Now Considered As Normal

I think we all, at times, wonder how it would be if the world were different, that’s the essence of imagination. I don’t think utopian ideas are bound to fail, but quite likely when they become real or succeed they stop being called utopias. Think about the Internet, or women’s rights for example. Some of the things that have been achieved are now considered as normal.
—-Mai-Thu Perret

Sightings: Mai-Thu Perret
Nasher Sculpture Center
Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place

The AK-47 is a frightening thing, an object of terror. I remember traveling through Central America and seeing traffic cops waving their arms, directing vehicles this way and that, with an AK-47 slung over their shoulders. That is scary.

Here, it isn’t unusual to be waiting in line for fast food, noticing a cop in line beside you, and being a little intimidated by that big handgun hanging off his belt, inches away from you. Compared to a guy directing traffic with a machine gun, though, it’s no big deal.

The AK-47 is not frightening because it is beautiful. It is ugly. It is not frightening because it is accurate – a lot of weapons are more accurate. The AK-47 is frightening because it is ugly and cheap, and reliable. It is a very efficient way to kill people.

Would an AK-47 still be frightening if it was made of translucent purple plastic?

Probably. But it would not be as ugly.

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Build More Robots and Learn How To Make Them Better

Control Voice: [opening narration] God looked upon his world and called it good. But man was not content. He looked for ways to make it better and built machines to do the work. But in vain we build the world, unless the builder also grows.

Control Voice: [closing narration] Out of every disaster a little progress is made. Man will build more robots and learn how to make them better. And, given enough time, he may learn how to do the same for himself.
—- The Outer Limits, I, Robot [2.09]

Bikes and Giant Robots
Hickory Street
Dallas, Texas

Photo taken on the Hidden Art Bicycle Tour. This is a larger view of the mural I wrote about here, and right next to this one.

Oblique Strategy: Do something boring

If a robot is of sufficient intelligence does it obtain a soul? If it thinks… is it therefore am? What do these robots think of the horde of human supplicants arriving astride simple devices of metal tube, chain, and rubber? They seem to have come a long way to see the robots.

But they aren’t of sufficient intelligence to claim souls. They don’t think, therefore they aren’t. As a matter of fact, they are only paint. Even though they look like giant robots and loom over the world, they are less than one one-hundredth of an inch thick. If you peeled them from the building they would collapse into dust. They aren’t robots in the real world… only in the minds of the observers, the bicycle riders.

And maybe on the internet.

Look Like Chopped Liver

“Don’t start an argument with somebody who has a microphone when you don’t. They’ll make you look like chopped liver.”
― Harlan Ellison

Mural (detail) at Bowls & Tacos, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Taken on the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail Pub Ride.

Oblique Strategy: Lowest common denominator

Another Snippet: From a short story – Slow Advance by me

I finally kicked down the noisy neighbors’ door to find they had moved out. The place was empty. All that was left was their disembodied voices, still arguing. At an incredible volume.

I had to look around, but finally found the eight track player. My father showed me one of those once and explained the tape inside was a loop. It would never stop. I stood there, gobsmacked, and reacted too slow as a cat ran out of the hallway and dashed out the still-open door.

The sound system, such as it was, was sitting on the floor making a dent in the filthy shag carpet. There wasn’t anything else for me to do but to turn the volume knob down and hit the oversize bright blue led-lit power switch. The light turned to red. I spun around and headed home. I had splintered the jamb with my boot, so the door wouldn’t latch. In the hallway I paused, returned, and pulled the plastic box of the eight track from its hole and quickly strode home.

“So, that was quick,” Jane said as I walked back in, “what the hell is that in your hand.” I set the tape down on the coffee table and she handed me my beer. It was still cold, with an archipelago of condensed moisture droplets sparkling on the amber glass. Jane picked the eight track up and stared at it.

“They weren’t home,” I said.

“No, that’s impossible. We’ve been listening to them both scream at each other all day.”

“It wasn’t them, It was that,” I gestured at the tape.

“Well, at least it’s quiet now,” Jane said. “Hand me the remote, I want to watch Glee.”

He Believes in Miracles

“The Warrior of the Light is a believer.

Because he believes in miracles, miracles begin to happen. Because he is sure that his thoughts can change his life, his life begins to change. Because he is certain that he will find love, love appears.”
― Paulo Coelho, Warrior of the Light

Warrior on the wall of Bowls and Tacos, Dallas, Texas

Taken on the Friends of the Santa Fe Trail Pub Ride.

Oblique Strategy: In total darkness, or in a very large room, very quietly

Snippet – from “The Death of Xaco” by me

The yellow vapors poured down the slope, choking the men. They all had rough masks made from torn T-shirts, but that offered scant protection. The decades of working in the toxic sulfur cloud did not give them any resistance – corrosive is corrosive. The men coughed and shook their heads, struggling to breathe. After a thick cloud passed by, Buelo pulled his hand across his bit of cloth and scraped off the yellow crystals that had condensed there.

The men depended on a network of crude ceramic pipes to channel the molten sulfur down from the vent so it would cool and solidify before it caught fire and burned – then they could break it up into chunks to carry down the mountain. The pipes were always breaking or plugging up and it was a harrowing, awful, dangerous job to climb into the even-thicker fumes and do the needed repairs. Xaco was the only man left crazy-tough enough for the job and Buelo could see his sharp eyes and wild yellow-crusted hair peeking out here and there, now and then, amongst the yellow clouds. There were three tugs on the rope and Buelo tied another section of replacement pipe on and tugged back three times. The rope jerked and the pipe rocked, then disappeared into the fumes.

After a few minutes Buleo could make out Xaco hefting the heavy pipe onto his shoulders and struggle upslope before the drifting clouds hid him from view again. Buelo smiled thinking of Xaco from their childhood. He had known Xaco since his earliest memory, from long before they had known or understood that they would all be sulfur miners.

Old Fashions

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
—- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Four Corners Brewery
The Cedars
Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Remove specifics and convert to ambiguities

A young millennial couple – they live in Uptown, of course. Took an Uber to where I was ( I rode the train and then walked… should have brought my bike).

They seem nice enough.

When I was their age, we were into patched jeans. You would buy a pair of jeans and then sandpaper them until they had the proper holes. The patches were cut from old pairs of jeans and had to be hand-stitched, with big crude looping sutures in a contrasting color of heavy thread, usually yellow. I guess it was all a throw-back… and homage to our simpler ancestors, who lived in a simpler time. Iron-on patches were, of course, no good. I couldn’t sew worth beans, and my stitching was wildly uneven… which was perfect.

I Lift My Gaze

All of a sudden, as if a surgical hand of destiny had operated on a long-standing blindness with immediate and sensational results, I lift my gaze from my anonymous life to the clear recognition of how I live. And I see that everything I’ve done, thought or been is a species of delusion or madness. I’m amazed by what I managed not to see. I marvel at all that I was and that I now see I’m not.
—-Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Convert a melodic element into a rhythmic element

I sit there with my camera ready to raise and shoot… waiting for the woman to take another sip of beer. Sitting there waiting with my weapon in my hand, ready to raise and shoot, like a big game hunter… or more like a little kid with a BB gun waiting on a sparrow to land within range.

Stronger and Stranger

“I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes”
― Vladimir Nabokov

Deep Ellum Brewing Company, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy – Imagine the piece as a set of disconnected events

I want to take more photos of people… and that is difficult for me. There is a high wooden bench, built into the wall, in the yard at Deep Ellum Brewing company. It is a great place to people-watch or to sit with a longer lens and shoot.

There was a family, with two young sons, out enjoying the beautiful fall Texas early afternoon. The two young boys were not very happy for a while – they looked tired and bored – cranky and on the verge of crying. Kids do that. Kids do that a lot.

I thought about shooting the pouty sad expressions – despite their misery, they were photogenic and the picture would have been funny. But they settled down quickly and this peaceful photo of one with their mother turned out to be the one I liked.

Like a bad memory I deleted the others. I think if we remembered all the tired, grumpy and frustrating times in our lives as clearly as we did the beautiful fall afternoons we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.