Friday, June 27, 2008

Visual Balance

Aesthetic balance is always delightful to encounter in the world. Even if I tried, I doubt that I could have done a better job arranging this everyday still life I recently photographed in Shanxi Province China. Exquisite balance found in the random.

Bruce B. Janz, an associate prof of Humanities at the University of Central Florida has assembled an excellent online collection of resources pertaining to Aesthetics and Visual Culture. His website is definitely worth visiting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

China Impressions (6/16-24/08)

Spent 10 days in China. Flew from Beijing to Changzhi, a city in southeastern Shanxi Province. From Changzhi, drove about three hours to Jincheng City right in the heart of coal-bed methane gas production, where a client's new drilling rig is located. Here's some of what I observed or learned:
• Tricycle-wheel hauling trucks are everywhere.
• Uniforms are for: hotel and restaurant staff, intersection-crossing ladies, and drill rig roughnecks.
• Driving rules: there are no rules.
• Two-lane roads are really three lanes as far as drivers are concerned.
• Eel, although bony, tastes good.
• Bicycles come in all shapes, except 10-, 5- or 3-speed.
• Sunny means the gray sky glows.
• Chinese food is for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
• Beijing has a 24-hour McDonalds.
• 99.999% of the men are clean shaven, don’t wear earrings, or have tattoos.
• 8 is a lucky number, 88 and 888 are even better, although there are questions, since 2008 has had tragedy after tragedy so far this year.
• The weight of two young Chinese women equals that of an average American male.
• Motorcycles never have rear-view mirrors; riders never wear helmets.
• When the center of the universe is discovered, it will likely be a Chinese baby.
• Random English words make great t-shirts and store names.
• Toothpicks are made available after every meal.
• It’s a given that on any narrow rural road there will be a broken-down truck blocking traffic.
• Whoever supplies the red-paint to China is very, very wealthy.
• Blogger and other websites, where free expression dominate, are blocked.
• 600 herbs are stocked in a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) pharmacy.
• For every earthquake orphan, there are three families in Beijing alone willing to take them.
• The I [heart] CHINA movement is a grassroots reaction to the international media’s trashing the Chinese government re: pollution, Tibet, etc., not as the WSJ reports--entrepreneurs trying to make money.
• One WTF moment after the other.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Indie Pretensions

I like Indie music. But I don't like all the pretensions that can surround it. To me, there's a sense of in-groupness -- you're in or you're out. I'm definitely out. Laugh as you may, but I just learned that Joan as a Policewoman is a group. There is a new digital magazine called Blurt, which covers the Indie music scene. There are two things noteworthy about Blurt: (1) it is defining what a digital magazine should be and (2) it includes a massive number of CD reviews. As a digital magazine, Blurt does it right. In addition to Features, there is a News section which it appears will be updated between issues. There is a Video section which I presume will collect engaging clips and interviews in a YouTube-ish format. Currently, there's an interview with a couple of members of the Black Keys about their experience recording at the Beatles' Abbey Road Studios. The interview effectively demonstrates the stupidity of the musicians being interviewed -- although I suspect avid Black Keys fans will take umbrage (assuming they know what umbrage means). But the video section could be very cool. The potential is there. The Reviews are great for those of us not cool enough to know what's cool. The rating system used in the reviews is pointless, since ratings reflect the reviewer. The Blurt Out Loud forum helps define what a digital magazine can do better than print. And the Shop section -- once it's up and running -- will be where I presume I'm supposed to buy my Blurt t-shirt and coffee mug. If they're smart -- and I'm guessing they are -- it will have links to the Indie labels where we can buy CDs and downloads directly from them.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Tiny Fantasy

It's a fantasy of mine. The notion of having a small hideaway house tucked in a corner of the world where most do not go. It could be on the back corner of a broken-down industrial area of town or just off a thickly-wooded stretch of rural road connecting two nowhere towns in the middle of nowhere. An undistinguished, forgettable locale is best. My tiny house will have a desk, comfortable reading chair, a little kitchen, and a toilet. It will be aesthetically pleasing, because a craftsman will have built it for me with care and panache. You will never know where it is and will never be invited there. It will be my secret.

To see some cool tiny houses, go to AJ Sutherland's site.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A must have bumper sticker

I saw this bumper sticker on a car that weaved past me and disappeared into the city. A rare, kindred soul has captured the essence of life on the bumper of their car. With Google-investigation skills, I learned that the bumper sticker is available from It's item BS314.

Amazing Portrait Paintings

I spotted Jennifer Sandquist's amazing paintings on Her portraits are flirty, sensuous and captivating. They kept drawing me back to her site and tickling my imagination with the idea of somehow incorporating my sensuous haiku with her paintings . . . maybe collaborating on a joint show where pictures and words can play off each other. Haven't quite figured out how this might work, but in the meantime I convinced Jen to bring a hefty collection of her paintings from Minneapolis to the Historic Third Ward Starbucks where they now hang. Her show is there through the month of June. I selfishly have the opportunity to see Jen's work off the computer screen and hopefully she'll sell a handful or more of her wonderful pieces. Jennifer describes herself as a self-taught acrylics artist who views her paintings as "permanent reminders of stolen moments."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

My haibun habit

It's been within the past year that I've been working hard to amass a respectable number of carefully crafted haibun. I define haibun as being short prose that includes a haiku that either relates directly to the prose or echoes the tone. My criticism of a lot of contemporary haibun is that the prose reads flat or merely functions as the preface to the haiku -- there's little sparkle, vim or flare to the prose.  I try to avoid that with my prose which tends toward the dark and edgy OR the surreal and ironic. In my haibun endeavor, I have been fortunate to befriend Jeffrey Woodward, who publishes Haibun Today. Jeffrey's mentoring comments have been helping me define my haibun voice. If you click through to the Haibun Today website and scroll down the right-hand side until you reach my name and then click it, you'll be able to read a number of my haibun. Here's a recently published piece:

Bulging Red D-Ring Binders

Wearing bright-green Wellington-like water-proof boots and keeping a wandering steel-blue eye on the pleasing, designer-jean cheeks of the flouncy-haired blonde stepping assuredly in front of him, the esteemed balding field-science researcher clutches a soft, carmel-brown leather messenger bag with three, bulging red D-ring binders and strides confidently up the expanded jetway into the brilliant light of the arriving gate fresh from a meticulously-documented examination of the fractal-star crop circle on Silbury Hill located within a shillings throw of Wiltshire, England -- home to the Blind Bore Pub where a perfect-poured pint still waits for him in the dark-wood, dim-lit snug opposite the 18th-century massive stone fireplace.

bulky shadows
a distant siren
defines distance


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Creative, quirky... Milwaukee Artists

Currently, my three favorite artists in the entire universe live right here in Milwaukee. Creative, quirky, and exceptionally talented, they are Matt Cipov (see one of his pieces to the left), Max Estes, and Tom Stack. I could try to describe each of their styles.....but to what end? Visit their sites and buy their art. They deserve all the support we can muster.