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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sad But True

An email is going around that includes a collection of what we are told are authentic vintage advertisements that are terrifyingly wrong. Everyone thinks they are funny, these old ads. I doubt this one is real. It's probably something a bored in-house designer put together late one afternoon when his or her boss was making a presentation and it was too early to go home.

Still, it makes me think of advertising we see today and wonder which ads are selling us things that will eventually kill us, maim us or make a lawyer and a plaintiff wealthy. It's happened before. Cigarette girls once handed our free packs of cigs at the art openings in the museum here!! I wonder if they were allowed to smoke them in the museum? Phillip Morris is a big art US art patron so you never know...

I taught advertising at the university level for many years and have tried to focus on selling things I could market without compromising my values... (ok, well, I did sell some mighty bad art back in the day when I worked on commission in the French Quarter) but OTHERWISE it isn't something I lose sleep over at night. Money just isn't enough for me and I have persisted in the luxury of living life as I see fit. Its a costly endeavor, not making money. I've learned that people with money are never expected to pay! Has it always been this way or just something made fashionable since the Republicans are running things?

Will cell phones be proven to be the cause of brain cancer? Depression, high blood pressure and heart attacks are on the rise since Bush was elected.We already know that plastic containers are contaminating the food chain and our fatty tissues due to so much bottled water and the misuse of microwaves. I read somewhere that microwaves are banned in Germany because they are considered to be unsafe. Does anyone know if this is correct? If so, well, another black mark on the risk side of the score card. As the husband of a favorite colleague said recently; on finding out a friend of ours has cancer: "we're all just sitting ducks."

Live each day as if it's your last since that's all we really have to go on. The rest is just a story or an ad trying to manipulate our motives and trick us from living our lives. Our housekeeper Ella Mae revealed this secret to me back in 68 or so but I didn't believe her. She was way ahead of the game, but that's another post for another day. If I seem glum I am not. I have a greater respect for cancer than the medical and advertising professions. It's a dilemma.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Present Tense


Friday, July 27, 2007

holding patterns

Silence and strange weather patterns can create unexpected connections. Earlier this week I was on the prowl with Mr. dd. He's writing a piece about a cemetery that contains a mass grave (trench) of confederate soldiers who were of both African and European descent. The cemetery is nearly forgotten with plaques for memorial plantings that are long dead and flag poles for flags that aren't flying.

For every stob one sees in the landscape there are three soldiers buried underneath. A few have markers and each one is numbered. If one wants to find their ancestors here it is theoretically possible.

For some odd reason as I wandered around in the unusually soft light of a July afternoon I was reminded of an afternoon I spent at St. Cloud last year. Located on the outskirts of Paris, this grande jardin is also nearly forgotten and difficult to find. The locals use its formerly opulent paths to walk their dogs, jog and the occassional picnic. The estate the gardens were built around is long gone. The boxwoods are as old as the French Republic and the statuary has witnessed it all. I wandered around the grounds in the overcast light and recorded its faded glory with my digital sketchbook.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Travel Tip

My friend who told me the story below has a thing for Dr. Pepper. It's practically all she drinks. I won't get into the health ramifications of consuming too many soft drinks in this post but I will warn all of you who have such product addictions to research their availability before you pay great sums of money for a vacation.

She and her partner recently went on a deluxe cruise to the Bahamas. She had no Dr. Pepper for three days! The deluxe liner offered everything else - but no Dr. She was forced to drink tea for the duration of the cruise. Wine would have been my second choice but, hey, we all have our vices.

They arrived in the Bahamas where she spent the entire vacation in constant search of Dr. Pepper. Nada. She was miserable. She tried to enjoy her vacation but she had paid great sums of money and was forced to endure product withdrawal.

It's always good to know what to expect. I guess she could have rationed out a few liters of DP over the length of her vacation if she had known in advance and was able to bring some with her. I do that with Spiracha Hot Sauce.

When I will be overseas for several months I take several bottles with me. The sell a Spiracha sauce in Paris but its not the same. Its sweet. Yuck.

A little research goes a long way when one NEEDS a few of the essential comforts of home to enjoy one's time away.

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A dark and stormy the middle of the 80's

Last night a girlfriend I met my freshman year of Uni stopped in for a visit. She is traveling with her godson and they were wearing the same uniform - t-shirts and jeans - or khakis.

She's a genuine character: an army brat who has lived by her own rules since the day she left home for college. Truly. Last night she told a story I'd heard long ago and now I'll relish its retelling since I fear I'll lose it again if I don't tell it now.

GF happened to be hanging out in my hometown with two young men I'd known since grade school. They were walking on the levee smoking homegrown, no doubt. I was away at grad school and missed these middle 80's years in the south.

At the end of the evening she planned to drive back to campus, an hour or so away. The weather had turned since she's left home that morning. Folks from the Delta generally take the weather in stride. Farmer's anticipate the worst and compensate for it. Delta rats are accustomed to the black, blue or green skies of tornados when the rain can be like sheets of broken glass. Add hail to the mix and it is be a recipe for danger and fear. Funnel clouds are like large spinning dice. They are most terrifying because one never knows what they will hit and or do. They can pick up cars or houses or rearrange them in an elemental, implosive way.

Most Delta natives tend to take tornados in stride because of the low elevation and a strong levee system. It was constructed in the early 20th C by the army corp. of engineers before it was fashionable and acceptable to cut corners. Tornados are a game of hit and miss so the locals stay inside as far from the windows as possible.

My girlfriend has little experience with dramatic weather since she grew up in Germany. She's an excellent marksmen and very independent but she was terrified. The radio warnings and sirens convinced her she should stay the night. She didn't remember how she found the house I grew up in but she did. She knocked on the kitchen door, soaking wet with a six month old puppy in her arms. My grandmother, who spent weekends there since my mom left, opened the door. GF said she was a friend of mine and that she was wet and scared and asked to come in. My grandmother said sure. GF dripped into the kitchen only to see a handgun on the counter. She then realized that she was truly terrified. She asked my grandmother if she should be scared! "Oh, no." My Dad was still at work. It was a dark and stormy night.... My grandmother is and always had been a god- fearing, gun-toting Baptist who won't take crap from anyone but my grandfather who'd died in the 70's.

GF asked if she could watch the television to see where the storm was headed. She was, to say the least, freaked. My dad finally came home and while my grandmother prepared dinner for them both my father held court - which is what he does best. When he learned that GF's father was at the same Uni, the same time he was, he broke out the yearbook and looked up GF's Dad.
"He pointed his finger at my father's face, god rest his soul and proceeded to tell me many things about my father that I didn't know." My Dad said of her father "This man shot a lot of pool and played a lot of cards."

It turns out GF's father, who I knew as a man of the military, put himself through college hustling pool and cards before he enlisted. GF said they shot pool once. He hadn't had a stick in his hand in 20 years and he never missed a shot. He was the real deal.

My Mamaw made sure GF was comfortable in my old bedroom upstairs. At some point during the night GF was awakend by her hysterically barking pup. She got up out of bed and looked down on the mezzanine level of the "suite" I called home during my teenage years (my ivey tower, according to my Dad.) "There was a man wearing a top hat and 19th C clothing looking at his pocket watch on the landing. He looked up at me and then turned and walked straight through the closed door into my closet." Ghosts? Hmmm.

GF says that the night she spent with my family was one of those pivotal points of her youth. Although I was raised by a very colorful family I think my GF may have enjoyed some exceptionally strong weed with those college boyfriends. STILL... it makes a great story.

I'd left home by then. When I left for Uni I lived in the independent state of moi and when I left my home state for grad school that was it. I wish I had known then what I know now and that I hadn't always been in such a rush to grow up.

I was the oldest child and fiercely independent. I could have lived at home and gone to art school on scholarship - but no. I made my own way and paid for it with grants, other scholarships and a great of work study.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007


Nothing heavy today. I've been buried in my studio putting off people who want to schedule meetings with me. These are people I like who I enjoy working with... but it is a huge distraction and not lucrative enough for me to break my stride in order to accommodate their needs. Why do I transport myself and my studio materials to the other side of the state, the nation, the world? To avoid telling people no. To avoid the distraction of telling them no. To avoid the judgement I must make on whether to say yes or no. MOST IMPORTANTLY: to avoid being called upon. Its not personal. Its business.

Of course I am distracting myself now as I wait for paint to dry and think about what to make Mr dd for dinner. We are celebrating the fact that he found his glasses. He's been miserable since Friday morning, supplementing his stigmatism with various reading glasses I leave around the house. Unfortunately they do him more harm than good since he spends all day writing at a computer and he needs his prescribed lenses. Voila! I found them this afternoon.

We were girding up to purchase a second pair which would have set him back a small fortune so it really was a blessing to be counted.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Viva la France!

There was a time before I realized that every shoe in Paris goes on sale Bastille Day. It was also before I knew France was a nation of proud patriots with a love of their militia, parades, fireworks - a seven course feast of everything French!

I was young and fearless and thought nothing of following my friends. We crammed into a metro car with a few hundred sweaty Parisians because the Metro was libre! We were surrounded by hundreds of odorous artpits as everyone clung to the overhead rail - memorable indeed! I don't recall exactly where we were headed but I do know we traveled the length of the Champs-Elysées between the Place de la Concord and Arche de la Défense as the day progressed.

After the parade of militia, tanks, weaponry and an airshow (with red, white and blue smoke effects) we walked toward la Défense where Mitterand had commissioned a light show and concert that would be seen simultaneously throughout the city and projected between the two monuments. Thousands of people were seated on the ground along the Champs where billboard size screens would broadcast the concert as the laser show ran between the two arches.

I was most amazed by the ambition, optimism and grandeur of Mitterand's vision. We walked home (near the Musée d Orsay) from la Défense (where my friend's sister's office at IBM featured a ringside view.) Our night ended at the witching hour when there are few taxis and no metros running!

A few readers may have figured out that although I am a passionate Francophile I normally detest crowds. Somehow this was different. France did not seduce me my first visit or even my second. Like many fine things, I've realized she is an aquired taste and one that I cherish and celebrate now as often as I can. France has managed to retain a bit of her humanity - something I see slipping away here... everyday in small and significant ways.

I worked tonite (a blasphemy on Bastille Day!) I'll make up for it by opening a bottle of our favorite French cabernet, Roquefort and a rare baguette. Mr dd and I will count our blessings and most of all the one that France marches on: whether it is Bastille Day or mardi noir... where students and civil servants participate in manifestations that celebrate and defend the French mode de vie.

For more colorful info on the French Revolution and the history of revolt you might visit the Axis of Evel Knievel.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

the life we pretend to live

We live very close to a number of excellent cafes and coffee shops. The closest chain is a mile away which is closer than we'd like.

Are blogs the the cafe society of our era? I am beginning to think so. If I had the time to hang I don't know if I'd find folks there I'd want to hang with or if I'd be willing to spend so much money on coffee on a regular basis. I make a pretty mean Cup of Joe myself and there are certainly times when I get a great deal of insight from my communiques here. Would I get as much out of my time with the barrista's? Not as regularly. We're all multitasking...meeting, planning, networking, listmaking, websurfing, etc.

There ARE places that defy these doubts but we are there far too infrequently to be considered regulars. Instead, here I am.

It's too late for me to drink coffee anyway and if I went to a bar/restaurant with good coffee I'd have to deal with the smoke of the masses. Living in a tobacco state is great for buying cheap cigarettes to give my European friends but it means we'll probably always have to taste smoke when we eat out for many years to come. Its not as bad as Berlin but its bad enough to keep me out of restaurants and cafes I love when I know they'll be full of smokers... Fri night at Cous Cous, for example!

In the meantime we look for places with patios when the weather is agreeable. We try to take in the present with a glass of wine of a cafe au lait and all is well with the world.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

le Execution of Marie-Antoinette

A distant cousin who is my father's age, has been corresponding with me via email. She sent me a surprising link today. Its only surprising because I've never imagined I had relatives whose political persuasions were somewhat like mine. All of the family I spent my childhood surrounded by were good, occasionally frustrating people but we usually didn't share the same political point of view. Religion, art and politics were definitely not dinner topics. We don't see each other very often so why would we want to spend our time in heated discourse?

As I've gotten older I've realized that I am not an alien. There ARE folks in my father's side of the family tree who see the world from a perspective that I can relate to. Hurrah!

My cousins response to the link above paralleled my response to the painting of Marie Antoinette's beheading when I first discovered it during March of 2006 in the Musee Carnavalet. Like my cousin, I consider myself to be against capital punishment but part of me, despite myself, believes that one of the reasons the French Government take care of their constituents and "listen" when the PEOPLE protest is because so many heads have fallen there and so much blood has been spilled on the cobbled stones of Paris.

If our leaders ever considered they could be held accountable for their sins and indiscretions
perhaps they'd at least listen to their consititents! In France when there is a protest or manifestation people of all ages and class either take to the streets or hide in their flats - because the government responds and believe me, I've been there. It isn't that different than most any Mardi Gras!

Since I had this epiphany that March I've realized that people here have spilled blood for their beliefs and, to my dismay, it seems to be the good guys who get the bullet. Lincoln, the Kennedys, MLK, Malcolm X... whether you agree with their politics of not these men worked hard and paid the price for standing up for their beliefs. Are there any honorable politicians in Washington? My fear is that even if they go in clean they'll get their hands so dirty surviving their compromises outweigh any good work they manage to do while in office. Are we fukced or what?

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fields of plenty

It was almost a year ago that I fell in love with Sunflowers. After a lifetime of living with paintings of Sunflowers, not quite as ubiquitous as magnolias, I finally GOT IT. My parent's bedroom featured a series of Van Gogh reproductions from his sunflower series. They were curious images but I never gave them much consideration as a child. I was more interested in the blue boy and pinkie hanging in the living room.

Fields and fields of sunflowers in all stages of bloom. It was August and in southwest France sunflowers are harvested for their seed. They are left in the field to dry much like cotton. Their figurative stance, posture and expressiveness hit me like a wall. Finally I really understood why Kiefer uses sunflowers in his latest work (beyond their references to art history and allegory)! He lives in France now on a vast compound surrounded by countryside. I fell in love with the sunflower, absconded with one or two from the local fields, scanned the sunflower, drew them, painted them, wrote about them. This summer I tried cultivating them.

I come from a long line of agrairians but did not inherit my ancestor's green thumb. I did inherit their persistence and I do spend a great deal of time in the garden. Unfortunatly I am a trial and error gardener and what thrives in my neighbors' gardens doesn't always thrive in mine. I haven't resorted to purchasing plastic sunflowers yet but with a pending drout it could happen. Sigh.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Smoke Signals

Last night Mr. K and I attended a potluck dinner party/film screening with a local collection of artists and writers. When true intelligencia, good food, wine and film combine the result is firey discussions all around the table. One thing that stuck with me, that has echoes through my brain, was not news to me. Afterwards, as is always the case, there was a ringing, a resonance, a humm that wouldn't go away. The timing, the messenger, the context all came together to articulate my greatest frustration with contemporary art, the media, the world I love in: Yikes!

Of course everyone knows "Its not what you say, its how you say it," said the voice of experience sitting on the leather couch. (This is very old news.) The emphasis, though, has always been on the second half of the trusim. Everyone spends all their time and money figuring out HOW to SAY it, SELL it, etc - instead of determining WHAT is is they are saying. ITS NOT WHAT YOU SAY... well, it SHOULD BE.

What one says is the part I am interested in and the problem for me is that no matter HOW one says it if they have nothing to say I am not interested. Maybe it is the Seinfeldization of politics, the artworld, etc? I know. I expect too much - content, form and beauty. Maybe its a curse?


Friday, July 06, 2007

telling time

As I've matured (cough, cough) to the point where I may believe that I am as much genX as boomer (I actually seem to fall somewhere between the two... like the rat I am)... the art I make, my political point of view... all seem to be falling between the cracks... yet I've learned over the years that regardless of age some things transcend the test of time and have a longer shelf life than I would've imagined. A number of years ago I remember seeing RHPS for the first time since the late 80's. I feared I wouldn't love it... that it would reflect a tacky time in my life that I didn't want to remember. I was right and wrong. It's just as tacky as it ever was and I loved it more than ever!!!!

The B-52's are touring this summer and I've learned that I love them now just as much as I ever did. I am praying for good weather and a cool summer breeze so we can dance this mess around that we've come to know as adulthood.


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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Summer Vacation 1967

While the rest of the world was experiencing the summer of love I was on a family vacation with my brother, sister and parents. I think we were stopping at most any tourist trap between the Tennessee Border and Chicago but the destinations are fuzzier than the journey, as it often the case with me.

There are "Lupnereque"* photos documenting our experience in Santa's Village where I watched a chicken peck out a Christmas Carole on a mini piano in the deadheat of summer. I remember an underground waterfall somewhere between there and Independence Day. Most of all I remember the humiliation of stopping at some fast food place because they were offering free burgers or ice cream to all the kids who could recite the Pledge of Allegiance from memory.

It was the 4th of July but I don't recall my family - or the nation in general - being in a very patriotic mood! I was asked to go first, as I was the oldest. Stagefright or disinterest got the best of me and I faltered before the end. My brother was distracted with hunger and also failed the test. My 3 or 4 year old sister, who was often told me looked like Mama Cass, recited the entire thing without fail and was the recipient of a patriotic, flag decorated scoop of ice cream.

Everyone was stunned that one so young could recite something so effectively. I was slightly humiliated but most of all surprised. Little sis had many talents we never got to see very often. She grew up quickly and married young. I miss knowing her as a child as I know she must miss knowing her girls as children. I think we should rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance as an anthem to families. The rest of the nation was distracted by another pointless war, sex, drugs and rock and roll, as depicted in the video posted below.

*I've always feared that the writers of the Lupner sketches on SNL somehow knew my family. They are very accurate depictions of the life of DD.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Long Hot Summer

The passing of June is always tough for me. July and August are hard - even for a southern girl like me. June is a month of optimism. Summer spreads out before us... everyone is still making their summer plans. Parties, cookouts, home projects, creative endeavors are all possible. During July and August anything could happen. Hurricanes, drought, ticks, mosquitoes, poison ivey, etc, etc. When things go a certain way I manage to escape and do business elsewhere - an elsewhere that is either more forgiving or airconditioned.

When things don't go that way I somehow manage to get through it here, working in an unairconditioned studio with a car that has no ac either. I can't tell you how much I hate it. We aren't car people anyway... so its a test of endurance. If we could get away without having one we would. Our work requires we pay to have a car sit in front of our house 90 percent of the time... but that's another post.

One way I manage to endure the heat is the reward of something cooler and sweeter happening in late August... a trip, perhaps. Not this year! Mr dd and I both have big deadlines in the early fall and have taken a trip or two earlier this season due to weddings and family gatherings... SOOOOO.... we'll be counting the days and watching the forecasts and getting through the long, hot summer. Maybe the sounds of Paul Newman and Joey Woodward will echo in our heads to remind us of the prolific art that can born of summer heat.

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