Thursday, April 17, 2014
Friday, April 11, 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Monday, February 10, 2014
Saturday, November 23, 2013
You could only find the Impala by accident. It was way off trail, in the back part of a wetland tucked between an urban river and the woods behind a bunch of light factories. They were the kind of woods and wetlands no one is really meant to explore, made from volunteer trees grown up between the chunks of concrete and demolition debris dumped in this downzoned stretch of interstitial wilderness at what once was the edge of town. The negative space of the metropolis, where nature fills in the gaps and wild animals feel free to roam in the absence of human gazes.
When you stumbled across it as you stepped out of the tall water grasses, it looked like it might have been there for thousands of years. But you also could remember when cars like that cruised the streets. Cars with Batmobile lines forged in a pre-apocalyptic Detroit. Cars whose profiles of postwar strength and Rust Belt wonder persist even as they weather into ruin. It was of that certain vintage, after the assassination of JFK and before the resignation of Nixon. Baked by the sun to primer working on gunmetal, with water plants growing up out of the seats and the engine block, guarded by the herons and egrets who filled the secret sanctuary of the wilderness hidden under the roar of the old highway.
You couldn’t tell how it had gotten there. It might have washed downriver in a big flood, or been driven down here at some time when the river channel was different. You would go back and look for it once in a while, and it was always there, but every time you went you needed to intuit a different path through the impassable wild vegetation and knee-sucking muck. It manifested different forms with the changes in the river, sometimes almost completely submerged, at other times almost ready to fly off with its steel hood extended like a gull wing. A mystical motorhead Ozymandias that transported you in ways its designers never intended.
It’s gone now, pulled out of the muck by newer machines dispatched by the stewards slowly working on cleaning up the edgeland and turning it into a park. Maybe they are right that it didn’t belong there with the birds and the fish and the native plants, so close to the “scenic overlook” that there was a real possibility some Audubon Society folks might see it. But it sure seemed like an indigenous expression to you, an artifact that perfectly expressed the essence of this place. You can still find its digital ghosts, if you know the right place to look on the omniscient maps, but that won’t last long.
Curiously, I found love tracking metal Impalas in these uncanny wetlands, another wanderer tuned into the strange vortex of surreal power of the Zona. She was making the wind dance in the windows of an old concrete fire tower while I was paddling against the current in a river out of time. That was five years ago. Yesterday we got married, and today we’ll celebrate with family and friends in this place we ended up making our home. The relics will come and go, but the wonder is always there if you can open up your third eye to it. The power is inside us, and especially poderoso now that we have a pair of magic rings to knock together. Our love is about a lot more than place, but the way we met is what set us on course into the uncharted territories ahead. It’s pretty awesome.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
A decade ago I wrote a story about a clandestine group of U.S. psychological warfare operatives who commissioned a piece of post-Frazetta sword & sorcery fantasy art as a secret weapon to influence a Middle Eastern dictator. The story, "Script-Doctoring the Apocalypse," was influenced by the news reports of Rowena Morrill chainmail bikini paintings found by American troops when the captured Saddam Hussein's secret bachelor pads. It was published in Eileen Gunn's The Infinite Matrix, the very week that Saddam was captured in a Tikriti spiderhole.
It turns out that Psyop part of the story was more plausible than I had intuited. Jayme Blaschke just tipped me to this amazing story from the Independent (with a byline much older than my story) about how the CIA covertly funded the New York School Abstract Expressionist painters all through the 50s and 60s as a propaganda weapon during the Cold War. On a "long leash," granted, using a variety of intermediaries—but still mind-blowing to consider what role intelligence support had in the mid-twentieth century American avant-garde (to say nothing of cultural products that made postwar anti-communism culturally credible among the intelligentsia—see below reference to the animated version of Orwell's Animal Farm).
Unknown to the artists, the new American art was secretly promoted under a policy known as the "long leash" - arrangements similar in some ways to the indirect CIA backing of the journal Encounter, edited by Stephen Spender.
The decision to include culture and art in the US Cold War arsenal was taken as soon as the CIA was founded in 1947. Dismayed at the appeal communism still had for many intellectuals and artists in the West, the new agency set up a division, the Propaganda Assets Inventory, which at its peak could influence more than 800 newspapers, magazines and public information organisations. They joked that it was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world.
The next key step came in 1950, when the International Organisations Division (IOD) was set up under Tom Braden. It was this office which subsidised the animated version of George Orwell's Animal Farm, which sponsored American jazz artists, opera recitals, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's international touring programme. Its agents were placed in the film industry, in publishing houses, even as travel writers for the celebrated Fodor guides. And, we now know, it promoted America's anarchic avant-garde movement, Abstract Expressionism.
Independent, "Modern art was CIA 'weapon'
Where's the gonzo James Ellroy novel about these guys?! Maybe Don DeLillo already wrote about Pollack and the spook and I missed it.