marathon jackets to let the world know they've already run Boston. And lots of visitors: Marathon + holiday weekend (which is now called Indigenous Peoples Day) + Red Sox still playing = crowds.

On Marathon Monday afternoon, I'll be venturing out to a party. 

A post-Marathon party was a long-standing tradition at Kennedy Brothers PT, whose co-founding brother Jake Kennedy was a 38 time Boston Marathoner and patron saint of many local runners. As co-founder (with his wife Sparky) of Christmas in the City, a charity focused on making sure that families living in homeless shelters have a bit of holiday comfort and joy, Jake was also the patron saint of kids in need and of volunteers. (The big Christmas in the City in-person events weren't held last year, and won't be this year, either, but the party alone used 2,000 volunteers. I've been a year-round volunteer for a while, Jake having sucked me in when I was a patient of his.)

And speaking of patron saints, I just got an email from a Christmas in the City donor who suggested - half seriously - that we start up a petition to have Jake declared a saint, and ask for Cardinal Sean O'Malley's help with the effort. I can just hear Jake. He would be laughing uproariously at the very thought. 

Anyway, a year ago this week, Jake died. ALS. He had the fast-moving type, and had a year from diagnosis-to-death. 

And today, his son Chippy is running Boston to honor his dad, and to raise money for ALS research at UMass Medical Center. (Zack, another of Jake's sons, is an ALS researcher there.)

When it comes to dying, there aren't a ton of ways I can think of that are much worse than ALS. 

The cure can't come fast enough.

So this afternoon, I'll be at Kennedy Brothers PT, celebrating Chip's run, celebrating Jake's life. 

Here's to you, Jake! 


I wrote about my friend Jake here

And, since this is the holiday once known as Columbus Day, here are some Columbus Day thoughts

Friday, October 08, 2021

Take the Money and Run alrighty

The art world is so fascinating. Between the crazy prices that works of art are sold for and the crazy things that can pass for art, it's just nuts. These crazy things include, but are not limited to:

  • The Banksy work that sold for $1.4 million and then proceeded to shred itself via an embedded shredder. Since the shred was only partial, it's no surprise - but still a shock - that the partially shredded work is coming up for auction, with an anticipated price of over $8 million. 
  • More fun and frolic with Banksy, who "has remained prolific throughout the pandemic, leaving spray-painted rats in face masks on London Underground trains." (Source: CNN) Ah, the old spray-painted rats in face masks routine. But is it ART?
  • Any work of art sold as an NFT. (Non-Fungible Token: don't get me going.
  • Pretty much anything that's under the umbrella of performance art. 
The latest crazy shot across the crazy bow is brought to us by Danish artist Jens Haaning.
Haaning was asked to recreate two of his previous works: 2010's "An Average Danish Annual Income" and "An Average Austrian Annual Income," first exhibited in 2007. Both used actual cash to show the average incomes of the two countries, according to a news release from the artist. (Source: CBS News)

As part of his deal with Denmark's Kunsten Museum of Modern Art, Haaning was fronted $84K in cold hard to create the updated work. (The combined figure for the original was roughly $77K.) But what Haaning delivered was something a bit different. Unlike the frames stuffed with money that the Museum anticipated, they got a new work, a couple of empty frames entitled "Take the Money and Run."

As Museum director Lasse Andersson deadpanned after the works were uncrated:

"Subsequently, we could ascertain that the money had not been put into the work."

Mostly, Andersson was amused. He is, after all, running a museum of modern art. And if you can partially shred a work and resell the remains for a multiple of five or six, pretty much anything goes. 

 "Jens is known for his conceptual and activistic art with a humoristic touch. And he gave us that – but also a bit of a wake up call as everyone know wonders were did the money go," he said.

So, not to worry.

Plus Haaning is contractually obligated to return the cash when the exhibit closes in January. It remains to be seen what Haaning plans to do, come the due date, but he has released a statement about an artist's obligation to break with "structures [which] are completely unreasonable." Structures like the way artists are treated. Unless, I guess, you're an artist like Banksy (estimated net worth: $50M) or Haaning himself (estimated net worth: $17M).  

In commenting on Banksy, art historian Matthew Israel noted: 

What's so great and enduring about Bansky's works is they question so many assumptions of the art world, from the importance of individuality and biography, to the appropriate place of art, or the value of art, or the fetishization of the poor and art of 'the street,'" Israel said.

Well, I don't know what's so enduring about self-shredding art, but Banksy has sure cashed in on "the fetishization...of art of 'the street'". (Much of Banksy's career has revolved around street art/graffiti.) And he seems to have inspired Jens Haaning to take the money and run. Let's see how far he gets come January. 

There is, of course, nothing new about craziness in the art world. Over 100 years ago, Marcel Duchamps walked into a plumbing supply shop, walked out with a urinal, signed it "R. Mutt" and submitted it to an exhibition. 

I don't know how much Duchamps ever made off of it, especially given that the original ended up in a dumpster. But an edition of it sold a while back for nearly $2M. 

Ah, the wild and crazy art world.