26 March 2011

Contest for Minimalists

Any metaphysical genius who, while the world waits with bated breath for a cogent answer, is deft enough to say
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
~ Donald Rumsfeld
cannot, in my estimation, be summarily shrugged off as simple evil-doer like Glenn Beck or Josef Mengele.

At the very least, The Magnificent Rummy has a promising high-wire circus act should remunerative employment of evil-doers dry up. Or if he somehow blows the spondulicks he's converted his revisionist drivel, Known and Unknown: A Memoir, into.

Yuri Gripas, Reuters
I suspect I will be forever amused by Rumsfeldian reasoning and rationalizing, despite the frequent absense of reason and rational thinking found therein.

Yet I am struck by how little theatrical makeup would be needed to turn Donald Rumsfeld into an evil clown. A dash of white powder, and a smidge of red lipstick, is all that separates Rummy from giving inconsolable nightmares to generations of impressionable children.

Therefore I propose a contest for freakishly zealous minimalists.

I challenge Oprah, with her OWN resources, to award a gleaming showroom automobile to the first over-caffeinated, wildly-screaming female who can daub on the fewest ounces of theatrical makeup to flip Rumsfeld's evil clown bit.

Viewer discretion advised.

19 March 2011

Giuliani - Gravitas of a Feather

MANCHESTER, NH - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is once again lifting his tassel-loafered leg to yellow-stain US political discourse.

In a fact-challenged, logic-enfeebled attempt to recreate the hateful drive-by tactics of his 2008 FAILED presidential campaign, the small-man's Napoleon Rudy Guiliani, a hate-filled excuse of a man, mocked the President saying Obama is a stuttering weakling on foreign policy.

No longer a Barack Obama apologist, I recently referred to the 44th president as Bush Lite. BUT that a toy poodle like Mr. Giuliani, who adds NOTHING, ZERO, ZIPPO to the body of knowledge vis-a-vis US foreign policy, has the chihuahua nuts to challenge the the President on foreign affairs is laughable. It's reminiscent of a purse dog trying to mount and hump a regal black lab.
Dude has the gravitas of a feather in a zero-gravity simulator.
No offense to other Rambo cowboys, but wouldn't Mr. Giuliani be better suited representing litigants with tooth fairy complaints in small claims court, than on the national stage opining about foreign policy?

14 March 2011

You Know Me

A Yunomi, pronounced YOU - KNOW - ME, is a venerable earthenware teacup, being taller than it is wide and often perched on a delicately trimmed foot.

Pairs of yunomi are called meoto, or married couple, yunomi. Married couples have the same pattern.

Meoto pairs sometimes come in different colors, usually in different sizes, and often in subtly different shapes.

One question that might occur as you sip your rock-less teacup full of Tennessee whiskey:
Are my lips daintily puckered up to the husband or the wife?
I attended a panel discussion of five renowned functional potters from the Mingeisota (Mingei + Minnesota) pottery tradition.
"...the nourishable accident - often it is the flaw, the scar, the unintended mark that becomes interesting."
~Randy Johnston
I am obsessed with dumb luck. I was on the edge of my chair waiting to jump up to ask the panel of potters:
What role does the nourishable accident play in working your pots?
I obsess about the question of planning versus just letting shit happen. My current mantra is
Forget about a plan, just prepare the shit out every potential eventuality.
I never got to ask my question. Someone was always popping up to ask about the economic realities of being a potter, or to ask what it means to give yourself permission to take risks in your work.

Finally some bag lady suggested all of the clay-enabled potters in the room donate yunomis, single or mated, to a silent auction to fund disaster relief for earthquake-ravaged northeastern Japan.

After the bag lady's plea, my role that accidents play question felt benignly self-absorbed since dumb luck just snuffed out thousands of Japanese people and sparked a near core meltdown in the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors.

The philosophical pillar of the mingei craft tradition is
hand-crafted art of ordinary people
Is it possible to be both ordinary and conceited?

YOU - KNOW - ME. It's all about Bob.

13 March 2011

Vermeer's Pearl

An immensely talented writer shared a soon to be published novel ostensibly about painting something the casual hobbyist might consider to be technically difficult to paint.

One realizes the challenge for the novel's protagonist executing his painting is not technical, rather it's the requisite journey he must make to arrive where perception and experience come together. A space and time that makes that painting possible.

Charlatan painting instructors on PBS television demonstrate painting tips like rendering reflections with feathered spikes of titanium white, or having cotton balls handy to daub on clouds. It is the kind of instruction that makes television-viewing chumps like me feel cheap because it is impossible to look away. Slack-jawed, I watch clouds deftly daubed on canvas.

Yet something so difficult should never be so easy. Further, the notion of painting instruction is both shallow and absurd.
Just hit it with your blending brush, guys
~Gary Jenkins
Professional painting huckster Gary Jenkins advises his television viewers to “work as much as you can from real flowers”. In the next breath, Mr. Jenkins back-pedals by saying fake flowers are just fine too, acknowledging how realistic silk flowers have become -- as if the realistic anatomy of ersatz flowers renders them less tawdry.

Such tricks of technique attract and repel thoughtful people. Watching the charlatan television painting instructor ply his trade is like watching David Copperfield materialize albino rock pigeons. With such painting instruction, we are attracted by the sleight of hand -- the purposeful intent of each stroke of the blending brush.

When the charlatan television painting instructor finishes, we are repelled by proficiently arranged pigments that, in toto, offer little more than hollow titillation. We want that half an hour in front of the television back.

The painter's Gestalt must be the gradual unification of perception & experience; deeply felt holistic perception made possible by a steaming pile of life experiences.
We will sell no wine before its time.
~Paul Massson winery advertising slogan.
The scent of linseed oil in an oil painter's studio is nothing short of intoxicating, but at age 53, I am not ready to paint.

Paint? Our two ocular peepholes of perception are barely capable of giving us a baseline understanding. A baseline of understanding that's roughly proportional to the sum of experience and introspective thought.

Superficial thinkers bereft of introspection, might be beguiled with the How of daubing cotton balls, then never quite travel on to the poetic Why or the existential What.

While not ready to paint, I continue to observe painting as I have been for the leeward side of 30 years. One way to explore a painting is to write about it.

Following is a poem I wrote last night about Johannes Vermeer's wistful painting Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Painterly Pearl
Saint Paul, 13 March 2011

A few Dutch painters
pulled white rabbits from
pre-enlightenment top hats

Vermeer's sleight of hand
in Girl with a Pearl Earring
was indirect sunlight

Playing her eyes off the pearl
like a magician performs
a three-cup shuffle

The pearl forever transformed
by light rendered wavy by
the girl's circumstances

He sawed her box in two
long before future historians
could deny his intent

I use the analogy of a magician in the poem. I don't wish to belittle Vermeer's mastery like I perhaps would belittle the hollow technical clouds of a charlatan painting instructor on television.

On the contrary, I am buoyed by the notion that Vermeer harbored deeper intentions than rendering a stunningly mysterious portrait of a young woman. If Vermeer was merely fulfilling a commissioned portrait for a well-heeled patron, then the joke is on me.

Girl with a Pearl Earring has a timeless, lyrical quality about it that makes it impossible to forget.

Since humans share some 40-50% of DNA with the common cabbage, it should come as no surprise that a 17th century human could paint a shared, albeit mysterious perception of a young woman that speaks to us over centuries.

08 March 2011

Beware the Flat Earth

Barack Obama broke his campaign promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. By any reasoned measure, Gitmo is like a black hole sucking the last grains of moral high ground the US had vis-a-vis human rights -- into distant, telescopic oblivion.

Democratic principles in the US are no longer visible with the naked eye.

The US is still mired in two inexcusable wars & now, inexplicably, the President finds himself sucked into mulling over a NATO-led Libya no-fly-zone.

Obama is the new Republican.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
~Pete Townshend
How much further right does the US have to slide on regressive, wing-nut jizz before falling off a flat earth?

06 March 2011

Trout Fishing in America Revisited

Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan is the most original, most courageous, and most imaginative works of fiction I've read.

I recently re-read this cult-classic, having originally read it in college 30 years ago. I did not appreciate Richard Brautigan's uncharted brilliance when I first read him.

Like a Speyside single malt aged some 30 odd years, Brautigan's work goes down easily. Today I get a weak-kneed head-buzz reading his work. His chapter "The Hunchback Trout" makes me want to either give up writing, or shit can my day job to devote my waning years to it.

Literary critics dismissed his work; wondering when he'd grow into a serious writer. Fortunately growing into a serious writer would never happen since in 1984 his 49 year-old melon met the business side of a bullet he swallowed alone in his Bolinas home.

In a passing brush with fame, I once filled water and wine glasses at Richard Brautigan's table at the Rocky Mountain Pasta Company circa 1977. Brautigan was seated at a round top for six that was peopled by friends indulging on Carmella Taverniti's signature seafood cannelloni, liters of cabernet, and hard booze ferried from the adjoining bar The Robin.

Trout Fishing in America was, and still is, so unlike anything I have read. Brautigan said in 1971 that he "wrote poetry for seven years to learn to write a sentence because I really wanted to write novels and I figured that I couldn't write a novel until I could write a sentence."

Brautigan's fiction existed so he could deliver deliciously poetic lines. Silvery lines delivered to the reader as a gift atop a silver fucking platter.

In reading his work, it feels like the novel form is the supporting medium like morsels of gray matter floating in formaldehyde. Like jokes that begin with "A priest and a rabbi walk into a bar", Brautigan's fiction conjures a story as a set up for thought-jarring imagery and poetic punch lines.

Richard Brautigan was a poet who invented fiction to give his poetry a home.

03 March 2011

Flea Circus Violin

The most compelling Charlie Sheen quote is now rendered as two dogs conversing in a New Yorker cartoon. I want to turn my head.

Dude has parlayed addictive behavior into a Television series of ongoing media events & interviews.
I was banging seven-gram rocks because that's how I roll.
~Charlie Sheen
Bi-polar genius or tragic figure?

In The United States of Charlie Sheen, Umair Haque posits that Sheen is an apt metaphor for the American economy. That's rich. But, who am I to question a dude whose good ol' boy business admonishments appear in the Harvard Business Review?

I can't decide which Richard Brautigan quote encapsulates my captivation by Mr. Sheen's existential theater.
The future held only two directions: They were either going to open up a flea circus or commit themselves to an insane asylum.
There is a passion here that would drive a deaf saint to learn the violin and play Beethoven at Stonehenge.
What is it about Sheen?

Parallels might be drawn to Lindsay Lohan, but those are superficial. Lohan is, plain and simple, a mildly pathetic person out of control. Ms. Lohan, like most of the celebrity fuel logs that People Magazine burns, seems to have the intellectual curiosity of a matchbox full of pocket fuzz.

It's not just Sheen's wildly aberrant behavior, or the high-wire feats of drug abuse that I find compelling. It's that the joke might be on us.

Mr. Sheen has wittingly created performance art. His performance is intended to reveal (and mirror back to us) an apparent truism about the human condition -- our collective "ambulance chaser" inability to turn away from passively observing the aberrant.