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I've returned from my Texas trip. Highlights include watching herons, gulls, and turnstones on the beach on Padre Island; seeing my uncle Roy's amazing 1/8 scale model steam railroad, comprised of over two miles of track, switches, bridges, trestles, and turntables winding through his ranch property in central Texas (pictures to follow); visiting Scott Barber's exhibition at Barry Whistler Gallery (during pre-opening installation) and John Pomara's studio in Dallas; meeting writer Frederick Turner at an otherwise weird University of Texas at Dallas soiree in the redeveloped Sears Building south of downtown; seeing long-lost family and friends.
More self-indulgent vacation pics. Padre Island National Seashore
Padre Island National Seashore (facing east). Brought to you by
Mazda Protegé TM. Escape today in a Mazda.
Thunderhead, on the way to Padre Island. Note evidence of
reckless driving in center.
Indianola. Once-thriving gateway to German immigration in Texas, reduced
to near-ghost town by a couple of big 19th Century hurricanes.
Texas, Day 3. At the AMC theatre at Westheimer and Dunvale in Houston, I watched Jeepers Creepers 2 on the screen the size of a battleship. The theatre complex is a theme park-like extravaganza--newish but already heat-faded. This is the air-conditioned outdoor ticket kiosk, protecting a single taciturn clerk from the 90-degree heat. Matinee: $6. Concerning JC2, I have a friend who's boycotting the director Victor Salva's movies because of a certain incident in the '80s. Well, the filmmaker did his time--maybe not enough, I don't know the whole story--and now he's displaying his vivid (albeit NAMBLA-leaning) imagination onscreen with mind-boggling cinematography, tortured religious imagery, and barely-hidden homoerotic themes (at one point the monster looks into a schoolbus full of buff football players and licks the window). It's hard not to think of "the Creeper," a sexualizing if not sexual predator who is repeatedly impaled and crucified by straight hicks but simply can't be killed, as an amped-up cinematic stand-in for the director. More on all this later. See the movie, though--it's poetic, scary, Satanic fun.
Oh, yeah, here's a review of the first Jeepers worth reading (popup warning). The author describes the movie quite intensely (if inaccurately) because he or she is looking so hard for evidence of Salva's criminality. Sample paragraph:
There is also the scene were the monster has captured the teens and is deciding who it should take. After a prolonged moment of sniffing both teens in a very sexual manner, the monster then licks the girl and decides to keep the boy throwing her aside and pulling the boy close to him. At this moment the cops burst in and attempt to fight the monster. The creature starts vibrating violently while holding the boy in front of it. The scene recalls rather eerily some sort of s0domy sex sequence. Moments later the monster sprouts wings (the reason for the vibrating movements) and flies away.Gosh, is that what happened in that scene?
I'm posting this from Houston. I shipped myself down here inside the sarcophagus below, not anticipating that it would go directly into a glass case and I'd have to type by laptop-light. Actually, I'm lying, this picture was taken at the relatively new Museum of Fine Arts, one floor up from the imposing "donor wall," which features hundreds of names of wealthy Houstonians etched in granite. I'll have to redo this photo when I get back home; The Mac-based software I used to resize and "enhance" it left it a bit blurry. [UPDATE: I was able to tweak it a little more "on the road"--it's less fuzzy now.]
I'm on vacation, so I rented a brand new Mazda Protegé TM with air-conditioning and a working CD player. After 8 years of public transportation cattlecars back East I must say cruising up I-45 with German tech-house tick-ticking in the speakers was...so fine. I didn't even mind it when traffic slowed to a dead stop. I have a vague plan of going down to Padre Island, then up to the real ranch country west of the President's wimpy farm, then Dallas. We'll see what works out.
Of course I'd vote for a blender over the Bush Crime Family, but I can't really say I'm "for" Howard Dean. This WaPo editorial articulates a number of his positions: it's really disappointing that he wants to be Nixon to Bush's Johnson and keep the good fight going in Iraq and Afghanistan "now that we're there." Screw that. You'll never convince me that policing countries half a world away keeps us safer than competently monitoring known terrorists here at home. Why don't we try the latter, just for a change? I think what Dean's really saying is "me no buck capitalist juggernaut." Really inspiring.
|"Post-painterly abstraction" was Clement Greenberg's term for a kind of self-referential art that, by the 1960s, was becoming increasingly less rooted in the physical world of art-making materials. The then-new polymer paints made possible a kind of uninflected visual experience: color experienced as pure presence. The minimalists took this logic further than Greenberg was willing to go with an emphasis on found materials and processes: e.g., Dan Flavin's colored light bulbs. Extend the logic even more and art would be a series of Sol Lewitt-like commands to a piece of hardware such as a computer monitor, telling it to beam certain colors in certain configurations directly to a remote viewer's eyes.
And that's what Christopher (or Chris) Ashley is doing with his "html drawings," it seems to me: these aren't jpegs that can be right-clicked and saved but a series of instructions to your browser, telling it to draw tables in particular shapes and fill them in with hexadecimal colors (#0088bb, #00bbbb, #0077cc, #00CCCC, #0099cc, and #00dddddd in the piece above, for example). As you can see from Ashley's archive, some of the configurations get quite elaborate. I like the simplicity of Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Pacific Grove (reproduced here without permission by saving the html in "View/Source" on my toolbar, hope it's OK), but also the complexity of The Asian Influence in Drawing, I - XV and the super-baroque Hippie Dreams, I - XII, the latter of which also incorporates .gif files. One quibble: an aspect of a project like this ought to be that each viewer experiences the work as his/her browser interprets it, just as painters ultimately must lose control of the lighting conditions and surroundings in which their art is viewed. Ashley has said that certain pieces are best viewed on IE, which favors a proprietary format and kind of stunts the magic of a million possible readings (including "incorrect" readings) of the work.
Ashley also has a nice weblog here. This is my off-the-cuff take on his work, BTW, and may not jibe at all with his own theory; looking forward to exploring the site(s) and learning more.
American Splendor, the new movie about underground comix writer Harvey Pekar, is Crumb Lite. It's funny (funnier than the one Pekar comic I've read--#15), but the filmmakers have succeeded mainly in domesticating a talented crank. The actor who plays Harvey is smoother, dopier, more like a sitcom actor; the actress who plays his wife is fetching even with ironed hair and nerdygirl glasses. Think back to Crumb for a sec: the unstinting, voyeuristic interviews with the artist's damaged brothers, the excruciating footage of Crumb talking to an ex-girlfriend, the whole porn magazine/acid casualty vibe of a failed counterculture. That film took you to the edge. By contrast, the edgiest moment in Splendor is footage of the real Pekar appearing on Letterman. He's unkempt, he's unpredictable, he fights back.
The most compromised moment in the film is the restaging of Pekar's final appearance on Late Night, where he told off Dave and launched into a jeremiad against NBC's military-contractor owner, GE. As the movie sets it up, it's all explained as a byproduct of Harvey's personal problems. The scene is filmed with the camera behind his chair, looking out at the shocked reactions of the audience. His actual rant is sliced into bits and pieces, to "denote the passage of time" but also making it less intelligible. Worse, the scene is intercut with shots of Harvey's friends and co-workers watching their TVs at home in dismay. You can't help thinking this is how the infotainment world (indie film division) processes someone just a little too individualistic. They give him the world (this'll do more business than Crumb, I expect) but none-too-subtly muffle his voice.