KQED aired this today. Thank you for the listen.
Anna and I are losers.
And we don’t want to be losers.
We want to be winners.
And you can’t be a winner if you don’t play the game.
So last night we took up Safeway Monopoly.
We bought 24 cans of Friskies cat food for our dying cat.
And we got 48 Safeway Monopoly tickets. Safeway tells me that if I just buy enough Friskies and Poptarts, we’re going to be winners. We’re going to win a million dollars. And a big TV. And lots of other stuff.
Last night we spent one hour tearing and sorting and pasting. Now the Lewis family is running the table.
Because in the end we won 6 more tickets. And so we’re going back to Safeway to buy some more stuff and get even more tickets. And it’s just going to get better.
We’re going to be winners. And you can be a winner, too. You and all of our country will no longer be losers and the rest of the world will stop laughing at us.
In a few more days, I’m nailing Park Place. And I’ll have my Dawn Dishwashing Soap.
And you just wait and watch as I build me my Trump Towers.
In my imagined heaven (unlike the fundamentalist heaven muddled in moral condemnation) van Gogh, along with Rothko and Francis Bacon, while away the mornings appreciating and talking about color.
But for now you’re not yet in heaven.
Instead it’s a warm September evening in 1888. You still sit on a stool in the Place to Forum glancing to the south down the Rue de Palais in the town of Arles. Your paint brush dips all over that lead and chromium palette. The constellations of Perseus and Andromeda shimmer in the sky wedged above the narrow alley: although you capture them imperfectly, some life forms long extinct once unknowingly cast their own eyes toward your future visage that would receive them.
As for us, you remain anchored in a world of substance while I hover in the immaterial world that has not yet come to be. The street is filled with ghosts, future and past and present, and perhaps you find our presence claustrophobic. The film between us remains impermeable. We will never touch.
A blue cloaked waiter ferries glasses of Lillet. A woman cloaked in a thin coat crosses the street with her husband. None of them pay any heed to you. You’re nearly as invisible as I. But if not for you, their even now scant mark on history would be lost forever. If they’d known, they might have interceded or perhaps offered corrections.
But the crowd thins until it is just you and I. You are tired. You will be dead within a year. And people will champion you and fight over you for a very very long time. You will ignite passion and fury much like the first wandering preacher. But if the truth be, I wouldn’t even be here with you on this night but for that odd portal you created with a bit of oil and pigment brushed on to a tightly stretched piece of fabric. Tired yet exultant, you pack up your oils in a wooden box and set to walk home. You carry a canvas, the paint still sticky and wet. I follow. You can’t see me and you never will.
All the same, I would just like you to know.
Here’s the great irony.
The puzzle really only exists in the moment of puzzling; once you place the piece with that satisfying click, the puzzle ceases to exist.
We generate joy more from the act of figuring out, than from the solution itself.
The mind of God must indeed be a desultory place where the unknown unknown does not at all exist.
By definition, serendipity cannot exist in a world without surprises.
I imagined this area to be a thick strap of black dotted with specks of canvas.
Instead, why look what shone from the walls that night.
And for better or worse, once the world becomes known, it’s very very hard to regain the bliss of ignorance and innocence.
Now about that yellow.
It turns out that it wasn’t really yellow at all. It was anything but yellow. Canary, mustard, gold, fire orange, caramel, honey. All the hues were in there. But when broken apart, all the eye really detected was yellow. And only with close observations could you parse out the discrete shades, and only with reassembly did it make sense.
Van Gogh obsessed over color. He was drawn to it emotionally and as a line of inquiry that he explored in his bountiful letters to his brother Theo and sister Wilhemena. What color, really, is the night? How do colors give rise to emotion and thought? What effect do complementary and countervailing colors have on one another?
You can sense in Van Gogh’s writing how even his bold application of paint fell far short of what he saw. Describing the night sky above the Mediterranean, he wrote of how it was “flicked with clouds of a blue deeper than the fundamental blue and others of a clearer blue, like the blue whiteness of the Milky Way. On the blue depths, the stars were sparkling, greenish, yellow, white, rose, brighter, flashing more like jewels than they do even in Paris.”
Despite his struggle to accurately render that perceived world, his emerging fields of yellow and blue also reveal how Van Gogh prefigured the pure abstract expressionism that in 80 years would follow.
Van Gogh, however, still clung to object, both as representational object (this is this) and as signifier (this means that). We still have our stars, our sowers, our reapers, our ravens, our sunflowers. But you can sense him wanting to break free from object bound so that he could freely exist in jet black, flax, dandelion, and citron, or in the physicality of brush strokes and the thick globs of paint itself.
I imagine the Dutchman would have had quite animated and affirming conversations with the Latvian Mark Rothko.
I picture Vincent and Mark huddled in the chapel in Houston, their conversation tugging back and forth on the charcoal and gray and metallic black, Van Gogh calling for an interjection of violet and olive. And can you maintain the emotional content without referencing a physical form (the flash of a bird wing, the grimace of teeth, the wind bent sheaf)?
And the conversations with Piet Mondrian might have summoned frustration.
For the tempermental Van Gogh, color wedded with object could be a conduit for emotion. Rothko decoupled color from object to achieve the same effect. And Mondrian did so with the opposite intent, allowing color to exist in some cerebral platonic form.
The painter of the future, Van Gogh once wrote to Theo, will be such a colourist as has yet ever been. I wonder if he would have found further ecstasy, and perhaps even peace and rest, within Turrell: pure color at last untethered from the brush stroke and form itself.
Yesterday our friend Carrie sent over some photos of her puzzles inside her puzzle room.
A couple of observations:
- She has a puzzle room.
- She has lots of cool puzzles.
Clearly Carrie is one of the one percenters of Puzzledom.
Those vying to become our leader agree on few things. And in these strange and fearful times, they present even fewer options.
- I can vote for Donny and then I will become a winner so that one day I can have a puzzle room and lots of cool puzzles of my own.
- I can vote for Bernie in which case we will seize Carrie’s puzzle room and puzzles and redistribute them to all the other citizens in the land of Puzzledom. (BTW, if this happens, I call dibs on the 4D puzzle of San Francisco.)
- I can vote for Teddy, but then only God knows what will happen (and I mean his own particular God which doesn’t include all the other Gods floating around out there.)
- I can vote for Hilary which will result in Carrie keeping her puzzle room and puzzles and me keeping mine and Puzzledom will muddle along much as it always has.
There is, of course, the option presented by another friend, Mary Anne, who sent over an image of her recently completed puzzle of the door to Francis Bacon’s Reece Mews studio in Kensington.
Mary Anne presently lives in Scotland. In her world they will one day declare independence and establish their own self-governing Puzzledom in which they will drink Scotch, do drunken imitations of Scotty from Star Trek and while away the long dark evenings puzzling wistfully at Bacon’s door.
It doesn’t sound too bad at all.
Friday night all hell broke loose.
The chaos began when Mazie lay down on the puzzle field.
Later that night she and Anna staged an insurrection and suspended all rules. They fumbled around with pieces. They tried to place pieces that lay outside the border. They worked all helter skelter on one little area and then another little area and then another without any rhyme or reason.
Yesterday morning I instituted martial law. All rules reinstated plus an additional 5th: You were allowed to place three pieces and then had to walk away.
Last night we happily listened to the Republican debate as the cafe slowly came into focus. I learned last night that a civil society can only prevail in these fearful times through strength and waterboarding and things far worse.