March 31, 2014

Each Direction Without End

Mike Lew plays Yann Tiersen - La Valse d'Amelie

Sometimes I get hooked on a tune, and I search it out in YouTube, looking for all the cover versions performed by a multitude of amateurs. They do it mostly for the love of their art, the amor of the amateur, pure art before it grows into something professional and a contender for history. I've posted some of this in the blog before, tiling little videos into a mosaic, just a fragment of what's out there, a dog ear on infinity. This time, I've resisted the urge. All of the piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, guitar with special finger style arrangement, accordions, piano/guitar/accordion/glockenspiel, flutes, flute and piano, a harp, vocal ensembles, two accordions, two melodicas, a theremin, a music box, even... (I've searched YouTube to level ten and I haven't touched bottom yet) all of these people invested so deeply... the faces, the characters, people training themselves to master an instrument enough to play this tune, as it was in the days before wax and vinyl records when music was disseminated by sheet music and people had to play it themselves on their own instruments at home, each in their particular locales, in their bedrooms, in the nooks and crannies of their lives, one after the other after the other...

Let's let Mike Lew stand in for them all, this time.

When I was a kid, I had a very specific recurring nightmare. Over the years, it would unfold a little at a time. I won't bore you with a complete description, just a couple of fragments will do: I found myself aboard an airplane that held all of the people in the world, full of the specificity of their unique selves, the rows of seats filing into the past and future populations that ever were and ever would be. I saw each of their faces and recognized each of their lives in each direction without end. As a kid, this recognition of infinity would frighten me, horrify me to the core. Was it oblivion? Dissolution? Was it insignificance or was it an overabundance of significance of everyone in the presence of an evidence of G-d?

On more than one occasion, I remember being shaken awake by my dad in the cold shower of the upstairs bathroom, both our pajamas soaked through, and there was my papa with the most eye bulging, irritated look on his face. As the years passed, the dream segued on to equally momentous but evermore tolerable scenes which moderated until I was an 18 year old sailor aboard ship when a final night capped the nocturnal serial. I found myself crossing a foot bridge and stopping at the apex. I looked over the rail into the water and I saw instead all manner of equations flowing without end. Yes, mathematical equations. I felt a flooding sense of peace and understanding, an apprehension of total complete comprehension which I wish I could have retained... but of course it retreated as soon as I had opened my eyes. Of course. Of course.

And that was the end of that.

Posted by Dennis at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2014

Joanne Greenbaum at Rachel Uffner Gallery, LES, NYC


Joanne Greenbaum
March 8 - April 20, 2014

170 Suffolk Street
New York, NY 10002

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March 27, 2014


I listen to audiobooks as much as I can while I paint. There are times to press the pause button and gather my thoughts about the work at hand, sintering a problem or a desire until it coalesces and there are times to divert my attention, sending the problem solving task to the background of my mind to let the solutions or inspirations arise buoyantly from the depths.

I tend to listen to epic books: William Manchester's The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Irving and Jean Stone's Der Theo... the list is too long to scribe here. I'll have to leave that for another blogpost.

I've just finished the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago,. 75 hours and 35 minutes of betrayal, adamantine determination and unflinching testimony. I picked up the book years ago when I was in the Navy, but I couldn't penetrate it then, I didn't have the necessary mental preparation at the time. Now I'm girding my loins for The Red Wheel.

Today, my friend Andrew sent me an email:

by the way, have you seen any of aleksandr sokurov's films? he made the epic 'russian ark' (2002), which was all filmed in a single 90 min. steadycam shot, moving, via the pov of a dead guy, through the hermitage museum, which houses some of the world's greatest classical paintings. i recently saw two other of his films, both also set in the museum, using film to look at paintings. the scene in 'elegy of a voyage' that features bruegel's 'tower of babel' is pretty amazing - the way the camera approaches it in near darkness, then moves inside the painting's frame, where, because of the perceptually invisible camera-frame, the space becomes unbounded - you're inside the picture - then the camera - the pov - slips off the edge revealing the frame again and pulling back into darkness. think of watching someone's dream of wandering around and looking at paintings. sokurov.

And so I found Sokurov's Russian Ark on YouTube, the complete film apparently, so I immediately downloaded it in case it might not be available in the future.

Along the way, I found that Sukurov filmed a documentary on Solzhenitsyn. Kismet!

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March 23, 2014

peek into the future

peek into the future


Posted by Dennis at 10:40 PM | Comments (1)

freedom... exhilaration

freedom... exhilaration


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

A Sailor, not a Marine, not a Seal...

Every so often, I get reports from friends who describe my history in the armed service, saying that I was a marine or a Navy Seal. No, no, no I respond, I was a sailor. I say in half jest: "Think Gene Kelly", so as to shift the reference. I wasn't a special operator, not in the elite special forces, not a combat marine. I was in the post Vietnam Navy, my ship was a cruiser in the South Pacific and the most action I saw was the rescue of Vietnamese diaspora, "boat people" in the South China Sea, and not many boats at that. It was the beginning of the long post war peacetime interregnum and all that my ship did was to run exercises, training and visit ports of call. If you could interpolate Gene Kelly's and Jack Nicholson's portrayals in the videos that bracket this blogpost, you might come pretty close to my experience in the military. The Last Detail captured much of the feel of the environment and characters that I had met along the way: the old salts, the raw naiveté of the new recruits, the crusted system naval bureaucracy. That movie was uncanny in its verisimilitude. The only aspect not captured there is the peek into the future that I and my fellow swabbies were privileged to witness, where computers were connected to radar sensors, where the real world gave birth to a virtual one, where ships, aircraft and satellites shared data streams twenty or thirty years before the public at large did the same thing.

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March 17, 2014



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March 16, 2014


Monad maker.

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March 5, 2014

There are always absolutes

There are always absolutes


Posted by Dennis at 2:54 PM | Comments (0)

Like a Pirate

WOP-1 14-520x500.jpg
Like a Pirate
WOP 1-14

WOP-1 14-853x820.jpg

Posted by Dennis at 2:48 PM | Comments (1)

And through it all, I wonder

And through it all, I wonder


Posted by Dennis at 2:44 PM | Comments (0)

Last Full Measure

Last Full Measure


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March 3, 2014

Like a Pirate


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March 2, 2014

"Where there is freedom, there is happiness."

I've been surfing the web for information and background* on the unfolding crisis in Ukraine and I came across this video. The description from the video:
We spend the early 2014 together with the protesters in Kyiv on the Maidan barricades. During those emotional days we were shooting a film inspired by the „Happy" video by Pharrell Williams.
But can Ukraine say it‚"Happy" today?
What do Ukrainians need to feel happy?

I dug into the comments to get a feel for the spectrum of opinion. I was taken aback by the occasional charges of fascism, then I remembered that this is a civil war, a European/Eurasian civil war that is always formatted by the Fascist/Communist binary. The Western side of Ukraine is aligned with the EU, it is mostly farmland while the East side is industrial and mostly aligned with Russia (by my estimate of the moment is about 20%). The over and under of dislikes to likes on this YouTube video is 4%. These happy people are fascist?

The counter argument to the title of this post (taken from the video (T = 3:06) is that freedom can be scary as hell, the freedom to succeed and be happy is co-joined with the freedom to fail. It's the mediocrity of state sanctioned slavery that creeps me out. But on the whole, I take the prior sentiment to be true... or to sharpen the point, a rewrite: Where there is freedom, there is exhilaration. (Shadows the implicit corollary: Where there is slavery, there is mediocrity.)

One comment stood out to me:
Holodomor? I flip open Wikipedia to get a rundown on Holodomor:

The Holodomor (Ukrainian: Голодомор, "Extermination by hunger" or "Hunger-extermination"; derived from 'Морити голодом', "Killing by Starvation") was a man-made famine in the Ukrainian SSR in 1932 and 1933. During the famine, which is also known as the "Terror-Famine in Ukraine" and "Famine-Genocide in Ukraine", millions of citizens of Ukrainian SSR, the majority of whom were Ukrainians, died of starvation in a peacetime catastrophe unprecedented in the history of Ukraine. Since 2006, the Holodomor has been recognized by Ukraine and several other countries as a genocide of the Ukrainian people. [footnotes eliminated]

Further down into the Wikipedia entry, I came across Kasimir Malevich! I had read his biography before, but recent events have sharpened my desire to visit his bio again.

*UPDATE: HYPERALLERGIC has an excellent roundup of links in their Required Reading

UPDATE 2: This has been an informative briefing from a group I take to be associated with the Maiden movement.

UPDATE 3: More interesting material, a public opinion poll on Crimean perspectives, bracketing 2011-2013.

UPDATE 4: Check this out: the philosopher who is the key to Putin's thinking. Aleksandr Dugin. I found the video riveting. The Fourth Way. Proposed successor to Liberalism, Communism and Fascism. The concept of Dasein (via Hey Digger, aka Heidegger -a shout out to my once fellow architecture professor Stan Berteaud, our inside joke): "the awareness of presence before we are aware of the presence of others"... this is what Dugin would use as a foundation of his "Fourth Way".

In this video, he identifies the failures of Individualism (as found in Liberalism), Class (as found in Communism) and the State or Race (as found in variants of Fascism). Dugin says that in democracy, the majority has been overwhelmed by the minority, although in the video Dugin did not address the modification of democracy by the republic, he also says that Liberalism has been eroded by postmodernism, which demonizes reason as a totalitarian institution. He describes (at T=3:00) the disintegration of Liberalism by postmodernism as like organs of a body freed from control by the brain, a metaphor which is nearly identical by the way, with Leon Krier's critique of modern city planning (see here and here for earlier references to Krier's architectural and city planing ideas).

I've read other references to his theory described as a kind of Monarchic throwback and when Dugin says that all three ideologies (Liberalism, Communism and Fascism) are all rooted and sprung from Modernity and a belief in progress, I tend to suspect the presence of Feudalism and the crown that organized it.

He says as a preemptive defense (at T=4:02) that [the successor of Liberalism, i.e. the Fourth Way] "...are assumed to deliberately mystify the situation in order to attack their arch nemesis, Liberalism". But I wonder if he doth protests too much? As I research, I am wondering: is Dugin's Fourth Way actually is the Third way (Fascism) in sheep's clothing? To base a political theory on one of the most obscure and difficult philosophers, a phenomenologist no less, Martin Heidegger (Hey Digger), to ask the public to embrace the foamy and wispy idea of Dasein and build society with it, is this not redolent of mystification itself? Could this be a softer and subtle form of Fascism?

The suggestion that society should be modeled on the parti of living organisms smells faintly like fascism. Today, most everyone I know use the term Fascism as a general epithet, not understanding what it means. Reading elsewhere among the many definitions of Fascism (links now lost), I was intrigued by a description of Communism as the absorption and elimination of private industry by a government commanded by the working class. In contrast, with Fascism, private industry is conserved, marshaled and yoked to serve the working class... as an organism.. Communism is created with an internationalist intent with an abracadabra of organization and Fascism with a nationalist intent with a single pattern -the physical organization of sentient creatures, a command structure- lifted from the infinite complexity of nature. Both political systems by my eyes are forms of socialism.

UPDATE 5: Why all this concentration on Fascism beyond the breaking international news? The Guggenheim has an exhibition up at the moment (Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe) and Fascism winds all the way up Frank Lloyd Wright's spiral ramp to the top and down again. It's an interesting show. But the hard connection of an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization to art history and aesthetics is the kind of food for thought that's hard to digest.

Fascism is not merely a historical curiosity, it has been on the march recently and all freedom loving people should wake up to this fact and deal with it before it's too late.

Posted by Dennis at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)