Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In


Art Vent Letting the Fresh Air In

November 25, 2007

My father was an engineer who not only was able to fix anything, he could answer almost any technical question, and did--so thoroughly that you didn’t want to ask him something like, “How do televisions work?” if you had somewhere to go later. Because my brother is the same way, I grew up thinking these were universal male traits, only to be sadly disappointed when I reached adulthood. Now that my brother is only available by email (although full of wisdom should I ask) there's no one around—like here in this room—who can give me the answers I want right now. That’s why I find reading Rule the Web, by Mark Frauenfelder, oddly comforting, the way other people might feel eating an apple pie that tastes just like their mother's. Basically the book tells you everything you ever wanted to know about using the Internet, with the information presented in the form of questions organized around various topics (Searching and Browsing, Shopping and Selling, Media and Entertainment, etc.). Like my father, Frauenfelder is careful not to make you feel stupid if you don’t already know the answer, and I'm guessing that there’s stuff in here even my brother doesn’t know. Anyway, I just started reading it and already I found a former colleague’s telephone number on (I long ago gave up using telephone books or directory assistance, but those online white pages are often inadequate) and ordered a year’s worth of Vanity Fair on eBay (who knew they sold magazine subscriptions?) for $7.99.

And I'll add my own tip, too new for Frauenfelder's book:, a not-for-profit site that makes it easy to take your land address off retailer's lists and bring an end to the pounds of unwanted catalogs that come in the mail every day.
June 16, 2007
The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science….To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches only indirectly….

From the new biography of Einstein by Walter Isaacson.

I like this idea of Einstein's that mystery is an emotion.
May 28, 2007
I’m reading Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart—well, not actually reading it, but picking it up every so often, and whatever I randomly open it to seems to address what I’m feeling at the moment.

From an awakened perspective, trying to tie up all the loose ends and finally get it together is death….trying to flatten out all the rough spots into a nice, smooth ride. To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake, is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to always be in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. Death is wanting to hold on to what you have and to have every experience confirm you and congratulate you and make you feel completely together.

We want to be perfect but we keep seeing our imperfections….

Isn’t this like art? We see all the imperfections in what we’re doing, everything that doesn’t work, yet if we ever do get it together, if we finally do know what we are doing, at that moment our work dies. There’s a lot of dead art out there, a lot of dead artists walking around, and not necessarily old artists either. Sometimes art dies before it even has a chance to be born—I see this a lot in graduate schools, where everyone’s trying way too hard, and there’s an emphasis on being able to explain what we’re doing. Let’s face it, none of us can explain what we’re doing because what we’re doing is completely absurd. We’re making things that have no reason for being—unless we can imbue them with such life that they transcend reason.