Thursday, April 30, 2009
neko case's new album is out, middle cyclone. this clip is actually from the new pornographers, the canadian collective she collaborates w/on & off. there's destroyer(bejar), ac newman, zampano, etc. there's something about the collective that carries over into each of the individual outputs w/o impinging on the specific sounds. they're all worth listening to but neko is my favorite.
ann & i saw her open for merle haggard in oakland two years ago. her voice is what's astonishing(well, she's beautiful too...)deep & rich, swinging freely from solid hard core country to pop. the new album is challenging, rich, & deep. i read an interview w/her where her interlocutor asked about why she sings about animals that have been trapped or caged or tamed. "or NOT tamed," she replied quickly. that sums up what i hear in her music: the captive & the unvanquished.
how fix this place
time shadowed an
place fixed shadow
we find can find
will be a gift
to you who tried
the static to give
us the love
you found a gift
"what does the fetish represent in the final analysis? it is an object that fills the constitutive lack in the OTHER, the empty place of 'primary repression', the place where the signifier must of necessity be lacking in order for the signifying network to articulate itself..." slavoj zizek
mike asked. i mean, if someone asks, i assume they want to hear the answer. don't ask if you don't want to hear it, that's my thinking. i do have to admit i don't think he had any idea what he was going to get when he asked. i don't think he'd have asked if he had any idea where it would go. in fact, i think he said as much.
initially, i was general. not particularly vague but general in a kind of academic way. ok, well, "fetish". let's see. unfortunately, mike was laboring under a simple notion of the whole concept. he visibly winced when i spoke about the freudian metonymic aspect, that a shoe or panties were the last thing seen BEFORE the revelation of sexual difference, that the trauma of sexual difference is such that it cannot be faced directly but needed to be processed psychically one of two ways, sublimation or repression. sublimation glosses over the signified w/a loose signifier. repression forces the signified to exist psychically w/o signification & therefore w/o the means of expression. sublimation is the healthy way to go here; repression, not so much.
i didn't want to go into the cast of characters this concept drags along. binet(he originated it), kraft-ebbing(for gods sake!), freud, winnicott(amazingly). but mike wasn't specifically asking about shoes or panties. he was trying to get a clarification about whether WOMEN could be or are fetishists. again, & i'm not knocking him here, he was simply trying to substitute the kind of fetishism he knew about(men's)w/a female version. so maybe ed's thing about shoes or pat's about panties fit w/eka's or ann's shoe collection. i emphatically tried to nip that one in the bud.
suddenly, i remembered an episode from my own life that i felt would crystalize the crucial differences in gendered fetishism. i was seeing a woman during the outrigger years who, no matter what, could not produce ANY vaginal lubrication. this wasn't just during our time together. it was the case w/all her former male lovers. we used countless tubes of ky jelly to facilitate the simplest sex acts. spontaneity did not exist. of course, the initial take here would be that she wasn't experiencing sexual excitement. that was my first take too. however, she experienced wrenching orgasms, always from oral(sometimes taking up to an hour & a half) or manual stimulation. during the orgasms, not one DROP of lubrication was produced. nada.
rather than being frustrated, i was intrigued. i introduced her to vibrators & they definitely helped her achieve faster(tho still dry)orgasms. same w/anal sex. but i couldn't figure out a way to get the dam to break. she told a story about showering w/her father as a very very young girl. at one point, she noticed his cock & asked what it was. that was the end of that. no more showers w/daddy. at around the same time, good vibrations out here in sf had started really promoting dildos w/harnasses for lesbian couples who felt compelled to go that way(& they were & are lots who do). this was also the beginning of the femdom era, where the women were the dominant sexual figure in the male/female relationship. for us at the time, that just meant that she got to play w/whoever she wanted to & i didn't. i had more than one guy come to me after a session w/her, their male-egos crushed, asking about the arid nature of her sexual response. of course, i also thought about including women in the mix. in fact, that seemed to be the way to go.
prior to that, i bought her a silcon dildo & harness from good vibrations. amazingly, there were several break-throughs w/this device. intially, she insisted that i wear it for sex. i'd no longer penetrate her w/my cock but the one i'd bought for her, her cock. once that etiquette was established, she became as wet as a florida swamp. the sex was astonishing. she became multi-orgasmic. eventually, she wanted to wear it herself, "claim" her cock(as she put it)& use it. i had no problem w/this. i'd always enjoyed that sort of thing. i remember after our first time, she said she finally understood how men were the way they were during sex since she could imagine now orgasm being predicated on the primacy of penetration & thrusting. she said if her orgasm depended on that, she'd be the same way. once, during an especially passionate moment, she started to demand my allegiance to the "mommy cock." as hot as it was, she seemed nearly deranged. i wondered if men seemed that way to women. i suspect we do.
eventually, she wanted to include a woman in the situation. i have to stress here that she wasn't looking to include me in the deal, no mff 3some. she just wanted to fuck another woman w/the "mommy cock." she did too. at this point, i'll go on & say that the dildo had become a fetish object for her. during all of it i was totally happy, tho not for obvious reasons. yes, we had a multi-dimensional sex life which included another beautiful woman. for me, it was figuring out & then solving the problem of a less than multi-dimensional sex life. this bliss didn't last long. i do think it opened her eyes to some issues. she's happy now, i think, still multi-dimensional.
the first time i told anyone that story was last year. i told nancy, my old new college buddy(who's engaged in some multi-dimensional moments herself). i remember seeing in her eyes revulsion & disbelief. while mike's not mr. multi-dimensional, he's known me a long long time. "fuck," he muttered, " eka derides me for not following up on things people say. jeez, who wants to know things like that?"
i don't know. i certainly thought i'd answered his question. i thought that's why he asked.
mike said it last night: "this is just gonna look a whole lot more impressive in the paper tomorrow." i know this: it sure READ a whole lot more impressive in today's chron. words like "throttle" & "rout" were used. i think we weren't seeing the same game. i think maybe getting paid to write about the home team kind of queers your objectivity. i think maybe i'm immune to the "magic" of live baseball. i think, i think, i think. in baseball thinking doesn't mean you're right. it really doesn't mean much at all. the bottom line is what's in that line score the next day, i suppose. but let me think a little more here, just for fun:
1) i think bruce bochy manages not to win but to NOT lose. you won't find that in the line score but it was obvious at the ball park last night.
2)i think tim lincecum has maybe five years of effective pitching in him. his mechanics are already destroying his career as we watch him strike out multiple batters. if he bulks up to prevent damage, it'll kill him quicker. there's just no way that kid will last. period.
3) i think the giants will lose several games on freddy lewis' lack of defensive skills in left field. that could be corrected. it won't be.
4)i think brian wilson(the closer)will end up blowing over 10 saves this year.
5)i think the team can't wait for bengie molina's clutch hitting heroics in every other game.
6)i think the sf fans are five years away from a serious contending team. there's a lot of work that has to be done(& unpopular trades that'll have to be completed). all that throttling & routing from last night will be quickly forgetten come august.
i had a great time at the game. att park is a real beauty(how could it not be w/the bay right there?). i'm glad we didn't see the tues night game(filled w/errors). lincecum wasn't "lights out" dominant but he was good. the giants played ok. the dodgers didn't(behind a starter who won't be by the end of next month).
& once again & forevermore until the next time, baseball was the purely perfect luxury it's always been.
"I thought that if I could put it all down, that would be one way. And next the thought came to me to leave all out would be another, and truer, way." john ashbery
philip wrote a while back & said he'd re-read two of the three parts of beckett's trilogy. he didn't get around to the unnameable which is my favorite(along w/endgame & krapp's last tape). this is also beckett's birthday month(april 13th 1906 to be exact)& they've just released the first volume(there will be three)of his letters. so i got to thinking about beckett.
i suppose i read the plays first. back in high school, we didn't really have access to staged plays. i do remember seeing a dreadful, dragging mess of godot at the pensacola little theater. it was done by an out of town troupe & they really had no idea what in the hell they were doing. each line was delivered by every actor in the same monotone. there was a long pause between EVERY line spoken or move made. the actors lumbered around the stage in catatonic stupors. this would have been some form of desecration but they clearly had no sense of what it was they were desecrating. it was just a bad mistake. a very bad mistake.
beckett had been labeled(& misunderstood)as an existentialist writer. the fact is no one had any idea what that meant, anymore than they understood how/why someone like kierkeggard was an existentialist philosopher or that heidigger could be one too.
w/the exception of heidigger, what everyone was missing was the comedy in these very very human writers. w/soren, it was more heavy irony(tho he could be funny when he wanted to be). w/beckett, it was comedy, or more precisely, the comedic. or even more precisely, the hollywood notion of physical comedy(embodied by buster keaton), along w/the sense of the oddness of the everyday. beckett's exploration of the everyday is what pulls him into the late(as opposed to the early)20th century. when the great post-war philosopher wittgenstein(surely an existential philosopher but never labeled one)describes his method, he might well be describing beckett's:
"it is wrong to say in philosophy we consider an ideal language as opposed to our ordinary one. for this makes it appear as thought we could improve on ordinary language. but ordinary language is all right. whenever we make up "ideal languages" it is not in order to replace our ordinary language by them; but just to remove some trouble caused in someones' mind by thinking that he has got hold of the exact use of a common word. that is also why our method is not merely to enumerate actual usages of words, but rather deliberately to invent new ones, some of them because of their absurd appearance."
beckett felt that the everyday was all right too. he simplified everything to get at what was underneath, what remained when the superfluous elements of life were eliminated. i imagine this is not an easy thing for a writer(or a thinker)to do. an artist's mind creates & creation is an ever expansive endeavor. reduction seems counter-intuitive in creation.
it strikes me that what we get when we engage a work of art is a mind working w/& in certain constraints(the tools of the trade, the genre of the art). is that mind affected by historical conditions? yes & that must be taken into account. isn't it in fact TWO minds at work? the one manifested in the art & the one evaluating? again, yes & that needs to be considered too. & isn't that second mind also affected by(sometimes quite different) historical conditions? ditto.
beckett worked hard to make things easy for us. every work from godot on seems to have weathered the fierce process of living. they've been worn down by that process, reduced to simple words & actions. their value, as w.s. merwin writes, lies in that survival. they've made it through:
the late poems are the ones
i turn to first now
following a hope that keeps
waiting somewhere in the lines
almost in plain sight
it is the late poems
that are made of words
that have come the whole way
they have been there
april, we're told, is supposed to be the cruelest month but some interesting folks were born during it, not the least was walter lantz, creator of woody woodpecker. he was born april 27th, 1899. he died in 1994. i believe ann & i went to the small walter lantz museum in santa fe on one of our trips there. he also created chilly willy the penquin.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
due to michael's largess & a narsai connection, i'm heading over to the city to watch the dodgers & the giants today. not only is this one of the oldest traditional rivalries in baseball, we're getting last year's cy young winner(young tim lincecum)& both teams high from early season winning streaks. add to all that pretty decent weather & we're all set up to have one of those disappointing experiences where all the elements are in place & nothing works.
i don't think it really matters. short of death(or violent chaos), it's a great day for a ball game. hell, the original plan was a double "A" team game up in modesto.
i remember taking dona to trader tom's, a strip joint in g'ville. we were living there prior to moving up to c'ville & uva. trader tom was a guy who'd worked in p'cola for trader jon, the venerable old strip joint in pensacola. he'd left his mentor & opened his open space in g'ville. what i'd remembered from my various forays there in my youth w/mike & joe moran was that he had several rooms for performances, no nudity regulations, &, most important, his line-up of women were mostly co-eds from uf working hard for the money to pay off student loans while living an opulent "student" lifestyle.
beautiful, young women taking ALL their clothes off was a rare thing back then. the first place i'd ever seen completely naked women dancing was in the "boat bar" on duval street in key west. this was way back in the early 70s & the shrimpers pretty much still ruled the city. i wrote about a moment i had in the "boat bar" back then but suffice it to say that the women dancing nude there weren't co-eds. w/a couple, it was a toss-up whether they were women at all. i will say that for someone as young as i was, who'd seen only let's say 5-6 naked women, it was an astonishing experience to see these women naked in public w/other men.
there was also the place in ft walton beach that i took holly to many times. none of us can remember the name of the place but i will say that it was NOT a hole-in-the-wall like many of the places you'd see naked women dancing. here women who called themselves "dusty rhodes" or "autumn summers" would prance(definitely not dance)around the stage displaying bodies that were so surgically altered they should have been called feminsteins. many looked like my middle school teachers on steroids.
however, they were less alarming then the sad decayed crones w/o rhythm or looks dancing "in-between" sets. the saddest still were the women who were so far over the hill their acts were "gags," built around some roadhouse or vaudeville routine---the bride dressed accordingly w/the mc(yes, this place had male mc's up on stage a'la' lenny bruce)oogling them & commenting on their gradual state of undress, a "gag" act, indeed.
by the time i took dona to trader tom's, i'd not only known several dancers quite well but i'd lived w/two. strippers were no longer fantasy figures for me. they were quite real. i remember walking into trader john's in p'cola & there on stage, halfway through her act, was donna bailey, a high school girl friend. she was looking pretty good, five years out of high school. she didn't seem to recognize me tho see seemed to look right at me during some of the most erotic, to me, parts of her routine. she was dancing to fleetwood mac's "over my head." donna had been a wild-child in high school, a friend of my first love, alicia, & had almost gotten me to drop acid. tho i didn't associate her w/this kind of MOR music, she still looked damned good. i struggled w/myself about approaching her. she was doing the dancer thing & bouncing from table to table after her dance for tips. when she got to my table i said, "hey donna." she froze, then squinted. "uh...who?...wha?...," she mumbled. "danny. danny jones," i replied. her hands flew up to her wide-opened mouth. "o my god," she exclaimed. her crazy eyes were trying to make sense of what what happening. they seemed to spin in concentric circles. i began to doubt the sanity of my intrusion. this was the first time i'd broken down that "4th wall." hell, i'd never TIPPED the dancers (& i hadn't tipped her). she fled the table.
a minute later she was back at my table. i thought there was going to be trouble. i was not ready for it. i never am. "o my god, danny...i couldn't tell that was you," she said while gesturing to the alarming cat's eye glasses she was now wearing. "o my god, give me a hug." & i did. & i was happy & oddly thrilled, indeed, totally excited by the little scene we were making in the middle of trader jon's. we sat & made the expected small talk, catching up on the five years we hadn't been in touch. i told her she looked great. she got a wicked smile on her face. she leaned over very closely to me & whispered, "do you still eat pussy the way you used to?" i'm sure i was visibly vibrating when i assured her that i did. "better than before," i asserted stupidly & needlessly. personally, i don't know how i ever got laid.
"well, we'll see about that," she replied. then she asked, "can you come home w/me tonight?" "sure, sure. of course." what the hell else was i going to say? she leanedover & kissed me quickly on the lips. "good, i haven't had a good orgasm in weeks. i've got to go back to the dressing room. i get off at 2am." she darted away & then behind the curtains that led back to the women's dressing rooms. my head was spinning. i felt very alive. donna was very much alive.
i left to check out a couple of the other strip joints down on south palafox at the time. quayside inn, mike's favorite(o those asian women!!!), the place cattycorner from traders, gentleman jim's(or something like that). i may have gone up to the red garter, the tranny/gay bar w/live shows. i do know that i was back at traders five minutes before 2am.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
i'll let his friends remember him here. i always liked fairfield porter's paintings & park reminds me of him quite a bit. he follows a line of painters from marsden hartley that painted what their eyes were drawn to & what their imaginative talents re-created. that this tended to be landscapes doesn't make them any less interesting or beautiful. most of the abstract expressionists began in landscapes.
while i have lots of problems w/the notion of the "supremacy of vision," i do believe park's paintings ARE about vision. i think it's more about how the mind reflects on what it sees(which is how things work anyway)or the combinatory nature of the process of seeing & how that's translated into an idea of "vision."
"In their lush momentum these paintings reminded me of the first wave of American moderns: Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, John Marin. Autumn Summersweet, the tawny maroon hit of the show, exudes a wired, almost Jimi Hendrix sentimentality. Each of these paintings is a fresh map of nature; every quick impression, every wriggle of light and hue is inscribed in a heavy-handed way that lures you into the orchestraction of the moment and Park's inhabited ideas about painting. Several of these works depict scenes from baseball games, which are oddly suited to the cadence of this show. in Cold Beer a figure moves through the crowded bleachers, and a lasso of gold surrounds his head like an aura. These are way past 'views.'" eileen myles
"Darragh, who died Friday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, said he had "a vision of vision." As a motorcyclist he learned on entering a curve that he had to focus "beyond my immediate destination if I was to operate the machine smoothly and stay alive." He had to be able to divide his sight between two points and let "the rest of [his] vision" take in everything between them. The beauty of his paintings is a beauty achieved by the supremacy of vision. How cruel that of all ailments, he had to suffer the progressive deterioration of his eyesight." david lehman
Thursday, April 23, 2009
"All writers believe they are realists. None ever calls himself abstract, illusionistic, chimerical, fantastic, falsitical. . .Realism is not a theory, defined without ambiguity, which would permit us to counter certain writers with certain others; it is, on the contrary, a flag under which the enormous majority--if not all--of today's novelists enlist. And no doubt we must believe them all, on this point. It is the real world which interests them; each one attempts as best as can to create 'the real.'" alain robbe-grillet(Translation by Richard Howard)
every 10 years or so, someone "rediscovers" flannery o'connor. for the most part, all this really does is clarify just how undiscovered she still is. this was one tough cranky broad who responded to mary mccarty's equivocating "the eucharist is a symbol" comment by declaring, "if it's it symbol, it can go to hell." she meant it literally too. being a devout catholic, she very much believed in hell but, more importantly, she believed the sacrament of communion was all about transubstantiation, the flesh & blood of christ made real. this wasn't about symbols. it was about a fundamental belief system. flannery believed.
of course, she suffered for her beliefs. it's never been clear to me why a jewish writer, say, philp roth, can explore the various eccentricities of modern jewishness & be praised while flannery's work, say, "wise blood," that tremendously powerful novel can be described as "a work of insanity, the writer is insane" by no less of a respected reviewer than robert giroux, who actually was her initial editor. i think the issue here has to do w/a real & true belief in something. roth is a jew because he was born a jew. flannery is a true-believing catholic by choice.
that choice directly leads into her savage portrayal of her fellow southerners:
"whenever i'm asked why southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, i say it's because we are still able to recognize one. "
for flannery, anyone w/o christ is a freak & their behavior proves it. she's not kidding around. she truly believes what she says & that makes for problems in interpretation. her hard stance towards the modern world seems to be resistant to critics. they want to label her a "caricaturist" or an outlandish comedienne. they fail to consider what her aesthetic might be writing from her specific point of view & how true she is to that aesthetic & how "alive" the fiction produced is. this is not to try an insinuate the old "intentional fallacy" into the argument here.
most of her stories consider & present a non-believer possessed by some specific heresy. for example, in the story, "parker's back", parker's wife's flaw ends up being her dogged adherence to the "literalist fallacy": "no man shall see his face,"(god's &/or jesus') she keeps screaming at parker, who HAS seen his face & been reborn into a life of rejected prophesy. her one true moment of salvation isn't realized. nothing in the story is unbelievable or exaggerated. any comedic or grotesque elements are real & organic to the story. the fact that so many critics have missed this is a real crime.
below are two interesting versions of perhaps the same event. the first is from the only man thought to have kissed flannery. the second is from flannery's story, "good country people." i like to think of the first as her clueless critics & the second as her art's response to them.
"The first, perhaps, and last, perhaps, kiss she received from a man was in 1954. The man was Erik Langkjaer, a young and handsome college textbook salesman who described the event thusly: “As our lips touched, I had a feeling that her mouth lacked resilience, as if she had no muscle tension in her mouth, a result being that my own lips touched her teeth rather than lips, and this gave me an unhappy feeling of a sort of memento mori, and so the kissing stopped. . . . I had a feeling of kissing a skeleton, and in that sense it was a shocking experience.”
"The kiss, which had more pressure than feeling behind it, produced that extra surge of adrenalin in the girl that enables one to carry a packed trunk out of a burning house, but in her, the power went at once to the brain. Even before he released her, her mind, clear and detached and ironic anyway, was regarding him from a great distance, with amusement but with pity. She had never been kissed before and she was pleased to discover that it was an unexceptional experience and all a matter of the mind's control."
how could i not lust for this woman???
"When Danny and I talk about the past, about high school and Pensacola back then, it feels real. It isn’t anymore." mb
when mike & i talk about the past, for me, it's like doing a sudoku puzzle. it's a brain exercise. i don't feel like quentin compson, trying to piece together a sensible narrative out of senselessness. there are some facts that can be agreed upon(or not), there's some hazy memories that can be cleared up(or not), & there's whatever connection we may or may not have to a certain place at certain or various times. since i left florida 15 years ago, it seems to me that other places(c'ville, berkeley)have assumed the role of p'cola, meaning a place where i conduct my daily business, accumulate memories subsequently, & to which, i establish varying degrees of connection. does this make me a "where ever you hang your hat is home" realist & mike a faulknerian "backwards looking ghost" romantic?
i suppose this has a lot to do w/our conceptions about "home."
underlying all this, i think, is the idea of the "pensacola crowd," the group of friends(more or less) who've maintained(more or less) contact since high school. i'm not surprized mike felt compelled to reflect however obliquely on this after narsai's reception for he & eka's marriage. after all, there were five p'cola folks there(w/their significant others in tow). the fact that you can get this group of very disparate(at this point) people together after x number of years & there's a relative ease in interaction seems to infuriate others who aren't "in" the group. personally, i've never really thought about it other than reflecting on how the others react, since their vehemence seems to make no sense.
but it's precisely that vehemence that allowed me to find a key to thinking about the past & the idea of "home." we know that home isn't necessarily where we're from, that it takes on metaphorical meaning, that it can be a space where memory & comfort intersect. if we've exaggerated our claims on a place(or a person), if we've behaved shamefully(re: having unresolved/unresolvable regrets), if we've lived our lives in an attempt to address(imagined or not)inadequacies of the past, we're basically embodying sartre's idea of bad faith. the bad motives undermine the narrative presented to anyone "outside" the narrative. they smell a rat. it leads to resentment. home, our place of comfort, becomes a source of ambivalence. the unreasonable &/or jealous "outsider's" behavior makes more sense.
when george had his decade of "success," he wanted so badly to get back to p'cola & show it off to everyone. his only problem was that he'd burned so many bridges when he left, he couldn't go back legally. i think he sensed that being served a subpoena during a triumphant "george is back & successful" dinner would take some of the shine off the fantasy fulfilled thing. georgie WAS bad faith but the fact remains there was his p'cola & the p'cola that awaited his return. he at least knew he never could until he resolved the difference.
i'm not necessarily saying the truth will set you free but a less than truthful approach to the past will prevent a satisfying return home. home isn't a vacuum. it's where you've settled down. there's no settling down if there are unresolved issues & anyone settling down w/us under those circumstances can't be settled either.
one of the favorite sayings from the late outrigger days was, "we all have our version of events." this sparkling, witty relativism landed me in rehab(well, in truth, it nearly killed me). while being kind of true, if enough folks line their differing versions of events up against me, it should give me pause. it's easier to deny your home than to accept it but it's stubborn existence remains. pensacola is very real. the "pensacola crowd" proves that. it's how we deal w/the both of them that makes the difference & determines how we settle down so that we might find our real & true home.
tomorrow is the first day of the great new orleans music festival, jazzfest. it covers this coming weekend & the next one. the always elegant mr allan toussaint graces this years poster. his just released album, the bright mississippi, is an interesting new orleans' treatment of jazz standards.
the line-ups for both weekends looks strong. tomorrow's(april 24th) lineup has national acts(drive by truckers & spoon), louisiana regional acts(tab benoit, rockin' dopsie)& specific new orleans acts(henry butler, trombone shorty)i'd love to see. & that's not including the gospel tent. this kind of diversity is the signature of the fest. well, that & the food. it just gets better as the festival goes on.
it's also quite nice to see the nevilles taking their rightful place again as closers for the whole fest on sunday, may 3rd. they returned last year for the first time since katrina. their absence during the interim said it all.
Monday, April 20, 2009
yeah yeah yeah. another "new dylan." except that tag doesn't work anymore, especially not w/the kids who're listening to music like it means something. like we used to listen to it, i suppose. i'm adding this guy's ep to my list of new & excellent listening experiences here one third of the way through this new year. btw, his heart will be just fine. just relax & yours will be too.
i'm putting this link up pretty much for ann-marie. who knew she'd become such a gourmand! at least that's how it seemed at narsai david's very generous reception for michael & eka's marriage. ann-marie camped out in the kitchen w/the guy who helped narsai. i'm assuming it was all about the food. i mean, her hubby david WAS there & all.
i'm thinking that what the inhabitants of the great american city of new orleans need is my buddy nancy to come down & deal w/the litigation. nan took on the white house & the pope. of course, she had to hide out for a few years & never really got what she was after but still...i'm thinking this thing is going to need someone like nan.
today is the first day of the civil suit against the u.s. army corps of engineers gangsters who pretty much, single-handedly destroyed the city of new orleans(they dredged the canal from the gulf of mexico to new orleans that adds 10-15mph of speed onto the tidal surge from major storms; they built & "maintained" the shabby levee system that failed during the storm, etc). my only concern is that it's a judge decided(as opposed to a jury-decided) trial. this has been compared to the valdez trial in that it's the offended people against their offending government. of course, the initial ruling on the valdez crime was a triumph; the subsequent litigational undermining of that ruling has been a national disgrace. it seems to me this is set up to go through the motions & not do the right thing. the right thing is pretty damned obvious here. our great country so often times fails to do what's obvious...& what's right.
i'm not expecting much. i'm pretty sure my buddies in the crescent city are. i hope they get what they want. that city deserves it.
in the american grotesquerie, there's bundy & gacy & dahmer, loons of the highest order. the fbi pretends to write up "profiles" on these evil bastards in sad feeble attempts to understand what motivated them, while, in truth, they remain simply evil, true evil personified. that's the real terrifying fact of these crazies: there is no rhyme or reason for their depraved behavior. this is something that cannot be understood &, therefore, cannot be contained. when you see the picture of gacy dressed as a clown w/first lady rosalyn carter, it's mind boggling to try & reconcile that image w/the fact of the bodies underneath the house. they can't be reconciled.
10 years ago today, sometime after 11:15am, two young american school kids added to this list of crazies. as mindless as suicide bombers, as vapid as the teenagers they were, they simply shot whoever or whatever came into their paths w/o thought. after their bomb failed to explode(the bomb that would probably have killed upwards of 400 people), they randomly shot students & faculty until they finally shot themselves. how else could something so mindless have ended? the terror of their activity a re-run of the list above: there was no rhyme or reason for it.
there was much hand-wringing & various pronouncements & different assignations of blame. there were myths passed around as fact(the "trench-coat" mafia, "she said yes," they were after the jocks who'd abused them, etc)& facts dismissed as phony or impossible(that they acted alone, that there were no "targets" other than the school itself, that eric harris was the leader & that dylan klebold his bootlick, etc). the idea that a teenage kid could be a psychopath seemed impossible to absorb. the fact that the psychopath could manipulate someone weaker seemed impossible to swallow too.
but the sad fact is: that's what happened. these kids aren't symbols; they're not victims. they most definitely aren't heroes(their spawn, the crackpot in blacksburg at virginia tech, worshiped them). one was a lunatic; the other was a sociopath.
was harris' psychopathology genetic? could it have been detected earlier? were there external forces that exacerbated his psychopathology & what were they? was klebold's passivity a kind of "stockholm syndrome"? there may be some answers to these & other questions but, for the most part, i doubt it. what these kids did is as unexplainable as what bundy did.
in woody allen's shadows and fog someone is randomly killing members of a small community. as usual, allen uses this less than hilarious plot device to explore issues of life & death, community & individualism, science & nature. the scientist spends much of the film "explaining" why someone would do what the killer is doing. but in the end, as the killer has trapped him & he continues to insist that "i understand you...i understand why you're doing this...", the killer simply & inexorably strangles the scientist to death. "no, no you don't," are the killer's only words.
it's been a long stange trip w/will oldham. i won't pretend like i understand him. hell, i don't understand bradley or vaughn & i've known them coming onto 40years now. i've only been familiar w/oldham for the 15 years he's been recording. for reasons now unknown to me, i got oldham's first album as "palace brothers", there is no-one what will care for you, & he pretty much had me after the first song ("idle hands are the devil's playthings"). don't get me wrong here. there was plenty on that first album that had me furrowing my brow & hitting the fast forward button. & i SURE didn't consider this "rock & roll" like he did/does.
over the years, there's been more brow furrowing. each album has been quite an adventure & you just never knew what to expect. his active attempts to defy pigeonholing were everywhere: from the style of each album to the individual songs to each new moniker he chose to present himself under(palace brothers, palace music, palace, will oldham, bonnie prince billy). the two constants in all the change were his voice( a "fragile sort of warble" "oddly strangled")& his songwriting. the songwriting turns on odd phrasing & run-on sentences, colloquialisms & double entendres & explores moments of evil & good, death & redemption:
"Well I hope that someday, buddy
We have peace in our lives
Together or apart
Alone or with our wives
That we can stop our whoring
And pull the smiles inside
And light it up forever
And never go to sleep
My best unbeaten brother
This isn't all I see
O no I see a darkness"
will oldham's new album is out this week. it's another work done by his alter-ego, bonnie prince billy. oldham is moving away from the smaller lo-fi sound he pretty much introduced w/palace & the first couple of "bpb" albums. the sound on this & the last album is a larger, more straightforward country sound. it may be that his "bonnie prince billy does palace music" album was the turning point for this new sound. the idea of that album, that his current persona revisit & re-do songs of his earlier persona w/a band of professional nashville musicians, was a terrific conceit & some of the new versions were excellent(tho none really surpassed the originals). the band he's using now isn't nashville pros but they're tight, multi-intrumentalists who can waltz or reel or jig w/the best of them.
the new sound has alarmed many of oldham's older fans. personally, i don't get their alarm or their concerns. this new sound is nothing like the shock we all felt when cohen released death of a ladies man or dylan put out self portrait. will oldham isn't a pretender. he may well be a lot of other things but he does not pretend any more than flannery o'connor pretended. these different personas allow him to approach different ideas(musical styles, point of view, instrumentation, etc) & explore them from angles not otherwise available to him. they can also be abandoned more easily too(again, for whatever reason).
does he need the personas? apparently, oldham feels he does. it could be his early career in acting or just an innate feeling of the need for security in a pretty insecure & insincere business. certainly, dylan & neil young showed us that a musician can go his own way but they've paid a price for it. from the reaction of some of his fans to the last two albums, oldham's paying too despite the "bpb" moniker. for the next couple of albums, i expect him to stay the course & work this vein for a while longer. the last two albums are nearly as strong as his "bpb" masterpiece, i see a darkness. his singing & songwriting appear energized by the new direction like a weight of some kind has been lifted from him. maybe he's simply moved beyond worrying about pleasing his fans:
"I will toil for years and years
Give you muscle, tone and tears
Overcome and flay all fears
Leaving me – a beast for thee"
"after freud's exploration within the psyche it is now the outer world of reality which must be quantified & eroticized."
his world view was strange, not as rich & varied as philip k dick, but just a little bit off kilter. at his best, he definitely succeeded in quanifying & eroticizing the outer world of reality. the collision of our fleshy fantasies & fetishes w/the creations & objects of late modernity & the resulting incorporation of each by each opened an imaginative space of transgressive possibilities. his novel, crash, was made into one of the creepiest movies i've ever enjoyed. when i played it for ann, she reacted as if cronenberg & ballard had spent several hours insulting her in her own living room. i think she took a shower after the viewing.
here's a page that i found a few months ago. the memorials & tributes will be piling up fast.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
this was another highpoint that i didn't mention in my longer piece. the only song he did from '79s recent songs, featured the astonishing solo by javier mas on either the laud or the achilaud. dino soldo's clarinet solo ain't half bad either. this gives a pretty good idea of the passion the band brought to cohen's music monday night. i remember doing this song myself at coffee houses back at new college. my gf at the time was very much a gypsy(serbian), diane basara.
i read her book, "epistemology of the closet" in the early '90s. along w/kaja silverman's "male subjectivity on the margins," it opened my eyes to a new kind of academia, a fundamental incorporation of foucault's study of sexuality into all kinds of areas of study. that it was heavily weighted on the side of the homo as opposed to the dominant hetero side just added to the attraction.
while "queer studies" continues to provoke/endure a warped resonance within the academic community, this insistent introduction marked, at the time, a significant moment in academic studies. if nothing else, aubrey beardsley's intricate "encoding" of his pictures suddenly appeared obvious & the famous jamesian character conflicts were resolved. it also rescued writers of questionable literary merit from the waste bins of history. i can certainly claim that her work gave one of my ex's her "door #3" into academic glory(or, at least, semi-regular employment). well, that & the fact that she(my ex) was gay all along.
i can't say i followed ms sedgwick's career after i left uva. i would pick up whatever new book i saw by her in berkeley bookstores but they just didn't interest me anymore. it seemed like her work initially opened a HUGE area of study that ended up being limited & parochial, a kind of lit-crit cul-de-sac. ten years later, it seems clear to me that these kinds of academic dead ends may well explain the end of literature as we're experiencing it in the new millenium. that & the fact that milton scholars have abandoned their fields of expertise & are teaching(w/o credentials other than their "avid interest")courses on film.
ms sedgwick had no idea where things were going way back when. she made a major contribution to literary studies, which is more than most can say. she doesn't have to see where it'll all end up.
nyt obit is just ok.
i'll write more about her in a day or two. suffice it to say, marilyn never denied her full uncoerced participation in, what is now but not then, the billion dollar adult entertainment business. we called it porn back then. she was quite lovely w/a very beautiful figure. she didn't have linda lovelace's ballyhooed talent but she did just fine in that regard. no one i know would have complained if they'd ended up w/marilyn rather than linda.
she was found dead on monday in the trailer she lived in near santa clarita, ca.
jenna jameson(the beneficiary of chamber's success & current darling of the adult entertainment business) does not & probably never will live in a trailer.
the nyt obit does ok by her.
the nine piece band came out & took their places, followed quickly by cohen. the crowd came to its feet, appropriately applauding his first appearance in the bay area for 15 years. as i settled back in my seat, the folks in front of me were still standing, blocking our view of the stage but suddenly through the crowd noise, i heard the siren's first notes clear & strong, "lala, lalalalalala, lalalalalala, lalala." the folks in front of us succumbed to the music as it filled the hall & sat. so began the concert.
that first song,"dance me to the end of love," is from cohen's 1984 album, various positions. he did two more songs from that album("hallelujah" & "if it be your will")during the 3 & 1/2hour concert, which ranged widely through his body of works easily. from his first album, 1967's songs of leonard cohen to 2001's ten new songs he covered at least one song from seven of the remaining eight albums(the exception: '77s death of a ladies man). the band, so flexible & multi-talented, proceeded to adopt each period's sound while adapting them to tighter tho lighter arrangements. the folky early songs, particularly "suzanne," which flowed w/subtle suppleness, while "the partisan" pulsed w/an urgency lacking in the original, were invigorated. the three great songs he did from his middle folk period("famous blue raincoat," "chelsea hotel #2," "who by fire")remained precisely that: great songs, tho "who by fire" was the standout, again pulsing w/vigor.
the larger part of the song selections came from his post-folk carbaret/serge gainesboro albums, starting w/the somewhat startling(at the time)i'm your man('88) through his last studio album. w/the exception of "democracy," which suffered more from WHERE it was placed in the dynamic of the evening's song selection than from its qualities as a song in cohen's oeuvre, all of the songs were powerful, skillfully arranged, & thoughtfully placed in the flow of the show's rhythm. standouts for me were "everybody knows," "anthem," "tower of song," "i'm your man," & " first we take manhattan."
"hallelujah" suffered from overexposure. the band did fine & cohen's voice actually made it to most of the notes(tho it didn't stay at any very long)but the song has been done nearly to death at this point & buckley & wainwright's versions just intruded on the experience for me. that's funny when you consider how much cohen was covered in his early years. judy collins or jennifer warnes did NOT intrude on my experience this evening. nowadays, the aesthetic seems to be beating to death whatever's currently popular w/the masses. or it may be that the overblown qualities(certainly wainwright's is all about rufus & his range & NOT about the song at all) from the more recent interpretations pale in comparison w/the older ones.
for sheer beauty & poignancy, "if it be your will" was right there w/"famous blue raincoat" & "chelsea hotel #2." cohen recited the first verse & then stood back & let the webb sisters treat the song to an astonishing vocal display that lifted cohen's "prayer, really" up into the heavens. it was during this song that i thought to myself how blessed we've been that cohen had the will to sing & that he's endured. i also thought about the loss we'll endure when this kind of beauty is no longer fashioned into song by him(& others too). cohen has ALWAYS been about beauty: it's glory & the suffering it brings, the melancholy & the ecstasy. embodied by the sirens, it can drive you mad w/longing or destroy you outright. but it is, at least for cohen, unavoidably necessary on the long voyage home. & since he's lashed himself to the masts & done all that he could to survive, he's deeply grateful to those who've done the same. "thank you friends," he said, " for keeping my songs alive these long years."
he also deferred vocals on "boogie street" to his long-time collaborator, sharon robinson. she has a cool, smoky voice & it fit the song tho, in truth, i'd love to hear cassandra wilson cover it.
the crowd was pretty much the standard east bay crowd. as many folks there making the scene(ann pointed out a guy my age in front of us who twittered a message, "wow! britany spears & leonard cohen all in one week!!!)as were long-time fans. the venue was excellent. we'd seen merle haggard there a year or so ago. it's a good size & the acoustics are good. we had good ground floor seats. the one glitch on the practical side was the paramount folks deciding to give the women all but one bathroom. as far as i know, there were no fistfights over this. this cohen guy brings out a cultured crowd, i guess.
the million dollar question, the one that mike will mostly address no doubt, is whether the concert was worth the money. the answer for me is, yes. period. i WILL add that it was not(& probably couldn't be)as good a concert as the two i saw him do way back when & that i've already written about here. being younger, i was less jaded & more open to surprize. cohen was touring w/another excellent band then & he'd just put out one of his strongest albums(new skin for the old ceremony). he was in excellent voice & played guitar throughout. there was less "show," no skipping off stage or singing from the knees or hat's off appreciation of crowd or band solos(he did all of that at the oakland show). there wasn't a hat in atlanta.
but he was in good voice in oakland too. he possessed the entire lower register of his song's range w/ease &, like i said, rose up to meet the slight demands of the higher registers. his singing on the older quieter songs wasn't as thin as i'd feared it would be. & i don't mind the sirens. cohen has always always had them w/him, from the first album to the atlanta shows to oakland. ann felt like he used them too much & that they were covering some of his vocal deficiencies & i agree somewhat w/the latter but not the former complaint. like i said, they've always been w/him &, as he said in oakland during "i'm your man," their sound "heals" him.
being older & more jaded, however, means, it seems to me, that he actually had to work a little harder here in oakland to get through to me. as a long time admirer, i wasn't buying the aforementioned "showy" tricks. i didn't let the cohen mythos(bankrupt jewish novelist & poet folk music superstar buddhist monk) contaminate my experience. i let the music speak as it's spoken now for nearly 45years(just listen to the extraordinary song "a thousand kisses deep" if you think he's lost his lyrical skills or even "in my secret life"). the power of that kind of persuasion can't be denied.
of course, if there were flaws, we'd already been warned:
"forget your perfect offering.
there's a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in."
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
it was a still quiet southern summer evening. the intoxicating scents of pine & honeysuckle, fresh earth & dead leaves hung in the calm air. the last of the boats out on the bayou could be heard motoring down or away for the evening. jimmy walker & i were camped out in the woods across the street from lynn blalock's in bernam woods. lynn blalock was a member of our teenaged clique that included alicia, sally baugh, etc. bernam woods was a "high-class" housing development directly on the eastern shores of bayou texar. i'd been coming over here for years to visit & play w/the gonzalez family. they lived directly next door to the blalocks. it was pretty much nouveau riche. i knew the the layout of the subdivision & the surrounding woods very well. tom lecroy had assured us his parents would be out of town that weekend & that we'd have the run of their very nice home. walker & i had done the old standby w/the folks: we were staying at each others house. but lecroy had flaked out on us. words were exchanged. he wasn't there now.
alicia & someone else were supposed to sneak out of the slumber party. this was our four month anniversary. a lot had happened since our first kiss. tonight we had planned to mark our four months together by going to 3rd base. i'd found out cheap breast feels were pretty easy to pull off but getting into her pants proved to be just a little more difficult. jimmy was unaware of our plans. he'd agreed to give us some time alone. he'd go off w/whoever snuck out w/alicia. he was hoping for the beautiful debbie stanton. he got the very plain kay macdiarmid.
there were a few tense moments, mostly before walker & kay went off "walking." jimmy & i had spread two sleeping bags out on the pine needle strewn ground w/a couple of old blankets from the "mirador apts," the place walker's parents ran. this certainly wasn't what we'd planned. we were supposed to have a bedroom to ourselves over at lecroy's parents. we were making do. alicia & i didn't waste anytime after they'd disappeared through the woods. we were grappling w/one another & liplocked instantaneously. this really was hormones at their best. if you could have bottled what was coursing through BOTH of our young bodies during all this, you'd be a millionaire. it was intense.
i remember three months later, right before she & i started fucking full time, alicia & i were down at our favorite "meeting" spot, bayview park. the park itself was criss-crossed w/ various deep drainage culverts. they ran through the park & circled all around it. the drainage areas were perfect hiding places for our explorations of each other's bodies. some were covered by deep foliage; others were sunk so low into the ground you couldn't be seen from a normal point of view. one day, prior to our descending into the drains, we were doing preliminary work: deep searching french kissing & obviously familiar "outside the clothes" touching. we were perched directly above one of our favorite spots for serious play. that specific drainage area dropped at nearly a 45 degree angle from the street to the bayou & was covered by a dense florida foliage. the cement run-off ditch made a perfect bed for us.
suddenly, out of nowhere(or so it seemed)a woman was there w/us. "hello, excuse me. i live right over there. see, those are my children on the porch there." needless to say, this was a total jolt. she'd started this little intervention while my tongue was exploring alicia's mouth & my hands were running up & down her lithe body. we were both confused as we came up for air. "huh?," was my mumbled reply. "right over there, my children," she continued. "you two are so attractive, so cute. i assume your married, yes?," she asked. "uh...," was my confused response. "because," she continued w/o pause, "only married couples behave this way but never in public...never ever in public." "yeah," i chortled, "yeah, we're married." i thought she was some kind of crazy. anyone w/any sense could see we were kids, nowhere near the age for marrying. her face collapsed into a kind of evil awful mask, like an angry monkey's. "you're not married," she spit, "you little liar. i should call the police. you two are sickening, disgraceful! what would your parents think about this kind of public behavior in front of CHILDREN!" she nearly screeched that last part out.
for a moment, we were frozen. i felt alicia begin to tense up. i assumed she'd start weeping. i grabbed her hand & started walking away from this evil harridan. "that's right," she yelled after us, " you get AWAY from my children." i was happy to oblige her.
on this quiet summer night, on our four month anniversary, there was no indignant woman to interrupt our gropings. i had her shirt & bra off quickly. her young body was a marvel to me, so similar to my own barely adolescent body & yet so different. initially, it was her small breasts that marked that difference but i knew there were more telling differences yet to be seen, somewhere down past her flaring rounded hips & flat belly. i was thrilled beyond exhilaration as my hands wandered freely down there. i unbuttoned & unzipped her pants. my hands felt the exotic satin & lace of her underwear. i slipped my hands underneath those & felt, first, her soft nearly silken pubic hair & then...& then...
it was the wetness that first shocked me, not the intricate soft folds of her sex, but the drenching sopping wetness i encountered down there. it was a bit of a jolt. amidst the undeniable feelings of power & desire that were coursing through me, there was confusion. alicia was writhing & moaning & kissing w/an abandon far beyond our prior make-out sessions. her excitement was what was exciting me. but i wasn't sure if i'd torn something down there(her hymen, maybe? i was vaguely aware of that & what it meant. was the gusher-like wetness i felt in the darkness the blood that was supposed to accompany her losing her cherry?). i started to pull her pants & panties down further, to make for easier access but also for better viewing. she resisted this at first. "it'll make things easier," i said & her resistance wilted. once shed of her jeans, she spread her legs wide, a tacit invitation to continue.
i hadn't seen any dark stains or blotches but the wetness was still a palpable thing & seemed to have increased now that she was completely naked. i began to kiss her body, her neck, her breasts. my hands continued their exploration of her wet nether regions, feeling the slick folds & pressing into her, sliding a finger up & into her. in retrospect, i have no idea as to how i knew to do the next thing i did. when i think back on it, i imagine my erection must have been nearly painful at this point & that doing something for/with it would have been the primary/primal impulse here. & yet, & yet...i continued my downward kissing. her belly button first & then through her pubic hair. by now, i'd become aware of another unexpected & shocking presence, one that my mind was associating already w/the sodden mess i continued to manipulate w/my fingers. here at the height of my triumph, at the moment of most intense excitement, i was astonished to discover that the jewel i'd been laying siege to all these past few months was actually a soggy writhing thing that smelled.
no, not smelled. stank. stank to high heavens. the rank odor seemed to rise up from the hinge of her thighs & envelope me as i pressed forward & planted my first kiss just beneath her pubic hair on the soaking convolution of her cunt. i have no idea how i was able to persevere. i remember my buddy john griffin saying that when you're hot & crazed nothing is too nasty. i think i'd take a deep breath & dive in, licking & tonguing wildly & blindly & then, rise up to take another deep breath & go back at it. it felt like i was on the brink of drowning in the acrid stink. the effects of my oral work on alicia was immediate & profound. she was bucking & gasping & grasping at my head to hold it in place. i was being coated in her bodily fluids, from my hair to my chin, my eyes stinging from it, my shirt becoming soaked all down the front. when i finally located her clit(i can't say for sure i knew what to call it at the time or what it was), there was a series of convulsions & near screams. suddenly, her legs closed around my head in a vise-grip, smothering me in her over-ripe odor & wetness. i nearly panicked, feeling like i was being drawn somehow into this stinking maw. but i still had a good 30 seconds of air left so i kept licking the spot i'd found & she continued to buck & thrash until finally she released by head & pushed at my face to break contact. " o god, o god, stop!," she gasped out, "it's too much now...please, stop for a second." i suppose i was happy to oblige her. the baptism was over for now.
we both lay there gasping for breath, each for different but similar reasons. as i slowly kissed my way back up her body, i felt the dampness on the sleeping blankets. the sex stench permeated the summer air tho she seemed oblivious to it. my eyes were stinging, my ears were humming & my nose was burning. she pulled my head towards hers & as our lips met her tongue snaked into my mouth, swirling about passionately. "o my god, that was fantastic!," she blurted out. "where did you learn to do that?," she asked but i had no real answer. since i hadn't really learned anything, what could i say? "porn books i stole from the old man," i volunteered. "i need to read them," she said. "ok, sure. why not?," i murmured. i wasn't sure i wanted her reading my source texts.
we heard some noise coming our way & she got her clothes on in blinding speeds. walker & kay emerged from the deeper woods into our little darkened clearing. "jones?, jones?," i heard walker's deep basso profundo voice whispering. he'd picked that up from his dad. amused, i thought that what i'd just done, i got from my dad, bobo. kay said, "we need to get back in. we've been gone for an hour & a half." it seemed like they'd just gotten there fifteen minutes ago. alicia & i did a quick peck kiss in front of them & off the girls went.
i'd noticed walker had a strange look on his face. i'd re-covered the huge wet spot on the sleeping blankets w/the other blankets. alicia & i hadn't needed anything to keep us warm & they got kicked aside quickly . "so...how'd things go?," he asked. "you know, same old same old...ha ha, nothing new to report," i responded. we sat in silence for a minute or two. i began to busy myself w/straightening things around our meager campsite.
"goddamn!," walker suddenly erupted. i turned to him assuming he'd found the wet spots & not really knowing how i was going to explain them. "goddamn," he repeated, "what's that fuckin' smell? do you smell that? what the fuck is it?"
at first i played dumb, "smell?"
"yeah, you gotta smell that! what the hell is it?," he repeated w/insistence.
"fishkill, maybe. i think there's been a fishkill in the bayou lately."
he seemed pacified by my explanation. eventually, we faded off to sleep, spread out over the wet spots, the acrid odor of joyous sex surrounding us like fate.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
i keep looking at the pictures & trying to figure a way to claim him as a southerner. i mean, he is. he was born & raised in the south. what i mean is trying to figure out what makes an artist a "southern" artist. what makes eggleston's vision first & foremost, a southern vision, a specifically "southern" way of viewing the world.
w/flannery, it's easy. it's what she wrote about. by that, i mean, what she totally focused on. i think only one of her short stories takes place OUT of the south. all of her novels are sunk so deeply in their southern settings, they can't be pulled out of that context w/o killing them. this somehow doesn't diminish their universality. it's as if the southern landscape from which she harvests her stories really was the dirt of all humanity.
i suspect the same holds for eggleston.
what strikes me as specifically original about photography as an art is that it literally delivers the artist's vision. there's a little hokey-pokey w/a few technical issues but what you see in a photo is pretty much what the eye of the photographer saw at the moment of cognition. this is a far cry from picasso claiming that he paints "objects as i think them, not as i see them."
in michael almereyda's terrific documentary on eggleston, "in the real world," the off-screen interlocutor keeps pushing eggleston to articulate an aesthetic, to make him put words to basically a reflexive action. the profoundly "laconic" eggleston is pretty much at a loss for words here. in fact, it's as if he doesn't understand the question. if, w/each breath, there was creation, how would/could anyone describe that?
flannery made it her life's work to fight nihilism. it's in her letters. she fought tooth & nail against it. nihilism would be "an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth." i think what we see eggleston, in the film, unable to conceive of is precisely the position of skepticism. how could anyone who records the everyday as eggleston does &, by doing, REFUSE to deny it, be a skeptic? the obvious, the everyday, can be seen & felt & heard. we may well have to decide on how we all see & feel & hear it but we ignore it at our own individual peril.
there's a scene in faulkner's "absalom, absalom" where someone(quentin?)watches sutpen wrestling his black slaves in the mud to the death for no reason other than sport. the setting & consequences are horrific & mundane, violent & formal. imagining that tells you all you need to know about a southern aesthetic that i feel in flannery & see in eggleston.
well, the guys are back. & the crazy gavin family too. it was all right there in the first episode of the fifth season last night: the wild fiery rescues, alcoholism, dysfunctional families, sex, & the serious silly interactions between "the guys." this show has lurched along a tightrope of outrageous comedy & serious "real" drama. the show's creator, denis leary, began as a standup comic & the show has those kinds of instincts: when something is working, you work it till it stops working & if it's not working you drop it while making fun of it. there's the clever conceit of having leary's tommy gavin character be a black hole of chaos & despair & selfishness while being surrounded by a world of chaos & despair & selfishness. it creates some kind of weird balance. like last night, when his family of loony drunks are watching ancient family 8mm films & reminiscing about the past. tommy gets up to leave, sickened by their delusional saccharine memories & they force him to say what's on his mind. in his savage monologue, initially met w/fierce objections, the character relieves them of all their false memories but somehow seems to settle them all down, even himself, by his brutality.
i stumbled onto this show at the end of it's second season. i've always liked leary. my television satori-moments are usually me thinking to myself, "where are they taking this next?" it happened w/"deadwood" & "the wire." it usually indicates to me that the writing or the characterizations or the visual style of the episode has succeeded in one way or another. it's true that i thought this after seeing joss whedon's "dollhouse" but for all the wrong reasons. w/that initial episode of "rescue me," it felt like most of the right reasons were foregrounded.
this is no "the wire"(probably the greatest television show ever)& it's not "deadwood"(the second best tv show ever written) but it's damn good television & if you watch tv & think that there are actually good shows on & you're NOT watching this show, you don't know your ass from your elbow.
ok, the fact is i never thought i'd live to see a black president. i did feel that a woman would make it before a black man. it seemed to me that racism was more deeply ingrained in the american psyche than sexism. i've got several reasons for believing this but that's really beside the point.
what i did NOT think i'd ever see is gay rights. ever. ever. ever. i haven't heard anyone specifically name whoever it was in the gay rights movement who thought to move the argument from "gay rights" to civil rights but that person deserves to be canonized. when i saw mike huckabee fumbling & mumbling on "the daily show" about "definitions of marriage," i knew it was just a matter of time for the movement to turn the corner. huckabee is an intelligent &, i think, compassionate man who was backed into the corner of an idiotic untenable position that denies a large group of people their fundamental rights as americans AND does harm to them. you could see the wheels turning in his head during this "shock of recognition" moment. i don't think he'll be jumping on the bandwagon but the fight had gone out of him. he's just going through the motions now. i expect that's what's happening elsewhere too.
now don't get me wrong here. i'm not some giggly gushing neophyte. this is america, after all. there's no better place for a person to firmly entrench themselves in a blind baseless position & defend it rabidly & nonsensically till the cows come home. there will be many more battles ahead, some won, some lost. but once THE COURTS accepted the gay rights issue as a matter of civil rights, it was a done deal. it's kind of like when the supreme court finally recognized the implicit right to privacy in the constitution. it was only a matter of time before a case like roe v. wade came along.
during the election, it meant a lot to ann that all the states she'd chosen to live in during her life(north carolina, colorado, california) went for obama. in this newest & more profound battle, it means a lot to me to see all the states i've lived in(florida, virginia, california)recognize gays are equal-status citizens. i think we're less than 10 years away from that happening.
patience & perseverance is what it's all about at this point.
On April 8, 1973, artist Pablo Picasso died at his home near Mougins, France, at age 91.
"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction."
"Everything you can imagine is real."
"I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them."
"I thought to discourage aesthetics... I threw the bottlerack and the urinal in their faces and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty." "I was interested in ideas, not in visual products. I wanted to put painting again in the service of the mind." "It is the spectators who make the pictures." (Marcel Duchamp)
when picasso was told that marcel duchamp had died, he said, "he was wrong."
Sunday, April 5, 2009
while michael continues to grumble away over arcane(re: meaningless)issues, i'm here to put my money where my mouth is & make my 2009 baseball picks. what day the season begins on is far less important to me than that it begins, period. it's been a long winter. while i make no claims to being an expert, i can't really say what makes the expert's claims any more savvy than anyone else's. i don't think bill james does it anymore & he's one of the few i'd actually pay attention to, tho i did check in over at the "baseball prospectus" to see what that gang of numbers crunchers came up with.
anyway, here goes:
i think the wild card team will be the phillies in the east.
the wild card will continue to come from the east. this year it'll be the yankees.
there are a lot of ifs, ands, & buts, tho that's the nature of the game. i don't see the point in making predictions only to turn around & start qualifying them. i'm sticking w/these no matter what & i'll make my excuses at the end of the season.
i will say that if the yankee pitching comes through, they could be a very real beast in the east. if billy beane keeps holliday, things could be very interesting for the a's in oakland. if texas has TWO pitchers put up decent numbers, they could be a threat. & on & on & on & here i am doing exactly what i said i wouldn't do. the game does that to you. that's what makes the game endlessly interesting.