Monday, February 01, 2010

Survive, Man! (and Steer)

My trip to the warehouse to retrieve a book this morning turned into an eerie confluence of words, music, art, and imagery.

About 9 a.m., I head east on the Farm-to-Market road out of my neighborhood for the quick five-minute drive to pick up the last sale of January--an order that came in late last night for a book called Survive, Man! Or Perish: Sculptural Metaphors That Command Allegiance to Life, Resistance to Race Suicide, with the Art of Survival: a Critique of the Survivalist Art and Philosophy of Randolph W. Johnston.

I tune in to The Motor City Hay Ride with Don Was on Sirius and pick up a Grateful Dead song, the twangy country strains of Dire Wolf, with the lyrics, Don't murder me. Please, don't murder me. A tenuous connection there between book title and song.

But a second or two later, I spot a Longhorn steer making his way nervously down the shoulder on the west-bound lane. He's busted out of a nearby ranch and is making his getaway.

Now, I get it! The book title, the song lyrics, the runaway survivalist steer! Don't murder me, the Grateful Dead call out. The book I'm about to pick up encourages, Survive, Man! I'm wishing I had my camera with me, as the runaway steer trots across the gravel entrance of a business parking lot.

I fetch the book and double back to the west, hoping to pick up the trail of the Longhorn. He's nowhere in sight. Must have gone into some adjacent brush. And maybe he survived whatever Dire Wolf it was that put him on the highway. I've lost him.

But back home with the book, I find some interesting sculptures from an equally interesting artist, Ran Johnston. At the Mother Earth News, I discover a profile on Johnston (the best available--not much on this elusive man), which starts out with the following:
Back in the '20's, Canadian sculptor Randolph W. Johnston coined a word—Megamachine—to describe a society that swallowed people up and excreted them as look-alike pellets. And it was back then that the young sculptor conjured a dream of being able to leave the Megamachine to live in freedom, alone, on a tropical island.
So the metaphorical coincidences continue for the escaped Longhorn...

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