The Neon Bible

“If you were different from anybody in town, you had to get out. That’s why everybody was so much alike. The way they talked, what they did, what they liked, what they hated. If somebody got to hate something and he was the right person, everybody had to hate it too, or people began to hate the ones who didn’t hate it. They used to tell us in school to think for yourself, but you couldn’t do that in the town. You had to think what your father thought all his life, and that was what everybody thought.”
― John Kennedy Toole, The Neon Bible

Ignatius J. Reilly

Ignatius J. Reilly, sculpture on Canal Street.

Oblique Strategy: Always first steps

Six down, ninety-four to go.

While working on my goals for 2018 I decided to set a goal of reading a hundred books in the year. Thinking about it, I decided the only way to pull this off was to read short books. I made a list of 66 short novels and wrote about it. Thinking more about it, I was excited enough to jump the gun and start the 100 books immediately.

Next up is The Neon Bible, the first, and next to last novel by John Kennedy Toole. He is the author that wrote the famous A Confederacy of Dunces and created the amazing character, Ignatius J. Reilly.

It is not as well known as Confederacy of Dunces, and the author didn’t even seem to think much of it. He said, “In 1954, when I was 16, I wrote a book called The Neon Bible, a grim, adolescent, sociological attack upon the hatreds caused by the various Calvinist religions in the South—and the fundamentalist mentality is one of the roots of what was happening in Alabama, etc. The book, of course, was bad, but I sent it off a couple of times anyway.”

So I picked up the book, with low expectations, but it had a slim page count, and I loved A Confederacy of Dunces – so I was sure it would be worth the effort and time.

And it was – not entirely successful as a novel, even as a bildungsroman, but it contains some amazing scenes and descriptions of life in a hell-hole little city in a beautiful Mississippi valley. It’s pretty observant and socially aware for something written by a sixteen year old.

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No Intention of Revisiting Any Galaxy

Alec Guinness
“A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere. I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The first bad penny dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.

‘I would love you to do something for me,’ I said.

‘Anything! Anything!’ the boy said rapturously.

‘You won’t like what I’m going to ask you to do,’ I said.

‘Anything, sir, anything!’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?’

He burst into tears. His mother drew herself up to an immense height. ‘What a dreadful thing to say to a child!’ she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”
― Alec Guinness, A Positively Final Appearance

Metal Ostrich Sculpture, downtown McKinney, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Not building a wall but making a brick

The whole family is now here, one son in from New Orleans, his cat ensconced in one bedroom, the other son from Houston, his black Labrador retriever settled into another.

Our Ring smart doorbell makes our cellphones tinkle in a delightful way every time the delivery man brings another present, the new Internet of Things Santa Claus.

We were up at eight; I had to drag myself – feet hurting, mind reeling – from bed; to see a morning showing of The Last Jedi at the local Alamo Drafthouse (the best place in the world to see a movie). I love the no talking/no texting or you will be thrown out policy. I love the fact that at nine in the morning they will bring a milkshake with alcohol in it to your seat. I love the stuff they put on the screen before the movie.


(on this snippet – if you get the joke “A talent agent is sitting in his office, a family walks in…” you should be ashamed of yourself)

I liked the film a lot better than I was expecting.

There is something wonderfully odd about seeing a movie early in the morning, other than the discount tickets. I’m so used to going at night – to emerge to sunlight and the realization that you still have another day to live – is almost wonderful.

The Things You Don’t Do

“The voice says, maybe you don’t go to hell for the things you do. Maybe you go to hell for the things you don’t do. The things you don’t finish.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby

Oblique Strategy: Always first steps

It’s tough being a carhop. You have to remember what car has what order. You have to be able to skate balancing a tray groaning with food and milkshakes. You have to be able to hook in onto the window… just right. You have to endure and handle the nuts and assholes.

The hours are long and the tips are small.

Poor Ethel. The only good thing about being a carhop is that at the end of the day you get to go home. But she doesn’t. She has to stand there, looking as beautiful as ever.

Is beauty its own reward? You exist mainly in the foggy yet electric haloed memories of teenagers long grown old and gray. Is it worth the effort to represent an age long gone by – an era of rollerskates and rootbeer in this age of smartphones and Spice?

Is there an app for that?

All Nature Has Is a Potential

“That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel. There’s no part in it, no shape in it, that is not out of someone’s mind […] I’ve noticed that people who have never worked with steel have trouble seeing this—that the motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon. They associate metal with given shapes—pipes, rods, girders, tools, parts—all of them fixed and inviolable., and think of it as primarily physical. But a person who does machining or foundry work or forger work or welding sees “steel” as having no shape at all. Steel can be any shape you want if you are skilled enough, and any shape but the one you want if you are not. Shapes, like this tappet, are what you arrive at, what you give to the steel. Steel has no more shape than this old pile of dirt on the engine here. These shapes are all of someone’s mind. That’s important to see. The steel? Hell, even the steel is out of someone’s mind. There’s no steel in nature. Anyone from the Bronze Age could have told you that. All nature has is a potential for steel. There’s nothing else there.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Future Sculpture, Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Is the intonation correct?

After a really rough day I needed a little victory so I made a sweet potato casserole to take to a potluck tomorrow. Is a well-cooked casserole a work of art? Probably not. Especially when its destiny is a long table already groaning under other casseroles also full of sweet potatoes (at least mine does not feature marshmallows – it has goat cheese and walnuts) or green beans mixed with oversalty industrial mushroom soup and canned fried onions. I’m sure mine will be ignored, no matter how delicious. Such is the ultimate destiny of all art.

P.S. After having written the above, I went to the kitchen to put my cassarole, which had been cooling on a rack, into the fridge to take to the potluck tomorrow. While transferring it, I dropped it, flipping it onto the kitchen floor.

The day continues.

The Marriage of Reason and Nightmare

“The marriage of reason and nightmare that dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the spectres of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermo-nuclear weapons systems and soft-drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudo-events, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century – sex and paranoia…In a sense, pornography is the most political form of fiction, dealing with how we use and exploit each other, in the most urgent and ruthless way.”
― J.G. Ballard

Tony Collins Art, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Make a sudden, destructive unpredictable action; incorporate

Is it a bomb?
Or simply a disposable fuel tank.

Does it matter? Now, anyway, it’s just a sculptural form.
A piece of shaped steel, sexy somehow. It pulls the eye to it.
You wonder about its story. Where did it come from?
Why is it hanging there?

Does it matter?

Disoriented At the End

By the end of a poem, the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield.
—– Billy Collins

Clarence Street Art Collective, The Cedars, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: The inconsistency principle

Found Poetry

A taste for pure pork fat, long restricted to a furtive devouring of the white nubbin in the can of baked beans, can now be worn as a badge of honor.
(Julia Moskin, New York Times, 5/7/03, article on pork fat in high-class restaurants)

Under 6 years: 1 pastille as required. Maximum 5 pastilles in 24 hours
(Meggezones 24x)

…on a long bus ride, you should always choose to sit next to Mrs. Robinson, for example, rather than Benjamin.
(Roger Ebert, from a review for Death to Smoochy)

Daisy, the this pretty sea, and the wind.
(Bablefish translation of the first line of a Ruben Dario poem I have stuck in my head… the Spanish is: Margarita, esta linda la mar, y el viento.)

Dolly, Good, Hernia, Bad
(big block letters on the side of a Budget rental truck in my neighborhood)

When I cruise, I’m an adventurer, eager to try new experiences. So on the second day of my first Carnival vacation, I found myself lying on a massage table wrapped in a crisp, clean sheet.
(From Currents, a magazine for people taking Carnival cruises)

Often Imitated, Never Duplicated-Great for Men and Women-As Seen on TV-It’s not magnetic, not copper…it’s the Q-Ray Ionized Bracelet designed to help balance your body’s Yin-Yang. Worn by professional athletes striving for energy, strength, flexibility and endurance, it’s also worn by people looking for natural pain relief. According to the oriental theory of Yin-Yang, we remain in good health when our negative (Yin) and positive (Yang) ions are in balance.
(from an ad for the Q-Ray bracelet, $49.95, in Dr. Leonard’s America’s Leading Discount Healthcare Catalog)

A-Hole in One

“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”
― Winston S. Churchill

Oblique Strategy: Always give yourself credit for having more than personality

On our bicycle tour of The Cedars Open Studios we stopped at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, The MAC. The gallery is undergoing extensive construction after its move from McKinney Avenue to The Cedars. But outside, there was a very interesting, fun, and cool installation, an interactive performance – A-Hole in One. The artist, Angel Cabrales, had set up a number of large carpeted outlines of various strategic countries across a vacant lot. The participant/observer would then take a wooden sculpture of a gun, equipped with a battery powered fan, and shoot golf balls out at the targets/countries.

From the artist:

A-Hole in One examines current political events and perceived societal norms through a consumable and familiar format: golf.

In a time when executive decisions regarding the fate of global politics appear to be determined on the golf course, Cabrales invites the viewer to hold this very power in their own hands. The MAC’s outdoor space will be staged as Cabrales’ ‘global’ golfing green, complete with golf greens and golf holes, where viewers can ‘play a round’ and inform the world of important decisions by way of random tweets. Golf equipment is provided, but participants are encouraged to bring their mobile phones and download the Twitter app.

A-Hole in One, The MAC

A-Hole in One, The MAC, if you look closely, you can see the blue golf ball travelling dowrange

A-Hole in One, The MAC