The Blue Raccoon

Friday, August 31, 2007

....And now

[Image: The Wit of the Staircase, "Wit Gifts 2005," December 6, 2005]

Thus the time has come. Tony Dokoupli has assayed the Duncan-Blake event for Newsweek--and let me stop right there.

How out of touch am I from Out There and News Weeklies? My guess is way. But here, billion-eyed audience, is my deal.

I envision, in waiting rooms across this gray-uht land, outside the offices of family physicians and optometrists, a multi-fold yawn, and a mass page turning that if set up on a collective scale, would blow out the fires laying waste to Greece.

If I am wrong, then I am wrong, and there's nothing to be done for it.

And I admit, having spent too much time and considerable effort within this material, being over-familiar works opposite of journalism constructed, after all, to inform those who make better use of their leisure time.
The double suicide is what grabs the attention for the "lay" reader — while in the blogosphere the entire event has transformed into a Cyber Era Mayerling.

I did learn a little more about Blake's emotional condition after Duncan's death and the care friends gave him. Something happened on that long subway ride on his way to meet a friend that became a fatal detour to the Rockaway beach. A cog slipped down and turned a gear. He underwent a clear and irrevocable realization.

I viewed a few images of Blake's work and the
History of Glamour that I hadn't before. I also chortled at this accurate description, most in particular the last clause:
"Duncan’s assault reads like a multimedia performance piece, with hyperlinks and pictures incorporating information from the dregs of the Internet." Rigorous Intution? Professor Hex? Dregs? They should get T-shirts, form a band: "The Dregs of the Internet." They might even invent a hairstyle that symbolizes their status, and call the cut, "dreg-locks."

This insight, too, piqued my interest:

"The condition of being super-social and super-isolated at the same time is an Internet-era kind of thing,” says Fred Turner, a media historian at Stanford University, who speculates that as Blake and Duncan withdrew from friends, “their only reality check left was the wisps of information on their computer screens. And unfortunately, that isn’t a very powerful check.

And this somewhat awkward construction, though I think this is new information, new to me, anyway. I was aware they were planning to make a film, but the involvement of a name producer was revealed by Dokoupli.

"The night before she killed herself, they met with “Scream” producer Cary Woods to outline a noir film—a dream project for some, but it was perhaps too much for Duncan. Her friends speculate that she chose to end her life rather than risk losing another film to forces outside her control."

At first, one thinks that meeting with Cary Woods 'was perhaps too much.' Reading about him, he could be a real life indie Bobby Gould.

The dead tree fiber media isn't half-done with their comprehensive approach to this event, and it'll get bigger and glossier and maybe just maybe more actual information will be gleaned, but maybe the headlines will just get bigger and the graphic design more jarring and lurid.

You know, one of the equations that went into the line of code that made me what I am, was reading Walter Lord's A Night To Remember in the Salem Church Junior High school library. This was his 1955 narrative nonfiction treatment of the Titanic disaster and his use of calm, unfussy language to explain horrific events shaped my own writing.

The last paragraph of that seminal book is worth repeating here.

"The answer to all these Titanic riddles will never be known for certain. The best that can be done is weigh the evidence carefully and give an honest opinion. Some will still disagree, and they may be right. It is a rash man indeed who would set himself up as final arbiter on all that happened the incredible night the Titanic went down."

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Is Olympus Burning?: Perhaps an accidental spark from the forge of Hephaestus caught half of Greece on fire.
The Grecan Katrina -- fire, not flood

[Image: BBC]

During these past few weeks, wildfires ignited across the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece killed more than 60 people, caused the abandonment of almost 30 villages, consumed hundreds of acres, and a wave of fire approached the base of Mount Olympus, the residence of the ancient Greek gods.

The nation-straddling conflagration, driven as a fury by winds and with ample fuel provided by a countryside parched by summer drought, destroyed herds of animals and obliterated farms and homes. Firefighters and equipment from throughout the European Union were brought to Greece, and they were joined by 3,400 soldiers to halt the advancing flames.

According to one BBC report, the fires on Evia Island transformed hundreds of acres into "an eerie lunar landscape" where no birdsong could be heard.
The flames scorched parts of the 2,800-year-old World Heritage site of Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Hellenistic Olympic competitions and where the Olympic Flame is lit for the summer and winter games.

"Before the fires, Olympia was a place of solemn lushness surrounded by pine and cypress groves," wrote John F.L. Ross of the Associated Press. "Afterward, the hills around it emitted a lurid glow from countless embers burning into the night — even the waxing moon was bathed in a reddish glow."

The Olympia museum was protected and damage to the archaeolgical site wasn't severe. There is an element of mythic proportion; as though the gods either couldn't or wouldn't stop the fires elsewhere, but allowed the flames to be extinguished as the wall of fire approached their fabled home.

A 21st century Aphrodite is stranded and powerless on a Greek roadside as a nearby inferno consumes everything in its path. [Image: BBC]

The government has suggested the fires may have been set as a part of a caluculated plan. More than 30 people are in custody on fire-starting-related charges, and if their direct connection to these fires is proved, there is a move to have them convicted under terrorism laws. A $1 million euro reward was established to facilitate the apprehension of the perpetrators.

The BBC described on August 26 how Athens itself was at one point "shrouded in smoke that obscured the sun as several fires threatened the city's outskirts."
Anger at what was perceived as a slow political response to the fires may have burned any chance for Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to win a second term in office in elections on September 16. An estimated crowd of 10,000 black-clad demonstrators gathered in silent protest on Wednesday, August 28, before the parliament building in Athens. A number of the protestors held banners declaring, "No to the destruction of nature." Some demonstrators jeered at riot police, who responded by throwing stun grenades.

Demonstrators blamed lax control of the forests that served as encouragement for arsonists to burn down trees to make way for unauthorised construction. Some of the demonstrators believed the fires were set with the deliberate purpose of clearing land for developers. "It is not just the current government but successive governments that have neglected the environment and passed laws which have encouraged people to build illegally," declared university researcher Yiannis Sakellavidis.

The president of the Hellenic Property Federation, Stratos Paradias, scoffed at this kind of talk. He told the BBC that creating a national calamity is not the smartest way to rid acreage of trees. He added, "Once a forest is burnt, according to our constitution, within three months the Forestry Service is obliged to pass a decree according to which this land is reforested."

The total number of acres in Greece that have gone up in smoke
since the beginning of 2007 is almost equal in size to the state of Rhode Island.

[Image: BBC] How smoke produced by the catastrophe could be seen by satellite.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Distinguished Representative from C-SPAN:
Issues. Answers. Hotness.

She'd never accept a Maxim offer.

Thank goodness. She is reserved for us in the bubble of C-SPAN's wonky aspect, where we in our solitude can imagine otherwise. We get to watch her punch the phone, and glare from atop imperious cheek bones through eyes that cut into the future, the truth, and everything that makes this shambling suicidal republic great. I'm calling on the line that allows me to say with nervous respect: politics and social discussion should look and sound as good as you do at 7 a.m. I acknowledge that my infatuation doesn't get us any closer to solving these problems before us, but I had to say so. There it is.

She's the person, whom, meeting her at an all night coffee shop, you'd talk past three, and you'd fall hopeless for her within 10 minutes or less. She's enticing and makes puns that you don't get, and she's keeping score. You nod and say uh--huh as she schools you: Adlai Stevenson, Harold Stassen, Barry Goldwater, Norman Thomas. You walk alongside her to her Metro stop and it's snowing, and she's wearing a vintage big, black coat -- a military cut maybe from Woodward & Lothrop, from a half-century ago--and her hands shoved in the pockets and head bent forward so all you see is her hair tumbling past the collar--Why isn't she wearing a cap? --you watch as she descends the icing stairs into the earth to catch her train. The two buttons in the back get smaller, and the snow gets bigger, and sighing a cloud of breath you think: At least in this messed up world there's one of her.

Later, you fall asleep, dreaming of her in one of your old concert T-shirts--
maybe Tom Petty-- with the sleeves ripped off---- and a pair of worn jeans, hers, and how you'd always have to think of what to say next and how good that would be.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Photographs and Memories: A Non-Sequential Series Part One

This is Amie and me standing in a place that doesn't exist anymore. No enemy bomber demolished Chelsesa Commons, at 242 10th Ave. [10th Ave and 24th St.] in New York's Chelsea district.

No, it was that soul-robbing process that is converting New York into a one big crass NewYorkCityworld. The Big Apple is beginning to resemble the fake Vegas casino built to mimic its spires. That itself looks like one of those posters tourists buy of the the landmarks grouped together, out of connection to their geographic location, and physical proportion.

The date was Saturday, February 20, 2004. We came to New York and through the knack she possesses for finding us good rooms in great places, Amie got us into the historic Algonquin. This was the place that Louise Brooks got thrown out of due to her immoral behavior. And there was that literary round table thing, too. The stairwells were covered by New Yorker cartoons. A plush white cat roamed the lobby and rode in the baggage carrier. Each door has a bon mot from a member of the Vicious Circle on a plaque -- though they just rotated the quotations, there's not a different one for each door. Our room was small, cozy and we loved being there.

The copper-amber haired cabaret singer Tierney Sutton was performing in the club; I didn't see her perform, but heard her husky big voice in the lobby and saw her come out between sets. Sigh. And what a grand name.

But on this particular sunny but brisk Saturday in Chelsea, Amie was slogging her way from one Chelsea gallery to the next and I was foot sore and eye boggled from looking at art that hadn't much impressed me, philistine that I am. This was one of the last places in the neighborhood where locals jostled alongside the visitors.

Soon as I walked in I knew I was home; dark wood, past New Year's Eve and band posters in garish colors and block lettering, for John Parks, Pine Top Perkins, Paul Butterfield & Barbecue, Bob & The Specialist, Dr. John & Friends, and posters for theater, on and off Broadway, one big one for Proof. There was a long, unpretentious bar and several taps, a sign that demanded, "No Sniveling," and an efficient and comely bar mistress named Eve.

Eve poured me Sam Adams pints from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and credit my ability to even walk afterward to how I spent time talking, writing and not gulping Sam. I also ate a hearty, delicious steak sandwich that came with a heaping order of big home-made fries that offered great satisfaction. I tingled with happiness. I wanted to move in. And I kind of did.

Working there, as it turned out, was Niabi Caldwell, an early participant with the company I co-founded, the Firehouse Theatre Project. I'd not seen her in a a long time, since she'd left Richmond, Vee-ay, and yet -- here she was, dealing them off the arm and looking like a knowing, urban pixie. She screeched and hugged me. Yeah, in a city of eight millions, and I walk at random into a bar....Is there a statistician in the house? She seemed to be doing well; she's still in NYC in 2007 -- I need to send a message to that girl.

The patrons at the bar complained to each other, not to me, that NYC is getting converted into one big Starbucks, that only luxury apartments are getting built and how they are destructive to the fabric of the city, that Mayor Bloomberg is a wealthy idiot who has not a whit of connection to the city, that Bush is leading us into terrible days. In 2004, I didn't hear much talk like this in Richmond, Vee-ay.

The bar mistress, Eve, was a painter and considering abandoning New York due to its expense. But Amie and I know of people who've complained about NYC and never go; it's the same in Paris, and in Richmond. I advocated for the city of my nativity to Eve, due to the relative low cost of living and the presence of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, one of the top ranked art schools in the nation, and with a burgeoning gallery scene. I wonder if she ever even thought about such a migration -- my guess is she's still up there.

We hit it off, Eve and me. The music was great, old rock and rockabilly, and the customers who all knew Eve, and she knew, created a composition of their own. She told me, Eve did, that two of the Chelsea Commons' cooks were looking into buying the place, make it upscale, and ruin the character.

Which, is in fact, what happened.

Within the year, Chelsea Commons was shuttered and now it is the Trestle on Tenth, with a Swiss-American menu that doesn't have a big old steak sandwich on it, leastwise, one that I can afford.

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Regina Spektor US

Saturday, August 25, 2007

[Image: Theresa Duncan amid streamers, via The Wit of the Staircase, "On Seesaw Saturday Nights," December 3, 2006 (thanks Seaword)]

Seven Different Kinds of Denial Just to Get out of Bed Part VI: Conclusion
July 28-August 1

"I think at first, Theresa Duncan didn't know fear. She was brave and bright and her work reflected it. JC Herz told me that CD-Roms were the perfect medium for a small team of passionate people. But movies are a commercial and corporate product that uses creative people like paperclips." Kate Coe, August 3, 2007, commenting on Amy Alkon's Advice Goddess blog posting about Theresa Duncan, "Making It Up As She Went Along."

"The saddest part of the story is the implication that she may have finally realized that she wasn't special, that she was talented but normal, and rather than see the collapse of her house of lies as an opportunity to finally grow up, she chose to die. What a waste of her creativity and passion."--- from comment by "wf" on SLOG, the blog of Seattle, Wash.'s The Stranger alt-weekly, "The Latest on Theresa Duncan," August 6, 2007

"Since their suicides last month, the sadly foreshortened life stories of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan have passed beyond their control and are currently passing through the distorted mirrors of projection, grief, anger and a sort of perverse, bicoastal peer review by New Yorkers and Los Angelenos who are stumped as to why a talented and beautiful young artist couple who had been together for 12 years took their own lives, despite seeming to have the grail of professional and personal success firmly in hand."-- New York Observer, August 7, 2007 “Art World Shivers After Lovers’ Double Suicide.”

"Duncan was a pioneering digital artist/entrepreneur who did not have any mentors (if any) to be her guide in the digital arts world. Her work was distinctive, wonderful and she will be missed."-- Katherine K., commenting, August 8, 2007, on the New York Observer article, “Art World Shivers After Lovers’ Double Suicide.

"Just like every other piece on the duo so far, this is about "why" they killed themselves. Not unexpectedly, no one as yet has an "answer." I do! You know why they killed themselves? Because they were fucked in the head. Just like everyone else who's ever killed himelf. Probably not their fault, either—surely the fault of natural chemicals or other chemicals that they put in themselves. Because you know what else is weird?

All these profiles talk about how erratic the twosome became—they were paranoid, convinced that the CIA and the Scientologists were out to get them, erratic with friends.... You know what that sounds like? Hi, crystal meth. They sound like everyone who's ever done a lot of stimulants; tinfoil on the windows, water glass to the door, looking for secret cameras. Lots of those folks do themselves in too."-- Choire, on, suicide is painless "Why Did Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake Commit Suicide?"August 20, 2007

"Mental illness is a politically-convenient myth that transposes the cause of destructive behavior away from social constructs and onto the individual. In truth, suicide is not a randomly-occuring chemical imbalance with no external cause (no more so than a malignant tumor metastasizes without prior exposure to carcinogens) but rather the lawful consequence of intelligent organisms struggling to survive in a modern capitalist democracy.

The depressed choose to kill themselves because analysis of the data available suggests that to die solves otherwise insoluble problems. If the mental health industry were honest, it would admit that the consequences of freedom are aimlessness and anomie, and that a consequence of the market economy is a lifetime of consumerism culminating in death without meaning. If this life is a hell for some, the world we have inherited is why... <>

Of course, if the mental health industry were honest, nobody would buy their happy drugs anymore; and everybodies [sic.] gotta make a living - right?" -- Manna, on, August 20, 2007.

A Jeremy Blake over the mantle. [Image via]


A Table of Contents for "Seven Different Kinds of Denial"

This extended essay and its complementary portions have sprawled across The Blue Raccoon during July and August like a lazing cat stretched to fill an oblong rectangle of sun on a couch. Readers who joined late may find this table of contents an aide to navigation.

July 29: Seven Different Kinds... Parts I-II
July 30: Strange Interlude
July 31: Strange Interludes Part the Second
July 31: Seven Different Kinds...Part III
August 5: Seven Different Kinds...Part IV
August 10: The Duncan-Blake Effect Blossoms Unabated
August 11: Seven Different Kind...Part V
August 17: Seven Different Kinds...Part VI (First section, "Perspective On The Duncan-Blake Effect")
August 20: Conspiracy of Two (New York Magazine assessment)
August 22: Seven Different Kinds...Part VI, Continued "The Emergence of Dream's End."


Regina Spektor: "Us"
"Living in a den of thieves/
rummaging for answers in the pages"

While I was completing this final entry pertaining to the "Duncan-Blake Effect" late at night Sunday, August 26, 2007 (despite the the entry date -- I started this posting in draft the day before), Richmond's own indie radio station, WRIR 97.3, played the song "Us" by Moscow/New York piano chanteuse Regina Spektor.

The lyrics, her voice, the moment and the subject matter with which I'd pre-occupied myself for the past weeks, caused the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I found this video, and I just thought it appropriate, on several levels.

So I include it here, as a later addition, in an effort to bring some kind of artistic, metaphorical aspect to what has been a great deal of me rummaging for answers in the pages, and quoting acres of paragraphs out of them.

There are several versions on YouTube, including some live in concert, but this one seemed the best for this situation. The first phrase of the piano gets me, and its echo -- like a recital in a high school auditorium; but an old one, with wooden floors and a stage that creaks. The retro stop-motion; that wild telegraph device that sends physical alphabet letters; the threatening yet goofy military and authority figures, and her voice, are -- to me- a wonderful combination. It's such a ebullient yet rueful tune, and seems to me appropriate; perhaps it was more so at midnight that evening at the end of all this...then again, as I've notice, you spend too much time with such material, and everything seems connected somehow...

Well, I wanted it here, and it posted above as a new entry. You go there or look it up here.

Some of the lyrics are:

"They made a statue of us
And it put it on a mountain top.
Now tourists come and stare at us
Blow bubbles with their gum
Take photographs for fun -- for fun.

They'll name a city after us
And later say it's all our fault.
Then they'll give us a talking to
Then they'll give us a talking to
Because they've got years of experience.

We're living in a den of thieves
Rummaging for answers in the pages
We're living in a den of thieves

And it's contagious
And it's contagious...

We wear our scarves just like a noose
But not 'cause we want eternal sleep.
And though our parts are slightly used
New ones are slave labor you can keep..."

-- Regina Spektor, "Us"


untitled #5 (wonder), 1996. C-print, laminated and mounted on Sintra, 48 1/16 x 40 1/4 inches. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, image on Gilding The Lily via The Guggenheim Collection.

Anna Gaskell’s name got strapped to a run-away horse cart and dragged through every gutter lining the Duncan-Blake Effect. Those writing about her pretended little knowledge about her work, influences, or place in contemporary art. Their critique of Gaskell's endeavors was limited to the view that Gaskell's photography was “fucking weird." Therefore, Duncan's assertions in The Wit of the Staircase, and consequent events, made Gaskell a person of interest within the paranoiac-critical community because the entire event was, not to put too fine a point on it, "fucking weird."

To be fair, most who’ve written about Gaskell during this episode aren’t art critics and perhaps, there’s a lesson in that. People who don’t know anything say what they think, and, that, too, has value. These commentators within the Effect instead position themselves in the discussion as aggrieved parties whose sensibilities are violated by the entire business, up to an including the art of Anna Gaskell. That is, like the implication of deviant doings imposed upon Gaskell’s subjects. There is something more going on here, but that’s for some enterprising blogospheric psycho-historian to root about.

Thus, a refreshing take on the entire voodoofication of Gaskell came on July 30 at Gilding The Lily, where the lady of the blog reacted to the assertions and denunciations against the photographer, referencing her as the current idée fixe of Jeff Wells at Rigorous Intuition.

La Lily wrote, and one hopes with some sense of facetiousness, “It[‘s] quite strange the connection he makes actually. I rather like the p[h]otography of Anna Gaskell. Guess there is something to say about geographic location because upon reading this I realize just how far removed I am from the loop of the art world so vibrant in New York.”

One could detect a bit of relief in her voice.

The post generated one short comment, from Stuart Hobbes, who just said, “Thank you,” and you can almost hear an exasperated breath as though he’d been holding his tongue since the barrage of Gaskell began.


Eric Weaver rendered a wistful entry in the “Personal/Off-Topic” section of the Brand Dialogue blog. The short description holds an undercurrent of loss and the effort it takes to continue on, by keeping a vision of the departed alive.

“Driving through the forest along the Oregon Coast from Charleston to Coos Bay, I saw a blonde, braided woman riding a mountain bike down the winding highway through the trees. Wearing big, dark sunglasses and rain gear, she was somewhere between 35 and 45, and her bike was piled high with camping gear. She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place her. Maybe 200 feet behind her was a man, somewhere between 35-45, dark hair and a week-old beard, riding behind her…his bike also piled high with camping equipment.

And just for a fleeting moment, I saw Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake heading down the coast through the Oregon forest, happy, no place in particular to be, enjoying the cool weather, ocean breeze, and scent of pines.

In an alternate universe, hopefully that’s what’s happening, right now.”

Yet, this emotional farewell was seized upon in the paranoiac-critical community as confirmation that the Duncan and Blake deaths were all part of a magnificent ruse designed to sustain a viral marketing campaign through an alternate reality game.

In their world, neither Theresa Duncan nor grief exist.


“Our internal lives are unavailable to others..”

Jerry, age 64, of Sailing To Byzantium is one may hazard to presume, an elder statesmen of the Duncan-Blake Effect. On August 1, he made his entry. I hope that he is, in fact, 64, because if so, his words hold greater weight. He indicates a background in psychiatry and English literature. So. That makes him as viable a voice as whoever else has chosen to molest a keyboard in the service.

But, too, a man of 64 years has known of tragedy and joy, and perhaps seen awful things, even unforgettable things, and he yet endures. Jerry alludes to these circumstances here.

He chose to live where others have not. I without apology give him almost full rein. In this current long lone essay, his words are the most insightful, and wise, than anybody’s anywhere, whether in pixels or on paper.

You may find it interesting to wander amongst the cyberspace stacks and learn more about these two people. They were beautiful, talented, and successful. Outwardly, it appears that their futures were going to be brilliant. They seemed to have it all.

It is improbable that people with this much going for them would end their lives—he at age 35, her only 40 years old. So many cling to life tenaciously when it appears that they have little reason to do so. Perhaps Theresa and Jeremy shared some psychopathy—some neurological or psychiatric disturbance—that drew them together.

It may be that their individual dynamics interacted chaotically within their relationship to undermine their emotional health. For me, it validates my perception that our internal lives are unavailable to others and often inaccessible to ourselves as well.

Many people appear to have no emotional sensibilities—nor do they have the encumbering vulnerability of those who live through their feelings. Subsequently, they avoid the internal volatility and stormy emotionality that is our plight.

[Image: Red + Rock, via Sailing To Byzantium]

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone not sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

[Image: "Death and Irony" via Sailing To Byzantium."]

I understand psychiatry from the inside out. I have been on that precipice of emotional chaos and looked into the maelstrom—the dark interior of the soul—and near its center the specter of insanity that awaits those who fall beyond the margin. I understand that many of you will have no idea what I am talking about and assume that these life crises—these dark nights of the soul—are imaginary manifestations of weak character or indolent dramatization.

Often those who end their own lives suffer quietly and hide their distress from their friends and family. Sometimes there is a long history of depression and treatment. I have talked with acquaintances and patients at the hospitals where I worked…had normal discussions…seen smiles and engaged in cheerful dialogs…then the next day, heard they took their lives.

If you do any further research on Theresa and Jeremy, the following quotes from A River Runs Through It may seem relevant:

Each one here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often that not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them—we can love completely without complete understanding.

And lastly…

And finally I said to him, “maybe all I know about Paul is that he was a fisherman.” “You know more than that,” my father said; “he was beautiful.”

Theresa and Jeremy were beautiful.”

The Papers

August 1, 2007, was the biggest day, until that time, for the dead tree fiber media in the history of Duncan-Blake Effect.

There was no longer any reason to delay. Theresa Duncan was returned to the cold ground of Lapeer, Michigan; a body was retrieved from the ocean four and a half miles off Sea Girt, N.J., and dental records erased any question. This was the mortal end of Jeremy Blake. Thus, what remained for those who buy ink by the vat-full, was to tidy up, ring down a full stop, though everybody knew that there’d never be any such thing. Ever.

We will traverse by geography, down to up, right to left.

The Washington Post

Most times, newspaper writers don’t get the privilege of affixing their own headlines. They may have suggestions, but that’s one of the jobs fulfilled by the editors. Still, this “The Puzzling, Tragic End of A Golden Couple” exhibits the lush overtones of a 1930s Sunday rotogravure section. Still, I think David Segal gave a good accounting of a circumstance that, though the bodies are found, the situation is still rolling.

David Hockney couldn't have done better. Image: Originated on Yo Venice!

After some necessary exposition (most newspaper readers don't trawl blogs), Segal distills the nature of the reactions. I wish all journalists would ban the appellation “star” and the worst “rock star” from any proximity to their personality profiles beyond movies, Rolling Stone, or celestial events, and the phrase “terribly wrong” should be shoved in a trunk and dumped off the end of a pier, and “art world denizen” sounds like 10 minutes to deadline, to me, and I’ve been there.

Those close to Duncan and Blake seem to be neatly divided between those who knew that something was terribly wrong with them -- having heard the couple talk obsessively about a plot against them hatched by Scientologists and others -- and those who had no idea. For the former, interacting with Duncan and Blake became almost impossible, as paranoia about phone taps and stalkings came to dominate their lives. For the latter, there is nothing but shock.

“I missed it completely,” said Glenn O'Brien, a friend and longtime Manhattan art world denizen. “They had a lot of friends, but they were ultimately very private people. I once heard her say something about Scientology that sounded sort of improbable to me, but I just sort of let it go. It was like a can of worms you didn't want to open.

Here’s the thing that bothers me here, and in the later New York Magazine piece: how those near to Jeremy Blake handled his distress. Now, I’ve known crazy people, and I still know some, though, I admit, I don't live with them, and they don't respond well to what we'd term "reason." But here’s Jeremy Blake, his Theresa-of-12-years dead of her own hand, and he’s out of his mind with agony, and those who knew him agreed he could be suicidal. But, he was a grown man, he could take care of himself. Right? What’s going on in those Manhattan heads? If this happened in Richmond ,Vee-ay, and it was me, friends wouldn’t let me out of their sight. But that’s how we roll here in the hinterlands. Then again -- with so much strain on his relationships already, perhaps they were just tired, or had persuaded themselves he was safe and out of harm. During moments of coherence, he was planning her funeral. He asked Glenn O'Brien to provide the final entry on The Wit of the Staircase.

And, yeah, if I was addled, claiming the Mormon moped mob was after me, for example, my friends might even recommend I go someplace quiet where I'd not need to wear a belt or use sharp instruments. A place like where you sign in and sign out. They might even take me there. They might go to great physical extremes do to so. They'd play along; tell me it was the only place to go for my own safety. Something. I'd hope before the situation became as dire that I'd be on medication. This part of the story really seems almost the strangest of all.

People lose their spouses -- through accident, disease and actuarial statistics -- every day. No, they weren't married, but 12 years together qualifies for commitment. He found her dead. This is the thing that I go back to: he couldn't imagine living with that sight seared in his memory.

And an assessment of Blake's work:

Left: Look What The Wind Blew In, 2001, digital c-print70 x 167,5 cm Right: Screen with still from Winchester, images via Galerie Tanit.

He was a great artist, an artist for the 21st century," said Jonathan Binstock, the curator of the Corcoran show. "He had his hand in music videos, in gaming, in Hollywood and in the world of contemporary art that you find in the best museums in the world. He didn't draw distinctions between those industries. He was brilliant, concentrated and deeply committed.”

Screenshots from Century 21, image via Galerie Tanit.

He was a maker within the zeitgeist and using its technologies most advanced tools. This was interesting:

“Blake met Duncan in 1995, in Washington, at a Fugazi concert. (He was friendly with Nation of Ulysses, another important band in the D.C. punk scene, and can be heard introducing the group to a live audience on the 1992 album, "Plays Pretty for Baby.")

Segal’s rendition of Duncan, and the Staircase, struck me as a re-wording. Again, on deadline, for a short feature for a big-time daily, you can’t waste too much time noodling around on a blog built like a Chamber of Curiosities. "Are't you supposed to be writing?"--"But this is research."--"Kate Moss naked?"--"No, but it really is." -- "Just get the damn thing done." This is just but one plate of many you as a features writer are trying to keep spinning.

This is the best of the piece:

“Duncan and Blake didn't just fall for each other; they grew so close they all but intertwined. "When you called, they were always both on the phone," said Jason Meadows, an artist and friend. "When you e-mailed, they'd take turns writing back. At some point, I realized it doesn't matter which of them I'm communicating with. They were that tight.”

And the slide into mutually assured destruction and a relative’s voice from outside the frenzy.

Many of those friends bailed out, frustrated and bewildered. But for all the tumult, the pair remained focused and Blake, at least, was applying himself to work, said Binstock. Duncan could be prickly and acerbic and sometimes one would say something loopy, friends said, but the couple generally kept it together.

"Obviously there was much more going on than any of us realized, but he never said anything that suggested there was a problem," said Anne Schwartz Delibert, Blake's mother, who lives in Takoma Park. "He was devoted to her. He was a loyal caretaker."

This last statement by Delibert was examined by bloggers for meaning. Was Blake's mother, at an extraordinary difficult time and using restraint, choosing words in a careful manner: "a loyal caretaker." There was, to some parsers, an implied acknowledgement of Ducan's erratic, even disturbed, nature in Delibert's description. Blake's devotion to her overrode his own good sense, is one interpretation.

And Segal ends well as could be expected, giving Duncan and Kafka the last words:

Then again, speculating about the motives of any suicide is hard enough. Trying to figure out two of them seems even trickier, and given the complexity of the people involved, nearly all the answers seem kind of trite. Duncan seemed to anticipate this very theme, when a few weeks ago on her blog she quoted Kafka:

We are as forlorn as children lost in the wood. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the grief that is in me and what do I know of yours? And if I were to cast myself down before you and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful?


“…facing the strange, appreciating the wonderful
and knowing she can handle whatever the future may bring.”

Over on the blog component of the personal technology desk, Bob Pegoraro gave “Theresa Duncan Has Signed Off,” in his Faster Forward posting, and hands off to Joel Achenbach who, on his blog, “says it better than I could.”

But that’s not quite true. Pegoraro speaks to what he knows, with a note of the inexplicable. There’s a star-sighting, although he speaks his heart and manages a turn of phrase.

Segal's story makes it plain that Duncan and Blake had gone a little mad at the end, lost in their own paranoia--their own creativity had turned on them in a particularly toxic way. I can't quite square that with the talented individual who was one of the stars at a Georgetown software firm called Magnet's just rotten news all around…

Why are we making such a big deal about this passing? Read on after the jump for the reviews we ran of Duncan's work, as well as a profile we did of her and her employer, Magnet.

Zero Zero is described a December 12, 1997 review as an interactive story “for girls curious to explore more than hairstyles.”

Now, billion eyed audience, bear in mind that this is but a mere moment in the Effect, where we are still permitted to believe that Duncan thought of everything.

“Girls open to new and unusual experiences will appreciate this CD; some parents, however, might be disturbed by the slightly naughty or scary overtones that accompany all fairy tales. Perhaps the most important, enduring and endearing element, though, is the image of the curious and competent Pinkee, popping in and out of chimneys, facing the strange, appreciating the wonderful and knowing she can handle whatever the future may bring.”

And it just gets worse, on November 28, 1998. This one’s a toughie to read, given how events have yanked open an over-stuffed basement closet and tumbled to our feet malformed objects that are almost recognizable. I hunted through pages of Google to find a Mimi Smartypants frame, to no avail.

Above, the antic world of Cortland, Ohio, setting of Chop Suey.
Below left, from Chop Suey, it's almost a "primitive" Duncan-Blake portrait.
Images via

Theresa Duncan's first CD-ROM, an edgy daydream called Chop Suey, remains one of the finest stories-on-CD ever produced. Smartypants is Duncan's lastest effort, and though it's available only via the producer's toll-free number, it's well worth it -- especially for girls, the computer users most ignored and abused by commercial software houses. The disc follows the amblings of Mimi Smartypants, a spunky kid who's only slightly too bright for her own good; luckily, she summers in Detroit with her wacky Aunt Olive, who teaches her, among other things, that "poetry is what spices up smarts."

The adventure involves following Mimi into various urban locales -- a school (Our Lady of Impossible Sorrow), the Pancake Hut (where you can play "Pancake Mountain" on the jukebox), Rose and Olive's garage-cum-jewelry studio (where you can string beads, paint pictures or play wicked-witch pinball) and so on. Each funky mini-environment is entered via a read-along narrative, and one of the disc's obvious strengths is its neo-mystical diction -- leaves are "autumn confetti"; the studio features "glittering blue stones the size of ice cubes….

But the playful subversion that lies at the heart of all great kiddy lit -- from Dr. Seuss to Margaret Wise Brown, from Maurice Sendak to Shel Silverstein -- is wonderfully intact.”

Then this, May 31, 1996, about Magnet, by Joe Brown.

In a corner of the labyrinthine Magnet Studios, co-creators Theresa Duncan and Monica Gesue set up their customary afternoon tea among the digital doodlepads and gleaming monitors. "We looked at a lot of kids' products," says Duncan, 26, the wordworker of the duo. "There wasn't anything that had the sort of strong story or character development or the kind of luminous, beautiful art you find in truly good children's books. And most of the interactivity is very predictable."

"And we wanted to do something that would encourage girls to look at software," continues Gesue, 31, who dreamed up Chop Suey's lyrical look. Like twins, the two often finish each others sentences. "Most of the CD-ROM market has been boy-oriented -- all that blow-'em-up, blood-and-guts, linear stuff. But hey, men make all the software."

As Duncan and Gesue tour the program, their "somewhat autobiographical" animated counterparts explore a carnival, a candy store and a spooky house; they try on X-ray specs, snap photos and poke their heads into a teenager's room to read his diary. At the circus, players are likely to step in dog poop. "Kids love poop," Gesue proclaims…

The music and sound, careening from be-bop to tinny AM to chirping summer shimmer, is by Brendan Canty, drummer for D.C.'s internationally revered punk band Fugazi. The pixie-voiced narrator is David Sedaris, NPR commentator and author of the side-splitting short story collection Barrel Fever. "We wanted it to look handmade," says Gesue.

MM’s comment came a few days later, right under Kate Coe’s rather ominous utterance about the deaths causing the façade to fall down, and MM, well. You read it.

“What a pleasure it is to read something appreciative and informative about Theresa Duncan as opposed to all the slander being pumped out by her enemies that make her and and Jeremy Blake look like they lived a life of lies.

Too bad they are not here to read this nice article of yours and to defend themselves against such viscious [sic.] accusations printed elsewhere. In time, all the truth will be revealed and the naysayers will crawl back to their darkened corners.

I do hope that the wonderful and vivid creativity both Duncan and Blake were gifted with and shared together with the world will again be the focus of attention.
Your article is a start. Thanks.


“You need to undercut your own singular importance in the story in order to universalize the experience.”

And so we bustle off to Joel Achenbach who—what, else can he do?—but wade into what’s already out there and try to make something compute that won’t. “Forensic psychoanalysis on the dead is never wise,” he with great truth says, then proceeds to show Duncan off at her most, well, nuttiest. Hey, it’s out there for anybody to interpret, like making a dream journal public – a blog, for example. Achenbach goes on to observe, I’m guessing he knows his is a forlorn hope:

“I hope no movie studio decides it's a great romantic story, Shakespearean and ripe for the screen.

It's just sad.”

Then, with some O’Brien quotes, Achenbach must move to a world that is moving on.

Down in the comments are some originals. StoryTeller Tim, no Alex Constantine devotee, comes from the “if wasn’t so heart-breaking it would be side-splitting” end of the table, and with a literary approach, though his post takes a while to be accepted.

Here's what I was trying to post, earlier. The first paragraph appears several times, in various edited forms, in the goulash of ancient comments that has suddenly streamed forth:

I am intrigued by the element of Duncan noticing that they were surrounded by an inordinate number of license plates from Iowa. The notion that you could have a conspiracy that can arrange a huge squad to secretly trail this couple, yet not think of the license plates as a give-away detail: it would be very funny if we didn't know how the story ends.

If she could have used that paranoia as literary grist, it would have been pretty good stuff -- like Illuminatus, a crazy story in which there are dark and mysterious underpinnings behind everything mildly annoying or inconvenient or not quite reasonable. It makes everything about you into something Important. Something Big.

Unfortunately, if you tell a story in which everything happens because of how Important you are, it is desperately boring to everyone who isn't you. You need to undercut your own singular importance in the story in order to universalize the experience. A truly paranoid person seems unlikely to do that. To see yourself as just one person among many, and not occupying the center of a network of intrigues and secret doings, being the driving force of history; well, it would take away the whole value of being paranoid, wouldn't it?

DR doesn’t take much stock in dark fairy tales and thinks somebody should have seen something coming.

“I read that link about the New York couple. Very sad, and what a waste. I looked at her blog. On May 18th she posted 'Stories Read in Childhood', with a quote. That quote linked to that story, the real one, not the disneyized version, should have sent a message to someone close to her. Its about a mermaid who killed herself because she could not have that which she loved.

Hans Christian Anderson always gave me the willies. I read some of his stories as a kid, but never really enjoyed them. As an adult, I conciously choose to not read his stories to my kids. I just never thought of them as fit for children reading.”

One wonders what she might've made of the Kafka quote from earlier...

And this by RD Padouk—sounding for all the world like an inverse Duncanite:

Paranoia can also be a great way for two people to bond. You know, a real intimacy builder. The sense that only you and that special someone understand the truth, and everyone else is engaged in a horrible conspiracy can be perversely attractive. For what is more hopelessly romantic and mutually validating than being surrounded by enemies?

I secretly think that's part of why people have children.

Then Martooni, a real live paranoid (reformed) writes in after a few attempts to post that failed:

Paranoia is no fun, trust me. During my last (and final, I hope) relapse, I basically hid out in the house and wouldn't leave for nothing. Not even the back porch felt safe (and it's enclosed). I wouldn't answer the phone and nearly jumped out of my skin whenever I'd hear a car door close. I don't know who I thought was trying to get me or why, but that really didn't matter at the time -- all I knew was that "they" were after me.


The New York Times

Storyboard from Jeremy Blake’s “Station to Station: Carbon Sink Park" via the New York Times.

Obituary writing is a subgenre art form and it is a New York Times speciality. By that standard, this piece is perfunctory. And with all respect to Randy Kennedy, this first sentence took me flying off the exit ramp and into burning wreckage:

“Jeremy Blake, an up-and-coming artist…

How did this get by? Whoever read it didn’t understand that three Whitney Biennials—mentioned between commas-- makes you not a comer, but a maker, a shaper, a force. Getting into the permanent collections of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York isn’t up-and-coming. It's what arriving looks like.

At least Kennedy left the stars in their courses. (You have to be following along to understand my annoyance at this –star suffix/description.)

This description, while vivid, is kind of inserted, to my mind.

“Mr. Blake began to make a name for himself in the late 1990’s with digital projections that combined colorful abstract geometric forms with photographic images — poolside cabanas, Modernist interiors, patio lights, skylines — that suggested scenes from movies. Some art critics described the work as Color Field paintings set in motion. He called much of his work “time-based paintings,” and wrote that he drew his subject matter from a fascination with “half-remembered and imaginary architecture” and images borrowed from “Hollywood’s psychic dustbin.”

New York Magazine ran a kind of squib about the body getting identified as Blake’s, “A sad ending to a sad story.” Thanks, we knew that already.

But, oh, the City of Angels is now to be heard from.

Liquid villa (digital animation & sound on DVD),
2000, Medium Video. This and below,

Dope & Guns Party Candidates (diptych), 2007, medium Polaroid Size 20 x 24 in. / 50.8 x 61 cm.


I am reminded of Dr. Helen Love Bossieux, a personage of rather eccentric historical footnote variety whom I’ve been researching on-and-off for the past several years. During the 1930s here in Richmond, Va., the petite redhead was a celebrated astrologer, numerologist, “poetess,” who for many months waged abandonment and divorce proceedings against her charming scofflaw husband Carlton Lee Bossieux.

Carlton had used the cover of the 1927 Florida hurricane to abandon his wife. She'd come from Richmond to visit him in Miami where he was trying to make fast money in the booming real estate business there.

Carlton never returned from errands he went on earlier in the day before masted ships were lifted up and dropped in the middle of Biscayne Boulevard. Helen went home to Richmond, where she received ample sympathy for her loss. Given her wild talents, the newspapers asked for annual predictions at New Year's Eve. She prepared astrology charts for clients, got involved in social causes including woman’s suffrage and jail reform, and traded on her distinction as being one of the first women to graduate from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. This detail was repeated in numerous articles.

In May of 1930, the afternoon paper ran a photo of a jaunty fellow in a straw boater that Helen recognized as Carlton. A few months later, she heard his familiar smoker’s cough in an automobile below her streetcar window. She got the license plate and sent the cops after him. Thus ensued a serio-comic front-page series of legal procedures. But, what also developed is that Helen was married and divorced once before, to one Dr. Lee Baily Pultz, from upstate New York. And what I learned, is that she’d grafted her first husband’s vitae onto her own. She’d never attended Columbia – and that didn’t even get mentioned by the papers back then.


The L.A. Weekly and
the Los Angeles

Well, alrighty, then. Here’s what you can do. Either fend for yourselves when diving in to these texts:

Kate Coe's, The "Theresa Duncan Tragedy": here.

Raymond Doherty’s response, and the testimony of former Duncan colleague at Magnet Interactive, Monica Lynn Gesue, detailing interpersonal relationships, here.

Swati Pandey, "Theresa Duncan's Children," here.

Alex Constantine's righteous, scolding paranoiacal-critical jeremiad: here

Or, you can meander through the colorized mash-up I’ve assembled below, and you figure it out.

Suffice to say, Kate Coe’s story in the L.A. Weekly ignited a firestorm, that is, to those that cared, though it remains a marker for the event's coverage. The New York Observer sniffed that the Angeleno press was "lurid," as opposed to New York's which was laggard. That is to say, New York's dead tree fiber representatives, not the online cohorts. But it is a double-edged sword. Sometimes you can get it fast and sometimes you can get it right. Just turn on "television news" and you'll see that principle in action.

And just as there is a division of people who consider either that Duncan and Blake were suicides, or “suicided,” a split formed within the Effect on whether Coe’s reportage was perceptive, or deceptive. Opinions ranged from “the Theresa Duncan story to end all” and “the definitive piece” to "trash” and to deliberate discrediting of the couple by the vast right wing conspiracy (!)

But we’ll leave that last out for the time being.

A few weeks later, New York Magazine unfurled a massive, somber, elegiac feature about the doomed couple, but with really one sourced quote. People haven’t been willing to talk much about this event on record, and it’s damn difficult to persuade people to give you information when they have the right to say no. Yet, there’s a readership that desires something other than blogged retreads. This is some of the most emotional and challenging terrain for a journalist to get across. The marshes of Florida, where hummock islands form and seem sturdy, until stepped upon and they sink, may serve as metaphor here.

A newsgatherer when confronted with a situation such as this can work the Rolodex, the phones, knock on gallery windows, and that’s about it; this isn’t nefarious, it’s reporting.

You must go ask people unpleasant questions and these may result in answers you don’t even want to know, but now, being a reporter, and knowing these things you’ve learned and would prefer not to, but do, you write them down for the benefit of those who would read, that they might also know, even if they'd rather not disturb their solidified assumptions of what a particular piece of the world is like.

How the texture of the story comes out; well, there’s where the talent comes in.

Coe’s was the first piece a journo shoved to the light with as many details. And, in the end, Kate Coe is not what I’m writing about. I wanted to get at why my wife’s eyes filled with tears that—what now seems distant --Saturday morning at the prospect of why two artists chose to kill themselves in New York. She didn’t know them. I didn’t. Kate Coe is doing her job; and anybody can argue about how good or bad she performed in this case.

Now, let us permit the disputants to speak for themselves.


The Dangling Conversations of
August 1

Kate Coe: red

Raymond Doherty: blue

Monica Gesue: orange

The Theresa Duncan Tragedy
A writer–game designer and her boyfriend commit suicide, and a façade falls away By KATE COE Wednesday, August 1, 2007 - 6:00 pm

Intertwined: Duncan, here with Jeremy Blake, pushed two storylines: Conspiracies and dream film projects always just around the corner. (Photo by Stephanie Halmos/Patrick

IN 2001, THERESA DUNCAN was on top of the world. She had a two-picture deal with Fox Searchlight, and came to Los Angeles confident in her ability to conquer Hollywood. In July 2007, she was dead by her own hand, having washed down an overdose of Tylenol PM with bourbon in her Greenwich Village apartment. New York police say her handwritten note indicated she was at peace with her decision. KC

It is unfortunate you turn Theresa Duncan's tragic story into a gossipy tale (LA Weekly, 8/1/07) about her "dark side," painting a distorted picture of the person I knew well. RD

Kate Coe seems like a lovely person and is the only reporter whom I've spoken with, and I truly think she tried to write something that would get to the essence of why this tragedy happened. MG

News of her suicide spread on the Internet, where she had gained a small but devoted audience as a blogger. A week after her suicide, her longtime romantic partner Jeremy Blake, 35, went missing, his clothes and wallet found on the Atlantic shore at Far Rockaway with a note implying he had walked into the sea.
Online conspiracy theorists quickly repeated Duncan’s accounts of being harassed by mysterious forces, including the Church of Scientology. Others saw a twinship with poet Sarah Hannah, herself a recent suicide, and still others saw parallels to an elaborate alternate reality game.

Experts, some of whom had never met her, weighed in on everything from her mental state to her sexiness.
I knew her, and I knew that much of what she wrote about her world was an elaborate tale, taken as fact by the uninitiated. Duncan blogged daily on her elegant Web site, The Wit of the Staircase, about her bohemian-chic cottage on a Venice canal, meetings of the slightly sinister and probably nonexistent Lunar Society of Los Angeles, and the turbulent love life of Kate Moss. But her image as a player in Hollywood, albeit one with powerful enemies, was at odds with the facts. KC

Yet your own description fits with hers, that Theresa had some very promising projects that had been in play but never went into final production. Yes, she would say her movie was slated to start shooting next summer, but she never claimed to me or anyone else I know that these had been given the final go-ahead. Yet she did persist in believing they were going to happen, and she had every reason to believe so. She got extremely close, as Chris Lee reports in the L.A. Times, to seeing these projects realized.

You rendered this story in a way you found satisfying, with thinly-disguised schadenfreude, and summed it up in the most uncharitable way you could: RD

Perhaps she got tired of patching the little fissures that threatened to destroy her carefully constructed fantasy. KC

Worse, you cynically posit that the collision of her “
carefully constructed fantasy” with reality was the explanation for her suicide. RD

Maybe that is why, at 40, she decided not to go on. KC

That you would write such a glib characterization of her death is remarkably callous, for when Theresa lay down that last time, she was possessed not by weariness but by an unfathomable state of mind that those who cared about her are still struggling to understand.
The Theresa I knew was very different from the one you portrayed. Yes she had "chutzpah by the gallon," as Salon Magazine described it, and was unrelenting in promoting her projects. But her unbridled, at times manic, energy - bearing such heavy doses of intellect, humor and wit - was serotonin to those of us who knew her well.

Only weeks before she "decided not to go on," Theresa still lit up any room she walked into. Indeed, she truly was something to be reckoned with. As the head of an animation house recalled after I introduced them - "Theresa... She's a force of nature." RD

For years, Duncan’s storytelling made her a success, as she commingled girly creativity with the high-tech world. She made a splash with her first CD-ROM game for girls, Chop Suey, selected by Entertainment Weekly as 1995’s CD-ROM of the Year. In 1998, with the dot-com craze heating up, she told Chris Larson of Cosmopolitan, “At my old job . . . I started playing with the World Bank’s computers. The more I learned about new media, the more I saw the chance to tell stories — children’s stories, of course — in a really creative new way.”

The Cosmo piece was headlined, “Turn your obsession into your dream profession” — a title that, looking back, seems to have contained a warning about what was to come.
Most of what Duncan told Cosmo nine years ago was true — but not all of it. Even then, she indulged in embroideries, shaving a few years off her youthful age in 1995, telling Entertainment Weekly she was 27. (Born in 1966, she was 28 or 29.) And although friends thought Duncan had graduated from Wayne State or the University of Michigan, both universities tell the L.A. Weekly they have no record of her degree. Cary Loren, her friend, confirms that she worked at his bookstore while attending Wayne State; officials there say that she did, at least, attend classes. KC

You establish a few facts - about how Theresa lied about her age and education - and with little else you go on to create an overarching parable about Theresa's flawed psyche and character. You say she created an "elaborate tale" about her life, and then don't tell us what that tale was except for the very thin assertion that she projected an image of being a Hollywood player when she wasn't. Yet the facts you do give in your story describe a remarkably talented person with a prodigious record of accomplishment who for good reason was considered someone to watch. RD

DESPITE HER SOMETIMES FANCIFUL personal history, Duncan’s story was filled with vividly authentic tales. Long before the career downturns and aborted projects piled up in Los Angeles, she really did work at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. And she really did co-create Chop Suey. Monica Lynn Gesue, who created Chop Suey with Duncan, first met her in an elevator at the World Bank. “I saw Theresa in the elevator, plaid tights, purple sequin miniskirt,” she told the Weekly shortly after the dual deaths. Duncan left the World Bank for Magnet Interactive, where she worked the phones, and helped Gesue get a job there too.

“I was grateful,” recalls Gesue. “I dreamt up the idea for Chop Suey, and I went to Theresa. We went to lunch at Dean & DeLuca, and she wrote up the proposal and pitched it. She was the most confident person in the world. She had the brains, the charisma to get it made.”
For two years, Gesue and Duncan worked on the story of two little girls, Lily and June Bugg, who ate too much at the Ping Ping Palace. In the tale, the girls look at clouds that change from teapots into tennis shoes into Aunt Vera — a character who acts as a window into another world.

Gesue, today an illustrator, says, “I loved her like a sister. Theresa was a larger-than-life personality. Sometimes wonderful and charming, and other times scary and downright vicious . . . She had this great apartment in Mount Pleasant, with all sorts of stuff — gilded mirrors, stuffed furniture, tons of books. She wasn’t promiscuous, she wasn’t preppy, she wasn’t punk rock. She was unique.” One day, Gesue recalls, an employee in Human Resources at Magnet whispered to her, “Theresa lies about everything.”

Duncan had a dark childhood, but it was never clear which bits were real. “She claimed [her father] had serious mental-health problems and was notorious around town for doing bizarre things,” recalls Gesue. “She also said that her mom had to work two jobs — one stocking shelves in a grocery store at night, often having to leave them all alone in a freezing house with not enough to eat.” (Duncan’s mother did not return calls to the Weekly.)

Yet Duncan seemed fearless. After hearing David Sedaris (then a part-time housecleaner) on local public radio, Duncan tracked him down, Gesue says, asking him to narrate the Chop Suey script. When the CD-ROM took off, Gesue says, “We started doing interviews, and I could see that Theresa would have been happier doing them [by] herself. She was always a little competitive with other women.” Gesue had misgivings about their next project, a story of the Deep South called Shoo-fly Pie — she thought the humor was racist. But, Gesue says, Duncan hotly told Gesue she’d be nowhere without her.

“I don’t know what came over me,” says Gesue. “I just said, ‘I can’t work with you anymore.’ ” They argued, and the next day, “I learned that she’d tried to get me fired. They moved us into different offices.”
Then, a manager at Magnet questioned the racially tinged humor and recommended that the Shoo-fly Pie project be shelved. Gesue says Duncan lost control, shouting wildly — and was escorted from the building — a story confirmed to the Weekly by another former Magnet employee. Other staff packed up Duncan’s office things. Yet the two estranged friends still “had to do a photo shoot. It was awful. It was the last time I saw her.”--KC

The low point in your reporting is your account of what happened early in Theresa's career at Magnet Interactive (as you say, “
long before the career downturns and aborted projects piled up in Los Angeles”), where you recount Theresa's creative partner's version of events without apparently making more than a token gesture toward fact-checking. Having been working at Magnet and dating Theresa at the time, the story you tell, which you refer to as Theresa’s “Shoo-fly Pie meltdown,” is very different from what I remember. What I do remember clearly is our shock when her partner, without Theresa's knowledge, requested a meeting with Magnet's owner and senior creative director where she made the wild accusation that the game Theresa had written was "racist." And I remember thinking how crazy that claim was, for I had read all the drafts of the game treatment. Indeed, Shoo-fly Pie was as sweet and whimsical as all of Theresa's other games would prove to be.

Why Monica did this is something for her to answer (I can only speculate), as she must have known that it would create an untenable work situation and precipitate a painful falling out between them. As for the other assertions made by her, I won't even dignify them with comment except to say they are so gossipy and malicious that they should have given you, as a reporter, pause about your source.

In any case, at its finale, which you did not recount, the story of that day when Theresa was fired is one I’ve always told as the quintessentially great Theresa story, one that captured her vibrancy, spark and amazingly quick wit. And it was, in the literal sense of the term, "esprit d'escalier.” RD

I want to clarify what actually happened at Magnet. It may not be clear what I told Kate Coe because of the editing and limitations of space.

I had reservations about the "Shoo-Fly Pie" project. I didn't feel like I could talk to Theresa about it, because she was becoming increasingly hostile towards me, sometimes without provocation.

One day at lunch with Theresa and Ian Svenonius, she started saying hurtful things to me. I became upset and on the way back to Magnet I decided to call her on it. She blew up at me, screaming, among other things, "I'm the nice one! You'd be nothing without me!" I reached a moment when I felt that I could no longer deal with this and I told her that I couldn't work with her anymore. Later on, I stopped back to the office after a haircut and she tried to apologize, but I just told her I would see her the next day.

The next morning I went to see Basel Dalloul to talk to him about getting reassigned to another project. To the best of my recollection, I told him what I told her--that I couldn't work with Theresa anymore, and I wanted to do something else. I didn't say anything about "Shoo-Fly Pie" being racist, to the best of my recollection. At that point, I assumed "Shoo-Fly Pie" would get made, but I wouldn't be working on it.

He told me that she had come to him the day before, after I left, and suggested that he fire me. She said that I sat in the bathroom all day long and cried, and also that I never drew "Chop Suey." This, as you can imagine, didn't make things between us any better.

It was later that day, or maybe the next, that a meeting was called about "Shoo-Fly Pie." To the best of my memory, I didn't call the meeting, but I could be wrong.

At that meeting, I was asked about my reservations concerning "Shoo-Fly Pie." I, all along, was uncomfortable telling a story about the deep South--I didn't feel like it was my story to tell. I might have used the word "racist" but not implying that Theresa was racist, or that the story was intentionally racist.

I literally only said about two or three sentences at the meeting. I'm going into such detail because, if you'll recall, you weren't there. Yes, you worked at Magnet, and yes, you were Theresa's boyfriend, but that doesn't mean you had the whole picture. I am not exaggerating when I say that parts of this experience are seared into my mind, because it was so horrible.

After I initially spoke, one of the managers started pointing out questionable issues in the story content. That's when Theresa went ballistic. Why do I say "ballistic"--because not five minutes had passed before she was fired, on the spot. She was yelling at the product manager, in an completely inappropriate way, for simply questioning her. So, to be clear, Theresa wasn't fired because I said "Shoo-Fly Pie" was racist--Theresa was fired because of her stormy reaction when questioned about the project, and probably prior instances of being difficult to work with.

That was the last time I spoke to Theresa Duncan. Over fifteen years I called her once and was rebuffed; I also sent an e-mail every five years or so, not to rekindle a friendship, but just to try and make peace. In fact, I e-mailed her as recently as this past May because I thought if we could come together and write the story of the making of "Chop Suey," it would be a great read. She never responded.

I realize that in Kate's shortened excerpt of what I spoke to her about, it may seem that I was attacking Theresa. Mostly I talked to her about the good things about her--how funny she was and how much I cared about her. Kate Coe seems like a lovely person and is the only reporter whom I've spoken with, and I truly think she tried to write something that would get to the essence of why this tragedy happened. -- MG

Harry Kollatz/Blue Raccoon editorial comment: I want to throw a flag on the play right here. I speak as a native of Richmond, Va., married to a woman from New Orleans by way of Cleveland, Miss. What, what in tarnation—as my Goochland County relatives might say—was a woman from Lapeer, Michigan and another from—Connecticut, maybe?—both then working in Washington D.C.—what were they expecting to accomplish in making a game with a Deep South theme? OK. Fair enough. Perhaps one or the other of them spent considerable time below the Mason-Dixon, like in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia--of which I am unaware.

Fair enough, and if I err here, I apologize. And, yes, imagination can be quite powerful. Jules Verne wrote about journeying around the world by balloon in 80 days with a set of encyclopedias at his elbow.

But if neither Duncan or Gesue were at least somewhat knowledgeable of Southern folkways and traditions -- knowing this situation -- that the game came out maybe kind of hincky and perhaps even could’ve undergone a racist interpretation doesn't seem odd to me.

I mean, not to be a regional chauvinist, but being a regional chauvinist, it’s no mystery, leastwise to me, that one of the women went all cattywumpus. If Gesue and Duncan had set their game on the far side of Mars, they might not be working together today, but their friendship may have persisted.

And, by the way, Cattywumpus would’ve been a great name for the game. I mean, over Shoo-fly Pie. The name alone conjures up unpleasant associations in my regional chauvunistic cranium. But maybe there was an operative game concept married in the title. In none of this material is there a description of the game's plot or any details of its projected characteristics.

For Gesue, Duncan’s Shoo-fly Pie meltdown showed a dark side that worked against Duncan. Yet Duncan bounced back, heading to New York and working for Nicholson Interactive, where she created a new game. Dave Colker, in the Los Angeles Times, raved, “ ‘Smartypants’ is far and away the best disk ever for young girls . . . except for her earlier CD-ROM ‘Chop Suey,’ which is even better.”

In New York, Duncan started seeing Blake, a fine-arts grad student from CalArts who was working as a photo retoucher. They grew close, and Blake was hired as the art director on Smartypants. J.C. Herz, author of Joystick Nation, who moved in the same media circles, says New York in 1996 held “the freedom to experiment, to create out of passion . . . Anyone could call up some company and get their idea made.” Duncan impressed journalists, including Anthony Ramirez of The New York Times, who repeated that she had authored a senior thesis at the University of Michigan titled “Electric Fairy Tales: CD-ROMs and Literature.”

Even in recent coverage of her suicide, the Los Angeles Times repeated this iconic Duncan tale. Yet U of M spokesperson Joy Myers tells the Weekly the university has no evidence of that thesis or a degree under her name, although Duncan may have written a paper on that subject. Duncan became the darling of an emerging niche market of games for girls, telling People in 1998, “Our model isn’t Bill Gates. It’s Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss.”

The People article identified Duncan’s collaborators as illustrator-boyfriend Blake and humorist Sedaris. In her ever-evolving public persona, Duncan had already obliterated Gesue from her new, official story.
Duncan soon began work on The History of Glamour, an animated spoof documentary that was an unexpected hit in the New York art world, accepted into the Whitney Biennial of American Art 2000.

For that project, she assembled a very of-the-moment team including Blake, artist Karen Kilimnik, Blake’s pal Brendan Canty of D.C. proto-punk band Fugazi and former Bikini Kill bassist Kathi Wilcox to create the story of Charles Valentine, an androgynously named chick from Antler, Ohio, who becomes a rock icon — but finds that fame doesn’t suit her. Yet Duncan was preoccupied, even then, over whether she was keeping up. In an online forum of the Walker Art Center, she posted this battle cry: “Because competition contains so many shades of human behavior, including altruism, love and kindness, it makes the question ‘Are we winning?’ central to any entertainment.”

Things looked incredibly promising in New York. Duncan was tapped to write and direct Closet Cases, an animated TV series for Oxygen Media, and a pilot for Left of the Dial, a TV series for VH1. She was awarded a grant for a new film called You Got the Look that would explore “popular myths of the outlaw, sex, glamour, and danger, while engaging notions of femininity and class.” In 2001, Variety announced that Duncan had sold a pitch to Fox Searchlight — Alice Underground — and would “pen the script” about teenage girls who kidnap a rock star. A month later, Variety reported Duncan was in talks with Fox to direct a feature based on Francesca Lia Block’s cult novels, the Weetzie Bat series.
But the reality was not nearly as glamorous as the image.-- KC

Well, it rarely is in Hollywood. I guess you could say that pretty much for anyone on the cusp of success or failure, including yourself. -- RD

Block’s agent, Lucy Stille at Paradigm, told the Weekly that Duncan was never formally attached to a Block project — the Weetzie Bat “talks” were just that. You Got the Look exists only as a proposal. And Alice Underground failed to materialize at Fox. Renee Tab, Duncan’s agent when she died, says Paramount also passed on the script, because of budget issues. Producer Ted Hope, of This Is That Productions, who was familiar with Duncan’s big-budget Alice Underground script, said by e-mail, “Theresa was an original thinker and her script demonstrated that, which is often not helpful in the studio world.”

YET BY ALL OUTWARD APPEARANCES, Duncan had conquered New York — and Hollywood would be next. By 2002 they had settled in Los Angeles, staying in temporary digs at the Chateau Marmont — where else? — then rented a house on a Venice canal. It was time for a career jump, with the CD-ROM market dead. CD-ROMs were, as J.C. Herz now points out, “a temporary art form, like a novella.” But L.A.’s fickle film-and-television industry proved a much tougher challenge for Duncan.

In a written exchange in 2006, Duncan and I discussed how people create personal façades. She wrote, “I said I had the last credits of my B.A. on résumés when I did not. I shave a couple years off my age sometimes, which is the only thing I regret.” In the same exchange, she explained that having arrived in Hollywood, “I tell the truth about all these things all the time. The fantasy is handled in my day job. Plus, my profile is raised and I don’t want any fodder for making me look unreliable when I have to handle large crews and budgets.”
There were, however, no large crews or budgets.

A version of Closet Cases can be seen on YouTube, but the authoritative IMDB has no record of either the Oxygen Media or VH1 project coming to fruition. Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke (a columnist for the Weekly) says Hollywood “is littered with the bodies of people who came out here to make it big. There’s a big difference between those who have set deals — someone’s going to make their movie — and those who have shopping agreements.”
Duncan privately struggled to nail down that elusive deal — even as Blake’s career gained steam.

His digital art impressed director Paul Thomas Anderson, who hired him to create hallucinogenic sequences for the 2002 movie Punch-Drunk Love. Then Blake worked on Beck’s Sea Change album, creating a series of covers. (Duncan would later claim that this is when Scientology — Beck is a member — first took an interest in the pair.)
Art dealer and gallery owner Christine Nichols, who had known the couple for years, told the Weekly that Duncan sometimes found it hard to see Blake working with anyone but her. Their relationship was so intertwined, Nichols says, “You were either in complete agreement with everything they said or you were an enemy.” Four years into her life in L.A., with her Hollywood career flagging, Duncan took a minor stab at journalism, penning a piece for Slate on reality shows and two articles for Artforum.

In 2005, at the urging of close friend Blake Robin, who owns a small record label, she had launched her blog, The Wit of the Staircase, where she wrote witty observations about esoteric perfumes, hotel bars and arcane literary works.
But several odd incidents hinted at Duncan’s increasingly troubled state of mind. She suggested on her blog, without proof, that director Francis Ford Coppola had “smeared and threatened” her because she wrote a mildly critical Artforum review of his daughter’s film Lost in Translation. Yet Tim Griffin, the editor of Artforum, e-mailed the Weekly that “We never received any complaints about her contributions” to the magazine — from Coppola or anyone else. gave Duncan an assignment on celebrity perfumes, editor Julia Turner tells the Weekly, but problems arose after the story went online. Disturbed readers sent Slate some links to works by perfume blogger Victoria Frolova, showing that Duncan had lifted Frolova’s words. “We take that very seriously, and asked Theresa about it — she was upset and confused,” Turner recalls. Says Turner, “We looked back at the first draft, and there were even more problems. We put up two editor’s notes, which [Duncan] didn’t like at all — but we’ve got a commitment to our readers.”

Online perfume forums were abuzz about Duncan’s plagiarism, after which Slate published an apology to Frolova.
Duncan wasn’t all that sorry, writing on her blog that the blogger she plagiarized “acted like I had tried to murder her.” In the same post, Duncan casually dropped hints of living on a higher plane: “When I pitch a film I always begin with the influences, in legendary ‘it’s Jurassic Park-meets-Heidi’ fashion, and then some Hollywood also-ran runs around town saying, ‘It’s Heidi! She stole!’” -- KC

You continue your unrelenting critique: "
Four years into her life in L.A., with her Hollywood career flagging, Duncan took a minor stab at journalism..." and "plagiarized the perfume story" that she wrote for Slate Magazine. Yet the editor's note states only that Theresa's piece "used language and sentence structure similar" to the other piece, and involved a single sentence.

Reading both, it is clear they are completely different essays, and common sense is all you need to discern that if she used a line from the other piece, that it was not intentional, and not even worthy of criticism. It was unfortunate, but there could be no advantage taken, or benefit given, by her knowingly doing that. In any case, Theresa's
writing about perfume stands on it's own, as the poignant sadness expressed on the perfume blogs about her passing shows how well-appreciated it was.

Slate's editor, Julia Turner, failed to use common sense in handling this incident, and now states that Theresa was "upset and confused" by these accusations. Rightly so, considering the nature of the reader comments that criticized Theresa - they were mean, spiteful, and wildly out of proportion to what happened, and had the distinct appearance of being orchestrated (they have since been removed, which is curious, as they were the reason, in her "commitment to our readers," that Turner put up the note). I believe this was one of the key events that contributed to Theresa's deteriorating state of mind and her increasing feeling that she was being silenced, and it made me believe there may be truth to her early claims of harassment (which is a part of this story that still needs to be investigated). All I know for certain is that it profoundly hurt her.--RD

According to Nichols and other friends who spoke to the Weekly only off record, Duncan began blaming her lack of success on the Church of Scientology, saying that the church was influencing “the studios.” Duncan accused her skeptical friends of stealing hair from her hairbrush to send to the Scientology Center, Nichols says, and confided to Nichols, “I really don’t have any friends.”

Duncan’s paranoia began to hurt her professionally. Renee Tab, her agent, tells the Weekly that Duncan was advised to tone down the paranoid talk but called back later to say she had not given that advice to Duncan, but hoped or wished someone had. And two of Duncan’s acquaintances, who refused to be named, say they were so unsettled by Duncan’s campaigns by e-mail, where she accused them of trying to hurt her or Blake’s careers, that they contacted lawyers. Nichols says of Duncan and Blake, “They didn’t just burn their bridges, they exploded them.”

THE ILL-FATED COUPLE LEFT — some might argue fled — Los Angeles last fall. In New York, Blake took a full-time job at Rockstar Games and prepared for a big fall show at the Corcoran Gallery, where he was to be artist in residence. The stylish couple found the perfect apartment in a converted rectory at St. Mark’s in the Bowery. By uncanny coincidence, activist Father Frank Morales, a controversial figure who probes conspiracy theories, was the pastor.

Morales told the Weekly that “Theresa . . . manifested a penchant for looking at things in a dark way,” adding, “She came to [New York] with some hard feelings, some hurt, but she was a bright light.”
She and Jeremy Blake were photographed at New York social events, and she eagerly joined the St. Mark’s fund-raising community. In March, her short story “Topographers” was published in Bald Ego, the au courant magazine edited by Glenn O’Brien. But Duncan never shook off her fear and suspicion. On her blog on May 20, she wrote that author and USC research scholar Reza Aslan was a “Muslim American seeming Homeland Security agent,” and blamed Scientologists for graffiti and a dead cat in her old Venice neighborhood.

Aslan told the Weekly that whenever he appeared on TV, she contacted him with strange rants. He gave Duncan’s threatening messages to his lawyer because “I wanted someone else to know about this.” Aslan knew her for years, and “she had always said kind of crazy, paranoid things,” but “it just got worse and worse. She accused me of being an undercover CIA officer, of eavesdropping on her, of having her FBI file. The conversation she blogged about — about her FBI file — never came up; the whole conversation was completely fictional.

“She was losing her grip on reality, and Jeremy was so devoted to her that he would go along with it . . . It became impossible to ignore, and so my [girlfriend] and I began to extricate ourselves.” In New York, Duncan continued to push the twin storylines that had enveloped her in Los Angeles. She found more conspiracy — but this time in the New York art world, publicly accusing Blake’s former girlfriend, photographer Anna Gaskell, of being linked to an alleged tangle of right-wing conspirators against her and Jeremy Blake. And she continued to paint a picture of dream film projects that were just around the corner.

You rushed to construct a story with a catchy angle sure to get attention, and you did that at the expense of giving the reader some real insight into Theresa and the enveloping
folie à deux that was consuming her and her long-term boyfriend and soul mate Jeremy Blake. --RD

Speaking to the Weekly from New York, writer and editor O’Brien says Duncan told his wife, Gina Nanni, she’d gotten a movie deal. And Blake Robin wrote to the Weekly that Duncan “told me she was working very hard ‘on a very exciting project that I can’t wait to share with you that will take all summer long.’ ” But, Robin says, “Jeremy was working hard and she was waiting.”

Theresa Duncan was, undeniably, a creative force — infuriating and inspiring by equal measure. Remembers Nichols: “I always respected her often elegant and eloquent thoughts and her discipline and drive to record them. I am truly sorrowful that fears, insecurities and rage got the best of her.”
Many read Duncan’s words online, and most thought she was glamorous, brilliant, brave, bold, erudite. She was all those things — but those attributes didn’t win in the end. Her blog was called The Wit of the Staircase, the literal translation of the French l’esprit d’escalier. It means a perfect rejoinder that comes too late.-- KC


"Death Defying Acts of Art and Conspiracy"

And now we take a pause for art; and work with a a particular pointed meaning for the essay at this particular juncture. The piece above, via the University Art Museum of the State University of New York at Albany, is representative of Mark Lombardi (1951-2000) whose business card read, "Death Defying Acts of of Art and Conpsiracy."

Lombardi used his own rigorous intuition and extensive research to create astonishing portraits of the unseen world of conspiracies that he charted with painstaking effort using 12,000 hand written note cards. Here is the "Truth Revealed" in graphic form, without blaring headlines and massive capital letters and exclamation marks, the very kinds of things that Theresa Duncan scrawled upon the virtual walls of the landings of her staircase.

"I am pillaging the corporate vocabulary of diagrams and charts…rearranging information in a visual format that's interesting to me and mapping the political and social terrain in which I live," he explained. In other words, Lombardi was doing Power Point presentations about the diabolic diaspora that runs things-- or-- as he viewed running things.

Wburg. com's Frances Richard writes, "Lombardi referred to these pieces as "narrative structures," a phrase that emphasizes not only the dramatic chronologies embodied within the drawings, but the sequential or accreting process by which they were constructed."

The University of Albany explanatory text says it best, "From Whitewater to the Vatican Bank, Lombardi uses dotted lines and broken arrows to chart the paths of illicit deals and laundered money...By scrutinizing the mutable boundaries that separate artistic practice from daily life, Lombardi wrings visual poetry out of dirty secrets--the results are a chillingly beautiful guide to the facts of life."

The facts of life. What a depressing and hopeless phrase that is -- and Lombardi in the end must've thought so, too; the very weight of their import crushed all seven of his different kinds of denial needed to function in the world. He hung himself in his Williamsurg, New York City studio apartment.

For most of his adult life, Lombardi had been an archivist and librarian who created abstracts on the side. Then, in 1994, while doodling on a napkin during a phone conversation he had that flash of insight moment: charts, diagrams, connecting boxes. The second phase of his career began, getting successful shows, and moving him from Houston, Texas, to New York City, where he was well received.

Wikipedia has at least these two paragraphs of facts right:

"It has been suggested that the strain of recreating one of his masterpieces (the BCCI-ICIC & FAB, 1972-91, which was destroyed by the sprinkler system in Lombardi's apartment), and of living in New York City, and of the destruction of his car by a taxi, as well as the stress of imminent success, all contributed to what the media portrays to have been a manic-depressive condition and eventually to his suicide.

A number of friends like Andy Feehan were mystified by Mark's death: "When the news of Mark's death arrived, all of us thought that he was murdered. We assumed that he had made one too many accusations, and that someone made a phone call. We still don't know what happened. We'd read that the medical examiner ruled Mark's death a suicide, but we're unable to understand or accept the idea that Mark would kill himself right when he was at the top of his game.

Lombardi may have been manic depressive. He at times was manic and he mentioned deep depressions. He'd retreat from the world to work though he spoke with his mother just about every day.

Feehan concluded that Lombardi was a mess, but not suicidal. He would engage in furious work sessions and go without sleep [H'um-- sounds like a few artists-- and bloggers-- out there...] but these qualities made him an artist, not predisposed to self-extinction.

For more information on Lombardi, look here, here and, rather lengthy but quite interesting, here.

I don't feel so weird now that I, standing alongside my wife in our Richmond breakfast nook, hearing of Duncan's death and Blake's disappearance, that I thought--and Amie, too-- "They got them." And it's understandable how a segment of the Duncan-Blake Effect, boiling like a over-heated pot on the stove, might -- like Lombardi -- start drawing lines and making accusations, whether they made sense or not.


"A Tomb and A Testament"

Kate Coe was praised and assailed. Writer Joanne McNeil, on August 2, described the work of Coe and Chris Lee as "very researched, very stirring pieces" and drew them in comparison to Sally Quinn's 1974 obituary of 29-year-old Florida newscaster Christine Chubbock, who shot herself during a morning broadcast. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a PDF of the article)

The worst of the latter came out of Alex Constantine's Anti-Fascist Research Bin where underneath the blaring clarion of the title, he wrote on or about August 8, 2007, "IN MEMORI[A]M: This blog is frozen and dedicated to Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake. There will be no more posts here. It belongs to the angels, a tomb and a testament that many of their fears were real, their deaths a warning shot. I've moved on to another blog. Peace. - AC "
Coe, whose comments to the Blue Raccoon are buried in the guts of this blog’s rambling and sometimes incoherent coverage of the Duncan –Blake Effect, here corrects some misconceptions. First, she's not been employed by a subsidiary of News Corp. Second, she has personal knowledge of what stalking feels like.

"I've never worked for any tv news dept., much less FOX. I did work for A Current Affair, which was cancelled in 2005. I left in May 2005. I did maybe 6 stories, one on the Children of God, who stalked me."

Constantine continues with his full-steam incensed capital-letter emphasis:

"RUPERT MURDOCH's wunderkind, Ms. Coe - who chides "politically correct" liberals and, well, those of the JEWISH PERSUASION (see below) - neglected to mention that she worked for the CIA-Mafia's RUPERT MURDOCH (see CIA-Nugan Hand section below) in the Weekly story ... probably an oversight.

AS A MATTER OF FACT, there are a few OTHER significant details that KATE COE did not find NEWSWORTHY - such as the background of JIM COWNIE - whom Duncan feared to the depths of her silly, "paranoid" soul (see her entry below) - and his many connections to Coe's employer, the CIA-MAFIA's RUPERT MURDOCH."

Constantine, exuding great enthusiasm, claims Duncan as a foot-soldier in the struggle, that, as he perceives it, is directing public attention toward the tightening grip of the authoritarian oppressors.

Theresa Duncan wasn't crazy. She was a typical enemy of the state - smarter than the average programmed prole. And she knew all about Operation Mockingbird and CIA mind control and cults - this makes her my student. I'm not a "conspiracy theorist," either, although the ignorant describe me in these condescending terms. I am, in fact, about ten years ahead of the pack, so the pack scratches its head and wonders what I'm about. So it was with Theresa Duncan."

Coe doesn’t quite buy into all that, and, she at least conversed with Duncan and saw her eye-to-eye at social occasions. Coe wrote to me of Duncan's adoption by the paranoiac-critical crowd, “Theresa would have run miles before willingly becoming their poster girl, too.”

Coe commented, "I am a paid blogger at, but I am not a staff member and do not sell the classes, as was reported on [Rigorous Intuition]'s forum.

I am currently working on this project, and no, I am not a "glorified PA". [Requires sign-in]

I previously worked at the London Sunday Times in the DC bureau, years ago, so the LA Weekly, while a fine venue, does not represent my "big break" in print."

She goes on to say, “A flip commnent to Luke Ford, whom I know well, is now offered as proof of something or other."

Not content to accuse Coe of murderous collusion, Constantine reaches even farther to slam her character, by use of a remark made in an off-handed way to a good acquaintance—even if he is a blogging gossip columnist—but we live in and age when a humorless blogger who finds such a comment recorded with dutiful amusement by a another blogger, will then use the bit as ammunition for a diatribe's proof.

"...Come to find that Coe - who has shaped public opinion on the case, found flaws in Theresa Duncan's character - has adopted a few Nazi beliefs herself:

[Blue Raccoon readers who want to follow this subject should look at the context as opposed to Constantine's elaboration]

Gabriel, Don't Blind Me With Your Charisma

"Kate Coe says that when her chef husband worked at a restaurant in Santa Monica, food got sent back all the time [because of all the picky Jews]. When he moved to a restaurant in South Pasadena, that almost never happened.

"Kate writes: 'Oh, Luke, I'M THE ANTI-SEMITE in my household. My husband thought the sending back was due to the insidious influence of show-biz, not Judism. He'd never say anything mean about anyone--that's why he married me.'"

The misinfo/disinfo is just insane," Coe said, "and easily checked, as yet no one did...

…And even though my email address is very easy to find, not one person has emailed me directly with their complaints/allegations/charges."


Swati Pandey, writing on the Los Angeles Times opinion page, gave voice to the feelings belonging to many of Duncan’s blog readers. The sharp, sophisticated, facetious, inquiring voice, was stilled. And the little secret enjoyed by the “children of the Staircase” was released like a monstrous genie into the world. The blog wouldn’t ever budge from July 10, 2007 – even with Glenn O’Brien’s benediction. That's not her voice. That voice was part of Pandey’s imagination. (As it was mine. In my head, Duncan’s written narrative sounded kind of 1930s film mid-Atlantic, maybe, Claudette Colbert, or if you’ve ever had opportunity to hear the musicality of Louise Brooks' voice in the few dreadful talkies she made.)

" I never spoke to her, never saw her at the gallery openings or lectures she sometimes publicized, never met her strolling the streets of Venice, where she recently lived. I never left a comment on her blog, though I read it each day for nearly two years, even when I disagreed with her far-left politics, or grew annoyed with her anti-Baby Boomer rants and the pretension of her (possibly apocryphal) secret society functions.

But like the best bloggers, she created an illusion of intimacy with her readers. Most blogs are simply unedited confessions for the blogger or for close friends, posted where they might be found by strangers (as, I imagine, the diarist dreads but also desires). And still other bloggers hope for anonymity, only to deliberately push its bounds by revealing too much — when readers know all but one secret, they'll search for it, and find it...

...That imagined intimacy was so thorough that, even after her suicide, I stubbornly stuck to the belief that she wasn't a stranger to me, that I deserved some inkling of her plans, or even a blogged suicide note. It would seem morbidly appropriate for a medium fueled by our compulsion to make private lives into public spectacles, and there's little as private as dying alone in one's apartment, as she did. Or did I simply miss her clever hints, laced in past posts? Should I, as so many commenters did, read some message in what she posted the day she died?"


"I Don't Want To Become A Monger"

On August 1, The Gotham City Insider provided an empassioned encapsulization and reaction to the Duncan-Blake Effect; a blog version of a feuilleton. The writer's introspection matched that of many of the bleary-eyed and restless who'd been following the story.
I don't care about the CoS, Anna Gaskell or Jim Cownie; I don't care about MKULTRA, the CIA, "Project Monarch" or any of these conveniently coincidental conspiracy theories anymore in regard to the sudden deaths of artists Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake because they have nothing to do with it. The only thing that matters is that two innovational and hyper-creative people are now gone and it shouldn't matter why.

Everyone fights their own demons and we, the living, can be sadistic in our hunt for the details neglecting that two human beings are gone; people like you and I; they weren't intangible, disposable big shot celebrities on loan to us by the world. We all do it but I'm as guilty as anyone, if not more so, by perpetuating it with this blog and posting on others. The story shocked and intrigued me for reasons I can't fully explain.

I learned a lot about these two personas over the past few days; I can't say I learned of them as people because I never met them and gleaning "facts" from the internet doesn't count for anything.
.....I know if I came home to the converted church I was living in with my beautiful soulmate of 12 years, I'd probably take a one-way ride to Rockaway Beach as well. There is no mystery. Let's leave the details and speculation alone now. Two brilliant demiurgic people are gone and that's the story. That's where it ends. They were in love and impulsive and young and couldn't live without each other. Let's not make it ugly anymore by dissecting every last word. There is beauty in mystery and letting it be. "
The writer concludes, "I don't want to beome a monger. I refuse to become a monger."

And if the Duncan-Blake Effect has proved anything, it is that when following an event such as this, if one has a) ready access to the Internet and b) a desire to explore said event using the Internet and c) a further neurotic compulsion to write about the event, that slipping into mongerdom is easier now perhaps than ever in the history of mongering.


"...a pseudo-intellectual butt of a joke..."

Annetiboys sought to breathe life into the void her own way. On her Livejournal posting of August 11, 2007, she stepped into Duncan's heels.

[Image: The Wit of the Staircase Calls You, June 8, 2006]

"Here, in this vacuum, I no longer smell of bourbon, perfumed oil combining the essence of caramel and tobacco, or even the bile and chemicals--the product of much painful retching before the darkness fell. Here my long blond hair is gold. It is the gold told of in fairy tales, spun of a mystical wheel. My hands, the hands that wrote torrents and rhapsodies of pop life no longer show the wear of sun worship I’d partaken during much of the simple 1990s.

My eyes, no longer the hue of ground coffee, instead are orbs illuminating the tracers of insipid both mathematically infinite and confined. I have no more pain and with that, no more zest de vivre. I’m kept lucidly in waiting—for what I do not know, but nonetheless I hang on words and flow with the contemplative waves of my mind. I am yet at peace with the decisions of the course of my life and all that led to the dramatic episode of death.

Instead, I’m waiting for the story to make sense in this grand limbo that is here nor there. All the philosophy I fervently devoured and all the ideals that i clung and made my own could not prepare me for the daunting task sprawling before me. I embark upon my final mission to make sense of the matter and constructs of my reality and allowing it to rest--with hope that I can find the peace that lies within it.

In this anti-space that houses what is left of the being I deem ‘me’ I am appalled at the disgraceful anecdotes surrounding the story of my life and disgusted by the overall disrespect for the dead. Character assassinations carefully constructed to wash away any validity to my words. My supposed friends scrambling, attaching themselves to the glamorous romanticization surrounding my demise.

The coat-tail, hanger-on-ers claiming and fighting for pieces of my commodity, my scandalously rising stock. These scraps mindlessly sold to the hoards of cheap naysayers and their low-brow audience. The despicable public scours through the gossip of invented encounters with the flaws of a dead girl’s personality transcribed, edited, and spun into bold print. My story, written to serve the insipid egos of those burnt with jealousy from my evocative flame. Credit was not due, as they don’t deserve to pen or type their renditions and critiques of my life's work.

Instead of being applauded for the legacy that was left behind, I’m recalled and disregarded as "difficult" and exceedingly jealous. Instead of the scandals I earnestly presented to my public, I am now amongst the ranks of other passed conspirators. Just a blogger of pop culture, perfume, and crazy ideas of political and cultish regimens. Disregarded as mentally ill—compromising all the attributes that go well with the poisoning tarnish and defamation suggested by the words ‘conspiracy theorist.’

Now painted haughtily as a sad cast off--a pseudo-intellectual butt of a joke with notions of elitist rhetoric and it's abiding politics. Deemed a "clever" surveyor of all things trivial; therefore totally irreverent. Glossed over are the uncoverings of my detailed anguish and direct personal harrassment. It’s nothing short of the smear campaign orchestrated immaculately by both my friends and my mounting foes. Jealousy fueled into a frenzy of cheap shots.

I was real. It really did happen. Now that I’m gone, people are swarming with preposterous blame of me, the victim and target of the Church of Scientology and watched by the evil big brother that is the FBI. these are the events surrounding the end of my life that I want to unfold. The question standardly posed--Was I just paranoid? Did my own suicide prompt my partner’s suicide? Was I ultimately responsible for the death of Jeremy? Did I really make all this up?"



After August 1 the news gates swung open to allow cataracts to come roaring forth. This ongoing occurrence is not the subject of this essay. The Duncan-Blake Effect began metastasizing into something else. Massive blogs sprouted up, as though trees of the forest primeval were pushing out of desert ground. What fruit they've borne is a matter that exceeds the scope of this discussion.

Those blogs, and their predecessors, noodged and are still motivating the dead tree fiber media in regards to this story, and have burrowed the breadth and depth of almost every possible angle that borders on fetishism—but, as, I said somewhere near the beginning of this, bloggers aren’t journalists, except when they are.

is coming, Vanity Fair is inevitable, Vogue -- from which Duncan drew much inspiration--would be remiss, as would, seems to me, Wired, and there's gaming, marketing and design magazines after that, and so on. And somebody will work a treatment up, which may or may not gain traction, as Duncan's own experience is an example of how movies can go into development hell. If this is, as Little Marvin on Gawker posted of late, meets Romeo and Juliet meets Drugstore Cowboy meets Last Days maybe HBO will take its whack. What might the pitch be? "It's like High Art -- but wihout the lesbianism."

Jeremy Blake: Mod Lang Installation view at Feigen Contemporary
October 20 - November 24, 2001, via Kanz, Tillou+Feigen.

I’m a theater person so that’s where I see this headed, if the tragedy is to make it into some form apotheosis of mass public entertainment. I see a stage, a couple of chairs, a desk at one side, a removable lectern, a church pew for in the second half, and three screens--two angled at either sides of the stage-- for rear projections. This is where blog pages, art, and scenes of restaurants or parties will be shown, for highlighting and accompanying the action.

The props are whiskey glasses, bottles, cigarettes, a lap top.

The original incidental music would at first be a mixture of the poppy, bright, even goofy, interspersed with thrashing rock motifs. Then, almost in an imperceptible manner, the mood becomes ominous and throbbing, though there are also at appropriate times some quotations from spiritual music, to reflect their attendance of church services.

There are only two characters, the writer and the artist, and the outside world is conveyed with the images behind them, cell phone conversations, her use of the computer. The artist's discussions with art critics, gallery owners and to lecture halls of students are delivered to the audience.

The writer isn’t shown tapping away in fierce concentration. She stands and delivers blog entries like monologues. At times, she seems like the hippest coolest professor we never had. Her speeches begin in good light, but as the show progresses, the beams get focused down, and tighter.

The show begins with he finding her dead.

This is the first of three scenes in which they are together. The second is an extended valse macabre, that reflects their attendance of various social events. Their movement across the stage also mimes the passing of time and their own deterioration. What begins as a larky jaunt--she sharp, funny, sometimes over-reaching, and he charming and even boyish, full of youth's overcompensating cocksureness--ends with what should be some difficult, painful to watch scenes.

Their final time together on stage is that lunch on her last day. The conversation is almost banal. It's all, by now, in the subtext. There is a remark about the weather, birds. Jeremy doesn’t hear it as anything unusual. He says maybe they can have drinks with a mutual friend. Then goes about his day.

The play ends as he walks into an ocean simulated on the screens; undulated, graduated colors and forms. He walks nude into the darkness, as his dwindling figure appears on the screens.

Sounds of surf and keening sea gulls grows louder as his form diminishes.

Black out.


Seven Different Kinds of Denial
Just to Get Out of Bed

This essay began just over a month ago because I came downstairs on a Saturday morning for my coffee where I found Amie looking at the news on her computer, tears in her eyes, and when I told her my limited knowledge about Theresa Duncan, and her kind of crazy anti-establishment writing, she said, “They got her.”

And that was my thought, too, but when you stop to examine the sense of a massive machine necessary to blot out two artists—not round up hundreds of them—this just doesn’t scan. No, the thing is, artists always know other artists who’ve not taken the journey well. They drink, they do drugs, and a few just give up. They may coast for years, embittered and flinty and unsociable, or, every now and then, they commit suicide.

I don’t deny there are awful things getting committed by powerful men and they’ll never get punished for them. But, I’m like everybody else, I know that the air is poisoned, the food is toxic, the water polluted; I'm aware of how the economy is bound to fail, that most news these days is propaganda and that the earth is trying to shrug us off like pesky mosquitoes.

But tomorrow, Monday morning, with seven different kinds of denial to help me, and the love of a good woman whose neuroses mesh within the grooves of my own, I’ll get out of bed. And I’ll walk to work. And I’ll hear birds and admire the big dormers on houses along the Boulevard and I'll upturn my face to the sun's warmth. And somebody will wave at me and be glad to see me, and I will touch the brim of my hat in response, and smile back.


"This is more interesting than a novel."

Mike Payne, in one of his frequent appearances within the Effect, lugubrious, inconsolable, as if at a bar and through tears blustering and grabbing passersby by their sleeves to hear his version of the story thus far.

On August, 8, on Michelle Richmond’s blog, San Serif, he said, in part:

"this is just another story for the LA writers,they’re all excited because they maybe brushed shoulders with Theresa or exchanged an email or 2. Katie Coe, Chris Lee, just like some here, make vague statements about timelines. Katie Coe wants to believe the Lunar Society of Los Angeles is a fanstasy [sic.]. If she were cool enough, she’d know what it is-it has different names in other cities, Spilt Milk in D.C.

Calling her site unoriginal, says you just don’t get it.

the Staircase for me was like a daily magazine, Theresa shared with her readership 7000+ a day things that caught her eye, what she liked, inserting literature-she could teach you in the best way-she was a free thinker. Ambitious. The part in Ms. Coes’ write up toward the end where she sums up Theresa’s attributes as if her affirmation or recognition is important to the question, she then adds more of her usual lame analogy, cautionery [sic.] tale
lingo-that in the end it didn’t win, she used the word win-I can’t remember the rest…

One real asshole Schlie believes Theresa killed herself having realised she’d destroyed Jeremy’s art career. Jeremy’s work is part of major permanent collections, he was preparing a show in Chelsea, one at the Corcoran-he’s an established artist, he can do pretty much what he wants-maybe not film in hollywood, that wouldn’t be the end of the world for either of them.

If Theresa and Jeremy were only Theresa’s big spin, her fantasy-why is everyone writing about them a month later-you know how many real wannabes there ar in Hollywood who are alive and can’t get an ounce of the attention, Theresa and Jeremy these writer’s kind of pool in with this crowd.

None of these writers are even in the same class with Theresa- this is more interesting than a novel, a novel would be redundant-if you are into that be a journalist."

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