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Friday 4 December 2009

Ticky Tacky


File:Charles W. Bartlett - 'Surf-Riders, Honolulu'., 1919, Color woodcut, Honolulu Academy of Arts.jpg

Life should have enough arresting moments
to create at least a tropism in Xanadu

between the bamboo swizzle sticks
and the sarongs soaked in lizard spittle

revolving ceiling fans banana trees
birds of paradise and pineapple daiquiris

but little is expected by those who
dwell in the environs of the lawn bowling court

for them it is a perennial Mondo Samarkanda
a pointed tin roof above cute wood shingles

the ghost of Reagan bumbling through the palms
amid a sunset out of Papua New Guinea

like a great snork bird homing in on orange juice

File:'Hawaii, The Surf Rider', woodblock print by Charles W. Bartlett, 1921, Honolulu Academy of Arts.jpg

Surf-Riders, Honolulu: Charles W. Bartlett, 1919 (Honolulu Academy of Arts)
The Surf-Rider, Hawaii: Charles W. Bartlett, 1921 (Honolulu Academy of Arts)


TC said...

This post is inspired in part by the nice reception to Charles W. Bartlett's woodblock prints on the previous post.

Lanny Quarles, always on the mark, said of that work: "It looks like Moebius, or rather M looks like B? Seems to have a very nice take on the ukiyo-e style..that late 19th century uptake from the japanese arts was phenomenally useful. the flatness gives it paradoxically a conceptual depth... a creamy dreaminess."

On this post Bartlett is seen in his Surf Period.

Flatness and creamy dreaminess. An Englishman, trained in the French academic studio style in the Impressionist period, becoming eventually one of the finest woodblock print artists in the ukiyo-e "floating-world" style.

A bit about Bartlett. His first wife and their child died in childbirth. Grieving he wandered Europe. He built a career and remarried to the heiress of a Scots shipbuilding fortune. Traveling to the Far East in 1913 on his second wife's money, he encountered the Japanese publisher Shozaburo Watanabe, who had been creating reproduction prints of ukiyo-e artists. Bartlett had probably had some prior acquaintance with the late 19th c. "Orientalist" tradition under his teacher in France, Boulanger. Watanabe had an interest in making new, original prints using the traditional ukiyo-e production method, involving collaboration of designer, block carver, and printer. He took a look at Bartlett's watercolours and suggested they create woodblock prints. On Watanabe's instigation, Bartlett took formal training in the use of the Japanese style brush. Together they made several groups of prints. The first group included six scenes from India, two of which are the images on Mnemonic, the post below this one.

Bartlett ended up settling in Hawaii and becoming a happy printmaker with a hermitage in a lush green valley. And kept on looking for that wave.

gamefaced said...


TC said...


And that stately pleasure-dome wasn't built in a day.

Must have taken oh, at least two weeks...

TC said...

...And while we are at play: I fear I've mispelt half my title ('twas late).

Meant that be be "Tiki", as in this Big Tiki Item.

Mariana Soffer said...

Lovely picture, and nice but at least for me kindofcomplicated to understand text, many english words I did not know, but that is good I am learning.
Regarding the poem:
I think that aspiring for xanadu is kind of a resignation in life.

And I like the story from where this post was inspired, I like knowing that kind of things, they help me understand better.


TC said...

Thanks Mariana.

A few hints about the poem. The setting is approximate Southern California Generic; the specific locale, Santa Barbara and its environs. Samarkand is a neighbourhood in Santa Barbara. In the poem I imagine that Xanadu is also a neighbourhood; in fact it's not; it is as you know a mythic place confabulated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Orson Welles (et al.) out of the name of the Chinese city Shangzu.

The exotic Samarkand of the spice trade routes and other such mystery names of romance and poetry became part of the general unreal creamy/dreamy Southern California cultural landscape a century ago. Here I imagine Santa Barbara as the epicenter of that slightly chintzy paradisal SoCal dream of Tiki Tacky houses and palm trees whose fronds and fruits are made of money.

The ghost of Reagan in the poem is just that, the phantom spectre of the ex president, who dwelt at times during his presidency and then through to the end of his life in a ranch above Santa Barbara. One day when we were living in Mission Canyon the bells of Mission Santa Barbara rang out melodiously at noon to celebrate the occasion of Reagan doing lunch with his guest Queen Elizabeth of England. It was a little like the famous Field of the Cloth of Gold in which the Tudor King of England Henry VIII met up amid great prefabricated splendour with his counterpart the grand and proud French monarch Francis I... if, that is, the earlier occasion had been produced by Walt Disney.


Thanks for this lovely "tropism in Xanadu" piece w/ such further words on Bartlett (I was wondering who he was, imagining he might be related to the same Bartletts who had that collection of great 19th c. paintings at the Chicago Art Institute (but no it seems). I was just looking at a piece in yesterday's NY Times about the revival of ancient Hawaiian surfboards now going on -- called alaias, here's a photo from Bishop museum in Honolulu -- -- so this seems to keep that all going on still. . . .

meanwhile, another installment from the front --


grey light coming into sky above shadowed
ridge, white circle of moon above branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

what use is it then, since
structure or feature

can or “must” be one-sided,
objectivity, in work

white cloud in pale blue sky above point,
tree-lined green of ridge across from it



ps. here's the link to the Times article, if anyone's interested. . . .

TC said...


Those alaias look like forever.

Are you riding one?

Stay on that channel. Thanks again. And for the poem; on a cold night, we can feel the light.

aditya said...

Just a quick note.

I am exercising my membranes.

Will get back to you. In a while.



Thanks Tom, how great to think/say that alaias "look like forever" (wish I WAS riding one, I think they'd work in the channel (waves in one of those films looked like waves we see here (more or less). . . .

Meanwhile, here's another installment (re: channel) for you ---


grey whiteness of clouds above shadowed
green ridge, blue jay calling on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

to reflect thought on this,
about only its sound

situation, too specific as
time of day, morning

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
white cloud in pale blue sky on horizon


~otto~ said...

The prints are great. And thanks for the trip down memory lane. Oh, the '80s: Xanadu and Reagan. Olivia Newton-John was my first crush. She was the orange juice and I the snork bird.

TC said...


Your diurnal poem gifts along with my nocturnal visits to your blog are permitting me to inkle a bit less dimly (bulb goes on) the uses of the repeatable and non repeatable units in these looped/cycled iterative landscape meditations, with the second and thirds of each four sets of units withdrawing a distance for consideration/reflection but the bracketing "outside" (first and fourth) units keeping in motion the images that will then flow and illuminate back and forward to the succeeding and following pieces in the sequence, as a kind of controlled flooding across the channels. (The two-line units have a linear horizontal "look" which could suggest channels, or perhaps boards in channels.)

Tempting to see the possibilties in the sequence for keeping it going "like forever" as an infinitely nonrepeating pattern, a Penrose structure extended in time and over time, not unlike these magnificent quasicrystalline medieval mosque ceiling tile designs, created a millennium before the first gleam in Penrose's eye.

Not until the 1970s did the British mathematician and cosmologist become the first to describe these geometric designs in the West. Quasicrystalline patterns, sets of interlocking units whose pattern never repeats, even when extended infinitely in all directions; possessing thus a special form of symmetry. A controlled flooding of the channels.

So that readers may follow your channel on their own alaias this would be a convenient beach-break . (And that link is now on the left margin here too, provided, Steve, you don't mind occasionally hosting escaped inmates of this forgotten island colony?)

TC said...

And speaking of kaleidoscopic designs...It has taken the ever astute Otto to remind me of what Gamefaced had earlier sussed out re. the period setting of this poem, which is of course dated by the "tropism" reference to the Olivia N-J number, popular under the spot-lit, rat-infested fortune palms in 1980, beginning of the Decade of Great Emptiness.

Here in homage to Gamefaced and Otto (name that tune) we see the period in its full polyester flowering, ELO courting ONJ in, yes, Xanadu .

The overhead kaleidoscope into which ONJ is upwardly abducted at the end appears, if somewhat less nonrepeatably quasicrystalline in structure than medieval mosque ceiling patterns, than at least cooler and a bit more hygienic than the pit into which Sigourney Weaver would have to plunge, pregnant with the even worse epoch to follow. ( But of course cosmic justice murmurs from the wings that as a child of the relatively faux innocent Seventies, ONJ had been nowhere near as bad inside.)

And last but not least, since not only have you, Otto, mentioned it, but, speaking of channels, my back channels are awash with confusion on the subject (keeping my elves from their appointed seasonal rounds), it may be interesting to some to enquire independently into this colloquium on the burning question, what is a snork bird? .

Some great minds are at work here. A sample exchange.

I thought the Snork was the bird that brought baby home after the bees had sex with your mommy and daddy because they loved each other.

I thought snork was the sound Knort made while she slept.

TC said...

Oh, yes, the kaleidoscopic ceiling in the ONJ video is the Xanadu pleasure-dome, right.

Speaking of pleasure-domes, Aditya, I am happy about your membranes. I suspect the air is much better there than here.

I imagine you as living on the wrong side of the tracks in Shangri-La (??).

Do you think if Kublai Khan had had too much idle time on his hands -- well, obviously he must have -- he'd have taken up blogging, had blogging then existed?


Dear Tom,,
Thanks for your extended thoughts on the work going on here -- and what a coincidence (!) to see your grey photos/poem just now this morning, seeing what it is I see and here (and have 'transcribed' into today's poem, the next 'installment' in what does seem to be an unending work -- today is page number 607 in what I'm calling Temporality, which picks up where Remarks on Color / Sound (1,000 pages, same 'shape' on page) left off -- and that picking up where HUMAN / NATURE (1,000 pages) and CLOUD / RIDGE (474 pages) and REAL (474 pages) left off -- all of these written in consecutive days. . . . So your thoughts on "quasicrystalline medieval mosque ceiling designs" strikes a certain chord. So yes, I'm pleased to have "escaped inmates from this forgotten island colony" visit what's going on there -- maybe will be of interest to someone. . . .

meanwhile, here's this morning's ---


grey whiteness of clouds above shadowed
ridge, red-tailed hawk calling in left
foreground, sound of waves in channel

this relation, a spatially
bounded system which

is assumed to be the cause,
quoted, of reference

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
sunlit clouds in pale blue sky above it


~otto~ said...

ELO! Snorks! I need to lay on my stomach two inches from the TV screen and eat a bowl a cereal that's bigger than my head. Right now.

gamefaced said...

TC..'I thought the Snork was the bird that brought baby home after the bees had sex with your mommy and daddy because they loved each other.'
this comment made my tuesday smiley : )

otto..i've been thinking i need to like, go on a cruise or day spa trip or something how 'adults' do to escape but no, i think i want you to save me a spot on hard floor pour myself a heap of cinnamon life and watch smurfs till nap time.

gamefaced said...

oh, and my dad took the kid-me way back when to see the snorks on ice at the capital center. be jealous

; )

Robb said...

gamefaced: cinnamon life is the bestest

gamefaced said...

too, it leaves the best cinnamon milk..

TC said...

...and when you finish a big bowlful you can call 911 and ask for and maybe get an escort to the Lil Wayne concert...

TC said...

...although I'm not really sure that's what "adults" do to escape, gamefaced, it's just an idea I got from Robb Todd's blog...

(When I think "escape", these days, the word that comes back is "die"-- have to be careful not to type that into the verification box... no, wait, I don't have one.)

gamefaced said...

i can see how lil wayne mode would be synonymous with death, albeit a metronomed escape, complete with gangsta grills and spinners.