Stare.
     
 

gratuitous image
 
Found Pound Sound
(Installation View)

 
 
 

 
 
W E E K  T H I R T Y - F I V E +
W E E K  T H I R T Y - S I X
 
   

27 August 1997
Found Pound Sound
(Installation View)
Found Pound Sound is an installation consisting of a coin (an English pound or equivalent) and a recording of a coin dropping on the pavement. The coin is permanently attached to the pavement of a public sidewalk. The recording is broadcast every seventy-one seconds from a hidden speaker. (In this case the speaker is hidden behind a ventilation grate.)

I got part of the idea from a story about a scientist who studied insects in the centers of large cities. When the researcher started talking about the sounds of insects, the reporter asked how she could hear insects in the middle of a noisy urban center. The entomologist replied by saying "it's all a matter of what you listen for; watch this." She then dropped a penny and everyone within earshot turned and looked.

One of my father's bar stories provided the other half of the idea. He told me that a bar owner had permanently soldered a half dollar to the middle of the floor of the bar. My father and the other regulars would watch the clever contortions a first-time visitor would go through to try to surreptitiously pick up the coin: dropping a napkin, bending over to tie a shoe, et cetera. The result was always the same: everyone in the bar laughed when the stranger failed to quickly grab the coin, which of course never left the floor. I suppose it was the Ohio version of Excalibur.

Found Pound Sound is available in the PDF format.

28 August 1997
Rock & Roll Over
The government on the island of Montserrat issued postage stamps commemorating dead musicians including Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Elvis Presley. (The postal officials ignored Keith Moon and John Bonham; drummers never get any respect.) Now this week the Montserratians may have to leave their hundred square kilometer island because their homes are being destroyed by a huge volcano.

Nature is sometimes mysterious, sometimes quite straightforward.

29 August 1997
Bad Actor
Al the actor has an unusual job, even by San Francisco standards. Whenever the Richards Dental Clinic employs another serf, Al's hired to be the horrible customer from Hades to see if the new worker is able to tolerate obnoxious client.

Al's Thespian duties aren't technically demanding. His role-playing (he favors the Stanislavsky method) involves eating several slices of North Beach Pizza's garlic-anchovy-Limburger special washed down with a couple glasses of red wine, then taking a taxi to the dental clinic. If the recently-hired worker cleans Al's teeth cheerfully--or at least professionally--then it's unlikely that the rest of the clinic's clientele will be nearly as objectionable.

Al likes the pizza, the wine, the acting challenge, and the pay (not to mention the dental hygiene). The only problem is the traditional actor's lament: lack of recognition. The Richards Dental Clinic managers never allow him to tell his audience of one that he's been acting; he never gets to take a bow before an appreciative audience.

gratuitous image
30 August 1997
A Good Alligator Remembered
John Gilroy born 1898; his Guinness illustration of the alligator first appeared in 1957. Guinness reprinted the alligator thirty years later on a bottle cap. Doing good work when you're about sixty, having it reissued posthumously (I presume); these are pleasant scenarios to contemplate while drinking.

31 August 1997
A Bad Sign
After a Saturday night of heavy drinking, Rod turned on the television set this morning and saw a picture of Princess Diana with dates (1961-1997) over her head. He said he couldn't figure out why she had numbers floating above her.

"That's always a sign of grave health," I explained. "If you ever look in the mirror and see the numbers over your head that correspond to the year of your birth followed by the current year, it means you're probably dead."

1 September 1997
The Next-to-the-Last Tragedy
It is my sad misfortune to be in England in a week that promises nothing but incessant babbling about Princess Die. Getting killed in a car crash in Paris was the last tragedy in her short miserable life, but I'm thinking about her next-to-the-last tragedy.

Everyone knows that the late princess was bulimic; she was caring and sharing enough to tell us all about it in international broadcasts. (She was just that kind of gal.) She had dinner at the Ritz just before she died; I imagine she was counting her calories. What a waste! She could have had the richest greasiest sweetest most fattening food on the menu washed down by six pints of ale and it wouldn't have had any adverse long-term effects. (Judging by the photographs of the smashed car I saw in all the newspapers, I'm putting my money on a closed casket funeral.)

Her life was not in vain. Today I'm not going to worry about my weight; I'm going to eat goat cheese, pasta in a rich cream sauce and drink way too much just in case my demise is imminent.

2 September 1997
Princess Die
Princess Die Princess Die Princess Die Princess Die Princess Die Princess Die, there's nothing on the radio except blabbering about Princess Die. India and Pakistan could be having a nuclear war without it being mentioned by British Broadcasting Corporation "journalists." And so it was that I couldn't help but hearing that Princess Die's chauffeur was apparently drunk as a skunk going around two hundred kilometers through the streets of Paris before the fatal crash, behavior that's a bit over the top even for the French. Oh well, that's the way the Mercedes bends.

The airwaves are full of saccharine tributes to the dead princess's wisdom, insight and compassion, in marked contrast to a couple days ago when a columnist for the Observer talked about "the witterings of a woman, who, if her IQ were [sic] five points lower, would have to be watered daily." One phrase I have yet to hear among the platitudes is "common sense." The shrewd but not very sensible princess might still be alive today if, like the only survivor of the crash, she'd been wearing a seat belt.

3 September 1997
Big Screen Death
The British royal family Princess Die have covered Diana's oversized coffin with their official flag. (Why is her coffin big enough to do situps in? Is it bulletproof?) It's good advertising, and they don't even have to pay for it. They're so pleased with the exposure that they've rented huge stadium-sized video screens to broadcast Princess Die's funeral live to audiences in the park. I have to admit they're getting a good deal: all that exposure for their royal logo without paying a penny in sponsorship fees. No one puts on a cadaver circus like the British royal family!

4 September 1997
The Hierarchy of Parasites
It's day five of the Princess Die deathfest, and pundits everywhere are conducting an exhaustive and exhausting inquest to find out who killed her: Was it the photographers who chased her? The publishers who bought the intrusive images from the photographers who chased her? Or was it the public who bought the newspapers and magazines from the publishers who bought the intrusive images from the photographers who chased her? (It seems that the only person in the world who's not a suspect is the drunk and deceased driver of what one newspaper memorably called the Fateful Limousine of Death.)

With so many vermin feeding off of each other, it's hard to figure out who's the host and who's the parasite. Clearly the members of Britain's royal family are the most successful leeches. With breathtaking hypocrisy, they've gone from disowning Princess Die to embracing her back into the royal fold now that they're assured she won't speak ill of them again. Princess Die's casket has provided a rare bit of common ground between the monarchists and royalists: it seems like these days everyone agrees that the best royal is a dead royal.

5 September 1997
Queen Eggs Shock Horror!!!
I read a report that claims Princess Die's children are also her brothers in law. It seems the queen of England felt her eldest son Charley was not up to even the lax standards of the monarchy and decided she needed a better legacy. And that's where Princess Die came in: she was just the human vessel for the queen's newest in vitro babies. Prince Willy and prince Hairy are actually prince Chuck's brothers, although you'd never know it by looking at their ears. Poor Charley, so close to the throne yet so far ... I wonder how long he can keep up the pretense that his brothers are his sons and not his brothers?

Any way you slice 'em those royals are weird.

6 September 1997
One More Look Committee
Poor Princess Die; even death hasn't given her privacy she claimed to seek between her many staged "photo opportunities" and press interviews. Her garishly orchestrated funeral was marred by One More Look Committee demonstrators. One More Look Committee director Albert J. Thornton demanded his members be allowed "one last look at our beloved princess, one last chance to say good-bye to the Queen of Our Hearts." His macabre demand might have been dismissed as part of the DieFest hysteria, were it not for the fact that Thornton and several members of his executive committee have been convicted on a number of necrophilia charges. Virtually every reporter from every news organization decided not to even mention the One More Look Committee, and poor Diana's death was as farcically managed as her life.

gratuitous image
7 September 1997
The Only Friend You Need
I saw a church with a sign that read "COD IS THE ONLY FRIEND YOU NEED." That's an interesting theological observation, but I wonder what the church's position was on chips and beer, the other two thirds of the holy English trinity? I didn't ask; I've found my facts always weaken my faith.

8 September 1997
It's Like Seeing Old Ghosts
I saw the book Jeanloup Sieff 40 Years of Photography in the library. It was a big thick book as a book with four decades of work in it should be. I'm not much of a critic, so I can't think of much to say except my usual critique: there was some very good work, some pieces that were unremarkable, and a lot of stuff in between.

What I really liked, though, was the presentation. Sieff wrote a few words about each photograph on the bottom of every page. I was glad he wasn't too traditional to include words as well as images; I thought the captions added an interesting dimension. For example, there was a photograph of a strikingly beautiful young woman who looks like she's just awoke in the morning light. I presume she's spent the night with the photographer, but I'm not sure if that's because that's what I'm supposed to think or just because the way my mind works. Underneath he's written that the woman's son recently visited the studio to get a print; he told him that his mother was dead.

Few of the captions were that dramatic, but many of them captured the same feeling: looking at old photographs hurts; it's like seeing ghosts.

gratuitous image
9 September 1997
Nine and a Half Tons of Skull Valley
A tobacco company plans to mount "nine and a half tons of Skull Valley" on billboard to encourage more people to smoke more of their cigarettes. It seems like a lot of work to convince tobacco junkies to buy more of the chemicals to which they're addicted, but I suppose most drug dealers like to be flashier than their competitors.

last week  |   index  |   next week


©1997 David Glenn Rinehart