Archive for the ‘Lopsided Observations’ Category


Friday, February 23rd, 2018

David Cay Johnston at Barnes & Nobel in Pittsford, NY

David Kay Johnston has the goods on Trump and he shared some of the teasers from his new Simon & Schuster book, “It’s Worse Than You Think,” with the crowd last night at Barnes & Nobel. The chairs were full and people were standing around the periphery and ten deep outside the doors. We sat on the floor a few feet from the author.

The takeaway: It is “our government” not “the government.” Get informed, help people register to vote, drive people to the polls. Trump belongs behind bars but then what?. Think about how destructive a less-than-inept politician with Trump’s agenda could be. And his final word of advice to the mostly gray haired crowd. “The next time you come to see me bring a younger person.”

Find My Phone

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Bay bridge in February, Rochester, New York

Today is Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday. It was too warm to ski so we plotted a ten mile walking loop that took us up to Starbucks first. Peggi spotted a dirty cell phone in the snow off to the side of the road. It had a pink cover on it with a heart decal on the back. I cleaned it off in the snow and we carried it up to Starbucks. It rang twice and buzzed a couple of times but I couldn’t unlock the screen. I pictured someone in front of monitor tracking us with a ‘find my phone” feature. I carried it up to Starbucks and asked the cashier if they had a lost and found or something. She said her manager would take care of it.

The parking lot at Conduent, the company Xerox recently spun off, was full when we walked by. The old Wilmorite mall has been vacant for ten years and now its packed with collection agents rounding up money owed to NYS by people who blew off the tolls on the old Tappan Zee now Mario Cuomo Bridge. Meanwhile the rest of Xerox is preparing to do business as Fuji.

The sign out in front of the Seventh Day Adventist Church on East Ridge Road read, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God.” We headed down the hill to the bay. Someone tore down the old Newport House and is putting up a half assed condominium complex. The bay was still mostly frozen. Wegmans was packed with guys buying red flowers.

After our walk we had dinner at Lanai, Casey’s new place on Alexander Street. We had the Valentine’s Day special for two which came with a glass of champagne. The Bok Choy and shrimp were out off this world. Can’t wait to get back and dive into their menu of Polynesian delights.

100 Mile Club

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Downtown Rochester from Ford Street Bridge

We read that you should have 100 miles on your shoes before taking a long walk. They are apparently optimally broken in at that point but still in good enough shape for El Camino. We put nine on today walking over to Atlas Eats for lunch. I was craving their Kimchee and Tofu bowl. We are very near the hundred mile mark now. I’m hoping the snow, forecast for tomorrow, will put us back in our ski boots.

Son Of Paleface

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Skiing around Eastman Lake in Rochester, New York

We were so happy to have snow again yesterday. We expected to see more people skiing in the park but we only crossed paths with one other guy, someone we have seen more than any other person over the past few years. We had never talked to him before. He would usually zoom by so fast he didn’t even say hello. He always seems like he’s working hard, head down, determined. I have him pegged as vet. He reminds us of our old mailman who had some residual issues from his service but I could be all wrong. Today we talked.

“Why weren’t the trails groomed?” He speculated that the park people don’t want the snowmobile chewing up the golf course. And he thought the skate skiers, the ones that require the groomed trails, were skiing elsewhere because when there is only a few inches the paved golf cart paths get bared and they chew up people’s skis. We talked about the weather. We heard it was getting warm again. He thought it was going to continue to stay cold. And then he offered an odd theory. The weather forecasts, he thought, were deliberately on the high side. He thought lawyers were involved. I laughed and said that sounds like a conspiracy theory. It seems to me that business interests were more likely to pump up forecasts for money-making reasons. He looked down at his FitBit, pushed a button, and took off.

We had dinner with some neighbors last night, one of them, Steve, the deer hunter who we last ran into when he had a deer on the back of his truck. He was taking it to someone who would process the meat and mount the rack as a trophy. He told us his taxidermist told him that the buck was the oldest deer he had ever processed. At least ten years old. He could tell that by examining the jaw. Steve’s house is surrounded by woods and he has names for the deer he sees most often. He thought that he had shot the son of one he called “Paleface” but he now thinks he killed Paleface himself.

Palme d’Or

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Squirrel statue with reflector

We are experiencing a serious lack of snow so we’ve taken to the city streets where the animals are altogether different from the woods.

Elisabeth Moss is in everything. We’ve been chipping away at “The Top of the Lake” and loving it. And she co-stars in the “The Square” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year and came to the little for one night only, a fundraiser for Rochester Contemporary. The place was packed so we sat in the second row off to the side and my neck is still sore. The movie, a send up of the art world and life in general since the art world is really only a microcosm of the big picture. And it was a big picture, too long by half an hour at least. I think everyone can guess what a gallery or museum director has to juggle, wooing wealthy patrons while trying to remain cutting edge, but this movie was full of surprises.

Pushing It

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Possible 6x6 submissions for 2018

I used to toss stuff off for RoCo’s 6×6 show. Not really sure why. I think the limit was ten pieces in the old days, still twenty bucks a piece and 100 per cent of the proceeds go to RoCo. Maybe those factors had something to do with my attitude. I would do quick, sketch-like paintings and one year I think I put ink jet prints of paintings in the show.

I rethought my strategy a while back and put an effort into creating something I would like to take home with me, these colored blocks of wood. Two pieces of Adirondack sawmill, rough cut pine, glued together and painted with oils. All four sold and the variations I did on them the last two years sold as well. So this I considered going even more minimal, four blocks with the same two colors but each looks different based on the the allocation of of the two colors to either the small or bigger section and then the orientation.

Would I want to take one of these home with me? I have to say he warm grey that I used does not look as chocolate-like in my photo. And I don’t like the shine that the camera picked up. My experiment, pushing it with these serious constraints and waiting to see if they are still marketable, may only be interesting to me. Is that enough?


Friday, January 5th, 2018

Snow covered flower pot in front yard

“Is Donald Trump a conceptual artist?” What a joy it was to read this article in the art section of this morning’s paper. Yes, there is a curved line between Malevich, Dada, abstract expressionism, minimalists like Ellsworth Kelly, Carmen Herrera, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd and the current occupant. Between art and absurdity.

The US government solicited eight prototypes which were built at a cost of $3.3 million in federal funds and unveiled last October along the United States border near San Diego. The eight companies who responded are each hoping to be the winning contractor when Trump builds his great wall. I cut out the pictures of the prototypes when the Times published them in early November. The pieces reminded me of the objects in my ongoing 6×6 project.

The cheekily named MAGA organization has started a brilliant campaign to designate the prototype display area as a national monument. Each of the eight wall sections were designed to United States Customs and Border Protection specifications, built to withstand a 30-minute assault from sledgehammers to acetylene torches, and to be difficult to scale or tunnel beneath. When viewed up close the walls have the undeniable majesty of minimalist sculpture.

Yes, I signed the MAGA petition and I encourage you to do so as well.

Super Bad

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Looking across Eastman Lake out to Lake Ontario Winter

You know it is going to be a good party, and by extension a good year, when someone clears off the coffee table in the living room so people can take turns dancing on it. James Brown got the party started and his “Super Bad” drove it over the top. The band, with Bootsy Collins on bass and his brother Catfish on guitar, is just incredible. They wind it so tight, keeping you in crazy suspense until they reach the bridge, and then the sax solo, where James asks Robert McCollough to “Blow me some Trane” goes over the top. Prince ruled for a few songs, Grace Jones’ “I’m Not Perfect” was a knock out. I couldn’t find our seven inch of “Love To Love You” so I played part of the album version. And with the 45s all in a big pile we finished the night with the Stooges, “1969.”

There were more people skiing and snowshoeing in the park today than we have ever seen. Could be a combination of perfect conditions and a national holiday but I’d like to think more people are throwing off the digital shackles and getting out there.

Out Of It

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Frozen Eastman Lake in December

We stood on this point on the edge of Eastman Lake trying to decide if the ice was frozen solid enough for us to ski across. We discussed what it would be like to fall in the water in 15 degree weather and then decided to stay on the path that runs along the shore.

The B section of our local paper keeps getting smaller even though it comes stock from USA Today. Just a few months ago it was reduced to six pages, one spread and an insert. Then it was knocked down to just the spread with entertainment gossip on the back page. And then that last page went all ads. I cut out Mesfin Fekadu’s “Top Ten Albums of 2017” from that section just to see what I’m missing. I hate feeling like the world is passing me by.

I had never heard of SZA but her “Ctrl” album was at number one. It’s easy going with a tasteful headphone ready mix. Lots of space and odd instrumentation. Very listenable, like something you’d hear in the Apple Store. Kendrick Lamar’s, “DAMN,” is Hollywood enough to include U2 but the tracks barely get off the ground. Daniel Caesar’s, “Freudian,” at number three, is way laid back R&B, almost detached make-out music.

Funny Mesfin Fekadu put Jay-Z’s, “4:44” at number 4. It really drew me in with its catchy lyrics, rhythms and samples. I’d put this one at number one. Taylor Swift sounds like she is completely lost on “reputation.” The generic big production swallows up her simple charm. I put Sam Smith’s, “The Thrill of It All,” on while we ate dinner and that was just about right. Soft, gospel tinged dinner music.

Number seven, St. Vincent’s, “MASSEDUCTION” isn’t as exotic as Bjork. I thought I was gonna like her but “Sugarboy” sounds like Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” on the wrong speed. Miguel’s, War & Leisure is old school R&B and various songs didn’t so much remind me of Smokey, the Chi-Lites, Funkadelic and Prince but made me want to hear them instead. “H.E.R.,” by Gabi Wilson under her stage name H.E.R., is more late night, make out chill stuff. And the number ten pick is Haim, “Something to Tell You,“ Three sisters who play pop songs like a lame eighties band.

I’m glad I liked Jay Z. I don’t feel so out of it.

It’s Not Unusual

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Milkweed seeds exploding on Hoffman Road

We have forsythia bushes out front and in the back. Both are are blossoming. And our red maple still has its leaves. Cold weather is on the way but the bits of color we have are hanging on. Reminds me of that Vanilla Fudge cover of a Supremes song. I saw them do that song in the Indiana University Fieldhouse. My college career was short but memorable.

Wall Going Up

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Matthias Neumann "Double Bench"  outside at Rochester Contemporary

Is it enough that the artist finds something interesting? I found myself pondering that question last night while talking to New York based artist, Matthias Neumann, at the opening reception for his “Double Bench.” We told him we stopped to study his sculpture on the way in and there was a woman sitting on it. He offered that he was interested in the juncture between non-objective and functional object. And he pointed out that he did call it a bench.

I was really struck by how beautiful the wood looked. His piece is made entirely of untreated 2x4s, held together with wood screws that are for the most part not visible. I roughed houses for a few years and built walls with 2x4s. We’d build them on the deck of the house. Plates, studs, corners and cripplers all built out of 2x4s. If it was an exterior wall we would sheet it, cut out the openings and then someone would yell, “Wall going up and we’d all help hoist it.” They were clearly walls, functional but beautiful.

Double Bench is part of an ongoing series of sculptural interventions that have been installed in public spaces throughout the US. It will on display all winter outside Rochester Contemporary.

Bon Voyage

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Jim Shaw Hair Couple Chelsea

Years ago our friend, Kim, sent us a copy of Jim Shaw’s “Thrift Store Paintings,” a book of exactly that, his favorite hand picked purchases. At the time I didn’t realize that he was also an artist who did his own work. The two are not so unrelated. We fell in love with the book and I think we may have bought a copy or two as gifts.

Around that time we were having dinner with the Gardner’s, some friends of Peggi’s parents. I remember a couple of things about that dinner. They were big on some sort of cut of beef and they broiled a whole tray of the stuff. It was inedible. In the living room they had Jim Shaw’s book on the coffee table. They were surprised that we liked it and told us that Shaw was her maiden name and Jim was her nephew.

Margaret Explosion plays the Little Theater Café tonight, last gig there this year. 7-9pm. Hope you can stop out.

Margaret Explosion - Voyage

Margaret Explosion – Voyage

Deviating From The Norm

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Exterminating Angel poster in front of the Metropolitan Opera

The Metropolitan opera is about seven stories tall. The chandeliers are hoisted to the ceiling as the opera begins. And for The Exterminating Angel they were raised and lowered twice so the opening scene could play out two times like it does in Luis Buñuel’s movie. The theatrical production only deepened the surreal undertones. The cameras were rolling too as this Saturday afternoon production was being broadcast live in movie theaters across the country.

The lavish setting heightened the effectiveness of the minimal production. A large sculptural arch served as the abstract barrier that the guests could not penetrate. It spun slowly while the production unfolded and was dramatically lit in each scene.

The host of the bourgeois dinner party sings, “I’m delighted to see the spirit of improvisation” when it becomes clear his guests are not going to leave. And one of his guests sings “I adore anything that deviates from the norm.” The operatic voices only made the words from the film more absurd. I think Buñuel would have loved this over the top interpretation.


Monday, November 13th, 2017

Bleu Cease, Rochester Contemporary’s director, characterized my obsession, what I call my “Models from Crime Page” series, as a “long running meditation on the mugshot.” I like that and I realized how accurate this description is when Peggi and I were making this video of the video. I created a slideshow of my source material, mugshots that I scanned from the Crimestoppers page of our local paper and exported the slideshow as a movie. I put the video on a dvd and RoCo played it continuously in the round video presentation room during the show.

Wikipedia says “the term meditation refers to a broad variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy or life force and develop compassion, love, patience, generosity, and forgiveness. A particularly ambitious form of meditation aims at effortlessly sustained single-pointed concentration meant to enable its practitioner to enjoy an indestructible sense of well-being while engaging in any life activity.”

Is Bowling A Sport?

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Fallen birch tree with wire, Rochester, New York

We spotted a buck out back and he saw us but it was only a glance. “Oh them.” We like to think they know us enough to realize we don’t present any danger. He was following his nose, inhaling through his nostrils as he swept the ground. We had just seen a doe come through, alone, which is not so unusual this time of year, and this guy was tracking her scent, retracing her steps exactly. He was headed across the road where the guy who lives there could be waiting with his bow.

Deer, in the number we have here, are a nuisance so I can’t get too upset about this ritual. We were talking to Steve, a neighbor, friend and outdoor enthusiast, about the bow hunting thing. I asked him if it was really a sport to wait for a deer to walk across your property and then let him have it? He felt that it was and told us he can only shoot an arrow accurately about fifty feet (or was it yards?). He pointed to a tree down the road. “Some guys can shoot twice that distance.”

I would guess it feels more like a sport when the weather is cold and the deer are actively running around, chasing the opposite sex. Steve knows we’re not hunters and wouldn’t eat deer meat but we collect sheds if we see them in the woods. He says we are “non-judgmental” and he doesn’t mind answering our silly questions. I remember a conversation with him about some gay deer sex he had witnessed. He likes to talk.

My Family?

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Pick-up truck with bumper stickers near Park

We occasionally see this pick-up sitting near the entrance to the park. He is probably out there walking a dog, we’ve never seen anyone getting in or out of the truck. Don’t know if anyone has seen “The Meyerowitz Stories” yet but there is a hilarious scene in there where the brothers, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler, try to beat the shit out of a car with sticks and stones. It is not that easy. Anyway, I thought of that scene when I saw this truck.

Elizabeth Marvel plays their sister, Jean. Her character works at Xerox and lives in Rochester. Dean & Britta do some of the music. Dean’s sister lives in Rochester.

Death to the Inner Loop

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Cat equipment on top of a pile in the middle of the old Inner Loop in Rochester, New York

I am still struck by this sight. What was once a wild idea, the movement took hold at the highest levels of city government and they filled half of the damn thing in. The moat that once surrounded the city suffocated the city. Just an idea and now a reality. “Death to the Inner Loop.” If only we could undo all the other urban renewal projects.

Points Of Departure

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Tate Shaw's InkJet watercolors at Mercer Gallery Rochester New York

Colleen Buzzard, the thinking man’s artist, along with Karen Sardisco, has brought together twenty or so artists who explore the idea of mapping as thinking. The show, at MCC’s Mercer Gallery and six satellite locations, turns out to be whole lot of fun. We started with a three page handout that associated 61 artworks with the artists. There are some familiar names like Ann Havens, Scott McCarney and Jim Mott but many from other cities. A postcard for the show listed the six satellite locations but you might need a map to find them. Three are on the UR campus, one is at RIT, one at VSW and one opens sat RoCo in the Lab Space on October 6.

Ryan Boatright, from Paris France, deconstructed a failed email attachment and translated it into a score for music. The binhex code is printed on a stack of pages on the gallery floor and the music is looped on an iPod. Tate Shaw’s watercolors above, photos printed on watercolor paper and reworked with water, were stacked in an especially inviting way but accompanied by two little notes that read “Please do not touch.” By clicking on the photo you can see six beautiful works that we were allowed to look at. It’s a wildly interesting show including even a circuit board negative for an old MXR effects box.

There is a four foot high pile of US Geological Survey maps at the door of the gallery and we were invited to take a map home with us. Mine shows Santa Margarita Lake in California.


Friday, September 1st, 2017

Milkweed caterpillar at pool

Our hike took us along the beach this afternoon and we were surprised to see the water level was still so high. Our garden and horseshoe pits are dry.

We ran into Hal, our jazz fest buddy, at the entrance to the park. He told us he had been geocaching and he had located three today. He wants to have a hundred by year’s end. Hal was wearing a Chelsea FC hat and he told us he has been following the Flash in their new North Carolina home. We asked if he was going to watch tonight’s US men’s World Cup qualification but he said he doesn’t have cable.

Hal likes to change topics so we talked about upcoming arboretum tours, Bop Shop shows and the Toronto Film Fest. He told us he was the first speaker at the City Hall hearing on the theater proposal for Parcel 5. He thinks the idea that the theater will bring business downtown is a sham. I don’t like that park idea either. I say sell the property to the highest bidder without incentives or tax breaks.

Talking ‘Bout My Generation

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Green chairs and small wood tables at Mass MoCA

I should not be depressed at a birthday party. The room was crowded, a band playing and many people got up to perform. Some solo and at times there were six guitars on the stage. So what is my problem?

Let’s say you are in a position to go out to see a band. Maybe you would like to hear something creative, exciting, maybe something with an edge. What qualities do you look for? Maybe throw the dice and catch something wildly unexpected. If there was a room full of people and they were all around my age there would be a lot of water under the bridge. Just think where we came from with Motown and garage rock and straight up pop. Hendrix and psychedelia and jazz pushing frontiers. Punk offering a major correction. EDM for crying out loud.

Let’s say you play an instrument. What qualities would you be thinking about adding to this lexicon? Would you go out of your way to do a mediocre version of some roots, Americana thing?