Sunday, December 31, 2006

Big Freaking Truck

Big freaking TruckFor something like 8 months of the past year, a good half of my traffic came from people looking for a "big truck" on Google France and Google Mozambique and Google all over the freaking world... So here it is again. I tried deleting the picture, and then the whole post and still they come. Oh well, hope to see all you big truck fans again in 2007. As a gesture of good will, Big Truck Salvage is here. Big-Big-Truck is here. There is a picture of a Gigantic Truck here. And an Enormous Truck here. But sadly, I cannot find a truck of my friend Serioshka's description, the mythical Ginormous Truck (that's /jai-NOR-mus/). Scratch that. Actually, a quick search lead me to this, the Ginormous Truck.

Anyway - happy whatever.

Friday, December 29, 2006

"See, land, that we were most wasteful."

Look at those who lead us. Not at all of them, of course, but all too many of them. Look at the way they act—terrified, suspicious, sweaty, legalistic, deceptive. It's ridiculous to even hope that the Law will come forth from them, that they can produce a vision, or even an original, truly creative, bold, momentous idea. When was the last time that the Prime Minister suggested or made a move that could open a single new horizon for Israelis? A better future? When did he take a social, cultural, or ethical initiative, rather than just react frantically to the actions of others? [...]

From where I stand at this moment, I request, call out to all those listening —to young people who came back from the war, who know that they are the ones who will have to pay the price of the next war; to Jewish and Arab citizens; to the people of the right and the people of the left: stop for a moment. Look over the edge of the abyss, and consider how close we are to losing what we have created here. Ask yourselves if the time has not arrived for us to come to our senses, to break out of our paralysis, to demand for ourselves, finally, the lives that we deserve to live.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

the lesser evil

These sentiments could become strong enough to incite citizens on both sides of the border to reinvent democracy in North America.

This is not an ideal scenario, in my opinion.

But American upheaval, characterized by class struggles, a declining standard of living and urban violence, could cause several regions in North America to choose the lesser evil in terms of solutions.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

egoism - altruism

Mexico City street scenei thought i would take a stab at answering Gusky's very thoughtfully posted question:

Some have replied that ego is the drive to make one's mark in the world. I suppose that's another side of ego, the side related more to a will to power and self-assertion.

The questions that this drive raises are, "What kind of mark, and where, and why?"

I'd think that the artist whose need to leave a mark on the world is the dominant drive should be asking him/herself the more basic question of why it's the dominant drive. What inner need does this drive to leave marks in the world satisfy?
Conveniently, another post cropped up, Alain's really fascinating presentation/ discussion at Long Sunday of the David Graeber article in Harper's which I've not read. Now I can't blame Gusky for leaving out the Altruism side of things, as I'd never thought of it either. I would probably approach ego from the sort of clinical perspective of western psychology myself. Graeber's approach, seems to suggest that both Ego and Altruism arise simultaneously as a product of market economy. To clip Alain's quote of Graeber:
In the ancient world, for example, it is generally in the times and places that one sees the emergence of money and markets that one also sees the rise of world religions - Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. If one sets aside a space and says, "Here you shall think only about acquiring material things for yourself," then it is hardly surprising that before long someone else will set aside a countervailing space and declare, in effect: "Yes, but here we must contemplate the fact that the self, and material things, are ultimately unimportant." It was these latter institutions, of course, that first developed our modern notions of charity.
Pretty fascinating really. At least I thought so. Graeber goes on to critique the role of these two factors, egoism and altruism, in a discussion of left versus right politics arguing that the right has established a monopoly on both ego and altruism, Value and Values. And for this, Alain's discussion is quite good, the left will flail helplessly forever unless it can take hold of one. Frighteningly, I have to clip from Alain's quoting of Graeber once more:
why do working-class kids join the army anyway? Because, like any teenager, they want to escape the world of tedious work and meaningless consumerism, to live a life of adventure and camaraderie in which they believe they are doing something genuinely noble. They join the army because they want to be like you.
Of course, we have heard this argument raised before... (someone leave a comment telling me where was that bit about working class kids becoming artists because it is higher status than they could otherwise achieve,) and I don't believe it is anything but on the mark. As Gusky wants to know, what inner drive does this mark-making want to satisfy? Is it just, again, escaping tedium and consumerism? I fear often enough it is. Here of course I could predictably go off on my usual rant about higher education, elitist institutions and the right-wing. (Please, close Yale already.) But I will spare you.

I think I am probably on the same page as Gusky, in wanting more art and less ego, more art where the artist is transparent. Where an artist is conducting the fluid motion of meaning through elements and into the waiting ~mind~ of the recipient, and where the recipient is understood broadly to include the artist and the environment also. All of us are participants in that environment, and we understand art to be a kind of play that we do to increase our understanding of ourselves in our environment. It isn't altruism after all. I suspect Gusky will agree.

Doing what we do is just more work and that work, like any work, fails when it serves the ego. Take a look at Donald Trump or Michael Jackson, two pathetic IQ-around-50 imbeciles whose attempts to successfully conquer their own miserly egos has resulted mostly in continued and spectacular failure. Do I need to mention the so-called leader of the free-world ?

In reflecting on Gusky's original question, I think it helps to point out that the ego is a construct successfully engineered for the western mind and one which has out-shown the utility of western economic thinking. We've created a world in which genius cannot lead because the entire apparatus of communication is arrayed against that shining historical ego. What we have now is the marketed personality judged only by its sale-ability and hence the goons of the New York gallery scene, hence the goons of MSNBC, hence the GOP. Ego-less art will be decidedly emasculated and profoundly personal, almost limp to those still carrying egos. But don't confuse its veracity by judging it with the Western Ego. It will have no borders and it won't carry well in glossy magazines.

It will probably sell. Just not enough to impress.

Friday, December 22, 2006

second letter to an art friend

robotsDude - the other night i was stuck with a bunch of the most milque-toast miniature art stars that Mexico has to offer, all of them spoke perfect English and had one foot in some kind of success... success meaning they get to act like people who go to parties with Paris Hilton, or success meaning now they can afford flat screen televisions, or success meaning that although their lives are still plagued by the same problems as everyone else, they get to project those problems onto the larger world in the form of their disjointed, disfunctional and frankly ugly art. There is plenty of ugly art to go around. And it comes from ugly people trying to further distance them selves from all of the ugliness in the world so they can be above it, or so that they don't have to be losers, while the rest of the world, especially the losers are just that--losers.

Art is one thing in the whole world that nobody ever has to be a loser at and in which nothing is competitive. It is like trying to regulate healthcare in a market economy. It has nothing to do with competing to be better or to succeed. Market economies fail, and they fail spectacularly when they try to apply their stupid "rules" to non-economic spheres of life, like health and art.

The reason I am saying this to you is that I can see you have a far greater understanding of the role and capability of art than many people at your level. I ask you to trust that and though it is probably a load of shit, you just might come out on top after some time struggling. Don't look at it as emotional distance, just as emotional acceptance. You need those things, you need emotional involvement, you just don't need judgement. You don't need to regret having emotions, but you need to see that the emotions are real and useful, and that ultimately they are yours to use. Emotions are not your master, but you are theirs.

I remember I used to sneer at what my instructors told me: to try to paint with "feeling," as if I had no choice, and so I spent most of my time trying to paint without it. But now, when I look at all my struggle to escape or conquer "feeling" it seems most of what I did was judge what I should or should not feel, and that act makes mountains out of our most basic and natural responses to the situations that confront us. Of course you felt bad and resentful and worse. You did and you will again. And in the course of those many emotions over a lifetime, one ends up seeing that they were the richest part, or that they allowed us inroads into parts of thinking and understanding that otherwise are just part of ourselves that we take for granted as silent and unreachable.

Our dialogue is with nature, and with forces that will destroy us if we don't keep talking. I can understand artforum magazine, but I can't understand what a line in the dirt means. I have to try. Some rocks. Some branches. I was walking under a palm tree in a mediocre rain when some great branch came crashing down, literally spiraling like a snake. And I can't say that it was an epic event like something that happened to Antigone. Yet in jumping and laughing at myself for my startled outburst, I couldn't help but think in the black recesses of those sun-baked palm leaves, and the twisting curl of that terrible branch, there wasn't just as much tragedy as one could wish for. I put the tragedy into the branch and compare it to a snake. But there is always a bit more, an excess of meaning. You put your problems on paper, and I see not only paper and problems, but you and nature, and that should make us think of great waves crashing. Like a rhythm of understanding always, in its approach and subsequent recession, hoping we will grasp that it is not aggression and passivity, but a balanced understanding of both. We have to be like nature, both aware and completely unaffected, not unaffected emotionally, but without judgement. Sounds so eastern, but somethings always do.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Cheers to Lenin's Tomb for an admirable, if not outright magnificent rant On decent internationalism. And to Latina Lista, whose blog should be read in every corner. I've no idea how they came to the conclusion that Castro was somehow worse than they are. Killing, torturing, imprisoning untold tens and hundreds of thousands is just bad where ever you are doing it.

letter to an art friend

saint somebody getting crucifiedYou realized, I hope, in some past correspondence, that while I wish you well, I care not a whit about the details and soul-plundering. Unfortunately, for people like us, and i think, for all great artists, our chore is to wring out the worst in us so that in the end, we are clear open sources for new information to move through. Our challenge is to understand that we don't control the filters in which get bottled up our emotional crises and our failings, but we have to sympathize with ourselves for having such filters, even as we examine the detritus that so confounds them. That is to say, you call them exorcisms as if you are casting demons out, and I am saying, look at those demons. Take what pity you can, but more important, respect that you are in a position to be enjoying the company of demons. In fact you see then they were never so threatening as was the act of containing them. I have a distinct love for alcoholics and even junkies, and i try to model my practice after theirs, though I hope mine is not so self-destructive. In the end, I fear my fix is equally un-attainable.

I suspect yours is also, but then lets not look at it as an exorcism but just as what we do. I applaud the almost total lack of formalism in the work you showed. How about something just wetter, with a bit less precision, showing the same things, tackling the same issues. There are a thousand places to go and still your demons will accompany you. But please, get your hands dirty. This isn't insurance we're doing.

Good Luck and Good Work,

oy, so much mexican politics to grapple with

I don't think I can out-do the Unapologetic Mexican in praising the Gustavo Esteva piece published at Znet a few days ago.

Out of respect, I try to keep my nose out of most Mexican politics, especially when I hardly understand a lot of it. But I will say, I have longed to understand the "Other Campaign" as much as I have longed to understand the PRD. I don't wear a lot of indigenous gear, and I don't own anything emblazoned with Che's face. But it is tough to know where to stand and when to keep one's mouth shut. I generally just keep my mouth shut, particularly on matters Marcos related. But that is not to say I have not hungered for some bridge to understanding.

Use TUM's piece as an intro to Esteva's extended piece (Esteva is quite long). I don't expect everyone will be donning ski-masks tomorrow, but Esteva's article is far more enlightening than anything I've seen previously. Closing with just one good taste:

The communities seem to be unable to confront the immense economic and political forces that continuously attack them, the large transnational corporations and a State that is increasingly at the service of capital. Nonetheless, broad coalitions of the discontented continue to extend themselves in their slow accumulation of forces. They can see in the distance the conditions under which they undertake the political inversion of economic domination, of the structures of capital. Without losing a sense of reality, that is, without denying the real risks in the situation, we should not allow ourselves to be blinded by the fireworks of the constituted powers, national and international, including the "superpower" that finally accepts itself as empire. In the final agonies of a regime, the last remaining forces are used to impress the subjects, to make them believe that it still is what it was before. Though it is possible to destroy and intimidate with the armies and the police, it is not possible to govern with force … unless the people allow fear to paralyze their hearts and minds.
I knew I liked these people.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


View from Oceania Metro stationthis is a pic I took from Oceania Metro Station, view looking south across the east edges of the city. Happily, days have gotten more sunny.

our lady

Our lady at museo de los intervencionesjust a photo i took at a museum once, i thought it might liven the place up a little bit.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

mexico, youth, youngness

Oceania metro station Mexico CityI remember confusing someone not so long ago by saying that "Mexico is a very young country." I had to clarify this by saying that, in fact, Mexico is a very old country but with a terrific number of very young people.

It is very possible to ride these trains, as I have been doing lately, and find oneself, in one's late 30s, quite the senior among a swarm of 20, 25 and 30 year old people all hustling to get to some jobs or some schools and the minority of people over 50 are quick to claim the seats. Such is the etiquette of Mexico City's metro system.

I don't mind standing a bit. But it is tough getting an answer from 20-somethings to my questions "How is it to be in a such a huge majority? Such a big part in a megalopolis that dwarves so many of the cities of the world?"

I may as well be asking "what does your face look like?" for I talk to plenty of people in their twenties and they seem as often as not oblivious to their position. Or maybe it is that their position in such a huge majority does not confer in them any radical impulse to dominate or lord their numbers over their city the way one might expect if the kids over-ran the high school. It isn't timidness and it isn't a lack of awareness.

I find an astonishing unwillingness to "grab the tiger by the tail" as Porfiro Diaz would have had it, that seems born as much from respect for neighbors in that terrific European sense, as it is from any lack of initiative or reluctance to act. Mexico is very much aware of its place in the world and of its future. Thank god with so many, are so many good.

Oceania metro station Mexico City

Monday, December 18, 2006

among my favorite pics

among my favorite websites, urban ruins in Japan.

in san miguel chapultepec

i've been thinking a lot since yesterday's post that perhaps it is not enough to know a place, but that a place must know you.

what inspired this was in thinking of the success that right has achieved in rehabilitating the legacy of their vaunted war-criminal hero, Ronald Reagan. I believe part of the way they have achieved this has been through demolishing the history of the united states, in such a way that places, with all of their associated memories, their public tributes fall away, along with a thinking public. With the buildings goes the public.

It is impossible to live long in a country with a public before one starts to realize that one has a role. Of course, i have written about this before, but one starts to realize that that role is often in reaction to, or in accordance with, ones surroundings and their particular histories. I can't tell you the number of times I have been lectured on the significance of certain places and sites and building and streets in Mexico and Mexico City. These aren't lectures to make me worship a given dead general or president, but are lectures to instill in me a sense of my role.

There are few places in history where conservatives have been right about anything. Where they are, as in the case of Ronald Reagan, you will almost always find seriosu white-washing of facts and a softening of the murders that accompanied the movement. Paving the way for the outrages in the United States, is a successfully defeated and a-historical public, a public that can not exist because it has been marketed into complete acquiescence. What is left but buildings, trees, streets ? They will remember so it will serve us well to pay attention to them.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

blogging, my downfall

many longtime readers here, well, both of them anyway, realize that the problems with my blog started with the switch to Blogger Beta, from which i have never fully recovered.

It did cause me to think, at some time, that I would migrate the whole speaking of ashes archive over to WordPress, but, yes, you guessed it, one can't do that with a Beta Blogger blog.

I will say that I have reluctantly and begrudgingly gotten speaking of ashes to more or less load correctly in Mozilla and now i have found that it sometimes loads incorrectly on Internet Explorer. I don't know why people are using that mess of a program, I suspect most of them are in offices with nasty tech departments determined to keep everyone's hands tied, but alas they are out there.

May I then highly recommend the IE Tab add-on from the indefatigable PCMan (Hong Jen Yee), with a note that I have no idea what he is doing in this picture. IE Tab allows you to have pages rendered by Internet Explorer in a Mozilla Tab so you can get a pretty strong idea what the lonely IE user is actually seeing. With that said, I'd like to ask if there are any IE users out there who are still seeing my side-bar loading on the bottom of the page ? ? ? If you are there, please complain to me directly, and I will continue pondering the problem.

And without linking to the ridiculous Time magazine piece, I do congratulate all of you for now sharing this tremendous honor with the likes of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ronald Reagan, true heroes of the past. It is great getting an award from the people we are all working against, without the morons even realizing it.

Friday, December 15, 2006


sometimes mexico is like an old woman, dressed up in the clothes of a boy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

what ?

What does one even do with a story like this ? It is waiting for the Simpson's episode to be written.

If I had the world's longest arms, I too would use them to save dolphins. And for scooping up all the Chinese and Mongolian babies and hugging them all at the same time.

the yahoo eternity

Anyone else staring at this idiot while waiting to log in and delete your tens of thousands of spam messages ?

Wonder what would happen if I clicked on that "Trouble logging in ?" Could I get that bald guy who Yahoozled his big hair to come back and kick this little beta bastard's ass ?


I hear a lot of my colleagues talking about what it means for an art-work to be
"conceptually coherent." Ten years ago i had a pretty good idea what this meant. I understood that work done in physics had proven that the observer did necessarily affect what s/he was observing and that no more would the straight objectivity, so-called, of the hard sciences be employed so far afield from the hard sciences.

Anthropology had ceased it's humiliating flirtation with literary arts and settled for the lesser role as a branch of hominid sciences. Fair enough, and not so humble after all.

And social sciences in the broader sense became all various branches of statistical analysis, though with much needed artful interpretation, anything too artful receiving a stern reprimand, as it should. The exception perhaps is economics, the much lawded "hardest of the soft sciences," where the Chicago school of fictional economics still reins supreme, and the results are obvious to anyone who can see with an artless eye. (45 million American citizens in artless, hopeless poverty is a successful economy, now that's art.)

But I'm talking about concept. In lieu of such a fascinating discovery, that objectivity is impossible. That observation is participation, that describing is creating, that ascribing is affecting is part of telling, one would have expected the arts to carreen off in happy, literary descriptions and re-descriptions. Every description should be understood as another self description and that the joy of painting is in what it makes of us. How the experience of a line changes not merely our miserly conception of a line, but like in literature, it affects our very thinking of another un-related and distant line. To connect these two dots, and to form a line, we are simultaneously connecting other dots of which we've no knowledge, no experience. And the physical act of painting them does also connect these dots, synapses if you like, as does, more weakly, the act of viewing.

I believe most of my colleagues consider "concept" to be something like a written statement which accompanies an art-work, much as an article accompanies a social-scientists graphs and charts. This is so bewildering and boring it makes me want to puke my lunch out. Doing statistical science requires looking at statistics, and then drawing conclusions. The expression of those conclusions requires a literary vehicle and one that is fine tuned and accurate. But it doesn't require testing the limits of what a literary vehicle can do, how we use it, how we change ourselves through using it.

Literature does that. As does any of the creative arts. To do some experimental thing, action, creation of an object or situation and then explain it through "concept" is to put the cart before the horse. In most cases, conceptual artists express and explain some sort of pseudo-experiment, or situation, or creation, through a literary vehicle. Why don't writers do this I wonder ?

Can you imagine a novelist offering up a concept to explain his novel ?

Painters and sculptors need to demolish the "conceptual" in art and move closer to writers, understanding all various media in the terms of linguistic elements, syntax, grammar, connotation. Conceptual artists need to stop mucking things up and study science if that is what they want to do. There really is not a lot of middle ground.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pantitlan, again

Let's look at another obsession. This time, "stationary things that appear to be moving." I'm not talking about op-art, but the better example is the "streamlined" pencil sharpener of 1930s fame, just about anything art deco or moderne is a good example too.

Pantitlan's dynamism comes from the site's total lack of foundational groundedness. There is hardly a place where you can figure out how it rests on the ground.

The depiction of movement through stationary means is always dependent on line, the second dimension. Even if we are talking about pixelation or pointilism, we need to connect the dots with lines, or no movement happens, no sense is made.

Pantitlan is a cascade of lines, most of them stationary, the exception being the orange lines of the train cars that connect the site with dozens of other lesser sites. The rest is utility, edges, rails, platforms, loading docks and queues.

Often I see these buses waiting. To call what they do "waiting" is similar to calling a line "moving." It was my eye moving and not any line, and it is me passing a bus doing nothing that causes me to think a bus is waiting.

In the same way that I anthropomorphize buses, I give Pantitlan movement that is not there, movement being like spirit, a quality that wasn't there before.

I can and can't do lot's of things. I can't insist that everyone see movement in lines and interpret it as spirit, and I can't imagine that my naming something made of concrete will imbue that distant, cold concrete with life.

I can't imagine that the rat's nest machine gun turrets still embedded along parts of the Long Island waterfront are imbued with life or with history, nothing happened there. No political fate was decided by concrete that never shot back. 1946 came and went and no one looked through the concrete partition for German airplanes and no one wished there to be home at long last.

I've thought in the past that buses are among the most un-loved of humankind's creations. I was tormented by a yellow one when I was a child, it's sinister lights flashing a yellow macabre as it approached the edge of my childhood yard. And many of those you see here are driven by teenagers, crammed with greasey fingered passengers, and they belch smoke and barrel through intersections sending pedestrians scurrying. And who am I to say that they are waiting or hurrying, when it is only the people, saying this or that, that humanizes them, making the second dimension seem like the 4th or the 5th.

Pantitlan, revisited

here is a decent google earth image that gives you an idea of the site. Pantitlan is the monster of the Mexico City subway system. It is more like 4 subway stations and 12 bus stations crammed together with hardly a thought to design, or maybe just with a crew of architectural designers coming in, one after the other and never a master-plan.

Maybe part of what fascinates me with the place goes back to my longstanding fascination with abandoned places. Pantitlan feels abandoned even as 100s of thousands of commuters move through it every day.

It is so big that much of Pantitlan lies in a seemingly necessary neglect. There are places that should be welcoming commuters, pedestrians, travelers, and yet they stand empty, often with a layer of garbage, and just as often standing empty, seemingly smiling at no one.

And here again, monumental praise to collective action, "public fulfillment," ignored, trod upon by shoes in their millions hurrying just to get out. Triumphalism blares but no one is listening. The roar of traffic is too great to allow even this momentary victory. Against the the clamor of civilization the notion of idealism stands not a chance.

Pantitlan always has too many directions to look. She is bewildered by perspectives and pierced by thousands of cement hooks. When you try to find her angle, you will see that she is shifting, a highway in her belly is belching people. All of them are dressed to get out of here as soon as possible, and many of them will stay all day ignoring Pantitlan.

... and so what is one to do? Ignore harder? When I go to Pantitlan, I stare as if at a collossal carnival of concrete and necessity, a train-wreck in the valley of the ignored. It is people eeking out existence and those perfectly comfortable in an existence that denies itself. I think all of them have internalized a blindness toward Pantitlan. It is a resentment and a resignation but it is in the face of an enormity of potential, a chaos of possible outcomes buried in the mad design of a thousand bureaucrats.

Monday, December 11, 2006


These are some pics from tonight's escapades at Pantitlan, the world's most fabulous metro stop.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

on the utter stupidity of every Republican you know

And yes, partly just because I wanted to use this foto, but Digby's post really got me thinking. The truly wild part is, that any Republican who thought they could trust these people, is being left behind. I seriously doubt that any of the people blogging on the filthy right of the blogosphere even makes more than $100K per year, and none of them, not one of them will see any benefit from all of the contorted and dismal acrobatics they have had to construe. All of the hateful lies they have pumped out over the last few years have served to diminish and degrade their beloved country and the freak family above will walk away with millions, maybe billions. Rumsfeld walked away worth 199 MILLION DOLLARS. And I know sucker lawyers making 60 or 70K who think that some how this was justified. That he eeeeeaaarrrnned the money. In fact, I bet those sucker lawyers think they themselves are in the top quintile too. They're not. And they won't benefit. The true movement conservatives walked away with the money, and the "conservatives" stuck with the rest of us in a liberal democratic republic got nothing. Take a look at that picture. What the fuck century is that ?

Monday, December 04, 2006

GOP Predecessors

According to this article, GOP predecessors likely came from Spain, uh, a bit before Franco's regime.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

in another life...

in another life i am now a professional blogger, which means i get paid to research inane topics, write about them and read at least some blogs about blogs. I sometimes write about things that i have never done nor do I ever have any intention of doing, like swimming with dolphins and it occurred to me that maybe I could pass some of these new found skills at blather back here and have it kick this blog back into shape.

Then I think, eh, speaking of ashes was always being resurrected from something else. It never wanted to be original, just burned over. I remember once, when I was a kid we put wood-ash down with the potato sprouts and in a few months we pulled out huge potatoes the size of footballs. I don't remember those potatoes tasting particularly good, but they were something. So, speaking of ashes is today re-dedicated; the burned-over, the seared, the charred, the unrecognizable. I remember the Great Brain once got a cinder in his eye on the train to Salt Lake City. May that serve as a warning to us all.

Friday, November 17, 2006


For whatever reason, I started thinking about why I titled this series "Witnesses," ("Testigos" in Spanish.) It led me to believe that there is a pathology to power, that we come to a certain disdain for those we victimize. We deplore the fact that they witness our aggression, that they survive with their innocence intact. I believe we grow to hate the people we victimize because they hold the power, be it of forgiveness, or merely
of being victims --of gaining sympathy when we should have none, and this leads us further into the mire of the aggression we've created.

I get a lot of shit because these are Jews and I'm in a Catholic country, that the holocaust is to grave and deep a subject, that I'm too Catholic myself to begin with. It seems a little odd to say I'm proud to be on a path to understanding something this monumental in human history, but I think I am. I thought also, once, of titling this series, Stripes, and I think about stripes sometimes too. In fact quite a lot. And as I take up my new series, perhaps it is the stripe of power that emblazons as much our misery as our victory.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

MFA faculties understood at last

That's because they believe in nothing. They have no passion about anything. And they thus assume that everyone else suffers from the same emptiness of character and ossified cynicism that plagues them. And all of their punditry and analysis and political strategizing flows from this corrupt root.

Not only do they believe in nothing, they think that a Belief in Nothing is a mark of sophistication and wisdom. Those who believe in things too muchexcept for deeply held political beliefs -- the only part that really matters or that has any real worth. -- who display political passion or who take their convictions and ideals seriously (Feingold, Howard Dean) -- are either naive or, worse, are the crazy, irrational, loudmouth masses and radicals who disrupt the elevated, measured world of the high-level, dispassionate Beltway sophisticates (James Carville, David Broder, Fred Hiatt). They are interested in, even obsessed with, every aspect of the political process except for deeply held political beliefs -- the only part that really matters or that has any real worth.
Oh darn, Glenn Greenwald was talking about Beltway Insiders not insitutional artists, how could i make that mistake ?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

on having utterly nothing to say

I remember an editor I once worked for responded to an interview request with the simple words, "I really have nothing to say." I suppose that sums up my attitude toward blogging lately.

I have thoughts about which I care very little, and some others that manifest themselves in fotos like the one below. A thought about robots. I get depressed when I think about art blogging because really, what needs to be said. A lot of people I know are going to Venice and Germany next summer for all that art, and I am just like, "didn't they just do that stupid thing?" But I am not depressed, just busy. New art coming soon. GOOD ART.

at the north bus station, 2

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

morning in santa maria

liberalism gone completely out of control

from Mother Jones:

In the early 1980s the government of New Zealand fell into the hands of true believers, globalist believers, and they embraced the theory of inevitability perhaps more completely than anybody else. And it solved in the very short term some of their debt problems, but in the medium- and long-term it left them in real economic trouble. One of the things they did was sell of everything they could, mainly internationally, and they got a one-time import of capital, followed by a yearly drain, because they had to send all the royalties out every year. So they had youth leaving in droves, a drain of money, high unemployment and so on. And then in 1999 they made the choice to turn their backs on globalism, which didn't mean to become protectionist, but did mean to put social policy in the center, and economics at the outer rim, and to be much more balanced in their approach. And now they've got their unemployment way down; they've renationalized some things, including their airlines, they've started up a very interesting national small-loans bank, and they've got pretty good growth. Also, the government that came to power 1999 and has enacted this program has just been reelected to a third term.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

oceania, last night

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sunday, October 22, 2006

There is a relationship between memory and freedom

I used to tell people that I wouldn't read art theory, that literary theory and literary thinkers were always light-years ahead of people still fumbling around with this crap they call "concepts," and "conceptualism." I am not sure I feel much different about it now.

I've had OE (a literary blog) on my aggregator list for a long time cause they publish some relatively obscure Polish writers and such. Fun but not always relevant, really, to what I like to think about. There are probably too many writers' blogs to keep on top of, but I like to touch base with a few from time to time.

Jean Mackin's Essay about "What Fiction Asks Us To Remember" is just the sort of actual thinking that I try to encourage artists around me to do. It would probably get you laughed out of Yale's MFA program, but it is a lot more relevent to me than anything that has passed for thinking coming out of those lofty places.

"Perhaps historical fiction keeps our memories malleable by constantly recreating and adding to those memories; perhaps there is a connection between fiction, memory and freedom." Perhaps painting keeps our memories malleable. Perhaps there is a connection between painting and freedom... and memory?

[...] who’s to say that an artificial memory is less meaningful than mundane ones? De La Mettrie argues that memories become encoded in neurons and have physical properties, so why can’t the memories acquired in a reading of fiction matter as much as the memory of today’s first cup of coffee and who poured it for you? Read, and remember. Is it possible to also understand something from what is given us by the memories in fiction?
I'd say yes. And it is a lot more interesting a question than I hear being posed by "concepts." Honestly, whatever that even is nowadays, I have so long ago lost interest, but it is nice to ponder that painting today deals in real truth. In possible valid truths that are otherwise un-reachable, painting is reaching for possibilities. Without going too rabid on conceptualism, I think that the thinking being done in those kinds of conversations is simply not doing that. I think at times I get perceived as being some sort of history fanatic. Maybe that is not far from the truth, but I am not sure what else to call the subject matter of what we are and where we came from and who are we today, but history. And history, as a literary art, has an advantage that art-making, art practice, art thinking maybe doesn't anymore. We used to be able to say that history was based in "fact," and that those writing history had a tremendous power. I wonder if we've ceded that power. Certainly in Fine Arts, that power is long gone.

Image is R Szeto, Jumping Rope in Winter, 1999. Oil on canvas, 58.25 x 73 in. Hosted at

Thursday, October 19, 2006

perfect safety

Nice things from Glenn Greenwald today.

But nobody thinks we're "perfectly safe." Nothing in life is "perfectly safe." Perfect safety is an illusion, something that is wasteful to pursue, and when pursued to the exclusion of all else, creates a tragically worthless, paralyzed way of life. On a political level, pursuit of "perfect safety" as the paramount goal is precisely what produces tyranny, since one will be motivated by that value system to vest as much power as possible in the government, without limits, in exchange for the promise of maximum protection.
The perfect safety of a culture wrapped up in its own self-righteousness is what prevents such a culture from breathing and learning. I can not imagine returning to the land of a thousand cop shows on TV, a land that is over-run with serial killers and poisoned everything. This is the same land that artists are sure is the height of western culture, the pinnacle of all civilizations, beseiged by brown-skins. I ask more that artists glimpse a little beyond the blare of TV screens and Chelsea complicity.

"Art" with that capital A remains part of the world of perfect safety. Impenetrable, it is an artifact of a falsified history.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

art for life's sake

William H. McNeill's review of a couple of new books on paleolithic art in the NYRB offer some ancient insight on the "why make art" question.

Guthrie [...] takes up the importance of play and more especially of art-making for enhancing creativity and shaping a distinctive human ecological niche for "the artful ape." He explains:

The evolutionary tack of more learning gained through a long childhood was a difficult route because it involved acquiring facility and wisdom through many mistakes—and mistakes can be costly. The partial evolutionary fix for this was to create a sort of virtual world, paralleling the adult world, a vital playground of make-believe.

Cave art is the principal surviving part of that "virtual world," attesting how "play, art, and creativity are all linked to the process of our becoming large-mammal-hunting specialists." He sums up his entire argument in the chapter's final sentence: "Paleolithic art is the first clear spoor of advancing creativity in the human line..., not art for art's sake, but art for life's sake."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

understanding the wall

There is a lot of questioning as to WHY the united states invaded Iraq. Why did they lie about it, why did they push so much bad information and force acts through congress in spite of knowing that there was no threat to the US. I see these questions asked all over the internet. It is irrefutable now that the present administration was dishonest with its intent and motivations and plans and with what it wanted from their dirty war. But still people want to know "why then?"

I am writing this post to my many Mexican friends so that they can understand why this is happening. Boeing, L-3 Communications and Unisys Corp will earn 2.1 Billion tax dollars putting together a project that will not work, is designed not to work, and which could not possibly be affective but which seems aggressive and which will cause pain and misery for some unlucky travelers . Cost overruns will probably put the earnings of these 3 corporations at 2 or 3 times the amount of the contract.

The 9/11 attacks on the US happened because the present administration was concentrating all of its attention on a different boon-doggle. Some kind of space umbrella that could not and would never work, but which would funnel untold billions into the hands of otherwise un-profitable corporations, and which would appear aggressive.

The invasion of Iraq was planned and carried out for these same organizations. These are Soviet style organizations, Bechtel, Halliburton(KBR), and IAP, which have no incentive to perform better or compete with anyone at offering a service. The use of racial aggression, they've found, is the best public relations they can muster, and in an atmosphere of open hostility, terror and government chaos, they needn't perform to any standard at all, or even complete the contracts. They've lost the war now, and as with their exploding toilet pipes and feeding garbage to soldiers, and murdering 10's of thousands of civilians, they simply do not care. Like Soviet organizations, their sole aim is to funnel money.

The building of some 30 radar towers and whatever else, TV cameras, all along a 7,500 mile border is a pathetic ruse. It is aggressive and violent, but it is not designed to stop anyone from getting in, except perhaps for few unlucky people crossing when the TV networks are visiting.

I've read a a great deal in my life-time of the suffering and miserey that remained in Europe for years after world war 2, the shame that rained down on the people of Germany. Those who were lucky enough to survive were left mad, bereft of their senses, lunatics often wandering the streets picking through garbage. It is a dark period about which little is ever spoken, when literally hundreds of thousands of people slept in barns and outbuildings because so many cities were still smoldering. Great caravans of vagabonds wandered Germany's modern highways. I am writing this because, of course, most of these people were not Nazis. Most americans do not support this administration. But god help all of them.

Monday, September 25, 2006


In her quite astute and pointed post, Art Powerlineschose not to write more directly about this guy in the picture. Maybe he was a little off target to what she was talking about. He sits at the cafe near my house and pesters people to buy his sort of stylized illustration board ink drawings for 50 or 100 pesos. When this picture was taken he'd already asked us about ten times what we thought of the drawings that were arranged over some of the tables and he seemed genuinely excited at the prospect of selling some more of them. We tried to be polite and excited too, but mostly we just wanted to order some coffees and sit back watching. Finally an older guy, sort of an upper-management of a scrappy company type, came back over and talked to the artist. He'd been sitting in a corner reading a newspaper. They negotiated and the guy gave the artist 50 pesos for one of the drawings. I imagined the drawing would spend a week or so in the guys back seat and then find its way to some closet.

But AP and I watched the artist, clutching the 50 peso note and hurrying back down the street, leaving us at the cafe with the rest of his drawings. With our cynical gringo wit, we laughed, sure he was rushing off to buy booze or cigarettes with his hard earned cash.

He showed up 5 minutes later, just as anxious, with one thing clutched in his hand, an illustration board. And he sat right down and happily started another drawing.

I think we have a choice to look at people the way we do. One of the things that signals the end of the American way of doing things is our inability see or foresee the goodness of other people. We've made a concious decision to stop trying, to stop choosing and now have most of our choices made for us and by people who have an interest in oppressing not only us, but democracies everywhere. Hence the violence and panic and depression of life in the US. Opting out of this twisted hateful system is not an easy thing to do, but luckily, there are artists, like the guy above, who can teach us a personal detail about ourselves, that, though painful, is an essential step in the process of creation.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Art and Talking

One of the things that I struggle with here is this idea from friends and colleagues that I don't really need to communicate well in Spanish because all of the "Art People" in Mexico speak English already. The problem I perceive is not that they speak English but that they speak "Art." And speaking in English about Art, I am fairly certain that their are very distinct limits to what we can communicate if we are talking about Art with Art People, (usually these conversations are of the "what will the market bear" variety) and literally there are no limits when we are talking to people who put pictures of dead relatives and Santa Muerte and Guadalupe in every corner inside and outside of their houses.

I've been thinking a lot about Octavio Paz's comment that the US can't see Mexico because we are a version, the Counter-Reformation version, of the same western civilization. It occurred to me that Post-Cartesian movements in Northern Euro-American thinking about art mirror some of the movements that Counter-Reformation cultures take for granted. Painting and sculpture are perceived as traditional, auxilliary forces that shore up a cultures' view of itself, rather than as intellectual avant-gard laboratories. That's not to say that plenty of people still under the Counter Reformation wouldn't like to smash the dirty Roman Catholic church. We'll keep the buildings. But the problems in replacing it with a bodiless intellect are evident too.

So many "Art People" remain reformation zombies, convinced that Art is an intellectual game of market chess, where we can trick people (mostly English-speaking people) into paying for a pawn here, a bishop there. And so everyday I try to speak in Spanish, about how we feel so small before an omnipresent and eternal art, maybe not a universal catholic art but certainly one that stirs unspeakable emotion from within.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Partido ? PARTAY-DO !!!

Alright, so they ruled the country for 70 years, then lost 2 elections.

But please, with Flash fully enabled, and your volume turned WAY UP, check out the new Partido Revolucinario Institucional. Guys you may want to take your shirts off, ladies, ...