The Road Goes On Forever and the Potty Never Ends

"There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos"... and apparently a black crapper with blue LED lighting.

The Road Goes On Forever and the Potty Never Ends
The original, classic, "Toilet in the Road" Kohler print ad from 1981.

Let's get to the news:

Of course they filmed a high-budget, "minimalist" toilet ad in Marfa, Texas. Where else WOULD you put a porcelain bowl in the middle of the road and call it "a art"? Every time you think that peak Marfa has been realized, someone drops a commode on the highway.

Marfa has been quite the art destination for a while, as well as a popular destination for aliens. Hollywood put Marfa on the map in 1956 with James Dean's last film, the iconic "Giant," which also starred Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. Cinematographers and artists love the quality of light out in West Texas as well as the classic desert landscape. Famed minimalist artist Donald Judd discovered that light in the early 70s while seeking a remote location to realize his vision for large-scale art installations. It wasn't long before Judd had purchased acres of land, filling it up with his and other artists' work. Judd died in 1994, long before Kohler maximalized minimalism with their own artistic vision.

No, you goofy rube. This is not a highway project. This is arts. Donald Judd 15 untitled works in concrete1980-1984, detailChinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas

The unoriginal idea for the recent ad was inspired, as it were, by an ad they shot in 1981 titled, imaginatively, "Toilet in the Road." ("Here's what I'm seeing, guys. A toilet. In the road. What does everyone think? Can it be done?")

The recent ad was "reimagined" late last year and, well, I'm going to let you see just how far they ran with this, and the incredible imagination that went into this reimagining. Just imagine:

Yeah, baby. That's a black, square toilet in the middle of the highway. And it's beautiful. We are moved. And if you have a movement, this is what you need. I believe it was Former TX Ag Commissioner and columnist Jim Hightower who said, "There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos"... and apparently a black crapper with LED lighting.

So much more than a toilet. It's a "daring" work of art. It's art that you can poop in. Which then becomes interactive art? So many layers to this art thing.

For a real chuckle, take a gander at the "behind the scenes" film of the toilet ad. "It's just so beautiful. This is like what I was dreaming about..." (The footage is actually quite lovely... but with a "smart toilet" in the middle of it.) It's filmed with a reverence usually reserved for a DeBeers diamond commercial.
A squat little black monolith terlet on the road. I expected the 2001: A Space Odyssey apes to come smash it.


The Kohler "Numi" toilet sells for $8,625.00. Hey, the list price is $11,500. You think fine art comes cheap, you Philistine?

And btw, toilet art is nothing new.

"Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp in 1917.

In 1917 New York, Marcel Duchamp stopped by the local plumbing supply shop, picked out a "Bedfordshire-style" urinal, carried it home, laid it down at an angle on a table and signed it "R. Mutt." He then named his creation(?) "Fountain" and declared it art. A photo was taken of the piece, and he submitted it to the very progressive, "Society for Independent Artists" to exhibit. But this cutting-edge group just didn't get it. It was too much art to comprehend. So they denied Duchamp a showing, and the piece was unceremoniously tossed.

Several art historians suggest that the submission was a prank. Other critics disagree.

Only the photo (and plenty of art gossip) survived.

The piece was an in-your-face provocation, one that shook the very foundation of the art world. Today, many art historians consider "Fountain" to be the single most important work of modern art. To give you a sense of its importance, Dimitri Daskalopoulos, a Greek collector, forked over almost $2 million in 1997, and not even for the discarded original. He paid that sum for one of seventeen replicas released fifty years later by Duchamp’s dealer. “For me,” Daskalopoulos said, “it represents the origins of contemporary art.” - By Albert-László Barabási in Behavioral Scientist

Andy Warhol would even trade one of his portraits for a "Fountain" replica.

"Fountain." For 2 mil. Or maybe a Warhol. What a pisser.

And we couldn't leave without a mention of golden toilets.

From Daily Art Magazine:

"Maurizio Cattelan is a contemporary Italian artist known for his satirical and provocative artworks... In 2016 Cattelan came out of retirement to create a special project for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. In America, he replaced a toilet in one of the museum’s public restrooms with a fully functional toilet made from solid 18-carat gold, thus making an extravagant, luxury product available to the public. The work was interactive and visitors were invited to interact with it “individually and privately”; the approximate wait time to do this was two hours. As the Museum says of this work: 'Cattelan’s toilet offers a wink to the excesses of the art market but also evokes the American dream of opportunity for all – its utility reminding us of an inescapable physical realities of our shared humanity.'"
Tough to put a finger on his inspiration for this one.

See? The can CAN be an interactive work. Line up! Kohler is missing out with their cheap, middle-of-the-road project.

If you haven't gotten enough toilets-as-art commentary, check out the still-remembered 60 Minutes piece that the late Morley Safer did on modern art - which included vacuum cleaners, basketballs, and... sure, more urinals. (The art community, in general, was not pleased with the piece and how much attention it received.) Safer, however, was known to appreciate fine art, and over his career submitted many stories on artists and their work.

When I was in college, (I went to school in the East – East Texas,) there was an initiative one year to allow the art students to display some of their (mostly) contemporary art pieces around our heavily wooded campus. Almost all of them were interesting pieces - geometrically cut granite pieces joined together with a large wooden rod, various metal sculptures, was there a mural? One of my buddies was walking to class when he stopped to admire a sort of wigwam-shaped skeleton of bent sticks, all laced together with thick hemp and string. Another young man, who identified himself as one of the art students who had worked on the display, asked him what he thought of the piece. My friend said that he liked it, he liked it a lot. The art student cracked up and explained that it was a 'joke' piece that they had thrown together as a prank. My friend, (a bit miffed at being pranked,) said, "Well if this is, in my mind, the best piece on campus, and it's a joke, what does that say about the rest of y'all's work?"

What they needed was a bidet standing out among those pine trees...

And Speaking of Crappers in West Texas...

Well, look who just bought property in Terlingua. It appears that Alex Jones of InfoWars infamy has purchased about twenty acres of land in the "Terlingua Ranch" subdivision out near Big Bend. This is according to Texas Monthly. (More accurately, the property is held by his wife, Erika Wulff Jones.) Ms. Jones paid about $1,000 an acre for the unimproved, undeveloped acreage. Alex Jones, the noted conspiracy theorist and screaming media personality has not made any public comment regarding the purchase.

Oddly, Jones has claimed that he is broke after losing one of many pending lawsuits filed against him. He is probably most well known for his claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that killed 26 people, (including 20 children aged 6-7) was a "false flag" operation conducted by individuals who were anti-Second Amendment activists. He further stated that the deceased and injured children were "child actors." He and his company have lost multiple lawsuits filed against him and were ordered to pay over $1.5 billion in damages. Jones and his company have declared bankruptcy, but have not settled with the families. The bankruptcy and various appeals are still winding their way through courts.

I am a huge Big Bend/West Texas "enthusiast." My wife and I got married at The Gage Hotel in Marathon, TX. (This was back before The Gage was a "destination wedding" or so bougie a 'boutique' hotel that it serves chicken fried steaks for $34... "reservations recommended.") I'm very aware of just how uninviting and rough the landscape is, and I have a vague idea of how hard existence would be in such a place.

When we consider possible places we would like to retire to, my wife and I always research what we call the "H.E.B. factor." How close is the nearest HEB? From Terlingua? That's a 225 mile (450-mile r/t), 3.5 hour (7-hour r/t) drive. Luckily, Walmart is only 150 miles away. (To be clear, Alpine, Marfa, and other communities have some smaller, often locally owned grocery stores, hardware stores, lumberyards, etc. But... H.E.B.!) Is Mrs. Jones willing to drive 150 miles to shop at the Walmart makeup counter? Does Alex want to travel six hours r/t to get a new roll of aluminum foil to replace his hat when his gets blown away by the desert winds?

Texas Monthly quotes a resident as saying “Everyone in Terlingua is running from something." This is an expression I've heard many times... The desert out there is just that - desert. Those who move there with romantic notions of living the isolated life (ala Georgia O'Keefe) are often gone within a couple of weeks when they learn just how tough it is to get some of the luxuries that they're used to, like water. It is a place full of outlaws (!), characters, loners, artists, and you know, some normies, too. But "running from something" is accurate - bad relationships, the law, debt, the pressures of city life, and most often, one's 'ownself.'

Beyond his outrageous and disgusting claims about Sandy Hooks, Jones is known for a stream of wretched claims and conspiracy theories that he vomits up regularly. He maintains that the US is engaged in "chemical warfare" which is turning people gay. He comically reported in 2015 that the U.S. Government was, “putting chemicals in the water that turn the friggin’ frogs gay.” A little more recently, Jones continually attacked Rober Mueller, the special prosecutor who was investigating the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia. Jones ranted on the air that Mueller was “the literal swamp king creature come to kill America. Everyone’s so scared of Mueller, they’d let Mueller rape kids in front of people, which he did. Well, the word is he doesn’t have sex with kids, he just controls it all. Can you imagine being a monster like that?” Jones then promised his audience, “That’s a demon I will take down, or I’ll die trying." Though he didn't originally make it up, Infowars also constantly ramped up the discussion about the “pizzagate” conspiracy theory - the absurd claim that Hillary Clinton and her top aides were running a demonic sex-trafficking ring inside some poor guy's pizza shop. After the place was shot up by a madman who was an avid follower of Jones, he was forced to apologize and admit there was no truth whatsoever to the conspiracy. (The shooter would spend 4 years in jail. No one was hurt in the incident.)

The politics of Terlingua is decidedly mixed. It's as divided as the rest of the country with both extremes represented. In the 2020 election, Trump received 53% of the vote in the precinct where Terlingua lies, with Biden at 45%. So half the community is probably just fine with their new neighbor. And the rest?

But Terlingua is a place where misfits fit in, as long as some basic rules of civility are followed. Residents know that in the desert there will be situations when you will need a neighbor's helping hand, or maybe their truck (!) no matter how they voted. But as one of Jones's neighbors explained to Texas Monthly, “You’re either a good neighbor, or you won’t be a neighbor for very long.

On the other hand, maybe Terlingua's rugged, inhospitable landscape and eclectic residents are perfect for Alex Jones. And perhaps I've watched too many dystopian series on Netflix, but could this be the birth of Jones Nation? Let's see... there was another Jones compound, but that was in Guyana.

Four Score and... Wow!

I would be remiss if I didn't celebrate along with the rest of America - the all-new and improved Gettysburg Address. We can finally do away with that pretentious, pompous jibberish by Abraham Lincoln (who started the War of Northern Aggression) and replace it with something that every school child in America will learn by heart. Right after we eliminate the woke, liberal brainwashing in our public schools with outstanding, patriotic Christian schools, every student will recite "Wow, Gettysburg."

Our nation was saved by the immortal heroes at Gettysburg. Gettysburg, what an unbelievable battle that was. The battle of Gettysburg what an unbelievable. I mean it was so was so much, and so interesting, and so vicious and horrible, and so beautiful in so many different ways—it represented such a big portion of the success of this country.
Gettysburg, wow! I go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to look and to watch. And uh the statement of Robert E. Lee, who’s no longer in favor—did you ever notice that? He’s no longer in favor. “Never fight uphill, me boys, never fight uphill.” They were fighting uphill, he said. Wow, that was a big mistake, he lost his great general and uh they were fighting uphill. “Never fight uphill, me boys,” but it was too late. -DJT

These were the immortal words spoken by the great orator Donald Trump during a stirring speech about a week ago in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, near Gettysburg. The rambling, incoherent remarks, delivered near America's most sacred soil were barely mentioned in the mainstream (or fringe-right) press. And I'm not one to constantly rail about what the press covers or doesn't cover, but since they've taken up the MAGA talking points related to President Biden's age, and point out every time he stubs his toe or stutters during a speech, (recall that Biden IS a stutterer,) then it is very relevant when they don't feature Trump's rambling ignorance. Imagine the righteous posturing if Biden suggested that Lee's "big mistake" was "fighting uphill, me-boys"?

Newsrooms didn't bother with it, but the late-night shows had a field day.


Colbert and his crew updated Ken Burns' famous "Civil War" series.

Yes, it's funny, absurd, and ultimately depressing at the same time.

Let it be of some comfort that in 1863 a popular speaker for his time, seen by many as an incredible orator, gave a speech to dedicate Gettysburg, the burial ground for more than 3,500 Union soldiers who had fallen in battle four months earlier. The gathered crowd numbered about 15,000. That's right, you guessed it - the headliner was Edward Everett, a speaker of national renown who spoke for two hours in a speech that is now mostly forgotten. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (as it would come to be known) was barely two minutes long. It was, (no surprise,) barely commented on by the press if the day.

Lincoln's two minutes have survived the test of time. Beneath the brevity and seeming simplicity in that couple of minutes was a depth that had not been immediately apparent.

"... It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." -A. Lincoln (abridged)

Lincoln was way off on one point, though–

"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here..." -Abe

Sorry Abe – for good reason, it has been noted. It has been long remembered, unlike the shallow, babbling drivel of other, grandstanding headliners.


Chris Newlin worked around Tee-Vee stations before he went out on his own and continued to work in the world of video and multi-media production. Then came iPhones and YouTube accounts, so now he sits around full of self-pity and too many Keystone Lights. He still enjoys sunsets, long walks on the beach, and a good bowel movement, at least every now and then.
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