Abandoned Storage Unit: Whirling Around

  April 9th, 2017

 
 
 
 
ALT 
 
      (Some serving plate I found online on Polish shopping site)

 
 
 
     Hello snailers & crowers. Time for another whirled-up blend of crap, such is thee fun of the Abandoned Storage Unit.

     It’s a beautiful Sunday and the sill-cactus flowers are beginning to push up their sweet buds of lemon & fuchsia. People are blowing themselves up in two beautiful Coptic churches in Egypt. I just cooked two beautiful sweet potatoes until the peels began to sweet sugar. The depraved Brian Williams is yoking badly-understood Leonard Cohen lyrics to the “beautiful” sight of Tomahawk missiles launched toward Syria. I just steamed two beautiful heads of broccoli until they turned that delicious rich green.
 
 
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        The Fat Old Couple Whirling Around
        BY ROBERT BLY 
 
 
 
 
 
 
     What a poem, written in 2005, by the great Robert Bly. It encompasses all of life, it is stuck in the mud around your feet and it is up on a mountaintop watching the world burn and cool, green and die, burn and cool, green and die. Become a soul and go. But before you do: whirl, dance, sigh, rise, reach.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
 
ALT 
 
      C.W.L.
       UNTITLED, 2017

 
 
 
 
     Here is something my daughter made to celebrate Spring. I love how she draws faces. Our red front door is festooned with her bright flowery paintings and drawings and it makes me happy whenever I see it.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
 

 
 
     Here’s “meditations after shock therapy” by worm girl; discovered this lil gemstone on SoundCloud. I like the eroded ghost-reverbed vocals, the synth pads, the recessed drum machine beat. And the lyrics are strong, & exactly what they should be given the song’s title. The piece feels rough-hewn and tossed-off, but the attention to detail, the melody, the understated vocal delivery and pacing are anything but. This is a combination that always works for me in art, that feeling of casual paired with the obvious fruits of discipline, talent and skill. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
     “A great work of art is like a dream. For all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is never unequivocal. A dream never says: ‘You ought,’ or ‘This is the truth.’ It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and we must draw our own conclusions.” This is from Jung in his Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1933).

     This is not universal and simply reflects the Jung’s personal tastes. Any work of art can be mute and ambiguous; an art object’s ambiguity is no assurance of its worth. And there are great works of art that are unequivocal — say, “Guernica”, or Dylan’s “Masters of War” (war on the mind today folks, for good reason). They are blunt in their message and motive and that informs their power. Humans just can’t refrain from trying to sum up a phenomenon as complex and variable as art (across all its manifestations and media) in a pithy saying. We’re just addicted to trying to shortcut around the universe and tie it up quickly in language. We’re just wired to do it. We all do it. Geniuses down to fools, we all want to sum up our lives in a tidy bow. Why? It makes us feel we’re in control, we’ve mastered a Thing with an aphorism. We’ve learned it, known it, owned it. Can stuff it in a drawer and mothball it away; no further discussion needed. Such silliness, such transparent folly. But so fucking irresistible.
 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
     (click to zoom)
ALT 
 
      Pablo Picasso
       Le Crapaud, 1949
       Lithograph on Arches wove paper, 19.5 x 25.75 in.

 
 
 
 
     Be sure to zoom in on this friend, so many diablos deliciosos in the details. The frog’s little circly warts, its wee grumpy eyes, the Cubistic intersects of the hind legs and face, the flowing linework tying together its body and limbs, the effect of decorative little Christmas lights along its body, the impression of smudge and mud combined with modest, reluctant ornament. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 
 
    I just finished Cordelia Fine’s excellent book Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science and Society (2017, Norton). Before reading this book, I would have considered myself something of an essentialist when it comes to the sexes. I believed in sex differences in the brain and in the body, changes both prenatal and post-birth. And I believed these differences were permanent and inherent to humans and were directly responsible for different behavior in men and women everywhere, past present future.
    After Testosterone Rex, I still believe physiological sex differences exist. The science is clear. But I believe now they are just the starting point, and not an excuse for the gender gap. They are merely one factor among many in explaining why men and women do what they do, believe what they do, and think how they do. As Fine demonstrates, physiological differences between the sexes may or may not become amplified or nullified or nudged into being altogether depending on a whole galaxy of factors, not least of which are cultural, environmental, parental, marketing (especially marketing!) and institutional forces.
    In other words, there’s room for adjustment. There’s nothing hardwired in mens’ brains forcing them to forever be universally aggressive risk-tasking non-parenting and promiscuous. There’s nothing hardwired in women’s brains forcing them to forever be universally passive, cautious, caretaking and monogamy-seeking. There is astonishing variability in the animal and insect kingdom, as Fine exhaustively details, in how males and females of species behave sexually, and this can exist with humans too (and in many cases, as the research shows, already does). We’ve just grown accustomed, over the millenia, to a certain way for men and women to be, and we like it that way — that is to say, those in control, older white men, have always liked it that way (whether they realize it or not).
    The research seems to support the theses of Fine and so many other writers: it doesn’t have to be the way it’s always been. Men and womens’ physiological differences, says the research Fine exhaustively brings to bear, do not strongly correlate with massive differences in behavior and attitudes both sexual and non-sexual. In citation after citation, Fine shows compelling research that suggests the gender gap exists for far more complex reasons than the presence or absence of testosterone. This passage of Fine’s is crucial in understanding this point: “It’s true that we don’t, as a rule, tend to think that the scientific facts of nature dictate how things should be. Just because a scientist says that something is “natural” — like male aggression or rape — obviously doesn’t mean we have to condone, support or prescribe it. But that doesn’t mean that science has nothing to contribute to societal debates or aspirations. Although scientific claims don’t tell us how our society ought to be, that being the job of our values, they can give us strong hints as to how to fulfill those values, and what kind of arrangements are feasible. [...] rejecting the [view that gender gap problems are solely due to evolved sex differences, such as testosterone in men] doesn’t require denial of evolution, difference, or biology.”
    I also really like this passage by Dalhousie University philosopher Letitia Meynell, which Fine quotes in her book: “Biologically speaking, our actions and dispositions are developed and could have bee otherwise, given the right mix of developmental inputs at various points in our lives. If one wants to change the distribution of a given trait in a population, the task is not to overcome nature but to rearrange the developmental system.”
     If we want to address gender inequality, we have to abandon essentialism insofar as we lean on it to explain and justify and excuse perceived differences in how men and women think and act in and out of the bedroom. We have to accept malleability in terms of how the sexes develop. We have to stop framing issues in terms of “boys will be boys and girls will be girls.” We have to realize as a species we’re in control, not the hormones, the gametes, the glands, the gonads. Culture, society, developmental input from parents, media, religion, schooling, marketing those are the forces that take those inherent and verifiable biological differences that do exist between the sexes, and truly activate them and transform them into vast gaps and gulfs. Gulfs that become, over generations, seemingly impossible to cross. Seemingly. 
 
                                                                           [* * * *] 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more information about Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex, please check out The Guardian’s great review.

For more Robert Bly stuff, please check out his entry at the Poetry Foundation.

For more worm girl stuff, please check out Her Soundcloud page.

For more Picasso, please check out the Musée National Picasso (Paris).



[Posted by C Way on April 9, 2017]

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[file under: ABANDONED STORAGE UNITS ||| Music ||| paintings/drawings ||| poetry ]

Little Boxes of Glowy Fake

  March 12th, 2017

 
 
 
     Great post the other day by Ross Douthat in the NY Times (“Resist the Internet”) about what it would look like to put some controls on our largely unfettered use and abuse of the internet (which means our use and abuse of handheld smart devices, since that’s increasingly what the internet means for most people). Made me think about these little portals, these glowy rectangles that have increasingly assumed more and more power in our lives.
     (Warning: Old-man get-off-my-lawn screed approacheth; back out now if you’ve had your fill of this kind of thing) It used to be on the subway that, at any given moment, a handful of people would be staring at their little gadgets. “Handful” turned into “some”. “Some” became “half”. Now, most mornings, it’s a depressingly clear “most”. Most people standing or sitting, necks craned, staring at their pocketsized diminishments of reality, these dinky sheeny holes displaying their dinky sheeny objects. Compulsively caressing, petting, stroking their screens. Like they were wee flat beasts that needed constant reassurance. And these are capable, smart New Yorkers who know better, who deep down know that it’s basically an erosion of the human spirit to choose to live in the thrall of these overpriced little gadgets, huffing and puffing away on the consumer hamsterwheel, chasing after the next upgrade & OS & Yosemite this and Lollipop that. Capable, smart New Yorkers who know all this but give in anyway, shrugging & grinning “can’t help myself” gotta like/retweet/follow Bejeweled triple bonus Flappy Bird double swipe zoom-in zoom-out look at my favorite photos scrollscrollscroll.     (Just like smart people who knew better than to binge-watch shit reality shows and humiliation shows when they started to creep into the collective unconscious years ago. Who helped create our current debased cultural moment by consuming & thereby normalizing that televised pustulence. Who knew better but did it anyway because it’s “a train wreck” that they “have to watch”; because it’s their “guilty indulgence.”)
     Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not against technology, or mobile smart devices. Tech is a tool, it’s neutral. I’m against the irresponsible over-use of all this crap, the voluntary submission to them so that they are no longer just helpful tools, means to ends, but ends themselves. I’m against handing our lives over to smart devices while doing little more with them than using our fingertips to scroll through Pinterest galleries, mind-deadening Facebook feeds, and shitty video games (all the while gifting our privacy and life details to third party data brokers and, really, in this age of WikiLeaks and infinite data persistence, anyone else online who wants them).
     So, case in point. This guy sits down next to me the other day, healthy looking jogger-Dad type, smiley. Seemingly good disposition. White earbuds in. Instantly, upon sitting, he whips out his glowy portal and starts racing through imagery. Not pausing once. Just swiping through his family photos, kids’ photos, cars, motorbikes, Hallmark animal card greetings, landscapes, images of inspirational quotes, 1-2 seconds of random video clips. Zooming in and out of shit super-fast. Rapidfire unthinking supercaffeinated whizzing through so much visual data.    [CLICK TO READ MORE . . .]



[Posted by C Way on March 12, 2017]

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[file under: non-fiction & essays ||| SLAGS ]

Kalief Browder (poem) – C.Way

  January 24th, 2017

 
 
 

KALIEF BROWDER



Unscrew bolts anchoring A/C to wall
           
          I stand behind
          Watching you work
          Words rise up & crowd my throat
	        like a clump of blind baby piglets 
	        smelling the teat
          All swallowed back down


Work air conditioner, deliver it
    to bed of pillows prepared on floor

          1,000 days

          I picture you in your box
                    unfed, filthy, dreaming not of bread
                      but of end-pieces of bread
          your hand through the slot, waving your completed worksheet
                    asking for someone to grade it
                    "Miss! I got work for you!"

Squat down, peer through new hole made
    Noonday sunlight slides in
    Watch a green bottle fly
          swoop in, swirl, leave

          Summer nights with the heat vents baking
                    your 12 x 7 oven
                   Kevin next door with the disintegrating laugh
                              slamming his forehead into the wall

          Thirty times told: No trial, Soon, Soon
          Half of your mother's words over the phone
                    blotted out by sobs 
          And your hand still holding the slot, 
                    waving, waving, always waving 

Stick arm out, checking clearance
    Feeling drips from A/C above

          Over and over, you work on bedsheet nooses
                    using your teeth to make strips
          getting a little better each time
                    And when they cut you down they beat you
                              because a hang-up means more paperwork
          And when they don't cut you down
                    they say "Jump, Go ahead and jump" 


Gather yellow braided sheet cord
     from cache in the closet

          You're out
          but no 3.5 GPA or donated MacBook Air or Haldol
          can stop you from waking
                    at 4 AM, sweating through your clothes 
          punching holes in your wall
          trashing your TV because it's watching you

                    Because your hand never got out
                              of that slot 
                    Waving, waving, always waving

Take sheet-cord, start to gauge length

          Biking home from school last summer
          Beats in your ear, crisp loving night
          Sweet hour when the black wave 
                    was ebbed
          When the white swarm 
                    was quiet
                    a hive of cold bees 
	
Wind it, tie cinch and pull, blood starts to swell cheeks

          Kalief
          I am hungry, hungry, always hungry
          I don't know what to do with this hunger
          But talk to you
          And say that it is not justice I starve after
          My guts burn for us all 
          To stop choosing everything 
          Over love

          I am behind you
          The words become unstuck

          I am so proud of you 
                    for not shaking the slimed, charred, cold hand
          And for sharing what happened
          You did not get to learn what you should have 
          But I have learned 
                    integrity and courage from you 
          You fought 
          You fought
          You are good


Crabwalk to wall and opening
    vault, launch feet first
    get stuck, scrape back, shimmy through

          drop

    hear gasp like it's someone else

           Other sounds now

  Plane way overhead rumbling through sky

Sneaker heels whacking brick

Rosa's pink-dyed poodle
          barking at nothing in hallway

That new kid
    Playing video games next door
    Throwing controller against the wall again, again
    Screaming


                                          Chris Way, Nov 2016


[Posted by C Way on January 24, 2017]

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[file under: Writing ]

[Untitled]

  December 5th, 2016

 

 
Hi everyone,

     I hope to be back soon. I will leave you with a handful of things to think about, inspired by Trump’s election, the ugly build-up to it, and its aftermath. They don’t all have to do with who won, who lost and what might happen in the coming months and years, not in any direct sense at least.
 

***

     Choose love over fear. Choose love over shame. Whenever you feel yourself getting angry, pause, just for a half-second, and choose love. Decide to do this. Behind every outburst or action or policy we come to regret in ourselves or others is a subconscious decision to allow fear, shame or anger (the latter being typically a facade for the former two) to drown out the voice of love. Let this counsel speak to you as a parent, lover, liberal, conservative, Trump-supporter, Trump-despiser, human being. Let this sacred decision always guide you in your relations to others.
 

 
      You are not your past. You are your present. You are now. Don’t ever let anyone — including yourself — try to fix you to your past, lock you in place like a statue. We are all growing, living, flawed beings who make mistakes, suffer, and learn, and change.
 

 
      Stop allowing fear and anxiety to rule your decisions and policies. You cannot foam-cushion every playground. You cannot helicopter over every child. Let kids (and people!) take risks. Risks lead to strength, growth and authenticity. Let children fall. Let children get bruised. Let children get sick. If you raise children in an atmosphere of fear and in a psychological bubble, one spawned directly from your own neuroses, they will grow to be weak, enervated creatures unfit to challenge the dark times to come. On a related note, parents, please, look inward. Understand your own traumas and behavioral issues before you have children, or as soon as you can after you do so. We all come to be parents as imperfect beings, true. But the least we can do is put in heavy effort as early as possible to put ourselves in a position to separate your own baggage from the child.
 

 
      You may come to think of your life as you behind a wheel, not sure how you got on the road, making sure to swerve away from this rockslide, that pothole, always dodging and going away from something, always fleeing something. Stop. Park by the side of the road. Take out your map. Recall where it was you had to go. Must go. Where you need to be to fulfill yourself. Be the you you are meant to be, that you know deep down you have strayed from. Get back on the road and drive there, directly. Reclaim agency. Stop reacting and going away from, start deciding to go towards.
 

 
      Never try to evacuate uncomfortable feelings from your mind. Never uproot fear, shame, guilt. It won’t work. You only empower them, you only inflame them by doing this. And they come back stronger. They come back with panic attacks, they come back with backpain, headaches; they come back to take over. There is only one way to engage with difficult emotions. Sit with them. Acknowledge and name them without judgment or haste or need to get rid of them. Accept them. Invite them back whenever they want. You will watch your neuroses slowly diminish in their hold over you. In their power over you. In the act of giving them voice, letting them hold office hours with you, not trying to annihilate the, you will have won. You will have broken down the partitions and compartments you’ve been erecting for years — no longer will you have musty basements, attics and trapdoors hiding the secrets of feelings you’ve been avoiding for so long. You will have regained integrity with your spirit and, with that, some measure of peace.
 

 
          Slow breath in: the longing to remove someone else’s pain, grief, suffering (could be an animal, could be a family member, could be someone you read about on the news). Slow breath out: your specific wish of comfort and happiness to the very same people, animals or nations you’ve chosen. This is Tonglen meditation, and I paraphrase it from Pema Chodron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqlurCvXuM — and I ask you to try this. Add it to your daily meditation. Or do it whenever your own feelings overwhelm you. One antidote for difficult emotional pain is shifting to healing someone else’s.
 

 
          A thought experiment. Pretend you are God. Pretend that all humans are your children. Pretend you have arisen to the din of their fighting. Pretend you come out to witness all we have seen in recent months. Demagogues stoking hatred and espousing the abuse of women just to get elected. Ad agencies disseminating inflammatory fake news right before an election just to generate ad-revenue. Candidates for office of leader of the free world failing to talk about actual issues — the environment, women’s rights, gun control — and reverting to identity politics and zingers. Your children spying on each other. Denouncing each other. Blaming outside forces and countries. Too separated and afraid of people different from each other to talk or relate, hungry instead to deepen the divide and stoke the fires of their own bias and rancor. What do you do? You’ve awoken to a house in such disarray, overwhelmed with such clamor, such brutality. What do you do? You grieve. You are enraged. You ask everyone to stop. And then you ask everyone to listen to each other. Just listen. Because they are all your children. They all deserve to live. They all are cut from the same cloth. The pain of one is the pain of them all. The joy of one is the joy of them all. And none of them will live in harmony — the peace and harmony you dearly wish for them — until they learn this. And, in turn, they will never learn this until they slow down. Become quiet. And just listen.
 

 
      Before you die, do one thing to make the world a more beautiful place.
 

 
      When we do things we don’t like, or have feelings that scare us, we put them in a box or basement. We run away from them. When people do things that scare us, that are awful, we do the same thing. We call the rage-shooter a monster, fit to be executed, and drop them from our minds. Every awful feeling we have deserves the disinfectant of sunlight, of exposure, deserves to be understood and accepted — that’s how we heal. And every person who does something awful *must* be studied and understood for us to heal as a community. There will always be weak-minded people too afraid to do this. Ignore them. Study those who act out in awful ways, their upbringing, their environmental context, their writings, their pain, what makes them human and *not* a simplistic horrorshow villain, it’s the only way for us to grow as a race and heal our collective psychological wounds.
 

 
      Live a life less shameful than yesterday. I think I’m cribbing that from Mary Karr; at any rate, it isn’t mine.
 

 
Survive and serve.
 

 



[Posted by C Way on December 5, 2016]

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[file under: non-fiction & essays ]

Art of the Week – ‘Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle’ (2003)

  November 23rd, 2016

 
 
 
 
       (click for zoom-in)
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (detail) (2003)
       Plastic soda bottles, doll, clothing, bedding, wire, found metal, rubber glove, turtle shell, artificial flowers,
       Splash Zone compound, enamel, and spray paint on canvas on wood

 
 
 
 
       (click for zoom-in)
Thornton Dial 
 
      Thornton Dial (American)
       Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle (2003)
       

 
 
 
 
      Above is “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” a work by Thornton Dial (1928-2016), a self-taught U.S. artist who created assemblages on a large scale.
      “Beginning of Life in the Yellow Jungle” (detail of which is shown first): a tremendous, fearsome work. A scaffolding of intertwined, twisted, knotted bedsheets (?) create a criss-crossed webbing through and around which emerge flowers, prints of flowers, plastic pop bottles that resemble flowers, and other floral elements, with the whole of the work dripping mustard & crimson. The title, in conjunction with the visceral nature of the colors and textures, and the frayed edges and slices in the fabric, suggest birth, violence and death. A ghostly infant hovers in the top left quadrant; her patina, posture and draped body seeming to confer an air of classicism and modesty. Close observation of the work’s details amply repay the viewer with an endless fund of visual interest.
      What an achievement, simultaneously chaotic and controlled, capturing the conflation of violence, the birthing process, and nature’s fecundity — and also suggesting a kind of organizing principle or geist observing and animating it all.

 
 
 
 
 

MORE INFO:

For more of Thornton Dial’s works, please check out his profile at www.soulsgrowndeep.org/artist/thornton-dial.



[Posted by C Way on November 23, 2016]

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[file under: paintings/drawings ||| sculpture ||| Visual Arts ]