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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1278 - 1281




1278. God doesn't  concern himself with grains of sand, and he never bothers anymore about sunsets, mists and moonlight. He created it all long ago, and now sits in anger with his back turned to us, letting it all go slowly to pieces.  Once in a while he turns his attention to all he created only to fetch it a blow. I don't know why, either it was too perfect, or it didn't measure up to his standards, but care about it, he no longer does."


1279. But although I don't think God cares about his creation, I certainly care to find out what happened to poor Otis whom you left in the woods. You told us a disaster is approaching, but somehow I have a feeling he will survive.


1280. The Duck could see that Jemima's attack on his theology was just an excuse to get him to go back and finish the account of Otis' adventures of a thousand years ago, and he promised to do that but first, before returning to that story, he wanted to know if I thought Buboni's speculations about Mrs. Festini were correct or not.


 1281. I knew the answer to his question, but I ask you, how could I answer him without revealing the fact that I knew all about Festini's school days, and I knew about her childhood, and her relationship to her parents and her brothers and sisters. I knew all those things, even though nobody ever wrote her biography. I knew all about it because at one time or another she told me her life's story.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1274 - 1277



1274. Just as no two clouds are the same, no two faces are the same, no two anything are ever really the same; so when children cut out snowflakes from napkins, every one of those patterns is also as individual as the child doing the cutting. Unique also are the scissors, the paper, and the finger and thumb moving the scissors.


1275. This brings us to the most important single statement in Mrs. Festini's story of the two painters and their teacher in the painting studio. The most important remark is the one the professor makes sarcastically to Emma when he says, 'There are painters whose details are so small that they can't be seen even with a microscope.' Who are those painters and what are their paintings like? asked Buboni, rhetorically.



1276. "Nature is the painter whose details are so tiny they can not be seen under the microscope, or God, if you prefer." said the Duck, in response to Buboni's question.

 1277. "God spare us another 'God the creator' sermon," snapped Aunt Jemima. "What are you going to tell us now Duck? Mountains are sculpture, crafted with tools the size of atoms and molecules? The ocean has been painted for us one drop at a time? The truth is, nature may be infinitely complex, and it may all be crafted down to the smallest detail, and it may exist for all eternity, but still, it is just a colossal accident." 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1270 - 1273



1270. All of these observations of Buboni about Mrs. Festini's lectures began to make me very nervous. I only brought up her lectures because we had been talking about Otis and his split wolf personality. Now Buboni was delving into the secret mind of my teacher Mrs. Festini; where this was going I did not want to find out because there were things about my art class that I had no intention of ever talking about, not with the Duck, not with Buboni, not even with myself.


1271. Fortunately the Duck, perhaps detecting my anxiety, altered the subject by asking Buboni what he had to say about paper napkin snowflakes.  "Oh yes, the snowflakes," said Buboni, as if coming out of a trance. "When, in the story, those paper napkin snowflakes were mentioned I suddenly began to think about actual snowflakes, and their relationship to the paper ones, because there is a relationship, if you think about it.


1272. First of all we have always been told that snowflakes are all unique, no two are the same. Just imagine how many snowflakes have been created since the beginning of time, quite a few I imagine. Not an infinite amount, but still a number with quite a lot of zeros in it. Now, are we really to believe that in all this long time there were not perhaps a few of them that were identical. No, scientists tell us adamantly, sorry, they are all different, that's just how it is.


1273. But there is a reason, and the reason is because the snowflake's form is created by the unique nature of the atmosphere it passes through. There is a one of a kind combination of temperature, air current, and moisture, and all those things act on the drop of water. Each is unique, because the conditions giving rise to each one are unique.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1266 - 1269


1266. Then comes the last character in Festini's story, the Bolivian student whom she names Charles Ralston-Purina. Ralston-Purina is a company that makes dog foods. No matter how much she may try to be objective in her story, treating both characters with a mixture of amusement and pity, still in her heart she identifies with Emma, and for her, Charles Ralston-Purina is just some dog food.


1267. If we go back to her original story about the painter in a garret doing the detailed painting, that is really her as a student, trying, because of her background and training, to do things in a perfect and meticulous way. The reaction to the expressionistic picture in the gallery is an example of her envy of the works by people like Dubious and Ralston-Purina. She envies them, and is irritated by them at the same time.

1268. It is her military hat box that is the key to it all. The hat box represents all the strict and demanding strictures of a repressive childhood. Most likely her parents were antagonistic to her studying art in the first place, pointing out to her how she would never be able to make any money, and would need to do something practical. The only type of art they probably admired was the type measured only in hours put in and the smallness of the detail.


1269. Parents like that will grudgingly admit the value of artistic ability when it is expressed in time consuming drudgery at the service of petty subjects of a sentimental type. Like aristocratic families of old, painting and piano playing are abilities developed by young girls to make them more attractive to wealthy suitors; as a serious pursuit, art is out of the question because it probably will lead to the opium den and murky inexplicable poetry ending in suicide.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1262 - 1265



1262. But before asking about the snowflakes he asked me this blunt question. "What do you think Richard, was Festini making up this story to illustrate some ideas about art, or was she describing an actual experience: something that may have happened to her years ago when she herself was a student?" I had to admit that I did not know, but he pointed to some aspects of the story that made him think it was actually her biography.




1263. When a person makes up a story it is possible to detect other things that are probably going on in the storyteller's mind by noticing the choice of the superficial details that they employ. Since the overall purpose is usually already established in the teller's mind, it is in the  less important details where we can see the personal history of the narrator begin to  exert itself inadvertently. That my sound like gibberish, but let me illustrate what I mean.




1264. Festini chooses to call the female student 'Emma'. I suspect her first impulse was to call her 'Ima', because she is telling you a story about herself. Ima would be too obvious so she has altered it to Emma.  Secondly she gives us Emma's last name, which is 'Holdemback.' This is obviously three words, being 'Hold them back.' She uses this name because Emma has been taught art in a repressive and restrictive way, her development has been 'held back.'


1265. This is very likely how Mrs. Festini felt as a student years ago, and although she is trying to illustrate an idea about art, deep down she is expressing her anger at her treatment as a student.  The other names are instructive also, take for example 'P. Dubious Furious.' He paints in a furious way, but Festini feels it is a fake expression of emotion, hence the first name Dubious.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1258 - 1261



1258. Now lets return to my drawing here on the chalk board, it is a view, seen by a person who is sitting on the beach, eye level with the woman's knees. If I had taken a photograph of her, the horizon line would be in the same place, but if I stood up with my camera and I was a little taller than her, the horizon line would pass over her head slightly. The horizon line is always the eye level line of the viewer, not the eye level line of the subject depicted.


1259. When you get home from the beach it will be late, the moon will be out, look at it there up in the sky, notice how it glows with that strange omnipotent silver light. But now just jump up and down a few times there in the driveway and notice that the moon jumps up and down also, just like the horizon did. Why is this? How can the moon have time to pay so much attention to us, to know our every movement?


1260. Do you see what I mean then, by saying that perspective had a religious element to it. For Mrs. Festini the fact that you could say that the stars and the moon, or the horizon kind of follow you around as you walk from place to place was not just a curiosity of optics, but a symbol of the divine nature of the very universe.



1261. I was getting carried away telling everyone all of this about Mrs. Festini's lectures and I did not know if I was holding the interest of my listeners, but the subject was the teaching of art and it could not but arouse either the interest or the ire of Buboni who interrupt me. He wanted to talk about the snowflakes that third graders make when they cut out paper napkins; the metaphor Mrs. Festini said the professor used in dismissing the paintings of Emma and Charles.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1254 - 1257



1254. At this point she drew a standing figure on the chalk board, and then she drew a line across the picture right at the knees. Then she said.  "At the beach we can see this horizon line, now let’s consider where it is.  I have drawn a standing figure and I put the horizon line level with her knees, Why did I put it there?"


1255. To understand the answer to this question you are going to have to go to the beach. Once you get there, spread out a blanket and lay down facing the water and the horizon. Laying flat on your stomach with your head in your hands, about six inches from the sand, hold up your finger pointing level with the horizon, and observe that the horizon is level with your eyes when you are laying down.



 1256. Now sit on the blanket with your head about thirty inches from the ground, and notice that the horizon line has come up to directly even with your eyes, the horizon line is now thirty inches from the ground also. Finally stand up and observe as you do, that the horizon line stands up also, persistently following the level of you eyes.


 1257. Now that you are standing, jump up and down a few times, and notice that the horizon line will jump up and down with you. That horizon line watches you like a hawk, and your slightest movement up and down is echoed by a similar movement at the horizon.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1250 - 1253



1250. The professor was no different than every last one of his students. Everything he did or would ever do had the trademark of his own unique personality, as inescapable as the fingerprint, and certain as a signature. Even his sneezes and his handshake were overdetermined to the point of tedium. Tedious, unless you like that kind of thing in a forensic kind of way.



1251. That was the type of thing Mrs. Festini was telling us about in the art class, and another favorite subject was perspective. Most people think that perspective is a dry, uninteresting mathematical approach to making art, but for Festini it was almost a religion.  Things like the vanishing point and the horizon line, when she set out to explain it, took on an aspect you would never have imagined.


1252. As usual, the things she would say became so convoluted and confusing that we could hardly follow along, as for myself by the time she got to the third sentence of her explanations I was completely lost. One time I asked her to tell us how far back the vanishing point was in a picture. I wanted to know if it was all the way in the distance, or nearer to the front of things. She said it was neither near nor far. Here is her entire explanation, see if you can make head or tail of it.


1253. She said, everyone has heard of a horizon line and a vanishing point and I am sure that most of you remember drawing in high school some odd looking buildings with the assistance of a horizon line and a vanishing point. So we go through life imagining that above, beyond, or behind everything we see is a vanishing point and we could see it if there weren't so many things blocking our view.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1246 - 1249



1246. The installation consisted of digging a hole in his yard each morning, and filling it in when he got back home in the evening. He had been doing this for 18 months, and had documented every dig with sketches, photographs, and video clips which he posted to Youtube. He felt his work was exploring the 'futility of archeology,' and he also liked to point out the similarity of his work to that of Wolfgang Laib, since the dirt removed from the hole was piled up in a  cone shape.


1247. But the professor could not escape the iron hand of his personality, and the personalities' profound control over every nuance of every thing a person may chose to do. If you are the precise and overly cautious type, you are going to dig a cautious and over careful hole in the ground. And if you are a wild, uncontrolled person your digging will have the characteristics of your nature. Holes in the ground can be just as different as night and day.




1248. What does a hole in the ground look like if created by the cautious controlling and perfectionist sort of person? It looks like a gardening excavation created by servants of King Louis the XIV on the grounds of Fontainebleau; laid out with silk string and ivory markers, and excavated with silver spades with inlaid ivory handles.



1249. What does a hole in the ground look like if created by the flamboyant, emotionally expressive type? It looks like a trench created by a criminal to throw his victim in as he runs from the police and their dogs, or like a foxhole excavated by a terrified soldier as the enemy bombers approach.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1242 - 1245




1242. At the end of the session Charles' painting looks like a big tarp placed on the floor in a room where autopsies are preformed all day long, and Emma's painting is completely blank, because all the things she did that morning did not measure up to her exacting standards of perfection and she had to scrub everything out and prepare to start over again in the next session.



1243. You would think that the professor for this painting class would treat Charles and Emma in different ways, since they had such divergent approaches to their work, but you would be wrong. The professor lumped them both into the category of old fashion people who still thought art should involve painting with paint on canvas. Even though it was a painting class, the professor only considered installation and performance art seriously.


1244. The things Charles and Emma were trying to do seemed to him about as relevant to his idea of art as cutting out snowflakes in napkins in third grade.  When it came time to criticize Emma's paintings he tried to make fun of her in a good natured way saying, "There are some painters more precise than you are, their paintings have such fine detail that you can't even see the brush strokes under a microscope."


1245. "But with Charles he took the opposite sort of ridiculing tone saying, "This would be a good cutting-edge painting if this was 1956 and you were Willem de Kooning." He felt he could take this dismissive attitude to his students because his own work was very far advanced. He was working on an installation. He did not have an opportunity to exhibit yet and his installation was in his back yard.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1238 - 1241





1238. Consisting of two store mannequins upside down next to a defunct sewing machine on top of a cardboard box painted pink. A broken plaster cast of the torso of the Venus De Milo with part of the breast smashed off and obscenities written on it in magic marker.  Some broken and rusted tricycles leaning on one of those chairs made of bent wood with a circular seat. From a distance the still life resembles seven cubic feet of a trash heap set up on a low platform.


1239. Emma is working on her still life sitting in a chair, bent forward with her face six inches from the surface of her canvas. All her paints and brushes are set up on a small table and if you watched her at work you would see no difference in her motions than to a competent dentist hard at work on a root canal. She even has a magnifying glass, and a tool called a mahl stick, long out of use, to support her brush hand in the air as she works.


1240. Charles Ralston-Purina has set up his easel behind her. He takes up much more room in the studio, and is working on a much larger canvas. In his behavior and his motions as he works on his painting you would think he is engaged in sword fighting rather than painting. He jumps at his canvas and then lunges back, dances from left to right slashing at his canvas with broad strokes, paint flies all over everything, some of the splatters even landing on Emma' canvas which she wipes away with a small rag.


1241. Charles is oblivious to Emma, and completely unaware that his violent motions and gestures are distracting. Several times during the morning his canvas and easel have crashed down on the floor behind Emma, after some too vigorous thrusts. Emma endures the disruptions with indifference in the same way she would ignore a storm raging outside during hurricane season.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat box, parts 1234 - 1237


1234. When Emma was doing her under-painting on her teacher's egg tempera paintings, she used only a triple zero brush, which her teacher painstakingly showed her how to prepare: by stroking the loaded brush out between her fingers so that it would hold only the exact amount of the egg tempera the under-painting required. As she put in the little cross-hatched strokes, her teacher hovered over her shoulder, hands anxiously outstretched, watching for any mistake.



1235. When Charles was doing the under-paintings for P. Dubious he had to stand five feet from the canvases and apply the paint with a broom which was plunged into a garbage call full of roofing tar. The tar was applied to the canvas with huge violent slashes, holding the broom by the far end gripped with both hands and all the while P. Dubious was roaming around behind him in a sweat shouting things like, "Don't hold back boy, give it to them, kill them , mangle it, go on now don't be shy."


1236. P. Dubious' rule of thumb was that the studio should look like a slaughter house at closing time after a busy day if real creative work was going on, and for the tempera painting restorer it was rather the opposite. Nine times out of ten he scrubbed out Emma's work with q-tips and solvent because the curve of the tiny strokes she made did not exactly conform to the contour of the shapes being rendered.


1237. Now you must picture in your mind these two very different students hard at work in the painting studio where they have their easels set up and are both working on paintings. The subject of both their paintings is the same, it is a still life set up which can be found in all college painting studios consisting of something like...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1230 - 1233


1230. I have to admit that I did not understand what she was talking about, and I could see from the expressions on the faces of the other students that she was trying to explain an idea that was over our heads. The images projected on the wall did not seem all that different to us, and her presumption that this or that style of painting represented different personality types was lost on us. Seeing our perplexity, she tried to go into more detail.


1231. "I want you to picture a studio class in the art department of a university," she said.  "It is a painting class, all the students have canvases set up on easels and are hard at work. In the room are these two types of personalities I have been describing, but for simplicity we will concentrate on just two of them. Charles Ralston-Purina, who grew up in Bolivia, and is on scholarship, and Emma Holdemback, who studied egg tempera painting in high school."



1232. Emma has learned all she knows about art form her high school art teacher who did restorations of old tempera paintings in his spare time. Emma was fortunate to get to work on the under-painting of the restorations in her teacher's studio. Then there is Charles Ralston-Purina, his father is a Spanish Diplomat stationed in Bolivia, and when Charles was a teenager he got to be an apprentice in the atelier of the great abstract obstructionist painter P. Dubious Furious.


1233. Charles also got to work on under-paintings as a student, he did the monochrome under-paintings of P. Dubious Furious' gigantic canvases, canvases which, in symbolic form, call to mind something between earthquakes and tidal waves as visualized in the nightmare dreams of an hallucinating paranoid schizophrenic.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1226 - 1229



1226. But there in his studio was his painting, sitting in mute judgment of him. He thought about this problem for many days, and pondered the question: how can a painting with no detail be better than a painting with a lot of minute detail? And then all of a sudden it hit him, the textures in the wet paint from the stiff brush substitute for the  details of reality, and although a painting doesn’t have infinite detail, it can have an infinite texture and that is why it can be visually satisfying.



1227. And this is the reason that one should scrub out your work with a rag, pour solvent on it, and generally make a mess of things, so that later the image can resolve itself down into a satisfying complex visual texture, a very thick messy surface which is a perfect substitute for accumulated detail. Because the slow accumulation of small details with a tiny little brush is a deadening process, which leads to lifeless pictures.


1228. Do you really want me to spend my life in my studio painting the petals of flowers one by one all day long, and the drops of moisture on the stems of the plants along with those tiny little hairs just like peach fuzz that you can see also, or how about the gloss on  the back of a beetle as he crawls across a desk inlaid with ivory, all cast in shadow, shadow so dark you can't even see anything, though you know it is there, like in a Caravaggio


1229. You might go to a museum and look at a Sargent painting, or something by Whistler or Turner and see that it is possible to simply imply and suggest everything in a few moments. But before you leave the museum you might come across a Bruegel still life and look at how he painted the light reflected on the wing of a beetle poised on his tiny legs on the leaf of a plant, and think to yourself, 'If God would just give me the skill, I would rather do that instead.'

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1222 - 1225


1222. Once upon a time there was this artist who lived in a garret in Paris and he decided to do the most detailed and exact painting ever done. He said to himself, “I’ll do a still life, and not only will I paint the color of the wood, but the gloss, and the dust on the wood, and the fingerprints on the dust, and the light as it plays on the very edges of the dust!


1223. There was a cello in his painting and after three months of constant work, when he was half way done with the neck of the cello he took a break and went to look at pictures in a picture gallery. In the gallery he saw another still life painting, with a guitar in it and the entire guitar was quickly painted with about ten rapid strokes of a fat bristle brush loaded with paint. It was one of those virtuoso paintings where everything is simple, quick and perfect.


1224. Our painter friend looked at it and felt himself go numb. Walking home he declared to himself, “No matter how long I spend on the details of this picture of mine, it will never be as good as that picture I have just seen which has no detail at all.


 1225. And meanwhile I sit holed up in my studio for months and months slaving away, and that painter dashes something off in a few minutes, better than I can ever do and then probably waltzes off to the cafe where he sits having coffee with his artistic friends and talks about art, it isn’t fair!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1218 - 1221




1218. What was Mrs. Festini's crime you might ask me. I know exactly what her crime was. It was the same transgression Josef K. committed in The Trial by Franz Kafka; a crime committed long ago, not knowable to the self, the details of which are buried in the sub-conscious where the defendant can not see them.



1219. One of her lectures was about the personalities of artists and it touched on the very things we have been talking about just now. She felt that there were two distinct types of artistic personalities, characters as different as day and night. One could be likened to the father of Antonio Kroger that Buboni was just talking about, and the other temperament was like that of the mother. In-other-words, the flamboyant personality, and the reserved personality.


1220. And our Mrs. Festini could not be categorized as either one or the other. If you considered her paintings, which anyone could see because she had them hanging in several restaurants in the city, you would think she was the most reserved, exacting, precise and painstaking person possible.  But to listen to her talk about art, one got the opposite impression. I will give you an example of what I mean. One day she projected details of the paintings of John Singer Sargent.


1221. John Singer Sargent's paintings were really the exact opposite of Mrs. Festini's paintings and this is what she had to say about his work. She started her lecture with the words "Once Upon a Time."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat Box, parts 1214 - 1217


1214. Often as she was lecturing about some image projected on the wall of the classroom I would lose interest in what she was saying and instead begin to wonder about the hat box. A military hat box is not the sort of object one would normally associate with a middle aged female art teacher. Also it could not have been hers originally, but certainly could have belonged to her father, or perhaps an uncle.


1215. The box was full of papers of all sorts. Almost the entire contents were pages and clippings from art books and journals. Sometimes she wanted to find a particular image in order to make some point. I remember once she was looking for a Rembrandt etching she wanted to talk about. Finding the image of the etching could take five minutes and in the process she would dump out and sort through all of the assorted papers in the box.


1216. One could see that she used the hat box for everything. Here were five color reproductions of the works of Fantan -Latour, and also last month's phone bill.  Then again some old postcards of a summer camp in between faded Rothko reproductions and a famous Russian Icon.  Term papers from a psychology class, a homework assignment about Marat in the French Revolution, report cards from grade-school. The hat box had become a repository of Mrs. Festini's entire life.


1217. Some of her lectures had a certain intensity, as if she was not teaching an art-class to some retired persons on a Saturday afternoon, but rather pleading a case in a court of law, an important case in which she was both the defendant, the prosecutor, and the council for the defense all in one.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hat box, parts 1210 - 1213


1210. You may think I was talking about myself when I said all of this, and I could have been but I was actually thinking about my art teacher, Mrs. Festini, and some of the lectures she gave us when she was teaching our sculpture class on Saturday afternoons at the museum.


1211. Mrs. Festini was fond of bringing to the class clippings from art magazines and journals that for some reason were especially important to her. In the classroom there was an opaque projector, one of those old ones that weigh fifty pounds and have a bulb so hot it almost sets fire to the pages you are trying to project. Sometimes she would project pages from a book, at other times single sheets from her collection all of which she kept in an old hat box.


1212. I have to say something about the hat box itself. I imagine she had started saving the clippings many years ago when the box was almost new, but over the years it had been used so much that it had fallen apart, discolored, been taped back together with masking tape so even though she did not intend it, the box itself had become a complicated art-object in its own right.


1213. It was a military hat box, the sort that an officer's hat would have come in back in the Second World War, in-other-words a real relic which seems to be looking for an opportunity to tell some sort of war story. Mrs. Festini never once said anything about the hat box, but it was very obvious that she had not kept hold of it so many years if it did not have some significance for her.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mrs. Festini's Hatbox, parts 1206 - 1209


1206. Picture to yourself some person growing up whose parents have two diametrically opposed natures. The mother is emotive and flamboyant and likely to react in an impulsive way, and then the husband is measured and reserved and is constantly planning everything out meticulously. Such a child may grow up to have both these personalities embedded in their character. A person like that will often spend hours arguing with himself over what candy bar to purchase.



1207. There is a novella written by Thomas Mann called 'Tonio Kroger', and in that work he describes such a person. The person has a German business man for a father, and an Italian artist for a mother, and the conflict of these two temperaments is always at war in his personality.

1208. "You know," I said, interrupting Buboni with my own observation, "I would say there is a third type of which I am perhaps an example. This would be the sort of person who has a very specific and irrevocable temperament, a nature overdetermined by his very DNA, and yet, because of forces completely outside his control finds himself living a life divorced from his very nature.


1209. The trajectory of that life would take the form of a long search for the opportunity to at last return to the occupation one was originally destined to pursue. A life like the path of a sail boat; the wind pushes in one direction and the rudder in another and the result is: by a series of spastic maneuvers the boat can manage to travel in the opposite direction of the prevailing wind; all the while longing for the driving storm to run in the direction one so longed to go in the first place.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Otis The Wolf, parts 1202 - 1205

1202. "It may be possible for people to become confused about their basic identity,"  said Jemima, "but can an animal be confused about his identity. Can you, for example, being a Duck, at some point begin to think that you are a goose, or perhaps the Emperor of the Solomon Islands in the 15th Century?"



1203. You say that your stories are devoid of fiction, but perhaps the problem is that your story in this case is missing some basic facts that have not been discovered because DNA testing was not available when Otis and the Boy were friends. In short I think the vet hit on the explanation of the situation, Otis is not a wolf at all, and also not a dog, he is half and half, neither one or the other.


1204. "To be two characters at once is a much harder albatross to carry that having no identity at all," said Buboni, appending his notions to Aunt Jemima's.  "The person with no established identity can always adopt a persona like a mask at a party, and having no true nature he can make do and even succeed. Such a person's character is like a blank slate upon which anything can be convincingly written. And since it contradicts nothing, can cause its possessor no problems.


1205. But consider the dog or the man that has two natures, especially if those two natures are contradictory, and most often people like that are cursed with characters that are not only contradictory but actually at war with each other.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Otis The Wolf, parts 1198 - 1201


1198. Some time later the Boy found Otis and the two of them continued on their way. They were in the middle of a wood bounded by local roads on all sides, an area crisscrossed by many paths and well known to both of them. Then, unexpectedly they came across some company on the path, directly ahead of them were two wolves, very well know to Otis. These mangy underfed animals would have presented no danger to the Boy, even if he had been alone, but he was hardly alone.


1199. A few minutes later those two wolves lay dead in the path. The Boy understood that his dog was a wolf, and the wolf knew, for all intents and purposes, that he had become a dog belonging to a boy.


1200. This was the second problematic situation arising for Otis and the Boy but we were not about to find out what the third difficulty was, and what constituted the disaster they were about to experience because Aunt Jemima interrupted the Duck at this point in the story with some critical and inquisitive questions.


1201. "Look Professor," Jemima had taken to referring to the Duck as 'The Professor' with a slight tang of sarcasm in her voice. It was a sarcasm that denotes the instinctive suspicion that highly educated persons are truly just simpletons; a view often held by observant persons who happen to have no education what-so-ever.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Otis The Wolf, parts 1194 - 1197

1194. Assuming the dog belonged to the Boy he offered to take the dangerous animal off his hands. He suggested the dog be left with him for the time being, and at the same time told the boy to talk to his parents about it. He was willing to take care of the problem at no charge. As he said all of this he reached into the boy's bag and began extracting one of the studded goat collars. It was his attention to chain up Otis right then and there.



1195. Otis only had an indistinct notion of what the conversation was about. He had been acting the spy for a few months and so, like a tourist in a foreign country he was only familiar with a few of the most often used words and phrases. But when the old vet took a firm hold of the fur of his neck in preparation of putting a collar on him he understood in a flash that something was going wrong, but he was smart enough to get out of the situation without giving away his identity.


1196. Otis leaped away from the vet and then ran to a spot out in the yard and pretended to be engaged in attacking a mouse he had discovered. What tame house dog can resist the temptation to run around in circles chasing a mouse or a mole. This ruse deceived the vet and the Boy also, and the imaginary mouse managed to doge away from Otis in mouse like zig-zag patterns across the lawn and into the woods. Once in the woods the mouse vanished, and so did Otis.


1197. The Boy went into the woods as if to retrieve his dog for the vet, but he had no intention of returning that afternoon, and if it were possible, ever again. Otis was out of danger for the moment, but what possible way could the Boy avoid the problem of the curious vet? Well, it didn't matter because things were going to go from bad to worse, and then end in disaster.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Otis The Wolf, parts 1190 - 1193

1190. Then he had an inspiration; an idea which he knew was a complete falsehood, and yet, in actual fact was so close to the truth that it was terribly convincing. He decided to suggest that the dog, according to his observations, was actually a wolf, or, if not a complete wolf was the product of the mating of a village dog with a wild animal. He made this all up on the spur of the moment, perhaps unconsciously inspired  by the actual truth.



1191. His real desire was to sow fear of the dog into the heart of the Boy and so he gave him this little warning as if he was only concerned for safety, and was speaking in a professional capacity. "Your dog," he said, "is a very remarkable creature, but I am afraid he is also a very dangerous one. He obviously has a good percentage of wolf blood in his veins; do you know what that means?"


1192. "It means that if you should accidentally cut yourself, or happen into a situation where a chicken is being butchered, your beautiful dog will have his instincts triggered, and turn into a killer. The smell of blood acts on a wolf's system just like on a shark or a tiger. There is only one thing to do with this sort of animal, he needs to be adopted by some farmer who could use him strictly as a guard animal. Under no circumstances should this creature be a house pet.


1193. Now here is the curious thing about what the vet said about Otis. It was the absolute truth, even though the vet assumed it was a complete lie. Since he though it was a lie, he could hardly elaborate the idea in a convincing way. Nevertheless he was very successful at first for a few reasons, first because the Boy had no idea where his dog came from, and secondly, because we can't ever forget, underneath the Boys love of his dog, was a profound fear of him.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Otis The Wolf, parts 1186 - 1189

1186. But while he spoke of the problem of the rust on the handle and how the set screw was all screwed up and he had to resort to a hammer and a crowbar to get it off the instrument, all the while curious questions were arising in the back of his mind, questions which could be summed up in one phrase, 'What the Devil sort of a dog is this anyway,I've never seen the like.'



1187. Finally he stopped talking to the Boy and turned his attention entirely to Otis. He took his muzzle in one hand and with his thumb pulled Otis' lip up and began to examine his teeth. After this he took his upper and lower jaws, one in each hand, and pried his mouth open and had a look at all his teeth, just like when you have to give a cat some medicine. He could not figure out how this dog could have such a seriously healthy mouth.

1188. That old vet, staring into Otis' mouth had absolutely no idea how close he was to a sudden unavoidable and instantaneous visit to the Sulphur springs of Southern  Albania. It was all Otis could do to restrain his instinct to put a sudden end to the dental examination and the vet's life all in one sudden motion, but he managed to stay still.

1189. Meanwhile, as the vet sat there looking into death's teeth-filled door this is what he was thinking. 'This is a most remarkable and interesting dog, and for a start he would be a perfect addition to my farm as a guard at night, and also I suspect he would probably fetch at least a hundred and fifty used toasters at the county fair come May. The question is, how to separate the Boy from the dog with the least possible expense and difficulty.'

Monday, February 4, 2013

Otis The Wolf, parts 1182 - 1185

1182. It was this old veterinarian who now took a special interest in Otis when the boy stopped at his establishment to pick up a number of studded goat collars and a hurdy-gurdy crank handle that had rusted beyond recognition. There was no Mrs. Veterinarian, she had died forty years ago, although the vet still mentioned her often saying, 'I don't know when she will be back from the sulphur springs.' It was this kind of inappropriate humor that made people treat the old vet like a leper.

1183. The old man called Otis over and began to pet him in an absent-minded way as he explained to the Boy exactly what he wanted done to the hurdy-gurdy handle.  Otis by this time had become acclimated to being often petted and stroked and although he had not come to like it, he could put up with it without complaint.


1184. On the other hand, Otis was aware that he liked the same sort of affectionate treatment when it was applied to him by the Boy. He knew this was extremely un-wolf like, but as with so many other contradictions and confusions in his life he pushed it almost completely out of his mind.


1185. But the vet was a vet, and in the same way that the Boy could not look at a horse shoe without noticing the wear pattern, so the vet could not handle an animal without engaging in a kind of clinical examination.  He noticed right away the temperature of Otis' nose, the amount of oil in his fur, the sharpness of his nails, and the texture of the pads of his feet. He did all of this without thinking about it in any way, all the while talking about the hurdy-gurdy handle.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Otis The Wolf, parts 1178 - 1181


1178. His first remark, usually expressed moments after examining some cow or pig was to say, 'Who knows, at this point I simply could not say, hmmmmm.' About this remark, the hmmm, was the most important part. A short hmm meant a small charge of 10 d-fosdit, but a long hmmmm, cost over 20 d-fosdit. D-fosdits are no longer in circulation anywhere but as a rough guide, one fostid in today's currency would be enough to buy a used toaster in a Goodwill Store.



1179. A week later the veterinarian would return and again examine the sick animal. If the animal had recovered he would say, 'just as I supposed, it is a classic case.' For this this was another 10 used toasters to be paid.


1180. If the animal had become sicker he would say exactly the same words,'just as I supposed, it is a classic case.' For this there was a 15 toaster charge. If the animal happened to be at death's door, he would rub his chin thoughtfully and say, 'she needs to spend some time at a spa, the best place is that well-known sulphur springs in Southern Albania.' This lame attempt at humor at a tragic time was never appreciated by anyone.


1181. As for the vet rubbing his chin before condemning an animal to destruction, it is true that it is the same gesture used by art collectors prior to purchasing a work of art. I do not know why both gestures are used the same way in such dissimilar situations. Perhaps it has to do with the finality of the thought-process going on in the brain at the time.