Category Archives: P.J. O’Rourke

98. Art and Absurdity

If an artist is painting, drawing or sculpting whilst calculating the value of the work based largely on its meaning (hidden or overt), than that artist does not understand art the way I do. In visual art, shouldn’t the “visual” come first?

Would I display it in my home? At my place of employment?

Anyone with or without an art history background can ask those questions of any piece of art. And everyone is going to have a different opinion. And they are all “right”. The trick to understanding art is in developing your opinions on what you think is attractive. Don’t be afraid to say, “Those color combinations are searing my retinas.” or “That is too simple for my taste, I prefer more details.”

It seems a lot of people are turned off by “art” because it is so often presented in a long-winded and serious manner. Why aren’t witty one liners, bad puns and silly punchlines a part of the art world? Why so serious?

P.J. O’Rourke did a “Riding the Subway in Three Acts” and it was genius: a perfect satire of performance art. Robert Smithson did something very similar but it was dead serious.  I like Robert Smithson and consider him a major influence in the earthwork art of Spy Garden. But I like satire more. And there’s a joke in there somewhere that Spy Garden is just a little, home vegetable garden and not a significant enough work of art to have “influences”.

Claes Oldenburg wrote,

Lately I have begun to understand action painting, that old thing, in a new, vital, and peculiar sense—as corny as the scratches on a NY wall and by parodying its corn I have (miracle) come back to its authenticity! I feel as if Pollock is sitting on my shoulder, or rather crouching in my pants.

Well, I do love corn. But seriously? I’m not quite sure what he is talking about. I love works by Claes Oldenburg and have posted some pictures of them on Spy Garden before (9. Public Sculpture). Can’t I just enjoy it because I like the look of it? It’s silly, it’s simple. Isn’t that good enough?

Claes Oldenburg could have written:

I thought it would be really enjoyable to coordinate the construction of giant ordinary objects. They mean nothing so don’t bother writing hundreds of books and articles about them. Let the art history students learn about something more complex. Like Duchamp’s bicycle wheel. I’m just trying to make a bunch of money without having to work 9-5 at a boring office and I’d like to have plenty of time to sit around relaxing and designing more XXXL tubes of lipstick and hamburgers and such. Because I just find that sort of thing enjoyable.

Such an admission I would really appreciate. Can’t an artist just make something because they feel like it? Does there always have to be a deeper meaning? But maybe he’s not so silly or simple. Maybe I’m just not serious enough. Once in awhile I get absurdly poetic about gardening  and say things like,

 “I could pass through all these ruins all the time…Dirt has depth and beauty. I love soot and scorching.” (another Claes Oldenberg quote)

Well, I do love dirt. And I do love our fire pit which has both soot and scorching. Sometimes the fire pit produces beautiful art all on its own! But I just need a good punch line after a poetic ramble or else it’s just pure cheese (or corn).

I received a bachelor of arts in English and Art History from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Which basically means I am qualified to blather on, in English, about art. I graduated in 2005 and I’m still scratching my head wondering why on earth art is usually taken so seriously. I can happily blather on about why I like a piece of art or just simply call attention to art that I find interesting: but not without being silly. Questioning an artist’s motives, questioning the cultural context in which it was created, speculating on symbols and hidden meanings…I just don’t always find any of that necessary in order to appreciate art. What is so wrong with this simple* approach?

*While writing this post I clicked on the Thesaurus in Microsoft Word on the word “simple” and one of the synonyms it gave it “artless” HAHhahahahaha HAHAHA

Heres a piece of the Spy’s art:

Collage/Drawing by the Spy, 2010

Collage/Drawing by the Spy, 2010

Reminds me of synthetic cubism.

50. Progress Report V

One of the things I really dislike about blogging is that every post is a potential “first-time” view of your blog (if your latest post is on your front page anyway). I am writing 100 posts in 100 days. 300-1000 words a day. Trying to increase views of spygarden to 100 views per day (I get about 30 now). This is news to new readers (hello!) and this is a broken record to the special few people who’ve been following and commenting on Spy Garden the past 50 posts (bear with me!). Here’s one of my favorite pictures ever in hopes that you’ll continue reading, despite my “Progress Reports” not always being the most terribly exciting of the 100 posts:

I took this picture 365 days ago! Here's where.

I took this picture 365 days ago! Here’s where.

Every tenth posts I do a little progress report which is mostly an excuse not to have to think of a topic to write once every ten days. Most of these reflective posts with their repetitive introductions and explanations would go in the trash if this were real writing and not blog writing. But this is not a book. So these introductions and explanations seem obligatory in these 100 days. But really, spygarden just needs a more entertaining and informative “About” page. I’ll get right on that. In 50 days. For now, the daily 500 or so words will continue. I’m still averaging around 30 views a day. So I’ve decided to do something drastic. I’ve joined the dark side. I’m off the wagon. I’ve joined twitter. Da Da DUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHH

PJ O’Rourke writes,

Blogging is an abomination.  To paraphrase Emily Dickinson:  “How public, like a frog/To tell one’s name the livelong day/on a self-admiring blog.”  And I hold Twitter to be the lowest form of human communication, something between the front tooth thumb flick with which the Neapolitan tells you off and a Bedouin fart of satisfaction after a repast of lamb eyeballs. (source)

I fully agree with every word.

But he has a twitter account.

And with a few clicks Spy Garden has a Twitter account. And I thought it was done. But it forced me to follow five people. RIGHT OFF THE BAT! This seemed a little pushy and I do hate getting bossed around, but I thought surely I can think of five people. PJ O’Rourke (of course), Dave Barry, Carl Hiassen, Larry McMurtry and 23thorns.

Then, they asked me to pick five MORE people, and these people had to be “well-known”. This was a bit harder. Thin Lizzy may be half-dead but apparently they have a twitter. Then Journey. Then I couldn’t think of a single other person I cared to “follow” and really didn’t want to follow bands around in the first place. I’m just not the groupie type. I got annoyed and decided to delete the twitter account because I really don’t like being bossed around. Then I realized I just needed to confirm my account via email to have freedom not to follow anyone. So I unfollowed everyone. And I felt free. Like a bird. A twittering bird.

I’ve often said that my garden’s so big it got it’s own website. So it’s not my fault. It’s the garden’s fault. So I hereby absolve myself from any chirping that goes on @SpyGarden!

And now for some pictures of yore for your viewing pleasure:

October 15, 2012

October 15, 2012

October 9, 2012

October 9, 2012

October 5, 2012 (the Spy's 7th birthday skull brownies)

October 5, 2012 (the Spy’s 7th birthday skull brownies)

October 9, 2012

October 9, 2012

Buy us a plant!

47. P.J. O’Rourke

P.J. O’Rourke is one of my favorite writers of all time. You must read his book, Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut. It is hilarious. Here is an excerpt:

From Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut

From Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut. The reason “His whole life was an act of literary criticism” is highlighted because this is the quote I googled to get the quote. Obviously I remembered it verbatim!

And that’s just from the Acknowledgements section of the book. He is absolutely hilarious. His “Website Welcome” page on is PERFECTION, seriously click on this link and read this thing. Basically I agree with every word and gosh it is SO FUNNY. So where am I going with this? I don’t have any exciting October Garden How-To’s and didn’t take any pictures of golden sunlight or frolicking children and puppies today. So in searching for something to write about, I decided to search for something I already wrote. As an English major at Wesleyan University, I wrote the paper below. It was supposed to be a reflection on Dictee (which is a very abstract, disjointed book by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha). Pretty much the whole book is in the nonsensical format of my paper:

My Name Was Here

le 24 avril 2003

givemeanA. Issac

The Sad, Lonely, and Crazed Woman of Dictee:

Links in the Web of Knowledge Systems

The multilingual work that provokes readers to consult an outside work in pursuit of a knowledge can claim a priority in stimulating thinking at the same time that it points to the necessary intercultural, weblike nature of all knowledge systems.                             (Spahr 139)

Je pense donc que je suis.

Je pense [excessivement] donc que je suis [fou].

Elle pense. Elle parle. Elle prononce. She thinks. She speaks. She utters. “Hers now. Hers bare. The utter.” (5) The utter, bought by a high price—the woman’s sanity—lost in nervous anticipation. She is not at ease. Cha’s Dictee “is built around discomfort. It has little reading ease.” (Spahr 124)

“She hears the ringing and the call is announced.” (139)  She labors over the ring. She thinks too much. She is mad. She overstates the obvious.  Reading in too far, too many Re’s and she knows it, “Re dust[1]…Resurrect it all over again. Bit by bit. Reconstructing step by step…” (129): because she is so lonely.  She says “You fade.” (128)  Perhaps the subject is physically absent but with obsessed words she shows that her subject still actively torments her, and it is her own fault: (1) she creates the Re dust, (2) the Re dust becomes “A shadow”, (3) she reconstructs, re-enacts, rebuilds: (4) creates “a new shape” reminiscent of the original, but without true form. “It seemed to resemble but it wasn’t.” She is heartbroken and crazy over something or someone, she recreated its/his/her image over and over, and continually her Re creation reveals itself to her: reminds her she was only pretending.  All of this Re business results in trouble with the verb. To go. Aller.

“Something takes only one to start.” (128)

The Aller passage is vague, vague, vague. Because of this ambiguity, the reader can connect it to other passages. Connect it to Laura Claxton. Laura writes to Mr. Reardon unaware that he has moved. H. Small writes, “Of late I have not heard anything from him and cannot advise you of his present address.” (142) Laura will be sad when she reads these words. Sad for her sister. Her sister who “is in awful shape/she threatens/to kill her self and/her children and/husband has done/all they can” Her sister is crazy (over/under Mr. Reardon?). So crazy, in fact, that perhaps she doesn’t even have a sister: she writes to herself in 3rd person. Her doctor told her to do this, in a journal, for therapy, to help her eat.

[1] Re dust: The fictitious world created by too many what ifs? Too many re-readings, re-enactments. The writer addresses the personification of what is created by these re’s: “You Re dust”

Beat her anorexia, stop her from going crazy. “She is afraid of going crazy.” (146) Much easier to write those words in 3rd person. Elle s’écrit. Reflexive verbs. She fights with her body.

“In the whiteness/no distinction her body  invariable no dissonace synonymous to be come yours.” (118) To become yours. DO become your body. Devenir. “The verb.” (118) To become.

dreyers joan of arc

Carl Dreyer, 1928: La Passion de Joan d’Arc. Impressive fanatic. Crazed? We were in confirmation class reading Catechism and trying to finish our French homework we found it “NOT possible to distinguish the speech” (67) of either. READ and call crazy what is wildly ambiguous. The ambiguity invites unusual juxtapositions/relationships because it does not have to be read LINEARLY.

*             *               *

Ok so that’s the paper.

It’s over (thank goodness).

If you are confused right now, that’s the point. IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Did I actually “read” Dictee? Of course not. Part of being an English major is writing pages and pages on things you know nothing about. Thumbing the pages as you would do a picture flip book one can quickly conclude: This work is disjointed. It has no plot. It makes many vague social/cultural/political references.

What was at stake that we spend 2-4 hours of class time (at 40 grand a year that is some expensive class time) in such serious discussion of this crappy book? Well…Theresa Hak Kyung Cha is a published author. While I am a lowly blog glog writer. Interestingly enough she seems FAR less concerned with the reader’s pleasure in “reading” her book than I am.

So, the punchline, people, is, I got an A+ on the paper. It took me ten minutes to write. If you can appreciate this paradox, you seriously need to read some P.J. O’Rourke.