The Two Hundred Years' War
A dispute that's been quietly simmering for almost two centuries has finally reached an ugly climax. In 1798 the city began an ambitious development project; it was one of those turn-of-the-century building programs still dear to the hearts and purses of politicians and contractors everywhere.
2 November 1996
Doggy Style Justic
There's a dog in my neighborhood called Exterminating Destroyer. It's a silly repetitiously redundant name, but no one seems to mind. In fact, listening to Mr. Walbanke holler--a pudgy, balding lardish middle age banker--yell "Exterminating Destroyer! Here Exterminating Destroyer!" is one of the small rewards for living here.
3 November 1996
The Hierarchy of Aches
Poor Roberto. He's just sitting there pulling petals off a flower. "She loves me; she loves me not." She loves him not, or at least not as much as Carlos. Adrianna has moved in with Carlos and they're making babies ... or at least one.
4 November 1996
The End of Time
Today is the end of time. That means I have a lot of loose ends to tie up, including this notebook entry. There's really not a lot else to do, since I've known about the end of the world for some time.
5 November 1996
I continue to be on the verge of "real" photography. I dreamt last night that I was taking photographs with my Leica. (Unfortunately I'd mounted the 35mm lens wrong so it showed the 50mm frame.) A few nights ago I dreamt one of the neighborhood kids had a dozen different varieties of pilfered spot meters for sale; I recall that I particularly fancied the one that took half-degree measurements. I even went so far as to look at used enlargers yesterday. (I didn't consider bringing my fine enlarger that's been in storage for years across the Atlantic; that would be too rational. At least half the attraction to the medium is the hardware.) There was a newish Leitz Focomat v35 and a massive old IIc; I enjoyed being seduced by the Leitz logo.
6 November 1996
I'm missing my right index finger.
7 November 1996
The subway tunnels of Beijing are crawling with playwrights. Some of China's greatest dramatists have walked these tracks, one of the few places where they could practice their dialogue at the top of their lungs without bothering anyone. Every train driver knows this, and approaches each bend in the tunnel with caution. The playwrights seem to appear at random, emerging from the dark labyrinths like confused specters. In the dim glow of the yellow lightbulbs, bulky figures in layer upon layer of clothing wander pointlessly, clutching scraps of paper close to their chests. Sometimes subway workers find sodden manuscripts hidden under bricks or behind a maze of wiring which they dutifully turn in their find to their superiors, who in turn pass them along to the Minister for State Cultural Security. The scratchy documents are rarely read, and the plays are filed away never to be seen again. The Cultural Security Police don't really care about the underground playwrights as long as they stay in their place.
8 November 1996
Washing Up Synchronicity
I bought a new cordless headset telephone so I can chat while I'm washing dishes. I called Judy to tell her about my new toy; I mentioned that I was watching the shadow of my building move across the wall of her building.
9 November 1996
The Mantle Baking Company has come up with a simple but brilliant marketing strategy: they've introduced a new line of cookies that are so ugly that people eat them immediately so they don't have to look at them. And they taste so good that they buy more. (Almost no one knows the recipe for the filling is the same as the Twinkies formula: half sugar and half lard.) Buy eat buy eat buy eat buy eat buy eat ... everybody's getting fat, especially the Mantle Baking Company.
10 November 1996
The Pasta's Not Done (Reprise)
I've been cooking the same pan of pasta since 26 July but it's still not done. The garlic bread has gone from charcoal to ashes and the red wine is a distant memory, but the pasta's still not done.
11 November 1996
The Redfearns have a farm that's been in their family for almost three centuries. A fence bisects one of the fields for no apparent reason. Apparently two of the sons had a horrible argument in the last century, and one of them built the fence as an act of pique. It's a handsome reminder that one should never make a drama out of a crisis... or is it the other way around?
12 November 1996
An English Thing
The English are obsessed with dog shit. In spite of this national preoccupation, someone always steps in it. It's that kind of place.
13 November 1996
Cats can do many small household chores, although they'd never admit it. For example, I always leave a ladder against the wall. And without fail, a cat always climbs the ladder to examine the ceiling, something curious cats rarely have an opportunity to do. As a result, I've never ever had to remove cobwebs.
14 November 1996
Peanuts for Artists
I went to an Arts Council presentation on "the status of the artist." It was, predictably, terribly boring. A couple of artists said life is hard, a consultant on "The Career Paths of Visual Artists" said focus groups had identified numerous financial problems associated with art as a "career," and a statistician said 37 percent of artists earned less than $8,000 in 1994/5. The administraitors, most of whom make at least at least five times as much as they artists they "serve," looked on with looks of compassion and concern. Having conclusively established that artists work for peanuts, that's what they gave us. Like the event, it was something to chew on, but not much.
15 November 1996
I went to a gallery exhibit of Paul Sermon's Telematic Dreaming. The piece consisted of two beds in different cities; the image of one bed was projected onto the other so that one could "interact" with the person on the other bed.
16 November 1996
Gregory Green is building a sputnik satellite. Like his other work with bombs and rockets, it's art. When I last saw him he was trying to find half million dollars to put it into orbit.
17 November 1996
Simon throws great parties. There's still beer and wine left at two in the morning, although he ran out of toilet paper some time ago. (For the record, he has never ever run out of strips of newspapers.)
18 November 1996
Sticky Nautical Situation
I went to a party on a ship to celebrate "The End of The Year of the Visual Arts." It was a perfect venue for the event, since the old ship lacked any visual art. It did, however, have a functional revolving dance floor. Some of the partygoers danced to the worst disco music of the 1970s, but no one fell over even after lots to drink. Over the years there so many liquids of every description have spilled on the decks that shoes stick to every surface like nails to a magnet.
19 November 1996
I was in a dirty smoky wretched bar. The proprietor put a few sprigs of plastic plants in the ceiling to give the place an airy, pleasant feeling.
20 November 1996
I had a delightful dinner with Peter Townsend. He was a charming conversationalist, full of wit and art world anecdotes. (When I asked him if he'd ever been confused with a musician of the same name, he said once Mick Jagger had called him--collect--at three in the morning from the other side of the Atlantic.) For desert we were presented with some foamy concoction called "Eton Mess." We couldn't figure out any of its physical properties, and when Peter went to investigate his specimen he accidentally knocked it over. We all agreed that when presented with a mess, the best thing to do is to make another one.
21 November 1996
Two Rooms Approaching Perfection
I stayed in the perfect two-room guest apartment tonight. One room had a bed, a cabinet, a small table, a desk and a chair. The other room had a sink, a shower, and a toilet. Having everything necessary (except the odd tool) in such a small space seemed idyllic. I've heard such architecture described as minimalist (by those who like it) or Stalinist (by those who don't). I'm not sure where I fit in that spectrum, but, once again, who cares?
22 November 1996
Dozens of people assembled to address two questions: Why make art? Why look at it? (I attended only for the free food and drinks, not the questions and answers.)
23 November 1996
My Part, Darkly
I learned two things today. First, computers use an amazing amount of electric energy, which translates into air pollution, nuclear waste, dammed rivers, global warming, et cetera. Second, computer monitors use more energy for light areas than for dark areas of the image.
24 November 1996
Survival of the Cutest
A friend of mine is trying to save the last few hundred of the Siberian tigers. Unfortunately for both him and the tigers, the cub depicted in his brochure is some sort of mutant beast, perhaps the victim of an old Soviet nuclear experiment that went terribly wrong.
25 November 1996
I was walking down a busy street when I saw a sign saying "Krazy Steaks are here;" the horseshoes on the sign suggested their "kraziness" was not attributable to Mad Cow Disease.
26 November 1996
Twentieth Century Stonehenge
I'm not sure if it's possible to visit the real Stonehenge; I've heard it's blocked off to prevent it from being overrun (again) by druids and the like. I understand the police even keep away the tourists in order to preserve tourism.
27 November 1996
Humped Zebra Crossing
Birmingham has more canals than Venice. That's not true, but after some public relations hack said so everyone there believes it's true. This often repeated misconception is given additional credence because few Birminghammers have ever been to Venice.
28 November 1996
The Perfect Ménage à Trois
On an early morning walk I discovered someone--probably a drunken student--has placed a plastic traffic cone on top of a civic statue. Drunks and traffic cones and statues are the perfect ménage à trois.
29 November 1996
A Sloppy Yet Pleasant Stasis
I like beer. Beer weighs a lot. I drink a lot of beer. I weigh a lot. This could be a problem.
30 November 1996
Uniformly Cylindrical Salmon
I bought 200 grams of salmon for 39 pennies. I used to be baffled by how anyone could make any money selling salmon so cheaply after shipping it halfway around the world, but after a while I stopped thinking about it. What still fascinates me, though, is the way the salmon is fit into the can.
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©1996 David Glenn Rinehart