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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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Weak IV


22 January 2021

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No. 9,994 (cartoon)

Your hatred will destroy you.

That’s all that keeps me alive.

23 January 2021

Poor Jamie Dimon

Poor Jamie Dimon. Figuratively speaking, of course: el grande Kahuna of America’s biggest bank, JPMorgan Chase, has a billion bucks. (I know this for a fact; he counted each banknote himself.) His huge fortune is a tremendous burden in that way and so many others, and he’s campaigning for a more equitable distribution of wealth.

“Forty percent of Americans make less than fifteen dollars an hour,” he lamented. “Forty percent of Americans can’t afford a four hundred dollar bill, whether it’s medical or fixing their car.”

That’s what I call courage and integrity in the face of overwhelming adversity. You have to hand it to the guy. (And if you’re a JPMorgan Chase customer, you already have.)

I just read that he was stabbed in the back by his own company. I can only imagine how crestfallen and demoralized he was that, despite his tireless efforts, his company awarded him thirty-one million dollars in pay for 2020.

The directors could have given each of their quarter-million employees a hundred and twenty dollar bonus, but what’s the point? That much money doesn’t go far these days, and anyway, what’s a janitor going to do with an extra thirty cents a day?

Poor Jamie Dimon, suffering from the burden of another thirty million dollars he doesn’t need. Perhaps he’ll roll up his sleeves, tighten his quarter-million-dollar Gucci belt, and use the latest windfall to lobby and bribe politicians to rewrite the tax codes favoring the wealthiest that allowed him to amass such an embarrassing fortune in the first place. Or, perhaps more likely, there’s something in the bottle of pulque that causing these surreal hallucinations.

24 January 2021

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Not Close at All

Formal portraits are usually of no interest to me, especially when it comes to friends. I still feel that way, but made an exception for the incredible portrait of herself that Ema sent me even though I had every reason to dislike it.

First, it was in color. As a chromophobe, I usually find color redundant at best, but I had to admit that the contrast between the warmth of her face and hair and her icy-blue necklace was striking.

And then there’s the makeup. I know a lot of lovely women, and I’ve never met one who looked better with makeup on than she did fresh out of the shower. On the other hand, if I had lips like Ema’s I might wear lipstick too.

The overall visual effect reminded me of one of Chuck Close’s early paintings: the complex lighting, the blank stare into the camera, the mouth slightly agape, wonderful! I asked her to tell me the story behind such a great photograph, and this is what she wrote ...

... and the story behind my dumb selfie is that I had just received the necklace (glass beads) from the jeweler (by post, never met her in person) and sent her back the image to see how it looks on me. haven't put it on since.


Henri Cartier-Bresson was right when he candidly admitted what most photographers won’t, “Of course it’s all luck.”

25 January 2021

Burns Night

I gladly accepted Andrew’s invitation to celebrate Burns night with him. You got your haggis, your neeps, your tatties, your Scotch, and of course your “Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!” crap poetry, so nothing could really go wrong.

Except it really did.

Out of all of the above, he had none of the above. Instead, he prepared a feast of soggy grilled cheese sandwiches, oily potato chips, a big, gluggable jug of bourbon, and some Edward Estlin (E.E.) Cummings poetry to read.

Before I go on, I should point out that I would quite enjoy all of those things on any other night of the year, but, in the words of our first real president in four years, c’mon, man! This is Burns night, sonsie face!

Andrew explained that he took “certain liberties” with the traditional celebration because of the pandemic.

Of course, blame it on the pandemic!

Most of us look at Coronarama and think of the two million people who died and the unfathomable and incalculable suffering it has caused, and then there are people like Andrew, for whom the virus is a cross between a blank check and a get out of jail free card. Whether it’s becoming obese, breaking promises, having an affair, or any other perfidious or reprehensible behavior, there’s a perfect excuse: blame the virus!

To end on a positive note, I can recommend grilled cheese sandwiches washed down with bourbon. Come to think of it, I can’t imagine why there’s still all this hubbub about Rabbie Burns. Is Burns night yet another scam foisted on us by the Scottish Haggis Marketing Board?

26 January 2021

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How Come Me?

Dr. Mineva sent me a cartoon from a recent edition of Borba and asked if someone in Bulgaria might be plagiarizing my work. The cartoon was indeed one of mine, but ...

It gets worse; it usually does.

Oh dear; it seems that I’m not the only person poking around on my computer. I create my cartoons many months in advance; the one she sent isn’t scheduled to be published here until November.

Here’s the translation ...

Who’s there?
How come me?

(Those aren’t the exact words in my original, but the template is a pixel-perfect copy of mine.)

A friend who works at the National Security Agency laughed when I told him about the incident. He said the Bulgarian State Intelligence Agency is always probing American computer security but without much success. He speculated that someone in the data surveillance division in Veliko Tarnovo probably pulled it off my computer and sold it to the local paper for a couple of levs. He advised me not to worry, and to be grateful that the North Koreans didn’t drain my bank account.

I learned my lesson; tomorrow I’m changing the password on all of my accounts from abc123 to ... hold it; I’m not going to report it here; I need to make the Bulgarian State Intelligence Agency agents work for their data.

I’m relentlessly positive as usual, so I’ll conclude by saying that I’m glad that I now have at least one reader in Bulgaria.

27 January 2021

Twenty-First Century Schizoid Man Revisited

If there’s one thing that I can say with certainty about Robert Fripp, it is this: he is Robert Fripp. (Look him up in your Funk and Wagnalls.) After that, things are less clear.

I regard him as one of those rare people like Laurie Anderson or Brian Eno who’s created an impressive body of work, as opposed to the more common phenomenon of someone who showed great promise in her or his twenties then lived long enough to descend into mediocrity. (There’s something to be said for joining the Twenty-Seven Club.) I was surprised bordering on gobsmacked to hear Fripp describe his musical life as wretched.

My musical and professional life has been characterized by dispute. It was wretched. There were high spots, certainly, but a long way from happiness.

I have no idea what he’s talking about, and I don’t want to know. I like his work and want to preserve my ignorance about how the sausage was made.

I appreciated that quote for the same reason I like articles that assure me that chilis, coffee, and wine are good for me: they confirm that the choices I made may have been good ones.

Unlike Fripp, any disputes I’ve had in my creative pursuits have been internal ones. I’ve never collaborated with anyone on anything vaguely related to art. I’m glad that I’ve never had to use the phrase, “Let’s compromise and do it my way.”

It appears that Fripp’s teaming up with other musicians has allowed him to create work he couldn’t have done by himself, but at the cost of feeling wretched. Conversely, my twenty-first schizoid (in the positive sense) man approach to artwork has resulted in an improbably charmed life.

I shall end on a cheerful note. Fripp seems both serene and chuffed in his recent Coronarama work, recordings he made with Toyah Willcox—his wife of thirty-five years—in the kitchen of their stately mansion.

Dorothy was right: there’s no place like home.

28 January 2021

Wolf Moon

There are more than one hundred and ninety moons in our obscure little solar system, and ours is only the fifth largest of them all. In other words, nothing special.

I suppose I could be admiring Ganymede from Jupiter tonight instead of basking in the icy beauty of the wolf moon here. But, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’m going to ignore that good advice and instead note that I’d rather be here enjoying the soundtrack of howling coyotes on a relatively warm night than anywhere else within a parsec of here. The temperature is a bit below freezing, but not a hundred and fifty degrees below zero like the Jupiterians are experiencing right about now.

Dorothy was right: there’s no place like home.

29 January 2021

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A Five-Kilometer Line from Dildo to Spread Eagle, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

I took advantage of The Great Pause, more commonly known as Coronorama, to do things I’ve always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time.

Today, for example, I was studying maps of Canada when I saw a couple of cities with improbably silly names. I had no idea if there was a connection between them. I suppose I could have done a bit of research, but figured it would be quicker and easier to create one myself: A Five-Kilometer Line from Dildo to Spread Eagle, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Beauty, eh?


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