- 10 June 1998
- Light Lighter Lightest
- There's only one explanation for yet another tediously tedious repetitiously redundant conceptual piece, especially one that consists of over a hundred prints: I am a slut in a rut. I was going to do something quite different in the second half of this year, but I didn't. (Or at least I haven't yet.)
If you've got as much time to waste as I have, the entire work is available in the PDF format.
- 11 June 1998
- Doing Scientific Sky Doughnuts
- I heard about a great experiment designed to test the theory that jet exhaust is a catalyst for cloud formation. The experiment involved sending a 757 out over the Pacific to do doughnuts. Yummy! Joyriding in a 757 sounds like even more fun than doing rental car doughnuts in snowy Nova Scotia parking lots.
So, do jet trails lead to cloud formation? To answer that question, the researcher that sent the 757 out over the ocean watched the weather with a satellite, and witnessed a 3,500 square kilometer cloud develop within the perimeter of the jet's sky doughnut.
I don't know much about science but I know what I like, and I quite like the idea of having all that expensive technology at my disposal. If I had access to a 757 and a satellite, I could probably find out where my missing socks went.
- 12 June 1998
- Genital Wigs
- I was skimming a popular magazine when I saw an illustration of a genital wig. It wasn't a genital wig at all, it was something else entirely. Of course.
I wonder if there's even such a thing as a genital wig?
- 13 June 1998
- Not Picking Up Brain Droppings
- I browsed through a copy of George Carlin's book Brain Droppings in a store today. I was a bit disheartened at how clever he was, little ditties like being amused by impatient people who say they don't have all day--who doesn't have all day? I thought he did some of the things I've tried to do much better than I have.
And then I relaxed. I realized Carlin's been working a lot longer than I have and that Brain Droppings represents some of his greatest hits. I'd probably like my stuff better if I edited out some of the detritus. I'd probably like my stuff even better if someone else edited out most of the detritus.
I decided I liked George Carlin's writing. I liked it enough to be impressed--maybe even a bit jealous--but not enough to buy his book. I'm sure George would understand.
- 14 June 1998
- Twin Mysteries
- Irene listens to Hanna when she cries but she ignores Rivka's distress. No one except Irene knows why she developed an affinity for one twin and not the other, and we'll never know: cats are good at keeping their secrets.
- 15 June 1998
- The Manifest Destiny Game
- There a new game at the lab: Star Control 3, An Epic Adventure of Intergalactic Strategy & Diplomacy. The blurb on the packaging explains the game's objectives: "Negotiate critical alliances with alien races to help you in your quest. Explore their strange cultures and exploit their resources."
I didn't try it; it sounded too much like being in the military and/or politics.
- 16 June 1998
- Feigned Acedia
- Sarah wrote to tell me she was suffering from acedia. "Acedia" is one of those little four-syllable words that's actually a large four-syllable word; it means "sloth; spiritual torpor or indifference; apathy."
I think Sarah was faking it. Anyone who really had acedia wouldn't make the effort to write about it. That's not quite true: bad poets--and a few good ones as well--never tire of rambling on about their acedia. Sarah's not a bad poet, which is one of the many reasons I like her.
- 17 June 1998
- The Full Fulbright
- Dr. John told me he's going to Hong Kong for a year to work on a new piece!
"John-boy," I asked, "How can you afford to live in Hong Kong for a year?"
"Well, Davey-boy, I got a Fullbright Award!"
I was happy for Dr. John; he deserves it. I'd like a Fullbright Award, but I know I'll never get one. Or, to be a bit more accurate, I know I'll never earn one. Someday, though, I might go after a Halfbright Award if I can figure out who to bribe.
- 18 June 1998
- A Tax on the Stupid
- Out of the blue, Kerry opined, "the lottery is a tax on the stupid." I nodded in uncomfortable agreement. I was embarrassed to admit that I was stupid and that I never play the lottery which I suppose makes me doubly stupid.
After lunch I bought a couple government lottery tickets. I didn't win anything. Kerry was right.
- 19 June 1998
- Another Good Reason Not to Have Kids
- I called Barbara today to catch up on this that and the other thing. A few weeks ago I'd read that a student walked into the high school cafeteria in the town where Barbara's family lives and started shooting people. He ended up murdering two people at the school as well as his parents. The tragedy was "another good reason not to have kids" as Barbara used to say before she had kids. (Maybe she still says it; I never asked.)
I told Barbara that I was worried when I first heard the news reports, but then concluded after a little math that her children were too young to have been in that school.
"They were but I wasn't," she replied.
It turns out that she was teaching in the school that day; she was in the cafeteria and saw the entire incident.
"Oh, Barbara," I said, "I know what you must be going through. I've seen some horrible things too, like ..."
And then I realized I'd never seen anything even remotely as disturbing. Watching a few seals get clubbed to death on the Pribilofs was about the closest I've come, and that's not close at all.
I'm so glad I don't have kids.
- 20 June 1998
- Kids These Days!
- I'm not sure what to make of aerosol art. (I used to call it graffiti until Morgan insisted that it's aerosol art.) I'm all for freedom of expression until it interferes with my sleep. Some kid woke me up this morning by thumping across the lab's roof in the process of spray painting a mural on an adjoining wall. Kids these days!
I thought a better example of aerosol art didn't involve any aerosol at all. A building near the lab features huge rivers of paint on the side, and I can't understand how it got there. The paint's patterns suggest it wasn't dropped from the roof, and I can't imagine anyone strong enough to splash a bucket of paint seven meters up the wall. And given the illegal nature of the aesthetic endeavor, I doubt the artist(s) used any spraying apparatus. I like the piece, and I'm saddened that it will soon be obscured by a new building under construction.
Kids these days!
- 21 June 1998
- I heard about some sort of art scandal in Oregon that involved dancers in a ballet company going through "sexual motions" on stage. The response was predictable: some people thought it was art, some other people thought the performances were banal and pornographic. Without seeing the performances, I just thought it was good marketing.
I can't believe that people still blather on arguing about aesthetics. Beauty is in the organs and orifices of the beholder: everyone knows that!
- 22 June 1998
- The Sonorous Regions
- There's nothing I can tell you about the sonorous regions if you've been there and nothing to tell you if you haven't. And that's really all there is to say about the sonorous regions.
- 23 June 1998
- Relevant but not Pertinent
- Judith's working on a book, a huge book. She's writing a biography of a man who was instrumental in the American civil rights movement during the 1960s. (I'm not saying who the man is so no one plagiarizes her idea. Aesthetic plagiarism is one thing; biographies are quite another. There really is honor among thieves.)
The book involves a ridiculous amount of research; that's one reason I'll never do a real biography of anyone. (It might, however, be fun to do a fictitious biography.) In the course of her research, Judith's found a number of interesting anecdotes that are "relevant but not pertinent." Relevant but not pertinent? I'll never figure out that nuance, that's one reason I'll never become a lawyer.
I urged Judith to abandon her project. "After ten years of research, you're going to have three vexing questions about a dead man that only he can answer, and won't."
- 24 June 1998
- Computer Graphics Inaction!
- Frank's spent weeks working on the new bar in his office. He told me that it will be a good place to do business and negotiate: "People behave differently when they're talking to someone behind a bar."
And then there's another business justification as well: "It's a great example of the work we do here." Frank wasn't referring to drinking (although he could have been); he was alluding to the powerful (for today, that is) computer he used to design the bar. He said it was a great example of computer graphics in action, but based on the empirical evidence I gleaned as a beta tester, I think it's more like to demonstrate computer graphics inaction.
I'll drink to that!
- 25 June 1998
- Red Wine Theft
- It's about time to do some new work. Maybe some day soon, some way. I don't really know. What I do know is that there's no point in plagiarizing unless you steal from the best. It's all right but it's all wrong. Stolen again!
- 26 June 1998
- sage is all the rage
- sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage sage is all the rage
salvia: oh me oh my oh dear
- 27 June 1998
- A Triumph of Idea Over Artspeak
- Gary Garrels wrote the intro to the "Art of 4 Decades" show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern [sic] Art, but I'm not sure if he wrote this text accompanying one of the paintings ...
The Dylan Painting
oil and beeswax on canvas
The Dylan Painting is a key work in the development of American art in the 1960s and in the career of Brice Marden. While the work is monochromistic, it is richly toned and luminous. Its subtly-textured, light-catching surface was built up by the artist with a painting spatula and a painting knife to apply a mixture of oil and wax.
This mixture produces a surface almost like a fragile skin laid over the supporting canvas. Marden's creation of a metaphor for the human body ...
Artspeak alert! Artspeak alert! Artspeak alert! It's like that conceited old git Hilton Kramer said: "The more minimal the art, the more maximum the explanation."
The maximal explanation went on, explaining that "... the title refers to Bob Dylan, a member of Marden's circle of associates ..." Circle of associates?! Artspeak alert! Artspeak alert! Artspeak alert!
That was the only grey painting in the museum that had an artspeak explanation of what was allegedly going on in a canvas that a less sophisticated person such as myself might conclude was done with a paint roller or an air brush. By the time I got to the 1976 painting ...
oil on canvas
... and then to the 1990 piece ...
oil on linen
... no explanations were provided for these uniformly grey paintings. Or needed. What was once an usual idea had become part of the unspoken visual art vocabulary, a triumph over artspeak.
- 28 June 1998
- Improbable Numerical Correlations
- A friend told me about a railway sign in India that read:
Slow Has Four Letters
So Does Life
Speed Has Five Letters
So Does Death
- I might add that "Improbable Numerical Correlations" has thirty-three characters (including the spaces), so does "Humans Can Be Pleasingly Strange."
- 29 June 1998
- Digital Vortex
- We're all going down a digital vortex.
See you at the top!
- 30 June 1998
- A Fake's Progress
- A few centuries ago, artists were mostly judged by how accurately and faithfully they copied the work of the master artists of their day. Today, artists are mostly judged on how well they disguise the copying of fine artists' work. Over the centuries, some things change and other things don't.
- 1 July 1998
- Bonny Bunny Bunnahabhain
- My favorite Scotch comes from the Isle of Islay, and Bunnahabhain is my favorite Islay single malt. Clarence, who's a bit of a snob, asked if I liked Bunnahabhain because the distillery uses water from a spring instead of the more peaty variety usually associated with Islay.
I am not smart enough to be either a good snob or a good liar, so I told Clarence the truth: I like Bunnahabhain because I like Angus MacIntyre's perverse way with words.
Angus MacIntyre founded the Bunnahabhain distillery eons ago, but his first love wasn't Scotch, MacIntyre loved rabbits. And unlike most Scots, MacIntyre preferred to see rabbits on the hoof rather than on the plate. He was so fanatical about his "wee furry bairns" that he set up a large rabbit refuge on the north side of Islay.
MacIntyre's project proved to be a huge drain on his inheritance, a desperate situation that demanded desperate action. And so it was that Angus MacIntyre started distilling what proved to be excellent whisky.
And as for the name Bunnahabhain? MacIntyre invented it; he pronounced it "bunny haven."
- 2 July 1998
- No Possible Explanation
- There's no possible explanation why I had to stick it in my wrist. There really is no possible or impossible explanation.
- 3 July 1998
- Miscalculated Anthropomorphization
- An earnest ecologist was trying to get Andy to provide some pro bono services. For free. The ecologist's spiel was going pretty well until he told Andy that dolphins are "the people of the ocean."
"The people of the ocean? Well, to hell with them then."
Sometimes it doesn't pay to anthropomorphize.
- 4 July 1998
- The Rocket in My Pocket
- Ever since I was a small boy I've been warned to never ever stick my finger in the electrical socket. And so, being a nicely brought up boy (mostly), I never did.
I came back to the lab and saw a puddle of electricity in the corner; it was still leaking from one of the lab's few unused sockets. And so I did what any lad who's ever been to the nether lands would do: I stuck my finger in the socket.
It was great! Great, yet, at the same time, still sad. It was just another forbidden fruit I waited too long to enjoy.
- 5 July 1998
- Ms. Wilson's Curious Preference
- The party wasn't over in the morning, so we all went down to the Three Cooks Cafe for breakfast. The Three Cooks is known for serving gluttonous portions, and they didn't disappoint today. I was one of the few people who joined the Clean Plate Club; several other people couldn't finish everything on their plate. (Is that a metaphor for something?)
We took the leftovers back to the compound and gave them to Wilson, a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. The people who named Wilson didn't know a lot about pigs; Wilson is a sow. It was agreed the Wilson's full name is Ms. Wilson, although no one knows what her first name is.
Wilson grunted in appreciation at the smorgasbord strewn on the lawn; the first thing she ate was the leftover ham. (Is that a metaphor for something?)
- 6 July 1998
- An Incorrect Correction
- I just received an "urgent message with fact correction update" from Willem Sawyer who wrote to inform me that my reference a couple days ago to "the nether lands" should have in fact referred to Holland.
I happen to know a lot about both the nether lands and Holland. Holland's easy: anyone who's ever read about Hands Brinks-Man and the way he drove his silver stakes through vampires' hearts knows all that needs to be known about that profitable little sterile landfill.
I'd rather be in the nether lands.
- 7 July 1998
- Periodic Punctuation
- I wonder how a sentence would look if I capriciously and thoughtlessly replaced all the spaces between words with periods?
I. wonder. how. a. sentence. would. look. if. I. capriciously. and. thoughtlessly. replaced. all. the. spaces. between. words. with. periods?
(A technical aside: if you want to know how a sentence would look if I capriciously and thoughtlessly replaced all the spaces between words with periods you'll have to do it yourself. I had to insert spaces after the above periods because several of my computer programs didn't recognize a sentence with periods instead of spaces; they exploded, melted, fried, et cetera trying to interpret the sentence as a one hundred and twenty-two character long word. So.now.you.know.)
- 8 July 1998
- Black Line Tedium
- I went to a gallery that had black tape on the floors, conceptual barriers to getting too close to the work on the walls. I thought the idea was rather silly: if I wanted to damage a piece, a long piece of tape wouldn't stop me. And if I stepped over the line, my breath wouldn't hurt the work, even after some clam and garlic pizza in North Beach.
The young attendant looked painfully and understandably bored; the tape lines were the best works in the entire gallery. When I put my foot over the line to give her something to do, she predictably said, "Please stay behind the line."
We were each unsuccessful in relieving each other's boredom.
Galleries are like that on Wednesday afternoons.
- 9 July 1998
- There are few surprises on transatlantic flights, and even fewer pleasant surprises. Today, though, a stern and matronly KLM flight attendant used the plane's intercom to request "Would anyone who lost a cat please identify themselves." (I wonder how the cat got on the plane? So much for airport security: anyone smuggling a decent size cat on board could have easily have done the same with semtex.)
The kitty in question was a slender black cat who looked both resigned and bored at having been apprehended before it could raid the salmon in the first class end of the jet. A traitorous dog would have unhesitatingly identified its human companion without hesitation, but the cat was silent. Felines are trustworthy that way.
Cats on planes are a great idea. If I ever run an airline, I'll make sure there are at least two cats on each of the dog-free planes.