Past Smoldering

My paternal grandfather smoked a pipe. Perhaps this is why the empty bowl leaves a trace in my mind of a clear image of not only emptiness but coolness as well as the lingering aroma. We take the poem beyond its still smoking ending into our experience of the object mindful of a kind of imitative follow-through of the poem's hints.

When I woke, everything seemed cut off.
I was pipe, still smoking,
Which daylight would knock empty once again.
Shinkichi Takahashi. Afterimages: Zen Poems translated by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto.

And so for day 1418
31.10.2010

Sunwards Sandwards

Concurrent reading makes certain passages glow more. Take for example Stewart Brand's The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility (advertised on its cover as "The Ideas Behind the World's Slowest Computer") still fresh in mind when encountering these lines from Richard Howard "Colored Stones" in No Traveller.

(WISCASSET)

Braided black and white, the waves repeat
or imitate the rocks of Pemaquid;
these are the interferences of quartz
with granite, some archaic violence
garish as light on water. Stone to sand,
sea to sun, identical returns.
Identical in cycling but different in duration. In any event, the observation of the resemblance between the action of grit upon grit and the evaporation of water is neatly summarized in the motto: Stone to sand; sea to sun. Ah, now I see how the parallel is askew. Metonymy introduces a slippage. Sand and sun are not mere equivalents. This is not solely about the phenomena of erosion and evaporation. There is a turn of the cycle that is intimated but unstated: sedimentation. Sand turns to stone just as water returns. Long now indeed.

And so for day 1417
30.10.2010

Of Mamas and Moments

Bless YouTube and Michael McKay.

The 1994 production of Brad Walton's Baroque-style opera The Loves of Wayne Gretzky as performed and recorded on February 13, 1994 at Symptom Hall in Toronto is available for viewing. In it, Gretzky leaves his wife for Mario Lemieux. Lovely tongue-in-cheek warning on the site *WARNING: DEPICTIONS (ALBEIT CHASTE AND CAMPY) OF HOMOSEXUALITY. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED*

Kept the program as a keepsake.

I recall a spectacularly hilarious scene with David James as Mama Gretzky. As the program notes state: The role of Mama Gretzky was written with a special view to exploiting David's peculiar talents.

Nice to be able to have access to a recording of a classic event.

And so for day 1416
29.10.2010

A Temporal Take on Vegetation Observation

Forest for the trees.

Ilona Bell on gardening as reported in the Harvard Magazine:

She does have some advice, though, for those seeking a perennial philosophy. "If you want a garden to look good," she says, "you have to pay more attention to the leaves than the flowers, as they are there all season long." No matter the season, the endless project never loses its allure. "I like the imaginative complexity of the challenge it poses," she says. "There are so many elements in play."
http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/07/literary-gardening

Many elements in play, even in winter, there is attention to evergreens as well as the denuded branches. And seed heads. And the architectural features. And animal tracks in the snow.

And so for day 1415
28.10.2010

ZZZ

I
Anne Carson
Ode to Sleep
Decreation
The poem describes sleep as a "slab of outlaw time punctuating every pillow".

II
John Keats
To Sleep

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
[…]
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes,—
         Save me from curious Conscience, that still lords
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
        Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed Casket of my Soul.
III
Emily Dickinson
Sleep is supposed to be
By souls of sanity
The shutting of the eye.
[…]
For a more prosaic albeit interactive take on sleep, see Le Centre des sciences de Montréal and its bilingual site on sleep http://www.lesommeil.ca where you can find more about Sleep from A to ZZZ.

And so for day 1414
27.10.2010

Wine and Bread

At first you have erotic flush, followed by lassitude but with a twist towards the celebration of the long-lived.

A Decade

When you came, you were like red wine
     and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth
     with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
I hardly taste you at all for I know your
     savor,
But I am completely nourished.
Amy Lowell reprinted in The Imagist Poem edited by William Pratt and in which are found echoes of FitzGerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread — and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
Dough enough and time…

And so for day 1413
26.10.2010

Syntactic Presumptions

Keith Garebian in the introduction Wild Grass Moon Moon on Wild Grasses bemoans the limit-introducing limitations of the English language:

It is difficult for English haiku to have kireji (cutting words), small but powerful linguistic units that indicate a pause or caesura. In English, the poet resorts to actual punctuation.
Word-order and phrase-order and order-in-general may provide a guide to introducing the pauses that mark haiku.

Garebian Reworked
Endless songs of rain
on eaves, sky crowned with rainbows,
I go to the woods
I go to the woods
sky crowned with rainbows on [l]eaves
endless songs of rain
The blue heron comes
quietly on dark stilt legs
spearing little fish
spearing little fish
quietly on dark stilt legs
the blue heron comes
The blue dragonfly —
a humming wire makes you see
the air vibrating
the air vibrating
a humming wire makes you see
the blue dragonfly
The brown grizzly waits
hungry-mouthed — ready to snatch
the leaping salmon
the leaping salmon
ready to snatch — hungry-mouthed
the brown grizzly waits
We are left here, hungry-mouthed, vibrating, spearing and sometimes catching in the pauses the drip of endless rain.

And so for day 1412
25.10.2010

A Shiver of Memory

Documenting a hole of personality.

Sam Hamill
The Infinite Moment: Poems from Ancient Greek

No charm,
all looks:

she pleases
but cannot hold —

she floats like bait
without the hook.

      Kapitonos
Centuries later another documenting of domestic doom.

Paulette Jiles
"Police Poems: 3" appearing in Writing 9 (Spring 1984)
everything except the loud parts, everything
except the silences
From full to nothing.

And so for day 1411
24.10.2010

Carafe: Clean & Shining

First the opening of the "Objects" section from Gertrude Stein Tender Buttons (1914).

A CARAFE, THAT IS A BLIND GLASS.

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing. All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.
Next a household hint from the The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book 1896 by Fannie Merritt Farmer

HINTS TO THE YOUNG HOUSEKEEPER

To Wash Carafes. Half fill with hot soapsuds, to which is added one teaspoon washing soda. Put in newspaper torn in small pieces. Let stand one-half hour, occasionally shaking. Empty, rinse with hot water, drain. [W]ipe outside, and let stand to dry inside.
Compare the rhythms. Description and instruction. Cousins. Sparkling.

And so for day 1410
23.10.2010

Casualties of Propriety

In She's Gonna Be edited by Ann Decter one finds a short prose piece by Annie Coyle Martin entitled "Jody". It begins in unassuming fashion with a character's wish

"I wish once, just once, my mother would come alone to see me," Jody said. The light was behind him, fading in the big window, his face was in a shadow that hid the expression in the huge, near-sighted eyes. "Is that too much to ask?"
The narrator progressively reveals Jody's story and ends with Jody's funeral, observing the mother and wondering if Jody got his wish. It is then at story's end that we learn the stakes. We are put in the position of the mother.
"I wish, just once, that my mother would come alone to see me, so that I can have her sit there and tell her, 'Mother I'm gay, and I'm dying of AIDS, what about that mother?'"
And just as a little voice in my head begins to clamour "why didn't you?" the story treats us to a mirror glimpse of just how alike mother and son are in what they value. And close the book on the tale of missed opportunity and an expression of anger averted.

And so for day 1409
22.10.2010

Song and Scent

I came upon this little booklet of verse and aphorisms at a book sale and its cover and place of publication intrigued me. Branches of Jasmine (which will grow and bloom on the West Coast) published in 1939 in Vancouver under the auspices of Chapter A, P.E.O. Sisterhood. I have learnt that P.E.O. stands for Philanthropic Educational Organization.

Among the treasures is this quatrain from Bliss Carman
Have little care that Life is brief,
And less that Art is long.
Success is in the silences
Though fame is in the song.
Carman is here troping on the commonplace Ars longa, vita brevis which finds its locus classicus in English in Chaucer: "The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne" ("The life so short, the craft so long to learn", the first line of the Parlement of Foules).

And the French say "A chaque jour suffit sa peine." Their version of Matthew 6:34 which the translators of the King James Version rendered "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." What distance between "toil" and "evil" so like the silences of success.

And so for day 1408
21.10.2010

Fish Man Air

The opening two lines of "Ghost of a Chance" are set off in a stanza.

You see a man
trying to think.
The poem urges the granting of breathing space but observes
the old consolations
will get him at last
like a fish
half-dead from flopping
and almost crawling
across the shingle,
almost breathing
the raw, agonizing
air
till a wave
pulls it back blind into the triumphant
sea.
Adrienne Rich
Snapshots of a Daughter-in-law

Somehow the gender of the subject matters. And perhaps more so the solitary nature of the endeavour. Regardless, after reading the poem you are more aware of your lungs.

And so for day 1407
20.10.2010

Jouissance

Documenting its entry into English, thanks to Naomi Schor from whose Breaking the Chain: Women, Theory, and French Realist Fiction this note is taken.

To footnote "jouissance" is at this belated poststructuralist moment to perform a highly ritualized gesture. This then is the obligatory metatextual note on jouissance. The difficulties in finding a suitable English equivalent to the French jouissance were to my knowledge first articulated by Roland Barthes' translators; see Richard Howard, "Notes on the Text," in Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, and Stephen Heath, "Translator's Note," in Barthes, Image-Music-Text. In the first instance the translator has chosen to translate the untranslatable word throughout by "bliss," a decision criticized by Heath, who adopts a more complex strategy which involves resorting to "a series of words which in different contexts can contain at least some of [the] force" (p.9) of the original French term. I have opted for yet another unsatisfying solution, that favored by other (feminist) translators (Michèle Freeman, Alice Jardine, Parveen Adams): the non translation of the untranslatable. Thus, for example in her "Translator's Note," Jacqueline Rose explains that she has left such terms as signifiance, objet a, and jouissance "in the original . . . in order to allow their meaning to develop from the way in which they operate." Feminine Sexuality: 'Jacques Lacan and the école freudienne,' Juliet Mitchell and Jacqueline Rose, eds., p. 59. For an illuminating and pertinent study of the peculiar linguistic status of jouissance, see Jane Gallop, "Beyond the Jouissance Principle," Representations (1984), no. 7: 110-115.
Gallop is quite helpful in identifying its semantic reach. She takes the reader back to Roland Barthes whose The Pleasure of the Text outlines the pivotal distinction between plaisir and jouissance.
Briefly, Barthes distinguishes between plaisir which is comfortable, ego-assuring, recognized and legitimated as culture, and "jouissance" which is shocking, ego-disruptive, and in conflict with canons of culture. [Note how the two terms are even marked differently; one by italics, the other by quotation marks.]
As is de rigeur (her word play), Gallop warns of rigidification:
If jouissance is celebrated as something that unsettles assumptions, it becomes ineffective when it settles into an assumption. If jouissance is "beyond the pleasure principle," it is not because it is beyond pleasure but because it is beyond principle.
The gendered consequences are expressed in the final note that serves as a postscript.
[…] I was led to think that the "we [women] have it; they [men] fear it" is a strategic feminist reversal of the tradition that polarizes sexual pleasure into something men want and women fear. Beyond the strategic necessity of the reversal, I am trying to suggest that the polarization is a defence against a powerful ambivalence in which the subject both wants and fears something overwhelming, intense, pleasurable, and ego-threatening. Indeed, one of the functions of polarized sexual roles — the double standard, rake and virgin — may be to defend against the intolerable ambivalence of simultaneously "knowing" and "fearing."
Rapture. Rupture.

And so for day 1406
19.10.2010

A Laugh at Greed

The business pages of the newspaper are seldom spot to find humour, let alone an extended conceit conducive to much mirth.

John Heinz "Stars and Dogs" in Globe and Mail

Wal-Mart

Things that are had to find 1) A needle in a haystack; 2) A happy baseball fan in Texas; 3) A sales associate who can actually help you at Wal-Mart. Citing the need to invest in higher employee wages, better training and improved e-commerce technology, the discount giant warned that profit in the next fiscal year will fall by 6 per cent to 12 per cent, sending the stock to its biggest one-day drop in 27 years. Investors are heading for the checkout lines.
There is a of course a hint of Schadenfreude at work here. Notwithstanding the relish of a comeuppance well-deserved there is to note the implicit message that well-paid and motivated employees build customer loyalty.

And so for day 1405
18.10.2010

The Tackiness in Tacky

Katharine Washburn and John S. Major include in their edition of World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse From Antiquity to Our Time excerpts from The Mercian Hymns by Geoffrey Hill where one finds the intriguing line

Candles of gnarled resin, apple-branches, the tacky mistletoe.
I would not long ago have taken the "tacky" mistletoe to be signalling bad taste in plants. However, having been instructed by the little 10 minute film "Spreading Seeds" in the compilation Plant World: The Biology of Flowering and Non-flowering Plants released by Films for the Humanities and Sciences, I have a particular appreciation for the tackiness of mistletoe. It so happens that the film shows a long string of seed emanating from a bird's bum.

The film shows what the entry on the Royal Horticultural Society puts in more general terms: "The berries are often spread by birds from one tree to another, and this is how the large rounded clumps of mistletoe form in tree branches." It turns out that the RHS is not being coy but accurate in describing the means of propagation at a level of generality suitable to cover the varied means birds spread the seed. See, for example, the Wikipedia entry on mistletoe which is expansive on the origin of the tackiness:
Depending on the species of mistletoe and the species of bird, the seeds are regurgitated from the crop, excreted in their droppings, or stuck to the bill, from which the bird wipes it onto a suitable branch. The seeds are coated with a sticky material called viscin. Some viscin remains on the seed and when it touches a stem, it sticks tenaciously. The viscin soon hardens and attaches the seed firmly to its future host, where it germinates and its haustorium penetrates the sound bark.
The RHS provides advice on how to grow your own mistletoe should you have a mature tree in need of tacky decoration.

And so for day 1404
17.10.2010

Power of Attention

If you do not recognize any of the names in Naomi Schor’s master stroke, just imagine that literary history is like fantasy league football.

One of the major objectives of feminist literary criticism has been the reshaping of the canon, especially by opening it up to accommodate works by women writers. I believe a complementary and perhaps more insidious revisionism is called for as well, one which would take the form of subtle displacements within the canon we have inherited from Lanson and company and transmitted more or less unexamined for decades. My revisionist literary history of nineteenth-century French fiction would involve three substitutions which would do much to denaturalize an all too familiar landscape. First, Chateaubriand’s Atala would displace his René as the founding text of nineteenth-century French literature, for it is in the former that the enchaining of the female protagonist is explicitly staged, as Atala is transformed from the mobile liberatrix of the male captive with whom she falls in love to a suicide who dies ruing the vow her mother made forbidding her daughter from ever knowing jouissance. Second, at the other end of the diachronic axis, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s L’Eve future would displace J-K HuysmansA Rebours as the ultimate text of post realism, for Villiers’ futuristic fantasy of a female android is the logical conclusion of a century of fetishization of the female body. And, finally, Stendhal would replace Balzac as the paradigmatic realist novelist. The degree to which this history appears outlandish and even outrageous is a measure of the work that remains to be done.
from Breaking the Chain: Women/Theory, and French Realist Fiction

And so for day 1403
16.10.2010

Anti-luxury

Good design and the economy of sharing.

Whitewall Magazine. "Jasper Morrison: The Minimalist"

WW:Why do you think design should be democratic?

JM:The best atmosphere and the most beauty can be found in everyday situations. I’m not at all interested in the idea of luxury. The idea of enjoying something that excludes others is terrible, isn’t it? I think luxury was invented for people with no better way of enjoying life than feeling superior to others. As a teenager I was traveling on a train one day, somewhere in France or Italy, and an old man got out his lunch and offered me a glass of wine and a piece of bread and cheese. That’s the kind of spirit design should offer, not conversation pieces for the dining table.
Celebrating the quotidian and the shareable. Yet there is a tinge of romanticization here that is a little off-putting. Cork in the wine?

And so for day 1402
15.10.2010

Trade Routes: cherchez la femme

Elizabeth A. Wilson. Neural Geographies: Feminism and the Microstructure of Cognition.

points to

Vicki Kirby. "Corpus delicti: the body at the scene of writing" in Cartographies: Poststructuralism and the Mapping of Bodies and Spaces. Eds. Rosalyn Diprose and Robyn Ferrell.

points to

Alison Ainley. "'Ideal Selfishness': Nietzsche’s Metaphor of Maternity" in Exceedingly Nietzsche: Aspects of Contemporary Nietzsche Interpretation. Eds. David Farrell Krell and David Wood.

points to

Donna C. Stanton. "Difference on Trial: A Critique of the Maternal Metaphor in Cixous, Irigaray and Kristeva" in The Poetics of Gender Ed. Nancy K. Miller.

points to

Naomi Schor. "Female Paranoia. The Case for Psychoanalytic Feminist Criticism". Yale French Studies 62: 204-19 issue on "Feminist Readings: French Texts/ American Contexts" reprinted in Breaking the Chain: Women/Theory, and French Realist Fiction.

And so for day 1401
14.10.2010

Let Us

The image is from a greeting card copyright 1981 with the following credits: created by Scott Alyn and artist June Wood. The card came with seeds.



The punning didn't stop at the cover. Inside were planting instructions:
Lettuce Seeds

Plant me 1/4 inch deep in early spring and every few weeks as long as weather is cool. Rows should be 15 inches apart. And remember.... "Eat more lettuce. Get Ahead!"
Of course the entire crop could bolt in warm weather. Planting early leads to good head — at least in the domain of iceberg lettuce.

And so for day 1400
13.10.2010

Crystallised Thaw

Helen Humphreys has assembled forty plus vignettes about The Frozen Thames. Each story is unique and the time spanned goes from the actual 1142 to the virtual 1927 (the Thames didn’t freeze that year but Humphreys supplies an intriguing postscript based on lines in the draft of Woolf’s Orlando, lines not to be found in the published novel).

1809 gives us the tale of the boy, a miller’s son, who revives birds. Humphreys leaves us with the image of the boy telling his story in years to come.

The ice birds fell from the sky, he will say when he tells the story. I breathed fire back into their bodies. My hands were an oven that warmed them. I set them to flying again.
So much motion in the stasis of a telling.

And so for day 1399
12.10.2010

Aperitifs and Day Rise

After work, prior to supper.

Happy Hour

Cinq à sept

Beer for breakfast (common in centuries past). A champagne breakfast (a lovely weekend starter).

And the Italians triumph with Caffè corretto taken I presume at anytime. And so for day 1398
11.10.2010

Dog Gone Bow Wow

Repetition of variants as means of construction. Rift on Riffaterre

According to Michael Riffaterre, the poetic text is structured in such a way that it repeats many variants of the same invariant. This invariant is the semantic nucleus of the text, to which Riffaterre eventually gives the name "hypogram". The hypogram, which determines and generates the written poem, is an important index in understanding the poem. We can find the hypogram of a text by bearing in mind the various rules governing its creation: overdetermination, conversion and expansion.

Text Derivation by Johanne Prud’homme and Nelson Guilbert
http://www.signosemio.com/riffaterre/text-derivation.asp
Nicely introduces this dog-themed verse
gaudy, dog-eared doggerel
before you get the gaybies,

before becoming smitten —
bitten by the bitch’s wit
From the concluding lines of Andrew Eastman's “Dog-and-Pony Show” in Contemporary Verse 2 (Vol 38 No 1).

Another bone … the beginning of the “Doggerel” entry from The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (4th edition)
DOGGEREL (original unknown). Rough, poorly constructed verse, […] Northrop Frye has characterized doggerel as the result of an unfinished creative process […]
And the tail wags …

And so for day 1397
10.10.2010

Trans-Species

Sandwiching an excerpt from Penn(y) Kemp between two quotations from e.e. cummings

when the oak begs permission of the birch
to make an acorn
June 8: I’m at a cocktail party of poets. I look down and realize I haven’t shaved my legs. Fur is growing over my ankles and feet. I continue chatting, wondering if anyone will notice. What am I becoming? The carpet is a moss bed of green fur.
(at the magical hour
when is becomes if)
The piece from Penn(y) Kemp is from a poem entitled “Dreams While Reading Gimbutas’ Goddesses and God of Old Europe” in Eidolons and we are struck by its concluding image: part vegetable, part animal and wholly imaginary.

And so for day 1396
09.10.2010

Artificial Intelligence and Taste

In the fall in Toronto there are a number of book sales where one can come across gems that one had always wanted to read but failed to pick up in some trip to the library. One such volume came my way the other day: Adrienne Rich. Snapshots of A Daughter-in-law and what attracted my attention was a poem entitled “Artificial Intelligence”. I had been leafing from the back section and realized that the Notes on the Poems for this particular poem devoted considerable space to quoting from Herbert Simon. And so on to the 1961 poem. The first verse invites readers to imagine contrasting behaviours following a game of chess.

Over the chessboard now,
Your Artificiality concludes
a final check; rests; broods —
             no — sorts and stacks a file of memories,
while I
concede the victory, bow,
and slouch among my free associations.
And so on until the final stanza
Still, when
they make you write your poems, later on,
who’d envy you, force-fed
on all those variorum
editions of our primitive endeavours,
those frozen pemmican language-rations
they’ll cram you with? denied
our luxury of nausea, you
forget nothing, have no dreams.
And at this remote perspective, can we imagine an artificial intelligence roaming the bookstalls and remembering intentions that had been forgotten and reconnecting with texts that had been but glimmers on the attention horizon?

And so for day 1395
08.10.2010

Muscle Messages

This is a speculation set up by Alphonso Linguis (“Orchids and Muscle” in Exceedingly Nietzsche) through the thought of Leroi-Gourhan. See how it all pivots on the placement of the expressive function.

In the human primate, a distinctive reflexive circuit was set up with the evolution of the hand. The human species began by putting the cutter, chopper and grinder functions of the jaws into its hands. The front legs no longer serve to drive the jaws to make contact with the world; they rise from the ground and conduct samplings of the world to the head. The human animal now acquires a face. Its muscular configurations no longer react immediately to the front-line of contact with external nature, but turns to its own hands. A smile and an apprehensive grimace now become possible — movements that are expressive, that is, that address a sample, a representative of the independent exterior held in the hand — and soon, held with a mental grasp before an inner eye. An animal that faces considers representations it has apprehended. Its manual musculature comes not only prehensile but also expressive; the hands position their take for an appraising eye. They address themselves also to the eyes of another animal that has acquired a face; they speak. Little by little our whole musculature has learned to speak. The throat muscles designed for devouring and for expelling substances and the body’s own biles and rages now learns from the hands how to shape the samples and representatives of the outside, how to exteriorize the comprehensive expressions the hands first learned to make. The whole torso becomes organs-to-be-seen, the abdomen struts and cowers, the legs and thighs acquire humility and pride, the shoulders and back, turned from the face-to-face circuit, sway with resentment and defiance.
This is a rather poetic take on human evolution. One that I would like to have known when I turned my attention to the senses and their communicative potential
The human senses, whatever their number and relations, produce events. Events can be connected. This production of events can be experienced, can be induced, can be guided. Memory plays a major role in this process. Attention can be alternatively devoted to percept and to the act of perception. The possibilities for metacommentary are connected to the possibilities for memory. Cognitively this allows humans to preserve the trace of something happening at a certain time. Events connected in a series of episodes lead to narratives. The transformation of discrete somatic signals into sequences begins to explain cross-modal encoding.

http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/S6C.HTM
If simply put we early on learnt that how we perceive is communicated to others then the dynamo of self-reflexivity and metacognition could not be far behind.

And so for day 1394
07.10.2010

Roulette: Icon Index Symbol

Terrence W. Deacon summarizing Pierce in The Symbolic Species

No particular objects are intrinsically icons, indices, or symbols. They are interpreted to be so, depending on what is produced in response. In simple terms, the differences between iconic, indexical, and symbolic relationships derive from regarding things either with respect to their form, their correlations with other things, or their involvement in systems of conventional relationships.
One example comes to mind: the figures designating public washrooms. In one interpretation they are an icon depicting gender formations, in another interpretation they indicate the facility is just behind the door and finally they can be interpreted as part of a symbol system.

And so for day 1393
06.10.2010

Three Circles and a Square

Advertising and propaganda.

The bold colour of a decal from Anansi Press.

The circle postcard from Chandos fits a CD case nicely.

And a small but mighty circle — a pin from Gay Lib heyday marking the organizing power of the Lavender Left.

Sticking with the Gay Liberation Theme: a square pin from the New York Gay Pride Days June 25-26, 1988 with a militant message: Rightfully Proud and Fighting On

In all of these designs, shape and colour and engaging illustration bring the eye in to the message and allow the mind to wander beyond.

And so for day 1392
05.10.2010

Baby Pleasures Recalled

I am almost embarrassed to admit that in my youth, a long time ago, I drank Baby Duck, a soda pop wine. I’m not embarrassed to say that at my age I still enjoy root beer — now and then. Baby Duck not so much. My near-embarrassment about Baby Duck vanished when I learnt of its estimable pedigree in German wine-making techniques as reported by Sharon Tyler Herbst in the Food Lover’s Companion.

cold duck Originating in Germany, this pink sparkling wine is a mixture of CHAMPAGNE, sparkling BURGUNDY and sugar. Its origin is traced back to the Bavarian practices of mixing bottles of previously opened Champagne with cold sparkling Burgundy so the Champagne wouldn’t be wasted. This mixture was called kale ende (“cold end”); over the years ende transliterated to ente (”duck”). The wines used to make cold duck are often of inferior quality. The resulting potation is quite sweet with few other distinguishable characteristics.
Here is a picture of the merchandise marketed in Canada under the table label Baby Duck with its duckling depiction and its sparkling wine packaging.

Unravel the gold foil wrapping, pop a cork and the sweetness is yours. A grown up experience for teen tastes.

And so for day 1391
04.10.2010

Valuing Attributes and Attributions

Arturo Schwarz (The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp) provides a bibliographic reference to a piece by John Cage “26 Statements Re Duchamp” and attributes the following statement to Duchamp

Tools that are not good require more skill.
The piece is reprinted in A Year From Monday. Although the sentence is surrounded by quotation marks it may not be from Duchamp but merely attributed to him. There are clues (“Say it’s not a Duchamp. Turn it over and it is.”) that indicate that one may take this route. And so one can pull some of the unquoted sections and play the attribution game. Cage or Duchamp?
We have no further use of the functional, the beautiful, or for whether or not something is true.
Games of attribution aside, what I like in the counterpoising of tools with skill is that it can give rise to a set of four pairings (good design, good skill; bad design, good skill; etc).

  Design    Skill  
++
--

One wonders about the outcome of the combination of poor skill and well-designed tool. And even more what happens when bad tools meet poor skills. Whatever the choices, the matrix is not fit to apply to gun control.

And so for day 1390
03.10.2010

Cage and Duchamp: A Toronto Chess Game

It’s got a good index. Good if you are mindful of names. Look up Cage and you find the reference to the section you had browsed and made you buy the book and lug it home (it’s a big tome). However about a month later the memory has been rearranged and you want to use place (Toronto, Ryerson) to find the section. No luck. So we go to the activity “chess” and leaf through the “hits”.

Whatever the move, we are lucky to retrieve from Arturo Schwarz (The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp) an account of the evening orchestrated by John Cage in which Duchamp plays a prominent part.

Among his [Duchamp’s] last public chess performances, the ones in Amsterdam, Pasadena, and Toronto ought to be recalled.[…] Finally, on February 5, 1968, Marcel and Teeny performed in Toronto in an event organized by the composer John Cage at the Ryerson Polytechnic High School Auditorium. Other performers, in addition to the Duchamps and John Cage, included David Tudor, David Behrman, Gordon Mumma, and Lowell Cross. At Cage’s suggestion, a special chessboard had been made by Lowell Cross. Each square of the chessboard had a built-in photoelectric cell. The moves made on this board controlled the outputs to eight amplifiers and loudspeakers, with each move generating a different sound. The performance consisted in one and a half games of chess. The first, between Duchamp and Cage, in which Duchamp gave the composer a Knight as advantage, was nevertheless won by Duchamp. The second game, between Teeny Duchamp and Cage, was left unfinished at the performance (it was completed the following morning after breakfast and ended with Teeny’s victory). Even though the outcome of this collective work called Reunion may have been of the greatest theoretical interest, the audience thought differently. They were left in the dark, and not only metaphorically — they couldn’t even follow the moves of the game — and they silently abandoned the hall in the course of the evening. Thus, when the lights were turned on at midnight, at the end of the performance, which had started at 8:30 P.M., the chess players realized that they had been performing for an empty hall. Fortunately, Columbia Records recorded the resulting sounds and everyone was paid musician’s union scale wages. In a letter to the author, John Cage explained his intentions: “Musically speaking Reunion is an instance of a number of people working together practically but anarchically.”
Found a competing version of the end of the evening thanks to an article by Adam Bunch in Spacing: Out in the audience someone shouted: “Encore!” An example of Canadian irony? Adam Bunch’s article first appeared as a blog entry (with reference links) on The Toronto Dreams Project Historical Ephemera Blog.

And so for day 1389
02.10.2010

Defecation Fame

Banksy. Wall and Piece (2006).

Last bit of “Advice painting with stencils”

The time of getting fame for your name on its own is over. Artwork that is only about wanting to be famous will never make you famous. Fame is a by-product of doing something else. You don’t go to a restaurant and order a meal because you want to have a shit.
Time to invent fibre-conscious menus.

And so for day 1388
01.10.2010