August 2001 Archives

Zip code survey, #3

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When my family first moved from Ojai to Bakersfield, California, we rented a place that was next door to the airport, Meadows Field. The street was named Melody Lane, which in retrospect was really odd given the noise level of the place. At one time, it was labeled among the more dangerous airports around, and the only thing I remember was being able to watch the Blue Angels while standing in the middle of the street.

The section of town was called Oildale; filled with trailer parks and redneck bars, it started out as a Hooverville. I didn't even know what a Hooverville was at the time, but my dad did. Being part of the second wave of immigration, my mom and Dad had been to the Central Valley before. Mom came out to Visalia in the 30s, as a teenager, before she met my father. But Oildale is kind of unique among the valley towns; they chase out people of color. The basic character of the place hasn't changed much over the years. Poor white trash, mostly. It's a depressive, oppressive place, but it wasn't where I grew up.

Adema

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cradle of thorns, setting up.

I got an e-mail from CDNow a while back about a hyped new band called Adema from the musical hotbed of Bakersfield, California. I rolled on the floor. Hey, I know some of these guys (by reputation at least). A commercial DJ on bass, half-brother of one of the guys from Korn (I need to dig up some of my LAPD photos one of these days-- but I thought they sucked, actually) and a drummer from the local legends Cradle of Thorns. Talking to a friend back in Bake-O, he tells me that these guys were deal oriented from the start and didn't gig together at all until the money was there. Yeah, the town is a musical hotbed— a hotbed for hype.

"After clinching the deal with Arista, the band members retreated to a cabin in northern California for the intensive writing sessions that yielded the material for their debut album." Yeah, that's the ticket— money first, create later. Kris is a nice enough guy, and a pretty good drummer as I recall. But the hands in the pants gesture isn't a mistake; strokes are the main thing that matter in the "Bakersfield scene".

The hype just cracks me up. "Coming together in the same Central Valley breeding ground that spawned bands like Korn and Videodrone, Adema is the most buzzed-about heavy rock sensation of the year." Heavy like a root canal. Heavy like a hate sandwich with no meat. None for me, thanks. I got enough of that attitude when I lived there. At least they don't have a misspelled name. Kris has a short haircut and a lot of tattoos now, but I'll bet his focus hasn't deviated much from the old days. Hey, everyone enjoys a good wank. But does it merit an audience? If you visit the site, be sure to look at the fan videos. Hey, you guys RAWK. Yeah, we want to give the youth of America what they want. As long as they pay us first, so we can laugh all the way to the bank.


desperation cologne

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Passing through is easy. Sticking around is hard. Caterina posted an observation about web logs as a "lonely hearts club" that generated a lot of notice on other blogs I read. Metagrrrl responded that she was so right. Shauna responded in a more practical way, noting that It's hard enough to get someone to return to your site, let alone get them to fall in love with you. No kidding. Relationships in real life are hard enough without the temptation for fantasy fiction. I tend to think that relationships develop with about the same frequency as lightning strikes (which is more frequent than you might think, but not exactly commonplace). It's just that when they do happen, they generate so much smoke and noise that spectators get envious.

Big trucks passing through

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Highway 99 went through the edge of town

I used to love to stand on overpasses and watch the trucks go by when I was growing up. A SF Bay area photographer I met once, Chris Sulivan, lived in Bakersfield for a while. In an interview, he described Bakersfield as a place where there were plenty of places to park, and lots of big trucks passed through. I like his photographs a lot, but when searching for a sample of his work on the web (google search, chris sulivan photographs) to show people I was confronted with a disturbing question:

do you like masterbate ?

... porn *Molly Ringwald -- nude photographs *Jon Jones -- nude ... Devine -- squirt *Kathleen Sulivan -- sleeze *Sheena Easton ... Kelly Lynch -- panties *Chris O'Donnel ...

Ah the power of a noun... even when it's actually a verb. Hey, I don't want web pages asking me rude questions unannounced, and if they do I'd prefer that they be phrased correctly! Quite the interesting array of search engine bait, though, don't you think? Sort of like a modern web haiku.

It's always something

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When I hear the word host I usually think of a congenial person. Not so, around here lately. First I could view my site, but I couldn't post. Eventually, I managed to get something in. Of course it had a bunch of errors, I'm just that way. I'm a persistent revision junkie, and when I tried to get in to fix the glaring flaws, well, my host said no way. That wasn't very nice at all; I've felt like I had a hole in my pants that I couldn't cover for the last 24 hours or so. I didn't like that at all.

It's still going on. Apologies for any glaring errors, but it seems like I can only get in about 10% of the day.

Luke's notice of a comprehensive cliché site reminded me of a big shift in my thinking. As a writer, you struggle long and hard to stamp these things out. But they always creep in, you just can't stop them. You can only ruthlessly edit them out.

My favorite definition of a cliché comes from Dr. Marc Arnold, one of my instructors at UALR: "A cliché is anything you've heard before." Given the infinite adaptability and extensibility of language, why do we fall back on pattern? So we can remember. Reading Walter Ong's Orality and Literacy a few months back provided some surprising insight into this process.

Ong cites the work of Millman Parry in his doctoral dissertation from 1928 regarding the repetitive patterns of words in Homer's Odyssey and Illiad. The aesthetic values of the oral poets were not based in originality of word choice, but instead by their integration of these boilerplate words into a fluent exciting narrative. This immediately made me think of the early works of Tom Waits, because he uses every tired cliché available and yet he makes them fun, just by the sequence and juxtaposition of them. Sometimes it feels forced, but choosing to use them at all is a fairly radical gesture cutting against the notion of originality in our writing based, chirographic culture. Is this quest for the new, in phrasing at least, a bit of a distraction from real creativity? Isn't the specific effect a bit more important than the method used to achieve it?

Another way of looking at it might be to propose that oral discourse works by fusion of existing concepts into more interesting forms, forms developed through relationship rather than syntactic variety. Written discourse, with it's emphasis on novel syntactic forms is fission, breaking down the clichés into discrete units that, though they serve the same function of generating interest, they rely less on relationship to known qualities or known experience and instead insist on the new as the ultimate quality of worth.

Now I'm going nuclear. Maybe it's because I just read a well written accound of how nuclear weapons work. I drifted there because of some amazing pictures taken by a camera developed by Harold Edgerton. Rapatronic photographs present a slice of life that I hope to never see. For something completely different, there was also an interesting bit about the cow population in my old stomping grounds, the Great Central Valley:

At current growth rates -- the cow population of the valley will more than double in the next 20 years, from 1.5 million to more than 3.8 million. By 2010, those cows will double the amount of fine dust particles and will significantly raise levels of ammonia, methane and other gases, the report notes.
My favorite part of the story was the typically journalistic snappy quote: "We'll be rolling up our sleeves and digesting this," she said. Uh, when was the last time you were at a dairy? I'd suggest rolling up your pants legs rather than your sleeves. Or better still, stick your nose in and take a wiff. That will cure any desire to digest the problem.

Returning back to problems in writing, Vivian Gornick's piece Memoir: an Inward Journey Through Experience is a far more valuable read than the cliché site. I wish bloggers would get over the idea that they must adopt some dramatic personna distant from themselves in order to record their experiences. It's not creative; it's antithetical to the whole journaling enterprise.

Post your entries as fictions if you don't care to be sincere about who you are. But label it that way, and don't delude yourself into believing that you can become your own cartoon hero. The test for a cliché is simple: have you heard it before? By this definiton, the major constituent of weblogs is cliché because linking to things said before is the main order of business. This troubles me far less than the lack of the feeling that I'm dealing with original personalities. Cartoon heroes are the worst sort of clichés because they are everywhere. Accounts of life experiences are on the rise through blogging. I like it, but maybe I've just surfed into one too many teenager sites.

NPG, Third View, Rapture

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Surviving my first week of school, I've just got to love the three day schedule. However, the remainder of the week will be occupied by preparing for week number 2. I've decided to put a lot of the material online, because some other freakish individuals might find it interesting. But before I launch into that, I want to catch up on some links.

I was perusing a very fine blog, Dragonthief a few days ago when I noticed one of those odd little Internet humor stories about Little Rock. Of course, while funny, it wasn't true. Then a few days later, it showed up on Raindogs. I'm not trying to defend Little Rock really, it's a strange place. Reading the full refutation of it exposes what a truly clever parody it is. I was wondering about the rubber love doll part.

Amazingly enough, to connect with the post I made earlier about New Topographics, I found a link to another one of those projects started by Mark Klett. Third View is a look at some rather interesting rephotographs of canonical landscapes. I much prefer this to the much hyped appropriation of Walker Evans FSA photographs. Sometimes Postmodernism is really boring; sometimes, it's a strategy for understanding the dynamics of change. I'm not a huge Klett fan, but I really enjoyed this the first time around when I was in school— I had no idea that they continued it, for a third time around.

Also of great interest was the discovery that The National Portrait Gallery has a searchable archive of images. I thought their usage fees were a bit stiff, but still, it's nice to peruse some of the fine portraits they have available.

Taft, California

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Taft, California-- under the influence of Grant Mudford

I started out like most photographers, reading mainstream photo magazines. When I was in high school, I saw a feature on an Australian photographer named Grant Mudford. Before I had any training in art at all, I was just blown away by his sort of "soot and chalk" look. His color work was intense as well, and the hard light of Australia reminded me of the desert light that surrounded me. Though I would eventually be seduced away to the bleaker light of the "new topographics" photographers like Lewis Baltz and Henry Wessel, for a time I thought drama was an essential quality to a landscape. Part of me still does, but it's a subtler sort of drama. However, this didn't stop me from doing the occasional moody sketch.

This one is from Taft, an old oil town about an hour from Bakersfield. I just loved the ruins, and the cracks.

Rex

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a woman and her pethajji?

Yay! FTP is back. Now I can finally congratulate Rex on his first successful nightclub hypnotism show. Convincing people to do strange things; now that's a worthy cause in life.

multiculturalism

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After I got home Sandra Bernhart came on the TV. She sang a cover of the Tom Waits tune Downtown Train crediting it, as cretins usually do, to Rod Stewart. I like her though, for her confidence and often find her hilarious. Then there was some guest talking about a women's conference that totally excluded men, including male infants. Everyone seemed to think it was a great idea. Boy George talked about his obsession with Bowie, and thoughts I was having earlier today started bugging me.

I was thinking about the qualities I admire most in writers. I like writers who write about what they know. That's the most amazing thing to me about Jane Austen. There are never any scenes in her books where men are speaking alone; that's because she was not a man, and had no idea what men say when they are alone. So she didn't write it. She did, however, create convincing portrayals of men based on her observations. So, when I read Too hot to handle in the SF Gate it really bugged me. I don't feel qualified to write or talk about homosexuality. I don't feel qualified to write about what a woman feels. I have no idea; these things are totally outside my experience. Consequently, while I enjoy reading a lot of authors that are gay, or women, or both I do not feel that it is a model that I can emulate as a writer. Because they are different is the main reason to read them. It's educational, but I can't say that I really find it useful in crafting my own pieces. I can't emulate them. I don't have those experiences to draw from.

Terry Eagleton's observation about the fringe becoming the center is very apparent in the selection of essays assigned to aspiring writers. Just how useful is this, really? I can see that its important in the realm of literature, to make sure that all human experience is represented. But what good does it do for the typical farmboy trying to learn to write in Arkansas to be thrust into narratives of gays in New York? It's more about writing as social engineering, trying to get people with more limited life experiences to open up to the rest of the world. That's great in a literature class. But in a writing class? It seems to me that matching the writing samples to the demographic, giving people writing that they can identify with more closely might be better. But that's dangerous, too. I'm a bit of a punk-rock kid; if you gave me stories of small town life and going to church on Sunday (the general cross section around here) I'd puke and find nothing to identify with. I don't know what the answer is, but it's probably somewhere in the middle. All I know for sure is that I can't write from a woman's or a gay's perspective. It would be really foolish to try. Can't I just be okay with being me, without being engineered into something else? I've got my own sort of fringe, and I trip on it all the time.

The first assignment in my expository writing class is to write about a multicultural experience. The teacher said that she ran into trouble with one student a long time ago who literally had never had one. Not a problem with me. But it made me think about why the curriculum forces students to confront these issues in a writing class. Psychology or Sociology are required courses. Foreign Languages are required. Dealing with these issues, in those classes, seems perfectly logical. Why does it have to be part of writing? I suppose it's my feeling that writing is a craft that gets in the way. I think writing classes should do everything they can to improve the craft. I remember a guy I knew in California (originally from Texas) who when forced to write about multiculturalism, wrote a fabricated essay— because he had no experience to draw upon, and was totally unwilling to go out and have one. He wasn't so much a bigot, as he was afraid of people different from him. I suspect that is what happens in most of these writing classes, when students are asked to write about topics they know nothing about.

Teaching observation, research, and the sheer craft of concise writing is a full enough study I think, without resorting to attempts at social engineering. This stuff really bugs me. The writing curriculum I have been exposed to most of my career consists more of sensitivity training than anything remotely resembling writing. I value writers who are different from me; I just don't want to be forced to write like them. But finding the voice that seems right to you is now at a pole completely opposed to writing as it exists in the classroom. I feel relatively sure that I will be condemned as a romantic. That's fine; in it's broadest context, the label fits. It fits because I value emotion over reason, not because I value the individual over society. Valuing emotion, I'd be an idiot not to listen to the emotions of people who are different from me; there is a lot of passionate writing from women, minorities, and gays. But I can't write like them, because I'm not one of them.

Unless I want to write fiction, I'm stuck with writing like me.

feelin' better

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FTP access is still down, so I’m sorry if the pages are a little bland. Things are looking up a bit, the theory class tonight has a great group of people in it. Lots of conversations. Feeling much better now. Incoming e-mail is working again, so I’ve got hundreds of e-mails to weed through.

I’ve got part of another zip-code entry written and lots of new essays to write for school, so hopefully things will get more interesting around here soon. There’s a Bill Burke book I want to talk about, but I’d rather show than just tell. Not being able to use pictures to communicate really bugs me. Found out my name came up regarding a documentary project downtown (as a potential photographer) so that thrilled me as well. Life is getting better. Time to read some Milton, that will cheer me up for sure.

reverse sexism?

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Scanning the syllabus for the class that provided my negative entry to school, I noticed something odd. The textbook, The Best American Essays seems fairly well balanced, with perhaps 60% of the essays written by women writers. The assignments are to read eight essays written by women, and four written by men. Of those, I'm guessing that only two are white. So, that means that the white male perspective comprises 15% of the class. This may explain why I felt minimilized my first day out. Though the class is approximately 50% white male, our perspective is of low importance.

This bothers me less than it might appear; some of my favorite writers are women. Nevertheless, the disparity is somewhat alarming. When the pendulum swings too far the other way, somebody gets gonged. Like I did, the first day.

Server problems

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It looks as if they might eventually solve my e-mail problems. At least, I hope that's why my mail server and ftp access aren't working— my provider must be working on it.

Just got back from a Milton seminar that I'm sitting in on; it should be really fun. I need some fun. I've had a sinus headache since last night, and woke up late and nearly missed it; but I'm glad I forced myself to go. Composition Theory tonight. I'm looking forward to that one as well. Talked to another Jeff who is in the Milton seminar; he's in both of my theory classes too.

Hopefully I'll be able to post some new stuff later!

school & online writing

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Mixed report from the first day at school.
<whine>

I felt like I was getting brushed off anytime I ran into someone I knew. Maybe it was me. But then again, it would be nice to feel like you didn't have to make an appointment to talk to someone. I always feel like I'm imposing, distracting people from something they'd rather be doing. It would be nice to feel like someone actually wanted to talk to me.

Writing online is a way of getting around those feelings. People are free to click away, to stop reading whenever they choose. I do my best to be interesting, but I know I'm not always. You can skim and forget; I must admit that I'm jealous of all those web people who seem to be happy all the time. I seem to have two modes: obsessed or morose. Happy just doesn't factor into it much. Of the two, obviously, I prefer obsessed. That's why I like school. It gives me plenty to obsess about.

The scary thing is that I received an e-mail today from another Arkansan that I may meet someday on a professional level. I see why people censor their blogs, worrying about what people they actually know might think of them. I refuse to do that. I started this to write each day and to become more comfortable with writing. If I start not writing about things that are important to me for fear that I'll put myself in a bad light, it defeats the purpose. The purpose of saying what I feel, in print— because I seldom get the chance to in person. People get enough of me real fast.

Around here, relief is just a click a way. You don't hurt my feelings if you brush me off that way. When you invite me to introduce myself, and then interrupt me three times during the first sentence to chastise me to be brief, well, that hurts.

</whine>

I've got to put this up while I'm thinking about it. <whine> Too much hometown thinking; it's coming from the frustration of having lived here for six years and not making a single friend. Since I've been shut-in, I've talked to more people in California than I have in Arkansas, but that's going to change soon (I hope). It's back to school tomorrow. <!-- screaming for personal content? well, there it is. --> </whine>

I stumbled on a web log by someone born in Saugus, California (south of Bakersfield, and one of the few places that someone from Bakersfield could make fun of) and it's main topic seems to be: most drugs: good. Heroin or anything you use a spike for: bad. Not much argument from me. Though I have no use for them now (I'm using those synapses for something else, thank you), I always used to crack-up over the annual essay contest "What Drugs have done to my life." I always wanted to write a Hunter S. Thompson style response: "Well, I can't recommend them to everyone, but they always worked for me." But, unfortunately, this would probably be a mistake for someone with an eye on teaching. When you live in California, drugs are a natural defense mechanism

Then, I found this letter to the editor from the Bakersfield Californian which just cracked me up: City screws up Greenacres is a down home response to the desire to build an underpass for some railroad tracks (next to a refinery). It does not surprise me that Greenacres -- and never Rosedale -- was in Ripley's "Believe it or not" for having the longest row of mailboxes in the world along Rosedale Highway, west of Calloway. I've got some rather amusing pictures of those mailboxes, if I could only find them in this mess.

the nightly cage

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midnight bridal

I've had trouble sleeping my whole life. Except in the daytime. I can sleep just fine, then.

Welcome, Visitor

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we were happy, but we're not anymore?

I've been spending way too much time the last few days perusing weblogs.com looking for something different.

Since I started reading blogdex, the sameness of most blogs is confirmed; there has got to be something more than providing the same links over and over. I mean, Wil Wheaton? Get over it, folks. I do however enjoy it when people highlight obscure news stories; it's just that I like it better when someone writes something they feel.


<rant> Ads on blogs really bug me. Commercial content on the web is pretty boring, but to be expected on sites that exist to make money. Why to people put banners on personal sites? I can understand it on the "free" web space providers, but I've run across a bunch of "personal" sites screaming for support. The usual pitch is "my banners don't generate enough income to feed a child in a third world country; so please click my pay-pal button so that I can continue to express myself to you here." Huh? Banners are annoying, so why have them if they don't help? Why should I pay for your hobby? My space here costs me around $5 per month. It wouldn't even cost that if I didn't feel the need to display my photographs to SOMEONE after spending so much of my life making them. If you can't afford it, just get off. Start a business, and quit claiming to desire independence. I refuse to link to any "make money off my opinions" enterprise.



I've also got a problem with geek sites. I'm not a geek. Computers are just devices, like microwave ovens, that make cooking up something interesting easier. While technical news is essential to anyone who wants to express themselves in this medium, am I alone in thinking that there is room for something else on the net? </rant>

So, if you've stumbled in here on some bizarre search, welcome. I think the that's the way things should be. I can't help you with buying drugs online, or getting laid (the most popular searches) but you might be amused by some of the stuff around here. With my usual topics though, literature related searches are a close second. The best things learned through research often don't have anything to do with what you first started looking for. People don't generally look for, or show much interest in me. This isn't an IA, ID, or geek site. This isn't an "I can be more obscure than you" site. I'm just a regular guy who likes STUFF. Books, pictures, odd newsbytes, music, etc. I've got no agenda except staving off the depressive, and embracing the manic.

I've been far too depressive the last couple of days; I'll spare you the details.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch!

And I thought I had it bad growing up, learning to spell mignonette street. I'm glad I'm not Welsh; they say that one of the prerequisites for living in this town is that you have to be able to pronounce its name. The name, for those who don't care to read the whole article, means "The Church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel near the rapid whirlpool by the church of St. Tysilio of the red cave."

New Leonard Cohen Song

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Weird how every time I make an observation, something comes up to conflict with it, expand it, or just make me scratch my head. Why did I listen to In My Secret Life the first thing after I woke up?

My main problem with Mercury Rev, which I didn't expand on adequately last night, is the voice. It's a personal thing; I'll forgive a lot if I like someone's voice. I like Leonard Cohen's voice. But his music has some pretty nasty associations for me. The last "rip my heart out while it's still beating" experience I had was with a woman who just idolized him. However, his world view is not mine. No matter how hard I tried to identify with his lyrics, I found myself saying no, this just isn't meant for me.

I smile when I'm angry
I cheat and I lie
I do what I have to do to get by.
But I know what is wrong and I know what is right
And I die for the truth in my secret life
In my secret life . . .

I bite my lip and I buy what I'm told
From the latest hit to the wisdom of old
But I'm always alone and my heart is like ice
And its it crowded and cold in my secret life
In my secret life . . .
No, this just isn't me at all. If I'm angry, people know it. I don't have a secret life. I don't buy much these days, especially not if I'm told. It's not crowded and cold inside my head; actually, the flames in my heart burn a little brighter each day. My head is fairly sparsely populated with only the best of friends invited inside. I can tell that the heartbreaker in question will love this song. She was a big one for secret lives. I don't believe in secrets. What you see is what I am; well, part of it anyway. Truth certainly has caused me to die many times; but it was in real life, not fantasy-land.

Mercury Rev

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I tried really hard to listen to the new Mercury Rev album on neumu.

I made it through about 20 minutes, but I just couldn't stand the whining any longer. Badger's been talking about a lot of bands that I haven't heard of, and I'm always curious to try something new. But this just didn't do it for me. Bombastic orchestrations, cliché lyrics: my how little pop music changes when you look away. So these are the new indies? I suppose I was expecting something with a little more bite. I really do want to hear the new Wilco though, but I'm not ready to start scanning for mp3s. I suppose I'll just have to *gasp* buy it.

I love this guy.
William Blake     One who is very much delighted with
being in good Company

Born 28 Nov 1757 in London
& has died Several times Since

January 16
1826

For all my bitching, William Blake is still my friend. He's been keeping me company for a long time, and I suppose I just wanted to put this up to remind myself. All my expectations, all my theories, seem to die and fade away. I just look at the stuff, and marvel at his innovation and ingenuity. It's not about what it means; it's about how it means.

He didn't conform to poetic tradition; he reinvented it.

However, this does not mean that he set out to discard the best of what came before; he took it to a new level, copying and copying to isolate the best of what was true from an incredible number of sources. Blake copied to create.

Internet conformity

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Trying to figure out what and who I want to connect myself with via semi-permanent links on the sidebar, gives me a headache. You see, I don't really have many friends out there, and what few I do are smart enough not to pay much attention to me.

So I surf and surf, trying to find people of like mind out there. Big surprise. There aren't any, really. There are however groups, and lots of them. I notice that links tend to be replicated a lot, and if you're paying attention, once you find a group of blogs, they don't seem to venture far outside their sphere. Conformity Rules in Cyberspace from the Australian Times discusses yet another Internet study based in chat-room behaviour. The core thesis is that people smooth off their rough edges and even change their opinions about what's right just to fit in. But do hypertext journals work the same way? I'm not so sure. I keep searching for evidence to the contrary, but I don't find much. The same social pressures of face to face interaction rule the distant corners of the web. I don't like it. I don't like it at all.

There's been some discussion on Metafilter about the "rules" of blogging. It seems like one of the rules is don't get too personal. What fun is that? The lack of personal content around here isn't because I've set any boundaries about it. It's because I quite literally don't have a personal life. If I get one, I'll let you know.

However, if I wrote about how bored/unhappy/alone I was then even I wouldn't want to read it. Writing makes me happy. Surfing helps fight the boredom. Being alone is usually a temporary thing, though I must confess this latest dry spell is sort of soul-shattering. But it's not enough for me to start thinking that shallow po-mo ART photography is good. It's not enough to make me think that crappy obfuscating design is somehow the true path to the future. It's not enough to make me think that florid prose which forsakes content for cleverness is great stuff. It's not enough to make me want to have anything to do with most cliques.

Brassai: The Monograph

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Brassai: The Monograph-- Bullfinch Books

An article in the Irish Times has prompted me to post some photographs that aren't mine. A review of The Secret Paris of the 30's forces me to recommend otherwise.

I've had that book for years, and though last I checked it was out of print in the US, it seems to be back in print in the UK. I haven't seen the new edition, but I can tell by the price that chances are, it doesn't compare to the Bullfinch effort, Brassaï: The Monograph. While it is pricey at $75, the reproduction quality is just awesome, putting the dull newsprint of Secret Paris to shame. It's too big to fit on my scanner, handsomely bound, and a real joy. Brassaï is just one of those photographers you must see!

My taste in photography leans towards the poetically persuasive, and while Brassaï isn't at the top of my list, he surely rates in the top ten. He flirts with the tawdry, but never without taste; each moment frozen by him deserves careful consideration.

Anyone familiar with my work, and Brassaï's, would understand why I feel an affinity for him. He was, for a time, a bar photographer too. Though only a portion of The Secret Paris of the 30's is shot in bars, I would be lying to say he wasn't an influence. His shots look candid though he used an unwieldy plate camera, flashbulbs, and flash powders.


Drunks R Us

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Mike Bell and friend

I thought it would be a good idea to show the full frame for the stolen eye on the sidebar. It's a drunken eye, and it's not mine. The photographs are all mine though. If I rip someone off, I'll mention it.

I need a beer. Hour after hour, I write and rewrite a paper on William Blake overturning premises I propose, at a total loss to pull the now 60+ pages of text together. After a few years at it, I'm just plain tired. So much research, so little clarity of thought. I keep telling myself it will come together tomorrow. But I'm running out of tomorrows.

I just heard that Bob Gleckner died on Monday. He's a renowned Blake scholar who directed my mentor's dissertation. Every time I revisit his books and articles, I'm amazed by his clear way of expressing very complex ideas. I wish I could channel him or something, I need some kind of help to get past this block. Make that blocks. Every time I think I've gotten over the hurdle, I back up and start again. I wish I knew what I was trying to say. I want to write something else for a change. School starts next week, though sometimes I wish it was back to the bars, instead.

But I'll have to settle for a couple of cool ones, and wake up tomorrow and try again.

Downtown

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Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas

Parenthesis

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I've got to read Milking the Moon. You've got to love a guy who can appreciate the finer things in life, like parenthesis. [ALD]
"I adored Alice B. Toklas because she had this little mustache, and I swear she waxed it. I can just see people staring at it, so finally instead of shaving every day, she let it grow and waxed the ends. I'm sure she waxed it. It was a proper mustache. . . . She had a very logical mind, but she also had the gift of the parenthesis. A lot of people start parentheses and never finish them. To me, it is the most maddening of all human characteristics. I don't say, Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. I say, If you must parenthesis unto others, finish the goddamn parenthesis. . . . Alice B. Toklas had the gift, the true classical gift, of the parenthesis."

Given her reputation as a dope-smoker, this observation is astounding. Short-term memory is one of the first things to go. Another astounding thing was the discovery that a town quite close to my parents was the focus of a major cluster of links, based on a long-term nightmare— Brian West is trying to raise money online to defend himself against charges of hacking the Poteau Daily News site in February 2000. The story is really racking up the comments on linuxfreak.org. My favorite response was this one:

As a native Oklahoman I can tell you for sure: 1. SE Oklahoma is not a bastion of internet or PC technology. I'm seriously surprised they have ISP service at all (it literally is in the 3rd World--no disrespect intended). 2. Law enforcement officials associated w/ this culture are probably doing very well if they can operate an AOL dial-up connection, much less understand its mechanics. 3. 'Public' service jobs in the 3rd World tend to be granted politically and have very little to do w/ education level.
That sums the place up nicely: between the tribal wars over gambling territories, the meth-labs (#1 in the USA for meth production: they passed California a few years back), and the abject poverty it seems quite odd that they would make a buzz on the Internet over "high-tech" crime (just a right click of the mouse, really). But then, it does seem natural for a third-world country to hate what they don't understand. But wait a second: the Oklahoman in question did seem quite well versed in the art of the parenthesis. [blogdex]

A far more interesting meme rolled from Meg to Luke. He's compiled quite the array of links to abandoned structure photographs. There is some really good stuff there, but I notice that the best sites were outside the US. Abandoned structures don't last that long around here, or in California; real estate is at a premium, so it's mostly small buildings rather than large institutions that lie fallow— except in SE Oklahoma. I really should go back and photograph there sometime.

One final note: Metagrrrl bought a new latex cat suit, though she doesn't seem to have the moustache to match.

(close parenthesis)

Zip code survey, continued

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Continuing the grand saga, Roots: My Life as a Demographic I go back to the beginning.

Where I was born. Well, sort of. Would you believe, the house I lived in. I was born in a hospital in Ventura, California, but I grew up in a house that I only have vague memories of. It was on a street called Ward Way in Ojai, California. I was only there until 1963 or so. My dad built the house. The street was named after him because he was the first person to build a house there. Dad built it with his own hands, it wasn't a contractor job. He used a tool that currently resides in my brother's garage, called a ShopSmith. It was an all-in-one sort of tool, table-saw, drill-press, lathe, shaper, you name it. But so was my dad, really. He worked in the oil fields during the night, and built the house during the day. My parents lived in a trailer on the lot, though I wasn't born till after it was built. Real American Dream stuff— dumb Okie moves to California, educates himself on building codes and such at the public library, and builds a house that he expects to live the rest of his life in. It didn't work out that way.

In 1963, the oilfields slowed down and we were forced to move to Bakersfield. Most of my memories are there. What I remember most about Ojai was the smell. I'm not sure what it was, perhaps it was the orange blossoms, but I drove back there right before I moved to Arkansas and the place still smelled the same. It was a ritualistic kind of thing, because it was the place I should have grown up.

We'd go back often to visit as I was growing up, because of my Uncle Wendell. Wendell moved there, right after WWII, because my dad was there. Wendell was much smaller than my dad, and dad would always protect him when they were growing up. During the war, my father travelled across the country looking for work, usually as a welder in aircraft plants. He couldn't get into the service because he had a perforated eardrum. He found work, like lots of people, in California. Wendell was in the service, "Mule Pack Artillery," and as I was told, he was the smallest guy in the outfit. But he could dead-lift over 500lbs so people pretty much left him alone. After the war, he didn't need much protecting, but I know it hurt my dad to move away from him.

Wendell lived in a Quonset hut and played the twelve-string guitar. His wife was a fortune-teller and my cousins were sort-of hippie-like. I liked them, a lot.

Demographically, the place has changed a lot since then.

Shauna's bird story

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I'd been meaning to add Shauna to my link list for a while, but now there's no excuse. You've just got to love her latest literary story.

Bridal shop windows

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Down on Chester Avenue

There's something really sad about the displays in most bridal shops. All that white. I went through a phase of photographing them a lot when I was married. I suppose it was the contrast between all that white and black, sitting so close to the greys of the street. Disembodied hands, bodies without heads—what more could a guy want? The discrepancy between fashion and reality was just so intense.

Head? Rock gets ridiculous

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Marilyn Manson faces charges, not for being silly and past his sell-by date, but for rubbing his balls on the head of a security guard. Just another star in the dope show.

But please don't place me in the same category as John Strausbaugh. Unplug the Oldies- for good reeks of cashing in. Saying that once you pass a certain age, you can't rock is total bullshit. What a narrow idea of what rock is. Fuck that. Some artists do the best work of their careers as they age, tempered with greater sophistication and free of the sophmoric idea that rock is revolution. When journalists scream "get out of the way, geezers" it's just supporting the lie, easily swallowed by young people, that there is nothing important except YOU. Last I heard, Link Wray was still up there rocking with the best of them.

A review of Strausbaugh's book pleads: "Rock 'Til You Drop is rather more than a glorious rant directed at those who survived the sex and drugs to milk a new generation while still claiming to be hip and radical." If his story in the Guardian is any example— bullshit. There is rock & sham-rock made by people of every age group; to draw a dividing line based on age is a thinly disguised way of feeding the youth audience precisely what they want to hear.

Confused

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It's stormy outside

Things are getting interesting around here. The sky is turning dark, and a low rumble of thunder has crossed the ground. Bright strokes of lightning cut like knives. Colors around here can get so intense, even the greys. But the green never ceases to amaze me, being an asphalt-eating Southern California boy at heart.

I woke up thinking about the word confusion. It's one of those words that doesn't seem to have anything in common with its roots. "Con" implies that it's together, combining or coexisting with something else. "Fusion" implies the same sort of combining idea. But it's really neither, now isn't it? Confusion means that you can't get it together, you can't fit the pieces together, you're dif-fused. It just doesn't make sense.

Working on the Blake paper, I'm less confused than before, but things still aren't fitting together right. I'm diffused.


Flea as Pee Boy

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I really wish IFC was available here.

It's a bit silly to be on their mailing list, and get teasers of upcoming attractions when there is no way I can watch it. Though I wouldn't say that I was a huge RHCP fan, the shots of Flea in a bowler hat, or the film clip of him dressed as a French film snob caused a snicker or two today.But Flea discussing himself as a Pee Boy in a Chinese coolie hat was the highlight of the current issue. Yellow journalism, indeed.

My mouse lost its tail

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My mouse had its tail clipped

Metal futon frames and mice don't mix. Mine has lost its tail, and consequently it isn't very effective. Ah, the wonders of technology though.

I'm cordless now, both in keyboard and rodent. I've always been one of those klutzes that drags the cord accross my drink, spilling it at the worst of times. Now I only have to worry about losing it. I don't use a desk; I work from my futon sofa with the keyboard in my lap, CPU on the end table next to me. I like it that way, it's quite relaxing and everything is within reach. I've never been one to sit up straight.

I bought a cheapie Logitech set for about $75, and so far so good. Oh the freedom. . . now if I could only stop dropping the damn thing!


Catholic Girls--- Do you know how they go?

At last, some truth in advertising.

Though it doesn't appear as if hair-care rates high in the curriculum, I've yet to meet any girl who would claim to be unaffected by a Catholic school upbringing.

Then again, I only met the wild ones who were working their way through the commandments in slightly different way. Strict religions will do that to people. I have it on good authority that Salt Lake City, home of the Mormons, is one of the wildest party towns around. A DJ I used to work with claimed that Sodom and Gommorah have absolutely nothing on Utah. He was anxious to get back there, after doing time in the supposed party paradise of California. The reputation of Rome also goes without saying. Who ever wrote Mount St. Mary's advertising slogan gets big props from me, for the deepest of ironies.

Truth in advertising is an idea whose time has come. For anyone who hasn't heard Frank Zappa's ode, Here is a midi file, a suitable perversion of the wonderful classic. But the real fun is in the lyrics. Okay, so I'm not very politically correct today, resorting to gutter humor. Well, the same is true of many of my heros.



Another one of those ideas whose time has come is barbecuing the sacred cow of Jane Austen as a prim and proper, sexually repressed woman. I was blown away when I read her work for the first time this year. I feel a lot less crazy about my perception of a lot of playful sexual puns in her work after reading Sex and Sensibility. I repeatedly journaled, "Boys and their well hung carriages? How could anybody misread that as an innocent obsession?" I'm too lazy to look for it, but those responses are recorded in my old blogs around here somewhere. The fundamental reason why I can't understand people's resistance to the concept is that Jane Austen is brilliant. Brilliant people tend to be quite sexual, bookworm images aside. Why the hell wouldn't her work be fused with sexual innuendo. It's far more fun than writing overt sex scenes anyway!

I feel so validated; I haven't read any of the criticism mentioned, and I reached the same conclusions.

Speaking of barbecuing, I was quite impressed by the campaign for Slow Food. I think the snail logo needs work, not everyone might find that appetizing. But I must applaud their usage of the beer industry as a model. Like forecasters using porn as a barometer for the economic potential of the Internet, arguing that the success of microbreweries bodes well for the proliferation of health food is an interesting leap.

Plato was my Playmate

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Plato was my playmate is a fun read. I must admit that I didn't take to Plato like AC Grayling, however.

I always wanted to argue with the guy. He was such a cunning manipulator of everything. Like an overbearing teacher who always wants you to see his way, and his way only, the whole Platonic dialogue thing always seemed stifling to me. Now I read Plato in a different way— Blake's infernal method. If you read Socrates' opponents as the good ones, and Socrates as the devil, it all makes much more sense.

Bones and woody stems

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Larry had an interesting room divider

I've always thought that good photography should rattle your bones. There is a visceral quality to things that is difficult to write about, difficult to express, and essential to make pictures that truly rock. Stylized stuff never really has gotten me off. Like corporate rock, it always seems phony and hollow. But people have to start somewhere.

Turning on the radio, picking up a magazine, a person is assaulted with messages about "style." The easy response, once you've had enough is to leap into an alternative style which doesn't have such a broad following. Heading for the ditch, the wheels careen into new avenues for expression that may seem more sincere. But are they, always? I don't think so; when style displaces content as the thing that moves you, you've landed in indie hell. The new boss is ultimately the same as the old boss. Neither one gives me a bone anymore.

I'm always looking for people who feel. The cold slavery to style that permeates everything these days often gets me down. I don't care about style. I want to be rocked. But style is one of those woody stems that dominates any arrangement. And as in the art of flower arranging, the woody stems have to be beaten to a pulp before they will draw enough water to sustain a flower.

Epstein article on Journaling

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Talking to oneself by Joseph Epstein is a good read. Though we have different ideas about what constitutes a good journal, it's fun to read such a detailed reflection on the subject.

There is a noticible shift of emphasis in online journaling compared to the traditional private sort. Online journals tend to be more entertaining and less morose. Epstein feels sure that "grave reflections" have little place in a journal:

As for the contents of my journal entries, they generally have to do with events, incidents, thoughts (more like notions) of the day before, though I am not above writing something genuinely vicious about something I’ve read, someone I’ve met, or some piece of gossip I’ve heard. A day’s entry rarely runs longer than two paragraphs of six or seven sentences each, and seldom takes me more than fifteen minutes to compose. I also try to be charming, if only to charm myself. The trick, I have discovered, is not to make the keeping of a journal into a chore. My advice on journal keeping is, as Cosima Wagner neglected to instruct Richard, keep it light.
This sounds like the prescription followed by online journals. The primary reason I switched to Greymatter was to cut down on the chore of creating journal pages. Now that the server time is being set correctly, I can enter little reflections like this with a minimum of effort. I suspect that my major problem is thinking too much.

But unlike most of the blogs out there, I prefer to write at least a paragraphs each time I link to something. The electronic shorthand of simple linking makes it possible for people to disappear from their logs. That's boring. I want to know what people think of the sites they report.

Sorry, but I just have to record that the second photographic exhibition chosen by neumu is the worst piece of shit I have seen in a long time. Andrew Stockdale needs to go back to art-fag school.
Many shots created for the fashion industry evolve from practicality. A handful of photographers have used this avenue to create some iconic imagery. This is one of my goals, and a great challenge to myself as a photographer. My main objective now is to create fashion editorials and advertising that can be seen as fine art. This concept is not original or new, though it is still broadly unaccepted. It's become apparent to me that fashion photography can provide as accurate and accessible a definition of our times as any other form of documentation.

Fashion and practicality in the same sentence? Broadly unaccepted? Funny, I believe Man Ray, Leibovitz, Avedon, and Kleine would argue with you. Deconstruct yourself, buddy. Fashion is what historians regard as MOST significant. History is bunk. But even accepting that, since when are blurry pictures of gas-pumps fashion? What the fuck does a backlit tree on a busy street have to do with osmosis? But what do I know, the guy is probably great.

History's not made by great men.

I do however stand by my recomendation of Charles Peterson on the same site. Hair, Sweat, and Guitars is a really great show. It's not about fashion. It's about moving people, and being moved. That's far more important than "definition" of anything.

Las Vegas-- butts-- they just sort of go together.

I had a notion a while back to use the sample demographic database at CACI Marketing to reconstruct a portrait of various places that I've lived. It's really interesting to compare the results from various zip codes, and how far off I fall from standard demographic information.

So, in order to stop writing about California for a moment I decided to track down my one Nevada zip code. It was the early 80s, so of course I'd forgotten it. I didn't forget my neighborhood though, just about three blocks from the strip on E. Sahara Blvd. Vegas was brutal in the daytime, and since everything was open 24/7 there wasn't much reason to go out in the heat.

I had no idea who lived near me, because the streets were constantly filled with tourists. Everyone, including locals, seemed to get around by cab. There was no reason to risk a DUI. Little did I know, I was living in the midst of a retirement village.


Going to California

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Just north of Bakersfield, CA. My dad worked in this dirt for many years.

Sometimes I really wonder about the whole notion of travel. There have been a bunch of shows on TV lately themed with that everpresent cliché "Going to California." Hey, I was born and raised there, but have you ever wondered why three quarters of programs of this type spend most of their time on the trip across the middle of the country? Could it be that California, by itself, isn't really all that interesting?

Okay, here is why I think that California holds such fascination. Imported things always have a much greater mystique than things that are native. As a California "native" the thing that always amazed me about the place was— nothing is native there. Virtually all the native plant and animal species were destroyed in the late 19th century, not to mention the native occupants. Most of what people think of as California came from somewhere else. Since everything is imported, everything is fascinating. Or maybe it's because California has such great travel writers.

Booking Passage looks at several books concerning travel writing, with less than startling conclusions. Everyone craves adventure, and Nicolas Howe's summary of The Best of American Travel Writing 2000 rings true:

One might also call this genre "testosterone travel" or "exploraporn." For the testing of masculinity figures frequently in these pieces, as do seductive appeals to vicarious experience. These accounts are today's versions of the adventure stories that ran thirty or fifty years ago in barbershop or cigar-store magazines such as Argosy: sagas of peril in the jungle or in the desert, for real men with hair on their chests and time on their hands.

The again, maybe California is such an attractive destination because it's the capitol of porn. From softcore Hollywood, to hardcore, California has it all. In your dreams. The reality is far more oily and sooty.

There I go again. What is it about me, California, and Porn? Add stick figures and Shakespeare and you've pretty much summed up the month thus far. Tales for the L33T puts it all together in a flash animation. Romeo and Juliet with smutty dialogue in a long and tedious stick figure theater. Now this is really scary.

Of course, it's even scarier that another link that showed up on Blogdex is findyourspot.com. This site purports to find the perfect place for you to live, if you take their quiz. Of course, they want to collect a bunch of marketing information. I'm sure blowme@spam.com is getting a big increase in traffic. The results? Every city it recommended to me was in the South, except one in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina. Tennessee seemed to be the top pick. Hmm, maybe I'm not that far off from where I want to be.

Pedestrian

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one of the few artifacts from living in Las Vegas

It's been a rather pedestrian day, moving two directions at once most of the time. If it weren't for all the petty irritations, I'd be pleased with moving the site. The web statistics that are available to me now are a real eye-opener. Since I'm listed on search engines now, people seem to be surfing in on the oddest searches and requests. I still have lots of stuff that's basically inaccessible because I haven't redone the menus, but search engines are finding it anyway.

Out of the Black

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I've been using my cone a lot lately.

Well, I'm finally back. It will take a while to reconstruct things around here. There are lots of stories to tell. Stay tuned. Two different hosts tried with varying degrees of success, one change of domain registrar, and a long learning process regarding the way things on the Internet work. I'm glad I picked summertime to make the change; I think my head would have exploded if faced with this mess on top of something resembling real life.

My cone is crumpled and tired.

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