Archive for April, 2011

Thoughts Turn to You, Tobias Wong

Apr. 26th 2011

 My thoughts turn to you, Tobias Wong, on this on this sunny day in California. I wish you were here to enjoy this magnificent day, exploring the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, with me.

I was made aware of Tobias Wong’s artwork/design-work by a friend in the New York art world. When describing Mr. Wong’s Dadaistic work, she became animated and expressive. “You HAVE TO see Tobi’s work. It’s one-of-a-kind. It takes aim at materialism, consumerism, the drug scene, functionality, form,  architecture, design, the environment, and all of society’s ‘isms.'” 

 I begin my journey in search of Tobias Wong.

I discover a photograph of Mr. Wong’s street installation piece. He filled plastic bags with air and pinned them on a homemade portable display pole.

What is he selling ?

 Dreams for $1. I write it again………..plastic bags filled with air. They are Mr. Wong’s version of dreams.

Dreams are illusive. Dreams are fast fleeting like a comet streaking across the night sky. Dreams are difficult to remember; to nail down. I want to know more about my dreams, yet I’m unable to do so. This causes friction and frustration.

Tobias sold dreams on New York streets. To me, this is a happy thought. This is how I think of you, Tobias.  Happy…. selling dreams as New Yorkers fail to pay attention to a brilliant mind amongst their presence.  A missed opportunity. Their loss.

I want to purchase a dream. My wallet is open. George Washington appears faded, green, crumpled, and grumpy. I imagine handing over my hard-earned buck to Tobias. I now own a dream. It’s tangible. It’s art.

A chair that lights up? Chairs are not suppose to illuminate. They are functional. Something to plunk your ass down into, crash, sit, and/or chill out. Tobias’ chair looks so inviting–and uninviting. I do not want to be the center of attention. The true me is shy. I do not want to glow.  I just want to read, dangle my right leg over the arm of a chair, fall asleep, read the Tufts University alumni magazine, or simply vegetate.  Tobias makes us think of every day objects in different ways and push us towards new realms of thinking. I like that.   Way-to-go, Tobias! You broke the mold–and left the mold in shards—-scattered across the wooden floor of a patron’s swanky million dollar Manhattan loft.

You took on corporate America with your gold plated coffee stirrer. Tobias bedazzled it with real gold. Ah…the golden arches.

A coffee stirrer is a bland, mundane plastic artifact of daily life. Mr. Wong ramped-it-up five levels andmade us aware that a simple pop culture artifact was a staple of the undergroundnd drug scene. Just like Marcel Duchamp, you took an overlooked artifact and leave us in a wake of thought. If this were a crit in art school, students would get it. We would clap and say, “right on.”  To those not familiar with Dada, most would scratch their heads and say, “What the #&%?”

Ah, Tobias’ smoking gloves.

Smoking is banned indoors in most places. Tobias, did you design your smoking gloves to be  fashioninable and cool–  or to keep you from the cold while smoking outdoors? Designing these gloves made me think of marketing 101 at Boston College. See a void. Fill it. Get rich. Laugh all the way to the bank.

Smoking gloves. Be seen smoking with Wong smoking gloves while possibly coming down with emphysema or lung cancer! Why do I sense George Carlin would have  latched on to this concept–and turned it into a comedy sketch?

To me, your sterling  silver encapsulated pills are the apex of your artistic brilliance.

Pop 1 silver pill. Take 2–they are small. Hell, take an handful. Mother’s little helpers go down easy with vodka on the rocks with a twist of lemon. 

As a society, we have a pill for most ailments.  Americans tend to like pills.  We produce and consume trillions of  pills.

Sad? Pop a pill. Ache? Pop a pill. Have acne? Pop a pill. Gas? Reach for pills. Having trouble with your wee wee? Pop a pill. Have nothing better to do? Pop a pill.

Pills. Pills. And more pills.

We all want to think we are special. Egalitarianism is a myth. Strike that. Egalitarianism is a lie. We all think our poop smells like roses, yet Tobias created a conduit to make our poop glitter with sterling silver. Was Mr. Wong trying to make us think that my poop is more valuable than YOUR poop?

 My poop glitters……………. does YOURS?   I shit silver! What do YOU shit? Plain brown?

Feel the put-down? Ouch.   

Tobias, when I heard you took your life I instantly felt sick to my stomach. The word is taboo yet I will write it in bold type.  SUICIDE. 

Anyone who has lost a friend, loved-one, family member, or acquaintance to suicide knows the emotional pain felt by those left behind. I want questions answered. With suicide, questions linger. WHY????  How could this have happened?  We may never know why.

Tobias,  you were much loved and admired for your work.

Back to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

I exit the 2nd floor of the Museum of Modern Art where several of Tobias Wong’s works are currently displayed.

I soooooooo want you to be by my side at this moment in time.

I envision we come across a docent tour. We stand in the back  listening  intently to the tour guide speak about your work. When it comes time for  questions, I leap outside our imaginary baseball on-deck circle. I’m up at first at bat.

“What was Mr. Wong THINKING  when he created this—thing? *&%$!  GD!!!!! This is &%$@! I’ don’t get it!”

Tobias. Your turn. Chime in. Work with me…………

“Yeah, what the *&%$!!! Is he on crack? You call this art? *&#%!”

 We leave the group and exit towards the stainless steel elevators. The same  shiny doors I once shot a self portrait that hangs on the wall, of the summer home, of one of my patrons.  We ride the elevator to the 5th floor– laughing only when  the doors close tight. 

We are now upstairs at the indoor/outdoor sculpture garden and cafe.  We have an espresso and split a slice of mocha cake while chatting about LB’shumongous spider sculpture. We kick back in a well designed modern chair. We chat about design, the Red Sox, not knowing all the words to the Canadian anthem, San Francisco bathed in fog, New York at night, The Blue Lagoon in Iceland,  the art projects we are currently working on, and the lack of affordable studio space for artists.

Oh, Tobias. How you would have loved this sun-drenched day in San Francisco.

Dada master.

Canadian who made it in Manhattan.

Though provoker.

Artist/designer  who now floats above us in a bed of dream-like clouds. 

$1  per dream.

Sleep in heavenly peace, amongst your clouds, Tobi.




Brendan Ben Feeney

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Celebrate Planet Earth….Happy Earth Day!

Apr. 22nd 2011

Happy Earth Day to All!

I’m in San Francisco,  California, USA to celebrate the city’s green heritage, shoot film, still photography, and look at the optimistic side of a world gone environmentally wacky as each moment passes. Here I go. Let’s celebrate Earth Day with a Brendan Ben Feeney Across-Stick.

Earth Day! I extend thanks to Senator Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes. 1970 feels like yesterday. You had an idea and brought it to fruition. As we sing in church…”Sing oh happy morning, we sing age-to-age…”

Air. Clean air. Thank you American Lung Association, those who worked for the passage of the Clean Air Act, and hard working people who push daily for tougher emissions standards.

Rethinking energy. To the people of Iceland–love your geothermal energy! Love your green country.

The tall trees of Muir Woods. Dusk and dawn are my favorite times to roam the forest.Cape Cod National Seashore Park.  Dawn and dusk are my favorite times to roam. Thank you John F. Kennedy for establishing this national treasure.

Hip, hip, ho-rah for John Muir— writer, activist, sage, and visionary.

Dedicated community activists. As Robert Kennedy noted it takes one ripple, like when a drop of water strikes a larger pool of water, to start the dynamic of change.

And chemical companies called Rachael Carson a kook; a woman off her rocker. Rachel, if it were not for you…. Spring 2011 would be silent.  I hang a Tibetan prayer flag in your honor today.

Yosemite National Park. Yellowstone National Park. Arcadia National Park. All the national parks. State Parks. Community open spaces.

Earth. Air. Wind. Peace to all.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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American Idol

Apr. 14th 2011


It’s not what you are thinking.

Randy. Steven Tyler. Jennifer Lopez. Some other new guy. What’s-his-face? Oh. I almost forgot. Ryan Seacrest.

I am writing about Rex Trailer.  Rex is MY American Idol.

If one grew up in Boston during the later years of the Baby Boom era, you know Rex Trailer.

To adults my age who came of age during the late 1960s, Rex Trailer was a god-like figure. He was a local television legend; a cowboy hero. The Rex Trailer Show was broadcast once a week–in black and white. If you want to get all Ivy-League about it , The Rex Trailer Show fell under the heading of  “Children’s Programming.”  Decoded. Attractive to advertisers who sell sugar coated breakfast cereal with flimsy toys hiding at the bottom of the box. Mr. Trailer also ran a side travel business taking kids to “sunny California.” 

My parents would not let me travel with Rex. We went on family vacations in our 1960 white Ford station wagon–the size of Manhattan. I was not disappointed about not being allowed to travel with a TV cowboy. It was a posse of obnoxious rich kids who signed up to travel with Rex to the original Disney Land.  I never went to Rodent World until I was 32. I was not impressed.  Am I un-American for writing this?

Rex’s television show was not broadcast on Channel 2. Channel 2 is Boston’s Public Broadcasting Service affiliate. Channel 2 is educational TV. A station for egg-heads. Intellectuals. I came of age before that big yellow bird, with whacked out feet, hatched at Bostons’ Channel 2.  The “Channel 2  set” would NEVER let  a faux cowboy grace their airwaves. This was the time when Boston only had 3 major TV stations–and “that” station (Channel 2) with tons of British programming and a former spy with a cooking show, who baked French souffles and sipped a lot of wine on air. Julia something?

Back in 1968 one  had to turn the TV dial by hand. Cable? That was something you sent to France. A clicker? That was a tough girl from Dorchester chewing bubble gum.

 Looking back with nostalgia, The Rex Trailer Show was mind candy. Fluff. An urban cowboy. Did it occur to me at age 8 that a cowboy in Boston is like a lobster in Montana? Sounds like an old SAT analogy question (that I flunked).

To me, Rex Trailer was the real deal. A rider on the open range. (More like a commuter on Boston’s Southeast Expressway.)  He was statuesque and telegenic. He wore a big ass cowboy hat.  I imagined cow dung clung to the the bottom of his pointed leather cowboy boots. The opening of Rex Trailer show was the hook. Rex rode a muscular horse through the Massachusetts countryside to a song  titled Hoof Beats. The landscape where Rex rode in the 1960s is now Suburban sprawl. One now finds strip malls. There convenience stores that sell purple Slurpees and cheesy out-of-code/date tuna subs with wilted lettuce.

Rex rode past the famous Mary Martha Chapel. So what if this was an prissy iconic white New England church. It was still the American West to me.  In 1968, anything behind my backyard, to the left, was “the West.”

A hallmark of the show was the posse line-up. Rex would select one very, very, very, very lucky member of the audience to watch for, and identify a person chosen in advance as an outlaw. This  imposter joined a line up. This line up was a movable shake down. The posse walked pass  the lucky kid whose job was to rat out the impostor. I think if this kid successfully identified the outlaw he or she won a big prize.  A bike? A baseball mitt? A box of Space Food Sticks?  …………….Did I mention that if you were the posse outlaw picker, you were very, very, very lucky. I must remember envy is one of the 7 deadly sins preached at Sunday School. I flunked Sunday School. I was told I looked out the window too much.

In graduate school I took Research Methods and Statistical  Analysis. I passed with flying colors because I knew one formula.  The Rex Trailer show came at a time when Baby Boom children like myself were like ants on a Hostess Twinkie. You could not go ANYWHEWRE without lines of kids or crowds of families, driven in their Manhattanesque station wagons. Baby Boom = lots of kids vying for the same goodies. Demand outpaced supply. Numbers are finite. In this case,  what was in short supply were  tickets to appear live on The Rex Trailer Show. To obtain a coveted ticket to appear on  The Rex Trailer show was like getting a ticket to ride tethered to Sputnik. It was not going to happen. I had to settle for viewing my hero on our black and white TV, lying on our mod living room floor.

Tewnty years later. Cut to the chase.

 I am an adjunct professor at Emerson College. Emerson College is known for broadcast journalism, business communication, creative writing, film, acting, speech & language pathology,  and television  production. I walk  into the faculty mail-room to get memos and student papers out of my facility mailbox. I turn to the left. A tall telegenic man wearing a cowboy hat is also getting his mail. We are reading the same memo about grade submission.

I drop the memo and freeze.

 I was going to crap my pants. 

The REAL Rex Trailer is standing next to me.

What do I say?

 “You were was my idol back in 1968?”

 Do I say, “Howdy, Rex!”

 That’s lame and rude.

What about, “Pickin’ up your mail, partner?”

No way.

Should I say, “I was your biggest, biggest, biggest, gagunda  fan when I was 8 years old. Here. Sign my  grade policy memo.”

I just made a simple dip-of-the-chin gesture. Rex made the same gesture in return.

It was 1968 all over again at  the Emerson College faculty mail-room.

I was listening to WBZ Radio, AM 1030 last night. Dan Rey, the host of a live talk show titled “Night Side” mentioned he was at a charity event over the weekend and Rex Trailer was in attendance. Mr. Rey noted Rex turned 91.


My childhood cowboy hero is 91? OMG!

Age is timeless. So too are television cowboys and childhood heroes.

Rex, if you read this, I want to say I really, really, really wanted to be on your show. The law of statistical averages were NOT on my side. I liked Pablo. I liked Sargent Billy. However,  YOU were the show. You were my American idol.

Want to hear me sing Hoof Beats? Oh, there is a second song from the TV show. Boom. Boom Boomtown! I know every word. I bet I can sing it in Icelandic or German if I practice like a good buckaroo.

Let’s not…………..and say I did.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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“Well, I Would!”

Apr. 2nd 2011

“You have a bug on you!” exclaimed a stranger standing behind me  in an outdoor public space.

“”Where?” I said.

“On your shoulder,”  she said. “Look!”

Pointing begins.

It’s spring in New England. Bugs reappear after a lonely, cold, long winter.  The return of bugs—or as my science teacher friend corrects me “insects”—are a natural occurrence during spring. They are as familiar as the return of Robins grousing around my lawn for big  juicy worms.

I like insects.

“KILL IT!”  she snapped.


“The Bug.”    “Kill it.”


“Because it’s gross.”

“What’s gross?”


“It is?”  “How so?”

This woman lectured me.

“If I had a bug on my shoulder, I would kill it.

My reply: “You DON’T have a bug on your shoulder; I do.”

Disgust turned to anger on her part.

The conversation continues. My turn.

“It deserves to live”  I delivered this sentence like a cunning  chess move.

A strange hue of red swept across her face.

“I cannot kill it. This insect has a mother! There is no reason to kill it. I’ll just move it to that  branch over there (pointing) where it can crawl and do things insects like to do–like land on people’s shoulders.”

Disgust turns to fuming. Fuming is not a pretty sight– especially coming from a person whom I never met in my life before.

 The last words were hurled my way…………

“I would have KILLED IT.”

Heavy emphasis were placed on the words “I” and “KILLED.”

No reply from me.

I purposely let her words reverberate as our exchange terminated like a balloon bursting; that shocked look before tears roll.

Spring in New England.

Insects abound.

An  insect’s life is spared.

All is well in my world.

Brendan Ben Feeney

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