Freudian washed up on Jungian shores

Here’s what I knew earlier today.  The image below was on a piece of paper my father kept folded up in his wallet.  Underneath it was inscribed “People are no damn good.”  I don’t remember the first time my father showed it to me.  I was very young.  It always tickled me.  I can sort of remember my father saying something to the effect that he kept it because he found the image amusing.  Someone had given it to him.  Memory is unreliable, of course, but I think I carried away a feeling that he found the inscribed sentiment brutally true.  I remember him referring to the figure as “some chinaman living in a box.”  My father would have been characterized by most who met him as a genial and pleasant guy, but this cartoon somehow resonated for him.  That, at least, was the conclusion formulated by my younger self.  I saw it as his secret truth.

I decided to take a few minutes and go online to find out more about the cartoon, to investigate, finally, a profoundly significant paternal signifier.  Was this, perhaps, the very “name of the father” itself?  In my perpetually inflated view, I was going to start some journey of psychoanalytic investigation, work my rusty Lacanian chops, and end up with a charming, but nonetheless challenging, bit of literary autobiography.  This little cartoon, with it’s corrosive brief assessment, had always functioned for me as a tiny banner of identity.  I jokingly refer to it as my “birthright.”  And most people would probably characterize me as a genial and pleasant guy.

There was something else.  Behind the amusing clarity of it, I convinced myself I had detected a quality of bathroom banality, of the kind I imagined exchanged by chuckling GI’s from my father’s war years (WWII).  What was I to do with that?

So I began to investigate.  I discovered the artist is William Steig.  Yes, of Shrek fame (the creator of), but also famed as one of The New Yorker’s premiere cartoonists and illustrators through the second half of the Twentieth Century.  I am exultant to think of my father carrying around a Steig cartoon.  It flatters my ego.  But I also realize he may not have known who Steig was.  The cartoon first appeared on a best-selling “studio card” from around 1940.  So it was ubiquitous.  The Shrek of the moment.  The refined had been tempered, or brought back to earth, by the everyday.  I begin to work up to a theme.  I noted, also, that my knowledge of Steig was, until I began exploring today, superficial.  I did not know that I should have been “in the know” about Steig before I began looking into him.   That, too, fit with the self-portrait I was seeking and would fit nicely with the theme that began to simmer.  Then, in search of more appearances of the cartoon on the web, I googled a link…

This is where it gets bizarre.  And to fully appreciate how bizarre, I have to make some confessions.  I have a few quirky interests.  We all do, I realize.  Nothing seriously off the map, I can assure you.  No doubt we all have a collection of topics or themes which inevitably trigger our curiosity should we see them referenced in a book title or in a magazine or online.  Some of mine, many of mine, were all linked together in a network of associations in the article above.  Wilhelm Reich, Kate Bush, Patti Smith’s Horses (which I was reading about just yesterday), Makavejev and his films, including WR: Mysteries of the Organism, Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons and L. Ron Hubbard.  And in the midst of that was a photo of a button with the Steig cartoon.  It appears as the article makes reference to one of Reich’s dubious achievements:  the Orgone Box.  I did some more digging.

Turns out Steig credits Reich with “saving his life” through his encounters with the emigre analyst in New York in the 1940s.  Steig, evidently, owned an Orgone box and sat in it every day of his life.  The “angry chinaman” is in fact an image in which Steig is exploring symbolically some aspect of his Reichean experience.  Much of his work did.

I’m not a Reichian, but, because of my background in psychoanalysis and my study at the University of West Georgia’s psychology department, I’m intrigued by Reich, and I’m intrigued by others who have been intrigued by Reich, and an image of a large portion of that world of interest was contained in the cartoon in a way that now feels like a marker of destiny.  This was not the exercise in autobiography I was expecting.

Further oddness.  I clicked on another link…

Kind of funny.  A collection of “black velvet” work by a Tahitian artist, including a version of the cartoon.  Go down to the comments.  Someone asks who the original artist was for the cartoon.  Kevin Slaughter, who’s blog it is, thinks it’s Donald Hardman.  But he is corrected by someone named “Marc,” who identifies the artist as Steig.  It was not me.  It was some other Marc with a “c.”

So I wound up discovering that the cartoon in my father’s wallet did, in fact, lead to a very accurate portrait of who I am.  It’s amazing to me that so many of my interests, and my identity to a certain extent, was, through the cartoon, thrown up onto a screen in an instant.  Did someone say “synchronicity?”  Why not?  I didn’t get to the root of myself as a misanthrope stuck in a box, however.  I’ll have to work more on my own to put that story together.


Fugues all in one place…in order of attempt.

Yes, exploiting the fact we have a media library.  And not to be confused with “fugue state(meant)s.”  Then again…

Fugue in C

2nd Fugue-C minor

Fugue Aflat maj

Fugue Aflatminor

fugue d maj

Fugue D minor

Fugue A major

Fugue A minor

fugue g min

fugue g maj (“The Branch”)

fugue f major (take 2)

Fugue F minor

Fugue Eb major

Fugue Eb minor

Fugue Bb major

Fugue Bb minor final








Assignment L.11.02: Reflection

I rarely propose assignments.  I rarely do them.  I do not expect an enthusiastic response.  That is not the Lichtenberg way.  Our way is toss off whatever it may be with only smothered hope.  Followed by a smirk.  And then walk away quickly.

I propose a structure that may inspire a creative response.  I’m mostly interested in whether or not the structure is useful in any and all media or though any and all modes of expression.  Need the structure be explicit within the work?  Good question.  Visible or invisible?  Subject or silent support of some other subject?  Are we always aware of what stages the supporting mise en scene of our every thought, revery or effort?

The structure is built on reflection.  Looking into a mirror and seeing not only oneself but also, behind oneself, another.  Another looking perhaps at one’s back or at the reflection of one’s eyes.  And so, what may follow?  Might one try to look into the eyes of the reflected other to discern what the other sees, to see if the other sees one’s attempt to look? Everything would then circulate about the question:  at any moment, does the other share the beam of sight with the one looking?  A beam shared though reflected.

You can ignore everything after my initial sketch of the lines of sight, after the first three sentences of the previous paragraph.  To imply that a question might reside within this structure is an imposition, I realize.  Certainly a possibility within the structure, but not necessary for creative exploitation.  Don’t attach anything to it unless it’s useful.   You need not let this structure lead to questions of any sort.

A mundane though uniquely modern phenomenon.  Mirrors certainly are part of the architecture of mind and self in the modern world.  And I say modern (said it twice, now, really three times, heaven help me) fully aware that glassy reflection appears in myth, theology and other pre-Renaissance moments of thought.  An aside, this paragraph, a ruffling of an otherwise smooth and unfussy texture.  Or a skidding waver of the beam.

It occurs to me to add that, for the purposes of this assignment, I consider philosophy to be a mode of creative expression.


We’ve been watching the original Dark Shadows on Netflix Instant View.  (No, we’re not hip enough to have known that Depp and Burton are doing a remake.  Found that out later as I looked for links. It was truly just a desire to relive childhood memories.)  As the vampire Barnabas Collins made his entrance into the action over ten or so twenty-minute segments, I became quite preoccupied with his politeness.  Something about the totality of it–its comprehensiveness.  Obviously, he wants to be accepted into the family at Collinswood and not arouse suspicion.  It pays for him to be on his best behavior.  Soon enough he will be making some pretty significant requests of folks, so it’s not to his advantage to upset anyone.  Charm is his skeleton key.  But there’s more to it, I think.  The character Maggie, already under a certain amount of hypnotic influence, notes how his “old world” manners seem linked to a profound sense of loneliness and isolation.  What she doesn’t know this early on, of course, is the true nature of this separateness and the true depth of it.

I am struck by how this simple soap managed to create something dark and palpable through such rudimentary and minimal means.  I found myself nodding along with Barnabas as he spoke in various scenes to various characters he wished to charm and influence.  I, too, was appreciating what was at stake as he reached out from a position of absolute separateness.  I was in the game, and there was not one special effect to lure me along through its magic.  Barnabas is nothing but what he can say, and he gets nothing except through what he can say, so he must say it in a very precise way.  The script at times even has him discriminating properly between the uses of who and whom. What we are witnessing is Vampire Minimalism crafted wholly through language.  Sure, soon enough there will be teeth and biting and fluids, and we know something is afoot behind the veneer, but the essence of the vampire is in the words.  As if seizing upon a spoken politeness that is palpably archaic, or dead, he extends a powerful reach into the world of the living with its unsuspecting casualness and neglect and its trivial cares.  His banishment from us and his appetite for us are expressed in his strange, antique precision.

Reading too much into it due to my own alienation?   target=”_blank”>See for yourself.


Fractal Music

Fractal: a geometric pattern that is repeated at ever smaller scales to produce irregular shapes and surfaces that cannot be represented by classical geometry.

That seems to be an okay definition. The patterns were created:

Basic units.

Already kind of purty and fractally, I hope. The computer implemented these units at numerous scales of magnitude. And by magnitude, I mean tempo. In musical terms, I think that’s a reasonable translation for size or scale. The beats were subdivided and subdivided exponentially.

I then created color options through specifying a tone row and it’s retrograde. I also added color gradations by letting each tone also specify a key. Additional twists applied through some octave jumps.

I have made a fractal music in the past by manipulating frequencies with the Mandelbrot set, but I wanted to keep tempered pitches in this instance.

I also added some delay that would vary through assorted consonant values. The feedback of the delay enhances the contrapuntal nature of the music and adds some instrumental give and take. I chose a piano sound. Not the greatest, but it’s what I had available, and by manipulating the envelope of the sound, I could create a kind of fiddle voice to play along. Chamber piece for piano and strings. Trying for an acceptable musical equivalent of a fractal image. Here’s one:


That was the most recent attempt.  Due to a particular arrangement of sequencer reset triggers and a more circumspect use of delays, it seems to offer a fairly controlled and dramatic musical organization of the themes.  The ghost in the machine is a touch Romantic, I guess.  Here’s the first attempt with the present tone row:


Not bad.  More adventurous meter permutations.  More appearances by dissonant clusters.  Here’s the second attempt.  I used fewer sequencer resets and so it seems a bit more broad in its lines. Maybe more contemplative?


Some snaps and crackles and pops because of the fussiness of the delays. Sorry. Must keep tinkering.  I am using a nifty audio processing software with a modular interface: Plogue’s Bidule.

Aphorist Leaves Creativity ConFab Claiming “No Womb in the End”

Reports he was unable to get his feet properly planted, speculates it may have been due to absence of the “feminine principle” (whatever the hell that means…), a lack which he reportedly found “remarkable” at a discussion of creativity.  Fully willing to admit, however, it was really a failing on his part.  His ear is trained to track repetition, and he claims it was this “handicap” that prevented him from tuning into “that which previously was not” and remaining, instead, “mired in what had been around before…many times.”  Notes his paralysis in the presence of such repetition.  Unable to bring anything new, himself, to the table, he sped away, crouching and shuffling, longing merely for a womb of dreams into which he could crawl, ashamed of his botched birth too many years ago.  Longing, himself, to be that which once was not.

A “parent survey” response for my daughter’s English class

Whenever I come upon my sixteen year old daughter absorbed in her laptop, I am expected to play my part in a set routine.  My daughter created it, and because she is a comedian, it’s a pithy and concise bit of Vaudeville schtick.  As a parent I can’t help but be proud, even though she gives herself the funny stuff and expects me to embarrass myself as the hapless straight man.

Goes something like this.  I wander by.  She remains motionlessly consumed in whatever is on her laptop.  I stop.  I turn and look at her as though I’m trying to recollect something I know I need to tell her.  There’s a pause.  Then maybe I mutter something like, “Oh, by the way…,” as if I just remembered what it was I wanted to say.  In one swift and deft move she looks up at me as she slams shut her laptop’s screen.  She gives me this…stare.  It’s questioning and subtly malevolent at the same time.  It’s the twist in the bit, the comic turn.  Even though I am not even remotely interested in what’s on her laptop, even though I might or might not idly try to glance at the screen as I pause with my question, she, with her move and her…stare, transforms me, whether I’m glancing over her shoulder or not, mind you, into a dirty creeper who is trying to peer into her world.  She’s the one who slams shut the laptop, but I am the pervert.  Come on!  Who’s really guilty, and of what?  There’s no escaping that I’m clearly the dupe of this routine.  I walk right into the trap.  She’s minding her own business and then I come along with my aging vampiric desire, attempting to feed on her innocent youthful enjoyment.  How dare I?  “Yes?  What?  May I help you?”  I bluster and protest that I have no interest in what she’s looking at.  She continues the…stare.  I stand guilty.  I should be ashamed.  It’s a great bit.

Classic schtick.  However, like any comic routine, if you turn it slightly and look at it out of sync with its working tempo, you realize it is a ritual.  It’s a ritual my daughter and I enact every time she sees me seeing her with her laptop, as if that moment demands we enact some significant understanding.

What do we understand in those moments?  I think it’s rather complex, and the ritual itself, couched in comedy to countenance a large component of anxiety, played out in full each time, is the only way to fully write what all is going on.  One of the things rituals do–to play amateur anthropologist for a moment–is combine a number of contradictory impulses, equivocal ideas, and mixed motives into a concrete series of repeatable and reconcilable actions.  Repetition refines a chaotic mess of both malignant and ecstatic emotions and allows for more ponderable meanings and manageable sensations to take shape. Think of the handshake.  I touch the flesh of someone who is a stranger to me.  That in itself is a bold gesture.  One doesn’t usually make to touch an other one does not know.   Am I offering friendship or testing the strength of a potential threat?  Am I filling a moment of awkwardness and uncertainty?  Am I establishing a provisional truce or creating an alliance?  Checking for weapons?  Opening myself to another? The ritual handshake writes the complexity of all of these possibilities, and with a quarter-turn back, it, like every ritual, has the potential for comedy:  just note how not being ready for a quick, strong handshake immediately can turn you into a pathetic, farcical, doubting mess.

I think that in the terse comedy of the laptop routine my and daughter and I carry through a ritual just as complex, and I think it revolves around something profound the computer has brought into the parent-child relationship.  Why not put it starkly in the language of the Old Testament?  Computers bring the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Not that this wasn’t there before computers, of course.  Nothing new under the sun, to use more Old Testament language, but maybe, thanks to computers, the not-new is now more immediate.

Handling these matters has always been a miserable parental burden, and part of most parents’ strategy, I think, has always focused on timing.  We try to temper the truth of the Fall by going slowly.  We try to feed in the darker facts of life gradually.  Our language evolves through the years of maturation.  Maybe we bring the remote troubling mood of a fairy tale a touch closer as we issue our warnings about that street too far from home or that stranger who isn’t going to tell you the truth.  We dance about with the talk of “bad people” or of kids who might try to talk them into doing “things they really don’t want to do.”  Time, access, and distance were more in our control as we led them by the hand to peek behind certain creaky doors or at figures recumbent under pale linen shrouds.  We let the moment and necessity and growth guide us.  Before computers.  Now the entire enormity of the human condition waits right on the other side of a squarish or oblong portal sitting on a desk in our home or resting in our child’s lap.  Lies offered as truths.  Truths offered as lies.  Facts offered as fun.  Friendly persuasion.  And evil incarnate.  All of it there, now, no waiting.  For us, the parents, time is no longer on our side.  The monster has crawled out from under the bed.

Because of the computer, my daughter and I had talks before I was ready to have them, before she was ready to have them, too, probably.  Long talks.  Detailed.  I had to work hard to summon effective and useful metaphors.  I had to use starker images.  More immediate.  Less ambiguous.  More proximate.  Implicating all that was both familiar and foreign.  I issued prohibitions that were non-negotiable.  I relativized notions like privacy, freedom, choice, maturity.  I apologized to her for the fact that those concepts, once she sat down in front of the portal, were meaningless.  Gazing into the portal, we would not pretend she was cultivating those things.  Truly, we sat together and talked and beheld the Fall.

The laptop ritual acknowledges that.  In a way, it’s as if the computer brought trauma, and our little ritual is a way of turning such an upheaval into a fact of life.  The computer also brought complexity, and the routine allows us to bring together the complexity into something manageable.  It reminds us of what we had to sacrifice as we figured out how to make a place for the computer in our home.  It implicates us in the sad truths of life.  It torments us a bit with a warning that the beast is really out there.  And in here.  And it helps us tolerate the discomfort of having to share such things with one another before either one of us was ready.   And it assures my daughter that I will still pry and indulge my suspicions.  It allows her to assert her autonomy in spite of my having rendered her cherished notions of freedom and independence contingent and conditional.  It also allows her to be angry at me.  And thank me.  At least I tell myself she is thanking me.  She may just be calling me a creep with no life.