a Woodstock surrealist
Monday, August 18 2003
Following the tradition of the American military (and their Iraqi opposition before them), I'm going to start posting pictures of Edna's kills here on my web page. Today's victim, found in the basement hallway, is a small shrew, shown here at about 1.6 times larger than life:
For people in my line of business, the continuous crop of security holes in Microsoft products have provided a steady source of income. In the past, security holes were things that banks and governments worried about. Now that many home computers are continuously exposed to the internet, computer security is gradually becoming a consumer concern. But (unless you happen to run SQL Server or idiotically launch executables in your email) there's been nothing dramatic to justify this concern until this past week. Behold the MSBlaster Worm. Here's something that gets into your computer without you having to do a thing, and then causes clearly-noticeably bad things to happen. These bad things make your computer useless. It happened to my mother, so it surely happened to a lot of people. One of those people contacted me today and I set up a housecall. Typical of my clients, he lived in Woodstock.
I showed up at his house and I thought maybe I'd come to the wrong place. The yard was overgrown and appeared to contain several household appliances and at least one car. In was a scene more reminiscent of West Virginia than Woodstock. I went to the door (which was open) and knocked - but there was no response. After awhile I resorted to yelling. Finally a voice answered and eventually there was a face to go with it, but I was already in the house and had gone up the wrong stairway, which was really more of a ladder.
He was a short stocky guy who looked exactly as his name had led me to expect. Once in the great room of his house, I could see that he was a prolific artist. But before asking about the paintings and sculptures, I had some business to attend to. In the course of two or three minutes, I dewormed and patched the artist's Windows XP machine. Since this involved so little time and effort, the accompanying banter changed first to computer art (particularly the creative laziness and indecision engendered by the undo button) and then art generally. This was an inevitability given my interest in art - especially the kind I was seeing peeking out from behind the clutter. But before I was even aware of the kind of artist I was talking to, I mentioned that I also like to paint pictures, and when he asked what sort of paintings I do, I found it easiest to just go to my art website and show him. He made the appropriate noises one is expected to make when someone shows someone else their art, though I have to imagine that he was a little surprised that some random person doing computer tech support housecalls would also have a portfolio of paintings like mine.
It turned out that this guy was a fabulous surrealist, tackling the subjects of Joan Miró with the draughtsmanlike-precision of Albrecht Dürer and the decorative sense of virtuosic Symbolism. His paintings had an enviable ability to speak fluently on every scale; in this way they were similar to those of Alex Grey (later I noticed Alex Grey's email address in his computer's address book). These are the sort of paintings that cannot be painted without phenomenal patience.
More recently, the artist had moved on to sculpture, particularly etched glass. He covers the glass with rubbery masking substance and then cuts it away in places, leaving decorative swirls and fangs that are transferred to the glass during sandblasting. He showed me how it was done using a few odd bits of the media, and as he swished his pivoting knife back and forth, I immediately recognized the fine motor control of a true master. I drink far too much coffee to attain a tenth of that control.
There were also sculptures made of chicken wire, fabric, and gleaming iridescent paint. He'd taken normal forms and dissolved them into fascinating reliefs of complexity, meta-complexity, and metan-complexity.
Finally he showed me his portfolio of art done with the help of a computer. Most of it was extremely distorted pornography, with vaginas bent within inches of mouths and heads stretched into great arching crescents. In an way, even this pornography was rather similar to both the paintings and the sculptures. Things had a rubbery goofiness I recall from the early days of my pot smoking. I remember how disappointing it was to realize that the universe could be viewed as a too-obvious sitcom (complete with laugh track) imprisoned beneath a quarter inch of translucent latex. Remarking on the distorted pornography, I exclaimed "it's like a bad acid trip!" and the artist agreed, delighted.
Since we had so much time after my appointed mission, I set him up with Mozilla and showed him how to listen to an internet stream of his favorite lefty talkshow host, Randi Rhodes. He'd actually been using Netscape 7.0 already, having taken the initiative on his own of using something other than the monopolist web browser.
In summary, it was one of those housecalls that gave me hope - there's actually a lot of brilliance and talent in this area, much of it having moved up here for the peace and quiet necessary to be creative, and if the widespread presence of insecure software exposes me to a little of it, well, I can think of worse jobs I could be doing.
This evening I took the dogs Sally and Eleanor to Fording Place on the Esopus yet again. This time I also brought along a cloth shopping bag for carrying the sweet corn I intended to steal. It took me only about two or three minutes to completely fill it, and this was in a marginal part of the field that appeared to have been overlooked during a mechanized harvest. On the way back across the Esopus, I was too burdened by corn to carry Eleanor, but it didn't matter, because she voluntarily jumped in and swam on her own. Once she'd overcome her initial fear, she was actually a stronger swimmer than Sally.
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