The NINELIVES of Cody Baker–At The Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl


One of the great things of living in Westsylvania is the vigor of our regional art community–we hit the city last night for the spring edition of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District “Gallery Crawl,” a seasonal festival of open galleries and performances downtown, all open to the public and free of charge.  You wander around, in and and of the venues, and take in work from artists ranging from polished professionals to school kids.  And maybe you have yourself an orgiastic beef brisket sandwich to start out the night.

We were lucky enough to briefly meet a young artist named Cody Baker, who was presiding over his first show last night.  This impressive kid has the stuff–his images–to which my clumsy screen grab above do not give justice–were the work that most resonated with me from the evening–and to think, I very nearly skipped the very crowded space.  I’m glad that I didn’t.




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Excerpt: The Irishman’s Tale

Desert Meets Ocean

The Irishman’s Tale is a short story relating a pivotal moment in the life of a mysterious, iconic character from the earliest days of second tier colonization and namesake of The Irishman’s Mountains. As the story goes, the Irishman, whose name has been lost to history, emerged from the desert with a squad of devoted followers and liberated the pioneers of Red Hills City from a company of loathesome, murderous picaroons who had descended upon the already struggling settlement.  Some believe he was veteran, weary of the violence and corruption of the United Colonies during the tax wars, while others hold that he was a phantom, or even an angel.  A growing number of people suspect he is just a myth, a tall tale left over from a simpler time, which is a real shame because, in the end, he was just a man, not even a particularly good man, and that was what made all the difference. 

{First draft, redundancies intact}

I’d either find a way to survive, or I wouldn’t, and if I didn’t then I wouldn’t exactly have a lot of time to consider my mistakes in detail. I’d have better things to fill that flash that goes by as my breath slips away.  Not much to do but shake your head and smile in that regard–a lot of folks give lip service to “living without regret,” but here I was, walking the walk, however involuntarily.

Fearing death—it was useless. I have no loved ones to feel my absence or grieve my memory. What grand hubris it is, to ruminate on one’s own non-existence, a state which by its very definition I’d never get to see?  Oh, the dying part of it could be bad. I’d seen death enough times to understand. Pain is a bugger; futility is a drag. But death? Once you’re there, you’re there, and that’s the beauty of it. You’re either nothing, or you’re dancing in limbo with three cherubs, a couple of folks from history you always wanted to drink with, and dear departed Aunt Gilda.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t rage against the light, as the poet encouraged. Kick and scream, spit in death’s eye—it may beat you in the end, but what a hollow victory that is: death never gets to gloat.

And it hit me: I’m spending a hell of a lot of time thinking about not thinking about death.  Not much to do with that but laugh. the sound buried by the grumbling waves–rolling in as far as my failing eyes could see, to the north and to the south

Water, water–oh Coleridge, you old bastard.

I slugged down the final, hot ounces from my canteen, replaced the bottle in my bag and considered tossing the whole thing into the sand for archeologists to enjoy one day. The sky remained blue, and I winked at it. Tell the cherubs they’ll need to find a different sitter. I would be late.

The tide seemed to be receding, and the hard wet sand near the water’s edge provided the first solid footing in three days. I headed south and left the driftwood behind me.

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This Should Be A Writing Prompt…

I grabbed this from Tumblr a few months ago because it made me smile. Now, finally getting around to posting it, it freaks me out a little.


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The Boston Bomber–To Kill or Not To Kill

I found myself, once again, over at Jonathan Turley’s always compelling and substantive blog, where he’s been writing about the decision to allow an image of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in his orange prison jumpsuit, defiantly raising his middle finger after his arrest.  Mr. Turley raises the legal question: was this evidence prejudicial or probative and, by extension, should it have been allowed?

It’s a tough call; one that, given my absolute lack of legal training or experience, I am very comfortable making. However close to the line (and it is very close) the simple fact is that this gesture is how he chose to represent himself–unrepentant and defiant.  Separate from the heinousness of his actions, his defiance is almost amusing, coming just hours after he was found cowering in a parked boat.  He had scrawled out an equally defiant note with all the usual, juvenile junior jihadist rhetoric—blah, blah, blah.

Let’s not forget how the younger Mr. Tsarnaev had escaped his previous encounter with law enforcement–by engaging in a furious firefight that included home-made bombs and semi-automatic weapons, before fleeing in a stolen vehicle, running over his older brother and dragging his body 25 to 30 feet down the street on the way. I think a raised middle finger is not only a concise and illuminating view into this young man’s soul but quite literally the least of his worries. That said, I’m hoping for life in prison rather than death, because the latter is too easy. This guy wouldn’t last a week in the general prison population, and he’s an infamous mass murderer, making Super Max isolation for the half century or more he’s got left fits the bill. I know a lot of folks are screaming for justice, and I get that. Does it take much to imagine my hands around the neck of a punk-ass like him?  Absolutely not–my blood pressure rises each time I see his face in the news.

But I like to think I’m savvy enough to distinguish emotion from reason.  I don’t think the hypocritical “it’s bad to kill so we’ll kill you if you do” brand of justice is morally compelling. If the state holds that the taking of life is an unpardonable crime, the state should not take a life as reprisal. That’s not justice, it’s revenge. The death penalty, likewise, does very little if anything to discourage others.

Mr Tsarnaev gave little thought, beyond the abstract, to the fact that he might die for his barbarism.  At best, he had whimsical daydreams of fantastical rewards–but it’s not the rewards that inspire monsters like this–it is the notoriety, because the man who raises his middle finger as he did is, at his core, a trembling narcissist. He longs for fame–and that’s how we take him.

These guys, we kill them and they become martyrs. Lock ’em up forever and they’re forgotten–and that’s pretty fine punishment indeed. We lead by example, and they end up as examples to no one.

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Wednesday Words of Wisdom: Anaïs Nin

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment 1e918848603ce0826dfc5bfb6d8a951c
and in retrospect.”
–Anaïs Nin

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Tunesday: Violent Femmes–Gone Daddy Gone

I was in tenth grade. Xylophone solo?  Hell, yes.  This song is even better now than it was 30 years ago.  I used to listen to these guys for hours.

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Ring A Ding Dong With Pavlov’s Dogs

Dr. Pavlov is in a bar and he hears the phone ring and says; “That reminds me; I must feed the dogs.”

Why is Pavlov’s hair so soft?  It’s all the Classic Conditioning.


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