Monday, June 25, 2012

you're never too old to learn something new

                                                Francesca Woodman (1958-1981)

last night i watched a documentary on the woodmans whose daughter francesca jumped off a new york building at 21. they had to identify the body through her clothes. her parents fanatical about doing art (as i am myself). her father, "if she had done something else, i wouldn't have been so interested in her." and during her mental crisis, she thought of dropping photography and raising horses. her father, "you don't know how to do anything else." and this morning it struck me, at twenty-one she could have learned to do anything.

supposedly, new activities build new brain cells, no matter my age. well, here's hoping, cause after eight years of using my left had to manipulate the computer, i've developed 'trigger-finger', the main joint of my index finger catches, pops, and it can be quite painful, or impossible to unbend. though i'm right-handed by nature, i observed many artists left-handed, there's a whole literature on this. so, i figured i'd become ambidexterous and use the opposite with a track-ball. the chickens have come home to roost.

i've switched to the other side, and it's true in life as in politics, my whole manner and perspective changed. i'm trying to learn the art of the tablet, drawing and pecking at it. i keep hitting the wrong screen commands as my pen wavers and shakes. and my tricky right shoulder already's starting to show signs of inflammation. as the next resort, i've ordered an external trackpad where i can use my finger. all this by way of introduction. 

THE BIG QUESTION: do i give up my artistic quest? this certainly changes the rules of the game. as friends told the singer rambling jack elliot  after he had a stroke and couldn't manage tricky stuff on the guitar, 'hey, nobody ever loved you for your fingers.' and he returned to the road. the tool doesn't really matter, if the spirit finds a way. yet, this does change my pace and manner of working. i hope i can adapt. if my hand recovers, i'll play my ukelele. 

seriously, everytime i've thought of being a performer, my body goes wrong. i think like francesca's parents mine expected me to be on the great stage of the world, doing monumental gestures. my mother never really got over my living a very private life. as jung said, 'children often try to fulfill their parent's failed ambitions.' francesca did a great job, enough to become famous for her work now, and hit a wall when adult realities arrived. she might as well be alive, running a stud farm, and enjoying her late fame. 

moving my little command table over has already had unexpected consequences. i'm relieved to have more space to maneuver around the fire-finder. i'm now focused when sitting on a more important part of the landscape for finding fires. and this switch in view makes everything a bit new. true, i'm not happy people find my photographs more interesting than my drawings. of course, i understand in the latter the appeal limited to fewer people, while the world and its vanishing inhabitants desire evidence of their existence and reality. we're all trying to hold on to our identity in the midst of a mass society. it ain't easy. 

you're invited to browse through the 500 galleries and 25,000 photos at to see if you can find me somewhere. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

the mayflower as a grandstand play, center of a cosmic drama

it's hard to escape the feeling i'm important, despite my obvious size in the scope of the universe. and celebrities feed into it. a center of energy needed, said my boss years ago. somebody has to organize the party, or nothing happens. those fan magazines energize the reader, the concert the crowd. look at the series on taylor swift, singer, journey toward fearless. i suppose i don't want to feel alone and need someone to speak my thoughts, certainly young teenagers do. 

i admit i fell into hell with serge gainsbourg, a wonderful movie on the much-adored french singer and scallywag. yes, i did find it hard to sympathize with the drunk at the end, on the other hand he bedded brigit bardot! what greater role-model can an aging man have? julliete greco, jane birkin, the guy never seemed to stop. skip the concert crowds. they're too greedy and demanding. let's get down to the basics. as serge says, i never had any complaints about my horizontal activity. 

what has all this got to do with the good ship mayflower (could a name have ever been more significant)? those on board felt themselves caught up in a universal struggle between good and evil, as did those randy rabble who defeated the british to set up their own house. the treatment of native-americans becomes more understandable, if not more acceptable. they were getting in the way of god,  his industrialists and settlers. 

the battle between good and evil is within myself, of course, yet what a pleasure to project it onto the world. what a relief to not carry that burden all alone. and every time an actor on the screen or stage overcomes great obstacles, or babe ruth hits a home run, i feel i have too. and when taylor and serge do a duet across time, i experience the exhilaration given to the Argonauts. sail away, sail away, goes the refrain of  our true national anthem. and who can blame me if i believe i've reached the promised land - once in awhile? 

here's a few drawings called returning to the garden. and maybe now you might understand what i mean:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

i have the cure for the american economy!

hopefully that got your attention. of course, it sounds like a set-up for a joke. alas,  i'm most serious when i appear ridiculous. this the result of being a natural-born clown hiding behind a conventional disguise. this isn't really about me, though everything i say is. what i think comes from personal experience. as a thinker, i'm a washout. 

okay, i've teased you enough. what is my answer? in concept it's so simple as to appear brainless, given the political and financial realities. here it is. are you ready?  it's a two-step process, best activated together. first, universal, free wi-fi blanketing the country, including alaska, hawaii, and puerto rico. access for everyone. with cheap tablets and laptops spreading like wild-fire, everyone could take advantage of this service. you wouldn't even need to be at your local coffee-shop, though that's always desirable for what i have in mind.

ah, you say, that just means the air filled with nonsense. too true, too true. still, it's atoms bouncing off one another that heat up your soup. the second stage as important as the first, open-source technology. android would be an example. anyone can play with it. and here's my ultimate reason for proposing it. every american is an inventor. why? because in these united states, i have to create my own identity, and this was true of our ancestors as it is today.

how many of us have names changed by our immigrant grand-parents? my own grandfather left canada to escape some shady dealings (though i've never discovered what they were). he re-invented his life as a salesman and walnut-wrangler several times, shooting raccoons climbing over the fence to steal his peaches. supposedly, my father patented a type of automatic-transmission for autos. damn, maybe i'm rich and don't know it.

wasn't it einstein who said, when something seems original, you just don't know the source? and who was it said, bad writers copy, great writers steal? i remember reading an enlightening essay on the downside of creativity copyrights, the thesis being, this limits cross-pollination. shakespeare stole everyone of his plots and certainly hundreds of lines from his fellow playwrights. today, he'd be sued a thousand times over and writing mein kampf in prison.

unleash the tigers of american inventiveness. free access and communication the way to go. ben franklin didn't fly his kite for just fun, nor did the pop-top beer-can appear out of nowhere. my fellow-countrymen can invent their way out of a paper bag, not to mention this economic mess. onward and upward, i say, or as the motto on the pease coat of arms reads, sic itur ad astra, or pursue the stars. 

and damnation, i keep inventing art-forms instead of pursuing something that pays

Friday, June 8, 2012

how to live with tilting at windmills

i suppose i could repeat the old saw, 'it's all an illusion.' unfortunately, that's so true it doesn't help. i never like having an answer for everything. this keeps me from adopting any religious dogma, scientific given, or the price of a computer. give me wiggle room, that might be my motto. here's a quote from the former president and founder of modern india, Jawaharlala Nehru,

Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will. 

seems to me that about sums it up. alas, my deck full of gaps. and i keep trying to fill them. for example, yes, i love museums, and i seek them out wherever i go. actually, it's nonsensical. now with this portable light show called ipads and androids, the pictures look better on a screen. still, i remember being stunned by that manet in san francisco and the huge visiting tintoretto. and, okay, i'd like to see a monumental parking garage turned into The Monca Museum. 

this is a battle i was born to lose! what am i to do about my defeat? what is an alternative reality? yes, it's grim, seeing what others don't, fighting for the light. why do i see the benefits so clearly and no one else does? am i halucinating? is fantasy the only life worth living? how can i restore my confidence in my own vision?

alas, i'm not a nuts and bolts person. i put the thought out there, visualized it, talked to the local paper. alas, i don't have the focus and stamina for a protracted battle. too many things interest me. i'd like, for example, to see this game refuge repopulated. at the moment i'm planning on throwing out a lot of food for the birds and rodents. this might bring the tower surroundings up to speed. i miss the eagles and brown bears, the blue grouse and even the laughable tricks of the coyote. without the yellow bellied marmots i'd feel completely abandoned.

i do ask myself all-to-often, what is the meaning of the whole thing? and every time i get a different answer. okay, this time i'll create an imaginary museum and let tomorrow fend for itself: 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

presence and absence: looking at found photographs

the death of a young friend continues to haunt me. sudden, final, an absence of someone you could never imagine dying. she planned, worked, never really taking an incautious step, while being very adventurous and traveling the world. something so simple as pushing a grocery-cart in front of a pickup. here and gone. not for her friends and parents. yet she too will become part of a solid yet vague photographic record.

browsing books of photos found without a name, i feel the opposite of Barthes, who felt all camera results view of death. to me, as i look at them, these people live on. not in my world so much as in their own. every anonymous photograph carries the implication of a story, which i can supply. recently i read

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs  an actual best-seller among the young and old alike. the author wove his story around a collection of pictures, piecing together a memory of what might have happened. 

that's what i find myself doing all the time. yes, certain people make their presence very much felt and their 'absence' echoes in the halls of history. for most of us childhood where we demand the most, of parents, teachers, other kids, and for that reason i find the early days the most dramatic, the most mine, where i controlled the world. unfortunately, gradually, i lost control, as i suppose most of us do. i adapted, scaled down my expectations. and now what? 

everytime i find a photo i've made that i like, a poem of mine that excites me, i wish the world knew them! alas, i do have tons on line. the number of viewers goes up and down like a yo-yo. my blog, for example, 127 hits on a day, whereas it's usually twelve. what happened? my photos, a huge day, 37,000 hits, yesterday 293. the flags and maps show people all over the world wandering in and out,  yet what makes a real 'presence', and how long should it reverberate?

a story of chang-tzu tells of his going to a funeral. people wept all over the place. and chang left, disgusted. "if he'd led a good life, people wouldn't even notice his vanishing.' while chekov said, 'a person without passion, an adventurous spirit, what good has she done?' i admit to being stymied. maybe the best absence i feel when i'm absorbed in a creative task. then i become part of these people in the 'found' photographs, their world, wherever it might be. 

here are selected poems. oddly, i find words last longer than pictures, despite the the caves at lascaux. maybe you'll find something to stick up on your mirror: