Entries tagged with “Bakersfield” from this Public Address 1.0
Through veiled in spires of myrtle-wreath,
Love is a sword which cuts its sheath,
And through the clefts itself has made
We spy the flashes of the blade!
But through the clefts itself has made
We likewise see Love’s flashing blade,
By rust consumed, or snapped in twain;
Only hilt and stump remain.
Something tells me that besides being so opium addled he was repeating himself, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was slightly bitter regarding marriage. The myrtle-wreath wasn’t kind to him. I prefer the epigram he used as preface for love poems in his collected works: “Love, always a talkative companion.”
In many ways does the full heart reveal
The presence of the love it would conceal;
But in far more th’ estranged heart lets know
The absence of love, which yet it fain would shew.
The ironic tension between the title and the epigram speaks volumes regarding the problem of conjugal desire. Silence (as anyone who has ever been married can tell you) does speak with intense volume. It occurs to me that I was living on Myrtle Street in Bakersfield, California, when it blew my mind.
Looking at my artfully constructed diagram a few minutes later, I realize I got it a little wrong. It's easy to locate Bakersfield; the thin ribbon of the grapevine connecting it with LA is easy to spot by satellite. I put my star on Tulsa, Oklahoma by mistake. I'm actually a few dots lower and to the right. The final "e" in "here" must be above Memphis, and Little Rock would be somewhere below the "he". It's perfectly understandable though; consciousness doesn't translate well to map space.
There is a lot to like in Chapter 2, “Space” of Small Pieces Loosely Joined by David Weinberger. However, I find myself locked in refutatio. Traditional space is not a container. Maybe it’s because I’ve moved closer to the middle of the North American Continent, and spent time traveling in the deserts and open spaces of this mass of land, standing in places where optical law takes over before the planet ends. I do not think of space as finite, enclosed, containing much of anything except what my senses can take in at a moment. Space doesn’t end in the “real” world. Our senses mediate space to construct a closure which is largely an illusion.
Ah, but this is the distinction between “measured space” and “lived space” which Weinberger makes in his book. Once again, I don’t see this as a phenomena unique to the Internet. When I think of California, where I spent most of my life, I do not think of the 1678.26 miles which Mapquest tells me separates my current location from my memories. They are right here, right now. The locations in between are “sites” in my memory which vary in detail dependant on the amount of experience collected there. Perhaps “measured space” is not nearly so crucial to our perception of the “real” world as he implies. We always experience space and time through a mediating agent, be it memory or sense. With this distinction in mind, it seems as if the Internet is closer to the space of memory than the space of sense, at least the sense of space that we feel when enclosed. But this is only a subset of the total phenomena of “real” space.
This gets me where I was going. I was amused by another one of those definitional stasis things today. Just a reminder, for those who haven’t followed my train of thought lately, I’m using stasis in the Greek sense [from the OED]:
a. Gr. standing, station, stoppage, f. - to stand.Whenever a word gets twisted so far from its original meaning as this, it gives me pause.
The argument is:
Let's summarize the Top Three Reasons Why the Web Isn't a Medium.Wait a minute. Okay, so using this logic, television isn’t a medium. We surf the channels. We stop at programs. We enter into the dramas and comedies already in progress. Books aren’t a medium. Because they are composed of content, not the dead tree pulp that composes them. How ridiculous can you get?
1. A medium is something we send messages through whereas our talk of the Web indicates that we move through the Web - we go places, we surf, we enter sites.
2. When you call it a medium, the broadcast boys get erections. (And the broadcast girls get more head lumps from jumping up against the glass ceiling.)
3. The Web is "content" - us writing stuff to and for another another - not the transmission medium.
So, discussing media means that we must exclude anything composed primarily of content? Uh, it seems to me that the media, or mediating agents of that content are as important as the content itself. To fall back on McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message” or better still, “The Medium is the Massage.” There is a lot of stroking going on about how different the Internet “non-medium” is. To make this twist in definition means going to the fourth definition of medium in the OED:
4. a. Any intervening substance through which a force acts on objects at a distance or through which impressions are conveyed to the senses: applied, e.g., to the air, the ether, or any substance considered with regard to its properties as a vehicle of light or sound.The intervening substance of the Internet does indeed exist; electrons through wires, and phosphors on screens. The transmission of brainwaves from site authors to readers does not occur instantaneously (just yet, at least) and hence the proclamation in the “Space” chapter that normal spatial concepts don’t apply to the web seems a bit myopic. It just depends on which “normal” you’re talking about.
I think that the usage of the word medium is too good to lose, particularly in the second subset of this meaning:
b. The application of the word in sense 4 to the air, ether, etc. has given rise to the new sense: Pervading or enveloping substance; the substance or ‘element’ in which an organism lives; hence fig. one's environment, conditions of life.The Internet represents a new environment, to be sure, even if its a purely figurative one. I don’t believe that we can overthrow the definition, different from the ones previously listed, which I believe Weinberger is really attacking:
5. a. An intermediate agency, means, instrument or channel. Also, intermediation, instrumentality: in phrase by or through the medium of. spec. of newspapers, radio, television, etc., as vehicles of mass communication.We “visit sites” through the medium of the Internet. It is an intermediate agency, a non-hierarchal one to be sure, but still it is an instrument, not something new. Why throw out a perfectly good definition when it exists to help us make sense of the road we're on?
The Internet is a vehicle, through which we navigate a space that is much closer to the space of mind than the space of roadmaps. Space is different here, yes. But not unique. I’m not buying that yet.
I’m still working with that rural pen, and staining the water clear.
I think it was 94 or so when I met Chris Sullivan. He was doing a show in Bakersfield that had an odd cross-section of work. Part of it was photographs of mattresses.
He began finding them on the streets of San Francisco, and dragging them back to his studio. He said it was amazing that it took him so long to figure out that he could just cut off the fabric cover, without dragging the whole beast back with him.
Long before William Wegman hit it big with his photographs of his dogs, Chris was doing much the same thing. He stopped, because though he did it first, he didn't want to be thought of as a Wegman imitator. Art is like that. Once somebody else starts doing the same thing as you, what's the point?
Chris told me that when he got to the San Francisco Art Institute, the influence of Ansel Adams was still strong. He knew that he couldn't compete on the "fine print" battleground, so he had to find something else to do. I'm glad. I think Ansel Adams is the most horribly overrated photographer of the twentieth century.
Chris had his staged tableaus, similar to Wegman. He had the mattress photos, photos of tumbleweeds and oil drums in a Duane Michaels sort of style, and he also had some interesting series done with the aid of a photo booth in his basement apartment. He had photo-strips of himself after waking up, after smoking a joint, etc. Just good clean experimental fun. But by far, my favorite was his "Journal of the Public Domain," a series of Xeroxes and artifacts found on the streets. He just displayed the objects, rather than photographs of them.
Canberra is nothing like Bakersfield. I’m relieved. Thanks Jonathon!
Of course, he raised another issue that I’m dying to write about. On the Road changed my life at 16, but The Americans also changed it at 18, and on top of that, Let us Now Praise Famous Men and American Photographs changed my life around 30. There is a tremendous chain of thought surrounding those books that I’m dying to let out. But it will have to wait until after the firestorm that is the first half of my week. Not to mention the recent article about Steinbeck that has me thinking about Horace Bristol, and my father, and other things.
But I can’t close out the day without mentioning the best confirmation of all: Girls Just Want to be Mean.
The team's conclusion was that girls were, in fact, just as aggressive as boys, though in a different way. They were not as likely to engage in physical fights, for example, but their superior social intelligence enabled them to wage complicated battles with other girls aimed at damaging relationships or reputations -- leaving nasty messages by cellphone or spreading scurrilous rumors by e-mail, making friends with one girl as revenge against another, gossiping about someone just loudly enough to be overheard. Turning the notion of women's greater empathy on its head, Bjorkqvist focused on the destructive uses to which such emotional attunement could be put.This coincides with what female friends have been telling me for years. There is a lot of scary stuff in this article. I’ve often had the feeling that girls are smarter than I am, but the specific application of those smarts is what scares me the most:
Unlike boys, who tend to bully acquaintances or strangers, girls frequently attack within tightly knit friendship networks, making aggression harder to identify and intensifying the damage to the victims. Within the hidden culture of aggression, girls fight with body language and relationships instead of fists and knives. In this world, friendship is a weapon, and the sting of a shout pales in comparison to a day of someone's silence. There is no gesture more devastating than the back turning away.I can agree with that.
Perhaps I should be happy that I have no relationships to be thwarted by right now? Nah, it’s too much fun dealing with everything else involved. Girls may be mean, but damn it, they’re fun!
I was surprised to find out yesterday that Houston is the fourth largest city in the US. I was so incredulous as a matter of fact, that I had to look it up. The 1990 census data confirmed it. Now Tom Waits' observation (during a SXSW concert) that people in Texas must be friendly, because they have all that space but choose to live together in big groups makes more sense. Scrolling through the list of city populations generated more surprises.
Bakersfield was number 97! Now that’s a shocker, I wouldn’t have even thought it was in the top 100. I’ve always thought of it as a small town. When my family moved there in the early sixties, I have a childhood memory of being fixated with two things as we drove into town: the “Sun Fun Stay Play” sign, which didn’t last long, and the population sign. It read 69,000.
Wow, I thought (I must have been four years old at the time). But compared to my house in the woods outside of Ojai, it did seem like a big city. Of course, as a teenager I had been to LA several times. Now that was a city. Bakersfield seemed like a wide spot in the road by comparison. Thinking of Kerouac lately, I realized that when he passed through it was probably more like 30,000 people.
The second shock was to find that Little Rock is number 96. I’m movin’ on up now. I got myself a de-luxe apartment on the west side. But, friends have been telling me how much Bakersfield has grown since I left (it was around 250,000 then). So I wondered if maybe the balance might have shifted, since Bakersfield was one of the fastest growing places in California when I left.
Shock number three. The 2000 figures show Bakersfield at 396,000. However, Little Rock must be growing faster. The 2000 figure is 548,000. I’m sure this includes North Little Rock, just across the river, which is a fairly substantial place. But damn, I never thought this place was that big either. So much for my small town feeling. I don’t suppose a half a million people qualify as a small town. But Little Rock still has something close to a small town mentality, though I confess that it's actually less "hickish" than Bakersfield.
There’s a price to be paid for this expansion. I was assaulted by a TV ad warning that Britney Spears is doing a concert here in the next few months. Sheesh. For laughs, I did a search. I wanted to see if she was playing Bakersfield. She wasn't. Don't I feel special now. I was also happy to find that if you do a google search for Britney Spears the second site listed is Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics. Thank god for link-weighting. It’s actually a serious site, with serious content. I think more fourteen-year olds should know the ins and outs of the lasers that play their compact disks. I would encourage as many links to this as possible so that it might even dethrone the “official” site!
Just for giggles, I had to look up the figures for Canberra— 313,000 according to the tourist web site. So, the capitol of that continent is smaller than Bakersfield? Now that does make for an interesting picture. Okay, so Sydney is twice the size of LA. . . that wasn’t the point. It’s just strange trying to picture places you haven’t been. I’m sure Canberra has nothing in common with Bakersfield, it just seemed like a funny thing to compare. Or, at least it would be funny if you’d ever been to Bakersfield.
Every city on earth is unique, with its own quirks. It cracked me up when I revisited the lyrics to Cities to catch the bit about Memphis— “I smell home cooking / its only the river, only the river.” Before I had been there, a friend here in Little Rock told me that there was something special about Memphis— “It’s the smell,” he said. Evidently, David Byrne agrees.
However, I must confess that this particular train of thought was triggered by a conversation with a West African native, Marcus, who goes to the university here. It seems that he came into the US through Tijuana, and ended up living in Burbank before moving to Arkansas. We were talking about how different it was here. Marcus was quick to proclaim: “this is the land of opportunity!” as he recruited me to come to an African drum festival on Saturday night. In Arkansas, this is a special event. In California, I could go see wild percussion any day of the week. I miss that part of it, really. But he’s right. It will all get here soon enough. But by then, I’ll probably be gone.
It’s still nearly impossible for me to think of Little Rock as a city. Though, if you photograph it just right, it looks like one.
Get your motor running . . .
I’ve been following with great interest thus far the commentary on On the Road at In a Dark Time. In particular, Diane’s isolation of the themes and Loren’s observations on the geography involved made me think about how difficult it is to capture the past, because as humans we are constantly shifting in perspective. That is definitely the case with my perception of the book and I wish I had time to read it again right now. I’ve been trying to figure out how old I was when I first read it, but I’m pretty sure I was sixteen. It was around the time I took the photograph displayed above, which was 1975.
It was the first concert I ever attended— Steppenwolf at the Bakersfield Civic Auditorium with probably around 4-5,000 people in attendance. I felt like I did fairly well for a rookie. I’d been taking pictures less than six months, and I borrowed an old Mamiya Sekor 1000DTL with a telephoto lens from school. I picked it because it had a spot meter. Good choice, I found out. Concert photography, especially in big arenas, is tough.
Who knew that about 13 years later I’d be photographing a dozen bands a week? Photographing this concert convinced me that I didn’t want to do it anymore; it was too much work. For the thousands of concerts I went to in the dozen years that followed this, I never took a camera. I just enjoyed the show. That is, until I discovered that photographing musicians in bars rather than stadiums had its own rewards. But that part of my history is well documented in the galleries around here. I was thinking about how much I loved Steppenwolf as a kid. I was thinking how this became almost an embarrassment when punk-rock rolled around. Punk rock changed my life. The Minutemen pushed me over the edge; I turned my back on “hard rock” around 1984.
On the Road is like that for me too. It became a guilty pleasure, once I discovered how incredible and complex literature could be. The beats were just, well, a beat— the pulsation of an artery— as Blake would say, which seemed like a lifetime in the long trip down the road of discovery for me. I’d say the same for the Surrealists. These things, for me now, are self-defeating delusions of youth. A sort of “rite of passage.” I grew out of them, but I remember them fondly. There’s much more to say, and I have entries in my head concerning Kerouac, Robert Frank, and Herman Hesse. These were like towns I passed through on my way down the road.
The omnipresence of that road, in that so many people of my age ended up on it, is astounding. I took an upper level history course on US History 1945-80 a few years ago, and it shifted my thinking about the late 50s and early 60s significantly regarding the motivation that so many have felt to hit the road. I’d like to apply that lens to some of the problems with On the Road but I have a headache too severe to attempt it right now. But I stumbled across the photo of Steppenwolf, at the far edge of this mess of thoughts, and it was strange. The last mix tape I made for my car included a song from John Kay’s 1972 solo album Forgotten Songs and Unsung Heroes.
I bought the album for 50 cents at a massive album sale in the mid 80s, and several of my friends made fun of me for it. But I still had a soft spot in my heart for the guy in leather pants, even though I was smarter then. A girl I knew told me a story about how John Kay was an asshole who slobbered all over her at the Country Club in LA, and turned several shades of green when I said I liked the album. This album wasn’t “born to be wild,” just moving folk-rock. A song from it has been playing in the car for weeks now, and I feel strangely close to “Many a Mile.” It has a bit of the spirit of On the Road
I’ve damn near walked this world around—another city, another town
Another friend to say goodbye— another time to sit and cry
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I have gone.
I’ve seen your towns they’re all the same— the only difference is in the name
And the only life I’ve ever known has been my suitcase and the open road
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I have gone.
There was a girl who knew me best— you know she gave my poor heart rest
She was my world, my joy, my dear— and now she’s gone to god knows where
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I have gone.
So I fill my glass up to the brim
And through my glass the world looks dim
But I know outside there’s light somewhere
Maybe my rambling will take me there
And it’s many a mile I have been on this road
It’s many a mile I will go.
The road, in the Kerouacian sense, ended in the seventies. This song was written by a Native American named Patrick Sky in the sixties. The road became a commodified dream, and there isn’t much looking back. That’s progress for you. The quest has moved inward once again, and in most ways, it’s a better thing. But there is an incredible nostalgia to it, but anyone who aspires to dreams such as these needs to be reminded of the perceptive observation of Bob Dylan: nostalgia is death.
I don’t mean in the On the Road, beatnik friend, crazy personality, kind of way. I mean it in the clinical sense. I don’t think he started out that way, it was induced by overuse of a drug called PCP (an animal tranquilizer). He just loved the stuff. He snorted it, in powder form, constantly. It wasn’t really the “magic dust” it was cracked up to be.
I tried it some, when I was at the age where the Who’s 5:15 was my theme song. I was “out of my brain on the train” more than a few times for treks to San Francisco on the Amtrack. But PCP was a drug with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, as far as I was concerned. Just a little too much, once, was all it took for me to become a Reaganite and just say no. I couldn’t feel anything anymore, but I could think. And all those thoughts were paranoid. I thought that if I closed my eyes I would die. Sight was the only faculty that was still working as I lay paralyzed and paranoid, after running to every room of the house to look out the window and see if "they" were coming to get me.
I never understood David. He was my brother’s wife’s brother, and though he claimed that the brotherhood reached out to me there was always something sinister back behind him. He would rip off anyone with no trace of conscience. As I said, he was crazy. After a number of sociopathic episodes, he was diagnosed as a paranoid psychotic. They gave him thorazine. As a confirmed drug lover, he was anxious to spread them around to all of his friends, particularly if he could trade them for dust. My brother said, “It’s kind of a weird high, wanna try it?” Ever the experimentalist, I had to give it a go.
Thorazine was actually quite a lot like PCP in bodily effects, with only one important difference. It makes thinking a very unprofitable proposition. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t think of anything. It was one of the scariest drugs I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so voided, so non-human in my life. Not an experience I’d like to repeat. Though the drug was milder than PCP in most ways, I just cannot imagine existing for an extended length of time without having thoughts. There isn’t anything on the planet scarier to me.
A few nights ago, I woke up with that feeling. There wasn’t a thought in my head. I couldn’t remember any dreams, I hadn’t written anything in my sleep, I was just a void. It made me think of thorazine. I thought about visiting friends in ward 3b of Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield after they had been sedated with thorazine as a matter of standard practice. I thought about how much they didn’t even seem like people I knew at first. They were just there, taking up space. It seems to me that thought is the primary quality of human existence, and to be deprived of it is a darker place than any jail. For a second, I thought of David.
He beat his mother, and held some of his siblings hostage before he was finally interred. I didn’t visit him. David wasn’t a friend of mine. He was just there. Taking up space. Something not quite human, but not quite animal. Someone with chemistry gone horribly wrong. I don’t know what happened to him, but I feel fairly certain it wasn’t good.
I made up my mind to put those thoughts out of my head, and write about the one positive memory of David I can think of. I’ll do that a little later. There was a picture, and a first for me on that day. It was a crossroads time, where I could have gone a certain direction, but didn’t. I went to college instead. Though that path ended quickly, at least it diverted me from the realm of thoughtlessness.
I don’t think there is anything worse in life than experiencing thoughtlessness, either as a witness, or as a victim of it. I can’t universally condemn drugs, but some drugs, I can.
No thorazine thoughtlessness for me, thank you. Even the memory of it was chilling.
Bakersfield (my "hometown") is such an icon. I forgot about the reference in On the Road until In a Dark Time mentioned it. I read that book for the first time in Milt's Coffee Shop, just off highway 99 in Bakersfield. If you've read it, or haven't and want to, Loren's running commentary is a good thing. Give it a try, while you anxiously await Shauny's return. I must say, 72 comments must be some sort of personal blog record.
Though I hate Tom Hanks, I was also pleased to see that in Castaway his salvation came in the form of a portable toilet from Bakersfield. That's the poetic nature of the town, really. It may seem like a pile of dirt and shit, but it's always there when you need it.
Off to school!
The universe is dark, unforgiving, and random. But I never saw much to this argument. Everywhere I look I see patterns.
I took randomness to heart when I was young. My photography teacher in high school took a sabbatical, after I graduated, and I used to go visit him. He was always so light and free when it came to matters of art and literature, and his constant advice to me was that I should lighten up and have some fun. He helped me with Milton and Blake, and he helped me relax in my worries about finding a “voice.” I think that's one of the reasons why I've always felt drawn to teaching. This man, and a few more, really changed my life. I was particularly inspired by one project he did while completing his MFA.
He took a map of the city and drew a grid of 52 squares. He developed a procedure where he would use a deck of cards to pick a location, a time, and a direction to point a camera. Then he’d make a photograph there. He took a proof sheet of 36 images made in this fashion and blew it up to 30”x 40” and then displayed it next to a description of the process. At the time the University of California at Bakersfield was filled with many of the movers and shakers in the conceptual art field, and this project was well received.
The point of the process was to show that art is everywhere. Even taken totally at random, these photographs had a singular beauty. The same teacher introduced me to Kurt Vonnegut, who asserts through one of his characters that “life would be little changed if I had done nothing more than carry a rubber dog bone from room to room for sixty years.” I suspect this is true as well. But it doesn’t make the patterns stop.
So I believe in randomness as a way of life, not as a way of death. The inevitable conclusion of reading a lot of Sartre is “What’s the point?” The question, restated by my teacher would be “Does there need to be a point?”
She didn’t seem to understand my resistance to proofs of pointlessness. There’s a subtle distinction there. In her world view, the universe was an evil machine bent on her destruction. A tornado ripped her home apart when she was growing up. Medical mistakes screwed up her body. She seemed to be quite relieved with by the thought that there was no point behind it. On the other hand, I want to believe that there is something behind the patterns of beauty in this world. Though I suspect that they are indeed random, I don’t see them as dark and unforgiving. I think forgiveness is the glue that holds it together. No, there doesn’t have to be a point. But there are indeed patterns, even if sometimes we fudge and forgive to make things fit.
The pattern between us followed her belief system, not mine. I couldn’t overcome it. When you want the universe to be dark, cold, and unforgiving— things do have a tendency to turn out that way.
Sometimes, going to new places can shift you back upon yourself. They can help you find your voice.
I was struggling to make some sense of myself through photography. I'd stumble through streets and alleys, all too often photographing the same things over and over.
I'd put the pictures up on my walls, and try to make something out of them. I wasn't "trying" to be a photographer, it just sort of happened that way. I liked looking at things. I liked things that bugged me. But miles of film weren't showing any growth, or change. Just the same old things, restated.
Then Rex took me to Venice Beach, California. An hour there netted me more things to think about than I had achieved in the five years that preceded this. It was as if I found my voice.
I went back a lot. But the change impacted my whole life, even when I wasn't there. I just saw the world differently. Sure, Bakersfield didn't have chainsaw jugglers and girls on skates. But it had light, shape, and shade. The trick wasn't in the scenery, but the perception of it.
Some places just exude a "sense of place." For others, it's a subtle quality that you miss when you live there everyday. Every place is special, and you don't realize that until you are confronted with the oddity of places that aren't home.
I did grow to feel at home in Venice, but I never lived there. I often fantasized about renting a place and staying there a few months. I never did.
Since that time, I've found a few places where I really feel at home, Santa Fe, New Mexico, for example, but I've never lived in one. I think that finding my voice had a lot to do with becoming comfortable with the idea that for me, there would never be a home. When I became comfortable with always being a visitor, a stranger, no matter where I stood, then I figured out who I was. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable? There's just something odd about that. But then, being odd is a large part of my identity too.
So a big sigh was uttered when I read this offer on the C-18L list:
Wanna hobnob on the conference circuit but don't have the funds? Need aplace to stay for the short-term while you research at UCLA, Clark, USCLibraries?
I have an unusually large two room apartment in commodified-beatnik VeniceBeach. Borders Santa Monica. I am offering a room (but you get the runof the whole place) for short-term stays (up to a week) at $30-40/day (grad.students/asst. profs/independent scholars) and $50/day (other profs.).Price includes breakfast. You can rent the whole apartment for $100/day.Cheaper than a hotel. Full kitchen, bath, etc. Free internet access.Fax machine. Nice sunsets from front windows. 5 minute walk to beach.Shops, dive bars, and trendy restaurants within minutes. Near 3 major bus lines(30 min. to UCLA; or 10-15 minute drive by car). This part of LA is oneof the only areas where the buses are actually decent.
Apartment also has 20 vol. OED, most scholarly eds of all 17th and 18th-cmajor British poets (California Dryden, Yale Johnson and Pope, etc.), plusmuch of the major criticism and biogs., etc. A mish-mash of everythingelse.
I was thinking that the first place I live where I feel comfortable in having a 20 vol. OED will be home (I'd get one, but I certainly don't want to move it!). Maybe someday. But for now, I'm comfortable with being a stranger, drifting around, doing my best to notice what is strange and wonderful about each place I pass through. Few places scared me as much as Venice though, because I just felt so damned "right" there. I say scared, because perhaps feeling "right" would be the death of me. It certainly worked out that way the last time. I ended up in Arkansas.
My journey strange, with clamorous uproar
Protesting Fate supreme; thence how I found
The new-created World, which fame in Heaven
Long had foretold, a fabric wonderful,
Of absolute perfection; therin Man
Placed in paradise by our exile
Made happy. Him by fraud I have seduced
From his Creator, and, the more to increase
Your wonder, with an apple! He, thereat
Offended—worth your laughter!—hath given up
Both his beloved Man and all his World
To Sin and Death a prey, and so to us,
Without our hazard, labour, or alarm,
To range in, and to dwell, and over Man
To rule, as all he should have ruled.
John Milton, Paradise Lost X
With halloween approaching, I thought I should place a quote from Satan up. An interesting fact came out in the seminar. Everyone always identifies the fruit from the tree of knowledge as an apple. It's not from the bible, it's from Milton. I found out why he picked that particular fruit.
It's a pun in Latin. Malum means apple in Latin, as well as meaning bad, evil, and all that stuff. No wonder it wasn't a kiwi or a banana!
Wood s lot always seems to find the good stuff. There's a very good article about Ernest J. Bellocq by Rex Rose at Exquisite Corpse. It overturns some of the stereotyped information about the odd New Orleans photographer. It seems that he didn't have an enlarged head, and his brother didn't deface his negatives— Bellocq did.
Photographic books go out of print so quickly. I'm glad I found a copy of the second printing of the monograph. The scratched-out faces on his negatives seem to be something common to photographers of the early twentieth century; I wish I could remember the name of the Bakersfield photographer from the thirties that I saw that did the same thing. While it wasn't a conscious "artistic" gesture, as far as I can see, the side effect is somewhat disturbing. In this century, we seem to want to be disturbed, so the resurfacing of these artifacts is not surprising.
However, I think that some of the distressed negatives might well be appreciated by the photographers who created them. I am reminded in my favorite Bellocq photograph, displayed above, of Kertéz's broken plate, which for him symbolized his entry into America. In a lot of ways, embracing the accident is also a mark of modernist photography. But to read the violence, so much a part of Pop art, into these acts is too big of a stretch.
A not so great day. Reading lots of theory. Speech-act, discourse analysis, etc. Revisited Thomas Pavel's Fictional Worlds. It's all very confusing and hair-splitting, but at the same time it's fascinating. Everytime you say something, it's an act. We make things by saying things. Let there be . . .
Renewed the tags on my car. Sometimes I feel like I must really look weird. I stood in one line. They told me to go to another person. When I got there, I realized that they didn't mean me, but someone else. I stood there and patiently waited. A woman in the other line just kept staring at me, as if she expected me to say something. I didn't. She just wouldn't stop staring. I stared back. Then, a guy opened up just for me. I told him I really wasn't in a hurry. He said he was tired of looking at me standing there. What's up with that? Is my third eye in my forehead showing?
The man chastised me severely for making out my check wrong. Then, when we were finished he said:
Thank you doctor.Huh? My driver's license or my checks don't say doctor. What was funny about it was that it came on the heels of my exchange with Dr. Kleine on Wednesday, where he insisted that I needed to be in a doctoral program somewhere. Just before I left, there was a program on TV about anxiety disorders which named the doctor that treated Kim Bassinger for the problem: His name was Dr. Doctor.
Doctors, Doctors everywhere. But not me. No, I don't deserve that promotion. Even if I had a doctorate I wouldn't want to be called doctor.
Offered with either belated or timely congratulations to Badger and Louise! I hope they have many years of happiness together.
Writing short pieces is hard. I spent the whole weekend on Panorama. My target was 750-1000 words, but it ended up around 1,300. I feel like I'm writing to an audience with short attention spans, so it becomes essential to be concise. It's quite a challenge. I can't tell you how many times I deleted whole sections of this damn thing.
Things get more complicated when you find out that the person you are writing about is dead. I don't know why that is. I left out one of the reasons why I remember Fred so much. He gave me one of the lowest grades I ever got in college the first time around. I just wasn't there (spiritually, chemically, and otherwise) and it was my fault really. But I remember he tried to reach me. That's all a teacher can really do.
Another really hard part was trying to compress the allusions, without becoming obtuse. Most people haven't heard of the references I needed to use. I hope it reads clearly enough. I'll find out. I'm reading it this afternoon to the class I suspect, though I plan on keeping quiet and not volunteering. But people always seem to pick me out of the crowd for some reason, and put me on the spot.
Of course, I want to beg for comments here. If anyone takes the time to read it, please say something. Even one word comments are fine, bullshit, yawn and huh? included.
Now the paranoia deepens. I read the piece in a small group, and no one got it. I wasn't trying to be that obscure; there are famous people that the average Arkansan (or Californian for that matter) haven't heard of, and it's hard to write about them without getting derailed. I'm worried about this one.
Zero Population Growth has a web site which rates how kid friendly cities in the US are. Is it just me, or does this strike anyone else as odd? If zero population growth is the desired effect, most of the west would have to stop having kids all together. But I digress.
It was interesting to compare the stats in different areas that I've recently lived in: Bakersfield and Little Rock. In education, Bakersfield gets a C- while Little Rock gets an A. Makes sense. Most of my education was done in Bakersfield, and I'm definitely below average. Of course, in public safety Bakersfield gets an A and Little Rock a C. Hmm, I was robbed at least three times in Bakersfield, and constantly had to lock my car and house. In Little Rock, I seldom lock my car and have accidently left my apartment unlocked on numerous occasions. . . no incidents. But the economic data seems reasonable, Bakersfield gets a C- and Little Rock a B+. I love statistics. There is no arguing that most people in Little Rock are pretty smart though, unlike the "dumb hick" stereotype.