June 30, 2004

The Observatorium: Part II

At least part of my intent in writing my on line journal was to put my life, my self, my politics, my art, and my comments about all of these before the public, or at least that portion of it that is on line regularly. I had hoped to find others that share my interests, and that these people might write discourse about the Varnastrama Journals, my art, and my “self” as I portray it on line. So, my goal was tangentially similar to artists Van de Camp, Dekker, and Reufelinsberger, The Observatorium, in that I had hoped to create a body of discourse about my inspection of my “self.” However, at this point in time I receive e-mail from only 2 persons who make comment on my journal entries occasionally. The only other e-mails are answers to my inquiries concerning the use of images or quotes within my journal from other sources. Thus, I receive no enlightenment through the gaze of others.

In May of this year, Blogger the host for my journal established a “comments” area that is located at the bottom of each entry. Unfortunately, the section which appears highlighted in red in my journal says “ 0 comments,” not “please write a comment here,” or “post your comments here.” Thus, to date I have received no comments on any entry through this misleading Blogger comments tool. I have written blogger about the problem and received a form e-mail thanking me for my comment about “comments.” May I say “Raspberry” to that!

I have arrived at a quandary. After nearly a year of writing in this cyber journal, I wonder about its efficacy. If, as appears to be the case, it is not at all capable of generating comment about my “self,” myself (These last two are not necessarily always one and the same.), my life, my work, my politics, there's no point to doing it. I could be spending the hours it takes to write these entries making visual art. After all, I especially enjoy working “virtually” with the Adobe suite of software on computer. It is the perfect set of tools for me as my arthritic shoulders and elbows are not required to perform in the ergonomically unsound repetitive motion (arm and hand swinging) as when I paint and / or draw in the actual physical world.
I also need to move on my search for a gay retirement community, and I want to check out THE PROFESSOR’S museum where all my journals and art work have been stashed thanks to my lovely daughter, Ruth (I use the word “lovely” facetiously). Both of these goals will require travel, and I will be away from my computer for weeks at a time. Perhaps it is time to give up on my “cybervoid” journal.

Write me!

Convince me that I am not spinning my energy out into the “cybervoid,” or for that matter, that the “cybervoid” is only a crazy notion of mine. *2

* “Letters from Voltaire,” Voltair Society of America, “http://humanities.uchicago.edu/homes/VSA/” (Wednesday, June 30, 2004, 12:41 P.M. EDT)

*2 For a thorough understanding of my idea about the “cybervoid,” see my journal entries for September 29, 2003, and October, 1, 2003,

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June 28, 2004

ART is More Important than the Sovereignty of Iraq

Yes, there are some things more important than the turn over of Sovereignty to Iraq two days early. Namely, my art and ART are more important. If we had all read contemporary literature carefully, listened to contemporary music, and carefully viewed contemporary visual arts after 9/11/2001, I know we would not be fighting this war in Iraq. I I’m exhausted by this war that isn’t a war, that everyone says we have to win, even though it isn’t “The War on Terrorism” a civilized nation should be fighting. Something is wrong with the nation’s psyche when everyone including Madalyn Albright is down playing the fact that Mr. Bush took us into a war that is the wrong war on terrorism!!!. This is not a war between conflicting civilizations, nor between the civilized, Christian West, and the Islamic "barbaric"(not my word) Middle East. It is between rival religious practices; that is Fundamentalist Christian and Fundamentalist Muslim factions of two of the worlds great religions for control of the worlds petroleum and populations. These fundamentalist factions are only a portion of the total population of both cultures. Additionally, both cultures must be classified as civilized.

If we wish to retain the classification, “civilized,” in the annals of future history, we must try to understand the Muslim world, and more importantly, we must make the greatest effort to understand our own culture, including our various religious practices, and the behaviors that grow out of these.

The Observatorium


In October of 1997, at the age of 77, I traveled to New York to view an exhibit titled The Observatorium at Art in General gallery in New York City. The exhibit was a presentation of material about the work of artists Geert Van de Camp, Andre Dekker, and Ruud Reufelinsperger in which these Dutch artists used archiving and collecting practices to present their exhibition of materials about their project also titled The Observatorium. The artists stated that The Observatorium “provides a 24-hour retreat in solitude, within the paradox of private space as a public artwork.”*1 The space was an architectural setting based on modular cubes that were designed to be taken apart and moved. The artists structured The Observatorium at the conjunction of public art used privately by individuals to create text about their experience, which was also to be observed by other persons attending an exhibit about The Observatorium. This structure implicated the intent of its creators to generate a body of art discourse and social discourse about that conjunction. Additionally, the display of the private text in the gallery space and in books, as well as the recording of the individual’s spoken discourse about his or her experience on video tape, further demonstrated the collaborating artists’ intent to grow various bodies of discourse. These various forms of discourse imply that private persons observing their inner selves can be observed during and after their self contemplation by the art world and normative social science thus subjecting the individuals to surveillance through the gaze of others.

I must interrupt this writing to go to my bridge group here at the BIG NEEDLE retirement home. Actually, I help some of the players rather than play myself, because they don’t remember what they have in their own hands, much less deduce what cards other players are holding. Please stay tuned, dear journal, because I am headed somewhere important with this stuff about The Observatorium, and I’ll continue this later tomorrow, or Wednesday.

*Ranven, Arlene, “New York Story,” In Public Art, Artists, and Audiences Transcend Geography, Sculpture, Vol 17, No 1(1998), Sculpture Magazine on, http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag98/raven/sm-raven.htm (Monday, June 28, 2004, 11:16 A.M.)

*1 Geert Van de Camp, Andre Decker, Ruud Reutelingsperger, “ Het Observatorivm,” The Observatorium: Collective Reflections
Artists in residence collaborate with Snug Harbor Cultural Center and the Public Art Fund.
Thursday, September 11, 1997 - Saturday, October 25, 1997
Art in General, 4th Floor Gallery, 79 Walker Street, New York, New York 10013

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June 23, 2004

Tillie Herr’s Tests

On May 30 I wrote that Tillie Herr had to be taken to the hospital because she was walking into walls. Well, I visited her yesterday, and she knew who I was though she was confused. She thought she was at THE BIG NEEDLE. As bad as the "Needle" can be, its not to be confused with a hospital. I spoke with a hospital nurse, and she said Tillie will have more tests, and a family member also said that they are making arrangements to send Tillie to the geriatric psychiatric unit at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia because that hospital is especially good at assessing and treating psychological problems of the elderly as well as other age groups.

Price of gas is down to $1.82

I’m still not going to buy an SUV. As I said before, I like the ION. It gets over 30 miles to the gallon on the highway. There won’t be as much storage space, but I’ll just limit the amount of junk I take with me on my travels looking at gay retirement homes. Who wants to carry 5 pieces of luggage across the country anyway.

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June 20, 2004

We Kill 22 Iraqi Civilians in Missile Strike

Angry neighbors claim that among the dead were five children and three women. The deaths were caused by two of our military missiles fired into a residential neighborhood. The second missile killed some of those trying to rescue those injured by the first.*

It is thought that over 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed to date in this war.

Rah, rah, America!

(I wonder if I shouldn’t always report such information in the first person, plural since that gives a true sense of the joint responsibility of all Americans of any persuasion whatsoever, myself included, for the Bush/Cheney “preemptive” war in Iraq.?)

  • *2

  • American Military Casualties and wounded in War on Terror as of today, Sunday, June, 20, 2004
    Quoted from Antiwar.com, http://antiwar.com/

    Total American Military Casualties in Iraq - 839
    Total Wounded in combat ------------------- 4867
    Total American soldiers treated since the “War on Terror began in Afghanistan 11,754. Ten percent of those treated have had “psychological or behavioral health issues.”

    *Patrick Cockburn, and Raymond Whitaker, “Missile strike by US kills 22 civilians in Iraq,” News, Independent.co.uk, 20 June, 2004 (visited Sunday, June 20, 2004, 11:10 A.M., EDT)

    *2 “Peace Movement, Anti War and Anti Empire Protest Art Work Resource Center,” Blood for Oil.org, http://bloodforoil.org/ (viewed Sunday, June 20, 2004, 11:22 A.M. EDT)

    June 17, 2004

    Full Week for Bill

    This week has been marked by the return of Bill Clinton with the unveiling of the double portrait of he and Hillary in the White House, and the glowing speech by Mr. Bush about the Clintons. Mr. Clinton has also begin a promotional blitz for his autobiography, My Life which is to be published June 22, 2004. He will appear on 60 Minutes, Oprah, The Today Show, and Good Morning. America during the up coming week.*1

    Simmie Knox

    As an artist, I’m most interested in the fact that the official Clinton portraits were created by Simmie Knox. Knox is the first black artist to paint an official portrait of a president. Born in Aliceville, Alabama, the son of a sharecropper in 1935, Knox is self taught and has painted portraits of well known celebrities such as Bill Cosby and Hank Aaron. The Clinton’s chose Knox because they liked his painting of Clinton appointee to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. The portraits themselves are extremely well drawn and painted, and fit the genre, paintings of US presidents, beautifully. 3

  • *1 “Booksellers Bank on My Life,” USA Today.com, Posted June, 4, 2004 and updated June 9, 2004 (viewed June, 15, 2004, 10:40 A.M. EDT)

    *2 “Simmie Knox to Paint Former University President,” University Update Homepage, The University of Albany, “http://www.albany.edu/pr/updates/feb13/table.htm (viewed June 15, 2004, 10:52 A.M. EDT)

    *3 “Officeal portraits first for White House by a black artist,” SFGate.com, AP Breaking News, PDT Washington, June 14, 2004 (viewed June 15, 2004, 10:57 A.M. EDT)

    June 15, 2004

    I’m Walking For Endurance and Peace

    Since I will be traveling back and forth to Florida, perhaps New Mexico looking at gay and lesbian retirement communities, I have embarked on a program to improve my endurance. I’ve also bought a set of light weights; 2, 3, 5, 8, 10, and 12 pounds. I have a membership at a local health club and I walk on the machines there every day. Of course, I’m only walking 10 minutes, and at a slow pace. My goal is to manage a half hour walk at a fair clip.

    My doctor says to be careful, but he approves. He also said that I shouldn’t expect a great deal of improvement at once.

    “At your age, the body is losing more cells than it can replace, Isaac.”

    “Your saying that an exercise program isn’t of much use for an 84 year old.”

    “To the contrary, it would be of great benefit. Just take it slow, and if something hurts, stop immediately. You can damage a ligament easily. Also, you have osteoarthritis, and you can aggravate it by over use of damaged joints. You should think of exercise as a way to help maintain your body’s strength.”

    “So, I can’t expect a great deal of improvement.”

    “Oh, no. You can improve your stamina. However, you must accept the fact that improvement will be gradual. Also, you will have to expect aching joints and muscle.”

    “So, if it hurts while I’m walking or exercising, I shouldn’t stop.”

    “Isaac, it depends on the kind of hurt. If you experience the burn of tired muscles, that’s good. You may be able to add a few new cells of tissue that way. If, on the other hand, you feel a sharp snap of pain or a stabbing pain in a muscle or joint, stop what you are doing immediately.”

  • *
    Yes, I hurt in places I didn’t know could hurt. However, I am walking in good company, because I think of Mahatma Ghandi walking for peace between the Hindu and Muslim factions in his “East Bengal March,” in the late 1940’s. I know I could acquire the abiltiy to walk for hours if It would help to bring peace to this sad world. So, every day when I walk, I think of Mahatma Ghandi and I pray as I walk. Unlike Mr. G. W. Bush, I actually mean that "I pray for peace."

    *Rediff on the Net, “Phillips Talbot’s fascinating Letter,” http://us.rediff.com/index.html (visited June 15, 2004, 8:43 A.M. EDT)

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    June 12, 2004

    Reagan Versus Bush, Versus Kerry

    Read Arianna Huffington’s Article!

    Go to Alternet.org., “Ronald Reagan, Hedgehogs and the November Election." Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00. Go there now!

    Ms. Huffingtron speaks to Mr. Kerry’s and our individual need, each and everyone, to develop our positive vision of America as the the place of “freedom and opportunity for all,” and to each of us taking the responsibility to do everything possible to achieve that vision*

    *The words are John Kerrry’s as quoted by Ms. Huffington.

    June 11, 2004

    More Ronald Reagan

    Ronald Reagan’s Funeral


    The media’s coverage of former President Reagan’s funeral today, and the public events leading up to it is, and has been staggering. For example, ABC News on line has coverage that includes approximately 60 links among which are “Pen Pals,” “Alzheimer’s Inevitable Path,” and “A Glance at U.S. Ronald Reagan Memorials.” I guess we needed some time off from “The War on Terror,” the war in Iraq, the miscarriage of justice at abu Ghraib prison, and the apparant responsibility for the misuse of our nations power by the current president of the United States.

    I don’t know whether or not Ronald Reagan was one of our great presidents as so many of our pundits seem to have decided during the past week. However, I know he was a good president having cleaned and polished the image of our damaged national self respect after the loss of so many of our own sons and daughters in Vietnam (How soon we forget Mr. Bush!). He grappled admirably and successfully with the Soviet Union’s Gorbachov. He also began the process by which the word “Liberal” has become a dirty word in our national politics. To be objective, his legacy concerning minorities is tangled and unclear. He granted amnesty to thousands of illegal Latino immigrants in 1986. Nonetheless, at the same time he began the process that has erroded the (at the time) flourishing civil rights movement to the point that in 2004 it is Okay for the president of the United States to propose an ammendment to the consitution that would classify a group of citizens as second class.

    Reagan in Spain

    In July of 1987 I took Rebecca, my now deceased wife, on a trip to Spain. We toured for 14 days; Madrid, Seville, Granada, Valencia, the Levant, and Barcelona. Our tour group was booked through a Spanish company and was composed of a melange of people from all over the world; Australia, Japan, The Philippines, Israel, South Africa, Argentina, to mention most, but I’m sure not all. Everyone spoke Spanish or English as well as a minimum of one other language fluently. Rebecca and I were the only tour members who spoke but one language - parochial Americans, we. One statement having many variations made by our tour mates stands out in my mind.

    “Your actor president projects a powerful and shining image of the United States to the world.”

    Perhaps in death Ronald Reagan is helping to chip a bit of the dirt off the twenty-first century tarnished Imperialistic image we have projected to the world and ourselves.

    * Dr. William J. Ball, “Images of American Political History,” Teaching Politics, “http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/” (Friday, June 12, 2004, 9:32 A.M. EDT)

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    June 09, 2004

    Arvo Part

    The Beatitudes

    I run out of energy often these days. Last evening I didn’t feel as though I could walk another step, so I set my Ipod to repeat Arvo Part’s choral setting for “The Beatitudes,” and colapsed into my old over-stuffed chair. The music is so ethereal and magnificent, the various verses seem to drop into the velvety black night of an infinite universe, whether or not science says such exists. The music is an expression of a part of the human spirit that is able to encompass God. As I listened, I heard that at least one man on this planet knows that it is possible to do only those things that are Godly and to be at peace with the universe.


    The chorus made up of children and adult male voices sang “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” and I wanted George W. Bush to be put in a cell and forced to listen to it over and over and over again. However, that would not be in the spirit of this magnificent piece of music.

    Instead, I must be the peacemaker, and I must forgive George his mistakes. I believe that it is necessary for each of us to take it upon ourselves to be the peacemakers if we wish to prevent our world from tipping into a terrorist frenzy, an intranational blood bath.

    We each must search for and/or become leaders for peace if we wish to “behold the children of God.”

    That means I vote for John Kerry in the short term.

    *musiclog.com, ©musiclog.com 1998-2003, “http://www.musicolog.com/musicolog.asp,” (June 9, 2004, 6:56 A.M. EDT)

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    June 06, 2004

    Ronald Reagan and Angels

    Ronald Reagan is Dead

    During President Reagan’s two terms in office AIDS exploded within the gay male population in the United States of America. AIDS was and still is decimating the population of Africa though the Reagon White House ignored AIDS for the most part. He, on the other hand has died of Alzheimer’s Disease, equally devastating because it gradually deminishes one's ability to remember the immediate past, then the logical thought processes, and finally it steals personhood itself. The caregiver and family must confront the gradual destruction of their loved one even as he / she continues to need physical care.

    So many of us fear Alzheimer's and AIDS that our culture is infected with our anxiety and is unable to react effectively to either disease.

    The followiing, taken from the end of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America/ Part Two: Perestroika, provides a frame for my ambiguous feelings concerning the loss of Ronald Reagan.

    PRIOR: I’m almost done....

    ...This disease will be the end of many of us, but not nearly all, and the dead will be commemorated and will struggle on with the living, and we are not going away. We won’t die secret deaths anymore. The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come.
    Bye now.
    You are fabulous creatures, each and every one.
    And I bless you. More life.
    The Great Work Begins

    Speaking of Alzheimer's

    I wrote about my next door neighbor's (Tillie Herr) difficulties on May 30th. I understand that her test results showed some "chronic" problems, and interactions among some of her medications, but not Alzheimer's. Thank goodness!

    *School of Theater at Ohio University, http://www.ohiou.edu/theater/index.html (June 6, 2004, 10:27 A.M. EDT)

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    June 02, 2004

    I’m Still Looking at Cars

    However, due to the increasing price of gas (It’s now averaging $2.12 a gallon in Lancaster), I’ve decided I don’t want an SUV. What gas guzzlers! Saturn makes the ION, a fairly large, and comfortable sedan that has a good deal of storage in the trunk. It gets much better mileage than does the VUE. I’ll just have to be contented with something smaller. Besides it will be just little old me traveling cross country, and the fewer bags I have to carry the better.

    Yesterday My Blog Disappeared / Today it’s Back

    Blogger said that it did not exist on the server. I panicked! I didn’t worry about my hundreds of missing pages. Instead, I became paranoid. I worried about Mr. Ashcroft and the CIA. Were they after me for being so angry with Mr. Bush? Was it because I channel Stephen Gulliver, a gay man from 2024, an alternate reality in which theLehigh Valley Mall near Allentown has just been blown up by terrorists?

    Today I’m more rational. However, it’s a sign of the times and this incredibly mismanaged presidency that I immediately began to worry about my 84 year old carcass being endangered by my government.

    At the same time, I think there should be a Blooger emergency telephone number to call in such situations.

    *Saturn.com Showroom, http://www.saturn.com/saturn/index.jsp?nav=1&flashOK=no, © 2004 Saturn Corporation (June 2, 2004, 6:14 A.M. EDT)

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