Archive for lana sutton

A Note on What Lana Sutton Calls “Zombification”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by spinoza1111

Lana Sutton, whom alas I only know cybernetically, is an artist, dancer, Yoga teacher, gardener, activist, musician and Holy Terror in Chattanooga who has written about the “zombification” of American politics.

This is an attempt to do what in academia is called “theory”, that is to propose a way of explaining WHY so many people seem so uninformed, unaware, and incurious. It is in fact a response in a thread on the Wall Street Journal in which a poster accused me of being wrong merely because, in a long and I flatter myself well-reasoned post, I had used the term “tea bag”.

The Wall Street Journal thread was started by Dilbert creator Scott Adams.

Here is my response in full. It starts from a quote from the poster who didn’t like my use of the phrase “Tea Bag”.

“Your use of the term “Tea Baggers” renders your comments totally irrelevant”

My my my how convenient that is. I have demonstrated that I’ve done my homework enough to realize that the Tea Whatever phenom is one with no decency n substance that I need respect, and my use of the word is part of my conclusion and not my premise.

Your problem, kiddo, in all probability, is I make your head hurt by usin’, not a lotta big words as in the caricature, but something you haven’t seen on TV, and your Daddy ain’t seen on TV since Ed Murrow, and this is appropriate reasoning and language just complex enough to fit the situation.

It makes your head hurt, so you crack a beer and focus on one word.

In 2004, I published a book, which is still earning me royalties, chump. It’s “Build Your Own .Net Language and Compiler” (Apress-Springer). It is quite computer-technical, since it is about how to use the formalizable grammar of a programming language to develop a translator (known as a “compiler”) for computer languages to bits and bytes.

Now, in learning my trade, years before, enough to write that book, I learned that Noam Chomsky (of all people) had developed a classification of languages as part, not of his recent political work, but as part of his scientific linguistics.

He identified a class of languages that consists, generally speaking and in layperson’s terms, of left to right streams of symbols. These streams, known as regular expressions, could be fully “understood” by an abstract machine which would merely be in certain discrete “states” during the processing of any one stream.

This automaton would have no memory. Higher classes of machines might have a simple memory structured so that the automaton or machine could only access its most recent addition to that “stack”, but general human language would require that the automaton or person not only have a richer memory; it would have to backtrack at times to fully understand a sentence in the higher level language.

Interestingly, Anne Wilson Schaef, a consultant to organizations, wrote some time ago about her theory that dysfunctional organizations form “addictive systems”, in which people persist in ineffective behavior (useless meetings, polluting the environment, office politics…you name it) because, in Schaef’s words, “the addictive system has no memory”.

The extreme instance would be a drunk in a blackout. But there are milder instances. NASA’s 1986 Challenger disaster was caused by the incorporation and standardization of extreme schedule pressures; after the crash, this problem was identified on spreadsheets…and forgotten, with the result that again, owing to neglect of engineering standards, the Columbia was destroyed on re-entry in 2003.

Likewise, at least part of the job of the “Mad Men” of advertising has always been to help us forget. In the 1940s, about 45% of all adult Americans smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and were lulled into believing them safe. They had to neglect both their own feelings (cigarettes are really awful things) and the admonishments of people like my grandfather.

Then, after the Royal Medical society in Britain and Reader’s Digest in America started to warn people that men who’d started smoking cigarettes during World War I were dying of a disease almost unknown prior to the 1940s (lung cancer), the Mad Men had to turn on a dime, and cause smokers to forget their reassurances that Camels and other smokes didn’t have no “cough in a carload”, and get them to adopt the filter. By this time, the Mad Men were forbidden by the FTC from making direct health claims, so instead, they showed healthy people doing healthy things like camping and tennis.

The addictive system has no memory. It is a stream of symbols. It is to a computer scientist, a simple “regular expression” meant to make a simple machine do simple things; older computer users may remember what they had to type on MS DOS computers in the 1980s: these were, for the most part, regular expressions.

Now, what does all this horses*t have to do with politics?

I’ve come to believe that in recent years, owing to the continual refinement of public relations that started in WWI under Edward Bernays (who both persuaded Americans to enter WWI and smoke unfiltered Camels), the language of politics has become what Chomsky called a “regular” language: a stream of evocative symbols, meant to be processed by people with neither excess intelligence nor any memory, and meant to produce states, that will produce desirable behavior. In the 1920s, as a result, people did walk a mile for a Camel, all the way the h*ll up Broadway on Yom Kippur, like the hero of The Lost Weekend in search of booze…because they’d been placed in the end-state desired by the tobacco and alcohol men who paid Bernays to ADDICT people to cigarettes, booze, consumption and b*lls*t.

Using the Chomsky model, I realized that at work, we’re at best what he called Type 2: we have a last in first out memory merely to remember and prioritize tasks. At home, people actively, today, seek to be put by TeeVee into the state of being entertained by a stream of symbols, in which are sandwiched substreams that put them into the state of consumers, and today, voters. Chomsky Type 3 if you’re a geek.

For example, a candidate like Al Gore or Obama presents a complex grammatical structure in which we understand, for example, that Social Security can indeed be secured by sequestering funds in what Gore called the lockbox. But to understand what Gore was saying, people had to parse sentences with things like sub and conditional clauses; put very simply, a legislative commitment would have been needed to secure Social Security.

But people, in CS Lewis’s words, maddened by false promises and soured by true miseries, don’t want to hear even probable conditionals. Like children they want reassurance: streams of symbols. Which Bush provided, starting with sneering about Gore’s fuzzy math. That is, Gore was just fuzzy, and no further thought was needed.

I could possibly make a bundle, you know, by coding computer software to REDUCE the complexity of political advertisements and speeches using an automated parser based on my knowledge of computer linguistics. But I prefer teaching little kids English. And…this software probably exists.

Now, I’ve interacted with Chomsky, and I have to say that he is too unimaginative and in my opinion too uncultured (as a scientist and not a public intellectual in my book) to appreciate linkages between his scientific work and politics. So be aware this is my own linkage.

Edward G. Nilges, “Holy Terror: Homage to Lana”, pencil, pen, wash with Gimp modifications, Oct 2010


Lana Sutton #12: Finale

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 28, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges, “Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn”, acrylic on canvas, 12×16″, 28 Oct 2010

Lana Sutton: Rocky Top

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 24, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges “State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 24 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas, 12×17 in.

Edward G. Nilges “Detail of State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 24 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas

Edward G. Nilges “State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 24 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas, 12×17 in.: black and white chiaroscuro


The mountain sat upon the plain
In his eternal chair,
His observation omnifold,
His inquest everywhere.

The seasons prayed around his knees,
Like children round a sire:
Grandfather of the days is he,
Of dawn the ancestor.

Not done climbing the mountain by a long shot. Discovered that I do indeed have to get down with a small brush on even broad structures, because her blue skirt is coming together, looks less scratchy.

Daniel V. Thompson (author of The Practice of Tempera Painting) emphasizes the utility of black in traditional European painting.

Black was the cheapest colour in the mediaeval and Renaissance painter’s cabinet. It was just burn charcoal, carbon.

Now, some sort of art skewl Myth of Authenticity got started with the Impressionists: Don’t.Use.Black.

Bullcrap. Black is the color of my true love’s hair. Well, it used to be.

Where was I. Bullcrap. Black is the line, the horizon, and the Impressionists denied death.

The Spaniards, Velazquez and Goya, they knew about black. The non-negotiable colour.

My sessions in part a conversation between black and white: es wahr eine Wunderliecher Krieg, der Todt undt Leben rungen.

But I also grab a big brush, dip it in paint, wipe nearly all the paint off, dilute it until there are only a few atoms of pigment, and glaze my heart out, following white down her entire figure on the left, sienna and even my nemesis Cadmium Red down the center, and black and sienna down the left, for it is dawn, when things are lit from the east.

The drawing and the original chiaroscuro are preparations for this moment, when the light shines in the darkness, and highlights appear.

The black and white chiaroscuro above is simply the current state of the painting unsaturated using Microsoft Office Picture Manager. It shows the truth of her right forearm. It does catch the light of her mountain dance. It shall.

Continual refinement, no compromise. If gal were paying me, she’d be impatient for me to make an end. Unless it were fixed price and woman didn’t want it right away. But she ain’t. Labor of (Platonic!) love. Celebration of all the girls who ever danced, alone, with another, or with me, including one little number in a mountaintop park in San Jose years ago dressed Indian style. Ah, memories…

My cellphone camera is the pits but I cannot afford a decent camera. Sucks.

The first movement of Beethoven’s “Rasumouvsky” quartet builds into a wall of sound. Not compromising with the Prince Esterhaz, nor with the Prince-Bishop of Salzburg. Self ownership. For another.

Lana Sutton is a dancer, musician, gardener, environmentalist, chef, natural foodist, political activist, pest, gad-fly, uppity woman and Mayor Ron “Show Me the Money” “27 dollars for a printout” Littlefield’s worst nightmare in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who doesn’t mow her lawn. This painting is based on photographs by Native Son.

Lana Sutton #10: The question is what have I done

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 23, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges, “State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn as of 23 Oct 2010″, acrylic on canvas 12″ x 16” with some retouch using Gimp

I want to proclaim it finished-
To say, this must be, must be
But then, the vision vanished-
Of what could be, could be.

This painting is,
Scumbly and tattered, torn
The fissures necessary are
To let the light in of the morn.

But as of old the painter fought
For what “technology”
Displays on a computer screen
Creatable, by anybody.

I can do this and you cannot
But that’s because you are not me
The question is what have I done
To give another felicity.

Edward G. Nilges (with apologies, again, to Emily the D)

In the original post of this version, the face, I realized this morning, looked nuts. So I got busy with Gimp to actually increase the intensity of the eyes while toning down the contrast which made her look nutty. This guides me in subsequent work, and this painting needs work.

The Old Bastards would use special mediums and unguents in secret ways at this point to add a whole new layer for before 1848, most patrons expected a rather glossy and finished work. In order to deliver this, the Old Bastards pioneered industrial organization of work but using varieties of the mediaeval guild system in order to avoid having to compete.

It is a paradox that the invention of photography was followed by the abandonment by artists of industrial ateliers for the garret and the individual struggle.

The studios of David and Ingres, with their expropriation of the labour of apprentices who willingly worked for free in order to later exploit their connection with the Master, were hives of activity, with apprentices painting details and models running about in various states of deshabille. Andrzej Wajda’s film Danton shows David’s studio.

My next project (Kanthan emergent, from the Indian Ocean, or, Dad! Why Speedos!?) shall be on a larger canvas for it is deuced hard to work at the 12×16 inch scale and get the expression right. Fortunately, Kanthan’s expression is your basic Dravidian glower and Dark Look as opposed to Lana’s combination of ferocity and humour.

Her blue skirt is still a mess. I may have to work it over with a small brush. It is very amusing to use my Big Bristle Brush, or my most excellent fat sable, a “Van Gogh”. The Big Bristle Brush scumbles vast areas, and the fat sable glazes large areas.

But both make everything too painterly. The pleasure of looking at an Old Bastard like Raphael is searching for the trace of the illusion: one looks closely, for example, at Poussin’s Orfeo in the Poussin Sanctum of the Louvre (through which ignorant blasted tourists troop unseeing, not knowing they are on holy ground)…to see that at this small scale, Poussin had trouble with drawing and the brush…trouble his slimeball friend Vouet didn’t have.

The artist’s bio, his struggle (Kampf? uh oh…) is part of the work, trivially enough, for heigh-ho, the history of das Welt is in the work.

Yeah, uh-oh. Mein Kampf. Needs to be confronted, the fact that the biography of Schickelgruber makes a mock of any He who would be an Artist, Above it All, and meant to be Culled Out:

“I wuz meant to be culled out” – Robert Crumb, “Mister Sensitive Can’t Take It!”

Now, I cannot bring myself to read a biography of Hitler, although I’ve read Shirer et al. on the history of the Third Reich. But apart from one comment writ by one of his secretaries, I do not find any evidence that Hitler sketched during staff meetings, used drawings to show his generals what to do, or made water-colours or pastels of the Soviet troops across the street from his Bunker.

The comment was an echo of the 19th century bourgeois dream of escape (which was financed by the gold standard): “I should have been an unknown painter, tramping about Italy”.

Lana Sutton is a musician, dancer, activist, gardener, environmentalist and Holy Terror in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This painting is based on the photography of Native Son.

Lana Sutton #9: Tochter aus Elysium

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges, “State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 22 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas 12 x 16 in

Edward G. Nilges, “Detail of State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 22 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas

Edward G. Nilges, “States of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 22 Oct 2010”, photos of an acrylic painting on canvas

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt!

Friedrich Schiller, An die Freude (“Beethoven Ninth Symphony”)

The highlighting of her face, in translucent and restrained whites, must show her gladdened by the dawn, turning her face towards the sun.

I toned down the sunset to foreground the arabesque of her figure.

I restrict my pallete to the following colours:

Yellow ochre
Burnt sienna
Cadmium red

This is because as you can see all colours can be synthesized from this simple pallette.

This is based on a recommendation in Daniel V. Thompson’s classic, The Practice of Tempera Painting. European painters of the Renaissance were barred by the Turkish Caliphate from trade with China, and there are no rain forests near Europe (the Sahara is in the way).

Rain forests produced colours of high saturation before German chemists discovered how to synthesize intense aniline dyes from coal tars in the 19th century. The Chinese had access to plants and animals that in the rain forest produce saturated colours to attract pollination or mates, or warn predators to back off.

As a result, mediaeval tempera painters had as saturated colours only lapiz lazuli (a semiprecious blue mineral, often reserved for the gown of the Virgin in her honour) and a few other mineral colours. Their most common colours were synthesized from the bright earths of Italy, with ochre yellow and sienna being the commonest.

They attained the brightness and purity found in Fra Angelico and Giotto both by setting colours off against each other, and always painting, Thompson says, thinly with sable brushes, and translucently.

Perhaps today, with China a rising world power and a resurgent Islam, Western artists should use local materials properly just as Lana recommends people eat locally!

This stage is where the Old Bastards actually set down to work, as a close examination of a pre-1848 painting will show, constantly enhancing form using colour. Cezanne was a great artist, but he did not discover that color is form.

A hank of her hair has to break your heart.

Above all, restraint, the sort of restraint that my fat pal Adorno finds in Mahler’s song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde: although Mahler used poems that were originally by Li Bai, he uses their German translation, which makes the poems utterly unlike Li Bai. The orchestration isn’t Orientalist, and doesn’t use pentatonic scales. It is Mahler.

According to Adorno, Mahler had no interest in lighting out for the Far East. Instead, Mahler wanted to get out of the bullshit of Vienna and actually relocated to the USA just before his death.

The other night, a friend was describing the reason why some expatriates come here to Hong Kong without making much of an effort to learn Cantonese. It’s because, he said, that when you live in an environment where you don’t speak the language, you don’t have to listen to the constant bullshit in the media: get rich quick, lose weight, and buy more useless crap.

Mahler had no more interest in living in the USA than in China. If his music expresses in some way how he felt, it is the music of a wayfarer out of tune with the world who nonetheless has his moments.

Likewise Lana Sutton is not easily categorized as libertarian or Tea Party, just, on a case by case basis, able to recognize malfeasance and do her homework. She’s giving the corrupt mayor of Chattanooga fits based on specific, concrete facts (such as charging the taxpayer $27 for a printout).

If you’re aware in some way of the Negative Dialectic, that is you know right and wrong on a case by case basis, you escape false humility (as in Lana’s song I Do Right and you focus on day to day struggles, beating against the current of history.

I want my work to be innocent of and outside of art history like the little kid in a grocery store in Yung Shue Wan who always just shines brightly when she sees me.

Lana Sutton is an artist, activist, gardener, environmentalist, foodist, musician, dancer and Mayor Ron Littlefield’s worst nightmare in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who doesn’t mow her lawn. This painting is based on photography by Native Son.

Lana Sutton #8: the murmur of a Bee a Witchcraft yieldeth me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges, “State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 21 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas 12×16 in.

Edward G. Nilges, “Four States of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 21 Oct 2010”, assemblage of photographs of an incomplete painting, acrylic on canvas 12×16 in.


The murmur of a bee
A witchcraft yieldeth me.
If any ask me why,
‘T were easier to die
Than tell.

The red upon the hill
Taketh away my will;
If anybody sneer,
Take care, for God is here,
That’s all.

The breaking of the day
Addeth to my degree;
If any ask me how,
Artist, who drew me so,
Must tell!

Emily Dickinson

The goal: to preserve the freshness of translucent color

To avoid crude white highlights save at the apex of light

and, get the Feet right. My favorite critic doesn’t like this foot, from an earlier painting.

Edward G. Nilges, “Detail of Dancer Victory”, acrylic on canvas Jan 2009.

I didn’t use a model for this foot, and I like it although my friend does not. Since she is smarter than me (the wise man, according to Spinoza, seeking the company of the wiser even if dey is dames), I must consider everything she says carefully.

She wants the Real, to me another art skewl fetish and a Jargon of Authenticity in some cases. I am looking for something else. The instantiated and infinitely suffering Ideal, the Word made Flesh, or merely a childish hope that at least Wonder Woman is real, which she was when we were little kids, being Mom.

The children want the bunnies to escape in Adorno’s favorite nursery rhyme about the hunter who missed. My little students enjoyed Charles Causley’s I Saw a Jolly Hunter:

Bang went the jolly gun
Hunter jolly dead
Jolly hare got clean away
Jolly good, I said.

Therefore something, above, is afoot. Not some model’s foot in art school. The Foot that, in the late running guru’s George Sheehan’s words, “crossed continents and danced for days on end”. I have put my foot down.

My foot more or less anatomically accurate both from some formal study and the fact that every time I go out for a run I must say, Hello, Foot. Hello, Brother Ass the Body. Once more carry me to a better place, once more, after thirty years of running, to the Pure Land.

Lana Sutton’s feet in her portrait shall take some work.

Lana Sutton is a musician, dancer, activist, gardener, environmentalist, Holy Terror and Mayor Ron Littlefield’s worst nightmare in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This portrait is based on photography of Native Son.

Lana Sutton #7: I’ll tell you how the sun rose

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2010 by spinoza1111

Edward G. Nilges, “Final Grisaille State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn”, 19 Oct 2010, acrylic on canvas, 12×16 in

Edward G. Nilges, “State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 7:00 PM 19 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas, 12×16 in

Edward G. Nilges, “State of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 19 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas, 12×16 in

Edward G. Nilges, “Three States of a Portrait of Lana Sutton, Holy Terror and the Dancer of Dawn, as of 19 Oct 2010”, acrylic on canvas, 12×16 in


I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.
The steeples swam in amethyst,
The news like squirrels ran.

The hills untied their bonnets,
The bobolinks begun.
Then I said softly to myself,
“That must have been the sun!”

* * *

But how he set, I know not.
There seemed a purple stile
Which little yellow boys and girls
Were climbing all the while

Till when they reached the other side,
A dominie in gray
Put gently up the evening bars,
And led the flock away.

Emily Dickinson

The final severity of the grey goo is then followed by the dawn. You must control the brush to avoid having to scumble in form with white overmuch later on and to keep the freshness of the translucent colours.

You don’t want to remodel form later with opaque white. However, the feet will need some of this work.

The brush strokes recapitulate the history of Western art for they show dancing, intersecting planes of color-form, the common feature of Cezanne and Poussin.

The upper part of the sea needs work but I like the lower part, a dull green waiting for the sun, which shall illuminate its slight ebb and flow with rose scumbling.

The color of the dawn should be restrained for it will rain later.

Her face has to turn with colorform into the light.

The red of her red, white and blue must be more American. The white sash needs restrained impasto in pure white with a just-cleaned brush.

Her hair needs more lights on the right side for it is a feature of Native Son’s photographs.

Lana Sutton is a dancer, musician, gardener, environmentalist, activist, and holy terror in Chattanooga, Tennessee, who doesn’t mow her lawn. This painting is based on photography of Native Son.