Wednesday, June 29, 2005


"The playwright comes to realize...that the play contains something very vital to him, something of the essence of his own life. If it is rejected, he can only feel that he is rejected, too. Some part of him has been turned down,cast aside, even laughed at or scorned. If it is accepted, all that becomes him to feel is a deep gratefulness, like a man barely escaping a fatal accident, that he has survived."

"I compared a play to a jounrey, in which every moment should be as interesting as the destination. I despiar of a play that requires its audience to sit through two hours of plot construction, having no reference outside the immediate setting, just to be rewarded by a big emotional pay off in the last act. This, I regard as a kind of false stimulation. I think every line and every situation in a play should "pay off," too, and have its extensions of meaning beyond the immediate setting, into life. I strive to bring meaning to every moment, every action."

-William Inge

Friday, June 24, 2005

A new myth

Icarus' wax wings don't melt because he soars too close to the sun, but rather becuase those who are still stuck in the labrynith below cant see the horizons that he does and thus dont understand the accomplishment. Icarus' only audience then is his father who is flying away as fast as he can for safety's sake, even as he sees the accomplishment, he fears that too much time away from the land might prove tragedic, He might drift over the ocean and lose sight of the land altogether.

Icarus without an audience final falls back into the labrynith. If he is still breathing, he uses his breath to scream out his resentment at his audience, at his father.

Sam Fuller

Kinda like Swimming Lessons (First Draft)

I'm starting to realize that to most artists outside the corporate web, the word 'pop' is quite frankly a dirty word. I doubt that the divide between these different cultural camps (the 'pop' and the not 'pop') can be easily darned together. In fact, both camps are quite content to exclude the other. After typing those sentences out and rereading, I'm surprised that such a thought would require any time to really sink in to my brain. But while trying to stand on the shoulders of a giant, I overheard him speak and have been caught unawares and confused by what he said.

I heard the phrase "pop culture", "pop artist", "pop song". Usually these words translated into into sugary smiles or discontent glances. Then I came across this phrase, "pop audience", and I couldn't get it out of my head.

No audience is more critical than the pop audience; unlike the more cultivated and hip they don't go on listening because they are "supposed to," past the point when they are being reached. When it no longer works for them they turn it off.-Arthur Miller

What is the 'pop audience' aside from the simplest definition: those who consume 'pop culture'? For me 'pop' was always the adjective applied to the thing that was being consumed. Where as I may have had preconceived notions about those who did the consuming, I never thought to designate them as 'pop'. For the sake of discussion, lets call the 'pop audience' the masses. Lets assume that they are not the 'pop audience' becuase of what they digest, becuase at any given time all Americans will digest pop culture. Let us assume that they are an audience, a mass audience which is available, but whom the mass media market via saturation has more successfully marketed to than any other body, organization, or individual. Hence, they regularly tune into the alternative that is most available : 'pop culture'.

While It's possible I may be making a mountain out of mole hill by analysizing Miller's statement well beyond the author's intent, I can not ignore the call I feel to greater understand the 'pop audience', to greater understand my fellow man, the everyman in it's entirety, not just the academic man, but the subject of my own personal academia, the betterment of my specie.

The majority of friends and collegues I've shared this quote with focus on the verb 'critical'. Considering who my friends and collegues are (artists, intellectuals, writers) it is understandable how they themselves would be 'critical' of the use of the word 'critical' when describing the behavior of an audience that seems to not want to engage anything other that the most simplified expressions or the most visceral experiences. For them 'pop' represents something in opposition to that which some of them have spent a lifetime trying to achieve.

When the creations of a genius collide with the mind of a layman, and produce an empty sound, there is little doubt as to which is at fault. - Salvador Dali

Now, who knows exactly what Dali meant by this? It's possible that this also has been translated from Spanish or French into English. But when considering the personality of Salvador Dali, his thoughts and pursuit of 'genius' (i.e. the obvious value which he attached to it) I'm moving forward with the assumption that this statement is a clever, evasive way of claiming that the 'layman' is responsible for the empty sound. And when that 'pop audience' or 'layman' rejects a highbrow, more complicated artistic endeavor for a simplifed 'pop culture' alternative, The non pop artist might see this 'pop audience/layman' not as a victim subjected to and controlled by mass media manipulation, but rather as an accessory to that 'pop culture' the way in which one might be an accessory to a crime. The crime might be the intentional dumbing down of America, a sort of parital suicide. Rather than killing themselves entirely, perhaps they are just killing one certain part of themselves, their ability for intellectual reflection and abstraction. Hence, the 'pop audience' turns off the high brow art that they dont understand. At the same time, the artist might stop caring or even trying to reach the 'pop audience' convinced that in order to communicate with them, he or she would have to sacrifice their artistic intgerity, indentity, sacrifice their own personal genius. What we are left with is a sort of 'Who dumped who first/final' sort of scenario. For some artists that is enough, it does not matter, for others it does matter, and here is why...

All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. - Marcel Duchamp

I'm almost positive that Duchamp would not necessarily agree with my ultimate conclusions. But, we are in agreement with the above statement.

If the 'pop audience' is the 'mass audience' then I think we as artists must find a way to communicate with them. If we are to teach or enable them (granted we may in the end only be self appointed teachers who constantly must weather the scorn of our students) we have to speak in their vernacular. Why is our responsibliity to speak in their vernacular? Simply put, becuase the majority of them can not decipher ours.

So many of us who have become artists, who willingly define ourselves by those creative aspirations rather than economic aspirations, are inspired by the most intelligent, though provoking, abstract, progressive artist expressions of the past century. We encountered the artistic 'isms' and in them we found subversion, variety, paradigms for utopian thought and action. We found diversity, novelty, invention. The palate of artistic endeavour drastically expanded. Every artistic 'ism' became a catalyst for creativity, artistic freedom, and self actualization.

We became enabled to speak in voice outside the venacular, and we found this to be ultimately freeing. We discovered wonderful venues of virtuosity, and undoubtably we are improved becuase of that. At the risk of sounding arrogant, we have chartered into waters that few others ever will. We swim at depths that most men, whether by essential design or condition of their environment, simply can not fathom. Regardless of what ever fashionable worth to economics (the corporate mass media) we may or may not have any given season, we are special. Those in the know understand that we not only can read the the keys in the treasure map, but that we are a kind of treasure in of ourselves.

Some artists are able to reject the "pop". They find it to be a false idoltry. They yearned for something spectacular, pure, dare I say spiritual and were able to dedicate their waking moments to it, to surrender to it, to achieve some sort of sainthood/martydom for the art. Their life became about this thing, this creation, this singular expression(Henry Darger, Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo).

However, there is a level/degree of abstraction in each given historical moment that feeds and inspires the highest of intellectuals but ignores the remainder of humanity. If we choose to rise to this level of abstraction, we must realize that we are only speaking to each other among the artistic elite. This is what some might call 'art for art's sake'. I perfer to call it 'art as an individual creative freedom' or 'art as freedom'. It is an art that hestiates to consider the mass audience's vernacular. An art that feels assured that by accepting communication on the audience's terms, it becomes censored by the audiences' limited intellect, taste, or social/environmental conditioning. If this is something that we as artists do in order to see how high the human mind can soar when it is unfettered by a society or dogma, that is interesting and inspiring. But, in leaving behind the society we also risk leaving behind the specie as well.

Even as our elitism, our abstraction can result in an expansion of the realm which is human, there is also an equal danger in discriminating against the majority of mankind itself. Where artistic 'ism's can serve as a creative enabler to the artist, to the uninitiated it may become a disabler, an obstacle.

If we all, both the artists and audience are not speaking the same language, then in end whatever heights to which the individual soars risk becoming meaningless to the universe around him becuase the tower from which his spectators, his breathen, his specie would view such an achievement will crumble under the weight of confusion.

Duchamp would suggest that this risk should be irrelevant to the artist.

The work of art is always based on the two poles of the onlooker and the maker, and the spark that comes from the bipolar action gives birth to something - like electricity. But the onlooker has the last word, and it is always posterity that makes the masterpiece. The artist should not concern himself with this, because it has nothing to do with him.

If we pursue 'art as freedom' you can't argue with Duchamp's assessment. But, there is another kind of artistic pursuit 'art as communication'. Art as a form a civic activism (directly or indirectly), as a communicative critic of one's society meant as a call to change. In order to pursue this form of artistic endevour we must keep in mind the audience's vernacular. We must not disregard the mass audience as ignorant of the 'genius' path. We must learn what their language is and speak to them in that language or at the very least translate our language into something they can comprehend.

Can we ignore ignorance? Can we destroy ignorance? Or can the elite and the ignorant find a third path? Is it enough to say, "So long as the ignorant remain ignorant, they are not worth the effort?" If we say this, then we also already say good bye to this world. Then all our artistic endeavor is merely our own personal form of distraction until nothingness consumes us individually. Are the words we weave meant to bring people together, or are they meant to set us as artists apart? Are we relishing our own individuality or are we declaring our intelliectual and moral superiority?

As it is ultimately the parent's responsiblity to care for and nuture and communicate with the child, so to is it the artists' responibility to care for and nuture and communicate with the audience. The audience might cring at this notion, the same way in which the toddler sitting the car seat thinks it knows how to drive the automobile becuase it watches it's parents hands. The audience might despise this notion in the manner in which the teenage despises his parents. But the parents hopefully continue in their duty to the child even when the child is not appreciative, even when the child is hostile, combative, dismissive. It is the parents' act of love.

Can the artists not also love in a similiar way, their audience?

I believe that there is room enough for both kinds of art, both 'art as freedom' and 'art as communication'. But, if we aspire to the later then we must beware of and balance our own malice towards those who may dismissively reject the art we offer. That is not say our disappointments and malice aren't justified, but if we endulge them we risk alienating those whom ultimately we wish to serve.

One of my favorite screenwriter/directors of film noir, Samuel Fuller, said the following of computers and technology, but the same could be expressed regarding art and culture.

The real worth of all our newfangled, high-speed communication made possible by computers will be judged by one thing and one thing only: their contributions to democracy.

If we use this as the barometer of our artistic endeavour, then we must consider the mass audience's vernacular, even if we disagree with their tastes, their dismissals, their choices. If we hope to provide them with alternatives to the mass media corporate machine, we have to acknowledge that alternatives offered the audience that they can not decipher are not alternatives at all.

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.-Winston Churchill

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Gooseflesh Factory

Amazing Images

I have had a fasination with this kind of thing for a while now.

The Bride Striped Bare. "She too is wearing something wonderful", said the Emperor

"Art is like a shipwreck .. it's everyman for himself."

"Art is a habit-forming drug. That's all it is for the artist, for the collector, for anybody connected with it. Art has absolutely no existence as varacity, as truth. People speak of it with great, religious reverence, but I don't see why it is to be so much revered. I'm afraid I'm an agnostic when it comes to art. I don't believe in it with all the mystical trimmings. As a drug it's probably very useful for many people, very sedative, but as a religion it's not even as good as God."

"All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives its final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists."

"The individual, man as a man, man as a brain, if you like, interests me more than what he makes, because I've noticed that most artists only repeat themselves."

"I don't believe in art. I believe in artists."

"I am interested in ideas, not merely in visual products."

"Society takes what it wants. The artist himself does not count, because there is no actual existence for the work of art. The work of art is always based on the two poles of the onlooker and the maker, and the spark that comes from the bipolar action gives birth to something - like electricity. But the onlooker has the last word, and it is always posterity that makes the masterpiece. The artist should not concern himself with this, because it has nothing to do with him."

-Marcel Duchamp

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad.

"I seated ugliness on my knee, and almost immediately grew tired of it."

"It is good taste, and good taste alone, that possesses the power to sterilize and is always the first handicap to any creative functioning."

"The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant."

"We are all hungry and thirsty for concrete images. Abstract art will have been good for one thing: to restore its exact virginity to figurative art."

"Progressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensely social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation."


Monday, June 20, 2005

A little variety, but mostly sports

If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat
-Herschel Walker

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.
-Carl Jung

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.
-Vernon Law, Pitcher for the Pirates

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.
-Winston Churchill

It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you're tired--you quit when the gorilla is tired.
-Robert Strauss

Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.
-General George Patton


I've been doing alot of thinking and writing about 'pop' lately. So, I thought I'd ask an authority on it.

"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. "

"When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships. "

"My idea of a good picture is one that's in focus and of a famous person. "

"I'm afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning. "

"An artist is someone who produces things that people don't need to have but that he - for some reason - thinks it would be a good idea to give them. "

"Don't pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches."

-Andy Warhol

Thursday, June 16, 2005

More Miller

"No audience is more critical than the pop audience; unlike the more cultivated and hip they don't go on listening because they are "supposed to," past the point when they are being reached. When it no longer works for them they turn it off."

-Arthur Miller

But Arthur, if you leave a dog unattended next to a bag of puppy chow it will eat till its stomach is distended.

In all seriousness though. There are some profound implications to what Miller is saying. If we are speaking solely of our own American Pop Cultural Corporate Machine, and joyfully playing with the question why is it that the old people don't like what the young kids are playing on the radio...well, I'll leave such an inquiry to the capable intellect of a Andy Rooney. But, what about other popular cultural phenomina. For instance, the Nazi Propoganda Machine... If you view Albert Speer as a pop culture iconic enginner of his time.

This statement of Miller's hits me like a punch in the face. Not because it is a truism (which it is), but becuase it should stand as a warning and a condemnation as well.

The Michael Jackson Trial, Terry Shaivo Death Watch...if we can perceive these as pop cultural events for us to digest, (which is as they are presented to us by news media who are firmly entrenched within pop culture) we can state that, in its time so too were the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthy's Red Scare.

Let's assume Miller is right. And lets take it a step further. What are the implications if we can so easily marry Government, Politics, and Pop Cultural Appetites?

How connected are American Politics and Pop Culture. Is it our fault that we have not "turned it off"?

It's Bloomsday! Have a pint! Go Jim! Go!

"A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery."

"Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age."

"Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art; it is the part the schools cannot recognize."

"The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts."

"There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being."

- James Joyce

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Joseph Mitchell's "Up In the Old Hotel" got me thinking

On the Brown Line yesterday going home, I looked around at the landscapes whirling beneath me. I rarely look at the rooftops the way I used to. They use to be teeming with eccentricities. I was always mindful of the variety, the life. I used to cherish the visions of Ravenswood, Lakeview, and Wrigleyville. But, I’ve changed. The vista is the same. Still, I don’t see the things I used to. Before, I was more alive because I knew what I was living for. I had a belief and a drive. My dream seemed palpable, realistic. Why did that change? Am I tired? Am I lonely? Am I just in transition? I have to find something new to live for. If I move to another town and don’t have that thing I’m living for, then it’s possible (maybe even probable) that the malaise, the frustration, the listlessness will follow me wherever I go. If I am a storyteller, then why is it I am apathetic about telling stories to Chicago?

I was reading a short story by Joseph Mitchell, On the Wagon. In it the protagonist is alone and fretting about the loss of his girlfriend and it's relation to his drunkenness. He was lonesome because the bars he used to go to were now off limits because he wanted to avoid drink. He in essence was saying "no" to life so that he could survive, in the hopes that if he survived, he would be able to be worthy of his love's return. Of course after six weeks, he finally breaks down. He embraces his vices (whether or not he had a problem or just his girl thought he had a problem is not laid out) and he begins slowly in a small way to enjoy his life again.

I have been staying away from the old spots I used to frequent, afraid that to drink a sip of the draught I once drunk heartily from would result in a personal tragedy that I would not be able to save myself from. Is this position a little too dramatic? too melodramatic? I too walk along the street and do whatever it takes to keep myself away from my apartment, just like Mike in the story. Maybe, I should stop fantasizing about a different place, a more special place? A nirvana, an Eden where I can have my cake?

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."


Monday, June 13, 2005

I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. An unattractive man. My liver hurts. Good, let it hurt more!!!

"Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most."

"Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad."

"Innovators and men of genius have almost always been regarded as fools at the beginning (and very often at the end) of their careers. "

"There is no subject so old that something new cannot be said about it."

"The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions."


Friday, June 10, 2005

Mark Twain Tonight!

On Writing

"I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English - it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don't let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don't mean utterly, but kill most of them - then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice."

"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph."

On Chicago

"When you feel like tellin a feller to go to the devil--tell him to go to Chicago--it'll anser every purpose, and is perhaps, a leetle more expensive."

"Satan (impatiently) to New Comer: The trouble with you Chicago people is, that you think you are the best people down here; whereas you are merely the most numerous."

-Mark Twain

Mr. Fuller lets smoke a cigar together!!!

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."
- Gene Fowler via Sam Fuller

"If a story doesn't give you a hard-on in the first couple of scenes throw it in the goddamned garbage"

"The real worth of all our newfangled, high-speed communication made possible by computers will be judged by one thing and one thing only: their contributions to democracy."

"I remain to this day an outsider. As for life, I've always plunged in hed first without worrying about failure."

"All human beings are in the same mortal boat, each of us with our own baggage of defeats and victories. Why not carry our load with a smile, stubbornly optimistic, getting the most out of what remains of our lives? Why allow defeats to defeat us more than once."

-Sam Fuller

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Big B

"To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now."

"I can't go on. I'll go on."

"Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

-Samuel Beckett

Things I like to happen in the next 12 months

1) Completely recover my health. No more little aches and pains.
2) Read, read, read. History, Literature
3) Learn a second language
4) White Sox win the World Series
5) Write, write, write
6) Meet the girl of my dreams, and sweep her off her feet
7) Sing more
8) Get a car. In Chicago, I've done alright without one, but the future needs wheels!
9) Travel the applalacians
10) Invent something that makes the world a better place (Bleeech! Why Not!)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Billie, Studs, Nelson

"Billie's voice was shot, though the gardenia in her hair was as fresh as usual. Ben Webster, for so long big man on tenor, was backing her. He was having it rough, too. Yet they transcended. There were perhaps 15, 20 patrons in the house. At most. Awful sad. Still, when Lady sang "Fine and Mellow", you felt that way. And when she went into "Willow, Weep for Me", you wept. You looked about and saw that the few other customers were also crying in their beer and shot glasses. Nor were they that drunk. Something was still there, that something that distinguishes an artist from a performer: the revealing of self. Here I be. Not for long, but here I be. In sensing her mortality, we sensed our own."

-Studs Terkel, from a foreword to Algren's "Man With The Golden Arm"

So the great listener is going to be speaking at the Printer Row's Book Fair this year. By the time I got around to looking online for a ticket, they were all gone. In fact, out of all the ticketed events, his was the only one that was sold out. Studs, if you're listening...send me a ticket. I want to commune with you for a few minutes even if it is in the midst of a crowd.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Another Tidbit about The City with Big Shoulders

At a Nato summit in Prague, Donald Rumsfeld was once forced to sit though a performance of modern dance and poetry. Asked for his reaction afterwards, he shrugged: “I’m from Chicago.”

I found this on bookslut which found it at the times online

Thoughts on Death of a Salesman

"It is time. I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread [tragedy] of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man"

"There is no limit to the expansion of the audience imagination so long as the play's internal logic is kept inviolate. It is not true that conventionalism is demanded. They will move with you anywhere, they will believe right into the moon so long as you believe who tell them this tale. We are at the beginning of many explosions of form. They are waiting for wonders."

"Not all the cameras in Christendom nor all the tricky lights will move us one step closer to a better understanding of ourselves, but only, as it always was, the truly written word, the profoundly felt gesture, the naked and direct contemplation of man which is the enduring glamour of the stage."

-Arthur Miller

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Tonys are on Sunday. I got this off the website.

There is always the eventuality of worthiness when people who love theatre gather together to value what is strongest about its nature - which is its welcoming embrace of the altogether unique people who are singularly responsible for creating it. I was once produced in Broadway theatres, and I now find myself working in church basements, but the essential love of theatre is present even in the most modest of circumstances, and is probably purest where compromised or minimized. We work and we fail; we work and we love; we work and we dream. The essential thing is that we work. If we are true to ourselves and to our partners in this remarkable art of theatre, we are rewarded, and it is not the prize you remember, or the parties, or the willing flesh, but the congregation of spirits who worked toward your shared goal and occasionally looked over at you and let you know that you were noticed and that you mattered.

- Tennessee Williams

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"I know if I had not discovered art, I would have been a criminal."

Ana Mendieta

Not Quite A Manifesto

Why do you young, hip, well read liberal kids with artistic leanings move to the big city (be that big city NY or LA or Chicago)?

We takes those years when we have the most passion, most strength, the most drive and move to a liberal city where at best we can only preach to the choir. Why is it that the fly over states seem to be regressing politically, scientifically, artistically? It is because most of the young kids with any kind of progressive leanings get the hell out of dodge leaving only the most conservative kin behind. By consolidated our progressive populations into a few coastal burghs we have not succeeded in consolidated power and presence. We have abadoned most of this country to the hoople heads. Why? to pursue some sense of Utopia which seems fleeting even in the big cities when you turn on the news, or to pursue some lottery ticket possiblity of fame and acclaim in those big coastal cities?

I think if we woke up and realized that the fly over states is where we are needed the most, if we sacrificed a little personal contentment and stayed in those back wood places, places where our voices are needed most, we might better affect change than to swarm to magnet cities to make art that is reviewed by papers only read and valued in those cities. We are self imposed exiles within our own country. Our sense of alienation within this nation is partially our own doing. We need to spread across the nation (get out of NY, LA, and Chicago) and go places where our blue vote counts. We have to understand that we cant affect change in the rural areas sitting upon our perchs deep within the the cities. Look at those maps they put out every election. A huge mass of red, with sprinkles of blue around the edges. Still the blue almost took the election. So what if those concentrated blue votes slowly seep into the red states? Put on their plays, write their manifestos, feed the poor, and keep their local hoople heads in check?

So, go home, go back to where you came from and change the country before you waste your youth nodding away with like minded individuals in self imposed exile. Go back where the drink sweat tea and make cheese grits. In order to take back your country, you must inhabit it, not hang onto the edge of it. Imagine a small blackbox storefront in every tiny town rather than 100 black box companies clamouring, saving, and starving for use of the same 20 blackboxes in the big city.