Film of Our Lecture on the Meanings of Barbed Wire

The UVU Library has just posted this film of the lecture Lyn and I gave earlier in the month. First half about Native Americans and barbed wire, the second half about advertising barbed wire at the end of the 19th century as protection against savage Indians and recently freed slaves.


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Germans on Harleys


Scott Carrier’s ecstatic piece on Germans in the landscape of southern Utah is now up on the Goethe Institute’s site (#11). Beautiful, idyllic, isn’t it, Scott says, channeling Alex Caldiero. The Germans he interviews keep saying it is the “wideness” of the scene that impresses them, everything is so wide.  The motorcycles they ride give them access and freedom and openness they wouldn’t have in a car. I talk with Scott about Kant’s theory of the sublime and Schelling’s “Nature is visible Spirit/Mind and Spirit/Mind is invisible Nature” and Goethe’s nature poetry. Scott recites Goethe’s “Wie herrlich leuchtet mir die Natur” like a nature loving German.

We also talked about the first Harley dealership in German that opened the year after the film Easy Rider came out, about the German Harley radio ad that claims riding a Harley is better than sex. Unfortunately, the Goethe Institute editor cut those last thoughts, as well as the music with which Scott ended: Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.”

Still, it’s a good podcast. Take a listen.

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Rick Gate: Anthology

This morning, I drove to Spring City with artists Alex Caldiero and Tom Schulte. We met Rick Gate at Das Cafe, where, joined by Otto Mileti, former owner of the Zephyr Club in SLC, we ate Bratwurst, mashed potatoes with dill and mustard gravy, sauerkraut, and potato salad and shared stories about icy roads, the House Un-American Activities Committee, Wynton Marsalis, and artists of various stripes including Big Daddy Roth, creator of Rat Fink and finally a resident of San Pete County Utah . Then we drove to Ephraim, where Rick has a show up at the Granary, a beautiful old building saved from destruction by my friend, the artist Kathy Peterson, and some of her friends.

The building is a perfect space for Rick’s beautiful art, work spanning decades now, a show called “Anthology.” Well-endowed Kokopellis hang opposite a series of portraits, geometrical wonders alongside fish-eye compilations, collages below double canvases. Much of the work is on birch panels, wood that has its own life under and around and through the bright yellows and reds and greens and blues.

For much of the year Rick runs river rapids and hosts fishing guests at his family’s Lake of the Woods lodge in Ontario, Canada. His photos of the waters and skies he inhabits inspire me on Facebook. And today I find myself in the thoughtful company of a trio of artists who exchange ideas about media and form and process while surrounded by a body of Rick’s work.

A couple of days ago Rick hosted Leah Ollman, an art critic for the LA Times and also a writer for Art in America. She had written positive reviews for Rick’s LA shows in the past and will now write an essay for a catalog the Granary is producing.She noted, while in town, that Spring City has more galleries than service stations.

Here a few photos of the work (and of Tom, Rick, and Alex talking art):





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Goethe, Diderot, and the Lost Manuscript of Rameau’s Nephew

Reading Andrew Curran’s Diderot and the Art of Thinking Freely, I came across an interesting connection to something I wrote for a book my friend Zarko Radakovic and I have just finished.

Curran points out that after spending time in prison for a couple of publications (including The Indiscreet Jewels — the jewels being talking vaginas controlled by a magic ring), Diderot published only what appeared in his Encyclopedie. He kept the manuscripts of everything else he wrote over the course of his life close at hand. One of these unpublished manuscripts was the novel Rameau’s Nephew.

That title caught my eye. Schiller’s last letter to Goethe before his death was a response to Goethe’s translation of a manuscript of the novel. The translation was published a few months later.


This translation was the very first publication of Diderot’s Le Neveu de Rameau. The first publication in French was a translation of Goethe’s translation! The French manuscript used for the subsequent French edition was discovered later.

Here my translations from Schiller’s and Goethe’s last letters, part of Zarko’s and my book “We: A Friendship”:

. . . Schiller to Goethe: 27 March 1805

Tell me how you have been recently. I have finally begun to work again in all seriousness and plan not to be easily distracted. After such a long hiatus and several unfortunate incidents, it has been difficult to get back to work and I have had to force myself. Now, however, I am underway.

The cold north-east wind will slow your recovery, as it does mine, but this time I feel worse than usual at this state of the barometer.

Would you send me the French Rameau for Göschen? . . .

Good luck to you, I would love a line from you.

. . . Goethe to Schiller: 25 April 1805

Here finally the rest of the manuscript. Would you take a look at it and then send it on to Leipzig? . . .

I have begun to dictate the Theory of Colors. . . .

Otherwise I am doing well, as long as I ride daily. When I don’t, however, there is a price to pay. I hope to see you soon.

Schiller’s final letter, a long one dated 25 April 1805, included copious thoughts about Goethe’s notes that accompanied his translation of Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew.

Meine Gedanken sind meine Dirnen, Goethe’s translation of the early line reads. Leonard Tancock’s translation for Penguin Classics is My thoughts are my wenches. Supposing truth to be a woman, Nietzsche wrote. The New Yorker cartoon on my wall says: Everything about her spelled trouble. Unfortunately, it was night and I thought it spelled truffles.



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Reviews of our book: The Perfect Fence


Two recent takes on our attempts to untangle the meanings of barbed wire:

nebraska 1

nebraska 2

southwest 1

southwest 2

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The Real Poem, by Alex Caldiero

I read this little gem late this afternoon, sun low on the horizon, clouds sifting snowflakes through the light.


I’ve never touched the hair of one either, Alex, but, supposing poems to be women (as Nietzsche posited about truth), you are Don Juan incarnate.

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Further Intimations of Mortality

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On a Snowy Evening, Intimations of Mortality


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Working at home today — if reading Andrew Curran’s new biography of Diderot for the class on the European/American Enlightenment I’m teaching can be called work — I  witnessed a most remarkable succession of clouds.


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Fire on the Mountain

Three months ago we were evacuated from our home in Woodland Hills, Utah, along with other residents of our town and people in Elk Ridge, Covered Bridge Canyon, and residents in Hobble Creek Canyon, because of a threatening fire burning on the flanks of Santaquin Peak, the mountain that rises abruptly up from the highest streets in our town.

Today I hiked up the mountain and learned a few things.

  1. fires are unpredictable. With scrub oak and maple trees unaffected on both sides, almost everything burned in this little swale


2. These scrub oak and maple trees may or may not grow again next spring.


3. The fire, as fierce as it was from our perspective, was largely a quick-burning affair fed by grasses and dead brush. This Douglas fir, for instance, was burned only around the lower trunk and otherwise was not touched.


4. The Douglas firs along the ridge line didn’t do so well.


5. Our town’s attempt to control any subsequent debris flow by channeling it into our park surrounded by jersey barriers seems a pitiful gesture toward pretending we can control nature.


Can’t wait to see what the ground looks like in the spring, once the snow melts.

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