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  Extraterrestrial Enticements

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18 June 1997
Extraterrestrial Enticements
I'm not often stymied for long on a project, but Extraterrestrial Enticements is an exception. When I first thought of the piece, it was deceptively simple: find something that would entice travelers from beyond Earth to stop and investigate. The best way to do this would have been to use electronics or radio transmissions, but I never seriously considered those options because I know almost nothing about such technologies. I decided to place objects on the roof of my San Francisco laboratory that would pique the travelers' curiosity and compel them to investigate further.

And then I hit the conceptual wall: what selection of objects would be entirely new--or at least of interest--to the aliens? My first idea was to present something unique. I quickly abandoned this approach; it's all been done before.

Then I thought about juxtaposition, but didn't get very far with that approach either. Everything I came up with sounded like an art school exercise or a cheap surrealistic non sequitur.

I then considered trying to attract the aliens by presenting something of value, but had no idea what they might desire--if in fact they desired anything at all.

Jeremy Campbell provided the conceptual breakthrough I needed with his observation on information theory:

    "A message conveys no information unless some prior uncertainty exists in the mind of the receiver about what the message will contain."

I decided the combination of a block of rice, penetrated by screws, covered in oyster flavored sauce, resting on a circular saw blade might work. I hope it does; I can then start working on something new.

19 June 1997
Transparent Pretenses
I read a sad story about Alphonse Lamotte, a taxi driver who tried to commit suicide but make his death like an accident so his family could receive a large amount of money from his life insurance policy.

Poor Alphonse failed to die; he's now--and always will be--paralyzed.

I have the same problem, sort of. When I try to make it look like I've done something by accident or chance, most people can see through my thin pretense. At least it's not permanent.

20 June 1997
Little Yapper Dogs
There's not much to say about little yapper dogs that wasn't said years ago at Signor Pizza.

If there ever were Italians involved with Signor Pizza, they were long gone by the time I moved into San Francisco's Tenderloin. Signor Pizza was operated and/or owned by Vietnamese. Their pizza wasn't that tasty, but it was cheap. I regularly patronized Signor Pizza; a large slice--the only size on offer--along with a forty ounce bottle of Rainier Ale usually satisfied.

One time I was waiting at Signor Pizza for a fresh pie to come out of the oven when a garishly dressed prostitute in a short glittery red dress began haranguing the man chopping vegetables with an interminable monologue about her "big house back in Maryland."

"... and it's got a lovely yard with a beautiful garden and two little ittie-bittie dogs, and these little dogs are so cute they just run around and run around and I just love those little dogs, they never stop, they just run everywhere and I love 'em so, you know what I mean?"

The man with the cleaver (Signor Pizza himself?) turned around and smiled. "I know that kind of dog. Chop up. Put on pizza."

End of story.

21 June 1997
Not Very Old, Really
An attractive young woman with long hair sat down beside me on the on the train. I'm sure she wasn't interested in me; I think she only sat with me because everyone else looked even scarier.

She began reading a literary magazine; I wondered what her face looked like. When she finally brushed back her hair I could see she wasn't young at all; she appeared to be about as old as me. Not very old, really.

22 June 1997
Car Frisbee
Janet told me that she and her friends used to play Car Frisbee when they were teenagers. It's played like the normal version except that the players chase the disc in automobiles, not on foot.

I think Janet never played such a game, but it doesn't matter: the idea is enough.

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23 June 1997
Not Hot Enough
I believe most food isn't properly seasoned unless it's painful to eat, which is why I tried Ass in the Tub Hot Sauce. Apparently the manufacturers spent their money on the adolescent name and design, the sauce itself wasn't hot enough. (In fairness, I should add that no other hot sauce I've tried is hot enough either.)

24 June 1997
Succeeding to Fail
I told Jen that to "succeed" in art (using the conventional definitions) is to fail. She replied that to fail was also to fail, a tautology I couldn't rebut.

I then remembered a Joseph Heller quote that amicably ended the discussion:

    "Success and failure are both difficult to endure. Along with success come drugs, divorce, fornication, bullying, travel, meditation, medication, depression, neurosis and suicide. With failure comes failure."

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©1997 David Glenn Rinehart