Friday, July 31, 2009
kerouac's 1962 novel of breakdown & lunatic behavior is just the right kind of thing for a summer read. i found this trailer for the film which looks pretty interesting in & of itself. the novel was a portent of all the terrible things to come & no one seemed able to prevent it, least of all kerouac. the film was released in 2008 but isn't available on netflix yet as far as i can tell. it certainly looks promising.
"Poor! I wish I was free
of that slaving meat wheel
and safe in heaven dead"
mexico city blues 211th chorus
"The only thing to do was to get out of L.A. According to my friend's instructions I stood on my head, using the wire fence to prevent me from falling over. It made my cold feel a little better. Then I walked to the bus station (through tracks and side streets) and caught a cheap bus twenty-five miles to Riverside. Cops kept looking at me suspiciously with that big bag on my back. Everything was far away from the easy purity of being with Japhy Ryder in that high rock camp under peaceful singing stars." dharma bums
"That feeling when you wake up with the delirium tremens ... with the fear of eerie death dripping from your ears like those special heavy cobwebs spiders weave in the hot countries, the feeling of being a bent back mudman monster groaning underground in hot steaming mud pulling a long hot burden nowhere, the feeling of standing ankledeep in hot boiled pork blood, ugh, of being up to your waist in a giant pan of greasy brown dishwater not a trace of suds left in it... The face of yourself you see in the mirror with its expression of unbearable anguish so haggard and awful with sorrow you cant even cry for a thing so ugly, so lost, no connection whatever with early perfection and therefore nothing to connect with tears or anything." big sur
the line that runs from manet's "first modernist painting"(1867) through dubuffet's painting(1950)to twombly's(1957)isn't simply the name olympia but a fault line whose slipping & sliding maps out a kind of movement in 20th century art. manet's formalist concerns while subverting conventional content is all about the direction modernism took beginning in the late 19th century. the body is simply regarded as a piece in a visual puzzle, truncated in opposition to classical elongated nudes. dubuffet's art brut flattening of the body(like road kill)signals an impulse towards the ordinary, what you might find in the lowly gutter, which twombly takes to the obscene site of graffiti, the outline of a body emerging from beneath scribble.
the initial painting in all it's notoriety is a triumph of formalism, the impulse to fill the frame structurally in a certain way. as zola remarked:
"for you a painting is a simple pretext for analysis. it requires a nude & you have chosen olympia, the first comer; it requires dark spots & you have put a negress & a cat in one corner."
the binary opposition(form/content)that manet upset in 1867 begins to unravel by the time dubuffet flattens things out in a formal challenge to another binary(ground/figure). by the time twombly mostly erases the figure to replace it w/doodles & graffiti, the move to challenge binaries in nearly complete. if the chafing under the pressure of the binaries was present(though not primary) back in 1867, what does its presence there effect in our viewing of it now? in other words, by twombly declaring the logic of the binary null & void in his olympia, isn't he also signaling its nullity retrospectively? or at least pressuring the fissure enough to unsettle our base assumptions about olympia in her many manifestations?
back in the 80s, i remember showing mike one of good vibrations new fangled contraptions. not only did the damn thing vibrate but it gyrated as it expanded & contracted in length.
"i'm amazed," i said & i was.
"no...you're replaced," was mike's equally amazed rejoinder.
i recognized early on that women could very happily take care of their sexual needs either by themselves or w/one another. w/the introduction of new gadgetry, in fact, things had gotten a lot easier & less conscience pricking(so to speak). when they developed the strap-on, it was all over but the crying.
of course, the catch in women's need for men was the procreation deal. i've known perfectly rational women who seemed on track to live lives w/o having children. they'd made a conscious deliberate decision based on various things ranging from career to health to lack of interest or means. i saw several of these same rational women break loose from their rational moorings & become nearly crazy in their pursuit of pregnancy. i'm not saying that a few of them didn't simply reconsider their youthful positions & change their minds. that did happen w/o doubt but there were also a few who simply became biological machines programmed to pursue a course of action w/o clearly thinking it through. thinking it through would include seriously considering the unavoidable: the mate. needless to say, in a biologically produced panic, choices aren't always measured & considered. ask any alcoholic about that.
technology has pretty much cleaned this messy deal up too. women can now buy sperm & get pregnant w/o having to deal w/all the messy interpersonal stuff. furthermore, they're close to actually making sperm in the lab. w/truly artificial sperm & surrogate mothers, we're very close to something i used to joke about way back when: simply producing children directly in the lab w/no real physical involvement necessary. forget the surrogate mothers. the lab will become the womb. no men necessary, just a female egg.
which brings us to this inevitable piece of news. in kurt vonnegut's galapagos, the human race evolves backwards due to true darwinian chance & necessity. humans bumblingly & idiotically push themselves onto a course of extinction, though their replacements are definitely better suited to continuing on. the real news in this latest development is pretty much what everyone already knew but were damned to admit: men just aren't necessary. we are being literally eliminated or, more to the point, replaced at the most basic biological level. i guess we should have listened & been gentler. so it goes.
Organic food has no health benefits, study finds
there's the scene in woody allen's sleeper when he discovers after being reanimated in the future that everything that was supposed to be bad for him nutritionally was in fact good for him. chocolate, red meat, tobacco were all consumed w/great gusto in the future w/science's blessings.
then, there was a perfectly intelligent law professor on retreat at the nyingma institute who insisted that tofu gave him an energy rush akin to crystal meth. no amount of proof could convince him that protein didn't bring massive energy jolts to his slowed down system. protein makes sure the system stays together & runs efficiently; carbs will give you the energy jolt. "not for me," this guy insisted.
unfortunately for me, this guy wasn't alone w/his food nuttiness at the institute. for nearly 10 years as cook, i dealt w/some of the weirdest &, in most cases, flat-out wrong food obsessions you could imagine. normally intelligent people were reduced to cave-dwelling neanderthals when you'd try to explain their weight loss or gain(radically altered metabolisms due to the retreat)or the non-magic properties of tofu or the absence of evil in nightshade vegetables or the lack of insidious intent in gluten. talk about anthropomorphizing & the pathetic fallacy!
w/all this craziness flying around, it was pretty easy to be convinced of ideas that seemed to make sense. take, for example, the superiority of organic foods. i had no problem w/this idea at all except when it came to paying for it. i was on a pretty strict budget for the first couple of years at the institute & organic vegetables could sometimes be double the price of non-organic veggies. early on, i did what i could but later, when i had more to spend, i did the organic thing almost exclusively. i don't regret it & don't feel particularly duped. i imagine folks who avoided wheat products for years, denying themselves one of the great simple eating pleasures we humans have, feel pretty silly as they butter up their toast nowadays(which is NOT to say that, maybe, one of the obsessed didn't end up being a legit celiac).
there's a scene early on in todd haynes' movie, safe, where a young woman who's been having undiagnosable physical symptoms goes to a "safe retreat" for folks suffering from the same problems she has. it appears that something in her environment is causing her problems. her initial encounter at the retreat is w/a creature(no other way of describing it)in a hazmat suit, screaming at her for polluting its space. until coming to the retreat, her symptoms had been nose bleeds & fainting. haynes doesn't make any overt judgments in the film but in the end, the young woman has become a hazmat wearing crazy too. it appears, in the end, that the world itself is causing her problems. i thought of this movie many many times dealing w/the crazier folks at the institute.
this bit of news really shouldn't surprise anyone. close reading softens the initial claim, though. for example, the researchers didn't test for pesticides(which canNOT be good for humans, period). furthermore, they didn't take taste into consideration. there would also be a larger consideration of ecological impact which isn't considered either. still, science seems to have lurched minimally closer to allen's sleeper position.
forget the sprouts, you gotta marlboro?
Thursday, July 30, 2009
apparently, john ashbery has been putting together collages for a while(& i'm not talking about his later poems). he just had a small showing at the tibor nagy gallery in nyc.
in honor of his b'day, i'm putting this one up. it's cute & o so succinct.
i am currently engaged in what now seems like my annual battle against some form of summer flu. it is murderous & unrelenting. i'm sleeping.
i'll fill in the blanks on my chris marker & jean baudrillard b'day notices soon.
i could give a blow by blow account of the giants/pirates 10inning thriller yesterday but i can't imagine anyone being interested in that. the guys at espn are a whole lot better at recaps than anyone i know & they aren't as smirky as guys who've never really played the fucking game. besides, i was "quilling"(taking nyquil)while i watched it.
btw, those brown booger-like things in the pic are flu cells tho the sharp thorny things give a better idea of how i feel.
"I have always paid great attention to natural forms , such as bones, shells, and pebbles, etc. Sometimes for several years running I have been to the same part of the seashore – but each year a new shape of pebble has caught my eye, which the year before, though it was there in hundreds, I never saw.. ..Pebbles show Nature’s way of working stone. Some of the pebbles I pick up have holes right through them.. ..A piece of stone can have (for the sculptor, fh) a hole through it and not be weakened – if the hole is of a studied size, shape and direction. On the principle of the arch, it can remain just as strong." - Moore in The sculptor speaks (1937), as quoted in Letters of the great artists – from Blake to Pollock -, Richard Friedenthal
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
"This is not a clash of civilisations or religions, and it reaches far beyond Islam and America, on which efforts are being made to focus the conflict in order to create the delusion of a visible confrontation and a solution based upon force. There is indeed a fundamental antagonism here, but one that points past the spectre of America (which is perhaps the epicentre, but in no sense the sole embodiment, of globalisation) and the spectre of Islam (which is not the embodiment of terrorism either) to triumphant globalisation battling against itself."
i'm not alone in considering chris marker the greatest living filmmaker, tho he himself would disagree. the films he makes aren't middle-brow entertainments.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
"The principles I follow are based on the element of repetition. This reminds you a bit of nature because nature often works in patterns. It's not a principle that's strange. There is a certain exemplarity taken out of the nature that goes into architectural structures. In architecture you are very much involved in the pragmatic sense of solving problems from a functional point of view, more than anything else. If people give buildings a certain value or a signification that goes beyond that it's good. And many times people surprise me with their interpretations. It was never my will to deliver fixed ideas into the minds of the people."
there are the sculptural aspects & the gothic ones. since he's spanish, it's hard not to think of gaudi. unlike gehry, his buildings aren't swaddled in seemingly undulating material but present themselves in lines & arcs, propulsive energy & serene stasis. if architecture works to make space visible while dealing w/heaviness, calatrava works in the space between the ground & the sky while denying the presence of neither.
calatrava is an engineer as well as an artist & architect. his buildings tend to be more fundamentally sound then some other architects who design w/o the benefit of a scientific background. this last structure is up in redding california.
The novel can be read simply as a story which you can skip if you want. It can be read as a story you will get more out of if you don't skip. It can be regarded as a kind of symphony, or in another way as a kind of opera--or even a horse opera. It is hot music, a poem, a song, a comedy, a farce, and so forth. It is superficial, profound, entertaining, and boring, according to taste. It is a prophecy, a political warning, a cryptogram, a preposterous movie.
- Malcolm Lowry to his publisher Jonathan Cape, January 2, 1946
he wrote one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, under the volacano, & struggled every day of his life w/demons & alcohol & never did anything after the one novel until he died by "misadventure" at the age of 47yo. there's not really much to say about the life except that it's the standard tale of tragic genius & premature death.
on the other hand, the novel is everything he advertised & more. he worked on it for over 14 years & its a multi-layered narrative w/every classical & modernist story-telling trick seamlessly employed in the services of a simple story of epic tragedy. unlike some of the great 20th century novels, it's still a great read that doesn't distract you w/its cleverness or overwhelm you w/arcane references.
a love triangle fueled by mezcal set in a small mexican town can only end one way. i don't want to downplay the complexity of the novel though. like lowry said, it's a novel that can be read as a story but he imbued it w/an encyclopedic substructure of vast referentiality. at new college, i did a big project on the book & added an alphabetized, annotated index of references & subcontext that ended up being longer than the paper itself.
AT NORTH FARM
Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?
Hardly anything grows here,
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal,
The sacks of meal piled to the rafters.
The streams run with sweetness, fattening fish;
Birds darken the sky. Is it enough
That the dish of milk is set out at night,
That we think of him sometimes,
Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?
no modern poet has had the effect on me that ashbery had. i remember reading him for the first time. it was an very early volume of american poetry review & the poem was "lithuanian dance band." the final stunning stanza reads:
"For we are alone too and that’s sad isn’t it
Yet you are meant to be alone at least part of the time
You must be in order to work and yet it always seems so unnatural
As though seeing people were intrinsic to life which it just might be
And then somehow the loneliness is more real and more human
You know not just the scarecrow but the whole landscape
And the crows peacefully pecking where the harrow has passed."
i never found his poetry(especially the early work up to flow chart)to be particularly difficult. the tone was always wistful but playful, assertive but tenative. it was the voice of someone working out a place of themselves, a subject in search of objects & discovering the objectivity of words. ashbery's unstable lyric voice(all those pronouns adding up to one subject)could be hard to track if you started w/the assumption that the voice is addressing someone other than the speaker himself. reading ashbery is hearing an internal play of voices as each tries to make sense of where each fits in a singular consciousness(so that even when he addresses parmiaggino in "self portrait in a convex mirror, he's addressing that part of himself that identifies w/the artist, not the artist himself). surely, we've been here before w/beckett but ashbery makes it seem so reasonable, so natural.
which is where he took his later poetry which initially seemed so odd. the voices are no longer so eloquent or coherent but they're mode of address seems rational. the sentences flow quite naturally but only occasionally come together to generate several lines of sensible meaning, perfect punctuation & tone w/no line by line sense. the speaking voice starts & stops, start & stops until a few lines cohere or the voice speaks clearly but w/o the usual logic of sentences, almost as if he's being translated from another language altogether. it's always struck me that as ashbery got older, his language became more accessible even as his method became more problematic. i found a way of thinking about what he was up to in wittgenstein & his ideas about ordinary language & his language games:
"that is 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."
the ordinary language & tone that ashbery uses might seem absurd in its exposition but the occasional breakthroughs of meaning at various moments points to his effort to re-charge language in a significant way. from the specificity of a subject marking out his/her territory to the general apparatus of language & its various forms of expression(& communication), ashbery has always seemed to me to be about a singular self making sense of itself in the world through the only means available despite the flaws in those means.
on & on we talk; when we stop, nobody knows.
i've written about duchamp before here. i'm not breaking any new ground claiming he & picasso are the two most important artists of the first half of the 20th century. i think i starting getting out on a limb by claiming that duchamp's influence carried farther than picasso &, in fact, is still working its anarchic magic here in the early 21st century.
the line from duchamp to warhol & then rauschenberg & johns & then damien hirst & jeff koons is pretty clear it seems to me. i don't think you'd have beuys or broodthaers or sol lewitt or bruce nauman. i'm pretty sure the minimalists wouldn't have minimalized so much w/o marcel. from the ready-mades through precision optics to the kinetic works & the large glass, duchamp questioned the idea of "painterly effects." if caravaggio's project was "to destroy painting," duchamp succeeded. the idea of the artist, the work of art, & the audience would never be the same after duchamp. by undermining those three aesthetic pillars, he also introduced a fourth one: historical context. that's quite a bit of work for a guy who stopped making art for 25years & spent those years playing chess.
when picasso was told duchamp had died, he said, "he was wrong." of course, this is a pretty enigmatic statement(wrong to die? wrong about art? wrong to quit painting?)but it's always struck me that the master felt compelled to dismiss the joker so quickly & completely. maybe picasso felt like king lear w/his fool constantly pestering him. as annoying as the fool was, he communicated something to lear, who let him continue even through the worst of circumstances.
it seems to me the artist takes a reckoning of his place in the world by asking questions & trying to answer them as clearly as he can. some artists ask one question & spend their lives trying to answer it. this is tricky because this approach can become solipsistic, obscurantist, & unclear. others just keep asking questions, knowing that answers must always beg more questions. i'm not saying which way works better but i prefer the questions to the answers from the questions. the dialectic works cleaner that way.
duchamp's great last laugh was his posthumous work, etant donnes, revealed a year after his death. a large construct, it opened up another aesthetic domain(the place of the museum) for serious questioning & a flurry of artistic activity(installation art) trying to answer it. absent for over 25years, he ended w/a grandiose dirty joke & folks are still trying to figure out the punchline.
here's an excellent explanatory link.
Monday, July 27, 2009
"You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. It is not for unsteady souls."
merce cunningham is dead at 90.
he outlived cage & feldman & rauschenberg. jasper johns is the only one left from this remarkable group of great american artists. i wrote a little earlier on dance, what it means to me. i'm no expert. one thing i do know is that merce was very much determined to give you "that single fleeting moment" of aliveness, which is very different from the romantic paterian " hard gem-like flame" of ecstasy because it embraced transience & eschewed permanence. the only thing hard & gem-like about merce was the actual execution of the movements but they all flowed from one to another & were never fixed or determined by technique. "I prefer adventure to something that's fixed," he said.
one thing i see in his work is that he's taken the modernist impulse of breaking down the art form in question to its essentials, to that which will define it as a specific art form but he shreds that modernist straitjacket of reductio ad absurdum by introducing chance into the equation. there can be no final definition when there's always another move to make, another point to consider. merce & cage worked off the idea that complexity is three simple things combined. simple & ordinary things.
"Merce saw beauty in the ordinary, which is what made him extraordinary." trevor carlson spokesman for the merce cunningham dance company
"Usually, we think that the buddha mind, the state of enlightenment,is something very
fantastic, something completely different. that is incorrect. the buddha mind is said to be the nature of things as they are. the word 'ordinary' means something which is not modified, altered or changed in any way." chokyi nyima rinpoche
i've already written about eggleston. here is a link that does a lot more than i can do here.
eggleston is an artist who hasn't fuzzed things up w/aesthetics or creeds. he's no outsider or primitive artist either. this is direct art. it seeks to capture the moment of cognition & then pass on to the next. it's a doomed project but beautiful nevertheless. it's also great art.
"The small towns of the Mississippi Delta have yielded many of Eggleston’s most memorable images. Eggleston photographed the area’s familiar sights and ordinary activities: supermarkets, sidewalks, cars, dinner tables, gas stations, bars and their habitués. However, his commonplace subjects are pictured from unexpected points of view and illuminated by a brilliant variety of vernacular color. For Eggleston, everything in front of the camera was basically worthy of a picture, even if it appeared trivial or banal. He declares his intentions succinctly: "I am at war with the obvious."
Sunday, July 26, 2009
i loved this film. i love townes van zandt. i started doing his songs before new college thanks to emmylou harris' covering them on various albums.
what i love about this scene is joe ely's story about picking townes up hitchhiking. he took townes' first album back to what would become the other members of the flatlanders, jimmy dale gilmore & butch hancock. all three have since made names for themselves as the legendary group & as solo artists. they had no idea who this guy was but his music cut through that & moved them in an obviously significant way. this is the kind of story that creates & sustains myth. that & him losing a whole page of song lyrics.
this film can be gotten through netflix.
i've have no idea when mike got all kick out the jams radical but his fairly one dimensional, simplistic analysis of the cop/gates/obama issue takes me back to a day when no one thought about the implications of an issue & only wanted to draw a line & jut their jaws in defiance. if it weren't a white guy, ensconced in his comfortable middle class home in front of his bank of apple computers, telling a black man he's morally weak, i'd have let this go. i actually don't think mike sees how morally lame & racist his position is here.
i've already given my take on the actual confrontation. i'm not saying that obama is beyond reproach. in fact, i think what he said at the news conference was stupid. it certainly wasn't a clear moral position he articulated. how could it be? he issued a value judgment w/o knowing all the relevant facts. beyond that shaky position, he torpedoed what he really wanted to have on the table as an issue for discussion: health care. there aren't too many more savvy politicians out there than obama but he spoke from his heart & not his head at the news conference. he was emotional when he shouldn't have been. that has nothing to do w/taking a moral position.
even w/o obama's intervention, the issue was going to go on for a while. skip gates was justifiably angry & he wasn't going to shut up. the cop was feeling the innate entitlement of the police & he wasn't going to shut up either. obama should have been cooling these jets, not stoking the flames. the race issue in america is a powder keg & not something that's going to be settled by inflammatory rhetoric. calling the cops "pigs" or gates "uppity" or either's behavior "stupid" doesn't advance the conversation on the issue.
any attempt to quiet things down a bit & cool things off is just what this situation demands. you're never going to change anything significantly when tempers are flaring & fists are clenched. this isn't an issue to take to the barricades. that's crazy talk & dangerous too. we don't need that from our president, especially under the current circumstances.
obama realized his mistake & is trying to fix it. that's a smart move in more than just political gamesmanship(& no one is saying it's not partly political)because advancing a cause more often than not requires intelligent dialogue w/the opposition. what the president doesn't need is admonishment from white armchair revolutionaries whose only bad experience w/"the pigs" has been a speeding ticket or the cops not showing up quickly enough when they were needed for some complaint. furthermore, what a black man doesn't need is glib & shallow & thoughtless judgment about the strength of their moral positions from white folks who think they have a stronger, purer one, especially when that stronger, purer one is rooted in "fuck the pigs" fantasy.
good white folk like mike just can't help trying to educate their darker brethren to the ways of white folk which, of course in their minds, is w/o doubt the superior way. since blacks have had white boot heels on their throats for the good part of several centuries now, how could we expect them to "see clearly"? it's no surprise that a good white man would counsel confrontation & violence over compromise & peace. that's the great white way w/no possibility for "moral collapse." technically, bush & cheney didn't cave either & that's really where this kind of position bends all the way around & touches in places no one on either end wants or sees. when you take the hard line, even as a soft ass, you wind up mostly nowhere useful.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
"My honors are misunderstanding, persecution & neglect, enhanced because unsought."
this is one of his most famous paintings & one that got him into trouble. eakins seemed to stay in trouble w/the nay-sayers & moral watchdogs of his day. this picture was considered "too real," which was precisely what he was after here & in all his art. that's probably what drew him to photography.
eakins was one of the first artists who worked from actual photographs but he was one of the first artists period to work w/photography at all. his early photography is ground-breaking too. he got into trouble photographing his students which caused quite a bit of scandal since he didn't seem to care about the gender of whomever he was photographing. as a real bohemian, i don't think he cared about the gender of his sex partners either(tho he was married). he received some decent recognition during his life time for his artistic & teaching achievements but it was really only after his death that the accolades came.
the first one r-rated, the real one x-rated. needless to say, the gender/gay studies of the late 90's used these pictures on just about every book or article that was written during that period.
"Thomas Eakins was a man of great character. He was a man of iron will and his will to paint and to carry out his life as he thought it should go. This he did. It cost him heavily but in his works we have the precious result of his independence, his generous heart and his big mind. Eakins was a deep student of life, and with a great love he studied humanity frankly. He was not afraid of what his study revealed to him.
In the matter of ways and means of expression, the science of technique, he studied most profoundly, as only a great master would have the will to study. His vision was not touched by fashion. He struggled to apprehend the constructive force in nature and to employ in his works the principles found. His quality was honesty. "Integrity" is the word which seems best to fit him. Personally I consider him the greatest portrait painter America has produced." robert henri 1917
"Dilettantes dabbling in the genre of country music have always had a hard time, from hippies like Gram Parsons to his modern day alt-country hipster inheritors. There’s almost always an inevitable anxiety over class privileges and the fetishization of working class experience by cultural elites. That combines with the classic rural versus urban divide and adds up to an awkward night sitting in a bar in Silver Lake listening to delicate, good-looking dudes in fancy vintage Western shirts singing about CB radios and old pickup trucks. It’s airless tribute at best, unaware cowboy drag at worst.
John “Marmaduke” Dawson was the lead singer and main songwriter for The New Riders of the Purple Sage, the best of the hippie country bands that emerged from the West Coast psychedelic rock and rustic folk scenes, and one of the only bands that managed to merge roper with doper without apologies to either camp. He died on Tuesday in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he’d been teaching English as part of the city’s established community of American expatriates. He was 64, and stomach cancer was the culprit."
i don't think anyone from our p'cola group was a fan of nrps. i do know that one of us bought their first album because i remember having it in my hands in philip's cave & liking the cover art more than i liked the music. i don't particularly agree w/the smirky assessment of gram parsons in the quote above. i suspect parsons was the real thing & would still be doing that kind of music(much as emmylou is doing)today.
i will say i'm impressed that nrps kept it up too. they never had the cred that parsons had(tho they were connected w/garcia & the dead for a while)but they stayed as true to their original impulses as anyone. from what i hear, that's not too easy to do in the music biz. i imagine "marmaduke" had few complaints there at the end. he'd gotten to play music for a living his whole life. that's just not a bad way to go.
this song from their debut 1971 eponymous album sounds so much like the parson lead byrds & the dead circa workingman's dead it's uncanny.
i found this on youtube & it says this is st.vincent(aka annie clark) doing a nico cover. i was amused. of course, nico covered jackson browne & now this young lady is too tho she's doing more nico than browne here(w/a lot of different lyrics too). i might be wrong but this may be the first of jackson browne's songs recorded way back when(1967) by nico on her first solo album, chelsea girl. it finally appeared on browne's second solo album(1973), for everyman, w/a dedication to duane allman who had died in 1971. there's a lot of death associated w/this song in my mind(nico died in '88, just days shy of her 50th birthday).
this has always been one of my favorite browne songs. browne's version(he wrote the damn thing when he was 16yo) is more powerful, nearly angry(i'm talking about david lindley's jawdropping slide playing at the end of the song). here, the resignation of failure pretty much carries the day. i think annie does just fine w/it.
Friday, July 24, 2009
GORDON WELLER DIED JULY 17 2009
these guys weren't the louvin brothers or the everly brothers & i can't say they can even match the bodeans or john doe & exene but they were one of my favorites from way back when. their vocal harmonies were comforting. bill thornton was a vigilant believer in the american sound & championed the association & the four seasons(bill wasn't much into the black thing back then)when we were pre-adolescent adolescents. bill profoundly rejected the "british invasion." i think he liked this song though. it was pushed under the radar & no one paid attention to the fact that "the beatles" had written it. it was a hit. in fact, it was written by mccartney, who was dating one of asher's sisters at the time. he gave them several other songs to do to see how songs written by him alone(as opposed to the lennon-mccartney tag-line)would do w/the public. forget yoko & linda, the beatles were already falling apart as they coalesced in the public mind.
they had another hit, i go to pieces, that was written by the great del shannon.
peter asher went on to produce lots of big albums in the 70s & 80s. he took the idea of vocal harmony to another level. i will say that gordon's weller tenor is what makes the whole thing work, just like ira louvin. i remember when philip would do the tenor & what it meant to him & jack's act or even us playing together for fun. that's the hard line to take. gordon weller makes it look easy.
i hope i'm not the only one who sees john lennon's profile in gordon weller's. it seems uncanny to me.
"Today is the anniversary of the 1905 opening of Angelo Brocato's ice cream parlor. Brocato began a career of making ice cream in his native Palermo when he was twelve. He immigrated to New Orleans in the early 1900s, and set about realizing a dream: to open his own gelateria as fine as the ones he remembered in Sicily. He did that with a classic parlor on Ursulines Street in the French Quarter in 1905. The original Angelo Brocato's remained there until the 1980s, when it moved to North Carrollton Avenue just off Canal. By that time the business was in the third generation of the Brocato family, and had become the gold standard for its spumone, cannoli, cassata, lemon ice, cookies, and dozens of other confections. They were in the throes of celebrating their one hundredth anniversary when the storm came, flooded their parlor and factory deeply. Brocato's came back, though, picking up right where it left off, to the great delight of ice cream lovers." from tom fitzmorris
ed willard, the ass wipe, & i made a new orleans trip back in 1979 or so. it was an astonishing trip for various reasons(we saw the inimitable henry roeland byrd play his penultimate performance at tipitinas, for example)but mainly it was an eating trip based around ed's research & appetite. we ate at leruth's, warren leruth's incredible temple to great creole cooking. we ate at buster holmes, the great southern soul food restaurant. trust me, we ate & ate & ate. at least, ed did. i drank too. of course, that inhibited my appetite but not ed's. ed was eating a pre-breakfast snack, breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, & dinner every day. then, he headed for angelo brocato's, which was still on ursulines back then(they actually moved to a place on jackson square for a little while). i remember breaking away from the food regimen sometime early on our last day there & heading to the napolean house to drink. sometime later, i found ed walking ever so slowly, in the robert crumb "keep on trucking" poster pose. his hugely distended stomach was making him bend backwards to support it. his gait was determined tho a little unsteady. i think he'd have died if we'd stayed another day or two.
these folks have seen it all & made it through. if you have the chance, skip dessert at whatever restaurant you've eaten at & head on out to angelo's. everyone can walk through the front door these days.
i guess this makes me a little sad. when ann & i were in india we saw lots of these places. right down the dirt road from the japanese monastery we stayed at was a row of these coke houses that sold bottled water & trinkets &, if you had the balls to eat from a place like this, small freshly fried snacks. one of our companions, a beautiful german man, did have the balls & spent most of the trip near death in his room.
i guess the sadness would come from this symbol of america being ubiquitous in a third world country, tho i'm not sure that's it. i mean, who doesn't know that american capitalist imperialism has made inroads to the most obscure, isolated places in the world today? i wouldn't be gobsmacked if there were stuctures like this deep in the amazon rain forest, rusting away. no, i think it's less about the exploitation & more about the inescapable quality of our myriad images of america. there at the place of the Buddha's enlightenment, at a place that was totally lost to history as late as the late 19th century, the full monty of signification registers w/each & every western visitor. travel as far as you want, inwardly or outwardly, & you'll still come face to face w/the world's temptations represented by american products. i guess that IS the real thing except rust never sleeps & what's real today is gone tomorrow. so it goes.
holly had a course at st andrews in laurinburg on modern japanese writers. at the time, none of us in p'cola had read them. it was quite a revelation & got some of us on a world lit kick that lead to marquez & kundera & bulgakov. the japanese writers on holly's syllabus were the usual suspects: soseki, kawabata, akutagawa, dazai, mishima, & oe. tanizaki junichiro was on there too. i didn't read his makioka sisters until i did a similar course w/bob knox at new college but some prefer nettles & the key were on the list & i enjoyed them quite a bit. they were odd tales of obsession & alienation. that kind of thing appealed to me then. the japanese, at least their writers, definitely had a thing about sex. five of the seven writers on holly's syllabus all wrote several stories or novels revolving around sex & voyeurism. that was fine by me.
tanizaki's essay, in praise of shadows, was also a pleasure to read. scott nygren had it on his syllabus for a class i took at university of florida, modern japanese cinema. in it, he discusses the theory of wabi sabi, in which imperfection and transience are considered the touchstone of beauty. that was fine by me too.
they were having a film festival at uva in charlottesville. they'd had one the year before that was ok but this was the year they wanted make their mark & become a prime spot for what was becoming quite a prestigious & lucrative film fest circuit. that year they had the newly restored version of hitchcock's rear window & an unfinished work by mark rappaport on jean seberg. they had the great film & woman's studies theorist trahn ticht han showing one of her films. there was also a first time screening of a rare warhol film.
i went to all of the above & some worked & some didn't. mostly, technical problems & venue issues were the culprits. w/the warhol, the warhol expert who had been entrusted w/the rare film had been too academic & not very interesting in his opening remarks. he did stress the rare quality of the film. however, when the film caught in the projector & visibly burned, he became a quivering mass of hysteria. i beat a hasty retreat. seeing grown men cry isn't something i'm built for i guess. there wasn't a third annual c'ville film fest.
this trailer for the infamous "screen tests of andy warhol" is doubly interesting in that they've added music to the whole affair & for the amazing fact that you can see that within the factory was, momentarily, all the coolness & hipness & beauty & greed that became the undoing of the 60s generation. long before the craziness & drugs & disease & age ravaged them, we see nico & lou & gerard & baby jane & hopper & edie & billy name looking for their 15minutes. some got it & others just faded away.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
RAYMOND CHANDLER b JULY 23 1888
"Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off."
hammett has always seemed better to me. there was absolutely no razzle dazzle descriptions from dashiell. it was straight talk all the way. his dialogue was staight up. it was how you'd talk right before you got fucked over or dumped. economical & heartfelt & ugly.
chandler was a tough guy too but he liked to reflect & embellish. chandler's marlowe always sounded like he gotten to think about his clever responses like we'd all like to do, all those "i'd wish i'd said" retorts. i like marlowe. i'd drink w/him. i don't think i'd drink w/sam spade.
"Sometimes we have the absolute certainty there’s something inside us that’s so hideous and monstrous that if we ever search it out we won’t be able to stand looking at it. But it’s when we’re willing to come face to face with that demon that we face the angel." - Hubert Selby Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn)
his novels, last exit to brooklyn & requiem for a dream are great small scale novels & relentless in their portrayal of suffering & failure & abuse. he believed in redemption but not an easy or simple kind. you lived through what you'd brought down upon yourself & reflected on it & tried, very very hard, to understand your lessons & live better. there is a light on the other side of complete utter darkness but it has to be absorbed & reflected back out into the world. otherwise, you're in deep shit.
of course, no one has the guts to call this thing like it is. i've been saying this for months: nearly 50% of the folks who voted against obama were the crazed loony racists i knew back in p'cola way back when. while the crazy "birthers" go on a thinly veiled racist attack on the president of the united states & middle of the road tv networks like cnn(w/the execrable lou dobbs leading the way)broadcast it like it was somehow JOURNALISM, the venerable henry louis gates is manhandled & humiliated by police in his own home.
let's get this straight: until gates provided the officer w/proof of who he was, the officer was acting the way police should. no doubt about that. however, once the officer established that this guy was legit AND a professor at the internationally renowned university of HIS FUCKING LITTLE CITY that he's supposed to protect, he should have backed off. period. end of story.
i've lived in college towns all my life: sarasota, gainesville, charlottesville, berkeley. hell, i could include p'cola too. these are all small towns that DEPEND on their colleges for their existence. if the local cops didn't know everyone on the faculty of resident colleges, they damned well sure knew what that college meant to their cities & what harassing one of their tenured professors might mean. i'm NOT saying that catching a college prof doing something illegal should be ignored or swept under the carpet. that's not what we're dealing w/here. i'm saying that a cop, realizing that a mistake had been made & it was made in regards to an upstanding & famous member of the community, should have had better sense than pursue an arrest in these circumstances. i don't doubt dr gates said lots of abusive things to the arresting officer. i DO know that a black man uttering those things to a white police officer, regardless of who he is or his standing in the community, is unacceptable to white police officers. period. end of story.
i've been arrested several times in my life. once, in santa cruz, i was picked up for crawling down mainstreet at 3am. i'd been drinking & my friends had, one after another, abandoned me to life on the streets(since i had no idea where we were staying). i tried to explain this to the arresting officers. being handcuffed is being emasculated, i will say that, at least physically. handcuffed, you still got your mouth. i questioned the officers cock size & sexual endurance. i questioned whether they'd even HAD any pussy in months. later, i found out that santa cruz police officers had gotten into a bit of trouble beating transients to within an inch of their lives to keep them out of their fair city. i came to in the drunk tank there in santa cruz, sharing a bench w/another man. wrists bruised, i hadn't been manhandled tho i'd truly pissed those guys off. trust me. i hit a nerve w/the premature ejaculation thing. i was lucky to be alive. i was white. i don't think a black man would have fared so well.
electing a black man president did nothing but deepen the entrenchment of racists all over this country. these folks truly believe this is a WHITE country, founded by white men & built & defended by white men from the beginning till now. these are crazies & they exist everywhere, north/south, east/west. that craziness spills over into the general consciousness & results in police not thinking but instinctively acting when a black man refuses to be put down.
as the gates affair has proven, our country, my country, still has a long way to go.
i suppose the size of the things is what strikes you first. after that, it's marveling at the balance, & then, i think, it's the recognition of its activity. however you first experience a giant calder mobile, it's hard to imagine that a sense of nearly child-like wonder isn't a part of it too.
after dona & i broke up in charlottesville, i spent nearly every other weekend in washington dc, avoiding her & her various "dates" that she paraded around c'ville. dona had a strict rule that after a breakup, she'd date anyone & everyone to get her mind off the breakup. whether it worked or not i can't say but it did cause some awkward moments & i preferred to avoid those as much as possible. hanging out in washington dc was MY way of dealing w/things.
calder's mobiles were a part of that experience. they hung in at least two of the lobbies of the national gallery. enormous & colorful, they were utterly unavoidable.
"IT'S DIFFICULT TO KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF ALEXANDER CALDER. He is solidly positioned within the pantheon of twentieth-century sculpture but doesn't quite fit the conventional academic narrative that runs from Picasso's Guitar through David Smith to Minimalism and beyond. He is arguably one of the most beloved and readily identifiable artists of his time, but it can be tough to take him completely seriously." caroll dunham artforum feb 2009
i have no problem taking calder seriously. i think that's just academic silliness trying to muddy the water.
the fact that his "stabiles" worked to undermine or deny the classic distinctions between base & sculpture, the fact that his work was active & therefore ephemeral yet apparent, the fact that so many of his pieces were rooted in the organic(insects & plants)but utilized the mechanical, all signal someone working outside the standard academic categories. his early & lifelong fascination w/the circus gives us an indication of his eventual creation of works of spectral fascination & multiple activities. the works are like a three ring circus, ever active & insistent on capturing the viewer's attention while employing every trick in the book to deceive & bewilder.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Hopper's people, strand writes, whether glimpsed in hotel rooms, diners, storefronts or gas stations, "seem to have nothing to do. They are like characters whose parts have deserted them and now, trapped in the space of their waiting, must keep themselves company with no clear place to go, no future."
Strand calls Sun in an Empty Room (1963) "a vision of the world without us; not merely a place that excludes us, but a place emptied of us."
“I often feel that the scenes in Edward Hopper paintings are scenes from my own past. It may be because I was a child in the 1940s and the world I saw was pretty much the one I see when I look at Hoppers today. It may be because the adult world that surrounded me seemed as remote as the one that flourishes in his work. The clothes, the houses, the streets and storefronts are the same. When I was a child what I saw of the world beyond my immediate neighborhood I saw from the backseat of my parents’ car. It was a world glimpsed in passing. It was still. It had its own life and did not know or care that I happened by at a particular time. Like the world of Hopper’s paintings, it did not return my gaze.” mark strand
i had the luck of just walking into the whitney's first major retro of hopper's work back in 1980 when i was visiting my new college roommate. hopper, like pollock, really gains a lot from first hand viewing. it's all about space in hopper & how the light works in the space prescribed. obviously, he was deeply influenced by vermeer.
there's the voyeur thing too. the figures, solitary or not, seem enveloped by their solitude & unaffected by our viewing. there is no sharing here, no complicit connection that lifts them out of their loneliness. they will continue this mundane existence for the duration, kind of like the rest of us. light here doesn't work to save them or provide them w/revelation; it simply exposes them to the viewers gaze. i think only duchamp, in his last work, etant donnes, exposed the implicit voyeurism of the viewer more.
one of my favorite poets, mark strand, wrote a small book on hopper. the quotes above are from it & the poem below is from his wondrous poetic sequence, dark harbor.
What light is this that says the air is golden,
That even the green trees can be saved
For a moment and look bejeweled,
That my hand, as I lift it over the shade
Of my body, becomes a flame pointing the way
To a world from which no one returns, yet towards
Which everyone travels? The sheen of the possible
Is adjusting itself to a change of venue: the look
Of farewell, the sun dipping under the clouds,
Faltering at the serrated edge of the mountains,
Then going quickly. And the new place, the night,
Spacious, empty, a tomb of lights, turning away,
And going under, becoming what no one remembers.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
At Melville’s Tomb
Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men’s bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.
And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death’s bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.
Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.
Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides … High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.
prodigiously talented, crane made everyone wilt w/envy or confusion w/his astonishing word constructions. he & pound made me want to be a poet. i've never found his work to be deliberately obscurantist. when it doesn't work(& that happens w/every writer, period), it was simply unclear or the logic didn't quite work itself out completely. oddly, like hemingway, he believed good writing was true writing(most of the modernists did)& was engaged in trying to express that truth in as beautiful a way as he could imagine.
oddly, again like hemingway, he was a suicide too. he jumped off a ship in the gulf of mexico; hemingway went the way of the gun. crane was an active gay man long before stonewall or gay liberation. he concluded he couldn't be happy as a gay man & so took the leap. my thinking is that he didn't have to be gay to reach that conclusion.
When you drank deep as Thor, did you think of milk or wine?
Did you drink blood, while you drank the salt deep?
Or see through the film of light, that sharpened your rage with
a shark, dolphin, turtle ? Did you not see the Cat
who, when Thor lifted her, unbased the cubic ground?
You would drain fathomless flagons to be slaked with vacuum
The sea's teats have suckled you, and you are sunk far
in bubble-dreams, under swaying translucent vines
of thundering interior wonder. Eagles can never now
carry parts of your body, over cupped mountains
as emblems of their anger, embers to fire self-hate
to other wonders, unfolding white flaming vistas.
Fishes now look upon you, with eyes which do not gossip.
Fishes are never shocked. Fishes will kiss you, each
fish tweak you; every kiss takes bits of you away,
till your bones alone will roll, with the Gulf Stream's swell...
... And you fell.
Waters received you. Waters of our Birth in Death dissolve you.
Now you have willed it, may the Great Wash take you.
As the Mother-Lover takes your woe away, and cleansing
grief and you away, you sleep, you do not snore.
Lie still. Your rage is gone on a bright flood
away; as, when a bad friend held out his hand
you said, "Do not talk any more. I know you meant no harm."
What was the soil whence your anger sprang, who are deaf
as the stones to the whispering flight of the Mississippi's rivers?
What did you see as you fell? What did you hear as you sank?
Did it make you drunken with hearing?
I will not ask any more. You saw or heard no evil.
john brooks wheelwright
"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - E.H. (July 21, 1899 — July 2, 1961)
"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters
of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself." - E.H.
"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." - E.H
"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." -
"I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes." - E.H.
i can't overemphasize the impact hemingway had on me in high school. hell, i even started eating raw oysters because of him. i'm sure i tried to imitate his prose at some point but no one really could w/o sounding stiff or phony. it's truly original prose & also truly american. hemingway got a bit cranky in the end & there was all that macho posturing but re-read a moveable feast or even islands in the stream, books he was working on or had just finished there at the end. he could still write &, as far as he was concerned good writing was true writing, he was still telling the truth.
Monday, July 20, 2009
"He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a terrible secret. He thought the world's heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world's pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower." All the pretty horses cormac mccarthy
anyone who could create anton chigurh isn't viewing life through rose colored glasses, that's for sure. go back to the earlier novels like blood meridian & you'll see his vision has always been dark & hard. his prose has gotten more accessible, even as his view has become more apocalyptic. born up north in rhode island, he was raised in the south(knoxville tenn). the early novels tended to feature dense "faulkerian" prose & fracture narratives. there was also violence & blood.
i think delillo & mccarthy are our two great living writers. philip roth is in there too but he's from another generation for the most part.
the coen brothers made a stunning version of his later novel, no country for old men. it's now in my top 3 favorite coen brother's films.