Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer 2010

I'm all about vivid colors, you know.  Mr. Color, they call me.  That and Mr. Chronically Cheery.   And Dr. Organized (aka Dr. O). 

Monday, June 27, 2011

From abstraction to apocalypse

This summer I have enjoyed two happy and self-indulgent opportunities to spend time with friends in the Appalachian mountains.   I took two trips, and both trips were planned relatively late, which suits me perfectly.  As I long ago noted in an earlier post, my two default temporal references are (a) the immediate next ten minutes, and (b) eternity.   Most of the time the future feels altogether fictional to me, a place like Narnia or Oz—a place that can be discussed with clarity and rationality but without reference to the real world and without any discernible path from this place to that.   As a general rule, I loathe talking about the future.  I have a near-pathological aversion to planning; it entails a full-body visceral physical hurt.  When I plan for some future event, rather than feeling a surge in power as I gain control over my (perfectly fictional) future life,  it feels like dying, as though I'm relinquishing my soul piece by piece.  Attempting to control any moment in the deep deep distant future (say, a month or more from this point), feels to me a futile, vain and hopelessly excruciating exercise in abstract thinking.   And it remains as an abstraction, as a fictive concept with virtually no significant bearing on my course of action or my well-being.


Until the moment arrives.   And then.....

And then abstraction is transformed like melting wax into utter shock, into complete disbelief that unreality somehow inexplicably--somehow altogether improbably--became real, a most unwelcome visitor to the concrete here and now in which I live.  A sickening horror infuses my entire outlook and life feels like a vertiginous spiral of impending doom.  At this tipping point, I rigorously interrogate my former self, asking him what grudge he held against my current self, who keenly feels like an innocent victim of an outrageous injustice.   What kind of gall my evil former self had to take my current self hostage! 


And thus I must face the day of rue-ing.  For this is the day of reckoning. 

The Apocalypse has arrived. 

And such is how I live life day after day, decade after decade--as a long series of descents from abstraction into the apocalypse.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stupid Stupid Pachelbel

As you all know, Claudia was a Cool Cat right from the start, and I was forever trying to earn from her the Cool Cat Certificate of Coolness. Or at least the Cool Cat Certificate of Approval. Or I would have even settled for the Cool Cat Certificate of "I know who you are and know your name."

She has absolutely no recollection of this.



Because that's how the cool cats at the pinnacle of the inner circle roll (to mix four metaphors). In the economy of coolness, cool cats are universally noted but get to note others selectively.

I do recall that Claudia worked at Penny Lane records. In comparison to my peers I was far far more knowledgeable about classical music, and I decided to impress Claudia with my classical music savvy at one of my (many many many) visits to the store. Perhaps I could leverage this to win the Certificate of Acknowledgement. As Andy D will attest, at this stage of my life I was intensely (and profoundly unhealthily) enchanted by (obsessed with) the music of Mahler, and I definitely should have taken the Mahler conversational route with Claudia to establish my classical credentials. So very regrettably, I did not choose this path. Instead, I panicked. Pachelbel's Canon in D was being played over the store's sound system, and I immediately identified it to Claudia and--tragically---told her how lovely the piece was.

Her response?

"Ah yes, the Taco Bell Canon! Is this not the MOST overplayed piece of music EVER?! SO trite!!! I am SICK to death of this piece; if I hear it even one more time in a commercial or movie I think I'm going to get sick." And then she made the universal gagging gesture.

To which I just kind of smiled meekly and slunk away.

Stupid stupid Pachelbel!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Define the term and use it in a sentence!

Today I heard someone use the word explitcific.  Since I know this person and I heard the context in which it was used, I'm confident that this person simply merged two words together.  But it's a great word, if also a new word.  So your task:  In the spirit of Oswald Bates, the character in In Living Color who reached a little too far and ended up speaking almost entirely in malapropisms, you are to:

1.  Define explitcific.
2.  Use it in a sentence. 

Bonus points for tying the word to the photo.  

Champagne Charlie

From Andy (a comment from the last post): "Look boy. Don't make me repeat for the blog here what I told you (i.e., shouted at you, so the entire store heard) 25 years ago in Pennylane Records, when you dared question "who is that??!!" as they played Leon Redbone's greatest album and song, Champagne Charlie."

My response to Andy's comment:

I don't remember the song. That memory was discharged from me like a hairball from a cat.  I do recall this: The Pennylane Records "conversation" was the verbal equivalent of walking into a buzz saw. No, wrong. It was more like Mike Tyson walking up to me and then belting me with a left-right combination because I had the audacity to ask him the time.  True, I was puzzled by the song they were playing.  Unenlightened rube that I was, I didn't recognize Leon's vocals as a musical style nearly as much as the drunken mumbling of a white New Orleans pimp caught on tape. Now I do not recall how much of this attitude I conveyed in my question to Andy, but I must have asked it in a very very very offensive manner.  Because Andy’s (LOUD) response was merely three words. The first word being a quick "Well," and the ultimate word was "YOU!!!"  I'll leave the penultimate word to your imagination, which need not be especially astute or creative--or even awake--to accurately guess.

Being the fighter that I am, my response to Andy's "suggestion" was to lower my head, quiver my lips, and splatter the floor of the record store with big plops of salty cry-baby tears. 

Life does to us what she wants, and it turns out that nowadays I like Leon Redbone just fine. And Andy is correct: Champagne Charlie is a terrific little tune--er, masterpiece.  But at the time I was young and ignorant and…well, what can I say?  Oh how wrong I was. How so very very VERY wrong.  At the time, I had not known that Andy was raised on Leon and that my question was tantamount to wishing leprosy on his family.

I didn't know. I just didn't know. Oh sweet Being in heaven, I just didn't know.

--- This video commemorates the Hunter Museum of Art (the New NOLA) and that lovely memory of the beauty of friendship from some twenty-five years ago.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hunter Museum of American Art: The New NOLA

Just when you are saying your thank you prayers that we are absolutely concluded with the year-old Hunter photos, I decide to bust out some last-gasp photos for you.

But I think we've pretty much soaked it for what it's worth. So that means that now is the time to move from the soaking stage to the beating of the dead horse stage.

Or to go all zombie on you: First squeeze all life from the topic. Then let it terrorize you as the undead.

It how I do.

p.s. As a side note I HIGHLY recommend "It Might Get Loud" for y'all. It's a fun little documentary about three generations of electric guitar maestros: Jimmy Page (my fave); The Edge; and Jack White. I especially commend the film to Andy D. It would serve as a salutary musical education for him as it somehow (shockingly!!!) locates showcase-worthy genius in the staggeringly vast space between the two bizarrely improbable musical antipodes--Eddie Van Halen and Leon Redbone--that constitute the entirety of his musical universe.

Okay, that's a lie. Andy recommended the movie to me a year or two ago, and I just now watched it. But it is true that Andy's music tastes are defined by antipodal exclusivity. Okay, that's a lie, too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Comput-ah magic

This is the original untouched photo. When I took this shot, I had been waiting for Lydia to come forward (she had been on the steps) so I could get her reflection on the ceiling, which was capturing the shimmering light off the waves.

Then I decided to crop most of the extraneous stuff and focus on Lydia and her watery reflection in the ceiling. When I took the photo I intuitively thought I'd flip it upside down--an intituion that I typically have with water reflections. (See, for example, my March 12 post.) Something about the flipped shot in a case like this feels visually truer and no real affront to our understanding of reality.

As I looked at this, however, I wondered whether the magic wasn't in the double mirror image but in the reflection alone I don't know, and I couldn't decide so I decided to include both images here. I lightened it up, too. I quite like this one below. It's more evocative, I think, and simultaneously simpler and richer, revealing more by concealing more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wisdom of the Aged

So last Saturday morning Julianne and I met a lovely young couple who are engaged to be married in a few weeks. As part of their church-sponsored pre-marital counseling, one of their assignments was to meet with a newlywed couple as well as with a young couple with very young children. Lastly, they were to meet with an “established” couple.

In other words, with an “old” couple.

Guess which of these categories that Julianne and I satisfied?

Now to be sure, this couple is adorably fresh and stunningly handsome with impossibly perfect gums and lovely dewy skin. They are sweet and kind-hearted, innocent in demeanor, quick to smile and laugh, and just generally a cause for hope in the future of humanity. They are fit, skin golden from sun, muscularly toned, youthful nordic gods, simply pulsing with young-person life and openness.

Frankly we were chosen by this gorgeous vigorous and idealistic couple for having been sufficiently beat down by life. The young man had earlier approached Julianne and asked her, rather tactfully I thought, how old “your husband is.” When she told him my age (43), he knew he had hit the jackpot!

Old people central! Woo hoo!

He told us we were chosen because we could offer them “wisdom.” Wisdom. Yeah, right. We understand what “wisdom” is code for. Aged. Infirm. Old.

So we met them at Starbucks, and after we purchased our drinks, we sat outside in the baking and broiling sun. After a while I began to drift off a bit, preserving my mental energy impelled by the slim hope I might yet be able to avoid heat stroke. Both Juli and I promptly propped our elbows on the table and rested our chins on our hands, leaning forward to pop the straw into our mouths—typically requiring no more than three or four tries--engaging in precise calculations designed to economize our motions to save our strength for the rest of the day. We moved only to jostle with one another to fight for the drifting shadow of the umbrella.

Our young friends, in contrast, leaned back, ribs and muscles showing through their shirts, to soak in the rays. Later that day they were going to repair cars on the half-melted asphalt and go biking in the 98 degree heat.

Bless their hearts.

Our conversation went something like this.

Adonis: So what can you tell us to prepare for the transition to the married life?

Juli: Well for us it was actually blissfully seamless. We had dated for some seven years, and we were best friends. We knew each other very well, and we knew going into our marriage that our personalities dovetailed together. We were all eagerness, and marriage was like the flowering of an already beautiful plant.

Me: I read on CNN just yesterday that the people whom we find to smell the best—and to whom, it turns out, we unconsciously gravitate—are those whose genetic makeup for their immune systems are the most dissimilar to our own. Apparently the evolutionary advantage of this attraction is that your offspring will benefit from a blending of complementary immune systems. So that’s one useful warning I can issue--if either of you smells chronically malodorous to the other, that definitely does not bode well for your kids. I’m guessing they’ll have asthma. At least.

If your husband be funky, your kids be feeling punky!

Juli: MIKE!!!

Me: Right. Sorry. Juli’s right, the transition from dating to marriage was all good. But what did we know? We were so young. You’re young, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Look at you. Look at them, Juli! You are both SO gorgeous! Juli, were we ever that young? Really. We were ever as handsome as them? I don’t think so. This guy, I mean…..his arms are like pistons!

Venus: Okay then……I’m sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Bailey. But could you tell us about the transition from being married without kids to having kids?

Juli: That one is trickier to negotiate. When you go from a situation when you’re attending almost solely to one another’s needs to one in which you need to care for this other little creature who’s so helpless and so needy and so time and labor-intensive, it means that the relationship dynamics will have to be reworked.

Venus: That makes sense.

Me: People tell you all the time that love isn’t zero-sum but expands with each addition of the family. Bogus. I’m telling you right now, 100 percent bogus.

Adonis: I’m sorry?

Me: Okay, love does expand. You do manage to love each new member of the family. But you don’t get more hours in the day now, do you? Or more energy. Love expands, but it just doesn’t expand enough. Which is why studies show that married couples with kids are less happy than those without them. So it’s not 100 percent bogus. But it’s a good 20 percent bogus.

So stay childless as long as you can pull it off.

Juli: Mike, you don’t mean that. You love our kids!

Me: I’m not saying kids make you unhappy. I’m just saying they make you unhappier.

Juli: Mike?

Me: Look, I wouldn’t give up my kids for the world. I’d rather cut off my right arm and left leg with a Swiss army knife like that dude in the movie than see them get hurt. But I have to accept that part of the reason I think this way is because I’ve suffered from so much cumulative sleep-deprivation. And you know why? Because of them! You end up loving them because they’ll cause your neural wiring to fray.

Juli: Maybe we should move out of the sun.

Me: And don’t be pressured into having kids!!!

Adonis: What do you mean, “pressured”?

Me: Well, you know. In the secular world it’s considered bad taste—a sign of certifiable ya-hoo-ness--to have more than one or two kids. Have enough to replace yourself at most. To have more is to prove in plain sight that you’re unconcerned about our planet’s dwindling resources. You’re selfish. Each birth of your babies shows just how fervently you hate polar bears. But you’re not secularists. You’re evangelicals. So you’re going to feel pressure—mostly subtle but nonetheless very real pressure—to have lots of kids. To show that you trust in God’s providence to take care of you despite the fact that you’re broke and have no business bringing kids into the world. And to obey his command to submit the earth to your dominion and to rid the world of those pesky polar bears. You’re not really considered a real evangelical unless you have at least three kids, preferably four or more, and if you really have the Holy Spirit you’ll adopt a gaggle of children from regions of the world you learned about by reading National Geographic.

I’m saying this: Don’t buy either story. Bogus.

Juli: Yeah. Okay. Anyway, we’ve found kids to be genuine blessing.

Venus and Adonis (looking nervously at one another, eyeing their watches, clearly itching to go running and kayaking.) What do you do spiritually to stay close?

Me: Close to whom? To one another? Or close to God? Or close to God and to one another--the whole triangle business?

Them: umm….both to god and to one another?

Juli: Well, we’ve had all sorts of wonderful church experiences. We used to go to a really fine church in Austin that….

Me: They’re not asking that, Juli.

(Venus and Adonis look nervously at one another.)

Juli: We’ve done lots of great things, edifying things, over the years in church.

Me (to Venus and Adonis): You’re asking about our Walk With The Lord, right? The ol’ WWTL.

Them: Uhhh….well….really….we’re

Juli: He’s teasing. Ha ha. We are spiritual. We go to church. I love hymns. And…..and….soup kitchen…and…Sunday school.

Me: No no no. Our Walk With the Lord! You know! As in how we pray with and for one another. For our marriage. How we wake up early for our quiet time of prayer and bible study. As in how we’ve come up with family mission statement. How I attend Promise Keeper meetings. How you bake me casseroles. That kind of stuff.

So to answer your question, that ain’t us. We don’t do that stuff. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

Juli: Mike, umm… I think that maybe here we ought…

Me: To be fair, Juli prays. And she sometimes wears an apron, too. I pray, too, you know, and no, not just when I lose stuff. I pray all the time. Some people call it muttering to myself, but I know better. And so does God. I love to pray when I mow the lawn for some reason. I listen to hip hop, mow, and pray. It’s one of my favorite things. Don’t know why, really. Must be something about the drone of the mower and the beat of the music that busts open the floodgates. Hey! I naturally pray when I shower, too! Something about being naked just…

Juli: Ok. Mike. Ok.

Me: You know, I didn’t used to go for this iced coffee thing. Seemed like a bad idea. I gotta say I’m a convert!

Them: Okay, well. Hey, this was great. We sure appreciate…

Me: I’ve thought of something else, too. Don’t do what other people tell you. Just live your life. Discover what you want and then do it. Do things together but have your own hobbies, too. Be polite to others. Listen to them. Be kind. But live your own life with one another. You’re not married to your parents. Or to your friends. Or your colleagues. You want twelve kids? Have twelve kids. There’s enough polar bears. You don’t want kids? Don’t have any. You want to live in Sweden? Go. Do what you want. Do what you want. Do what you want.

Mostly just don’t listen to advice. Really. Except for this: Try the ice coffee. Excellent stuff.

Them: Yeah. Okay. Well….you know. Hey. Thanks.

Us: You bet!!!

And that was that. So I’m thinking they’ve got a pretty solid marriage ahead of them. Not entirely thanks to me.

Just mostly.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Southern Gothic

Lydia's pose reminds me of a Degas sculpture. Maybe you know the one. I am thinking of Degas, right?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My three favorite rock stars

Just posing for their album cover, photographed last summer at the Hunter Museum of Art.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I've seen this photo rotated at every 90 degree angle, and they all make about the same amount of sense. This is how I photographed it.

Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN.

Good times with the kids.

Big time good time.

Big time.

We're still recovering.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Just an innocent post about art

Hey, whataya say we take an edifying and innocent stroll down the corridors of some art galleries? Gee, that sounds delightful, doesn't it? And, to repeat, it's merely a perfectly innocent endeavor. No ulterior motives whatsoever.

Ulterior motives? Nah, that ain't me.

Well let's see what we have here.'s a beautiful Matisse I saw in the AIC!

Matisse is always described as a "supreme colorist." Supreme colorist. Not a good or great or masterful colorist. Supreme. Well, perhaps rightly so. What I like about this painting is the contrast of that big splash of color against the black background. Oh and you know I love that light/dark contrast. let's see what else we discover.

Isn't this just good clean innocent fun? Oh goody, I'm having such a delightful time!

Now looky here, an eyeball, also in the AIC. I can't recall who the painter is, though if I had to guess by the looks of it I'd say either Magritte or Duchamp. (If you know who it is, let a white boy know.) Now a couple of things strike me as interesting here. One is how we know it's a female eyeball. The markings between male and female eyes are incredibly subtle, surely, and yet we have no trouble whatsoever discerning that this is a female eye. Apparently a lot of our brain is devoted to making sense of faces. Another interesting feature is how we know that this painting is perfectly complete. Why do we know this?

Well, I'd love to talk more about this but for the sake of our little journey, let's move on.

Hey, what do you know, here's a rabbit!!!

Isn't this grand? A rabbit actually depicted not in death but in life! And not just alive but joyously so, dancing on an anvil, a nice juxtaposition of light and heavy, of spirit and body. This bunny practically screams life and innocence, doesn't it? So cute, so sweet. I can't remember the artist, but I suspect it's that contemporary English dude, Barry Flanagan, whose trademark is the metal hare. (Does he have competition in this genre? I truly do not know.)

All I know is that this sculpture is so very very innocent. Let's keep moving.

My lord, what is this?! How did this slip in here?

What kind of twisted mind chooses to depict bunnies in such a state of carnage?

Ah bunny! Ah humanity!


Those bunnies aren't slaughtered lumps of cold flesh. No. They are merely sleeping happy little creatures, resting peacefully, enjoying each other's company and body warmth. They're pulsing with life, these bunnies. Much like how this little guy, here below, isn't slipping into eternity in a pool of his own spilled blood. No way!

He's just a happy little innocent bunny.

So very innocent.

So very not dying a horrible and cruel death.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

49 Rings (This boat is sinking)

Like Poe's shaft of light on that deformed eyeball (oh you know what I'm talkin' about), the word "images" at the beginning of the video is driving me rapidly to madness. I inserted the word as a "placeholder," as I had yet to come up with a title for the piece. I intended to change it to a more video-fitting word or introduction but forgot to do so. And then only after I saved the piece and uploaded it to the blog (a process which took about twenty minutes or so because the file is so large) did I notice that "images" is still there.

The madness.

The raving lunatic madness of it all.

Friday, June 03, 2011

It's time for a caption contest!!!

What's the right caption?

Mine will win because of its historical accuracy and trenchant social commentary.

What Emma was saying was this, "Daddy, I just LOVE art museums!!! Nothing causes my heart to pitter-patter with joy like stepping inside an art museum with my family. Especially when you have your camera, Daddy-O. It's like.....Nirvana! I feel SO badly for those poor kids whose parents refuse to take them. I'd much rather forgo Disney! I pray to soften the hearts of those mean parents."

It's a longish caption to be sure, but it's a good one. But if brevity must win out, then I'll reduce it to this: "Daddy, I just LOVE art museums!!!"

Another point. My camera blows. That makes me sad in my heart.

And a question. Why won't my wife allow me to buy a better one? Sure, she'll tell you she's been begging me for years to buy a better camera, a point she'll corroborate with "witnesses" who'll claim they've heard her tell me that. And sure, she'll tell you a thousand dollars in the checking account has been earmarked specifically for a camera. But I know that the government has banned earmarks. Just part of big conspiracy to prevent me from buying a better camera.

Cuz the one I have blows. (If you don't believe me, read "another point" above. It backs me up here.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Big ship, bigger shins

I cropped but otherwise did little to alter this photo. Just more of my obsession with reflections.