Publications
A New Art Aloud: On Margaret Noble Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

Margaret-Noble-Head-in-the-Sand t670(San Diego Reader June 8, 2016)

Every scene in a drama, according to the late director, Mike Nichols, is either a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation. He added, as a footnote, the same is true in life. The thrill, or the chaos, is that these three passages may occur in any order. Start, stop, go back, restart, leap forward, keep going, or not. Form follows helter-skelter. So it may also be true of the skittish interactivity experimental artists ask of audiences.

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Consume, Discard, Repeat: The Industrial Landscapes of Kim Reasor Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

Winner Takes All 2015-1024x763(San Diego Reader June 1, 2016)

Virtually no one ogles the industrial vistas of Southern California. Those unsightly realms where giant cranes stipple the skyline. Where ship containers are stacked unemptied of their new Curvy Barbie dolls for Wal-Mart. Where thickets of brightly painted gas pipes crowd the dead spaces beneath Interstate overpasses. Where electrical towers look like praying mantises and factories like Tinker Towns. Reasor, who is a young-looking 50 and who grew up in Denver under its “dramatic skies and high-altitude light,” has strikingly intense eyes; she has a numinous, intense gaze, seeming to record and compose whatever she beholds.

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A Secular Founding Father: On Ian Ruskin's "Thomas Paine" Print E-mail
Criticism

Thomas Paine(The Truth Seeker May, 2016)

The one- or two-hour biography, whether film or play or documentary, is fraught with landmines: the portrayal reduces the life, redacts the ideas, rings the subject’s good bells, tosses in a token failure or two, and pumps up an artificial destiny. All was meant to be, we see in hindsight, ’tis great-man history. Such unnuanced bios—I’m thinking of films like Ali and Steve Jobs—re-mythologize the life to salvage one on whom history has been confused or ungenerous. We make a flawed man great again if we carefully rehab him. Think of the slow Teddy-Bearing of George W. Bush.

There may be no better candidate for reconstitution than Thomas Paine, secularism’s favorite anti-British British hero of American independence, perhaps the finest polemicist our republic has ever known. During his life (1737-1809), Paine was loved and reviled, the latter, the loudest. In his sixties and an American citizen, he became the “filthy little atheist” and the “devil incarnate,” a pariah to the cause of liberty. One obituary said Paine “had lived long, done some good, and much harm.” His haters’ wrath centered on The Age of Reason (1794-6), a lucid refutation of religion. In days of yore when dissent in print or speech led to the guillotine, Paine disavowed all creeds and clerical authority, judged the Bible a scurrilous tale of a cruel deity, and thought Jesus Christ just another wayward stargazer. A deist, Paine marveled at the Creation and lovingly called the Creator, God.

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The Taxman Cometh Not Print E-mail
Articles

george-carlin-says-tax-the-churches-politics-taxes-politics-1370663994(The Truth Seeker May, 2016)

Scripturally Based Hostility

One day in 1991, the head of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, along with his top lieutenant, Marty Rathbun, were having lunch in Washington DC, not far from the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service. Five years earlier, when Miscavige had seized hold of the church’s leadership following the death of their potentate, L. Ron Hubbard, he inherited the organization and its colossal debt to the IRS—at the time, estimates were as high as $1 billion; Scientology’s reserves were just 12% of that—as well as a war of denunciation both sides waged on the other that was years in the making.

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Between Words & Images Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

thumbnail 01(San Diego Reader February 3, 2016)

Now open at Cedar and Kettner downtown is yet another San Diego monument to the commute: a $24 million, trolley-side, ten-story (three levels below ground, seven above), 645-space parking structure, bestowing on County Administration Center employees slots by day and on Little Italy revelers slots by night.

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I Don't Know Why I'm a Musician Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

Joe-Garrison t670(San Diego Reader December 24, 2015)

Joe Garrison is a musical survivalist. The 64-year-old jazz and new music composer has shaped his artistic life to favor more beginnings than ends. Like his hero, Igor Stravinsky, he’s learned that to reinvent himself by adapting to new musical ideas elicits in him the highest pleasure. He does so despite having been lured by the sirens of L.A. and New York. Staying put—all local artists know—can be detrimental to the ego. “If someone hears you’re from San Diego,” he says, “what they’re really telling you is ‘Oh, you’re from San Diego.’” Ah, the embarrassment of being from here and stuck here forever.

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On the Best American Essays 1995: Man Versus Boy Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

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m7781-spiderman-spiderboy(Essay Daily December 16, 2015)

The surprise? That I single out the male authors. That I count twenty authors total, thirteen men. That my distaste is palpable. Find them sexist, show-off-y, self-infatuated. Was unprepared for such a response. In me. What the passage of twenty years since I first read these pieces can do. It’s the self-righteousness that’s so bothersome. The wooliness of having put it behind me or I have no doubts so no reflection turns the bearing as though the past were father to the man. How glossily several calibrate their inner Brett Easton Ellis in whom the boy demands—be he PFC, rookie, deckhand, red-shirt—to ring the remembrance.

What I mean is. John Turturro in Barton Fink. Michael Keaton in Birdman. The boy in the man who is ever what he was. Who LP’s Sticky Fingers or Blonde on Blonde with unclogged reverence. Boys in men other men admire. Who reel highlights, who wash-and-wield a Buick 6, who used to be, if not are, some woman’s used-to-be. Those literary varietals—the stooge incarnate or the male ingénue. Whose sense of self comes at the boy’s behest.

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