Wednesday, May 31, 2006


This snap is of Max- one of the two beautiful sons my good friends Robin and Paula call their own. He's dressed up for his birthday party, and seeing his picture makes me think of a few things:

1. I'm glad that my friends have decided to have children- I know some very incredible people and the thought of them raising small humans to be big ones is promising-this makes me happy, and I feel a sense of the history that I am a part of- it even makes me feel a little hopeful (I swore off the word hope- along with a vegetarian diet and cuffed jeans- at the start of the 21st century but some things die hard).
2. I've also been thinking a lot about the words community and fellowship. Can you have fellowship without community? Do you need community for fellowship? I think Robin (or one of you other smart readers) may have something to say about these two words, these two ideas.
3. For years I was either Dracula or Darth Vader for Halloween and when I found my Dad's Back in Black cassette tape and I first heard Hell's Bells everything just fell into place. Later years would usher forth an unbridled penchant for such theatrics as those put forth by Motley Crue, The Misfits (and all the other Danzig projects), all the way to Nick Cave (my apologies).
4. Why didn't I ever think to dress up for my birthday?
5. Those are the whitest feet I've ever seen!

And finally, for good measure, here's a picture of Robin and me from way back in 1996. The pic was taken at a hotel in DC when a group of us went to see/hear Billy Bragg. That's the first time I ever heard Smoke- a band that fits perfectly into the aforemntioned list of the dark and dreary.

That's Stephen coughing, and Susan standing as still as she could.

Shigeo Kawashima 2

Pictured clockwise from bottom left: Pic 1- Kawashima, Tina, Miguel, Julie, and David Williams. David is making a documentary of Kawashima's residency Pic 2- Kat (she taught Kawashima the pickle question), David Williams (see the tripod legs?) Tina, and Christopher

In spite of all the laughing and asking me whether he could "tickle my pickle" (Kawashima knows very little vernacular English, but he came to Richmond ready to deliver a list of mildly offensive "jokes" that he had learned during his last residency in California- I'm proud to say that we Richmonders have taken up the responsibility of carrying on this tradition and he'll leave here armed to offend whoever he meets next) Kawashima and assistants are just about finished with the sculpture. I think by the end of today they will have cleaned all of the exposed parts of the bamboo, vacuumed it, and vacuumed the knots so that they'll stick straight out from the sculpture (Kawashima says that in Japan this type of knot is called a "man knot", he claims to not be joking but I'm not sure any of us believe him).

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Shigeo Kawashima

Where am I? Where have I been? In the past week I've driven to Philadelphia, NYC, and Connecticut. In the name of art handling and exhibiting I've been to an artist's studio in Philly, the houses and apartments of incredibly wealthy collectors in all three places, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the Northeast (Greenwich) and one of the poorest (West Philly).

Half of the reason for the trip was to pick up a few sculptures by Shigeo Kawashima, an independent bamboo artist from Kanagawa, Japan who is at Visarts until June 2 making a site specific bamboo sculpture. The following pictures are from a stop motion video I'm making of the creation of the piece. Following these pics (and my words) is the press release from the Visarts website.

We ordered 2 dozen 20' bamboo poles from a bamboo forest/farm in Dudley, Georgia. Here they are in the warehouse space at Visarts where Kawashima and his assistants did the first stage of the work (I have been one of them off and on but mostly I have been running to the store, making sure he has what he needs, cleaning up, etc.). Kawashima cut the ends off all the poles, the assistants (including me for this part) washed the poles, then Kawashima began splitting the poles into eighth's and the assistants cleaned the strips of the interior node pieces with what looked to me like bamboo shanks.

After the bamboo was cut into hundreds of (approx. 1.5") strips Kawashima began weaving them together to make what appears (for now) to look like a smiling queen-size futon. The piece is approx. 15' long and the strips of bamboo are joined with black zip ties.

After about half of the strips were woven together the piece was moved into the gallery and Kawashima will complete it there. After all the bamboo is woven Kawashima will use black yarn and tie thousands of knots all over the piece.

The exhibit opens this Friday at 6pm and will remain on view until mid-July.

Press Release:

At the invitation of the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, sculptor Shigeo Kawashima arrives in mid-May from his home in Kanagawa, Japan, to spend three weeks at the center as a resident artist. Intricately weaving strips of fresh-cut bamboo, Kawashima will construct a monumental sculpture that he has conceived specifically for the VACR's galleries. The exhibition also includes a selection of Kawashima's small-scale maquettes, for which he has become internationally known.

Kawashima's residency follows the VACR's 2004 exhibition, Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Arts, which introduced his work along with that of 30 other Japanese artists to audiences in central Virginia. His exhibition is also the sixth installment of On Site / Artists' Projects. This annual series supports the creation of site-specific works that stretch traditional boundaries and expectations, giving both artist and audience new challenges and opportunities for interaction.

Although Kawashima's early training was tradition-based, he later pursued a path as an independent artist instead of joining a professional craft-arts organization. Born in 1958 in Tokyo, he was in his twenties when he began teaching at the Beppu Occupational School. Because of his youth, his students did not take him seriously until he challenged them to a competition to see who could split bamboo the fastest and most accurately.

According to Robert Coffland, a specialist on Japanese bamboo arts and director of the TAI Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Kawashima's sense of artistic experimentation was inspired by Shono Shounsai, Japan's first Living National Treasure in the bamboo arts, who was a major advocate of the sculptural possibilities of bamboo. "Kawashima's creativity and his deftness at mastering new techniques," Coffland notes, "have established his reputation as a leader in the next wave of bamboo sculptors."

In the 1990s, Kawashima began making large-scale bamboo sculptures in natural and urban settings. Characterized by graceful curvilinear forms and dramatic surfaces, these unprecedented works have led to several recent site commissions in this country. Over the last decade, his small sculptures have entered more than 30 collections throughout Japan, Europe, and the United States, including the San Francisco Asian Art Museum, and have been included in a dozen shows featuring new work by emerging contemporary artists.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Morsey Horsey

Death by Musette is the Horsey Orchestra again for Horsey's Two Hour Variety Hour. It's tonight, can you make it?

Friday 8pm ADA Gallery

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Engineering Conflict

Painting and sculpture still have the power to make people intemperately angry, as former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's outrage over Chris Ofili's distinctive ways with elephant dung and canvas vividly demonstrated not so long ago. But after a century or more of twisting the bourgeoisie by the tail, the cultural shock tactics of visual artists are subject to the inevitability of diminishing returns...

From a New York Times Magazine article about the power of architecture by Deyan Sudjic.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Uhl Street Ghost

See previous post's comment from Susan about the ghost that lives with she and Stephen.

Anybody else have a good ghost picture and story?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I Don't Know Much

During my former life as a guy who dispensed "knowledge", made grand pronouncements of worth, and assigned grades for photographs made by people attending Frostburg State University, one of the university's maintenance guys came into my office and asked me to look at a picture. He swore it was proof of a ghost he caught on film while taking a picture of his mother. He wondered if I might be able to tell him anything about the image. Could I explain how whatever had happened happened? Was this indeed a ghost? Is there something particular about photography that enabled him to capture the ghost on the film? I told him I didn't know and had a realization like this type of interaction often causes -the kind where I take stock of what I think I know in a few seconds, and realize that when it comes to most things, I don't know much. Being of no help and feeling like I was undeserving of such a large office and such prestige, I suggested that he look at a few different websites (such as this one) and that with a little research he could find a qualified someone who could help him decide what it was that he had photographed. With me, he could get a lecture on the finer points of what it is to live in a world regulated by the photograph, and tell him how to read a photograph by any number of artists spanning the history of photography- but I didn't know what to make of this fingered 4x6 print- I didn't have a clue how to read it, and what I could give him isn't what he wanted.

I took this picture of Kim during the Mother's Day Bacchanalia held at my folks' house this past Sunday (it was really a meat fest more than anything else). I swear that's the ghost of my Pop swirling around the living room- he's watching my Nana (knowing that before too long she'll join him in the ether), listening to the music, loving the laughing, admiring how pretty Kim is, stealing a rib here and there, and shaking his head at all of the recurring conversations about sickness and death.

I would have never realized this three years ago- back then I was much too smart.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is it the Bird Flu?

This is my friend Michael who lives in Berlin. Last Halloween he was Bird Flu.

I am feeling a little better but now Kim has the sickness so I'm shuttling between work, the house where I'm house-sitting, and our apartment with soup, pills, DVDs, and sweet, sweet Afrin.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I know I'm dying but does it have to happen now?

I've been sick- nasty sick- for the past few days and as much as I like being at home and all of this creative loafing that I'm doing, still there are two photo grads who have work up at the Anderson that deserves some discussing. I'm going to try to make my way down there, take a few snaps and write a sentence or two. We'll see.

For the time being, I have written my most recent obit (I wrote it Monday actually) and might as well put it here. I'm a big fan of writing my obit whenever I'm sick- it makes the illness fun (and productive).

Richmond, VA Michael Lease, a self-proclaimed artist and intellectual whose work was known for blending the squeamishly personal and the conceptually droll, waxed poetic for the last time this 8th day of May. The cause of death is uncertain but people "close" to the deceased point to his new-found penchant for salted pork products, and alienating divey take-out Chinese restaurants as the likely cause. Michael leaves countless bewildered friends and family, scores of disgruntled colleagues, buckets of joyful adversaries, and many smug ex-girlfriends who now plan to sue his estate on the grounds of their having been included, without their permission, in his installation "Posthumous".

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Transmissions from Texas

Like my friend Susan (see Tuesday Feb. 28th entry for details), my friends Scottie and Dan have begun sharing their family snaps with me via their online photo service company.

Exciting! I'm down with OPP (other peoples' pictures)...

They live in (and hate) Houston, where Dan is in the last leg of his PHD, and Scottie has a job at a place where her email ends in .org, and where she gets to spend some time searching the internet for people we went to high school with, snatching the pics and then emailing them to me to see if I can guess who the person is.

So, in today's batch of snaps that Scottie forwarded me there was this one. I think it's really pretty amazing. Each kid is in their own little world but they're all there together dwarfed by the magnolia. Each kids' center of gravity is so different- they are so wonkily arranged, It's like a behind the scenes snap of a Loretta Lux photo shoot.

Monday, May 08, 2006

John Stanmeyer

John Stanmeyer

Merci Jesus, June 1994

Donned in life jackets tossed to them by the U.S. Coast Guard, 468 men, women and children from Haiti were found adrift in Bahamanian waters aboard the 55-foot Merci Jesus as they were trying to seek a better life in America. They were all taken to a refugee center on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they languished for months before being returned back to Haiti. Atlantic Ocean.

At first I was taken with the name of the ship- Merci Jesus- it's so incredibly gracious and hopeful. Then I started thinking about ol' Alfie's pic The Steerage. Were the conditions of immigration then (1907) really so different from now?

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Chris Freeman is happy when he's singing. I took pictures of him today for a press packet he's putting together to facilitate his plan for world domination via the sound waves.

His are good, stick-to-your-skull songs with titles like: The Fine Line Between Fondness and Stalking, and Don't have Sex. He's also very nice and will send you his CD for free if you drop him an email.

Friday, May 05, 2006

VCU Thesis Shows: Round 1 Installment 2

Christopher Wiedeman

Christopher Wiedeman’s installation Slip is a calculated mess- and he likes it that way. This mess occurs around a 9’x12’ poor-quality photograph (that looks like it was lifted from a video on the web) of a man falling face first into water that is pinned to the north wall of the space. Judging by the card for the show, the photograph, also titled "Slip", is the only piece in the installation, leaving the majority of the mess to act as apparatuses for viewing the image.

Working in the vein of John Kessler, Jason Rhoades, and Cece Cole, Wiedeman presents you with his mess and expects you to do the work of putting it together. Although I find this practice dubious, lazy, honest, suspect, and (the worst) intentionally self-confounding, I nevertheless think there is a fair amount of success in Wiedeman’s installation. The space is configured with multiple video cameras, video projectors, monitors, and mirrors so that Slip (the photograph) is made visible on three of the four walls of the space. The word SLIP is written on the piece of drywall that was cut-out to make one of the roughly hewn entrances to the space (the removed piece is set aside but still in the space, and unfortunately, the word does not become the image), the south wall bears a projected video loop (the artist stomping around his studio, a landscape or two, the artist photographing into a mirror). Key moments during the loop direct the viewers’ attention to the west wall, where a live feed of the viewer, shot from a video camera positioned on the south wall at eye level, projects the image of the viewer experiencing the installation (in front of Slip – the photograph- which is, remember, on the north wall) on the west wall. While noticing that you are standing before, and are being bared down on by the image of this man falling, it is noticed that next to the image of yourself watching the video on the south wall is a live feed of yourself being watched from above. Wiedeman directs where the viewer stands in the installation by dangling headphones (the audio for the video) smack in the center of the space. With the viewer’s movement restricted by the noose-like height and positioning of the headphones, the viewer is ripe to manipulate, ripe to direct.

Slip (the installation) was one of the only installations in the thesis show that explicitly dictated the way I viewed it (the other was Randy Toy’s this-is-the -way-the- future-looks- and-it-looks-good-for-me-doesn’t-it? installation Correlations). But what it didn’t do was provide me with any sort of ideas that would enable me to take the inundation of media to a level where constructive thoughts could be furthered. I found myself thinking: Yes…this is the way it is… yes… But is there any kind of conversation more boring? I already know what I think and I go to the work of others to question the way that I perceive the world, and to find another way of looking and thinking. Slip (the installation) is a blatant, insidious, and earnest attempt to surround, flood, force, and disorient the viewer while having them experience a slice of what it is to be alive in a culture that records, measures, weighs, and commodifies every activity we engage in. That’s a lot for an installation to do, and still, it’s not enough.

Tom Condon

Unlike many of his fellow students, Tom Condon’s exhibit Everyday Haunting is comprised of two bodies of work. One body is made up of moderately sized (are they)drawings / (or are they)paintings / (they definitely can’t be) photographs made by passing a torch over strips of color photographic paper that has been stacked to make horizontal canvases. The other, are long, vertical photocopies, printed on approximately 10’x2’ sheets of white paper that have been treated with a clear encaustic.

Condon uses the torch to trace manipulated images he’s transferred to the surface. The images are of Condon and other children, taken from his childhood snapshots that he has manipulated with a copy machine so that in each image one character is made into a nearly indecipherable, genderless, ageless blob-freak. Although the turquoise and caramel colors that the flame creates when it reacts with the photo paper are attractive hues, I feel like I can’t be bothered with the pieces. They are messy, graceless, overworked, poorly framed, and make me think of entering a restaurant and being grossed-out by its dirty, fingerprint-smudged glass entrance doors. I feel like on the surface of these pieces there are sneezes, germs, and live active cultures!

The pieces that make up Reading out Loud (ROL) are a whole different animal. ROL consists of 4 “photo copy encaustic(s)” each made on approximately 2’x 8’ sheets white paper that were hung vertically (and loosely with binder clips and nails) in the second gallery’s east wall, on the Anderson’s first floor. Three of the images were grouped together, and overlapping so that the three together bring to mind large swaths of fabric, or curtains. On the other side of the high, arched doorway the fourth image- sequestered from the others (not unlike Rafferty’s bubble video) hung lower than the other three. Knowing that Condon and Rafferty share a studio, I find the similarity between the two exhibits interesting- or even promising, not distracting or derivative. The imagery in ROL, like that in the work mentioned above is made from manipulating snapshots (in this case a single snapshot of Condon in a clown-like outfit of baggy ankle-cinched trousers and a poncho like blouse) with a black and white photocopier. But instead of the image being manipulated horizontally the image is stretched vertically and the images resemble funhouse-mirror reflections and make me think of how, as a child whenever I looked at myself in one of those mirrors I was happy that I didn’t look like my reflection.

The image, being black and white and photocopied, takes the work away from being merely solipsistic, but because of its goofiness, and because all we are left with is a psychedelic pattern, a funny outfit, a smile, and a bowl cut, the image might as well be a found photograph. This is problematic- nothing significant is conveyed in the face of this figure- that smile could mean a million things, but because of the quality it means nothing and is an empty and generic happiness that I am unwilling to believe. Like Land’s, and Wiedeman’s work, Condon’s leaves me wanting for some direction. With no direction, I’m left with thinking that the work is more a decorative exercise (which it does well) than an attempt to communicate. But still, I’m not convinced this is the point.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

VCU Thesis Shows: Round 1

My decision to post all of these words marks a turning point in my writing about art on this blog. The arrival of this season’s graduate thesis shows at VCU, and the sudden, wonderful appearance of photo/time based work has made me question whether I want my talk of art on this space to be that posted by a reviewer or a critic. I’m choosing the latter- there are plenty of reviewers (of all things) in the blogosphere, in the newspapers, on TV, and in our daily exchanges. There aren’t enough critics.

Because there are so many words I am going to post serially- two artists today, two more tomorrow...

“The eyes are organs of asking” – Paul ValĂ©ry

Round One of VCU’s graduate thesis show leaves me, in large part wanting for more. Specifically, the majority of the work leaves me wanting for work made by artists whose urge to communicate reaches beyond the closed doors of their graduate classes, personal websites, need for self expression, or their want of commercial success. I am plagiarizing (though paraphrasing) AD Coleman when I write that to be a an artist (Coleman differentiates between professional and amateur artist but I am talking about professional artists when I write artist) connotes a sincere wish to communicate (and with the VCU work in mind, I give the students the benefit of the doubt, as so far all of these people are professional students, not professional artists, but I assume that they will all embark on a career of art making beyond their experiences in Graduate school, and so I give them the benefit of the doubt) with the community of viewers that consume the work. So, when I walk into the Anderson Gallery I am looking to have some sort of dialogue with the work in front of me. It is too infrequent that this happens. I imagine that there are plenty of conversations had around the work on view but I would venture to say the words being exchanged are largely those of such a small demographic, and that the conversation couldn’t possibly be made public without each persons’ participation in a couple of years of graduate school, a subscription to Artforum, and a big bowl of Duchamp soup.

With that out of the way, I’m going to limit my critique to the photo, and time-based work made by the graduate students of Photo/Film. They are a barely noticed group (I was one of them so any familiarity you may sense is justified and potentially debateable), and they are illustrative of not only current trends in art making but of art making as it applies to the current climate of photography being accepted (read: sold) by the “Art World”. It is not an accident that of all of the work I write about here, none of the pieces resemble “fine art” photographs. Interesting too, these artists have had, as professors the likes of Gary Schneider, Lynne Cohen, Elizabeth Subrin, and Chris Sperandio.

Robbie Land

Robbie Land’s video (16mm color film transferred to DVD) New Berlin, occupied a small room on the mezzanine, next to the bathrooms. During my first visit I was primarily interested in thinking about Land’s decision to show in such an intimate space- his having painted the room black, the chairs chosen (only two), and the six speakers that filled the room- 4 fairly new, two from a home stereo system (simulated wood grain with patterned mesh grill) allows for the viewer to be completely immersed (or plunged as it may be) into the world of his film. Land uses the familiar space of the movie theatre to his advantage- everyone knows what to do in this space and of all of the artists featured in this show, Land is the only one that demands (and placed his work in such a context to be able to do so) this type of attention.

New Berlin, (named after the location where Land filmed), is a poetic, painterly mash-up of sound and imagery- it’s murky, handheld, cool-toned 16mm fare, edited in a loosely narrative sequence that seems to be concerned with (if anything other than looking good) the efforts of navigation. New Berlin clocks in at a short, and sweet 3-4 minutes. All filmmakers should take a cue from pop musicians and not make videos that are longer than the average pop song. New Berlin is filmed in first person and Land takes the viewer on a journey from beneath, to above and back to below a waters surface. There are boots being lapped at by water on a pier, close-ups of a compass (presumably on one of the ships that are shown), and near the end, the camera dives into the water a couple of times (first into a reedy patch of shallow water, and then into a gorgeous school of goldfish swimming to the soundtrack of a bullhorn) before succumbing completely to being under water and watching as a jellyfish (not know for their speed) swims by. Like all of Land’s films, audio is paramount in New Berlin and it fuses together the sometimes-disparate images with the rhythmic flicker of the projected film. Presumably, the audio tracks (maybe 4?) are culled from New Berlin (the place) as well, but it could easily be that many of them were not. I’m not sure it matters. The audio has the sound (and when paired with the imagery, the appearance) of someone poring over hours of audio and picking out (and refining) the phrases best suited for the collected images.

Metaphorically, Land’s concerns are pretty clear- life, as well as the making of a film is a series of struggles with (and within) the self, as well as with the world outside of the self, and this film points to how we all try to learn how to use the tools given to us to figure out how to make our way through this mess. That is a tried and true impetus for art making but there needs to be more. The problems with New Berlin aren’t the images and it’s not the audio. It’s the decision to pair the two together. I believe Land is a musician skilled at crafting lugubrious soundtracks out of found sounds – he’s a filmmaker skilled at weaving rhythmic pastiches of romantic, abstract expressionist, DIY, Brakage-ish, cutting-room-floor stuff that hipster cred is made of. What’s the problem then? The problem is that the film is all persecution and no resurrection. It’s self conscious indie fare and when I sit down to watch a film I hope to learn that there is another person out there who has figured out a way to make it through this mess and I’m disappointed to find someone content to flail in the murky waters of abstract and expressionist unknowing (this is the same reason I don’t listen to music by bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Blonde Redhead). I’d suggest to Land that he begins collaborating, ask his professor Sonali Gulati how it felt to have people connect to her and her film at the Black Maria Film Festival or, if nothing else set himself some parameters- like forcing himself to make a film (and accompanying audio track) that clocks in at more than 60 bpm. Then maybe there could be a little balance- a little resurrection with our oftentimes-necessary persecution.

Eileen Rafferty

Way up on the 3rd floor, in the northwest corner, in a low ceilinged, square tiled room of the Anderson Gallery was Eileen Rafferty’s 4-channel video installation jimmy hit his first home run. For this installation Rafferty employed three long scrolls of white paper attached equidistance apart, to a wire strung between the gallery’s north and south walls as projection screens for three of the videos. The scrolls were coated with a transparent substance (gel medium?) and the video was projected onto them from behind, the gel medium caused the light from the videos to reflect a swimming pool like pattern on the west walls. The imagery was culled from Rafferty’s late father’s 8mm home movies (edited down by Rafferty so that each sequence was no longer than a minute). The fourth projection, shot with a video camera, was projected onto the wall adjacent to the scrolls. This slow, color video of bubbles rising in front of a backdrop of a setting, stormy sun is significantly different hue and image quality from the rest. If the footage on the scrolls could be viewed as the parents’ table, the bubble video is the table set aside for those not mature enough to sit with the adults- it’s next to the parents table, but smaller, lower, and out of the way. This division makes it clear that this is the lesser of the images in the installation. Rafferty does herself a disservice by treating the video this way- the bubbles are so surprisingly meaningful and beautiful that it would have been excellent company, and worked as a good counterbalance for the other videos.

Rafferty’s decision to segregate and thereby create a hierarchy among makes me think that her choice to separate the videos is evidence of the common trap that photographers, and other practitioners who work in series and editions, fall into- the tendency to present only stylistically and conceptually consistent work near one another. Photography loves the stain around the bathtub- the series of images, all the same size, and all printed and mounted in a way so similar that all the viewer needs to do (because oftentimes the imagery is also the same idea beaten to death twenty-plus times) is quickly walk around the gallery, with their nose about 10-12 inches from the glass, make a quick appraisal, and then zoom-- they’re out the door thinking that the image on the postcard was really all that was necessary.

But, despite this segregation of images, Rafferty’s installation transcends this limitation and the images occupy that sad, beautiful and familiar space that Felix Gonzalez Torres’ images and sculpture occupy. Hers too are archetypical images that already exist within us- most of us have thought about the violence and beauty of the high dive, we’ve all put ourselves in the place of skydivers, which of us hasn’t wanted to fly, and when weren’t we fascinated by the short life of a blown bubble? Life and death surround our every thought, dream and action. jimmy hit his first home run works beacuse Rafferty knows that in order for us to experience this work and these simple truths, she needn’t worry about giving us much- all she gives us (and it’s just the right amount) is an elegant synthesis of light, material, and close to home imagery that makes the viewing of the installation at once embarrassingly personal and necessarily universal.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Happy May Day

May 1 is always a strange day for me, I spend most of the day thinking about work, workers, my not liking work or being a worker, my Sicilian grandfather who, after agitating for a union of the plumbers that he worked with was fired and spent the rest of his life as a facilities guy, Spring, germination, fertility, sex, anarchism, anarchists, solidarity, parades, maypoles, and creative loafing. But these are things that most people would like me to keep to myself- yes, most people have a respect for fertility, Spring, work, and sex, but work is really the only one that is permissible fodder for water cooler banter so I spend the day feeling alienated and aloof, looking outside and imagining a place where this day, and this person that I am, and that you are, are valued for their ties to the Earth, history and labor. Alas, what this means is that I have recurring flashes of orgiastic, Russ Meyers-like sex scenes going through my head all day- not really so different from any other day but today I really don't feel guilty, actually I feel entitled to strut around like some wimpy Pan of the not for profit world.

But today seems a little different.

More important than my ruminations is the nation-wide protest that our immigrant brethren (I write that without a touch of irony) are engaging in today in an attempt to show America what an integral part of our economy the immigrant population is. Hats off to the brown people of this country who are so taken for granted by the white people of this country. If the brown people weren't picking those oranges, who would be? And how much would that half gallon of OJ cost? The division being sold to, and consumed by the American public is the action of a classist, racist (which is, I believe more an issue of class than skin color), xenophobic, dominant class of bullies who don't want anyone, least of all brown people to play with their toy.

My mother's family (the Zinos and the Sturniolos) immigrated from Sicily at the turn of the century (they were a part of a large group of politically-progressive Italians who came to the US to be a part of what was a viable alternative to the oppression they were experiencing in their native country). To people who insist that immigrants learn English, I have this to say: It's true my great grandmother never learned to speak English very well and she may have annoyed an Anglo or two during her trips to the store- but her daughter (my Nana) only knows a handful of words in Sicilian, she uses the name Katie instead of her birth name Concetta, and my mother (Serafina, goes by Serry) knows almost no Sicilian whatsoever, and then me, it goes (almost) without saying that the itty bit of Italian I know is not worth a mention. My point? People immigrate to the US in hopes of having a better life, one not under the watchful eye of dictators who disappear people in the middle of the night, people come here so they can work and save enough money to send their kids to college, so they can take part in what it is to be American, the right to choose, and yes, especially the right to shop. The common language of America is not English and it doesn't need to be- as long as immigrants have cash, debit, and credit cards, and our interactions at stores become increasingly automated, there really is no reason for Juanita, or Kwabena to speak English In less than a generation their children will speak English and adopt American mannerisms, mores, and habits.

What has me most concerned about this current situation is how all of this crap is going to affect my daily interaction with immigrants. I live in a snooty Richmond neighborhood and there are Latino families who on Sundays stroll along the sidewalks, sometimes all holding hands, and they smile at me, and I smile back. There are no black families doing that in my neighborhood. In fact any black people in my neighborhood keep their heads down and are in an obvious hurry to get to where they know they are allowed to be. I worry that the publicity that this issue is getting is going to actually create a situation that doesn't actually exist. Are as many Americans as the press would have me believe really opposed to the growing immigrant communities? Or will the flare up of this issue actually cause there to be a time when I pass by Latinos, Africans, and Asians and feel the same surge of resentment, terrible history, and hate that I feel so often when I pass a black person on the street? I fear that we are being Balkanized right before our eyes.

Adios companeros.