The Blue Raccoon

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Elation (Restrained)
Bibliographicaless in Richmond


Image: The Sportsfrog.com, August 3, 2004

Billion-eyed audience, I have logged so many hours in front of this computer that I am really content not to be here for a while; except that I have to, but tomorrow.

Suffice to say, the bloated manuscript for Richmond In Rag-time was shipped via electricity and binary code to the History Press in Charleston, S.C. I've not even printed out the thing to read it for the entire view. Too busy writing. At some intervals, I felt a bit like Jack Kerouac and that epic typewritten spool (which I've actually seen at an exhibit in San Francisco, in a class case, like the holy relic it is). Except I had no paper, really, and this isn't fiction.

I am saving my elation until the bibliography is finally done, and I feel confident about my rights and permissions of images, which I've started the pursuit of. I've just scanned my eye over certain sections and I'm already wincing: gotta fix this and that and that.

Maybe tomorrow night we'll go see the No BS Brass Band at The Camel. Sort of a pre-celebration. It is First Friday, and there are some things going on--- Ghostprint, Artspace--
but not in the usual fashion, so those girls who frequently appear here to announce the First Fridayness are communing with their Freya-selves elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the house is a wreck as though we'd had a party of reckless guests, and our live have sort of been on hold, and there is much, much to do.

Then, this afternoon, while with Amie driving in the new to us/old to the world Subaru wagon we have now, we were on the Boulevard. Standing there in the median waiting for her chance to cross the street, in front of the Virginia Historical Society, was the Mona Lisa. Or our version of her. She was wearing a black, arm-baring dress, and her hair down, and the vision reminded me that art begins in a glance, a chance intersection of irreproducible moments.

And questions to solve. Like, why does Firefox all the sudden now fail to load on my eMac? What have I done wrong that blogs in my links aren't showing up?

You know, important stuff.

Then around the office today I hear this strange story about the guy going nuts on a bus in Manitoba, Canada, stabbing a fellow passenger on a bus and cutting off his head while apparently nobody did anything to prevent the horror.

I think this is an Internet rumor; except a few clicks of the button present a reality far worse than I could have imagined. The description sounds like the opening teaser of a very bloody X-Files episode. I would link to it, but, you're adults. You can do that for yourself if you really feel the need.

Leading to the inevitable question: Were I in this position, and could do something, would I have tried? Would this have spurred others to action -- or caused just more injury and possibly more death?

And in Canada? Canada?



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Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm Not Celebrating Yet
But close enough to post this gratuitous picture
of Louise Brooks having way too much fun
at Can Can--I mean, Joe Zelli's, in Paris.


So, my all-night marathon of writing went apace, I mean, once you hit 3 a.m. what's the point? I do not recommend this methodology for anybody, by the way. Even Miro the Perpetually Annoyed Siamese was even more annoyed and confused that I again wasn't coming to bed. I actually don't feel like I've been to bed in a week.

The Monster in the Box, sans box, got shipped to the publisher around 8 this morning, though I still have some patch work and bibliography to finish, and a whole round of image acquisitions and permissions to go through.

Last night WRIR, perhaps to mess with my head, switched the overnight tape. No "Riot On The Radio," but some head rocking sort of alt country blues and R & B stuff. I can't remember a single one. I sincerely hope that if I'm up that late again any time soon that it is while doing something libidinous and salacious and that music will provide the sound track.

Still, I have the refrain and drum roll up from "International War Criminal" in my head and it won't stop. I think its because of the Karadzic thing. A Washington Post writer said he looks like "Walt Whitman coming off a bender." I think he kind of looks like, well, a grotty Santa.

The Breakfast Blend, preceded by the Loop Tape preceded by Dustin on 'The Flip Side" were all good in the wee small hours. There's really a band called Vampire Beach Babes and I they were fun and appropriate to hear at that hour. And who was playing Bill Cosby routines? I forget. I was distracted but engaged at the same time, and half-asleep without pajamas.

Maybe during the No Volunteer hours RIR should just play Firesign Theatre albums back-to-back. Or audio from old Doc Scott broadcasts (except over-sensitive people would take it serious). Or feed from a "Fistful of Soundtracks" or old X Minus One shows.

Off to the office with nary a wink behind me. I feel about a half past dead.

In an added development, Rob Ullman just up and decided to post the efforts he made to create a logo for "Lulupalooza 2005." Wow. Two thousand and freakin' oh-five! How'd that happen?

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Sunday, July 27, 2008


I Just Thought I Was Finished

The Writing Jag Part II

[Image: This is my office during the project. No, but, in truth it is photographer Walead Beshty composition, Dismal Science Reading Room, from June 7, 2006, Wit of the Staircase]


So at some point--it was after 4 am.--and the Late Night Mixtape is playing on WRIR, when I realize I'm hearing "Riot On The Radio" and "International War Criminal" each for the second time that I realize, well, I've done it again. And this minor filling task of the Rag-time in Richmond manuscript has turned into a forced march, a slog, and this is still before the whittling down to fit the proscribed size limits and all else that must be done to ready this thing for publication.

Amie got me up, though I complained, to get back at it and now with oatmeal eaten and coffee working here I am. It's October 23, 1909 and things are getting a little hazy. Wish me luck. This puppy has got to get done today, bibliography and all. I sense another very late night.

I'm goin' in.

************************************************************

Yup, still at it. Break for the pool, much needed, but my right eye is hurting and all the joints of my fingers, and I'm daubing with a cotton swab my upper right canine tooth with an alcohol pain deadener.

It's like midnight and I have two day's worth of work still and one night to do it in. And it's Monday, it's not like I can ask off from work. I'm kind of going nuts, slowly, back here in my time capsule.

Riot On The Radio, indeed.

Amie opened an envelope of my checks this afternoon without thinking and wondering if it was my copy of "New Adventures In Pornography." Which I think is a great blog name, and that's appropriate, since she came up--through my not hearing her correctly--the name for this one.

I have to go splash water on my face and weep a little.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Marathon of Writing Ends
Marathon of seeking image permissions begins


Like Our Miss Brooks pictured above (in one of my fave pix of her -- the dress! the shoes! the bent arm! the pretty doze!), I spent much of Tuesday in a quasi-conscious mode; present but not quite, feeling as though encased inside one of those Jules Vernes-ian deep sea suits, you know, the kind with the round helmets. The world was blurry, muffled and in slow motion. But Rag-time In Richond: Socialists, Suffragists, Sex and Murder 1909-1911 is this much closer to reality.

Amie hauled my droopy self off to the pool, fed me, then dumped my carcass in the bed around 9 where I took the crosstown express into Nod, though dreaming of Richmond's early 20th century mayor, David C. Richardson, getting a ride in the first airplane to visit Richmond, at the 1909 State Fair, and how that must have felt for a Confederate veteran who'd probably in his life never been more than seven or eight stories high off the ground.

My two-day, three-night writing marathon has concluded, though I still have plenty left to tie up. As a very serious writer, and acquaintance of mine, wrote to me yesterday, after I wondered why I hadn't dedicated my life to, say, becoming a great canasta player: "It is an ugly and unfortunate business." And my slender volume of history is not a great academic text, it isn't Serious Literature. But it is mine, and I'm destined to the completion. There is steady stream of "T/K" coursing through, bits and pieces here and there, meaning "To Come" and now, it must, um, come, so to speak.

I must at the same time pursue rights and permissions for a number of diverse images. I have some from my own collection, but they are in various kinds of media, and none of them digital. I've been practicing avoidance on this issue, but also I couldn't really choose images until the text was done.

In the Random Notes division, I present one of the saddest images I've seen for the file of Richmond's Socio-Cultural and Physical Development -- and there is no blood, no guns, just this: a streetcar rolling across Monument Avenue on Sheppard Street. I have to thank Ray over at The Devil's Triangle, Richmond, Virginia, about this slice of Richmond that is bounded by Belmont, Kensington, Monument avenues and the Boulevard. This site is here.


This otherwise unremarkable picture just makes me sad for several reasons. First, you squint, and you could be looking at the same intersection in 2008. The built environment remains more-or-less intact, no big glaring wrecker-ball atrocities to cite.

The trolley, though, was yanked away from the city in 1949, the ripped up, paved over and burnt, just as thorough and awful as though an outside enemy had come to inflict punishment upon the city. Thing is, like the Evacuation Fire of 1865, we did it to ourselves.

The tremendous loss and wrong-headed planning that followed the elimination of this transit system is incalculable. Hard to believe, but if some form of the Richmond streetcar system had been saved until the present day, it would be 120 years old this year. You can read more of my screed about our absence of light rail transit, with more vintage images, at this location, but scroll down, here.

If, in that alternate Richmond, we'd had the presence of mind to have kept the system and improved upon it, there'd be sleek, modern, European models humming around town, along with some heritage cars (with air conditioning, I should think) much like this one.

If Richmond had maintained, expanded and remained dynamic with its transit, this city would be quite different today. Oh, to walk down along the Carytown portion of that altenrate Richmond, glimpse the headlines of their newspapers, hear the topics of their day, and see what how a contemporary transit system would have transformed this city's shape, and its self-regard.

Created in 1888, he Richmond transit system would be celebrating 120 years in 2008.

Another view, tighter on the action.


Speaking of Wrecker Ball Atrocities, on the site of a "recovering architect" I found this example of why Modernism failed the city, and the comments are worth reading too.

The before-after image is Howitzer Park at the juncture of Park and Harrison in Richmond, Virginia. Not show, I thinks its just off to the left, is the Masonic Temple that was for years VCU's theater building, with a cafeteria in the basement. The only image I've ever seen in it is in a art work by Caryl Burtner. (And even then, it wasn't the work itself, but a picture of it in Urge Magazine). That building was demolished just before I got to VCU in 1980. But I AM old enough to remember the raziug of this block for the PAC center. Sheesh. That link, but you have to scroll down to June 27, 2007, is Veritas et Venustas.

This observation pretty much nails the thing on the metaphorical noggin:

"The source of many problems with contemporary architecture is that it is easy to do. Type the desired specifications and dimensions for a building into a computer program, distort the resulting box for selected style and context, prepare the client an artist's rendering with landscaping and upper middle-class pedestrians, and voila! Clearly, this happened in Richmond to a neighborhood which should have been preserved.

What is missing in today's design is taste and talent, for which no program can substitute. Many trained architects have neither, which is why America is filling up with either dreadful pastiches of Colonial houses on the low end, or oppressive Futurama aberrations on the high end. Great design has at its soul a profound geometry and sense of proportion, the multiplicity of a building's parts made unified and coherent by the use of regulating lines in architecture. These design fundamentals are wonderfully explained and illustrated by Le Corbusier in his treatise. And until they are revived, understood and practiced, whether in traditionalist or modernist forms, the kitsch shall inherit the earth."


And now, via YouTube, we send you off with a ride through the streets of Lisbon, we'd call these Heritage Trolleys now, and in fact, the one Ms. Bocock rescued and brought back to Richmond--as a museum piece--came from here.





Then, the more contemporary styles we should have here, linking the city and outer burbs (the spread of which would've made more sense with this kind of transit and rigorous zoning). This is in Berlin, and I've ridden on these, and and they're great.






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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Never-Ending Term Paper
I'm writing a book by Monday, if I don't collapse first


[Image: This is my office during the project. No, but, in truth it is photographer Walead Beshty composition, Dismal Science Reading Room, from June 7, 2006, Wit of the Staircase]




Billion-eyed audience, come on in my friends, to the term paper that never ends, come inside, come inside...

I'm not posting because I don't love yall, or that my neurotic need to inflict my...whatever...experience on anybody who happens to pass by here. But I'm trying to finish a book: Ragtime In Richmond: Socialists, Suffragists, Sex and Murder (1910-1911) for the History Press. It's past due. For the past several months, I've been looking at pages that look quite a bit like this:


This is an excerpt from the December 26, 1910 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, with an account of the fire that destroyed the north wing of the imposing Italianate pile called Ryland Hall, between Ryland and Lombardy streets. Most of the students were away, but 24 were still on campus, and 13 in the dorm rooms in that wing. Four fraternities had rooms on the fourth floor of the building, and something seems to have happened that ignited a fire around 4 a.m. Engine Company #10, just a block away, responded. (This is now the Firehouse Theater). But they had difficult setting up their ladder truck. There was general alarm. And a mummy. But you'll have to read about that in the book, or one account, here.

While I'm at it, I need to give a shout out to the Library of Congress Chronicling America project. This grand effort unites digital preservation efforts nation wide of newspapers during the the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Times-Dispatch of 1909-1910 is there, though not the News Leader or Evening-Journal. But let me tell you, it has so aided my undertaking that I can't even tell you because my brain has turned into guacamole. This is an expenditure of tax dollars I salute, and its absolutely free. God bless the Archivists....


[Image: June 19, 2006, "Bingeing On Books In L.A," Wit of the Staircase.]

There she is, my Deadline. She waits for me; restive and annoyed and eager to get on wit it, wondering why the hell I haven't gotten this done a month ago. And I want to make her happy, yet I fear her.

Now, I must run. President William Howard Taft is reviewing VMI cadets in front of the Lee Monument. Really.




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Sunday, July 13, 2008

What have we learned?
A compendium of odds and ends from the past few days

1)
Up front on the GRTC buses here in Richmond, Vee-a, there is a coffee can-sized brushed metal square container fitted with a prominent lock. When I was paying my fare a few mornings ago, the coin slot was clogged. The driver instructed me to use the jam box.

Jam box, is what the proper name for that object on the bus.

Please, billion-eyed audience, have a snicker on me. Say it slow and in a low voice...jaaam-box. Oh, yeah. A prurient mind is at feast forever.

2) Artist Bruce Conner died this past Monday. I have seen just a couple of his films, but I remember them; this was in 2002 at the James River Festival of the Moving Image among a sampling from the New York City Anthology of Films Archive of Essential Cinema. This was the program in which I was introduced to the luminous and brilliant Maya Deren, too. The Conner piece was Movie. [Image: Ken Hopson from the James River Festival site, link above. That's my very own Firehouse Theatre.]

This is hodge podge assortment of odd clips from various movies, interpolated by atomic age anxiety. The relevance and the freshness of the film, not to mention its influence, made the viewing experience one of those times when the original seemed a derivative. I must've seen his meta-reaction to the Kennedy assassination, Report, too, at one of the James River festivals, but I cannot recall which year, and Google won't drill that far. And Conner instructed that his films not be shown online. So I can't provide any links, as you can see from the first one in this graph.

I read in Conner's New York Times obit that a surreal montage sequence in the great Marx Brothers film Duck Soup inspired him.

"There’s a war going on,” he explained to an interviewer in 1976, “and Groucho tells Harpo that we need help, and he runs out and puts a ‘Help Wanted’ sign on the front of the building.Then you start seeing all these tanks, and airplanes, and soldiers, and porpoises, and giraffes — I don’t know — all sorts of creatures and things rushing to help them.” He added, “After that I started thinking about all the things I could stick together in a sequence like that: elephants running, trains blowing up, cars going, cars crashing, and so on and so forth.”

The Surrealists were impressed by this strange funny film; Harpo's rigorous silence that causes him to resort to auto horns and whistels, his anarchic wielding of scissors, and a trenchcoat that contained anything he needed, a dog house tattoo that when Groucho inspects it, sprouts a live barking dog; the running gag of the motorcycle sidecar taking off with Harpo and Groucho, thinking this was his time to roar off, sitting glum and observing, "This is the third trip I've made today and I haven't been anyhere yet" ; a council of war becomes a production number and soliders' helmets are used as a xylophone. Salvador Dali prepared a script for the Marxes. [Duck Soup image from central cinema]

Duck Soup is also the inspiration for Woody Allen's character in Hannah and Her Sisters, and reason for him not to commit suicide.

Conner was one of the last Beats, and a artist who pursued his bliss, and the world is richer for his creative method of living.

3) The Richmond Triangle Players here have moved into a sleek, splendid mid-century modern brick building I've admired at Altamont and Marshall. The slanted window and metal overhang of the front office has always reminded me of an airport control tower. The collection of buildings were until of late Carl's Radiator Service. Now Triangle will have its own digs, scene shop and more seating. Bravo!

4) William Shatner is in Judgment At Nuremburg. He is young, and probably about the time he was in that famous Twilight Zone where he sees the gremlin on the wing of the airplane and goes crazy trying to tell the pilot.

Seeing him there, though, gave me a kind of vertigo. I swear, it was like a Star Trek third season episode where for some reason Kirk has traveled in time. I really half-expected him to flip open a communicator.

And, too, all the amazing actors whom he was moving around...most of them are dead. Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark -- all gone. I think Maximillian Schell may be one of the few who are still living. And there's Shatner, and I see him on TV still cranking along and doing Price Line commercials. That must be a weird...sensation, to be Shatner, and to have that historic film on your resume.

Thanks to soundtrackcollector for the image.

5) Sometimes vigilance for the sake of consumers is a bad thing. This past weekend, my Partner In Art was teaching at the Virginia Museum. She's got a bum ankle these days and I helped her carry her bag there and back, and fetched lunch from a lunch-fetching place in Carytown. Well, due to my own absent-mindedness, I left my debit card on the counter there. I was gone probably under an hour when I realized that I'd done this to myself -- again -- and dashed over to the establishment in question. Well, the clerk there told me that he'd called the bank and destroyed the card. And on top of everything, my food order was wrong.

The clerk was acting in my own best interest, of course, but he must've thought I was a West End auslander or even a tourist -- and I wasn't even wearing Bermuda shorts with socks. I called my financial institution and they were confused aboout the diligence of the clerk, "I used to work in retail," my client representative said--in plain non-call center-tinged English, "and when that happened, we used to hold on to them for at least a day."

Fact is, I needed a new card--the security numbers on the back had faded to the extent they were impossible to decipher, and a slight bend in one side sometimes made the plastic unreadable to account-deducting devices.

But it is an inconvenience that I should've been spared. Why they couldn't try to have the bank call me, or they call me, or somebody call me, I don't know.

6) My comments to some Richmond, Virginia, blogs are "long-winded." One described a historical context response as reminiscent of a monologue from American Psycho and I think he meant this in a good way; still, this kind of hurt. Sigh.

7) Writing takes a toll on one's body. This is in the especial case of logging 10-15 hours in a chair and going full bore. The form hunches, shoulders bend in, my right hand has swollen, my left knee, too. I'm on deadline for a manuscript and this is what it's doing to me, or what I'm doing to myself, in a forced march through the quagmire of historic references. By now, my work, my wife and the editors of the publishing house are all ready for this damned thing to be done.

Adon Yoder is chuckling somewhere. I was surprised to find him mentioned in this wayback Time Magazine article.

8) Anhueser-Busch is now owned by Belgians. The Chrysler Building was in recent days sold to German investors. I remember even back in 1989 when the purchase of the bankrupt Rockefeller Center by Japanese interests struck me as odd. They sold about 10 years later, and appropriate enough, today U.S. capitalists own the Rock -- which is becoming more the exception these days, than the rule.

This past week, my nose was purchased by a 13-year-old Alsatian girl with Euros saved from her baby sitting job. My breathing has not been affected by this transfer and no changes to the nose are planned. Or that's what Giselle has told me.

9) I stumbled cross this image on the Interwebs while looking for something else. This came from a memorial site for the Birney company streetcars, and this, billion-eyed audience, hit my eyes like cymbal-crash. It's Broad Street looking west from about Fifth Street. The building looming at left is Thalhimer's and, of course, next to it in sharp foreshortening, Miller & Rhoad's, the retail collosi of Richmond. The office tower in the background is the Central National Bank building. I cannot see if the famous neon letters that turned either blue or red depending ont the cold or hot weather are there; the contrast and glare is too bad.

Note the clustering of stores on the right hand stores. One atop a roof is for the Wakefield Grill, 3124 W. Broad St. -- which is up the street a number of blocks, beyond the Boulevard.

The time, judging from the clothes and cars, seems to me a cold gray day in the mid-1940s, and that streetcar doesn't have much longer to run since the service was suspended just when we could've modernized it and retained the benefits, in 1949.

Little did any of these people know but that the city was on the verge of precipitous decline, that the suburban sprawl that had began with the streetcars in the 1910s was undergoing fatal acceleration by the auto and cheap gas, low mortgages and demand pent up by first the Depression, then the war, for cars and Cape Cods and brick ranchers, during a wildly over-prosperous period due to the rest of the world being bombed into a temporary halt (which the U.S. helped restart). Then, race and class in Richmond, and digging highways through the middle of town over public protest, made a scene like this even less possible to maintain.


Here's a detail of the signs and storefronts on the right side of the street. I've heard of Grant Drugs, but I'd have to hunt in the city directory to know if that big clock went with the store beneath, or was advertising something else.




































10) Thanks to the West of Boulevard blog, I know that the ABC store up on Thompson Street will now be open Sundays. Economy tanks, people drink more, and the state--which both sells and taxes the stuff--will benefit. Now, I don't have to wait until Monday to get my Bushmill. Which I can't purchase, anyway, because of what happened to to my debit card (see #5),

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Thursday, July 10, 2008



Jeremy Blake (Oct. 4, 1971 -- July 17, 2007 )
Theresa L. Duncan (Oct. 26, 1966 - July 10, 2007)


Theresa Duncan, from a Nov. 21, 2006
post on her blog, The Wit of the Staircase.















Jeremy Blake pictured at the Vanity Fair opening party for the 8th Annual Art Auction Benefit, "Portraits & Polaroids" held April 23, 2007, at New York City's Milk Gallery. The piece behind him is his Dope & Guns Party. For more on his innovative new media work, see Kinz,Tillou + Feigen.

"American Ruins" segment from Blake's digital video piece Winchester, April 16, 2006.



From Blake's Reading Ossie Clark, in the Daily Serving, August 27, 2007.


Duncan and Blake, pictured Sept. 17, 2007, on the "St. James Version" of the World of Wonder, taken at an art opening in the fall of 2006.


Blake and Duncan in 1997, by Michael Levine/CPI, via New York Magazine web site post, August 20, 2007.



"She is gone, and he is gone, a play set up in the privacy of love, a stage set in the intimacy of public longing for details." —Jonathan Perez, July 26, 2007, “Ode To Jeremy Blake” at The Palm At The End Of The Mind.


"…Whatever interests they may have had, the suicides are not really all that astonishing. I talk to people who have tried it every single working day and the explanations are usually very mundane and sad.
As for the “paranoia”, please consider some alternative explanation. There are plenty and maybe they’ll show up in the toxicology report.” – CB, July 31, 2007, DreamsEnd (blog)

“I think we all want this to be more than it is for a myriad reasons. I think we’re all creative and smart and that means we read into things and enjoy it and our brains work on overdrive. We quickly pass over the obvious or the banal because we assume it has just GOT to be more than what it appears to be; this simply CAN’T be all there is.
We want to believe that, so whether we know it or not, we fuel and perpetuate that. I posted once before that I’m sure if I died suddenly or mysteriously, lots of things would come to light about me that people would be surprised of and never knew. We all have skeletons in the closet and things that happen to us on a daily basis that we keep to ourselves. Mystery loves company. Without us, there’d be no wonder, no romance, no crypticism. Right?” — GothamInsider, August 1, 2007, on DreamsEnd, (blog)

“Paired paranoia is particularly pernicious. * SIGH *”
--Scottynuke, Washington Post, August 1, 2007, “Achenblog,”

"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." —Swati Pandey, August 1, 2007, Los Angeles Times Opinion Daily.


“Beauty. Brains. Bonkers. The question now is, what the hell was going on in Jeremy Blake's head?” -- August 2, 2007, SoMA: Society of Mutual Autopsy (blog), “Theresa Duncan Upsate.”

"There exists in the heart of a NYTimes-reading humanities graduate a capacity for nose-upturned covetousness which people don't talk about. It's a horniness for the blessings of another man's life. Not for his health, not for his wife, or for his Ferrari... And not even for the career, exactly, just for the odor of his resume... For his reputation of fulfillment."-- Crid, August 4, 2007, commenting in Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess blog, to "Making It Up As She Went Along."

“She was bright and polished apple with a rotten core.”
--#15.”Guest” commenting August 4, 2007, Laist, “Staircase to Nowhere.”

“The lilly-livered, packaged conclusions that have been drawn about this woman, attempting to do the impossible (explain human complexity in about nine sentences), are falling short of doing anything but making me want to hit someone.”
--Alison Tuck, August 7, 2007, Women and Children First, “Dead Artist, Beautiful and Brilliant, Cops Further Beatings” (blog)


"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," August 6, 2007, on SLOG, the blog of Seattle, Wash.'s The Stranger alt-weekly, "The Latest on Theresa Duncan"

"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."-- August 7, 2007, New York Observer,“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.



















Theresa Duncan, image from
The Wit of the Staircase entry, January 3, 2006,
"Horror Vacui in Venice," about the fear of empty spaces.

"There exists in the heart of a NYTimes-reading humanities graduate a capacity for nose-upturned covetousness which people don't talk about. It's a horniness for the blessings of another man's life. Not for his health, not for his wife, or for his Ferrari... And not even for the career, exactly, just for the odor of his resume... For his reputation of fulfillment.
-- Crid, August 4, 2007, commenting in Amy Alkon’s Advice Goddess blog, to "Making It Up As She Went Along."

Duncan portrayed herself as a Freudian and a fashionista, an intellectual and a stoner, a political radical with a perfume fetish, and a groupie in a 12-year monogamous relationship. Because of the pliancy of her mind, these seeming contradictions could coexist. She was hungry for knowledge, for answers, for beauty, and she created an online space that was essentially a map of her discovery process -- a "web log" in the truest sense."--
– Steffie Nelson, August 12, 2007, the Los Angeles Times, calendarlive.com

"
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,convincedthat the CIA and the Scientologists were out to get them, erratic with friends.... You know whatthat 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, August 20, 2007, Gawker.com, suicide is painless "Why Did Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake Commit Suicide?"


"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 Gawker.com, August 20, 2007.


"IT IS AMAZING to see the human condition being so proactive as to end's his/her life. The real reason why did they it...no one will know. Perhaps it was the drugs, frustration combined with a vivid and gifted imagination. I think the obsession that people (like myself) and others will always have with this event is that it's not common. We often look at people's life's [sic.] and wonder what was the motives for their action. A pretty talented girl, a handsome talented man....what could have been so bad? There is no moral to the story for this one...maybe it just happened because it did." By Jorgito on Dec. 23, 2007, responding to New York Magazine's "Conspiracy of Two."

[Image above -- The Hot and The Cool: June, 2003, from the LA Times, Patrick McMullan.com]

"The blogosphere is composed of two and unequal parts: The Facts, which resemble an objective reality, and Factufication, which is the conflation with, and distillation of, purported facts coupled to abundant speculation.

In this way, the shrillest bogs resemble early 20th century yellow journalism, wherein no story was too absurd to be printed, in the main because this sold newspapers. Bloggists, though, in most cases don’t sell anything, other than their points of view and aren’t journalists – except when they are. The bloggist just wants to be heard, in most cases to a group of friends and colleagues, though at other times, to a wider world—which is difficult when there are 50 millions of blogs, and counting.

In the case that concerns this essay, bloggists tried to understand why another bloggist killed herself and whether despondency compelled her companion to walk into the ocean. The susurration of rumor built into a rambunctious clamor as one seeker e-mailed or linked to the next. The romanticizing, demolition and deconstruction of Duncan and Blake was immediate, simultaneous and intertwined.

The Internet fulfilled its use as a public and virtual wailing wall. Testimonies of sorrow were poetic, clunky or rambling, as the writers struggled in plain view of readers to put into words what they felt as they were thinking and typing, with little editing during or following. For any future historian of whatever calamity—even the recent Minneapolis bridge collapse -- these kinds of displays will be invaluable if somehow they are archived, preserved, and accessible.

Their deaths were disseminated through a variety of small self-informing communities, from art and literary circles, to marketing and game design groups and into the realm where conspiracy is an acknowledged part of consensus reality. Reaction ranged from almost incoherent grief to gleeful hectoring.

For the chronicler of earlier generations, coming across letters and journals was the best way of seeing through the eyes of those who experienced events as they happened. The words on yellowed pages gave the historian a seat by the elbow of the record keeper. Today, e-mail and blogs, even archived answering machine messages, present unique and multiple perspectives. These are real-time event records that are as close as one can get to the frantic phone calls and the conversational hubbub at coffee shops and art gallery gatherings.

(What will happen if at some point the technology fails or the power goes out for good is another matter. Where will the scribes come from to protect knowledge should Wikipedia ever go dark?)

If the human species survives, and a People’s History of the Blogosphere is one day written, there may well be a slender chapter titled "The Duncan-Blake Effect." This could offer a case study of how a tragic incident that concerned a rarefied group of people—participants and chroniclers of culture and society comprising a sliver in the greater arts world of Los Angeles and New York City—promulgated wider interest among those who were neither artists nor lived in either of those cities. That clamoring for actual sourced, jot and tittle news was delivered first not by the dead tree fiber media (DTFM), but online sources. The DTFM scrambled, spluttered, and proved itself unable to supply what was demanded in a time that would satisfy an audience grown accustomed to immediacy. In this case, what went sub rosa on the Internet drove what appeared in print and in the other electronic media." -- The Blue Raccoon, August 5, 2007, "Seven Kinds of Denial Just To Get Out Of Bed Part IV."


"For all the damage to reputations the Internet can cause, perhaps the greater anxiety from online communication is the weightlessness of it all. The whole World Wide Web can seem like a hall of mirrors — nothing tangible, no binding, no watermarks, no notary public seals. Where, exactly, is it? How do we know any of it is true?" -- Noam Cohen, July 7, 2008, "Poof! You're Umpublished." in the New York Times.


Image: The Wit of the Staircase, October 27, 2005;
“Letting The Freak Flag Fly.”


Drinking skeleton from Blake's Sodium Fox, Via Kinz,Tillou + Feigen.


Below the final image used by Duncan on The Wit of the Staircase. She made regular appropriations from fashion magazines and other sources. This created some controversy, while she lived, and unleashed a torrent of posthumous criticism accusing her of plagiarism and worse. Her defenders insisted that she, like Blake, was a collage artist working in a hypertext, cut-and-paste digital New Reality.


The picture came from a dramatic feature spread in the September 1997 Italian Vogue. The series of photographs was uploaded to a livejournal group called foto_decadent on July 9, 2007 -- the day before Duncan's death.

After rampant speculation about the image's origin, the "Picture of July 10" was identified by Leigh, on Tuesday, August 14, 2007, in a comment appended to the [by summer's end, defunct, Seaword] site.

The photographer was Ellen von Unwerth who may have received inspiration from the imagery in Jacque Rivette's 1974 antic and surreal epic Celine and Julie Go Boating. The film was mentioned in passing by Duncan in an April 3, 2006 post.

One of the film's characters is a librarian, and the other a cabaret magician, and both aspects appealed to Duncan's Wit of the Staircase sensibilities.

In numerous posts Duncan made references to magic and witchcraft. The mystery of the Staircase indeed, cast a powerful spell among a group of people who've proved quite susceptible to such bewitchments.

The fashion spread features two women, as in the film, and references the movie's magic act sequence, hence "A Magic Story" the subliminal message between the film frames, as suggested by the graphics.

And for weeks following the deaths of Duncan and Blake, bloggists tweezered out every kakamamie explanation, since many who've clambered upon the Internet are superstitious like neolithic people, seeing signs and symbols everywhere, and making crazy connections, A Beautiful Mind-style.

Perhaps Duncan, in her view in her last hours, was indicating that the whole story would be learned by reading between the lines.


And there's been quite a bit of that, for certain.










Images: Still from A Beautiful Mind, in which it is revealed just what John Nash has been doing in his office all this time (muy bueno to luciana.misura.org); the eaves habitat of Duncan at the Rectory of St. Mark's-in-the -Bowery, posted April 18, 2007.


Much was made, too, about Duncan's last and not untypical posting, from the great Georgia-born writer, poet and essayist Reynolds Price. How much of the meaning she thought could be derived from the excerpt is unclear, but the Internet Event Coroners enjoyed picking apart each syllable for clues. In retrospect, the sentiment seems to carry greater import than it might have otherwise. Which may have been Duncan's whole point. Then again, Price's observation of the human need to tell and hear stories may also serve as one of the theme epigrams for blogging, message boards and the diversity of online "communities."

Duncan didn't source the quote, either, a habit both attacked and defended. Many bloggists cut-and-paste material (including this one), in part because they can - Google makes everybody sound as though they know something, whether they do or not. A considerable percentage of bloggers and bloggists are fain to conduct the due diligence of sourcing the material and won't deign to understand from whence they ripped the stuff. Who after all has time to do such a thing in our demanding schedules (which is further clogged by, um, blogging). Thus, ease and convenience conspire into rationalizations about creativity.

The Quote of July 9 comes from Price's 1978 book A Palpable God: With an Essay on the Origins and Life of Narrative, which is a re-telling through a translation from the Greek of stories from the Bible.

"A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens--second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day's events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths." --Reynolds Price


"Death Defying Acts of Art and Conspiracy"

The following is a partial "encore presentation" of part of posting from Saturday, August 25, 2007, Seven Different Kinds of Denial Just To Get Out of Bed Part VI: Conclusion.

Given the theme of today's anniversary, I might also add, for those of the billion-eyed audience who are playing the home game version, the shameful demonstration of cowardice by most of the U.S. Congress in regards to the FISA legislation that allows the government warrantless wiretap of overseas communication, and protects telecoms from civil claims.

And Beck's new album? Three years in the making and released on July 8, it's called Modern Guilt and though relishing in 1960s and psychedelic music tropes, the lyrics are darker. Quoting Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune:

"His lyrical outlook will be familiar to fans who discovered him more than a decade ago with the hit single "Loser" and his Dust Brothers-assisted 1995 masterpiece, "Odelay": dystopian wordplay funneled through a surrealist lens. By that standard, "Modern Guilt" is at the darker end of Beck's wordplay meter. The narrator envisions the apocalypse on "Orphans"; "Gamma Ray" imagines an environmental disaster; "Chemtrails" traffics in conspiracy theories worthy of "The X-Files"; "Modern Guilt" breaks out in cold-sweat paranoia; and "Walls" casually remarks, "You've got warheads stacked in the kitchen." In other words, how to live when you're constantly looking over your shoulder?

These ideas play out in tracks that sound more like aural hallucinations, a hybrid of standard rock instrumentation and Danger Mouse's arsenal of noisemakers. Woozy, wordless vocal tracks drift across the horizon, and the arrangements spiral through a galaxy of sound effects."

You an read the whole thing here, or see/hear some of it here.

Finally, a commemoration of Blake and Duncan, from Blake Robin, writing as Baron von Luxxury on Disco Workout.

And now, back to our encore presentation.



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 runs 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 Williamsburg, 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:

"I
t 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 was at times manic and he spoke of 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 some creatives-- and more than a few 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.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What I've Learned
You just never can tell


1) That after your Partner In Art has fallen and twisted her ankle you need frozen peas in the house.

2) After your Partner In Art has fallen, twisted her ankle and the bag of ice you made is melting, and there are no frozen peas in the house, and the cold wrap for migraines isn't really working, know where the Ace bandage is.

3) After your Partner In Art has fallen, twisted her ankle and you have no frozen peas in the house and cannot locate the Ace bandage, and though you think she's situated on the bed with leg raised and she's fine with here juice and seltzer, do not retreat to the writing den with your cell phone turned down, ceiling fan on, WRIR's A Party of One blaring.

4) Your Partner In Art, who has a hurt ankle, is not a specter come to get you when she appears in your doorway, and there's no reason to give a startled shout. She's not been able to reach you, because your cell phone is turned down, the ceiling fan is going, and WRIR is blaring Party of One. And she, injured, had to go down and get the Ace bandage which you couldn't find, in lieu of frozen peas, which are not in the house.

5) You cannot plug the cell phone into the Clapper light switch and expect it to be powered up. She told you that, and you didn't believe her.

6) The kids on their grand third floor balcony in the apartment building on the corner are doing what you 'd do if you were 20-something and with limited responsibility and maybe I should've gone over there and asked if they had any frozen peas.
That way, they would've shut up around 2 a.m. after you've been up trying to be a good nurse--and failing--and writing about events of 100 years ago holed up in your man room, with your cell phone turnd down, the ceiling fan running, and WRIR's Party of One blaring.

7) You cannot get up at 5 a.m. to resume writing if, having come to bed at 2 a.m. with watery eyes, and having strange dreams about John McCain picking Mitt Romney as his running mate. I don't know why I had this dream. I really could care less. I figured I'd be dreaming about frozen peas.

8) By the way, Viva Mexico, in Carytown where I got us dinner after The Partner In Art took her tumble, has generous portions and good, quick food. Take away for two, a taco salad and a chicken burrito, with rice and stuff. $18.

9) Don't put off setting up the coffee the night before. This gives you less stress on a morning when you feel like a your magneto isn't firing to get your prop turning. Then how strange it is when you turn on the comp box, to ostensibly do the AM weather check, and flip over to MSNBC, and there's Mitt Romney. Weird.

10) Hey! There's like an 8:28 Fairmount bus that shoots down Robinson so I won't be so late to work. And you find yourself bobbing your head to the Party of One show's theme song because you were in your man room writing about events of a century ago, with the radio blaring, the ceiling fan whirring, and your cell phone durned down, while your ankle-twisted Partner In Art was searching for the Ace bandage, in lieu of the frozen peas that weren't available.

Buy frozen peas at lunch.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Red Wagons and Bottle Throwing
No gratuitous pictures, just my feeble words

Billion-eyed audience, upon reflection I can muster a few descriptions of today-- humid, and at one moment cloudy and threatening rain, the next bright and hot.

A young woman who knows my Partner In Art through classes she teaches saw me dashing after the Fairmount bus on Robinson and with great graciousness gave me lift closer to work. The ride was somewhat nostalgic as the car she drove was a mid-1960s model, no air conditioning, no radio, but all vintage. Kind of like me, but running on unleaded.

During lunch and walking up Strawberry Street, I happened upon an adorable dark-haired youngster who had parked her little red wagon in front of a shop at 425 Strawberry. She was handing out free cake. Lemony,  with chocolate icing. And business cards. Not her own--she was probably about seven years old or so-- but for the just opened Pink Pig Boutique. (And if they had a web site yet I'd link to it). 
  That's marketing savvy, and I expect big things from her -- although I didn't go in. I needed to get my eats then amble into Scuffletown Park for my day's communing with nature, chef's salad, the New York Times or a book or my own writing. There are mothers strolling their children, neighborhood kids, couples lolling, and dog walkers. Just a slice of urban natural perfection, really.

Then this evening, when walking home, behind a firm calved pony-tail swishing jogger, when I got to Boulevard and Main, I observed a couple ahead of me and the pony tail swisher. The woman of the two for some reason reached down and picked up a beer bottle that was cast by some thoughtless doofus next to a house.

She, without so much as looking behind her, tossed the bottle over her shoulder and it dashed into pieces on the sidewalk. The jogger did not miss a step. Being a writer and theater person, I though at first she must've been so angry with this man that she wanted to clout him upside the head, but she sublimated, and threw a bottle to make her point, instead. Or maybe, less dramatically, she thought the glass container would somehow land smooth on the grass of a tree well. She missed, and now it's a danger.

Finally, on my way home from procuring a six of PBR and entering from the rear alley of our abode, I came upon a sheer white cat, running with some excitement from the corner of the Sigma Phi Epsilon national headquarters. Dangling from the feline's mouth was an unlucky mouse. The cat's pink eyes registered its surprised to see me as I it, though the mouse was far more important, and the cat dashed across the alley and slid under a fence in that undulant and boneless way that cats have.

Thus ended Monday. Except for writing this book--which clocked over its 40,000 word limit about ten minutes prior to 11 p.m. tonight.

Sigh.

And by the way, Bloggerites. What gives with me not being able add web sites to my HTML listing? I've got several faves I want to add and copied and pasted in what I thought was the correct way, and they don't show up. This annoys me.

Thank you, and drive safely.

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It's Summer In Roosha
Pulchritude enhances monumental architecture



When I was a young upstart: I'd get told, if you like it so much, why don't you move there.

Well. Anyhow, this is how they sunbathe. Sometimes even standing up, leaning against walls, which takes some rigorous concentration.

Anyway, I got nuttin'. Move along to somebody else's blog. I'm busy.

This image comes from Publius Pundit, who seems to be mostly mad at people I sort of like, but that's democracy.



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Saturday, July 05, 2008

And now, a few words from Alfred North Whitehead....


"The middle class pessimism over the future of the world comes from a confusion between civilization and security. In the immediate future there will be less security than in the immediate past, less stability. It must be admitted that there is a degree of instability which is inconsistent with civilization. But, on the whole, the great ages have been unstable ages." -- Science and the Modern World, 1929

"The thorough skeptic is a dogmatist. He enjoys the delusion of complete futility."
-- Mathematics and the Good, 1941

"The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order. Life refuses to be embalmed alive. The more prolonged the halt in some unrelieved system of order, the greater the crash of the dead society." -- Process and Reality, 1929

Image: Malaspina.org

More on Whitehead, "Philosopher of the Muddleheaded": here.

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Happy Fifth of July
Last chances to see "Reefer Madness"


Cast Photo (l-r) Front: Matt Beyer (as Franklin Delano Roosevelt) , Michael Carl Rieman (dope addicted and unjustly sentenced to die Jimmy), Kimberly Jones-Clark (the co-dependent reefer den moll May); Middle: Chris Hester (patriotic here, as opposed to pusher or Jesus), Jake Ashey (a reefer den denizen); Back: Joy Newsome (who, when not a mighty fine Lady Liberty, also plays a dope-distracted negligent mother and vehicular homicider).

When did July 4th become New Year's Eve? Thanks to our friend Katherine, The Partner In Art For Life and me careened around Richmond taking in various gatherings of friends (thanks to Alan and Sally for their hospitality, and Lynn and Will for dinner) and tried to see the fireworks from poolside except they were delayed due to the baseball game (the Braves' last here in Richmond) and we caught the added on special late-night performance of Reefer Madness, directed by Jase Smith.

Tonight's show is your last opportunity to catch the buzz. See information here.

I took this experience earlier in the run while Amie was auf Deutschland, and enjoyed the opportunity to see the play again at the unfortunate conclusion of its run. It was tighter and funnier, and even a minor set malfunction in the second act couldn't break its stride. From the beginning, when the play bursts out across the stage reminding me of a streamer-exploding fire cracker, to the quasi-redemptive finale and wacky tableaux that includes Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jesus, this is a wildly entertaining ride. And if you missed it, well, you missed out.

Seeing it again, the drug-war-leads-to-authoritarinism-with-a-smile message of the end was more impressive. And I wondered if writers
Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney opted out of giving the play the similar conclusion as its kind of a dramatic template,
Romeo and Juliet. The innocent Mary Lane gets shot in cold blood, but the intervention of May, the Reefer Den moll, who somehow manages to get FDR to halt the electrocution of Jimmy for a vehicular murder he did not commit. Guess because its a comedy.

We couldn't have both Jimmy and Mary Lane dead, and Jesus crooning about their dead souls consigned to hell through their use of "the stuff." And I guess, too, there should've been some kind of rumble between the Five & Dime kids and the zombies and reefer den-izens--and there sort of is. But the cast was already 16 people. And I have to say, I'm thrilled to see that many actors on the Firehouse's stage. I just love all that talent and beauty. A sensory feast - in a low-budget, black box theater kind of way.

No, this play is about our culture's preoccupation with drugs and how the authoritative effort to repress them and oppress the users corresponds to a deeper need for control and order in all things, which, of course, is impossible. The latter day "drug war" may have somehow started out of some perverse need to impose morality. But for certain now, it is about control -- and profiteering.

Much like the computer virus technology that would be put out of business if something was designed to make all computers safe, the effort to rid the culture of drugs makes money for people along the way. Just like oil, (or ethanol), just like everything else that appeals to people's desire for emotional alleviation, and exploitation of their weaknesses.

And Reefer Madness is just damn funny.

And now, for your viewing and flag-waving pleasure, Miss Raquel Welch:



This is what makes America great.

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