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  • - * 13 DOORS OF X* *Meeah Williams* The Barking Cat Press * 2015 Brooklyn, NY * Seattle, WA copyright 2015 Meeah Williams/The Barking Cat...

Monday, December 30, 2013

=some stuff done on the way to Florida & back & in-between=

My husband and I took a road trip to Florida for the Christmas holidays. We usually fly, but the SS-like trauma that is associated with airport travel these days convinced us to actually see the country we usually travel blindly above this year. I found that stitching postcard collages was a relaxing way to pass the time as we drove from Brooklyn to the Sunshine State. Some of the stuff I stitched into the cards above was picked up along the way.

In whatever hotels we'd stop to spend the night I'd be sure to tear a few pages out of the Gideon Bibles that were left in the night-table drawers. I painted these birds on them—fallen sparrows as I think of them—and then I stitched the pages together. Did I feel bad about defacing Holy Bibles that weren't mine? In a word, editing out all the qualifications, Yes. But then I figure who is going to miss a couple of pages out of Leviticus or Jeremiah, let alone even look at these Bibles? In my own way, I'm spreading the good word, too, after all. I suppose the road to Hell is paved with such dodgy rationalizations. Still, I can't help but think I'm doing God's work, as if He needs the help.

Above: a couple of journal pages I did during the trip. I call these "palimpsest paintings" because they are actual painted-over journal pages recording day to day events. I like the way the stuff underneath half-shows through, adding visual and textual complexity to the painted over surface. The second painting is based on a period portrait of William Blake. I've no idea what made me think of him, of all people, but so it goes. Easily apparent is the fact that I used up a lot of thread on this trip. Mile by mile, stitch by stitch I traveled. I couldn't have done it without my husband, who did all of the driving, while my hands and eyes were mostly in my lap.  

Here are another couple of journal pages. The first is a collage with notes from a short story I was writing during the trip as well as a found poem made from newspaper clippings. The second is another palimpsest painting—a view from our hotel room in Tallahassee with another found poem, this one ripped out of a (defaced) New Yorker magazine from last year (not mine either, as it happens).

Friday, December 20, 2013


—this one heading for Elgin, Illinois with a real-life Brooklyn pigeon feather on it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013



—finally broke down & bought myself one of those Gelli-Arts monoprinting things that i've seen so many people using (and raving about). i called it a christmas gift to myself. if nothing else, it's worth its cost ($26 for the 9x12 size) in the fun i've already had with it. these two prints are from yesterday.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

=Books recently read=

The Remains of the Day. Mr. Stevens, as he's almost exclusively known throughout this novel, is an English butler of the old school, when butlering wasn't just a profession, but an art and a calling and butlers devoted themselves fully to a house and a master. Mr. Stevens devoted himself to Darlington House and to Lord Darlington, a man who had some unfortunately misguided old world notions, or so it seems in retrospect, about fair play vis-a-vis the harsh punishment meted out to Germany after World War I. His judgement proved even worst when it came to dealing with Hitler just before the start of World War II. Anyway, those days are long over, Darlington is dead, and the house has passed into the hands of a nouveau riche American businessman. Mr. Stevens, himself now advanced in years, is taking a motoring vacation and reflecting on his long career, which, he hopes, stands up to the fine example of butlership exhibited by his father before him. As it happens, being the devoted servant he is, Mr. Stevens has a practical goal in mind for his journey. A meeting with a woman who some twenty years earlier was the head housekeeper at Darlington House. She and Mr. Stevens had locked horns on a number of occasions in ways that make it clear the issues weren't strictly professional. She eventually left to get married but that marriage is now apparently kaput and Mr. Stevens has arranged an interview at which he plans to offer the former Miss Kenton her old job back. As he gets closer and closer to his destination, Mr. Stevens replays events in his memory and realizes, or rather, he stops denying to himself how much he's always felt for Miss K—and how much Miss K seemingly felt for him. Eventually the two come face to face. Whether they reunite or not isn't quite the point of "The Remains of the Day" but rather that the regrets we have over how we lived our lives, the mistakes we made, the chances we didn't take aren't worth ruining what still remains of the light, however brief, even if it's only a sliver on the horizon before the final inevitable unending darkness descends. 

The Paper Garden. Poet Molly Peacock has written what is ostensibly a biography of Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700-1788) but this book is also several other things as well, including an examination of the process and importance of creativity and craft as an enhancement of life, a work of history with an emphasis on the role of women in the 18th century, and, finally, personal anecdote, as Peacock links her 21st century life as an artist with that of her subject. Delany is credited as being the woman who "discovered" collage when she accidentally observed a fallen geranium petal lying beside some red paper and was struck with the inspiration to replicate the real flower with bits of colored papers. She was 72 at the time, deep in grief after the death of her much-loved second husband, and her discovery brought her back to life. Over the next dozen years or so, Delany made 985 of these incredibly beautiful and scientifically accurate floral mosaics, becoming a celebrated personage among painters, botanists, writers, aristocrats, and even a king and a queen (George III and Charlotte). 

Peacock traces the arc of Delany's long life to show how making stuff engages us with the world around us and how craft can keep us going through tough times, even open us up to an experience of existence deeper, richer, and more illuminating than what we had—and lost—before. By working creatively, Peacock asserts, whatever our medium or discipline, we can literally transform our lives through art, giving them form, meaning and beauty, no less than we transform the materials with which we work to make poems and paintings, needlepoint and sculptures, gardens both real and replicated in paper. In this sense, life and art are not only interchangeable, but the same thing. As a poet, Peacock writes not just informationally about her subject, but inspirationally, with passion and authority. If you weren't already so inclined, she makes you want to pick up a pencil or a sewing needle, a garden shears or a scissors and set out right now to make something.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

=This holiday season, remember...=

Keeping you under surveillance for 
your own good.

*courtesy of the N.S.A. 
and the National Santa Association

=red cat=

Saturday, December 14, 2013

=american martyr envelope altar=

—heading for Finland as soon as I can work up the resolve to make it to the post office.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

=Warholian non-letters=

The third in a series of "non-letters" (the first two have already been dispatched) consisting of an envelope constructed out of a single used sheet of typing paper, which has been painted and sewn shut. As the words stamped on the back unabashedly, proudly, even hysterically advertise: "there is nothing to open!"/"there is nothing inside!" In other words, the envelope is the message, such as there is a message at all. Or, in still other words, to paraphrase Warhol: "If you want to know who sent this, what she has to say, just look at the surface of her envelope and there she is. There isn't anything more."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

=End McSlavery Now!=

For the first time in my life I wish I ate the poisoned shit they serve at McDonald's just so I can boycott eating it today. 

Go McStrikers! 

Time to stop feeding our children garbage that leads to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and a lifetime of bad eating habits--and then building Ronald McDonald cancer houses to assuage corporate guilt and cook up good PR. 

Time to stop tempting toddlers in the door like pederasts with cheap plastic gew-gews mass-produced in Chinese factories where they've got people cowed to accept even greater injustice than they've managed yet to get them to accept over here. 

Time to pay employees a wage that doesn't require them to go on public assistance just to make ends meet after working a 40-hour week. 

How much does it actually cost to produce one of those disgusting sludge-patties? Certainly nothing close to what they charge for it, you can bet your McNuggets on that. Cut your disgustingly elevated profit margins. Shave a little off the stockholder's earnings if necessary, you greedy bastards. Stop making pigs of yourselves. Stop hogging the trough you corporate fat-asses. The only thing more nauseating and unhealthy than your "food" is you.

Why should people work at all if they can't make a living working? When they finally wake up, they won't--and that will be the end of the day for you.

=haiga sorta=

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

=Books recently read=

Prisons We Choose to Live Inside. A collection of five short essays in which Doris Lessing tries to make sense of the fact that the world is so messed up and has always been messed up and will likely continue being messed up in spite of us knowing the reason why it's so messed up. She writes, "Looking back over my life, what I see is a succession of great mass events, boilings up of emotion, of wild partisan passion, that pass, but while they last it is not possible to do more than think: 'These slogans, or these accusations, these claims, these trumpetings, quite soon they will seem to everyone ridiculous and even shameful.' Meanwhile, it is not possible to say so. One mass movement, each a set of mass opinions, succeeds another. And each breeds a certain frame of mind: violent, emotional, partisan, always suppressing facts that don't suit it, lying, and making it impossible to talk in the cool, quiet, sensible low-keyed tone of voice which, it seems to me, is the only one that can produce truth." 

If there is to be any hope for change, what we must do is take "that deliberate step into objectivity and away from wild emotionalism, deliberately choosing to see ourselves as, perhaps, a visitor from another planet might see us." 

She touches on the methodology and effectiveness of brainwashing, both consciously employed and unconsciously brought to bear on each of us by governments, by the media, by the community, the social group, and the family. These pressures to accept conformity are all but irresistible if we don't anticipate them beforehand, recognize them in ourselves and others, and consciously and consistently fight against them to keep our minds clear and our emotions from being manipulated. We're going to have to teach ourselves to do this, however, because even in a so-called "democratic" society the status quo has a vested interest in keeping you from thinking for yourself. 

"What government, anywhere in the world, will happily envisage its subjects learning to free themselves from governmental and state rhetoric and pressures? Passionate loyalty and subjection to group pressure is what every state relies on." 

Yet it is only by breaking the enchantment of conformity that we can escape the reactionary "us vs. them" mentality that has dominated human behavior and that has doomed the human race to repeat the same catastrophic mistakes since the beginning of recorded history. We can see that history written plainly. We lament it. So why don't we finally wake up and change? Well for one thing it feels good to the majority of people to stick with the group, to wallow in communal emotionalism, no matter how squalid, sometimes especially because such mass emotions are so squalid and stupid and sadistic. 

"Everything that has ever happened to me has taught me to value the individual, the person who cultivates and preserves her or his own ways of thinking, who stands out against group thinking, group pressures. Or who, conforming no more than is necessary to group pressures, quietly preserves individual thinking and development."

Yes, sounds like a good idea. Sadly, despite Lessing's hopeful note at the end of this collection, my guess is that one in every hundred million people will actually put her wisdom into practice. I mean, Socrates said much the same thing 2,500 years ago.

Angels & Insects. These books consists of two novellas, "Morpho Eugenia" and "The Conjugal Angel." In "Morpho Eugenia" William Adamson has just returned from a long research expedition through the rain-forests, far from civilized England. It's the late 19th century and the theories of Charles Darwin are electrifying the intellectual world. Some see Darwin's work as elevating man to a liberating new plateau of understanding; others see it as devaluing all of creation into a meaningless, godless clockwork mechanism and redefining man as just another beast. Adamson is staying at the home of a fairly well-to-do patron until he can fund a new expedition. He's been marked by the savagery and beauty he's witnessed in the jungle but not so much that he cannot appreciate the refinements and beauties of civilized England, not to mention the charms of the Alabaster daughters, one in particular. He falls in love, thinks his affections hopeless, finds they aren't, and ends up married to a woman above his own social station. His father-in-law promises to fund Adamson's next expedition—but when?—since the babies start coming fast and furious. Meanwhile Adamson grows less and less enchanted with his new life, his wife, and his father-in-law, who, though unfailingly good-natured, belabors poor Adamson with his repetitive literary attempts to defend the old religious order, seeing in the beauty and functioning of the world a divine order of some kind, a working of God's invisible hand. Adamson, though, has seen how disorderly life can be in the jungle, where nature is both horrifically prolific and utterly amoral, where for every one experiment in life that survives, a thousand others perish. In the end, he discovers that not only is it a jungle "out there" but also right at home, where his wife is reverting to a shockingly amoral animality in their conjugal bed and this when he's not in it. To make matters worse, she's doing it with a member of her own family. Luckily for Adamson, he's been slowly but surely falling in love with one of the servants, an intelligent, free-thinking woman who's just as interested in biology as he is and every bit as eager to escape that perverse hothouse of dysfunction and hypocrisy and head for the jungle where things are what they seem, be they ever so brutal.

"The Conjugal Angel" is also set in the late 19th century and deals with another consequence of the general crisis of faith brought on by the new scientific understanding that was then sweeping the intellectual world: spiritualism. A circle of like-minded people gather regularly to conduct seances where they hope to make contact with the departed. One of the group is a woman who was once betrothed to a close friend of Alfred Tennyson. The young man died and she's been in mourning for him ever since, though she's been remarried now for years. The "conjugal angel" of the title refers to a theory set forth by Emanuel Swedenborg that we each have a soul-mate to whom we'll be joined in a kind of eternal orgasm when we die. The eccentric Mrs. Jesse thinks its the man she was betrothed to and lost and she's trying to find him again in the Great Beyond. She's in for a surprise, though, when he eventually does show up via the medium used to channel his spirit. In the meantime, Tennyson himself feels the stirrings in the aether as the spirit of his old friend comes closer. It turns out he loved Arthur, too, loved him quite a bit more than as "just" a friend, as evidenced by the extended love-poem he wrote him after his untimely death, "In Memorium." So it turns out it was a love-triangle, after all; is it Tennyson's body, not Mrs. Jesse's, that the angel Arthur awaits in the afterlife in order to complete a conjugal love for all eternity that neither of them dared while still mortal?