Friday, May 22, 2009

My Inbox Today

I was feeling rather down today, as might be evidenced by my previous blog entry. When things looked blackest... when I was sure the brain cloud was here to stay... I received this email:

Hi Joe,

I recently moved back to Ormond Beach and I have tried connecting with a few old friends. How are you doing?


To which I replied:

Dear L---l,


Considering the fact that I now demark my life into Before L---l and After L---l periods, (BL and AL respectively going forward) I can tell you unequivocally that I have no interest in connecting with you in any manner. I'm not even certain how I would qualify as a friend to you. Perhaps you've forgotten the circumstances under which we last had any interaction? Thirteen years ago you singlehandedly set about destroying several people's lives, starting with mine, in a manic bid to become the incarnation of Shiva.

So no. No thank you. Take your friendship elsewhere, point it at someone else and pull the trigger. I've had more than my fair share.

Let me make it abundantly clear that I would like the AL portion of my life to remain sociopath free. Any further contact after this point I would characterize as harassment.

Kindest regards,



Not if you know L----l. This is a person so evil that we don't even speak her name, lest we wake the demon.

On a bright note, I felt better instantly.

It Never Ends

I can still remember as he lay on that cold, stainless steel table. I bent down to give him one last kiss on his grand head and smelled the ghost of skunk that still lingered.

Soft, soft ears.

From Arthur

I love you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Precious Moments

I'll have to defer to my teacher for confirmation on this, but I think it was my kindergarten year when I was in a certain school play. My role was that of a young homeless boy that lived in a box. For the posters advertising the play, students copied an image from Precious Moments to depict me. This was just after Precious Moments really hit it big in the late 70's.

My five year old brain didn't quite grasp the concept of older students co-opting this imagery to illustrate my character. I just assumed that they drew me. Leading me to believe, for several years, that I was the inspiration behind this national phenomenon of ubiquitous doe eyed children on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Photoshoot

Several months ago I was asked if I would like to pose for Leonard Nimoy's (yes... Spock) next photography project and help shoot documentary footage of it. I'd worked with Leonard on a couple of shows in the past and jumped at the opportunity.

The project was to capture the subject's "secret self".

From the R. Michelson Galleries website:

In November 2008, Leonard Nimoy was at R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, Massachusetts, to begin his latest photographic journey: The identity Project. We gathered 100 subjects from all walks of life: artists, clergy, politicians, business owners, and asked them the question, Who do you think you are?

As Mr. Nimoy wrote: I am hoping to be surprised and delighted by what shows up in front of me. Anything from full costume to nudity, and I would encourage all of it. The "Secret Self" is the most provocative idea. Do you have a secret self?

Each subject was videoed as Mr. Nimoy interviewed them and created a portrait of their “alternate identity.” The results will be revealed in a major exhibition beginning in the summer of 2010 at MassMOCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in conjunction with R. Michelson Galleries.

Everything went pretty normal... at least by Northampton standards. I'd missed the first day when the woman came in with her sheep.

The way we had it set up, my friend Luke was on the main camera for a wide shot and I was using a handheld dv cam to the right of the subject for close ups.

So when one of our artists showed up with her assistant for her turn, I planted myself about three feet away from her, just out of the shot. Mind you, this artist does sweet little hand painted engravings, usually Judaica themed.

Karla set up an easel with paper on it and placed her assistant on a stool directly in front of her, ostensibly to draw her. I was kneeling on the ground and blocked Karla and the assistant tight in the shot. I paid no attention to what was actually on the paper, or I might have been prepared for what came next.

The assistant hikes up her skirt to reveal... everything. And I'm there... staring straight up into it all and feeling like I was on the set of some soft core porn flick. At this point I'm kind of committed to the shot as well. So I roll with it.

Then Leonard's wife, who helped direct the photoshoot, starts yelling out, "Show more of your vagina."

It was also at this point that I heard my wife and kids arrive on the other side of the curtain which separated the prep area from the shoot.

So... if you'd like to see how it came out, here's Karla's secret self... and a link to some of the rest of the photos.

By the way... the naked dude with the dog? My friend Barry Moser from the prior blog.

Mine hasn't officially been released yet, although I have it. I'll post it when I get the go ahead.

Repost #6: My Dad's Contribution to Biological Warfare

Original post: February 7, 2007

I bet you think this is a joke, don't you?

It's not.

With all of the emphasis that's been placed on biological weapons and terrorism since 9/11, there has been a renewed interest in the U.S. government's forays into bio warfare. While my father was in the army, he was a participant in biological warfare experiments at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, home of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. I caught a show on PBS the other night about Operation Whitecoat, which reminded me of his participation.

Operation Whitecoat was the U.S. Army's solution to dealing with conscientious objectors and the perceived threat of biological warfare by the Soviet Union. My father was one of the conscientious objectors that became a human guinea pig.

Many of you know that I was raised a Seventh-Day-Adventist, which probably explains a lot about how screwed up I am. My father was also raised Seventh-Day-Adventist and like a number of others during wartime, felt a duty to serve their country, but were opposed to killing. Many, like my father, became medics. During the Viet Nam war, medics were often sitting ducks. They were inserted with slow flying helicopters and were often targets of the Viet Cong. When the U.S. Army needed human test subjects for their germ warfare experiments, they asked for volunteers from their ranks of Seventh-Day-Adventist draftees. The top secret experiments on humans were given the code name Operation Whitecoat.

My dad's experiments involved Q fever. He was exposed to the bacterium Coxiella burnetii, which usually manifests itself with flu like symptoms that last between one and two weeks. As far he knew, this was all he was ever exposed to, but you never know when it comes to this type of experimentation. In most of these experiments, the scientists would fill a 40 ft. diameter steel sphere called the Eight Ball with the particular virus or bacteria that they were studying. The volunteers would attach gas masks which had been hooked up to the Eight Ball and breathe the infected air. Then they would wait. When they began showing symptoms, treatment would be given.

I think my dad was one of the more fortunate ones. Some of the other things to which volunteers were exposed were rabbit fever, anthrax and black plague, significantly more serious diseases. Of the 2300 volunteers, none died, although there is evidence that some did experience health problems related to their exposure for years and even decades after. Operation Whitecoat came to a formal end in 1973. In 2003 on the 30th anniversary of the end of Operation Whitecoat, my dad was sent a medal for his service. It now hangs in my studio.

One surprising conclusion to which the PBS show came was that Operation Whitecoat most likely had a direct effect on Richard Nixon's decision to ratify the 1925 Geneva Protocol which prohibited the use of chemical and biological weapons in 1969. Work at Ft. Detrick continues to this day, revolving around defense against biological weapons and infectious diseases. It is also home to the National Cancer Institute.

Repost #5: Things We Did As Kids

Original post: September 26, 2006

Kids like to throw things... especially at other kids.

Before the freezes of the early 80's, just about everyone I knew whose family had lived in Florida for more than one generation had at least one orange tree in their backyard. This would inevitably lead to orange fights. It was usually a free-for-all, but most everyone agreed for their own self preservation to not use green fruit. a. It's just bad form and b. They are super hard and hurt really, really bad when you get hit with one... especially in the head. Parents generally frowned on using fruit picked right from the tree too, unless you had more than you can ever eat, or give away to friends and relatives in a season.

Because of this, the weapon of choice was usually one that had fallen from the tree already and was in some stage of decay. There is a fine line between rotten enough to cause the person getting hit to gag, and so rotten that you can't even pick it up without gagging. The best ones were covered with mold like the one above and infested with fruit flies. That way when you hit someone, they exploded in a cloud of mold, fermented juice, and bugs.

We sometimes threw grapefruit, but they're big and you could screw your arm up pretty good after heaving a couple of them. Tangerines were even better than oranges, but we didn't have as many trees and often ate most before they fell. They had a thicker skin that helped them stay together long after the inside had really turned.

Good times.

Quite the Salesman

In the gallery where I used to work we had an unofficial award that we bestowed when someone sold a particularly unsellable piece of artwork. It references one of the most amazing feats in sales I have ever seen.

One day, the gallery owner, Rich and I were in the gallery and a woman walks in and asks about one of our illustrators, Barry Moser. He happens to be a good friend, and has given me quite a few of his paintings. The gallery represents a number of well known children's book illustrators in addition to the fine art. Anyway, she asks if she can look at Barry's illustrations and mentions that she was looking for paintings of cats. So Rich pulls out a couple of pieces and she loves them. Then the question...

"How much are they?"

Most of Moser's full page illustrations start around $1000 and go up to $5000, which was way out of her league. She was budgeting at most around $350. Rich tried to find smaller pieces that might work, but there was really nothing that she liked. That's when he found it... at the bottom of the box of illustrations he did for a book about a dog and cat.

It was a full page illustration of a cat, from the rear, consisting of a tail, two legs and a very prominent, puckered anus.

She bought it... overjoyed that she would now own an original illustration by her favorite illustrator.

And thus was born 'The Cat Ass Award'.

Repost #4: The Royal Ontario Museum

Another that many have heard about my last trip to Toronto. Edited slightly.

Original post: August 7, 2006

I have a dear friend from Canada named Deb. She, like many Canadians, think quite differently from Americans. You go to Subway and they ask you, "White or brown?" not "White or wheat?"(or at least they did before having a half dozen different kinds of bread) They can't give directions. Canadians, on average, are a mixed up bunch.

Which is why when I went to Toronto to visit Deb, I should never have asked for anyone's assistance. She left me to my own wits in the mean streets of Toronto, fending off teenage busquers playing "music". Here we call them talentless hobos looking for a handout, but I digress. She'd given me directions from her office to the Royal Ontario Museum. She said I couldn't miss it. Queen's Park, you're there. So I start walking.

I walked a long way. I walked so long that I figured I was in Ottawa, wherever that is, so I turned around and started walking back. I asked directions, but everyone gave me conflicting advice. Obviously I was lost... I found myself going in circles. I walked the length and breadth of Toronto.

That's when I found it. Big and museumy. I walked right in with a group of suits. Looked like they were there for some fundraiser or something. In the lobby area there were a couple of pathetic little displays showing how rocks are different in Ontario and not like rocks anywhere else. This place sucked. I vowed to yell at Deb as soon as I saw her for making me go to the shittiest museum on the planet. I saw some people getting on an elevator so I figured I'd go up as well. The second floor couldn't be any worse than this.

The elevator doors opened and that's when I realized this was not the ROM. There were about a hundred members of the media: print, television, radio... all waiting outside the chambers of the Ontario Legislature. I had somehow managed to get into the press corps of the Legislature. That's when all the members of the Legislature exploded from the chamber. I was in the middle of the Provincial Parlaiment, breathing my American germs on the Canadian governing body.

I figured I was going to be arrested. But, as easily as I got into the situation, I got back out. I hopped on the elevator, through the lobby, past the guards and out the door. No RCMP, nothing.

I eventually got to see the ROM. It was pretty good. I also got on Breakfast Television while I was there. That's like talking to Al Roker, I guess, but I sure as hell didn't stand around for hours with a stupid sign trying to get on tv. They came to me. From walking all over looking for the ROM I got shin splints and had trouble walking for a couple days, spending a lot of the time on Deb's couch.

That's what it looks like, if you're lost... and you're a bird.

Royal Ontario Museum

Repost #3: The Moped Story

Now I know a lot of you have read or heard this one, but it's a classic.

Original post: August 7, 2006

For those of you who have never heard the moped story, here it is:

1980 FZ50-Rascal

Back in 1993 I moved to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, sans car. It's a pretty small town, so people know pretty much everyone in town. At the time, money was really tight and my girlfriend's brother offered me their old Suzuki FZ50. It was summer, I worked about half a mile from my apartment, and had no pride whatsoever. Well, summer turned into fall... and eventually winter. Wisconsin sucks in the winter, even more if you are riding a moped. And since I hadn't made enough money to cover the purchase even the shittiest of enclosed vehicles, I was riding a moped in the snow. I'm not a small guy. 6' around 190 at the time, getting that thing to go over 20 mph required me to lean over the handlebars to get the least wind resistance possible. With winter, this was even more critical as any bit of exposed skin froze. Most days by the time I got to work I had to smack my gloved hands against the wall to get enough feeling back into them to unlock the door. It was a long, cold winter.

That January I began taking computer classes at a small technical college a few miles away. Most of the time my girlfriend gave me a ride, so I didn't have to ride the moped out there. I was pretty adept at the computer work and was feeling pretty good about myself. Everyone thought I was really smart and they constantly asked for help with using Windows. Around the third week the instructor decided we should get to know each other a little better and so we went around the room telling where we were from, where we worked, etc. It came to me and don't ask me how, don't ask me why, I somehow vomited, "I have a moped." Apropos of nothing.

Three people turned their heads, looked directly at me and said, in unison,

"So you're the one."

Yes... I am the one. Forever a legend in the small, southern Wisconsin town of Elkhorn.

Repost #2: Overheard at Friendly's

Repost #2 from my MySpace blog:

Original Post: June 23, 2006

True story

The other day I went to Friendly's with my six year old son, Fletcher. I detest Friendly's unless it's 10:30 at night and I'm craving ice cream or cheesy fries, but it was a treat for him. The hostess seated Fletcher and me in a two person booth. I hate these too. The waitress was taking her sweet ass time coming to our table and I noticed the guy across from us. He was seated after us and was already eating. I would guess he was in his sixties... a little stooped and weary.

He looked lonely, like maybe his own son was grown and moved away and his wife had died and he was living all alone in the big house that he'd bought her just after they were married. He would glance at Fletcher and a wistful smile would cross his face while Fletch told me the stuff he'd done in school that day. He was undoubtedly remembering those same conversations that he'd had with his son, before time and other obligations stripped him of everything but his memories.

After a while it became obvious how much interest he was showing in our conversation... living vicariously through me.

me: "Wanna go get some beer?"
Fletcher: "No."

The guy kind of smiles.

me: "Wanna go to the horse track?"
Fletcher: "No." frowning

The guy laughs a little.

me: "Wanna go pick up some girls?"
Fletcher: "No." scowling

The guy audibly laughs.

me: "Wanna kill a hobo?"

The guy nearly choked on his burger.

I don't care who you are... don't eavesdrop on my conversations. You might get more than you bargained for. Especially if I'm hungry.

Disclaimer: We didn't actually kill a hobo.

Repost #1: Fred Rogers

Since leaving MySpace is going to orphan a lot of blog entries, I'm going to start re-posting some of them here. The first is about Fred Rogers. Say what you will about Mr. Rogers. I was never what one would call a fan of his show. There was something about the puppets that always creeped me out. His contribution to a channel which had so much of an effect on me growing up, however, is beyond measure.

Original Post: May 30, 2006

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson recommended that Congress enact the Public Television Act. This would provide $20 million over two years as initial funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. By 1969, President Nixon was pushing Congress to cut funding in half.

In the middle of the Congressional appropriations hearing, Fred Rogers was called to speak in front of the committee, headed by Senator Pastore of Rhode Island, to support the original funding. Rogers was relatively unknown in the United States. His show Mister Rogers had aired on the CBC with many of the familiar puppets that would appear in the later show, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Senator Patore was combative and unfriendly. He begrudgingly allowed Rogers to speak, giving the impression that it was a lost cause and funding would be cut anyway.

Rogers began with his even, calm tone.

This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, "you've made this day a special day by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are." I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service.

In all he spoke for under six minutes, but in that time he managed to convince everyone, including Senator Pastore, that the broadcasting provided by PBS was vital.

After Rogers concluded his speech, Senator Pastore, simply said,

I think it's wonderful. That is just so wonderful. Looks like you just won the twenty million dollars.

PBS got its funding, and created a generation of children, myself included, eternally grateful to Fred Rogers for his brilliant, eloquent speech.

Meow meow, kitty, meow meow.

Full video of the speech is here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bad eBay Art of the Week #27

The last Bad eBay Art of the Week was posted on the Fourth of July 2007, but even then I was posting rather sporadically. Don't bother going back in the archives as they were all on my myspace page... a dirty, dirty place that I wouldn't suggest you visit. At least not my profile. I have to tell you. It feels good to get back on the horse... or unicorn as it were.

And I have to warn the uninitiated... this may very well be NSFW. It might also burn out your retinas. I'll likely use multi-syllabic dirty words.

Bad eBay Art of the Week #27! Who'd have thought that we'd ever get to number 27? Not those of you that were left hanging two years ago, I'll guess. If I'd been doing this properly, we'd be around #150 or so, but I'm rather lazy... and some have even called me unreliable. What's the theme this week? No theme. Relax people, let me ease back into this. Beggars can't be choosers.

I've made some changes since you saw one of these last. You'll note that because eBay auctions are rather transient events, all of my links are worthless within a week or two of my post. So I'll be putting the images in the post. This sort of blows the anticipation between the description and the actual piece of artwork when you click on the link. But if this is going to be a blog for the ages... a record of most of mankind's inability to harness the muses or notions of value... sacrifices must be made. So, click on the title to go to the auction and click on the photo to see it on my Flickr set.

If you're new, the blog always starts with a rooster. Don't ask me why, the reasons are lost in the mists of eBay history. But it's necessary. Trust me.

el diablo
Obligatory Rooster Art: El Diablo
This one brings me back to my carefree, cockfighting salad days.

Danny ByL? What's he up to? Blue Man
Everyone's favorite ex-dentist painter may have just let us in on a little secret about his painting technique with this self portrait. I think he paints with his eyes closed. Danny managed to tear himself away from the awkwardly executed tits and ass paintings for which he's so well known, and presents us with a tiny peek inside the artists' mind. And inside that mind? Jame Gumb. And if you aren't familiar with his work, do yourself a favor... wander through his other auctions. You won't be disappointed.

Disgusting Toilet
New Horizons in Digital Photography Award:
Disgusting Toilet
by Unknown
I swear... even though I'm living as a bachelor, this is not a photo of my toilet.

Susan Boyle with Beads #5

The In 5 Years No One Will Recognize This Name Award: Susan Boyle with Beads #5 By Joyce Kenney
I don't know what's more disconcerting, that she painted a picture of manipulated reality show flash in the pan, Susan Boyle, or that there are five of them.

Open Wide
The Not What I Expected from the Title Award
: Open Wide By Jeff Lasley
Considering all of the semi-pornographic, rarely erotic art on eBay, I expected something a little more filthy.

Second Runner Up Australia By Cindy K
or as I like to call it, Closeted Gay Dude and Frigid Harpy.

Charcoal Nude
First Runner Up
Untitled By Unknown
Reminiscent of all that 70's porn your parents used to love... a simpler time when it was possible to be white and pull off two afros.

Baby Angel
Baby Angel By Unknown
Angel... alien... whatever.

Thanks for stopping by to read. I really am going to make a concerted effort to do a weekly Bad eBay Art of the Week blog, because really, to do otherwise would make the title a little disingenuous. And because you've been so nice, I'll throw you a little bonus.

Thursday, May 14, 2009




May 14, 2009

By Jack, Fletcher and Alyssa J

This is why Jamestown is important. Jamestown was the first English colony. The settlers came from England. They came for silver and gold but they couldn't find anything. Instead they found Powhatans. The settlers made friends with the Powhatans and helped each other. That is why Jamestown is important.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Perhaps an explanation is in order


As some of you know, and most of you don't, I've been going through a bit of a transition lately. Even if you weren't in the loop, so to speak, you might have noticed that things were... well... different.

Different backgrounds to familiar objects. New views from different windows.

I'm separated. I'm living alone in my own little apartment in Holyoke. It's a hole... I hate it. I miss my kids. I miss my wife.

But this is how it needs to be.

I won't go into any details about why, or what, or anything. It's not fair to my wife to air out details here. But people have been wondering. And frankly, it probably seemed as if I'd lost my mind if you didn't know.

So, with my new "free time" I'm trying to get my act together. To be a better person. To be a better father. To finish projects that have lingered too long. To start new ones that get me to the place where I love my job, rather than dread every day. I've been pissing my life away.

And I figure that once I like myself again, I'll probably be a more likable person to you too.

That, or I'll just hang myself with a belt.



Sunday, May 10, 2009