I’m the King of Jubilee Jumbles

artist Nayland Blake natters on about art and other things

Posts Tagged ‘reading

I have a new safeword…

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The eepc is now running eeebuntu. After messing around with it on a stickdrive for a while, I decided to bite the bullet and ditch the operating system Asus shipped it with. But this is being written on the desktop. I’m seated in my office chair and Lehigh is perched on the bed, pawing at my shoulder to catch my attention.

Yesterday’s talks left me with a lot to think about.

First, the problems I have becoming a manager: Because of my training as an artist, I am used to solving problems on my own with my hands. When making work, I have If I need to get something done, I like to speak to the other people involved face to face. I tend to drop in on other people at their desks and ask for their help then and there. I’m uncomfortable with the phone and to a lesser extent with email. So I assume responsibility for every aspect of a project, but not in the sense that I can get my team to do everything I ask of them: I mean it in terms that I believe internally that I’ll do everything. This ends up limiting what I can think of in terms of projects.

Just finished reading The Other Side of Desire by Daniel Bergner. It reads just like what it is: a group of four articles that could have appeared in The New Yorker, or the New York Times Magazine. Each focuses on one personality with a different sexual kink: a foot fetishist, a sadist, a pedophile and a person with a fetish for amputees. Each person then becomes the scaffolding for Bergner’s examination of various schools of thought regarding the structure of sexual desire and the treatment of deviance. It’s all very earnest investigative journalism except where Bergner turns to rhapsody to try to capture the intensity of his subjects’ emotional lives, a ploy that makes for bumpy reading. The quartet of people are both exemplary of some idea in treatment or theory about the brain, and yet supposed to be individuals. As a narrator, Bergner tries to finesse the line that separates “nonjudgmental” from “implicated”. I was highly conscious of his emotional discomforts but left without any sense of his own introspection. The blurb from the Times says that he has a “novelist’s eye”. He certainly doesn’t have a novelist’s brain, since the the four pieces have very little to do with one another from any sort of structural view. Before the mysteries of desire, he displays convention and all of its waffling. From another book I’m reading, Pema Chodron’s Comfortable With Uncertainty: “Instead of transcending the suffering of all creatures, we move towards turbulence and doubt however we can”. To make that move and find pleasure in that turbulence is the value of sex.

From that I guess you can tell that I didn’t much care for the book.

Notes, notes, notes: I’m continually making them, but rarely taking the time to revisit them and turn them into something more substantial. Through out my current life I’m spread among many details. Someone asked me last week what I was working on, and in the larger sense I didn’t have a real answer for it. It’s time to get back to building.

Lehigh’s been walked, the rain is pouring down, and I’ve moved back to the laptop to finish this entry. Less got done today than I hoped, but that’s alright.

Written by naylandblake

April 20, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Crankcase and Creation…

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On the way to work today, the thought struck me that it’s hard to talk about not making art without it sounding like an alarm. I (and I think most of us) are used to thinking about the process of working as one of dramatic highs and lows, where every stumble is something to be dreaded and avoided.

I haven’t made much formal work lately. Yet I do not feel “blocked” per se. The camera is still always with me, pictures get taken, posts get made here, and the occasional drawing happens. Still, none of this seems to be adding up to much. Is it the notion of “adding up” itself that causes the problem? Or is it the temptation to make all of these posts little moments of problem posed, problem solved?

In all of my written journals, my default voice is one of complaint. And complaint is always safer than expressions of pleasure, because what do you say to Pollyanna? Friends are having a hard time, and I don’t want to go around plopping rainbows on them. I’m reading Reborn a selection of Susan Sontag’s notebooks, and at 16 years old she is intellectually intimidating and insufferable in the absolute nature of her ecstasies. I certainly don’t want these notes to end up in that pile.

So: I’m not working, much. It’s not a big deal, but there it is.

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April 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Goulash or where are my damned tomatoes?

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In no particular order:

The first truly satisfying episode of Top Chef this season aired last night. Pouty, self-styled intellectual gets sent home, goofball gets the win, Eurotrash gets slapped around, and some of the food made me hungry.

Today’s lunch: Pesto Chicken salad wrap from deli on 43rd, supposed to have tomato, cucumber and avocado. But once I check it back at the office, I find universal green. Where are my tomatoes? Wrap is passable without them, but still. Banana provides some solace, eaten with multivitamin.

Said banana was bought at Grace Building news agent’s (nervous greedy checking tells me that the Mega Jackpot for tomorrow is 40 million, too low for me to play) along with the latest New York Review of Books. Julian Bell writes on Watteau

Thus I am reminded of the death of John Updike; It says something about my LJ friends list that the passing of Eartha Kitt garnered far more notice; I certainly felt a deeper regret when I heard she died. Updike remains for me one of those indigestible lumps of American culture that always seems to be standing in the way of some other, more interesting activity. I think his art criticism to be sensible and well made, but reading his novels was an experience that I found similar to having to watch sports on TV with my dad. There was clear evidence that the activity mattered to many people, but I could never work up the enthusiasm for it.

Here is a fascinating post on the authority of cultural institutions in the current web climate.

And that white stuff that fell from the sky over Brooklyn a couple of days ago? This picture is what it looks like this morning.

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January 29, 2009 at 3:21 pm

This time they were open…

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The staff being sufficiently developed, I was able to go to the library and activate my card. The DVD collection looks pretty good, The place was packed, but still seemed to be working quite efficiently, despite the numbers. I had to exercise some restraint, keeping out of the stack for the most part because I could easily how quickly I could have picked up a huge, unrealistic pile of books. As it was, I just took a couple and toddled off to a newish vegan place in the slope.

It’s been a rough week. I’m still not feeling 100 percent health-wise, and I’ve only been able to take the smallest of steps on my commitments. As always too much to do.

As always too much to do.

I hate it when my body makes me a dullard. My thoughts tramp along without striking the slightest spark. I can’t bring my mind to focus.

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January 24, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Yeah but…

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..what about if you can’t get to the door to open it?

I’d let my Brooklyn library card lapse years ago, but recurring trips past the revived main branch kept reminding me that I should really get my ass in gear and sign up again. Public libraries are one of the best uses of my tax dollars, ’cause reading is, like, fundamental and junk.

Nowadays you can apply for your card online (I remember the rite of passage walk with my parents up to the local branch in Manhattan to solemnly fill out the card application in all too permanent ink). ANd then you go to the branch to “activate it”. This morning, having a bit of extra time before work, I jumped on the B41 bus and marched up to the doors surmounted by two gilded owls, only to find out that today is “staff development day for all the branches in the system” meaning once again, no admittance.

Curse you lallygagging librarians and your “development”! How will I cruise the stacks now?

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January 12, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Sins of the overslept…

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Some long dream this morning. My sculpture teacher Jake Grossberg once said, apropos of Jonathan Borofsky’s work: “Everyone’s dreams are equally interesting, which means they’re equally boring.” I’m tempted to write out my dreams here when I remember them, and a friend from college publishes a dream gazette, which is a great project, but when it comes down to reading other people’s dreams here on LJ it’s rare that I make it all the way through. The thing that unnerves and thrills us about dreams is their tone more than their events, and tone is precisely the thing that remain so elusive in writing.

Today also marks the beginning of a new experiment: poetry on the iPhone. In the same way that I have a hard time reading people’s dreams, I also have a hard time reading poetry. It makes me squirm to say this, since not only am I friend to several poets, but I fancy myself a cultured guy. There are any number of times that I go through a phase of buying poetry books, reading a few and then dropping them back on the shelf for a couple of years. I do love hearing poets read however, and on Sunday I had a conversation with Dominick about his recent discovery of audio books (something else I’ve been resistant to for years). Yesterday it occurred to me that there may well be quite a few sources for read poetry online. As of now, I’m just going with some podcasts I’ve found on iTunes, but I’m interested in expanding out from that – so if you know of an interesting source, feel free to suggest. This morning I listened to Elliot’s “Prufrock” some John Donne, and Christina Rosetti’s “Echo” which begins: “Come to me in the silence of the night; Come in the speaking silence of a dream;”. A poem about seeing one’s dead lover in a dream. Something I’ve had happen quite a few times. One interesting thing about poetry on the phone on the subway: it means that I can’t listen to something and read something like I often do. A good thing all in all.

What with the dreaming and the poetry, I rushed out of the house today neglecting to reinsert one of my sd cards into my camera, meaning that the pictures from last night’s office party remain unprocessed, and I need to pick up another card if I want to take pictures today. Better go do that.

Written by naylandblake

January 7, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Sins of the overslept…

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Some long dream this morning. My sculpture teacher Jake Grossberg once said, apropos of Jonathan Borofsky’s work: “Everyone’s dreams are equally interesting, which means they’re equally boring.” I’m tempted to write out my dreams here when I remember them, and a friend from college publishes a dream gazette, which is a great project, but when it comes down to reading other people’s dreams here on LJ it’s rare that I make it all the way through. The thing that unnerves and thrills us about dreams is their tone more than their events, and tone is precisely the thing that remain so elusive in writing.

Today also marks the beginning of a new experiment: poetry on the iPhone. In the same way that I have a hard time reading people’s dreams, I also have a hard time reading poetry. It makes me squirm to say this, since not only am I friend to several poets, but I fancy myself a cultured guy. There are any number of times that I go through a phase of buying poetry books, reading a few and then dropping them back on the shelf for a couple of years. I do love hearing poets read however, and on Sunday I had a conversation with Dominick about his recent discovery of audio books (something else I’ve been resistant to for years). Yesterday it occurred to me that there may well be quite a few sources for read poetry online. As of now, I’m just going with some podcasts I’ve found on iTunes, but I’m interested in expanding out from that – so if you know of an interesting source, feel free to suggest. This morning I listened to Elliot’s “Prufrock” some John Donne, and Christina Rosetti’s “Echo” which begins: “Come to me in the silence of the night; Come in the speaking silence of a dream;”. A poem about seeing one’s dead lover in a dream. Something I’ve had happen quite a few times. One interesting thing about poetry on the phone on the subway: it means that I can’t listen to something and read something like I often do. A good thing all in all.

What with the dreaming and the poetry, I rushed out of the house today neglecting to reinsert one of my sd cards into my camera, meaning that the pictures from last night’s office party remain unprocessed, and I need to pick up another card if I want to take pictures today. Better go do that.

Written by naylandblake

January 7, 2009 at 11:25 am

In which we pause to reflect…

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Those who know me either through this journal or elsewhere, know that I am tidy only episodically. Usually I would spend some time bemoaning this. I won’t. But I have been going through a slovenly patch. Today, I’m making an effort to shift that.

Recycling goes out on Thursday night for Friday collection. Last night I managed to take out two boxes of corrugated board which had the effect of clearing a space in front of my kitchen window. I’d been living with it blocked for so long (months let’s say) That I was taken aback to see the light spilling in. There are quite a few other piles like that around my house.

I’ve been reading Alan Bennett’s Writing Home, which in it’s way is cheering for the project of this journal. A reminder: it’s enough to record impressions; do that enough and you end up expression opinions. Bennett’s diaries contain many notes about life under Thatcher, and in reading them I get an interesting angle on what life is like under Bush: a daily flow of sanctimonious thuggery. Bush certainly hasn’t led with Thatcher’s iron noblesse (we’re more easily awed by the folksy style here anyway), but he has presided over the most aggressive attempt to undermine the constitution in the past century. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t griped about it enough. I hope I’m more on the watch for the coming administration.

A friend asked me at lunch the other day how I was, and in response I launched into a long description of a dream I had just had. It was a funny response, but one that was attempting to express the way in which I feel at a turning point. I don’t quite understand the dream but the clarity of the remembrance seemed important to me somehow. This has been a very big year for me, full of good news on the career front, as well greater personal prosperity than I have enjoyed in many years. Normally I would find a way to fritter that all away, but I feel that somehow now I have the tools to tackle the future differently.

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December 26, 2008 at 2:29 pm

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Eye opener.

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Current Book: Louis Menand – American Studies

Last night I read “The Long Shadow of James B. Conant” an essay from the above mentioned book. I case you don’t know who Conant was (I didn’t), He served as Harvard university’s president from 1933 to ’59 and was intimately involved with the creation of two items that certainly had a great deal to do with shaping my consciousness: the atom bomb and the SAT. As fascinating as that info is what really caught my eye in the essay was Menand’s capsule history of US university ideology in the twentieth century. It’s notable for its weaving together of demographic and political explanations for the rise and fall of notions like meritocracy. All of this may seem pretty opaque but it touches on a private theory of mine regarding the rise of MFA programs and departments of arts practice within liberal arts institutions during the Seventies.

At mid century College education was being touted as a “unifying force” in american society; a way codify and pass on democratic values in a society without a central religion, and with atomizing family and class structures. This was the prevailing view for the postwar generation and colleges based their curriculum around inculcating the values that were felt to be necessary for future captains of industry and government. All of this made sense while the economy was expanding but by the early seventies the US was faced for the first time since the turn of the century with a generation of people who could not expect to have a higher standard of living than their parents had. How to stop them from tearing down the society in their frustration? Train them to be artists. Why? Because in the arts, people luxuriate in a split consciousness not found any where else in society.

By being involved in the arts in American today one is able to assert something for perhaps the the first time in western history: that what one does for a living is distinct from what one is. In other words, I’m working as a waiter, but I’m an Actor. The nature of this assertion made it possible for large numbers of people to make peace with their downward mobility because they had been offered something in exchange: a notion of self as separate and untouched by occupation. And so there rose an “artist lifestyle” that valorized living in discarded commercial spaces, wearing thrift shop clothes, working in food service jobs, etc, etc. Things that twenty years earlier would have been regarded as the mark of a hobo, not of a boho.

Today most colleges have some sort of arts major and can we say that we are better off? Do we have better art, music, theater? a better society? I’m the product of such a system and I can’t say that I don’t feel subtly duped in some way, like I’ve been handed a box of milk duds and pushed to the sidelines.

Take a look at the Menand’s essay, which offers other delights, such as a prose style I can only sigh after. It actually doesn’t assert any of the things that I have just put out here, but it does provide a very different way of thinking about the supposed “culture wars on American campuses”

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December 18, 2003 at 10:02 am

Mid aft slump

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Past the burnout of the past couple of days. Overslept this morning, but that left me in a much better mood than previously. Obviously I needed it. There are still many things to take care of on the rapidly-approaching horizon, but at least my conciousness doesn’t seem as sporadic as yesterday. One thing I forgot to mention about the trip to the Tang was the presence of one quite beautiful man who was a friend of one of the Tang education coordinators and who stuck around after the whole thing. We were introduced and I made some fumbling joke. He was around my height and seemed to be a pacific islander, with long salt and pepper hair and a pointed goatee. He teaches at the university in Schenectady. I’m remembering an open smile and the dry warmth of his handshake, but off course his name flew out of my head the moment it was told me. My particular curse – I can remember the jingles from every commecial I heard at age 4 but never anyone’s name.
All of this is to say I was a bit smitten. Rare indeed.
This is another of those “I’m at work and I don’t wanna be” LJ posts. There’s lots of other things I need to finish, pieces that need making, rooms that need cleaning, people that need contacting. But the fact is I almost get more of that stuff done here. And now once again I’m frightened by the messages on my phone, so much so that I won’t pick them up. An absurtity, which has gotten me into bad situations with those around me and hurt people I haven’t wanted to hurt. Time after time I’ve tried to talk through these scenarios with my therapist, yet I lapse into the same behavior. Last week for the first time he suggested medication, which left me both shocked (usually not his route at all) and a little thrilled (is my dowdy, garden variety neurosis blooming into a glamourous anxiety disorder?).
I am reading W.G.Seybold’s book “The Rings of Saturn”. It is stunning: the overall structure is a solitary walking tour through the east of England, but each chapter mimicks the sensation of walking; spare insiscive descriptions of the landscape give way to chains of association that become historical and autobigraphical essays. The erudition is never forced, and exists in conjuction with sensitive observations of people and places. This is the kind of book I wish I could write, and indeed it’s given me some ideas for my endlessly projected, endlessly delayed Jack Smith/Ray Johnson/Cockettes/et al book. When I type those words I feel that everything I’m doing right now is wrong, and that there’s a much more important task calling me

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October 2, 2003 at 3:20 pm