Insanity is Relative

“Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.”
― Ray Bradbury

Mural by Frank Campagna, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

The other weekend, riding scooters around Deep Ellum, I saw this relatively new mural done by Frank Campagna. I liked how it used the vertical pipes as 3D cage bars.

Frank Campagna is one of the owners of Kettle Gallery and is one of the earliest artists and supporters of Deep Ellum’s latest renaissance. I took a mural tour of Deep Ellum once, lead by Frank, and it was really fun. Not only did I learn some of the philosophy of urban murals – he and I are approximately the same age and his tales of Deep Ellum in one of its earlier heydays in the 1980’s were parallel to some of my more hazy memories.

(click to enlarge)
Frank Campagna mural, Hickory Street, Dallas, Texas

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Even Though They Soar

“…and there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than the other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.”
― Herman Melville

Poydras Street
New Orleans

Burn Genuinely And With A Free Flame

“There is a love that equals in its power the love of man for woman and reaches inwards as deeply. It is the love of a man or a woman for their world. For the world of their center where their lives burn genuinely and with a free flame.

The love of the diver for his world of wavering light. His world of pearls and tendrils and his breath at his breast. Born as a plunger into the deeps he is at one with every swarm of lime-green fish, with every colored sponge. As he holds himself to the ocean’s faery floor, one hand clasped to a bedded whale’s rib, he is complete and infinite. Pulse, power and universe sway in his body. He is in love.

The love of the painter standing alone and staring, staring at the great colored surface he is making. Standing with him in the room the rearing canvas stares back with tentative shapes halted in their growth, moving in a new rhythm from floor to ceiling. The twisted tubes, the fresh paint squeezed and smeared across the dry on his palette. The dust beneath the easel. The paint has edged along the brushes’ handles. The white light in a northern sky is silent. The window gapes as he inhales his world. His world: a rented room, and turpentine. He moves towards his half-born. He is in Love.

The rich soil crumbles through the yeoman’s fingers. As the pearl diver murmurs, ‘I am home’ as he moves dimly in strange water-lights, and as the painter mutters, ‘I am me’ on his lone raft of floorboards, so the slow landsman on his acre’d marl – says with dark Fuchsia on her twisting staircase, ‘I am home.”
― Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan

Mural on construction fence, Farmer’s Market, Dallas, Texas
Derrick S. Hamm

Derrick S. Hamm

Out Of the Chaos

“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.”
― W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil

Mural on construction fence, Farmer’s Market, Dallas, Texas
Derrick S. Hamm

Derrick S. Hamm

From the artist’s Instagram.

This piece is based on the previous intaglio print ‘Harbingers’ and is inspired by the works of Botticelli, Caravaggio and Rubens

Go At It At Full Speed

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”
― Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald

Mural on construction fence, Farmer’s Market, Dallas, Texas

Yesterday, when I was looking at the stream of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents vintage television show – I noticed that one of the episodes that stretched across the top of the screen was “The Man From The South.”

That episode is taken from a Roald Dahl short story. I’ve written about it before – it’s one of my favorite things – both the original story and the television episodes made about it. It is a prime lesson in how to build tension… nothing is better.

It’s been done several times – but this one features two legendary actors, Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre – both at the top of their game.

You can watch it (and believe me, you will want to) here.

The Anticipation of It

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
― Alfred Hitchcock

Mural on Construction Fence
Farmer’s Market
Dallas, Texas
Chris Hoover

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I turned on the television. Tuning around I came across the start of an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It caught my eye because it featured a very young Burt Reynolds. It also had Harry Dean Stanton (- who looked like he always looks) and Murray Hamilton (don’t worry, you don’t remember the name but you’ve seen him). The show was from 1960, season 5, episode 37 – “Escape to Sonoita.”

The thing wasn’t perfect, but the story was crackerjack with a nice twist ending. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and the woman in distress was beautiful. What more can you ask for?

If you have a few minutes to spare, you can watch it here.

The Illusion of Risk

What are you buying when you get on a roller coaster? Not risk… but the illusion of risk. Being hurled to the edge of danger but knowing that you’ll never have to cross it. … Think of Alaska as one big theme park.”
—- Limbo (movie), John Sayles

This year’s New Orleans Writing Marathon was based at the wonderful, historic Beauregard Keyes house in the French Quarter. What a beautiful place – I recommend a visit and a tour.

I particularly enjoyed the artwork hanging on the walls. On our trip across the river to Algiers, we discussed a dark painting that I remembered. You couldn’t see much – only a snow capped mountain line and maybe a bit of an orange glow. When we returned for the evening, I took a photo of the painting with my phone and was surprised to see that there was more visible in the picture than there was in real life. There was a row of mountains and a small boat in the foreground that you could not see with the naked eye. I was particularly taken by that subtle orange glow behind some trees on the right hand side.

Enhanced photo of a painting in the hallway of the Beauregard-Keyes house, New Orleans

The staff from the Beuregard-Keyes House said that the painter and even the date of this particular canvas was unknown. I talked to the others that had been at Algiers with me and realized I had the wrong artwork – they had been discussing a nearby painting of Venice at night by George Loring Brown.

That didn’t matter to me, I still was fascinated by the dark line of snowcapped mountains and still water. The next day at a nearby breakfast place I decided to write a flash fiction based on the painting (changing the mountains into volcanic peaks for dramatic effect). Inspired by one of my favorite films, Limbo (see it at your risk, I loved the film but the others in the theater stood up and cursed the screen at the end – Christopher Null said, “I can forgive many things. But using some hackneyed, whacked-out, screwed-up non-ending on a movie is unforgivable. I walked a half-mile in the rain and sat through two hours of typical, plodding Sayles melodrama to get cheated by a complete and total copout finale.” – He is completely wrong, the movie ended the only way it could….), left the ending… somewhat unresolved.

Typed up from my handwritten notebook:

July 11, 10:30 Croisant D’Or, New Orleans

The darkness was so all-encompassing it felt as thick and liquid as the saltwater they dipped their paddles in. The four canoes and single small skiff moved in a rough line. Sam could almost see the skiff ahead – more of an impression than actual vision – rowed by the four on board – its sails useless in the dead calm night.

Beyond, the unseen moon hidden by an invisible line of cliffs to the right illuminated the snow capped upper slopes of the volcano. Its torn cone glowing in the sky – visible, but selfish with its cold light.

The paddles and oars clumped up and down the line, with an occasional weak splash. The men were all too exhausted with effort, fear, and lack of sleep to work efficiently and the sound of wood striking gunwale or skipping off the water at the wrong angle was a surprise to these skilled seagoing men – but they were so numb – the embarrassment passed.

They worked in silence. Sam wondered if the other men’s minds were silently exploding within – as his felt. The humidity thickened the darkness. The only breeze was provided by their paddling – the heat was broken every now and then by invisible lenses of cool air that fell down the slopes from the snowfields miles above. They passed through a bank of sour sulfur mist from the fumaroles along the shore. The paddling increased to move through that foulness as quickly as possible.

Sam saw something new – coming to life out of the ink. At first it was barely visible – a dark dull rust-colored patch ahead, quickly heating into a dark but distinct orange glow.

It was a bit to the right of the skiff, along the shoreline. Sam realized this was their destination, their camp. There was a line of dunes and behind them a swampy area before the land rose quickly up the mountain. They had pitched camp atop a series of grassy hummocks above the brown stagnant drainage, but still protected by the dunes from being seen from the sea.

At first the glow heartened Sam and the others as their rowing increased a little more in pace. They were almost back. Sam thought of a bit of a rest – of a stout drink around the campfire before they had to start the hard work of unloading the rifles and ammo boxes from the canoes and the skiff. Sam even thought beyond that, of crawling into his tent for sleep. That seemed the end, he couldn’t get his mind past the imaginary sensation of letting himself falling limp and snapping his eyes shut.

But as they approached at a frustrating pace, weighted down by all that steel until the tiny waves lapped at the gunwales, the orange glow began to grow and spread.

Soon, it was all-encompassing. They could even see yellow licks of flame flicking over the tops of the dunes. Long tongues of red light reached up the sides of the mountain above, moving and interspersed with long ominous purple moving shadows.

Shouts, curses, and desperate cries peppered up and down the line of little boats. Sam kept silent though, and continued to paddle with desperate hopeless effort. They all did, still moving straight into the growing conflagration.

They had nowhere else to go.

Sam thought, “I am mortal. We are all going to die… but when? Is it going to be tonight?”