Art, knowledge, and thinking like a mushroom

Venue:          Yes We Cannibal Art Space, 1600 Government St, Baton Rouge, LA
Exhibition:    Eat the Anthropocene by Cesar and Lois, mycelia and friend entities
June 5 – July 11, 2021

In their Eat the Anthropocene art works, Cesar and Lois put together a very special kind of palimpsest. Special structurally, because, unlike the common palimpsest, the layers are not superimposed but are integrated and organic. They grow out of each other. Special in terms of content because these are not two layers of conventional art, but layers composed of books and mushrooms, respectively – book knowledge and organic knowledge, with the mushrooms reclaiming the territory of the book for their own organic purposes.

Where is the lasting knowledge? In the fungus or in the book?

   

And what remembrance have we, what new engagement, when all is said and done?

  

Here’s a 4-minute video Cesar and Lois made to tune the imagination to the images in the gallery space.

Pick up the perqs of micropatronage (1, 10, 20, 50, 100 levels) for Yes We Cannibal as they build an open home for experiments in art, music, food, and performance. Set in an inner city Baton Rouge neighborhood, the art space is up and running, and Mat and Liz are in the planning stages of a free neighborhood food forest with flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs. Give them a little support!

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In the beginning

I haven’t seen you in 20 years
except in my mind’s eye
the hurricane center of the hot black night
when I slip to our trip to

Galveston. We drove all night,
knowing already it was the end,
and rode the ferry at daybreak,
the sound of the sea and the sad
cry of the gulls
scored upon us.

Then earlier, the southward journeys
past rice farms and shrimping towns
the thick humid patio nights
catching lizards
and laughing.

And earlier still, in the beginning
when we took LSD and lay
all night in a field of sugar cane
tasting the forbidden fruit

afraid

       but liking it

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Lost song for Meng Jiao

I too have seen the winter stream,
waves beating the swords
of ice, dreamed

of imperial jade, green and blue,
of topaz the color of honey.

Cold streams crumple
the ragged banks of dreary forest,
Above the stream the swells of snow,
Further still, the stars by time and distance frozen,

as far away as your language from mine,
as your solitude from mine.

Spring comes on apace.
The waves beat harder. The swords
of ice break like paper branches. We turn
inward, you and I, creatures of the winter, to seek

someone or something approaching,
cold comfort in translation, here,
the icy clarity of the mirror.

Meng Jiao (751–814) was a Chinese poet during the Tang Dynasty.

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#1, #2, or #3

Here are 3 versions of the haiku poem I posted last week. No need to read the original post. Just pick one of the 3 here 🙂

#1
a million falling
stars at once, filling the sky,
hands catch the hot ash

#2
a million falling
stars at once, filling the sky,
the ash they leave us

#3
what dreams may come

A million falling stars
at once, like angels they light
the sky against darkness, but some
thing is wrong. Unlike angels they burn.
Open your hands. You can already
feel, maybe taste,
the hot ash.

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Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Part 2)

SPOILERS
I was discussing my blog entry on Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Part 1) with a Chinese physicist friend, and she pushed me a little on how I would rewrite the ending, which seemed to twist me into such a knot. (This is per the novel, not the film, which I haven’t seen and which I’ve heard tweaks the ending somewhat.) For anyone interested, here is my response. (If this sounds quite critical, note from my first review that I loved the book but felt a little deflated at the end in a way that the conventional interpretation could not explain; hence, this follow-up.)

To clarify, I have no problem with the ending per se. My problem is with the conventional interpretation of the ending – that the little seamstress makes a good, wholesome decision. My reading (let’s call it the Romantic reading) may be no better than the conventional one (let’s call it the political reading), but here are my thoughts about why I feel this way.

First if I wanted the ending to look “good” for her decision, I’d give her a little more ambivalence about leaving her lover and friend. This is, on one level, a coming-of-age novel, and these kids learn much about love and friendship and loyalty along the way. She seems too ready to throw all that in the garbage at her first chance at the city. So I’d like to see a bit more emotion, sadness, mixed feelings about dumping them so quickly. They, after all, also have something at stake per what they are learning about love and friendship and loyalty.

Second, I’d drop the “blue Mao jacket” from her city slicker wardrobe. The cultural revolution has been negatively portrayed throughout the novel, and it’s hard not to see her putting on the Mao jacket as a symbolic gesture of putting on the (inauthentic) identity of the cultural revolution simply because it will help her leverage her interest in the city.

Third, I’d drop the last line, which equates female beauty with $$ value (to be gained in the city by dumping your friends and assuming the correct ideological self-presentation). I would have her learn something more complicated from Balzac, something more bittersweet about love, friendship, and doing what you need to do.

If we leave the ending the way it is, I can’t give up my Romantic interpretation (which sees her final act, as it is presented, as a sign of depleted values). I can SEE the other side that favors her decision as a cold political calculation that makes sense, but I can’t feel it in my heart.

So in order for me to feel the justice of the conventional interpretation, the ending would have to be modified to (a) be consistent with previous attitudes about the cultural revolution, (b) suggest that she really does care about Luo and her friend and at least has mixed feelings about discarding them without notice, and (c) the last line about Balzac would probably have to change into something a bit more emotionally complicated.

Maybe I’m wrong and all those conventional readers are right, but I have to be true to my heart 😊

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Love’s Ragged Claws 99c

My short novella, Love’s Ragged Claws, is featured and discounted for instant Kindle download this week (99c on Amazon US, still cheap on Amazon internatl 🙂 ) Warnings: [1] one character has a filthy mouth, though I think she’s still lovable 🙂 ; [2] it is neither pro- nor anti-Catholic but definitely not the orthodox Catholic story some early readers presumed after reading the description below.
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Shortlisted for the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08RSNTR2B/

A stop at the confessional becomes a life story. Fifty years, three sins of the flesh, all of them unique, touching, funny, and remarkably real. From their hippie lives in the 1970s to their old age today, the characters pull out the little epiphanies that would become reference points of meaning for the rest of their lives. Adult language.
Featured on the sites below:

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Day’s end

Who needs gods or heaven or moral philosophies?
Your body at rest on the hammock is worth
more than all the imaginary heavens
of all the religions
ever invented

more than all the first principles
of all philosophies. All you
need to do is look at it
and see. If you listen

closely

you can hear the birds singing

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