Disclose Fewest Things

Episode One Hundred Nineteen: Disclose Fewest Things.
In which the Soap Strip step in venereal soil.

1 comment:

  1. This comic after reading Wallace Stevens’ “O Florida, Veneral Soil,” 1922.

    There was something in the week I drew this strip about going in circles, exploring the same subjects, the same artists, writers. A lifetime grazing on one patch, digesting, grazing again. And yet never fully coming to know any one thing.

    I read Stevens’ poem earlier in the week, and the two lines from the first and last panels stuck in my head. Naturally, they are two of the meanest sentiments available. Naturally, I identify with the category of the loathsome.

    The poem alternates between the lush, chaotic sensationalism that Florida was to represent for Stevens, traveling there regularly, as he did, from his chilly, sedate, ordered Hartford. (‘Venereal’, I take, to be from ‘of Venus’, which is literally ‘sexual’ but figuratively ‘physical’.) It seems to say that Florida’s sensationalism (i.e., “of the senses”) is overwhelming to this New Englander. “Slow it down,” I think he’s saying. “Let me inventory you one at a time.” But it roars at night: insistent, tearing. Tropical storms defying ivy-league orchestration.

    But I don’t know, really, and that’s part of what I’ve been musing on. I’ve been returning to him for decades, and his work is still so opaque to me. Is that me? Am I dense? With age, life becomes increasingly an inventory of dreadful sundries, now relayed over the dreadful sundries of smartphone apps.

    For me, Florida evokes early childhood family vacations. In my early childhood, we went down there often to visit my mother’s parents: alcoholics who died in their early sixties of prescription addictions and throat cancer. As my grandfather lay in the hospital, his larynx removed, I took up the habit, stealing cigarettes from his own dresser.

    The second frame is from a photo of me on vacation. Not Florida, but likely Arizona, where we’d similarly visit my paternal grandparents. The glum demeanor and forbidding landscape paint a typical childhood portrait.

    The third frame from a scholarly essay on the concept of ‘noise’ by Marcello Chilardi, “Noise About What” at marcelloghilardi.com. That image a frozen frame of an animated GIF called “Insight/Outlook” - a face which morphs as it scans, the scan patterns constantly changing. This still in the spirit of the “Data Distortion” comic of several weeks ago – the accumulation of data creating a subject that is itself subject to subjectivity. The original capture displayed several plaid patterns, and I had hoped to re-create them, but the intricacies of the moire was too detailed to copy by my clumsy penmanship.

    Still, that picture represents a stupid amount of time spent stippling, each dot deliberate, and I’m happy with it. It represents the difficulty in capturing a thing within a preconceived order - the struggle that I read behind the meaning of the poem.

    The last frame is Stevens himself, speaking the line that details one of the more base aspects Florida had to offer. Stevens, a pale outsider, spies people of color working in the sun and is reminded of the ‘dreadful sundry of the world.’ Imperialism. The World exists as a subject to be categorized and objectified. Curious that Stevens, who must have been grindingly subversive in his secularism for his time, appears to be still practicing that same act of subordinating that Religion had excelled at for so many centuries before.



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