Friday, July 18, 2014

FFF: Closing doors

I have spent a great deal of time on subways in my recent travels.

At each stop, an electronic voice warns for "Caution: the doors are about to close."

I could not help but reflect upon how useful such a voiced warning would be for life.

"Caution: the doors are about to close."

What if you heard that every time you were about to lose an opportunity?

"Who seeks, and will not take when once 'tis offer'd,
Shall never find it more." --William Shakespeare

You were a genius, Bill, but I sure hope you got it wrong on that one.

I told this "closing door" theory to a fellow professor of mine.  He lost his mother recently.  Had he heard "Caution: the doors are about to close" in the days leading up to her death, he might've been able to get there and say goodbye.   What if we got that warning anytime someone was about to leave life for good?  What if you knew beyond certainty that you had an opportunity to see a favorite perform and it would be for the last time?  Or when you're working on a project or in a situation where you're about to push things a bit too far?

What if we received that notice whenever any relationship was about to come to an end?

"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you left them." --Andy Bernard

The intuitive among us may know better.  They see and feel things that the rest of us don't.  Maybe that voice actually does enter their minds.  "Caution: the doors are about to close."  Maybe it's the artistic impulse that urges them to act, an instinct I've grown accustomed to shunting or sidelining.

"I think of few heroic actions, which cannot be traced to the artistical impulse.  He who does great deeds, does them from his innate sensitiveness to moral beauty." --Walt Whitman

Again, the mote just here is "opportunity" and that may be defined in any personal or professional manner one chooses.  Just try to know it when you see it.

That's the real trick, eh?

I suppose my blog posts should come with their own warnings.  "Caution: philosophical meanderings ahead."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Blue Man Group

Have you ever thought the Smurfs should have their own performance art installation?

Boy, I sure have.  Only I found that the reality far surpasses the mental concept.

Decades ago, one of my brothers Ahab Pope came to me raving about Blue Man Group.  He tried describing it to me, the beats, the art, the multimedia aspects, and ended up giving up.  "You just have to see it," he said finally.

So last week I did just that at the Astor Place Theatre in New York City.  Afterward, I wondered why I waited so long.  Yet I find myself facing the same difficulty as Ahab in describing to you something so creative, so multi-layered, and so avant garde, but I will try.

Blue Man Group is centered around three performers in blue skull caps and faces covered in blue makeup.  These cyanotic humanoids are aware of the audience, regarding them with an innocent sense of wonder.  At various points in the show, the trio climb over the audience seats, searching and inspecting like strange visitors to this planet, fascinated in all they find.  Any form of technology or even more commonplace objects such as water bottles are sources of wonder for them.  They are gentle outsiders.  During it all however, there seems to be one of the trio that acts in discord with the other two, repeatedly doing his own thing and receiving silent, judgmental stares from his compatriots.  An outsider within outsiders?

The stage the trio inhabit is one of sensory overload.  It is a technological society coming unglued at seams.  Pipes wind their way around the stage and into the audience while images of fractals, the DNA helix, cybernetics, and Internet memes are broadcast on multiple viewscreens.  At one point, three iPhones lower from the ceiling, each one taller than a person.  Each iPhone displays different messages streaming at high speeds.  The audience is forced to choose which stream of information to follow or else end up catching nothing.  One is "great literature done in tweets" that aims to "do for reading what texting did for driving." Love it.  This is art for the transhuman set.  While this has all been done before to the point of tautology, Blue Man Group makes it all fresh.  The innocence of the three humanoids in the face of the techno explosion combined with their fascination brings a new perspective.  The modern world is an exhilarating spectacle while simultaneously being disturbing.

Musically, the Blue Men turn whatever is on their stage...the pipes, the barrels, or what have you...into musical instruments.  They bang upon them all like drums, at times splashing paint of multiple fluorescent hues onto canvases or themselves.  The original music itself is a whole other level of greatness.

First of all, there is a live house band.  They sit up above the stage in a glass-enclosed mezzanine level while wearing black jumpsuits and fluorescent, day-glo body paint, resembling something from Rob Zombie's band.  The music itself is naturally based around heavy, almost Japanese-style percussion infused with the kind of guitar-synthesizer blends that I absolutely adore.  This renders pieces similar to the best parts of Nine Inch Nails, Moby, Devo, The Knife, and so many others.  In fact, why read me writing about it when you can get a taste of it for yourself?  Here's Blue Man Group with Venus Hum covering Donna Summer's "I Feel Love."  It's a fine sampling of the BMG sound.

Better yet, here's "Rods and Cones." It's one I saw them do live.  I squirmed in my seat, pumped my fist, and at times banged my head.

I also came across their rendition of "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane.  It is, in my humble opinion, a vast improvement over the hippie standard.  I can't embed it here, but you can find it on YouTube.

At last the show came to an end in a paroxysm of strobe lighting, glow sticks, thunderous beats, driving guitars, techno-industrial distortion, Twinkies launched from plumbing pipes and toilet paper streaming from the balconies.

The summation of my review?  This will not be the last time I see Blue Man Group.

I even had the opportunity to meet and befriend one of the humanoids:

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Live at the Met

By now you should know how much I love art.

For that reason, I decided my visit to New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art deserved a post devoted entirely to itself.  I was able to spend two hours there but it was not nearly enough.  An accelerated walking pace was a necessity, precluding all the lingering and gazing I would have normally liked.  So I let the art wash over me, streaming at me from blurred directions until I thought my rods and cones would break.

Not a bad way to spend two hours.

 I will present the pieces to you in order of my encounters with them.  This will be a very graphics-heavy post as art most often speaks for itself and requires no embellishment from me.

As if in response to my fucked up emotional state, the first series of paintings were categorized "melancholia."

Trenton Doyle Hancock's work is a study of brilliant hues in dark places, biblical parables, superhero stories, Pepto Bismal blobs, and half-animal-half-plant creatures called "Mounds."  My kinda guy.

Hamlet's Ophelia.  I actually owned a print of this once.

St. Agnes' Eve.  Based on the poem by Keats.  "Awake all night for sinners' sake to grieve."

A series of rich black and white photography.

The paparazzi doesn't know I'm a dog.

Just wait your turn, baby.

Intensely romantic, passionate sculpture work of Rodin.  No, not the Japanese monster.  An angel or muse (or both?) comforts the anguished soul.

Speaking of Japan, the Japanese bridge at Monet's gardens in Giverney.  Plus an extra Monet.  Thomas Kincade my ass.  Monet is the "painter of light."

Cezanne, another favorite of mine.

"I sold the Renoir and the TV set..."

Portrait of Russian author Vesevolod Garshin.  He wrote short stories, loved beauty, knowledge, pacifism, and had great disdain for the political and social conditions in his home nation.  He killed himself by jumping down a stairwell.  I wept for him like a brother.

Just look at his eyes.

Not much for this style but the halo-like glow caught my eye.


A gothy Caspar Friedrich.

A replica of Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

Van Gogh.  Tortured genius in every paint stroke.  Even the Doctor and Amy couldn't save him.


I'm embarrassed to admit I don't recall the name of this painting.  I believe it was called "Banquet of the Starving."  I loved the creativity and the social message.

Then it seemed that the Freer Gallery followed me up from DC.  The Met had an entire visiting exhibition of Asian art.  Here are just a few of the pieces:

After witnessing their exquisite serenity and beauty, Western art almost seems gaudy and bloated.

I spent more time than I should have in this room, but I just couldn't help it.

Surrealism, leading off with Joan Miro.

While not a fan of Dali per se, I do love delving into the symbolism of surrealism and doing the intellectual detective work of looking for meanings.  Even when there aren't any.  Art is like that though.  The artist can be very much in the dark about what they intended but for someone else it can become their own personal Polaris.

That concluded my visit.  I didn't even get a thorough look at the Medieval and Renaissance works.  Guess I'll just need to make a return visit to New York.

What a pity.

Your interplanetary traveler at the Museum:

Monday, July 14, 2014

ESE Road update

Nothing exciting.  I'm still in the airport.

What I do have now, however, is a new...if slightly off-color...way of looking at things.

I'm playing refugee!

For the moment I am homeless.  Please understand that I am fully aware of the massive gulf that separates me from any one of the truly homeless I've witnessed this past week.  But this will be the first time I can remember sleeping on a floor in a public place.  A surreal experience to be sure. 

No wait.  I did do this wayyyyy back in 1999 for tickets to Star Wars: Episode I.

Anyway, like UN relief, Delta Airlines has shown up to render aid and comfort to we the throngs of the displaced.

First order of business is of course survival.  That means food and water.  Here's what we have:

It's times like these that make me glad that I eat very little.

It's also cold in the terminal due to a combination of air conditioning and air that is damp from incessant rains.  That's why Delta gave us these fashionable red blankets:

Oh huddled masses yearning to make the next flight.  
Here I am studying the blanket's material.  It's thin but in actuality rather warm.  I suspect a microfiber.  No doubt gleaned from technology found in the Roswell crash. 

Here are the other "refugees" in the camp.

I can't wait to apply for asylum.  Keeping my fingers crossed for a cool European nation but I'm not above hollering "fuck you, what do you mean 'Canada?'"

Just kidding.  I actually have enjoyed my visits to Canada a great deal.

I'm going to need to develope a backstory for my refugee character.  Where am I from?  From what do I flee?  

Is there a connecting flight?

ESE Final road post...I hope

Well this is a new one.

A range of massive thunderstorms moved through the New York area.  The one and only flight home has been cancelled.  The next available one is tomorrow at 11am.  

At LaGuardia.  I'm at JFK.

The airline won't pay for a hotel due to this being an "act of God" (I could debate theology with them but I'm far too exhausted.) Besides, a quick search has shown most area hotels already booked due to the storm and I doubt the college would pay for an extra night anyway.  That means tonight I'm doing something I've only heard about in media.

I'm spending the night in an airport.

I wanted another night in New York City but this is not exactly what I had in mind. I've got a spot staked out between to two cadres of small children.  One is a group of squirmy and thudding boys.  The other are quiet little girls trying to sleep.  That is except for the one who is crying under her polka dot blanket.  I feel her pain.  It breaks my heart to listen to her muffled cries.  I'd like to hug her and tell her in hypocorism it'll be all right.  Sadly there's not much a man can do in this kind of situation and not get viewed as a creeper.  Oh wait.  There's her caregiver.  Good.

Why did I choose this location to fortify?  An outlet of course.  Got to keep my phone charged.  If I'm not getting internet  and social media feed, I go a little loopy.

Of course the way I've been lately I'd say that ship might have fucking sailed.

I've been texting my bro Bernard about how to handle this situation.  He did a tour of duty in Iraq with Army intel.  He told me to use my carry on bag as a pillow and to sleep in shifts with the other members of my group.  The upside is that here I won't face the moments of sheer terror that he did.

But then the night is young.

The airline drones more cancellation announcements over the PA.  They're actually trying to be cheerful.  The guy's voice sounds like the one from Blade Runner that asked you to "consider a life on the off-world colonies."

If this kid doesn't stop his intolerable thudding on the table...

The combination of environment and extreme fatigue are contributing to a dreamlike state.  Almost a form of sensory deprivation.  I'm not asleep but not entirely awake, either.  I'm watching everyone from a distance as they either rage against or slump resigned to their fate.  I sometimes find it easier to pretend I'm not me.

I wonder if that might make conversation easier.  There are plenty of fellow travelers stranded here with me.  There are no doubt interesting stories among them.  A good many of the women are hot, too.  This unfortunately makes it more difficult for me to converse.  Unless...

"Hi, my name's Kip Kensington."

Should I get coffee?  Or booze?

Can I get both?

If nothing else, this time is allowing for more reflection.  I'm embarrassed by the post I made yesterday...or at least in regard to its self-pitying tone.  I say this as I think back to the Holocaust Museum.  I really don't even need to go that far.  The flight attendent diagonal from me speaks in an Eastern European dialect of one form or another.  For all I know she escaped the war zone that was the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s.  Maybe she or her family were wounded or worse.  I doubt she'd have much sympathy for me staying the night in an airport.

Anyway, I'll keep you updated.  For now, enjoy a bonus pic of the greatest city on Earth.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

ESE on the Road, John

What am I doing here?

I am by no means questioning my presence in New York City.  I will forever be grateful to experience its magnificence.  The question is far more existential.

So what the fuck else is new on this trip?

Let me backtrack and explain the experience I had today.

Spent most of the day at the Met Museum of Art.  Thoroughly enjoyable and it will get a post entirely of its own.  From there I made my way into Central Park with two destinations in mind: Strawberry Fields and the Dakota Hotel.

I'm a big Beatles fan so it was something of a pilgrimage.  My own visit to Mecca or the crypt of the Archbishop of Canterbury.  John Lennon lived in the Dakota Hotel for many years.  That is until December of 1980 when a lunatic with a gun took him from us.  I shall refrain from turning this post into a platform for gun control.  All I will say is that Mark Chapman needs to be in jail the rest of his life.  He's safer there.

Instant Karma's gonna get him if I don't get him first.

The journey to the sacred spots was arduous.  Central Park is a veritable wilderness of hanging willows, vines, rambles, and thickets.  I was in dress shoes.  Rain came pouring down, turning the path to mud and the humidity up to 11.

It fucking reminded me of 'Nam.

In time I made it to Strawberry Fields.  The memorial is the picture at the top of the post.  Beatles fans were camped out around it, singing songs and playing guitar.

Nice and happy.  It was the next part that  held the potential to be troubling.  But I had to do it.  I had to give respect.  So I went across Central Park West to the Dakota.

I circled the block first, uncertain of just where the awful place was.  It's not like I'd been there before today.  Half a block in and I knew I was on the wrong side of the building.  A sloped drive led into a cavernous dungeon of a parking garage. I cut across, thinking the worst that could happen was I'd be arrested by security or hit by a truck.  Either would've been fine.

Emerging on the the other end of the Dakota, I saw this:

That's where it happened.  The world lost an artistic genius to a senseless and barbaric act.  Long ago in Cleveland, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  There was a special John Lennon exhibit at the time.  It included the glasses he wore on the night he was killed.

You could still see the blood splatter on the lenses.

Those glasses just kept sitting square center frame in my mind's eye as I knelt in quiet.

John Lennon was renowned for his devotion to peace and love, especially in his final years.  He was, however, very troubled.   His was a tumultuous life.  There was a darkness to him, a wicked intelligence.  You can hear it in songs like "Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite" and "I Am the Walrus."  They're full of madness.

That's not a bad thing.

He was a notoriously poor sufferer of fools.  If you were being inane, mundane, or just plain stupid, he'd let you know.  In fact, Beatles management was often glad they had Paul to put in front of the press because John would toy with the reporters and mock their silly drivel.

I admire John Lennon.  So much so that while within the spiritual aura of the man, I began to question, well...everything.

In the face of such a creative force, I can't help but ask myself how I measure up.  The sad answer is, "not very well."  I mean, what do I do?  I blog and get a whole 20 visitors a day...if I'm lucky. I write stories that no one ever sees or get rejected outright.  I know the words to every Duran Duran song and the lines to the entire original Star Wars trilogy.  Oh but wait, I do have a full run of Batman comics from 1988-1999.


Then it makes no sense, does it?  Why is John gone but someone like me is here? I contribute nothing.  He had so much more to give while I just take up space and suck oxygen away from all other living things.

"And what have you done?  Another year older and a new one just begun."

Despite it all, that's how it is.  Like one of my brothers says, "fair" is just a place you see pigs and horses.  I hope that he is finally at peace and composing new songs somewhere with George Harrison.

Anyway, he was an amazing artist and in the end a very gentle soul.  Here's my selfish tribute to him: