Friday, August 28, 2009

Runts On The Beach

Where is the Cow? And Where is the Pig?
Where do you go when you're digging your dig?
What is the sky and what is the sand?
What makes me stay in Popsicle Land?

Oh Oh The Runts on the Beach are killing the clams!
Oh the Runts on the Beach better head for dry land!

Today's Lunch Poem is Going to

You Can't Like This Anymore

under thinking the obvious can be ambidextrous
the life of which panders to the unambitious
arrogantly the flowing life of which unrolled
around and around the cushioning cloud cover

never flung possible anteater man challenging
cosmic overload trash machines in France
can a man come into the woods in a boat?
can an electric semblance of reality reverberate?

a picture of a truck painted on a cigarette
where rain signifies elasticity of majesty
if orange strips of paper flip and flap, flop
and caustic pan-fried basketballs dribble

pink clouds darken, sun-stricken skies flying
streaks purple orange black and gray
and hammers fly, tragically at the end of day
in a dwindling stream the feet are throbbing

naive at best, confusing and dry, but swinging
make an emotional commitment to sacasm
while the continuous check is discontinued
and the international job listings riffle listlessly

guess about it for awhile while trinkets snowfall
clamps close about the checkering tweed hats
and furious at life the windows spenify
until every monstrous fountain dwindles

Thank You

Monday, August 24, 2009


For the second summer of my rapidly receding life I have immersed myself in reading the novels of William Faulkner. The first time I did this was the Summer of Woodstock (1969). I read about ten Faulkner novels, Faulkner poetry and a play (I think). This summer I waded in to four novels (so far): "Go Down, Moses" and the "Snopes Trilogy": "the Hamlet", "the Town" and "the Mansion". These books are totally mindblastingly involved and gnomic. "Go Down, Moses" in particular, confounds one's sense of what's a novel? what's a narrative? Here's a Southern guy in Mississippi writing in more thoroughly inverted, complex, irridescently personal style than anyone who was then (20's - 50's) living on either side of the Atlantic. Oddly compelling prose, I'd say.
One thing he does is write from many points of view, using multiple voices in a single book. So, multiple narrators - stream of consciousness. That's already a lot of balls to keep in the air at one time. So, there's generally one story line, but like prismatic views of that story, rendered in the personae of the various narrators.
Another thing he does is assemble several independent pieces into one novel - independent, but related and pieces of the same pie. This is really a lot of cognitive dissonance in one integrated whole.
Oh, and there's the continuity thing - all of his books (save a couple) are parts of the same, bigger story about the fictionalized county he writes about. He wrote some 20+ novels and about a zillion short stories that are pieces of the same fictional continuity. So, when you're reading Faulkner, there's a lot of familiarity from one book to the next, but the whole think is resolutely new each time. Faulkner never really faltered or eased up on his thorough-going sense of creativity. Its all pretty challenging, newly realized and fresh. The guy was a regular mind-bender. You know, Americans are pretty cantakerous and stubborn. We have that "I'm me, Goddamit!" think going on. Boy, does Faulkner ever have that.
Oh, and another thing - the writing often consists of long, long twisting sentence that make you feel that you have wandered into a room, taken a lots of turns and twists, and now you don't really know where you are. You know who you went into the room with, you know where the room is, but you don't know where you wound up or how long you have been there or exactly what has happened and what is going on. The language can be sometimes almost Shakespearian or Keatsian and then switch to "ignorant redneck-ese". Its very very involved.
So, this guy absolutely fascinates me. There is so much there. Like you can wade into what I call the Big Four: "The Sound and the Fury", "As I Lay Dying", "Absalom, Absalom" and "Light in August" and prepare to have your consciousness altered forever. These books are tough-reading, tough to interpret. Multiple narrators, time shifts of years at a time, stream of consciousness, decaying society, Southern gothic scenes. Nobody ever wrote four more high-concept novels in a 4 year period. And this is just a fraction of what the guy wrote. These four books are just astonishing as an accomplishment. At the same time, he was writing copious amounts of short stories and working on movie screenplays. Its just a towering accomplishment.
Anyway, this is something I have going on - I'm reading as much as I can before my mind capsizes. I'm hoping to re-read the Big Four next, then read a bunch of other novels like "Sartoris", "the Unvanquished", "the Reivers" and as many short stories as possible. Yeah, I guess I'm obsessed over here.

Unskilled Photo-restoration and other unskilled arts

If there's still someone out there reading this, I apologize for being a very slackerly poster, but what the hell, my mind has been a blank except for preparing to create a gigantic copy of Seurat's painting, La Grand Jatte. Oh, also I have been like endlessly cutting and raking grass and hiking. Aside from pretending to work, that is. Oh, and also reading four Faulkner novels.

So the Seurat thing is starting to take over - I'm studying up, doing color experiments, inspections and sketches to get ready for this. I'm also figuring out the sequence of events to make this all happen.

For one thing, making the copy to actual size isn't making a lot of sense to me - its 6'6" by 10'10" or close to that. Putting together a nice flat surface that size is a difficult task in its own right. Do you piece canvas together on some sort of backing? How would that work? Not being an experienced, educated artist, this seems pretty difficult to me. However, working on a 6' x 4' hunk of clear 1/4" plywood makes quite a bit of sense. It maintains the 3:2 ratio of the painting and its figures while breaking things down to a manageable size (while still being suitably large: this thing wants to go on a wall in a house of 8' ceilings after all). This sizes the picture down just a bit while maintaining its monumentality, given the space it will inhabit.

But John, why bother with such a task? you might ask (or not, maybe to you this makes as much clear sense as it does to me). I have decided after living with my Big Idea for awhile, that I really want this picture as close to the original as I can possibly get it. You can't just buy a 10x6 copy of this, or a 6X4 copy, for that matter. All you can get is a picayune little copy. Not close enough. Also, I want to know how this guy did this thing by exploring as many of his techniques as possible. And what is the best way to explore these techniques? Yes, exactly.

So, yes it still may be that I go full size on this thing. I don't know. I guess I just need to figure it out, figure out the materials. How do I get a 10'10" x 6'6" flat surface that I can then frame and hang? Hm. I guess I will have to consult with some artists or art stores or something.

And what do the above photos have to do with Seurat? Hey, I don't know, but approximation of actual photography in digitized format strikes me as a parallel with approximation of a masterpiece. Both are for personal consumption, so why kvetch about approximation at all? Yeah, that's a good question.

Monday, August 10, 2009

by the time I got to Woodstock, I was half a million years old

I had been planning to visit the original Woodstock 69 festival site for about 12 years and just now got around to it. I knew it wasn't going anywhere. So, Patty and Julie and I drove up there on a really beautiful day to check it out. Naturally, I took a boom box and Jimi's Woodstock recording of "Star Spangled Banner" and we let it rock whilst we tried to absorb whatever vibe might be left. Its a beautiful place but there's nothing much "Woodstock" about it anymore. Its more like "let's make some money with a museum stock" with country club looking grassy knolls and all of that. Also, they have signs prohibiting public intoxication, loud music and so forth. Not very Woodstock at all. There was some vibe, but it seemed to be more over the hill from the site where farm fields still exist. Also, Bethel looks as it did in during Woodstock. Ain't much happening.
It was good to go there and let Jimi float over the site again and the area is unremittingly beautiful and in the middle of nowhere - which I like. But the vibe, alas, has pretty much fled and must be provided by the visitor.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Inclusion Training

A couple of weeks ago I went to mandatory inclusion training where I work. This is training we have because the top management of my company is still white Ivy-League males and we are called upon yearly to atone for their race-guilt and to enable their feelings of class entitlement. As you can imagine, this is only a grin and bear it exercise one endures to maintain one's pay-check.

I had the opportunity to role-play the role of a racist boss.

A racist boss.

What I learned: I hate role-playing (already knew this.)

also: I hate white, entitled Ivy-Leaguers (already knew this.)

also: I hate inclusion training (I had my consciousness raised in the late 60s, dammit!)

also: the "target" audience for these classes is old, white guys (guilty)

A lose-lose-lose situation, these courses just reinforce class/race stereotypes while making everyone feel bad.