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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

Last Weak  |  Index  |  Next Weak

Weak VII

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12 February 2018

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No. 7,355 (cartoon)

That’s valuable.

It’s invaluable.

Then it’s not valuable.

13 February 2018

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Eyeworms

Hoo boy; I sure have a nasty earworm today. Not only can I not get the stupid song out of my head, the music is so bad that I’m embarrassed to tell anyone about it. Nevertheless, I’m not complaining; at least I don’t have an eyeworm.

I was leafing through a recent edition of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (as I usually do on Tuesday nights) and saw that Abby Beckley, a twenty-six-year-old Oregon woman, had fourteen of the translucent eyeworms in her left eye. That was the first documented case of Thelazia gulosa using a human as a host; the wee critters usually live in cow eyes where they dine on eyeball lubrication.

I’m too lazy and unskilled to do this, but someone should create a new version of the Medusa. Instead of having living snakes for hair, this Gorgon could have venomous worms coming out of her eye sockets. Lots of people would pay to see that, and lots of people would pay not to see it. Win-win as the Californians say!

14 February 2018

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Bad VD Sex Writing

Oh dear, I see I failed to note the winner of the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award a few months ago. I don’t know if this is a conscious idea or just a serendipitous coincidence, but the shabby Valentine “holiday” celebrating bad romance seems like an auspicious time to mention bad sex.

I shall skip the foreplay, as is traditional in bad sex, and announce that Christopher Bollen won the highly uncoveted prize. Here are the forty words from The Destroyers that understandably impressed the judges ...

The skin along her arms and shoulders are different shades of tan like water stains in a bathtub. Her face and vagina are competing for my attention, so I glance down at the billiard rack of my penis and testicles.

Bravo!

As Richard Le Gallienne’s sagely observed, “You can’t fake it. Bad writing is a gift.”

15 February 2018

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Mirrors and Bloody Windows

Are photographs mirrors or windows or neither or both? I’m not interested in such philosophical—or, even worse, academic—conjecture, but the analogy is not without merit.

I was reminded of that when I saw thirty-two photos of an execution. They were very grim; that’s what four men being hanged looks like. There they were, lifeless, each hanging with his arms and legs bound and a shroud covering his head. Their chests are bare to allow a doctor to confirm that they’re dead dead.

For decades, no one knew anything about the events documented in the images. Until they did.

Ferenc Szalasi was one of the men executed. Colloquially known as the Hungarian Hitler, he was head of the Arrow Cross party. The Nazis installed him as Hungary’s dictator near the end of World War Two. He was ultimately responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews.

The images remind me of Lee Miller’s photographs such as Dead SS guard in canal, Dachau, Germany, 1945. She made them after the German death camps were liberated. The photographs show beaten and bloody Germans that might elicit sympathy and compassion until one reads the captions: they’re all Schutzstaffel guards who facilitated the slaughter of millions of Jews, Romani, homosexuals, et cetera.

Szalasi was violently anti-Semitic to the end in 1946, an end that didn’t come soon enough. Was his humiliating death shown in these photographs appropriate justice—if such a thing is even possible—for his horrific crimes? That may be a mirrors or windows question.

16 February 2018

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Noise After Silence (Diptych)

One of the many things I love about being an artist is being completely selfish in the positive sense. That’s why I never collaborate with other artists unless they’re dead; that way I can compromise without compromising at all.

And that brings me to John Cage and his 1961 book, Silence: Lectures and Writings. The word “Silence” appears by itself on one page near the beginning of the book, and that’s the one I chose to work with.

I enjoy intentionally using the wrong technical approach to see if that might also work. Engineers at the Internet Archive working on digital reproduction put a premium on minimizing or reducing noise. I used my computer to add visual noise until the word “Silence” was unintelligible, thus creating Noise After Silence (Diptych).

For any lawyers reading this, please note that I used a page from Cage’s book under the fair use doctrine and don’t claim Cage as a cocreator of the piece. That’s a little lesson I learned from Mike Batt.

Fifteen years ago, the composer was on the receiving end of a plagiarism action from Cage’s publishers for including the song, A One Minute Silence, on an album by his musical ensemble, The Planets.

That was an obvious reference to Cage’s most well-known composition, 4’33” [of Silence]. And he might have stayed out of court had he not credited A One Minute Silence to Batt/Cage. He didn’t help his case by claiming, “Mine is a much better silent piece. I have been able to say in one minute what Cage could only say in four minutes and thirty-three seconds.”

Batt settled the dispute by paying the John Cage Trust an undisclosed six-figure settlement. In pounds sterling, even.

Thanks for taking the bullet, Mike, so the rest of us can avoid the same fate.

17 February 2018

The Inscrutable Jasper Johns

I like Pablo Picasso’s approach to artspeak.

“Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting people have to understand. People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.”

It would appear that Jasper Johns concurs. He reportedly doesn’t like to provide any explanations for his work. That’s as it should be; artists who need to explain their work are probably mediocre or at least immature. Johns reportedly said that his favorite tome of his work was published in Japan because he couldn’t understand a single one of the kanji characters.

18 February 2018

An Excellent Cautionary Tale

Walter is complaining how expensive he’s finding it to simplify his life. That’s the opposite of my experience; I find the less I have to do with money the better off I am. Conversely, Walter’s approach to minimalism seems to involve purging himself of his worldly possessions in order to acquire new, improved worldly possessions.

Never underestimate the myriad tentacles of advertising and consumerism. Walter’s a crap minimalist, but he’s an excellent cautionary tale.

19 February 2018

The Germans Have a Word for It

Colleen’s not doing very well after her ugly separation from Colin.

“I can see the sadness in your eyes,” I said sympathetically.

“No,” she corrected, “You can see the heartache in my kummerspeck.”

“Wouldn’t I need a microscope for that?” I asked naïvely.

Oops; that was a big mistake.

She impatiently explained without really explaining that “kummerspeck” is one of those German words that doesn’t translate easily if at all. I’m leaning toward the latter.

Colleen described “kummerspeck” as “sorrow fat” or “grief bacon” ... the weight one gains after binge eating in response to some emotional trauma. In basic English, she’s been gorging on sausages, cookies, and ice cream since her romantic relation went down in toxic flames.

“Don’t feel too bad,” I suggested, “I can see you’re just trying to make the best from the wurst.”

Oops redux.

In retrospect, I know I shouldn’t have used the word “see” since it was an inadvertently obvious reference to her weight. But how did she know that I said “wurst” and not “worst?”

I didn’t ask; that was the only smart move I made in perhaps our wurst visit ever.

Stare.

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©2018 David Glenn Rinehart

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