Friday, September 29, 2006

The Making of The Emerald Tablet Of Hermes-Finished

Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics

Check out this site if you always suspected something was up with political leaders and the spokesmodels for religion. Like what is the psychological make up of Pat Buchanan? Did you know binLaden was a malignant narcissist? John Kerry is a elitist narcisist? And George W.Bush falls pray to a follow the sheep personality, could that risk his leadership skills?

The Role Of Criticism?

The role of the contemporary critic, then, is a traditional one.
The point of the present essay is to recall criticism to it's traditional role, not to invent some fashionable new function for it. For a new generation of critics in western society english literature is now an inherited label for a field within which many diverse preoccupations congregate: semiotics, psychoanalysis, film studies, cultural theory, the representation of gender, popular writing, and of course the conventionally valued writings of the past. These pursuits have no obvious unity beyond a concern with the symbolic processes of social life, and the social production of forms of subjectivity. Critics who find such pursuits modish and distastefully new-fangled are, as a matter of cultural history, mistaken. They represent a contemporary version of the most venerable topicsof criticism, before it was narrowed and impoverished to the so called literary canon. Moreover, it is possible to argue that such an enquiry
might contribute in a modest way to our very survival. For it is surely becoming apparent that without a more profound understanding of such symbolic processes, through which political power is deployed, reinforced, resisted, at times subverted, we shall be incapable of unlocking the most lethal power-struggles now confronting us. Modern criticism was born of a struggle against the absolutist state; unless it's future is now defined as a struggle against the bourgeois state, it might have no future at all. Eagleton1984.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What Is Art and It's Purpose. Redux.


I remember reading a book about poetry and the author, Stephen Dobyns, said the first reading that people did was on track animals for food. You've seen those western movies where there is some mysterious tracker, often a Native Canadian or American who can "read the trail", co-opted by THE MAN to trail our wily hero...

Well, reading novels and looking at art and watching movies are in the same arena. It's being given a narrative, or finding a narative. Humans have a compulsion to layer meaning. It's one of the things we do, it's how our brains work. Our brain will try to find faces and figures in chaos. Sometimes we see faces and forms in odd places, like tree bark, clouds, fabric patterns. It's a survival device. Our ability to see eyes and faces and various forms within chaos is reading for food,information...processed into knowledge...needed for survival.

A writer and a painter work by adding or taking away layers of meaning. A viewer hunts for meaning.

When we read a novel we are following clues the writer has carefully given us to help us enter an emotional state to bond with characters and to care about the plot. As readers we each have personal tastes that draw us to prefer mystery novels, adventure novels or non-fiction etc etc. Some readers are more genenral and like exploring all kinds of books and genres. Our visual currency depends on ones enviroment and upbringing and how open minded we each are or are not...or what we have been taught to believe within our social constructs.

When we look at art our mind wants to find a narrative too. Some of us may also prefer certain kinds of images over others, like choosing genres. I know many people who only like a few particular artists...the rest they think are bunk! But all art work has a narrative and a story. It reaches the viewer through colours, shapes, symbology or size or any of the millions of forms that art has taken. Sometimes shapes reference other shapes. The mind will try to find a face, a hand, a reference of any kind even commercial products, popular references, religious or political references: all offer layers of meaning.

What is art? Art is a narrative. It is a story in visual form. Art is a cousin to a novel, a movie or a classical Myth.

What does art mean? It means what you want it to mean, what you have been taught or not taught, and what you read and what the artist clues have been left for you.

Many rich people like art to represent or mean they are well..."rich and cultured". For corporations art may mean they gave to a charity, they want people to feel at rest with a colourful image and probably most importantly for a corporation art means that they are powerful and able to buy art, have so-called good taste and are at the helm of both financial and cultural economics.

For other viewers art may be a spiritual opportunity to look at things differently, the trendy idea of "outside the box". For many people art is a challenge and an adventure to open themselves up to see the world and our narratives in a new light or through the eyes of a fellow human.

Art began as a storytelling device for our survival and for communication. I believe that is still it's primary function and attraction.

Feelings of dischord are also valuable aspects to art viewing.

An audience is part of the symbology and narrative of art. Often we have merely forgotten that we have a rich source of symbols and mythology stored in our minds.

Can a movie inspire you to look at your life differently? Can a novel? Can a painting?

Why would it be important to look at our life differently?

Part of survival for humans is to see things in a new way, it is a kind of currency to be able to challenge tradition and authority. We need to be able to embrace traditions within our history as well as reject traditions if they are no longer valuable to our survival. Humans potential for rapid change and adaptation through thinking, reasoning and economic neccessity is our basic skill for surviving.

Our survival has depended on our reading and viewing and assessing skills. We are able to switch directions and social structures because of these skills. 10,000 years ago due to extreme weather producing droughts we had an emergency situation which forced us to turn to agriculture to survive. Farming was not a step of progress or revolution. It was a last minute response to an extinction level situation. From that economic change came all the flaws of our society now, lower health, prostitution, class systems, addiction, slavery and long work week hours causing stress and alienation.

Our long work week has also contributed to a drought on comprehension. People don't feel they have time to read literature or view art. We stagnantly believe we have this great progress and civilized life, yet we are not able to participate with the very cliche definition of civilized life: art.

What's the point of putting civilization and agriculture on a pedestal if we aren't even able to enjoy art or reading?

Most people are visual illiterates. Artists who crerate intellectually stale work represting the elitism of our society help perpetrate this cultural drought.

We need art that rejects the agricultural economy and we need viewers who are ready to learn to read visually again.

Who cares if art is dead. It needs rebirth anyways.

Can art be emotional, intellectual and spiritual pathways to thinking about what it is to be human?

What it means to be human is what it means in our art.

Destiny or Luck?

What makes one person win a prestigious award and another not, for the same work or discovery?

One of my heroes during school was anthropologist Marvin Harris. We had one of his books as a text book in first year anthropology. I liked the book so much, I read everything else he wrote. One of his basic observations was that most people decide on lifestyle based on the best returns economically.

Harris termed his approach cultural materialism. Cultural materialism seeks to explain the organizational aspects of politics and economy and the ideological and symbolic aspects of society as a result of the combination of variables relating to the basic biological needs of society.

In 2000, Jared Diamond won the Pulitzer prize for his book Guns, Germs and Steel. I really loved Diamonds book and it reminded me of many lessons I learned through studying the carreer of Marvin Harris. Guns Germs and Steel examines how one society over took other societies because of geographical resources. A common misinformation has been that European and Asian societies conquered the earth because of some racial or intellectual superiority, when it was actually specific advantages of resources due to geography. The means to farm with large domesticated pack animals, and different strengths of metal, resulting from different effects of the Ice Ages on different continents.

Twenty years before Guns Germs and Steel was published, Marvin Harris had written several books published for a non-academic readership as well as research level pieces.

Harris was asked to write a book, a summary of all his research, into a dictionary, reference sort of format. It is called Our Kind and it basically sets out to answer all the major mysteries of culture. Each chapter is a nutshell of previous large scale works. It's really fantastic. A real life "Hitchhikers Guide" to the many layers of meaning within cultures.

Near the end of this handy encyclopedia is a chapter titled "Why The First Earth Conquered The Second." You can read it here, if you are so inclined.

Harris an anthropologist and Diamond an historian, both believed their observations and conclusions could be accounted for in material scientific standards, despite traditional sciences like biology treating the newer feilds of study as intangible, even flaky.

Why Did Human History Unfold Differently On Different Continents For The Last 13,000 Years?

I admire Jared Diamond as much as I do Marvin Harris.

I wonder what makes one researcher win the Pulitzer rather than another in this case?

Neither of these scholars had blind acceptance, but Harris's detractors were much more vitrolic than Diamonds.

I believe the difference in reception represented by the Pulizer Prize has no value on the stature of Harris's work over or under Diamonds. I believe the eventual acceptance and reward going to Diamond is a result of newer generations being raised already understanding that race, gender and domination are social constructs. Harris was a groundbreaking academic in a generation and history of racism and ethnocentricism. I was raised knowing that there was no such thing as race and humans had the potential and past history of living as eqalitarian societies. A scholar like Harris was an exhilarating body of work to explore. By the time Diamonds detailed history of Guns, Germs and Steel was published his audience was ready to accept revisiting misguided social constructs. Grade seven curriculums have included Guns, Germs and Steel. Although I was exposed to egalitarian cultures growing up in the pacific northwest of Canada now twelve year olds are studying what I was introduced to officially in first year college, research that was often rejected and ridiculed when first surfacing in the 1970's.

Comparing the work of Harris and Diamond is an opportunity to witness transformative history and thinking as it happened.

The comparison may be a reason for hope.

Gallery For A Day

Welcome to a gallery opening party. I have been blogging for eight months and this is my 300th post.

Participating in Thursday Thirteen means telling other people a little something about yourself. This is my ninth week participating in Thursday Thirteen. I thought today, I would have an art opening. Ah, the freedom of blogging. No jury selection, no grant proposals, no back stabbing . The following 13 paintings are a few of the paintings I have made in the last six months. You may have seen them before, so I hope you won't be too bored, but it is always a little different vibe to see them all in one room all at once. So here is a glass of wine, there are some snacks over at the back of the gallery, make your self at home, and thanks for coming out and supporting a local artist!
Barbie Is My Co-Pilot. 34"x26"

Plato's Spindle #3. 57"x35"

A Year, Too Long For A Play. 34"x26"

Periscope. Each circle about 24" diameter. Actually, this was a collaboration between my boyfriend Stagg and I.

Libra. 40"x35"

Learn To Meditate. 35"x26"

A Year In Figures. 36"x 48"

Plato's Spindle #2. 23"x35"

Byzantine Randy. 24"x23"

Godboatziggerat. 55"x36"

The Ways of The Demiurge. 60"x40"

Giordano's Memory. 56"x34"

The Resurrection Of Ishtar. 48"x60"

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Making of:The Emerald Tablet of Hermes

This is where I start out in the morning with tea or coffee and a bunch of recorded tv programs.

Breakfast and tv while I catch up on all the magazines around the apartment. We use them for collage...and I like to read the articles or select images I really like. Breakfast? Tofu, squash and cabbage all mixed up. I like oddball foods I guess. It's delicious. Below are some tiny cut outs of words.

The little cut out words ended up on some postcards. Some of the cut out words include: "conducted", "pudding", "element of", "a second", "surveying", "you dust yourself", t"his moment", "distance", "waving", "project", "watch some morally conflicted" and "someone."I make these post cards while I'm painting and then put my blog address on the other side and leave them around places. Like coffee shops, record stores, bars. I'm a nerd.

This is what they look like before, above and after, below.

I watch Regis and Kelly every day. Regis often holds up the morning paper.

It is unusual for me to just sit and watch tv in the day...usually I'll be working on something while following some show. When I get into painting, I usually blast music really loud.

I watched Hugh Laurie on The Actor's Studio. Love this program, I record it when there is a favourite actor featured. Often the actors are asked questions about their techniques and about their childhood and their history of work is explored. These are my favourite celebrity interviews because they are so technical, and not cult of personality style of questions. Laurie stars in tv show House, and was asked how tv was treated when he was growing up. "Television was rather frowned upon. Television was for other people. Catholics."

I took some of these pictures a few days ago while watching a documentary about serial killers in movies. It was called Murder By Numbers and suggested that the viewer is often referenced throughout many of this genres content,even suggesting we are culpable.
1960's-3 films
1970's-10 films
1980's-45 films
1990's-107 films
with serial killers as characters.

Now that the basic background is made I move the new painting next to portrait of Sean in my work space. Perhaps I'll have these finished as a celebration to mark my 300th post? I'm at 298 at this posting.

While working I am listening to this recorded series In Search of Shakespeare. Michael Woods and BBC produced this detective mystery style of telling about Shakespeares secret life. I've watched this once before and I have a book version I received as a gift from a British online bookclub pal. It's really fantastic and the premise is that Shakespeares family were Catholics practicing secretly in Elizabeths religious wartime England. It was a time of terrorism and intolerance and Shakespeares many layers of references and storytelling may be from his secret Catholic lessons and from a provincial education that has not ever been accomplished since for other children. For example, Shakespeares and his peers education included memorizing Ovid and reading Latin versions of Plato, at age nine.

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The Upside of Down

THE UPSIDE OF DOWN: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization, by Thomas Homer-Dixon, will be released on October 31 by Knopf in Canada and on November 1 by Island Press in the United States.

The Upside of Down sets out a theory of the growth, crisis, and renewal of societies. It argues that today’s converging energy, environmental, and political-economic stresses could cause a breakdown of national and global order. But there are things we can do now to keep such a breakdown from being catastrophic. And some kinds of breakdown could even open up extraordinary opportunities for creative, bold reform of our societies, if we’re prepared to exploit these opportunities when they arise.

His books The Ingenuity Gap and Environment, Scarcity and Violence are must reads. I am really looking forward to his new book.

Pull Up Terrorism By The Roots

Considering the causes of terror is neither
softheaded idealism nor the appeasement of evil
by Thomas Homer-Dixon

From this research, a clearer picture of terrorism’s
underlying causes is beginning to emerge. This picture
suggests that participants in terrorism tend to be
men in their twenties or thirties who are ferociously
angry because of powerful feelings of humiliation.
The humiliation can have many sources, but it’s
likely to arise when relatively well-educated young
men are deeply frustrated by a lack of political and
economic opportunity and when, at the same time,
they strongly identify with a group, society, or culture
they perceive as oppressed or exploited. Extremist
leaders then inflame and manipulate these feelings
of humiliation, partly by defining the “enemy” -- the
group or society that’s responsible for all problems
and that should be the target of attack.

Who is GOD?

However, she puffed nervously on her cigarette and, rather bravely, picked up the phone. "hello. Buddy?" she said.

"Hello, sweetheart. How are you-are you alright?"

"I'm fine. How are you? You sound as though you have a cold." Then, when there was no immediate response: "I suppose Bessie's been brief-ing you by the hour."
"Well-after a fashion. Yes and no. You know. Are you alright, sweetheart?"

"I'm fine. You sound funny though. Either you have a terrible cold or this is a terrible connection. Where are you, anyway?"

"Where am I? I'm right in my element, Flopsy. I'm in a little haunted house down the road. Never mind. Just talk to me."

Franny unplacidly crossed her legs. "I don't know exactly what you'd like to talk about, she said. "What all's Bessie tell you, I mean?"

There was a most characterisitically Buddy-like pause at the other end. It was exactly the kind of pause-just a trifle rich with seniority of years-that had often tried the patience of both Franny and the virtuoso at the other end of the phone when they were small children. "Well I'm not terrible sure sure what all she told me, sweetheart. Past a certain point, it's a little rude to go on listening to Bessie on the phone. I heard about the cheesburger diet, you can be sure. And, of course, the Pilgram books. Then I think I just sat with the phone at my ear, not really listening. You know."

"Oh." Franny said. She switched her cigarette over to her telephone hand and, with her free hand, reached again under the canvas cover on the night table and found a tiny ceramic ashtray, which she placed beside her on the bed. "You sound funny." she said. "Do you have a cold, or what?"

"I feel wonderful, sweetheart. I'm sitting here talking to you and I feel wonderful. It's a joy to hear your voice. I can't tell you."

Franny once again pushed back her hair with one hand. She didn't say anything.

"Flopsy? Can you think of anything Bessie may have missed? You feel like talking at all?"

With her fingers, Franny slightly altered the position of the tiny ashtray beside her on the bed. "Well," she said"I'm a little talked out, to be honest with you. Zooey's been at me all morning."

"Zooey? How is he?"

"How is he?" He's fine. He's just tiptop. I could just murder him, that's all."

"Murder him? Why? Why, sweetheart? Why could you just murder our Zooey?"

"Why? Because I just could, that's all. He's completely desructive. I've never met anyone so complely desructive in my life! It's just so unnecessary! One minute he launches this allout attack on the Jesus prayer-which I happen to be interested in-making you think you're some kind of neurotic nitwith for even being interested in it. And about two minutes later he starts raving to you about how Jesus is the only person in the world he's ever had any respect for-such a marvelous mind, and all that. He's just so erratic. I mean he goes around and around in such horrible circles."

"Tell about it. Tell about the horrible circles."

Here Franny made the mistake of giving a little exhalation of impatience-she had just inhaled cigarette smoke. she coughed. "Tell about it! It would just take me all day, that's all! She put a hand to her throat, and waited for the wrong-passage discomfort to pass. "he's just a monster," she said. "He is! Not really a monster but- I don't know. He's so bitter about things. He's bitter about religion. He's bitter about television. He's bitter about you and Seymour-he keeps saying you both made freaks out of us. I don't know. He jumps from one-"

"Why freaks? I know he thinks that. Or thinks he thinks it. But did he say why? What's his definition of a freak? He say, sweetheart?"

Just here, Franny, in apparent despair at the naivete of the question, struck her forehead with her hand. Something she very probably hadn't done in five or six years-when, for example, halfway home on the Lexington Avenue bus, she discovered she had left her scarf back at the movies. "What's his definition?" sha said. "He has a bout forty definitions for everything! If I sound slightly unhinged, that's the reason why. One minute-like last night-he says we're freaks because we were brought up to have only one set of standars. Ten minutes later he says he's a freak because he never wants to meet anybody for a drink. The only time-"

"Never wants to what?"

"Meet anybody for a drink. Oh, he had to go out lasst night and meet this television writer for a drink downtown, in the Village and all. That's what started it. He says the only people he ever really wants to meet for a drink somewhere are all either dead or unavailable. He says he never even wants to lunch with anybody, even, unless he thinks there's a good chance its going to turn out to be Jesus, the person-or the Buddha, or Hui-neng, or Shankaracharya, or somebody like that. You know." Franny suddenly put out her cigarette in the tiny ashtray-with some awkwardness, not having her second hand free to brace the ashtray. "You know what else he said to me?" she said. "You know what he swore up and down to me? He told me last night he once had a glass of ginger ale with Jesus in the kitchen when he was eight years old. Are you listening?"

"I'm listening, I'm listening...sweetheart."

"He said he was-this is exacty what he said-he said he was sitting at the table in the kitchen, all by himself, drinking a glass of ginger ale and eating saltines and reading 'Dombey and Son' and all of a sudden Jesus sat down in the other chair and asked if he could have a small glass of ginger ale. A small glass, mind you-that's exactly what he said. I mean he says things like that, and yet he thinks he's perfectly qualified to give me a lot of advice and stuff! That's what makes me so mad! I could just spit! I could! It's like being in a lunatic asylum and having another patient all dressed up as a doctor come over and start taking your pulse or something....It's just awful. He talks and talks and talks. And if he isn't talking, he's smoking his smelly cigars all over the house. I'm so sick of the smell of cigar smoke I could just roll over and die"

"The cigars are ballast, sweetheart. Sheer ballast. If he didn't have a cigar to hold on to, his feet would leave the ground. We'd never see our Zooey again."

There were several verbal stunt pilots in the Glass family, but this last little remark perhaps Zooey alone was coordinated well enough to bring in safely over a telephone. Or so this narrator suggests. And Franny may have felt so, too. In any case, she suddenly knew that it was Zooey at the other end of the phone. She got up, slowly, from the edge of the bed. "All right, Zooey," she said. "All right."

Not quite immediately: "Beg pardon?"

"I said, all right, Zooey."

"Zooey? What is this?...Franny? You there?"

"i'm here. Just stop it now, please. I know it's you."

"What in the world are you talking about, sweetheart? What is this? Who's this Zooey?"

"Zooey Glass," Franny said. "Just stop it now, please. You're not being funny. As it happens, I'm just barely getting back to feeling half-way-"

"Grass, did you say? Zooey Grass? Norwegian chap? Sort of heavyset, blond, ath-"

"All right, Zooey. Just stop, please. Enough's enough. You're not funny...In case you're interested, I'm feeling absolutely lousy. So if there's anything special you have to say to me,please hurry up and say it and leave me alone."This last, emphasized word was oddly veered away from, as if the stress on it hadn't been fully intended.

There was a peculiar silence at the other end of the phone. And a peculiar reaction to it from Franny. She was disturbed by it. She sat down again on the edge of her father's bed. "I'm not going to hang up on you or anything.
" she said. "But I'm tired, Zooey. I'm just exhausted, frankly." She listened. But there was no response. She crossed her legs. "You can go on like this all day, but I can't." she said. "All I am is on the receiving end. It isn't terribly pleasant, you know. You think everybody's made of iron or something." She listened. She started to speak again but stopped when she heard the sound of a voice being cleared.

"I don't think everybody's made of iron, buddy."

This abjectly simple sentence seemed to disturb Franny rather more than a continued silence would have. She quickly reached over and picked a cigarette out of the porcelain box, but didn't prepare to light it. "Well you'd think you did." she said. She listened. she waited. "I mean, did you have any special reason for calling me?"

"No special reason, buddy, no special reason."

Franny waited. Then the other end spoke up again.

" I suppose I more or less called to tell you to go on with your Jesus prayer if you want to. I mean that's your business. That's your business. It's a goddam nice prayer, and don't let anybody tell you anything different."

"I know," Franny said. Very nervously, she reached for the box of matches.

"I don't think I ever really meant to try to stop you from saying it. At least, I don't think I did. I don't know. I don't know what the hell was going on in my mind. There's one thing I do know for sure though. I have no goddam authority to be speaking up like a seer the way I have been. We've had enough goddam seers in this family. That part bothers me. That part scares me a little bit."

Franny took advantage of the slight pause that followed to straighten her back a trifle, as though, for some reason, good posture, or better posture, might come in handy at any moment.

"It scares me a little bit, but it doesn't petrify me. Let's get that straight. It doesn't petrify me. Because you forget one thing, buddy. When you first felt the urge, the call, to say the prayer, you didn't immediately start searching the four corners of the world for a master. You came home. You not only came home but you went into a goddam collapse. So if you look at it in a certain way, by rights you're only entitled to the low-grade spiritual counsel we're able to give you around here, and no more. At least you know there won't be any goddam ulterior motives in this madhouse. Whatever we are, we're not too fishy, buddy."

Franny suddenly tried with one hand alone to get a light for her cigarette. She opened the matchbox compartment sucessfully, but one inept scratch of a match sent the box to the floor. She bent quickly and picked up the box, and let the spilled matches lie.

"I'll tell you one thing, Franny. One thing I know. And don't get upset. It isn't anything bad. But if it's the religious life you want, you ought to know right now that you're missing out on every single goddam religious action that's going on around this house. You don't even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup- which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody in this madhouse. So just tell me, just tell me, buddy. Even if you went out and searched the whole world for a masteros-me guru, some holy man- to tell you how to say your Jesus prayer properly, what good would it do you? How in hell are you going to recognize a legitimate holy man when you see one if you don't even know a cup of consecrated chicken soup when it's right in front of your nose? Can you tell me that?"

Franny was now sitting up rather abnormally straight.

"I'm just asking you. I'm not trying to upset you. Am I upsetting you?"

Franny answered, but her answer evidently didn't carry.

"What? I can't hear you."

"I said no. Where are you calling from? Where are you now?"

"Oh, what the hell's the difference where I am? Pierre, South Dakota, for God's sake. Listen to me, Franny-I'm sorry, don't get riled. But listen to me. I have just one or two very small things more, and then I'll quit, I promise you that. But did you know, just by the way, that Buddy and I drove up to see you in stock last summer? Did you know we saw you in 'Playboy of the Western World' one night? One god-awful hot night, I can tell you that. But did you know we were there?"

An answer seemed to be called for. Franny stood up, then immediately sat down. She placed the ashtray slightly away from her, as if it were very much in her way. "No, I didn't," she said. "Nobody said one single-No, I didn't."

"Well, we were. We were. And I'll tell you, buddy. You were good. And when I say good, I mean, good. You held that goddam mess up. Even all those sunburned lobsters in the audience knew it. And now I hear you're finished with the theatre forever-I hear things, I hear things. And I remember the spiel you came back with when the season was over. Oh, you irritate me, Franny! I'm sorry, you do. You've made the great startling goddam discovery that the acting profession's loaded with mercenaries and butchers. As I remember, you even looked like somebody who'd just been shattered because all the ushers hadn't been geniuses. What's the matter with you, buddy? Where are your brains? If you've had a freakish education, at least use it. You can say the Jesus Prayer from now till doomsday, but if you don't realize that the only thing that counts in religious life is detachment, I don't see how you'll ever even move an inch. Detachment, buddy, and only detachment. Desirelessness. 'Cessation from all hankerings.' It's this business of desiring, if you want to know the goddam truth, that makes an actor in the first place. Why're making me tell you things you already know? Somewhere along the line-in one goddam incarnation or another, if you like-you not only had a hankering to be an actor but to be a good one. You're stuck with it now. You can't just walk out on the results of your own hankerings. Cause and effect, buddy, cause and effect. The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do is act. Act for God, if you want to-be God's actress, if you want to. What could be prettier? You can at least try to, if you want to-there's nothing wrong in trying." There was a slight pause. "you'd better get busy, though. buddy. The goddam sands run out on you every time you turn around. I know what I'm talking about. You're lucky if you get time to sneeze in this goddam phenomenal world." There was another, sligher pause. "I used to worry about that. I don't worry about it very much any more. At least I'm still in love with Yorick's skull. I want an honorable goddam skull like Yorick's. And so do you, Franny Glass. So do you, so do you...Ah God what's the use of talking? You had the same goddam freakish upbringing as I did, and if you don't know by this time what kind of skull you want when you're dead, and what you have to do to earn it-I mean if you don't at least know by this time that if you're an actress you're supposed to act, then what's the use of talking?

Franny was now sitting with the flat of her free hand pressed against the side of her face, like someone with an excruciating toothache.

"One other thing. And that's all. I promise you. But the thing is, you raved and you bitched when you came home about the stupidity of audiences. The goddam 'unskilled laughter' coming from the fifth row. And that's right, that's right-God knows it's depressing. I'm not saying it isn't. But that's none of your business, really. that's none of your business, Franny. An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not on anybody else's. You have no right to think about those things, I swear to you. Not in any real sense, anyway. You know what I mean?"

There was a silence. Both saw it through without any seeming impatience or awkwardness. Franny still appeared to have some considerable pain on one side of her face, and continued to keep her hand on it, but her expression was markedly uncomplaining.

The voice at the other end came through again. "I remember about the fifth time I ever went on 'Wise Child'. I subbed for Walt a few times when he was in a cast-remember when he was in that cast? Anyway, I started bitching one night about the broadcast. Seymour'd told me to shine my shoes just as I was going out the door with Walker. I was furious. The studio audience were morons, and I just damn well wasn't going to shine my shoes for them, I told Seymour.I said, they couldn't see them anyway, where we sat. He said to shine them anyway. He said to shine them for the Fat Lady. I didn't know what the hell he was talking about, but he had a very Seymour look on his face, and so I did it. He never did tell me who the Fat Lady was, but I shined my shoes for the Fat Lady every time I ever went on the air again-all the years you and I were on the program together, if you remember. I don't think I missed more than just a couple of times. This terribly clear, clear picture of the Fat Lady formed in my mind. I had her sitting on this porch all day, swatting flies, with her radio going full-blast from morning till night. I figured the heat was terrible, and she probably had cancer, and-I don't know.Anyway, it seemed goddam clear why Seymour wanted me to shine my shoes when I went on the air. It made sense."

Franny was standing. She was holding the phone with two hands. "He told me, too." she said into the phone. "He told me to be funny for the Fat Lady, once." She released one hand from the phone and placed it, very briefly, on the crown of her head, then went back to holding the phone with both hands. "I didn't ever picture her on a porch, but with very-you know- very thick legs, very veiny. I had her in an awful wicker chair. She had cancer, too, though, and she had the radio going full-blast all day! Mine did, too!"

"Yes, Yes, Yes. All right. Let me tell you something now, buddy...Are you listening?"

Franny, looking extremely tense, nodded.

"I don't care where an actor acts. It can be in summer stock, it can be over the radio, it can be over television, it can be ina goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine. But I'll tell you one a terrible secret-Are you listening to me? There isn't anyone out there who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn't anyone anywhere that isn't Seymour's Fat Lady. Don't you know that? Don't you know that goddam secret yet? And don't you know-listen to me, now-don't you know who that Fat Lady really is?...Ah, buddy. It's Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy."

For joy, apparently, it was all Franny could do to hold the hone, even with both hands.

For a fullish half minute or so, there were no other words, no further speech. Then: "I can't talk anymore, buddy." The sound of a phone being replaced in its catch followed.

Franny took in her breath slightly but continued to hold the phone to her ear. A dial tone, of course, followed the formal break in the connection. She appeared to find it extraodinarily beautiful to listen to, rather as if it were the best possible substitute for the primordial silence itself. But she seemed to know, too, when to stop listening to it, as if all of what little or much wisdom there is in the world were suddenly hers. When she had replaced the phone, she seemed to know just what to do next, too. She cleared away the smoking things, then drew back the cotton bedspread from the bed she had been sitting on, took off her slippers, and got into the bed. For some minutes, before she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, she just lay quiet, smiling at the ceiling.

From Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Who is GWAR!?

Red asks...Who is GWAR?

I saw GWAR in concert last December. I think they may be a band I have seen more times than any other band, and I didn't really notice that until Red asked, who is GWAR? I think I'v seen them 5 or 6 times...and it's occured to me, this beats Madonna, The Who, The Clash and David Bowie. You know, famous touring acts. There are a number of lesser known bands who I've seen tons of times, like the Canadian band The Tragically HIp. The Hip are a Canadian institution, that never made it as a "crossover" band which means...they didn't sell huge in U.S.A. market although they had a strong college tour following. I once went to see The Tragically Hip play Central Park for free on Canada Day. I couldn't find anybody to go with me, so I drove down by myself, stayed with a friend who then gave me the keys to his Manhattan apartment because he was going to London for two weeks. I extended my visit and hung out in NY wandering the streets, coffee shops, book stores and saw a little band playing in a small local bar called The Strokes. I borrowed my friends bike and rode to Central Park in the afternnon and joined thousands of fellow Canadians drinking outside for Great Big Sea, Jeff Healy and then The Hip. It is difficult to explain the sight of Heineken tents and insane Canadian drinking fan base for The Hip. It was downright political.

GWAR is an utterly different story.

GWAR has about a dozen albums, titled among them: Carnival of Chaos, America Must Be Destroyed, Scumdogs of the Universe and This Toilet Earth. They are a band that needs to be seen to be believed, and really fully enjoyed. Let's just say, I've been shot with a lot of pus, blood mucus and semen by warriors from another world. They entered the mainstream for a bit when Beavis and Butthead were listening to them.

I've never looked up GWAR on the internet, they've always just been a little party thanks to Red for inspiring me to check out some sites devoted to GWAR. Who is GWAR? I am sure that somewhere on the internet there may be some names and places alluding to earth, but as far as I know you need to enter another dimension to actually see the band.

From their web page

GWAR celebrates 20 years of Global Domination; Nazi Pope Says GWAR Must Die!

"Mutant metal-masters GWAR are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their re-birth on Earth with a triumphant tour of their most depraved stomping grounds. Beginning in early October and lasting until everything is dead, North America shall reel under the savage assault of GWAR, the most dangerous band in this or any other universe. Fresh from their glorious participation in the ultra-sick Sounds of the Underground tour, everybody's favorite Antarctican war-gods will crush the cities of man one by one until the people of Earth are reduced to quivering piles of molten flesh. Rumors of a hideous summoning abound, and the great beast T-Rex GOR GOR stirs in his subterranean lair. Harnessing their gore-flecked war machines, GWAR returns with a devastating 20th anniversary tour, damning all humankind to an eternal doom of pus-drenched necro-bestial nasal violation!"

Some images

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Live, In Concert

All right, so I didn't mention The Blues Brothers in my last post about movies set in Chicago...let's see if I can save face and make amends. I am all about atonement.

Chicago is an outstanding city to see music. There are tons of great local bands, in fact Stagg's best friends he grew up with, in Catholic boys school (how hot is that?) have a band called Dolt 45...and we saw them one night in a strange Czech bar with three other punk bands. They pound! The evening was a lot of fun for me partly because it was the first time I met his ol school buddies, and I felt like they were really kindred spirits and that was such a good feeling to feel like I fit in with people who are a little like an extended family.

Last night Stagg and I went to Buddy Guy's Legends. Any discussion of Buddy Guy invariably involves a recitation of his colossal musical resume and hard-earned accolades. He's a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a chief guitar influence to rock titans like Hendrix, Clapton, Beck and Vaughan, a pioneer of Chicago's fabled West Side sound, and a living link to that city's halcyon days of electric blues.

But Guy's incredible story actually begins in Louisiana, not Chicago. Born in 1936 to a sharecropper's family and raised on a plantation near the small town of Lettsworth, located some 140 miles northwest of New Orleans, George "Buddy" Guy was one of five children born to Sam and Isabel Guy. His earliest years were marked by the all-too-familiar characteristics of the Jim Crow South: separate seating on public buses, whites-only drinking fountains, and restaurants where blacks—if even served at all—were sent around back. But the social order of the day notwithstanding, it was tolerance, not bitterness, instilled in the young Buddy Guy.

One of the things I like about the bar, Buddy Guy's Legends , is that it doesn't feel touristy. The club is a typical black walls, comfy chairs and lots of tables set up from the stage on back to two bars. There is memorablilia everywhere. Guitar lovers could spend an hour or two just looking at the first wives of Lennie Brooks and Eric Clapton, among framed gold records, vintage ensembles of blues performers...but without the corporate feel of Hard Rock Cafe.

And the food is great. We had cajun wings with blue cheese dip, deep fried okra and mustard sauce, chicken fried steak with collard greens, cole slaw and gravy, Staggs stacked with garlic mashed potatoes and even more white gravy. White gravy is usually a sausage based milk sauce and so good! South of Fargo, almost any where in America you will find a variation of biscuits and gravy as a staple on a menu. At Buddy Guy's we are talking food. The kitchen must use condors to make their wings, and corn bread, deep black chocolate cake with kahlua, and pecan pie made with bourbon. We were camping out for the night.

The opening act was Diamond Jim Green, who told several stories and sang a lovely warm mixture of tunes he's collected. One song was "my girlfriends got a girlfriend"...ending with, "my girlfriends got a girlfriend and just found out her little girlfriends got a boyfriend too". A real crowd pleaser. I could see three amazing guitars, one a wood and metal dobro, another a twleve string, and he sang just simple and micced...but a full sound.

Next a local band kicked into a rockabilly feel for two songs before their singer came on stage. Blues Angels had a pedestrian sounding band name, but turned out to be really fun and tight. Lots of energy. The guy who plyed stand up bass turned out to have gone to art school with Stagg, so they said hey after the show. Well, take a listen to them here.

Headlining the evening was Guitar Shorty. Guitar Shorty grew up in Florida and Texas. After playing with Ray Charles for a year, he moved around to Canada and eventually Seattle where he met his wife, Marcia. Marcia Hendrix. He met her family which included her brother. That's right, Guitar shorty taught some shit to Jimi Hendrix!!!! Guitar Shorty's band were so tight I couldn't believe, talking to them after the show, they had just met a month ago. Guitar Shorty made some beautiful sounds just really incredible to believe.

I don't see as much live music as I used to. But it's been a pretty good year. Concert highlights include Lucinda Williams (in Nashville with Stagg, Tuffy P and Mister Anchovy, at the Ryman Theatre, music buffs will know that is the original Grand Ol' Opry). Williams had a suberb goth-a-billy band backing her...which, I can not remember the name of right now, sorry guys. It was a year ago, and so very close on the edge of the floods in New Orleans where Williams and her family hail. so she was very senstive to the times and in a delicate story telling mood, raising awareness of the circumstances of families outside New Orleans as well as the city.

Gwen Steffani, a really fun night. She had a great set of costumes and dancers and was a lot of fun. There were masses of ten year old girls and this was a source of entertainment itself as I have never been to a concert where little kids were a large part of the audience. This was also funny, because Steffani swears liek a pirate. Ha ha silly parents you didn't know she had punk roots with sublime, did ya?

Audioslave in October was the concert of concerts though. I was a diehard Soundgarden fan, saw them in 1989. Which now sounds like a century ago. Yikes. I LOVE Chris Cornell, he is among my top ten list of all time greatest rock singers. Tom Morello is a god. Rage was THE band although so short lived. This show was like seeing three bands in one. This might be among best concerts ever in a lifetime.

GWAR is always a good time. I've seen them about 5 or 6 times. Paid my dues with the red paint. This was a fun night last December, and I got a pair of GWAR underwear. How cool is that?

(and Madonna in June!!!)

I have mentioned the House of Blues here before and how surprised I was that I really really liked the venue. Dan Ackroyd did a great job and the place always has amazing acts. Apparently, they take really good care of their touring musicians as well...and that is an added bonus to know. Maceo Parker ranks as one of the greatest shows I've seen and if you ever have a chance, you must go see The Architect of Funk. We danced for the entire three hours he was on stage.

I've had a pretty good year.

If you are reading this...go and see some live music. It's become an act of rebellion!

Jake: First you traded the Cadillac in for a microphone. Then you lied to me about the band. And now you're gonna put me right back in the joint!
Elwood: They're not gonna catch us. We're on a mission from God.

Elwood Blues:You may go if you wish. But remember this: walk away now and you walk away from your crafts, your skills, your vocations; leaving the next generation with nothing but recycled, digitally-sampled techno-grooves, quasi-synth rhythms, pseudo-songs of violence-laden gangsta-rap, acid pop, and simpering, saccharine, soulless slush. Depart now and you forever separate yourselves from the vital American legacies of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Memphis Slim, Blind Boy Fuller, Louie Jordon, Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonnyboy Williamson I and II, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Elvis Presley, Lieber and Stoller, and Robert K. Weiss.

Are you the police?

No, ma'am. We're musicians.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Why The First Earth Conquered The Second...from Our Kind by Marvin Harris.

On his way to Tenochtitlan after landing in Vera Cruz in 1519, Hernando Cortez traveled through a cultural landscape that was eerily familiar. He passed through cities, towns, and villages that had streets and plazas and houses for the rich and poor; he saw people growing crops in lush, irrigated fields, while others carried baskets of food and craft products such as obsidian knives, well-made pottery, featherwork, and skins and furs. Along the way he met a familiar variety of humble men and women: potentates, aristocratic merchants, bricklayers, stonemasons, judges, priests, soldiers, slaves. Many were dressed in colorful woven garments and were adorned with exquisite jewelry appropriate to their high rank. And he passed palaces, pyramids, and other stone structures whose bulk, height, and symmetry spoke of great architectural and engineering skills. Yet there were certain things that were part of the everyday world of sixteenth century Spain that were strangely absent. The people in the feilds were using sticks and wooden spades. Where were the plows and oxen to pull them? and there was not so much as a single goat or sheep to be seen anywhere. Nor was there any sign of a cart, wagon, or any wheeled vehicle at all. For arms, the soldiers bore darts and spears that had points made out of stone. They knew nothing of steel swords or blunderbusses. And their ignorance of horses was so total that they initially judged animal and rider to be one and the same creature.

Social life on the two earths had evolved along essentially parallel paths, but the pace of change was definitely slower in the Americas. Aggregate human responses tend to be similar when underlying conditions are the similar. But, of course, underlying conditions are seldom exactly alike. The two earths were twins but not identical twins. After the animal extinctions that occured toward the end of the last Ice Age on the second earth, the regions that were well endowed with domesticable plants became poorly endowed with domesticable animals. Nothing like sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, asses, water buffalo, or horses survived to be penned and fed from agricultural surpluses. True, the ancestors of the Inca had llamas and alpacas to domesticate, but they were fragile creatures, adapted to the highest Andean valleys. They could not be milked like sheep, goats, and cows, nor could they carry ehavy loads like asses or horses, nor pull wagons or plows like oxen. Nor were guinea pigs an adequate stand-in for swine. Besides, none of the second-earth animals that were suitable for domestication were native to the highland Mexican region in which the progenitors of maize grew wild. I think this explains why the highland Mexicans retained seminomadic ways of life long after they had begun to domesticate their basic food crops. In the Middle East, sedentary villages could have their plants and their animal fat and protein, too, since both plants and animals were domesticated at the same time. Sedentism increased the productivity of the plant domesticates, which increased the commitment to village life. But in highland Mexico, the need to retain animal food in the diet worked against the abandonment of hunting. Hence, in contrast to the Middle East, the development of villages in Highland Mesoamerica did not precede the first phase of cultvation, but following it after a lapse of several thousand years. This, in turn, delayed the appearance of agricultural chiefdoms in the highlands and the appearance of the first highland states in habitats suitable for imperial growth.

The Mexicans ultimately did domesticate the turkey, the Muskovy duck, the honeybee, and hairless dogs bred for meat, but these species were of no significance in the insipient agricultural phase and never did amount to much in later periods.

Some anthropologists have questioned the idea that the paleoIndians confronted a poor choice of domesticable species and want to know why they did not domesticate tapirs, peccaries, antelope, or deer. Tapir and peccaries are lowland jungle species adapted to moist habitats and could scarcely have benefitted the people who domestcated maize and amaranth in the arid highlands valleys. As for deer and antelope, since no one else has succeeded fully indomesticating them, I do not see why the ancinet Mexicans should be expected to have done so. At any rate, they would have made even worse pack, traction, or milk animals than llamas and alpacas.

Not only did the faunal extinctions retard the onset of sedentary agricultural villages on the second earth, but they deprived the second earth of animal-drawn plow agriculture and the ability to develop the full range of agricultural systems that were developed on the first earth. (The Inca actually did use a kind of plow that peoplep ushed and pulled.) Most importantly, perhaps, the lack of traction animals inhibited the development of wheeled vehicles. The Mexicans had no trouble inventing the wheel, but they used it only to make toys for their children. Without traction animals, they had little incentive to build carts. Harnessing people to wagons is not much of an improvement over having them carry cargo on their heads or backs, especially if one includes the cost of building roads that are level enough and wide enough to accomidate a first-earth oxcart. The Inca did build an extensive network of roads, but only for human and llama foot traffic, saving themselves a lot of expense by using steps rather than switchbacks to master steep slopes.

It is a striking fact that the great cities of the second earth were primarily administrative rather than trading centers. Not that they lacked markets, craft specialists, or merchants, but most trade other than in preciosities consisted of food grown within the city itself. Production for export of food or goods in bulk was strictly limited by absense of carts. Symptomatic of the relative underdevelopment of commercial exchange was the absense of all-purpose money. Except for the limited use of cocao beans by merchant castes in Mexico, the second earth lacked a coin of the realm. The lack of long-distance trade in bulk and the absense of coinage severely inhibited the development of the kinds of commercial classes that played an important role in the development of the classical imperial centres of Eurasia.

Lack of interest in wheels inhibited technological change in many other feilds. Without wheels, there could be no pulleys, gears, or cogs, devices that enabled first-earth people to construct machines that milled flour, spun thread, kept time, and helped raise heavy weights, including the anchors and sails on their oceangoing vessels, and that formed the basis of mechanical engineering in the ages of steam and internal combustion engines.

Would second-earth people eventually have developed wheels, cogs, gears, pulleys, and complex machines and gone on to their own industrial revolution? One good reason for answering the affirmative is that they had taken several crucial steps in the feild of metallurgy. having begun like their first-earth counterparts with cold-hammering of copper sheets, they had gone on to smelting and casting copper, gold, silver, and several alloys, including bronze, which they had just begun to use for knives and maceheads when the first Spaniards arrived with steel weapons and armor. An astonishing achievement of second-earth metalurgists specialists was their independant invention of the casting technique known as the lost-wax method. To make a mold for a desired object, they first made a wax model of it. Then they placed the model in apit, or form, covered it with tightly packed sand, and poured molten metal onto he model through a small opening at the top. The metal instantly vaporized the wax and filled the resulting space with a metal facsimile of the wax model. A people who had gone so far with metalurgical skills must be credited with the likelihood of being able to go still further, perhaps not as rapidly as on the first earth, but in essentially the same direction. Second earth's invention of writing and numerology and its astronomical and mathematical achievements also argue for an eventual convergence of science and technology in the two worlds. Pre-Columbian Mexican calendars were more accurate than their Egyptian counterpart, and the Maya had mastered a crucial step in mathematics that eluded even the Romans and Greeks- a glyph for zero quantity to marl the absense of a base number or its exponents. But none of this changes the fact that the first-earth people had gotten a head start. It was they who possessed oceangoing vessels, gunpowder, muskets, steel swords, and the four-legged equivalent of armored tanks. The Inca and Aztec armies fought bravely, but without a glimmer of hope. Unbeknown to either side, their fates had been sealed long before, when first-earth people had turned away from hunting to domesticate sheep and goats and to settle down in agricultural villages, while second-earth people, bereft of domesticatable species, continued to favor hunting for another 5,000 years.

Cortes 1971, Hassig1988, Fagan1984, Hunn1982,Hosler1988, Sanders and Webster1988.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Movies in Chicago

Funny, there are quite a lot of movies I really liked or saw and had no idea were set in Chicago until I got here and just kind of started to think about it. Although I have read a lot about directors work and filmography....I have never read anything about John Hughes and didn't really notice his movies from the 80's take place in Chicago. After watching a favourite 80's movie a few months ago and being so surprised it was Chicago characters (and I had seen this movie lots of times) I started looking for movies about or set in Chicago. The following are a few movies set in Chicago...not necessarily filmed in Chicago...ah the magic of is a list of a few movies I really really like, for my Thursday Thirteen.

1)The Sting
3)American Beauty
4)About Last Night
5)She's Having A Baby
6)A League Of Their Own
7)Ordinary People
8)Risky Business
9)My Bodyguard
11)Running Scared
12)Man With The Golden Arm
13)The Untouchables

Pilsen Dinner-American Portions

It doesn't seem to matter what I order, I can't ever finish my plate here in Chicago. Stagg usually finishes my order. I am experimenting with just ordering appetizers now, the portions are so wildly huge.
These pics don't even include my order...which was steak burritos...and every bit as huge as the other two plates. I usually dig the stuffing out of the burritto to eat the yummy stuff inside, too full to eat the shell. This was a delicious meal at a little place in Pilsen. Everything is supersize.
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