Painting with John: Preparation

In a normal year, baseball players would be reporting to spring training right about now. It’s a magical time of year, and I’ve always dreamed about heading down to Lakeland, Florida to see Detroit Tigers legends such as Mort Crim, Bill Bonds, and “the MFIC1 up close and in-person. Just typing these words has the beautiful voice of Ernie Harwell floating around in my mind.

This year’s spring training probably won’t happen. World Wars and Covid didn’t cause the cancelation of an MLB baseball season, but it’s relatively common for labor strife to do so.

Spring Training with John

However, Painting with John Season 2 WILL premier on February 18, so I will turn my attention there.

Many Canadians are likely reading this while doing their stretching, limbering up before heading out to shovel another two or three feet of snow from their driveway. It’s quite similar to the annual workouts that baseball players engage in. The difference is that Spring Training is about 6 weeks, and a Canadian winter is about 6 months.

Spring training for Painting with John is not mandatory, but it is a good idea. Season 1 episodes were only around 20 minutes long, but they are rich and dense viewing. One episode equates to enough thought-provoking material for 3 or 4 university-level lectures.

To get into shape for Season 2 of Painting with John, I have decided to rewatch all of Season 1 again.

Below are my thoughts on Season 1 Episode 1.

In episode one of season one of Painting with John, there’s an image of a sunset. John Lurie asks us to write a poem about it as if we are all Leonard Cohen. Earlier in the episode, Lurie was brave enough to say that “Bob Ross was wrong. Not everyone can paint.” But here he is thinking we are all wordsmiths.

Well, Mr. Lounge Lizard. I’m gonna prove to you and everyone reading this that I am no poet:

There’s a bomb in the sky, the beach has sand
Sunsets are a brand, the laughter is canned
My writing is dung, just like the words sung by Neil young
Go ahead and set you stupid sun, I’m gonna have some fun
Tiananmen Square is where the Red army marches
Sunsets use the same colors as the Golden Arches

my terrible sunset poem

I suppose we’ve all been brainwashed into believing sunsets are beautiful. In other words, Sunsets© have created a strong brand. But they’re not beautiful. Sunsets are the end. The end of the day. We should not get all lovey-dovey when we see them. We should vote against them or vote thumbs down or something.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan (the good one)

Hunter S. Thompson vs. The Moon

One of Ralph Steadman’s paintings of Hunter S. Thompson

I recall reading Hunter Thompson describing being wiped out, outdoors with a sword, swinging a katana at the moon. The big glowing rock in the sky had seriously wounded Dr. Gonzo, and it would have to pay. The lone swordfighter, terrestrially bound, fighting a heavenly body.

“You son of a bitch! How dare you come out here and mock me, all of us, every goddamn night!”

Something Hunter S. Thompson might have written

The sun mocks us on an even grander scale than the moon. It knows we are nothing without it. The great explosion in the sky, the great big bomb in the sky is holding four aces, and has a couple more up it’s sleeve. Every night is more or less a nuclear winter. We ought to hate sunsets.

Each one is a recreation of the Doors song The End, only on a galactic level. But branding made us believe that sunsets are beautiful, even romantic.

The Olympics Don’t Impress Detroit Much

After the episode of Painting with John finished, I scanned through the channels. The snowboarders were on again, getting Big Air at The Olympics. Nuclear cooling towers were prominent in the background. Where there’s smoke there is fire, and where there are cooling towers there is a nuclear explosion, a little sun.

The entire spectacle looked like a version of Detroit at its nadir, only for spoiled rich white kids instead of Black people with soul. Years ago, Dick Valentine sang matter-of-factly “they can’t kill Detroit”. The Big Dick was right, and he was right to sing it matter-of-factly, too.

The whole thing made me envision Hunter in the great outdoors doing battle with an Olympic flag. Instead of a Samurai sword, he had a set of Ginsu Steak Knives he bought from an infomercial, along with Voice of Chunk.

Dope, Greed, and Corruption or Faster, Higher, Stronger?

Instead of the pernicious moon, the Olympic flag rages in the sky. It’s rings signify Dope, Greed, and Corruption instead of Faster, Higher, Stronger. Hunter is our man taking on the hypocrisy, all alone, but representing the 99%.

That’s enough training for one evening. I’ll probably head to bed and fall asleep watching Repo Man, a movie about the bomb, a sunset, The End. Or is it…

Tomorrow’s Training:

Tomorrow’s training shall include reading On Photography by Susan Sontag, with special emphasis placed on the chapter The Image-World.

1 “Years later, in 1973, Detroit would elect its first African-American mayor, Coleman Young, who ran a campaign on social justice and black power. He famously kept a placard on his desk that read “M.F.I.C.” — short for “Motherfucker in charge.” He even once greeted reporters from Hawaii by saying, “Aloha, motherfuckers!” Young went on to serve five terms.”

*Featured image is Stanza looking at a picture of himself painted by Mark Seabrook. Bottom image is a drawing by David Byrne.

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