Trees & Tina Turner

Nature abhors a vacuum,
and if I can only walk
with sufficient carelessness
I am sure to be filled.
—Henry David Thoreau

Not everyone loves a blog. Ever since Mermaid Avenue started up, my friend Stephanie has been skeptical. "You guys and your blogs and writing about each others blogs on your blogs," she writes in an email from San Francisco. Then she launches into a puzzling email serenade of Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero":
I wonder if we are ever gonna change
Living under the fear till nothing else remains
We dont need another hero
We dont need to know the way home
All we want is like the young...

Looking for something
We can rely on
There's got to be something better out there
Love and compassion
That day is coming...

"You're just jealous," I write back.

"Im not jealous," she replies. Then compares me to Chip, the older brother in Napolean Dynamite: Don't be jealous because I've been chatting with hot chicks all day.

"If you want to make it all better, can you write about me singing Tina Turner to you over the email? We dont need another hero..... Don't make me sing it again."

Trees by Stephanie Meininger

I ponder these lines, how they relate to this blog, to the new cartoon icon of me in the sidebar, to all the lines I have written and stories and thoughts on the recent passing of one of my heroes. Before I can piece it all together, however, another email shoots my way.

I get up in the evening,
and I ain't got nothing to say.
I come home in the morning,
I go to bed feeling the same way.
I ain't nothing but tired, man
I'm just tired and
Bored with myself
Hey there baby,
I could use just a little help

You can't start a fire,
You can't start a fire
Without a spark

This gun's for hire
Even if we're just
Dancing in the dark...

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To my eye, these images share a common structure, one mirroring the other. Caravaggio's Depostion of Christ from the Cross has been described for its resemblance to a crashing wave. Its a loose assocaition, to be sure. Deeper connections can be found, but are not yet commented upon here. Hope you enjoy.

Hokusai Konagawa
Waves Crashing in the East.

Caravaggio: Deposition of Christ
Waves Crashing in the West.

Langdon Winner on Chris Gibson

Chris Gibson: thinker, raconteur, restless soul, friend to many (1954-2005)

He was the most intense person I've ever known, someone who could talk with you for hours and hours on end about an amazingly wide range of topics -- music, philosophy, religion, politics, you name it. In my home town of San Luis Obispo, California, Chris Gibson became a local character, a friend to many who visited his "office hours" outside the downtown Starbucks, enjoying his insights and incisive wit.

When I met him in the late 1960s Chris was recovering from a serious motor cycle acident. He was fascinated by the equisite clarity of Wittgenstein's philosophy and the pure sound of the classic tracker pipe organs, especially the way Helmut Walcha played J.S. Bach organ concertos. He hoped to travel to Europe to become an organ craftsman, a quest for spritual and practical fulfillment that was, alas, never realized. Instead, Chris worked as a fisherman in Alaska, carpenter in Central California, groundskeeper, and occasional writer of unpublished pieces roughly in the vein of Bukowski, but even more direct and brutally honest. Perhaps he should be remembered as the godfather of nanotechnology, for his Bullshit Detector was sensitive right down to the smallest, sub-molecular particle.

Chris Gibson died in a freak accident in Cayucos on July 26. Jeff McMahon has written a fine tribute to Chris in Contrary Magazine. The same issue contains a piece of Gibson's writing, "The Wages of Insomnia," which he described as follows:

"Remember that I wrote that thing without any sleep and it does have something to say but be forewarned that there is also a strong sense of beating a bush with a stick to prove you can't go around it in there."

--Langdon Winner

By Permission: technopolis

Cascade Head Revisited

Cascade Head

Along the WayRocks sans Danny

Cascade Head

Loosely Misinterpreted

The Calling of St Matthew
The Calling of St Matthew

This evening, while uploading photographs onto the Mermaid Avenue Gallery, I came across a copy of this painting stored on my computer. I found it tucked away in a file, between a photograph taken in New Orleans last Halloween, and a shot of Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson in Kingpin. I must have downloaded and saved it sometime in the past, but cannot remember when. The original, executed by Caravaggio in 1599, hangs in the Contarelli Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. I had an opportunity to see it when traveling through Europe, just before starting medical school. It depicts a dramatic and pivotal moment in the life of a man named Levi, when called upon to perform a larger task. I purchased a postcard copy of the painting, along with many others that I encountered during my trip. Unlike the handful of others that I brought home, I framed this one. Then, I placed it on the table at my bedside. Although rarely noticed, it has remained there since, through four years of medical school and now through most of residency.

On mornings when I do not feel particularly up for another day in the hospital, I may notice the copy beside my bed. I placed it there, hoping it would keep me motivated, which on occasion has proven to be the case. Most certainly, I do not aspire to lead folks to eternal salvation as a disciple of Christ. Admittedly, I would be thoroughly dubious as a sainthood candidate. Still, the image holds something for me, as like anyone else there are mornings when I would rather just stay in bed. There are also days when, because of my chosen profession, I come home from a thirty-hour shift, without having rested my head upon a pillow, much less slept. Those are the days when any source of motivation is appreciated, even from a postcard on a table.

When I first saw the original painting, I knew little of the background story. Nonetheless, the scene impressed me. To my nescient eye, the people at the table were in the middle of a poker game and not having too bad a time. Looking at it again now, I see there are no cards present on the table or in the hands of the would-be players. It also appeared to me, back then, that the person called upon is the young man with brown hair, hunched over, gaze still down upon his poker winnings. Although he has not yet looked up, something in his posture suggests that he knows the commanding figure beneath the window is gesturing for him. Yet, he hesitates to accept that his time has come; he must leave the party and go to work. Regarding the older, balding man nearby, who points at himself to ask if he might be the one they are looking for: it appeared he was some has-been just aching for another shot at the big-time. Like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, he coulda had class. He coulda been a contender.


I now know that I had the story all wrong. The old guy drawing attention to himself is the real Levi, soon to become a saint, while the young guy is simply trying to ignore the men beneath the window. Although the figure of this young man derives from an earlier print (Hans Holbein, 1545) depicting a gambler, this is not a poker game. These guys are not even sitting around the table having a good time. As the actual story goes, they are tax collectors counting out the day’s returns. The two men looking down are supposedly going to be condemned to hellfire and damnation for failing to notice that the Son of God has interrupted their bean-counting. They are in the process of blowing their shot at eternity, which is going to feel worse than a losing weekend in Vegas. In all honesty, I prefer my earlier read on the painting, loose misinterpretation it may have been.

f o u r d e a d f i s h: Recollections and Tribute


f o u r d e a d f i s h: Recollections and Tribute