Category Archives: Art

Bethelehem in 2007

To know me at all is to know that I listen to NPR on the way to work and the way home every day. I was really struck by this story on the way to work this morning. Although I do kind of want to punch the guy who said the last line of the story.

Graffiti Artists Decorate Bethlehem BarrierMorning Edition, December 24, 2007 · This Christmas season, a group of guerrilla graffiti artists have gone to work in Bethlehem, the West Bank city where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born.

Bethlehem’s economy and tourism industry are in tatters. Palestinians blame this on Israeli checkpoints and on Israel’s massive security barrier that now separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.

This month, international and local artists used parts of that concrete barrier as their canvas.

An artist who calls himself “Sam 3” painted a long black silhouette of a man reclining. Nearby someone painted a giant boxing scene — Jake La Motta and Sugar Ray Robinson slug it out on the concrete. And a little farther down there’s a silhouette of children riding an escalator up and over the wall.

Hassan Salama, an unemployed laborer, walks curiously along a garbage-strewn dirt road in north Bethlehem that hugs Israel’s massive barrier. He looks at a painting of an enormous insect toppling colossal dominoes that resemble the wall itself — and he cracks a slight smile.

“I don’t understand what it means. But I like it!” he says.

Nearby, along a main road leading out of Bethlehem, the British guerrilla graffiti artist who goes by the name “Banksy” has painted a picture of a little girl in a bright pink dress frisking an Israeli soldier. Farther down the road, the elusive artist depicts an Israeli soldier checking the ID of a donkey.

And outside of Maha Sakar’s store, a group of anonymous painters created a white dove, wearing a bulletproof vest, in the cross-hairs of a gun.

“They tell me — don’t tell anybody about their name. And I don’t know exactly,” says Sakar, regarding the identity of the artists.

Sakar, a Christian Palestinian, says some of the art didn’t go over well with locals. She was a little offended by pieces involving donkeys.

But Sakar says she likes much of the work and praises the artists for drawing attention to this downtrodden city.

Unemployment in Bethlehem remains staggeringly high. The West Bank economy is in ruins. Tourism actually has been up some in Bethlehem in the last three months, but is still nowhere near the pre-intifada tourism high, which topped nearly 1 million annual visitors in 2000.

Manger Square, just days before Christmas, is all but empty — the nearby shops idle.

Israeli officials say the West Bank barrier, a 400-plus mile-long mix of cement walls, fencing and barbed wire, is vital to the Jewish state’s security. They say it has thwarted many would-be Palestinian suicide bombers and saved lives.

Palestinians see the barrier as an illegal, unilateral border that has stolen Palestinian land and ruined their economy.

“It’s important for international artists to come to Palestine and express the situation here in their art. And it’s a start. You know we don’t have art galleries in Palestine,” says Palestinian painter and sculptor Souleiman Mansour.

Mansour has several of his pieces in a makeshift exhibit in Manger Square across from the Church of the Nativity. The show, called “Santa’s Ghetto,” is linked to the graffiti art around the city.

Mansour says he’s against using the Israeli barrier as a canvas. “The wall should be used for nothing,” he says, “It should come down.”

But Mansour praises the artists for raising awareness of Bethlehem’s plight.

“The situation here is very strange and contradictory and also absurd,” he says. “And this is heaven for contemporary artists because they deal with these subjects.”

The “Santa’s Ghetto” art show and art auction in Manger Square, proceeds of which go to a children’s charity, runs until Christmas Eve. The graffiti art on the wall and around the city could last far longer.

On his Web site, Banksy encourages people to visit Bethlehem and to explore the art and the politics for themselves.

“If it’s safe enough for a bunch of sissy artists,” Banksy wrote, “then it’s safe enough for anyone.”











New Post Secret Book

Today is the day the new Post Secret book is released. To celebrate an event of this magnitude, I’ve decided to throw up some of my favorite postcards from the past. (Okay in reality a lot of these postcards are the ones currently on the Postsecret website.)














Sara is currently taking a class on “Art Therapy”. This is the first time since her return to higher education that she has taken a class that sounded interesting. Sara is the person that really turned me on to PostSecret. Today she is doing a presentation on PostSecret for her Art Therapy class. This weekend I spent some time downloading the video below off of YouTube and putting it on a disc and teaching her how to use VLC. She is just hours from using the video in her presentation. I know that it will go well. I’m an excellent teacher. I have posted this video before, but I’m posting it again because I like it so darn much.



Checking in on a Friend and More

MONICA HENNING

I also wanted to check in on my friend Monica and report on what she has been doing lately. The answer is painting. I’m posting 6 pictures of her more recent paintings for you to enjoy.










06-14-07



THE MORE

When I started typing away on my novella, I stated that I wouldn’t do anything worth writing about while I was writing about those 11 days. It is a pledge I haven’t been able to keep. I have done some stuff worth writing about, but I’m not going to write about them. I am merely going to post a collection of pictures from my most recent adventures. There will not be an explanation for the pictures. They will simply exist, unless somebody out there wants to try to explain where these pictures came from.


















Minutia – Chapter 7: Lust for Life

WARNING!! This following chapter is on the cusp of being stream of consciousness writing. Not really, but it is as close as I allow myself to come to such a thing. It is not my favorite type of writing and I understand that sometimes it can be difficult to read. I know what you are thinking. You can’t change styles like this in the middle of a project. James Joyce did it all the time, so I’m going to do it too.


Chapter 7: Lust for Life

I don’t know much art history. I did know that an artist by the name of Vincent Van Gogh had been on my mind lately. Ever since Jesse told me that somebody actually bought the picture (the veracity of that claim has since been called into question by his wife) that is hanging in Kelly’s salon I have thought about Van Gogh. He is perhaps the most successful artist of the last 100 years. His paintings consistently break records when they go to auction.

For all of that success, he only sold one painting when he was alive. That is one of only three things I know about Van Gogh. I know that fact, I know that he cut off his ear, and I know that he killed himself. That is really all I know about the man.

I was thinking that now I had tied Van Gogh. True I’m not a painter, but I had now sold one piece of art to a stranger. The same as Van Gogh. I had tied Vincent.

I knew that I wanted to know more about him. I was standing in Border’s holding Rebecca’s birthday present. I decided to get her a book of Van Gogh’s work after she had showed me an elephant sculpture she had painted in the spirit of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” the evening before.

I had picked up a book published by Taschen that included images of every one of Van Gogh’s existing paintings. It was now that I was considering picking up a copy of a biography on the man. I didn’t really need a book for myself. I had borrowed a copy of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” from Jon at work. He warned me that the book was too boring for a person to complete.

I knew it was a short book and figured I’d be finished with it by the time I decided it was too boring to read. I had been reading the book off and on now and had not caught any kind of natural rhythm with the book. I think it was because the book was written in a difficult style. It was not quite stream of consciousness, but the entire book is written in a manner where one person is just telling a story. In dialogue. The book is literally 100 some pages of one guy speaking.

I decided to pick up a copy of Derek Fell’s “Van Gogh’s Women”. I opened it to read a little bit of it. I instantly found my rhythm with this book and finished it in one weekend.

This was somewhat problematic for anybody that surrounds me. I have this annoying habit of telling everybody around me all about any book I read when I really enjoy the book.

People who were around me after I read this book frequently had to endure a 21st century man’s vernacular, describing the life of a 19th century genius. Often people would amble up on me and ask a simple question about “what I’ve been up to?” They would frequently got a response that was something like this:

“I’ve been reading this awesome book on Van Gogh. Man his mom really screwed him up. Vincent was the oldest child in the family but he wasn’t the first born. His mom gave birth to a still born baby. She also named that baby Vincent. 1 year later she gave birth to Vincent. When I mean 1 year later, I mean 1 year later. He was born 1 year to the day that his older stillborn brother was born. His mom named him after his older brother. His older brother was buried on their land. Every day Vincent played outside he would play next to a grave stone that carried both his name and his birth date.

If that wouldn’t screw you up enough, his mother got hardcore into something called ‘Replacement Child Syndrome’. This is when somebody loses a child and then they have another child to replace that child. They never love the replacement child as much as they loved the first child because the first child was perfect in death and a living person can’t attain perfection.

Even after his mother messed him up, I think he still had a few chances to be happy. His old man was a minister, so he decided to become a minister. He didn’t make it though because his grades were terrible. He refused to learn Greek and Latin because he considered them dead languages and he didn’t see what good it would do him to learn languages that he wasn’t going to preach in.

He still got a chance to serve God though. His church gave him a job as a missionary in a poor coal mining town. He could have been happy there, but the Church canned his ass. They didn’t like the fact that he dressed like his congregation and was dirty like his congregation. Plus he gave up his bed to a sick woman and lived in a shack and slept on a bed of straw on the floor. They might have been okay with some of his more unorthodox ways, but he also supported and tried to help organize unions for the coal miners. They got rid of him.

This really changed the way Van Gogh thought about God. He looked for other ways to serve God and began to get serious about his art work as a way to serve God.

He moved back in with his parents. As fate would have it, his cousin Kee and her son Jan were staying with them. Kee was a recent widow. Vincent fell in love with his cousin and tried to put the moves on her.

She flat out told him ‘No! Never! Never!’ She moved out and went back to live with her parents because even in 19th century Holland, hooking up with your cousin is just gross.

Vincent wasn’t about to give up though. He followed her to her parents’ house. When she refused to meet with him, he met up with her dad AKA his Uncle. When his Uncle wouldn’t let him talk to Kee, Vincent held his hand in a lamp and burned his hand, stating that ‘he would only talk to her as long as he could hold his hand in the lamp’.

His Uncle quickly put the lamp out and probably wandered what kind of sick bastard his nephew had turned into. Vince was still burned pretty badly, so his Aunt and Uncle helped bandage him up and then found him a hotel for the night.

Then Vincent started getting into prostitutes. The man loved the prostitutes. Prostitutes and absinthe and something to paint. That was all Vincent lived off of for large chunks of his life.

He got over Kee quickly enough when he started hooking up with a prostitute named Sien. When he found her she was pregnant and living in the streets. Vincent gave her a place to live and got her medical attention. You are probably thinking ‘how does a man without a job support himself, let alone a pregnant prostitute’. Vincent’s brother Theo was supporting them. Theo would support Vincent his entire life.

Theo was an art dealer in Paris. He tried to sell Vincent’s artwork, but nobody would buy. Two reasons for that. Two sad reasons really. The Paris Salon was basically the word on what art was worth buying. Royalty and rich folk do have a long history of needing other people telling them what is good and what isn’t. The Paris Salon hardly ever displayed anything that wasn’t from a dead artist. If the Salon wouldn’t display your work, nobody would buy it. To sell enough paintings to feed yourself, you already had to be dead.

Plus people didn’t trust Theo. People thought that he was just trying to push his brother’s work on them because he was his brother. People couldn’t believe their eyes. They wouldn’t spend money on what they believed to be nepotism. People just wouldn’t believe Vincent was any good because his brother tried to sell his paintings and he was still alive. The first problem Vincent took care of eventually.

Even though Vincent took Sien out of the street and provided her with medical attention, as soon as she had her kid, she went back to whoring. Vincent didn’t like that very much. After his mom screwed him up, Vincent really spent the rest of his life trying to find a woman to rescue and he thought he had found that in Sien, but rather than have a normal steady life with Vincent, she’d rather whore.

Vincent left Sien and moved back in with his parents. That didn’t go so well, since Vincent’s dad was a minister and Vincent considered the God of the clergy to be dead. Although he did paint the “Potato Eaters” at this time, nothing went very well and Vincent moved to Antwerp to take art classes. This didn’t work very well either. His instructors thought he worked too quickly and didn’t like his use of colors. They made him go back to the beginner’s class.

Van Gogh wasn’t going to take that. Can you imagine how clueless his teachers had to be? They had perhaps the greatest painter in history in their class and they busted him down to the beginner class. I guess that is consistent with our education system as well though. The most dangerous thing in the world is passion. It makes people uncomfortable to be around people that are passionate about anything. Apathy is the virtue of our day. It sure isn’t cool to care, that’s for sure.

Somewhere during this time frame, I think Vincent had his second chance at happiness. He hooked up with a lady named Margot. Margot was 12 years older than Vincent. This caused quite a ruckus. For reasons I can’t quite figure out, her family objected to her being with a much younger man. The family had them break it off. She was so dejected by the situation that while she was walking with Vincent she took some poison to try to kill herself. Vincent rushed her to a doctor and she lived, but she was sent away to recover and one of Vincent’s chances at happiness was squashed.

Shortly after that, one of Vincent’s models got knocked up. He was accused of being the father, but he wasn’t. His model did reveal to him the identity of the father, but Vincent refused to divulge the name to the church leaders, so he got the boot from that town.

Also somewhere in here, Vincent’s dad died. Some of his brothers and sisters blamed Vincent for this death because Vincent had punched the old man during a fight. However that punch was months before his death, but Vincent’s family was nearly as crazy as he was. After Vincent’s death, his sister Wil spent the rest of her life in an insane asylum. Another brother moved to South Africa and killed himself. A whole family of crazy.

Vincent told them where to go and he moved to Paris to live with Theo. This probably made Theo happy. For once he only had to pay rent at one place, but I doubt that Theo cut Vincent’s stipend. I just don’t think that Theo rolled like that.

While he was in Paris Vincent met all sorts of artists. He even got into pointillism for a small period of time, but the most important person he met was Gauguin.

>Paul Gauguin. That dude was kind of a horse’s ass. He was a wealthy man with a wife and 5 kids. He was in the stock market or some kind of financing, but he lost everything. His family was poor and he didn’t stick around. He took off and decided to become an artist. Like Van Gogh, he wasn’t financially successful while he was alive, but he did well enough to support himself. He never went back to his wife and kids though. In fact, he moved to Tahiti and married a 13 year old chick before he died. Dude was just a prick.

Despite that, Vincent developed a man crush on Gauguin. Nothing gay, but he really thought the world of him. Plus Gauguin really liked the prostitutes and absinthe as well. In fact, they would later go onto share a favorite prostitute named Rachel, but I don’t want to put the cart in front of the horse here.

Vincent ended up moving to the south of France to the town of Arles. He befriended a mailman and moved into a yellow house. Vincent wasn’t very well received in Arles. People would throw things at him while he was painting. They would stand in his way while he was painting. People from Arles were pricks.

Vincent still loved it there though. He wanted Gauguin to move in with him. He wanted to start an artist’s colony, with Gauguin as the master. His wish was granted and Gauguin moved into the yellow house with him. It wasn’t what Vincent dreamed it would be. Gauguin couldn’t stand how messy Vincent was. Everything was a mess. The house, Vincent, and Vincent’s art supplies. I will say to Vincent’s credit, any time he came home from a night of whoring and had too much absinthe and he puked on his bedroom floor, there isn’t any record that he didn’t clean all that up.

Gauguin was kind of prick though. He berated Vincent for his lack of technique and using emotion in his paintings. Their time together was not easy. Even though Gauguin thought that he was the superior painter and let everybody know it, he would write a book where he talked at length about how he helped Vincent, it just wasn’t true. When they separated Gauguin’s style changed. Vincent’s didn’t. Vincent clearly influenced Gauguin more.

There disagreements were awkward. Vincent would get angry and stop talking for long stretches of time. Gauguin would wake up in the middle of the night and find Vincent standing over him. Then Vincent would just go back to bed.

The relationship boiled over. Gauguin walked out on Vincent after a heated debate during supper. Gauguin was walking down the streets of Arles when Vincent came up behind him with a blade. Gauguin struck a defensive posture. Vincent ran off into the night.

Vincent then cut off his ear and took it to the 15 year old prostitute that he and Gauguin favored, Rachel.

Vincent decided to commit himself to a mental asylum in Saint Remey. Vincent spent about a year in the asylum. When he got out he went to visit Theo. Theo had married a woman by the name of Jo. She would become very important to Vincent’s legacy. She had a baby and they named the child after Vincent.

Vincent struck up a relationship with Jo through writing. When he got out of the asylum he went to Paris to see his namesake and meet Jo in person and see Theo. Didn’t turn out to be so happy though. Theo was suffering from syphilis. Theo liked to go whoring as well. Theo never passed syphilis on to Jo though. Something about having it for more than two years. Theo was in bad health and was recently demoted, perhaps for always pushing his brother’s art on people. The syphilis was also working on his brain to some degree and Theo was physically abusive to Jo. Plus little Vincent wasn’t in good health either.

Theo didn’t really have the money to keep supporting Vincent. This lead to a huge fight with Jo, but in the end they never cut Vincent’s stipend.

I should point out that ever since Vincent was in the asylum he had swore off prostitutes and booze. This was a big change for Vincent because he really thought that the absinthe and the prostitutes really helped him with his art. Probably didn’t though. It was during this time that he did some of his most famous works, such as “Starry Night”.

Vincent left Paris for Auvers. Vincent badly wanted Theo to move his family to Auvers with him because he thought it was the bad Paris air that was keeping them all sick.

In Auvers Vincent was under the care of a Dr. Gachet. This quack considered himself to be somewhat of an artist. He was also very fond of artists. It seemed like an ideal situation, but it was Gachet that may have finally drove Vincent to kill himself. I believe that Vincent had one last chance at happiness. Gachet had a daughter named Marguerite. She was smitten with Vincent. Vincent thought she was pretty swell as well. Vincent would paint pictures of her where she was dressed like a bride.

Gachet would have none of it though. He put the smackdown on the relationship. Which was sad because Marguerite would live to be 70 something and would never marry. I don’t know if she had a happy life, but I feel like her old man put the smackdown on any chance she had at happiness as well.

Vincent wrote to Theo that they couldn’t trust Gachet any longer because “When the blind lead the blind, they end up in the ditch”.

Vincent wandered out into a field and fired a bullet into his chest. This is somewhat controversial because nobody knows where Vincent got the gun. Nobody ever found the gun. What is known for sure is that Vincent didn’t die right away. He got up and went back to his room where he suffered for two days before passing.

Theo came to his bedside and waiting with him until he died. His last words were ‘I wish it were all over now’.

At his funeral, Gachet eulogized him by saying: ‘He was an honest man and a great artist, and there were only two things important to him: humanity and art.’

Something else that is up to debate is whether or not this was a suicide. Vincent had a history of harming himself physically when he faced rejection. It is possible that Vincent was just trying to transfer his emotional pain to physical pain. He shot himself in the stomach. Even for 19th century medicine, this wasn’t a guaranteed death. It is possible he was shooting for his heart, hoping to break it one last time.

I don’t know his motivation, but within 6 months Theo died as well. He was buried next to Vincent. This left Jo with a baby, no income, and a huge collection of Vincent’s art that was pretty much worthless.

I think this is fascinating. Jo had a brother Andre. He looked at Vincent’s art and told her that it was worthless and she should just burn it. How close was the world to losing such beauty. Jo was smarter than Andre. She offered Vincent’s art to his living relatives, but they all said they didn’t want any of it. She didn’t quit though. She moved to Amsterdam and opened a boardinghouse to support herself. In her spare time she organized exhibitions of Vincent’s work. This time he caught on. Within 10 years the name Van Gogh and artistic genius were synonymous.

Oh yeah, when Vincent died, Gauguin was in Tahiti. He wrote a letter that said, ‘In these circumstances, I don’t want to write the usual phrases of condolence – you know that he was a sincere friend; and that he was an artist, a rare thing in our epoch. You will continue to see him in his works. As Vincent used to often say – Stone will perish, the word will remain. As for me, I shall see him with my eyes and with my heart in his works.’

Maybe Gauguin wasn’t such a bad guy after all. Could anybody that wrote such beautiful words be that bad.”

Minutia – Chapter 6: An Adequate Birthday

Chapter 6: An Adequate Birthday

I woke up on a Friday morning. It had been 32 years since I was born. If I know the story correctly, my parents had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birth. That sentence didn’t sound correct. Let me try again. If I know the tale, my Ma and Pa had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birthin’.

Perhaps it is tales like this that prompted my cousin Allan to once give my kin (sisters) the backhanded compliment that he was impressed with how well we turned out considering the White Trash we came from. I’ve always considered this to be a bold and clueless statement considering that we are related by blood. If I came from White Trash, he came from the same white trash bin. Believe me, I don’t want to compare sides of the family, but he comes from the side of my family that is considerably less sophisticated.

I had realized long ago that family is family and it doesn’t matter so much where you came from as where you are going. But where you came from always remains part of who you are. I embrace that fact.

Yet, where I was 32 years ago on this day mattered little for where I was going on this day. I got out of bed, showered, and went to work.

The drive for me to work is almost always the same. On this day though I was going to add the complication of trying to change my voice mail message. This really goes against my core belief that people shouldn’t talk on the cell phone while they are driving, but I really didn’t want to be bothered with a ton of phone calls wishing me a happy birthday. It was my birthday, but I didn’t want that to control my entire day. I was going to change my voicemail to say something to the effect that I “wasn’t taking calls on this day, but if you leave a message I’ll return your call tomorrow.”

It turned out that I pushed a wrong button along the way and changed my message to that message that just tells people what number they have just dialed. Then the battery on my phone died. I considered this to be good enough.

Work was more or less uneventful. More than half of our employees were in Seattle for the big convention. To placate (the people who care that they weren’t in Seattle, which doesn’t include me) the people left behind, the Company grilled out. This meant some kind of pork. It was tasty and prevented me from having to leave to find food.

The only other eventful thing to happen during the workday was a call from Jesse. Apparently he wasn’t to be denied. He actually called my work phone. This is a good thing, because if you take out him calling my work phone, it has rang on only a handful of other occasions. If it wasn’t for Jesse, my phone could break and I would never know it.

When he called I was not at my desk. I was talking to a co-worker about 70s science fiction movies. The Shipping Manager approached me and said, “I have Jesse parked in 4.”

“I don’t know what to do about that.”

She explained what to do and I was successful. I had Jesse on the line.

“You not answering your phone?” It was both an accusation and a question at the same time.

“The battery is dead.” It didn’t dawn on me that he was talking about my work phone because nobody ever calls it.

“I mean your work phone.”

“It hasn’t rang all day.”

“I just called you.”

“I didn’t hear it ring, but I was over talking to Co-Worker X about ‘Zardoz’.”

“Well, I just wanted to talk to you on your birthday.”

“Thanks.”

“You got anything big planned?”

“Just going over to Colleen’s for supper.” I had enough of this birthday talk. I changed the subject. “How is Seattle?”

“It is awesome. It is the greatest and cleanest big city ever.”

“Are you going to do anything cool?” This was a legitimate question. I’m always disappointed when I here stories about people that travel to exotic and interesting locales and all they can tell me when they got back was how drunk they got. I’ve never been much of a drinker, which people tell me clouds my judgment on such issues, but I’ve never been to Seattle or Hawaii or Los Angeles. I wouldn’t want to go some place that has so much to offer and only come back with a basket full of “I got so wasted” memories. I can make those memories in Boone for a quarter of the price.

The other side of this question was because I worry about Jesse. Our big convention is just like every other convention. It involves lots of drinking. Jesse is not supposed to mix alcohol with his medication. This is exacerbated by his well documented lightweight status. It only takes a few drinks to get him going, but there are theories that it isn’t possible for human to get drunk on as little alcohol as it takes to get him loopy.

A friend of ours by the name of Corey is a leader in the field of alcohol research. He is a man that is so passionate about the field that he has even suffered broken bones in the pursuit of new knowledge. He has purported the theory that none of us have ever actually seen Jesse drunk. We have only seen him pretend to be drunk.

That might be the case, but I do know that despite his doctors warning and being surrounded by alleged friends at the convention in Las Vegas last year, he had too much to drink. As I have stated, due to his medication, too much to drink is anything to drink.

I say this because while a few of them were walking down a Las Vegas sidewalk, Jesse decided to drop trou and have a whiz. This actually is not a completely rare sight. It is not uncommon for a group of men out and about to stop short and take care of business out in public. Men don’t even have to be drunk to engage in such an activity.

You don’t have to be drunk to take a leak facing a building. You have to be drunk to do it facing the street. I was hoping not to hear a repeat of the Las Vegas story come back from Seattle.

“We are going on an underground city tour and we are going to a Mariners game.”

I was jealous of these two activities. The Mariners were playing the Padres on this evening. The Padres have been my favorite team for over twenty years now. I have never seen them play. In fact I have never seen a real baseball game. I have been to the Metrodome and to Kauffman Stadium on numerous occasions, but that doesn’t count as real baseball. They use the Designated Hitter. Then I reminded myself that an interleague game at an American League stadium did not qualify as real baseball either. They would be using the great abomination as well. Still, I would like to see the Padres play some time, even if it is under such conditions.

The underground tour would be fascinating as well. If I ever do make it to Seattle, it is the one thing I would have to do. Seattle has a fascinating history in this respect. I’m a sucker for almost all kinds of history.

“Chris Young is pitching tonight. You’ll have to watch his control early in the game. If he throws strikes early in the game he will dominate. If he his is going deep in the count in the early innings, he will have a short night. There is no middle ground for him. He either has control or he doesn’t.”

“I’ll have to watch for that.”

“The underground tour, that would be the number one thing that I would want to see if I went to Seattle.”

“Why is that?”

“Seattle has a unique history and their underground is unlike any other in the world. Their city started to sink, so they just changed what was considered ground level and what was ground level is still there, but now it is underground.”

“That does sound pretty cool.”

“It sounds fascinating. You’ll have to let me know how it was.”

“I’ll let you get back to work.”

“Later.”

I left work at about 6 pm. I was supposed to be at Colleen’s for supper around 7 pm. We were having a giant birthday supper for all of the May birthdays. Rebecca, Nate, Colleen, and I all had the great pleasure of being born in May. Nate and Bethany were coming back from Minnesota for Rebecca’s graduation and this was really the only time that we would all be available to sup together.

It was my birthday, but it was really just like any other day. There were times in the past when I would take my birthday off and do whatever I wanted. I would make my birthday my own 24 hours of hedonism. I would only do the things that I enjoyed. I would even have grand birthday bashes where I would send out birthday invitations that glorified me. Those days were behind me now. I was perfectly content to let my birthday pass by just like it was any other day on the calendar. I didn’t want or need birthday presents. Today was an adequate birthday. It was a day like any other. That was all I wanted.

(Secretly though I did covet a couple of birthday presents and I have gotten one of those presents and I have an IOU for the other.) I have found though that whether or not you want presents or not, people some times insist on giving them to you. Which is alright, I guess.

I arrived at Colleen’s at about 7:15. She greeted me at the door. Rebecca and Kirk were there, but Bethany and Nate were not there. For the tenth straight time that I have been to Colleen’s, Kirk was watching some form of auto racing. It seemed like a waste of such a nice television.

“Where are Nate and Bethany?” I asked. It had been a while since I had seen either of them. I don’t think I had seen Bethany since we went to the Sculpture Garden and I don’t think I had seen Nate since the Jordis Unga concert.

“They are still on the road.” Colleen answered. “Apparently they had to stop somewhere because Bethany wanted to buy a camera.”

I took a seat and waited. I looked at the television. There were trucks driving around in a circle. I don’t know much about racing, but I hope this wasn’t the big race of the week for truck racers. There must have been maybe 100-200 people in the stands. I did not make any comments deriding auto racing though. I have quietly come to accept the fact that auto racing has invaded all of my families on some levels. Although I have accepted the fact with a defeated dignity, I figured that I would take a few jabs at the “sport” when Nate was present. He had the ability to do it in a good natured way where feelings were only bruised and not injured. If I started in with Rebecca as my backup, things might get personal.

So I turned to Rebecca. “Are your hands clean?”

“Why?”

“I got that book that is going into Kelly’s Salon, if you would like to check it out.”

“Sure.”

I handed the box in the book with it over to her.

“Good news,” I said, “Your picture came yesterday, so I just need to get it matted and then it will be ready for Sunday. Are you going to be around tomorrow?”

“I will be in the morning. I’m going to a Slaughterhouse 6 show at Vaudeville Mews tomorrow night and I have some graduation parties to go to.”

“What time are you getting up in the morning?”

“Pretty early. Probably about 9.”

I knew that meant 11.

“Did you like that Van Gogh book that I got you?”

“Yeah. It is pretty neat. I think it will come in real useful when I go to college.”

“I hope it does.”

It was then that the door opened and Nate walked in with Bethany. Nate looked at the television and saw that racing was on the television. Nate had been admiring the television for quite some time. He held his tongue, but the look on his face clearly indicated that he thought that this was a waste of a perfectly good television.

Bethany looked at me and said, “Hey Chris!”

Whenever Bethany is going to ask me for a favor or for my help she always starts the request with these two words and an identical inflection. This is the type of inflection that makes the two word “hey” and “Chris” a question more than a declarative statement.

I already knew that a request was about to be made and I already knew that the request was going to be granted. What I didn’t know was what the request was going to be.

“Yes Bethany.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“I don’t have anything scheduled per se.” I still didn’t have much information. “Except that I’m going to be delivering Rebecca’s picture signature board thing.”

“Can you help me buy a camera?”

Wow! This was something I was actually, sort of qualified to do. In fact, people had sought my advice about buying a camera quite frequently lately. Only every single time I had given my advice and backed it up with reasons, the advisees had bought something completely different.

“Yeah, I can do that. I’m actually pretty excited about it. Perhaps you might listen to my advice.” I said and thought “rather than completely wasting my time”. Why don’t people listen to me? They come to me for a reason, but then they just wander off into the wilderness. Fools and knaves! All of them!

I stroked my goatee knowingly and then I asked, “What time were you thinking?”

Bethany sat there for a second.

Nate chimed in, “Why don’t you ask her what time she is going to get up.” Brothers are always there to help.

I acted on Nate’s advice, “What time are you going to get up?”

“I can get up and be ready by noon.”

“Then we’ll go at noon.”

Racing trucks roared in the background.

Moments later we were sitting around the kitchen table eating supper. Colleen had fixed a wondrous spread. It included turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and asparagus. There were also various salads but I’m not going to try to describe them. I’m sure they were varying forms of pasta salad, but that is all I can say about them for sure, besides that they were delicious. This is a gap in my schooling that I have looked to close in recent weeks. I have yet to be successful.

After dinner I sat down in the chair where I couldn’t get a clear look at the screen. Trucks were still driving around in a circle. It boggles my mind that at this point they had been doing this for over 2 hours.

Nate, Bethany, and Rebecca all sat down around the television. We were all miserable from eating too much food. It was a good kind of miserable though.

In the kitchen Colleen and Kirk did the dishes and cut up the birthday cake. Even though it seemed that I couldn’t eat any more food, I managed to eat a piece of cake. It was a good cake, but it wasn’t the caliber of cake made by Nate. I think I would have added a third thing to my secret birthday list, but in retrospect what Nate did give me was almost as good as a Nate cake. Besides, he certainly didn’t have the time to make a cake while he was down this weekend. Nate makes such good cakes. Perhaps if he asks me for a birthday list next year, I’ll just point to my belly and tell him to make if full and happy. Happy with cake.

Even though I did not desire anything, I was given a couple of birthday presents afterwards. It not being just my birthday, I was not the only one. Rebecca had brought bag purses for Bethany and Colleen from the Senior Trip to New York City. One was a “Prada” and the other was a “Coach”. I received a pretty sweet stocking cap that says New York City on it. It makes me look even tougher than I normally do. When I wear it I will no doubt scare small children.

From Colleen and Kirk I got a copy of the first season of “The Office”. Always an excellent choice.

Shortly after the cake had been eaten, Sara H. showed. Sara had just graduated from college. She told me how she was going to work for Habitat for Humanity for a year in North Carolina to be near her boyfriend who goes to Davidson.

The thought crossed my mind about her working on a construction crew. It might be possible that her mastery over profanity could be taken to the next level. Habitat might be a non-profit organization, but I refuse to believe that anybody can frame a house and put up dry wall with out the occasional f bomb flying out of their mouth. Well, perhaps the Amish.

She ruined this dream. She is going to be doing office work. How boring.

After a few more minutes of polite conversation, Bethany and Sara H. left for a bar in the west end of town.

A little after they left, Colleen and Kirk left for the bar. That left the television remote unguarded and up for grabs. Rebecca and Nate both made a move for the remote, but Rebecca is younger and was quicker.

She turned the television to TBS and just like that truck racing was replaced by “Sex and the City”. Nate grumbled at this development.

“This is only marginally better than watching auto racing.” Nate declared.

I moved to the couch so that I could actually see the television screen. Nate grumbled some more. Then he watched in silence for about five minutes.

“Well, I’ve seen all of this I can take.” Then Nate got up off the couch and left to go to the bar.

This left just me and Rebecca. Watching “Sex and the City” reruns on a Friday night.

“Do you hate ‘Sex and the City’?” Rebecca asked.

“I’ve been more or less conditioned to watch this show.”

Then we more or less sat in silence watching the remainder of the episode where one character hooked up with the guy from “Office Space”, one character decided that she really did love her baby’s father, one character realized her relationship could only go so far because her boyfriend was Jewish, and I can’t remember the problems of the fourth character. The show ended and we watched another episode. Same problems.

“Sex and the City” was followed by an episode of “Scrubs”. About half way through this show I got up and said, “Well, I better call it a night. I have to get up early tomorrow to do some matting.”

Rebecca wished me a good night. As I walked down the stairs, through the door, and out to my car I had one thought cross my mind:

“This was a perfectly adequate birthday and there was nothing wrong with that.”


Bennett's Run
Former Birthday Party Invitation – Parody of “Logan’s Run”

06-03-07
Present from Rebecca – Photo by Corey Schmidt

06-28-07
One of my “secret birthday wishes” – Stained Glass Made by Jen

Minutia – Chapter 4: Failure

Chapter 4: Failure

Thomas Edison failed on his first 100 attempts to invent the light bulb. When asked if he was upset with all of his failures he responded that they weren’t failures. He had learned 100 different ways not to invent the light bulb. I think of that story at times when I need motivation and I can’t seem to make the picture in my head and the picture on the screen the same. Then I also remember that Thomas Edison used to publicly electrocute cats and dogs to show the dangers of Tesla’s competing style of electricity. That reminds that the distance between genius and insanity is measured by success.

I had just got home from Ames. I had a belly full of Club sandwich. I had invites to not one but two swinging parties burning in the back of my mind. One party was in Des Moines. This party was to celebrate Nate and Ryan’s birthdays. If I attended this party I would get to see Ryan. He is the recognized master of the high five. This was a strong selling point.

The second party was for Sara H.’s graduation. She had recently graduated college and was having one last shindig before she left for North Carolina for a stint with Habitat for Humanity. While Ryan is an acknowledged master of the high five, Sara is an acknowledged master of profanity. Perhaps the only one I know.

Sara H.’s party was in Ogden. Nate’s party was in Des Moines. I considered my options. Then I considered that the sun was quickly fading in the sky. It had been a while since I had felt the Maxxum 5D in my hands, if you hadn’t counted the pictures of Bethany and her new camera I had taken an hour or so ago.

I was feeling restless. I grabbed the camera and loaded the car up with fake flowers. I hit the road. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but I just didn’t know where I wanted to go. Plus, I was going to need an assistant.

There was really only one man for the job of assistant. With apologies to Baier, if I were an artistic genius like Van Gogh, Jay would be my Gauguin. This is for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that Jay would look great with a mustache. The second reason is that Jay is always riding me for being lazy.

Any time that I say that I should put up a tripod, but that I won’t do it because it is too time consuming, he is right on my back calling me lazy.

I dream that someday Jay and I can have a confrontation where he tells me that the only thing he can tell by looking at my work is that I work too fast. So I can get right back in his grill and tell him that he “looks too fast”. If this happens I would prefer that Jay was wearing red pants.

I had drove around aimlessly for awhile before deciding on giving Jay a call. He answered his phone and sounded a bit like a man that had been beaten down. I’m sure he had. He had probably spent 10 hours at work.

Without trying to sound pushy I asked Jay if he might be interested in helping me with a little photo project that I was working on.

“When?”

“The sooner the better.” In reality I had some disposable time, but I wasn’t in the patient mood.

“I’ll need to take a shower first.”

“It would be better if you didn’t.”

That sentence kind of hung there for awhile.

“What do you want me to do?”

“It might involve you getting wet.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I want to go down to a stream and then you are going to throw these fake flowers into the stream. It might involve you actually getting into the stream, plus we might have to cross the stream, and you might have to help me find the flowers if they get lost. Plus there is always the chance of mud.”

“I can’t take a shower?”

“I wouldn’t see the point. You are just going to have to take a shower after we are done.”

“I really stink.”

“We both are probably going to stink before this little exercise (in futility) is over.”

“Why me?”

“Because you are my Gauguin!”

“Wasn’t he kind of a prick?”

“It would be better than being my Signac?”

“Yeah, that pointillism joker with his ‘scientific method’.”

“Yeah, screw that guy.”

“Screw pointillism too.”

“So you’re in?”

“The deal is that you can’t complain that I stink.”

“I wouldn’t think of it.”

I swung by Jay’s pad and picked him up. I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do. Although I knew this was going to be entirely a test run for a later photo, I needed to make the test run as soon as possible. The deadline for State Fair Photography Salon was quickly approaching and I wanted to be able to place my order with Adorama with plenty of time to spare. That way I would get the pictures back with plenty of time to discuss my matting options with Monica. After all, Monica is my matting expert because of her vast knowledge of the color wheel. Plus she can put a picture on different colored mattes and say “that looks good, it really brings out color X.”

I’m not at liberty to discuss what I am trying to do with this picture. Only Monica gets to see the four pictures I enter to the State Fair Photography Salon before the reception the Tuesday before the State Fair opens. At that point, Sara J. gets to see the pictures. Then, I might post them on my website. That is if I do well. If I don’t do well, I just pretend like I’ve never heard of the State Fair Photography Salon.

Jay got in the car. I didn’t smell any stench on the man. Which means he was either grousing for no reason or he had made haste to take the White Trash Shower. I didn’t smell an excess of cologne on him, so I think that he was really just trying to buy time until he could think of a good reason not to wade through a stream with me. His plan failed.

I turned the radio up and we headed towards McHose Park.

I had chosen the stream that ran behind McHose Park. Perhaps it isn’t the most sanitary stream in the world, but it had three things that I prized above all else.

The thing I wanted the most was solitude. I knew that if I was hanging around this stream, I would most likely be able to do my work in peace. As opposed to Ledges, where there would be people crawling all over the place. McHose Park is always busy on the front side, but not many people hang around the backside, unless they are engaging in an illegal narcotic based activity. If I ran into such people, we would leave each other alone.

The second thing that I liked about the stream behind McHose Park is that while it isn’t deep, there are sections of it that are fairly deep. The water can get as deep as 3 to almost 4 feet deep. Finding one of these deep spots would be key to my artistic pursuit on this day.

The final thing that appealed to me was clear water. Unlike portions of the stream at Ledges or Squaw Creek, the water that runs through this stream is very clear. At least in the parts of the creek that have a sandy bottom.

One of the sad truths about McHose Park is that despite being one of the largest and most beautiful City Parks in the state, it has come into disrepair lately. The main paved road that cuts through the park has huge sections where the term pothole seems to hardly even be appropriate. The gravel back roads are eroding away and the city does not seem to be interested in grading them. A couple of the bridges on the backside of the park are well past being called safe.

I drove down the one gravel road that is still passable for somebody in a sedan. I stopped and parked a few hundred feet past Turtle Pond. I parked right in front of the Water Treatment Facility.

There are no words that adequately describe the smell that first attacks your nostrils when you smell the air outside of the Water Treatment Facility. If Jay was worried about any body odor, this smell should have put him at ease. I don’t know the person that can produce an odor that can compete with this smell. For purposes of intellectual honesty, I should admit that I do know a couple, but nobody that I would ever allow in my car.

Years ago McHose Park had a road on its very backside that you could drive through. It was a gravel road that allowed you to drive through the stream on a couple of occasions. For some reason, the City closed down this road. Although you can’t drive on it any longer, it is still there. Slowly eroding away and being reclaimed by the forest. We walked down what is left of this road.

When I originally envisioned this project, I thought about a part of the stream that is on the very south edge of McHose Park. A part of the stream that was almost all the way to US30. There was a small waterfall at this part of the stream and a stretch of the stream that was a decent depth. However, we were quite a ways away from that part of the stream, so I decided to just make do with the first decent part of the stream I came across. After all, these were just test shots. It didn’t need to be perfect.

Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as walked down the road, past a crane and a Bobcat that blocked part of the road. Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as we approached a section of the road where the stream crossed the road.

Jay looked at me and said, “Now what?”

My plan wasn’t terribly thought out. I told him what I knew.

“You are going to stand down here. I am going to walk down there.” I said while pointing in the general direction of downstream. “When I give you the signal, I want you to throw the fake flowers in the stream.”

“That is it? You drug me out here to throw fake flowers into a stream?”

I saw that he had brought with him his particular brand of insolence.

“Yeah, that is pretty much it.” I conceded.

I decided to take on the stream barefooted. I loathe sandals and do not own a pair or their bastard offspring the flip flop. I can’t even bring myself to say flip flop. Last time I bought a pair, I made Olivia refer to them as “water related footwear.” Those “shoes” ended up in the bottom of the channel that separates Lower Cullen Lake and Middle Cullen Lake. It was either lose the “shoes” or go underwater with the Maxxum 5. Today I chose to go barefoot.

I do not know if Jay thought what I was doing was stupid, but he didn’t ask me any questions. If Jay knew what I was about to do was stupid, he has been conditioned in past encounters to let me make my own mistakes.

The other theory that I can operate under is that Jay might have noticed that I was wearing hiking boots. He may have considered the possibility that I didn’t want to get my hiking boots wet or muddy. They might have been my dress shoes. After all, we did have a friend that was vacationing in Spain that tried to pass hiking boots off as dress shoes on more than one occasion.

Whatever Jay’s motivation for not pointing out my stupidity, what I was about to do was a very stupid thing. I was going to try to make my way through a series of concrete blocks and rocks to a part of the stream that was just sand. These concrete blocks and rocks stuck out of the stream at weird angles. These concrete blocks and rocks were intermittently covered with algae.

I took off my boots and socks. I waded into the stream. The cool temperature of the water gave me an initial shock, but that gave way to a sensation of pleasure. The water was rather refreshing.

I inched my way off the road and onto a concrete block. My first step was decisive. Then I stood there and realized I didn’t really have a good second step. The rocks and the blocks were at funky angles. While I would have no problem handling this situation with two hands free, one hand was clutching the Maxxum 5D. True I could have left the camera dangling from its strap around my neck, but quite frankly I don’t believe in the camera strap. I believe in my right hand.

I was standing on a concrete block. On all sides of me was rushing water. About a foot a way was the bank. I could have stepped to the bank and walked about 20 feet and hopped into the stream in a place that wasn’t occupied by a mishmash of rocks and blocks.

It is possible that what crossed my mind was that taking the bank would have been a wimp’s way out. I would say the way of the pansy, but I have since learned that the pansy is actually a very hardy flower and does not deserve to be compared with people that are feeble or cowardly. The iris on the other hand . . .

In actuality I don’t think I ever considered the bank. I made a few more tentative steps. It seemed like I was going to make it. I made a few more steps. It seemed like this plan was going to work.

Then I tried to step up on to a concrete block. I placed my foot on top of a rock and began to push off. The rock was covered in algae. My foot slipped right off. I lost my balance and started to fall face first towards the concrete block.

I had an option though. I could put a couple of hands in front of me and stop my fall or at least push myself off to the side of the concrete block. The only problem was that I held the Maxxum 5D in one hand. If I tried to use it to help stop my fall it would surely be smashed into several no longer functioning pieces or it would have ended up in the stream. Then it would have been in one no longer function piece.

Out of my peripheral vision I realized that I still was only a few short feet from the bank. I tossed the Maxxum 5D in to a growth of grass and continued to let gravity take its course.

I put my hands out and pushed against the concrete block. My face was saved. My body shot upwards, but I was still not in equilibrium. I fell to the side and landed in the water.

“You alright?”

Jay’s concern was heart warming. I pulled myself and what was left of my dignity out of the water. I walked over to the bank to find the Maxxum 5D. It was sitting on top of the grass, looking as if it had not been flying through the air a few moments earlier. I picked it up. I looked it over. I tested it. It was fine.

I sat down on the concrete block and looked myself over. The camera was still in one piece. My face was still intact. There was a throbbing pain in my left foot though.

This term is not used with any kind of medical training. I believe that I hyperextended my left foot. When I was falling on the rock, all my weight went on the front of my foot and my toes bent upwards well past where they are supposed to stop bending. The result was a dull throbbing pain on the bottom side of my foot that felt like a bruise, but there wasn’t a bruise to be found. Further examination of my foot revealed a decent sized gash along the side of my big toe.

“I’m fine,” I answered. “Just a little cut.”

“We calling it a day?” He asked, but he already knew the answer.

I just gave him the look. The look that indicated that I wasn’t an iris, I was a pansy.

“Want your boots then?”

“Yeah, that suddenly sounds like a real good idea.”

Jay threw me my boots and I made the rest of the journey without incident. I stopped at a bend in the stream that was about 100 feet from Jay. It seemed like a good spot because on the west side of the stream there was a clearing on the bank. Plus on the outside part of the stream’s bend, the water was at least 2.5 to 3 feet deep. I gave Jay the signal.

He began dropping the fake flowers into the stream. I waited. He kept throwing them in. I waited. He had thrown them all in. I waited. I waited. I waited.

“This isn’t going to work.” He yelled downstream at me.

“Why not?”

“They’re sinking.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Doesn’t matter what it makes, they all sank.”

I began to walk upstream. Sure enough, not even 20 feet from Jay I found all of the fake flowers. They had all sunk. Fake flowers don’t float. This didn’t make sense. The flowers were made out of plastic, which floats, and silk which I would assume isn’t heavy enough to sink. I had reckoned wrong. I reckoned that maybe that the part of the stream where Jay had thrown the flowers in was too turbulent for proper floating. I grabbed all the flowers and headed back to my bend.

I dropped the flowers into the calmer area of the stream. They floated for a second and then they dropped to the stream bottom.

This sucked. I looked up to call out to Jay. I wanted to tell him that this sucked, but he was gone. It was like that moment in the horror movie where two people are in the woods and one of them disappears. Either the person that disappears shows up moments later for a “fake scare” or their body shows up in the third act all distorted and mutilated.

This wasn’t a horror movie though. Jay showed up moments later. He had wandered off and collected some small real flowers.

“This sucks.” I was finally able to verbalize, but I had lost some of the venom.

He ignored me and threw the flowers into the stream.

“Real flowers float.”

Which was great, but not real helpful. If I was going to use real flowers for my picture, I would need a flower with a much larger bloom than what Jay was finding. I saw a grouping of the type of flowers that Jay was throwing into the stream and I took a few pictures of them so that I could identify them later.

I came back to the stream and tried to get what I could out of the sinking flowers. I figured it was good enough for a test run.

I walked back to Jay, got out of the steam and walked the uncomfortable walk of somebody with wet boots. While I was walking in these wet boots to the car I decided that I didn’t really feel much like going to a party. I felt like getting out of these shoes, taking a shower, and playing with Photoshop. This would be my Saturday night. Not exciting, but I would get plenty of sleep and be able to start up my church streak again. Plus I would be plenty rested for the next day’s graduation festivities.

When we got back to the car I came to the sad realization that even though this was a test run, I hadn’t learned how to take the picture that I wanted. I had learned a way not to take the picture that I wanted.



Broken Bridge of McHose Park

05-19-07
Back of the Crane

05-19-07
The Deceptively Tricky Rapids


“You should have worn your shoes and I would look smashing wit a mustache.”


The Small Flowers on the Bank


Coming Back from the Bend

05-19-07

Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World

As you may know, it is part of my Sunday ritual to check the Post Secret website. I think it is one of the most beautiful and compelling community art projects going. Everybody has secrets and it is therapeutic to find see that there are other people will similar secrets (struggles and burdens) as you. Most of the time I enjoy the funny ones or the ones that I can relate to. This Sunday I saw one that although it certainly isn’t funny and I can’t relate to it, I found it to be beautiful nonetheless and I wanted to share it in this way. So below is my favorite “secret” from this week.




Here is a short story:

I was walking the mean streets of Ames the other day. I walked by a place that had an advertisement in the window. It proclaimed that this business needed “Rock Stars”.

I decided that although I don’t possess the requisite musical talent, perhaps they would hire me on because of my incredible personal charisma and give me the proper training to become a “Rock Star”.

After a couple minutes of inquiry it turns out that they didn’t really want a “Rock Star”. They just wanted people to make their lousy sandwiches for a low wage.

My search for somebody to hire me as a “Rock Star” continues.

Post Secret

Last Thursday I went to a lecture by the Post Secret guy at the Union with Stephanie, Jen, Derrick, and Sara. It was rather informative.

If you aren’t familiar with Post Secret it is an art project where people write down their secrets and send them to one guy. He started by handing out self-addressed card is DC and asked people to write down a secret and mail it to him. He then took those cards and posted them at a public art exhibit.

He has published 3 books of Post Secrets so far and he continues to get about 3,000 cards a day. He posts the 20 or so best ones every Sunday on his website:


Post Secret

Below are some of my favorites from this past week: