Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category


Brain Imaging and Mind Reading

December 13, 2008

Check this out:

I don’t doubt that some day the imaging technology will exist that gets pretty darn close to showing the sorts of thoughts a subject is having, but find it hard to believe that the results can be anything more than generic. Not only because I want to hold on to the idea that any translation of my inner experience of a particular object, scene, or idea can not be anything more than an inference (token), but also because I don’t think it is possible, with one exception;  that would be to directly wire one subject’s perceptive instrumentation  and memory banks to the “inner theatre” of another. Even then, without the same neuro-architecture,  the resulting transference of thought would only produce analog,  not the same.  Just like hi def tv gets better and better, but can never deliver reality.



Francesco Clemente on Charlie Rose– Aristocratic Roots Not Enough

August 22, 2008

He’s traveled widely and made friends with many of the greats. He’s a gentle soul, and he’s spent his life searching. With a man who has accomplished the life that Clemente has, it’s hard to find the justification, never mind the heart, to criticize too harshly. But goodness gracious sakes alive, I am not impressed with his work. He wouldn’t be with mine either, I’ll bet a dollar.

Self Portrait — woodcut, 1989, Francesco Clemente

Just the same, his interview on Charlie Rose is very good. He talked about being grateful for the opportunity to create his own narrative (Charlie provides this opportunity for his guests over and over again for decades), and by embracing the light and the shadow in his work, we see how easily the painting becomes metaphor…should become metaphor.

During a discussion about Andy Warhol–a significant figure in Clemente’s life–Clemente said that color is the important quality in Warhol’s work. huh? color???? …weird. sure, there’s color in Warhol’s work, but I can’t imagine seeing it as a defining feature.

Not everyone born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth turns out to be a pretentious bore. Clemente seems so nice, so relaxed with everything on the surface; but I found it hard to trust that surface. He has worked hard, or so he infers, to make himself vulnerable… but I wonder how someone who has never had to worry about the roof over his or her head can be truly vulnerable. And staying up all night to paint a mural does not quite make you a laborer.

However, there are many kinds of vulnerability. We see a genuineness, (dare I use the word “authenticity?”) (no, someone would shoot me) as he makes himself available and shows some vulnerability during this interview. In discussing what sorts of things he fears in life, Charie asked him if he feared the loss of his talent. Clemente reframed, to say he might fear not being able to do the work– “I wouldn’t call it talent, I would call it my language, the privilege of being able to tell my story.” Perhaps he recognizes his own deficiencies? or is it a pseudo-humility.

Dialogue — oil on canvas, 2001, Clemente

Given that he has played on the world’s stage for a considerable time now, it would be useful to say what qualities do emerge in Clemente’s work. I see a certain preciousness, that unless it is couched in the ironic is too much. it is hard to say now, being in a time of irony on steroids. the gentle wry humor may be getting lost as we project our post 911 hopelessness on to all creative work.

We want to take this artist as seriously as he takes himself. Clemente is a bit cryptic. He’s at once fresh out of the 60’s, a searcher who went to India, Japan, came here, and has gone beyond. I was not completely familiar with his work before this broadcast, so maybe I am jumping to judgment too quickly. But he vies with Cy Twombly for last place in talent? skill? on my list of the well-knowns. This is hard to talk about.

Poems to the Sea — oil, crayon, pastel colored pencil on paper, 1959, Cy Twombly

I feel like I’m being duped when I stand in front of a work like this in a museum. So it could be my own paranoia that prevents me from going to a deeper level with it.

Was Charlie more interesting than his guest? He spelled out what is hoped that artists will do, and that is, to capture the idea of a narrative that we all understand.

A recent self portrait by Clemente shows a partial skeletal view of the artist. Meaning: vulnerability is “the ideal state of the artist.”


Piggy-Backing on “Higher Eclectica” (August 16) Post — Authenticity and the Pseudo–Intellectual

August 18, 2008

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields.
Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.
Strawberry Fields forever.

I don’t want to sound like I’m condemning our lifestyle as a whole, but I am often wishing we as a population had a better sense of how to choose between the “theme park” experiences and those experiences that are more real or more fundamental to an authentic reality. I’m listening to the radio program “On Point,” and discussion with author Richard Todd is enlivening. The topic is always timely, and never more than now, when so much of our Identity is pre-packaged, awaiting our purchase…; the documentary “The Ad and the Ego” comes to mind: “your happiness is at the end of the next transaction…” and the Gap ad: “YOU”VE GOTTA GET THIS LOOK!” …ughghgh! heaven help us.

What’s real, what matters? how can we tell when we are getting close to what really counts for us?

On Point: “Even the opening ceremony of the Chinese Olympics, with lip syncing and fabricated video…” were we surprised? and how does this relate to our own search for the genuine, for the aesthetically comforting; for what helps us as individuals and as a culture.

We’ve lived under various edicts of how to live for a long time. “The good life” and what that means has been sought after since at least classical times– for Socrates, Plato, Aristotle et al, the subject infused their every thought. One caller refers to Longinus’s “On the Sublime” –suggests we try to find basic values inside ourselves. Are there any? or are we peeling away layers of the self to find it’s only layers all the way down?



Higher Eclectica– Past, Present and Always

August 16, 2008

Okay! I’m guilty already… . David Brooks’s theory on the pseud psyndrome sadly accommodates my own failure to keep pace in the one-upsmanship of the day. My problem is I couldn’t care less about whether my iphone will do what yours will do, how many friendsters I have, and in which online communities I ought to be developing my profile.

No techno-media-philic gadgetized reality for me; nope, and I don’t think it’s just sour grapes, although I can’t be sure… if I had an unlimited budget, would I in fact drop out of the social and into the electronic? … and that is how I see it– this phenomenon of living life while constantly being tethered to cell and texting; it’s a life-is-elsewhere life. For example, last night, the very minute Mike Gordon (Phish bassist) thanked us after his final encore on the Burlington waterfront, virtually everyone around us got on their cell phones. Not that they hadn’t been checking them periodically throughout, and many phoning in the concert as it was in progress. So interesting though, the impulse to call someone immediately, and SO VERY DIFFERENT than a concert result from back in the day! Can you imagine phoning in Jethro Tull? The Allman Brothers? Jimi Hendrix? Bob Marley? Well, yes you can, because we’ve come so far.

And you snatch your rattling last breaths
with deep-sea-diver sounds,
and the flowers bloom like
madness in the spring.

My prefered “pseudo-intellectuality” puts me with those throwbacks who make their reverie in havens of obscure cultural involvements, somewhere between what Brooks describes as the Great Age of Snobbery, and the Age of Higher Eclectica. To illustrate, there’s nothing I relish more than telling someone about my latest favorite author, Haldor Laxness, an Icelandic Nobel winner that no one has heard of; or OOIOO a favorite music group that is deliciously and exotically my own. Even as far back as high school, I used to like to drop WBCN into the conversation, back when BCN was truly an underground station, and only a select few of us were tuning in. We’ve got the Radiator here in Burlington, but it’s not so underground really. (define underground?)

MY top ten movie list has no major Hollywood productions on it. My garden features rare, new hybrid and heirloom vegetables, as opposed to the tried and true but everyday varieties of things. Would I rather die than admit that my taste is anywhere close to common? Is there such a thing as being a snob “in the best sense”?

What we are talking about when we talk about what we are talking about…

Our present day pseud painted by David Brooks rings true, as we search for the right ring tone. To be part of the present day intellectual affectation, we are supposed aspire to something like the condition of the Verizon Guy who is always asking if he can be heard, through new and ever more various and multi-colored avenues… . But the poor guy never really has anything to say! (smile)


Burlington Telecom and Al Jazeera, work work, and Buono’s Italian Restaurant

June 26, 2008

Well thank goodness a decision is made regarding Al Jazeera and our lovely local network. A joint resolution by the two advisory committees recommends that it remains on the channel lineup.

It should behoove you who want to make a case against a channel to bring evidence to back up claims next time. The issue was worthy and very important to defend, but please: you who would wish to censor my media experiences, why not use your time and efforts for more productive purposes. Instead of wishing away Al Jazeera, why not further your cause(s) in a creative and instructive way. For example, why not start your own channel? there seems to be enough of an organizational thrust behind you. Talk is cheap.

WCAX covered the story this evening. I noticed that a clip running behind one of their interviews showed the orange jumpsuits and the hooded men, a clear allusion to, and reminder of the beheadings. I don’t think WCAX is complicit in the disinformation campaign against Al Jazeera, but their unfortunate choice of back drop does not un-muddy the waters.

And now, we can all get back to business. I did not do any Telecom door-knocking today, but I did manage to work in at least three other areas– 1.5 hours on a contract painting job on Willard Street, 6 hours on bookkeeping and tax work with my finance guru, and 1.25 hours for Ribbecke Studios cementing 2 panels. Tomorrow, I will paint in my studio… oh- after opening at Ribbecke Studios. I have a painting to finish… tomorrow is the day!

Evening dinner with friend at Buono’s on Shelburne Rd. Rumor had it that there was fried chicken to be had on Shelburne Road. Yes indeed, Buono’s did, but at $18, I balked. I ordered the Pesto Linguine at $10.50, and based on the quality of that dish, decided I was glad that I hadn’t gone for the fried chicken. Olive oil and basil flakes do not pesto make. The first cup of coffee was stale and burned, the room was too loud. But the company and conversation made up for it. Living by art. Why is it so easy to show up for work at other people’s operations and projects to help them along in their processes, but nearly impossible to stay focused on my own? I think it comes down to risk management, which is further deconstructed to get to fear. REALLY? …FEAR?


Burlington Telecom’s Al Jazeera Dilemma

June 1, 2008

Something has been looming in the back of my consciousness. It has barely made it on the radar through all the intensity of my own April and May projects. Last night, it came bursting through. I caught a rebroadcast of the May 27th Burlington Telecom public hearing at Contois Auditorium. The question under discussion was whether the Al Jazeera English network should be pulled from the lineup.

In theory, I love Sunday mornings. It’s Spring. School is out, I’ve returned from two back-to-back trips, got 13 artworks submitted to an exhibition, made good progress with the tee shirt design committee for Branch Out Burlington, the garden is 80% in, scored some great plants at the farmers market Saturday, and managed a decent bike ride up and down the hills of Burlington. So, hadn’t I earned a lazy morning off to read, lounge in bed, hang out with Pixel, hang out in the garden? But the workings of my subconscious, stirred up by last night’s rebroadcast, bubbled through immediately upon my awakening…. So here goes – perhaps a draft of what I ultimately send to the reviewing committee:

We live in a democracy. Democracy means nothing if our public and well-intended projects can so easily be derailed by a small but powerful and vocal few. Democracy ought to be supportive of all voices. Anti-Al Jazeera folks wish to have the Arabic network removed from the BT menu. How is this different from censorship? Are we so provincial that we need to be protected from the very forces that should enlighten us?

I am not a Jew and I am not in Israel. But if I was, I would listen to Al Jazeera; the same way I occasionally catch Fox news, for the different points of view. Occupied minds are the most vulnerable to debate-stifling discourse; discourse which by the way, in our current kerfuffle seems suspiciously familiar. Are the oppositionists perhaps the same folks that were so intent to bring about a censorship of the South End Art Hop last fall?

Instead of being a tool for education, a media that succumbs to such pressure is not very different than mainstream media that serves, and is an integral part of, the dominant culture, otherwise known as the corporate (military-medical-education-prison-agro-academic- industrial complex) culture. But there are differences and let’s fight for them. Burlington Telecom is not directly beholden to structures grounded by corporate economic, social and political interests. Those media that are don’t need the careful nurturing that our local venture has had and continues to need, if it is to offer the free interplay of diverse voices.

We are in an age of hyperconsciousness. As a community, our very careful, deliberate and thoroughgoing efforts toward inclusion serve us well. The better informed we are, the better we behave as a community. As an employee and a customer of BT, I am going to be very disappointed if we lose Al Jazeera– not that I get to see it all that often. I would love to, but it is not in the current basic package. From the little bit that I have seen thanks to RETN, it is not at all as the detractors portray: I have not seen even subtle or nuanced broadcast of hate, there is no subtext of Islamic extremism, the programs seem to be no less diverse than CNN, and I think they are more diverse than Fox. I do not glean a slap in the face of Jews by the humanizing of Arabic culture.

What happens in Burlington doesn’t stay in Burlington. To delete Al Jazeera sets a dangerous precedent. If we are to have any moral or social commitment, let it be to let a thousand flowers bloom, and be the Burlington that we really can be: open, welcoming, growing, searching…but also with a bit of the edginess that struggle, differences, and unfortunately even hurt feelings and disappointments bring.

Now, off to my garden with me. or to BT doorknocking…