Poles of Power and Other Images
by Eucalyptus Ike
But consider for a moment what is meant by the phrase "the power of thought." Why? Because ‘Power’ is a term often just bandied about.
We hear of ‘people power,’ and ‘Black power’ and ‘White power’ and ‘economic power’ and ‘the power of the word,’ from those who
believe “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Then there is ‘sexual power,’ ‘financial power,’ the ‘power of the purse,’ ‘military power,’
and ‘the power of government.’ Indeed, one also hears about ‘the power of positive thinking,’ and ‘will power,’ and the ‘power to just say
no’ (to cigarettes, for example) and even ‘horse power’ to measure the amount of energy produced by an engine. Which brings us to ‘raw
power,’ ‘steam power,’ ‘solar power,’ ‘wind power,’ tidal power,’ and ‘atomic power.’
Some people wear ‘power suits,’ eat certain brands of breakfast cereal “to power up for the day” and ‘power down’ at the end of the day
with drugs, pills or alcohol. And there are those who refer to ‘political power,’ certain ‘power brokers,’ and ‘power dogs,’ and powerful
speakers, actors, boxers, gangsters, etc., and the ‘power of persuasion’ itself. Obviously, the forms that power may take appear to be very
complicated indeed. And not to mention the last of the list, there is also the much overrated ‘brain power.’
Given the above array of examples, what then does Ike mean by ‘Images of Power”? Is there something that all these images share in
common? Perhaps there is another way to get at the answer.
Suppose you develop an itch right on the tip of your nose. Do you say to your right arm, for
example, “raise yourself up to the approximate level of the nose on my face, then extend the
index finger on the right hand in the direction of my nose and rotate your wrist in such a
manner as to cause the fingernail to scrape across the offending itch, until I notify you to
stop.” No, you do not issue such a set of instructions, do you? So how is it that you
scratch your nose? Do you simply will it to happen? Is it really just that simple? The answer
is--no, it is not that simple.
And if you want to watch television, is it necessary to understand all the intricacies of
electronic parts, diodes, electrodes, circuits, cathode ray tubes that make up the gadget in
order to turn the boob tube on and change the channel? No, of course not. You do not need
to understand how or why it works in order to use it. And the same goes for scratching
your nose. Do you see the point?
The point is, you do not understand how you go about doing anything you do. You can not
explain how you think, or even why you think about what you think any more than you can
explain how you scratch your nose. You can not explain why you feel the way you feel,
why you prefer your coffee black, or why you hate to eat yellow squash. Granted, you will
come up with an ‘explanation’ if asked, but that explanation won’t really explain anything at
all, except what you think the appropriate or acceptable ‘learned response is’ to avoid
thinking or talking about the question any longer. Nobody, it seems, ever wants to appear
So, under the circumstances described above, do you still want to know why Ike refers to
all these objects as “images of power”? Surely after all that has been said above, you will
understand that he is in no better position to answer that question than you are…
In fact all Ike is willing to say is that he was thinking about how nice it would be to have
some power tools at his disposal rather than having to do all this work with chisels and a
mallet. Think of all the time he could have saved if he had only had enough cash to afford
some power saws and etc. Instead of having to pound away every day for months at a time,
sweating his bony ass off out in the garage…
Then, of course, he was also dreaming about some powerful, rich fool coming along to
purchase one of these ridiculous monstrosities for some real cash money for a change, so
they wouldn’t end up like all the rest of his crummy stuff gathering dust out in the garage,
or even worse, out in the back yard…where all the bugs, termites and bumble bees could get
at them…ya, truly, that's about the size of it....
Also, in the course of a long career as a woodcarver, Ike was able occasionally to obtain an unusually large piece of wood. Typically, this would happen about
the time one least expected it. You were driving by a newly cleared field or a local construction project, and you looked over and there it was. This big hunk of
something discarded by the wayside. So you stopped to mosey around it for a while, checking it out in order to estimate whether or not you could move it and
just how you might go about that. The material for the carvings you see below was acquired in just such a manner.
Known for a stealthy ability to forage at night, Ike and his associate Black Light Blackie often
prowled the communities of Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Irvine after dark in the hope of acquiring
materials for their garage operations because local city street maintenance crews made a practice of
leaving pieces of cut down trees over night for local residents to pick through before city workers
delivered the remaining debris to the dump.
Ike's 'garage experience' may best be described as never quite the same each day. In the
words of the One -eyed Lay Wai Low, "there was always something going on that changed
the nature of things in a number of ways." One carving might receive a new nose, another a
new eye, a third a set of teeth, and so forth. This is tantamount to saying "Nothing much
ever stayed the same for very long, as long as Ike was still interested in it. Once he moved
on, of course, the thing might gather dust for a long long spell, before circumstances would
cause a necessity for a change (of viewpoint). The garage experience is, therefore,
evolutionary, in the sense that new carvings shed new meanings, new interpretations upon
the old, just as the old work their magical influence upon the young. Patterns emerge,
flourish for a while and then decline, as newer forms arise to take their place on the ongoing
evolutionary stage. It is as if there were a plan without any specific plans to speak of, just a
vague sense of something searching for expression floating upon a sea of possibilities...
Hierarchy of the Tong Power Speakers According to Tong-pa
An assortment of objects arranged over time around Ike's work station in the Irvine garage.
Ike, in Reno ,Nevada, circa 1969
The Cyclopian Doodad beside The Big Squack
The Squack of Hard Knocks
Squack Finn a Riddle Why-don't-cha
The Squacking Squaw of Pa
Front View: Quixote Traveling Trophy
Neanderthals vs Fremens at Big Trees Camp...
Bust of Quixote
Typical garage accumulation of slag, old carvings, tools, etc.
Mundo Afri-Kane beside the Doodad
Close up of "Little Pole Baby" (on the bench)
Rotation of the Cyclopian Doodad around its verticle axis, showing the arrangement of pieces and parts.
Mundo Afri-Kane, a collection of carving
themes from Africa and the Pacific.
A sense of scale provided by a seated lady
What you can do when you don't know how you do it...
But for those who feel the desperate need to have the official explanation, here goes.
Take, for example, Hierarchy of the Tong Power Speakers According to Tong-pa.
Naturally, I don't mean for you to take it literally; I just mean for you to consider it as you
look at the photos to the left. Seven heads stacked one atop the other to a height of eleven
feet seven inches exactly, not an inch more or an inch less, but exactly 11 feet 7 inches.
Why would anyone go to all the trouble? Consider also that the carving is done in a six inch
thick by twelve inch wide piece of fir, actually a "beam," the original meaning for which
meant "the squared off trunk of a tree," but now generally means "a thick piece of wood
used as a horizontal support for a roof or ceiling." Clearly, such a piece of wood intended to
support a roof or ceiling must be selected for properties of strength to support great
weight. Douglas Fir, for example, has high bending strength, stiffness, and crushing
strength which provides resistance to shock loads and thus a poor steam-bending rating.
The wood works readily with both hand and machine tools ,although cutters must be kept
sharp due to the wood's blunting effect on tools. Get the picture? Do you begin to see what
I mean? Fir is a tree of power...And fir is also the world's most important source of
plywood, used for heavy construction work, laminated arches, roof trusses, dock and
harbor works, marine pilings, ship building, cooperage for vats, and tanks for chemical
plants, breweries and distilleries...
Tong-Jimmie's Wood Pecker
Several year back this carving in fir was abandoned by Ike due to a host of other pressing
issues. It is obviously unfinished, this time leaving eight heads stacked atop one another in
descending order. It is said the symbolism is arcane and in some degree still in dispute. Be
that as it may, from top to bottom the heads are titled "Foo of Chew Mancho," the only
one with a mustache; "Ugh-a Boo Who, son of Foo," with a smear of brown stain across
his upper lip; "Butt-nose of Ka-Ike The First," (here actually in third place); "Lips of the
Squamous Squaw" shown with a diamond shaped stain upon her forehead, suggesting
something has been dribbling down from up above. Second row: "Ra-Cole-Slaw,
descendant of Big Nose Kaikus Pocus"; "Wires on Jubb the Jaw seen before his Peanut
Butter Emancipation"; "Lay Wai Low" before he got his one good eye; and finally, "Slow
Still Life of a Round Eyed Wo ful' Odd Jim Dotty," down below holding up the whole forte
(meaning a thing that a person does particularly well, a special accomplishment or strong
Some have pointed out the carving will probably never be finished because "the whole of
the symbolic schema represented here is nothing more than an evolutionary or transitional
stage subject to a wide range of potential upheavals both in erection, function, and
duration," whatever that means... As for myself, I cannot say anything one way or the
other. Furthermore, the entire concept of 'unfinished monkey business' is a notion that has
always appealed to me far more than I am loath to admit. I enjoy the freedom this
particular state of affairs offers me, since I am neither committed to the work of sanding
down and finishing the carving nor obligated to interact with it in any way except to
consider what other 'possibilities' it may offer for my intimate personal amusement out in
Sometimes, as you know, "the thought is enough." The actual doing leaves one quite cold,
desperately seeking some explanation to account for why one is doing what one is
obviously doing. I, for one, do not enjoy that feeling. So mostly I don't think about
anything at all when I am carving--absolutely nothing at all. There is, at first, only the
sound of the mallet striking the blunt face of the chisel handle, and a sense of the rhythm
of repeated motions, over and over and over again until those perceptions themselves
eventually fade away and what is left is the simple purity of nothing, nothing at all.