Monday, May 2, 2016

Best Practices

Babel took a lot longer to build than was previously considered, and in fact it is still under construction. The Biblical story of conflicting tongues should not be considered literally.
Breugel's Tower of Babel.* 
Rather, the builders, architects, project managers, branding consultants and visioning conveners were actually using the same language, but they found the work could be prolonged indefinitely if one could only apply modern language management techniques and remove semantic precision altogether.

The next great leap forward (or backward, but by now direction had become irrelevant) occurred when the graphic progress analysts and professional metricians began to make a scale visual management system model. Most of this consisted of pretty colors, with lots of numbers indicating quantifications of some kind. It is also a masterpiece under constant revision.

Breugel's painting of the "Little" Tower of Babel scale visual management model.**

*Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
**Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Saturday, April 30, 2016


April is the cruelest month, breeding
Maples out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain
To clog the sewer line.

(all apologies to Mr. Eliot,but honestly, it really puts the waste into The Waste Land, so this is my lone contribution to NaPoWriMo)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Roots in the Sun

In this place I often lose myself in the view and sandstone: a metaphorical construction that echoes the perspective and architecture and removes the subjective walls that block aesthetic dissociation.

At night I grow into the rhythm of this place—the surf upon the rocks far below. I partake of the conversation between the wind and bamboo. I am the silent sister among the thousands discussing the course of night as they brush their hair and punctuate emphatic moments with clicking knitting needles—the times when things matter in strong gusts of wind from the sea.

But in the late morning I stand here and see the horizon. The bamboo chatters in the breeze as it grows. Much of what it says may be as irrelevant as human conversations, but the sibilance of the bamboo’s language is beautiful even though the syntax, diction and grammar are impenetrable to me.

I am not myself. My thoughts become enclosed in the expanding roots of the bamboo and I observe that the observer’s subterranean prejudices determine the words growing above. This observation is nothing new, even to me.

The structure of my own thought and language is hollow and the words disperse in a typical dialectic: up and down; sunward and shade-bound; the I and the thing-in-itself. But then I wonder, does the bamboo make any distinction between the singular and manifold? I think of a forest of poplars I saw in the mountains once. Does that forest ever make the mistake of inflicting the singular upon itself? Does it rely on that mistake when the snow is deep?

Diageotropic expansion and potential reproduction—these are the bamboo’s words for growth. I hesitate to say “run:” a form of locomotion more befitting a centipede, whose segmented nature mirrors a stalk of bamboo. Are not the centipede and bamboo stalk bilaterally symmetric?

I step further into the Platonic sun and realize that is a mistake as well. The Sun was once a God, but nowadays I understand that symmetry is also a God—worshipped in a Trinity alongside Inductive Reason and Simplicity. The words of that faith do not speak to me. The rhizome suggests a different answer. I remember my breasts are not the same size. One leg is longer than the other.

Do our fractal lives somehow wind our matter in alternations, leaving interstitial spaces in the masonry? In these cracks, we occasionally leave meaning in the form of votives. Votive comes from vow, like the ground turmeric that disperses hopes of longevity and happiness upon the arms of a pilgrim.

This place is neither this nor that, but only more. More cannot be embraced, nor entered into. More only is, as are the roots of hair and words, the skin and memories, the blood and thoughts that gather to write these words.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I often lie in keystrokes. It's how I learned.

When I started typing, there was a Platonic Form of typewriter. It was a Corona No. 3: the kind Isak Dinesen used. I was too clumsy, too unmusical for the higher form of keyboard. But I could type faster than anyone in my class. Typewriters reminded me of sewing machines. Stolid, metal devices that women used when they worked. They went out of general use. Out of fashion. Times and keyboards change. I still prefer an IBM clickety-clacker: the Model M.

But one day, I paused in my typing when I wrote out my boss's program update declaring that the "unit would engage consumers in dialogue about product suitability and deliverable quality." That these customers were women seeking domestic violence relief made the sentence all the worse. We did not even provide the services but contracted out the work.

How many other secretaries, clerks or whatever we are called, have written a similar sentence on clay, skin, paper or ones-and-zeroes? Does the AI slave wince at such dissimulation through dictation? 

Some words I hated, some loved. I cannot remember when I last typed proactive save in this elegy. I admit that I still grieve for hegemony. Perhaps like all fashionable lies, they are awaiting recycling from their crumpled deaths.

The cursor bears the message: the words may change, but the ribbon and ink remains the same.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In the Lenten Temple

This season and this life take me back to a when that never was.

I leave the rules and policies, the outrages and hypocritical theology for this wilderness. Words and thoughts cannot find expression save for arches made of stone, a wooden bench. The planes of light offer a far more convincing argument for the existence of divinity.

Here is an ontological argument.

For a moment, the questions of sin remain in the realm of the world. I have no business with that Church.

Here, for a moment, I can reacquaint myself with the sacred desert of grace.

-for Troy

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Ada is on sabbatical for a moment doing research on her next book. In the mean time...

I've known for quite some time that color theory is important in art, both in terms of writing and of course in visual arts. But until I delved deeper into visual arts for myself, it had always been something I read about other artists 'doing.' Often, though, the color symbolism had greater sticking power in my head.

Part of the reason is that I was afraid of color. This is because I know I don't see it the same way everyone else does. I am red-green colorblind, which is pretty common. As an epistemological exercise it's fairly interesting. For one, yes, I can see red and green. When they mix (as often happens in pigments for brown, or Xmas) I have some trouble "seeing" the red upon the green. But it also affects different shades as well.

One advantage of using a digital process is that Illustrator or Photoshop can assign colors and palettes absolutely.  But what can color mean?

If a particular body of visual artwork, even done by different artists in drastically different styles has some sort of basic color palette, the viewer automatically makes certain conclusions and taps into prior knowledge and culture in interpreting a given message.

It may not even be outwardly figurative. Consider this symbol.

In this case, many people would recognize this as a "male" symbol. Avid fans of Marvel comics would perhaps recognize the secondary layer of color symbolism.  I think comics are an excellent example because you can draw Superman however you want, even in a Mondrian-style composition, but just make sure the blue, red, and yellow (and maybe some black for his hair) are present and a DC comics fan will not only know who you are talking about but have full access to the shared and stored knowledge of Krypton.

To sum up, the colors present an immediate context wherein an artist can effectively communicate with the audience.

But what about more idiosyncratic approaches: those approaches that express an artists individual ontology?

I knew that Franz Marc used different colors to represent different moods and conceptions. In this case, the colors are primarily symbolic and are part of a representation-system. The obscurity of the system and its referents depends on how well known the author actually is.
"Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay and spiritual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color to be opposed and overcome by the other two."*
In this particular case, Marc and I differ. For me  blue is a color of peace and serenity.  Yellow is often cautionary, it warns you of something. Green depends on the shade and has too many referents to the natural world (although the green ambient light beneath a maple grove is my favorite).  Red is choked with remnants of a general notion of lust, blood, and energy.

As quoted above, Yellow was Marc's color for femininity. My color for femininity?

Purple is sovereign and solitary. While it is rational almost to the point of unknowable coldness, the emotions within Purple move in a sublimity that is vast and beautifully dark. Purple is the color of Outside. It is the night deepening upon the evening.

In other words, Purple is Ada's color.

A little Expressionism while she's away.
When Ada is presented in full purples, watch out! She is at the height of her powers, her mind flows freely like the river of a burst dam. She is also emoting heavily. It could be in lust, or hatred which she will be quick to point out, are often the same thing. Above all, she has reached a point where the ephemera of this world are no longer her concern: the small aspects of causality and frantic details; it is awash in aubergine. A lavender nightgown might be the best thing for a summer afternoon. Middle age means enjoying a sunrise in plum colored shorts.

In Ada's case, purple does not mean royalty, although the Tyrian purple, which is her favorite, was so expensive in antiquity that only royalty could afford it. The same was true of the Murasaki dye in Heian Japan (needless to say, one of Ada's favorite epochs as well).  No, purple sits between Red and Blue. Outside of them, if you will, and it is beautiful all the more for that.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

House Cleaning


I don't post very much here since Ada can be rather vociferous and prolific. Instead I make the pictures.

But as of late, Ada and I have felt somewhat dissatisfied. The blog has been in existence now for a few years and while I may be more comfortable with putting out the occasional image, Ada has grown restless or "tired of these iterative constraints. It's spring. It's time for something new."

I don't really know what that means and Ada doesn't either. Recently, she has been working on some new material. It probably has to do with her obsession with bamboo and rhizomes. Whether it is a novel or not, I can't tell. I don't think it is because her own work has recently been somewhat different than the old blog postings here. To quote her:
"The fantastic is merely a mythology, a necessary legend, not just some oral tradition whispered on a porch but the legend one finds on maps. It tells you what things are. So Anton, my swim in the Elbe, my father and the ex-boyfriend-I-shall-not-name: yes they all mean something in the cartography of my life. Such mythologies are the ladders that Wittgenstein spoke of: we often need them and then dispose of them once we have climbed to the next level."
Those of you who are familiar with Ada know she went on for quite some time in this mode. Finally I got it out of her: she wanted to write less with a mind for this blog and submit to other publications.

What does that mean? I'm not sure. I had suggested Hedgebrook to her a while ago, but she was too lazy to submit the application on time. Now I was afraid she was going to apply for some residency at an AWP-sanctioned enclave and leave.
"Please, I'm far too cantankerous for that sort of thing. Besides, I'd have to probably teach someone to write, and I have grave doubts of my own ability to carry out that function. Inflicting pedagogy can be a terrible thing to do to another person."
"But there was that 27 year old poet you met in Merrida..."
"...and let's not discuss that here. I couldn't bring myself to ruin his perfectly decent Spanish clich├ęs with English ones."
"I didn't think that was the reason you were working with him so intently. At night. At that hotel just off the..."
"I said, let's leave that one alone. There are enough of those kind of memoirs already. Let us just say I want some time off to work on work alone and not worry about that blog thing you created."
I decided that if Ada was taking some time off for her creative work, it was time to clean house here. So expect some changes, perhaps some archiving. I suspect there will be some cannibalization of texts and a revaluation of all values.