The night Reg Dwight stopped by

I was sitting in the living room one night watching wrestling on TV when someone knocked at the front door. When I opened it, I didn’t recognize the guy at first. But when he said, “Hello again, Pat,” I realized it was a guy from long ago—a high school classmate, Reggie Dwight.

I hadn’t seen him in decades. It took a couple of seconds for my brain to mesh with the moment. “Hey, Reg!” I said. “Great to see you! It’s been—jeez, how long has it been?”

Reggie stood under the porch light, hanging his head, barely making eye contact. After a pause that verged on awkward, I said, “C’mon in! Sit down. Want a beer?”

He said “no beer,” took a few lethargic steps and sank into an overstuffed recliner near the door. Continue reading

Render the smoke into purified nothing

Tokyo is full of imaginary stories…

I had never hoped to convince you

of my place as a giant in this world.

I appear as a dumpy man, a man of spent substance,

and I hide in plain sight amongst Tokyo’s Sunday multitudes.

There is a kangaroo on my head, and I’ve never even fucking been to Australia.

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The Arts

Art as production for use turned into art as production for profit

The art world can’t help but be pleased with the efforts of its victims — there’s money to be made, after all. But there are those of us who watch these developments with increasing alarm, wondering if the art world will ever wake up. The saving grace is that art’s machinations generally have little effect on the rest of the globe. That may be the reason that art — especially today’s art — “is the only human activity that does not lead to killing.” Contemporary art has made itself so meaningless that nobody can be bothered to pull the trigger over it. – Alex Melamid

On Kawara (image courtesy Wikimedia)

I am almost finished with Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman, but rather than rush through the novel’s ending and write hurriedly about it, I wanted a few days to ponder it since I feel it deserves thoughtful consideration. I’ll write about it in my next essay over the weekend.

That, of course, leaves me with the need to find a topic for this essay. I have two, and after careful consideration (that sound you hear is the coin landing on the table), I’ve decided to write about an interesting piece from Huffington Post that is yet another complaint about the problems facing contemporary art. The piece focuses on visual art, but I think the same is true for literature and music, so much of what the author says applies to art in the broad sense of the term’s usage.

That problem is, perhaps explained by using terms that will set of alarm bells for all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons: “production for use” and “production for profit.”

But first a few words about On Kawara who is sort of a poster child for what the title of this essay is on about….

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Sports

Deflategate: what was REALLY on Tom Brady’s cell phone?

OK, let’s get this out of the way first. Did Patriots quarterback Tom Brady cheat by having his footballs deflated? Of course he did. And nobody cares.

This is pro sports. Everybody cheats all the time. Ask old-time golfers about the grooves on Lee Trevino’s wedges back in the day. Or ask coaches about flops in soccer and basketball. Or ask linemen what happens in the trenches in the NFL. Or ask baseball players about foreign substances on baseballs or corked bats. Or ask anybody about PEDs in just about every sport imaginable, from cycling to track to baseball to archery to biathlon.

Neither athletes nor fans care. Andy Pettite shot up PEDs with Roger Clemens, admitted it, and still got his old job back with the Yankees. Barry Bonds did enough ‘roids to put himself on the pole at the Kentucky Derby and got a standing ovation when he returned to throw out the first pitch at last year’s NLCS game. Admitted cheat Mark McGwire actually teaches hitting for the Dodgers now. (Hitting tip: “OK guys, it’s really important that you tap the syringe to get the air bubbles out.”) Continue reading

Homeland Security Precrime

Security vs privacy: RadioLab and the case for the surveillance state

Homeland Security PrecrimeWe all love freedom and the Constitution. But is it really that simple?

I’m a huge fan of a good debate. And by “debate” I don’t mean the sort of ginned-up scream-lie-and-spinfests we have come to associate with the term in the past few decades. No, I mean spirited, intelligent, thoughtful exchanges between parties with honest, good-faith disagreements. Lucky me, I tripped across one today.

My new friend – the lovely Christine – recently turned me onto RadioLab, and I’ve been streaming some of their podcasts while I work out. Today I listened to one that’s as fascinating as it is disturbing. It’s called “Eye in the Sky,” and if you’re plotting any crimes I suggest you give it a few minutes of your time before you pull the trigger, so to speak. Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

Walker Percy, the South, gentlemen, God…and me….

Southerners have trouble ruling out the possible. What happens to a man to whom all things seem possible and every course of action open? Nothing of course…. – Walker Percy

The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy (image courtesy Goodreads)

At long last the time has come to talk about Walker Percy’s The Last Gentleman both on its own merits as a great Southern novel and in relation to my novel The New Southern Gentleman and about Percy’s influence on both me and on that novel.

As promised, let me talk first about my relationship with Mr. Percy. In 1984 I was a doctoral student completing a creative dissertation which became (several years later) the novel mentioned above. I was in contact with an editor at one of the major publishing houses in New York who liked my work and kept pushing me to write something/anything that would please the new masters of publishing, the corporate entities who were swallowing up the old family owned publishing houses left and right and for whose decision making power they had shifted from editors to marketing departments. He liked my manuscript, but he figured it would not fly with marketing (he was right; the novel only appeared years later from a small, independent litfic house in California). Because of the similarity in the title of my work and the title of Mr. Percy’s masterpiece, he wrote to me and suggested I write to Walker Percy. Continue reading

All time Lakers

Shaquille O’Neal vs Scottie Pippen: the Big Aristotle has lost his mind

I love Shaquille O’Neal. Seriously. He was a great player and is a smart, very funny guy off the court. But damn, is the man delusional.

Shaq got involved in a little Twitter dustup this week with another hoops luminary, former Michael Jordan sidekick Scottie Pippen. Long story short, Shaq thinks the all-time greatest Lakers five would thump the all-time Bulls starting five.

Okay, probably true. The Lakers are the second greatest franchise ever and if you take away Jordan Chicago has … well, not a lot. No disrespect to the Bulls here, but this is just basic facts.

The issue is Shaq’s idea of who’s in that Laker starting five. Continue reading

Saudi citizens may be questioning whether the House of Saud is qualified to be the guardian of holy cities Mecca and Medina. Pictured: King Saud Mosque in Jeddah. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Do Saudi Citizens prefer the Islamic State to the House of Saud?

A poll indicates that Saudi citizens seem to find the Islamic State’s repressiveness and barbarism less objectionable than the House of Saud’s corruption.

Saudi citizens may be questioning whether the House of Saud is qualified to be the guardian of holy cities Mecca and Medina. Pictured: King Saud Mosque in Jeddah. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Saudi citizens may be questioning whether the House of Saud is qualified to be the guardian of holy cities Mecca and Medina. Pictured: King Saud Mosque in Jeddah. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In a New York Review of Books review of an illuminating new book, Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate, by Abdel Bari Atwan, Malise Ruthven cites a poll that seems to show that Saudi citizens might prefer to be ruled by the Islamic State instead of the House of Saud.

In an online poll conducted in July 2014, a formidable 92 percent of Saudi citizens agreed that ISIS “conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law.”

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