Yes, Virginia, there is an Assemblagist.

This new website is kicking my Ass -emblage capabilities. The 600×200 graphics aren’t loading correctly [this is where we serve the wine] and the thumbnails refuse to submit to their 120×120 requirements [bring in the small platter of brie] … to submit my taxied brain to further degradation, the template is fubarred by my constant incorrect line-edit manipulation. I shall retire to my dressing place and contemplate the universal roundhouse wherein my mental train resides. Hand me those Ritz crackers, please.

Perhaps it is time to call Spencer Montgomery.

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    The Divine Placement of Elemental Objects

    While in graduate school, I often read creative non-fiction to better fixate the details of an historic event within the context of its physical and timely occurrence.  My field of study, 19th century American history, provided me with inspiration for many of my assemblages.My Father

    This week I work on “regions of optical power”. These boxes range in size from 3″x4″ to a large circa 1930s suitcase with a wood frame and canvas exterior. My mother-in-law gifted me with  the suitcase which has a marvelous flat surface (probably about 18″ x 24″ or a bit more) – perfect for a table top. I’ve enlisted the aid of our new across-the-street neighbor Jimmy who will install carriage bolts to the leg assembly base of the suitcase. Legs from a coffee table built by my father in the 1970s will serve the foundation for this suitcase table. Inside the case, the divine placement of elemental objects will begin.

    The regions of optical power boxes began when Momma went into the nursing home. The object is to give her hand-size or easily held pieces to consider. At 91 years of age, she offers me detailed insights and a unique perspectives as she considers each piece. It occurred to me, early this morning, that her dementia creates an “ephemeric mind” able to delve into fleeting memory bits and permanent recollections of her past. Her interpretation or discussions about my assemblages reminds me of the “about” statement of the Ephemera: Theory and Politics in Organization journal:

    ephemera [the journal] counters the current hegemonization of social theory and operates at the borders of organization studies in that it continuously seeks to question what organization studies is and what it can become. “

    My working mental state reflects my personal social theories. I see who I am in that definition. An Assemblagist creates: art that interprets what organization is and what is can become.

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    then Marlin Fitzwater says to me…

    This is an excerpt from a review on Marlin Fitzwater’s book “Esther’s Pillow”. I interviewed Mr. Fitzwater for the review. The review is on Popmatters.com website.

    When I asked him about the integrity of the press, and how his experiences as a press secretary influenced his characterization of the newspaper reporter in the novel, he replied, “My characterization of Temple Dandridge [Star reporter] reflects my journalism training, and my years as a press secretary. I generally believe in the integrity of journalists, even when they round a few corners.” My favorite character in the book is Easy Tucker. Fitzwater agreed.

    The assault on Margaret Chambers, the ripping of her clothing, was punishable. Fitzwater told me that the 2001 equivalent of tar and feathers would be children falsely accusing teachers of abuse, parents pressuring teachers on certain policies, legal actions against school systems on curriculum matters, or any situation in which citizens take the law into their own hands. Questioned about digging up family secrets, Fitzwater believes the “truth is far more interesting than any sense of shame” He finds it hard to think of Jay as a family member, instead, he is just a character in the story. His family supported the book and the revelations about Jay Fitzwater’s background. Four generations have passed and now the search is for Jay’s descendents. In response to my questions about his long lost relatives, Fitzwater told me, “No descendant of Jay has turned up, although I hope one will.

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    assemblage art 2

    from the same review:

    If you know Fitzwater, it should come as no surprise that one of the main characters in the novel is not a person at all, but an entity–The Press. I emailed Fitzwater to ask him about the significance of the Kansas City Star in Esther’s Pillow. He told me: “The Kansas City Star is a character in Esther’s Pillow, especially because its extensive coverage helped change the moral attitudes in Lincoln, Kansas and the nation concerning tar and feathering. Indeed, without the Star’s coverage, this trial might have passed unnoticed, and the community would not have examined its own morality so closely.”

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    assemblage art 1

    from a review I wrote

    Stories, like dragons, are hard to kill.

    Former White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater rows across the river of historical fiction with both oars in the water. As the quintessential media-man, Fitzwater can sure write the story. This time, though, he’s not putting the spin on a Reagan policy decision or facing the press corps’ questions concerning a George H. Bush legislative agenda. He’s got a personal stake in his new novel, Esther’s Pillow. Fitzwater’s father lay dying. As he and his brother sat at their father’s bedside, they heard him call out the name of a man they never knew. Their father had a brother Jay whose name was never mentioned. Shrouded in secrecy, the story of this long-forgotten family scandal became the plot of Fitzwater’s first novel.

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    My Little Town and Economic Reality

    Growing Up Knowing the Future

    People who grew up here in my little town knew how their lives would unfold. Like those who lived in a mill town outside of Aiken, South Carolina or a coal mine community in Harlan, Kentucky — the options were clear. Some would work on the mill floor and a scant few would rise to management and work in the office. Some would go down into the earth and others would work in buildings above it — but everyone would serve the local god-machine in some capacity.

    NC Symphony

    You could probably walk to work because it was just down the road. Or you rode with your dad or your best friend from high school. And you carried your lunch.

    Some kids looked at their future and thought it contained only broken down men with broken down lives. Judgement and condemnation. They wanted more. Those kids tried out college and big cities and sometimes they made it. Those kids knew what waited for them in their little town should they need to return and found security in that knowledge.

    Sometimes their stories were just like the movies, The Good Will Hunting and All the Right Moves tales of inspiration and courage in the face of local derision. The breaking with tradition and the hometown status quo for the elusive “more” . Mostly the kids turned into adults with kids that turned into adults with kids and they all shopped at the company store and worshipped at the company church.

    The thing of it is — this way of life worked.

    The Little Town Social Contract

    It was sane and predictable and as a cultural model, a social concept  — it worked. Now we can argue ad nauseum about the hazards of coal mines, of factory-related illness and safety issues and environmental issues and education issues, about horrid bosses and Koch brothers-type taking profit over person — but this is about the cultural/social utilitarian concept of growing up knowing what you were going to do with your life. How it would unfold in the background while you got married, had kids, grew old.

    You knew that you could get a job. (That’s the whole point here — not a discussion of what was bad or wrong or non-union or OSHA-lacking commentary because this is the esoteric above-it-all type of post.)

    You knew you could walk to the shirt factory, or the furniture factory or the company store and secure employment. Somewhere in your town, you could find a job. The level of your employment satisfaction and pay scale was up to you but the jobs were there. You would participate in the manufacturing process. There would be a paycheck and a place to live and a store where you could buy what you needed.

    Knowing what the future holds — This type of security is highly underrated. This type of security is economic. It is social. It is cultural.

    An agrarian-based economy served the same role. You grew up working on the farm and you would continue to do so for the rest of your life.

    Now — Take your opinion of what is fulfilling and fun and of this century and knock it back a bit. Take your personal opinion out of this cultural socio-security analysis. A difficult task since we are given opinions in every bit of information we seek to analyze.

    The factories are gone from my little town. The shirt factory, less than 2 blocks away, remains an oozing sore on the body politic of this place. This lovely town of less than 11,000 now manufactures very few goods. It seems we are to exist, economically, on services. Not as producers of anything of value. It seeks to replace the factory floor with tourism jobs. Minimum wage like the factory but without any sense of continuity or place in the grand scheme of the American worker.

    These tourism pimps seek to somehow hoping to honor this tradition of a viable community based on real jobs and pride of place with changing bed linens and cleaning toilets and demeaning, demanding visitors who have no stake in our future.

    It seems tourists must be entertained, wined and dined, and the goal is for the visitor to leave with something purchased downtown. This means either goods fabricated in China with local labels attached or used / previously owned / retro objects or art or crafts. It would seem that the local tourism boards should cultivate the arts, the artists, in the community since they drive the economic engine of commerce.

    Artists are the only ones producing goods in this small community.

    The few items manufactured here are parts of a greater whole, not independent objects. The manufacturers feed the system with much needed parts and this is good. When local factories produced completed goods, they also produced items to sell. Obviously.

    cropped-lrg_metal_shoes.jpg

    Screw Tourism

    Seriously. Give us back our manufacturing base. We want our downtowns again. Encourage storeowners to stock goods that our citizens actually need. Do not base our economy on the whims of real estate developers who screwed us over in 2006 and who wait in the swamplands to return and suck this town dry once again. Those who would build on our waterfront and control access to the river thus depriving locals of what has always been shared.

    Take care of the residents. The locals. Stop pandering to some yeehaw with a $20 meal budget who’s too cheap to leave a decent tip. We’ve a paltry few items to sell because manufacturing left the building and our economic reality is minimum wage at its best and under-the-table $5 an hour at its worst.

    Do you recognize my little town?

    Arkansas? South Carolina? North Carolina? Kentucky … West Virginia … Pennsylvania?

    We want to be more than what we are. You’ve taken away our pride of place and covered our town with its million dollar views for all with your million dollar homes for the few. And when the few don’t show up, you simply apply for bankruptcy protection while we are left with your behemoth condominiums and empty storefronts.

    Tourism. Shove it up your tight little developer’s ass. Here in my little town, we pay the “Tourism Director” more than we pay our health department nurses.

    Me?

    I get to speak to this. Not just because my little town’s economic blight can be seen right from my front porch … I get to speak to this because of summers spent in the bowels of a huge factory working my ass off to pay for college. That factory is gone now. Shut down. Whirlpool Corporation pulled out of Fort Smith, AR. Certainly Whirlpool was not a small town manufacturing facility by any means with its over 5,000 employees (I think) back in its heyday, but large-scale manufacturing was fed by all sorts of parts made in plants in small towns like this one.

    More of this social commentary to come. I’m not done yet. Your little town deserves to thrive. Tourism will not sustain your economy. It’s a dead end.

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