Click on any image to make it larger

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Buying Time

I have been working on a piece, for the last week or two, that has completely consumed me for the last few days. I have got to get it done. But I thought, in the meantime, I would post some older images to keep the hounds of hell at bay. What, you didn’t know that once you start a blog the hounds of hell are unleashed upon you and the only way to keep them sated is with regular blog postings?

These guys are named Cielo and Douglas. This is an example of what I might do if I were in Mexico City at a lecture about architecture solely in Spanish, which I don’t speak, with no translation, and having an hour, or so, to kill while being washed in the pleasant sounds of intellectual Español.

And this is Kwame and Sylvester, the characters that Jordan the Bearded Yachtsman has been screaming for.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Uncle Tim’s, no holds barred, Timed Death Match Challenge!

When I lived in Italy some friends of mine (Matt, Morgan, and Arden) and I began a series of excruciating creative challenges. While working on a project we would institute severe time limitations on ourselves and create something as finished as possible within that time frame. For instance, while working on a project for Alessi we churned out a series of grueling 2-minute illustrations (these were compiled in the end and our boss, Omar the Crowbar, and the clients loved them). This is the kind of thing that working in a high-tech concrete underground bunker, in the middle of a vineyard, in northern Italy will inspire in a group of young men. Since then the challenge has crossed the Atlantic Ocean and flourished in the often hostile environment of the New World. For instance, my classes and I start almost every session with a set of timed exercises to get our creative juices flowing.

Here are the basic rules:
1. The exercise has to be timed (these days I generally go with 15 minutes)
2. Determine a medium/format for the final piece (Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, a drawing, a collage, etc.)
3. The exercise starts with a word or two (this can be a theme, a name, or nonsense connections like: cock-a-doodle pie)
4. Begin
5. End

The character below was birthed in this process. This was a challenge between me and Jordan the Bearded Yachtsman. We each gave the other a name and had to create a character in 15 minutes. The name Jordan the Bearded Yachtsman proffered was: Chauncey.

(Obviously I didn’t finish this entire piece in 15 minutes. I finished Chauncey (and his tortoise Phillip), and then went back and finished the rest later.)

This is the challenger.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Science and sanity. Oh, the humanity!

It has oft been claimed that one sign of insanity is repeating the same action over and over while expecting a different result. This may well be true, but it’s opposite does not follow. That is, it is not necessarily a sign of sanity to repeat the same action over and over while expecting the same result. That is not sanity it is science. But life/nature is constantly displaying for us a wondrous sense of irony that confounds all expectations. The sun comes up everyday (indeed the sun coming up defines the day), but weather patterns are vastly more unpredictable than we would like to believe. We wake up everyday, but our mood upon waking is oft unpredictable. We walk through life taking our breath for granted, but never knowing when our last breath may come. However, science would have us believe otherwise, wittingly or not. One deeply buried a priori at the heart of science is the concept ceteris paribus, or all things being equal. For the sake of scientific experimentation certain impossible-to-account-for factors must be disqualified in order to trust the results of the experiment, thus ceteris paribus. Any scientist, upon questioning, will readily acknowledge this. But this necessary scientific premise has been, for the most part, buried in our scientific civilization. For centuries now we have conducted a more and more ambitious scientization of culture. But after centuries of this ordinarizing process what if something vital has been lost? In science ceteris paribus may be acceptable and, in fact, often necessary to conduct research, but in life nothing is ever “all equal.”

What is missing in the scientific approach to life and culture is the cultivation of humanity’s glorious divine gift of evaluation. That is the ability to not simply read, but interpret. When King Belshazzar and his partying cohorts saw the writing on the wall, they could read it perfectly well, what they could NOT do was interpret its value. They knew the definitions of the words, but what was their meaning? These words were common terms of technical measurement (they were the names for different monetary units), i.e. scientific, but in order to comprehend their true meaning the prophetic powers of Daniel were necessary. Missing in the scientific equation of life are the natural and intuitive interpretive powers of humanity. And the more wholly scientized we become the more starved and entropic those evaluative energies and dynamics become. Our interpretive powers are only fed and augmented by disciplined and consistent practice. Prophets have always been the men and women who exercised their genius for evaluation more actively than their contemporaries. Science unquestionably has its place and its value, but when you need to interpret the writing on the wall don’t turn to a scientist. Hopefully when that day comes, you will have either found a good prophet, or have been diligently practicing your own prophetic ABCs and 123s.

The sun comes up every day, but every day is not the same.

An aphorism

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Whisper its true name

Most ancient cultures grasped intrinsically and imperatively the awful power of language. To utter the true name of a divine being, or even a natural one, meant invoking powers and forces that may very well be beyond one's control. This recognition of the immanent value of words necessitated that one either be a virtuosic master of the subtleties of language, knowledgeable of the sacred incantations, or be a wily poetic artificer, able to tip toe around the subject, or be quiet. We have since learned very well some narrow aspects of the power that language has. The power to exploit, manipulate, intoxicate, and corrode. No culture in history has made language such a well honed precision weapon of mass destruction/deception as ours. If only we had a little of that primitive gnosis that understood you may be able to control a bear by invoking its true name, but you may also wake it from its slumber and be eaten for it. A little awe inspired piety could serve us very well. Maybe we should heed the wise words of Elmer J. Fudd: “Be very very quiet. I'm hunting rabbit.”

“Whisper its true name” is the title of an upcoming exhibition of my work at the Anton Art Center ( in Mount Clemens, Michigan (yes, it was named after the catfish). The show will be up 16Oct07-30Oct07, and there will be an opening reception on 26Oct07. Hopefully someone will be able to make it and tell me how it looks. Below is the poster I just finished for the show, as well as a couple of images that will be displayed.

Ezekiel, the righteous fist of the divine, does battle with Melchior, the gnostic beast of nimble and acerbic wit, on the peak of Mt. Banal

Theodosius contemplates destruction as Frederick whispers sweet redemptive nothings in his ear

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mom, I’m in the MoMA!

I discovered this weekend that my work is in the permanent collection at the MoMA! Thanks to the Agnes Gund Purchase Fund. No, seriously. You don't believe me? Okay, so they didn’t purchase my work specifically, but they have a display in the 2nd floor Design section of every single issue of Emigre magazine. I have work in 3 issues. Ergo I am in the MoMA collection. Me and the hundreds of other contributors to the 69 issue run of Emigre over 21 years.

The first one, which was given a prominent position in the display, is issue 62. My magnanimous friend Elliott Earls gave me the honor of working very closely with him on a DVD entitled Catfish which was issued as the 62nd installment of Emigre. The other two were essays I wrote for issue 65 and issue 69 (the last one).

I know you are all so proud. Here are some images:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vocal cords

While writing the Saranay Motel post I looked up vocal cords on Wikipedia and thought this information to be quite amusing given the context of the search. I also discovered that, properly, vocal cords are folds, not cords: “The vocal folds discussed above are sometimes called ‘true vocal folds’ to distinguish them from the false vocal folds. These are a pair of thick folds of mucous membrane that sit just above, and protect, the more delicate true folds. They have minimal role in normal phonation, but are often used in screaming and the DEATH GRUNT singing style.” (Emphasis mine)

My false vocal folds are killing me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

the Saranay Motel

I have been working on a film entitled “the Saranay Motel” with my magnanimous friend Elliott Earls since June 2006. We have had several weeks of incredibly intense and incredibly rewarding (emotionally, spiritually, creatively, and intellectually) production. As we have worked the project has become more and more ambitious. In the process I have managed to become three different characters, one of which happens to be the lead singer for a death metal band named Horst Shicklegrüber & the Barbecue Army. The character's name is Les Griffin.

As a cautionary tale of how karma truly works I would like to suggest to you that if you can never imagine yourself being the lead singer of a death metal band then DO NOT create a character for a movie in which you are a lead singer for a death metal band. Because you may quickly find yourself writing and singing lyrics (wreaking havoc on your vocal cords) for a skull splittingly offensive death metal band! For example, now the alter ego I never knew I had, Les Griffin, is embroiled in an apparently never ending process of writing and singing lyrics (wreaking havoc on my vocal cords) for a skull splittingly offensive death metal band. Do you often imagine yourself drenched in theatrical blood, standing behind a lime green curtain, at a renowned Detroit music venue, until the cue for you to leap out, grab a megaphone and scream death metal lyrics at a stunned audience of hundreds? Well I never imagined myself in that scenario either, but there I was, dancing and screaming up a storm. Then tossing the megaphone and bolting through the audience. I had a bag full of crusty fake blood drenched clothes to carry with me on the plane back to Red Hook, and it only got crustier as I put off dealing with it for a month or two.

What does karma have to do with all of this? Well, contrary to our typical, superficial, feel-good, new-age notions of karma as a kind of wishing well full of good or bad vibes that may come your way due to some karmic coins you may or may not have tossed into said well, karma is actually much simpler and much more fatalistically and profoundly binding than that. The origin of the word is from the Sanskrit karman which can be translated as something like action, or effect, or fate. To contemporary Western ears the concepts of action and fate as being somehow synonymous may seem quite a stretch, but the Ancients had a different view of fate than we do. Fate wasn’t some inflexible, rigorous, and absolute form of predetermination, but a flexible, vigorous, and relative form of correlative action. Fate was something that cannot be avoided or escaped, but not something that was pre-scripted. Rather the course our fate takes is dependent on many correlative interactions. The only action and/or fate we can come closest to controlling is our own (I say closest because always there are forces at work upon us that we are not fully in control of). Our actions, our deeds, are our fate, ARE our karma. As Heraclitus said: “Ethos anthropo daimon.” That is: the character (ethos) of man (anthropo) is his fate/divine purpose (daimon). The way we act is the way we are. Not act as in “pretend,” but act as in SET IN MOTION, or cause. All action sets correlative actions and reactions into motion. Our DOING is our BEING. This profound apprehension of the fundamental connection between action and fate is something the Ancients grasped all too well. It is the basis of tragedy. And it is the knowledge that necessitates Promethean foresight.

The moral to the story? If you don’t want to be a death metal singer don’t act like one. You might end up looking like this:

You can watch the moving images here:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

the Moth or the Flame

In July I finished a story that I have been working on since Fall 2005. The title of the story is “the Moth or the Flame.” These photo images are from a set of prototypes I made in order to solicit publisher attention. I also sent in an application for the Xeric Grant ( for comic book self-publishers. Hopefully I will know something within the next few months.

Regardless of the response (or lack thereof) from publishers and foundations I am determined to get this printed. It is unquestionably the best, most complete, and most ambitious work I have ever done. And it is the first thing I have done that I feel is truly deserving of an actual audience larger than friends and family members. That is not to say that none of the other work was deserving of a larger audience, just that I never felt it to be thus.

The Magic Number

In March 2006 I began a 26 page abecedarium comic book, which I envisioned as a gift for one of my typography classes at Pratt. In May 2007 I finally finished it. The title is “the Magic Number.” You can look at a preview and/or order it here (you can also just click on the title of this post):

The book follows the plight of Jehosephat Sunrays, a local type cobbler in Thursday City, and his golem Quatrain.

This was a test run in terms of using Lulu. I wanted to find out whether digital publishing was feasible. Well, it is certainly easy to do and easy for anyone to acquire, but I think the per unit cost is a bit prohibitive and the quality, while seemingly very good, could be better. All things considered this is definitely a great option for individual creators and hopefully the quality of print will continue to improve. Due to the enormous amount of detail in my drawings, though, offset is still unquestionably the way to go. As well the material quality of any object I produce is very important to me, so hopefully one day I will be able to afford high quality printing. For now Lulu seems to be a good way to get my work into the hands of others, however it is not the ideal at its present state of quality versus cost. But, of course, you should order one anyway.

This is an image of Jehosephat and his brother Cucumber in repose:

Old News

For this inaugural edition of the Thursday City News blog I am going to post some old news.

In March 2007 I conducted a lecture and 3 day workshop at the Centro de Diseño Cine y Televisión in Mexico City ( The students at Centro were all energetic and engaged. We had a marathon first night after a marathon lecture. I intended the lecture to be 1 hour and went on for 2. But everyone stayed awake! And we even worked for 2 1/2 more hours. In excess of the workshop we also went to see some Mexican Wrestling, danced until the morning hours, and generally had a wonderful inspiring time.

Below is the poster announcing the event: