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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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Weak XXV


18 June 2017

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No. 6,487 (cartoon)

You seem confused.

I’m thinking.

You’re in trouble.

19 June 2017

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Irrigation System Activated

I was cycling through Golden Gate Park this morning when I saw a sign I’ve never seen before: Irrigation System Activated. That led me to ponder one of life’s great questions: why does it exist?

Over a dozen sprinklers were shooting huge jets of water into the sky directly behind the notice, so why was it there since anyone who could read the warning could also see the fountains dotting the landscape?

I suppose some city bureaucrat could provide a regulatory explanation, but I’m not going to ask since the answer, unlike the question, would be of no interest.

20 June 2017

Les Magnifiques Éternuements des Chats

I like Jean-Michel Macron’s writing, but then anyone who loves cats would. The neurologist’s work includes Trigeminal afferences implied in the triggering or inhibition of sneezing in cats, The sneeze: maturation of the reflex in kittens, Influence of vagal afferents in the sneeze reflex in cats, and my favorite, Activities of vagal receptors in the different phases of sneeze in cats.

Literary greatness is a hard act to a follow, so it’s no surprise that his son, the recently-elected president of France, never has or will ever amount to much.

21 June 2017

Hippie Daze Revisited

People do lots of stupid things; no news there. While rednecks thither and yon are reenacting Civil War battles, a thousand old hippies gathered in Golden Gate Park tonight to have yet another tedious reenactment of the summer of love. I stumbled across it by accident when I found my bike route blocked by the hordes.

I heard music by the Jefferson Airplane, but I’m not sure of the source as I retreated. It would have been pathetic if was a fifty-year-old recording, more patheticker if it was another band slavishly imitating the original recording, and pathetickest if it were a few old hippies from the original ensemble working the nostalgia circuit.

Some of my learned friends have criticized my whining about the faux hippies, and I do have to admit the era had its good moments, but they only lasted until the drugs wore off.

22 June 2017

Big Numbers

A new United Nations survey featured some interesting statistics. Half of the world’s population is under thirty, with half of them under fifteen. In a year there’ll be over a billion people over the age of sixty. Cats are preferable in every way to dogs. There’ll be eight billion people on the planet in six years. Nigeria will be the third most populous country on earth by 2050.

Actually, the report was mind-numbingly boring; that’s why I enhanced the summary. You’re welcome.

23 June 2017

Japanese Military Considerations

I generally don’t like to deal in broad generalities, but stereotypes come from somewhere. That’s certainly the case with sexism in Japan; my female Japanese friends moved here to escape the toxic culture. Sexism is lamentably universal, but Japanese men take it to new heights or depths, depending on one’s perspective.

Shigeaki Iijima, a professor of constitutional law, came up with a novel rationalization why women should not be allowed to join the Japanese Self-Defense Forces:

In actual combat, if they are under attack from artillery shells or bombs, there is a chance their clothes could be blown off,” he explained. “In other words, they’d be naked. And if female SDF personnel were taken as prisoners of war, I think you can imagine what will be done to them.

Or more accurately, you could imagine such a scenario of you’d watched as much sexist anime and pornography as the learned professor, or if you had a passing knowledge of the “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II.

24 June 2017

The Last Thing You Should Have for Lunch

“You’ve got beer on your breath!” Evelyn announced when I arrived at her studio this afternoon.

“Well spotted, Sherlock!” I replied. “Nothing gets past you.”

“What about the conversation we had a few hours ago?” she asked. “I thought you agreed that beer was the last thing you should have for lunch.”

“And it was!” I concurred, “but after a vigorous bike ride under the merciless sun it was also the first thing and the middle thing as well.”

She harumphed a harumphy harumph and offered me a glass of wine to go with the cheese and bread I brought. I thought that was a most civilized way to avoid a squabble; it’s too bad that option’s rarely explored in the Middle East.

25 June 2017

Closet Art Photographer

I met Jeffrey Gilbert a few years after graduating from Interlochen. Jeffrey, who’d also gone to Interlochen, had opened a photography gallery off Michigan Avenue in Chicago. I showed him my work, more or less expecting him to respond by offering to exhibit my photographs.

After looking at my photographs, he told me he liked what I was doing but that just about the worst thing I could possibly do would be to show it to the public. He said he’d seen too many examples of young people (I was about twenty-one at the time) ruining their work and/or “career” by showing their work before it had matured. If they received good reviews initially, subsequent assessments of their work would either fault them for lack of new ideas if the work was similar to their previous work or, if their work had changed, lament that the new work didn’t live up to the promise shown earlier. As Cyril Connolly observed, “Whom the gods wish to destroy they first call promising.”

Jeffrey wasn’t critic-bashing. Rather, he was pointing out that it takes a strong person to ignore critics and create work based on what s/he felt, not what s/he heard from others.

At the time, I was almost certain he was just telling me that because he didn’t want to show my work. Later, however, I began to appreciate the wisdom in what he said. It took a lot of discipline to create photographs that no one except a few friends would see. In doing so, I had the luxury of doing work that didn’t have to please collectors, curators, gallery owners, editors, clients or anyone except myself.

I became good friends with Jeffrey; he was one of the few people who saw my work. Years later, he responded to a new series of photographs by offering to show them in his gallery. I told him I was honored, but I wasn’t ready to take that step at the time. Later, he closed his gallery and moved to Japan with his Japanese wife and their two children.

I didn’t miss the lost opportunity. After years of photographing for myself, waiting a few years more before showing my work to the general public really didn’t make any difference. Being selfish—in the highest sense of the word—is quite fulfilling.

(I wrote this in 1989, but I never published it until now because I never knew what an Internetty was way back then.)


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©2017 David Glenn Rinehart

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