Thursday, August 31, 2023

In a sing-song voice.


In a sing-song voice (like this),
she told of the sky (which is not heaven),
with long pauses, which she imagined
filled with the sound of many accordions (like this);
And of the molten center (which is not hell)
and how it felt to be floating (like this)

And she told of the love songs she used to hear (like this);
all about loss and longing, and she told of the songs
she hears now (like this).  The songs of
mixed emotions, of murky unknowing, and she said,
in a sing-song voice (like this)
that love is 
not blind,
not cruel,
not all,
not smoke;
it is floating between.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

a steady hand


Dear Sympathetic,

And nerves of steel.  It is a very delicate operation, sifting through the objects of the past.  You need a steady hand and nerves of steel to pull the tiny needles from the endless hay.

I examined carefully several disintegrating plastic bags full of my old figure drawings.  They were good.  The weight was where it was heavy, the line was where it was light, the shadow was where the energy was, the gesture matched the movement.  They were good.  There were hundreds.  They were as good as anything.  Let me try to explain; I would think they were good if someone else had made them, if I saw them in a museum in Europe I would think they were good,  I would say:  I saw this great show of drawings at the Pompidou.  I was in Venice, and the biennale had this amazing exhibit of figure drawings.  


But, let's remember that I made them, and so I am not really qualified to say whether they are good or bad.  Well, actually, no one will object if I say they are bad, but the point still stands.  We cannot really feel sure of the quality or merit of what we have done.  There are better ones, yes; and there are worse ones.  So, where are we?  Good or Bad?  I think we need a new way to end the sentence, the project.  It cannot be money or validation from the Institution, so what could it be, this thing that confers satisfaction?

Also, let's not forget the Famous Artist Instructor* asked to have some of my drawings, because they were that good. I gave them, of course, and within two years I had forgotten I had even been complimented in this way.  So, it doesn't last, that's sure.  It doesn't carry you like a raft over the rough seas.  The other thing I see, now, is that I was A Good Student.  Which means, as you already know, that I followed directions accurately and carefully.  Which, well, may not be anything to celebrate, either.  It might be Bad, even.  But if it were Good, that would not be that great either.

Does this kind of circular stuff make your head hurt?  Or does it let you see that yes, the circle just repeats, and maybe you don't want that anymore, either?

* The thing to note here, is that the Famous Artist Instructor was selling their work, in several high profile galleries, and also, working a full time teaching gig.  This was the late '80s, early '90s, so it should have been the (late and ending) good old days for making a living as an artist, but they were also pulling a 9 to 5 teaching, which suggests that even Famous Artist is not as lucrative as we might all have hoped.

PS  Do, please, take a peek at the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Nineteen Hundred


Dear Skaters,

That's a lot of hundreds, isn't it?  What'll we do to celebrate?  Read about the amazing Rollercade car, watch this great tutorial, maybe admire these star toe stops, and go roller skating; how about here


There are more outsized roller skates than you think!

Thursday, August 10, 2023

compassion: a harsh mistress


Die Mütter, woodcut, Käthe Kollwitz, 1921-22.

Dear Traveler Through Time On the Head of a Pin,

Have you ever written someone off so completely, at the individual cellular level; like, this person is irredeemable, wasn't worth the oxygen they used, and nothing that ever came from, circulated around them, could have been anything but negativity, only to discover in the tiniest artifact, the smallest gesture, a softening in your self?  Just their red pen writing on the outside of the manilla folder melts your icy battlements?  You suddenly feel:  Oh!  They really do have some qualities, and the whole of my relationship with them has not been just ashes after all!

Well, the feeling passes of course, but my point (if I have one), is that the softening might not be the part of compassion that we are supposed to be aiming for- it might be, it might be that the message is: maybe you don't need to build such a complete wall, such a total severing.

Hear me out, I know why I built it.  It's like the Post-It note you stick on the phone that says "NO!"  It is meant to protect yourself from annoyance and pain, from making the same old mistakes.  So, you build this big edifice out of solid bricks of rationalization, and then the tiniest, slimmest little memory, little piffling thought seeps right through, tunnels right under, and there you are, having lunch again with someone you said you'd 'never' spend time with again.

What might be better, I ask myself?  I think the tremendous effort of being compassionate- which, for the sake of this conversation, will be defined* as 'putting the feelings of others before yours'- is a pretty large burden.  Maybe this is the problem right here, compassion as I have defined it, is asking too much sometimes.  Where is the self?  Selflessness is all very well, but, evaporating into the yielding ether does not always work for me.

 Maybe, and this is completely different project, these letters/blog should be renamed, re-branded (?), "Have You Ever?"  Let it be part of your song for today.

*  A dictionary definition.  An expansive, etymological definition.  A source for more reading on the topic.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

moody & stumbling


Pies, Pies, Pies, 1961, oil on canvas, Wayne Thiebaud, 

Dear Radio Dodo Listeners,

Here is a fine song for today.  A song that never convinces you it has begun, never settles into its groove; and when it ends, you feel a little empty, because you wanted a little more.  It's right up my alley, and yours, too!


House of Pies is a place you can go, too.  Also, to this House of Pies.  Why House of Pies?  Because House of Pancakes.  One can start to imagine others... House of Pizza, House of Pita, House of Porridge, House of Pears, House of Peas, House of Pineapple, House of Parsnip.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Growing or getting?


Robert Ryman, Untitled, 1965.

Dear Sensates,

I seem to be becoming more sensitive; I mention it because it seems odd; people growing old and older around me keep telling me they don't care about this or that anymore, or have become inured to the horror of daily news, or that they know you 'can't do anything for anyone.'  Contrariwise, I seem to be metamorphosing into the hypersensitive opposite.  It started with movies, a long time ago:  I found that sitting in the dark with giant moving images was too manipulative; I felt scared, small, helpless, and I didn't like spending two hours pressed down by those feelings.  I avoided all the most horrible films, but still sometimes I found find myself noiselessy chanting 'it's okay, it's okay, it's just a movie' while putting the rest of my corpuscles into overdrive to shut out the barrage of noise and image.  I would call this a panic attack, if I didn't think that we have a tendency to insist that our emotional reactions should be contained and controlled.

Now it happens to me with television, and smaller screens, at home, in the safety and light of all that housing and soft furnishings connote.  

One time my Mother had on one of her endless "old movies" from The Old Movie Channel; it was about the tragedy of the Hindenburg; I could not believe she could be in the room watching all the actors fall and burn up above the airfield.  When I was 11, I saw The Poseidon Adventure on TV and I felt like I was trapped and drowning every night for what seemed like 10 years.

It's not just moving pictures, either; it is happening to me with books- I am reading, then some how startled into the present by an external sound- shattering all the fabricated tension of the book and it's spaces.  I feel like I am waking from a bad dream, or suddenly pulled out of a lengthy funeral service; a dim space with little air and smoky, choking incense.  I now have to avoid books* that consume my emotions too much, that have me feeling raw and exposed for weeks.

With even my skin; there is a patch on my shin that has phantom feelings.  There is nothing there, the doctor, the dermatologist have reassured me.  It feels like brushing very gently into a cactus for a minute or two, and then it is gone until later.

The nuances of taste seem heightened to me too; but I know (don't I?) how powerful the imagination is, and so I must be imaging that this cheese tastes of the smell of the grocery store.  Or that the coffee drink is just possibly a hair fermented?  Or that the lettuce tastes like the rubbery plastic it is wrapped in?  It's not all negative associations; the raw cabbage is a little sweet, like carrots.  The cake tastes faintly of dusty trail trodden pine needles.

I think, maybe, that all this claiming to be less affected might not be true.  Maybe we just tell ourselves we feel less.  Maybe that is easier than feeling ever more, and knowing there is less and less we can do about it, as we get, or grow, old.

*  Were we on Htrae, I would give you this list of books to avoid, but, we all know that would be like a dish of candy that no one could keep themselves from trying just one piece, and then, all my vain attempts to keep you safe from harm would be useless; as they probably are.  See:  The Croquet Player, H. G. Wells.