Friday, March 31, 2006

RIP Stanislaw Lem...

I was saddened by the passing this week of the brilliant author, Stanislaw Lem, born in Lwow, Poland (later to become Lvov, in the Soviet Union, now Lviv, Ukraine) in 1921. He was 84.

Unlike so many sci-fi writers, Lem was never confined by the genre. He chose the form because he saw fantastic worlds and unreal circumstances as the ideal setting to explore philosophical truth and complex characters. But more than that, science fiction became part of a cloaking device he used to throw off censor-crazed Soviet occupiers and Germans in search of Jews (forged papers also helped in the latter instance). During WWII Lem became a car mechanic. "I learnt to damage German vehicles in such a way that it wouldn't immediately be discovered," he later said. Soon he would start doing something very similar, with his writings, to the hard-line communism which held his country in its grip after the war. After his first novel was censored, Lem discovered ways to connect with his readers right over the heads of his people's oppressors who saw nothing more than crazy space stories. (On a side note, an Iranian acquaintance tells me something close to this is going on now in Iran where colorfully written blogs and emails are used to transmit important stories that are banned from the news).

"Solaris" is one of my all time favorite works of fiction (though admittedly and embarrassingly, I've never read it in book form). I am however a huge fan of both film versions and a longstanding ogler of Lem websites, if that counts... Apparently Lem disliked the "Solaris" films saying Tarkovsky got it backwards by depicting the cosmos as a very nasty place ("Space is fine - Earth is the problem," he said), and that Soderbergh's mushy version should have been retitled "Love in Outer Space." I can't fault him for that, but read my thoughts on the films in my earlier rant on "versionalism" here.

There aren't enough years in a lifetime to do all the reading I'd like to do. The books keep getting ordered on Amazon and piling up next to my bed, at least partially in the hopes that their essences will infiltrate my sleep. So far no dice. I tried books on tape for a while, but the streets of LA are no place to be any more lost in fiction than one already is.

Good Lem links here and here.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Slumberland Chronicle...

Why is it always so hard to read the newspaper in dreams? All I could glean from the swirling letters and images in last night's reverie press was that there is a new mega corporation called "IC3" (apparently made up of CBS and several other alphabet soup outfits I could not discern) and that Howard Stern gets to fly a helicopter to work everyday. Interpretations anyone? Very glad to see that my unconscious has been co-opted by all the news that's fit to repress.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stereolab: Henry Fonda Theater 3/28/06...

Stereolab is what happens when you put a French woman with a trombone in charge of a big, fierce machine. What a great show. I'd seen them in 2000 and was astounded at the differences in them and me this time around. In 2006, despite the rain, we all seem looser and happier and willing to let a well-oiled machine do its thing. The moral? Follow your blips (and bleeps).

(photos by Paul Gachot)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

When being stuck isn't funny...

Oi! These rainy LA days are the worst. LA without sun is like a grilled cheese sandwich without the cheese. For some reason, the changing of the seasons is always a major taffy-twisting event for this bag of pipes. Generally, I don't like talking about myself here, but today I will not fight the enveloping grayness. Let me see if I can articulate my current condition...

I feel stuck in the no man's land between living in my dreams and living them out. It's like being frozen in a pond with half your body above the ice and your legs dangling below, kicking the dormant fishes. But it's not all so grim... I know that Spring is coming, and that the thaw will either enable me to free myself and find new ground, or get me dragged down to the muddy depths of Davy Jones' locker by some vengeful, sleep-deprived fishes. Boo Hoo. I know.

(brilliant animations by James Paterson)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The trick to surviving advertising...

It is rarely the thing being advertised that sparks desire. The desire, or the aspect of an ad that pulls our emotional triggers, is rarely the thing being sold. Our desire is sparked by the context in which the thing being sold is set. In fact, the context is usually something that costs nothing at all, like good times, beautiful lighting, or human flesh. The object being advertised desperately wants to be associated with these things, and quite often this is because there is nothing intrinsic to it that is remotely desirable. So, enjoy the pretty pictures, but be careful where those emotional triggers lead you. They're quite sticky and can really pull your values and and your life path off track and into the stagnate, dead end tidepools of consumerism. On guard matey!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

I don't exist (until you see me)...

Los Angeles is full of people who yearn to be discovered, to have their existence validated by the gazes of as many people as possible. Staring is not impolite, it is currency. Out here, film and television are understood to be ways of brokering massive channels of visual attention (thereby creating fixed corridors in which to hang as many-money making billboards as possible in the spectator's line of sight).

This is the exact opposite of Sartre's gaze. "Hell is other people," he famously said. The gaze of "the Other" annoyingly robs an individual of their perceived freedom; it interrupts one's private worldview with another unknown private worldview, and is therefore comes across as a threat (this is one possible explanation for a lot of the weird looks and cold stares one might encounter in Europe). Of course, you have to have a private worldview to be robbed of it. Which brings us back to Los Angeles. Here, it seems, many people sacrifice their personal worldview in order to study the external flow and complex patterns of gazing so that they may position themselves as close as possible to (if not inside) the attention pipeline.

(photo by Paul Gachot)

Friday, March 24, 2006

O v. P

Ladies and Gentlemen...

In this corner, in the white sparkly trunks and the rose colored glasses, we have Opti Mism... and in this corner in the pitch black singlet and deathly pale makeup, Pessi Mism. OK, they've stepped up to their respective microphones and we're just waiting for the bell on Round 1... There it is! Shh. Let's listen...

OPTI: An optimist looks at an oyster and expects a pearl; the pessimist expects ptomaine poison.

PESSI: Nothing worries the pessimist like the optimist who says there's nothing to worry about.

OPTI: For some reason a pessimist always complains about the noise when opportunity knocks.

PESSI: A pessimist is a person who has had to listen to too many optimists.

OPTI: A pessimist is one who builds dungeons in the air.

PESSI: A pessimist tells the truth prematurely.

DING! What a brutal round! They have moved to their corners for prayers and sulking repsectively. A very pessimistic round. Wait, they're at the mics again, and oh, there's the bell for Round 2...

PESSI: He's so optimistic he'd buy a burial suit with two pairs of pants.

OPTI: A pessimist can hardly wait for the future so he can look back with regret.

PESSI: There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist

OPTI: An optimist sees a green light everywhere, the pessimist sees only the red stoplight.

PESSI: Optimism is the opium of the people.

OPTI: The optimism of a healthy mind is indefatigable.

DING! Well another very tough and punnishing round. Optimism seemed to be on the chopping block there, but let's see who the judges will favor. Wait... wait for it... It's a tie! The judges have heard the arguments and cast their votes (by default) in the name of a "A Sound and Rational Possiblism." I didn't even know he was here today.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Harvard is Happy...

Yesterday, NPR was talking about happiness studies at Harvard. It's the number one class on campus. It sounds sort of new agey and repetitive in its power of positive thinking message, and it is perhaps a little intellectually degrading for some of those Cambridge smartypants. I've got no problem with it - there's nothing worse than a brilliant Type A personality who has no sense of humor and no ability to just shut up and exist for a moment every now and then. I had a friend for a while who was a certified genius and it was actually painful for me to be around her because her massive brain power was in such obvious resistance to the constraints of time and space around her. Honestly, I think she liked me because I reminded her what it's like to be dim and ordinary and at peace with simple being. Hence the pain.

I remember a psych 101 class in high school called "Personality." I still have the text book. It was filled with bland, introverted and generally terrified freshmen boys and girls, and was taught by a hip earth-mama professor with hair down to her ass and huge, yellow-tinted aviator glasses. We read "Dibs in Search of Self" and discussed sex and drugs and popularity and all of these things that were on kids minds but were to afraid to admit. Even at 15, I could smell the ruse as I'm sure others could too. We weren't studying the science of human identity, we were scooping out our diapers and being coaxed into verbalizing our secret alienations, and the feelings of asphyxiation brought on by this overwhelming FUTURE we all faced. I'd love to teach that class now.

Rather than teaching something as vague (and selfish?) as happiness, I would think Harvard would do better teaching Visualization. The future we ultimately reel in will be largely dependent upon our collective visions of it. Purely academic or financial aspirations are clearly too narrow and can lead to horrendous results (such as the 1980s). The future we imagine should be happy, sure, but it must have gestalt. The problems we face now as a planet can be easily attributed to select vision, exclusionary thinking, or simple small-mindedness. If Harvard is one key breeding ground for the shape of the future then let them be happy and visionary and inspirational to us all. That is the failure of the human potential movement. They are genuinely interested in how much more we can be as a species, but they seem to hoard their findings to themselves and bask in their goofy powers and knowingness to the exclusion of everyone else. High school never ends.

("Clownfish" by Royce B. McClure)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vanishing points...

(“Locating the Vanishing Point” by David Macaulay.)

The rules of grammar and punctuation have never been my first love. Beyond the basics is (are?) beyond me. I mean who has the right to impose all those headachy demands on my freeflowing expressions, maan?

But I will say this... I've noticed the periods used to separate the letters of initialized abbreviations has gone the way of the "cent" symbol. When I was a kid growing up in the U.S.A. I was fascinated by the tension between the K.G.B. and the C.I.A.(.-extra period?) But today the kids are too busy watching DVD's learning HTML and eating at KFC with their ATM cards in the USA to be concerned with my OCD.

I understand that an acronym needs no periods. NATO, LASER, and SCUBA are all spoken words formed from the first letters of longer verbal expressions. But the abbreviation for Los Angeles was always L.A., never LA which it has now firmly morphed into (much to the dismay of postal workers in Louisiana). So what's going on? Does anybody have William Safire's phone number? He's in N.Y.(.-?)

And finally, if you thought you couldn't love a dot, then you must experience this .

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

170 Pound Hummingbird...

Just before falling asleep last night, Sarah and I had been talking about someone we know who is a little bit overweight and a little bit hyperactive. Sarah stumbled upon the image of a 170 pound Hummingbird, which is both hilarious and dying to be rendered. So... This photoshop quicky looks like it probably weighs a little more than 170 pounds but in the age of overkill, why not? If real-life giant hummingbirds are your thing (sort of like a full-sized dwarf if you ask me) go crazy here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Imaginary Non-fiction...


That's a title I came up with early this morning while hell's bells were ringing. If anyone is interested in actually penning this book, I will be auctioning off the title and 60% of the future proceeds on eBay. May the best author win. Sounds like a bestseller to me.

And for those of you less inclined to write someone else's book, perhaps you would prefer to match these four webs with the respective drug that was force-fed to its spider architect?

Your choices are: a) Cannabis b) Caffeine c) LSD and d) Mescaline





(hint: maybe try decaf for a while?)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Horses and Nightmares...

Sarah and I went to Santa Anita Park yesterday. As always, the visuals were stunning. And on the betting side we just about broke even. In one remarkable race the jockey fell off the horse right out of the starting gate and the horse went on to finish the race in second place! So surreal to see a riderless horse crossing the finish line with all the gusto of the one that won. There is some important implication here about the nature of free will which I can't quite work out yet. Maybe it was all the wine and crazy delicious food we had later at a Persian New Year's celebration in West LA. Have you ever noticed how the spices and preparation particulars (not to mention the digestion) of most exotic cuisines wil guarantee a night of spectacularly vivid and insane dreams? They are always welcome narratives. Nightmares don't bother me. Inshallah.

(photos by Paul Gachot)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

As above, so below...

This is Josephine, a Sumatran Orangutan at the San Diego Zoo celebrating her second birthday. Seems like the zookeepers have no problem anthropormorphizing their wards with cute little humanoid celebrations.

David Attenborough, the British biologist and television host, is someone who has seen the raw brutality of nature up close for many years, and frankly he wants no part of this "irrational romanticism" he sees featured in films such as "March of the Penguins," "Grizzly Man," and worst of all "Born Free." Read his rant here.

I play both sides of the fence. I respect wild animals as distinct life forms with their own sets of problems and consciousnesses, and I'm pretty sure they don't really want to be filmed by us. But because my exposure to yaks and polar bears and silverback gorillas is limited, I feel I have the right to reinvent them in my psyche to suit my own needs. If my version of a King Cobra wears a waistcoat and a monocle well, I'm sorry Mr Attenborough, that's the way it is. Since psyche and matter are part of the same universe, I think it's time we started recognizing the importance and relatedness of both as aspects of some larger whole we have yet to comprehend. In the meantime, I'm not sure if I should get Josephine this or this.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The curse of the wise old man...

There are few archetypes stronger than that of the wise old man.
Age and wisdom go together like apes and Darwin.

But is it really fair of us to expect our elders to sport perfect white manes and be spouting sage words at all hours of the day? Fair or not, many old people will play right into this expectation, feeling the pressure to have all their years add up to something that still has value and meaning in society. You may recall that I was impressed with Robert Altman's Oscar speech. But my friend Jonathan (who was not terribly impressed) was quick to point out, "You have to remember he's had 80 years to come up with something vaguely interesting to say."

My wise old dad sent me an article on this topic from one of the old folks magazines that come in the mail (where does this great article-clipping habit come from? Is it in the parenthood DNA?). It goes:

"Believing you have to be wise all the time is a terrible burden. Wisdom comes from peculiarity, and not from conformity or role-playing. The old will inspire others because of their unique experience, not because they say wise things.... We're taught in this culture to link aging with dying, and to interpret the last part of life in a morbid way. But we forget that aging may be doing something for us rather than to us. These changes help build character, which comes from the Greek word for 'etched.'... The restrictions of old age may actually be opportunities for more reflection, more understanding, more compassion, and more contrition, which used to be a very important thing. All of these changes should allow us to have a society of elders who have character, not a society of elders who are joggers."

Do you recall what Anna Magnani, the great Italian actress, said to her makeup man? "Don't take out a single line on my face. I paid for each one!"

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The curse of travel writing...

My one time love/hate relationship with the New York Times Travel section sadly keeps drifting further and further into the hate side. I mean sure it's great that they should go to the trouble to do a lush three page expose on a city like Sao Paulo. We need to know what other places are like. I can even (force myself to) forgive Mr. Dan Shaw's assumption that we are only interested in his foufy and metrosexual destination choices: designer hotels, ritzy shopping centers, beautiful people bars, etc. But then you get this...

"Sao Paulo does not go out of its way to cater to foreign tourists, and this can be a blessing. At restaurants, you will not find yourself surrounded by Germans, Australians and other Americans. At the flea markets, you will not see couples wearing fanny packs and taking photographs. At museums and churches, you will not find crowds. You get to experience life undiluted and witness a South American city in transition."

OK, where to begin... I'm not sure if it's the smug tone of this passage, the blase nation bashing, or the simple fact that Mr. Shaw's article (by virtue of the Times millions of readers, many in search of new hidden and hip destinations) will probably destroy the very "tourist free" setting that apparently, only he will get to enjoy. The article is ripe with these enigmatic declarations from a flabby-minded and soulless traveler.

Oh and by the way, I know a pristine beach where no one ever goes, where gold coins wash gently between your toes in the warm frothy surf, and the longer you rest peacefully in the golden sun, the more fat melts from your body. There is a natural riverbed lined with caviar and a passing pipeline from the Moet & Chandon bottling facility that springs pink champagne leaks every half hour. The dunes are home to the most peculiar and spectacularly beautiful flora and fauna, having developed in near isolation for hundreds of centuries. I'm going to tell all the world about this special place on Fox News and Oprah so that everyone can come see how great it is!

I guess elitism and the non-democratization of all information has a function in the grand scheme of things. Strangely, "Elitism for the Masses" seems to be the underlying agenda for most of the First World.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beware the Ides...

gimme a Winchester rifle and a whole box of shells
blow the roof off the goat barn
let it roll down the hill
the piano is firewood
times square is a dream
I find we'll lay down together in the cold cold ground
cold cold ground
cold cold ground

take a weathervane rooster
throw rocks at his head
stop talking to the neighbors
til we all go dead
beware of my temper
and the dog that I've found
break all the windows in the
cold cold ground
cold cold ground

-Tom Waits

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Nat Tate...

"Artist Nathwell Tate was born in 1928 in Union Beach, New Jersey. On January 8, 1960 he contrived to round up and burn almost his entire output of Abstract Expressionistic artworks. Four days later he killed himself. This book offers an account of Tate's life and work which can be seen either as straight art biography or as fiction. It is an investigation of the blurry line between the invented and the authentic, the wholly false and the utterly real." From the jacket notes of NAT TATE by William Boyd.

Do you remember this great book from 1998? One of the finest hoaxes that ever pulled the wool over the eyes of the art world... Author and screenwriter William Boyd (with the help of one David Robert Jones) had many readers up in arms once the Mr. Tate's fictionality was made public. A gargantuan harrumphing sound could be heard echoing in the streets of London and New York after a number of prominent art world figures actually claimed to remember the (non-existent) artist. Brilliant...

When is a hoax not just a "gotcha" gimmick? When it calls out a greater system of bullshit. In fact, the book itself is so well written and poses so many invaluable questions about art, identity, and the so-called truth, that it leaves its pop "street hoax" aspect way in the dust after about page 3.

"Nat Tate" is a good example of Werner Herzog's "ecstatic truth," albeit one that leans especially heavily on the false side of the tracks. In his own quest for truth (in and beyond the phenomenal world), Herzog makes documentaries where entire scenes are blatantly created and manipulated by his own hand. He defends the notion that a fabricated image can be just as truthful as a "real" one. He does not waste time drawing distinctions between fiction and non-fiction. At the end of the day facts may be true or they may be manufactured. But truth, he seems to say, is something we instinctively recognize, as much in a painting or a song as in real life. Often more so, I would add.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Sopranos...

I still don't remember why I like this show. It's been a while since I'd thought about it, so I was intrigued by the season premiere last night. I'm one of those people you might have once caught whining about the glorification (and condoning) of brute violence, but now I get it. Humans have a vestigial appetite for violence, like a ghost limb. This instinct has mostly lost its fangs over the course of civilization (and evolved into aggression and competitiveness) but still, we are fundamentally programmed to stand in awe of destruction as a form of magic: concentrated hypnotic action that quickly makes way for new circumstances, and keeps the cycle of life a churning. As my friend Melvin says, "Even if you can't have sex, you're still going to want to watch somebody who can."

But back to the show. Honestly? Can you say formula? Male soap opera? Painting by numbers with a few shock-value alley-oops thrown in at the end to make you forget the lack of engagement you felt in the first 45 minutes? It's a little insuling. Of course, I reserve the right to retract all of these true reactions. Episodic television, like many things (albums, foods, people), needs to grow on you. Sometimes at first all you can notice is the flaws, the obviousness, the tricks. After a few bites your critical faculty calms down and you allow yourself to enjoy the larger pleasures just beneath that flaky crust. Try it, you like it (eventually).

My friend Jonathan says that the show is a glorification of bourgeois values in America. In other words, the show is engineered to make middle-class working guys with families and mortgages and enormous guts feel like they are just like Tony Soprano, and by proxy are part of something vital, rebellious, and cool. I think he's on to something. James Gandolfini is the poster child of the American fuck you, aka "My Way" spirit. When you go to a store and you ask the salesperson how many megapixels a camera has and he turns to you in his chartreuse vest and says, "How the fuck should I know?" and walks away... That... THAT! is the land of the free and the home of the brave we're fighting for.

So now I remember why I like the Sopranos. I like to kick off the week with a bludgeoning reminder of the mutant sense of entitlement that our liberty hath wrought. So anyway, how big are your balls?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

McCabe & Mrs. Miller...

This dvd sat around a few days somehow projecting the feeling of a day's work in the mud. The thought of Warren Beatty's ego needs and squinty expressions alone is exhausting... toss in Vilmos Zsigmond's brown and gray cinematography and well, the enthusiasm was hovering around the 15% mark. But, we finally managed to get the disc in the player, and after some initial misgivings and murk, were lulled into its gentle, dreamy rhythms. There's a little too much Leonard Cohen in the opening act, as if Robert Altman was riding the volume knob, cranking it up every time the story starts drifting into the ethers. This passes as do the other resistances. It's a good film. It works. Though probably not for everyone.

This film works because it creates a universe we understand both physically and psychologically. Yes, we notice the obsessive commitment to evoking the era (1900's) authentically, but more importantly, as a viewer, there is an intuitive sense of knowing and belonging to this place, the town of Presbyterian Church. Like the town itself, the film evolves and grows without much rhyme or reason, and in this way becomes truly engaging. It's a good trick to get the audience to try and draw its own mental map of the setting. It sparks the visualization core of the brain, priming it to do some heavy lifting and cobbling together of the somewhat raw materials on hand.

Some people tell you that in order to be a good filmmaker you have to be a great storyteller. But in fact this good film is not such a great story, by which I mean if someone told it to you while sitting round a fire you'd go, Huh... not - Wow! On the contrary, in order to be a good filmmaker you have to forget the rules of (oral) storytelling and just start playing with the mystical elements of film - stretching bits out, leaving others on the cutting room floor, letting accidents play like intentions, and generally allowing the medium do its own magic. Few are better at this game than Altman. It is the welcomed opposite of tight, refined, streamlined storytelling of The Sopranos, which we will lazily (and happily) be watching in a few hours.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

One-eyed wonder...

Great art viewing is characterized by the moment when a piece of art comes off a wall or the pages of a publication and grabs its viewer. "Hello, I am here!" it announces with clarity and intrigue. From there, the work can either enter one's own frame of experience (in a way that is almost always described as "visceral") or it fails to connect but gets points for trying.

There has been much written about the moment of aesthetic arrest and this experience of breathtaking connection that occurs between an art work and an art observer. Basically, if something "holds" you, prevents you from moving on, this is when you should start to really pay attention. Joseph Campbell says, "At this moment the art object becomes pure object. You are pure subject. You are the Eye of the universe beholding the Thing of the universe. The mystery of that thing is the same as the mystery of the universe. You have gone past all accidental experiences and arrangements."

So much art, of course, fails to go the extra distance, to communicate anything (let alone the mysteries of the universe) with the actual living beings who chance upon it. This kind of art is so much about itself, so concerned with its message and its own making that it fails to greet (or shock or offend or whatever) its viewers. Without reaching out in some way there can be no entry into the realm of creative discovery. There can only be the observer and the masturbator. This gets a lot of mileage in our culture, and I would argue that it deserves a place, for even if there isn't much we can learn from watching the masturbator, we can be reminded of our own isolation, delusions of grandeur, and ineffective fantasies.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Sense and Desensitization...

Yearning is one of the most understated and therefore alluring aspects of the non-cinema, aka life. That said, for such a private experience it sure takes the cake for being dramatically expressible. Where would classical painting and silent film be without heaving torsos with outstretched arms and straining heads with teary eyes turned upwards. It's not so much yearning on display here in this depiction of Adam and Eve being expelled from paradise by Charles Joseph Natoire, but maybe it signifies the birth of yearning - the big bang of self awareness and the sting of consequences. The yearning of loss about to be set in motion.

Is it better to yearn for something had and lost or for something desired but unknown? I'd say the latter. More in synch with human progress (if somewhat less Oscar-worthy in its dramatization). What's gone is gone, but what we can imagine can always herald a new plan of action, a reeling in of the future. Of course, yearning for anything is better than no yearning at all. Fortunately, to some degree, we all know the opiate agony of navigating through this life while being (psychically or spiritually or romantically or emotionally) tethered to other worlds once had, or once dreamed. It is a necessary condition of our fixedness in one body in one time and one place. (I guess Kieslowski was dealing with some of this in "The Double Life of Veronique") Problems arise when the grand transformative power of yearning gets sidelined into the small potatoes neurotic neediness of consumer culture. How many flavors of licorice do you need? Beware the tiger pit of designer culture.

One day man discovered paradise on earth. He excitedly brought some people to see what he had found and proudly said to them, “Look!" And they looked, and they saw nothing. "What are we looking at?" they said, evidently bored and annoyed. For they could see no roads, no cars with GPS and cool rims, no Starbucks, no urban soundtrack, no cell phones, no Fred Segal shirts with ironic embroidery, no familiar faces to gossip about, nothing but trees and mountains and spring fed rivers and mossy grottos and tree-lined dirt paths and unusual animals walking through gently swaying fields of wheat.

The curse of all enlightenment: the more sensitized you become to the world, the more desensitized people you end up surrounded by. Hey, it's lonely at the top.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wheel of time...

Sarah and I watching "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" and kind of getting how nauseatingly evil these people all were in the first fifteen minutes and so drifting off into our own discussion about the meaning of decades and the apparent repeat cycle of modern times...

So, let's review... You've got the 40's (WWII, Baby Boom, do without mentality, big band), the 50's (puritanism, post war repression, McCarthyism, triumph of normalcy, the arrival of "cool," Elvis), the 60's (radical social change, drugs, expanding consciousness, excitement, the youth "party" begins, Beatles), the 70's (the party is in full swing, bad behavior, zero accountability, quantity over quality to the extreme, fake hippies, disco, punk, Led Zeppelin), the 80's (the hangover, cocaine, ego, greed, AIDS, designer, evil people have clawed their way to the top of most industries and governments, 60's-kitsch revival, Wham!), the 90's (the redemption, horrified self-awareness, let's get "real", sensitive men, tough women, social issues, Alternative and Independent, 70's-kitsch revival, punk revival, Nirvana), and now the 00's (?)...

Sarah was saying that the "oughts" are like the 50's in that the pendulum has swung back to a sort of bland conservatism and that people are too busy with their own Internet worlds to notice let alone rally against anything going on in the world. I like her model because it makes a nice tidy 50 year cycle that repeats over and over. But I was tempted to say the "oughts" are more like the 40's with a war raging over there, xenophobia masking as patriotism, and a sort baby boom taking place online where people are tending to their multiple online identities like children they want to grow up strait, cool, and strong. Actually, maybe the cycle isn't so tidy and as these decades begin to repeat they start overlapping and cross-pollenating in unexpected ways. In pop culture there is now a strongly enforced "20 years ago" kitsch revival program in place, which makes sense from a generational and marketing perspective, but could ultimately snarl the forward momentum of the space time continuum forever.

Which could be where we are now: Stuck in the mud flats with nothing but old refernce points to define our present. Where is the new voice that can reinstate progress and get us unstuck? Are we all so mired in the mud that no one can get their head up high enough to motivate us towards some new future? Have we fractalized society into millions and millions of "me" units dedicated to servicing their smallest needs with the infinite (and sad) personal choices the marketplace plies us with? (LA Moment: "Sir, would you like to see our mustard cart before you eat that sandwich?")

All I can say is, I'll take the whole-grain honey Dijon at room temperature, please.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Docent Behavior...

"Talking about art is like dancing about architecture."
- David Bowie

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Just about to complete the third month of Gazpachot and I'd like to tell the stock holders that we've had a sucessful first quarter. This is amazing. I love doing this little blog as I wake up in the morning and fish around the pond of my brainpan for little speckle-bellied ephemera. I have no idea who looks at it or what they think other than a few friends who mention it in passing and random emails, but for me the process has been quite fruitful and entertaining. Let the experiment continue... Viva Gazpachot!

That said, Blogger is becoming increasingly unreliable as a host. The layout and fonts keep changing on me, my user profile doesn't work, and it's increasingly difficult to sign on so I can do daily entries. So what to do? I guess switch over to my own site? I'm such a Luddite, the thought terrifies me. Any thoughts much appreciated...

your host,

Pablo Gazpachot

Monday, March 06, 2006

He do the police in funny voices...

I'm very tired today after the Oscar party I had last night here at the house (strange to have the party, then go to the actual venue a few blocks away, spinning in bed with the pounding cranial tequila hammers, waiting for S. to finish her Oscarly duties around 4AM).

I want to add that I think Robert Altman was spectacular. His voice was able to transmit so much right through the wonky and weird atmosphere of the Kodak theater and then shimmy through the airwaves, past a billion viewers' bullshit detectors and land a bullseye in our respect and friendship zones. Amazing. So simple, so complex. I thought my head was going to melt.

Jon Stewart was not able to navigate these strange waters so well, because the nature and success of his expressions (transmissions) are so dependent upon the exact configurations of his Daily Show set up. He couldn't rewrite his act to fit the strangeness of the event. And who can blame him for that... I thought he was a warm, funny, likable host. While I'm running through the show here, I should note that watching Lauren Bacall loose her train of thought and fall into a wordless catonic abyss in front of a billion people was close to what I imagine rounding a corner on the way to mail a letter and coming face to face with Death itself must be like. I think it is safe to say that she's closer to the void than she is to Hollywood. Then again, aren't we all?

If I stop to think about the human voice, I can get stuck there for a while. And that's even before you add singing to the mix. What gets me is the fact that voices are always naked, even when they are unnatural or affected or when telling lies. The words we utter are miraculously immediate and revealing likenesses (or filtered alterations) of the shifting winds of our non-verbal, involuntary consciousness. How strangely removed we seem from that place. How unaware we are of the process that takes a non-verbal urge and translates it into a verbal communication. The projected voice is the reality interface of a much larger expression machine, much of which lies submerged deep within our brain chemistry, and if you will, our soul.

On to the crackpot. I believe the reason I can play music fairly well or do dead-on vocal impressions of certain living beings is because I am able to absorb bits of visual and sonic DNA through my eyes and ears. It is very much a form of digestion. Once certain voices or melodies are consumed by the ears, the acids in my eardrums may choose to break down these sounds into their basic components, discarding the empty calories and extracting the core DNA audio or visual bits which are then reviewed by my brain, scanned, archived and then are made ready to be regurgitated. Playing music or doing funny voices is all about letting a specific piece of this DNA drop onto the turntable in your gut and allowing it to work its evocative magic on your system. When Maya Angelou's rolling round baritone comes out of me, it sounds like her not because I am imitating her, but because I am in possession of tiny bits of her unique character and can (if the mood is right) projectile vomit them back in to reality for your aural pleasure. On the visual front, it helps tremendously to look at someone's face, and to take note of their body language too, because there is of course also a whole separate world of DNA that the right set of eyes can digest too.

A free brand new Oprah Winfrey baseball hat to anyone who can tell me where the title of today's entry comes from...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Great lines...

Saw some ancient animated movies at UCLA last night. Trying to keep myself busy while Sarah does the Oscars thing. The Krazy Kat films were spectacular. So much story from so few lines and so little, well, story. It's the same gag over and over and over and it never gets old. Interesting how Krazy Kat, a gender-ambiguous, cross-species mouse lover gradually became what we know as Felix the Cat, a tough, sadistic little feline brute with magical abilities. But it should be no surprise that the best of the best were the Winsor McCay shorts. In my humble opinion, I would have to say he has the greatest lines of any illustrator living or dead. In many of the films we get to see him draw freehand, with a quill no less. No pre-drawn pencil lines, just pen to paper and boom, the most incredible drawings you've ever seen effortlessly rendered in seconds. For one film McCay drew 4000 cells in one months time (ostensibly to win a gentleman's drinking bet if you believe the set up). Then he went back and hand painted each frame of film (18 frames per second back then). Spectacular. Wish he was alive today. Wonder what he would make of this Nemo?

Oh, and speaking of (supposed) great lines, I thought The Aristocrats was astoundingly stupid. A potentially fascinating and hilarious subject matter (the funniest and dirtiest joke ever as interpreted by a string of evidently disfunctional comedians) that could have put stand up comics in a whole new light, instead gets hammered into a sad rapid fire chorus of increasingly numbing permutations of piss,shit and sex talk. It's like watching someone dig themselves into a hole they will never be able to get out of. Actually that's a lot more funny than anything in this film.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sense less...

Remember the "Would you rather" game? It's a perennial conversational favorite of kids and drunk frat boys all around the globe. One that always disturbed me is, "Would you rather be blind or deaf?" Still impossible for me to decide. But fascinating to consider the way you might evolve if you took one or the other sense away. What people would you like if you were blind? Where might you live if you were deaf, and immune to noise pollution? What would replace art and music without their respective tools of perception? I guess if it came down to choosing which one to lose I'd let my torturer decide. But if we were to broaden the arena to all five senses, I have a hunch that most people would get rid of smell first, then taste, (save for a few parfumiers and wine tasters). But touch, hearing, and vision are in a slightly higher bracket, aren't they?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The "STEP-2020" Solution...

Bush, like many, is betting that India will have the world's fastest growing economy by 2020. That coupled with their strategic South Asia location (i.e. between China and the Middle East) means it's time to make nice in the Subcontinent and offer them a shiny new set of Presidential thumb-screws. His arrival is being met with quite a lot of resistance, of course, and leave it to the ever-psychedelic Indians to protest like it's Mardi Gras. Funny article about what Bush should expect in India here. And read about Bush's other India here.

I do applaud Bush on urging India and Pakistan to end their bloody fifty-year dispute over the Kashmir region. But I'm afraid his words are going to fall on deaf ears. What could Bush possibly say about the boggling complexities that plague this former paradise that won't sound absolutely trite and clueless? Nice photo montage on Kashmir here.

As for the impending nuclear deal with India: The more I learn, the more I am totally opposed to the rekindling of any nuclear energy anywhere on earth, be it civilian or military. From my perspective, all of this new nuclear talk seems to be a desperate play to avoid progress, to revive cold war conditions, and a perfect way to fully reinstate the politics of fear and toxicity.

If the Democrats want to win this next election, they're going to need to pull a major rabbit out of their hat, and soon. I feel that rabbit must be energy. Since Americans respond to the flashing of cash, and since Bill Gates is applying his billions towards egalitarian global health and education issues, I would encourage Paul Allen, or Ted Turner, or George Soros, or all of them, to step up to the mic and champion the cause of "new energy" with all of their booty. Hell let one of them run as a Vice President candidate even. The time has come for Americans to get energized. To make a commitment towards fresh and clean new models for meeting our energy needs. To that end, I would like to propose a Democratic platform for the 2008 elections: "Sustainable Total Energy Paradigm by the year 2020" aka: STEP-2020.

"STEP-2020" nice ring, eh? Instead of reviving fear and using market driven strategery, let's revive hope. Let's enlist a whole new generation of scientists and environmentalists to rethink our energy plans and rehabilitate our toxic energy addictions with clean new energy sources. And while we're at it, let's put our entire planet on the endangered species list and work towards bringing it back to lasting health. More on this idea as it develops. Please feel free to chime in. I mean if you care about your country that is. The rest of you non-patriots can stay silent.