Thursday, January 31, 2013

Enlightening and Dismal

It's good to be reminded of alternate mindsets.

I found that out by going to the Anderson Gallery for Brian Ulrich's talk on his current shows, "Coppia" and "Closeout," which I'd already seen once, here.

Walking to the front of the gallery to talk to the room-overflowing crowd, a good percentage of whom were students, he gestured at the mic and asked, "Do I need this?"

Pause. "It would be awesome if it had some reverb on it."

I knew exactly what he meant.

He settled on moving the stand nearer him and perching on a stool to talk about his photographs.

Explaining that after September 11th he lost interest in the kind of autobiographical work he'd been doing, he began explaining the overwhelming sadness that had permeated the country in the weeks after.

He referred to an overall "grieving umbrella" that we all had fallen under then.

As he continued to explain something so obvious, it occurred to me.

Most of the people in the room had been 8,9,10 years old when the attack had happened.


No matter what they recall of the events and the effects, they did not process it as adults and their take on it would almost have to be less fully informed.

Ergo Brian's setting the cultural scene for them.

What I saw as quite obvious had to laid out for them.

While describing shooting the thrift stores for the second part of the project, he said, "I was working in thrift stores while I was an undergraduate. It was an enlightening and dismal experience."

He sheepishly shared how he'd removed things from "dark" malls long closed.

When it came to the end, he concluded by saying, "I feel like that was the longest run-on sentence."

There was big talk, "Discover a commitment to an idea," and reassurances, "I think I'm making dumb, bad pictures and then something clicks."

Hell, that could be considered the kernel of artistic endeavor.

But the reality is his shopping photographs are, as he admits, "Not living room art. People have to get it."

Talking about people redefining what their definition of success is had him instantly mindful of his audience.

"That was definitely not meant to be ironic," he clarified.

Again, what I saw as quite obvious had to be laid out for them.

Wow. I'm not old, I'm just pre-ironic.

I always enjoy hearing questions from students trying to wrap their heads around hearing from an adult who's succeeding artistically.

I left the grasshoppers to the master to head over to Steady Sounds for comedy.

My neighborhood record store was sponsoring #14 (I think) of the Midnight Suggestion upstairs under the world's lowest ceiling.

Waiting for things to get started, I perused the bins, deciding which had the best come-ons on them.

The winner: Imperial Teen's "Feel the Sound" with the Rolling Stone tease, "California new wave trash pop deviants."

If you ask me, Trash Pop Deviants is a much better band name than Imperial Teen anyway.

Gradually people began moving upstairs for a quartet of Austin comedians.

There I saw an acquaintance who'd just discovered he and his wife are having triplets, so I had to ask if he'd seen his life flash before his eyes when he'd heard the news.

"Yea, that first day was a black day," he admitted, mentioning a morning drink before adjusting to the very big news.

No wonder he'd come to laugh.

I met a couple of guys next to me, one of whom's wife told him, "You're in fat's cross hairs."

I'm sure she only told him for his own good, but a couple of us laughed out loud.

Marty, one of Steady's owners came up to turn on the air conditioning, worried that on this unseasonably warm, windy and humid night, that we might need cooling down.

It was a good call.

Our emcee had not had time to come up with any clever puns of introduction for the comedians, but he plucked a few things from the "Times" headlines for some last-minute topical humor.

Then we were on to Shawn who introduced himself as "White Man #2," when he moved to the front of the room to crack wise.

Train travel was described as preferable to flying because if there was a murder, the passengers would solve it.

That could even be called literary humor.

Aging came up when he mentioned he'd looked in the mirror and realized that, at age 33, he wasn't going to be very "desirable" in prison.

"That's sweet," he said of being left alone, "And kind of bitter."


The next guy was Jesse (I think?) and he led with smoking, mentioning how bad bowling allies smelled and how they were better than the patch or gum for quitting motivation.

Honestly, I had no idea there were still places that allowed smoking.

He even included a public service announcement, "Tip your bartenders well!" so he was also teaching us life lessons.

Bill wore a vest, perhaps so would be remembered as the comedian who wore a vest.

He said he used to do Cafe Diem, notable mainly because of the superior graffiti on its bathroom walls.

That degenerated into ghosts and oral pleasures before he brought us back to his breakup.

Is there a more reliable comedy crutch?

But we weren't to fret for him because he'd used the opportunity to go on OKCupid, the salvation of the single and the broken-hearted.

Or so I've heard.

Immediately a woman in the audience challenged him on it and he asked what her issue with it was.

"You gotta have game!" she threw out.

He worked that into his routine which was basically about a girl not liking the kind of sex he wanted.

"Dump her!" the heckler suggested.

But his best line of the night was, "I'm tired of irony."

Aren't we all?

Last up was Joe, who obviously didn't know his crowd when he began by saying, "I'm not a vegetarian. That shit annoys me."

I give Joe credit, though; he taught me about otherkins, those people who see themselves as partially non-human.

Oh, yes, they do. Part kitty cat, maybe.

He got me laughing when he mentioned Spike TV and its tag line, "TV for Men," saying, "I thought all TV stations were."

Now I know they do a show called "Manswers," in which men ask questions and are given testosterone-fueled answers.


Just as funny was his gun bit wherein he likened the NRA's suggestion that the solution to the gun problem is more guns by suggesting that the problem for diabetes is Sweet Tarts.

The headliner had been a funny guy. For that matter, they'd all been funny.

Texas new wave trash comedy deviants, even.

People just have to get it.

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