Posted in Uncategorized on October 10th, 2018 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on GoFundMe

I would love it if you took a moment to check out my GoFundMe campaign:


Please feel no obligation if a contribution is not possible, but it would be most helpful if you could spread the word.

Your support would mean a lot to me. Thank you so much



Posted in Uncategorized on October 5th, 2018 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Innocence

“We lose so much if we lose the presumption of innocence. We lose one of the great civilised ideas of the modern era: the idea that no matter how many accusations are made against an individual, he is to be presumed innocent until prosecutors show beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty. This idea protects all of us, male and female, from destruction by the finger-pointing mob or the powerful state. We ditch this idea at our peril. The new presumption of guilt only benefits powerful, vengeful institutions; it leaves everyone else open to the kind of punishment that ought to have disappeared in the Middle Ages.”


Updike Interview At The NEH

Posted in Uncategorized on November 8th, 2013 by admin – Comments Off on Updike Interview At The NEH

This interview with John Updike at the NEH included this affirmation of the visual arts:

INTERVIEWER: In the Renaissance, you get the invention of one-point perspective, which also is not really the way we see. We see much more, I think, impressionist­ic­ally, but somehow we think that we see in perspective. It is amazing how these conventions work on us as well.

UPDIKE: That’s so true, isn’t it? Of course, the human eye moves all the time. It’s unnatural for it not to move. To paint in the very precise way of Holbein or Van Dyke is to freeze the seeing process in a way that is highly unreal. Surreal, one could say—Dalí and Max Ernst have this same uncanny precision, of the frozen eye.

Visual art is very fertile ground for this kind of philosophical—existential—speculation, especially now that the abstraction has spoken up so strongly on its own behalf. Now, we’re not really sure what we’re looking for. What is excellent—what is excellent about this piece of abstraction as opposed to this other piece? Why is Rothko so eloquent, for example, and Hans Hofmann not? Hofmann is a thrilling theorist but his paintings look like linoleum.


The frozen in time quality of images is outside of normal experience. Add to that the suggestive quality of mind and vision; truly the visual arts are another reality, evoking speculation, circumspection, yes, perspective.

Speculation: Itchiness and Morgellons

Posted in science, Uncategorized on May 29th, 2013 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Speculation: Itchiness and Morgellons

I read recently that the folk singer from long ago, Joni Mitchell – a fine performer – has Morgellons Syndrome. (Mitchell wrote and performed the signature rendition of Both Sides, Now.)

Her affliction is described in wiki…

…sufferers have the delusional belief that they are infested with parasites, whereas in reality no such parasites are present. Sufferers may exhibit a range of cutaneous symptoms such as crawling, biting, and stinging sensations (formication); unusual fibers in the skin; and persistent skin lesions (e.g., rashes or sores). These symptoms have been consistently identified by a range of medical experts including dermatologists,entomologists, and psychiatrists, as consistent with delusional parasitosis. Some cases of self-diagnosed Morgellons have been more accurately diagnosed as known skin disorders.

So patients report something, which doctors say, oh you read that on the internets, we can’t find anything, and the syndrome is labeled as delusional.

I listened recently to a podcast called The Naked Scientists. These are scientists at research universities such as Cambridge. They review recent science news, often interviewing the researchers themselves.

In the recent news they discussed a discovery: a molecule in the spinal cord triggers an itching sensation. That is, “a dedicated biocircuit to the brain that conveys the sensation of itch”. People who suffer severe eczema can feel intense itchiness all over their bodies, including their eyes. The doctor/host said it is an excruciating, serious disease. They’ve discovered how to block the itchy feeling, but at the cost of blood pressure, via sodium systemic regulation being sent askew. So they need a new angle to come at this.

To my surprise, they never knew what actually caused itchiness until now.

It did make me wonder if Morgellons is indeed delusional, or perhaps a variant expression of that same itchiness felt by eczema patients. The researchers apparently took literally the “embedded threads” description by patients and searched for any indication, of which they found none. It could just be a correlation with Morgellons, or since this is new, it could be causative. Seems worth looking at again.

Mailer, Paris Review

Posted in Uncategorized on May 27th, 2013 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Mailer, Paris Review

In his most recent, and it turned out, last interview with the Paris Review, Mailer as usual had some provocative and insightful things to say.

He discussed something I’ve noted as well, but isn’t mentioned much in the pop culture swim of experience: we are affected by the continual interruptions of commercials, to the point where we can’t concentrate. This seems obvious: commercials train us not to focus, to be shallowly engaged, and suggestible. Good marks for a consumerist agenda, our critical faculties disabled by the passivity required of the audience in pop culture products. TV producers talk about their shows as products. Box office is success in movies, regardless of the quality.

Mailer also talked about movies and the way they sabotage reflection:

You weren’t learning more about human nature from films, you were just being entertained—at some cost to your ability to learn a little more about why we’re here, which I think is one of the remaining huge questions.

(I always appreciated it that Mailer wasn’t afraid of the existential question, which can sound pompous, even adolescent, but is really, if thoughtfully considered by a mature mind, primary to our lives.)

Mailer also talks about the hypocrisy of the culture industry, via Podhoretz’s “Making It”:

In the first half, […Podhoretz’s] thesis is that the dirty little secret among the left, among artists and intellectuals, is that they really want to make it, and they want to make it big. And they conceal that from themselves and from others. But this is really the motivating factor that is never talked about. You can talk about sex but you can’t talk about ambition and desire for success.

There is a distinction here that is subtle but important. Mailer’s ambition had that unfortunate spin of wishing to “make it big,” and many in his clique did reek of the ambition he described. Mailer’s early success in particular warped his sensibility. But “making it” in the sense, not of fame or bucks, but of recognition, is not a disgrace, nor a careerist yearning for “advancement” and approval; the desire for recognition is in some sense a fundamental completion of the creative work. Any creative voice wishes not that the work is “liked,” but rather is seen as achieving a most serious level of engagement.

Selected Work

Posted in Uncategorized on January 1st, 2013 by admin – Comments Off on Selected Work

The Selected Work gallery here @PaintedMatter has been updated recently.

Here is a selection, from the selections:

  • FA07_18v2
  • FA07.29_IMG_0077
  • pw05_10
  • v04_16_sunlit_family
  • v05_02
  • v06_09_DSC0278_Edit

Supernatural Presidential Debate, 1

Posted in politics, pop culture, Uncategorized on October 3rd, 2012 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Supernatural Presidential Debate, 1

Well, with the first presidential debate less than two hours away, it feels it is time to quote Supernatural.

Dean explains to angel Cass the way things are:

When humans want something really, really bad, they lie. That’s how you become president.

We’ve been binging on Supernatural @Netflix, just to drown out the media nonsense – the tendentious, shallow, ego strutting of it all – the candidates and the media pundits and “reporters” alike.

This is actually an important election, with looming difficulties ahead for the country and the world, but instead of this rousing serious debate, you get same old. The inflexible formula always wins in the popular culture.

Just before switching to Netflix we saw Jim Lehrer being interviewed on PBS about his oh so dramatic hosting duties at previous debates. This warranted a book.

That sums it up: the press interviews the press. No insights. Just, Zelig was there.

The media loves debates. It puts them completely in control. They ask the questions. They condescendingly smile as the candidates struggle to stay on script; the media has the power. They spin the interpretation afterward. Again and again.

Unelected, unselected, except by TV executives and faux news directors; with no real calling or honor of an objective  profession, they determine the outcome. If we had the Supreme Court in 2000 picking a president, we now have the media smugly ascendant.

The Supernatural episode we just finished watching is titled, “The End”.

Roger McDowell and Kramer and Newman

Posted in pop culture, Uncategorized on April 29th, 2011 by admin – Comments Off on Roger McDowell and Kramer and Newman

In yet another proof that Larry David is prescient, the recent misbehavior by Atlanta’s Roger McDowell has its predicate in a Seinfeld episode just replayed today.

The two Keith Hernandez episodes had as one of the story lines a satire of the Warren Commission’s report. On Seinfeld, Kramer and Newman accused Hernandez of spitting on them. But Hernandez implies in the second episode that it was Roger McDowell who was to blame because he had been arguing with Kramer and Newman as they heckled him through the game.


In the apology he offered this week, McDowell, 50, said he was provoked by heckling fans. Wren said the Braves were interviewing witnesses.

Herd Mind Beginner’s Mind

Posted in ideas, politics, pop culture, Uncategorized on December 26th, 2010 by Ira Altschiller – Comments Off on Herd Mind Beginner’s Mind

The real problem with herd mind is there is no responsibility. No responsibility, no shame, no accountability. Read the Comments sections of online discussion sites and you can see the struggle both to expel the impure (being wrong) and to affirm purity. In those venues this is expressed as an attempt to look smart; or at least smarter.

Lost like the rutting creatures in the street in Ionesco’s Rhinocéros, ideologues are part of a frenzy group. That is what ideologues seek – belonging. In the modern world, so alienating with its virtual friendships, it is understandable. Hollow belonging is better than no belonging.

Ideologues are conformists. They are called partisans in the media, but they are conformists. Ideologues do have distinct beliefs, but they are so mangled by their need to affirm their affinity group they squander their common sense along the way.

Those who seek the herd with such alacrity have numerous examples of the ostracism that comes with not uttering the (politically) correct meme, so they trade their individuality for their belonging. On the left you are a bigot if you don’t agree. On the right you are a socialist (it used to be a commie).

Herd mind gives us clichés, memes, TV nightly news, and the deadness of media culture. The throb of the personal, with its individuality and surprises was easy to discard in the public square – it is uncomfortable to adjust to ambiguities or try and expand your thinking.

Where can you run when they are all rutting in the streets?