Weekend Squish: A Squishing Comes Across the Sky.

Days without Job: 122

Days Without New Pynchon Novel: -3

In this newly job-less ‘slacker’s’ version of heaven, the required beach read is Thomas Pynchon. So the news, late last year, of an new TP novel, Inherent Vice, out August 4, is welcomed. The unusually quick turn-around, three years – with 10 not unusual for Pynchon, 13 the longest- makes me all squishy inside.The fact that it’s a Noir detective story, unusually light at 369 pp. compared to his last monster (Against The Day, 1000+), is intriguing.

The first reviews have been trickling out.Now they have reached flood stage. They tend to fall into three distinct categories: outraged screed; jaded, knowing intro for newbies; and thematic speculations.

The first, a hallmark of his Gravity’s Rainbow era, is now rare, though you can usually count on some curmudgeon at Slate or wherever to trot one out at some point. That 1974 blank spot in the list of Pulitzer Prizes for Literature is the legacy of this mindset. The second is now standard, and this one typifies the genre: bemused listing of Pynchon tropes; disclaimer about the rather nonchalant plots; toss in a snarky comment about the character names; and you’re done. Mail it in.

The third, my favorite, links the subject novel with his others in terms of Pynchon’s ongoing thematic obsessions, but without the jargon that tends to choke the academic journals clustered around our era’s pre-eminent Post-Modernist writer. These are the most useful to those trying to enjoy or understand the cult surrounding him, and Sarah Churchwell, in the Observer, provides a nice overview:

The book’s title provides Pynchon with a new metaphor for three of his oldest preoccupations: entropy, capitalism and religion, specifically Puritanism. For insurers and preservationists, “inherent vice” describes the innate tendency of precious objects to deteriorate and refers to the limits of insurability and conservation; it suggests that matter (and thus, by extension, materialism) carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.”

But since this is a Noir novel (of sorts), another kind of review has joined the fray, basically asking the question “Is it Noir?” And since the gumshoe genre is one of my favorites, I had to read “Death Becomes Them”, an exploration of literary giants trying out Noir in Newsweek, by Malcolm Jones:

“No one will ever accuse Pynchon of wearing his feelings on his sleeve, but in Inherent Vice there’s no mistaking his affection for his private detective, Larry (Doc) Sportello. Using Chandler territory as inspiration, Pynchon launches a tale as complicated as anything he’s ever written, a tale that involves rotten cops, a missing girlfriend, a murdered developer, and a sinister menace called the Golden Fang, which is a mysterious schooner used for smuggling, but also the name of a shadowy holding company and maybe even a Southeast Asian heroin cartel. There are times when the false starts, red herrings, dead ends, and duplicities get so tangled that all a reader can think of is the story about Faulkner and Leigh Brackett, who, in the midst of writing the screenplay for The Big Sleep, had to call up Chandler to ask who killed the chauffeur—and he couldn’t remember either.”

Jones’ conclusion:

Does it add up? Maybe. Do you get lost? Lured down a long linguistic dark alley is more like it. It’s always weird but always fun.

I’ll be at the Tattered Cover early Tuesday for my copy, and I’ll post my preliminary thoughts in a Weekend Squish soon, and more when I’ve finished it. The single quotes around “slacker” in the first graf above are a warning that I’m actually quite busy in the next three months, and don’t know when this will be.

Open Letter to a Blue Dog

But you never see the lies
you believe

-Elvis Costello, New Lace Sleeves


Health care reform, without a “re-forming” of the corporate-dominated and profit-motivated system we have now, is not reform at all. It awards maximum profit for minimal efficiency. Americans largely took that fact into account when they sent a Democrat to the White House and gave them a Congressional majority. Its success or failure will define this congress. Yet the people who should be most conscious of this truth are the ones embracing the old lies and myths.

Unfortunately, Republican fear mongers have succeeded in hijacking this debate with their rhetorical warhorses: attack-ad phrases such as “Socialism” and “Health rationing”. This cynical jargon does not serve honest debate at all. It is intended to distract from the real successes of government-run systems in Europe and in Canada, and to intimidate newly elected Democrats, the so-called Blue Dog Dems. Conservatives will try to play the socialism card one more time, and when these new representatives buy into fear, they are abdicating from leadership they were sent to provide. They are adopting as the major defining characteristic of their first terms the fear of not winning a second.

It is sad that these representatives find it easier to ignore the American mainstream -many of whom are unable, or barely able to, afford health care in a system that values corporate profits over medical efficiency- than to ignore the lobbyists swarming their offices, and the demagogues who would deny 45 million Americans better health care that is less costly and more efficient.

The Republican obstructionistas want us to visualize jack-booted Star Wars Troopers click-clacking down the hospital corridors. It is left to the true leaders in Washington to visualize 40 million uninsured, and 14,000 losing their insurance everyday. There can be no doubt anymore that the private insurance industry lacks the skill or the will to efficiently provide for all Americans. Only the Democrats can provide leadership. Tax credits for people who can’t afford to buy health care anyway is not health care reform. The conservatives opposed Medicare 4 decades ago with the same tired negativity that they are using here. Now, Medicare is a documented model for well managed public health efficiency. leadership is needed now, not reflex conservative negativity. Don’t let them Swift Boat health care reform.

A mechanism must in place to protect the battered main street Americans who do not have cash laying around to afford health care, no matter how many tax credits are offered. Tax credits mean nothing to a large amount of citizens who can’t afford the original premiums anyway.

That mechanism is called government, and placing the needs of all citizens in the forefront of health care reform, rather than a distant second behind profit, is called governing.

I urge all Democrats to advocate for a real reform that provides a strong public option for those the health care industry has ignored. Anything less is a failure, and will be remembered at the polls.

You’ll Feel Better

“New day rising, new day rising,
new day rising, new day rising

new day rising,new day rising

new day rising, new day rising

new day rising, new day rising”

“New Day Rising”, Husker Du

Health care reform is begun in both the House and Senate. Those who are part of the alternative economy, and many who are in the mainstream economy, need to pay close attention now, as bi-partisanship is nowhere in evidence. In the Senate, the legislation was approved by the HELP committee, but without a GOP vote, even though many Republican amendments were included. It now goes to Finance.

In the House, funding issues are causing even Dems to jump ship. Obama has now endorsed Hilary’s plan of required health care, but incentives for cleaning up health care mega-corp inefficiency have not as yet been addressed. Nor is the issue of a public plan safety net, a major Squishtoid talking point, settled. There is hope: some moderate Republicans, such as Olympia Snow, are willing to work on this issue, though she has asked Obama for more time to settle differences.

While Squishtoid is no political junkie, I’ve written enough letters and e-mails over the years to know that contacting your elected representatives with concise issue statements makes one feel good.

And since feeling good is what health care is all about, what better time to do it than now ?

Days without day job: 110
Squish-o-meter: Army of One

I Sing the Body Eclectic

“..I speak the pass-word primeval…”

Well, not exactly. Still can’t comment in my own blog, apparently a Blogger issue, but can’t discount Baby Blogger Bumbling yet. I apologize-working on it.

To continue last week’s speculation, during my down-time I picked up “Walt Whitman’s America, A Cultural Biography”, by David S. Reynolds. Whitman aligned himself, in “Song of Myself ” as well as other places, with loaferism, an actual subculture in opposition to the prevailing Puritan/Industrial mindset of 1840’s America. Of course, he also got fired from more than one newspaper job for “laziness”. So I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder, but just as today’s global MegaCorps seek to manage our time for us, so the Romantic/Beat/Hippie/Slacker /Punk ethos has always provided an alternative viewpoint. Ann Powers, in “Weird Like Us, My Bohemian America”, has a more modern take on it. A music critic at the New York Times and Village Voice, she explores, among other things, the alternative economy.

A longtime friend, at Zippidy Doo Da, a very interesting blog from a Large Red State, also suggests “World Made by Hand,” by James Kunstler, and Kevin Phillips’ “Bad Money”. Are there other ” Slacker Manuals” out there? Baby Blogger promises a review or two, after finishing a couple of these. But he’d better get back to his own “alternative economy”.

The decision to leave my day job came in a rush. I hadn’t planned to leave till 2010, but was presented with a use-it-or-lose-it situation as regards the pension. The corporation that employed me, like most in the notoriously venal grocery industry, simply saw inflated corporate bonuses and record profits as being of more value than rewarding employee loyalty.

In my haste to start working for a CEO who exhibits a bit more respect for all my hard work (namely, me), I didn’t really have time to do one thing that the world’s prototype Squishtoid really should do [hangs head in shame] :

Publish a manifesto. And I promise I will do that, one of these eras. Suffice it to say that while my pursuit is one of freedom from insipid corporate stupidification and a quest for real craft, it’s also a pursuit of the meaning and value of time, especially time creatively spent with other people, whether at work, play, or simply in good conversation.

There’s quite a bit needs to be done in the US that won’t get done until Americans cop to the fact that we have conceded too much of our precious time to banal corporate interests who give little but coupon discounts in return. Health care is one issue that sticks out in this regard. We treat it as some kind of separate issue in a list of issues without seeing it as integral to our basic quality of life. Like respect, dignity and the simple freedom to spend time with our loved ones, health is something that corporate America spends billions of dollars creating the illusion that they provide. At the same time, billions of other dollars are spent in making sure that these things are placed well behind profits in public policy making. Making us the laughingstock of cultures that we often, and superficially, treat as laughingstocks. Like France.

And in health care, if nowhere else, he who laughs last…

I intend to move forward, and create a positive place for myself in my new (working) life. And I acknowledge that I AM one of the few who did, indeed, escape (barely) with a pension. But I couldn’t help but notice that others are starting to look at these issues. For now, I’m going to let this gentleman wrestle with the big questions. Out of the Office, a look at workplace wars in the New Yorker.

PS Thanks to you guys who have left comments. I’m having a hard time getting the site to recognize my profile to return comment, though I comment in other blogs all the time. In researching the issue, I see that this is a common problem around here. Hopefully, soon…

Eyes on the road, hands upon the wheel


Now comes the tricky part. Producing and preparing for a show in August. Should be a quiet summer, as the last one didn’t produce much cash. So plenty of time to make and frame prints, and hope that Salida is a bit more art-oriented than Casper during these recession times.

I will also be preparing for a September show in Albuquerque as I got accepted for that this week. Then a small show in the Open Press Gallery for October, along with the start of my Art Students League Workshop. So keeping busy won’t really be a problem, it’s feng-shui-ing my noodle to eliminate distracting money worries.

I am definitely accepting hints and advice from all you teacher-types out there as I gear up to teach an 8-week workshop! What’s the most important thing to remember?

The Weekend Squishtoid

I’d like to think of me returnin when I can
to the greatest little boozer and to Sally MacLennane

-Pogues

I found out, to my dismay, that in the frantic preparations for Casper, I’d missed the announcement of Pogues tickets going on sale in Denver Friday. They don’t like touring much, and usually California or Chicago is as close as they get to Denver. So it qualifies as a rare, and possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them at the Ogden Theatre.

Fortunately, there were still tickets left when I got back ( after all, this IS the city that didn’t sell out for the Beatles)! So now, all I have to do is pray for Shane MacGowan’s liver to hold out till October.

It’s been a momentous summer for my (admittedly, off-the-beaten-track) cultural icons. The US National Team reached its first FIFA Final, A new Pynchon novel, and now the Beatles of Irish-American punk-folk. There will be a review of the show here after it happens.

Days without getting a job: 93

Squishometer: Was feeling A BIT SQUISHED after the Nic show; now, having scored Pogues tix, WARM N SQUISHY.

“Sad to say
I must be on m’ way
So buy me beer and whiskey, boys
I’m goin far away”

Casper, Wyoming isn’t much more than four hours from Denver, but it feels like a distant land.

The Nicolaysen Museum show was a success in every way except sales. I loaded up and zoomed up past Cheyenne and into the open range. This is great driving, with few other cars and a road that pays dividends for the attentive; I’ve seen plenty of wildlife and the nuances of the high plains landscapes make for sublime vistas. Nonetheless, I had to keep a good pace, and the weather was a worry. I went through a T-storm about Douglas and wondered how that would affect setting up for the show. But it cleared up about the time of the show, and the crowd was good, with one sale.

That seemed like a good omen. Saturday, quite a few people took an interest, but no sales. However, enthusiasm was high. The people that bought SNOW FENCES 287 on Friday, Dan and Mandy, sent three other people in! But the hours were brutal. I put in 16 hrs on hot asphalt.

Sunday: one sale, an architect named James who bought RAVINE AT DUSK. Then it was time to pack up and get the rental back down the dark highway. Got in at 1 am, and just in time, too! My eyes were beginning to cross, and I nearly drifted into the other lane a couple of times.

But it was a good experience. Casper is a nice little city with a lot of people who seem desperate for a little culture. I met classical musicians, architects, and photographers, many of whom seemed to know each other, and to be sending each other to my booth. But for whatever reasons, they seemed unable to commit to buying work.

The Nicolaysen seems to be trying to lift the city singlehandedly. Nic Fest is their Capitol Hill People’s Fair, and shows potential. The museum is a spectacular resource for such a small city, and the staff shows a lot of leadership and vision in presenting the town as a cultural tourist stop. As the Executive Director, Holly, told me, ” We make our own fun here.” Meaning, they can’t easily escape to larger cities in bigger states, as the border cities such as Laramie can.

And their vision doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. While Casper doesn’t seem quite ready to pay for (my) contemporary art, and the show was choked with cowboy tchotchkes, they do seem to support the idea. And I counted four(!) restored movie theatres within a few blocks downtown. Whatever I expected from this experience, a 10 PM traffic jam downtown as the Festival let out, and the movie-goers streamed in, was not it! Well done to a vibrant little city!

Things are a little slower this week, and I will try to post a bit more. July looks set for a more relaxed pace, and after a very frantic June, that sounds good to me! Note to self- two shows in one month- pretty tough! Time to start acting like a retired person, at least for a couple of weeks. My most pressing upcoming deadline is Aug 4- the day Thomas Pynchon’s new novel, Inherent Vice comes out.

Oh- and there was very nearly one disaster as a result of this show, but I’ll save that for my next (and first Weekend Squishtoid) post. There is a clue in this post, however.


“Gonna be a twister come
blow everything down
that ain’t got the faith
to stand its ground”

– Springsteen

Here’s what I SHOULD have made the epigraph for the last post, but I’m just a baby blogger yet! Off to Casper, WY, this weekend for a fair/show at the Nicolaysen Museum

This could be an entirely different type of crowd than Capitol Hill and to top it all off, The USA is playing Brazil while I may be standing around getting blank stares from people looking for nature photography. I’m probably being way too simplistic, my experience of WYO is always that it can’t be stereotyped, but the irony is there- the “retired” guy can’t drink beer and watch football ’cause he has to work! I’ll post a bit more in depth when I get back.