Kitsch Sells

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I first became aware of photoshopping at an academic conference at Florida State a decade or so ago where a presenter shared the home page of her website, which featured a photoshopped image of a Van Gogh painting in which she had placed herself at a café table.

So I decided I’d learn Photoshop, which has become very handy when I’m illustrating posts for this blog.

On the side, I started creating what I call “fake art.”  One night on vacation somewhere, maybe Saluda, North Carolina, I noticed large canvases in a restaurant that didn’t seem quite right.  I asked the server if they were actually paintings, and she said, no, they were photographs that had “been filtered” to look like paintings.

Ta da, a new hobby was born.  I shipped a couple of my pieces to on-line companies that transferred my kitschy collages to canvases.  Most of my early works were Folly Beach bars that I funked up by pasting images from pulp novel covers into the scenes.

I took one to my favorite hangout, Chico Feo, and traded it for a $50 bar tab.  It now hangs in the bathroom of a suite that they rent out over the bar.  Some patrons approached the owner a couple of months back and asked if they could purchase it, and he put them in touch with me.  They bought five.

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My first sale

Then last week at a house concert my wife Caroline and I hosted, a woman wanted to buy another one, and then the day before yesterday, another fellow wanted to buy a completely different one that also hangs at Chico Feo.

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The second piece sold

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The most recent sale

So here I am selling these jokey collages without even trying to, so it has occurred to me now that I’m on a fixed income, I should try to actually supplement my cash flow by marketing this shit, maybe even print postcards or something.  The last thing I am is a businessman, so I don’t know where to start, but I thought, I’d go ahead and post a few of them here for the hell of it.

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Jack of Cups

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Chico Feo Bachelor’s Party

Keystone Kops, Kold Turkey, and House Koncerts

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Last night, Caroline, Brooks, and I attended Porter-Gaud’s Homecoming, and, of course, several people asked me how I liked retirement and what I was doing with my life.

Well, spending an inordinate amount of time screeching an ATT robots, listening to music manufactured by ATT for people on hold (martial drum machines, melodies based on the three signature tones of their branding, music certainly composed to encourage the holder to hang-up, if not take her own life).  Oh yeah, and talking to American and Asian troubleshooters — all in vain.

It’s Kafka meets the Keystone Kops.  You see, last Friday, my Internet went out.  I glanced out of the window to see a backhoe gouging a hole in my yard.  Subcontractors from Anson had come to repair what didn’t need to be repaired, severed the wire that conveys to me the digital world to which I’ve become hopelessly addicted.[1]

Because the two incompetent subcontractors didn’t “close the ticket,” I was left in limbo.  I finally got a new ticket, an appointment set up on last Tuesday from 4 to 8 pm.  I could track my technician, who at 8 am that morning had just left and at 8:30 pm had just left, the linear map on my screen having forever frozen him one stop from the dispatch center.  Of course, he or she never showed.  There had been “a computer glitch,” and because that ticket was invalid, other tickets that had been issued subsequently to other customers had to be honored.  So they’re supposedly coming out next Tuesday.

In happier news, Caroline and I hosted our very first ever house concert featuring politico sibling singer songwriter Fleming Moore and the hugely talented Danielle Howle, who is going to be included in the Oxford American music cd featuring performers from the Palmetto State.

Here are some photos taken by another Lowcountry musician Stefanie Timmerman.

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Fleming Moore

 

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Danielle performing during a mud slide

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George Alan Fox and I discussing the immense panorama of futility and anarchy that is contemporary history

Danielle take us away to some darker dilemma than the First World problems I whine about.


[1] Picture me as Miles Davis going cold turkey, trembling like a victim of Huntington’s disease, beaded sweat bursting into torrents, puddling the rug where I writhe in fetal position.

Republicans Grasping at Straws: Defending the Indefensible

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And those who had lied for hire;
the perverts, the perverters of language . . . 
     Ezra Pound "Canto XIV"

Hey, Lindsey and Tom, I’ve read Emmanuel Kant, and you’re no Emmanuel Kant (Though You Might Qualify as Lindsey and Tom Cant)

Dig these arguments.

Argument 1

Lindsey Graham:  There’s no quid pro quo because Trump didn’t explicitly say, “Hey, man, unless you dig up some dirt on Hunter Biden, we’re not going to sell you any more weapons.”[1]

No, Trump said after President Zelensky mentioned purchasing more Javelin missiles from the US, “Hey, man, we’ve done a lot for you, you not so much for us.  I need a favor.  Dig up some dirt on Hunter Biden.”

See, it can’t be a quid pro quo unless it’s spelled out explicitly.  He needed to say “no dirt on Biden, no weapons.”

We’ll just ignore that soliciting a foreign national to aid in an election is against the law.  Gotta have an explicit quid pro quo.  No explicit quid pro quo, impeachment a no go.

Argument 2

Tom Cornyn: The Whistleblower wasn’t present during the call.  It’s second and third hand information, which automatically renders his claims invalid.

Of course, Linda Tripp want present when Monica Lewinski performed fellatio on President Clinton, but as the poet says, “But that was in another [century], and besides the wench is dead.”

Shall I lower myself to make an argument by analogy?  The hearsay argument is like the rumors about this year’s Folly Gras celebration on beautiful Folly Beach, SC.  People there described a drunken shitshow.  I mentioned it some off-island friends, but they dismissed my account as secondhand and therefore not credible, even though scores of eye-witnesses agreed on what transpired.

Folly Gras 2019 1.0

An artist’s rendition

But wait, back to DC.   Hey, Tom, it seems to me like the transcript memo was pretty damned accurate.  Also, there might be a witness or two who might corroborate?

You’re gaslighting, my man.  You’re from Texas, right?  Remember the Alamo.

Non-Readers

Here’s a partial list of Republican Senators who haven’t bothered to read the nine-page eloquently clear whistleblower complaint:

Mitt Romney

Martha McSally

Lisa Murkowski

Rob Portman

Tim Scott (who had started reading but hadn’t finished it yet)[2]

Todd Young

Mike Baun

Makes you wonder if they’ve ever read the Constitution.  Most Pocket Constitutions consist of 34 pages, and the prose isn’t nearly as accessible.

Anyway, this scandal pales compared to the fact that Hillary stored her emails on a secret server.

Oh Wait, But There Is a Super Duper Private Server Where the Administration Hides Trump’s Conversations with Foreign Leaders

 From Carol E Lee of NBC News:

The whistleblower, whose complaint is at the heart of calls for an impeachment inquiry into Trump, also asserted that White House officials have misused the classified system multiple times to bury “politically sensitive” information detailed in records of the president’s interactions with world leaders. Former and current intelligence officers who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that, if true, such misuse should spark an investigation into the potential mishandling of a classified system.

Oh, by the way, Tom, the validity of this story about the secret server has been corroborated, which brings to mind that old saw that “it’s not the crime; it’s the cover-up.”

We shouldn’t Tax Obliterated Attention Spans with These Damning Extra Added Complications

Although named in Trump’s call as a potential intermediary in digging up dirt on Biden’s son, Attorney General William Barr hasn’t recused himself, and he gets to decide who gets prosecuted.

World Leader Zalensky bragged in the call that he stays at Trump Hotels in New York, which brings to mind that constitutional bagatelle, the Emoluments Clause.

Oh, yeah, and Trump’s suggestion that it would be smart like in the good ol’ days to execute whoever leaked to the whistleblower, which sounds somewhat like witnesses tampering.

Anyway, I’m about to hit 500 words, so I better quit in the off chance my junior senator Tim Scott stumbles across this little piece of debased liberal propaganda.


[1] “Any more weapons in your war against my BFF Vladimir.”

[2] Boooor-ing

 

 

 

 

 

Dressing the Part

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String Bean Akeman

Ken Burns’ latest epic documentary Country Music is [cue embarrassed throat-clearing] educational.

Of course, I’m well aware of the tradition of minstrel shows, but I didn’t realize that at the Grand Ole Opry (and less famous venues) white performers sometimes blackened their teeth, donned battered straw hats, and smoked corncob pipes to appeal to  audiences, who, if you check out vintage videos, appear to be well-dressed and well-groomed.  In other words, for whatever reason —  nostalgia perhaps? — they embraced the stereotypes of impoverished hillbillydom.

Although I don’t remember my maternal great-grandmother, my mama told me that she smoked a corncob pipe, and her son, whom we, the grandchildren, called Kiki, suffered dental deficiencies that made some of those blackened-tooth hillbillies look like Eric Estrada.  Although he spoke perfect grammar (albeit in a thick Dorchester county brogue), Kiki had to quit school in the third grade to work on the family farm.  I remember visiting his sister Creesie, who, in fact, didn’t have indoor plumbing, though she did own a large, imposing, non-functional organ. I was absolutely terrified of roosters, and my scampering to the outhouse was a harrowing experience. You can read about it in detail here.

Kiki was a big fan of country music and performed himself as a young man in quartets.  If I was at his house on a Saturday afternoon, I’d be subjected to about three straight hours of country and western on Channel 5, and I became slightly familiar with some of the artists featured in Burns’ documentary, for example, Little Jimmy Dickens, Ernest Tubb, Porter Wagoner, and Dolly Parton – all of whom I looked down at from the bridge of my freckled Scots-Irish nose.

None of the above-mentioned performers chose to come off as impoverished hillbillies. Porter and Dolly had their suits made by Nudie Cohn, who also fashioned Elvis’s stage costumes.  Minnie Pearl, of course, a caricature created by Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, wore gingham dresses and her signature straw hat with its $1.98 price tag attached, but she was a gentle satirist, and Minnie such a delightful persona that you couldn’t help but like her.[1]

porter and dolly

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At any rate, I’ve been able to overcome my childhood prejudice and now appreciate Hank Williams, Sr., Waylon and Willie, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, Graham Parsons, Roseanne Cash, Dwight Yokum, and several other performers.  The Burns documentary is introducing me to artists who had slipped through the canyon-like crevices of my spotty education.

Perhaps earlier in my life, these country stereotypes hit a little too close to home.  Poor Aunt Creesie, poor Cousin Trim. We didn’t attend either one of their funerals.


[1] By the way, Sarah Ophelia Colley, who had a theater degree from Ward-Belmont College, purchased that famous hat in Aiken, SC.

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The late great Gram Parsons sporting the coolest country costume of all time

Miles Davis’s Restless Musical Journey

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Illustration by Oliver Barrett of The Atlantic

Although I’m not a musician, I seem to find myself hanging with them an awful lot.  For example, in college I roomed with Warren Moise and accompanied him and his band Wormwood on many a gig.  When Warren decided to drop out and make a go at being a professional musician, he invited me to join Wormwood as soundman or light man or something or another, but I stuck to the unglamorous academic life of a sophomore living in Tenement 9 in the so-called Horseshoe of the University of South Carolina.[1]  Later Warren later returned to school, became a lawyer, but still writes songs, like this one recorded by the Band of Oz.

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The next year I moved off campus with another musician, Stan Gibbons, who played bass for a rock cover band called Buddy Roe. After Buddy Roe broke up, Stan got into jazz, and it was he who turned me on to the Miles Davis album Bitches Brew, which I didn’t dig, and believe me, I got to hear it on numerous occasions, like non-stop for a couple of months. I still don’t dig it, but now that I’ve finished Ian Carr’s two-inch thick (658 pages) Miles Davis, The Definitive Biography, I have come to appreciate why Davis became such a restless innovator and to see his refusal to settle for the profitable status quo as a mark of heroic artistry.

Born to upper middle class parents, Miles Dewey Davis III grew up in East St. Louis where his father practiced dentistry.  Although he grew up in a household awash in music, it was classical music that his African American family embraced. His sister played the piano and his mother the violin.  As Carr puts it in the biography, “After Emancipation, it was the professional men and ministers of the church who were the heads of the new black society, and they were at pains to get rid of any customs that were too ‘negroid’ or which harked back to slavery.  It often happened that leading black citizens became the most fanatical imitators of white society. ”

However, that great corrupter of youth in those days, the radio, turned Miles onto Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, and Roy Eldridge, so he took up the trumpet, played in the school band, but also at social clubs.  By the time he was sixteen and still in high school, he had joined a music union and came under the tutelage of Clark Terry.  This was in the 40’s.  Once he graduated, he talked his parents into letting him go the Juilliard instead of Fisk University.  At the Juilliard, he lived what Carr calls “a Jekell and Hyde” existence, trafficking with classical music by day and jazz, particularly bebop, by night.

Bebop was the first jazz innovative movement Davis got into.  Soon, he found himself attending Charlie Parker gigs, and in 1945 he joined Charlie Parker’s group. During this period, he shared the stage with such greats as Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane.

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Trane and Dizzy

So began his career, a career that featured a series of departures that usually irked the mainstream jazz community.

Weary of bebop, Davis and cronies Gil Evans and Jerry Mulligan among others started experimenting with the idea of having their instruments imitate human voices, creating  more melodic jazz than bebop.  After this so-called “birth of the cool” phase, Davis, now hooked on heroin, played what is called “hard bop.”  He signed with Prestige records and locked in a room by himself kicked his H habit cold turkey, .  Next came modal jazz, and in 1959 Davis released Kind of Blue, which is the best selling jazz album of all time.  In the 60s as rock replaced jazz as the cool pop music, Miles embraced the sound of the guitar, and “went electric,” much to the chagrin of jazz purists, and hence Bitches Brew.

 After Wynton Marsalis publically criticized Miles for abandoning “real jazz,” Miles responded:

What’s [Marsalis] doin’ messin’ with the past?  A player of his caliber should just wise up and realize it’s over . . . Some people, whatever is happening now, either they can’t handle it or they don’t want to know. They’ll be messed up on that bogus ‘nostalgia’ thing. Nostalgia shit!  That’s a pitiful concept.  Because it’s dead, it’s safe – that’s what that shit is about!  Hell, no one wanted to hear us when we were playing jazz. Those days with Bird, Diz, Trane – some were good, some were miserable . . . People didn’t like that stuff then. Hell, why do you think we was playing clubs?  No one wanted us on prime-time TV.  The music wasn’t getting across, you dig!  Jazz is dead![2]

Point taken: innovation is often frowned upon, misunderstood. Why, after all the success of Born in the USA, did Springsteen follow that up with Nebraska?  Why did Dylan abandon acoustic folk for the electric guitar, and why does he constantly reconfigure his songs so that at a concert he might be halfway through “Blowin’ in the Wind” before you recognize it?

Maybe because for them it has gotten old, stale.  You don’t have to like the new product; I much prefer Kind of Blue to Bitches Brew.  However, unless you’re a great musician, you probably should keep your mouth shut and let the masters do their thing.

It’s your thang, do what you wanna do.

I can’t tell you, who to sock it to.


[1]You can read about my travails with my roomies here, a situation that had me literally threatening to hang myself to university officials.

[2]I suspect Miles used a different mode of expression at Juilliard.