Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Watercolor painting in three minutes!!!!

First, take a digital picture of a nighttime scene. Then convert it to a negative. Then amplify the colors.
Voila, there you have it: McArt.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

(....to") self-eyeball

Eyeballs are the window to........to........to.........to just everything! (Except for cars and buildings, in which cases windows, and not eyeballs, are the windows.) Eye contact is really really hard to maintain because, well, who wants to disclose one's soul to....anyone?! Including to oneself, in the return gaze?

Answer: no one.

Or, at least, no one should. And by "no one," I mean "not me."

Eyeballs are the miracle of the universe.

Well, eyeballs and the brain.

And Bach's music.

And aspirin.

And Lincoln's prose.

And Herbert Von Karajan's hair.

And game six of the 1985 World Series!

water splashing into sink basin

the photo came out fuzzy. i'm glad it did. i pumped up the colors and amplified the contrast.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


The first comment left on this post asked, "In favor of or in fear of?" Rather than responding inside, I will respond here. Here goes:

and neither.

first, both.

in my experience fear comes from the following: (a) a threat; and (b) a sense of hopelessness in light of the threat.

that pretty much sums up reprobation, no? it is the perfect marriage of the most awful threat imaginable coupled with perfect hopelessness. because god chooses the elect as he chooses, and he chooses the damned as he chooses, and one's volition in that calculus is about as meaningful as 15 spf sunblock at ground zero of a nuclear blast.

so fear, for sure.

"in favor of,' well, i suppose that doesn't matter. reprobation-- or whatever name one wants to give it--is a thread that runs throughout the bible from genesis to revelation. those who wish to deny it may do so, but they must deny the bible along with it. or at least deny one of its central themes. so insofar one holds (a) the bible to be a work that is to be read plainly and, where at all possible, literally, and (b) the bible speaks truth, then the real question isn't so much of approval as assent to truth. i suppose if one adds (c) that the god behind the bible is a good god and worthy to be loved, then it should prompt us to see reprobation, finally, as good.

but i do not. i see it as twisted and sick. At least I do today.

so, for me, neither is also true.

as far as fear goes, reprobation releases one from fear in a way. calvin and edwards both speak of the assurance that the doctrine of predestination gives to the elect. one need not trust in one's goodness because the victory has been won on one's behalf. the victory is secure because god's grace is efficacious. but the reverse holds true as well. if one is not saved, then there is nothing one can do about it. being dead unto one's sins means, well, that the deal has been sealed. why fret? enjoy with abandon the earthly moments that you have.

easier said than done, of course. hell's a pretty hard thing to block out of one's mind.

and as for being in favor of it in the sense of finding the doctrine agreeable to my simple sense of ethics or in the sense of recoginzing in it the attributes of a glorious god worthy of my love, well, that's a whole 'nuther ball of wax. i feel like were i put on the spot to represent calvin or edwards (or even Thomas) on the doctrine of repropbation, i could provide a pretty convincing intellectual tap dance: I’d speak of god's unimaginable and ineffable holiness; I’d speak of his perfect sense of justice; and of our own grotesque "throats as open graves"-level of wickedness; and how god's sovereignty demands his utter control over the entire arc of history and how giving humans a share in their salvation would necessarily thwart god’s plans; and how justice requires (demands!) punishment of the wrongdoer; and how by our nature we hate god with the burning hatred of a thousand suns and how we want nothing remotely as much as to harm him and to live apart from him in the slime of our wickedness; and how our sin against an infinitely good god requires eternal punishment as recompense; and how god's grace cannot be squandered on those who would choose damnation.

and on and on.

and on.

i know the drill.

but i don't feel it. I mean if god is our father. If…

when my children err or sin against me or against others, i do not cast them out. I punish them insofar I think they can benefit from that punishment. but the universe does not capsize when they are left unpunished. They may learn a bad habit from lack of discipline, but I mean, come on. i do not have one child to cast away and another to lavish with tender affection.

of course the analogy is imperfect.

of course.
no, i'm not perfectly holy like god, who cannot abide the tiniest mote on the end of a hair's worth of sin in his kingdom.
but neither am i perfectly loving like god, but i love my children enough to keep them within the fold of my love.

christ's parable of the prodigal son strikes me as truer to the model of a worship-worthy god than the god depicted in the more reprobation-friendly parables. the son sins against the father and his brother. he comes back in shame. the father runs to meet him. no punishment. I don’t know about the justice in that story, but I can see the love.

that's what i want to believe. if ours is a god who relishes and delights--and GLORIES--in the torment of his creatures for the sake of justice, well, that's certainly his divine prerogative. but insofar what he wants is to be glorified for his attributes, well...

Nietzsche says that when people do harm to him, the beauty and merit of justice is that it providee him the sublimely pleasurable gift of allowing him to inflict harm back on them in its name.

Is it surprising that before Nietzsche studied philosophy he first studied theology?

blue swirls and red sphere


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

without form, and void

Alcohol Wonderland

I couldn't think of what to call this picture. I asked my middle child to look at it and come up with a title. This was what she came up with. She said it looked very "wintery and nice."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Surreality Television

imitation is the highest form of flattery

A pinecone, a bed of blue hydrangea flowers, a pair of tweezers, and about a million pictures later, here is one product of my Andy Goldsworthy-inspired efforts.

discarded earrings

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

it ain't graceland....

and jefferson was VERY anti-king. i'm just saying.....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Pi$$ Elvis



In the very funny movie Spinal Tap (it ranks an eleven on a scale of one to ten), we find the members of the band staring at the grave of Elvis, having pilgramaged to Graceland seeking inspiration but instead finding the reality of his death and, by implication, their own mortality. After attempting a hilariously lame rendition of Heartbreak Hotel (an attempt they deride as “f-ing barbershop reggae”), they return to their glum silence. Nigel says, “Well, it certainly puts perspective on it, now don’t it?” To which David St. Hubbins replies in a huff, “Too much! Too much f-ing perspective.”

You can say that again.

Graceland. What to say?

Here’s the deal. It’s all about Elvis. And let me remind you of one thing you mustn’t forget about Elvis: He wore a cape. He wore a cape when capes were so last century. He wore a cape when he met President Nixon. Who thinks to himself, I’m meeting the President today—why can’t I find my favorite sequined cape?! Elvis Presley wearing a cape in 1973 would be like Donald Trump going to work today in a huge pumpkin carriage. He could do it, I suppose, but why would he? Why did Elvis wear that cape? To my way of thinking, the two most likely possibilities are: (1) he had a keen sense of ironic detachment and knew that in a democratic society all talk of kingliness is an act of playfulness--a little wink at the audience that everyone involved is on the gig; or (2) because he believed that a cape was somehow fitting for who he was.

I think the correct answer is probably the latter. Because let me tell you this. Any irony at Graceland is altogether unintentional or brought to the place by the tourist. Graceland is the single most earnest spot in the universe. Although everything Elvis did was ridiculously over the top and hilariously gaudy and excessive, Graceland treats his every move as the simple and natural expression of a simple downhome Southern boy who loved his mama and his fans. And one gathers from the displays that Elvis viewed things the same way.

Graceland is billed as an opportunity to get closer to Elvis, to understand his world a little better. I left Graceland confused and bewildered and feeling that David St. Hubbins was right--that it did put a little bit too much f-ing perspective on it all.

Graceland is a shrine to two things: money and simulacrum. Everyone knows about the money end, so I’ll pass that by here. Graceland is virtually nothing but simulacrum piled upon simulacrum upon simulacrum. There are literally thousands of images, maybe tens of thousands of images of Elvis from the gift house (gift complex? Gift Village?) to virtually every room of the house. Of course through his vocal recordings, Elvis’ voice will carry on through generations. But his visual image reigned supreme at Graceland. Like Stalin in the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Elvis becomes a god in Graceland through the ubiquity of his image. The Bible says that when two or three of His children are gathered in His name, He will be there. Elvis does God one better at Graceland. Whether alone or with others, one cannot escape the gaze of Elvis’ omnipresent visage. It never ceases to shine down upon you, whether you want it to or not.

At various points in the tour, Elvis returns from the dead through the magic of television and audio recordings to directly address the tourist to explain the significance of this artifact or that stage in his career. We hear his music at multiple points and see film images of his life on one of perhaps a hundred video monitors in the house, sometimes several of which are blaring simultaneously. In time I felt like a prisoner in a labyrinth of funhouse mirrors, except I did not see a multiplicity of distorted and fractured images of myself; instead it was Elvis here, Elvis there, Elvis everywhere.

I visited Monticello a few weeks after visiting Graceland, and Jefferson’s presence filled his home just as Elvis’ presence fills Graceland. But at Monticello one discerns Jefferson’s presence slowly, almost disappointingly subtly, and one comes to feel his presence by recognizing his vision for the place. Jefferson’s life was arguably devoted to ordering and remaking the social universe to reflect the principled order of eternity that informed his own mind. Those principles and ideas suffused everything Jefferson did and the things he could not make to reflect their power he hid away (like his slaves’ headquarters). Radiating ever outward from his mind--to his study to Monticello to the University of Virginia to the United States of America and, through its example, to the entirety of the world—Jefferson’s plans for the human race were ambitious beyond comprehension. Yet despite his ambitions, only a portrait or two of Jefferson grace the walls of Monticello. His life was an attempt to make principles take on flesh and blood.

In contrast, Graceland begins and ends with Elvis himself—think of God before the Creation. Graceland is all Elvis all the time. The point of Elvis was Elvis. The tour takes us through his world and the last stop before one exits his home is a dazzling display of visual stimulation (and simulation?) led by a giant audio-visual screen that overwhelms the viewer into a kind of awed submission. Elvis is made god. To hammer home the point, the audio tells us that Elvis’ light continues to shine and has never shone brighter.

But here’s the problem with the “light shining ever brighter” principle:

Elvis has left the building.

The tour concludes with a visit to his grave. And like the members of Spinal Tap, I found that it was a most depressing stop.

Thoroughly depressing.

In a bizarre and perhaps superficial way, I found that my visit to Graceland helped me understood Spinal Tap a bit better. As is well known, the film’s dialogue was largely improvised, and though the actors were in character when they filmed their Graceland spot, it’s my belief that they were in fact genuinely depressed to see Elvis’ grave. I know that I was bewildered, confused, disoriented, and emotionally disjointed by the entire Graceland visit. However, I did experience clarity when I visited his grave.

Elvis was a human being with human hopes and dreams. For good or for bad, celebrity does not remove the need to release one’s bowels from time to time. Elvis belched and picked his nose and lusted after women and suffered from the occasional nightmare and pretty much experienced the fate of all persons. Cause and effect had as much bearing on him as it does on everyone else. When he ate too much he got fat. When he took drugs his mind began to escape him.

No matter how many capes he wore, and despite every effort to fool the tourist to the contrary, Elvis was not a king. Nor was he an immortal, a god. The thousands of images of Elvis are so many particles of dust that do as much good for him now as my long-lost baby teeth do for me today.

Here’s the too much f-ing perspective part. Elvis’ light is not shining. Not at all. True, his life had a huge impact on his followers, and one can argue that that level of impact entails a kind of eternity. But it is a kind of tepid eternity that ironically does nothing for the one invested by that brand of eternity.

Underneath the dirt of his grave marker is not a torch burning brightly but a pile of bones.

Bones wrapped in a cape.

The man without a head. Or body.

them bones....

plato's cave

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Fun with moving cars and nights and negative images.

I like to take pictures. I really do.

stalagmites and stalactites

or are they stalactites and stalagmites?

The same shot as above but as actually seen in the cave. I greatly prefer the doctored photo above-ah, the wonders of computer magic.

ruby falls

A nearly two-hundred foot waterfall inside a cave. The cave "authorities" (cave people?) illuminate the falls with different colors, thereby creating a surreal effect. The picture has not been doctored. The place is cheesy with an unmistakable tourist trap atmosphere, but the splendor of the falls itself is not completely negated. Cheese is the price you pay for having others do the hard work of digging an elevator shaft four hundred feet into the mountain, securing a half-mile walking path through the cave to the falls, and providing tourist guides. I can't imagine why the persons who did (and do) all that would want to be compensated for their efforts. So: no cheese, no experience. My one complaint is that to herd adequate numbers of people through the cave in a timely fashion each tourist group spends literally no more than five minutes at the falls.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


took a picture of cars driving by in the dark of night. naturally the photo came out as blur of the black of night and the red of the car lights. this is that photo's "negative." i really like the result

luck matters.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

pebbles and water

burning field


A ripped bag plus an explosion of kernels plus a little sweeping equals a grand photo opportunity.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007



Nothing says fun like broken sunglasses. For a while these were the pair I wore while driving to work and about town. They worked surprisingly well. Or maybe my left eye isn’t as fussy as the right.

negative eggs

Recently I saw a guy with different kinds of chickens at a park. Each kind of chicken laid a different colored egg: brown, white, tan, blue. I snapped a picture and digitally created a negative. I like this picture: Nothing evocative, just pretty.