As an enthusiast for interesting, beautiful, forgotten thingamagigs, I’ve made many small discoveries. I’ve learned things. One overarching lesson has been that when searching out hand-made objects of any kind, especially those of ancient origin, one can always look East, specifically to Japan, to find the kind of obsessive attention to detail and devotion to craft that elevates damn near anything to a masterpiece-spawning artform. Today, as example of just this principle, I offer a cursory glance at the tsuba.

03.13. filed under: art. design. history. 8

The captain, crew, and palace retinue were dead; meat stripped from bone, broken and brined like soup carcasses. The ship was no more. Water to their thighs the three boys were standing somehow, breathing somehow, alive. A prince presumptive and his young guards facing an unknown shore beneath a fast darkening sky. Bred for leadership but having never lead, the prince was silent. He felt the sand dragging over the tops of his feet, sucked backward by the tide. He trembled. He thought of the ceremonial sword bestowed on him that very morning, its blade now plunged into the sea floor. In the woods beyond the the edge of the shore animals moaned and chortled and sung.

03.09. filed under: fiction. misc.

Crows and Coins

Or: Extrapolations from Josh Klein’s Vending Machine

When I first read about Josh Klein’s “Crow Vending Machine” I laughed. It seemed funny as hell somehow. After heading over to Klein’s site to read some more about his invention and intentions I stopped laughing. For one thing it’s supervillian clever. Successfully training crows to scour the earth for cash with nothing more than the promise of a peanutty reward is ingenious. More than that though I stopped laughing because I began thinking about the crows themselves and couldn’t help but extrapolate…

03.08. filed under: ideas. observations. play. 8

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

Being dead has got to be a drag. Being dead and famous? Still a drag, but at least you impressed yourself into the wax of the world sufficiently to live on, if only in name, for a while longer. Being dead and a famous artist? That’s a whole other tank of hippos. It would seem if you achieve fame in your lifetime as an artist your fate after death is to have every awkward, stinking, aborted creative-effort dragged from the darkness of its banishment, tagged, and shoved under the bright lights. That thing you made whilst naked in the mountains, blindfolded, heartbroken, raving, high on poisonous toad-skin, which you set down in grasshopper blood on the back of a banana leaf… that thing which you awoke three days later to find wedged between a wet deer skull and your car’s front tire… if you were too weak to burn it then when you had the chance, that thing will be found and packaged, and your name will be emblazoned across it, and it will be sold. Yes indeed. It will be sold to someone, or anyone, or everyone with a jangling pile of coins burning a hole in their pocket.



The events which inspired
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks certainly sound novel-worthy, complete with obsession, drunken knife-fights, murder, body dumping, and the incarceration of our intrepid beat luminaries. Surely its publication will have some redeeming value? Whether just for historians and completists and rubber-neckers, or as a work in and of itself, is yet to be seen.

I have to wonder what the artists themselves would think were they alive? Would they be embarrassed? Displeased? Would the fact that even their “undistinguished” works made it to a clamoring marketplace simply satisfy their egos and overrule their internal editors? Would they grin from their easy chairs unable to beat back the maniacal words, “I am legend”?

My “not very distinguished” mock-up of the UK edition.



Letting “unsuccessful” works linger in drawers and boxes under beds is a weakness for most artists I’d say, but then, when they are your creations, even abortive ones, abhorrent ones, embarrassing ones, and your intention is to mournfully review them every decade or so as you would review old correspondences or family photographs, they retain a definite personal value. A personal value.

After Henry Miller’s death Moloch and Crazy Cock came to light, neither of which were sterling examples of his incredible talent , likewise Bukowski has had damn near as many books of poetry published since his death as before. At what point does the pile of “not ready for prime time” work of an artist begin to tarnish his or her legacy? Does it ever? Is our insatiable desire to know everything about those we’ve immortalized self-defeating? And are we actually entitled to see the things artists didn’t want to have seen? It may well be that we afford our idols more “personal space” physically, after their deaths, than we do metaphorically. 

It’s a moot point I guess. There’s money to be made and industry marches on. And perhaps, just perhaps, the rationalization that even a turd from a master is better than nothing is true. One thing we can be sure of is that neither Jack, nor William, nor Henry, Nor Buk give a good god-damn either way right now, and we can take heart in the fact that while they lived, their art was their own.

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03.04. filed under: art. books. observations. people. 10

Digging The Diggers

In case you are not up on your 60’s history and are as yet unfamiliar with them I offer the following: The Diggers, who took their name from the English Diggers of the seventeenth century, were an underground improv theater troupe, of radical-left / anarchist bent, operating in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco in the mid-1960’s. They preformed street theater, staged art-happenings, disseminated broadsides and leaflets, organized concerts, opened “free stores” and, most famously, distributed free food in Golden Gate Park to anyone with an empty stomach.

I can hear what you’re thinking: “In other words they were hippies.”

Yes. In other words they were hippies.

03.02. filed under: art. design. history. people. 4

She wasn’t a religious woman. There was no denying that. She hadn’t given Heaven much thought at all, so to say her expectations had been confounded would not be quite accurate. And yet, moving along there on that seemingly endless escalator, she felt confounded anyhow. Not that Heaven ought to exist you understand. Not at all. People on Earth brow-beat one another about its dress code and management and admittance policies continuously, treating the whole of the world like one giant, chaotic, waiting-line, jostling and elbowing and murdering one another to get a bit closer to the velvet rope. That it existed, though admittedly surprising, did not in fact seem strange to her. It was the escalator itself which was perplexing. The thing creaked, and groaned, and was rusted to such an extent it seemed miraculous that it functioned at all.

She was afraid of heights so she didn’t look around, just straight ahead, eyes glued to the stretch of escalator directly in front of her, and staring at it with its flaking paint and leaking sealant and crumbling surfaces she began to get nervous. Alone there, high above the Earth, she said out loud, “It’s almost as though… it has been completely ignored since the day of its creation… or forgotten.”

(Note: the image, which is not actually of an escalator to heaven, was found here.)

03.02. filed under: belief. fiction. misc. 4

A Little Girl Dreams Of Taking The Veil

Before the combination of Photoshop and, this vast repository of source-materials, the internet began spawning what now certainly amount to billions of wry photo-mashups, there was a predecessor which required of its practitioners expert hand-skills and vision and resourcefulness. I’m talking, of course, about collage, and in the days before pixels, indeed before periodicals positively overflowed with photographic imagery, a fellow, without formal training, by the name of Max Ernst took the form to places previously unimagined.

02.24. filed under: art. books. history. people. 11

“That’s not fair,” she cried. It was a singular moment. A moment with import undiminished by the billions upon billions exactly like it which had preceded and would flow away from it like an ever widening delta of epiphanic gall. All over the planet smug, lazy, people parroted the same empty response, “Life isn’t fair!” Life isn’t fair? This gutless, impotent echo wouldn’t do. Not tonight. Not for us. I broke with tradition and strove for a specificity which might actually reach the heart or the brain. “Sometimes the hero loses, no matter how plucky, no matter how fine his instrument or heartening the sight of his weapons. Sometimes the wolf tears open the hero’s throat, punctures his eyeball with a fang, crushes his skull, guzzles his steaming blood, and simply trots off to mate lazily and sleep the morning away like a stone.”  She was quiet, unhappy with this answer evidently, unsatisfied. She was getting it finally, life. Eventually she murmured, “That’s horrible.” I looked at her, at her cheeks, her lips, her little hands, and said in response the only thing I knew for certain. “The wolf would disagree.”

02.23. filed under: fiction. life. misc.

The Nonist Gallery

I mentioned recently that I’d been working on a couple of new features for the site. One of them is The Nonist Gallery, which I am launching right now. My hope is it will offer an alternate means by which to browse the site and its archives. I am attempting to populate this gallery with all the images ever shown on the site , including both original images, created by me for posts and “special projects,” as well as images featured in posts but created by others. Clicking an image brings up a larger, annotated version, and clicking an image’s title links back to the original post it was featured in. Thus far I have only uploaded a tiny portion of the content, beginning with oldest images first, but plan to add more each week until the content is totally up-to-date, after which point updates will occur simultaneously with new content on the main page. More information is available on the gallery page itself by clicking “info” and a permanent link to the section has been added to the menu. If you have any issues or thoughts feel free to contact me. Happy browsing.

02.23. filed under: announcements. 6

As promised, here I will continue with my series on Graphis Annuals of years past (previously: ‘59/60 parts 1, 2, 3 and ‘71/72). This time I’ll be presenting some material from the 1957-58 edition. It’s not my favorite year but it’s an interesting year because you can see the past and future jostling for position. Though much of it feels distinctly 50’s some of the 60’s advertising style that would soon overtake everything was already making inroads. Below I have culled 22 images for your perusal, so happy perusing.

02.18. filed under: design. history. 9

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