Mystery Poo, Marcus Aurelius, & Obituaries

Yesterday I discovered a shit on the roof of my car. It was 6 AM on Saturday I was about to make my short drive to the gym, while my family continued to sleep. I was connecting the iPhone to its charger when I noticed something odd peering through the sunroof. It looked like bird droppings but, upon closer inspection outside the car, I saw something that resembled the poop of a grown man. I proceeded to the gym, imagining those lights that the cops in the seventies placed on their unmarked squad cars. 

The whole time I lifted weights, the possibilities were floating through my head:

  • Neighborhood teenage punk degenerates, squatting over my vehicle. And that naturally takes my mind to Walter Sobchak and the fine art of retribution…. But that doesn’t make sense, there would be dents on the hood and roof - at very least some foot prints.
  • A disgruntled past employee dressed in burglar attire and black latex gloves, carefully placing dog feces on my vehicle and then disappearing into the night.
  • The prehistoric screech of a reanimated pterodactyl dropping dirty bombs over my vehicle.
 The Big Lebowski, 1998 (Coen Brothers)

The Big Lebowski, 1998 (Coen Brothers)

When I returned home, I got the hose out and asked my wife to inspect the mystery poo, before I blasted it away with water. She quickly determined a neighborhood cat had vomited on my car. 

 Social Media panic during the great 5 minute outage of 2017

Social Media panic during the great 5 minute outage of 2017

Later in the day, I was locked out of my instagram account - I panicked a little. Reinstalled the app on my phone. Attempted to access Facebook. Tried to reset my password. Went to my home computer, instead of just my phone. Nothing would work. Then I visited twitter and quickly realized that it was a widespread outage for all users.

In both instances, I assumed worst case scenarios and also placed emphasis on my personal impact, rather than laughing at the silliness of uncontrollable situations. It takes a great deal of mental strength to avoid burning energy on nonsense like this - it is pervasive in modern life. And while I was fixated on a phantom turd, the people of Texas were experiencing a hurricane (aka an actual catastrophe). 

Looking back to Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome from 161 to 180, you realize that there is nothing new under the sun, “Here is the rule to remember in the future, When anything tempts you to be bitter: not, 'This is a misfortune' but 'To bear this worthily is good fortune.'


At the end of the day, Janet and I plopped onto the couch and watched a documentary called Obit, about obituary writers for the New York Times. It was exactly the perspective that I needed. If you don’t watch the film, I would strongly encourage you to read the obituary of John Fairfax - who oared across two oceans, attempted suicide by jaguar, apprenticed with pirates, and was a professional gambler. Trust me, that is just a quick overview - his life closely resembles a Wes Anderson screenplay - the guy was extraordinary.

I’m after a battle with nature, primitive and raw
— John Fairfax

Video: Julian Schnabel "In the Course of Seven Days"

This is such a well done snapshot of an artist. Julian Schnabel has captured my idea of a perfect studio space - open air and tropical with plenty of room to experiment. Favorite quote, "And maybe poetry was something that [God] left out and he left that for humans to do." If you are lacking inspiration and feeling bogged down, this video will kick the rust off.

An intimate portrait of the controversial artist and film director, Julian Schnabel, whose hybrid approach to painting keeps him at the forefront of the contemporary art scene.

Andy Warhol & the Power of Intuition

 Mario Suriani, Associated Press Photo

Mario Suriani, Associated Press Photo

During the 1960s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered.
I am a deeply superficial person
And I just hate the Trumps because they never bought my Trump Tower portraits. And I also hate them because the cabs on the upper level of their ugly Hyatt Hotel just back up traffic so badly around Grand Central now and it takes me so long to get home.
— Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol is not remembered as a sensitive artist. I believe that he made a conscious decision to hide behind an armor of apathy. Reading his quotes, Warhol makes it sound like he craps out easy art for the selfish purpose of fame, fortune, and notoriety. But if you imagine the wigs, glasses, omnipresent cameras, and aloof wonderment as a protective tortoise shell for a gentle soul, Andy Warhol becomes something entirely different. Warhol was a master printer and even taught Robert Rauschenberg how to screenprint but he acted like he was a detached Henry Ford type figure, only interested in cranking out flat, vapid duplicates. If you see his work in a book, you might think it is a) plagiarism and b) just the same thing over and over.

Upon closer inspection, repetition is where Andy's brilliance shone brightest - he would take a well known image, make it his own, and then iterate - making experimental alterations every single time. One of my favorite bodies of work is his Death and Disaster series - it included race riots, car accidents, and electric chairs. It reflects a society more fixated on violent imagery and salacious headlines than human mortality - and the work only becomes more interesting with the modern 24 hour news cycle and the internet. The variation of the prints also plays with the distorting power of perception and interpretation.

Finally, to highlight Warhol's masterful precognitive abilities, take a few moments to closely investigate the details of this screenprint of O.J. Simpson from 1977.

Process: Preparing a Reference Photograph

A great deal of my paintings are based on Cartes de Visite (CdV) from the 19th Century - the easiest way of thinking of these is Victorian trading cards, thin photographs mounted on something akin to illustration or mat board. CdVs were handed out like business cards and served as an early incarnation of social media. There were sometimes adornments like calligraphed signatures, foil stamps, or gold edges. The subjects look stoic and expertly coifed - a contrast to the current overabundance of casually snapped smartphone selfies. I roam around online until I locate a CdV that grabs my attention and then do some work in Photoshop, preparing the image for projection, pencil drawing transfer, and then painting.  Here's a quick glimpse at the Photoshop manipulation. The changes are subtle but I am always focused on eliminating unnecessary details without losing anything that anchors the portrait or skews it too far into abstraction.