Saturday, January 31, 2009

Let's quit reducing...

The fact of the matter is that tigers aren't 24/7 killing machines. Sometimes they just like a good roll in the hay with any old dirty dog that hops the fence. No killing, no tearing of flesh. The tiger is not the tiger you thought it would be.

Our words and our ideas are not the things they stand for. The map is not the territory. Danger is contingent. People are not the concepts you have of them. So, if you're not factoring fluidity and change and details into your world, you're gonna miss out, and your gonna hurt some feelings too. How complex can our mental images get? Can 2009 be about refining the granularity of our psychic profiles?
Good idea!

Monday, January 26, 2009


Don't you miss them just a little bit? No? Not yet? Not even if you think of it like a fairy tale? Putin Bush - Puss in Boots... No? OK.

I think I've made my feelings clear about the poster boys of the Naughts here, but I have to admit that upon instant retrospect these guys seem oddly human to me.
One of the strange functions of any strong emotion is the embedded ghost of its opposite. Or am I just a sentimental fool?

(Photo by Tim Sloan. Semi-interesting Errol Morris review of Bush in pictures here.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

First Whipper Snapper...

For me, and others, one of visual highlights of the inauguration was Malia Obama, 10, taking photos/videos of her dad while he gave his address. You can sense how well adjusted those kids are, and how permissive their parents are, encouraging curiosity and personal projects wherever and whenever. I mean it's probably a safe bet that the speech was being covered, but Malia thought, No, I want to preserve this moment for myself. Her private world seemlessly, confidently integrating with the world around her. Nice.

Then, horror of horrors, someone told me that Kodak gave her the camera for the event and encouraged her to shoot away. A sponsorship! Hearing this was the equivalent of having my heart torn out of my ribcage and thrown into traffic on the 405 freeway. I hope this isn't true. Must everyone be a shill? Can't anything just happen without a marketing strategy attached?

Generally, seeing pictures (in the media) of people taking pictures leaves me cold. It gives me the impression that we are we a nation of passive voyeur-gawkers just waiting for something, anything, to point our shiny digicams at. Self empowerment by capturing, thus owning, moments in time, all at the push of a button. It's stupid. I should mention, in direct contrast to what I've said, I do enjoy taking pictures of Sarah taking pictures. Or let's just say that I don't really have a choice and that I could fill a twenty volume set of phonebooks with samples of this occurrence. I've come to embrace this aspect of our relationship as a form of communication and even mind reading.

Bring your child to work week...

Just wondering... Do people who unconsciously build and maintain careers in order to somehow resolve their childhood problems actually resolve their childhood problems, or just feed and maintain them?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday's Fireball...

Did you see it? Sarah and I were riding our bikes at the beach at around 5:30 last night when I looked away from the sunset towards the mountains and saw an unbelievably huge meteor speeding downwards with a black trail of smoke behind it. I was waiting for an impact explosion, but nothing of the sort occurred. It appeared to be right overhead, though I've since learned it was actually 50+ miles up in the mesosphere. The sky was still blue, but in that just after sunset deep blue sort of way. I won't forget the image anytime soon. When we got home I instantly Google news searched "meteor los angeles" and found nothing. Was I crazy? Had I imagined it? Only late today did I find something confirming the fact that a fireball did fall in California. Interestingly, there was also a huge meteor spotted over Scandinavia on Saturday night and another over San Francisco late last night. Are we passing through the asteroid belt? Is the universe welcoming our new president with fireworks? Or, can we expect the old ho-hum cataclysmic impact at any second?
Stay tuned...

Durante bene placito regis...

So today I will share an old memory from the NY days, so many moons ago. I was running a film event and I was meeting new people from that world all the time. Exciting. I was in my late 20's and had a certain cockiness, but also a certain introversion that I held on to tightly. I recall being very worried about losing my soul in the face of this "coveted" element of my generation's society. My Devil Wears Prada years.

So as the memory goes, I'm at this arranged dinner in a fancy downtown restaurant with some big talent agent, a bunch of other smarmy kiss-ass people, and seated right next to me is a major actor who since this event I can not consider in any unbiased light. Basically he's ON from the getgo. He talked the whole time directly to the agent (a woman with a room-filling cackle and a fake British accent), regaling her with tales of wit and wonder. He's got an enormous head and is very tall. His elbow was in my face a lot. I sat there looking like a squeezed lime I'm sure.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think it's important to articulate the underlying vibe that I felt at that table - one that I've encountered many many times over the years, one that can detract from people's ability to move forward and enjoy life.

There it was: an assaultive in-your-face "whatcha got?" vibe - a sort of vampiric demand to produce your own blood - something fantastic and extraordinary for the benefit/amusement of the celebrated company assembled. "How are you interesting? Show us now or be ignored! Give it to us, and we will consume it down to the marrow and then decide what we will do with you."

With any illusion of power it seems comes the right of the king's pleasure. Durante bene placito regis, "during the pleasure of the king," meaning basically that nobody can take a stance against his will. It is a hideous form of entitlement for a non-king to take, one that always slays me, no matter how often it rears its fat head.

So, go ahead, say it: Poor Pablo, no one paid any attention to him that day. OK, true, it's a pity party I'm recalling here. But how many others have I've seen in this position and felt rage in my heart for the sad dynamic at hand? The viciousness of high school popularity contests is rampant across the competitive marketplace dear comrades. What will you do about it? Well, you'd better stop simpering and produce an exceedingly entertaining and quick persona or be dropped like a puppy with uncontrollable diarrhea.

Or, you can choose not to play. You can write yourself right off the special gilded pages of those who have the power to include you in the glory of their self-satisfaction/hatred. Which is what I ultimately did, and why I now spend my days blogging from a lonely stone tower in on a shrub covered island somewhere in the Pacific, moaning about the greatness that coulda been. You shoulda looked out for me people! You was my brothers and sistas.

When is winter over?

Saturday, January 17, 2009


Sarah has a new idea and I'm buying stock in it: The Artbrary or Artberry (the name is still in deliberation). It's a simple concept with enormous connotations for the fabric of society. The Artberry is a free public service, much like a library, that lends fine art to individuals for a period of time. No charge. The works, ranging from refrigerator art to priceless masterpieces, must be cared for and returned in the same condition in which they were borrowed.

Now I know what you're thinking, and shame on you. You're thinking that items will continually be stolen or damaged, and of course the system is ripe for abuse. But therein lies the ugly reflection. A society that understands the concepts of sharing and reasonable rules doesn't need to be hounded with legal documents or extortionate deposits. A society that spends too much energy girding itself against potential abuse becomes a paranoid zoo where everything is caged and kept at a distance.

Which brings me to my twist on the Artbrary. The Zooberry. Imagine handing over your zooberry card to the zooberrian and asking for a dozen Emperor Penguins, a Manatee, and a Mongolian Yak for the weekend.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

RIP no. 6

Patrick McGoohan is dead. Free from the Island at last.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Rethinking coffee...

I went years without coffee and fell into a somnambulant stupor. I began drinking coffee again when we were staying in a house that had a high end espresso maker. That stuff was like crack. Addiction ensued with all the jitters, sour bellies, and coffee breath one could possibly hope for. But the mornings were great. Nothing like that encroaching java alertness that arrives in the morning light.

If there's one thing that can be said about Pablo Gazpachot, it's that he's open to new things and that improving health is always a good thing. OK that's two things. Point being, this past Thanksgiving Sarah and I went up to Sebastopol, a truly progressive and beautiful little town North of San Francisco replete with wild turkeys and city maintained walking paths that stay away from the roads. Tom Waits lives there. They are trying to get their own currency. It's the California that Republicans have fever dreams about. Coffee is a big deal sure, but also big in town is Yerba Mate a tea derived from a cousin of the hollybush that is hugely popular in South America (and with hippies North of Santa Cruz).

Yerba Mate, or just Mate ("mah-tay") products are sometimes marketed as "caffeine-free" alternatives to coffee and tea, and said to have fewer negative effects. This is often based on a claim that the primary active xanthine in mate is "mateine," erroneously said to be a stereoisomer of caffeine. However, it is not chemically possible for caffeine to have a stereoisomer, and "mateine" is an official synonym of caffeine in the chemical databases.

Mate's physiological effects are similar to (yet distinct from) more widespread caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, or guarana drinks. Users report a mental state of wakefulness, focus and alertness reminiscent of most stimulants, but often remark on mate's unique lack of the negative effects typically created by other such compounds, such as anxiety, diarrhea, "jitteriness", and heart palpitations.

I concur. Mate is great stuff. It tastes a bit grassy, which will put off some, but I like the flavor, and drink it straight. Be careful not to boil the water, mate wants water that is around 170 degrees - more that that and you'll fry the good out. The one drawback I've discovered is that when you start drinking mate it makes you urinate like a pregnant race horse. That factor goes away after a few days, but look out!

Guayaki makes a good loose leaf mate. It's organic, fair trade, and bird friendly if any of that resonates for you. If coffee is becoming a grind and yet you need your boost - try the mate.

("Tea Fountain" by Sonja Vordermaier)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Plant Flags...

You do this thing, you do it well. Now go plant little flags around the globe that announce your offering and your birthright to participate in this exclusive club, Earth. Put your stuff where it does and doesn't belong. Forge alliances. Spread your stink. Connect the dots. You're an artist. You're a non-artist. You're a member of the Class of 2009. Don't fret it. You're the solution.

Believe it or not, sometimes when a "thing" catches and multiplies, it actually ceases to be clever and annoying and instead it somehow gives humanity permission to drop everything and discover - whatever, wherever. This some say, is the goal of evolution.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Rhetorical President...

Good article in this week's New Yorker - "The Speech" by Jill Lapore - about Inaugural Addresses. She traces the evolution of these non-mandatory events from private talks between an incoming President and Congress to the ultimate, show-stopping, rhetorical seduction of the American People.

"We now not only accept that our Presidents will speak to us, directly, and ask for our support... we expect it, even though the founders not only didn't expect it, they feared it. Jeffrey Tulis ("The Rhetorical Presidency," 1987) and others who wrote on this subject during the Reagan years generally found the rise of the rhetorical Presidency alarming. By appealing to the people, charismatic Chief Executives were bypassing Congress and ignoring the warnings of - and provisions made by - the Founding Fathers, who considered popular leaders to be demagogues, politicians who appealed to passion rather than to reason. The rhetorical Presidency, Tulis warned, was leading to 'a greater mutability of policy, an erosion of the processes of deliberation, and a decay of political discourse.'"

Pandering to the People is a dangerous game. The Age of Reason has been shoved aside by the Age of Rhetoric and Showbusiness. Will Barack Obama attempt to bring the two together? That seems to be a path one could hope for.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A small chain of coincidences and a realization...

I've just returned from New York where they seem to think it's funny to have temperatures in the single digits. On more than one occasion I yearned for a larger, warmer coat. I asked Sarah if she thought there was a correlation between the length of a man's winter coat and his age (from Pea Coat to Great Coat), but she dismissed the whole issue as brain freeze. Visions of Edward Gorey's nonchalant, mustachioed men in luxuriant floor-sweeping furs danced in my head as I walked like a robot in need of oil down Broadway in the wind-whipped night searching for various cold and flu remedies for our sickly city-slicker hosts. Oddly then, Christmas yielded a nice gift from my mother, a book about the life and art of, wait for it... Edward Gorey.

Of course I'm a fan. Not the kind of true enthusiast who combs secondhand bookstores for Doubleday and Grosset and Dunlap editions for which he illustrated the covers (my brother, Ted, certainly fits into that Categorey.), but a fan nonetheless.

The arrival of the Gorey book got me thinking of how aesthetically great the Edwardian era must have been in Great Britain, and I was happy to have a book dedicated to a macabre Englishman who knew his country's strengths well. Well knock me over with a falling piano, turns out the late Gorey was an American! And to top it off, he never even visited the place!! The whole universe he drew was culled from books and imagination. Once again, this proves my theory that the visions of the conjurer sink deeper and are ultimately worth more than the fact-checked reports of the historical journalist.

("Edward Gorey at home in Yarmouthport, Mass., 1992" by Steve Marsel)

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Full Catastrophe!

Basil: I don't want any trouble.
Zorba: Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and *look* for trouble.