03 December 2008

The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art

That's the title of a piece I read about at the SFMOMA last weekend. There was a related installation on another floor, that consisted of a fridge and a wall of shelves full of empties. The piece itself involves serving free beer between 5 and 7pm on Thursdays. I imagine the bartender will want to talk about art or something, I dunno. And I don't know what kind of beer, but the empties in the installation were Anchor Steam.
I sent that paragraph out, as an invitation to the Thursday night boys, and Ian wrote back that, "I remember that this was at Yerba Buena a couple of years back - one of the cool things was that they were getting local celebrities to serve the beer on weekends". I started to write back, but it seemed more like the sort of thing that belonged in this space, rather than on the beer'n'pizza group-list. I wrote:

I know they're having a different guest bartender every week, but I haven't heard who they'll be. If they have a reputation for booking "local celebrities", I imagine I'll have to get there pretty early if I hope to score a seat. It's not that big a bar they have set up.

I don't know how keen I am on the whole thing. I mean, free beer is free beer, yes. And I don't have any problem with visiting art museums, even though they tend to engender in me a bit of despondence over what I've done with my life (which I'm tempted here to deflate as, "Scribbles!? I could have just been scribbling?!?" -- but that demeans both the scribblers and my own despondence). I think by conflating "drinking beer with friends" with "highest form of art", it puts me in mind, not only of art, but both of going to church every week, and of having sex with my wife. High Art/High Church/High Sex: these are all opportunities and encouragements to pay attention, because I'm extremely close to the center of Why I Do Anything/Everything I Do. It could be argued that I'm just as close to it, whenever and wherever I do anything or everything. But when, for instance, I'm drinking beer with friends, my attention isn't necessarily called to how little fucking attention I'm able to muster in any given direction; whereas my enjoyment of art, church, and sex is very much related to how much attention they demand from me. And conversely: my inability to enjoy them correlates to my refusal, conscious or not, to surrender such attention as their appreciation would require. And meanwhile, my attention is persistently called to how much or little of same is being paid. Extrapolating from there... Do I want to have to pay much attention while drinking beer with friends? How much more would I enjoy it if I were paying more attention? What is more? Somehow this ties in with what I'd consider my chronic crisis of passion... How does one diagnose ADD? How does one measure sufficient attention so as to determine a deficit? Are there specific questions? What does the DSM-IV say?
Anyway, I ended up going, but none of my friends came. Robert Bechtle was the bartender. He could never be accused of scribbling. We had a brief conversation about Bechtel Corp. A local newspaper gossip columnist read aloud a list of funny sounding rhyming word pairs, like "hoity-toity" and "hurdy-gurdy", then managed to fit many of them into a re-working of the Gettysburg Address.

I didn't make any friends. I didn't really even talk to anyone, apart from my few words with Mr. Bechtle, whose name is pronounced like Bechtel, despite his distaste for the corporation. I drank a few beers (it was Pacifico), then biked out to Craig's to join the regular crew for Belgians and BBQ. I'll have to review the transcripts to determine if any high art occurred there.

27 October 2008

Fast Times at ACSF

Sean Penn is coming back to Shelley's acting class. He was there a couple of years ago, some months before we put on that play. I quit the class after the play, so I don't know what's been going on there since, but rumors indicate that Shelley's daughter is/was dating Emil Hirsch, who starred in the film Sean had just finished shooting last time he came to the class. So, I imagine Shelley's been keeping the lines of communication open, and now -- well, here he is (supposedly) coming back.

Shelley sent email to me and presumably other erstwhile classmates, inviting us to rejoin the class in the run-up to Sean's return. The weekend after I got that email, I went camping, and spent an evening trying to write a scene to perform for the occasion. But I hit a few dead ends, and, as is typical, haven't picked it back up since then.  So... I don't have anything to show for the past couple of years, in which my excuse for not acting is that I want to write my own part and "play myself".

I was talking at work about Sean Penn coming back. I was standing atop a loading dock awning, painting a warehouse wall with Josh and Caitlyn. Josh has been working with me for years, but Caitlyn was new, and didn't know I'd been in an acting class before. She was asking about my involvement. I gave my usual excuse, that I was "accessing tools of personal expression". She asked if I feel like I'm acting in my day-to-day life. I can't remember how I replied, but I'm sure it sidestepped the question in some way. At least, I didn't focus as much on the question as I'm drawn to doing so now... I look at the phrase above, "my usual excuse, that I was 'accessing tools of personal expression'", and I think of how limited my vocabulary is, how rarely I express a new idea, how often I'm having the same conversation or relating the same story to another audience--how often my own original words or ideas come to feel to me like clichés. Even that sounds clichéd, how often I've said, "I've said this so often it feels like a cliché." Sure, maybe I tailor the phrasing to suit the moment, maybe, but regardless: I can see how my life consists of a lot of rehearsing a series of familiar scenes. Thus, as in any acting situation, I face the ever-present danger of losing touch with the meaning of my words, or choosing the wrong meaning, because I've lost understanding of which is right, or if there even is one. The eternal search for meaning... What does meaning even mean? Ugh. And so on.

It's like a life spent practicing telling jokes; which, actually, is my biggest take-away from Sean's first visit: the man is an entertainer. Pretty much all night, 'til 4am, whether with an audience of one or two, or the entire group, he made effective use of his inevitable position at the center of attention to churn out a seemingly endless stream of jokes and stories. I can only remember one--probably even the next morning I could only remember one. This may be one of the things that differentiates me from successful entertainers. Nonetheless, I retained a joke, one joke, and perhaps it's a testament to Sean's entertainment value that I'm asked to repeat it whenever I mention "Sean Penn at my acting class", to anyone who's heard it before. Anyway, Josh, who's heard it before, asked me to retell it for Caitlyn, and volunteered to play my role in the story (it's a joke with roles--there's physical humor):

11 July 2008

birthday post

Last night, summer beer, delicious bbq... It was one of those occasional, unanticipated grand evenings of perfect indulgence. I am reminded of the sentence Geoff often repeats when he's having just such an experience: I have reached maximum sufficiency; any more would be a superfluent abundity. I don't know if he "got" that from somewhere, or if he composed it himself (I should ask!); but the level of drunkenness required to trigger its recitation (and to appreciate it) raises mirthful doubts of whether any abundance could ever truly be superfluous.

As I'm prone to do in the throes of such satiety, I lingered too long. People begged off at or near the typical Thursday witching hour of 10pm, and I was left in Craig's living room virtually alone, with Craig and Andy wanting to play video games. I must make note to myself that this is always a good time to leave -- I have some level of psychic resistance to social video gaming, which I'm not yet willing to either explore or overcome. It may help me to bear in mind how much this mental block resembles, in practice, my father's resistance to any technological development, and how elderly he seems as a result -- but whatever! If I'm just simple, well, "'tis a gift to be simple", so nyah, nyah, nyah and shut up!

Anyway, while Andy took a piss, Craig helped set me up a "mii", a video avatar, on Wii Bowling, after that was determined to be the only game suitable for a party of three -- another hint that it's time to leave at this point: I'm pretty sure these two would rather be engaged in a first-person shooter escapade. When it came time to actually pay attention to the process, my feelings of carefree abandon started to attach a lot more weight to the "I-don't-care" end of the Happiness Equation, the other variables for which are slipping my mind*. Minimal effort and focus on entering my name into the system resulted in my inadvertently making a mii named Damp -- which crystallized my attitude about the whole venture, yet paradoxically brought me as much cheer as I anticipate a Wii is ever likely to do. I was further delighted to find, when Andy came back from the toilet, that the mii he'd already created for himself on some previous night, is named Stank! So, it was Damp and Stank, rocking the lanes on league night!

05 July 2008

Nbsigns' Secret Blog Arises; Defies Recalcitrant Neglect

I started a blog for the sign shop. I don't imagine I'll update that one any more frequently than I do this one, but whatever -- a bee in the bonnet one day, becomes a blog the next. On that blog, at least, I can hope that, eventually, once I admit it exists, other people at the shop might update it. It might be a good repository of sign shots from day to day, from which the best will be culled for the website. Or so I might imagine. At any rate, I can document my biz-related creative output there, since I don't seem so inclined to do so here.

I set it up on Wordpress. I don't have a clear reason why, other than variety. I got the impression that it's a little less bell 'n' whistley, imperceptibly more refined. At the very least, it's name isn't onomatopoeic of puking. Blat! belongs on Blog-ger -- it's coming out both ends! But New Bohemia posts updates from its "wordpress". It's friggin' professional! Wordpressional! Plus, in the FAQs it said I could import whole blogs from Blogger, should I so desire. I'm sure the reverse is true, but I've already written in excess of my concern for the topic.

So, as a result, I'm thinking maybe a change of tack (or is it tact? Does the phrase originate in ethics, or is it a sailing metaphor?) might be appropriate for this blog; a lowering of sights that might reduce how intimidating it seems to be for me to just tap out a few words and publish. I.e., perhaps I'll just make this more of a diary type thing -- the sort of thing I guess that people typically blog for anyway, right? I mean, I imagine that's what "Livejournal" is. I don't think I know anybody blogging on that -- no, wait: Dave, I think, has a page there... I vaguely recall him posting updates from a trip to Hawaii, or something like that. Oh, see now -- that doesn't bode well. I mean, that's the same sort of thing I was trying to do on the Honeymoon blog: I don't think that was a very studiously updated effort, and it was only 3 weeks...

But see: Livejournal, as I understand, has a reputation for being the home of tortured, depressed adolescents. And I think that might be just who I am, trapped in the broken-down body of a lazy, lower-middle-aged man. Well, anyway, I read Dick Cavett's column about depression, in the Times this past week, and it resonated. Specifically applicable was the coin-op fortune-vendor diagnosis, "Two prime victims of the disease are your libido and your ability to read" (hence, you have the disease). I've had the same three books on my bedside stand for over a year, with minimal desire to finish and no retention of what I've read; and my libido rarely comes up for air from its cozy cave in the briny deep, double entendres be damned -- hence, I have the disease!

I think the cure is to just do things. My two problems with that are (1) I just don't, and (2) if and when I do, I really don't appreciate it much. Somewhere, I've gotten the idea that writing a blog will help with both of these, but the notion has a couple problems of its own: it compounds my resistance to writing with the responsibility to publish; and it diffuses (confuses?) my responsibility to appreciate what I do with the hope that someone else can appreciate it in my stead.

Anyway, now I've got a couple of blogs to both claim and ignore, as befits the occasion. And with them I shall write me either a recipe for psychological disaster, or a roadmap to redemptive wholeness! Or I'll just keep on keeping on, as I have been.

(UPDATE: long about April or May of 2009, Scott, the shop manager, finally discovered, in his interweb meanderings among online occurrences of "nbsigns", the New Bohemia Signs Weblog. Now, everyone at the shop knows about it, too, but since then, not one of us has seen fit to add any postings. Without looking, I think the last post was from about the same time as this one, in July 2008. Anyway, we've done a much, much better job of uploading pictures of our work to a New Bohemia flickr set, which has attracted us some fans and followers, and makes lots more sense as a sign shop web presence, being more visual than verbal).

(UPDATE UPDATE: about a couple months ago, say, June of 2010, I hired a friend, Rani, to help us in "online marketing", and went on a bender of blogging as a result.  So, now there are a lot more posts up over there, but I still haven't been able to convince anyone else in the organization to contribute...  I need to devise some sort of encouragement...)

28 May 2008

Niggle Amplitude Exceeding Stagnation Threshold

There comes a point you just can't keep doing nothing.

Fate/circumstance/that-which-blows-past-my-face has in the past week launched a multifaceted attack on my journaling slack. Since I maintain a constant low-level angst about slack, it's hard to say when it began, but I guess it was after I swiped a bunch of material off Jeff's iPod at work -- lotsa stuff, much of which I still haven't and may never listen to. But I'm slowly working my way through it, mostly in the background as I'm out working on location. I grabbed a smorgasbord of stand-up comedy, which makes for a pleasant break from the usual spoken word menu of Fresh Air podcasts, Radio Lab, and This American Life.

Well, but -- speaking of that: there were also included a slew of readings by David Sedaris. And I was listening to Naked last Friday while I painted logos on the side panels of a homeless health services mini-van. He read a story about growing up with OCD symptoms. At some point it reminded me of the story I wrote for an assignment in a class at art school to "describe a ritual". I described the method by which I ate Cheerios every morning. I don't think it was symptomatic of obsession or compulsion; it was just habit, reinforced by repetition every time I ate Cheerios (which, for breakfast, was far more often than not) throughout childhood, up until I left for college and moved in with roommates. Coincidentally, this is the same time in Sedaris' life when his OCD symptoms retreated, although he attributes his relief to starting smoking. My change of habit was just to avoid getting caught being weird. And, of course, the way I was playing with o's in the bowl and on the spoon was nowhere near as weird or 'sick' as the behavior he describes in Naked. Nonetheless, the feedback I got from the teacher about my Cheerios story was that it wasn't "believable". I have to take that as more a comment on my writing style, than on the plausibility of tracing a Union Jack into the cereal bowl, or raising the last spoonful while silently chanting "pyramidpyramidpyramidpyramid..."

19 April 2008

and another year goes by

Here's an abbreviated list of creative doings since the last time I posted:

I designed a beer label for Aaron's home-brew, and painted a magnetic sign for him to stick on the front of his kegerator (both of which were given him at his bachelor party).

I designed the panel for the SFMOMA's bi-monthly mailer for Sep/Oct 2007 (I think...). The taped on strip of tracing paper over "Modern Art" is where the address is to be pasted.

I designed wedding invitations (oh yeah -- I got married). We had a vaguely Bollywood theme, so I intended the invitation to look like a movie poster, or rather, a series of movie posters rolling off the printer. The picture above is of both front and back of the 4x6 postcard we mailed out. I guess the whole wedding thing was a bit on the creative side. Deb handled most of it. I just got myself absorbed in the invitation design, and in compiling 5 1/2 hours of music to dance to at the reception (of which barely an hour ended up getting played). But we worked together on a Bollywood dance routine for the introduction at the start of the party:

What else...what else... We honeymooned in India and took a bunch of pictures.

Yeah, and that's about it... well, I mean, phew... I don't want to go into it all now. What was that last post called? Flushing May's pipes, or something? Yeah, well: times twelve... Hopefully, the details will come out naturally, as I fill in the blanks in whatever narrative I swear -- I swear! -- I'm going to start constructing here.

Write it, publish, move on.