Stare.
     
 

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  Fold Here: a Pseudo-Sculpture in Two Dimensions or Seventeen Folds
 
 
 

 
 
P E R I O D  XI  1 9 9 8
 
   

2 November 1998
Fold Here: a Pseudo-Sculpture in Two Dimensions or Seventeen Folds
Fold Here: a Pseudo-Sculpture in Two Dimensions or Seventeen Folds is another boring conceptual piece, albeit perhaps somewhat less boring than my other recent work. I smile when I think of someone folding a computer screen or a framed print. The piece is available in the PDF format; read the technical bits if PDF isn't a familiar TLA.

3 November 1998
The Derders Question
I talked with Stephen again after not seeing him in many years. I told him I remembered his extensive collection of toilet paper rolls that he had to abandon when he fled San Francisco.

(An aside: I once recall reading in A Child's Garden of Grass that toilet paper rolls are called "derders." The name comes from the sound made by placing one end of the toilet paper roll over the mouth then capping and uncapping the other end with a hand while saying der der der der der der ...)

"I've got another bunch of them, maybe a thousand, and I still don't know what to do with them."

What a challenge! If anyone can figure out what to do with derders, though, Stephen can.

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4 November 1998
The Poetry in the Pissoir Project
One of the first questions I asked when I started walking around Adobe Systems was whether Adobe executives had executive toilets. I was told that all the bathrooms on all the floors were pretty much the same. The person who told me that obviously hadn't heard about the Poetry in the Pissoir Project.

Men who urinate on the eighth floor of the west tower may read creative writing placed at eye level above the urinals, but the male executives on the top floor have only plain tiles and caulking to examine. Linnea Lundquist took me into the women's toilet so that I could photograph the work in there. I'm not sure whether a women's toilet is really a pissoir; I prefer the British acronym UC, or urination chambre.

5 November 1998
No One Knows
Julius has this bumper sticker in his office: "Militant Agnostic: I don't know and you don't either." I generally don't like bumper-sticker philosophy, but who can argue with "I don't know?"

6 November 1998
The Wild Potatoes of Bangor
Everyone in Maine lives in fear, all-pervasive fear, of the wild potatoes of Bangor. Everyone.

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7 November 1998
Moisten Needle Before Inserting Thailand
Dr. Hansen showed me a ball he'd found; he was delighted by the text on the bottom:

    4 TO 6 LBS.
    MOISTEN NEEDLE
    BEFORE INSERTING
    THAILAND

Dr. Hansen walked around the lab the rest of the day admonishing everyone to "moisten needle before inserting Thailand." That's exactly the sort of thing Dr. Hansen enjoys doing most.

8 November 1998
Self No Ledge
A friend told me that Werner Herzog said something like, "An apartment with everything evenly lit and no dark corners would be unlivable." I think it was a reference to a belief that a complete knowledge of one's self would be unbearable. I'm not so sure, but I haven't given the proposition much thought. Complete self knowledge doesn't seem to be any sort of imminent threat.

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9 November 1998
Pulling Birds with a Hasselblad
Fifteen years ago I had to decide between buying a Hasselblad or a Japanese medium format camera. Each camera produced excellent photographs, but the Japanese camera represented a better value. I got the Hasselblad because, as every guy knows, Hasselblads are babe magnets.

Unfortunately, almost no babes know that Hasselblads are babe magnets. Every woman I thought might be somewhat impressed by my beautiful camera just thought I was a pretentious twit, which of course was and is true. The closest I ever came to impressing a beautiful woman with my camera was when I told Vivia I wanted to photograph her wrists with my Hasselblad.

"House of blood?" she asked. She said it sounded like a weird proposal, but she smiled when she said it. She's like that.

This Halloween, Marge, BJ, et al, decided to dress up as penguins. The effect was stunning, especially when we went to the zoo. The penguins there got very excited when they saw their giant relatives; perhaps they thought they were being rescued.

I thought the giant penguins should be preserved on film, so I did. With my House of Blood. And so, after fifteen years, I finally pulled birds with my Hasselblad.

10 November 1998
Dangerous Statistics
I heard on the radio that men speak some four to six thousand words a day. Women, though, speak about ten thousand words during the same period. I'm sure one could draw many conclusions from these statistics, or at least support many positive and negative stereotypes. Help yourself; I'm headed for safer ground.

11 November 1998
Oh Penelope!
I was going to say that I went to hear Penelope Houston sing for the first time tonight, but that's not exactly right. She's been singing for a long time, but tonight was the first time I'd seen her in person.

The only recordings I have of her were made when she was more or less a teenager, but a teenager who would sing with a depth, sing with an edge, and, most importantly, sing with the old punk band, "The Avengers."

But that was a very long time ago. I'd heard that she'd abandoned the rough, hard music for some sort of folksy mandolin and fiddle and accordion crap; later I heard she'd abandoned that too. I didn't know what to expect when I went to the show tonight, but I got my hopes up when I saw that her new recording was titled SCUM. I was soon disappointed to discover that the title had nothing to do with the Society for Cutting Up Men.

The lyrics to the title song went something like:

    You're the scum of the earth
    You're the worst God ever made
    You're the one that I hate
    Blah blah blah ...

She sang it with a passion and a fury usually reserved for discovering that the price of beer went up twenty cents: pro forma complaining. Contrast that to one of her old songs with "The Avengers." like the one that consisted of her singing/screaming, "Fuck you!" over and over like she really meant it. (To paraphrase Chrissie Hynde's advise to a younger generation of female singers, "this music isn't about 'fuck me,' it's about 'fuck you.' ")

It's completely unfair to compare the teenage Penelope to the middle-aged Penelope, but I did anyway. I walked out of the performance as she was singing, "You used to make me feel so high ..."

(With apologies to the real Mrs. Peel.)

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12 November 1998
Late Nights! Late Nights! Late Nights!
It's difficult not to be somewhat familiar with the drug scene, since much of contemporary civilization is the drug scene. And so it was that Greg was a bit confused by the shady characters who kept mumbling, "Late Nights! Late Nights! Late Nights!" under their breath as he walked around the less opulent parts of San Francisco.

He came back to my laboratory after a walk and asked me what "Late Nights" were, although it seemed pretty obvious to him that they had to be some sort of stimulant that would keep the user up all night. He was both disappointed and relieved to discover that "Late Nights" weren't an illicit drug; "Late Nights" are bus and train passes that allow one to ride free until dawn.

MUNI, the San Francisco public transportation agency, is famously and fabulously corrupt. MUNI's perfidious employees sell the Late Nights to their friends, who in turn sell them to people in the streets. Everyone makes money except for MUNI, which is sinking into a sea of red ink. No one gets anywhere; everyone's happy; welcome to San Francisco.

13 November 1998
A(nother) Tangled Web of Plagiarism
Oh dear.

It seems that my plagiarism has come to a bad end, again. I recently copied the work of someone almost no one is familiar with then passed it off as my own. We'll call the author in question "Mark" since that's his name. I showed him how I'd made his piece mine by changing a couple of words here and there, a theft he applauded.

"That's great," he said. "I stole about a fourth of that from a Monty Python sketch!"

Oh dear.

No one except Joy would know if I stole anything from Mark, but half the adolescents in the world--young and old alike--can recognize any and all Monty Python lines.

It's going to be hard to get to sleep tonight; I'll be waiting for the knock of the plagiarism police on my reinforced steel door.

Oh dear.

14 November 1998
A Familiar Film
I asked Eva if she wanted to see a rerelease of an old film.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Here's the description from the program," I replied. "Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets and then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again."

"I'll pass," said Eva. "Let's just go out drinking instead."

I agreed. After all, how many times can a person watch The Wizard of Oz?

(And now a note from the next millennium. It’s 28 March 2001, and I just received a note from “Rick Polito, That TV Guy, Universal Press Syndicate.” Mr. Guy kindly informed me that he was the author of the line describing the film. He added, “I don’t mind the line being repeated but I must insist on some kind of attribution.” Who am I to decline a reasonable request from That TV Guy?)

15 November 1998
Eye-con
Someone wrote me a kind letter praising my "minimal yet effective use of eye-cons." I don't know if he meant icons, Nikons, or the odd attempt at a real eye con, but it doesn't matter: a compliment is a compliment is a compliment.

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16 November 1998
Get Professional Results With Amateur Models
I never cease to marvel at the ingenuity of the committed huckster. Get Professional Results With Amateur Models is the latest example of such brilliant stupidity (or perhaps stupid brilliance).

From what I can decipher from the advertisement in a photographic trade publication, the product on sale is a set of cards depicting popular poses a model might assume. Or, to be more precise, the popular poses a female model might assume.

I can only think of two probable reasons this product exists. First, some models might not be able to understand the complexity of a request such as "clasp your hands behind your neck to make your breasts protrude as far as possible." The more likely explanation is that these cards save the would-be glamour photographer the embarrassment of saying something as silly as "clasp your hands behind your neck to make your breasts protrude as far as possible" when he could instead just pass the poor woman a card and say, "Do number seventeen."

17 November 1998
Leonid Strategies
It's time for the Leonid meteor shower--the biggest meteor shower in thirty years--and I'm ready. I'm spending the night at Bud's Place in one of his silos.

Bud has nine silos. They used to be grain silos, then they were missile silos, and now they're something else: Bud's bud silos. Bud's a marijuana grower; he grows nine pot plants at the bottom of every silo ... enough to cover his overhead for the whole year.

Bud's silos are empty after the autumn harvest, so that seemed like a safe place to watch the meteors fall. All the experts said the meteors were too small to hurt anyone or anything except satellites, but I wasn't so sure. I figured that any meteorites headed for me that didn't burn up in the atmosphere would simply bounce off the sides of the silo several times before reaching the bottom.

It turns out I was right. Although I never saw a single shooting star, I wasn't killed by one either.

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18 November 1998
Bad Day Macaroni
Today I did something I've never done before: I cooked something that was completely inedible.

I was hiking, and the only source of water was described by an overly polite local as "potable, but many people like to filter it." The water wasn't water at all; it was some foul discharge from a previously unknown foul orifice of Beelzebub that oozed to the surface of the Earth near my camp site. It smelled like sulfur, battery acid and decomposing cockroaches and it tasted even worse.

Nevertheless, I thought I could use it to cook macaroni then bury the hideous taste under greasy "cheese-flavored" chemicals, but I was wrong. As I cooked the noodles, the water turned to a gelatinous mass that was almost impossible to separate from the macaroni. Even after adding everything I could find to mask the taste, I could only manage to eat one hideous spoonful before abandoning the wretched concoction.

With any luck at all, it will be another forty years before I again find something I can't eat.

19 November 1998
Back Country Callousness
The trick to eating food when backpacking in winter--or what feels like winter--is to start eating the food as soon as it comes off the fire. You'll burn your mouth, of course, but that's OK. By the time you reach the bottom of the pan, the food will be so cold that it will heal the burns by freezing them.

Mouths can be very accommodating when necessary.

20 November 1998
Another Mystery of the Printed Page
Why is it that printed matter is always more interesting when it's read over someone's shoulder?

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21 November 1998
Alien Brain Growth Broadcast Thingie
I stayed at a cheap hotel that provided external alien brain growth material in a small plastic packet. There weren't any instructions, but I deduced from the illustration that I was supposed to rub the alien brain growth compound into my scalp, then ...

Then what?

It looked like the brains grew when exposed to the radiation from a heat lamp. Or maybe the brains grew on command from ultrasonic radio waves from an orbiting space ship. In the picture it looks like one of the old Apollo command modules is doing the broadcasting. It's hard to tell, though; I don't think the artist was very accomplished. In any case, it doesn't look at all like the alien space vessels with which I am familiar.

There's another possibility, a more sinister interpretation. Could it be that the alien vessel is actually sucking the brains out of the human? And what's even scarier is that the model in the illustration has an amputated right index finger just like mine. I don't think this is anything my aliens would give me, at least not without some explanation. I wonder if the different aliens are after me?

22 November 1998
The Leica Mystery Continues
I recently received some promotional material from Leica Camera AG, Oskar-Barnack-Straße 11, D-35606 Solms, Germany that advised "the Man should control the camera--not the other way around."

Not the other way around?! The camera should control the Man? The Woman should control the camera? The camera should control the Woman?

Leica Camera AG uses the advertising slogan "Fascination and Precision," a fascination and precision that doesn't seem to extend to the corporation's use of English.

Leica über alles!

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23 November 1998
Canine Coffee Art
I recently went out on an early morning walk with two ill-behaved friends. Luna urinated in front of a fashionable dress shop; that may or may not have been what inspired Mick to defecate in front of a bakery window in full view of weary workers drinking their first cups of coffee.

As I hadn't had my first cup of coffee yet, I had to go to another coffee shop, a move that annoyed my walking companions. After I had my coffee, they decided to run, not walk. They seemed amused when their tugs on the leashes soaked me with hot coffee. Oh well, at least the painful episode yielded a handsomely strained paper cup.

24 November 1998
The Seven Secrets of Highly Inebriated People
Alex told me that he had a great idea for a book when he was at a party last night: The Seven Secrets of Highly Inebriated People. I asked him what they were, but he couldn't tell me. He couldn't tell me because he couldn't remember.

I suggested that forgetting might be one of The Seven Secrets of Highly Inebriated People. He said I just might be right. That cheered him up for a while, but not for long.

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25 November 1998
Thanksgiving Eve
William said "you'll never guess what this is."

I never did.

26 November 1998
Sans Turkeys
I spent Thanksgiving with a woman named Honest.

Honest's Thanksgiving toast was lovely: "Genetics pick our relatives, but we pick our friends."

Honest.

27 November 1998
Black Friday
I heard that today is "Black Friday" in the United States. It's the post-Thanksgiving day when most Americans go shopping. Today is called Black Friday because that's when enough people buy enough junk to make a retail business profitable for the year, or, to use a colloquial phrase, put the business in the black.

I'm not a big fan of consumerism, but it's nice to hear the word "black" used positively instead of as a pejorative.

28 November 1998
The Bad Part of Depression
I'm very depressed today, more sorrowful than I've been in a long time. Since I rarely get depressed, I decided to get out of my slump by finding what was positive about my current state. What I found was that the best part of being depressed was that it could lead to some good art work.

It could in theory, but, except for rare cases like Eric Clapton on heroin, it almost never does in practice. Having kept my eyes wide open for a quarter of a century or so, I know better than to fall into the art-through-suffering trap. Usually.

29 November 1998
Clive Staples Lewis at One Hundred
Today would have been Clive Staples Lewis's one hundredth birthday. (After discovering his full name, I think I understand why he called himself C.S.) It's not Clive Staples Lewis's one hundredth birthday today, though, because he died in 1963.

Or maybe it still is Clive Staples Lewis's one hundredth birthday today. I wonder if you can still have birthdays after you're dead, or if you're only entitled to deathdays?

"I bet Clive had some firm opinion on the subject, but this was the most definitive statement of his that I could find after five minutes of extensive research:

    It is hard to have patience with people who say 'There is no death' or 'Death doesn't matter.' There is death. And whatever is matters. And whatever happens has consequences, and it and they are irrevocable and irreversible. You might as well say that birth doesn't matter."

Oh, what the hell: Happy birthday, Clive!

30 November 1998
The Swedish King of the Keyboard
It's amazing what one can find on the television. Yesterday I discovered a wretched composition called Rhapsody in Rock by Robert Wells. The pianist, who is known as The Swedish King of the Keyboard, is a handsome long-haired guy in a purple bow tie; he oozed saccharine passion as he banged away with a moronic twinkle in his eyes.

His music was grippingly trite; he pounded the keyboard as the orchestra musicians sawed away dutifully in the background. The people backing up The Swedish King of the Keyboard may once have been musicians, but in this recording they were, to use Frank Zappa's definitive description, mechanics.

Rhapsody in Wretch!

1 December 1998
An Improbable Birthday
I don't know why this surprises me, but it does: Playboy magazine is forty-five years old today. I used to think Playboy was a fascinating periodical, but that was when I was nine years old or so. The minister's son had a stack of them stashed in the rafters of a friend's garage; the magazines provided an invaluable insight into what women looked like after they'd been undressed, photographed, and airbrushed. My fascination with Playboy didn't last until the fourth grade; I became bored with the lack of variation. (It took decades for me to develop an interest in mind-numbing repetition as manifest in my bad conceptual art.)

I can't understand why Playboy didn't go out of business. I suppose there are new third-graders every year.

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©1998 David Glenn Rinehart