The Big Rock Candy Mountain

Which way I flie is Hell; my self am Hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.

Paradise Lost, IV, 75-78

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
The face of God don’t shine
Ham steaks flap on pork chop wings
Soup cans grow on the vine
And the trees with fruitcake branches
Bend right down to your head
We hide at night in chocolate caves
From the walking gingerbread
The summer storms are boiling stew
The snows are powdered milk
Sometimes the skies
Rain apple pies
What we need are medical supplies
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
Can you build a house with cake?
Can you sow a field with gum drops
Or swim in a hot fudge lake?
The policemen all have wooden legs
The criminals run the courts
You cannot raise a child here
Life is tasty, brutish, and short
And those who tried to change it
They all wound up the same
Skulls smashed with the candy rocks
That give this hell its name
The stars are made of dolls eyes
And they watch you as you sleep
Oh, I lost my wife
When she took her life
With a candy cane sharp as a knife
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

In the Big Rock Candy Mountain
You can climb the highest height
And look in all directions
But there is no end in sight
The burning desert sugar dunes
The crashing waves of beer
Extend in all directions
And never disappear
For many days I walked alone
Then turned around to see
Like Lucifer I bore the Big Rock
Candy Mountain inside me
The birds all sing my favorite songs
Steak fajitas grow on trees
Last night I prayed
For a hand grenade
To end these miseries arrayed
This morning it rained lemonade
In the Big Rock Candy Mountain

(From the old site)

The Golden Rule

That we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us — that we should respect the rights of others as scrupulously as we would have our rights respected  — is not a mere counsel of perfection to individuals — but it is the law to which we must conform social institutions and national policy, if we would secure the blessings and abundance of peace.

— Henry George

Standards of beauty

If you want to know something else about beauty, what precisely it is, look at a history of art. You will see that every age has had its ideal Venus (or Apollo), and that all of these Venuses and Apollos put together and compared out of the context of their periods are nothing less than a family of monsters.

A thing is not beautiful because it is beautiful, as the he-frog said to the she-frog, but because one likes it.

— Bruno Munari

I’m not ready to agree that this is true, since while fashion changes across history, what is considered beautiful has turned out to be not quite as arbitrary or mutable as is suggested here. The observation that many things are relative has merit, but in strictest construction, it is not necessary to bite this post-modern bullet.

Day Jobs

ONCE UPON A time, artists had jobs. And not “advising the Library of Congress on its newest Verdi acquisition” jobs, but job jobs, the kind you hear about in stump speeches. Think of T.S. Eliot, conjuring “The Waste Land” (1922) by night and overseeing foreign accounts at Lloyds Bank during the day, or Wallace Stevens, scribbling lines of poetry on his two-mile walk to work, then handing them over to his secretary to transcribe at the insurance agency where he supervised real estate claims. The avant-garde composer Philip Glass shocked at least one music lover when he materialized, smock-clad and brandishing plumber’s tools, in a home with a malfunctioning appliance. “While working,” Glass recounted to The Guardian in 2001, “I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him that I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish.”

— Katy Waldman (Does Having a Day Job Mean Making Better Art?)

Personal style in design

A designer with a personal style, arrived at a priori, is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as a personal style in a designer’s work. While a job is in hand, be it a lamp, a radio set, an electrical gadget, or an experimental object, his sole concern is to arrive at the solution suggested by the thing itself and its suggested use.

— Bruno Munari

Perhaps too simple

I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches.

— Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Diomedes fights the gods

My first impression upon a recent a rereading of the Iliad, the first in my adulthood, is that the epic poet did not judge his heroes by the result: Heroes won and lost battles in a manner that was totally independent of their own valor; their fate depended upon totally external forces, generally the explicit agency of the scheming gods. Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.

— Nassim Taleb