June 28, 2006

Moments Ago

Ramon delivered the panels by the beginning of the week.

Muy bien, Tio.

Let's back up to give you some context:

Backing up for context:

Out in the street.

The window above the front door is my studio.

You may remember from the archives.

But half of the paintings are too big to move upstairs, so I get to use what will be our future kitchen on the ground floor:

I get to cook the butifara while I paint. Mol macu.

Maybe lentils tomorrow.

Posted by Dennis at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2006

Data Bursts

Blog posts are happening in single sitting sessions from several different locations. I'm going try to arrange summer ADSL service. Talking to a utility in a another country is a trip.

Freaky stuff.

The past five posts were written at once. It's always strange and mortifying to read your first draft, seeing your tics and recurring, even stuttering concepts.
By the time you have read this, I would have already corrected them, catching the boners. Subtle stuff might get picked up later. And dammit, this arrangement doesn't have spellcheck either. Why, even the lowly stickies has a spellcheck!

It's like makeup.

Posted by Dennis at 3:29 PM | Comments (0)

Joel Mesler, Interviewed

Joel sent me heads-up for an interview he did with Matt Chambers at Hello Trudi dot com, the fancy new "project space" in the Chambers' ever expanding gigantoid maravilloso empire of fun art.

Link away, people.

Posted by Dennis at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

Alberto's Swim Race

After the night at Kiko's, Alberto and I went to Club Tahiti for drinks and so he can "say hello" to a young lady behind the bar there. The night ended near four am, and he had to compete in a swim race that was to start at ten the coming morning.

Ah well, Alberto is young and what is youth for -if not to burn it away like this?

What follows are a sequence of fotos in wide shot format, which will probably force you all to scroll back and forth a number of times. Or not.


Let the pictures tell the story:





Alberto finished in the middle of the pack. He said that about half way, someone pounded him down about a meter into the water and he got a lungfull of water... then, another swimmer grabbed him by the ankle and pulled him back for the forward advantage.

Alberto's attitude about all this: a shrug and a smile.

Posted by Dennis at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

Piano Move

My cousin Patsy has moved in to Tossa with her new beau, Franz (a gentleman from Germany). She works in human rights work, currently in Afganistan and that's about all I can tell you all about her since she keeps her cards close to the vest. She has a fascinating bio and I was about to blog it when she put the kaibash on it. (sp? Is that really a word?)

I've already written too much.

They ended up moving a ton of stuff into their apartment. One of the items was this very well built German piano... meaning: extremely heavy beast of a musical instrument made with super dense wood from some dark forest that I have never heard of and metal parts that were forged with thick cast ingots of 19th century steel.

Their apartment is on the fourth floor (American floors, the third by EU standards). They asked me to be the fourth guy for the team headed by Kiko.

Kiko arranged a crane to lift the beast onto the roof. The calculation was that it would be easier to carry it down one flight of stairs than lift it up four.

That was the theory.

We got it on the roof, no problem but things went bad as we lifted it across the doorway to the stairs below. Kiko had his two workers, Jordi and Chavi. Chavi is Kiko's cousin. He has a sober personality... as contrasted with Jordi's ...um... intoxicated one (this is a figurative description, but Jordi is the kind of guy to etch this figuration into literal territory from time to time). Chavi and I were side by side and we were trying to get the beast up across the threshold.

About that time, the piano came down on Chavi's left index finger. I'm certain that we all had exclamation marks pop atop all our heads at that moment. With a grunt, we instinctively pulled the piano off his hand and blood flashed red in drips to ground. Incredulous, Chavi peered into the exploded finger. It was like what happens to a fruit if you stomped it open on the ground. Flesh flayed open and flapped back in a growing pool fo bright red blood.

Immediately, I felt the urge to reach for the camera. What rich blogging goodness this was! In the splilt moment, I gazed at his split hand and was split between the urge to document and the urge to apply first aid.

Sorry folks, I chose to pull off my shirt and apply pressure to the wound. Chavi kept pulling it off to assess the damage. But the way the flesh was flopping around, it was clear to me that he had to get to a medical professioinal for stitches. Chavi kept peering into the wound, pulling the flesh apart and I was getting irritated. By this time, the event was registering in his mind and he began to whimper, his voice leaping into the beginnings of howl.

Spanish pride was beginning to assert itself and the general attitude, mainly from Kiko, was to take it like a man and get thee out and to the hospital. Kiko was beginning to formulate dark taunting humor. Within moments, and probably to stuanch the taunts, chavi disappeared and on we all continued with our morning project.... less one man.

It was a bitch. There is no better way to express what happened. We had a centimeter on each side for clearance... all the way until the last turn into the room. There, the wheels stopped us in our tracks. Not able to get the wheels off, we decided to chip away at the walls.

This took us maybe an hour in one position.

Jordi, on the other side, happily provided comdeic relief with his mere existance.

Finally, of course, we made it in. Afterwards, Patsy and Franz treated us to lunch and Chavi was able to join us. The doctors applied three stiches and they wound a comic number of bandages until his hand looked Looney Tunes. Kiko was joking that it will be hard for Chavi to build the masonry walls in the next project, laughs all around over and over. They were a but conservative with the stiches thhough, blood was still dripping from the sangre soaked tip as he tried to casually eat his paella.

Posted by Dennis at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

Kiko's House

After the two visits to Barcelona, I got a chance to catch up with Kiko, Nacho, family and friends.

I got his call on the movil. "Dennis, meet us at Can Passet. We are waiting for you!" OK, Kiko. In the tight streets of the old section of town, the restaurant was below Nacho and Leslie's place. Tables spilled out into the pedestrian street. Tourists rubbed against us as we sipped our beers. I met Kiko's girlfreind, Lourdes. She lives in Madrid and commutes into Tossa every weekend.

Nacho and Leslie's youngest daughter Berta grabbed the camera and snapped a few pics. I instructed her on the fine points of the Tony Cu?ha method of protraiture. Mental note: this is a recurring phenomena, children snaps. Small shildren and the latest digital technology, what does this mean?

We rendezvoused at Kiko's house afterward. Elevenish, the night was young. Kiko fired up the bar-b-que and petardos (firecrackers) were casually tossed into the street from time to time. At one point, a couple walking nearby got irritated and nearly came to blows over the whole affair.

Kiko's attitude: this is Catalunya, people. This is what we do here.

Alberto (the young artist who accompanied me to ChinaTown last October) dropped in and it was good to get him to tell his stories of lilfe in Los Angeles... in Catalan. Nacho is scheduled to travel to Florida for the first time (motorcycle business) and while he was sporting his theory of how lame America was, Alberto stepped in and testified that there is a diffference between his preconception and what he experienced Stateside. I'll be curious to see what Nacho thinks of Daytona and Miami when he gets back.

Later: Alberto and I went to Tahiti to listen to the singers there... actually,he wanted to talk to the bartender a young woman on his radar. Ah Tossa, the seaside pueblo of love.

Posted by Dennis at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

Sant Joan Day, Barcelona

I enjoyed sitting in on the critiques of Gerry Smulevich's and Paul Groh's study abroad program. They spent four weeks studying the rich ruban history of Barcelona and it culminated in a big crit at a local architecture school (something something Advanced Archtiecture Catalunya School). They applied what they learned in a part of the city called Badalona. Generally, all students did pretty good work with one or two flashes of brilliance.

I didn't capture any images of the crit, letting the moment fly away without capitalizing it for bloghistory. It's like fly fishing, sometimes you catch dinner, sometimes you release.

Venga, Tio. Comerse.

I did capture the lame quality of the Sant Joan celebrations in Barcelona. I mean, compare the pics in this post to this. What is hard to convey in that link was the sonic experience of constant explosions in the air. Maybe it is the concentrated urban form encircling onto the main beach at Tossa, so all of the explosives are focused together. Or maybe the Catalans up North are fireworks pirates, buying heavier petardos for the party.

After the crits, we convened at a party hosted by the interior design people, one of whom rented a flat near the beach at the Barceloneta. Eight floors and up on the terrace, it was strangely nice to hear voices from stateside. I met some very cool people from Berlin and the conversations with them were pretty rich.

Standing near the edge of the roof, I snapped these fotos for all y'all. What was remarkable was the tendency towards social disruption in the crowds that surged into the city streets. We pressed the boundary of mahem all night. The universal appreciation for liminal mob violence was mixed into the street party atmoshpere, beer and wine and clouds of hashish provided the social lubricant. I understand it is this way in Germany and France. I wonder if it is this way in London too?

But next year, if I am here... it will be Tossa for Sant Joan Day for sure.

Posted by Dennis at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

Morning Readings

1. It's called collusion, implicit or unconscious though it may be:

To be sure, it's hard to blame networks for covering natural disasters. Nature's calamities are important, after all, and people care for reasons of empathy and compassion, as well as voyeurism. And of course, the coverage, even the over-coverage, of a natural disaster can't make the original disaster worse.

But what if non-natural disasters were, in fact, made worse by saturation coverage? What about terrorism? Those are the challenging questions asked by two academics, Bruno Frey of the University of Zurich and Dominic Rohner of Cambridge University, who argue that reporters and terrorists are playing a "common-interest game" - that is, a win-win for both. Frey and Rohner studied terrorist activity from 1998 and 2005 and concluded, "Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents." Terrorists gain publicity for themselves and their cause, while the media make money from greater sales and "buzz."
2. This is a peek into the future, if you are willing to substitute "battlefield" for "business":
This produces another unique battlefield sound portrait.? You know American troops are at work when one shell goes off, followed by a few shots. No shouting, American troops use individual radios, hand signals and night vision equipment. They move fast, using minimal firepower. Less risk of friendly fire, or collateral damage (civilian casualties or property damage.) Battlefields have never sounded like this.?
3. Saltz speaks truth to power, and power smiles back slyly:
In Germany I had a couple of encounters that gave me a glimpse of what's going on there, a hint of what many Berliners think of us, and a way to gauge two shows of German artists currently on view in the same Chelsea building. Both brushes had to do with money and the market. The first was actually cumulative; numerous dealers repeatedly and snippily told me that New York is "all about the market" and "only concerned with money." This was often said in huge galleries amid sold-out shows of pricey art. Initially I just acceded and shrugged. After a few days of this I got my "these-colors-don't-run" dander up and huffily said to a group of dealers, "You show the same artists that are shown in New York. You participate in the same art fairs and sell to the same collectors. The euro is stronger than the dollar and you're making as much or more money as anyone. New York galleries are slicker, but Berlin is as 'about the market' as anywhere." They all looked at one another, then gave me that sly smile that says "Poor silly American."

Further down, he pins the problem on nihilism and Salz scratches the surface of the antecedents:

Eder says his paintings are "about the sadness and emptiness within me." He claims he's "running behind the trends and artificial values of our Western world." But his paintings are little more than testosterone-driven post-adolescent derivative kitsch. Eder's canvases are too ambitious and ironic to be the worst currently on view in New York. He has a feel for the space between photography, thrift-store painting, pinup-girl posters and old-school punk nihilism. And he's a great technician. But combining images of racy young things with cute animals is blatant to the point of banality and gives you little more than tinsel to think about. (This was done far better 20 years ago by painter Walter Robinson.) Mostly, Eder's work is so gaudy and brazen that it brings to mind disavowed German neo-Expressionists like Helmut Middendorf and Rainer Fetting.
Salz forgot to identify Walter Robinson as ArtNet's macDaddy and the connections to David Salle aren't drawn either. I'm sure it was just a slip. At least he makes the link to the German NeoExpressionists, but I wonder why he uses the term "disavowed"? After all, shouldn't the names one can recall so many years after the bloom and death and mulch of an art moment prove that they are the ones of some kind of distinction? Across the Atlantic, Salle's work will ...or should be a citation in the comemoration of that period. Sure, everyone wants to poop on those artists, but even Warhol spent time in history's brig before he emerged as the best of the bunch.

The next paragraph is pretty devastating, and a cautionary tale for those of us (artists) who might be all too willing travel within the herd.

4. Call Me A Humanist:

Humanists cannot talk to postmodernists. This might seem paradoxical at first since people who consider themselves humanists do, in fact, talk to people who consider themselves postmodernists every day. They meet, for example, in faculty dining rooms and on payroll lines, and they discuss, for example, whether the cafeteria chili should be avoided or whether their health plans cover anti-depressants.

So it is necessary at the outset to define the three key terms: humanist, postmodernist, and talk. By a "humanist," I mean a person who believes that human beings can formulate true or false opinions about a reality that exists independently of their thoughts and language--and that the truth or falsehood of such opinions is gauged by their correspondence with empirical evidence analyzed in light of fundamental rational principles. By a "postmodernist," I mean a person who believes that the perception of a reality existing independently of thought and language is illusory, that what the humanist perceives as reality is in fact a linguistic construct of the phenomena of subjective experience that is continually adjusted in response to a fluid social consensus. Finally, by "talk" I mean to put forward opinions, or sets of opinions, in such a way that they may be either verified or falsified. Of the two possibilities, verification and falsification, I would lay particular emphasis on falsification since it is less provisional. (Falsification, in other words, is less contingent on evidentiary standards. For example, it only takes one black dove to falsify the proposition "All doves are white"; whereas, the standards of support required to verify the proposition inevitably vary.) To talk, by my definition, is to risk one's continued avowal of an intellectual position, to enter willingly into the so-called "marketplace of ideas" in which logical demonstration is recognized as the final arbiter between opposing viewpoints. My thesis, then, is that no such marketplace of ideas can ever truly exist between humanists and postmodernists because postmodernists neither pursue verification nor risk falsification in their exchanges.

All of which reminds me:
"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."
(As I recall from memory.) I'm sure that Wittgenstein meant this in some other way.

Artists in my community stopped using the term "postmoderism" back in the mid to late 90's. It is... or it was a feature in my life because when I was in grad school, that was the stone they tried to sharpen us with, or so they thought. But it doesn't mean that that whole sector of thought evaporated into thin air. Pretending it dosen't exist might have been a good tactic in high school, but in the real world, you can't move on until you overhaul an era with a thorough critique. So far, we've barely scratched the surface.
5. Many of us have trashed the "cognitive 'Do Not Enter' signs":
One of the most common intuitive problems people have with conspiracy theories is that they require positing such complicated webs of secret actions. If the twin towers fell in a carefully orchestrated demolition shortly after being hit by planes, who set the charges? Who did the planning? And how could hundreds, if not thousands of people complicit in the murder of their own countrymen keep quiet? Usually, Occam's razor intervenes.
Another common problem with conspiracy theories is that they tend to impute cartoonish motives to "them"?? the elites who operate in the shadows. The end result often feels like a heavily plotted movie whose characters do not ring true
Then there are other cognitive Do Not Enter signs: When history ceases to resemble a train of conflicts and ambiguities and becomes instead a series of disinformation campaigns, you sense that a basic self-correcting mechanism of thought has been disabled. A bridge is out, and paranoia yawns below.

6. Another one who wanted to get back to the garden:

Ergot is the natural source of lysergic acid, from which lysergic acid diethylamide is readily synthesized?LSD. What purpose, divine or adaptive, this substance might serve was once the subject of a learned debate that engaged scientists, government officials, psychiatrists, intellectuals, and a few gold-plated egomaniacs. Timothy Leary was one of the egomaniacs.

Leary belonged to what we reverently refer to as the Greatest Generation, that cohort of Americans who eluded most of the deprivations of the Depression, grew fat in the affluence of the postwar years, and then preached hedonism and truancy to the baby-boom generation, which has taken the blame ever since. Great Ones, we salute you!

Besides being a devastating reassessment of the 60's, there are a few gems along the way, such as this one:
He was a counterculture salesman, and he wore, on every occasion, the same blissed-out smile, a rictus somewhere between a beatific, what-me-worry grin and a movie star?s frozen stare into the flashbulbs. One of his ex-wives described it as ?the smile of the ego actually eating the personality.?
You will probably end up killing your mother if you try to crawl back into the womb.

So rich. Cutting.

Here's another:
The rest is bathos.
Posted by Dennis at 9:41 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

PodCast List

I'm still sitting under the tree, brushing off ants (at least they aren't fire ants) and downloading "Bad at Sports", all 42 episodes.

While I'm here thinking of that hamburger that's waiting for me at Bar Josep as the shadows lengthen. Here's the Full Monty: my entire Pocast list, for the historical record:

-Bad at Sports
-In Our Time (My favorite.)
-Japanese Class
-JapanesePod 101.com
-KCRW's Left, Right and Center
-Libertad Digital
-McNiel/Leher NewsMaker interviews
-Notes in Spanish
-Pajamas Media: Blog Week in Review
-Philosophy 7: Existentialism in Literature and Film
-Shields and Brooks NewsMakers Interview
Posted by Dennis at 7:50 AM | Comments (0)

Catalan Autonomy News

Here's a good summary on the latest developments on the Catalan Autonomy vote. The subject of devolution is a hot one and it's liable to get hotter as time goes by. Barcepundit is a pretty good site by my estimation, so is Austin Bay's blog, his StrategyPage (Austin Bay and perhaps Barcepundit will likely rile my Left of Center friends, but you've got to be able to get your hair mussed up now and again to be a level thinker) and blogger Kaleboel too (original, funny, delightfully arcane).

Posted by Dennis at 7:33 AM | Comments (0)

Barcelona Overnight


I stopped in to Miguel Marcos' Gallery to check in and pow-wow for the upcoming show. The time frame is bloody tight and our discussion makes these days of preparation (travel, material delivery, panel construction, various have-to-do's) time expensive. Miguel's time was tight too, as he was making ready to travel to Sicily. Do I have the time for lunch? Yes, of course. Would I like to go to MACBA (the contemporary museum in Barcelona) with Alberto (Miguel's Number One in the gallery) while Miguel gets cleaned up? Of course. Alberto rolled a cigarette and we dropped into Carrer de Jonqueres to walk across the Old City, through the Barri Gotic and into the Raval towards MACBA.

Alberto is a few years older than I: amiable, charming, intelligent. We talked of cigarettes and his history (he used to be a graphic designer) and how he likes the old city so much better than the modernized Cerda Plan a few blocks north. MACBA was designed by Richard Miers and I expressed my view that it was a fine expression of the architect's vision of a Corbusier 2.0 vocabulary and especially in the antiseptic palette of white porcelain panels, metal and glass. I think that Miers stumbled badly in the creation of the Hilltop Getty in Los Angeles when he caved in to pressure to change up his material palette. (You should see the PBS special on it, with Robert Irwin blowing his top and Miers getting browbeat miserably.) Alberto thought the building was totalitarian in the rigidity of its design, mean in its accommodation of function (the exhibition spaces take up probably less than a quarter of the plan, probably even less by volume). "Un dictador." said Alberto and I noted the irony that it was built early in the Post-Franco years... probably too early for the Catalan national consciousness to wake up fully by that time. I recalled the articles that I had read recently, assessments of the vision of Corbusier as a fascist one, specifically an indictment of his Radiant City and the creation of the suburban housing blocks that warehoused immigrants into ghettos in the banilieus, great boiling urban apartheid stews of resentment.

Inside the museum, an exhibition of Spanish graphic art, vinyl record album covers. Blue Note stylin'. Alberto shook his head in a withering critique of how the computer destroyed the sensibility of graphic artists, that aesthetic choices became actions limited by pre digested menus and the connection to material and the wisdom that came from an acquaintance of the realm of pencil, pen and ink, and tape and glue et al.... was lost to this generation, that there was a dimension that came from traditional mediums that is lost when we tossed all that out in favor of electronic media.

By that time, I recieved a phone call from Gerry Smulevich, my friend and former colleague when I was an architectural studio instructor back in the day. Could Paul Groh come along? Sure, I said, not knowing if this would disrupt Miguel's plan for lunch. The risk paid off as we got together in a local eatery and Miguel engaged my friends in a spirited conversation in Spanish. Gerry was raised in Argentina and Paul is self taught, and since he's pretty brilliant, he did a good job with his second language. I however, was hanging on by the slenderest of threads. When Miguel and I are alone, I can pause tape, ask for definitins and decode the mysteries of Castellano. Now, with these three, the best I could do was to survey the topology of the conversation, the boat running too fast to ping the depths of the arguments traded back and forth. Later as Miguel parted for his journey, I asked my pals for a debriefing to fill in the massive gaps in my comprehension. Along the way, they found Miguel's thought process to be remarkable in that he was inventive with his language bordering on the surreal, playful in his taunting humor.

My pals had to get back to their students. They were the maestros of a summer abroad program for Woodbury university. The students, outfitted with laptops and the instructors equipped with the latest in portable digital projectors and a battery of other electronic equipment (and an electric guitar and portable amplifier), they rented a floor of apartments off the Diagonal and transformed the place into an impromptu architecture studio. The kids had two days to go until their review and I was invited to be one of the visiting critics.

I hoofed over to the local art store to buy as many gallons of matt medium as I could. Barna Art was a few blocks off Carrer de Sant Joan. It was wonderful to walk these distances again, something impossible in Los Angeles. Finally, Barna had to order the material i wanted. I left my contact information and crossed my fingers that this important piece of my preparatory puzzle would fall into place in time.

By this time, I missed the bus for the return to Tossa, Gerry offered his couch to flop out in. We spent the night watching Argentina in the World Cup at a local French themed bar and later with tapas and conversation that took us into the wee hours on the sidewalk of the Passig de Gracia watching Spanairds stroll home.

Posted by Dennis at 7:07 AM | Comments (0)

Aaron Flags "Bad at Sports"

My good frined Aaron Parazetter sent me an alert on the latest and greatest... or only-est in artworld poscasting and I thought I would share with you all:

Hey D, glad you got there safe and sound--looks like it was a good trip--I enjoyed the in transit images. For a remembrance of all things stateside you might try studio time podcast from "Bad at Sports Podcast" out of Chicago:


especially recommend episodes:

12 : Nov 05 Michelle Grabner (part 1)

19 : Jan 05 Michelle Grabner (part 2)

32 : April 06 Lane Relyea drinking whiskey, talking about the state of art criticism

39 : May 06 Lane Relyea part duex

42 : June 06 Wesley Kimler--long time Chi town artist and ranting bitterman, musing on an art life outside the official art world--or what a jam place this could be if the artists would only take control.

Ck it out if you have time--the casual interview concept is genius (me thinks) and ought to be done in every art city.

I have just downloaded the whole sheebang while snatching a wifi signal under a shade tree (as ants are crawling up my legs! -so Dali) by a nearby school. This is going to be a wonderful addition to my podcast library.

Posted by Dennis at 6:51 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2006


-I found a little wifi signal in town, pirate that I am.
-I'm taking care of to-do lists, personal and family.
-I'll be going into Barcelona tomorrow to check in with the gallery.
-Weather: t-shirts at night, cool not brisk.
-Water: haven't been in yet. Choppy, reports of algea blooms and jellyfish.
-Studio: intact and looking good.
-Friends: picking up where we left off.
-Acquaintences: they tend to take me to task for not "saying goodbye".
(I thought I did say goodbye. Maybe they meant by degree?)
-Food: It's great to eat this way again. The food in the States was killing* me.
-More to come of course.
-So far, so good.

(* Knock on wood, a figure of speech.)

Posted by Dennis at 2:38 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2006


Heathrow. Thirty minutes to the flight connection to Barcelona.

Posted by Dennis at 5:06 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2006


---Ahora in Tossa that is. It's about sevven thirty in the evening, 23?C/73F. I'm wondering about the water temperature.

The flight leaves in about six hours. Lots of stuff to pull together, never enough time.

There's plenty of ragged edges in the blog, I know. I hope that I get some time to fill in a few blanks along the way this summer. Otherwise, I'll have to chalk it (all the leftovers) up to a memior of some kind I guess.

IN THE MEANTIME.... (Stephanie says to me: "Don't you have to pack or something?"), you can catch your own Ahora anytime that you might want by clicking the link to the Tossa WebCam in the Soup of Links in the leftside margin.

Posted by Dennis at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2006

Summer 2006

I'm Barcelona Bound.

Or more accurately, I'm bound for Tossa.

Ok. Even more accurately-yet-perhaps-now clumsily:

Catalunyan bound.

I have a show scheduled for the end of summer, a solo show for the first time on Spanish soil.

I will try not to dwell on the impact of the fact that I was born in Spain and that I've been gone since I was three years old; or that there is a post-Franco art world that played super-catch-up with the postmodern turn (thus favoring the design arts that admriably lived up to the task of rebuilding Spain away from the dictatorial legacy -and ironically breathing new life into modernist design); or that this is the country of Velasquez and Ribera and especially the great Goya... and therefore my vivid memory of visiting the Prado when I was twelve or thirteen and I got to see the Caprichos and finally, "Satrun, Devouring his Children" where my eye/mind became full of painting and the work that I am doing now is a partial fulfillment of that -for me- eternal moment; or that even though I have enjoyed undeniable success as a painter, I realize after all that I am still a cock-a-roach toiling in the fields or studios, yet another face in the crowd as an artist... or, as I have heard certain moderately famous art stars say at one time, that I have not yet been "branded" in any real meaning of the term (vulgar though this term may be in certain circles).

But then again, digression is so self indulgent and I am breaking one of my cardinal rules: "Don't let them know that you're humgry."

I'll just put all that out of my mind. Because what should be foremost is the internal story of my painting, the intrinsic life of where I have been and where I am going... especially now that I have essentially achieved a goal I had set for myself in grad school: to build a language and a world of my own ...in painting.

It's called the big now-what.

There's a big meantime, too. I'm looking forward to snorkeling again, getting fit after the past nine months of sedentary studio life, after nine months of American foodstuff, stuffed by the exceptional quantities and tantalizing cultural diversity customarily found here in this part of the world. I remember when young Alberto was here for the first month back last September, he was gobbling everything in sight. I told him then, exploiting the big bad reputation we Yanks have over there in the EU: "If you don't control your apetite here in America, America will control you.". But I'm not one to talk.

Where was I?

Or rather, where will I be? My flight departs Sunday, June 18th and I'll be back to the Codolar", the cove nearest our house, the cove near where my friend Kiko was raised, the place where I had scattered my father's ashes. (Tomorrow is Father's Day in a world where all the fathers are gone.) I'll be blogging there of course, but we don't have our telephone service there anymore. It looks like I'll be a bandwidth pirate, looking for signals in the air.


What's the deal this summer? The show is to be set in the last week of September at Miguel Marcos Gallery. Stephanie can't be with me the whole time, She's got her hands full at Guess?. Another summer apart, I know. But we will be together there for two weeks in July.

The time frame is brutally short. I've ordered panels from my carpenter and friend, Ramon. I'm bringing canvas that I bought today at ROARK art supply in L.A. so I can sidestep the high cost of art supplies in Barcelona, not to mentioin the piss poor exchange rate. I've got a repair job to do in Nice, France sometime in July (a monad smashed as the painting came loose in the crate during delvery). I've got a date to critique an archtiecture studio for my friend Gerry Smulevich next week. My buddies in Tossa will stifle their frustration as I go hermit with each painting, and then exact a social revenge in between with savage drink and frolic. Or so it seems to me.

Did I say that I'm looking forward to snorkeling again?

Posted by Dennis at 3:21 PM | Comments (0)

Stephan Hawking Sez

Our wisest citizen isn't feeling too optimistic. Apparently, he wants to cut and run insure the survival of our species:


The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy Earth, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday.

Humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years, the British scientist told a news conference.

It sounds like he's either delivering a good performance on a speaker's gig, or he's encouraging the Chinese to compete in a space race. Either way, he seems to be ignorant of the best, most practical way for us to get into space on any serious scale...


Elsewhere in the news:

...he 64-year-old also said his unfulfilled ambitions, among many, were to find out what happens inside black holes, how the universe began and how the human race can survive in the next 100 years.

Above all, he joked, he wants to understand women.

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June 15, 2006

Tom Ford on Fear and Risk... Anxiety

Stephanie handed me this article on her favorite designer, Tom Ford. This, from the May 26, 2006 issue of WWD FRIDAY:

"Many of us are paralysed by fear." said Ford, who gave the summit's opening keynote address on May 10 to a packed crowd. "As we operate in an industry that launches products at a scale that is often vast and worldwide, a certain amount of fear is understandable; the stakes are high. the fear can often result in the creation of bland products that do not challenge or innovate."

And, he said, fear can make companies reticent to reinvent. "It can make us hesitant to take a brand name that is known around the globe and give it a fresh, new spin." he said. "It can lead us to put out unsurprising priducts with unsurprising names promoted in an unsurprising way. It can make us weak and dull and ultimately, fear can make us lose."

To overcome that obstacle, it's critical to find the courage to take a risk, he said. "How do we get back in touch with that risk-taking gene that we all possess, yet that is muffled as business gets bigger and the stakes get higher? We need to trust our intuition. If we're bored while we're designing a product, the consumer will be bored. If we're excited when we create something, we can actually endow that product with an excitement that will translate to a positive reaction from the consumer. Today, more than ever, the customer wants something significant and bold. Half-hearted attempts to please everyone and offend no one will simply come off as second best."

In fact, he said, the greatestt breakthroughs are often things that break with tradition. "We ofen spend our time looking over our shoulders at aour competitors rather than looking forward and forging a new way." he said. "We rely on testing and focus groups and surveys to tell us what the consumer wants when the very thing the consumer wants most is for us to tell them what they want and need. this is our role -to lead and to guide. To do this, we have to saturate ourselves with the market and today's culture and then react with a fresh eye, as if we were our consumer encountering our products for the first time. We need to put the business models and spread sheets to the side, tap into the zeitgeist and be bold in our exprresson of it."

The worlds of design and art can be pretty different but Ford's advice is relevant for today's artist. In art, intrinsic interest leads to extrinsic interest... an absolute value. In design, a decentering occurs as client, materials, and site (architecture) lead curiousity's way. The postmodern turn (the 1960's to this day) was an amazing feat where art sought to derive energy from context by mimicking design (the modern: to seek G-d in materiality; the postmodern: to seek everyday life -context- in conceptuality). Remember: Warhol and his shoes, Christo's illustrations of his big wrap projects are tour de forces in architectural illustration. The list can go on, but I think my point is made.

But perhaps I should sharpen it a bit. It was perhaps a hyper-awareness of context that let a bit of paranoia creep in today's artworld.


(Image Source)

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June 13, 2006

Morning Reading

A new word: "stylometry":
...And once you start to consider a picture as a data source ? as an agglomeration of numbers or frequency patterns ? it actually makes sense to ask whether the landscapes of Brueghel or the drip paintings of Pollock have more informational content than a Kazimir S. Malevich Suprematist composition or a Barnett Newman zip painting.
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June 12, 2006

Monotyping at Cirrus

I pointed at this particlar feature as Francesco, Lino and I were bent over the papers. We sorted them into piles of color and character. My question: "How can we do this again?" The guys were avid. They liked the problem. "This was a second or third pass." "You put mineral spirits on it." "This is a second inking and there's a ghost." (A previous pass of ink color/form that's fading but still present on the drum.)

We set to work.

I stablized variables relating to orientation: everything moves horizontally, ambidexturaly (is this a word?). We woud be in an experimentalist mode, a little bit of a goofy mood, ojete territory for sure. With each pull, we would study the result, forensic notes for the next attempt. Accident and deliberate intention following one after the other in rapid succession.

A good day.

Lino cracked: "Un gran coctel de pulpo." ( A big cotopus cocktail.) We messed about with French marbling, McGyvering a water table and floating ink, picking it up on paper, instead of impressing, or flattening, or rolling and squishing... it was like capturing spide webs, like catching butterfles in a net.

Print people love to study the dynamics of ink on paper. Connoisseurs at a granular scale. I would keep moving and the guys would say "Whoa, look at that!" "Check this out." "I've never seen that before." Maybe, it is the usual business of the priint world to repeat and iterate in fidelity to artist's intentions. Printer's proofs and master reference standards rule. But today, it was wild weasel time. They were having fun of another sort and I enjoyed the circumstance that they too were enjoying themselves along the way.

KISMET1b.gif KISMET2b.gif KISMET3b.gif KISMET4b.gif KISMET5b.gif KISMET6b.gif
Momentum rolled as we kept catching glimpses of beautiful kismet all about -on the drum, off the taped boundaries of the steel bed, even on the back of the paper as the medium soaked through. I kept asking: "How can we get this onto the paper?" So we kept inventing other forms of printing -blotting paper directly off the bed by hand, blotting off other wet sheets, printing off the rollers as we spritzed it with mineral spirits and water.


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Cirrus Monotypes

Last Friday, I started work on another monotype print project with Jean Milant, owner of Cirrus Gallery in Los Angeles. A monotype is a unique print artifact, the means of producing it are pretty wide open.

Jean's point man on this project is Francesco X. Sigueiros, a grandnephew of the great Mexican painter. He owns his own press called El Nopal and he also teaches at three schools locally. Francesco sports a laconic demeanor, he likes to joke in Spanish with his assistant Lino. Since I'm a perpetual student of Spanish/Castellano, I asked them not to translate unless I ask for it. Immediately, Francesco taught me what would be a recurring word: "ojete" (phonetically spelled), which means something like a mistake or a goof up. "Where did that come from?" I asked, looking for the entymological root. "O.J. Simpson", as in don't pull a boner like O.J. did.

To orient them to what I might be looking for in the monotypes, I talked about how one can be working away on a painting, perhaps frustrated, and then a glance at the pallette or pallette knife reveals the most marvelous manifestations of paint. I said that the objective is to be alert for kismet that occurs at the edge of the "radar screen" and find a way to get that marvelousness onto the canvas or paper, in this case. That means we started with some experimentation, goofing around in "ojete" territory.

Whilst mixing water and oil on the machine (a magnificent German mechanical beast that was created in 1956 -as old as I am- a machine I like to call "the Messerschmit"). We immediately found ourselves in the kismet zone.

Good portents.

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June 10, 2006

I Like Jim*.

Brides Announcement.jpg
Hello Everyone,
The show opened in Stockholm in May and will run through June. Hope you can all make it to Sweden.
Best Wishes,

*..Jonathan too, but in a different way.

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June 8, 2006

Public at Large

I've just received an email from Jim Brown, an old friend who went to architecture undergrad school with me in San Luis Obispo back in the day. Jim is building what he calls a "hut" on or near the beach in Baja, and he invited us to come for a weekend for sun splashed summer construction fun. (No irony intended.) My wife Stephanie and I used to travel south nearly every weekend when we were pups and we would visit our good friends in San Diego.

Another visit is long overdue. Such is our crazy calendar: I doubt that we could make it over there before I travel to Spain. The raincheck is getting dog-eared, but it will never be thrown away.

Jim went into business with another friend named Jim, Jim Gates. A great team, these guys are part of a larger cohort of amigos who settled into San Diego after school. Robin Brisebois lured Jim Brown to work with the great Ted Smith and Others.

I call Ted great because he has achieved what few archticts have done: he articulated a brilliant, practical and humanisitc urbanistic vision to form a context for his architectural projects. Called "Go-Homes", he challenged the existing zoning code by urbanizing suburban edges by literally subverting the local code and planning restrictions. His strategy: knowing the code better than the "coders" do. (

I pause, wondering if I'm spilling too many beans for Ted, but these projects have long been built, habitated, sold and re-sold, so I'm sure everythign is ok. ...fingers crossed. Architecture's nobility comes form something akin to the doctor's creed: "Do no harm", and thus most arctiecture has an overly tamed nature. Not edgy. When architects get edgy, they go waaaay off the reservation, never to be seen again. Ted is the lone exception with his out-lawyer-the-lawyer approach.

A good expositon from the Architectural League, New York is here. Another from the LA Forum is here. Ted works on and off with Kathy McCormick, who has carved out an impressive architectural portfolio, seamlessly colored by a previous life as a color consultant.

Characteristic to Jim, he sent along this pic, of the cement mixer, which looks like it's a vintage equipment find down there in Mexican Frontera Baja land. Notable features of their designs are simple-yet-subtly existential boxes articulated in several material assemblies (wood, metal, concrete and notably -salvaged archtiectural components), sliding planes jostling with services and landscaping that all add a habitable tension to the apparent simplicity of the arrangement of the designs. Check out their site. Click around, its good stuff.

(Public's office staff apparently out in public -at a game of some sort. Jim Gates in in the green ballcap. Typicaly self effacing, Jim Brown is probably snapping the picture.)

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June 7, 2006

Afternoon Reading

Today's Morniing Reading got bumped by black bamboo. Skim down to the last sentences and you will find the "Second Coming" turning again in the widening gyre:

We can see this process in sharp relief when, following the philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, we classify experts as ?hedgehogs? or ?foxes.? Hedgehogs are big-idea thinkers in love with grand theories: libertarianism, Marxism, environmentalism, etc. Their self-confidence can be infectious. They know how to stoke momentum in an argument by multiplying reasons why they are right and others are wrong.

That wins them media acclaim. But they don?t know when to slam the mental brakes by making concessions to other points of view. They take their theories too seriously. The result: hedgehogs make more mistakes, but they pile up more hits on Google.

Eclectic foxes are better at curbing their ideological enthusiasms. They are comfortable with protracted uncertainty about who is right even in bitter debates, conceding gaps in their knowledge and granting legitimacy to opposing views. They sprinkle their conversations with linguistic qualifiers that limit the reach of their arguments: ?but,? ?however,? ?although.?

Because they avoid over-simplification, foxes make fewer mistakes. Foxes will often agree with hedgehogs up to a point, before complicating things: ?Yes, my colleague is right that the Saudi monarchy is vulnerable, but remember that coups are rare and that the government commands many means of squelching opposition.?

Imagine your job as a media executive depends on expanding your viewing audience. Whom would you pick: an expert who balances conflicting arguments and concludes that the likeliest outcome is more of the same, or an expert who gets viewers on the edge of their seats over radical Islamists seizing control and causing oil prices to soar?

In short, the qualities that make foxes more accurate also make them less popular.
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June 5, 2006


"I can dream I'm a rabbit (Bugs Bunny) but when I wake up, I'm Daffy."

-Chuck Jones

I came across somthing whilst surfing Gizmodo:
Check this out:

Thanks to a missed Giants game back in 2002, a man by the name of Krikorian decided to write video streaming code that would allow him to watch his TV wherever he was at. His famous quote goes something like: ?I?m already paying for my cable at home, why can?t I watch it somewhere else?? This is where the term ?place shifting? was born. VCR?s allowed for ?time shifting? ?record now, watch later. Sling Media invented ?place shifting?.
I tremble with anticipation.

New word: "Place Shifting".


The fever broke.

The time it took to drive over to CompUSA was enough to let me question just how I would use this apparent technological advantage. If we had broadband in Spain (we shut our service down when we left last year... I wish we didn't, but we did) then that would be the clincher. The idea of one entertainment system serving two domiciles is very, very appealing.

We really don't need a TV screen on our laptop at home since we already have two TV sets in the house, a small house as it is already. And I don't need to watch TV at the studio, I prefer radio and podcasting in that realm. Stephanie might be amused by watching our TV/DVR while she is traveling (Asia or the EU), but then she's a road warrior without much time left for amusements.

It looks like I woke up to find myself a little daffy.


But underlying all this is an appreciation for revolution. Usually, talk of revolution in the arts takes us to agitprop; general avant-garde-ness; assertive ideas like appropriation and interrogation; the shaken fist of "speaking truth to power"; Che Guevarra's classic image, a strange sympathy for Fidel or the ability to see Kim Jong Ill as a cute character; and generally ...the Marxist legacy et al.

I think the idea of revolution naturally springs from the continuing emergence of freedom in human history. The role of Marx in describing the transition from Fuedalism to Democracy is undeniable, but the story of freedom's unfolding is bigger than that and it's a drag on our collective thinking to peg our ideas in terms set in the first industrial revolution (I'm holding a mental image of giant rusting steel machinery), while we are now in a third or fourth evolution of this continuously rolling industrial revolution. I mean, isn't it ironic after all, that most of the immerseration in the 20th century came from attempts to accelerate the Marxist storylline? It is as if that we, whose cultural authority comes from the ability to recognise and define irony, have slouched in our hubris to think that we could control irony's turn.

The first inkling of this idea came to me in my first structures class in architecture school: Free Body Diagrams.

One of the most useful aids for solving a statics problem is the free body diagram (FBD). A free body diagram is a graphic, dematerialized, symbolic representation of the body (structure, element or segment of an element) in which all connecting "pieces" have been removed. A FBD is a convenient method to model the structure, structural element, or segment that is under scrutiny. It is a way in which to conceptualize the structure, and its composite elements, so that an analysis may be initialized.
Around about this time, I had an epic encounter with my grandfather on my mother's side of my family, Papang. This is too big of a story to relate in full here, something best rolled out in another future blogpost. But the short story is that one day when I was twentysomething, my grandfather forgave me for being an American, a Yanqui.

It was probably the best gift he ever gave me.

Being a former lawyer and school teacher, he rolled out his thesis in grand style. The gist: it's all about the East versus the West, the society composed of families versus the society composed of individuals. He resented the presence of a Westerner in his family because they/we are as solvent that threatens to dissolve the glue of family. Our very existence is a threat to them. It was at that moment that I knew concretely that I was a Westerner. I realised that that is why the Philippines has so much trouble with graft and governmental corruption. Marcos ferried out billions out of the country because when he came to a position of power, he favored his family (blood and extensions) over the country... because tribalism places family at such a prime value. Most Filipinos understand this at a deep level, they don't blame Marcos for what he did, they would have done the same themselves. Indeed, the guy whom Marcos trusted the most to do the deed, stole most of that money for himself ... and his own family. Successive presidents have not fared much better and the Philippines will be hobbled and lame until the idea of individualism and freedom --and thus, strategies for guarding against tyranny seep deeper into the their mentality.

Free body diagrams. Freedom was born in the West, an amalgam of ancient Greece and the Judeo-Christian legacy (more Judeo than Christian as far as I can tell right now), but it belongs to the world. Freedom in the human condition is the closest thing we can call an absolute value. I had an inkling back then with Papang and structures class that it wasn't just Papang who had a beef with the West, but every other collectivism ...family-centric, tribalistic ...and therefore atavisitic. All that is left is power and the anxiety* to preserve it, to amplify it. Tribalism is constrained by scale, the scale of hunter-gatherer groups (plus or minus a hundred perhaps). Tribalism, when applied to scales of nation states (millions), becomes tyrannical. And every tribe has a chief, a grand papa. And every chief can get a little... bossy.

Free body diagrams. A Chinese beam in a traditional architecture cannot be separated from its' context, I imagine this would be an inconcievable effort. But in the West, we excelled with this. With freedom and individualism, we created nation, and now market states. With freedom and free body diagrams, we created science and technology. First, to send cannon balls, steel delivered precisely on target. In my lifetime -now spanning so long- I remember the reel to reel tape recorder my mother used to learn stenography so she could get a job. (My father didn't like the idea of her independence. Later, after my folks divorced, he advised me to find a woman who was "...barefoot and pregnant...". Bless his soul, he was a prisoner of the past.) My Navy days were a peek into the future with all that Combat Systems stuff. In college, we had to learn computer language and code punch cards. And afterward, devices like answering machines, beepers, fax machines, desktop computing and cell phones accelerated a trend of business offices doing more with less. So an architect can build bigger projects with fewer staff. Behemoth corporate oragnizations became dinosaurs. And now, the internet.

Doing more with less. That's a key idea of our times.

Revolution? I like the world we've built so far. It's a good one and it's getting better. Much of the ideas about radical change and social disruption and attacking the system, the shaking fist "speaking truth to power"... are worse than antiquated, they are fast becoming riduculous. Real revolution comes with every technological innovation. Like the name of the thing that pained the Luddites, each technological turn disrupts established systems of social organization. Like scraping the barnacles off a ship's hull, the job isn't pleasant but the ship travels so much better once it's done. And like barnacles, society tends to encrust layers of hierarchy and social position that would resent change.

A new gadget that might help me do more with less? Bring it on. Time shift? Yea. Place shift? Oh yea.

Bring the real revolution on like thunder.

They just stare at each other a beat as it sinks in.

Pierce Patchett figures in, too.
That's the angle Jack was working.
Dudley must work for Patchett.

Let's just kill them.


For Jack, for Stensland, for
anybody else who got in the way.
I've been trying to be smart. A
detective. But killing those two
fuckers, that would be justice.

Stay smart, Bud. We build a case.
We play by the rules.

There are no rules! Why the fuck
are you doing this? The Nite Owl
made you. You want to tear all
that down.

With a wrecking ball. You want to
help me swing it?

Bud smiles. For a second he likes Exley.

* I remember my promise to write about anxiety in our art world. Please alloe a couple of organic beats so I can wind up for it.

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June 3, 2006



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June 1, 2006

Morning Reading

Scanning the Winds of Change's post from "Calimachus", he flagged this Adam Gopnik's recent New Yorker piece on recent writing on the French Revolution:
"HEADLESS HORSEMAN, The Reign of Terror revisited.

Revisionism in history knows no boundaries Just in the past few years, we have been told that that comet may have glanced right off the dinosaurs, prodding a few toward flight an feathers; that the German blitzkrieg barely meandered across Europe; and that Genghis Khan was actually a sharing and caring and ecumenical leader, Bill Moyers with a mustache and colorful folk costume. So it was inevitable that we would get a revisionist history of the French Reign of Terror?the period from September, 1793, to July, 1794 when the Committee of Public Safety, in Paris invented the modern thought crime, cut off the heads of its enemies, and created the apparatus of the totalitarian state. Since the time of Burke through Carlyle?s history of the French Revolution and, above all, Dickens?s ?Tale o Two Cities,? the imagery of the Terror?of the sansculottes knitting as tumbrels rolled?has been lodged deep in our imagination. ?All perished, all , Friends, enemies, of all parties ages, ranks, Head after head, and never heads enough For those who bade them fall, Wordsworth wrote, in disillusioned horror after it was over; and we see the heads falling still.

Yet our sense of such an iconic moment is bound to be partial?icons are flat. The real question about revisionist history is whether it turns something flat into something three-dimensional or just hangs it on the wall upside down. This revisionist history, now that it has crossed the Atlantic, turns out to be subtler and more interesting than some of the British reviews might have suggested. Written by the academic historian David Andress, the new book is called ?The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France? (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; $26), and the subtitle emphatically semaphores the new position.

...jumping down to...

The Committee of Public Safety? one of the first great Orwellian euphemisms?was formed to bring the massacres under control, or, as it turned out, to centralize, rationalize, and mechanize them. By then, the Convention (the successor of the National Assembly) had turned from its more or less orderly and bourgeois phase into a gathering of radical clans, who met every day in a former church to argue, drink, speechify, and accuse. It was as if S.D.S. had seized power in Washington in 1968 and Mark Rudd, Abbie Hoffman, Jane Fonda, and two or three ambitious renegade generals were all suddenly trying to run the country, while their followers smoked pot and played Jefferson Airplane records, oscillating between a vague, messianic utopianism and a baleful, apocalyptic vengefulness.
The drift toward absolute radicalism was dictated by the circumstances. In an ordinary political meeting, the action is bowl-shaped: everything flows toward the center. In a revolutionary meeting, the terrain is cambered, and everything flows toward the extreme right or the extreme left. Either a general or a fanatic was almost certain to prevail in those circumstances?a man with guns or a man who could hypnotize the men with guns.

The man to emerge was Maximilien Robespierre, who led the drive to decapitate the King, and became the chief magistrate of the Terror. Robespierre?s life is the subject of ?Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution? (Metropolitan; $30), by Ruth Scurr, a youngish scholar who teaches at Cambridge. A more conventional account of the intersection of a single life and time than Andress?s book, ?Fatal Purity? is in its way just as rewarding, because of what Robespierre represents: the ascent of the mass-murdering nerd?a man who, having read a book, resolves to kill all the people who don?t like it as much as he does. There is a case to be made that the real singularity of the Terror was the first appearance on the stage of history of this particular psychological type: not the tight-lipped inquisitor, alight with religious rage, but the small, fastidious intellectual, the man with an idea, the prototype of Lenin listening to his Beethoven as the Cheka begins its purges. In normal times, such men become college professors, or book reviewers or bloggers. It takes special historical circumstances for them to become killers: the removal of a ruling class without its replacement by a credible new one. In the confusion, their ethereal certainties look like the only solid thing to build on.

(Self conscious, self depricatory emphasis mine.)

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