TALKING FISH

Cobalt Skink went to Tybee Island. She has a wonderful, lyrical, comic, meditation-inducing drawing of a Talking Fish she did while there. Plus some musings on the trip, Sand Idles, with their vivid centerpiece a woman in a sari building a Hindu temple sand castle on the beach. Eventually, she walks into the waves, the waters of Tybee having become the universal Ganges. Unpretentious and beautifully poetic. Instead of flooding one with superfluous words she leaves just the right spaces where the unsuspecting tourist wakes to find contemplation long previously settled and waiting.

Stelarc’s Ear PORTRAIT taken by nina sellars

Hmmm. Came upon this story via Boingboing of artist, Stelarc, having this ear implanted in his arm.

H.o.p. comes up behind me and asks about it.

Me: An artist had an ear implanted in his arm.

H.o.p.: A fake ear, right?

Me: A cultured ear. It’s real. Kind of.

H.o.p. turned around and walked off.

Y’know on purely practical terms, I can imagine myself getting really annoyed with an ear on the inside of my arm. I’d feel weird about it and protective when toting things and would feel weird wanting to rest my arm on something and having an ear in the way.

But that’s me. I’m not Stelarc, who routinely uses his body for art performance.

Really, I don’t have any opinion on it. My thoughts on what the hell are these bodies of ours are a little different from what they were than when I was twenty or so.

As for H.o.p.–and I don’t think what he next did was entirely unconnected–he then brought me a box of jello mix and some cookie cutters and said let’s make jello and cut out shapes like stars and butterflies and…

“A man of jello,” he said holding up the gingerbread cookie cutter.

Somehow I never pictured Hypatia like this…

I’m so tired I can hardly focus but I’ve had this sitting on my computer for a couple days and it’s time to clear the desk.

First confounded then allured by pre-Raphaelite art

…I have just wasted some time trying to read Charles Kingsley’s Hypatia, upon which this painting of the pagan, Greek philosopher, by Charles Williams Mitchell, is said to be based. She in nubile form (though she was probably murdered in her sixties, but what fun is that) about to be be torn apart by a Christian mob, having just herself apparently been converted to Christianity. So goes Charles Kingsley’s story and yes I spy a sardonic moral there (maybe) but I’ve read the book is supposed to be in parts humorous, and if it’s black humor it is so soppy with overwrought flesh and spirituality that it’s difficult to detect, unless it’s very very very black humor, and the determined manner of overwroughtness has me thinking this isn’t the case.

Anyone have good words to say about this book before I put it down?

In which I wander on about vinyl tablecloths (unless you want to read how you can get mythologial and wily with them, you can pass this by)

This is what I’ve come to think of as The Lab. Our home in general, not just the supposed dining table. Because it’s really just a platform for H.o.p.’s experiments. The table is sparely set at the moment. It’s what we call Clean, not being filled to the brim with clay and Legos.

There are some things H.o.p. was working on this evening for a planned animation short. Boxes and boxes of clay beyond on the shelves. Gumby’s horse watching over the scene.

Continue reading In which I wander on about vinyl tablecloths (unless you want to read how you can get mythologial and wily with them, you can pass this by)

Frankenstein's beautiful monsters

So the veil between the physical world and spirit world thinned for an evening and a jackpot of candy came pouring through, the majority in orange, brown and gold wrappings, which I take it has to do with pumpkins and decaying leaves. Doing his duty in honoring the dead, H.o.p. dressed up as a zombie and returned to the old neighborhood for trick-or-treat as it is there where live the two gay guys who have the Penultimate Halloween House with Frankenstein on the lawn and the huge mechanical spider on the roof and skeletons and ghosts floating about the porch. We’d skipped the old neighborhood last year in favor of trick-or-treating with cousins in the burbs but out in the burbs the decorations were a bit too scary for H.o.p., dismembered limbs dressed up with gore, and one house in particular with a drunken reveller frightening kids had stuck with him through the entire year. Because of this and because he’d already had a nice full day Sunday of visiting with cousins, H.o.p. opted for the old neighborhood because, as he said, he really missed the Frankenstein house, where scary is all in fun and you walk away smiling and happily entertained rather than stumble away with your heart thump-thumping.

Kind of but not expressly Halloween fare, Marty and I watched this past weekend, “Ciao Manhattan” and “Pie in the Sky, the Brigid Berlin Story”. Edie Sedgwick dies and Brigid Berlin survives. What else is there to say about it all? I looked for something of universal merit in the films on these two society girls whose lives are far removed from 99.9% of those who will watch the movies but the point of privilege here is denying the universal for sake of the super exceptional me. Whatever appeal Edie had must have been mostly in person because the charm of Edie was lost to me, and the adulation heaped on her beauty was a puzzle as she seemed no more or less beautiful than millions of other girls in three hours worth of cosmetics–and though I understand she supposedly crafted a unique style I don’t trust that it wasn’t already roaming New York on persons not destined to be known. She was sad, but she was also a human with a lot of money at her disposal who tossed away $80,000 worth of inheritance in three months, which was quite a sum in the 60s, and I’ve some trouble dignifying that as simply tragic rather than grossly irresponsible and as pathetically corrupt as the preceding generation which certainly played its part in destroying her. The supposed moral is that Edie didn’t make it out alive but Edie is now glorified for living fast and beautiful and dying young.

“Ciao Manhattan” was admittedly shocking in its eye on the post-Manhattan Edie whose diet was barrels of prescribed pharmaceuticals and was also on a course of numerous shock treatments because she supposedly liked them so much she didn’t want to give them up after just three. I understand the damage her brain had suffered via the years of drug excess accounts for her being unable to stand up, she wasn’t just acting (she was acting out) but she must have still envisioned herself as being sexually enticing or else Edie wouldn’t have spent the entire film sans top showing off the wonder breast implants. The scene in which she performs her California post-Manhattan dance is about as painfully grotesque as it gets and though I hear she insisted upon the dance I’ve no idea if she really knew what she looked like, if she had seen the footage, and even if she had seen the footage when you consider that she wasn’t in her right mind at the time there’s no telling what she might have been seeing in her own blown-out head. But she had a story she wanted to tell or else she wouldn’t have threatened pulling out of the movie unless a staged version of her shock therapy was included. She probably wasn’t clear on what story she wanted to tell but in the end that doesn’t matter much. The fact she probably wasn’t clear on what story she wanted to tell is a big part of this story of a woman whose two older brothers committed suicide and who understood herself as being not much more than a very wealthy sexual object from Day One. Some have wondered also about the filmmakers and considered that they were only exploiting Edie in her sad state, and it is something I too wondered about briefly but then decided whatever, that Edie too had something she wanted to say and she was a twenty-eight year old woman and not an underage ingenue.

Despite every unvoiced criticism I have of the movie it’s worth viewing for its place in the “how did we get here from there” continuum, the American version of royalty excesses and star-tripping, the contortions of masochistic/sadistic glamor, the hand-in-hand unglued paranoia and self-absorption. It’s worth viewing as a purely American fairy tale in which a young man goes to California looking for the saucer people, happens upon Edie and is talked into babysitting her in her drained swimming pool bedroom papered wall-to-wall with the Edie of yesterday and instructing her on the art of building a flying saucer while her mother devoted herself to making pies. The film is a rambling, largely nonsensical incoherent mess partly because it is two films–the first was black-and-white footage in New York meant to chronicle the amphetamine-powered Beautiful People lifestyle, but the “actors” went AWOL and several years later a desperate attempt to complete the film happened with the California color footage–and still it is worth viewing, in particular as a complimentary piece to Warhol Factory alumnus Paul Morrisey’s “Frankenstein”, a film I saw when about 19 which scared the living daylights out of me. I know that one should be cool and cynical enough that Morrisey’s “Frankenstien” be appreciated for its comic value, but the spiritually-hollow me-me-me of the film was frightening precisely because of its revelry in its portrayal of decadent emptiness. Morrisey’s “Frankenstein” was released in 1973, while “Ciao Manhattan’ was released in 1972 and it seems that “Frankenstein” should have been released first and “Ciao Manhattan” a humanizing response to it. But that’s not how it happened. Instead we have Edie at Ciao’s end hooked up to the shock machine and charged through with electricity in a scene that certainly recalls every Frankenstein movie you’ve ever seen and seems a comment on the time and celebrity and money and exploitation. And I seriously have to wonder if Morrisey sat watching Ciao Manhattan and upon seeing Edie’s grotesque dance and her electric anti-renaissance thought, “Yes, yes, that’s it, my Frankenstein monster. That is my cut-up, pieced together, Beautiful People Warholian Factory Girl”. Though Morrisey’s “Frankenstein” horrifies me, I’ve got to admit that I’ve never seen a movie that quite depicts the pathologically-ill mindset of exploitation as his does. It sticks with you like a memory of your worst case of food poisoning, and if you’ve ever had a bad case of food poisoning then you know how scary that is. “To know Death Otto, you first have to f**k life in the gall bladder ” Frankenstien says, reminding of Warhol’s father dying of gall bladder illness (I believe) and if you know of Warhol’s father’s problems with his gall bladder then it seems a peculiar inside joke. But then Warhol a decade later, after years of amphetamine abuse, dies of a heart attack after gall bladder surgery, a sort-of self prophecy as he was scared he would die in hospital. And that’s sticky. Warhol was like velcro covered with velcro stickies that scared the hell out of him.

Which brings to mind another weirdness of life crazily spinning off on seeming inside jokes and co-operatively creating real puzzles of them. Edie’s mother in “Ciao Manhattan” makes pies, and Brigid Berlin is so obsessed with key lime pie in “Pie in the Sky” that she supposedly eats several in one sitting and states she has on the sly been eating pie after pie throughout the filming, incapable of controlling herself, causing her weight to begin to balloon again, which has been the bane of her existence, her mother’s preoccupation with her weight, her criticisms of it and beginning her daughter on amphetamines in an attempt to control it because she knew Brigid wouldn’t be happy fat, when instead it’s the mother who wasn’t going to be happy with a fat daughter. Which is one thing, but then I look up a published bio of Edie and what does it begin with but talking about the Sedgwick burial plots being called a pie. Very first paragraph. “Have you ever seen he old graveyard up there in Stockbridge? In one corner is the family’s burial place; it’s called the Sedgwick Pie…”

Where I’m going with this is that the Warholian work and Factory-related work seems after a while to make a crazy kind of dream maze. One is challeneged to find in it what is real and what is not, what is art and what is the gimmick that fattens the bank account (Warhol was, after all, first an incredibly successful commercial artist). So everyone debates as to what’s real and what’s not in “Ciao Manhattan” and whether Edie was exploited or not. Was Morrisey’s “Frankenstein” high camp or art? Was Joe Dallesandro acting badly intentional or was his bad acting intentionally used or not? And when I reflect on the pheomenon, that sticky question that is glued on nearly every Factory-related work, as to what’s art and what’s life, what’s vanity as opposed to depiction of the vain, then the art of period is not defined by the individual elements but the whole shebang. I’ve finally decided that I doubt there’s a single piece of “art” in the Factory warehouse that is art in and of itself. The art is the whole of the Factory, every piece referencing another and with such eerie sphinx-like reflections and anticipations that you’re compelled to consider how Oedipus blinded himself in an attempt to escape the machinery of the gods while paying for his part in it (at least so goes one way of looking at it). If Warhol and Edie and Brigid and everyone else happened to be blind to what they were ultimately creating (which I suspect they were in as much as they defined themselves as so part and product that they were incapable of escaping what they were commenting upon) it is still art, art almost in spite of itself, though I suspect too that most onlookers don’t have a clue either as to what makes it so, rambling on about how Warhol showed art is also the everyday everybody’s soup can in which all can participate and hey see too everyone can make art if it’s the humble soup can. No, I think if most people really got the soup cans and Jackie Os and Marilyns they’d angriliy burn them all rather than honoring because it’s hell rather than the sweet ode to mom’s lunch that Warhol stated the soup cans to be. The whole of the Factory’s work condemns everyone for a rat’s maze inescapable exploitative meanness and guile. It’s twentieth century Bosch and a couple hundred years from now, just as many wonder how Bosch got away with his depictions, people are going to look at it the Factory’s Opus and wonder why in the hell those twentieth centuriers made their cathedral of it and bought it as a love poem rather than going out and sitting on the corner and crying.

Edie Sedgwick shocked out of her Frankenstein’s creation gourd, and purportedly wanting it (which means it was better to her than what she already had), acting out convulsions on the shock table, and Morrisey’s exploited, pieced-together Beautiful Frankenstein monsters are a key to the what carries the Factory beyond the self-infatuation and self-hatred of the Factory to the universal. It was Made in U.S. of A. and still is. It’s what’s on the menu. And somewhere deep inside people are indeed perhaps aware of the ferocity of what they were eating and being fed and what it meant, or else Warhol wouldn’t have been giving away as presents the Electric Chair art that just simply wouldn’t sell.

New York Times picks up the story on Jill Greenberg and Thomas Hawk

Quoting (sometimes just a hair loosely) from Jill Greenberg’s ipodcast with American Photo back in April, looking at the same time of a picture of a crying child titled “Torture” that’s on the page offering the ipodcast…

Continue reading New York Times picks up the story on Jill Greenberg and Thomas Hawk

One's "inferiors"

As I noted in a post below, what particularly rubbed me the wrong way about how the children were used in Jill Greenberg’s art was denying the reality of their emotions in order to provoke a certain feeling in adults. Denying the reality of their emotions, reforming them into allegory, and saying this had no effect on the children whatsoever.

It is not just an art issue. It is a matter of how children are viewed by society, which means it is also a matter of how different constellates of peer groups will treat those who are viewed, for whatever reason, as living beneath a comparable status. In certain contexts this conceit has been called The White Man’s Burden.

I’ve written about this in a number of posts.

The child to whom you offer the lollipop, then deny them that lollipop and take their feelings and deny them even those and resculpt them for allegory, that child is being treated as an inferior and that they dont’ own their experience, instead it is owned by those upon whom they are dependent and it is plastic and pliable according to one’s whims. “But the child is an inferior,” some people may not say but will certainly believe.

No, the child is not an inferior being. The child is a child and that’s all there is to it. Childhood is not an inferior state. They are living as they should, as children. That a child is dependent doesn’t mean they are inferior.

But then, this is how many people choose to live, rating themselves and others on a continuum of less or more inferior. Many people see nothing wrong with it all. For them it is reality.

Presuming to judge another artist's ethics can be risky, but here goes…

Presuming to judge another artist’s ethics can be risky, but here goes.

Boingboing points to this blog post of Thomas Hawk, photographers’ rights activist, in which he writes on the photography of Jill Greenberg. In specific, her photos of children crying. Seems she admits that she manipulates the children into crying, doing things such as offering lollipops then taking them away. She provokes tears. Thomas Hawks believes this is unethical and damaging to the children. Some people agree and some people see no problem with it…all for the sake of art.

Me? I don’t like it. I can’t imagine doing this to H.o.p. or my nieces or nephews. I can’t imagine doing this to anyone’s child.

I have a photo of H.o.p. crying, which was taken during a profoundly out-of-control tantrum, but the photo was in context of the moment. In fact, it was taken to end the moment. Somehow I got the idea to ask if H.o.p. wanted me to take a picture of him. It was well over a year ago and somehow in the context of the tantrum it occurred to me that it was the just right thing to possibly do, that he may need to see himself as he was. He said yes, and I took the picture and he looked at it and the tantrum ended. It was a one time situation. I have kept the photo and occasionally have looked at it and thought it was, despite the circumstances, a beautiful picture of him, but it was a private situation and I don’t think H.o.p. would appreciate me turning it into art.

We didn’t have a videocamera when H.o.p. was young. Still don’t. But we borrowed one a couple of times and one of those times was to record H.o.p. walking around in his first real pair of shoes. He was 9 months old and was pulling himself up and walking using furniture as support. We were getting ready to go on the road and he needed, I figured, a good pair of shoes to help him in his attempts to walk. I thought they’d help stabalize him, thought they were help on the tour bus. So we got him his shoes and I put them on his little feet and I pulled out the borrowed videocamera to record the momentus event of his walking around in his shoes. I had this silly idea, like I said, the shoes would lend support. Instead, they hampered him. H.o.p. was attempting to walk toward me, using the sofa as support. At first he was excited, Marty was right behind him, and you can hear me talking to H.o.p. and he’s all smiles and happy. Then his features become perplexed, he’s becoming anxious. I am holding the camera still, recording him, and he’s becoming more exasperated, and finally it occurs to me that his shoes, those new shoes, they are hampering him, holding him back, and I mentioned something on camera about it, but I waited to do anything about it because I had the idea he would get used to them in a second and it would be a passing thing, that the shoes were good for him.

It rips my heart out every time I see that stupid video. I tell myself, “Put down that damn camera now and get those shoes off of him! He obviously doesn’t like them one bit. Why couldn’t you see that at the time?” It rips my heart out that I can’t go back and redo it, hand Marty the camera and take off those damn shoes.

We have another video of him when he was maybe about a month old and he was doing some damn cute things. We were borrowing the camera and were going to have to return it the next day so of course we wanted a movie of him. But whenever I pointed the camera at him he started crying and I would go, “Ooooh,” and cut the camera off and that would be it for the moment. A couple of weeks ago H.o.p. and I were watching that video (we did finally get some okay shots) and he started crying in it and, oh, that was my baby crying, and even as I, over eight years ago, cut off the camera, I had to reach over and give H.o.p a hug because that was my baby crying. “But, mom, I’m all right. That was me crying as a baby,” he said. And I said, “Yeah, I know but I still have to give you a hug.”

It’s not that those two times are an exception. I know I’ve injured H.o.p.’s feelings many times.

And it’s not that I’m unwilling to experience pain for art. Writing is hell for the most part. I put myself through a lot, writing. It isn’t fun. And I don’t just mean that writing is a pain. I mean it can be very painful emotionally, imagining situations for the story, putting yourself in that place and writing through it.

So my not liking that video of H.o.p. in which his shoes are hampering him isn’t because I don’t want to experience my own pain upon seeing this, but when I look I keep feeling those shoes weighing him down and he was feeling those shoes weighing him down and it was frustrating, it was confusing for him, he was just discovering walking and here he had on these confusing shoes, and it hurts watching the confusion on his face. I want to free him of it.

Okay. So let’s say you are the witness of a terrible event and you take a photo, say, of a child injured in war, sobbing, or a child witnessing the horrors of war and sobbing. If it rips out my own heart I can imagine showing this to other people with the hope it will stir sympathetic emotion and make them want to stop the pain, to stop the reason for that pain, just as when I’m watching that video of H.o.p. I want to yell, “Stop that camera and take off that boys’ shoes!” That’s one thing.

But, hell, setting up a child? Putting them in the studio, handing them a lollipop and then taking it away? May sound like nothing, but it is.

I showed H.o.p. the pics of the children crying. He asked what was going on. I told him that a woman takes pics of children crying and to make them upset she does things like offering them something and then taking it away. I asked H.o.p. what he thought about it. He looked a little unsure. I could see his brain telling him that he’s an artist and here I was asking him what he thought of what another artist was doing and this was causing a push-pull because he was having to think about what the artist did, not just the artist’s technique.

I said, no, really, what do you think about it, I want to know.

“I think it’s mean,” H.o.p. said.

I asked H.o.p. how he’d feel toward someone who did that.

“I wouldn’t trust them after that,” H.o.p. said.

Children are given many reasons to not trust. They happen every day. But as far as the child knows this is real life, it’s not an acting job, real emotion is being evoked and recorded, and that emotion is betrayal. It’s betrayal inspired by the artist. The object may be a simple little lollipop, but it is still betrayal, that child is in a situation of dependence upon the artist and it is a critical event for the child. Even if it is just a lollipop.

Jill’s husband says the child’s parents are present, that many are children of friends and are over for playdates and don’t seem the worse for wear. He says this is how it’s done inovies, in media. But the emotional life of a child is not utterly transparent, you may not know for another twenty years exactly how the child felt. And even then you may never know how the child really felt because the child may convince themselves along the way that it was all right. The adult said it was all right after all.

Uh, except I think it’s pretty transparent in these pics how the child did feel. Which is the point. Getting pics of those feelings of betrayal. That anguish.

I don’t think what Jill is doing is respectful of the child, don’t think it is respectful of the child as a person.

Jill Greenberg’s website is titled Manipulator. Posh site.

I don’t see a portfolio of Jill provoking adults to tears and rage. Why doesn’t she give it a go with consenting adults iinstead?

Update: A commentary on the art at Jill’s website states,

It will take two years to purge the photos of screaming children from her upcoming exhibition End Times from your head. The artist uses the wailing distress of the children as an allegory for the deepest fears of the human species as a whole and draws on the vocabulary of Christian millennialism, conspiracy theory culture and doomsday environmentalism to title the work. A redhead boy looking heavenward, his neck in a St. Sebastian pose, is titled, “nucular (sic)”. A girl emerging from her weeping looks to heaven for either hope or retribution in “Unless”. Sometimes titles synch with the pose, other times meaning is more oblique. Not only are the images compelling, but Greenberg burrows deep to extract difficult conversation about the current American moment.

C’mon. This is fucking lame. Like children’s emotions don’t belong to themselves and aren’t important in and of themselves but are just fodder for adults inclined to allegory. *That* is a problem, denying the honest emotion of the child in context and resculpting it into allegory. It’s just as much a problem as anything Jill may say she’s trying to expose. It’s dishonest.

Let me try that out on H.o.p., making him cry and then saying to him, “H.o.p., now you are allegory for the deepest fears of the human species”. See how that flies.

It won’t take two years to purge Jill’s photos from my head. But I’ll always remember the above lame excuse for attempting to provoke feelings in adults. And that, yes, is child abuse. Manipulating children, denying the reality of their emotions in order to provoke a certain feeling in adults, is indeed emotional abuse.

Guess the song

Boingboing has a link to a video of San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Muriel Maffre performing “Ballet Mori”…conducted by the earth. It’s a “musical composition modulated line in real time by the fluctuations of the Earth’s movement as measured by a networked seismometer at the Hayward Fault”. The 3 minute dance was in commemoration of the 1906 San Francisco Quake.

The NY Times elaborates:

The seismic fluctuations are transmitted by a sensor at the Hayward Fault in California…a MIDI system programmed with a mix of natural sounds (rock slides, volcanic eruptions, thunderclaps) translates the fluctuations…

I called H.o.p. over as the ballet began and I asked him what the music was. He made several wrong guesses and I told him to stop and simply listen and I would tell him when the ballet was over. He watched a couple of seconds more and then he said, “Earthquake”.

Now I think that’s pretty cool that someone can listen to white noise and make that kind of a guess. Plus, I had the sound way down low (where it does seem pretty much like only white noise) so some elements couldn’t even be heard, such as water gurgles etc., which may have made it more confusing to hazard a guess actually if they could have been readily distinguished. Didn’t realize how low I had the sound until after the guessing game with H.o.p. when I later read around to see exactly how this was done and found mentions of the natural sounds that were used and that it was described as roars and crashes. Roars and crashes? So went back and turned up the volume loud and watched again.

I’m not impressed with the dance itself, at least what I could see in the video, which I know is far removed from the experience (reviews range from great and haunting to calling it unimpressive and “been there done that”) but H.o.p. enjoyed it and it made a good base for discussion on plate tectonics and seismometers and the “living earth”, a concept with which H.o.p. has obviously no problem.

Now, back to static electricity, I think. Yesterday, because of the mysterious event with the scotch tape, we did little science experiments with scotch tape demonstrating static electricity, magnetism etc. Had promised more of the same today.

We like Neo-Kaiju

H.o.p. fell for the Neo-Kaiju Treebird by artist Kathy Staico-Schorr. We attempted to order it through Wootini which is where we first saw it. Pretty cool website adds to anticipating something good but H.o.p. would have liked Treebird regardless. He also liked a number of other toys but Treebird was the right price.

Here’s a painting of Treebird at the Jonathon Levine Gallery website.

As it turns out Treebird is no longer available at Wootini so I’m looking elsewhere (they’ve since taken down their pic for which reason I’ve linked instead to Wackattic, which is also out of Treebird).

Lengthy post on dead artists, musicians and authors. Kind of. Kind of not.

This is a post about dead artists and writers, kind of, though it won’t seem to be at first because it’s kind of and kind of not.

Walked out of one flu/cold and right into another. At least H.o.p. came down with another one, wham, and this time he felt painfully bad at the beginning. Last cold he was upbeat. This time he was sobbing at first as he trailed Kleenex. I’m not a person who can clean up hundreds of wadded tissues, no matter how often I wash my hands, without getting a bug myself so am waiting to get socked next.

But the reason I bother to write this is simply intro to the conversation we had tonight.

I wasn’t feeling so hot and had been without sleep for over 24 hours as he had been unable to sleep and then was waking every couple of hours with the cold bothering him, though Vicks Vaporub and eucalyptus and the humidifer and Tylenol and massaging his sinuses were helping greatly. (Excuse me while I blow my nose.) I was sorting through piles and piles of H.o.p.’s papers (excuse me while I blow my nose again) now that I’ve got another two bookcases packed in here that I’ve already filled up (excuse me while I blow my nose again and this time immediately again) and could use at least two more but at least I’ve got someplace to put all the fake Tupperware containers holding all the paints and pens and markers and crayons and school supplies and paper and this and and that and (excuse me while I blow my nose again) and more paper etc. etc. and our multiplying notebooks and try to make room for the next onslaught of books and art projects. (Gotta get those two other bookcases–we could actually use four more as I’ve still got one bookcase that is literally dissolving and upheld with books as support and two low handmade ones that need to be replaced with space-making tall ones. You can’t beat $59 at Ikea for a big bookcase but will have to hold off on any more which is fine, because it’s great to be able to at least reach the closet door in here, in front of which I’d been stacking all the fake Tupperware art supply containers.) Like you want to hear all this but I’m blowing my nose again and I can’t hear you sighing…

(In case you didn’t notice, the bookcases have nothing to do with anything in this post. I’m just showing them off. See? Aren’t they nice?)

Anyway, H.o.p. is one of those kids who reflects on the past and when he’s not feeling good and wants to feel better things will come to his mind that may have delighted him ages ago. He was feeling better tonight and was wanting to feel even better and cozier and he was aware I was cranky and tired. He asked for a movie that he’s not seen in ages and I looked for it then remembered it had worn out long ago and been thrown out. So he then asked to see a website he used to love to visit when he was two and three years of age. It’s a mix of art that I accept as good and new age art that I look upon as being bad art and has songs to go with each piece that are made-for-computer snyth honestly bad reworks of Bach, Pachebal, Enya etcetera. But it doesn’t matter. H.o.p. loved that website when he was two and three, a website I’d come upon because of a very brief internet acquaintance I’d made with a woman, I don’t even remember how but it was through some list I’d joined that promptly dissolved, and this was her website so I had visited it occasionally when I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, because she was a nice woman, and H.o.p. had fallen in love with two images there. One a painting of a baby floating in space looking at a star, and that famous photo of the earth taken from the moon. It has been two years since we’ve been to that website, at least, but he remembered it tonight and said, “Do you remember the webpage where the baby was flying in the air, please don’t tell me you don’t,” and I knew immediately what he wanted and dug up the link out of an ancient stash of bookmarks of his.

We started with the baby floating in space picture and talked this time about it at length. He wanted to know what it “meant” which wasn’t something he was asking at two and three or the last time we visited. So we talked about multiple and possible meanings. Then he wanted to go through each picture, and as we went through we talked about the artists and what the pictures may mean and the music and what music successfully fit with the pics and what didn’t. A lot of different ideas in the pictures and so we talked about the idea of Tao and of the I Ching and he loved an image called “Atomic Buddha” and was curious about the Dali images. We’ve not talked too much about Dali yet. H.o.p. has always liked Max Ernst and Magritte, he drug around a book of Max Ernst a full two years from when he was two to four years of age. Tonight he was asking about Dali, which he’s not shown interest in before. One of Dali’s famous Christ on the cross paintings.

“Is Dali dead?”

A couple of years ago this was traumatic for H.o.p., that all these artists and musicians and authors he enjoyed were dead. Certainly he sees and hears and reads tons of things by living people but he always manages to ask if they’re alive or dead if they happen to be dead.

“Yes, he’s dead.”

“What a rip!” H.o.p. said and laughed.

Another picture. “Is that artist still alive?”

“Nope, dead.”

“What a rip!” laughed H.o.p. And I laughed too and he liked that and it became the running joke of the night. Still, he was delighted when, as to a new age painting (mediocre), he learned that the artist was yes likely alive, and he was all, “Can I meet them?”

I don’t know how many kids wonder, from the age of five, what artists or musicians or authors are alive or dead. But when H.o.p. began asking me about this several years ago it really meant something to him and was bothersome that he was looking at and enjoying works by all these dead people. Like Beatrix Potter. When he was five, I think the last person he asked if they were alive or dead was Beatrix Potter. After learning Beatrix Potter was dead too, he didn’t ask about who was alive or dead for a long while.

Marty’s been out of town a lot on gigs recently and is going to be out and back in and out and back in some more and H.o.p. soaks up all the time he can with him, every moment an opportunity, and for some reason H.o.p. had him in bed reading Sartre’s “No Exit” to him. Don’t ask me. I don’t know. I walked in to find the scene of H.o.p. snuggled up with his dad, tissues stuck in each nostril, begging for “No Exit” to be continued to be read to him.

“Is he dead?” H.o.p. then asked, as soon as mom was in sight.

“”Yes, H.o.p, he’s dead.”

“What a rip!” H.o.p. said and looked to his dad for a laugh.

“Y’know, a lot of artists and authors and musicians are alive, you just don’t happen to ask me about them,” I reminded him.

“Like the person who painted the picture of the green hand with the light in the middle of the hand? Tell dad about that one.” Yes, another new agey picture I didn’t like but H.o.p. had liked it and we had discussed why he liked it and why I didn’t and he’s confident enough in his tastes that he’s going to like it regardless.

“And you know the woman who wrote the Harry Potter books is alive,” I reminded him. Because H.o.p., like so many, is a Harry Potter fan though we’ve not introduced him to the latest books and movie as it would be too much for him. Sorry, but though H.o.p. may like fantasy horror, a truly atmospheric scene in which someone chops off their hand and tosses it into the pot to help bring evil to life would freak him out. Way bit much for an eight-year-old and he trusted us when we told him the latest movie wasn’t something he would want to see.

Just like he trusts me to ferret out what’s good or not when he Googles for clips of homemade movies of dragons and Godzilla and robots. He is aware there’s stuff that’s too old for him for one reason or another (he doesn’t want to be scared out of his boots) and if he sees a still he likes he’ll ask me to watch it. Because you never know if something that looks good will turn out to not be for an eight-year-old.

“You know what they say, ladies first!” he says, and dashes from the room while I watch it. If I say, “It’s fine,” he runs back in to watch. If I say, “No, not fine,” he comes back in and sometimes he wants to know why and other times he doesn’t.

Sitting here getting more and more congested and suddenly I’ve a craving for really good chocolate with a lime filling. I had a Godiva once that was billed as having a key lime filling. That’s what I want. I want it like crazy.

Vitamin C craving. Yeah. Kerchoo. But I want specifically that Godiva chocolate with the key lime filling.

Oh well.

Anyway, that’s all. Now H.o.p. can joke about dead artist, musicians and authors, when he couldn’t at five.

“Are they alive?”

“Nope.”

“What a rip!”