Saturday, December 31, 2005

Viva Art!

Well, I'd like to say something wise and memorable on this rainy last day of the year... but... I'm bloated from eating too much homemade chili and my backside is literally frying less than two feet from a roaring fire. It's a deadly combo. Nothing a few bottles of champagne, chocolate cake and some Beano can't cure. I've been watching Sarah prepare her application for UCLA's grad painting program. And it's got me thinking about art and how it lives in the world around us...

For starters, here's a hearty "Thanks, but no thanks!" to all the bad art I saw in 2005. There were some great moments (especially the "The First Annual LA Weekly Biennial"), but sadly even these could not escape being pulled under by the frantic and flailing arms of dumb, desperate, and omnipresent non-expression.

Art gets a bad rap. Maybe it deserves it, maybe not. It just seems horribly off-track to me (but in fairness, only as horribly off-track as so many other things). As cities and states and human populations have turned art into "Culture" (as well as "industry" and "currency") it has become very unfashionable, almost taboo, to question art, or to demand anything from it other than its own existence. It's a nice democratic ideal - let all art be seen as valid and let the cream rise to the top - but I don't think it's working out so well in practice. Maybe it's just a labeling problem: Abundant expression for all, yes, but please leave "Art" to the visionaries.

Like I said, the fire is frying me. This heat is stirring up a lot of vaguely negative notions... not so nice to end the year on. OK, reverse engines. Can we agree that at least some art should have the effect of carrying the human spirit forward? Forward to what? To where? I guess that's the point. Art that challenges and calls out the tired ideas that linger, art that trailblazes into the unknown, serves us all in ways we can not fathom. Make the metaphor good enough, trigger something deep that causes universal yearning, and human endeavor will follow. Interlocking waves of inspired pre-visualization and impeccable implementation. I call it the Star Trek effect. As in: Could NASA exist without Captain Kirk?

It now occurs to me that there's a great Eno speech that will resuscitate these chile con carne thoughts of mine. Read it here (scroll down the page to find it). And above all...

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Boob Tube '05...

Aside from the news, The Daily Show, NASA TV, The Weather Chanel and TCM, there ain't much going on on the television. Or so we thought until our friend Shira told us about a little show called "Little Britain" on cable's BBC USA. Here you will find the comedy stylings of Mr. Matt Lucas and Mr. David Walliams (pictured here left and right respectively with some unknown admirer in the middle). And here, depending on the state of your funny bone, you might find uncontrollable fits of laughter walloping up from your insides, the kind you vaguely remember from grade school that made your ribs ache and juice snorfle out your nose. The show's random succession of fringe-charcter driven skits owes plenty to Monty Python, not to mention Britain's love for having men dress up as ladies, and it all works out more than fine. OK, Here's another photo from the show. Enjoy.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sounds of '05

Unlike brother peTE or lady Sarah, I am not a very good annual "best of" list maker. Biologically, I am probably better suited to make a best of 2006 or best of 2026 list. But in the name of gratitude, over the next few days I shall put down some things I really liked in 2005 (though not necessarily from 2005) in the hopes that anyone who reads this can see what a super-cool person I am... I mean, find something new.

"These Are the Ghosts" by Band of Bees
"Urhuru Sasa" by Gary Bartz
"Cuban Beat" by Bill Laswell
"Coumba from Pirate's Choice" by Orchestra Baobab
"Bone Bomb" by Brian Eno
"No Condition is Permanent" by Marijata
"Gideon" by My Morning Jacket
"You Tear me Up" by Dean Carter
"5 to 4" by Kraak en Smaak
"Drumheller" and "Bees" by Caribou
"Les Fleurs" by Mini Ripperton
"Summer Clip" by Casino vs. Japan
"Angel No. 9" by Mick Ronson
"Today I Was an Evil One", "My Home is the Sea" and "Death in the Sea" by Bonnie "Prince" Billy
"Cex Secret Mix" by Marumari
"You Were There with Me" by Four Tet
"Not Even Stevie Nicks" by Calexico
"My Angel Rocks Back and Forth (Four Teas on English Time)" The Icarus Remix of the Four Tet song
"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Sufjian Stevens
"Lyla" by Oasis
All those big fat U2 songs
Ocean's 12 sountrack
Daily random doses of Stereolab, Air, Add to (X), Boards of Canada, Squarepusher, etc.
Daily (but pinpointed) doses of Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Beach Boys, Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Byrds, Brit psychedelia, etc.
sad cowboy songs
the right jazz, the right classical.
the acoustics at Matsuri at the Maritime
yoga ragas
Buddhist chanting earlier this month
mechanical toy bird chirps
A French Canadian Zydeco bar band in New Orleans
peahens clucking in South Carolina
Jamestown foghorn
all the thunder, rain, and lapping waves
logs popping in the fireplace
the silence of Marfa, TX
Cheech squeeks
Sarah laughing in her sleep

All that would make a nice mix.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Will Oldham...

There were so many musical discoveries and rediscoveries in 2005... What to say? Off the top of my head, I would encourage anyone who hasn't spent any time with Will Oldham, aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy, aka Palace Music, aka Palace Songs, aka Palace Bros., to do so. I listened to Palace Bros. back in the day, and they/he didn't stick. But time ages some of us in interesting ways, and this year's Bonnie "Prince" Billy offering, "Superwolf," (a collaboration with the excellent guitarist Matt Sweeney) will make the hairs get up off the back of your neck and drown themselves in the nearest swim hole. Spare, cutting, fatalistic songs that seem authentic and charicatural at the same time - a worn guitar, a poisoned heart, and a peeling porch. That's all you need. That, and a beard like a Civil War general.

Photo Match: Places & Patterns

Match the photographer with the image...

A) Robert Polidori
B) Candida Höfer
C) Edward Burtynsky
D) Andreas Gursky





(click on the numbers for answers)

Monday, December 26, 2005

Gazpachot's Axe!

Look what Santa brought! Time to dust off the callouses and spring the band from prison. It's over ten years since I picked up one of these twangers. I'm charged (and terrified) by the idea of making - rather than just consuming - music. Got to be so careful. Too easy to recall a few dumb tricks and repeat them until you make yourself sick. Those are the habits that won't go away. Proceeding with filtered abandon.

Here are the names of most of the bands I've played in, c. 1981 up to about 1994: The Electric Dream, Mev and Shosh, Sanskrit Junkshop, Back to the Womb/Inertia of Mud, Paramecium Devention, Raga NY, Tantric Rain, Movie. But surely you knew that already.

Also received a new tiny digicam with enough megapixels to read the fine print on a bottle of Besserat de Bellefon at 6 paces. This means more original images for the blog in '06. Stay tuned and in tune.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Pupil reading...

That's a tear (from laughing) you see here rolling down Sarah's cheek in duplicate. Great Christmas Eve out on the town with my lady, feeling full of cheer and goodwill towards all stuffed animals. Along our travels, she pointed out that while all of us are accomplished eye readers, very few of us are pupil people. She's right...People like me are easily distracted by the chromatic drama of the iris - powerful messages in chocolates, greens, and blues - only to dismiss the pupil as negative space, a steady and stagnant black hole. But the pupil holds mysteries all of its own says Sarah - How and when and why it dilates... How deeply its blackness penetrates... How it is a barometer for the truths and lies the mouth churns out... Frankly, I haven't trained myself to appreciate the pupil in all its subtleties yet - let alone the whole complicated rhumba of eye contact in general. Still, pupils, something to look out for in '06.

Happy holidays to all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

MUNICH: see it

This film will remind you to feel insane about living in our world as it has evolved in recent human history (if you've somehow managed to escape those feelings). As a film, it is less complex and in-your-face (and perhpas more enduring) than Syriana, though it shares some of the same "wake up and smell the global coffee" spirit... That said, Munich operates on carefully wrought, ambiguous, multilayered turf, which allows the film to play successfully on several levels. (What I like about historical drama is that the plot doesn't have to be ultra fantastic, we know the events and we allow them to proceed without having to endure one contrivance after another.) Spielberg's corn/soft ball directorial touch seeps through in places, but he also feels like the wrong director for the job which makes it all the more interesting to watch him navigate these waters. It feels almost as if he were a gun for hire who had to reinvent and rethink his bag of tricks (to a degree). On a side note, I thought it was really interesting to watch Spielberg deal with adult intimacy and nudity. There's an inadvertently funny scene where a (dead) woman's nudity is so self-consciously apparent, that even the characters in the film argue whether it stays in the picture or not.

Again and again, screenwriter Tony Kushner saves the day with unforgettable snippets of dialogue that ring true to life, resuscitate sagging scenes, and shatter expectations. (I love the scene where Avner's (Eric Bana) wife chides him for sounding corny.) Eric Bana gives a rock solid performance as a soulful man of action, blind to consequence. And Geoffrey Rush is excellent as the Bureaucrat Fool who presides over a nation's unconscious need for revenge with sublime irrationally (how else?).

Revenge is very much center stage here, seen from both the Arab and Israeli (and ultimately human) perspective. It reads as an unavoidable (possibly vestigial?) human impulse, a cancer on civilization, and a siren on the rocks. One of the many questions Spielberg seems to be posing here is: Would you really be able to live at peace in the home(land) you fought so barbarically to occupy? That seems like a valid point of conscience to raise, and the film does a great job of exposing the rift between national identities and individual human beings. I have some trouble with the implied fuzzy math in the last shot of the film, but it will certainly make you ponder the cyclical nature of tribal aggression and how it escalates. Anther aspect that is very well conveyed is the living and consuming nature of aggression itself -- a many headed Hydra that engages human agents and replaces them with increasingly ruthless souls as they are sacrificed and devoured.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Zvezda-54

The 1950s were the golden age of the Soviet valve radio. This beauty must have weighed a hundred and fifty pounds - hardly an item to lug down to the Black Sea beach house for a romantik weekend. Schematics here, should you want to jetison the iPod and build a Zveda-54 from scratch. Large knobs (for those meaty, canned-ham Politburo hands) offer such a striking contrast to our miniscule buttons of today. Alas, where has Soviet era chunky-clunky elegance gone?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Hussein claims he was beaten and tortured in court detention...

...Haddock denies any responsibility.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Good Robot...

Been listening to a bunch of Krautrock from the 70's and 80's lately. Not so much Kraftwork, seen here, but healthy doses of Can and Neu! and their related offshoots. Go on and download yourself "Hallogallo" by Neu! or "One More night" by Can. These are the riffs that keep on giving this holiday season.

2005 has been a relentless jackal on the emotions for all of us and the holidays can be especially rough. Therefore, I share with you this sonic Teutonic embrace as part my prescription for staving off the winter blues: Cold, driving, mechanical soul to tame those spastic, fiery demons. Sometime back in October, I began having these recurring thoughts of benevolent robots. I decided that becoming a detached "Robosapien" would stave off the encroaching, dark and despairing Brunhilda, lost in an murky opera of internalized histrionics and warped perceptions. And I was right.

I wrote this "poem" at the peak of my own sogginess, and while childishly simple, the act of writing it seems to have flushed out a new, crisp rhythm... one that savors stable, basic, methodical actions, and uses repetition as reinforcement: A solid frame on which to hang new flesh. May not make it into the New Yorker, but here it is:


Reset flesh in metal and noble circuitry.
Reset to let the blood back in slowly.
Be a good robot. Be a good robot.
Sea emotions rise and fall.
Observe. Observatory.
Present, pleasant.
No knee-jerk
For now.
Embrace the
click clack attack,
die cast the nausea and suspicion.
Breathe, extract, enjoy. Boy, you need to reset.
No sweat. Be a good Robot. Robot be good to me. Now.

Kind of more of a song than a poem maybe. Anhow, I guess sometimes we have to go from one extreme to the other in order to find some sort of balance. May your microchips be merry and bright.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Unconscious: True or False?

There are lots of people who do not believe in the unconscious. Confounding types. People like Peter Watson, author of "Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention from Fire to Freud" who says things like, "I do not believe in the inner world. I don't believe in such thing as the unconscious or the id." Talk like that won't get you a seat of honor at my dinner table. Or will it? The idea is so repulsive and upending, I'd like to hear more. Why would you deny such a thing other than to get a rise? Clearly, to me at least, alert-daytime-coping-thinking consciousness is like the visual spectrum - a narrow band that is readily perceived and hugely important. But it is only a tiny fraction of a much broader spectum we are equally exposed to and influenced by.

Also, a person who doesn't believe in the unconscious cuts themself off from all the cool, mysterious yammerings people like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and later Joseph Campbell were getting the girls with. For example, it is not hard to imagine Mr. Campbell's water-cooler conversation peppered with riffs like this one...

"The unconscious sends up all sorts of vapors, odd beings, terrors, and deluding images up into the mind - whether in dream, broad daylight, or insanity; for the human kingdom, beneath the floor of the comparatively neat little dwelling we call our consciousness, goes down into unsuspected Aladdin caves. There not only jewles but dangerous jinn abide: the inconvenient or resisted psychological powers that we have not thought or dared to integrate into our lives. And they may remain unsuspected, or, on the other hand, some chance world, the smell of a landscape, the taste of a cup of tea, or the glance of an eye may touch a magic spring, and then dangerous messengers begin to appear in the brain. These are dangerous because they threaten the fabric of the security into which we have built ourselves and our family. But they are fiendishly fascinating too, for they cary keys that open the whole realm of the desired and feared adventure of the discovery of the self. Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live; but then a bolder, cleaner, more spacious and fully human life - that is the lure, the promise, and the terror of these disturbing night visitants from the mythical realm that we carry within."

Golly. I'm just going to repeat something I overheard a tourist at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum say to his wife: "Hell, who cares if it's all fake, it's amazing stuff!"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Concept: "agere contra" (against one's self or nature)

Stumbled across this one in the LA City Beat while sweating to the oldies at Gold's. Apparently Jerry Brown, ex-gov of California and a former monk, is an adherent of this Jesuit notion heavily marketed and branded by one St. Ignatius. At it's root, agere contra is about exploring unlikely, radical ideas, new solutions, and challenging your beliefs. It's a sacred twist on the old pizza box epithet: "Try it, you like it!" Rather than expending energy being against things or ideas that seem foreign or contrary, you digest them, familiarize yourself with their effects, add them to your problem solving tool box, and perhaps, embrace them. It's a fairly punk rock credo. Wonder what those Jesuit monks are getting up to?

None of this should be confused with Joris-Karl Huysmans' amazing read Against Nature (A Rebours) about a "decadent, and ailing aristocrat who retreats to an isolated villa where he indulges his taste for luxury and excess." It's short and hilarious. If you haven't had the pleasure, go on ahead and get yourself a copy.

Memory Test

1) Write down as many animals as you can think of in one minute.
2) Write down as many fruits as you can think of in one minute.

If you are way under 20 items per list, well, you still owe me that money. You see, it ain't memory, but recall, that is being tested here. Nothing is forgotten... there's just lazy, disorganized filing of memories. What is going on when you experience a blocked memory? When you draw a blank? I don't know, but it is certainly one of the most alienating and frustrating tricks our brains can pull on us. Memory is so connected to identity that when denied access to it, even for a fraction of a second, we are left exposed to our physical animal nature. A shocking momentary awareness that we are bascially dumb piles of meat indentured to service these memories that define us and give context to the chaos of being alive.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Proposal: Rethinking Hollywood

Two things
I like: movies and social progress. Why not combine them?

There are few things that anger me more than the hundreds of millions of dollars squandered annually on Hollywood movies, many of which bring no financial return to the companies behind them and far less to the general public. Is there any telling what the budget of The Dukes of Hazzard (or Aeon Flux or Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo or scores of other forgotten titles) could have done if applied elsewhere in the world? Probably not, but what if there was a way to prevent these extravagant losses and spare viewers the dross? I would like to elaborate here on an idea Sarah and I had in the car the other night: The United Nations of Film. Feel free to jump in.

Perhaps "The United Nations" is not exactly the right model here, since lately they have not been the greatest example of progress or careful spending. Not to mention their global aspect, which I think might have a flattening (i.e. US dominated) effect if applied to world cinema. So consider, instead, an elected and enlightened review board comprised of thinkers, artists, economists, marketers, and movie people that functions democratically within each film producing nation. A council that could weigh the public value of upcoming films against other worthy causes. This council would have the authority (through secure public Internet voting) to freeze and eventually seize the budget of any slated film project deemed "unworthy" and move to apply it toward causes of unquestionable good. I think Canada has tried to do something like this - or at least they chose to get the government involved in the content of movie making. This gets tricky since you can lose a lot of edge and experimentation when you start having to put a government seal of approval on every film. I think it might be better to have an independent organization presiding, something like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but with less pomp and more "pre-emptive" action (thanks for the idea George).

More radically, what if such a council had an even greater role in Hollywood mega-budget film production? What if in the spirit of capitalism the film industry became a sort of stock exchange/auction of fact and fiction? Here, filmmakers might present trailers, scripts, and a budget for their proposed films to the marketplace. Next, the public would invest in a project using a sliding scale of ticket prices: I might pay $20 a ticket for Kong, and $0 to see Rocky VI. You might pay $7 for Kong and $70 for Stalone. If, after the ticket auction, a project failed to make its posted budget, than those invested dollars would instead go to a cause voted to have some social or humanitarian value. Ideally, we would get less, better movies and a sense of active participation in both the creation of culture and the heeling of society.

This kind of initiative might also reactivate the struggling independent filmmaking scene. If big budget movies were forced to confront their excesses, then more people might be encouraged to make their films on micro-budgets and use alternative means of distributing and marketing them. Movies have always been made independently because their creators believed in them. Restrictive budgets and unknown talent can be the best facilitators of visionary filmmaking. This weeds out a certain level of bad movie making, but in my scenario it might also attract schlocky projects looking to avoid scrutiny. So OK, say you are a producer with a burning desire to add one more chapter to the "Weekend at Bernie's" franchise, well, if you can do it for less than five million dollars and you can find a way to connect with your audience, I say go for it.

Of course this proposal raises many issues... Censorship for one. And the notion of regulating the spending habits of private industry rankles many to the core. How do you determine "worthiness"? Who gets the money? What about corruption? What about other industries? Surely entertainment across the board could benefit from some thoughtful spending and public input. All issues to be discussed.

The time to address these issues is definitely now. How can we sleep at night knowing about the glaring and publicly vaunted waste that the movie industry generates in the face of global disasters, poverty, ignorance, and de-evolution? We may despise the oil giants for their record profits but at least we can put their product to some good use in our daily life. How do you explain to a starving child that there is no cure for her disease but there will be an X-Men 3 next summer? Perhaps there is no direct connection here, but isn't it exactly this "silo effect" that creates so much disparity in the world? If we continue to quarantine economies and communities and problems, to view and treat them as isolated entities, don't we effectively disown them and leave them for others to tend?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

KONG: see it

"Frankly, I would have liked to see someone besides a gorilla in the role. How predictable!" says Jill Greenberg's farklempt mandrill.

Beyond the kelp...

...lies the open sea

(painting by Grace Mitchell)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

And you may find yourself...

A bit player in someone else's opera. How did I get here?

On December 13, 1958 the U.S. Army launched a squirrel monkey named Gordo aboard JUPITER AM-13. This flight provided useful data for Army and Navy medical research on manned space flights. Gordo made the flight with no adverse effects, but could not be recovered because the floatation mechanism of the rocket's nose cone failed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

There can't be enough good things to say about Walton Ford...

"Jack on His Deathbed" 2005
"This monkey, Jack, was owned by Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador to Naples in the 18th century," Mr. Ford said, citing as his source Sir William's letters, which described Jack grabbing a boy's genitals and enjoying enemas. "I started thinking: 'This is debauched. I've got to paint him.' So, here he is, a decadent Hogarthian rake on his deathbed, with Vesuvius erupting in the background, which was actually happening as he was dying. "Hamilton said Jack was a black monkey with a beige beard from the Malabar Coast in southwestern India. I have lots of natural history books here and I really got lucky. I found him in 'The Book of Indian Animals,' and he's my model for Jack, who looks like he's had his hair done, so extravagant, like Liberace if he was a monkey." (From a May 2005 NYTimes article.)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Spontaneous Fiction...


In most Native American tribes the leaders are expected to administer not only the politics and problems of their people but also, and perhaps more importantly, to be in touch with a greater cosmic reality - the laws of Nature and the highest consciousness available to a man. That certain drugs and herbal tonics have been used to achieve these states does not necessarily detract from the veracity of their discoveries... Unbelievably accurate Mayan calculations mapping the position of our planet within our solar system within the Milky Way within the nearby clusters of galaxies are said to have been realized through the use of organic substances that fueled fact-finding astral projections. Of course it takes a rare and seasoned soul to master these cosmic antennas and filters provided by Nature, to allow them to open us up AND protect us from the colossal bowel-shredding, mind-incinerating power of the dimmest passing boson of a Universal truth. Then again, there is sometimes beginner's luck. Sometimes.

Meanwhile, it is Tuesday at the White House and there is very little concern for the cosmos. The President, an ace politician and a master of simple folksy rhetoric is living up to his secret service moniker: The pharaoh of the photo op. On this Tuesday he will deliver the first State of the Union address for his second term. The speech is written, the town bustling with press, and the oval office is open for business. By noon he has met with a winning women's golf league, an anti-abortion minister, a former gang leader whose execution was stayed by a progressive governor in a big Western state, and six adult "Children of Chernoble," in town to offer an unlikely vote of support for the president's struggling nuclear energy plan. The "pow-wow" with the oldest living Native American tribal chief would have to wait until after lunch and a mid-day briefing. Perhaps the picture could be snapped on a time out during a game of T-Ball? Now there's a photo: The President and the Last of the Cheyennes holding whiffle bats.

Throughout the afternoon there is much fuss around the batting tee, and a small emergency unfolds on the Great Lawn that causes the President (yelling into a cell phone) to reveal the true nature of his leadership, standing just three feet away from the patiently waiting tribal chief. Having been dismissed as an old "ignoramus" by the president, the chief takes it upon himself to drop a healthy load of peyote bead dust onto his host's tuna and caper melt. The gesture goes undetected. The melt is swallowed in four bites assisted by two ice cold cans of Diet Coke.

Three hours later, preparing before the mirror he flips through his speech, sweating slightly through his vocal exercises. His aide sets a pair of lapis Great Seal cufflinks on the marble sink, one of which the President promptly eats when eyes are averted. Half an hour later the President has gone strangely silent. "Ready sir? The limousine is prepared to take you to the Capitol."

"Never readier to make history..." he snorted, at last, with a collar snap and a smirk. Had he known exactly what degree of televised wailing and gnashing of teeth and uncontrolled exposing of top secrets and speaking in fiery tongues the next hour and twenty seven minutes would bring, even he, in some other time and space, might have enjoyed the irony of these five words spoken in haste. Sitting next to the First Lady, high up in the gallery, the chief felt the learning had begun.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The loud sucking noise you hear...

is the sound of American dollars schlupping through the Great Pneumatic Cash Grabber at the superb not-for-profit (but not entirely against it at all) Machine Project art and science gallery. Get one of these if you can.

10 cow gal addressing Buddhas...

Strange happenings in the last 18 hours starting with last night's puppet show depicting the myth of Pandora and Persephone. Rice Crispy treats with worm like chee-toes baked into them. Doug Harvey's lo-fi Mormon roast featuring media ephemera at the Echo Lake Film Center ("Johnny Lingo" was the best and least mormon of the bunch - it introduced the revolutionary concept of the '8 Cow Wife' which I may go into at some point). Chicken tacos with Guiness and a schizophrenic bystanter. Dreams of King Kong so real and so violent - no movie will be able to match. Up early this morning dizzy but determined to attend the Buddha's purification and birthday celebration (Amitabha Dharma) at the HsiLai Chinese Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights. Sarah not coming until the last second, not knowing where she was going, but secretly hoping for "an African breakfast feast in Cheaven" (you'll have to ask her, but note the dress, not Chinese by any stretch). Much monosyllabic chanting and incense, shaved monks, and a spectacular location on a crystal clear morning. "Much merit!"

Shower Hair Art...

For my first image on Gazpachot I had intended to post a sample of some of the art we get up to here at Bob's castle in the hills.
Specifically - Sarah and I have gotten into the habit of "drawing" in the shower with the spare head hairs that cling to the moist walls. Once dry, these last for approximately 12-24 hrs. We leave them (without discussion) for each other to admire in the privacy of one's bathing. Assembling some of these works can get pretty obsessive; five-minute-showers can easily turn into 25 minute extravaganzas. Typically, the works are figurative, though lately Sarah has been opting for more abstract Dating Game style asterisks which I like. Not one to brag, I will simply offer here that my hair work from yesterday - a 3/4 from the rear rendering of Sarah painting in the nude - was an instant classic. Unfortunately, these works are almost impossible to photograph. The only photographic proof I have (the actual work has since dried up and fallen to the shower floor) really speaks more to our need for a good grout cleaner than anything else, so I will pass on posting that image for now. Perhaps if we can figure our better lighting techniques and how to capture such fine lines with the canon digital, there will be some posted in good time. What I can say if anyone is thinking about taking up Shower Hair Art is that it is good to have long hairs and shorter hairs to play with, and that is not necessarily cheating to use the edge of a comb or a razor to cut a piece down to a desired length, though it is generally frowned upon as too much invasive technology. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Pulsations in the night...

I go through periods of ultra vivid dreaming, and am in one of those phases now. I think while I get this blog up and running I will resist the temptation to talk about my dreams, because they're probably boring to others and ultimately mine to savor.

But I will share the really strange experience I had - twice - early this morning. I came out of a vivid dream, not awake, not asleep, and cracking one eye open I could tell it was dawn. Sarah's hand was on my shoulder and suddenly I began to feel these low pulsating vibrations at the point where her hand was touching me. It was a powerful and pleasing, not quite electrical, not like any kind of "energy" I've ever experienced. It lasted somewhere between 15-30 seconds and stopped abruptly. I would say that the sensation began about 30 seconds after the vivid dream ended. I was aware of my surroundings (bed, woman, dawn, Los Angeles) but I also seemed to be equally aware of other spaces and planes of consciouness. Soon I fell back to sleep and the same thing happened later, only this time my hand was on Sarah's leg. Where I had assumed that the vibrations were coming from her hand (I had gone so far as to assign her shamanistic status in my half waking state), I now realized that they were coming from me. This time they started in the hand, at the point of contact, and rippled through to my torso and back. It was as if there were a small earthquake, but accompanied by a feeling of intense happiness and "wholeness" for lack of a better term. After it ended I asked Sarah if she had felt any strange vibrations. She said no, and I fell back asleep without explaining, too complicated.

My theory here is that between the waking and the dreaming state there is a "chemical corridor" that the consciousness must pass through, a waterpark slide that flushes out the dream drugs and pumps in the psychic coffee. This passage can sometimes be experienced consciously when the chemical switch is enhanced/prolonged by various unknown factors. Where the body is paralyzed in sleep, so must it be reanimated as consciousness arrives. Think if you threw a stone into a field of tall grass where hundreds of birds where resting. They would all scatter at once in a burst of energy. I believe that the brain prepares the body for consciounsness by tossing a rock into the netstrings of the nervous system. The ensuing vibrations register first where there is contact with the outside world. And IF the point of contact is preceived to be desirable or having good connotations, a second spray of feelgood chemicals are flushed through the system along with the psychic espresso.

A quick google search turned up a lot of stuff about lucid dreaming and "OBE"s (out of body experiences, duh!) That all seemed intriguing for a minute, but it quickly began to feel like a shute leading straight into a world of Dungeons and Dragons fanatics and thick books full of annoying claims by pseudo scientific cultists. I like my pulsations and I reserve the right to leave them unexplained.


Sarah and I just left Syriana which is a surprising and crushing piece of cinema. Surprising because it dares to shine a big fat klieg light on the mechanics of today’s Yankee-Euro-Oil-Arab quagmire. Crushing because it will remind everyone who sees it that you and I and everyone we know are basically powerless and meaningless dressage, tiny self-centered sequins shimmering on the broad cloth of human history. With that in mind, I can't really comment on the deeper political and human aspects depicted in the movie yet, too much corruption to process, too many bubbles burst. But as a film, even though it may leave you feeling cold and expendable, it really is pretty impressive. What I love is how the director, Steven Gaghan, handles plot: he tosses such a mess of angel hair at us, there is little hope of engaging us at the conventional movie-watcher level. Instead, our brains and guts are systematically flooded with un-introduced scenes that end as rudely as they began. There is no attempt to fetishize the details of the plot - we don't have to scrutinize every revealing document or know exactly where to place each member of the huge ensemble cast. What we are left with is a fictional web of chaos that turns out to be every bit as precarious and fucked up as our own. Oh and, I think Jeffrey Wright is becoming one of my favorite actors. What range that guy has... Uh oh, I sense a name about to drop... so ok, I met him at some palacial hotel bar that looked like a wedding cake at the Karlovy Vary film festival. It was when Basquiat was out, and he was one of the only Americans in the place so we drank beer and talked about New York. I remember he seemed both jumpy and focused, perhaps on drugs. Who can blame the guy at that strange point in life.

But getting back to structure and plot devices, the approach to movie making used in Syriana reminds me of two things: 1) Stendhal's "mirror" - the seizing of the innate reflective properties in narrative fiction by the 19th C. French writer as the only effective way of showing his fellow countrymen just how complex and convoluted his country was. And 2) This email that my sister-in-law Lisa sent...

Can you read this?
Olny srmat poelpe can.
cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs psas it on !!

In other words, you don't have to spell out the plot of a movie verbatim, you just have to supply bits of information that trigger the intended effect of each scene, which then accumulate into a far more visceral and unconsciously provocative movie-going experience. I'd like to see this method applied to less earnest and pseudo-important films than Syriana. That said, I'm really looking forward to King Kong which will probably have none of this structural sophistication. But who can resist a giant ape hamming it up for two hours? Not me. That's the news.

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Start a blog" they said...

and so I have. Let the experiment begin!