saturday night listen

graffiti and epistemology

because it’s raw and pure, it’s raw energy.” But rather than being an absent-minded character locked in the ivory tower of academe, Choe is running loose in the streets (dressed in slacks and blazer, can of spray paint in hand, skateboarding), being paid to destroy movie sets, and falling in love with oils in his studio. He lives. He lives out his artwork and philosophies—the postmodern and crazed version of the Zenga artist quickly drawing the enso.

These apparent paradoxes eventually clue the reader into the nature of Choe and his artwork: He is a cultural satirist who is serious about his personal life, with a sincerity that Urb magazine sarcastically described as “secretly romantic.”

Choe doesn’t try to create some great piece of art. It comes naturally. Choe is just doing his thing, following a method similar to what San Jose artist Joseph Demaree calls “Telling-My-Story-Wellism.” In all of his art, from the mixed media (watercolors, pen and ink, white out, acrylics, oils, spray paints, crayons, Polaroids, and Mexican candy wrappers) of his 1999 Self Portrait, to the traditional materials of his more recent Water Color Sketch from Parked Car Outside 7-11, to the pages of his newest book Bruised Fruit (Slow Jams, $20.00), he captures and conveys a stimulating self-reflection that is always

“In general, I imagine Pynchon is so important because of the emphasis in his work on epistemology, technology and history. His work amounts to an ongoing critique of the way these themes are articulated in Western culture,” says Rick Moody, author of The Diviners and the forthcoming collection Right Livelihoods. “Because, moreover, he happens to understand technology deeply, more deeply than most contemporary American writers. That theme is perhaps especially rigorously thought through, with the result that Pynchon seems to have more to say about technology than just about anyone.”
“With Pynchon, one can’t help but feel simultaneously intimidated and embraced. The breadth of the work’s intelligence is nothing short of obscene, and such intellectual formidability is dazzling, seductive and utterly enduring,” says author Bret Anthony Johnston, author of the critically acclaimed stories collection Corpus Christi. “I love the endless abundance of dualities in all of his books, and how they — whether political or scientific or conspiratorial or infrastructural — are precariously teetering on a kind of cultural seesaw — tipped one way, we’re saved, tipped the other, we’re goners.”
Robert Bramkamp, a German filmmaker whose Preufstand 7 loosely adapts Pynchon’s magnum opus, Gravity’s Rainbow, for the big screen, telling the cinematic biography of the novel’s screaming missile, says, “Pynchon’s novels operate interconnected within their own time zone, and that mystery and wonder is the key to our own times.”
Steve Erickson, prodigious author of Our Ecstatic Days and Amnesiascope, both significantly influenced by Pynchon, calls the American maestro “the lunatic god of American literature” and says Pynchon’s novels are full of “infinite secrets.” Gravity’s Rainbow, Erickson says, “transcends assessment: Whatever you think of it, whatever you can even begin to think of it, you can’t resist it, it’s inexorable, the event horizon of contemporary literature. The only novel of the last 50 years in its league is One Hundred Years of Solitude.”
“Pynchon knows the culture before the culture knows itself, and in some cases, he knows the culture in a way the culture will never know itself,” says columnist and author Jim (The Buzzing, Slackjaw) Knipfel, whose work has been blurbed by the reclusive Pynchon. “In a world of constant acceleration, Mr. Pynchon somehow manages to remain five steps ahead at all times.”
If praise for Pynchon were only limited to this quintet of artists, it would still be a heady song. But the world’s ongoing heralding of Pynchon as one of the artists for our time is raucous, lively and utterly deafening. Much of the fervor surrounding the 69-year-old author centers not only on his books, but also on the impenetrable air of enigma that surrounds the man himself. Pynchon has never given an interview, has been photographed publicly only a few times, and lives, according to many, a hermitic existence. This level of personal intrigue, coupled with the author’s penchant for conspiracy and code-laden narratives, has long been a game of intellectual marksmanship among fans and academics alike who piece together textual clues, biographical tidbits and urban legend to craft a portrait of the author many call God. Or Dog, as the case may be. (Pynchon himself has been known to refer to the Almighty as Dog, and author Knipfel, for one, believes the key to Pynchon’s genius may lie in the author’s ability to convincingly conjure the canine. “Mr. Pynchon does dogs better than anyone,” Knipfel says. “Consider Zoyd’s dog, who opens and closes Vineland, or the various dogs who romp through Gravity’s Rainbow, or even Mason & Dixon’s Learned English Dog. They’re perfect. He captures Dogness — the Platonic Form of Dogness — in a way no one ever has before. To my mind, that’s the key to his genius.”)
What we know about Pynchon, for sure: Thomas Ruggles Pynchon Jr. was born May 8, 1937. He spent two years in the U.S. Navy. He studied engineering physics and English at Cornell University, where Lolita author Vladimir Nabakov was one of his professors. Pynchon graduated in 1959 with a degree in literature. After college, Pynchon was hired as a technical writer at Boeing, the aerospace juggernaut, then developing its surface-to-air missiles. In 1963, Pynchon published his first novel, V., which was awarded William Faulkner Foundation’s Award for best first novel of the year. And then, for all intents and purposes, Pynchon disappeared. He has lived in Southern California, Northern California, Mexico City and, currently, reportedly, New York. He is married to his agent, Melanie Jackson, with whom he has a young son, Jackson. He has published five novels and one story collection, V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity’s Rainbow (1973), Vineland (1990), Mason & Dixon (1997) and Slow Learner (1984), respectively. The Penguin Press will publish his sixth novel, Against the Day, in December. Critics and academics aren’t the only ones who love his books, which are often unlikely bestsellers. They have inspired legions of obsessive admirers, collectors and followers throughout the world.
That’s essentially everything we know for certain about Pynchon. Which hasn’t stopped his global following from concocting some truly intriguing, if barely rooted in reality, theories about who Pynchon really is, and why he insists on flying under the radar. What people think they know about Thomas Pynchon: He is J.D. Salinger; after all, have you seen them in the same place at the same time? He had loose connections to Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination of JFK. He was part of the CIA’s program to unleash LSD and other psychedelics on the baby boomer generation. He is a member of the cult rock band The Residents.

…as to this last assertion, I know The Residents, and they do not include Pynchon physically among them. Go ask Homer. When you’re ten feet tall.

Meeting at Heart Attack and Vine

(A post in which we discover that the title has nothing to do with the content, even though there may have been a dim connection at some conceptual stage.)
* * *
I hate to disagree with Rage Boy, but I don’t get it. I don’t get why Jill Bolte Taylor’s schtick is so egregious. I saw the TED talk and I shared it with a psychologist. He referred me to the case of Kim Peek, the savant who was born with a corpus callosum similarly shorted out, and on whom Dustin Hoffman’s “Rain Man” character was based. Peek never experienced what we think of as normalcy, and he had other congenital brain problems too. But he does have the corpus callosum problem in common with Taylor.

Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a shut-down of her corpus callosum severing communication between the right and left hemispheres of her brain as an effect of a stroke. Anecdotally, she shares her experience of the right brain as a massive parallel processor and the left brain as an orderly serial processor. She carries with her the memory of the powerful feeling of happiness and enlightenment she had when her corpus callosum crashed, and she calls it Nirvana.

She was Oprah Winfrey’s guest. Oprah and Eckhart Tolle have been flogging Tolle’s books, and they’ve associated that cosmic integral feeling of everything in the present moment that Taylor describes, with Tolle’s chicanery. RB claims that he simply finds “Jill Bolte Taylor incredibly tedious and annoying…,” but I wonder if he isn’t ginning up some guilt by association. Lie down with Eckhart Tolle, get up with spiritual fleas?

In her presentation she does have an aura of unreconstructed hippie, but as a scientist she is only describing what happened to her. She isn’t making claims about anything more metaphysical than the subjective experience of an acid trip. Personally, I like the idea that she had a brain-fault that tickled her God Spot, that she is able to associate what others might have described as a profound metaphysical experience in neuroanatomical terms.

I like her nerdiness. I think she and Kim Peek should go the road together, a double billing featuring prodigious feats of memory and self stimulated spirituality, and the neuroanatomical explanations for them.

Dancing Bears

[tags]dancingbear, dancing bear, hugh da bear, huge effing bear, hugh macleod, hugh’s whuffie, meth lab texas[/tags]

Flatlined

Had a bout of tachycardia today, but I didn’t know what it was when it came on. Seemed pretty obvious I was having heart trouble though. Beth drove me to the University Hospital Emergency Room. I presented as a 63 old, overweight, male, lightheaded, experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath, clamminess, chest discomfort.

They were kind enough to skip most of the intake paperwork and take me down to the examining room, shove an IV in my arm, and take my vitals: Pulse rate about 170, blood pressure way high. They hooked me up to the EKG machine and ran a few tests. The doc came back and prescribed an adenosine treatment. They shoved a dose of that down the IV efectively shutting down the electrical activity in my heart.

Within maybe ten seconds, my heart picked up with a normal heart beat, all the ER staff let out the breath they were holding, my blood pressure started down, and over the next few hours lying about watching the Disney channel, my heartbeat returned to my normal 68, and my blood pressure returned to the usual 120/78 or so.

Didn’t see any white light, but felt an uncomfortable pressure, first in the carotid arteries, then in the femoral, and my whole body felt flushed. Felt somehow cheated to have remained conscious while my heart was re-booted. But, the worst discomfort I experienced was the removal of all the tape and electrodes. Carla, the ER nurse, was quick, but enough hair came off with each tug that I was more than glad when it was over.

[tags]heart stopping excitement, benign rapid heart rate, I’m okay really I am, more bananas, less coffee[/tags]

Right to Bare Arms…

Gun pwns Girl

“Desert Eagle” compliments of Israeli Military Industries. Mean spirited shooting lesson compliments of the NRA, I guess.

[tags]keep your tongue in your mouth[/tags]

We’re all downwind

I went to the pharmacy to pick up potassium iodide tablets, just in case. They don’t stock them at my local Walgreens. The pharmacist laughed at me. “Concerned about radiation? Do you have gas masks too?” Oops. He lost a customer forever. Or for the next year, whichever comes first.

On Friday, April 25, 1986, as a result of human error during experiments being performed by the staff at Chernobyl, the cooling system failed resulting in the melting of fuel and, of greater importance to the public, the graphite moderator ignited and began the release of what has been approximated as 1900 PBq [1] of activity to the environment (it has been commented that had there been a containment building similar to the ones used in U.S. reactors, this value might have been greatly reduced). The most hazardous isotopes released in this accident are known to Cs-137, I-131, and Sr-90. These isotopes have half-lives sufficiently long to allow them to migrate into the body or, in the case of Iodine, have the tendency to accumulate in the thyroid gland.

The plume from the burning graphite initially traveled in a northwest direction toward Sweden, Finland and eastern Europe, exposing the public to levels up to 100 times the normal background radiation. A very serious concern involves the contamination of grain and dairy products from fallout. This contamination presents the chance for permanent internal contamination. Both Sr-90 and I-131 migrate to vital organs in the body where they are impossible to remove, serving as a constant source of unnecessary radiation and as a cause of cancer or other diseases.

The potential ramifications of the Bhutto assassination in the context of the US election year are probably only clear to the war gamers in the clandestine services. Any destabilization of Pakistan puts five or six nuclear powers into play, powers with leadership as deranged and avaricious as Bush, Cheney, and Putin… powers as assertive as India and China when it comes to maintaining membership in the nuclear club and powers as unpredictable as Pakistan and North Korea. Regardless of who would benefit from blowing up a few bombs in South Asia, it’s clear that all of us would be harmed. The odds are pretty good at my age that I could soak up some radioactive iodine and still die from natural causes before the thyroid cancer kills me. But what about the kids? Good news there for the developed nations! Thyroid cancer is very treatable with modern medical technology.

There is no medicine that will effectively prevent nuclear radiations from damaging the human body cells that they strike.However, a salt of the elements potassium and iodine, taken orally even in very small quantities 1/2 hour to 1 day before radioactive iodines are swallowed or inhaled, prevents about 99% of the damage to the thyroid gland that otherwise would result. The thyroid gland readily absorbs both non-radioactive and radioactive iodine, and normally it retains much of this element in either or both forms.

When the nuclear dust starts drifting, you’re better off with a stash of potassium iodide in the medicine chest. No joke.