Subjectivity and the Subjugated

Feathers and beak but not a bird, not quite. It is roughly man-shaped; and though the head tilts and the arms outstretch like a midnight stranger, without a face and without hands it is not a man either, not quite. It is Man-but-not-Man, that most ancient mold for the manufacture of disquiet, never failing to lend a nightmarish quality to the unknown. The light is cluttered with hard shadows and the mind, unsure, is forced toward interpretation. You are a child and it is a swooping, enveloping horror. You are a hunter and it’s an avenger. You are a Freudian and it is your mother hovering, unreachable, in the middle-distance. You are a seer and it is an omen. You are a vaudevillian and it is a punch-line delivered into silence. You are a captain of industry and it is an accusatory night-sweat. On and on for each. At bottom its simple: you are a you and it is not, which is enough. Its “otherness”  provokes an aggressive subjectivity.

03.30. filed under: art. books. history. humanity. ideas. 11

A spring day. A holiday. A beautiful day for origins laid bare. The question arises from within and without, from mischievous children and coots embittered by a lifetime in minority, “what do bunnies and eggs have to do with anything?” And there might be a squirm, and their might be a laugh, and there might even be an answer which deigns to include the word “Goddess” or “fertility” or “birth.” It’s a beautiful day for the survival of annexed symbols and the bright light of incongruousness that they shine. There is an implicit acknowledgment of lineage in those symbols that a hundred generations of voices crying “ultimate Truth” can’t drown out; a moon which won’t be eclipsed.

Across the northern hemisphere bodies are goaded and throb, independent of mind and careless of culture, as they always have. Biology, the great uniter, offering every animal their undeniable cues. Today, in the spring light, warm and feminine in its promise of fecundity, we’re presented a beautiful day for clarity. Feeling that light on our face, its winks and hints at comfort, we might ask, “Why should this light be refracted through a lens of bloody beatings and spear tips and torture? What has this light to do with the adventures of a murdered man’s corpse?” Or, “Have we moved the movable feast too far?” Perhaps today is the best day in the year to feel plainly the qualitative difference between healthy biological realities and the dark, gnarled festoons and embellishments of human abstraction.

Note: The image is a detail of Hans Baldung Grien’s Death and the Woman c.1517.

03.23. filed under: belief. humanity. observations. 5

So here is an image and with it, I’ll assume, a good deal of blank faces. Possibly a small percentage understand the insinuation straight away, but they aren’t much amused. The rest perhaps sigh their askance, “Ho-hum, so what’s this then?” Let’s parse it shall we? There is text. It reads, “An then yer arse fell aff.” This is Scottish vernacular; A phrase employed to call out the tell-tale wafting of bullshit particles into a nasal cavity. Below the text we have a kilt. Taking into consideration the inclusion of legs and socks, surely purposeful, we could assume that the focus is not the kilt specifically but rather the tartan pattern itself. A good assumption, making an ass of no one. So what are we left with then? Why, a calling-out of the incredible hokum which is the “ancient Scottish clan tartan.” That’s what.




What interests me here is not that an industry would prop-up a line of bullshit to make cash, obviously,
but that an entire population would so willingly abandon reality and not only adopt the bullshit in its stead but perpetuate it for generations… well, it leaves you kind of speechless.

It makes modern complaints of “tartantry” seem altogether more amusing. More than that knowing the truth transforms the burly, bagpiping, kilted figure that your mind conjures at the mention of “Scottish” into an entirely more complex figure. Where as initially you might have felt vaguely embarrassed or guilty at your mind’s involuntary employment of such stereotypical imagery, now you almost have to laugh.
 
I mean, think about it… who the hell is that guy anyway? An “ignorant oversimplification” of a fictional romantic character amalgamated from various traditions and conceits who himself is masquerading as an historical figure? A caricature of a false historical ideal who none the less reflects, on some level, the actual modern figures who have adopted the fiction as a fact and by their action made him real? How do you even begin to approach a creature like this emotionally or philosophically?

Truth is I haven’t the faintest idea. I just think the whole thing fascinating. But then I am a Morrison lad after all, and whatever else he is, that burly, farting, bagpiping, kilted figure with his balls exposed to the Scottish wind is quite possibly me coosin!

Anyhow, crazily longwinded though this post was , I hope at least a few among you soldiered through and enjoyed.

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03.19. filed under: history. humanity. life. people. 11

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.

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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

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