Friday, May 27, 2016

Ch. 5 Has Anybody Seen My Picasso - Paris

Ch 5 – Paris 1925 I’d never been to Paris in winter, and here I was. Actually, I’d never been to Paris at all. Paris. Eiffel’s Tower. The Louvre. The cultural capitol of Europe the French maintained……. Getting here was a miserable and exhausting ordeal. For $20 a day and expenses. Damn. And now it’s raining. Scudding clouds moved along the horizon like large grey rats looking for cheese. Paris has cheese. Paris is a lot like Detroit but with lots of cheese. 400 or more different types of cheese. It’s kind of ridiculous. Who needs that many kinds of cheese? And most of them stink. Who wants stinky cheese? Paris is like Detroit with stinky cheese. And the names: Nuefchatel, Brie, Bleu, Camembert. Why can’t they have regular American names like Cheddar. Cold like Detroit. Dirty like Detroit. Industrial like Detroit. Rainy like Detroit. Paris – the Detroit of France. Detroit was settled by French colonists in 1701 so I guess this all makes sense. Detroit surrendered to the British in 1760. * * * * * * * * * * * But I was here now and had to track down Aphrodite’s great aunt and ask her about that painting. Several actually. In the movie Monuments Men, a group of art experts drafted by the army hunted for art stolen by Nazis during their rise to power and subsequent reign of terror. By the grace of God, many were rescued from underground vaults and eventually repatriated with their owners. George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Kate Blanchett were in that movie. To this day, efforts to repatriate art to the owners and survivors of the owners continue. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m in Paris in 1925, not watching a movie made in 2014. * * * * * * * * * * Hemingway is here, T.S. Eliot is here, Picasso is here, Duchamp is here, Frida Kahlo is here, Woody Allen is here. No not really. I loved his movie about Paris in the 1920s starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, Midnight in Paris. Owen plays a writer who somehow transports back in time to the Paris of Gertrude Stein and Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds. Rachel McAdams is his fiancée. In a midnight timewarp, he meets Picasso and Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Matisse, Gaugin, and Alice B. Toklas. Picasso discusses the raw sexuality of his “Bathers” with Gertrude Stein. Samuel Beckett wonders about his new play regarding the absurdity of modern life. Ionesco is contemplating the future rise of the German socialist party and thinking of Rhinoceroses. * * * * * * * * * * * Frida Kahlo visited Paris in the 1920s. Later I would write: "I was on old Hiway 6 heading west that night, weary from a day of hard drinking outside Milford, Ne, the heavy black tar strips across the concrete making a thumpthump, thumpthump on my tires as I drove; then suddenly, I thought of Frida Kahlo. My stomach grumbled and growled -- I should have stopped at the Dairy Queen and got a burger and maybe some fries-- but I had to get to Ogallala tonight to see my girl before she left for the Peace Corps tomorrow. Ghana. Why Ghana? I thought when she first told me. But that was before. 'Ghana with the Wind' was the thought that kept repeating in my aching head now as I hit those tar strips across the road --- and thoughts of Frida." Bugs were hitting my windshield like big rain drops. “What’s the last thing that goes through a bug’s brain when it hits your windshield – his butt” I thought, chuckling to myself as I turned on the window washer smearing my windshield even more…. Peering through the foggy entrails I made my way west. Four thumps at a time. Penelope, oh Penelope. Ghana? Who goes to Ghana? I kept thinking. Thumpthump. Thumpthump. Ghana? Thumpthump. Thumpthump. Ghana? The road turned south and then west again, and so did I. Familiar territory – Dorchester, Friend, Exeter, Fairmont. English names mostly. Why English names? I thought. Czechs settled around here. Germans. Poles. And English I guess. I thought of Frida again. Why does she keep crossing my mind? She had an affair with Trotsky. How’s that for a small world. She traveled to Paris in 1939. She was married to Diego Rivera…….. And Penelope…….I’d see her soon. “ * ** * * * * * * *** * Frida’s scandalous affair with Josephine Baker was, well, scandalous. What must Diego have thought? I wondered. He probably just wished he'd been there I speculated. James Joyce was here and Proust. James Joyce was always asking for money. Jeez, I thought. Get a job. Ezra Pound was here looking for faces like black petals in the rain.
I thought of Pablo Picasso’s Les Minenes and Michel Foucault’s description thereof which I mock: It appears to be a catalog of every item in the picture and the significance and alternate theories of the significance of every object portrayed, every shadow cast by every object, every illumination cast by every light, reflected by every mirror, every object or shadow of an object reflected by every mirror or reflection from every window, or reflected image of every mirror in every window, every angle of each characters pose, both as it reflects the actual object, the posee, and as it reflects the image of the actual object, the reflected image of every reflected or actual object, and the shadow cast by every image, reflected image, both of the actual object, and the image of the actual or reflected, image, the visual field of each character and their possible intersections, focii, and peripheral scans, every possible meaning intended by the artist, their viewer, the subjects, both real and imaginary, the potential meaning of every color, whether real, imaginary, reflected, or cast in shadows, a social hierarchy subtly rent asunder, a civilization hanging in the balance, and a dog. I would paint a version of Picasso’s version of Valesquez’ version of Las Meninas. I’ve got the elements of the studio, the girl, and the dog. I include some Picasso elements, some elements of the Valesquz original. This was one of the paintings I was after. Not mine, but Velesquez’ Las Meninas. * * * * * * * * * * *
People lived in Paris and worked there. Artists lived there and worked there. Writers lived there and worked there. Toulouse-Lautrec painted there. But right now I want to talk about why I paint chickens. I've been working on an answer to the question for a while that may involve some discussion of western culture's roots - Plato's discussion of the real v. the ideal, the development of city-states, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, medieval concepts of God, Boethius' "Consolation of Philosophy," monarchical forms of government and the feudal period, the Black Plague, the Renaissance, Flemish art, the importance of Venice as a cultural/artistic hub, Galileo's gazing at the heavens, Homer's The Odyssey, advances in science during the Enlightenment period, including theories of perspective, three dimensionality, the replacement of one planar surface with three planar surfaces in art, and later with two, or multiple perspective points, Einstein's revolution of science that came wtih his theory of relativity, and quantum mechanics, the Great Wars of the 20th century, its wholesale mechanization and industrialization of the War Machine, with its fragmentation and its destructions of whole worlds, reflected in the development of "modern" abstracted art forms, from Braque and Picasso, culminating in Guernica, to the elimination of representational art entirely, replaced by the emotive content of Kandinsky's synaesthesic works and the abstract expressionists, to Klee's mathematical precision, and the suprematists, to the importance of the artist him/herself as portrayed by the work, to Pollack's work culminating in the "action" paintings for which he is so well known through the 1950's, in which the "action" of the painting process is the focus, to the emergence of the popular culture and television and consumerism, Andy Warhol "pop" art, to post-modern contextualism, deconstructionist pyschosis and the impossibility of communication, and a multiple generations of millions and billions of our fellow human beings who have suffered and are suffering unfathomable conditions in this current world condition of ethnic bigotry, and religious zealotry, terrorist psycho-frenzy, mass murders, "pre-emptive" wars, on-going traumatic stress syndromic Military/Industrial Complex world Eisenhower warned us about. But for now let's just say that my working theory is with all the strife, hunger, violence, corruption, greed, and hypocrisy in the world, a few more chicken paintings might help! * * * * * * * * * * * * * * But now I was sitting in a bar on the left bank listening to Gertrude Stein, Steve Allen, William F. Buckley, James Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence talk about their favorite work. Suddenly, DH burst out: `Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/ Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:/All mimsy were the borogoves,/ And the mome raths outgrabe. Somebody else piped in, “Call me Ishmael.” Not sure who that was. Proust? James Joyce says: “Her antiquity in preceding and surviving succeeding tellurian generations: her nocturnal predominance: her satellitic dependence: her luminary reflection: her constancy under all her phases, rising and setting by her appointed times, waxing and waning: the forced invariability of her aspect: her indeterminate response to inaffirmative interrogation: her potency over effluent and refluent waters: her power to enamour, to mortify, to invest with beauty, to render insane, to incite to and aid delinquency: the tranquil inscrutability of her visage: the terribility of her isolated dominant resplendent propinquity: her omens of tempest and of calm: the stimulation of her light, her motion and her presence: the admonition of her craters, her arid seas, her silence: her splendour, when visible: her attraction, when invisible.” * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * William F. Buckley, of course, says Tristram Shandy -The Homunculus, Sir, in however low and ludicrous a light he may appear, in this age of levity, to the eye of folly or prejudice;—to the eye of reason in scientific research, he stands confess'd—a Being guarded and circumscribed with rights.—The minutest philosophers, who by the bye, have the most enlarged understandings, (their souls being inversely as their enquiries) shew us incontestably, that the Homunculus is created by the same hand,—engender'd in the same course of nature,—endow'd with the same loco-motive powers and faculties with us:—That he consists as we do, of skin, hair, fat, flesh, veins, arteries, ligaments, nerves, cartilages, bones, marrow, brains, glands, genitals, humours, and articulations;—is a Being of as much activity,—and in all senses of the word, as much and as truly our fellow-creature as my Lord Chancellor of England.—He may be benefitted,—he may be injured,—he may obtain redress; in a word, he has all the claims and rights of humanity, which Tully, Puffendorf, or the best ethick writers allow to arise out of that state and relation.* * * * * * * * * * * * And of course, Gertrude brought up Tom Jones by Henry Fielding - An author ought to consider himself, not as a gentleman who gives a private or eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, at which all persons are welcome for their money. In the former case, it is well known that the entertainer provides what fare he pleases; and though this should be very indifferent, and utterly disagreeable to the taste of his company, they must not find any fault; nay, on the contrary, good breeding forces them outwardly to approve and to commend whatever is set before them. Now the contrary of this happens to the master of an ordinary. Men who pay for what they eat will insist on gratifying their palates, however nice and whimsical these may prove; and if everything is not agreeable to their taste, will challenge a right to censure, to abuse, and to d—n their dinner without control. * * * * * * * * * * * * * You may be asking yourself by now, what the hell is he talking about? I thought this was about Aphrodite Mandrake and the lady with the dragon tattoo. And you would not be wrong, but be patient with me as this tale continues. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor was Paris or Detroit.* * * * * * * * * ** * *
As Mark Twain said in his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: YOU don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly—Tom's Aunt Polly, she is—and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before. And of course, Ernest Hemingway, sitting across from me drinking whiskey. “ I love sleep,” he said. “My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know? He took another drink, looked at me, and said: The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” “Ernest,” I said, “tell me something about writing. “For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.” I thanked him and asked him if he knew Kandinsky. He said no. Steve Allen said he knew of Kandinsky, but chastised me for imagining Steve Allen was in Paris in the 1920s at all. “I was born in 1921 in New York City, so to place me in a bar in Paris is kind of ridiculous,” he said. “But you might like my TV series Meeting of the Minds later.” As I was leaving, he shouted, “Synopticon.” I moved on, my mind reeling.

Friday, May 20, 2016

I'm Tired of Writing about Donald Trump

I think most Republican leaders will fall in line with Donald Trump primarily because they are soulless, venal, cowardly, sycophants who crave power. Applying a bit of Freudian analysis gleaned from a two minute look at an online encylopedia, Donald Trump is the "id" of America comprised of uncontrolled impulses, instinctual behavior, "a cauldron full of seething excitations" seeking instant gratification...... Seems accurate to me. Here's a good line from Andy Borowitz: "To vote for Donald Trump one needs to believe it is easier to run an entire country than keep a steak company from going out of business." * * * * * * * * * And I'm still trying to figure out why a known serial liar has gained such traction. * * * * * * * * * * One of Donald Trump's suggested Supreme Court justices is on record as calling him a "moron." Trump may want to rethink that one. * * * * * * * * * My basic desire for a President is that he/she have a good heart, have a capacity for humility, an inclination toward telling the truth, be a fairly competent administrator with a capacity to learn and select smart people for jobs, have a respect for science and knowledge, have a social conscience, and the capability to not totally f*** everything up. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both possess these qualities in different combinations in my opinion....... Donald Trump most certainly does not. * * * * * * * * I am imagining the brouhaha among Republicans if Barack Obama said he would talk to Kim Jong Un, nuclear arm South Korea, not rule out dropping nukes on Europe, and reconsidering our NATO obligations........ * * * * * * * * * Donald Trump may have finally made a serious blunder in his campaign. He challenged the new Mayor of London to an IQ test. Given the elevation of ignorance as a modern value in the Republican party, bragging about his IQ may cost him votes. * * * * * * * * * As the self-proclaimed leader of democracy in the world, we seem to have a difficult time running fair and impartial elections......incompetence, fraud, corruption, indifference, manipulation, gerry-mandering, lost ballot boxes. It's very disturbing to me.* * * * * *On a different topic entirely, I know there are many factors involved in a decision to close a nuclear power plant like the one in Fort Calhoun, but it has always struck me that nuclear power is a very complicated way to boil water. * * * * * * * * * My brother Dave asked me the other day how we described sleep in a pre-industrial world. You couldn't say, for example, "I was out like a light." How did early humans make non-mechanical metaphors anyway? "I slept like a tree trunk." "I slept like moss on the north side of a fallen branch." "I slept like a dead rat." * * * * * * * And a final thought about writing from Ernest Hemingway: Write drunk. Edit sober.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Dump Trump

Graffiti artists wrote Dump Trump on grain elevators just north of I-80 in Omaha. Nice to see those elevators being used so well again. I still miss those wonderful art banners. Kudos to those brave artists who did this. But be careful, please. * * * * * * * * * Trump took a lot of heat for tweeting a photo of him eating a taco salad to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. * * * * * * * * America awoke this week to the news that the Republican Party finally died. "First David Bowie and then Prince, and now this," one Republican said in disbelief. "We should have seen it coming." Other Americans, however, were more philosophical. "The Republican Party had suffered enough and is now in a better place. It was sclerotic and had COPD and cancer and could barely move," said one teary-eyed Republican stalwart. "We must go through all the stages of grief before we can move on," said one more dispassionate observer. "Death is a real part of our lives; it's still hard." It's interesting to note that the widely publicized Republican "autopsy" already took place after the last Presidential election and that not a single reform proposed was enacted. "We prescribed certain medications we thought were necessary, but the Republicans just wouldn't take their own medicine, and died." * * * * * * * Donald is said to be searching for a Vice Presidential running mate, "Preferably a good looking woman with big boobs," one of his aides said privately. Former unsuccessful Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was seen this week sneaking into a Hollywood breast enhancement clinic hoping to improve her chances of being tapped as a running mate by Donald Trump. "Hey, it can't hurt," she was heard to say. * * * * * * * * * * Carly Fiorina was in tears tonight upon hearing Ted Cruz was dropping out of the race. "I was so close to being Vice President," she said. "One heartbeat away." * * * * * * * * * Ted Cruz said he was returning to his home country of birth, Canada, to run for Prime Minister. "The US can suck my Canadian d***," he said. * * * * * * * And speaking of that, the redesigned redesign of the Nebraska license plate was made public this week and it no longer looks like the guy took an overdose of Viagra and needs to see a doctor. * * * * * * * * Satan tonight expressed his pleasure that Ted Cruz dropped out of the Presidential race. "I have never been so insulted as when John Boehner called Ted Cruz 'Lucifer'", Satan said this week.
"I have maintained and still maintain that Donald Trump is far more like me than Ted Cruz. Sure Cruz is a world class sleazebag, but Trump ........Trump .......even Ted Cruz called Donald Trump 'utterly immoral' and a pathological liar. Just yesterday, Donald Trump was claiming that Ted Cruz' father had something to do with the assassination of President Kennedy. I mean, the guy is pure evil. My money's on Trump," said the Prince of Darkness. * * * * * * * * House Speaker Paul Ryan announced the big Republican health insurance alternative to Obamacare is to reinstate the pre-existing condition disqualification. Some plan. And it took them seven years to come up with that.