Zen and the Art of Painting

I rode my bike to Target this afternoon and bought a pair of shoes to wear while painting. I try to paint a little bit everyday and yet it never gets easier. I might as well have some comfortable shoes. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” is one of my painting teacher’s favorite lines. It probably isn’t really one of his favorites. It’s just that he has occasion to use it often. I started another face from the Crimestoppers page tonight and thought I was off to a great start but every move I made after that compounded the problems. I have to remind myself to stop and look at the painting. And when I stop to look, I have to step back quite a ways. I have to be open to the possibility that the painting could go in a different direction or maybe be done before I planned. I have to listen to the painting. I need to continually address the problems as I see them. Fix them before doing anything else. We watched a terrible murder mystery the other night called “Tenebre.” Tony Franciosa is a pulp fiction writer and one of his lines is, “If you cut out the boring bits and keep the rest, you’ve got a best seller.” “If you get rid of the bad in a painting, all you will have left is good.” That’s another one of Fritz Lipp’s sayings. I’ve taken his painting class for about ten years now and I still haven’t learned these simple rules.At a certain point, you have to serve the painting.


Manufactured Landscapes

I checked in on ndsforfree.com to make sure the cash register was still ringing and did a little more Stumbling in Firefox this morning and then went out to blow the the leaves off the roof. Then I raked the leaves that I blew off out of the pachysandra. Tomorrow we might pick those leaves up with our neighbor’s leaf picker upper if he’s up for it. I helped my parents take down their awnings for the winter and then dashed back to 4D to meet with someone who wanted a brochure. He buys mortgages from people who are holding unpaid ones and he told us he invented a product and had received a letter from Arnold Schwarzenegger about it.

We had our neighbors and friends, Rick and Monica over for dinner to try to thank them for taking us to and picking us up from the airport. Peggi made chili with tofu Italian sausage (Tofurkey) and French bread. I roasted chestnuts for an appetizer and made a salad. We had my mother’s homemade peanut butter cookies for dessert. After dinner we started a fire and watched a documentary that Rick and Monica had rented from Netflix called, “Manufactured Landscapes.” The film features the photos of Edward Burtynsky and the settings for his beautiful shots. Most of the movie takes place in China where worker bees in color coordinated uniforms perform the the most mundane, repetitive tasks in the name of globalization.

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Tap and Mallet

Paul Dodd Mug Shot Paintings at Tap And Mallet in Rochester, NY
Mugshot paintings at Tap and Mallet

I picture someone having too much draft beer from the “tap” and a cartoon image of a “mallet” pounding on his head. That’s the name of Casey’s new place on Gregory Street where the original McGregor’s was. They needed some artwork for the place so Casey and his partner, Joe, stopped by to see what I had. They picked out some the “Crime Faces” from a few years back and the “Road Masks” that I had hanging in the basement. Casey used to own the Bug Jar and I took some mugshots there. He owns Mex Restaurant and I painted a mural over there. Casey is a patron. I recommend their house brew, “McBanes Bitter.” It’s made by Rohrbachs. The Beer Advocate reviewed the place and said, ” the faces on the walls are very creepy!”

Horse Lovers
The Horse Lovers were performing across the street at House of Hamas in Rochester. They did a beautiful version of “Moonglow.” That’s Ken Frank from Margaret Explosion on bass. Phil Marshall plays guitar and directs the band. Jim McAvaney plays drums and all three played with Colorblind James Experience.

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Stumble On

Poodle in Pink
Pretty in pink. Los Angeles.

I use Safari as my primary browser but I switch to Firefox when the javascript acts up. Today I found an add-on for Firefox called “Stumble!” and there went my allotment of spare time. It is a genome project like “Pandora” where you submit to a brief profile and then surf with the Stumble button as your control. I found all sorts of interesting sites and have started building my own list of favorites.

I started looking at my photos from LA. I like the SCN mode on my Sony Cybershot camera. It keeps the lens open as long as it takes to grab a shot in low light. You need something solid to put the camera on and a relatively still subject.

Getty at Night

View from the Getty at night.

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Dangerous Curves

Edward Weston Nude
The Weston show at the Getty was fabulous.

LAX had free wireless access but we didn’t have any time to kill. We were ten minutes into our trip to the airport when Peggi realized that she had forgotten her jacket with her house keys and drivers license in the pocket. So we waited by the side of the road for our brother-in-law to speed the jacket to us.

Now in Chicago I have the option of joining the Boingo Wireless network here for $6.95. Forget about that. I’m not that wired. We are traveling with my mother-in-law and she did some sort of frequent flier upgrade with the tickets so we sat up with the fat cats in first class. Plenty of legroom, free drinks and and a hot meal. There is a thriving class distinction in this country. We read the NYT and I dove back into “On Photography.” I am really enjoying Sontag. “Fewer and fewer Americans possess objects that have a patina, old furniture, grandparents’ pots and pans — the used things, warm with generations of human touch. Instead, we have our paper phantoms, transistorized landscapes. A feather weight portable museum.” That from 1977 and “photography itself increasingly reflects the prestige of the rough, the self-disparaging, the offhand, the undisciplined — the “anti-photograph.”

Dangerous Curves
This will be a nice addition to the Signs section on the Refrigerator. This car looks like it is built to handle the curves in the Hollywood Hills.

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Forecast: Haze

We checked the LA weather online before leaving Rochester and it said, “Haze.” We woke this morning to news that the Santa Ana winds were responsible for new fires in Malibu last night. We took a long walk in the hills across Beverly Glen canyon from where we were staying. Walked by Rod Stewart’s house, Frank’s former pad and Barbra’s palace and then climbed the hills to 10050 Cielo Drive where the Tate LaBianca murders happened in 1969.

View from our bedroom in Bel Air
Smoke from the fires in Malibu drifted through the canyons in LA this morning. This is how it looked out our bedroom window.

We are having dinner at the Getty with my in-laws. There is a traveling Weston photography show there, two outstanding Rembrandts and a beautiful Goya bullfight painting. We’ve been here before. We’ll be up there for the hazy sunset too.

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Orange County

We watched Orange County last night with Jack Black, Catherine O’Hara and Colin Hanks as family and Schuyler Fisk as the girlfriend. The tagline for the 2002 movie is, “It’s not just a place. It’s a state of mind” and sure enough this film could have taken place anywhere. It is a very entertaining slice of life. Five stars. Perfect fair for a family gathering. My wife’s mom was the only one not laughing. We took a 4 mile walk in the Will Rogers State Historic Park. It was a beautiful day for a walk but I think it’s always a beautiful day in California so that’s not saying much.

Will Rogers State Historic Park
Will Rogers Park looks like all scrub brush but there are some beautiful trails that hug the hillsides and keep you out of the blazing sun.

Our nephew, Andrew, asked if we wanted to go the the Hammer Museum on the UCLA campus. We saw a show of Francis Alys’ work—mostly video installations of his performance art called, “The Politics of Rehearsal.” An old red VW bug tries to drive to the top of a steep, dusty hill in Tijuana only to roll back and try again while a band stops and restarts a song. A stripper continually removes her clothes and puts them back on while Alys is heard off camera discussing Mexican politics. And in a collaboration with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Alys uses rehearsal footage from a scene in Inarritu’s film, Amores Perros, along with outtakes, alternate camera shots and the final take to again illustrate his zen-like idea of enjoying the ride and the opportunities for renewal instead of focusing on closure.

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Beginner’s Mind

Andrew with his medium format Kodak camera
My nephew, Andrew, with his Kodak medium format camera

I fell asleep at nine or midnight NY time and then woke up at six (LA time) and read my nephew’s ” Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” book for a few hours before heading downstairs for coffee. I love it. “For Zen students, a weed is a treasure.”

We walked up Bel Air Drive today until the road ended. And then we walked downhill to Beverly Glen and then back up again. It is a beautiful day. I just checked in Rochester and watched a camera animation of the sun going down over Bishop Kearney High School. We had our first snowfall there. Peggi made Challa bread with the kids when they were young and it has become some sort of tradition on Thanksgiving in the Meyer household. So she had them braid the dough again and it’s in the oven. “Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.”

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Elements of Erotic Feeling

We transfered planes in Chicago and found our new seats but one of them was missing. Only the metal frame was there. Apparently someone had puked in that seat and they were replacing it. The Mexican attendant asked if we wanted her to spray a product on the arm rests to combat the odor. We decided to stick with the faint scent of barf. The oversize couple in front of us put their seats back immediately on take off and our quarters lost half their cubic space. The guy bought a pizza on board and his wife had a big sandwich and a macaroni salad on her tray table in a matter of minutes. The stewardess served coffee and gave us a napkin that read, “More legroom than any other US airline.” I asked if this was a joke and she said, “Totally.”

More Legroom
“More legroom than any other US airline”

The two in-flight movies were so lame we could glance up every fifteen minutes or so without the audio and not miss a thing. My wife was reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and I was reading Susan Sontag’s rant, “On Photography.” “Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution. Poignant longings for beauty, for an end to probing below the surface, for a redemption and celebration of the body of the world—all these elements of erotic feeling are affirmed in the pleasure we take in photographs.”

We took a walk in Bel Air and I grabbed this poignant shot of tourists on a star hunt.

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Free Range Turkeys

Turkeys Running Free
These guys were waltzing around our neighborhood

We are headed out to LA for Thanksgiving in the Hollywood Hills. My wife’s sister will be doing the bird but the turkey is always my least favorite part of this meal. My favorite part used to be the stuffing but I now I like the Brussels sprouts if they are on the menu. I really don’t care for football either but I am thankful for the harvest.

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Bang Bang

Billy Bang live in Rochester, NY
Billy Bang performing at the Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, NY

Billy Bang was back in Rochester last week. He calls this place the sixth borough. He had a new drummer this time but Bang introduced him as someone who had played with him on recordings in the past. They did a beautiful version of KIA MIA one of Bang’s Viet Nam albums and a song that Billy wrote for Sun Ra. The first time we saw Billy Bang was out at the old Red Creek when he was playing violin in Sun Ra’s band. This was somewhere in the seventies.

Chopsy is still behind the bar at Water Street!

We have seen Bang so many times over the years. He was in the Bop Shop atrium with Kahill El’zabar and once more with his own group. He has appeared twice at at the Rochester Jazz Fest and we saw him at the old Montage, downtown. Then he performed live with Garth Fagan Dance out at a Greece High School. And then he was at the Water Street last year. He is always fantastic but more so on some nights. He’s best in a small setting when you are right on top of him. He eggs his band on and they try to keep him grounded. On a good night he will just tear the roof off the place. Billy Bang finished his set with a version of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman.”

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Who Is Faust?

I first met Brad Fox in high school. His father had paint by number clown paintings all over the house. Brad’s parents were getting a divorce and they were trying to figure out what was up with their son. They had Brad take a bunch of tests and one of the questions was, “Who is Faust?” “What does that have to do with intelligence?” Brad would ask. I didn’t know who Faust was either and I never found out until I saw F.W. Murnau’s 1926 formerly silent film, Faust, with music by the Willem Breuker. This is a match made in heaven. Willem Breuker Kollektief has been to Rochester at least ten times in the past. Willem can’t travel with the band anymore because of his heath but his band sounded fantastic in the Bop Shop atrium last week.

Their next stop was the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman House where they were performing the score to Faust live. I wasn’t able to make that show so I bought the dvd of the movie from the band. The movie is incredibly rich looking for an old black and white. The set designs are stunning. The short ceilings and small doors frame the actors like a fanciful puppet show. The special effects are dreamlike and artful. This movie is timeless and holds up to anything made today. Willem Breuker’s score covers a lot of ground and is equally timeless. The band is so musically fluent, they are able to turn on a dime and keep up with the devil in the midst of the plague and a metaphysical conflict between good and evil.

William Breuker Kollektief at the Bob Shop in Rochester, NY performing music from Faust
Willem Breuker Kollektief at the Bob Shop in Rochester, NY

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The Butterfly Knot

Margaret Explosion played a party after the screening of Brian Strine’s film, The Butterfly Knot. It was a pretty cool gig. It’s always good if the band has a good time. Bob Martin was out of town so Jack Schaefer sat in with us on bass clarinet and guitar. The party house was perfectly funky. It’s been around since the fifties and used to be called, “Valley Echo.” We made a note to rent this place for a party. Matt Pfohl, the film’s co-star sat in on drums and rocked the house.

The movie was shot in the Thousand Islands and cuts a deep groove. The soundtrack is in flux while the contracts get ironed out but it is all seventies stuff like Gram Parsons and Emmy Lou Harris doing the Bee Gee’s “To Love Somebody.” Blind Faith and Nick Drake were in there for the screening but may have been dropped by now. John Martyn has a track and his wife, Beverley sets the mood for the pot scene. I guess the ending is in flux too because they passed out questionnaires trolling for endings.

Matt Pfohl on Drums
Ken Frank on bass, Matt on drums and Peggi Fournier on soprano sax

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Mug Shots

The girl who ran the cash register at Red and White on Park Avenue asked me if I was going to the David Bowie show that night at the War Memorial. I remember feeling guilty that I wasn’t planning on it. It was the first stop on his “Station To Station” tour. The next morning’s paper had a front page story about the felony pot bust that snagged Bowie, Iggy Pop and Rochester’s Chi Wah in a hotel room with the weed. Iggy didn’t play here or anything. I started a job that year as a graphic artist in the Crime Analysis Unit of the Rochester Police Department. My job entailed pulling mug shots for flyers in an effort to match perpetrators who lived in specified areas of the city with the crimes that were occurring in those areas. Bowie’s photo had recently been snatched but the record was still there.

Bowie Mug ShotZiggyStarBust is auctioning that photo now on eBay (Current bid US $2,225.00). He says his sick brother found the photo in the trash at an estate sale of a retired Rochester Police Officer and every penny will go to his brother. He sent the photo to the Smoking Gun first to get a buzz going. Click the photo for a blow up.

My job with the cops lasted one year and and they all lost interest in the project so I was left reading the New Yorker and hanging around. I got so anxious waiting for the day to end during this period that my doctor prescribed valium. I did develop a fascination for mugshots and have painted quite a few over the years. See Paul Dodd Paintings.

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