Archive for September, 2012

Money Is People?

September 21, 2012


  The pictures above and below were painted by Xiaoze Xie specifically for the lobby of the United States Courthouse in downtown Davenport, Iowa.  They are typical of his style, subject matter, and scale – these each being a whopping 72” x 103”!

  Xie says: “I see books as a material form of something abstract, such as philosophy and ideology.  I have also been fascinated by what people do to books: banning, destroying, glorifying with gold-leaf, or worshiping as ultimate truth.”

  The shelves in the one above, The Spirit of Law, hold volumes by Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, and William Blackburn.  The books below, Iowa Reports, are nineteenth century Iowa Supreme Court Reports from the library of the US District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

  Xiaoze Xie was born in Guangdong China in 1966.  He was educated in China and the USA and is currently a professor at Stanford.  His pictures are held in permanent collections of prominent institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and have been in exhibitions all over the globe.

  The Spirit of Law and Iowa Reports convey a deep reverence for both the material and abstract.  What perfect pieces for between which a jury to assemble!  This sense is, I think, largely absent online and on tablet.  I’ll bet a goodly portion of the consideration of opinions like, say, Citizens United was conducted digitally.

  Money is people?  What?  I’m so sure.  Well, if money is people, they better not send any more to Texas.  They have the death penalty down there and aren’t shy about using it.* Either way the election goes, for distinctly different reasons on the different sides, Ben Franklin’s head will roll many times over between November 6 and the anniversary of Scrooge’s perambulatory revelation that people and money are quite different.

*This paraphrases a comment made by Bill Moyers.

**Go see the paintings, they’re yours!  The guards evince pride, but are serious.  NB: There’s a metal detector and phones and cameras are not allowed.

***On a plaque just inside are the words of one of America’s first starchitects Cass Gilbert (Woolworth Building…): “Public buildings should encourage just pride in the state, and be an education to oncoming generations to see these things, imponderable elements of life and character, set before the people for their enjoyment and betterment.” 

****  This link will take you to his Stanford bio and statement.


No Neighbors No Electricity No Running Water

September 7, 2012


  In about 300 AD Lu Chi wrote in his Wen Fu(The Art of Writing): “The poet stands at the centre of the universe contemplating The Enigma”.  Well, that’s usually where my mind is.  Thinking big thoughts, asking the big questions.

  Not here.  I’d like to think that here I’m less of a stick in the mud.  Here it’s more like Louis Armstrong’s famous “If you have to ask the question you’ll never know the answer”.  Or, as poet Michael Carey put it: “Nature speaks to those who listen and those who listen when nature speaks rarely speak at all”.  (Seen that before?)

  Sitting in yonder house of the crescent moon, – door wide – watching the waves and whales and gulls and seals you realize that you’re not so very different, alimentary on down.  And who’s to say about relative emotional tone?  The feeling part is one of the brain’s oldest.  Hmm…  An outhouse experience here is far more edifying than the Sunday Times on the throne at home.

  After thirty-five years of figuring stuff out together, where better to celebrate than the shack you see up top and below?  We sorta wonder how the kids are doing at their four cornered points of remove and how the folks are faring back home, but what could we do from here?

  We do speak and listen and eat and walk the beach and two in a bunk when it feels right; draw water from the well, and solar shower out back to wash the salt off after a cold swim in the sea.  It’s been incredible.

  Hey Sally, look, Thar she blows!



September 2, 2012

   The above is one installation in an exhibition by Austrian Stefan Sagmeister that just ended at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art. Comprised of video, print, sculpture, interactive installations, and graphics, the show was an exploration of happiness.  It was entitled, appropriately, The Happy Show.

There was lots of fun and provocation.  This bit citing psychologist Haidt is one of my favorites.  If you’ve read much of my stream of BS leading up to this you’ll likely guess that I totally buy the metaphor of elephant and rider.

And that sitting here in a very lonesome shack by the sea without electricity or running water watching waves and whales and gulls and seals, the pachyderm and its obsessive passenger have had meaningful and productive intereaction.  Matter of fact we’ve gotta go pump water before it gets dark.  More later.

*In case your resolution isn’t fine enough:

“Research psychologist Jonathan Haidt describes the mind as a small rider, the conscious. Sitting on a giant elephant, the unconscious.  The rider thinks he is in charge and can tell the elephant where to go but the elephant has his own ideas.  The rider cannot force   the elephant into a direction but can train him slowly over time.  When the rider and the elephant work as a team – when the conscious and unconscious are close – I’m going to be rich.”