Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thank you Rodchenko...

Thank you Aleksandr Rodchenko, visual pioneer, for giving us the graphic wisdom to see things from all angles. You taught me the deep logic of visual contrast and making images and ideas and spatial constructions pop just so... all while remaining as cryptic and exotic a person as only a Soviet visionary in a leather jump suit could.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Random passages...

“Those dusky Afro-Scandinavian buttocks, which combine the callipygian rondure observed among the races of the Dark Continent with the taut and noble musculature of sturdy Olaf, our blond Northern cousin”

- flipping through Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Monday, September 21, 2009

Art is...

...anything we do that we don't have to do...

According to Brian Eno, that is, who we were happy to see speak last night on the insanely dreamy CSU-Long Beach campus. He was supposed to be talking about his 77 Million Paintings, but really he wanted to talk about the screwdrivers he'd brought along. He showed them to us on an overhead video projector. He explained that the business end of all screwdrivers is fundamentally the same - a metal shape that fits into a screw head. It does the work. But as you move away from the functional bit, you approach the handle which is much more interesting. This is where we encounter Design. Sure enough, his screwdrivers had handles of all colors and shapes, including some with feathers and glitter.

To continue paraphrasing: Stylistic choices can come into play when there isn't a specific piece of action that has to take place. Then he drew an imaginary line that started at the metal end of the screwdriver, went through the handle and continued on off into space. Somewhere on that line would appear the concept of Fine Art, which is very far away from the business end of a screwdriver indeed. He explained that art is a place where dangerous things can happen without real consequences. Art is a way of situating a set of desired (though possibly undesirable) conditions in relation to all other conditions. Art does not occur in a vacuum. Art is a transaction. Every new work of art is like a punch line to a joke. It doesn't make sense with out the story before it. Context is everything to Mr. Eno.

I'd read a lot of this material before in his book and in interviews. Still, I never tire of the way he articulates his thoughts. It was especially great to watch him cruelly (but warmly) dispatch with all the dumb questions people ask. "Can I ask you a question about The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway?" Mr. Eno drew enormous "Z's" on the overhead projector. "I'd rather you didn't. That was a very long time ago and is of interest to no one but you," was his answer. And if you're interested, you can Google it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Breaking news...

I say! Armies killing people? What next? News organizations twisting facts?

PS: Happy BDay Ted!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Self-excited Universe...

And so the hall of mirrors theme continues... It's been clear to me for as long as I can remember that we humans are microscopic, roving receptors in a conscious, self-observing universe. Our five senses are the interface tools that monitor experience, and our soul is the recording device that accumulates data and shares it collectively with other beings and of course the mother ship, whatever that may be.

In other words, the Universe educates itself about itself by employing neat little organisms (i.e. us) that are out in the field, exposed to the full mystery of being. Of course these organisms are protected by shields that prevent them from taking in too much, and learning too much about the nature of Nature.

I stumbled across this icon the other day and was instantly drawn to it. What could it mean? It turns out to be a symbol created by the late theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler, the man who coined the term black hole.

This symbol depicts the Universe as a "self-excited" circuit: Starting small (thin line at right) it gradually grows denser (thick left line) as observers multiply and participate in its creation - by observing what is gradually emerging and occurring. Mental causality some would say. You can read about it and other startling thoughts about the nature of reality in his 1983 paper "Law without Law."

Wheeler had a hunch that "the universe is built like an enormous feedback loop, a loop in which we contribute to the ongoing creation of not just the present and the future but the past as well." Well Dr. Wheeler, I concur. Good work.

Afterthought: Dr. Wheeler's all-seeing eye symbol does lead me to think of this one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What I miss about childhood...

That point where reality and silliness merge into a timeless googleplex of candy-colored enjoyment.

PS: Happy Birthday peTE, pleasure growing up with you!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Enormous heads vs. Rose Kennedy's vagina...

I met, ok, experienced, Ted Kennedy twice. Once as a boy, I'm told, he picked me up and later gave me his autograph. There may or may not be a picture of this somewhere. Then as a high school student, my poli-sci class went to his Senate office where he fielded questions from our zitty crew in ill-fitting ties. Great memory.

I want to confirm that this man's head was enormous. I mean big like a planet. He was in a fat phase during my visit to his office, which added some bulk, but I'm telling you his skull alone was at least the size of an exercise ball. Very impressive. I'm assuming that Jack, Bobby, and all the other kids were similarly afflicted.

With all the Bros. Kennedy off to Camelot, I feel it's not inappropriate to con-gratulate the late Rose Kennedy on passing all of those enormous heads through her birth canal. It cannot have been fun, by any definition of that word I can conceive.

Coming from a family of five boys, I can relate to the implied subject of the above picture. There's a kind of communication that arises among brothers that goes so deep and yet is taken for granted when it's happening. In fact it must remain invisible in order for it to work. That's a good life lesson in and of itself.

Throughout my life, I've yearned for Kennedy-esque collaboration with my brothers, and I'm beginning to see that it may not happen. I accept this idea with some sadness, but also the confidence that the results of any collaboration would have been wickedly good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Watch phone...

I like a timepiece. Any recessive OCD impulses that may be hiding in my DNA are satiated by these tiny, precision techno-universes that hug your wrist. People often say that watches are a thing of the past, that every cellphone has one... Why do you need one? (In fact, I don't own one. But I would if the right one were out there...)

Here's the thing. I say turn it around. Why don't watches have cellphones in them? Surely it can be done. I have some good design ideas if anyone's interested.

Oops... Just Googled this. They exist. But they're consistently ugly and enormous. Watchmakers, let's talk.

Bonus image: The watch that they used in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chord progressions and the spinal cord...

Why do certain chord arrangements slay me so? Why do certain songs cause the world to disappear and the nerve bundles to interlace and ripple in waves - like tall grass blowing up my spine? It's a full aesthetic arrest, mon.

I have an intuitive sense of musical structure, but who can really say why certain progressions work so well? What are the relationships between the chords? Sure, basic music theory provides scads of analysis and math, but how do certain strings of notes combine to create such dramatic emotional responses in humans?

What amazing wars we would have if certain musical arrangements could be used to level an army into passive brooding. Weapons of mass captivation.

At the moment, I'm particularly interested in the chordal structure of James Bond themes. They don't "slay" me so much, there's way too much commercial noise and gaudy baggage that comes in tow for them to really sink in. I'm more fascinated by their musically manipulative ways and chordal seductiveness. I'm talking about the significant ones: You Only Live Twice. Live and Let Die. Nobody Does it Better. Goldfinger. I'm beginning to understand the underlying template, and discovering songs with similar chord bombs that could easily work in the Bond oeuvre. David Bowie's "Lady Grinning Soul" is a great example (and a great song).

Friday, September 11, 2009

8 years later...

Eight years after I think we have a predictable mix of outcomes. For some the aftermath has been a sobering experience, a call to a more waking state; for others it has been used to feed their psychic aberrations and sharpen the focus of their (warped) projections.

What I really want to know is how the hell did that flag survive? (Source NYTimes)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What the hell is wrong with critics?

The jaded declarations, the pig-headed assumptions, the cruel put downs, the blind dismissals, the shockingly embarrassing missing of key points. Who are these people?

If you care to know what I'm talking about, choose a movie you really love. Know why you love it and prepare to have that love shat upon: Go to and have a look at the "professional" reviews of your selected film. You will likely encounter some of the smarmiest, most irrelevant, hackish, soulless, incurious, patently sad commentary that the human animal can conjure. Where is the love you flatheaded laptop tubers?

I'm sorry but a morsel of popular influence gone flabby, wielded carelessly, and used without imagination or thoughtfulness of any discernible kind, cannot be taken seriously. The job of critic - someone who, ideally, has in important role in shaping the cultural landscape - should be at least as revered and vetted as a judge or a professor, doncha think?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Happy Club...

How much do I love the end of August, the beginning of September? Words fail amigos. Old heat. New cool. Mixing the warm, barrier-less eros of summer with the terror of something institutional and cruel that threatens it all... All the epic joys and conflicts are here. Our dance steps grow assured from a hundred nights of re-humanizing. When do we stop sleeping naked? Do we have to close down, or can we make a break for the other side of the equator?

("Happy Club" by Malick Sidibé)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

People before profits...

It's enraging to think that we're even having these kinds of discussions about health care. As my facebook so aptly states, "No one should die because they they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. It's really simple to put people before profits. The rest of the world does." I understand that achieving universal health care might be a complex nightmare, but I can't believe there are people actually fighting this premise. There's no such thing as self-preservation. Our connectedness is irrefutable.