Monthly Archives: August 2007

Poetry…again

*Summer wanes. During this time of season, I consider poetry. Now I begin again by recasting a few poems from summers past. I will post them here as they stand. It should get things moving again.*The secret of life is life.Knowing we dieDoes not set us freeFreedom is not for us in this life.We cannot be other than we are.We pass our time with useless thingsAs if we live forever.It is our bodies doing this.Our minds know very well we die.But our bodies refuse to hear it.Our bodies desire the useless things.We go about our days in service to these dumb limbs Serving them endless amounts of what they desire But does not sustain themMaking them as comfortable as possible, as they demand itBecause they refuse to accept mortality.Our brilliant minds are filled with petty annoyance.That’s our lazy bodies talkingConstantly forcing us to confront ourselves in mirrorsSo we can see the damage we’re doing.Though we know love is the answer,We are faced with the hard factWe can only love and be loved to the degree we love ourselves.And we do not love ourselves.We are our bodies.And because they are such stupid brutesThey are utterly unlovable.I am good looking enough to know looks are worth nothingAnd wealthy enough to have figured out it has no value.I am intelligent and know I can never be smart enough.I see far enough to see an end.I see right through it.And like everything elseIt is nothing at all.

2 Comments

Filed under ARTology Now

PROPAGANDART

Earlier this summer, I eagerly anticipated what was being heralded as the best science-fiction and fantasy anthology series since The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone . There have been others: Tales from the Crypt and Stephen Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, for example – but they did not acheive the level of the classics. This month, on Saturday nights at 10 p.m., ABC is running its experiment in bringing back the classic sci-fi anthology. Entitled Masters of Science Fiction, it had the potential to make a historical contribution to contemporary culture and our collective mindsets – just as did the show’s venerable antecedents. In fact, that has been the consensus of critics for a few months now.Episodes are adapted from tales by award-winning authors and each show is introduced by Dr. Stephen Hawking. Hawking’s presence would appear to be all it takes to certify the show as ground-breaking (until, of course, one recalls he has also appeared on The Simpsons).The sad fact is Masters of Science Fiction falls about a light-year short in terms of history-making television. The initial episode, A Clean Escape, chronicles the psychotherapy sessions of a man with a curious inability to recall a significant part of his life. Ultimately it becomes clear that he is the President of the United States and he has conveniently (for his own sake) repressed that part of his past in which he “pushed the button,” – you know, let loose a nuclear attack and initiated the apocalyptic battle in mankind’s history of warfare.Along the way, we are lectured with pedantic preachiness about how letting weak leaders (like our President) possess such awesome power is and will be our downfall. The President ends up remembering what he did and pathetically crawls into a corner to assume the fetal position. To pound in the message even further, there is a coda in which we’re led to believe this is an endless cycle. I excused that episode as one that happened to have a clumsily handled political message. I chalked it up to typical Hollywood holier-than-thou know-it-all posturing and awaited the next installment.Amazingly enough, episode two – The Awakening – was also about the President of the United States and what a bellicose dunderhead he is. A comatose alien is discovered on Earth. Then many comatose aliens are discovered on Earth. After sending their human subjects into comas themselves, the aliens use the human zombies to transmit messages of world peace. The messages unequivocally demand all men and all nations immediately put down their weapons or face total devastation. All the world’s leaders, including the mean and nasty ones, are in favor of dropping their defenses and trusting the aliens – except, of course, the President of the United States. He fights them all like a big spoiled power-hungry baby. Absurd? Yes. Typical shallow Hollywood politics? Yes again. Our leader is shown to have made a terribly bad decision – a lethal one. And for the second show in a row, the President of the United States is shown acting like an idiot.Rather than continue the folly here, I suggest you read ABC’s website promo page for the other thinly-veiled political screeds-as-entertainment offerings in this silly summer series. The point could be made that many classic-era sci-fi stories have had political, social, cultural, or moral messages. This is true and the best ones handled things with subtlety and nuanced complexity. However, that was then and this is now. As in most other things made in Hollywood today, the contemporary versions handle their messages with all the subtlety and nuance of the Dixie Chicks. When artists decide to mix blatant political partisanship with creative production, it is most often the art that suffers.The Twilight Zone was a work of genius – far advanced both politically, socially, and aesthetically for its time. Masters of Science Fiction is none of these. It simply is an insult to the intelligence of its audience.

Leave a comment

Filed under ARTology Now

Inviting Strangers Home

My long-time friend, Lynn Erickson, wrote me about what happened in her life last Tuesday. It is a fascinating and edifying true story with a message. Here is what Lynn had to say.Dear Art,After your project about interpreting the quote on sweetest pleasures, I had to write you about Tuesday evening. While slightly off topic, the term “sweetest pleasures” best describes my night following a typically hectic day at work.I received a call from my daughter advising me of some commotion on our little back road – a covered wagon being pulled by four horses, displaying the following slogans in red paint: “Lancaster County to Mohawk Valley, NY… I Love New York Country” and, of course, “Mohawk Valley or Bust!!!”The four horse team was being driven by an Amish boy with a cast on his leg accompanied by three other young men – one in a Hawaiian style shirt carrying a red flag for traffic control, one with a leather vest and cowboy hat, and one sitting in the back of the wagon playing a guitar.You know I can’t resist a horse related story so I left the office to see if I could catch the spectacle. Gretchen said that traffic was backed up because of all the (other) gawkers stopping to take pictures. When I got within a mile of home, there they were, just as she described, stopped along the side of the road. I pulled alongside and asked if they needed help; the most pleasant young man with the broadest smile replied that they were just resting the horses.Their wagon looked too small to be carrying many supplies so I suggested they could water their horses a mile up the road at our farm. Omar (cowboy hat) thanked me and then sheepishly, with the same full grin, asked if we had a field where they could camp for the night. Sure I did.I drove home to tell the family that we were having company and to move horses around to make some room for their tired team. I was met with a mild rebuke concerning the fact that I would invite 4 strangers home. Kurt met the skepticism with “Yeah, I guess they could rob us blind and then, what, outrun us with a horse drawn wagon?”About twenty minutes later our horses started whinnying and dashing around the pastures as an unmistakable clop-clopping signaled the visitors’ arrival. Of course as the boys unhooked their team, I wanted to cross-examine them about the whys and wherefores but uncharacteristically refrained. We offered them the opportunity to hose off their horses. – as you recall it was quite hot and humid. We all pitched in and Gretchen gave their lovely well-cared for horses a liniment sponge bath. They had liniment for them but had never seen it done that way. They thought it a great idea and for some reason that tickled me.During these chores and chit chat, I discovered that these four young boys – younger than I first assumed – had decided to take their vacation by driving via Haflinger-drawn wagon from Lancaster County to upstate New York – a trip that would take about two weeks.At around this time, Omar asked me if they could have some of their friends come over and join them. I had one kid dressed in Amish attire, three “regular” young men, and now they wanted to bring a bunch of others along to party. In my mind, it occurred to me the family was right in their suspicion. I half-reluctantly agreed and cautioned against a major festival. Omar smiled and said he thought it would be quiet.Thirty minutes later a van pulled up and unloaded fifteen or so people of varying ages, from child to elder – all clad in traditional Amish attire – with all the fixings for a grand picnic. Not wanting to disturb us as per my caution, the men dragged the wagon up behind the riding ring and set up their temporary camp. What struck me, besides my modern-times suspicion, was their gentle peace and the simple joy they had in a plain ole’ picnic and enjoying each other’s company.When I did night check on the horses, the sweet giggles, pleasant conversation, and the sounds of cicadas and evening birds was just too attractive. In the twilight I cautiously strolled up to their encampment and told them they could build a fire if they wanted from the wood in the shed. (Bill-the-cabdriver-to-the-Amish, as he calls himself, had advised me that he expected to be waiting for his fare for several hours). Omar met me with questions about – get this – mapquest! He was joined by the elder and a half-dozen young boys, ostensibly to help in hauling wood. As I asked how he knew about mapquest, I realized that I had become the object of curiosity. Unlike the Amish, I was quite aware of being scrutinized and found myself hedging my words and walk. While I close all my emails wishing the recipient the peace that I thought I was enjoying, I realized that night that I had so much to learn about real peace. The four young men were Amish despite the attire and guitar, roller blades, and cell phone. They were happy young men without blasting rebellious music and optimistic despite the long road ahead. Meeting them that night – and plotting a country road route via mapquest with a fascinated Omar in my living room yesterday morning – was the sweetest pleasure of this summer.Peace…as redefined,Lynn*Images: Lynn Erickson, 2007

Leave a comment

Filed under ARTology Now

ARTology Area Arts Bulletin August 2, 2007

As a new feature of this blog, I’ll be listing and occasionally reviewing selected offerings of area arts venues. As faithful ARTology readers know, art and culture reviews have always been a part of what we do here. The new Area Arts Bulletin feature will be more comprehensive and formalized. Of course it will also be an evolving venture – just like everything else in this world.So to get things started, here are just a few hyperlinks to introduce you to some of the cultural venues that will be highlighted in upcoming ARTology Area Arts Bulletins.*The Berks Arts Council website offers a most comprehensive listing of the Reading/Berks art and culture scene. Here’s a link to the Art’s Council’s Arts Directory. *Reading’s Downtown Improvement District promotes and presents excellent cultural events. Check out the weekly offerings of the MidDay Café right in the heart of downtown.The DID is currently running a Beautiful Buildings of Downtown Reading competition, in which we can all participate. Here’s a link to the nomination form.*Reading’s Goggleworks is chock full of opportunities to enrich your cultural life. Why not stop in and take advantage a few of them? Goggleworks is a very cool place and we are fortunate to have it here in our fair city.* I suggest you visit often the website of one of our most venerable and noteworthy cultural institutions, The Reading Public Museum. Currently, among its offerings, the museum is hosting the Berks Art Alliance Regional Juried Exhibition for 2007.*Ron Schira’s YouTube video site, offers views of contemporary regional artists, including Ron himself. Tune in to this web 2.0 extravaganza for art and culture news, interviews, and more.*Who knows? ARTology’s Area Arts Bulletins could give you the inspiration to change your life for the better by presenting information that can broaden your perspective and immeasurably add to your experience!

Leave a comment

Filed under ARTology Now