Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beenos


You have been warned.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jolly Hot Peanuts


Advertising employs numerous devices to cast its spell. They'll contrive a problem then sell you the solution, maybe impose an artificial time limit on availability, or the product might sing and dance!

The most ridiculous and entertaining commercial trope is when the manufacturer associates impossibly hyperbolic, even metaphysical, qualities with the most mundane ingredients. In my childhood, the notion that ingesting oat flour with marshmallows brought me closer to Ireland and led to rainbows of good fortune made Lucky Charms magically delicious indeed.

The further you look back, the more grandiose the marketers' claims, the more irrational their promises, as protections like the Consumer Bill of Rights were not yet enacted to safeguard against cigarettes that cure throat polyps and lotions that send you to Heaven.

"When life's cold and blue, there's just one thing to do: Eat Jolly Hot Peanuts 'til there's none left to chew!"

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mutoided Licky Slop Hoses


Bone. Marrow. Cartilage.  Tendons.  Teeth.  Nails.  Hair.  Pubic hair.  Flesh.  Scalps.  Gums.  Lining.  Folds.  Pits.  Pores.  Sphincters.  Nostrils.  Throats. Tongues. Teats. Sinuses. Tubes.  Canals.  Veins.  Ducts.  Bowels.  Bladders.  Stomachs.  Eyeballs.  Glands.  Plasma.  Pus.  Wax.  Sweat.  Drool.  Snot.  Bile.  Cum.  Piss.  Gas.  Funk.  Dung.  Dander.  Boogers.  Eye boogers.  Scabs.  Acne. Blisters. Ulcers. Cavities. Calluses. Moles. Warts. Cysts. Tumors. Fungi. Bacteria. Cooties. Absorbed twins...

For being so beautiful, life is made up of some pretty gross shit.

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pigeon Problems




Once the urban bird population grew out of control, the City of New York contracted a biotech firm to introduce a gene that reduces aggression and in-flight defecation on people and property.

It had a different effect.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cosmic Blues


We take ourselves seriously and our pain personally. Preoccupied with a particular plight or cause, we elevate our own trials and overlook the trying position of others:

"My life sucks. No one gets me. You wouldn't understand."

"They're the enemy, not like us. Expendable! Do what you need to do."

"Listen kid, just wait till you're older with real, adult problems."

"Go ahead, dude. It's only a frog. I bet it won't even feel it..."

Of course, friction rubs us all.  Perhaps we're more aware of it than fish, and fish more aware than the coral they nibble at, but suffering is an interconnecting theme.  Presidents, bus drivers, cats, and trees―they each have bad days, obstacles to circumvent, entropy to manage. 

When we recognize that difficulty is shared, that our burdens are not unique, it humbles and connects us. In place of resentment and isolation, we develop empathy and community, which in turn encourages cooperation and peace.

First-world problems, third-world problems, otherworldly problems. Struggle is a universal constant.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dry


When the last of the water dwindles away, so will all that was born of it.

The future is a very thirsty place.

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Tender Little Geekling


Smallness seems inversely related to ugliness; it tends to neutralize otherwise unattractive features. The very same qualities that repel us in larger creatures become tolerable―even adorable―in tiny ones.

The fattest baby is first to be fawned over, but if she stays that way she'll be last to the prom. Likewise, the squashed, salivatory nature of a pug is irresistible while the equally droopy walrus is far less endearing up close. The pattern holds in fiction as well: E.T. was a slimy, gangly bowel movement with a kazoo voice, but he was totally cute relative to H.R. Giger's towering, exoskeletal Alien.

When he's fully grown, we'll likely flee in revulsion from this awkward, bucktoothed monstrosity. For now, though, he's just a vulnerable wittle weirdo to coo-chee-coo and talk to in a high-pitched condescending voice.

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Sun Always Sets

Language is more than a sequence of identification symbols. When employed by an entire population over generations, words form a collective cultural mind that transcends dictionary definitions.  This is one reason why direct grammatical translation from one language to another often results in garbled nonsense.

I experienced this loss in translation firsthand during my year in China. Naturally, most information was in Mandarin. At times, however, I happened upon Chinese products with bits of “English” added for commercial appeal. My favorite was the packaging on a box of sweet buns in a Shanghai convenience store. I gathered the intended message was, “Hey, customer! Don’t miss this great product!” but what it literally said was, “Hi! Person don’t avoid!”

I get to relive such moments when I go for Chinese food in the states, as some of the most entertaining ambiguity comes on little paper ribbons housed in flour, sugar, vanilla, and sesame seed oil. The fortune cookie, carrier of incomprehensible wisdom: May your eggs hatch with honor. Last to eat is first in retreat.  An iron rooster clucks in silence.  Lucky numbers: 9, 10, 77, 1,000,001½.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Nine Thousand Floors


Ours is a competitive culture. We’re programmed from the start to accumulate, to ascend. It’s a race to the top for ownership and authority, and a steep descent when the contestants lose balance and grip.

The company that grows too quickly and bankrupts itself. The overexposed, teetering superstar who falls from spotlight to darkness. The lottery winner who blows through the prize so ravenously that she lands in more debt than she started with. The insatiable politician who uses countless others as expendable footholds in his career climb, finally plummeting the entire rock face under the weight of scandal.

Gravity is kinder to the temperate.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cute Fuzzy Electro


You have to be careful with cute. Beneath the adorable layer waits a contrasting, injurious quality that can bite you in the ass, jab you in the eye, or vice versa.

Play with the wrong kitten long enough, and you’ll have the Band-Aids to show for it. Investigate further to discover it was that precious little darling at the birthday party who pushed a nail into your piece of cake. 

Reach for the rose, grab on to the thorns.

Aw…

ZAP!

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bridge Masonry


Human endeavor is loaded with consequential un-intentions. Penicillin only came to light after a Scottish scientist forgot to put a lid on a Petri dish.  Selenium runoff from mining helped two-headed fish make their debut.  You think anyone envisioned hot dog mac and cheese? That happened when a mom needed something quick and fattening to shut her kids up. And, as it turns out, milk crates make even better space organizers for college dorms.

The impact of such fortuity is positive or negative depending on the context.  In this case, I imagine the construction crew were quite concerned upon realizing they accidentally built a tunnel monster.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Alligator Cancer Egg


Celebrity and affliction draw the most attention.

"Hey, aren't you that guy from that movie about that thing?" 

"I'm sorryI don't mean to prybut how did you lose your... ?"

It's no wonder spotlight leads to crankiness. Reading a sandwich board takes only a second, but walking around wearing the thing is an ongoing endeavor. 

Now beat it, kid.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Marge


She may not be able to use π or cure cancer, but she just might restore your faith in humanity.  

Know a "Marge?"

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Scat Flappin' Humdinger



There are plenty of healthy, productive ways to stay in touch with one's childhood. You can make time for play, maintain a sense of humor, flip through an old photo album...

Still, there are those who just never get over throwing their own shit around.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dad's Cooked


It's a demanding role, playing the patriarch.  Some nail it on the first take. Others combust under the stage lights.

Like this one.  Burned.  Broiled.  Boiled.  Baked.  Roasting in responsibility.  Fired as father.  The "man" of the house, blazing his way into ash.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tumor King

There is something particularly repulsive about the aspiring, bootlicking yes-man. Obedient to an almost sexual fault, he longs to be his superior (himself a toad), but will forever remain a gross little gourd in papa's shadow...

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Darin Montague

The most ulterior motives come sheathed in gold.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Maverick



Prominent facial hair.  Contact sport.  Oversized dogs.  Horsepower.  Beef.  Beer. Ammo.

The stoic American male.

For all his posturing, he's just another broken heart.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Melting Cheese Pain


Personification is usually happy and lovable. Cats, chipmunks, cars, Kool-Aid, that sort.

But what if a Kleenex were alive? Or a plunger? (Yes, that kind.) Can you imagine the violence and violation of life as a bowling ball?  The dank, uneventful plight of a sentient gym locker? 

Next time you're having a rough day, just remind yourself, "Hey―at least I'm not a colostomy bag."

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Brute Kids




After years of parental neglect, high fructose corn syrup, and truant loitering along the boards, the Patchet kids ran away from their junk-hoarded Wildwood, New Jersey home. They pedaled north on crappy dirt bikes as far as their scraped-up freckled legs and shoplifted Red Bulls would take them, until they finally entered the forest...

That was a very long time ago and no one's seen them since, save those fatally unfortunate hikers who caught a glimpse of the last thing they would ever lay eyes on.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chirovision


If music is the soundtrack of life, then television is the wallpaper, ubiquitous as light itself. An incalculable amount of broadcasting perpetually engulfs us. If you're awake, chances are a flickering electronic surface is somewhere within your peripheral view.

Over time, the beams from all those hot little boxes cumulatively penetrate and manipulate our consciousness. The monitor becomes a digital membrane through which we perceive and interact with our surroundings. All that video seeping slowly into our bones, traveling up our spines, breaching our brains, recalibrating us from the inside out until we become projectors of the images, thoughts, and behaviors that have long been projected at us... and on, and on, and on... until there's no meaningful signal left at all.

Chloroform for the soul.

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Error Bot

When the ones trade places with the zeros.
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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lester's Transformation


The situation forever evolves.

Happiness flows from letting go.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It Is What It Is


Words are a potent medium, as they both describes and shapes our existence.  As an English teacher, I encourage students to find explicit, precise, nuanced language to articulate the salient qualities of the people, places, and things in their world.

But there are certain entities and experiences that transcend description, so idiosyncratic that they become reference points to which others are compared: the energizing  flavor of coffee; the cacophony of cicadas; the tactile satisfaction of popping bubble wrap; the exuberance of a middle-school snow day; the smell of a brand new car straight off the assembly line; the combined aesthetic of a moustache and wood paneling.

When I look at this image, I see a "Dunbar." There’s just no better way to express it.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Phyllis


The more you have, the more you want. The more you want, the more you'll do to get it. 

The wealthy maneuver in such icy circles of politeness.  

Daggers wrapped in lace.
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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ultimate Harelip


We are addicted to the macabre. Proportionally, more of us seek films, games, and stories about malady and mortality.  Post YouTube footage of a sunrise, and you'll get some views. Post a clip of a rugby player losing a knee, and it'll go viral.

This fascination with the gruesome has long been part of us. Like the inborn forces that compel my cat to revel in a struggling bug, there’s that part in many of us that wants―even needs, if only for a half second through slitted fingers―to see the world's largest testicle zit.

What is wrong with us?  Why do we rubberneck after the ice cream man collides with a dump truck?  How come Joseph Merrick was the headliner in the 1880s carnival circuit?  Was it his singing voice?  (Actually, I would’ve paid to see the Elephant Man as an opera lead.)  What makes people do online image searches like, "most squashed goop-filled horse eyeball ever"? 

Maybe we possess a touch of masochism that finds dark, tickly pleasure in a fleeting dose of unpleasantness, as when an already sore lip compels us to keep biting it. Perhaps it gives morbid comfort to witness a fate worse than our own.  Whatever the reason, we just can't look away.

If not the source, media has certainly encouraged and intensified our desire for dark spectacle. We have game shows themed around failing violently, endless news interviews with victims of every sort, videogames that assign victory to the one who perpetuates the most carnage... A parade of misfortune. 

First prize to the most grotesque!

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tater Tots

Potatoes.

Vegetable oil.

World domination.

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Square Root of Pookey


Math cannot account for everything. Numbers certainly describe the physical universe in exponential detail, but they don't directly capture the aesthetic, spiritual essence of things.

So much of our personal experience has been quantified, though. Food as we calculate calories. Play as we accumulate points. Community as we collect online "friends." Thinking itself as we scribble in standardized-test ovals. 

The main influence is the pervasive computer technology that mediates our reality, technology that's numerical by definition. The more time we spend around machines, the more we act like them.

But enlightenment can't be counted. Solving for x won't explain the concept of honor. A barcode is incapable of translating the bitter disdain of a drunken midget at a tall party.  We need discourse to unlock quality, whether the subject is sports, cuisine, relationships,  education, or Pookey, whatever he is.

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Nova Pods


We all come from star stuff, according to astrophysicists. I may assume, then, that at least one of the particles of my inner left elbow was once part of a distant sun.

Equally impressive, as vast and complex as the universe is, its entirety is comprised of a limited set of elements. Science intervenes at times, directing those building blocks of matter to become this or that.  Sometimes the cosmos spits out a platypus on its own.

What the bleep is the thing in this picture? What series of un/natural molecular events unfolded to result in such foreboding weirdness?

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Goth Fitness


The gym has a way of exposing people, of undressing their ego. Take any aspiring badass, put him in sweatpants on a StairMaster at the Y, and he's instantly neutralized. 

Picture Ving Rhames or Glenn Danzig doing Pilates.

Posturing in vain.

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Lackman Twins

Sometimes fiction is stranger than truth.

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Romancing Fallopia

Valentine's Day at the microscopic level.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bunny Bunns




Life as a hare in the industrialized world is a tragic cliché.  Pursued, eaten, worn, turned into lucky key chains, used as test subjects in trials for everything from cancer treatment to the effects of florescent dye in wacky glow-in-the-dark dinosaur socks... bunnies are nature's perpetual victim. What makes their demise especially brutal is that they're so inherently vulnerable-adorable.  It's like putting cuteness in a blender. 

What's the alternative, though? Should we begin dumping Johnson's Baby Shampoo into toddlers' pried-open eyes to see how long it takes for them to fall out?  Are we to grow gourd-sized tumors in kidnapped homeless people to determine whether a pill kills the disease or the whole dude?

For most of us, the reason to affect other life falls somewhere between pleasure and survival. If I can live without a thing that causes suffering, I will. On the other hand, if my well-being depends on itif I simply must wear wacky glow-in-the-dark dinosaur socks to the paleontologists' annual Halloween partythen look out, rabbits.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Malt Shop Dreams

Historically, we tend to think about the American twentieth century in increments of ten. Certainly by midcentury, it seems like sweeping changes in thinking and style unfolded by the decade, or we've imposed that organization after the fact.  Either way, each era had its own mindset and aesthetic, its distinct existential vibe. 

The fifties have an immediately recognizable quality: that post-World War II glow of righteousness, optimism, safety, convenience, and baby making. We had conquered evil, and it was time to cut a rug, eat burgers and fries, and procreate! 

I include myself grammatically, but I wasn't there. Instead, the essence of that period has been distilled and transmitted to me through family albums, writing, and classic entertainment like an inherited memory. Because I've seen those years through idealized TV shows, movies, and photographs, the fifties capture my imagination in a strange and specific way. There's an ironic, almost surreal contrast between the black-and-white technology still in use then and the emphatic energy I associate with that time. A colorful era on colorless media.

Imagine eating Froot Loops before the food dye has been added... That's the 1950s to me. 

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Hat Bugs


There hasn't been enough art involving predatory, entomological clothing.

Until now.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Poor Margaret


Oh, the practical jokes our bodies play on us in adolescence. If you're male, maybe you leave eighth grade as a boy and return in ninth as a braying, acne-peppered jackass with the libido to match.  For the girls, perhaps you experience an awkward growth spurt where you're taller than the boys' basketball team for half a year, and in 3-D. 

We all pass through that budding stage of youth, but there are those who experience the changes more acutely in a sort of biological boot camp.  I felt sorry for those kids in school even while I was almost one of them.  To those genetically unlucky juveniles, life's just a hot, humid storm of hormones, man.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Duh

I am in the minority of American males: I do not like beer (another Jack and Coke with lime, please), nor do I follow team sports (though it seems I exercise more than many athletics-obsessed guys).  I do enjoy watching from time to time, especially the intensity of solo contests like boxing, arm wrestling, or tennis. There should be full-contact tennis. Anyway, I typically spend the first moments identifying the underdog and then root for that person. 

While I appreciate sports, I have never related to the ferocious, laser-seriousness of the dedicated fan. Add gambling, and it becomes as strange as any piece on this site: placing your existence at stake, in the form of time used to make the gambled money, for the outcome of a contrived, inconsequential competition of which you are not even a physical part.  Weird!  

Of course, sport fulfills an important primal need; we've replaced hunting and gathering with punting and clamoring. ;- ) >  People's sports heroes become their avatars, soaring to corporeal heights that the fans themselves may never reach, so they fly through the wingspan of their idols.

On the other hand, there are those... "less intellectual" men who just hunger for the irresistible buzz of drunkenness, financial posturing, and watching other people bash into each other for points.  While the character in this image is no one in particular, he certainly represents an archetype I encountered regularly during my years at one of the biggest football universities in the nation.

Here's to protruding brows with cash on the line...

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Leaving Saul


I’ve always been moved by the dreamlike unknown. In sleep, our minds conjure imagery and plotlines with enough coherence and linearity to make some sense, but enough strangeness to make our imagination tingle! That synaptic in-between space is the sweet spot of creativity, the place I live to inhabit.

Engaging art balances clarity with vagueness, allowing room for the viewer to contribute. Without that dynamic personal investment, the expression is a static, closed loop, and I’ve yet to experience a deeply affecting fiction that spells out the mystery, the monster, or the motive.

So, I’ll leave it to you to compose this backstory...

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Teleported


The creative process from empty canvas to finished piece takes many paths.  One scenario is when I sit with a blank drawing pad and a pencil (pen, marker, wet hoagie roll... whatever) and begin making marks on the page.  My environment and mood have some influence over what I produce, but I don't enter into the drawing with any premeditation. I let it unfold. 

At first, the marks are random improvisation.  Gradually, the page begins to look like something to me, which in turn directs the next set of marks, and so on.  Finally, it all adds up to a specific visual concept, and then I consciously work to revise and polish the image in that direction.  Once the drawing is complete, I compose a related text and add it in, like an artistic Rorschach test.

"The Teleported" is a good example of this particular approach. What else might be fun to send through a teleportation pod together...  James Earl Jones and a giraffe?  Coke and Pepsi?  An entire drum's worth of yogurt and a single human toe?

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