The Weather

Bum Logic: Paradox Cake

This is the sixth installment in Peter’s “Bum Logic” series, about his investigation into our inadvertent complicity in climate change, continued from yesterday’s post, Yer A-Trespassin’ on My Dirt Farm.

This came after:

To: Linda Ambrose <
CC: Don Matthewson <
Subject: Re: Follow-up

don and linda,

i apologize for my radio silence,

i am grateful for all that has occurred thus far.

please keep me informed as to Angeles’s availability. i am actively interested.

vote tomorrow and exercise daily.

– peter

p.s. give my regards to the board of overseers.

This came before:

CC: Linda Ambrose <
From: Don Matthewson <
Subject: Re: Follow-up


Thank you for your email.

I too have enjoyed our conversations.

Unfortunately, I will be in NYC on November 11.  We have a Board of Overseers meeting on November 9 and I am planning to stay through the weekend.  Please do keep me in mind for future events however.  I would he happy to attend, if possible.

I will arrange for you to meet Angeles the next time they are on-campus.  Linda, could you schedule an on-campus meeting with Angeles for some time before December break?  Perhaps you can join us for a part or all of the meeting, Peter.

Finally, yes, you found the right Susan Matthewson.[1]

Thanks again for your email, Peter.  And I look forward to speaking/meeting with you in the days/weeks ahead.



This came between:

CC: Don Matthewson <
From: Linda Ambrose <
Subject: Re: Follow-up

I will speak with Angeles as to their availability for a meeting on campus.  I will be in touch.



Then I rekindled an old correspondence. I emailed Karen Baxter, a lady I’d met on my first foray to find the Endowment Portfolio. Karen as mentioned earlier is Chair of the Academic Council. Those folks represent the interests of the CalArts faculty and staff. They are the equivalent of a student council, albeit more coherent. In the email I asked Karen if I could speak with her constituents about how best to firmly nudge the powers that be at CalArts into divesting from stock in energy companies malignantly profiting from the destruction of our living space, our planet as we know and love it.

After that I was eager for some good old-fashioned face time, not the sort mediated by an interface, but the analog dialogue that lives in a community of embodied minds. So I wrote in large letters on a piece of paper, The CommonLuck Theater of Dramatic Nourishment.

I baked two vegetarian shepherd’s pies, which I called paradox cakes. They had bottom layers of lentil mushroom stew, covered with caramelized onions and feta. The topsoil of the casseroles was thick and rich: mashed potatoes and yams. A dusting of paprika served as sprinkles.

Then I taped the hand-scrawled, DIY marquee onto a cart and wheeled the sustenance around the CalArts campus, asking strangers, acquaintances, and friends all the same question: “Would you like to participate in the initial scene of the CommonLuck Theater of Dramatic Nourishment?” Answers ranged from “no” to “yes,” with a smorgasbord of diversity in betwixt, including, “I already am,” and, “Why are you doing this?”

After coaching/coaxing folks to feed, my explanations ranged freely as well, but when allowed the space and time to stretch, I performed a monologue scripted something like this:

I am a criminal. I am interested in making apparent actions that are verboten by synthetic, seemingly hegemonic ideology, but are nevertheless a) possible, and b) meaningful, when built upon the premise of optimistic compassion. I am engaged in an attempted social inquisition that may require me to have the ability to choreograph a congregation of passionate people in a specific place at a specific time. The way to a person’s heart and mind, loyalty and trust, is through the alleviation of their discomfort. In this instance I am trying to mitigate your hunger for a) food, and b) sincere companionship/conversation.

When asked, “How can I contribute?” I would answer, “By joining our mailing list and performing some act of kindred inspiration that might bring more collaborators into the fold.”

When the pie was rendered nothing more than a crust, the theater’s list of contact information exceeded the number seventeen.

Then in need of some R&R, I read some Murray Bookchin, from the first page of “The Ecology of Freedom”:

The very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human.

At that, I pondered the implications of identifying oneself as an investigative satirist. I’d stopped feeling like an iconoclastic pundit.


Bum Logic will continue in next week’s Weather.


[1] The Secret Self / The artichoke has no fashion sense, / Dressed in olive drab / splotched with brown, / Like a raw recruit in jungle fatigues.

Camouflage is second nature to the artichoke. / It hides its tender heart and sophisticated tastes / Under a tough-guy exterior, / Thick-skinned, waxy petals and / Thorn-tipped leaves in overlapping layers / Like rows of shark’s teeth.

Overly sensitive to criticism, / The artichoke has a prickly personality, / It’s given to barbed responses / From its sharp-tongued thistles, / Stilletto-like bayonets fixed to the tips / Of its concentric leaves.

The artichoke is sturdy. / A hefty compact globe, / It looks like the accidental offspring / Of an amorous adventure / Between a cactus plant and a pinecone.

Intensely private, / The artichoke is hard to get to know. / It demands patience and pampering, / A thorough manicure / To prune its sharp edges / And a luxuriant lemon-juice massage. / A steam bath eases its defensive posture; /  Its uptight petals relax, / Recline like sun worshippers on tilted lounges. / It shows its softer side then, / Becomes vulnerable to touch, / Secure in offering up its secret self, / Its tender-hearted core.

Peter Nichols is a poet, rock climber, and vagabond originally from Toledo, Ohio.