Friday, August 26, 2005

regionalisms, cont'd

silly me thought i could make an unobstructed run to the liquor store once i heard the abstract boom of the announcer strike up the 7:00 bears game at soldier field. i thought that all of the human clog that had delayed me 45 minutes six blocks from home on my return commute a little while ago would since be absorbed by the mighty mothership. wrong-o. the populace in the cold-cans-of-beer-sold-separately section did not bode well for a speedy errand. as i took my place in the 20-swaying-person-deep line the guy behind me squawks, "what is this, fuckin russia?" with his dismay at the lengthy wait ahead. he had a thick sout side aaccent and a cougar tattoo on one calf. he might lead a revolution right den and dere if he hadn't been tailgating since noon. (i only jest because dey're my brethren.) so i start chatting it up with all da bearse fans who think i must be some kind of man-eater for checking out with a bottle of Jamison. "aw, i can't TOUCH dat shit." "you irish?" nope. happily a dishy bombay sapphire rep dispensed shots to all us line-wearies while cougar-guy's buddy put the moves on her: "hey, what do I gotta do to get dis girl to give me her number?" speaking of the south side, I noticed in my travels this week that the Miami Bowl has been erased... a decrepit 60's gem last visited in december 03 by our short-lived poetry discussion group. somewhere i have a photo of bernstein's my way (our topic that meeting) resting on the score table beside a basket of nachos. nope. lost in the great hard-drive crash of february. one of these days i may just be convinced to go back to ye old 35 mm. way back... i'm taking this class at the center for book and paper arts in october:
Van Dyke Brown Prints
The Van Dyke brown print produces beautiful brown-toned images and can be used with a variety of surfaces such as art papers, fabric and wood. It is one of the earliest photographic processes, dating to around 1842, and one of the simplest: images are exposed using sunlight, and processed with water. This weekend workshop will introduce you to the basics of this lovely 19th century photographic process. We will make negatives for contact-printing, using your existing photographs. Then we'll experiment with printing on various hand-coated surfaces. This technique does not require a darkroom, so you will be able to continue experimenting after the class is over.

reminds me of what keith w. said after teaching s & me how to run the franklin press, "congratulations, you've caught up with the obsolete."
sure babies are cute- this woman followed me all over evanston on my lunch hour today with her three little flaxen haired girls in poofy skirts like they were freshly paroled from the sears portrait studio- but remember they all become volatile, seething teenagers eventually. several outside my window right now- the agents of the hockey puck (repeatedly) in my lavender- tormenting a pekinese.
long misheard stereolab lyrics, just today (sadly?) set aright: you and me, we should buy something..where we owe our acknowledgment.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

of the middle west, or regionalisms, continued

from here one is always looking east and west, but more in the manner of looking left or right before one crosses a street.
when there is no better authority to go on, the work week goes on but the days are only how much you’ve had to eat, who tired you, going on instinct once we’ve reached a point beyond humor, beyond what any lesson on TV, Bush goes on about staying the course, I’ve never heard you say “fuck” so much, a disease goes on taking away, all news is irrelevant but still going on, the course of our actions on instinct without much to eat, and cars cars in so much of the way in the effort to collect little things, when the authority the work week goes on has me looking for you nights and weekends, and with an obstructed rat terrier we go on five hours of sleep, barking as a coyote goes on trotting through backyards of new subdivisions to an old lake, I will gather as much as I can bring of the outdoors to you, you going on painting and every medication, we will plant perennials with your name, fish too, and if you go on without us and can you will send hummingbirds as a greeting.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

misreading...I don't want to go on swimming..

Friday, August 19, 2005

maybe the next book needs to be called "Poems About Buildings and Food"


what others
breakfasted about a town I am
not coming up there in this air
show traffic its bounds before this
not even a.


oh line breaks, i'm rusty
while i only look at poetry sites at the new job when the server is down that prevents me from reading and testing the un-live webpages i'm supposed to be reading and testing, which has been frequent today, with a co-worker who yells "internet break!" as soon as the server's down, a prose poem called "Transport Stipulation" on a spartan white page has a perfect, could-be-work-related appearance. thanks Sawako! thanks Dusie! keep em comin...

s & i have always been good at getting fruitful misreadings out of one another's work... a lovely bit i saw in "tramp":

in the morning the bleak purse ever nearer a meal


nothing makes me feel less patriotic than the annual air and water show. every year i know it's coming, this year because an excited commercial on in the grocery store boasted "a bigger and better show than ever before!", and yet the first sonic boom sweeping over me as i walked out of the office for lunch today still struck me with a momentary panic. my fellow americans/chicagoans, a stealth fighter careening over your house is terrifying, not titillating. and i doubt i'd find it any more gratifying with a kenny loggins soundtrack and fireworks. every year i marvel at how a major metropolis can condone squadrons in freefall over a population of 8 million. the arrogance of it bothers me the most though. it's like our city's weekend-long, collective frat boy woof and head butt.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I'll have to go back and find the Times article that has sparked the furor over at the Philly Sound site, but the argument there is a resonant one, and hearing impassioned poets expound upon how, why, and every which way they love their not-New-York-city echoes many conversations had in this little part of flyover country as well. Just last night in fact, as J and I were driving up from the limitless south side- not what most would consider picturesque (great sign on a hotel marquee by Ford City: "God Bless America..Free High Speed Internet"), but the kinetic, neon cowboy sign for Mattson's Steak House and Saloon on Cicero conjures my enchantment with said sign at age 6 from the backseat of grandp's towel-covered (as in slipcovers) interior of ye old '80 Caprice...makes me think that every ugly place I encounter and potentially dismiss as an adult does possess something that enchants, and will always be enchanting, to a child growing up there.. And of course we've thought a lot about living in NY at some point- though most of what I love about NY is here only cheaper- and I have lived/visited extensively other places and I don't think it's the lifelong indoctrinization of local public television programming (tonight at 8, the best city by a lake, or, the building of the 19th century engineering marvel that would be our el system (and still is, a 19th c. marvel)) that's made me such a hometown booster... So I often ask myself, what is this thing that is regional/civic pride all about? It feels so blind that I easily suspect it and myself of something awry.. but CA Conrad captures what forms this compelling connection in his response to the Times article (the gist of which, I'm understanding, is that NY has charitably lifted Philly out of its rusticity by annexing it as the 6th borough and Phillians may now benefit from the wealth of culture gushing their way via papa apple): "I've loved more people in many different ways in this city than I have anywhere else on this planet..." CA C.
late freight that held that harmony of axles too tired and up abruptly- these dreams- to be remembered or they will be a part- connection- here the last one that was clear and a surprise about a bee looking Minoan in a glove in a garbage can and months later- never in the mood for buying such things- but then a pin recalling that bee, that dream was fond, found, and bought for a shoulder in winter no where near, now.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I could make a habit of this: Eating a cold noodle salad, spinach and tofu, sitting on steps in the courtyard beside "the hive" (side of music building with the practice rooms) on Northwestern's campus on a sun-filled day in a poplar's shade and a slight breeze and someone practicing piano- it sounds like a Chopin piece- with ocassional digressions to repeat a trill, practice the fingering.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

At this time of day leans with shadows pressing people toward the lake. Light is more in between, above, perplexed by this topography, these structures. In dwelling or about people at this hour are softer, less themselves, willing to start over with, take, this hour. If each structure had a statuette topping its crown- for each an arching nymph or dour maiden of grain- of that many staggered cakes.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Goodbye 3030

Audience at last night's Discrete event, the last official Discrete event at the 3030 spac
e, was, at times, rapt, boisterous, blurry and orange.

The Discrete Series squats in September at The Spare Room.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Imaginary Essays

from an essay by Rick Synder:

"Today, the poet's activity in Western society has been entirely bracketed and presented as meaningless, as worthy of no money, the sole standard of contemporary meaning."


"Are poets the metastasized idealism to that materialism of bodybuilders, both so wholly out of line with contemporary reality as to seem a freakish curiosity, at once frightening and funny?"

[[so who's the bodybuilding equivalent of, say, Helen Vendler?]]


"Thus liberated...[the poet is free] to question the comforts of the known, of cell phones, keyboards, interstates, tenure, mortgages, exegesis and other elements of an inhuman reality that we create and are created by."

but how many poets question these things with great intellectual/creative acuity in his/her writing practice only to submit to these things in matters pertaining to his/her lifestyle? that would be impossible to gauge because who's judging? seems like it would lead down the more-[insert virtue here]-than-thou path.

" would you work to create a reality in which life was more than a biological condition bound by the strictures of production and consumption...?"

"'Reality is not simply there,' Paul Celan wrote in 1958, 'it must be searched and won.'"

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Bingo King

Am I perceiving more job-related resonances just because I'm leaving and it's a big deal this week? Sunday night I'm waiting on the el platform because I can't hang for the duration- til 2 a.m.- of J's gig at Subterranean, and echoing off the buildings from an out of view is the voice of Elvis calling Bingo. Verbatim: "Y'all ready to play some fuckin Bingo? Awlright, listen here, G 61! G 61, y'all."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

This might be an interesting survey to take- not just what are you reading, but where are you reading it? If the experience of a text is truly a dialectic, then where a reader is experiencing the text would seem as valid a point of critical influence as that reader's background, his/her mood that day, what music or noise is distracting in the background, etc.

Pictures here are from Brookfield--I filled in for our recently fired bus driver and took the ladies to a local restaurant for lunch. Dropping them off, I pulled next door into an abandoned service station, opened the door and windows and kicked back with Laird Hunt's Paris Stories. Hunt's prose is enchanting, and the way this book illuminates a sense of place (via an elusive hybrid of history, dreams, conversations) leaves me with the conviction that every place is teeming with similar connections/beauties, not just the most romantic city in the world. Take a broken little backwater like Brookfield...

I'd be curious to see a photolog of others' books/locales..
This might be an interesting survey to take- not just what are you reading, but where are you reading it? If the experience of a text is truly a dialectic, then where a reader is experiencing the text would seem as valid a point of critical influence as that reader's background, his/her mood that day, what music or noise is distracting in the background, etc.

Pictures here are from Brookfield--I filled in for our recently fired bus driver and took the ladies to a local restaurant for lunch. Dropping them off, I pulled next door into an abandoned service station, opened the door and windows and kicked back with Laird Hunt's Paris Stories. Hunt's prose is enchanting, and the way this book illuminates a sense of place (via an elusive hybrid of history, dreams, conversations) leaves me with the conviction that every place is teeming with similar connections/beauties, not just the most romantic city in the world. Take a broken little backwater like Brookfield...

I'd be curious to see a photolog of others' books/locales..

Saturday, August 06, 2005

So the eyebrow wax worked- I'll be taking over Jesse's publishing job. And with a week left of working in social services with the elderly, I've already started reflecting on highlights of the last year+ with the elders.

-The few times I've had to drive the bus on one of their trips, I've felt like 14 people's ambassador to the world. I could not predict that would be foreign to them: from the price of a 20 oz. pop advertised outside a Subway, to the upscale sidewalk dining of downtown LaGrange (why would people want to eat next to the street?). These are women (mostly women- Gentleman, if you can live past 80 years old you're guaranteed to be a hot tamale around any retirement community.) who are in their 80's and 90's, most of them never worked, never drove even, so their sense of the world and how to handle the slightest disagreements with people is like no other person or group I've ever encountered.

Does everyone dwell in the decade of their glory years and ignore all subsequent progress of culture ever after?

It's been one of the greatest gifts of my job to hear memories and perspectives shaped by the 1930's, 40's and 50's, but this is the same generation that was on the other end of the generation gap...they're still predicting the end of rock and roll and many are among the last smatterings of congregants at their churches. Frequently I am asked why people these days let their disrespectful children run their lives and why everything on TV is sex, sex, sex.

Imagine being totally invisible to the cultural mirrors of advertising and media, and, with the exception of drug commercials, seeing no representations of yourself reflected in the culture at large. It's as if you don't exist.. And if your cultural consciousness stopped somewhere around the McCarthy years, imagine how incomprehensible the world as understood by TV, movies and newspapers must seem. (Watching 20/20 last night, thinking of all who would NOT be outraged at a segment about what a sham modern art is when a 4-year-old can paint like an Abstract Expressionist- and the kicker was a closing remark about how the government is wasting your tax dollars by lushly funding such "emperor's new clothes" foolishness!)

-The few times I had to find someone injured (or once, deceased) were certainly not pleasant but at least they have shown me that I will not be the hysterical, freaking out person in an emergency.

-I will no longer have to sit in rush hour traffic in Brookfield reading inane bumper stickers like, "First Gun Control, Then Total Control," and "Footprint of the American Chicken=(peace sign)."

-I've always enjoyed being a passive observer of other family's dynamics. This may be why I particularly love waiting in airports around the holidays. And this has been the source of mucho insight at this job too...The children of my ladies (who are my parent's age) will often remark to me, "I don't know how you do it," or "you must have the patience of a saint." And I always want to say- your mom's not that bad..clearly she bothers you much more than me. I see the power struggles between adult children and their elderly parents really heat up when the parent is forgetful or frail or hard of hearing. Adult child will infantalize his/her parent not realizing that that parent is still perceptive enough to know that they're being treated like the child.
Thinking of cuteness after Sianne Ngai's article- and still thinking of the innocence/aggression dichotomies of Darger's paintings...
We can thus start to see how cuteness might provoke ugly or aggressive feelings, as well as the expected tender or maternal ones. For in its exaggerated passivity and vulnerability, the cute object is as often intended to excite a consumer's sadistic desires for mastery and control as much as his or her desire to cuddle.
Like an Alicia next door, cute to a casting agent. The same frecklefaced 8-year-old that danced with Hello Kitty in a department store commercial would appear vacantly at my back door almost nightly. One could scarcely look up from a round of Candyland without jumping out of one's skin at the dirt-streaked waif peering in. Her objective was always to borrow my Lost Boys video. Perhaps she grew up to resemble Jamie Gertz as the undead. Last I saw her she was rolling around her front yard squeezing herself to "Like a Virgin."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Banksy strikes again!

I can't believe the press keeps referring to Banksy, also profiled in this month's Wired magazine, as a "prankster." This is witty, site-specific cultural critique. What else will shake us out of the trances of war and shopping?
I love rock lyrics that use the word "deference."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Originally uploaded by .Kerri..

I don't know a lot about wine (except that I like to drink it), and I don't want to know a lot about wine and have another good taste I can't afford (like organic food, 1940's teak furniture and high thread count sheets)...but J got chatting with the wine store guy who steered our pinot noir fancy toward Oregon's Willamette Valley. Something about the latitude being the same as France...Though rustic as we are, we only buy wine to drink it immediately, so we brought home La Bete (that's with a little hat over the first e- how to conjure this accent mark in blogger?) and each had a glass on my birthday. After a first sip and then a second and a third, we looked at each other puzzlingly. I could feel the wine bounce off my tongue- almost as if it were carbonated. It tasted full of potential but it was like dud fireworks. So we corked it up and went back to it the next day. The next day it was a totally different wine: fruity, sultry, full-figured. It was Mae West in a glass. I've never before tasted such a difference breathing (the wine) can make, or perhaps it was just at odds with the Spanish omelet of night 1. But I think it was the breathing. That bottle polished off, we'll see if today's find, Firesteed, another pinot in Bete's neighborhood, represents.

Perhaps I'm most excited by these finds because they mean another reason to go to Oregon (perhaps my favorite state). My dosha likes the cool, wet weather, and I long to revisit Portland's Japanese Gardens and hike along the Columbia River gorge.

What is outside?

Originally uploaded by .Kerri..

Thinking about how figures like Loie Fuller and Henry Darger have captured my attention lately and if their Chicago backgrounds are just a coincidence. Or is there something sub/unconsciously Chicagoan or Midwestern about their work that I'm drawn to? (When I haven't yet articulated to myself what it means to be "Midwestern", a question also posed by Ray in my interview for How about the fact that they're both considered outsiders? -Fuller has apparently been written off as a passing Art Nouveau fancy by modern dance historians...because she wasn't classically trained? Or because she appealed to more populist audiences and venues like the burlesque circuit? Talking about this last night with J who said, "Well, the arts can be prissy that way...The music world still has a hard time accepting Satie, because he was the bar room piano guy." Bang. Another personal fav. (His quote, "The more people I meet the more I like dogs" sticks with me on those occasions like yesterday's bobble-head lady.)

Well, Satie did have some informal piano training and he did go to the Paris Conservatoire for a few years before discontinuing his studies because his professors were of the opinion that he had no talent, but Darger and Fuller more or less intuited the rudiments of composition as it applied to their disciplines, Darger especially in discovering on his own the techniques of collage, transfer, photo enlargement, etc. Fuller is quite respected in the history of theatrical lighting and early cinema for her innovative "special effects" involving colored gels over electric lights, a spanking new invention in her time.

Then we were talking about the problem the art world seems to have with collaborative work. J has spent years of grad school frustrating his critiquers with his collabotive projects...they routinely insist on knowing which parts he "did"...and have warned him that getting hired may be difficult if a committee can't parse out what he's contributed as an individual to a creative body of work. But isn't this insistence of artistic ownership primarily a corollary to commodification? A work needs authorship to have taxonomic value because market value relies on an artwork/artist having a determinable place in a context like a canon. Perhaps. Thinking then of "successful" multimedia art/artists who have transcended the difficulties the art world has with such works that by nature challenge traditional modes of exhibition and purchase, like Bill Viola or Vito Acconci, who of course have to employ an army of underlings to realize the work (I know at least one) what point do these people's ideas form a collaboration? And it seems that artists like Viola and Acconci have risen above a lot of other quality work because they have managed to project a singular identity/persona of work/artist that is immediately graspable (and intoxicating) to curators and collectors. Carolee Schneeman too. I wasn't too impressed by a lecture she gave last fall at Northwestern, and I've never felt very engaged by her performance works, either in concept or realization. But as she was talking I could appreciate why the art world liked her work. It bore a singular identity that fit conveniently into the timeline. Happenings. Drug culture. Feminism. Schneeman.

So is it that Midwesterners just don't by nature possess the dandyism that is a prerequisite to attracting the notice of so-called "legitimate" tastemakers?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

In the Realms of the Unreal

I accidentally caught the Henry Darger documentary on PBS last night that Ron Silliman writes about in great detail on his blog post of Monday, June 27, 2005. Having previously seen his work in galleries and museums with a sketchy sense of him as an eccentric who contrived an elaborate alternative universe, etc. I have to say that my impression had been one of unease-at the violence, the supposed pedaphelia- coupled with admiration for the obsessive focus such a voluminous project necessitates. But this biopic leaves me with a different impression of his work, a more complex picture of the artist and his intentions, and more questions. While none of the people (mostly neighbors with whom he had very little contact) interviewed in the film seemed particularly authoritative on the subject of Darger the person, it is quickly realized that they are the only link to this hermetic and askew man. But by hearing his autobiography paralleled with the adventures of the Vivian Girls it seems clear that the Vivian Girls are a thinly veiled allegory for how mistreated he had been and how emotionally stunted he remained as an adult as a result. Therefore the viscerality of his paintings are perhaps tempered by an understanding that this was an inward person's way of interpreting and claiming agency over perceived societal injustice with dreamlike extensions/exaggerations. It's a matter of proportions. I'm not going to fume and plot imaginary revenge against the woman who yelled at me in traffic today (looking up in my rear view mirror, her head was shaking like a bobble), but someone a little more sensitive on the psychological map may register it as a tremendous personal abuse (which is, I have to admit, how I felt at the time). And while the film didn't insinuate that he ever acted out any malevolent behaviors, is it so taboo for one such as him to have such a porous boundary between what is felt and what is candidly expressed in fantasy? His neighbors said that while he carried on all night conversations with himself upon entering his apartment (in different voices even), he seemed profoundly aware of the boundary that distinguished the private world of his apartment from the outside, and he knew, or at least behaved as if he knew, that such behavior was not socially acceptable once outside his private domain. That doesn't represent a total break with reality to me. (Will have to remember to get Katie the psychologist's impression of this when she and Paul come over to dinner next weekend.) On the sexual side, which I had found the most problematic in his work initially, an interesting speculation one of his neighbors made was that his girls were depicted with penises simply out of his own innocence, having never seen a nude female and assuming they possessed an anatomy like his. I still look at the work a little unease, and I look at the cache of "outsider" art with altogether more unease, not unease with outsider artists' work in general, but with the patronizing stance toward it- the assumptions of a mainstream art world in creating the category and criteria for that category- by educated, privileged, theory-hugging, market-spotting "experts."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

We don't have locals

Originally uploaded by .Kerri..

P&J in conversation the other night asked how we like our new (since Jan.) neighborhood. Neighborhood isn't really the right word for it. People live near us, yes. But they drive into their subterranean parking lots and have little contact with one another. And no one is outside walking for the sake of being outside- it's taking the dog for a quick walk, or pushing a pram and that's it. So in spite of the ever-growing density of housing in this area, J and I are still able to haunt public spaces with little-no crowds. I don't know if this is a plus, because: I like people. So I was thinking about how Grant Park and all the other public spaces we linger in and think of as a part of our daily experience are spaces we share almost entirely with a transitory public: tourists, mostly. It's a strange feeling that places we appreciate (but know we can come back to countless times) are being appreciated by most others we're surrounded by in a fleeting way. Few of the people I see at the fountain one day will ever return.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Fuller Transmissions

Originally uploaded by .Kerri..

After being Paul & Jenny's West Nile fallout shelter Sunday night-imagine coming home to an automated recording instructing you to stay indoors from dusk til dawn, close all windows, turn off all fans, wipe everything down you're likely to touch once outside, etc. and yet the FDA says the "Anvil" they're fogging neighborhoods with is perfectly safe (a.k.a. has been shown to cause breast and prostate cancers)...what to do but wrap your organic vegetable garden in plastic and evacuate? So it made a fun little pre-birthday eve for me to have them over.

So Monday to see the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit at the Art Institute. Note: Making ticket reservations to be in first group of the day is not an advantage over the hordes. And once inside the exhibit the horde moves like one slow, single beast because everyone is following the audio tour. This is a special American, postmodern moment, in a gallery full of paintings hearing someone yell to a friend, "Where do I press play?" At least the audio tour was useful in giving me a split second of notice when I was about to get elbowed in the back or have my foot stepped on...moments before the flagrant foul the chattering electronic voice would come into focus, "...he would thin the paint to an almost watery consistency..." Ouch. Pardon me.

Seeing this exhibit made me decide that I need to know more painters. I'd love to be depicted as "A Poetess" or "The Hangover."

One of my favorite parts of the exhibition was a little film reel taken of Loie Fuller doing her flame-like dance with long, swirling, silk sleeves.

Took a long walk (from Art Institute to Wicker Park) thinking about the poetics of the flaneur. Have always been enamored of poetry that is made of highly referential language but resists easy certainties of aboutness...achieves abstraction via specific parts. Rod Smith's work comes to mind as an example. In walking through the Loop at lunchtime, experienced crowds of people on sidewalks with this in mind. Each is a stranger, yet a highly specific individual, an abstraction and a representation at once. Then there is what can be immediately deduced of a person (she is tall, he is fat, she is blonde...) versus what is hidden (most everything else). Here they all are in ever-shifting relation, walking down a sidewalk, juxtaposed against one another. And to compound the issue, they are not only in constant motion, but so is the viewer (instead of at a fixed, objective point). This sounds like I need to go read my Benjamin, but I really need a whole nother undergraduate life to assimilate the pomo theorists properly.

Caught the tail-end of an African dance troupe performing in Daly Plaza by the Picasso sculpture. I love the jutting movements of both.

And leaving the loop I walk into the cool shade and traffic breezes of an underpass, walking under trains pointed at both coasts.