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June 25, 2001

The thing that I've always zeroed in on are the cracks, the anomalies. I am not satisfied with just saying, "oh well, that was strange" and going on with my life as usual. I want to penetrate it, to see what the hell is going on with it, to keep going until the crack opens itself up to reveal a new universe. By "crack" I mean this: something that really doesn't fit into your picture of the way the world is, that, even after careful investigation, doesn't allow itself to be dusted off or rationalized. A rationalization involves papering over a crack by coming up with a ludicrously implausible set of ideas or reasons or feelings which serve merely to preserve your world view --- as though your initial world view deserves extra consideration merely by virtue of the fact that it is the one you're familiar with.

My father claims that when I was a young child he "cracked my shell" --- although he didn't elaborate on what this meant, I know exactly what he means by this.

Last week Elisabeth Subrin came and showed a few films in Portland; one of them was "Shulie," a documentary she re-made, hilariously and poignantly, about the feminist writer Shulamith Firestone. The original documentary was made when Firestone was an art student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, before she became famous for writing The Dialectic of Sex. The scene from the film that stood out for me was the critique session, in which Subrin recreated a panel of professors making comments about Firestone's work --- many of these remarks were so inane as to defy belief. To really appreciate the stupidity of the remarks you have to see the film, but basically it was quite clear that many of the professors were simply faking it --- their ideas were utterly vague, stereotypical, conventional, and trite --- and they either knew this and were trying to cover up their confusion or, perhaps worse, they really didn't realize what they were saying. I feel somewhat reluctant to criticize these professors so harshly, but I didn't even go to art school yet the turgidity of the remarks was obvious to me (perhaps, after seeing that, that is why it was so obvious to me!) What's worse, I asked Subrin afterwards if she had changed any of the dialogue and she replied that not only had they said those things, but a number of them were still teaching today! I couldn't imagine any of the impressive artists I've known making ridiculous comments such as those. I think perhaps one problem with many art schools is that they are not staffed with professional artists, but rather with too many professional art professors --- a different species, apparently. Which brings me back to the subject of Chouinard, where my father studied and taught and where I used to play as a young child; they hired as teachers already working, professional artists, and often had as visiting faculty eminent people such as Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Ad Reinhardt, Larry Rivers, and many others, people who truly inspired the students there. What is the use in subjecting young artists to the foolish "critiques" of mediocre failed artists? All this can do is create a psychology of confusion and can only lead to the crushing, not the growth, of artistic development. I really feel sorry for students who go through such a process, unless they have such a strong sense of their own creative purpose they can somehow survive the gantlet with a shred of their original inherent intelligence intact. Because the point of a good critique ought to be a way for the teacher to help the student see more incisively what the student is doing, not to simply air half-baked personal opinions or biases on the part of the teacher. As my father wrote recently about the famous Chouinard critique sessions: "What we learned was not what was on the instructor's mind, but on ours."

June 22, 2001

I think any romantic relationship has to be constantly renewing: that's the problem with marriage (not that I'm anti-marriage, by the way). That is to say, to get into a holding pattern is the problem: to assume that the point is to maintain, rather than to constantly renew. One has to begin again every day, no matter what great things happened in the past. For fear of losing what we have, we often fail to realize that everything has to start over constantly, so we end up losing it anyway. This is why I don't believe that it is necessarily the best idea to simply be monogamous as a matter of following a fixed rule; somehow I think it should be possible to remain open to any possibility, including having other love interests, or allowing for the possibility that your love might end up with other love interests as well. This is, at least, a sort of ideal position that I'd like to take, though in reality while I myself have realized I am not very jealous, other people I have noticed can be quite jealous.

The kitten seems to know about grabbing and biting things, though he thinks that point is to grab and bite hands and pantlegs, and he will be surprised one day to realize he can use this instinct on mice and birds. He also knows about sharpening his claws on vertical objects, and crouching in wait and pouncing. Watching this I realize how we're all a combination of genetic learning that has proceeded slowly over aeons, and plastic learning which happens in each lifetime. Which is to say that the bias inherent in conditioning is not only present in our learned awareness, but is even encoded into our genes. It is both a gift and a limitation.

Even if she doesn't start this again, she will make something else for us to appreciate.

June 19, 2001

At any given moment, someone could come up to you and ask you any of an inconceivably large number of questions, or give you one of a vast array of possible books, or show you one of an innumerable set of possible movies, etc. (not to mention nonverbal and non-spatiotemporal situations you might find yourself in)... And your response might be to say something, to remember something, to be reminded of something, to feel something, to have an idea that you've never had before (again, not to mention various unconscious responses, in your body, etc.)... again, from a vast space of possibilities. There's no way of even beginning to predict or write down what might happen; we're these mind-bogglingly huge systems that can respond and participate in our world in an unbelivably large number of ways. And yet --- we tend to think that we know what our "state" is at any given moment, who we are, what our condition is, as though you could say at a given instant in time "this is who I was and what I was doing at time T". We choose to conceive of ourselves as much smaller than we actually are --- as though we're actually conceivable, which we're not.

I visited other people last week. One of them was Khaela Maricich; she was preparing a huge party/dance fest/opening for her art show at Otto's Bagels of small cardboard paintings of street scenes from around Olympia. She had sat in various locations around the city to paint small pictures, then later made panels to go along with them with descriptions of something that happened while she was painting that particular picture. I didn't get to see the opening party, unfortunately, but I was able to see some of the rehearsals and her paintings. We had lunch and talked about not wasting your life living in a blur dictated by an illusion of what the world is, the middle-class fallacies. (There's nothing wrong with living a middle-class life as long as you don't pretend that that's the whole story.)

June 17, 2001

It was great to meet Ed Bereal; that old Chouinard energy shone through him brilliantly. Everyone I've ever met who was connected in some way with Chouinard exhibits that same sense of faith that it is possible: that world that we hope for can be real (no pun intended).

It's not about the past, however, but the present. I am off to a week-long meditation retreat --- but I will be continuing to update this weblog while I am there.

June 12, 2001

Today I plan to head up to Seattle to visit a mysterious person. Also I will visit Ed Bereal, an artist who went to Chouinard Art Institute where my father also trained and taught. A photo of Ed and some other Chouinardians back in the old days (lower right). I might be able to help him with an upcoming project.

Just finished a little site for exacting action, an art/action group started by the talented young artist Kenneth Mroczek. Kenneth has just gotten into Cooper Union but his parents aren't going to be able to provide him with financial support (in their words: "not everybody has to go to college"). Go to the site and support his work if you are so inclined.

June 10, 2001

Rides these days seem to be getting more and more extreme; at the local summertime river gala, in addition to the good old Ferris Wheel there were rides that seemed to be intended to push even further the extremes of human thrill-seeking; a machine that hurls its passengers at high G's in seats freely rotating at the ends of two long arms whirling around, various giant bungy cord devices attached to cages bouncing far into the air, etc. It occurred to me that these rides, exciting today, might be tame in the future; what could we do in the far future that might qualify as exciting enough to keep our interest? A ride that amputated your limbs and then quickly reattached them with laser surgery? And what could top that?

June 8, 2001

Cynthia Korzekwa writes to me. She has a lot of interesting work on the web, some of which she calls ikastikos, from the Greek word eikastikos, "to represent", which involves re-presenting entries from her weblog, and other things, in various different ways. Some of her work: making waves, floating together, there was nowhere to go but down, afrodite. Keep exploring and find cross-links and more links to other places, sometimes not yet populated. Her portfolio.

June 6, 2001

Sometimes I really need to remind myself to be illogical, not to make so much sense, so the juxtaposition of ideas can fertilize the new. New != knew, new = now. That's the point of not being an expert: being a fool, rather, that's the goal: the endless goallessness of foolishhood.

"Oh, that's what I meant!" (we don't always know why we do what we do)

June 4, 2001

In the old days, samurai just sat around for years ... decades ... generations ... before having to act. And when the moment would come, the seemingly placid samurai would have to jump into action in an instant, be fully prepared, ready to fight, to die if necessary, without regret. This situation would tend to produce the following adaptations: a tendency to want to be ready for anything and everything. Thus, much preparation. A need for sudden bursts of activity punctuating long periods of relative calm which could last multiple generations. Entire lives could go by with nothing happening but preparation for a need that may not come for centuries.

Of course, these days, such adaptation is really no longer that well-suited for a time when things seem to happen frequently, when the need to act comes regularly, and when the stakes are fairly low; i.e., not life or death.

I am a samurai. That is to say, my father is a samurai, and his father, and so forth. You might think this doesn't mean anything; after all, centuries have passed since the last samurai carried a sword in an official manner, but keep in mind: samurai culture adapted for this, it was designed to lie fallow for centuries. So, strangely, the samurai impulse remains in my family. This isn't something I just assume because of my family tree; it's actually something I've noticed, both to my delight but mostly to my dismay.

Even physically my family members seem to be adapted for this: sudden bursts of speed. My father was a track star in high school. That's saying a lot for a Japanese-American in America. But it was in sprints, of course, not the marathon (long periods of inactivity punctuated by action, remember?) My cousin used to run track meets in high school without even training --- and she won. My brother and I are also very fast. But we're not as well-suited for the long distance events.

My dad likes to prepare. So do I. I can spend hours, days, weeks, months, just arranging things. I am always so happy when a situation arises when, due to my incredible foresight, I've managed to set up in advance just the thing to get us out of the predicament. Stuck car? I've got a come-along in the trunk of my AWD Subaru. Hiking in the desert, but someone left the keys in the car, and we're miles from civilization? Got that spare key tucked away in my wallet. Unlike most people, I love disasters and crises. I love them because it's always so clear what you have to do (you have to jump into action) and it's a reason to move. When a crisis hits, when I'm in an unfamiliar situation, when most people might be panicking, I get really, really calm, and almost happy. I just start doing what I have to do.

But life isn't as difficult as it used to be; warriors aren't as needed. I have got to learn to adapt, to motivate myself even in the absence of a pressing need. There are subtler currents that I can ride, these are in some sense almost the same currents that the samurai also rode, but they're less bloody, less pressing, finer, quieter, but no less crucial to life.


second half of may