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Monday, September 26, 2005

The Lie of Interpretation

Let's talk about art for a bit. Art in all it's forms. I've just finished reading an essay by a Mr. Andrew Hudgins, called "The Glass Anvil: Lies of an Autobiographer" about lies, the literary kind. The sorts of lies that make your writing better.

One of them is the lie of interpretation. It's the idea that while life may not give resolution, art must have some sort of closure or it will stilt the aesthetic progress. One of my classmates gave an example: Anne Sexton wrote "You don't solve problems in writing. They're still there. I've heard psychiatrists say, 'See, you've forgiven your father in your poem.' But I haven't forgiven my father, I just wrote I did."

Hudgins shares how he swore he would write his autobiography (in poems) while he was still angry. And he did, but his editor kicked the final manuscript back to him, saying that it didn't take the reader anywhere, just delivered them off the edge of a cliff.

I was rolling along with Mr. Hudgins just fine until I read this part of the essay, "The problem boils down to this: life has no intrinsic meaning while art has to have it. Or at least significance."

What makes Hudgin's comment even more perpelxing is that he is a self-proclaimed "born again believer." If anyone should believe life has meaning, a person of faith would. Am I missing something?

This is the question I want to ask: How is it possible for art (the representation) to demand meaning, if there is none in life (the original)? This also raises questions about art like "why?" Why must art have some sort of significance, if life has none? What does that say about the beings that create it and the beings that exchange with it?

Thinking, thinking~

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in El Segundo

This story begins with our Mosaic small group -- the one that Dwayne co-leads with a woman named Tamiko. The story takes off with Tamiko. About four months ago Tamiko submitted her brother's family for Extreme Makeover Home Edition.

The short version of the Lewis family story goes like this: They were renovating their home, when the contractor skipped town with their money. During this time Paulita, Bruce's wife, developed a rare form of cancer. Homeless, with two children, and a seriously sick wife, Bruce moved his family into his mother's two bedroom apartment. The whole family, including the cat, stayed in a room that was 10 feet by 10 feet, while the community of El Segundo began to try to renovate Bruce and Paulita's home.

Our small group kept tabs on the development of Tamiko's application to Extreme Makeover, and so we were all very excited when the Tuesday after Labor Day Extreme Makeover arrived in El Segundo to announce to the Lewis family that they had been chosen! Tamiko dropped everything, of course, and worked everyday to help the Extreme Makeover crew with her brother's house. There were very special things that were done for the Lewis family, but you'll have to tune in to see them for yourself.

From behind the scenes, I can tell you two things 1) Tamiko was never interviewed or included in the episode. While she graciously stepped out of the lime light, I want to take a moment to acknowledge on this humble blog, the role Tamiko played in this most amazing gift Bruce and his family recieved. 2) While Dwayne and I had very little to do with the whole process we were both very excited to be able to attend the comedy benefit Extreme Makeover held at a local park to support the American Cancer Society. Really our overall involvment was very low, aside from wondering by the house in its various stages of construction. So this story is told through Tamiko's pictures below.

No one knows the exact date the Lewis Family show will air, but I've heard that it will be the 8th episode/toward the end of November.

The nearly finished product Posted by Picasa

Construction Posted by Picasa

Ty madness Posted by Picasa

The Comdedian of the Comedy Benefit Posted by Picasa

Tamiko and one of the producers Posted by Picasa

Sweet Alice. Remember her episode in Watts? Posted by Picasa

The Mighty Ducks play street hockey against the contractors. Rumor has it that Wayne Gretsky was there too! Posted by Picasa

Michael and his little dog Posted by Picasa

Connie, Daniel, Paul, and Micheal at the Comedy Benefit Posted by Picasa

Hugging the design team Posted by Picasa

Going into the house. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Nova Scotia VI -- Trenton and New Glasgow

Because the husband and wife were on vacation, they had to visit the husband’s extended family. So the next day, they piled in the car with the father-in-law and the mother-in-law and drove and drove until they reached a town where the father-in-law’s grandfather had lived. They stopped the car for a moment while the father-in-law pointed out the window at a white A-frame house, “That’s where my grandfather used to live,” he said. “And that building right off the left was his painting room. He painted houses, but he painted pictures too.”

They drove down more of the small streets with houses tucked between trees until they reached a mint green house where Aunt Vivian and Uncle Buddy lived. They climbed out of the car, went inside, gave hugs, and sat in the living room for a while. When the father-in-law pulled out his pictures of Africa and began to show them to Vivian and Buddy, the husband rolled his eyes at his mother, who then mouthed “Go for a walk.”

The wife felt a bit like a fifteen year-old trying to escape the adult’s conversation, as she and her husband stepped outside. It was misty in Trenton, so she pulled her sweater close to her neck and waited while her husband grabbed his father’s maroon jacket. The jacket was too big for him and the wife thought it made him look like a little boy. They strolled down the street hand in hand calling each other pet names and talking a little about the day. “How do we get to the park?” the wife asked watching as a couple of people walked a dog.

“We go down here, turn right, and follow a trail through the woods,” the husband said and the wife saw a damp forest waiting for them at the end of the cul-de-sac. When they reached the edge of the asphalt and the beginning of moss and brush, the husband stopped for a moment. “I don’t see the path,” he said.

“Are you sure this is the right street?” the wife asked. He was sure and so they plunged ahead. The wife was glad she had brought her tennis shoes. The husband was stepping over fallen branches, and through dead wet leaves in a pair of flip flops.

“I’m beginning to feel ill-equipped with my flip flops,” he said and the wife smiled.

“I knew there was no way I could be in Canada, and be with you, and not be traipsing out in nature somewhere,” she replied.

Finally, they pushed through all the wet brush and came out the other side of the trees next to a rural highway. They scrambled up the ditch and tall grass, crossed the road, and there in front of them was a huge wooden sign arched above two wooden posts reading “Welcome to Centennial Park.”

There was no one in the park along with the husband and wife. They walked down trails and to a lake completely along. Once at the lake, the husband began picking up stones and throwing them as high in the air as he could. When they’d hit the water they would make a funny gulping sound with hardly any ripples. “That’s called cutting the devil’s throat,” he said and chucked another stone in the air, end over end.

While the husband was doing this the wife stood watching the water, completely unaware of a beaver dam sprawling at her feet. At the top of the home was a hole, surrounded by stick after stick woven together like an igloo of wood.

Soon the husband pointed to the beaver home, and when he did, she stood mesmerized by the intricacy of the structure. She knelt down close to the hole and imagined she was small enough to crawl into the opening and sit on the bank watching the ebb and flow of water beneath the sticks. It reminded her of a children’s book or a fairy tale. The beaver home seemed like a cozy place to hide in the rain. “I don’t think a beaver lives there anymore,” the husband said, sending a stone across the surface of the water. It skipped more times than the wife could count.

“Why not?” asked the wife.

“Because if he was still around he wouldn’t let a hole grow in the middle of his roof.”

“But isn’t that how he gets in?”

The husband shook his head. He thought they came and went under the water. The wife believed him when it came to things like this because, one: beavers were his favorite animals, and two: when she watched him by the water, throwing stone after stone, wearing a jacket too big for him, he looked like little boy, a child borne out of nature.

With each moment the years seem to strip away until she felt she was seeing him as the ten-year-old he used to be, skipping stones, scrambling through woods, and playing hockey on frozen ponds. A spark leapt in her heart, because for a moment she saw innocence as clean as the moist air, as intricate as a beaver dam.

Nova Scotia V -- Mahone Bay

The first thing you see when you drive around the bend to Mahone Bay is four church steeples rising above the trees and reflecting in the still water of the bay.

"Where's Amos Pewter?” my father-in-law, Dave, asks as he steers the car toward Main street. We cruise past a cluster of teenagers smoking on the steps of the Lutheran church. “Amos Pewter supposed to be the best view of the churches,” he continues. Dave’s hobby is photography and we have visited several beautiful sites today. He’s collecting pictures as we go.

Pat, his wife, and I sit in the back seat watching novelty shops shuffle past the car windows while Dave and Dwayne chat in the front seats. About a quarter of a mile down the road we pass a turquoise building with lavender trim. An old wooden sign hangs above the door. “Amos Pewter!” I say, pressing my finger to the glass. Dave slides the car to a stop, parks against the sidewalk, and we get out.

Behind the shop, a small green lawn stretches away from the building and literally drops into the bay, no fence, no hedge, no barrier. Dave holds his view finder up and eyes the scenery. Only three steeples are visible from this angle and we all wonder why Dave was told this was the best picture.

“It’s not nearly as nice as the view from across the bay,” Pat says, and we all look across the water at the bend in the road where we’ve just been. Dave decides he’ll take his pictures after we’ve played tourist and are on our way out.

Inside Amos, we wander around displays of pewter objects, delicately laid in cabinets, and display booths. Some of the items our out in the open, so that Dwayne and I handle them lightly.

“Feel how heavy this is!” Dwayne says picking a sand dollar from a trough of sand. Other beach treasures cast in muted silver sit in the trough: a tiny conch, a starfish, a mermaid’s purse. I pick each up and turn it over in my fingers trying to image how they were cast, so life like, and so dead, as if turned to pewter instantly. What if Midas had a pewter touch?

At the back of the store is a workshop where guests can watch the owners make the merchandise. I wander to the back and stare mindlessly at the tourist plaques, pictures and words describing the pewter process. A woman stands behind some Plexiglas buffing a piece of pewter. She sees me and suddenly reaches her hand over the divider pushing a small Celtic cross into my face. I’m so taken off guard that I don’t hear what she’s saying. Something about what she’s doing with the pewter.

“Do you want to watch a demonstration?” she asks, cocking her head to one side. I nod my head because it’s the only thing I can think of to do in this moment. “Suzie can show you,” she says and motions to another woman who’s standing further down the bench.

I hold up my finger and say, “Just a minute. My husband will want to see this.” I spin around and trot through the store to find Dwayne. Soon a small crowd including Pat and Dave has gathered around the Plexiglas to watch as Suzie pours liquid pewter down the thin neck of a centrifuge. She dips a ladle into a silky cauldron of heated metal and spills it onto the work bench.

“It doesn’t take long to cool,” she says and we watch as the pewter hardens into a frozen river on the wood. Suzie picks it up with her bare hands, and slides it back into the melting pot.
Inside the centrifuge, while Suzie is demonstrating the amazing properties of pewter, the liquid metal is being spun through many little channels of rubber until it hits the outer most rim of the mold and settles into the delicate twists of a necklace link, or the intricate creases of a maple leaf. Each mold is different, and I can see on the bench, other designs that have just been taken from the centrifuge, dull and nearly white from workshop dust.

As I watch Suzie pour the pewter into the middle of the centrifuge I think of a fairground ride I took when I was in high school. It was the shape of a flying saucer and spun around and around so that the riders inside were held against the padded walls by a horizontal gravity. At the climax of the ride we were weightless. I remember one guy stood on the mat so that his body was perpendicular to the wall and parallel to the earth. Another person spun himself upside down so that his feet were at the top of the mat and his head at the bottom.

Had the ride stopped in that moment both people would have toppled on their heads. I was too frightened to try any of these things, so I just stayed where I was, feet off the ground, stuck to the wall. It was a few seconds of perfect release. The invisible arm of the earth had let us go, and those who were defiant railed against gravity. Others of us were timid, still psychologically bound by the world outside of the flying saucer: papers, theater jobs, dirty rooms, friends, and the carnies lazily sucking on their cigarettes.

After Amos Pewter, we walk through other novelty shops, slipping in and out of their doors, enjoying the unique trinkets and souvenirs. There is a bustle on the street, other tourists doing the same, moving in and out of shops, enjoying their vacation, a release from the everyday pull of life. For a few steps we all forget our homes and believe that this pretty town with its water as slippery as liquid pewter, reflecting back four steeples and the huddle of green trees, is as permanently picturesque as it appears.

On the way out of town, Dave, Pat, Dwayne and I sit in the car and drive back to the bend in the road where Dave takes his picture. We are sleepy from an afternoon of walking, and I put my head back on the car seat. The teenagers are still sitting on the steps of the church smoking, watching the fairground of people file through their streets.

Nova Scotia IV -- Peggy's Cove

At the bottom of Nova Scotia, on the South Shore, is a village called Peggy’s Cove – population 60. Beneath its many colored houses painted mint green, bubble gum pink, and sunshine yellow, lays a foundation of molten rock oozed from the earth’s core millions of years ago. The granite has grown cool from time and white with the years of mist.

At the tip of Peggy’s Cove stands a stately lighthouse with a white trunk, a red hat, and one green eye to pierce the fog. This lighthouse is the most photographed lighthouse in the world, says a brochure at the Peggy’s cove information center. And it is beautiful, standing on a bed of creamy rocks, the pattern of green moss crawling through creases.

Boats hang in the bay, still and tied next to the ports. Each boat as brilliantly colored as the houses above them. “Please respect private property,” a sign says as tourists numbering more than the entire population of Peggy’s Cove walk through the streets. “Friendly fishermen live here,” the sign continues, as if to beg the tourist’s sympathy, but we are already taken with this delicate town.

A plaque at the entrance of the village tells the story of how Peggy’s Cove got its name. A girl named Peggy was sailing to her fiancé. The details of this story are swallowed up in the soft focus of folklore, faded like the mist that clings to your skin. We know that Peggy was on her way to her beloved when her ship crashed on the South shore. While Peggy survived, she abandoned her journey to her lover, seduced by the easy molten rocks. She chose to live on the rocks, alone with the sea, rather than return to her lover. From that moment forward, when friends and family came to see her, they said, “We’re going to visit, Peggy of the Cove.”
(pictures taken by David W. Taylor)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Nova Scotia III -- Homesick

When it started raining the wife couldn’t help herself. She had to pull on Nanny’s “duckies” (green rubber shoes), her shell jacket, and an old straw hat, because after all, it wasn’t raining hard, just enough to cling to her hair and make it frizzy.

“Roll up your pants,” Nanny called after her, “There’s likely tall grass, and it’s wet.”

The wife rolled up her pants just enough to show her brown socks and stepped into the small raindrops that were falling like snow. It clung to her eye lashes and dewed her cheeks. For a moment she felt like a flower waking up in the morning.

Next to the base of the house, curled up in a patch of dry grass lay the mouse cat. He was unfortunately wet for all his efforts, and the wife took pity on him, letting him rub his wet fur against her dry jeans.

The two of them traipsed around the farm house to look at the vegetable garden and small orchard. The wife wasn’t sure what she was going to look at, only that she had to stand in front of them in the rain. So she did. Through her wet eyelashes she looked at the rows of vegetables, trying to guess where one food began and another ended. There were red stalks with green flouncy leaves, tall and pointy leaves standing like giant blades of grass, and light green leaves, lacy and low to the ground.

Meanwhile, the cat wound about her feet, pushing it’s hips to her ankles. “What do you think cat?” she asked and noticed that he blinked at her. She and the cat walked over to the orchard which was just a small grove of short trees with curling branches. As the wife got closer she saw that a couple trees were growing pears.

“This one’s a pear tree,” she told the cat and fingered a small firm pear no taller than the length of her palm. It was perfect to her, delicious to the sight, and the organic version of the many Christmas pears she’d seen decorating department stores. She moved to another tree and found small red apples hanging like jewels. Nothing was ripe yet, but it made her think about the season when they would be. Which made her think about her home in Indiana, when the air would go crisp, and make her nose cold.

She thought about how the leaves would turn, and the horizon would fill with layers of glowing trees. Fall was the season for hay mazes, tractor pulls, barn bashes, and pumpkins. Things all together different than the eternal sunshine of Los Angeles.

She stood back, the cat sitting at her feet hopelessly wet by now, and she thought about apples: hot apple cider, the richness of cinnamon, and the velvet cloak of Autumn.