Thursday, November 29, 2007

rise above.

black flag, 1984. first song, "rise above." second song, "american waste." have a good weekend.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


(The italicized verses thrown in amongst my words below are excerpts from the poem "Prairie" by Carl Sandburg, taken from his 1918 collection "Cornhuskers.")

I was born on the prairie and the milk of its wheat, the red of its clover, the eyes of its women, gave me a song and a slogan.

yours truly. sister's farm, summer of 2004

i have a great affinity for the midwest. i've traveled all over the lower 48 — the pacific northwest, the desert of the southwest, the badlands of the dakotas, the heart of texas, our nation's capital, and so on — but it's the prairie lands of illinois and iowa that hold my heart. there's a Romantic tie that i have to the land. see, my brother and sister are iowa farmers, and i spent a lot of time on their land when i was younger. there's something very comforting about being out in the middle of a field, alone with the sound of the grass in the wind. as funny as it sounds, it's almost womb-like. there's a serenity here that i haven't found anywhere else on my travels outside of the midwest.

and i'm not alone.

despite the "brain drain" still happening (the exodus of recent graduates from Iowa higher educational institutes), it seems that the tide is turning in many areas around here. we've seen many iowa cities go through downtown revitalizations for the larger part of the last decade. world-class museums have popped up. downtown parks have been beautified. here in our stretch of mississippi river towns, an immense amount of cleanup has happened, and long bike paths with public art abound. the quality of life has risen, and all over iowa, there are 20- and 30-somethings who have decided to either never leave their home state, or to move back home after college or a hiatus of some sort. (i have gone through this myself - from the quad cities, to college, to chicago, and back home again, and i have seen this route personally in my circles of friends, and second-handedly on blog sites & news articles).

so, what is it about this that shocks people? why do people on the coasts seem to have such negative opinions about the midwestern lifestyle? what exactly do they picture going on here?

Here the water went down, the icebergs slid with gravel, the gaps and the valleys hissed, and the black loam came, and the yellow sandy loam.

Here between the sheds of the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians, here now a morning star fixes a fire sign over the timber claims and cow pastures, the corn belt, the cotton belt, the cattle ranches.

Here the gray geese go five hundred miles and back with a wind under their wings honking the cry for a new home.

Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water.

The prairie sings to me in the forenoon and I know in the night I rest easy in the prairie arms, on the prairie heart.

two from the essentials series. lambda print mounted to plexi. 2004. artist: me.

so, here we are. a place that some people fly over on their way to NYC or LA, look out the window, and perhaps give an inward laugh, thinking "what a vast amount of... nothing."


i've had close friends leave the quad cities permanently. they now reside in rapid city (south dakota), seattle, and tempe, and another plans to leave for minneapolis in a few months. some didn't want to go, but followed great schooling; some had an urge to leave that was more strong than any other yearning they had ever felt. and i certainly understand how each of them came to their decisions to leave. as much as i abhorred my 5+ years in chicago, i know the positives of big city life. but i can't understand the slight, nuanced statements i hear from them sometimes. these jabs are always innocuous, as they're coming from the closest friends in my life. but there's always some sort of a misunderstanding on their part — a buying into some stereotypes about the political climate here (it's not staunchly bible-thumping conservative), the "nightlife" (our downtowns have some pretty damn good food and drink establishments, as well as other entertainment), and the overall sense of the people back in their hometown area. even though we all got a kick out of the once-in-a-very-blue moon headline that read Two pigs on the Loose Captured in Downtown Davenport, i hope they understand things are pretty damn nice here.

Omaha and Kansas City, Minneapolis and St. Paul, sisters in a house together, throwing slang, growing up.

Towns in the Ozarks, Dakota wheat towns, Wichita, Peoria, Buffalo, sisters throwing slang, growing up.

a photo of the Quad City Swing baseball team, playing at John O'Donnell Stadium in downtown Davenport, Iowa. credit: Corey Lenger, taken from

a before & after shot of the Crescent Macaroni Building in downtown Davenport, Iowa. The building now features some very nice rentals (some possibly condos) in that exposed-ceiling loft feel. credit: Chris "QCI" at Quad City images. for more compairson photos like this, go here.

a somewhat recent image of downtown Davenport, Iowa at night. credit to an unknown photographer, taken from the Absolute DSM forums

but enough about my friends' stories; they hold no true ill will. as i stated, i understand matters of personal taste in choosing one's living environment/locale. but there is a more acute, deliberate mocking of the midwest out there, and like anything of that nature, it's pretty sophomoric.

why do people think we don't have a liberal/progressive bone in our collective body? why are our cities pictured as dead, boring, and decrepit? why do farmers get portrayed as such backwards people in popular culture? i'm not trying to answer the question "is this heaven?" with the response "no... this is iowa" because there are some backwards folks, some shitty sections of town, and some nights where i wish there were more "culture" here. but you know what? you'll find a bit of those things anywhere.

in my iowa, there are atheist gatherings spawned by local groups. there are $5 punk rock shows put on by 16 year old kids. there's a mortgage that doesn't kill me. there's a work commute is now 10 minutes instead of 2 hours (yes... that was one-way, people). there's a professional-class outdoor skate and bmx park. there are professional artists who have lived all over the country, yet settled here. you can drive for 10 minutes and suddenly be in the middle of the beautiful, midwestern prairie.

the list goes on and on.

so... to hell with the naysayers. let them poke fun. the joke's on them.

O prairie mother, I am one of your boys.
I have loved the prairie as a man with a heart shot full of pain over love.
Here I know I will hanker after nothing so much as one more sunrise or a sky moon of fire doubled to a river moon of water.
. . .
I speak of new cities and new people.
I tell you the past is a bucket of ashes.
I tell you yesterday is a wind gone down,
a sun dropped in the west.
I tell you there is nothing in the world
only an ocean of to-morrows,
a sky of to-morrows.
I am a brother of the cornhuskers who say
at sundown:
To-morrow is a day.

an arial view of downtown Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa. credit to an unknown photographer, taken from the Absolute DSM forums

the best front yard in the world - i help my nephew build a swingset, circa 1999.

downtown Dubuque, Iowa. credit to an unknown photographer, taken from the Absolute DSM forums

not a bad way to grow up. my niece and nephew collect walking sticks, praying manti, and other bugs to give me a biology show.

A Quick One

I'm working on a long post that has been brewing for a while, and it should be up sometime in the next couple days. The content deals with the negative perceptions of the Midwest at large, especially Iowa. The impetus for the post stems from a wide variety of places/reasons, from the nonsense you hear day in and day out due to the upcoming Iowa caucus, to a recent quad city transplant/local blogger dishing out a negative, unneccessary diss to the very music/theatre scene she aims to garner work from. I can understand people's qualms with the Midwest at large. and i can identify with frustrations about local art/music/theatre scenes. but the criticism is seldom erudite. the things you hear about the Midwest, iowa, farmers, etcetera... they really get to be laughably inane.

so... some writing about that type of thing is coming up.

in the meantime, i wanted to post a rather interesting site. my old college chums matt and melissa (now married) are travelling in India, and it's been a wild ride for them. for some amazing pictures and commentary, check out matt's site.

and one other quick thing - i had a dream about Kevin Battles last night. he was alive. he was limping because he ended up losing his full leg (he died from complications due to diabetes). he walked towards me in the hallway of a crowded school and gave me a huge hug. i miss that duder.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Holy shit, Fuel is finally on youtube. It's actually difficult to bring these guys up to people when talking about music. They're one of my favorite bands, but long after they disbanded, a far more ubiquitous, major-label group became famous with the same band name. And also, this and other bands like Rites of Spring was the epitome of that "emo" sound in the late 80s and early 90s; but nowadays "emo" has something to do with the goth kids that have metrosexual hair tendencies and black fingernails. I'm not sure how that happened.

but anyways, Fuel. dueling guitars and vocals. if you love Fugazi but have never heard of these guys, go buy all of their records NOW. amazing stuff. i'm so stoked to find this online.

Above: "The Name Is..."
thanks for sharing that remark with me. (i've got a name for that). thanks for sharing that joke with me. (i've got a name for that). where do you find the humor in that? (i'd really like to know). i won't get mad at ignorance; won't let my anger show. the name is... hatred for what you don't even understand. the name is... fear of what you can't even comprehend. the urge to put you in your place grows strong from time to time, but to shit on you would be a crime. i'd love to bring you down 'cause you think you're fucking cool, but i don't want to be like you. i want to... cut you down cut you down cut you down. but i won't... put you in your place.

Above: "Some Gods"
some gods tell me to bow down before them. some gods ask me to love thy neighbor. which one are you going to choose? and is there room for reason? and is there room for reason? i don't need an excuse. i don't need a reason. you provide the proof. i call it spiritual treason. i just don't know how to show that there's me and you. redemption, forgiveness; turn the other cheek. theology means nothing; actions speak to me. my respect, you wil never have gained. abandon the institutions which you helped create. what about you... YOU... smiling, self-righteously? do you concede spirituality?

Monday, November 19, 2007

This American Life

This past week's This American Life is an absolute must-listen-to. MUST. the last story, in particular.

seriously, you have to download it and listen to it. If you don't have much time, only hit the first and the last acts. if you have even less time that that, give 19 minutes to the last act, called "Birthday Gift." Russell Banks is an amazing storyteller, and I'm definitely putting the book on my xmas wish list.

This American Life: Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Milestones.

Friday, November 16, 2007

punk rock grandpa(s)

NoMeansNo, punk rock grandpas. sure, their "funk factor" isn't my favorite sound by any means, but when i saw them with a round of close friends in austin texas several years back, it was pure euphoria. every time i think of them, i smile. punk rock grandpas.

when i was 17 and first starting listening to indie/punk/(original) emo music, or even a couple years later when i played in a hardcore band, i never really understood what drew me to the music. well, let me rephrase that... i had an honest liking of the music (there was no self-imposed "scene cred" pressure to fit in by not fitting in) and i had always listened to stuff that wasn't really played on your everyday radio station. but i never really thought about punk music in terms of a larger context. and i don't mean the occasional early-twenties thoughts that were hilariously hyperbolic (these songs are going to save the world!!!). so here i am at 32, and i honestly think i'll still be buying these types of records when i'm a grandparent. i think i've come full-circle, back to something that is much more simple than any of that youthful idealism. but even though its simple, it's hard to write about concisely. so, what is it?...

• it's small DIY venues instead of large corporate arenas.
• it's $5 for four bands, and it's $3 dollar t-shirts.
• it's, at 24, meeting your favorite band at the time and going cliff diving with them in the middle of the black hills, south dakota, only to sprain your ankle and needing them basically carry you out of a gulch before the show starts later that night.
• it's SHARP skinheads, emo kids, and tough guy hardcore peeps dancing our asses off at a Gangster Fun ska show. in IOWA.
• it's... well, fuck... i could go on and on about memories.

i'm cracking up at how silly this sounds, but hey - i can't help it. i guess what i'm getting at is it's more personal. more attainable. more intimate. more tangible. more real. it's that simple.

for the very few people who read this blog - i'll probably edit this in a couple days. it doesn't sound quite right yet. we're off for a weekend getaway. toodaloo.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back in the Saddle

some art news that's actually on the home front again - through one of those "small world" means, I now have access to a print shop. the Black Catfish Press at Saint Ambrose University just offered me a nice working relationship that allows me to get back into making intaglio prints, monotypes, and lithographs. i have a feeling it's going to work quite well; the personnel seem very cool, and the small amount of shop upkeep & undergrad student assistance i will perform in trade for the open use of the facilities is really a labor of love.

stay tuned this winter for new works on paper.
it's been seven years:

Rest in Peace, Kevin Battles

this past monday, i received an email from an old coworker, stating that a friend (another ex-coworker) had passed away. after one full week of waiting for an official death notice in either the chicago tribune or the chicago sun-times, i still haven't seen anything, and that makes me almost as sad as i had been when i heard the news of his passing.

kevin was our Adler mailroom clerk. everyone knew the guy and loved the guy. he was put through a lot of shit in his role - surrounded by some people who treated him like a peon - but he remained a class act and worked his ass off while making lots of his coworkers laugh.

every morning kevin would come into my office and catch up with me. every day he made me laugh... the guy had the best smile and laugh.

i was an iowa kid whose brother and sister were farmers, but grew up to be a "punk rocker" artist; you were the south side cubs fan who loved to get away from shit by watching a baseball game or occasionally going fishing. no wonder we got along so well. so here you go, kev. we all loved you tons. i miss you, buddy.

Monday, November 5, 2007

David Rathman at Figge

" I Threw Away the Rose "

" You Do Hold Onto Your Misery, Don't You? "

Minneapolis artist David Rathman has a solo show up at the Figge right now, and i highly suggest seeing it. i had not heard of the gentleman before seeing his work yesterday, but upon doing some research i see he had a two-person show with Amy Cutler at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. very nice. but who cares about credentials and scene cred; let the work speak for itself, right?

The show consists of about 30 pieces that i'm pretty sure were all watercolor on paper - none larger than say 30 x 40 inches (most were about 18 x 24). he works in a monochromatic tone of a dark sepia color. hell, maybe these were ink drawings of some kind; i'm not sure. the content? sad cowboys. postmodern ennui meets western flicks. evidently, he takes polaroids of cowboy movies off of his television and uses that as a starting point for the imagery. and also, i've read he gets inspiration for the titles (or titles/quotes within) for the pieces from anywhere from the same movie genre, to philosophy writings, to the playwright Beckett. not unlike someone like Mark Tansey's modus operandi, but still... pretty sweet stuff. and always underhandedly funny.

I found a description of a piece that i'm pretty sure is not on view at the Figge, and it may describe what might be my favorite piece in the show, if included. a gun fighter is featured front-and-center. underneath the silhouetted form reads, "Today's Schedule." then:

11:00 a.m. Get up
11:00-11:30 Sober up
11:30-Noon Eat
Noon-10:00 p.m. Work like hell
10 p.m.-3 a.m. Get drunk
3 a.m.-3:15 Beat hell out of them that's got it coming
3:20 Go to bed

heh heh. excellent.
by far my favorite show i've seen at the figge. kudos, michelle robinson.

Tonia lands a sweet gig

I received an email from Tonia Bonnel today - she's up at the Women's Studio Workshop in New York state. I keep plugging her because she's an old friend and i love her work. if you're equally interested, help support a great artist by sharing her site with friends. or hell, buy a piece. printmaking is the "blue collar" of the art-making shirt. prices aren't ridiculous.

here's the workshop site.
click on her name in the "current artists" section on the right.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

print press? + new piece up

today a new exhibit opened up at the figge art museum - a show that features figge faculty members' work. i have a piece up - a couple-year old painting that i still think is very strong. the funny thing is, if you happen to go check it out, be prepared to laugh a bit. here's a pic of the piece:

see the slight "halo" around the dates? yeah, the extra paint that's around that section... it's um... it's shrank over time. i need to "plaster" some more paint in there to get an even coat again. ah well; i got a good chuckle out of it and i really don't mind much.

but anyways, the highlight of the night was talking to a few cohorts about our needs for making some new intaglio/monotype work. they're all equally interested, and we're ready to really start hunting to find out who has these presses. I did get invited down to Western Illinois University to be an informal visiting artist who shares his work with students and then gets to use the studio, but obviously i want to find a good press here in town. we're going to hit up saint ambrose first. someone knows someone there, and my fingers are crossed that this will work out.

i've got a new painting up on the web site.

here's a pic:

I don't feel particularly strong about it. i actually might start all over on it. but it was fun to lay some wet latex paint in on top of some other latex paint in a loose drawing style. it was tremendously hard to photograph, so i'll cue you in – it's a ceiling fan with gnarly antlers coming out of it. the witching hour. maybe the halloween season got the best of me, because while i sometimes feel like i can pull off good stuff in this vein, i normally fall short of those expectations. want to see good stuff like this? google the artist Banks Violette. it's only somewhat similar, but here are some pics of his work:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bob Jones - Art Show

Bobby Freedom gets reviewed in New City Chicago . Congrats, Bob. Drive down to I-80, face West, and hold a High Life to the air. I'll do the same to the East. Cheers.

Eye Exam
End Times
by Jason Foumberg

Bob Jones makes little nothings. His current exhibition features five objects and one painting. With the exception of the painting, which cannot get away from the fact that it is art because of its traditional right-angled support, the objects verge on being junk. Are the handmade concrete rock and the stick covered in plaster really necessary objects? No, but they are necessarily inadequate objects, made to express a defect—a shortcoming and an escape. They are complex objects not because of their contextual status as art, but because they are so preciously anti-precious. The lack of force in these objects proves that Jones has nothing to gain from feigning ideological concern, cultural or otherwise, yet they are wasteful objects, purposefully unresponsive. Sometimes they are literally composed of the waste of other artworks in process.

All this is to say that the byproduct is more telling or more representative of our varied crises than intentional strides at doing the right thing. Contemporary art is a byproduct of culture—no, is a symptom of the common awfulness that is mass-market hysteria for something meaningful. If we wallow in it, rather than celebrate it, then we’ll really know what it means and how it feels.

Bob Jones shows at 65GRAND, 1378 West Grand, (312)719-4325, through November 10.

Bob's web site

Also, some pictures from the exhibition:

Hank's ass.

There's a new "Billboard from God" up in davenport. i see it every morning on my way to work. it's the same simple white text on a black background. it reads,
"Life is short. Eternity Isn't. -God"
once again, ladies and gentleman, thumper christianity in all its glory. a supposed all-knowing creator of everything, who made all of us predestined to sin, loves us no matter what, yet upon not asking forgiveness to his son that he sent here over 2000 years ago, you will burn in hell for ever. huzzah? no. something smells like horseshit.

this is olllld, old old old and over-referenced. But still good.

"Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."
Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."
Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"
John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the shit out of you."
Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"
John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."
Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."
Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"
Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."
John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."
Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"
Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."
Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"
John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."
Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"
Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the shit out of you."
Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"
John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."
Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"
John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."
Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"
Mary: "Well, He gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."
Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"
John: "Hank has certain 'connections.'"
Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."
John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the shit out of you."
Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."
Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."
Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"
John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."
Me: "Who's Karl?"
Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."
Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"
John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."

From the Desk of Karl
• Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
• Use alcohol in moderation.
• Kick the shit out of people who aren't like you.
• Eat right.
• Hank dictated this list Himself.
• The moon is made of green cheese.
• Everything Hank says is right.
• Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
• Don't use alcohol.
• Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
• Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the shit out of you.

Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."
Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."
Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."
John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."
Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"
Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."
Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the shit out of people just because they're different?"
Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."
Me: "How do you figure that?"
Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"
Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."
John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."
Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."
John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."
Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."
Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."
Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon was somehow 'captured' by the Earth has been discounted*. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."
John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"
Me: "We do?"
Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."
Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"
John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."
Me: "But...oh, never mind. What's the deal with wieners?"
Mary: She blushes.
John: "Wieners, in buns, no condiments. It's Hank's way. Anything else is wrong."
Me: "What if I don't have a bun?"
John: "No bun, no wiener. A wiener without a bun is wrong."
Me: "No relish? No Mustard?"
Mary: She looks positively stricken.
John: He's shouting. "There's no need for such language! Condiments of any kind are wrong!"
Me: "So a big pile of sauerkraut with some wieners chopped up in it would be out of the question?"
Mary: Sticks her fingers in her ears."I am not listening to this. La la la, la la, la la la."
John: "That's disgusting. Only some sort of evil deviant would eat that..."
Me: "It's good! I eat it all the time."
Mary: She faints.
John: He catches Mary. "Well, if I'd known you were one of those I wouldn't have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the shit out of you I'll be there, counting my money and laughing. I'll kiss Hank's ass for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater."
With this, John dragged Mary to their waiting car, and sped off.