Ask A Genius 264: Worldly Kitsch

In-Sight Publishing

August 19, 2017

[Beginning of recorded material]

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is kitsch?

Rick Rosner: Kitsch is easy comforting art. In a previous time, everybody would know what they are; do you know what Hummel figurines are?

Jacobsen: No.

Rosner: Everybody knew what they were in the 60s, 70s, even in the 80s. They’re cherubic little German children rendered in porcelain. Chubby, little ruddy cheeked little kids made out of porcelain. Then the modern version of Hummel figurines is Lladro.

Jacobsen: Unfortunately, I do not.

Rosner: Okay, it’s spelled L.L.A.D.R.O, it’s from Spain. This is a company that’s been in business making porcelain figurines for more than 50 years. Carole likes, and I like getting her, stuff from time to time.

It’s expensive, so I will buy them if they’re not flawless. They’re super expensive. But if it’s like a figure that has a couple of fingers missing, it knocks like two-thirds off the price, maybe more. So, I’ll buy her slightly beaten up ones and then fix them if they’re fixable.

So, we’ve got 10 slightly dinged up Lladro figurines. A girl playing with puppies, girl holding a bird on her hand, frisbee puppy, the girl arranging flowers, mother and child, tall lady with ducks. It’s what you’d call kitsch.

It’s not as kitsch is Hummel because Hummel was even more like easily approachable art, like sophisticated people sneer at it. And also lately, in the last couple of weeks, I found out that you can buy gems the size of a robin’s egg on eBay for like two bucks.

Synthetic ruby wholesales for about a penny a karat uncut. So, for two bucks, for five bucks if you’re impatient, I bought a fifty-seven karat almost flawless, faceted ruby from India for a few bucks, free postage too.

Because India’s got some deal where they spring for the postage for international shipping, which is U.S. shipped; China does the same thing. You can buy shit from China. The shipping is free because the government pays for it because, “If we can ship our stuff around the world, the world’s markets, then it’s worth it to pay for clothes,” which I think that’s the strategy.

As opposed to the US, if you want to ship something international from the US, it’s going to be eighty dollars. So, the competitive advantage to China. If you’re trying to sell the same shit as something that’s made in china, you’re fucked if you try to export it to the US because of shipping alone.

But anyway, gems are technology. You wouldn’t think of technology because when you think about technology, you think of moving parts. But modern gems that are properly faceted are little machines to reflect light. Over a hundred years ago, one hundred and twenty years ago, they didn’t know how to facet gems, so they really reflected light and fascinate the viewer in the most appealing way.

But they’ve had 100 years to figure it out. Now, a well-faceted gem is pretty freaking amazing in the way it breaks up light, into sparkles. It’s crazy because somebody figured the angles and the index of refraction. Eventually, I’ll get these gems.

So anyway, I bought a 57-karat ruby for three bucks. If it were real, and if it sold on eBay, and if it were real, it would be the rarest ruby in the world. It would be worth forty million dollars. I’m getting it for three.

So, when they say it’s a natural ruby, they’re probably lying. But still, it’s freaking pretty. Eventually, I’ll give it to Carole. But Carole is only a little bit into these fucking ridiculous gems. You can’t wear them as jewelry because they’re too ridiculous.

I will glue them to a picture frame to put something in the frame. But the upshot of all this is that I’m buying the gems for a few bucks because they’re easily appreciated as really pretty. Sparkly fucking 57-karat fake Ruby is just a really colorful, pretty thing to look at in an easy way.

It’s got easily appreciated color, red with a touch of fuchsia. So, anyway kitsch, these crazy big jewels are kitsch the way Lladro is kitsch. One element of kitsch is it’s easy to like, it’s appealing. When it’s art, it’s visually appealing.

When it’s a movie, it’s a hallmark Christmas romance. It’s narratively, easily appealing to the point where it has sickened people with any degree of sophistication. So, I’ve been thinking about kitsch. I think it’s an endorsement of order that we’ve talked under.

I see under just the universe itself that certain forms of order are persistent. Order and persistence go along with each other that we’re ordered organisms. The order is manifested in our ability to address changes in the environment to survival.

That’s a sophisticated form of order that makes it possible for individual humans to live for a century, for the species to become the dominant species on Earth. kitsch is not just order. It’s safety. It presents a safe world.

The artist, Thomas Kinkade, he’s a total kitsch. For people who don’t know, he’s dead now. But when he was alive, he called himself the painter of light. He paints rustic scenes, very comforting, warm Christmassy scenes of like a cottage in the woods on a starlit night, lots of little sparkles of light.

Look in the windows of the cottage, there are candles blowing. We had a deal whereby different degrees of his art, like he sold, I guess, lithographs. The more sparkles he himself would add, the more expensive each painting was.

But a very comforting warm cottage on a snowy night surrounded by loved ones, being warm and safe. So, I think there’s an element of order and safety. In fact, a Lladro is fucking fragile. Like I said, I buy beat up, Lladro.

If it falls over, it will break. So, they embody order in their very structure; their porcelain with tiny parts that will get knocked off if you come in contact with them. So, you need an ordered environment to even have Lladro.

In L.A. we shouldn’t have Lladro. We’ve got everything tacked down with something called museum wax, which is this wax you put on the bottom and glue it in place in case there’s an earthquake.

In the earthquake of ‘94, we lived in a condo across the hall from a guy who must’ve lost 35 pieces of Lladro, thousands of dollars. His whole curio cabinet just tumbled and everything was destroyed. So, Lladro gives you the feeling, “Well, I live in a safe environment. I might be living in a fool’s paradise because it’s L.A. An earthquake may break everything.”

But when you have the Lladro and you appreciate it, you’re thinking this is a safe place, “I live in a safe place.” A house and condo where I can have this delicate stuff; it won’t be destroyed. It’s comforting.

What makes you feel good is sentimental stuff, the triumph of the weak, baby ducks, girls walking to school. It’s a world in which bad shit has for the most part vanished. So, I’m not saying anything more. I’m repeating myself.

It’s a world of order and safety. An endorsement of the value of world that allow these pieces to exist and these imaginary things seems to exist. But if everybody just behaves themselves, then we could have chubby German kids with fat needs.

We could have ladies with ducks. It’s the idea that we know what good order is and we can imagine a world with just that order and it’s pushing away the bad things in the world. I always have this joke that it’s a joke mostly to myself. But my local craft store, they probably don’t have them in Canada.

But I bet you, do you have a Hobby Lobby? Anyway, there are these massive craft superstores, 20 thousand square feet of crafting supplies. Hobby Lobby is owned by hard core Evangelicals.  The Hobby Lobby owners are multi-multimillionaires.

They spend their money; they raid Middle Eastern countries for biblical artifacts. They pay people to smuggle Bible era stuff out of Iraq. Even though, Iraq is both under international law; Iraq owns that ship.

But no, Hobby Lobby people are going to steal the Bible stuff. So, they’re super Bible thumpers. But crafting, my joke is that the people in Michael’s, in Hobby Lobby, are people who are disappointed by life. Women who are in loveless marriages or who got dumped for a trophy wife.

They take refuge, take solace in the cuteness and prettiness of craft, pushing away the bad parts of the world or the world where everything is cute and pretty and decorative and kitschy. So, that’s where I go. That’s what kitsch is, an endorsement of order.

Kitsch is precious little doodads for people who, maybe, can’t afford it for a humble figurine or a yard with different price points, different lines, depending on how much you can spend with different degrees of sophistication. Anyway there you go.

Jacobsen: How does Kitsch differ in Western Europe versus North America or other regions of the world?

Rosner:  Oh, so, in America, you’d expect to see kitsch among the maggots, the conservatives, the less sophisticated, appealing to themes of Americanism, lots of American flags and country themes.

Country and Western rural cowboys, fighting men and women, mostly men, ruggedness, sunsets. In Finland, kitsch would be handicrafts or rustic handicrafts. Appealing to a simpler time, carved wooden figures, regional wild polar bear, kestrels, and seabirds.

Kestrels, foxes running through the snow. The stuff you see on greeting cards. Greeting cards are very likely to be kitsch. You can have subtle, sophisticated greeting cards, but the majority of greeting cards are going to converge on kitsch. Germany’s most famous form of kitsch or Hummel figurines, cherubic little German kids.

[End of recorded material]


Rick Rosner

American Television Writer


(Updated July 25, 2019)

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.*

According to some semi-reputable sources gathered in a listing hereRick G. Rosner may have among America’s, North America’s, and the world’s highest measured IQs at or above 190 (S.D. 15)/196 (S.D. 16) based on several high range test performances created by Christopher HardingJason BettsPaul Cooijmans, and Ronald Hoeflin. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writers Guild Awards and Emmy nominations, and was titled 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Directory with the main “Genius” listing here.

He has written for Remote ControlCrank YankersThe Man ShowThe EmmysThe Grammys, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He worked as a bouncer, a nude art model, a roller-skating waiter, and a stripper. In a television commercialDomino’s Pizza named him the “World’s Smartest Man.” The commercial was taken off the air after Subway sandwiches issued a cease-and-desist. He was named “Best Bouncer” in the Denver Area, Colorado, by Westwood Magazine.

Rosner spent much of the late Disco Era as an undercover high school student. In addition, he spent 25 years as a bar bouncer and American fake ID-catcher, and 25+ years as a stripper, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television. Errol Morris featured Rosner in the interview series entitled First Person, where some of this history was covered by Morris. He came in second, or lost, on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? over a flawed question and lost the lawsuit. He won one game and lost one game on Are You Smarter Than a Drunk Person? (He was drunk). Finally, he spent 37+ years working on a time-invariant variation of the Big Bang Theory.

Currently, Rosner sits tweeting in a bathrobe (winter) or a towel (summer). He lives in Los AngelesCalifornia with his wife, dog, and goldfish. He and his wife have a daughter. You can send him money or questions at LanceVersusRick@Gmail.Com, or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Founder, In-Sight Publishing


In-Sight Publishing

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal (ISSN 2369-6885). Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and the advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.


[1] Four format points for the session article:

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License and Copyright


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at and


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Rick Rosner, and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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