Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Contextualizing Identity through Popular Culture as Performance, Video and Installation

Kabuki or Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Charlie Chan or Gladys Knight and the Pips? And which is stronger, a rock or water? To be Asian or to be American is the ontological question. Or is the question, more appropriately, to be somewhere in between, straddling the proverbial fence?

What all of these disparate questions seem to share in common relates to combining old ideas heretofore considered as individual projects that over the course of much time and labored thought dovetailed into a concept for a larger new piece. Probably as a result, this revelation, this change in direction represents an attempt on my part to break from a predictable aesthetic often associated with a conceptual albeit rigid linearity characteristic of previous work.

The summer term began with four ideas for new works planted deeply in my mind as definitive projects to execute: growing a lawn indoors, Kabukized Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a portrait of the artist as a Pip, and finally, the parable of the Stone versus Water as metaphor of the difference in Eastern and Western attitudes toward life and living. Each was intended to be a separate work. But something quite unexpected happened during the course of concurrently conceptualizing how to visualize these notions into actual work: each idea began to relate to each other in ambiguous terms under my continued scrutiny. This prompted more questions of pinpointing the exact nature how these projects linked. What about being a Pip refers to Kabuki? How does the aforementioned parable relate to indoor lawn maintenance?

Thus begins the dialogue that transforms these distinct questions from becoming the usual series of work. To address these additional questions, determine why and identify the elusive quality of the relationships between each idea requires a strategy of dissection and deconstruction through research and more analysis. To do this I write. Often the mental approach of the physical action of writing notes (my way of sketching out an idea without actually drawing) reveals hidden aspects of the idea of a new piece itself. This process disciplines how a concept evolves usually from a one-liner into something more layered. Mostly, the result is a synthesis of stream-of-conscious proselytizing and apriori logical polemics, all of which is culled from a variety of fictional and nonfictional readings. The following offers a summary of this writing process/artistic methodology:

Within a demarcated, confined space- probably indoors, roll out preplanted grass rectangles to form maybe fifteen by fifteen yard square area on top of a three-inch deep wooden box platform built to accommodate packed soil for lawn growth and planting. Interior site location is dependent on natural light source accessibility, if not availability, as photosynthesis will allow grass to root and grow on a regular basis. Proximity to sink only facilitates irrigation, as watering the lawn by connecting a hose to a facet is certainly preferable to sloshing around using the labor-intensive water bucket brigade method of running back and forth to water grass.

bell hooks, in discussing how Malcolm X changed, transformed his misogynistic political views in her book Outlaw Cultures touches upon the subject of a white supremacist internalized mindset of preprogrammed colonization. One is affected as a person of color in their perception of the dominant culture, whitewashing by natural instinct or edict, all other colors in race. The "subliminal" lesson is that the white (Americanized or Europeanized) way of life is supposed to "civilize" indigenous, inferior (or unchristian) cultures. The term "civilization", interestingly enough, is euphemism for the righteousness of the "white man" to subvert and annihilate that which is opposite to it or considered wild or formless. An appropriate analogy as a new work to investigate this idea might involve the lawn and its maintenance, specifically, its manicure.

Growing a lawn indoors in order to mow it weekly pertains to a particular conditioned state of mind that permeates through acculturation from institutionalized systems or the powers that be, in an insidious manner, how one becomes saturated and brainwashed to value white Eurocentric ways of seeing. In simpler terms, to be All-American, within a minority context, is to assume a white guise; some might say to "sell out" or "buy in". No matter how one maintains their cultural roots and integrity, what we learn from Eurocentrically written history books eventually manipulates the subconscious into adopting the same prejudiced criteria to judge or perceive what is good or bad. The set of standards becomes slightly skewed, altered to reflect white majority mainstream tastes: white is beautiful and black as well as other colors ugly; God (Christian monotheism) supreme over alternative religions and belief systems. The mission, which began to convert other nonchristian cultures, is strangely successful in secular terms. European society through cultural imperialism determines the perceptual agenda for other Third World countries to modernize their industrialization efforts to computer age technology in order to keep pace and not lag behind. The implication of which is related to the notion that cultural failure equals cultural inferiority (Japan is the exception to a certain degree as Post-World War Two restrictions precluded this island nation from any significant military buildup. The subsequent American presence in varied forms influenced the Japanese psyche to abide by, adapt, and reinvent their sense of nationalism as a means to reclaim themselves as a world power, an economic giant based on technological leadership).

Why are Americans obsessed with manicured lawns? Is it coincidental the relationship of prosperity, wealth is associated with traditional American values e.g. the All-American Dream of house and the Norman Rockwell white picket fence surrounding and protecting the perfectly precious front and back lawns? But the majority (White) of Americans cut grass, mow lawns as a sign of, to reflect their culturally economic nobless oblige. Even people of color follow suit, infected by similar disease. Blindly assimilating the worse aggressive traits of these cultural fascists lording over entire ethnic communities, sometimes whole ways of living oftentimes hundreds of generations old become lost, thrown away like detritus in favor of, or in deference to achieving the glory of the American Dream.

All of which only raises more questions to wrestle with such as how am I affected by these cultural and historical forces? Is my compulsion to mow a lawn related only to the loose metaphor of the colonizational effects on my person? Does cutting grass every week mean that I am an unwitting victim or willing participant in this cycle? And how is this conveyed within the context of the work?

Include as documentation videotape of the artist mowing the lawn, or another lawn outdoors, every week. Quality of image determines whether videotape is to be projected on the wall or played back on a monitor. Installation as video projection limits how the work is presented only in darkened spaces. Visually, the projection extends into the actual lawn edge, traversing boundaries between fictive (two-dimensional) and nonfictive (three-dimensional). Technical restrictions of media, of projection is problematic as interior space, in order to project video image optimally, ordinarily must be darkened to an almost pitch-black setting that is contrary to stated lighting conditions ideally suited to nurture lawn growth. If it is impossible to reconcile the foreseeable lighting dilemma, then priority is primarily to focus on the lawn first, or perhaps rethink work to divide the installation into two separate rooms by bifurcating the space into a well-lit lawn area or greenhouse and the darkened video space. The whole point of the lawn image in the video is to satisfy the compulsion on my part to cut it.

Also related to this main issue of identity, or the perception of identity and how it is controlled, is another idea for another work to restage the cult classic gore movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre as Kabuki theater. In-depth research as well as repeated viewing suggests strong comparisons between the Japanese theatrical form and the horror flick genre especially shared characteristics such as styled makeup and melodramatic movements that revolve mostly around tales of revenge.

Begin storyboard work in order to shoot raw video footage for respective lawn, Kabuki, and Gladys Knight pieces. Tighten conceptually the relationship between each work as larger whole. Familiarization of overall plotline of movie in question facilitates derivation of basic idea for edit. Script should last no more than a half-hour to test run for ironing out any kinks.

The horror film genre replicates its literary antecedent solely as cautionary morality plays pitting man against himself; his metaphysical shadow if you will, susceptible to evil and its abysmal pitfalls. Pure goodness of soul usually triumphs over satanic evil, but in contemporary society, such extremes in character are much too simplistic an answer. Evil manifests itself in multivaried, complex forms too complicated to explain in just purely religious or philosophical terms. Scientific or psychological or even supernatural or extraterrestrial reasons are also part of the larger puzzle that is the human perception of belief systems enacted to govern human intellectual and spiritual concerns. Man institutes certain moral safeguards in place to prevent disorder, chaos (as with the lawn project analogy of something wild disrupting a man-made sense of natural order). Life in Judeo-Christian terms is a constant test of oneself resisting sin and maintaining a gospel of observing God's edicts so as to enter heaven for everlasting salvation. In Eastern (most Asian) societies, an inherent understanding related to Eastern thought and religion exists of a natural balance, the yin and yang, that is a continuous battle between light and dark, of opposites. How to express the Western (in most cases, Hollywood) influence on Eastern culture in this work refers not only to the cultural manifest destiny and how it affects problems of acculturation but also to the reappropriation of imagery, iconography borrowed in a filmic context.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the perfect model to act as a symbol of American mass consumption. It is a story of a serial-killing family hell-bent on murdering victims out of a personality-possibly mental-disorder, frightening viewers disgusted by psychotic hacking of the human body in gruesome slaughterhouse fashion (as if to say human life is nothing more than a slab of meat one eats). It is also a metaphor for the perceived American penchant to cannibalize other cultures. Using a mechanized machine to cut up and off limbs to kill certainly illustrates a dichotomy of the American psyche: everyone understandably reacts in horror and then, surprisingly, in fascination. Herein lies the contradiction of mass public character that one becomes sick initially, but then returns to gape, bloodthirsty. Is the capacity for violence, as some critics say, the result of media pandering to the lowest common denominator that creates distance, an eventual emotional detachment from reality? Is the actual line blurred between what and how often one sees a certain event or thing and the event or thing itself?

But the primary question remains, how does adapting Texas Chainsaw Massacre address the cross-cultural issues of identity that speaks of my own voice? What is the conceptual point to doing this? And is what is being said simply a one-dimensional reading to subvert the cultural context of this film with that of another?

Instead of verbatim adaptation of the film, the work of performance and installation artist Paul McCarthy can serve as a model to offer ideas about how a different artist treats similar subject matter. When Drea Howenstein asked my interest in his work, specifically, what about his art captures in content that which relates to my current projects on hand, what stood out strikingly is the palpable sense of visceral danger his pieces project. One feels uncomfortable, almost nauseous looking at what he does almost as if his intent, somewhat innocuous, sometimes docile, is to expose the hidden, nascent violence present in any simple act or thing in American contemporary society as the viewer walks away unsure of whether to laugh or be scared. This ambiguity essential in successful work compels the viewer to wonder about its tongue-in-cheek quality, to impugn if the outward skin, appearance is the actual representation of its meat and bones, if you will. Most of what McCarthy stages involves characters, beings of popular culture and its various guises, costumed as theatrical cartoons straight from Hollywood movies and television who the artist transforms through scripted performance to act out tasks or movements that betray the potential to mutilate and inflict harm. His work overtly references the horror film genre in its content as well as traditional Japanese Theater in ritualistic-like movement. McCarthy in these performances bespeaks a stylized fictive violence that seems detached and without a moral conscience typical of modern Western society. Because of prolonged, excessive bombardment to daily instances of acts of horrific violence, viewers become blasé to the cannibalization of human social interaction. Such can be said of Kabuki theater with its tales of wronged figures seeking justice, oftentimes victims of human frailty or moral flaws, fighting each other in the tragedy of life for honor, glory, or revenge. It becomes symbolic as a useful tool for McCarthy to ritualize nondescript menial action performed to imply potential violence that is male testosterone in nature. Men or caricatures of male (sometimes boyish) popular cultural iconography suffer from "Whose dick is bigger? Mine is so prove it or I'll beat you up" syndrome according to Paul McCarthy.

To ritualize as Asian something very American especially in Warholian popular culture, such as what Texas Chainsaw Massacre represents requires reevaluative editing. One needs to dissect the cinematic structure of this film within a political and cultural studies context. Can a madman family of characters be viewed as less than evil or mundane, diffused of a charged stereotype through a spiritually ritual process?

Slaughtering strangers, "other" people as livestock to barbecue in the movie also relates to the use of foodstuff as prop present in McCarthy's work. The cannibalism in this movie is a sardonic, very black comment on the dog-eat-dog (or forgive the pun, man-eat-man) nature of American popular culture as literally man consumes his neighbor to satiate his hunger to conquer things unknown and foreign to him. Most people equate eating human flesh as a savage, atavistic act so barbarian as to cause intense repulsion.

The violence that is a central part of the action in Texas Chainsaw Massacre is implicitly mythologized in Asian cinema (and theater). Both possess a poetic violent beauty as stylized action scenes symbolically also refers to a patriarchal order, a male code of who is in charge and in control. Strangers, a group of outsiders, then, represent a dual role of foreigner, an immigrant (illegal alien) or a traveler (tourist). These newcomers confront either the inchoate dominant culture intent on "consuming" i.e., cannibalizing everyone from without the community (a cinematic metaphor for acculturation and assimilation of minority groups) or the "Ugly American" sightseeing new, strange places simply to amass souvenirs in favor of learning about the indigenous people and their culture. Texas Chainsaw Massacre iterates the American (Western) belief that places dissimilar to the idea of industrialized and urbanized civilization as being backwards, without Christian regard to the precious value of human life.

The lesson to be learned from Texas Chainsaw Massacre involves a xenophobia prevalent in how newcomers strain to feel welcome, to become accepted as part of the community without losing their identity. To be symbolically and also literally slaughtered so as to be cooked in the so-called "melting pot" for dinner is an scathing indictment by director Tobe Hooper about how Americans treat cultural politics in general.

Recreating what McCarthy so acutely alludes to in his work which includes the topic of unnatural food for consumption, the whole eating process might be perceived as copycating except that this newer project illustrates a continuity of ideas in relation to the taboo cuisine theme in my previous work. It is understandable to feel a sense of duplication and even plagiarism in exploring ideas some other better-known artist monopolizes as their particular forte. However, both of these concepts deal with touchy subjects open to a cultural-specific interpretation. Utilization of an Asian aesthetic, though, both decenters and offsets the Western hegemony of a singular morality imposed on a colonized culture, hybrid in nature as a result of media-related longing to Americanize.

Also the issue of performance as theatricality is another formalistic aspect of McCarthy's work that influenced the incorporation of scripted movement and a soundtrack into this synthesized work. But the inclusion of an audio component specifically derives from another idea involving Gladys Knight and the Pips. The original concept was to scan photographs of myself into the background of the actual Gladys Knight and the Pips record album covers. The choice to appropriate or "sample" this particular popular African American rhythm and blues singer and her backup vocals mainly deals with the group dynamic of a trio of male singers providing vocal support to the featured lead female voice. Thus, this project satisfies my lifelong desire to be a Pip, to be onstage but several feet in the background, part of the support structure. It is an apt metaphor to illustrate an Asian penchant of avoiding the spotlight, of preferring to be behind the scenes: marginalizing the marginalized from the background into the foreground. I would literally replace one of the Pips or represent myself as a "lost Pip".

But why the decision to incorporate the Pips as a crucial piece to this larger entity relates to their carefully choreographed dance steps synchronized, in harmony, with their harmonizing. Viewers often associate dance as ritualized movement in response to music. This fit the analogy intended to express that one can see a comparison as well as a difference in the regulated reactions to a structured system. What I learn from McCarthy is the nonspecificity of contemporizing something. Of importance is the absurdity and relevance of this observation. Any act or thing can be rendered silly; since when this occurs, its meaning shifts to a broader scale. It allows for the application of different codings. The universalization that takes effect expands the sociopolitical and historical layers to be read from the collision of cultures. Also not lost is the irony of employing another oppressed minority as role model for the other to emulate since their histories in the United States often parallel in terms of discrimination.

Possibly feature a two person cast. Protagonist enters staged setting in mock Kabuki costume, perhaps a ceremonial kimono that is stripped off to don a white linen suit reminiscent of what Charlie Chan wears. Or maybe the performer comes onstage already garbed in the white linen suit and prostrates beside an altar-like structure housing a chainsaw. Lights dim as another figure appears in background singing Gladys Knight and the Pips' "A Midnight Train to Georgia". The main actor begins a series of ritualistic movements choreographed to the music. Instead of dancing backup steps in typical Pip fashion, the actor as Charlie Chan performs what can be interpreted as martial arts forms, which eventually evolve into a lawnmowing motion.

On one hand to regulate by an imposed aesthetic on grass length growth signifies to viewers perhaps a very rigid orthodoxy. A conditioned response taught that becomes ingrained as predisposition learned indirectly by outside of educational influences as the videotaped documentation of mowing the lawn illustrates. This Charlie Chan ghost-like figure represents the assimilated nonAsian Hollywoodized ideal of the emasculated, effeminate Asian male as the heroic good guy who fits, despite obvious "Orientalistic" traits, into the prevailing stereotype.

To merge, even collide cultural images through collage technique parallels a freer approach allowing for a circular flow that is less definitive in the logical linearity often accused of my earlier work. Which loosely explains the question of the recurring image of Charlie Chan. It certainly references a different popular cultural icon familiar to the mass public.

The image projected above and directly behind the indoor lawn shows a static shot of a backyard cropped to exaggerate its vertical plane. Every thirty seconds to a minute approximately, the abovementioned figure will pass through this frame either in the fore or background pushing a gas-powered mower. Within a certain amount of time, the artist and mower, outside the periphery of the viewer, starting from the outer edge involutes toward the center into permanent view for the remaining duration of this shot.

The protagonist, in turn, parodies the Homeowner maintaining status quo, acquiescing to community standards of a "keeping up with Jones" social order. Perhaps, seeing someone wearing a white suit suggests to the viewer a hired domestic servant performing manual labor associated with upkeeping the estate. Usually minorities are employed to function in these roles. Constant subliminal seduction compels the individual of means to believe that lawn care excellence equals the achievement of material happiness. And what is more typical to highlight this notion than domesticating nature. But is the question again of how an ethnic minority becomes influenced to see things in singularly Western criteria readable? And to what extent is this question relevant, or even important, to a general (nonethnic-specific) audience?

Add to this discourse and growing project yet another idea for a different work that deals with the passive wisdom associated with Asian culture: Which is stronger; a stone, unyielding and hard? Or water, flowing and translucent? This often-told parable examines the question of how nature or science is literally perceived within a bicultural context. Usually how one answers or perceives this question results from their cultural upbringing or perspective.

Show a stone being dropped into a pool of water from bird's eye view. As the rock or pebble falls and sinks toward the bottom, narration informs the viewer of a sifu (master) instructing his younger disciple this parable by asking him the aforementioned question. The dialogue is comparable in style and tone of the character Kwai Chang Cain from the television series, "Kung Fu". As the narrator reveals the correct answer in his wisdom to be "water", the viewer sees water engulfing the stone to prove his point. Shoot as video or possibly as a series of photographs. In contrast, quickly intercut to another shot of a rock of indeterminate size as it falls through the air. Underneath its path as its target is a glass of clear water. As the rock lands, the glass is crushed, broken into many shards, splashing water everywhere. The rock, one can clearly see, is twice the size of the glass of water. These videos to be projected on wall when performance of actor as Charlie Chan dances kung fu moves to the Gladys Knight and the Pips song.

The oppositional format of these videos impugns what is perceived as the timeless truisms of fortune cookie philosophy and what is perceived as the physical, empirical experimentation that is part of a general Western societal attitude reliant on the scientific method. Like the lawn project, one can infer how the subversion of this parable in Western terms as the rock smashes a glass of water is another form of cultural imperialism. But mainly both videos act as pro and con dialogue, which expresses the dichotomous opinions of and my bicultural reaction to nature as a whole. How what is seen, felt, and experienced contributes to the confusion that is my bicultural western upbringing.

Given the fact that these projects deal with like issues is excuse enough "to go off the road" and experiment---not in the usual "you're in grad school---go ahead, try something new" way, but something else, a freer, less self-conscious approach to challenge the methodology, the aesthetic, the solemnity that pigeonholes most of my recent work. That is the main criticism of my work: that each finished piece is considered a complete thought, a singular self-contained metaphor related to a larger body of work. So meeting with Drea Howenstein during the summer produced a more poetic way of seeing how all these loosely related ideas might come together: tentative connections from each idea that appear somewhat ambiguous at first but are very much relatable in terms of an afterimage. One can see how each work resonates as a circular, almost contiguous narrative; each component overlapping, a residual sense of being part of but separate from its antecedent. What it becomes is something less defined than from earlier work; more of an ongoing than complete thought.

I am dealing to locate a consistent theme to reconciliate these disparate realities that beg some form of, or suggests a, conflictual solution. Think seriously about how the quality of a video affects the grass itself. To show the actual grass in darkness in order for the projected image to register is cause for the grass to die. The visibility (or lack of---unclarity) of this image is the metaphysical shadow alluded to that results in the dilemma of which direction the overall project follows: an issue of controlling or being controlled by the colonizational influence.

Ultimately, what came to pass resulted in taking chances beyond the familiar. Trying a different approach to projects that otherwise might look and feel the same as if the shoe fits, wear it. The entire process itself weaving from one tangent to another link back to the original taught me a new way of seeing how I would normally go about business. Analysis through my writing process clarified to a less cryptic degree the relationships between each idea. I begin to see the structure of this ongoing work as episodic in nature. Or as example, one work as an element speaking to the others as a whole.

It now seems that the bulk of what consumed my studio time focused more on conceptualization than actual artmaking. There is nothing tangible other than this recap on paper and my sketchbook to document the evolution of what essentially is an idea. Everytime I examined one direction, other questions would crop up as a result causing constant backtracking to cover all bases. To be truthful, as the project progressed through the summer term, what I originally thought to be sketches quickly implemented, snowballed into something that overextended and challenged the ordered little world of how I see making art. And that is, I have come to accept, a very good thing. Considering the condensed time frame of the summer term, not great timing but a very rewarding learning experience nonetheless. My conclusion is to continue slowly to examine the particular components of this huge undertaking before actually committing wholly to its execution. So as is my habit, work on this "eight hundred pound gorilla" will continue along with other projects as well.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Notes on "First go in, then close the door"

Luaun doors abutted together in descending sequence forming in gradual steps an architectural structure show the physical manifestation of Chinese calligraphic stroke order. A series of pen on vellum drawings illustrate as architectural blueprints the axiom of "First go in, then close the door" employed as a mnemonic device to correctly write the ideogram for the word "sun" in Chinese. The written character resembles a square with a line horizontally bisecting its center. To form a box first and then draw a line across is incorrect stroke order. An apt analogy in architectural terms would be to impugn the logic of enclosing the exterior walls first without an opening to allow entry into the interior. Constructing these doors as a penmanship exercise follows the Confucian notion of a priori linearity. Each step is akin to the mathematical absolute of lineal progression.

Small frames showing each individual brushstroke in exact stroke order are hung in between each appropriately actuated door counterpart. Placement of the doors in accordance with the diagrams is deliberately reversed to emphasize the difference in the reading orientation in most Asian cultures. Conceptually the doors dematerialize from the typical Western reading of left to right, deconstructed into an ironic minimalist aesthetic evoking weighted cultural and political connotations of inclusion and exclusion, of access. The interrelationship of how these disciplines overlap defines the parallel of the axiomatic as it relates to the calligraphic and its particular application to the architectural.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Modestly Speaking

A modest proposal entails transforming a closet space in which two possibilities exist:

One notion nostalgicizes retro-sixties television kitsch via Batman, in particular, the moveable secret bookcase which slides open to reveal twin Batpoles when either Bruce or Dick or even Alfred triggered the hidden button inside the hinged flip-top Shakespeare bust. An interior meant for storage hollowed out as disguised passageway acts as extended metaphor for the transfiguration of alter ego to something superhuman, or of mythological proportions. Such iconography transcends the popular cultural landscape to denote a historiography of place related to representations of Self versus Other. Recreating the set from this show casts a mirrored reflection that reverberates in perpetuity, image repeated in descending order.

Perhaps build a bookcase into the actual door left slightly ajar allowing a glimpse inside of video footage from actual show or reenactments of parts of different episodes.

Or install a handmade Japanese doorway curtain or ornate screen in front of three Chinese lanterns alternately flashing red, green or yellow light attached onto walls.

Saturday, August 10, 2002

On a sense of rotisserie time

The current cycle governing day to night spins an imperfect circle. It continues to roll but in wobbly fashion, feinting first to the right then hestitantly left like a young Jackie Chan stumbling about in Drunken Master. No matter how familiar though, the terrain it traverses is quite acned and potholed. Nonetheless the roundish shape being drawn completes an unconventional though predictable track.

Which might explain how rotisserie leagues affect the change of seasons and consequently the perception of time. As the work of On Kawara suggests, how is time typographically or conceptually marked? Like a ticking clock whose second hand accumulates incremental space, every causal effect of any sporting feat so connected to the human experience becomes an abstract number instead. Is this the simulacrum that Jean Baudrillard refers to? To be so far removed from the actual thing so as to champion its substitute in another compacted form metamorphosizes into pure spectatorship. Except that flesh and blood then assumes a postmodernist quality divorced from its self-contained reality. These flattened images subsequently lose their primacy to reference the concrete action of physical interaction only.

The significance of inscribing meaning to an essentially leisure culture is then hypervalued because the spectacle of the event is implied, literally read between the lines. What constitutes a historical record develops to produce a fictional nostalgia manufacturing an industry of retailed memorabilia. But the relationship between documentation of performance and its objective form as collectible translates into cyberspace as hinted at by author Robert Coover. Is there any benefit psychically to be derived for a particpant from engaging secondhand the vicarious thrill of the Modernist glory of sports?

This obsession descends daily, sometimes even hourly, but to be so preoccupied with the aggregation of statistics is abnormal. Or can it be a subconscious project of redundant movements that dictate the gist of urban existence as Tehching "Sam" Hsieh demonstrated in his yearlong performances?

Friday, August 09, 2002

Prima Facie

City of Chicago
Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 88298
Chicago, IL 60680-1298

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to contest the parking ticket # 0017704423-12 issued for code violation 9-80-110A Abandoned Vehicle.

On the date in question of this violation, I drove from my house near Howard and Western in the early morning at 8:30 AM to the Lakewood Balmoral neighborhood. As is my customary practice and in clear observance of posted No Parking and other signs, I parked my vehicle about 8:45 AM on Magnolia in order to ride the El to my office downtown from the Berwyn stop. On this specific evening, I returned from work to pick up my vehicle at approximately 9:15 PM. That I was ticketed for having legally parked my vehicle on the street for what amounts to twelve and a half hours hardly constitutes abandoning my vehicle.

Please understand that photodocumentation to prove my claim is impossible to provide as I simply drove my vehicle away from where it was supposedly abandoned. I must stress that my vehicle is fully operational and in good working condition. I cannot fathom why a ticket for abandoning my vehicle was issued for a car parked legally for half a day on a public city street.

Thank you for your time.


Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Notes on a former Chicago Cub lefthanded pitcher from the late fifties

Where are you now, Larry Jackson?

In the bullpen warming up with Grover Alexander maybe? Or hitting long fungoes to Tris Speaker? But Hot Potato actually threw righthanded, contrary to what Johnny Poy Lee recalled. So was that the legacy a soon-to-be father from Toishan saw on the mound that sunny day?

The predestiny of nomenclature explains running into your doppelganger crisscrossing ordained basepaths somewhere out on Idaho fields. At six foot two inches tall weighing one hundred ninety pounds, the ball released sixty feet six inches away probably zoomed in faster than ninety-plus miles per hour. But did he command a breaking pitch, something off-speed or more wicked like a nasty slider?

Perhaps old footage exists of his delivery, his signature windup. Then the possibility to copy his motion, to assume if you will his identity becomes an idea for a project exploring the nature of imitation.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Beyond Jack Benny

Twenty plus twenty equals forty, the sum of which is determined in dog years. This sad fact magnified its internal logic as truism only yesterday while duffing the fairways. The night before saw some two hundred and thirty odd balls being launched from automated two-tiered Astroturf mats to break in new graphite woods and double-cavity irons. A mere five hours later at the first tee only continued the lactic acid buildup.

Gone are the carefee days of weekend warriorism when mind and body readily cooperated to wake up early dawn en route to nine holes immediately followed by an hour of shooting hoops or softball practice all before opening up shop by noon. After closing the day usually ended pitching three to five innings at Stewart.

Such rubber-armedness once proved the resiliency of youth. Or the foolhardiness of growing up consumed by sports enough to play out childhood fantasies well past sensible adulthood. Then comes the inevitable reality of sore, tired muscles which signals going out to pasture.

Eighteen holes regardless of carts or not tend to exacerbate any delusions of former athletic grandeur. Sure, to hit straight, long and narrow after the compound ankle fracture is reward enough for the yips, but not by much as conventional wisdom states, "Drive for show, putt for dough."

But pain is still the unenviable currency of the aged.