A Torturously Turbulent Friday Afternoon at the Haikulodeon

 

Here’s this week’s heap of haikus:

The Persimmon tree,
bends only enough for me
to pluck off some fruit.

Sakai Hōitsu (Japanese, 1761–1828) | The Persimmon Tree


tanka haiku:

“That’s me with Santa”…
“Why are you on a horse and
not on a reindeer?”

Grandma paused and then whispered,
“Dear, no-one sits on Rudolph.”


The sun was stymied,
but blue skies infused the clouds,
a dark hope prevailed.

Glorious sunset,
you’ve taken my breath away
and restored my hope.


Though fragile hearts need
whispered blessings, they also
need your steady hand.

Compassion for those
that never got sick … Old age
will be quite a shock.


Sometimes we forget;
before we ski down mountains,
we first must climb them.


The light from my room
spills onto a snowy roof,
Icy shadows flee.


With cabin fever,
cedar doctor, otherwise
you’ll pine for a cure.


double haiku:

When I was young, I
looked in strangers’ faces to
find the familiar.

Now that I am old,
I look in strangers’ faces
to find the unique.


tanka haiku: When snow turns to ice,
and bitter winds sting my face,
I think of baseball.

For Spring keeps getting nearer,
and “Play Ball!” will soon be heard.


tanka haiku:

All men were once boys,
All leaders, once followers,
Wise men, ignorant.

    Neither resent nor regret,
all will soon enough be frail.


Dimly lit streetlamps
dot a snowy path that winds
through Riverside Park.


Silhouettes of trees
turn my river view into
a jigsaw puzzle.


What’s more exhausting
than having unlimited
opportunities?


Don’t resist urges
from impulse or desire …
they will point the way.


Winter snow again,
will blow again, your car will
need a tow again.


How her heart would ache
in the middle of the night …
yet, be healed by dawn.


 A wellspring of joy,
lies within each of our hearts,
waiting to be tapped.

Since the day we met,
the creases formed by your smile,
haved stayed in my thoughts.


 A downtown cafe …
lovers cuddle in a booth,
and share some pasta.

Outside my window,
furious snowflakes mingle,
fearful pigeons roost.


 When you are away,
I sit and stir my soup and
listen to old songs.


There is an old tree
that knows my heartaches and has
heard my confessions.


Though old of age, he
felt he still had tales to tell,
and trails to wander.

Comfy and cozy
and wrapped in a patchwork quilt,
she sipped hot cocoa.


A Winter’s kindness.
Kindling gathered, I light
small fires of hope.



Sitting quietly,
pondering vicissitudes,
sure works up a thirst!


Cold wind, freezing sleet,
and an angry dog make me
wish I’d stayed in bed.


Lying in a field,
your ancestors looked at clouds
and dreamt of your life.


Seldom will you see
a second thought that dances
in the morning breeze.


A doe hid behind
a fir tree’s branches, and watched
two children playing.


My wish for you is:
Your quest never ends, and your
heart ever widens.


Sometimes an echo
from a life you left behind,
will catch up to you.


What you are drawn to,
has within it, the lesson
that you need to learn.


Walking through meadows
just before sunrise, is worth
some wet trouser cuffs.


‘Polar bears’, she said,
‘are the largest carnivals.’
(She meant carnivores.)


The fabric of Life;
From order to chaos,
we slowly unravel.

A nurse hovers o’er
an unresponsive patient.
Will she let him go?


You won’t always know
when you have stepped from a field
into a meadow.


He sits quietly
on a stool in a diner
and stares at some soup.

Walking the shoreline,
the fog envelopes me and
I absorb the calm.


When you are taken
out of your routine; rethink,
resolve, then re-set.



=============

This week’s bonus material:  A spoof of performance art from 1993

I wrote and performed this play in 1993, at the New Hope Performing Arts Festival, in New Hope, PA.  I dedicate the play to the late Robin Larsen, a good friend and the Executive Director of the Festival, who, among other things, helped me to round up the 200 lbs. of sweeping compound that I needed for the show. – M.T.S.     

But You Can Call Me … Art

By Michael Tracy Smith – c 1993

                 =================================================
Production notes

Playbill credits should be listed as follows:

MIKLOS PROVOCATIVE
is an artist of indeterminate origin.  Although most bios list Picabia, Ohio as his hometown, Provocative himself, in his now famous lecture at Columbia University in 1986, stated that his birthplace is irrelevant, since he considers himself, a “biological readymade.” Miklos attended a number of art schools every bit as good as the Sorbonne in Paris.  His artistic daring has resulted in many brilliantly inspired, though occasionally unfortunate, (and often disastrous) collaborations. He still regularly receives hate mail from both the Dahlai Lama and Rush Limbaugh … Although a cease and desist order has kept Mother Teresa from further harassment. His early conceptual work includes a site specific celebration of Perestroika in 1989, where, as homage to both George Washington and Anton Chekov, he covered the U.N. with 600 tons of cherries. His choice of the U.N. was significant, because Shirley Temple had once worked there, and the cherry is the fruit in the drink named after her.  The tragic drowning of 27 diplomats from Chad was the unfortunate by-product of an enormous and completely unexpected surge of semi-gelatinous cherry juice. The following year, in a plea for greater awareness of the environment, Miklos wrapped up the entire city of Springfield, Illinois in a giant brown grocery bag. The courts later ruled that the surprisingly large number of asphyxiations came not from any miscalculations on Miklos’s part, but rather from the generally held assumption that more of the populace would be willing and/or able to punch their way out. A short time after that, Miklos left the conceptual field and his work became more performance oriented.  He immersed himself in Manhattan’s East Village lifestyle. He developed a female skinhead alter ego named Regina Upright, and began a new phase of his career by screaming poetry in underground coffee houses, while pistol-whipping Yuppie slave boys dressed in latex diapers. But after a few months, Miklos grew bored, so he let his hair grow and went back to being just plain Provocative. He re-emerged on the International Art scene in 1992 with a performance at the Louvre, marking the opening of the new West wing. There, in tribute to French urchins, he attempted, within a single day’s time, to read “Les Miserables” and urinate on all the major works of art. This was acknowledged by many as a watershed event in his career thus far. At present, Miklos, while not the first artist to have his sculptures completely destroyed just prior to an exhibition, has become the first artist to actually go ahead and display (and sell) the now non-existent work. “Remembrance of Things Cast” has been his most successful, if least visible work, so far. Mr. Provocative’s daring leap into the arena of performance art continues to push the envelope to the cutting edge.  Flush with success, and undaunted by recent adversity, Miklos Provocative intends to keep spewing forth Art as only he can, from the very bottom of his inner self.

MICHAEL TRACY SMITH – (Creative Consultant) – Mr. Provocative wishes to acknowledge Mr. Smith’s contribution to tonight’s show.

                    ===================================================

(Insert for the Playbill)

AT THIS PERFORMANCE:
The role of TERRA FIRMA,
usually played by DIRT*

will be played by:
SWEEPING COMPOUND*

*Members of IOTA –
(Inanimate Objects Theatrical Association)

                             ===============================================

                                        But You Can Call Me … Art
(Upon entering, each audience member is handed a small plastic scoop.)
At Rise: A small table is Stage Right. On top of the table is a large glass which is half-filled with Fruit Punch Gatorade. A tall stool is slightly to the left of center-stage. The stage itself has been totally covered with a large amount of a dark-colored sweeping compound in such a way as to go almost un-noticed by the audience. Performance Artist, Miklos Provocative makes an unassuming entrance from the back of the house. He does not go onto the stage. Instead, he addresses the audience from the front-most part of the left aisle. Miklos speaks with a slight accent of indeterminate origin.

                                                                  Miklos
Some would say that by its very nature, Art is meant to be unsettling. A mirror held up to the gritty, frustrating, screwed-up world we live in. Others would argue that Art, is meant to be beautiful, uplifting and inspirational. Still others argue that Art must be political. Well cripes, you can’t have everything. Welcome to my smoothly a-political, ugly, little show. For you first-timers in the audience, who are unfamiliar with my work, I am Miklos Provocative. I am the foremost Heterosexual Performance Artist of my generation … now that the other guy died. If you have never attended a performance art piece before, and think of it in terms of some grotesque, yodeling trans-sexual, pouring butterscotch sauce on them-selves, while inserting genetically altered asparagus tips into gaping orifices of unbelievable dimensions, let me reassure you. I am not like that … in public. As an artist, I have been most fortunate. My works have been enthusiastically received throughout many parts of the world. As most of you who are familiar with my recent work know, this is my first performance since… Well, since my last performance … which, unfortunately, went “a bit differently” than I had planned. It was last October, when I had the privilege to appear at the Public Theatre in New York. That performance was extremely stressful right from the start. To begin with, I had been working for many months with a Filipino psychic surgeon in order to prepare myself for the climax of the performance, which was to be the admittedly ambitious task of removing my lower vertebrae; it was supposed to be a metaphor for the religious right’s spineless policy toward the Arts. Well, Opening Night was going along perfectly; I had begun with my renowned combination of auto-erotic, Zen poetry tickling and Tibetan tongue piercing, which I call: “Haiku-tchy-koo-tchy-koo!” (Pause) Well, it’s not so funny when my tongue is bleeding … Anyway, just because I was running an hour and a half behind schedule, some surly representative from the theatrical technician’s union, confronted me at intermission, and demanded I comply with some completely unreasonable time constraints. Well, trying very hard to please everyone, I made the decision to speed things along by drinking some of that stuff they use to de-bone chickens … I don’t have to tell you, it was a mistake. It completely melted my skeleton. Fortunately, I was standing in an over-sized petri dish at the time… I spent the next month and a half impersonating Silly Putty.  But I’m proud to say that the show did go on. I became the longest running rubberized object ever at the Public Theatre. I beat out Mandy Patinkin by a week. Of course, impersonating Silly Putty did affect the verbal nature of my show. It became extremely cerebral for me, and a much more contemplative type of show for the audience. In a way, it was good. They were forced to become more involved in the artistic process. Which, being New York, meant that I was held over for three weeks. The closing night operation in which my frame was virtually re-constructed using high grade titanium, received a rave review from the Times. But that was to be expected. After all, I’m the love child of Julian Schnabel and Wendy Wasserstein … Just kidding … Seriously, the reviews, if I do say so, were excellent.  The media really understands my work. Even though I was unconscious throughout the entire performance. Most critics are very intuitive … Now, I don’t want to tell you too much about this new piece, other than to say, that I feel I’ve reached a new plateau. I call my latest character “Performance Arthur”, but, as he himself would say: “You Can Call Me Art.”

As Miklos exits, he notices a sign by the door. It says: EXIT THROUGH THE DOOR. Miklos alters it to read, EXIST THROUGH THE DOUR. As the house lights dim, we hear the musical theme song from “Run, Buddy, Run”, (a late ’60’s sitcom), as performed by Al Hirt. The music ends. Then, as the lights fade up, we hear:

                                                       Voice-Over (ala Public TV)
This performance was underwritten by a grant from the New Hope Performing Arts Festival. Additional funding provided by theatre-goers like you, and The Pathetic, Starving Artists Foundation, who reminds you that – (Voice-over changes tone completely) Vincent Van Gogh died penniless and destitute, without selling a single work of art in his lifetime. Now his paintings sell for millions!! Isn’t it a crying shame your ancestors didn’t buy this artist’s works while he was still alive? You’d be worth millions!! But instead you have to make due with a lousy three digit checking account. Thanks, Grand-dad. But wait! You can change your family’s destiny right now, while there’s still time! You can take advantage of our pathetic, starving artist sale! These pathetic starving artists are painting pictures that aren’t worth a dime now, but when they’re dead, they could possibly increase in value by up to 540 thousand percent!! That’s right, buy now, and reap unconscionable benefits later! Take a look for yourselves! These pathetic young artists don’t have money for food or clothing. They’re so weak, they can barely hold a brush in their hands. They’re destitute and that’s your good fortune. Come by the Ho-ho-kus Holiday Inn in Downtown Parsippany, New Jersey on Saturday between 3 and 4 AM and you’ll see an amazing collection of the finest cutting edge work by America’s greatest pathetic starving artists. And just think, the way American Culture recycles its nostalgia, in a couple of years, the Eighties will be back! Then you can dump your paintings onto a ridiculously over-inflated art market and make completely obscene profits! Remember, buy now and cash in after the funeral. The Pathetic Starving Artists Foundation is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Committee to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts.

Miklos “in character” as “Arthur“, enters pushing a broom, which he uses to clear a very small, yet discernable path for himself. The back of his jacket reads, “Context”. and the T-shirt he has on underneath it reads, “Content”. He stops sweeping for a moment.

                                                                    Arthur
Performance Art is sweeping the theatre.
(He resumes sweeping.) Tonight, I want to sweep you up with the passion of my thoughts and the intensity of my emotions. I want to sweep your imaginations out of your chairs and give them a ride through the roller-coaster of my heart and mind. I want to sweep the dust from the darkened corners of your brains and light up new pathways of interest. (He stops sweeping) Ehhh, but, what’s the chance of that happening? How about: I want to momentarily distract you from one or possibly two of the pettiest annoyances of your existence? More realistic? I’ll do my best. (He continues sweeping) … What is Life? … What is Art? Why is one constantly imitating the other and vice versa? … I have been thinking a helluva lot lately, which is not all that unusual for me. For most of my life I have been an obsessively curious individual; For example, I was the kid in school who wanted to know why it wasn’t called the Street Lawrence Seaway … The fact is, I’ve always tried to figure out to my complete understanding, any and every thing I have ever encountered. Now, while this tends to fill one’s brain up with a diverse amount of unrelated, technically useless, information,  it also has its benefits. For instance, a couple of years ago, I must have reached a critical mass of some sort, because I came to the semi-startling realization that I knew how things worked. Not literally everything, of course, but I had a general enough understanding of the basic fundamentals to be able to figure out why things are the way they are, work the way they work, and turn out the way they do. This doesn’t make me a genius, or even necessarily intelligent, it just makes me crazy enough to imagine that there’s a rational explanation to the universe… Hmm, maybe that’s why I’m depressed … But I think most of us are ruled by our intellects, whether we admit it or not. For me, it has always been the great figure-out machine through which I filtered everything I experienced. Not that I’ve been denying my feelings … I have very deep emotions. It’s just that my mind invariably beats my feelings to the finish line of understanding. That’s why what’s been happening to me lately has been so interesting. First, let me give you some background on me. I was born in December of 1950 in Rockville Centre, New York. Which, until I was five, I thought was ROCKEFELLER CENTER, New York. Where they always put up a big tree on my birthday and everybody ice skated in front of it. You want emotions? How about being five and learning that you WEREN’T born in front of the NBC studio tour … More than Thirty years later, after working at numerous jobs at NBC, I was diagnosed as having a degenerative disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Merely a coincidence? Perhaps. Ankylosing Spondylitis is
a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, neck and in some cases, the knees. I’ve had it for over a dozen years now, but it wasn’t correctly diagnosed until seven years ago. I don’t bring this up for purposes of sympathy or pity, or shouts of “My isn’t he brave and courageous in the face of adversity!” Of course, if you’d like to think that, and you have any experience producing Movies of the Week, who am I to stop you. No, I bring it up because the presence of arthritis in my life has allowed me to examine some interesting issues which I’d like to share with you. One: You have no idea how weird it is to slowly but surely become one of those people who absolutely adores soap-on-a-rope. Two: I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that in this lifetime I’m never again going to play the part of Lance, a muscular teen hearthrob on a show with Malibu in the title. And three, I’ve noticed recently, that my mind is being forced along a path that my body is directing it down. This is a new experience for me. My mind is having to adapt, both my behavior and the way in which I hold my life, in order to accommodate the changes that my body is undergoing. And that seems to be opposite everything I thought I learned about the way things work. I mean, haven’t all those new-age guys been beating our heads in with the idea that each of us creates everything in our own universe? That by creating a different context, creating the space for change, we can alter the contents of our lives? That what I want is what I get and vice-versa? I began to seriously re-consider this issue, when I realized that certain aspects of the physical content of my life had been changed for keeps, and that the only thing left, over which I had any power at all, was my context. For example, when I first noticed that the mobility in my neck was decreasing, I imagined that this condition was symbolic of my reaching an age in which my choices were no longer limitless. My horizons suddenly had boundaries and this narrowing of possibilities was an irreversible trend. But gradually, as I lived with the arthritis, I came to see things in another way. Perhaps my decreasing neck movement was not a limiting of my horizons, but a way of focusing my life. A way of forcing me to concentrate more on what was important to me. Kind of like sticking blinders on a horse. Do you see what I mean? Nothing changed, except how I held what was happening. But naturally, that got me thinking again. Can we really change the content of our lives by changing the context? And if we can, does that give us free will or just free context? Does changing how we relate to external reality actually change external reality? Can the choices that we make to control our context, affect the content of our lives, or are we doomed to keep up this hollow charade of pretending that what we get is what we really always wanted? In other words, is my life really an ugly Christmas tie that I have to fawn over for Aunt Martha’s sake? Which leads back to the original question, do we truly create and control our universe, or do we only control our perceptions of that universe? Are we rational organizers, and precise, logical processors of information, or are we free-wheeling, out-of-control sense mechanisms, buffeted about by every damn thing that we come into contact with?
(Suddenly a siren goes off and lights flash. Art stops what he is doing, goes to the wall and flips a switch. The lights and siren stop) … Sorry. That means I’m having an intellectual overload … I’m going to have to feel … (He crosses to the table, picks up the five packets that are lying there, and holds them up.) These packets represent what’s real: Pain, anger, sadness, fear and joy. (He chooses one of the packets and opens it.) Sadness … Hmmm… I went to college in Oklahoma City. Sometimes, we used to sit around the Student Union and tell true sad stories. I think we thought it was cool and worldly. Either that or we were all so stoned we couldn’t help but get interested in hearing someone speak. Not that any of us had that many truly sad stories to tell; I mean, most of us weren’t even legal drinking age in Oklahoma. And none of us were truly abused or molested as children, fortunately, .. But even if anybody was, we hadn’t reached the level of emotional maturity where we’d be able to reveal such intimate information, no matter how stoned we were. Besides, none of us would have known what to do with that kind of revelation. I don’t think, “Bummer man, parents suck.” would have been appropriate. So most of the time, the stories were about pets that got stomped on by older brothers, or best friends that were killed on their way to the prom. Stuff like that. But I had a story, which with the proper mood and the right telling, never failed to one-up everyone else’s true sad story. And this is it: My parents were married in November of 1941, exactly one month before America’s entry into World War Two. My father enlisted in the Army, got his commission and shipped out. When the war was over, my parents decided to begin what the war had interrupted: and that meant settling down and starting their family. They planned on having only two children, which, I guess, was all they felt they could handle. In January of `47, my sister Vicki was born. Then in early 1949, my mother became pregnant again. In September, my other sister Kathleen was born. Now if you’ve been keeping track, you’re anticipating that we’re going to have one child too many here. But that’s not the case. Kathleen developed Pneumonia at three months and died. The irony of that having to happen to allow me to be born, has not gone unappreciated by me. Kathleen died a few days after Christmas. My parents, were very poor at the time, but managed to purchase a small plot in Holy Rood cemetary, which is just outside New York City. The funeral was scheduled for New Year’s Eve, which is when my parents discovered that the City was in the midst of a grave-digger’s strike. They would not be allowed to have a burial unless they crossed the picket line. Well, they couldn’t afford not to have the burial right away, so they decided to go ahead with the funeral, arranging to have a priest in attendance. It was a cold winter’s day, as my parents drove their second hand Chevrolet to the cemetery with the casket containing Kathleen’s tiny body, lying on the back seat. It had been snowing all morning.   When they arrived, the priest and the groundskeeper took them to the section where Kathleen was to be laid to rest. My mother waited in the car with the casket, as my dad picked up a shovel and began to clear away the snow, in order to dig his own daughter’s grave. It was difficult work. The ground was nearly frozen. After awhile, the priest pitched in and helped, and together they finished the digging. Dad went to the car, got my mother, and led her to the grave. Then he and the priest went back for the coffin. The priest said a few prayers, and then helped my father to lower the casket. The snow continued to fall, as my father stoically shoveled the dirt back into the grave, and my Mom, weeping with sorrow, was comforted by the priest. Then they said Goodbye to Kathleen, thanked the priest, got into the car and drove out of the cemetery, to which they never returned. Less than a year later, I was born, and the family my parents wanted so much was finally complete. And the life that Kathleen might have had, was forgotten. (Segue) … Now, where was I? Oh, yes … as you may or may not know, all knowledge and awareness comes from our ability to create context. This is man’s first impulse when confronted by the previously unknown. To say, “This is like that.” Of course, our second impulse is to fiddle with the content. “I’d rather that be like this.” When it comes to changing content, I believe it was a cave man named “Glgnmghn,” who was instrumental in developing a technique which has come to be known as: “hitting it with your fist.” Modern man, of course, has evolved and  developed another way: Context manipulation. Less painful than using a fist, and a great deal more subtle. Hundreds of millions of us use this technique every single day … We call it: Rationalizing. But be honest, did the content really change? Ask yourself this: Do you tailor your context to make do with what you get, or are you able to change what you get by altering the way you look at it? Now, not so fast. Do you really believe the answer you just thought of? How can you be so sure? Who told you? And you believe THEM? Why? What if I said they were just telling you that so you wouldn’t be upset. They thought that by telling you what they did, that they would make you feel better about whatever it is you did or didn’t get. Pssst. They were screwing with your context, so you wouldn’t cry, and by crying your little eyes out, ruin part of the content of THEIR life. So. Now what do you think?  Do we plod along a pre-set, pre-determined path, or are we subject to free will? Tell you what: I’ll shoot you for it. Nah, I guess that would take too long. How about if I shoot YOU for it? (Picking out an audience member) Evens: pre-set path, odds: free will. Ready? Once, twice, three, shoot. (depending on what comes up, Arthur says, either:) Yes! This evening, free will reigns! We do whatever we want, and call it what we want, and we’ll never do it again in the exact same way! (Skip to: “Y’know, there’s…”) (OR:) Yes! we plod along a pre-set path. I knew it! … Want to try it again? Ehh, why bother, it’ll just turn out the same. This evening, I will do exactly what I’m supposed to do, just the way you always knew I’d do it, according to the exacting structure of the piece as written. Boy, is THAT going to be dull … Fortunately, that was in the script … And so was that. (He resumes sweeping) Y’know, there’s nothing like a monotonous piece of Performance Art to stimulate thinking … Tonight, my topics for examination are: Modern Art, Arthritis, Me and the decline of Western Civilization. And don’t worry, my answers will be in the form of a question … O.K., Civilization for one hundred … As most of you know all too well, from your own first-hand experience, the standards by which we judge our American way of life have been plummeting faster than a pearl diver off a cliff. The latest gloom and doom litany goes something like this: Our educational system is producing graduates who can barely read. Our factories, are either completely closed, down-sized into oblivion or are turning out inferior, second rate, over-priced crap. Our bridges and roadways are crumbling beneath us. Our taxes are constantly being raised. The attention span of our children has been reduced to a milli-second. Morality has all but disappeared. Racial strife, drug and alcohol abuse, lawlessness, divorce and the ever popular bankruptcy are at all-time highs. And what’s really amazing is, none of us are responsible for it. It just happened! Thanks to THEM! The other people. THEM AND the lousy bastards we elected. Well, ixnay on em-tay and the astards-bay. They’re not the culprits. It goes back much farther than that. The real, true, reason why civilization is on this depressingly downward spiral? Well, let me answer that question with another question.  Which came first: the chicken? Or your belief that chickens exist? (He picks up the glass, which is half-filled with Gatorade.) I’ll spell it out for you. The glass is the context, which holds the content. But is the glass half-empty? … or half-full? From time immemorial, people have argued this annoying question. Half-empty? (sadly) Oh, you’re a pessimist. Half-full? (happily) Oh, you’re an optimist! Y’know, what I say to that? I say, hey, goofballs! When you’ve got a glass with red stuff in it, It’s not the glass that’s important, it’s the red stuff! Cripe-a-nentlies, What do you care whether it’s half empty or half full? Stop wasting time trying to figure it out! The context doesn’t matter as much as the content! But you see, THAT’S the trouble with the world today; nobody actually believes that … Back around the turn of the century, the only thing that the average person knew about context-altering was that they should look on the bright side, and try to put the best face on things. For generations, America’s hard-working immigrants had, in the face of poverty and disappointment, been told that they’d have to make the best of it. It was a homily used to assuage failure, making it easier to persevere in the face of crushing defeat. But, of course, in those days, the business world was very, very different. Companies actually made stuff. If they sold enough of them, they made a profit. Simple. Today, thanks to what’s called the elimination of black and white, giant conglomerates do whatever the hell they want, and then cook the numbers in the shareholders’ report to prove it was the right thing for them to do. Don’t you see? The world today is almost exclusively concerned with context altering. But you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Hey, I’m a conscious person. I don’t allow anyone to alter my context; not without my knowing it.” Right. In rebuttal, I offer two randomly chosen items: satellite weather maps and Shredded Wheat. When you see those time-lapse photographs of clouds moving across your TV screen, ask yourself: When did the earth stop spinning on its axis? Your context has been altered to suit TV’s purpose. And because you wanted a cereal with no preservatives, the Shredded Wheat people were happy to provide one. But no preservative means the product gets stale. What’s to be done? The Nabisco people found a brilliant solution; They simply add a preservative to the inner lining of the box! Which is good, because if there’s one thing you don’t want, it’s stale wax paper. The trouble is, as a society, we’re just dopey enough to let these guys get away with that kind of nonsense. But I say to you that any railroad can claim a 93% on-time record when you allow THEM to define what the word “on-time” means and to create their own damn timetables. So how did we get into such a mess? Personally, I think the seeds were planted in the years between 1900 and 1917. A time which saw an incredible number of new fads and revolutionary ideas take hold in America. It was a time when our continental Manifest Destiny had finally reached its conclusion with the admission of our forty-eighth state. Political revolutions were happening all over the world. Motion pictures became the new, cheap entertainment of the masses. Radio stood on the threshold, ready to capture people’s imaginations at home. And Art entered the modern era. Do you realize that for most of the twentieth century now, Art has been a continual rejection of realism? First there was Impressionism, then Post-impressionism, then Cubism, Fauvism, Dadaism, Surrealism, Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism. And on and on and on … Each artistic movement, tried to totally break away from tradition; and in doing so, destroy all previously held definitions of Art. The obsessive pursuit of the new and different became the norm, and led to a continual breaking down of reality; by color, shape, dimension, subject matter, etc., until the “retinal image” was done away with entirely. Marcel Duchamp was the first to pronounce painting as it was then defined, as dead. In France, Duchamp was a part of the Dada movement. They held that life had no meaning, and therefore nothing mattered. This emotional detachment, or non-involvement has pretty much defined “cool” for the past eighty years, placing a premium on indifference as a philosophy, and a world-weary skepticism as “Hip”. And hmm, guess what? We’re still stuck in that rut. Except we can’t get any more boring, or uninvolved than we already are. We’ve reached the outer limits of complacency. (The Siren and lights begin again.) What again!? But I wasn’t intellectualizing, I swear! (He crosses to the same wall switch and flips it. The lights and sirens stop. He picks another packet. Reading out loud:) Anger… I went to junior high school in Greenlawn, N.Y. The Long Island Railroad tracks, which ran close by the school, were used as a short-cut into Greenlawn’s main areas of interest, a pizza place, where your fake ID was good enough for a beer, a drug store, a five and dime, a barber shop, etc. My parents made me go to that barber shop. It was owned by a guy named Vinnie. It was always a blur of activity, and Vinnie and the other barbers knew everybody that came in. They’d been there for so long, they were cutting hair on second and third generation heads. My father went there, every other Saturday. Most of us got our hair cut a lot more often in those days. Now, I was almost eleven when we moved there, so I knew the child-in-a-barber-shop routine.  Come on, I’m sure you know it too. What do you do when you go in? … “Wait for the man at the first chair.” “Because the good barber works at the first chair; the others are Flunkies”. In this case, working the first chair was Vinnie. And if some other barber were to come up and tell me he was ready for me, I was to say, “Nope, thanks, I’m waiting for Vinnie.” But I was extremely shy, So mostly, I waited … and prayed Vinnie would finish up just as it was my turn. Mom could always tell when I had gone to some other barber. I was eleven. How could I explain to her that I felt a need to not hurt the other barber’s feelings? Anyway, one day, I was walking down the tracks to the barber shop, and as I get to the station, and begin to cut across the parking lot, a train pulls in. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a woman getting out of a white car. She makes a run for the train, and I lose sight of her as I pass behind the station. When I come around the other side of the building, I see the train begin to leave, but then it stops. I begin walking along the platform, feeling the metal rivets on the side of the train as I go. I’m sort of gliding my hand over the bumps and daydreaming when I hear someone crying. I look down and I see the woman from the white car, lying underneath the train. She must have slipped. Her arm has been sliced off, and there’s blood on her clothes. It’s really gory, but I can’t stop staring. It was like some grotesque tabloid photo. Horrifying, sickening and fascinating. Then, our eyes met, and her anguish shoots right through me. I turn away, and of all things, I see a policeman. I silently walk over to him, take him by the arm and lead him to where the woman is lying. Then, I don’t know what to do, so I continue on to the barber shop. I plop myself into a seat and just stare straight ahead. Out the window, you can see the train is still in the station. The gates are blocking Main Street and traffic is really backed up. This fat old guy getting a shave, starts in about how lousy the train service is, and the second barber is nodding his head. I’m just sitting there. The fat guy says: “Damn trains’re always breaking down. And then they don’t fix ’em worth a damn.” Everybody but me nods in general agreement. Then some other guy comes in and tells the whole barber shop that they’re havin’ signal problems all up and down the line, and that’s why the train is still sitting in the station. Well, I can’t help myself. I stand up and announce rather loudly: “You’re wrong! A woman fell under the train. She lost her arm!” … But they don’t believe me. If anything, they ignore me. Someone else pipes in that he’d heard the conductor talkin’ about signal problems, too. “But I was there!”, I shout. “I was there!” The whole shop turns to look at me … Then they go right back to talking about the lousy train service. I can feel my jaw clench. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror; my face is so flushed I think it might explode. And I’m shaking all over. I can’t understand why they don’t believe me. But what could I do about it? I took a deep breath, sat back down and waited for Vinnie …

(Segue)

The other day, someone asked me why the arthritis was in my neck, spine and knees, and not in my wrist and elbows. I said, “It’s simple. The arthritis is “site specific.” … Almost eighty years ago, Marcel Duchamp took ordinary mass-produced objects, called them “readymades” and displayed them as Art. The largest collection of Duchamp’s work is in the Philadelphia Museum. But the readymade that caused the greatest impact is not there. It’s been “lost”. You can, however, see a replica of it by entering any Men’s room and standing on your head. Y’see, in 1917, Duchamp went to a plumbing supply store, bought a urinal, turned it upside-down, and called it: “Fountain.”  By doing that he was suggesting that it was possible to not only create Art, but also to simply see it. Art, he said, is a matter of perception. Context is everything … Well. (He picks up his broom and holds it up) I call it: “In advance of a full dustpan.” Or how about: “Make broom for Dada” … Naturally, it took some time for society to appreciate the enormity of what Duchamp had meant by his statements, and as so often happens, apply it not only to Art, but to life itself … Tonight, I wish to…(A buzzer goes off.) Sorry … It’s my beeper. It’s hooked up to a Biorhythm machine. I must be at a critical high. And you know what THAT means …(He takes out his beeper and the buzzer stops.) It’s a Judgmental Opportunity! I’ve got a temporary excuse to VENT! … (He takes several deep breaths.) … Y’know what’s really been toastin’ my keester lately? The fact that any two-bit charlatan with a third grade education can get an “800” number and make a commercial. “Hi. I’m Big Doofus of Doof’s Roofs. I’ll fix your leaders and gutters, and handle all your roofing needs. Just call: 1-800-BIG-DOOFUS.” Or: “Hello, I’m Doctor Fishblock. a board-certified plastic surgeon. I can give you a new nose in minutes. Hell, I’ll lipo-suck it right off your face if you want. Call me today at: 1-800-RHINOPLASTY.” Yo, Doc, Doof, come here. (He mimes punching them out POW! POW! Listen, you idiots, in America, telephone numbers have seven digits! Not NINE, not FIFTEEN! SEVEN!! Now either you morons find seven letter words that fit or just use numbers! You’re NOT clever! This is all the fault of the dial-a-mattress people. They started this nonsense. “Just leave the last “S” off for savings.” Why don’t you leave the first “M” off for misspelling! (He takes a deep breath) Let’s see, what else? Oh, I know … song lyrics that used to be cute, but they were written a half century ago, and now, nobody remembers what they were talking about. Like “Chicago, that toddlin’ town.” When did a town ever toddle? And why couldn’t Billy Sunday shut it down? Okay, I know he was some kind of evangelist. But what about the line: “You’ll have the time, the time of your life, I met a man who danced with his wife.” What the hell does that mean? Is that supposed to be ironic? And if I promise to button up my overcoat when I’m on the street, and I take good care of myself, who’s this guy I have to keep away from named Bootleg Hootch? And then there’s that Popeye the sailor song. I think I was thirty before I realized that there wasn’t a word pronounced, “Finich”. For God’s sake, Popeye, the word is FINISH! And FINISH doesn’t rhyme with SPINACH! Generations of kids growing up on that song, no wonder we’ve got Rap Music … (He takes a deep breath.) All right, I feel better. Anyway, as I was saying, tonight, I wish to offer the hypothesis that Civilization as we know it is collapsing because everyone, and I don’t mean just the intellectual elite, I mean EVERYONE has decided, consciously or unconsciously, that Duchamp was right. Context IS everything. Come on, how many times have you been told that your enjoyment of life, is all in how you hold it, i.e., content doesn’t matter. I’ll let you in on a secret. We did not reach this conclusion unassisted. This notion has been reinforced and promoted by two of the most powerful and persuasive methods ever developed: Broadcast Advertising and the Movies. 1912 was the year Duchamp painted his Nude Descending a Staircase. It was also the year the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. Young David Sarnoff, was the heroic telegraph operator in New York, who, while sitting in a tiny studio on top of Wanamaker’s department store, first picked up the distress signals from the Titanic. He stayed at his post for three full days and nights relaying names of the survivors. And thus, became a hero. Three years later, however, he was still only an assistant manager for the Marconi Wireless Company. But Sarnoff had a proposal to make. For a device that he called a radio music box. He believed it would eventually become a common household object, offering music, news and sports piped directly into people’s homes. He even suggested broadcasting on different frequencies in order to give the listeners a choice … What an absurd idea …But it eventually caught on. And in doing so, brought us modern advertising. The great-grandaddy of ALL context-altering. When you saw advertising in magazines, newspapers or on billboards, if you weren’t interested, you could turn the page or look away. But, if you were listening … Well, a much more effective way of reaching consumers had been found. The joke is, there really isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between most products, so, all they can really sell us is a better context. Using a certain product will cause us to be happier, healthier, and more popular with the opposite sex … If you look good, you feel good. This may come as a shock, but I happen to know a helluva lot of ugly people who feel good, too! I won’t dwell on this, because we all know that advertising is a voracious monster, borrowing and co-opting everything for its own purposes … especially Art. Did you ever wonder why there’s no cutting edge of Art anymore? Madison Avenue ate it!

Remember the early eighties? An angry, cutting edge, urban counter-culture emerged called Hip-Hop. Where’d it go? They’re all doing sneaker commercials. Naturally, a few artists, in an effort to avoid the onslaught of advertising, have ventured, hip deep, into the wonderful world of exceedingly bad taste, knowing that that is the one area into which advertising will not follow them. And that’s okay with me, because, personally, I don’t want to see a picture of Robert Mapplethorpe with a whip stuck up his butt on my box of Wheaties … The movies, on the other hand, delivered the message differently. A few years before Sarnoff was getting his idea for radio, D.W. Griffith was inventing the movie close-up. Up until then, the camera was locked in place, and the action went on in front of it. Just like on the stage. Then Griffith, moved the camera, and forever changed the way film would be used to tell a story. Y’see, each time, the camera angle changes, you alter the context in which the scene is held. You literally see the scene from a different point of view. Of course, this all seems extremely elementary to us now, since we have all been subjected to mountains of film and television editing. But in the early days, it was a major breakthrough that took some getting used to. As I said, people at the turn of the century weren’t overly-familiar with context-altering. Today, it’s completely second nature. At this point, let me bring in another protagonist: The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Why?  Well, besides being one of the names that Sarnoff received on his telegraph from the rescuers of the Titanic, Molly Brown has come to represent the uniquely American spirit of self-determination. She believed that as an American, she could do anything she wanted to do, and be anything she wanted to be. Because this was America: the land of opportunity. Where it’s up to you. That’s the American Dream. And no matter how many times you’re beaten down, with enough determination and pure grit, you can still rise to the highest levels of success. Of course, there’s a dark side. The idea that success is obtainable by all, makes personal failure particularly hard to take. Hey, want to have some fun? … Okay, now when I say go, I want you all to blink rapidly for ten seconds. Like this. (He demonstrates) (Art positions himself at the top of the steps.) Ready? Go. (He walks down the steps, while repeating the phrase, “I’m tall, tanned, blond and gorgeous!” After ten seconds:) Okay, Stop. And congratulations. You have collaborated on a brand new, “Avant-Garde” work of Art. I call it “Deluded Descending a Staircase.” Which conveniently leads me to one of the questions I always have about altering context, which is, “When does it become delusional? When are we just plain fooling ourselves? Now in the first of my many attempts to reject the arthritis in my body, I began a strict regimen of affirmations. These are healing thoughts that you say over and over and over again, until supposedly, your mind begins to believe the thoughts and you heal yourself. I call it the “Tinkerbell Memorial School of Medicine.” Now although I was vigilant in my reciting of these little axioms, the arthritis continued to fuse the vertabrae of my spine. At that time, a lot of my friends were into these new-age philosophies, and they looked on my failed attempts at healing myself with only the utmost contempt and sarcasm. Obviously, I wasn’t doing the affirmations right. I was also told that it was just plain obvious that I didn’t really WANT to heal myself, because if I was sincere, my symptoms would disappear. Many of my friends subscribe to the theory that Beauty comes from health. Which is not exactly a life-affirming thing to say to a person with a chronic disease. But I swear I WAS sincere. I really wanted to be healthy. I still do. When I explained this to my friends, some of them believed me. Therefore an alternate rationalization came into play, and that was that the arthritis was happening to me, in this lifetime, because of some horrible karmic debt that I had to pay. I must have been one heavy-duty ferocious bastard in a past life … It seems to me, People think like that because they can’t acknowledge that content exists. And that they really don’t have control of the content of their lives, only the context. There’s this village in Sweden. It’s located about two kilometers from the Arctic Circle. There’s an actual sign marking the spot. However, for the sake of tourism, somebody went out and moved the sign to the center of town. Now don’t tell anybody but the Arctic Circle remains where it always was … And if any of the townspeople believes otherwise, they are deluding themselves, which, doesn’t necessarily make them bad people … In psychology, there is something called the locus of control. On one side of the scale, we have totally in control of your life, on the other side, totally out of control. You take two sets of college students. Half are depressed, the other half are not. The ones who are not depressed, score more towards the area of being in control of their lives, the ones who are depressed score more towards being totally out of control. However, when both sides are given tests to measure one’s grasp on reality, the higher scores come from the students who are depressed. Which, I suppose is another way of saying that Life sucks. Or that delusion is a necessary part of a balanced breakfast … Of course, what it all comes down to is that human beings have an innate need to be in complete control of their lives. They can’t help it. It’s instinctual. The trouble is, given the fact that content exists: IT’S IMPOSSIBLE! Perhaps a demonstration is needed. Something that would make clear to you how very fragile our control of our lives truly is. Let’s say my life is about performing a task. Let’s pick something simple, like sweeping a stage. Let’s complicate things by giving me an obstacle. How about, I can’t bend over? And let’s say my goal in life is to perform to my highest expectations and magnificently complete the assigned task. I have a broom. I have mastered the fundamentals of how to sweep. I am in complete control of my existence. (With a very deliberate motion, he lets the broom fall to the ground) Oops. (He pauses for a long moment.) Game’s over. Now I can do one of two things: I can either admit that life is not under my control, or I can lower my expectations a little and just say, I’m finished. Doing the latter allows me to go on. Somewhat diminished, but I go on. Doing the former requires me to admit that content exists. See how easy it is to deny the existence of content? (He pauses again.) … So, the question becomes how to proceed … (If someone comes to pick it up, fine. If not, Art uses a grocery grabber which is pre-set behind the table to pick it up.) … A very dear old friend of mine once said that he thought that most people would be a lot happier if they could just create the illusion that they are in control of their lives even though, deep down, they know they’re not. But in the face of all the evidence, which says certain content cannot be altered, how does one keep up the delusion that one is in control of one’s life? Well, first, I’ll tell you what you don’t do. You don’t act like Richard Gere at the Oscars. Essentially telling the entire world that if we all think REAL hard, we can get China out of Tibet. Richard … You can’t change what people DO by THINKING at them! If you could, nobody would spend any money on commercials. Advertisers would sit in a room and THINK people into drinking Coke … When you were a kid, how many of you read, “The Little Engine that Could”? I have news for you. The little engine that could did NOT get over the big hill because it kept repeating to itself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can …” If you will look at this chart, (He produces a chart) you will see that an extremely advantageous weight distribution, coupled with a superior high efficiency fuel system, enabled the engine to make it over the top with more than enough horsepower to spare. Y’see, few people remember, but this book was actually a sequel to “The Little Engine that Thought it Could, But Was Horribly, Horribly Wrong.” Which was a charming and entertaining book for pre-schoolers, in which the original little engine just isn’t quite up to the task, but it keeps on trying, until finally, exhausted and out of fuel, it rushes backwards, out of control, down the hill, into the village, where it derails, killing hundreds of innocent bystanders. The moral being: Just because you think you can do something, doesn’t mean you actually can. Now, we come to the flip side of our content/context debate, which has to do with negativity. Naturally, everyone has a judgment that says negativity is bad. But does it really affect whether or not you can do something?  I’ve had many raging arguments with my friends about this, and at some point in the argument, every last one of them has come up with the line: “If you don’t think you can do something, you can’t.” To which I always reply: “How does my belief system affect my ability to perform a task?!” Now, I’ll grant you that if you think you can’t do something, you probably aren’t going to TRY, but I affirm there’s a definite physicality involved here that operates completely outside of any belief systems. Of course, undercutting this assertion is Medical Science, which has recently begun to admit that in certain cases, a positive attitude CAN affect your health. And you want to know why? Because about some things, the body is truly stupid. It can be fooled. This is not a conclusion that Medical Science would seem likely to discover on its own. My bet is that some actor told them. Seriously.  It’s a well known acting technique. It’s the opposite of the Method School. I call it the Mock-it-up School. You don’t have to really feel anything. You just have to concentrate and PRETEND that you feel the emotion, because if you do, eventually you WILL actually feel it. It sounds ridiculous, but I promise, it’s absolutely true. If you don’t believe me, when you go home, take a minute, pick an emotion and then pretend you really feel that emotion. Do all the physical manifestations. I guarantee that if you do it long enough, at some point along the way, your body will kick in with the real thing. Unfortunately, from this simple parlor trick, some people have extrapolated out the theory that we can heal ourselves of deadly diseases, and in most cases, it just ain’t so. I look at it this way; if a positive attitude could really cure everything, the process of natural selection would have eliminated all the sarcastic people by now … And you see how well THAT’S worked. But at this point, let me clarify one thing. I am NOT advocating becoming a fatalist and giving up Hope. On the contrary, I say we need to recognize reality so that we can direct our attention towards fighting in the areas where change really IS possible. I mean, a positive attitude is all well and good. Like making nice when you go back to your mother’s house. Just don’t kid yourself that it’ll make your mother any less dysfunctionally controlling than she’s been all your life. Oh, sure everybody’s heard about a friend of a friend that had a serious deadly disease that they licked solely through positive thinking and new-age healing techniques. Cripes, I even have a friend that did it. He had Hodgkin’s Disease. Healed himself. Don’t think that doesn’t tick me off. If he could do it, why can’t I? He was sick and today he’s healthy. He’s been in movies, had his own TV series … and to top it all off, he was even dating a sexy Movie Star for awhile … Which makes me suspect that perhaps Divine intervention had something to do with it. God, why him? and why has God forsaken me? … (He resumes sweeping) … Of course, maybe it was just luck. Dumb LUCK.          A random happenstance, that we, in our human desire to understand, attribute to whatever it is we believe in at the moment it occurs. Oddly enough, chance figures prominently in much of Duchamp’s work, as well as that of Composer John Cage, who was strongly influenced by Duchamp. For them, chance was the result of a chaotic universe, where society’s self-imposed standards could finally, at the artist’s insistence, give way to a creative freedom which was based on an anti-structure kind of structure … Do you know how to make order out of chaos? You build a fence around it … Here’s an interesting fact. When D.W. Griffith invented the close-up, his studio was in a brownstone on 14th Street in Manhattan. When Duchamp presented the urinal for exhibition, his studio was also on 14th St. A few years later, he moved to 10th St., where, in a small studio atop nearby Wanamaker’s department store, David Sarnoff received those radio signals from the Titanic. I leave it to you to guess where the unsinkable Molly Brown went to buy herself a new wardrobe after being rescued … Coincidence? Perhaps. Then again, I just built the right fence. I suppose the ultimate proof that we are living in the age of context altering is the sheer numbers of groups that would like to alter your context for their own gain. Heck, even the leading cause of death has its own lobbying group; The Tobacco Institute. Imagine if these spin doctors lived in the middle ages. They’d be defending the Bubonic Plague. “There is not one shred of scientific evidence that supports your grossly inaccurate contention that the Plague actually causes death. I tell you most of these peasants died from opportunistic diseases.” Either that or they’d have been members of the Earthquake Lovers Society. “Our motto is: Earthquakes don’t kill people, falling buildings kill people.” Today, we are so bombarded with attempts to alter our context, it’s amazing that there is still one area of our lives in which we simply don’t stand for it. How many of you have slammed a door on a Jehovah’s Witness? I suspect that it’s because we can’t tolerate context altering when the content is unknowable. I also think that we have all learned to alter our own context so well, that we do it unconsciously to avoid feelings and dealing with our problems. And for years we have allowed our politicians to put an optomistic spin on issues instead of simply solving them. We have grown up with people telling us that to be happy we have to change how we feel, because any state of uncomfortableness was not to be dealt with. Who said we had an obligation to be happy? (During the previous speech, Arthur has crossed to the table, picked up the remaining packets and he has crossed to the wall where the overload switch is, and is waiting there as the siren and lights begin. Before they can even get started, he immediately flips the switch. He holds up the remaining packets.) Pain, Fear and Joy; these are the ones we live with. (He puts the three packets into his pocket, gives them a pat and then resumes sweeping.) Marcel Duchamp said that after 40 or 50 years, a painting dies. It is no longer alive. After 40 or 50 years, it becomes the history of Art. What he meant was that context dies. The events and meanings that surround the painting’s reason for being and that surround the observer’s point of view, slowly fade away and die. What’s left is the content. The only way context lives on is by becoming content.  Duchamps’ ideas about context have now, for all of us become content. We accept them as immutable. Life hasn’t noticed, but Art has moved on. As a guide for life, these statements should have died long ago too. Perhaps it’s time we buried them in order to reclaim and embrace life’s contents. In my opinion, Art needs to give up it’s obsession with destroying our frames of reference. To quit being stuck in the questioning and begin exploring the multiplicity of answers that eighty years of questioning has raised. To do that we need to reimpose standards, respect tradition and honor craftsmanship. To recognize that, as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “The relentless cult of novelty with its assertion that Art need not be good or pure, just so long as it is new, newer and newer still, conceals an unyielding and long sustained attempt to undermine, ridicule and uproot all moral precepts. It says, there is no God, there is no truth, the universe is chaotic, and all is relative.”… But content EXISTS and there IS logic to the universe. Even if, at times, we need to build a bigger fence around it. I guess that what I am saying is that as a society we need to grow up. We’ve been putting childhood whimsy on a pedestal since the Victorian times. Now, I know this is sacrilege, but I think for starters, we ought to limit to 500 the number of times anyone can watch the Wizard of Oz. And to 300 the number of times anyone can write a musical based on Alice in Wonderland. Let’s allow our culture to mature gracefully into adulthood by leaving the wonders of childhood to the children … Sorry, I’m off on a tangent. Here’s the real bottom line. We have to become conTENT with CONtent. As humans, we want to live under the delusion that we have the power to change our content, because content which we cannot change forces us to face the reality of our lives as finite. Hard up against our vulnerability and helplessness we cringe in fear and cling to our fantasies. I say that the well-lived life is one in which an individual recognizes that the belief system that they are buying into is an arbitrary and inconsistent one. Then you can consciously assemble your own unique patchwork of delusions and rationalizations under which to operate. But as long as we go about unconsciously using context games to avoid the pain and unpleasant realities of this linear existence, we are not living life. We are simply existing on a downward slide to the grave. So, taking my own advice, and paying homage to a great Performance Art tradition, I’d like to finish up by revealing a lot more of myself. Of course, that requires an enormous change, so, if you’ll excuse me for a moment … (He gestures. The lights quickly dim. We hear a hammer pounding in a nail, then a saw working its way through a piece of wood) Just a moment, almost … (We hear a load of bricks being dumped, then a chain saw.) Okay, I’m ready. (The lights fade up.) (We find Arthur in exactly the same position as before, except that he has removed his coat. The set is completely unchanged.) You really didn’t expect me to be able to drastically change the content did you? I’m afraid you’re just going to have to alter your context. I guess you’ll just have to use your imagination … Go wild. (Arthur has finished sweeping a long pile of compound along the front edge of the stage.) I want to leave you with a little quiz. My sister had a dog named Dudley. A completely normal canine. Well now, if I decided to call Dudley’s tail a leg, then how many legs would Dudley have? Anyone who said “five” has to sit through this whole thing again tomorrow. Those of you who knew that just because I called his tail a leg, didn’t make it a leg … please go out and procreate. Oh, and one more thing. (He takes a scoop out of his pocket) You can symbolically bury the notion of “context is everything”, and demonstrate that content exists by doing what you can with what you got. (He gestures with the scoop.) And remember, the beauty part is, you can call it “Art”!

(On his way out, Arthur finishes the final bit of sweeping. He has created two huge letters in the sweeping compound: “AR”. He then drops the push broom in such a way as to create the letter “T”, spelling the word, “ART”.)    (He exits. After a moment, the lights fade.)

  

                                                             CURTAIN

(Note: Hopefully, the audience will have gotten the idea to use the scoops they were given to pick up some of the sweeping compound. A barrel labeled “CONTENT” will have been placed by the outer door for use as the symbolic depository for the audience’s heaping scoops of sweeping compound.)     

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