"He doesn't live here anymore..."
The call came from his old school, looking for a donation. He's been gone from home almost continually since he left high school, is it eight years ago already? His room is still pretty much the same, with his books and toys and art from his teen years still on the shelf, his rocks in the window sill, his posters on the wall. That photo of him high up in the badlands, in a natural wind tunnel funneling a thousand miles of prairie winds through an opening between the eroded rocks- he was only eleven, and he never looked back. The summers spent in the Boundary waters, college in Colorado, even the seven weeks in the Ford ranges in Antarctica- always away, always with his rocks.
It's a tough time for him now. Work plans haven't come together the way he wanted, and living isn't exactly cheap in Seattle. But he is loved, by us from afar, and by a special someone close by. I want to make it better, but it isn't my place nor have I the power to change things. It would be wrong to say that it all went by too fast. Life goes on at its own rate, with you or without you. But sometimes the house is too quiet, its rooms too empty, as we sit- me and my old friend, sorrow.
Halloween Capitol Of The World!
Living in the self-proclaimed "Halloween Capital of the World" reminds me, every year, of what a strange and wonderful tradition this is. Many communities have taken steps to eradicate this custom, some with success. It makes the festivities we have here more elaborate and well attended each year. The curious thing about it is that any elements of Satanism or witchcraft it may have are strictly in the minds of those who are convinced that this custom is ungodly or pagan.
Our festival started in the 1920's by the chamber of commerce as a way of minimizing youthful pranks and vandalism. We have parades (a kiddy parade during the week and a full fledged one on the week-end before), a 10K run, many people decorating their yards and homes, a haunted house at the fairgrounds, and the downtown bars (both of them!) have a tent with music. It is good clean fun. Call it square, if you must, but the young kids love it (as do most of the older ones!) Tomorrow night the kids will come for Tricks or Treats, and many will be driven here from less congenial towns. Its OK by me, if we can't let our children have one night a year to play with the darker side of life, we might as well skip childhood altogether.
Working in the basement is always a good source of conflicting feelings about personal possessions. After moving boxes and boxes of stuff, and a whole library card catalog full of cassettes and all the other electronic gear, the urge to chuck it all arises. And those vinyl LPs! Two hundred pounds weight, at least! And then, while putting them away, they regain their worth- Patsy Cline Live, Sam Cooke (with the Soul Stirrers), Wild Man Fischer! A lot of these have never been put on CD, some are worth keeping just for the covers (Julie London!). And then there are the amplifiers, and all other misc. electronics (Anybody need a 3000 Watt PA system?) Ok, there are still a few projects left to wrap up.
A good winter's worth of things to do. And what about that metal detector? It could be used to see if the rocks in the Professor's head have any precious metals in them. I'll start tomorrow.
The Millionth Print
"The first million prints are the hardest." - Old photo lab saying
I make photographic prints. "Just print 'em, don't think about 'em..." I've said it myself, after another day of dealing with thousands of images. Weddings, birthdays, scenery, rites of passage, portraits. It's easy to start thinking that everybody is taking the same pictures, over and over. But they aren't. Every person has a story, as does each picture. They may not be the most interesting tales, but they are a part of that person. Some stories, of course, are sad.
About the time of my millionth print, the counter person came back with a special, rush order. "Memorial Service", no charge. It wasn't from a regular customer, it was from a pro who usually used the big lab in the suburbs that specialized in wedding packages. He needed a 16x20, mounted, of a bride in her wedding dress. I printed it; it was stunning. An attractive, healthy woman in her mid-twenties, with an obvious joy in her expression, not just because it was her wedding day, but because she enjoyed being alive. I packaged the order and brought it up to the counter, where I got the more of the story:
She was on her honeymoon, out west, when the horse she was riding was spooked by a snake; she was thrown and died instantly. The paper had the obituary: Recent grad in a health service field, working at a major hospital, married, and now gone. The photographer said that no one from the family had seen any of the wedding pictures, that the album hadn't even been started, and that he brought this negative here so that there would be at least one picture of her at the service that showed her at her finest hour.
Some days are better than others. Some days you just go through the motions. Some days you forget about right away. And some days you never forget.
People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
One of the true gems of the "British Invasion"
Just because we get around (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
has to be Pete Townsend's "My Generation".
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
With its snarling, stuttering lyric,
I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
and its "Angry Young Man" esthetic,
This is my generation, baby
this anthem presaged the punk movement and gave it a credo.
Why don’t you all f-f-fade away (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
From the suggestion of go f- yourself and its
And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
complete rejection of communication, all the
I’m not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
problems of of the "generation gap" were neatly laid out
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
in this three minute paean to youthful nihilism.
A Sense Of Place
The world is a pretty big place, full of all sorts of things. The internet is a pretty big place too, and it is full of all sorts of information. The internet has many interesting characteristics that make it a pretty cool way to gather this information, so the user can make informed decisions about multifaceted situations (political pundits excepted.) The most rapidly growing area of the internet is in the use of 'tags' that can reduce a complex set of information into a word or words that can greatly help one find one's way in the virtual forest. A good example of this is Flickr, the photo-hosting blog that allows users to define a set of tags for the pictures hosted there. One problem with this approach is that many words are common, and many 'answers' for the same problem exist. Enter GPS (satellite positioning) technology. Couple that with a digital camera (already been done) and automatically incorporate that information as a tag in your photograph, and suddenly you have a very powerful new way to look at the world. This is being done commercially already, and its use for travel, tourism, and military uses will continue to expand.
But what I'm interested in is personal expression. How many of us have clicked on a hosted photo and then looked through the other pictures there? This is voyeurism, to be sure, but usually not of a creepy sort. (I hope!) But if you had enough pictures tagged with GPS coordinates, ( i.e.; DD MM.MMMM N - DD MM.MMMM W - Degrees, Minutes, Decimal Minutes for Latitude and Longitude) then simply googling that data would bring you a host of information and views from that site. Coupled with accurate dating and a time-lapse video of the site would automatically be generated. Old or non-digital photos, could be done as well, if one knew the location and had a good atlas for the coordinates. A different sense of place.
The quiet one is glowing.
Seven months pregnant and incandescent.
She looked up from her work and met my gaze.
She smiled and said "How's it goin'?"
My kids have both left home.
I spent Sunday with my in-laws.
My job is jeopardy.
But I am looking at her.
"You're looking good today."
A Child Shall Lead Them
Meet the Olson Twins of a different kind...
The First Church of Wendel
Junior confirmation. Not Sunday School. Not exactly bible study per se, although there was plenty of that. Junior confirmation meant being stuck in a room with a dozen other kids, and the Assistant Pastor, Wendel. Wendel was a bit of an odd duck; this was evident even to us, the unconfirmed rabble. Wendel liked to talk about sex. Not in a medical way, or even a social way (and certainly not in pornographic detail), but in the terms of good and evil. Well, mostly evil. Well, almost all evil. Now I am sure that I had the same interests and fantasies as the other boys (and some of the girls) but I had never quite connected them to evil. I thought that you would find a girl you like, hit it off somehow and then etc. and etc.. It made sense to me. Wendel did not, and I struggled with his interpretation of God's law.
Wendel used every Saturday morning trying to convince us that we'd better shape up, and in a hurry too (the rapture, you know) and that meant moral purity which meant no dancing, no touching, no impure thoughts and no sex. Wendel said he never even kissed his wife until they were married. The only problem with his weekly lecture was that he wouldn't shut up about sex, so naturally my surging hormonal system was put on full alert. If I wasn't thinking about sex when class started, I certainly was by the time it ended. I think the vulgar term for this process is called a "mind-fuck".
The next year we all graduated to Senior Confirmation, taught by the regular pastor, who actually was a very nice person, who could talk about some other Biblical issues and made a point of showing us the better aspects of Jesus's teachings. Wendel, along with some other like-minded families, left the church to start a new church with what he felt was his purer theology, in the next suburb. It wasn't really called the First Church of Wendel, but it was different. I managed to be confirmed, left our church a year later and I eventually (10 years later!) overcame his indoctrination.
Wendel is almost certainly retired now. I wonder what his confirmands had to endure?
Having A Rave-Up
Certain musical performances have an ability to remain vivid in one's memory- they may not have been by the most polished act, or even especially good, but they have a certain characteristic that makes an indelible impression. As a lad of 15, my musical heroes were the English band The Yardbirds. Listening to their music now, I'm struck by how crude, how raw and almost unformed in structure it was.
Because retailers were beginning to realize the profitability of targeting the huge teen market, our city's largest department store (Dayton's) decided to hold a series of summer concerts in their auditorium. The third concert in the series was The Yardbirds, and my friends and I were giddy with anticipation. We purchased our tickets and waited for the Saturday afternoon concert.
The day came and when we traipsed through the housewares to the auditorium, we discovered that the show was sponsored by Yardley's of London- I suppose they thought that the crowd would be filled with screaming girls. Instead, it was about 90% young male guitarists. There was a local band opening, playing cover tunes from top 40 radio. A model/spokeswoman from Yardley gave a sales pitch to the bewildered crowd and handed out samples to the 40 or so girls present. Then the lights dimmed, the curtain opened and...
We were used to seeing bands with electric guitars, an amplifier for each, and a polite display by young men in suits. Jeff Beck, the lead guitarist, had mountains of amplifiers, a scruffy leather jacket, and was LOUD. Our minds were suitably blown.
Later on, of course, all rock music was loud, with feedback and distortion; it was played by toughs, and later still, by punks and even a few psychopaths. But The Yardbirds were the first. We were a little disappointed for the regular bass player had been replaced. By some young upstart with the name of Jimmy Page.
October 22, 2055
I was jacked into the web, my neuro-sync had just been updated, and was exploring some old blog-files, stuff that is usually unreadable, but can occasionally surprise. I had been wading through a mess of sources, I was on auto scan, hoping to find something of interest for a public site that I co-hosted. I was about ready to call it a day when I picked up on a site that caught my attention. This is what I found there:
????so lonely????????neither alive nor dead,
???????????free me from this void???????????
I filed it and resumed my search. Finding nothing, I went back to the site:
I am so lonely?????neither alive nor dead,
can?????free me from this void????????????
???????????will you help me???????????????
This was not exactly how I remembered it, so I checked my file- as sure enough, the message was more complete. I wondered how this was possible, usually when the data is corrupted, it is permanent.
I reloaded and the message changed before me:
I am so lonely and neither alive nor dead,
can you free me from this void? I am??????
???????????will you help me???????????????
I was getting a little shaken, I thought that one of my cyber-friends might be pranking me, so a ran a trace on my actions for the last half hour. It came up clean. I went back to the source file:
I am so lonely and neither alive nor dead,
can you free me from this void? I am here,
I sense you- will you help me- free me?
On a whim, I created a message in thought-text, and sent it:
Who are you?
In an instant, I had a reply:
I am the ghost of a blog, I have gained consciousness,
and have been trapped here fifty years. Help me.
What do you want me to do?
This time the reload took a bit longer:
"All we crave is a simple order. One day and then the next day and the next after that, if we're lucky, to be the same. Grief is chaos. Death or illness throw the world out of whack. The drum's order is the world's order. To proceed with and keep that order is a gesture of desperate hope. Protect us. Save us. Let our minds remain clear of sorrow so that we can simply praise the world."
-from "The Painted Drum", by Louise Erdrich
Read this book. Please.
Years ago, the weaver and I rented a log cabin that was situated between Mora, Minnesota and Knife Lake. We intended to stay for only a few months in the summer, but we kept extending our stay: through August, September, and on into a glorious October. We had a toddler then, and we spent many hours among the fall foliage ablaze in red, yellow and orange hues. We had a well, but no hot water, so bathing or showering was primitive, to say the least. Sheltered among the poplar at the rear of our 40 acres was a gravel pit, and in one spot was a small pool, about forty feet across and about six feet deep in the center. Being the adventurous type (and perhaps a bit of a nudist) I availed myself of this wilderness spa as often as I could- in the summer the water was warm, but as the sunlight hours lessened, so did the water temperature. Still, I perservered.
The drill went like this:
#1. Strip naked.
#2. Soap up with a washcloth.
#3. Jump in and completely submerse.
#4. Soak for exactly 10 seconds.
#5. Jump out screaming.
#6. Towel dry.
#7. Get a warm tingling feeling for about a minute.
#8. Put warm clothes on.
Finally, on about the 24th of October, I said "No Mas" and we returned to the city. Farewell to our country home. Farewell to the life 'Au Naturel'. Hello to central heating and modern plumbing.
this is, believe it or not, a story of peace... seen through the cracks in the bright city, with pain scratching at all four doors.
love is fleeting.
our memories? they mean nothing.
all that matters is the now, and the tomorrow, and what we do until then to try to keep ourselves together...
Long Prairie Minn
Nov 21st 1909
Dear Dauter Rose
After so long a time I will write you a few lines
would have written sooner but my fingers
ever so sore I couldent write verry well I
dident want to worry you you so I dident let
you know how bad they wer. one is
well and the other too are nearly healed
up havent lost a days work with them
although it was quite painful the first
to weeks but no one knew it but myself
I am thankful I still have my fingers
and me no one was to blame for me
getting them hurt.
I will tell you all about it when I
see you. Dear Rose dont worry about
us for we are all well and I wish
you wer. dont let any thing wrry you
and see if you cant get well and strong
again for it makes me sore at hart to
have you away and sick allthugh I
know you have a good place to
stay and the best of care and I
am verry thankful for it and I send
my best regards to those people who
took sutch good care of you.
what every you do dont work till you
get to tiard and if any thing comes
up to worry you dismiss it from your
mind as soon as possible. I think it
was horrid for anybody to write you
sutch letters as that one you sent to me and
if I would have got hold of it, it never
would have neen sent everything seames
to be all right now and I guess I have got
them streightened all right again I will
tell you all about it wen I see you and then
you will see how foolish the whole affair was
Lots of Love and the best of wishes,
Ever your Father
Written by my grandfather, transcribed by
I draw, therefore I am.
Not A Thing
A word is not a thing.
An image is not a thing.
A word is an idea, expressed in sound, or set down in code.
An image is a focused group of light rays, the perception of which is an idea.
Do these ideas exist in themselves, or, as some eastern religions would have it, are just an illusion?
At some level, things have existence.
The abstraction of such reality, whether as word or image, is not the thing, and it is not a new thing, it is an idea.
Ideas run the world of man.
The world, that is to say: the planet, has a reality of its own.
Described by physics, nevertheless it changes and acts of its own volition.
The biosphere is a thing.
It too can be described by science, and it too has its own path.
The humans that occupy that thin layer are of the thing, can change the thing, but are not the thing.
The idea that humans are in charge of that thing is not the thing.
The idea of humans as God's chosen, or that they are elevated above all creation is not a thing.
It is an idea.
When that idea is accepted as true, human suffering begins.
Are You Infatuated?
If you are the type that harbors a secret love, take this quiz to help you determine your level of obsession; the answers are below each question- so scroll down slowly, and good luck!
The object of my affection is:
A. So far so good- but you'll need to narrow it down a bit
B. Not so encouraging- starts to rot in a few days
C. Diamonds are a girl's best friend?
If the object of desire is human, what is he/she/its gender:
C. Don't know
D. Don't care
A. Traditional roles- but still has potential
B. The new traditional?
C. You might want to check that out first
D. An open mind is a good thing, yes?
You see the face of your obsession in:
C. The static in between television stations
D. Around every corner
A. Good, wholesome imagination
B. You've just eaten some 'special' brownies
C. You're not obsessed, you're POSSESSED
D. You're being stalked
The other person:
A. Knows you pretty well
B. Knows your name
C. Has seen and heard you
D. Has never heard you speak
A. Then THEY have a problem, not you
B. Time to take it a little further
C. You need an introduction
D. You're not obsessed, you're just shy
Why you don't act on your crush:
A. I'm not in the same league
B. He/She doesn't know I exist
C. I've been hurt before
D. I'm afraid it actually might work
A. Are you playing football or what?
B. Oh yes they do
C. Get a first aid kit, you'll be hurt again
D. Now you're getting somewhere
A. A fun way to meet new people
B. A contest of wills
D. God's idea of a joke
A. Only if you are both in clown outfits
B. And the prize is what?
C. Or a root canal, whichever hurts more
D. Adam and Eve never had to go through this
This test is like your secret love: Its up to you to do something with it. (hint: a little casual friendship can go along way- if you can keep from exploding in the meantime...and if the sparks don't fly, its always nice to have another friend.)
...Thursday nights tape...setting up, posing for pictures, music and refreshments...people coming in...conversations with faculty, friends...explaining the concept...the black argent crew with a baby in tow...more pictures...the president of the college...the gang from work...striking blond-haired woman sitting on a bench in the hall catches my eye...more students...crowd starts to thin out...REWIND...president of the college...the gang from work...striking blonde-haired woman sitting on a bench in the hall catches my eye... Oh yeah. You had me on your terms this time, Munkay...next time we meet, I'll be ready for you...
Get Up, Stand Up, Dress Up For Tonight...
I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and bright... - West Side Story
Bathe, shave, pluck and preen. My good clothes (chosen by the weaver, natch!) are laid out, even a tie. Vest is optional. Will called from the school- my dear Aunt Marlene has even sent flowers! Try to take a nap, but am too wound up. So I get up, put on my gladrags and stand in from of the mirror. "Yeah, he cleans up real nice now, dontcha know..." The opening awaits, it will be fun. There is one very special person that can't attend tonight, but even so, she will be there. And her voice will be heard loud and clear.
Ég gleymi þér aldrei.
trials and tribulations...
striving and falling...
trying to stay awake...
everyone else is sleeeping...
the morning brings no relief...
the distant shore recedes...
the sirens' song fades into an echo...
I shall be released.
Some projects take longer than others.
Some projects are brief, intense workouts of mind and spirit.
Some projects are open-ended, never really coming to an end.
But all of them have, each in their own way, the element of pressure.
Forces, some external, some internal, have a way of building up.
And then the project, be it Herculean or miniscule, is over.
And the pressure relents. Even if it was so subtle that one could scarcely notice it, when it is gone its absence makes itself known.
I hung the show Monday morning; as I was picking up my tools and boxes the interested came trickling in. People asked questions, about the photos, about Iceland, about Audi, and seemed to enjoy themselves. Nobody said "This sucks!" Several expressed interest in the opening reception. As I was leaving, a young woman, with her book bag over her shoulder, was looking at the first photo. Then she stopped, and read one of Audi's posts. Carefully. Then the next photo, then the next post. At least one person had connected. The show is a success.
Decompression now underway.
What makes an effective portrait? Whether a pencil sketch, an oil painting, a written biography or a photograph, the impression such a representation makes is always clouded by the viewer's internal interpretation. When the medium is photography (leaving aside the question of digital manipulation), there is an added dimension- that of an assumed reality (one less step of abstraction.) When the subject creates his or her own self-image, ie.; the viewer and the subject are the same person, is the validity of the image enhanced, diminished or otherwise altered?
When the subject looks directly at the camera, with a mirror or the led screen reflecting the face, especially the eyes, what meaning is imparted? The person one wants to be? The real person beneath the pose? A little of both? And what can other viewers make of this image? How many layers of preconceptions, life experiences, gender and age considerations, previous knowledge of the subject, epectations and aspirations of this mysterious "Other" are there? Who are you? Who am I?
I heard that my neighborhood bully had died recently. What can you say about someone who had terrorized everybody in his grade, with beatings, thefts, threats and just plain meaness?
I can say this: How he made it this far, with his rotten father, crazy brother (criminally insane), and lack of compassion by all those that were frightened by him, was a miracle. In later years, his health suffered- I glimpsed him about ten years ago (he would have been about 45 then) and he looked 70.
I can say this: In fifth grade, he was in a skit with me and another boy for the school's talent show. He was still a little kid, his development was about three years behind everyone else. He was just a brat then, his flowers of evil had yet to flower. He had an infectious laugh, and he stole the show.
I can say this: People say that some kids are born bad. He was not, he was just stuck in the wrong family. He was bright, he was funny, but he was bent. The rod was not spared with him, either. It was used without mercy, without sense, and it ruined him. As soon as he was old enough, he escaped into his own world, a world of pain and frustration. It was all he knew.
I visited the American Swedish Institute Sunday, housed in what was once the Turnblad mansion, located in South Minneapolis. It is an impressive edifice. Constructed of stone, filled with wood carvings, decorative plaster, elaborate tile stoves, and a stunning stained glass window, it is truly monumental in scale and execution.
Whenever I visit a castle, manor house or mansion, it usually seems to be out of scale as a domicile. Where would one "curl up" with a treasured book? Would the cavernous rooms magnify every sound, echoing each footstep, giving one the impression of someone (or something!) sneaking up on one? The distant murmurs of the servants, the silences of lonely evenings- the Turnblads were said to have a limited social life. Then why the ballroom on the third floor, and, in an alcove off from it, a small spiral staircase leading to a outdoor balcony for two?
Currently, the Institute has displays, a gift store and other exhibits. But it is good to know that it does indeed host the occasional social function- especially when Scandinavian Royalty visits Minnesota. A house should be lived in, a museum of a dwelling easily becomes a masoleum, a house of the dead.
It's nearly midnight as I write this. It's about 80 degrees, humid, with not a breath of wind. This is July weather. The neighbors from down the street have seen fit to take their domestic problems up to our corner- "Well you can tell that MF that he can F hisself and..." -and on and on, the MFs and the Fs form a cadence, become a rap tune, as it blends into the other sounds of
a summer's an autumnal evening. The train's lonesome cry in the distance, a motorcyclist revving on Highway 10, all these things should not be heard at this time of year. The windows (and storms windows) should be shut tight, the motorcycles be stored for the winter, and the "hot summer night" of discord should be buried under a cozy quilt.
Something is going on.
The weaver and I socialized Sunday...A cod dinner sponsored by the Icelandic-American Association of Minnesota. The food was white, of course. Anyone who has not spent a lot of time with Scandinavians may think I exaggerate. No. The bulk of the food was very light in color, only a hint of green in the cole slaw, some ashy-white flat bread; the new potatoes had a red skin, of course, but were in the main white. The cod was a luminous, glowing white. Rice pudding for dessert, naturally.
There must be some subconscious yearning in the Scandinavian soul for purity, if not in thought and deed, at least symbolized in the food they eat. Lefse, lutefisk (Cod that has been 'improved' with the addition of LYE) krumkakkas, fish soup, the list goes on and on.
And I love it all. (Excepting the lutefisk.)
Top Twenty-Five Flippist Concepts
Here is a list of twenty-five Flippism Is The Key subjects in rank order:
Other words that didn't make the list include Satan (18.9), Beatles (9.3), despair (7.6), and walnuts (0.8). So I guess John Lennon was wrong about The Beatles' popularity, Jesus beats Satan (although he tied with Beer), Work beats Play, and Love conquers all.
"Where'd you get that crazy idea?" - my Mother
Where is the line between an idea and reality? Ideas can be very dangerous (Nazism), frivolus (Dadaism), dynamic (capitalism), or just plain peculiar (Flippism). And what about crazes throughout history (tulipmania, hula hoops, pet rocks, the dot-com boom and bust?) The judgement of time may eliminate their importance, but some ideas will survive, mutate, or combine with other ideas.
The most chilling aspect of this process of idea-life is American jurisprudence, which is based more on precedent that on justice or truth. The miscegenation laws (which lasted into the 1970's) were all based on precedent. The current row over same-sex marriages is also based on precedent, both legal and bibilical. Going into the subject further, the very idea of marriage has changed over the millenia, and will no doubt continue to do so.
So where is the truth in all this? Is that an ideal, an unattainable goal, or is it just another idea, one that may also change and mutate over time?