Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Him shoot, him loot, him fall...

Remember this one? A must if you're fed up with getting the short end of the stick. One of the rare soundtracks that genuinely moves the film along without feeling sutured on to the story. The songs set the mood and Jimmy Cliff and the other excellent actors break it down further into real life. It's a movie about being fed up with powerlessness and taking on God and gods. Ivan (Jimmy Cliff) doesn't dream of a great God in the sky, he dreams about what he can have right now if he tries hard enough to remove the obstacles that stand in his way...

Well they tell me of a pie up in the sky
Waiting for me when I die
But between the day you're born and when you die
They never seem to hear even your cry

So as sure as the sun will shine
I'm gonna get my share now of what's mine
And then the harder they come the harder they'll fall, one and all
Ooh the harder they come the harder they'll fall, one and all

Many parallels to Black Orpheus although Kingston in 1972 seems like a less mysterious place than Rio in 1959. Both films are made by white men drawn by the music and the romance of black tropical cultures. One hero descends into hell to retrieve his love, another to retrieve his identity. Love and self-love, they both end badly (by most yardsticks). Still, these films are very much centered on the dramatic notion that it is better for a comet to burn brightly for an instant than for a distant star to go unrecognized for eternity. The yearning, the crossing of rivers, and the inevitable fall. The pressure of dropping through the atmosphere and burning up under our own weight. Is it as valiant in real life as it is in the movies?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Black Orpheus...

This one's worth watching when you are feeling psychically drained or have been working under fluorescent lights for too long. True, the story is a little stilted, and there are enough extended dancing sequences to exhaust the Bolshoi Ballet, but the raw Brazilian fire at its core and the spectacular color and lighting, and a handful of winsome actors are enough to resuscitate any beleaguered soul. Any attempt to resist its full-blast ecstatic chaos will only set you back. Rhythm, release, trance, and possession are the name of the game here.

How they did it...Take the myth of Orpheus: A great musician, Orpheus, falls for a hot country girl, Eurydice, who is plagued by Death. She dies and he goes to the underworld to get her back. He almost does, but loses her for good when he looks back over his shoulder after being commanded not to. Heartbroken, he returns to the regular world where he is literally torn to pieces by village women who are jealous of his epic love. OK, now set it in the raging flesh-fest of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival (circa 1959). Toss in some 17th Century dayglo French ballgowns and a gold gladiator suit. Then splice in a soundtrack that will introduce the world to the brand new Bossa Nova sound by its inventor Antonio Carlos Jobim. Shoot everything with a combination of sun and flood lights. Use real people as well as real chickens and dogs and birds and anything else that moves to each frame. Shake vigorously for 108 minutes. The cool underworld sequences take place in hospitals, voodoo churches and, of course, the Rio morgue - all the places you might think see some extra business during the Carnival. Indeed they do.

Samba, n. Portuguese, derived from the West African bantu word "semba", meaning "invoke the spirit of the ancestors".

Monday, May 29, 2006

You don't say...

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been scandalized because he had been filmed swimming before the prow of a speeding ocean liner. But John, my brother, and I are doubtful of the actual dangers of this activity. We will test this out for ourselves. We wade out to the deep part of the bay and kick our way furiously into the sea until we reach an ocean liner. There are strange oar-like paddles extending out in front of the vessel, and they do look dangerous, but as long as we stay clear of those paddles, we are safe. We agree that the Schwarzenegger media hype is exactly that. We stop swimming, allow the ship to go on its way. We realize just how far we are from shore. We grab on to a passing sheet of foam core, but it won't hold us afloat. I realize I'm exhausted and several feet under the surface of the water. John pulls me up and says we can make it, and that perks me right up. We swim with ferocity and my vision is locked to a tree on the shore. Soon, my feet scrape the rocky bottom. We are walking along the beach and I realize I am late to an interview. I have been summoned by an eccentric architect to render drawings for his latest project. I can not render, but he tells me in a phone voice in my ear that he liked me in the interview, don't worry just come over at once. You'll have to teach me everything I say. Yes, yes, but just come. The office looks antique and lived in. A few metal desks are scattered around with people around them. The room has tall ceilings and banged up but ornate wooden columns and framework covered in glossy black paint. There is much activity. The mood is happy, busy, and supportive (of the distractable architect). The apparent chaos is both terrifying and alluring. A friendly black woman starts dictating some basic rendering instructions to me, but the architect is there talking to me and I'm not sure where to look. He is called into a meeting in the next room. My clothes are wet, from swimming? Sweating? The lady tells me I must not interrupt the meeting but fuck it why listen to anyone in this madhouse. I stand in the doorway of waiting for a lull in the meeting. The architect waives me in and starts telling me to take notes. I begin writing on the blueprints on the table. No email he says. You will have to pay an $85 fine every time you write an email from this office. He starts writing notes next to mine. His notes are in red and move like animation. There are bees flying in the room through an open window and I can also perceive, in certain moments, a sphere of floating words encircling my head. I can do this I say to myself. I leave him and walk out of the room into another busy room. I find a desk, clear off the papers and I realize that no one will ever care about my renderings or check up on me in this dreamy environment. An old feeling tells me to get the hell out, a new one tells me to stay. In a quick flash I sense that the chaos will eventually smooth into recognizable patterns and that this environment will be more interesting than the peace I think I crave. I decide to do what I want to do, knowing that I whatever I do here in this weird and wonderful place is really the thing I should have been doing all along. But couldn't.

I remember...


("Flag: Moratorium" by Jasper Johns)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Neo-Greens and the Hippie sacrifice...

Pity the hippies, so utterly and completely unhip since 1966. They're still around, neo-hippies, in tight-knit little social circles and crocheted pockets west of the Pecos and north of Boston. Nobody wants them, especially not the Greenies. Everyone has distanced themselves from the smelly, silly hippies with their ideals and hairy armpits too unruly to tame. Even the hippies don't like the hippies. What a mess. They made the mistake of being too loose, too liberal, too spiritual, too rustic, too druggy, too empathetic, too irresponsible, too rebellious, too happy, too susceptible to vice, too dirty. Too too.

In fact, it's almost impossible to define what a hippie is, beyond the purely superficial. No real manifestoes, no real declared leaders, no real political voice. Though there were certainly a multitude of hazy efforts at all of the above. Too vague! I mean look, if you start comparing London hippies in 1966 with San Francisco hippies in 1969 with Los Angeles hippies in 1974, you're going to get a headache. (Bad branding! We can't sell to this!) You know who loved punk rock? The Man. The Neo-cons. Big Business. Anyone who had a vested interest in getting those sloppy anti-capitalists out of the mainstream.

I have a friend who is working on a big "catch-the-trend-while-it's-hot-hot-hot" green project. The first thing he says when describing it is what it's not: "It's not a hippie sort of green, it's the "new" green." I take that to mean the kind of green where you're carpets stay white because no freeloving, barefoot tree-huggers are invited to your spanking green Bar-B-Que.

Somewhere along the line the concept of "green" and hippies became synonymous. In the new green, marketing and branding trumps the old green's mescaline and bran buds. The new green has a business plan and a profit margin. The hippies had the limp old green - hemp overalls and small potatoes. They're lame. To the hippies, green was a way of re-envisioning life on earth. To us, is it just another way of repackaging our bad habits?

Of course, there is no neo-green movement without the so-called hippies. Many bright pioneering souls in the 60's and 70's saw (or sensed) the world was in trouble and they sought solutions that seemed logically, morally, and in many ways emotionally sound. They had very few facts. Just a gut instinct. And yes, they had long hair and listened to rock and roll and took drugs and talked about big ideas. They were pissed off at the government. These people were lumped in with the mindless drop outs, sexaholics, causeless rebels and bellbottom gods.

The most egregious sin: Hippies take bad photos. Frizzy, unkempt hair freaks out a lot of people. Hippies lose sight of themselves. It might have felt good to be standing on a street corner, naked and talking to God, but hey, everyone else thought you were crazy. And you probably were. Hippies may have paved the way for a cleaner healthier future, but they were dirty and broke and had to be sacrificed. Like the Native Americans. They just didn't fit the program.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Another Green World...

So we saw Al Gore's movie last night like good little Move On-ners. It's great. Go see it. He should probably be our next president. I'm very hard on Gore, but only because he is so frustratingly close to being "the one." But I'll say this: he adapts. People criticize him for being ingenuous or a changeling, but that's inaccurate. In the course of this movie you see that this is a man in possession of a great tempered intelligence and humility who is able to learn from his flaws and grow out of them as best as he can. A friend of mind claimed that Al lacks charisma, but I think that's wrong too. He lacks sex appeal and the robust media-cut ego we've come to expect, but not charisma. His wisdom, his gentle professorial method of communication, his religious yearning for a good earth, it glows (at least in this context. No saying how four years in the Oval Office might grind a man down).

He is a talker. For a movie that 's all about CO2 pollution, I'd like to know exactly how much carbondioxide Al himself spits into the atmosphere in the course of one of his "slideshows." There are moments where the graphs and the factoids make you feel as if there will be a test down the line, but actually I like that. He's sampling college the way a musician might sample some disco track from he 70s. It works.

Sarah was bothered by the lack of psychological rigor in Gore's presentation, or the lack of discussion about the real causes of our environment's troubles. In particular she sees the recent and upcoming human population explosion (12 Billion by 2050) as the real culprit. The CO2 is a by-product of the increasing demands our increasing numbers place on the planet. Even if you get rid of all the CO2 emissions and avert ecological disaster, how the hell are we going to sustain all of these people? Problem is, you can't talk about birth control without setting off all sorts of global, political alarms. Population scares me. So does the sense of entitlement to and destruction of resources that "freedom" (as it's coming to be defined) brings in tow.

But thinking about it, I feel that Al and the Environmentalists have the right strategy. Instead of pointing a finger at humanity, and going, "Tsk, tsk, bad humanity," Al et al are appealing to a fundamental aspect of human behavior that has a proven track record of getting us off our asses: GET THE BAD GUY! In other words, make CO2 the bad guy, hang the wanted posters, empower us as deputies of Mother Earth, and watch us go get 'em. Activated, we will come to discover many things ourselves. We will do the math, we will figure out other problems, other leaders will emerge. Gore knows that all of these problems are inter-related. Like a spider web, if you will. Touch one part of the web and the whole thing reverberates. No need to hit a bull's eye. Just a gentle nudge will set those silk strands a fluttering.

(photo by Michael Kenna)

Friday, May 26, 2006

RIP Desmond Dekker...

Sorry to hear of the passing of this great singer/songwriter today. He died of a heart attack in his home outside London at the age of 64.

It's true that Gazpachot is not much of a Reggae lover. On the other hand, Rock Steady (Jamaica's infinitely more musical pre-cursor to the ganja-fed mindless echoes and sloppy production of Dub and Reggae proper) is a musical genre to go down fighting for. Some truly great songs came out of this short-lived sound era including John Holt's "Ali Babba" and of course, Desmond Dekker's "Israelites." There is an unflinching optimism and playfulness to these well-crafted songs that stand the test of time. And the lyrics are insane to the point of being unintelligible. That said, the idea of a Jamaican singing about Israel should not come as a shock. Many Jamaican Rastafarians are of Ethiopian descent and consider themselves children of Israel. You want history? We got history...

In the 10th Century BC, The Solomonic Dynasty of Ethiopia was founded by Menelik I, the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, who had visited Solomon in Israel. 1 Kings 10:13 claims "And King Solomon gave unto the Queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants." On the basis of the Ethiopian national epic, the Kebra Negast, Rastas interpret this as meaning she conceived his child, and from this, they concluded that the black people are the true children of Israel, or Jews. Beta Israel black Jews have lived in Ethiopia for centuries, disconnected from the rest of Judaism; their existence gave some credence and impetus to early Rastafarians, validating their belief that Ethiopia was Zion.

Strangely many Rastas also consider themselves Protestants or Orthodox Christians. Not sure how that works. But it's certainly a religion with deep musical ties. In terms of Reggae, I fault Bob Marley with taking the whole thing in a far too serious and musically dull direction. He was a great icon, but a boring musician.

OK, one last thing. Rastafarians believe that select members of their tribe have a chance at "everliving" (as opposed to an everlasting afterlife), here on Earth. For this reason, they do not use medicine or science to help them when they are sick, as it suggests the possibility of mortality and giving in to death. Good luck Desmond where ever you are...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

To the moon...

Forty-five years ago today, President Kennedy put his money where his mouth used to be by going to Congress and asking them to support an accelerated space program that would include sending a man to the moon (hear here). There were plenty of serious political reasons for this, namely a raging and none too subtle global power struggle between the two dominant sociopolitical philosophies of the day: Capitalism and Communism. But politics aside, I'm willing to bet a keg of Irish whiskey that there was also a competitive streak in Kennedy that couldn't bear the idea of letting the Ruskies get the upper hand in something as epic and metaphorically loaded as "the conquering of space."

Also, if we take the moon as a female symbol, then we might see JFK's all consuming urge to get to the moon as a sign of his reaching out to Rose, who in the spirit of the day had been a cold and distant mother. (Now apply this idea to Al and Mother Earth. Moms and politics... never underestimate the connection)

Congress ultimately supported JFK, but correctly turned down the president's suggestion that he go to the moon with Marilyn Monroe, knowing full well that Rose didn't like blondes. Those were the days when you could count on Congress to be the voice of sanity...

Enjoy this Kennedy's ode to MILF's right here.
(Click on "Your Mama the Video")

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Help the poor...

KickStart is a worthwhile non-profit organization with practical benefits. They develop and market new technologies in Africa and other poor countries around the world. These low-cost technologies are bought by local entrepreneurs and used to establish highly profitable new small businesses. They create new jobs and wealth, enabling the poor to climb out of their poverty forever. Here are a few examples of cheap tools that are helping the poor get richer (and the rich get redemption)...

The Action Pack Block Press

Four workers using this heavy duty manual press can produce 500 rock hard building blocks a day, compacting a soil/cement mixture under high mechanical pressure. The press is adjustable for use with almost any soil type and just 1 bag of cement makes over 100 bricks. Blocks can be sold profitably to build walls at half the cost of the concrete block or stone walls.

The Super MoneyMaker Pump

The Super MoneyMaker Pressure Pump was launched in October 1998, in response to a demand by farmers for a pump that can push water uphill as well as simply pulling it up from the source. This means it is suitable for use on steeply sloping land where the water source may be at the bottom.

The KickStart Oilseed Press

In 1992 the Kenyan government removed price controls on essential commodities and the price of cooking oil almost tripled in a few weeks. KickStart realized that the small-scale production and sale of cooking oil could be a very profitable small business opportunity if only the right technology was available to local entrepreneurs. The press extracts oil from sunflower, sesame, and other oil seeds. The filter produces clear, cold-pressed, nutritious cooking oil ready for sale or consumption. The seedcake by-product is valued as a high protein animal feed supplement.

The trendiness of Africa, of saving the world, of assuaging guilty feelings with cash, none of that matters. If a house is burning you do not debate the architectural merit of the property. You call the fire department, you turn on a hose, you get the kids away, you do what you can. If there must be something in it for you, then consider that the feeling of urgency, of taking action that matters and has a tangible effect, is the greatest high there is for us numb first worlders. It occurs to me that the opposite of urgency is not peace, it is over-stability. Apathy. Get agitated baby. It matches your inner-restlessness.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jessie Mann then and now...

The current issue of Aperture has a good piece written by Jessie Mann, daughter of Sally. I'll spare you the horrible scan I made of Jessie's recent collaboration with photographer Len Prince. To be honest, I don't love the work, a few beautiful images are offset by others that are a little too Cindy Sherman-esque for my tastes. But I think what she says about her mother's work (depicting her and her siblings naked summers in the country) is really a nice coda to the whole Sally Mann experience. Jessie quickly dismisses any lingering controversy surrounding the notion of child exploitation as "puritanical idiocy." She goes on to say, "...despite the way those photographs complicated and expanded our lives, I believe that the entire process was for our own good, because it was done with faith in art."

You know, it never occurred to me that those amazing little kids would grow up and have their own lives and thoughts about the taking of those photos. As Jessie correctly states, "Those images, our childhood stories, our very characters, were consumed by an outside meaning, which was in a way bigger than we were. As we grew up we didn't just grow into ourselves, we grew into the larger conception of our characters that others projected for us."

To me, an article written by Jessie Mann is as unthinkable as an article written by Polythene Pam. In other words, my experience of her was purely, selfishly, aesthetic and fictionalized to the point of denying her any existence whatsoever. To have her "come to life" twenty years later and comment on the experience and assert her own identity is a welcomed mind-blower, one that adds a completely new dimension to those images and my experience of them.

For all those times I thought that photography had less reality-warping effects than other artistic media, I must remember this example. And for all those nameless people in great photographs whose soul was stolen by the camera and scattered around like advertising, I'm sorry. I'll do my part and try to remember that art should not eclipse or disparage an actual life unless it specifically means to do so.

As for Polythene Pam, 99 cents and she's yours.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The dizzying stillness...

A stormy Monday. Time to put on the holey sweater, crank up the Popol Vuh, and download some thoughts before getting on with the day. As a gesture of uncensorship, I'll start here. Once the sting of humiliation sets in, I'll move on to the privacy of a Word doc. Opt out now amigos, or forever hold your pieces...

I've been exiled to a colossal confusion lately that's not entirely unpleasant. Peculiar freedoms arise when the usual ones disappear. This is a confusion of anxiety, not depression. Even quiet moments, it feels like a pack of wild dogs is chasing me out of the garden of youth. Which way to go? What choices to make? Which stick to pull from the Jenga pile? It's exhausting and exhilarating as only things can be when everything is a potential option. There can also be a paralyzing effect.

Can you visualize a thousand enviable futures and yet still feel pressed up against a glass wall? I can. The ego let's me think I'm on a glass slide under god's microscope. Of course it's probably my own scrutiny I can't escape. I can see the world and the things I want and yet everything seems out of grasp. In other words, the visualization and the actualization aren't connecting. They seem to run parallel, i.e. you can be on one track (potential) or the other (action). If you try to apply your ideas from the potential track to the action track, you simply derail and spin off into the mud flats where forward progress halts, but your head remains spinning like one of Duchamp's rotoreliefs. So that's where I'm at today. Of course, the rain helps set the mood. Tomorrow I'll be on the action track and embarrassed by all this navel gazing. So it goes... ok switching over. Thanks for listening!

Update: Barbaro improving, chances 50-50.

Best Duchamp site here.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Get well Barbaro...

A champion racehorse breaks a leg in his would-be moment of glory. It's like... Scratch that, no simile can enhance that scenario. A champion racehorse breaking his leg at the Preakness is the end of the metaphorical line.

Barbaro's recovery hangs in the balance now. The sad fact is that these unbelievable animals are designed to move, like a Ferrari (ahh there's the simile). There is no such thing as a bedridden racehorse - they can not remain still long enough to heal. Barbaro wanted to finish the race yesterday despite his catastrophically fractured hind right ankle. That's the psychology you're dealing with.

Here's the medical diagnosis ...

I enjoy the track, but honestly, I'm not someone who enthusiastically laps up the throngs of gambling-addicted, broken old men with gray skin, who drink and smoke all day, alone with their greasy windbreakers and farty pants and folded-up papers. I know that's very un-Bukowski of me. But as zombified as that crowd can appear, I assure you that the breaking of those cannon and long pastern bones triggered a collective breaking of 118,000 hearts in Pimlico yesterday. To witness such a noble creature take such a tragic turn is a re-humanizing experience I imagine.

As I write this, Barbaro is in surgery at The University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for Large Animals. If the surgery is successful, Barbaro will be lowered into a large pool before he is awakened - part of New Bolton's renowned recovery system that minimizes injury risk. The horse is fitted with a sling on the operating table, placed on a raft and lowered into the water, allowing it to safely flail until fully conscious. After about an hour the horse is transported via monorail back to the stable. A chief surgeon anticipated the horse would have "a pool recovery," which I'm assuming means that he will be spending the next few weeks underwater. Godspeed Barbaro. Get thee well.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Getty Villa...

Made my way up to Malibu yesterday to check out the brand spanking new(ly restored) Getty Villa. I was really looking forward to taking in LA's latest mega culture center, and based on the utopian Mount Olympus splendor of the Getty Center, my architectural expectations were admittedly high. So, I'll begin by saying: if THAT is the best today's money can buy (assuming that money is no object to the Getty Foundation) then we are all doomed. The place (not the art) is a testament to the death of quality control.

Like many new buildings in Los Angeles, this place will look good in pictures. But in person there is absolutely zero gestalt. Nothing holds together. And there are no details, just big pieces crunched together. What you see is a mishmash of minimal and maximal styles and ideas coated with a cold institutional glaze. The workmanship is shoddy - the joints, the corners, the lines. Sloppy. The "wow" moments are quick to fade as the eye tries to make sense of the visual chaos. For example, you chance upon the large square center courtyard garden (or "Inner Peristyle", seen in the photo) and for a second you gasp - the light and the colors, the plants and the long reflecting pool all seem like great ingredients. But then... thud. It fails to delight or uplift in any way. This subtle air of disappointment happens in little increments over and over, leaving you somehow overstuffed and yet still hungry. My guess is that the Roman emperors would laugh and turn the place into slave quarters.

Of course there are some nice moments too. There is a raised goldfish pond way in the back when you first walk in (past the impressive amphitheater) that casts a serene spell. The large staircase and surrounding walls leading to the second floor are made of some very unusual, prominently veined, golden marble. One of the walls has a pleasing concave groove cut into it as if to invite your hand to skim along each textured slab as you climb. There's a funny kid's corner where you can draw on lifesize plastic Grecian urns in erasable felt tip markers. The scale is about right for a three or four hour visit.

The curators are smart to keep the smallish items in well lit cases. Up close, you can forget about all the pomposity and just enjoy the art against a white backdrop. The same can not be said for some of the larger works, many of which are in direct competition with the Vegas-style faux Roman decor, featuring some rooms completely decked out in dizzying arrays of gaudy marble hues. I felt bad for some of those magnificnet old relics having to live there.

The art is the reason to come. Note that the Villa is all about JP Getty's classical fixation, so if the art and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria ain't your thing, you'll just have to hang out in the coffee shop. But you shouldn't. There are some truly spectacular works and antiquities (some unbelievably over 5000 years old) scattered throughout.

Seeing all of this exquisite craftsmanship happily confirms that these cultures had no global industry to sustain, no bottom lines to meet, no corners to cut. Quality control was a non-issue for the ancient Etruscans, Greeks and Romans. The idea of doing something sub-par was simply not in the cards. Especially when you condiser that artisans must have been revered as the magicians in their day. They were in constant demand and probably led good lives, because of their consistent ability to lift the spirits with their beautiful work.

Funny, in one room there is an obvious fake statue of a Greek soldier cast in cheez doodle orange marble. The lines of his body and face are definitely from the post-Nike "just do it" music video era. And yet the accompanying card dares to suggest that scholars are still trying to decide if it is authentic or not. Any chimp can see that this piece is younger than I am. But, I suppose it provides a little controversy for us tabloid-fed artgoers, so why not.

Speaking of provenance, the rumor is that JP Getty bought an Italian seaside renaissance villa back in the 50s on the tip that there was an ancient Roman villa buried underneath. And not just any villa, but one of Julius Caesar's seaside retreats. Getty backed one of his huge cargo ships right up to the cliff below the villa and spent years tearing apart the renaissance shell (which was an invaluable treasure itself), excavating priceless ancient artifacts by the dozens, and tossing them onto the US bound cargo ship. Of course this is completely illegal. As we've learned from recent tales of stolen art, European art belongs to the country of origin. So you can't help but wonder how many of the pieces in the Getty Villa were pillaged in this spirited act of supermogul piracy.

I'd like to see a battalion of Italian schooners pull into Santa Monica Bay loaded down with sword wielding Uffizi curators and staffers come to take back their stolen booty. That would be the best of all possible scenarios the Getty Villa could hope for.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Milkman...

Do milkmen still exist? Not according to spell check.

I remember milk being delivered to my childhood home: the little refrigerated box by the back door, the glass bottles with the waxy paper caps, the buttermilk option (fat kids were healthy kids), the white trucks changing in design from year to year... And then, one day, no more milk. Suddenly, it came from the store. Around 1980 or '82 maybe? Probably the last time I had a glass of milk to drink. What I don't get is why not get it from the store in the first place? But I love that many of these old school personal services lingered on much longer than need be. It suggests that there could still be many such vestigial operations floating around our world just waiting to be called out and sent to the island of obsolete things.

Enjoy Deerhoof's bubblegummy "Milk Man" right here.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It was fun while it lasted...

Dude, it's time. Girls, you too. Time to pack up the whole in-your-face, raw, hyper-sexualized, porno, skater, white trash, open wounds, self-effacing, Jackass, loose ethics, 80's bar mitzvah disco, and party-till-you vomit movement, aesthetic and attitude. Go on, scram. Beat it. We don't want you hanging around anymore. For those of us that saw this Larry Clark inspired tsunami coming, we all thought Terry Richardson was on to something fun (in 2000) and we all laughed our asses off at Vice's fashion do's and don'ts (in 2002... ok, ok... they're still pretty funny). Ed Templeton represented on the West Coast. And for a nanosecond it seemed like that colosal wanker Dov Charney was going to breathe some eros into the deadly boring billboards and newspaper back covers of our nation's cities. Ya Ya Ya... we thought.

But it's all over now you beautiful losers. The schtick just comes off as stupid and done. Your hip, modern, rough-hewn, brainless, urban nihilism has been handed over to marketers and sold to the suburbs. Tired. Tired. Ti-erd. Like disco in the 70's you never had any substance to begin with, and you thought that would make you safe. But it hasn't. Your fashion clock has stopped ticking. And don't try to pretty things up with your pastels and your five sizes too small dandy suits either. Just take your little terrycloth short shorts, your limited edition Ryan Mcginley skateboard, your two months at Parsons (before you got kicked out), your ketamine, your tube socks, and your three legged cat, and just go. Try to have the decency to fade into the night and be remembered by your own kids in twenty years. God knows you took enough pictures. They'll be yawning at yet another flash-saturated shot of you getting your boobs sucked by strangers in a crowded Brooklyn bar.

Please. Go. Stop clinging on. Make way for something new. Evolve.
OK, you can keep the hot pants.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Micro/Macro symmetry...

You know how a the structure of a molecule (nucleus circled by electrons) resembles the structure of the solar system (sun circled by planets)? Where else does that micro/macro symmetry occur? It's been bugging me because there should be another handy example. When I've got big questions to ask about the nature of existence and the cosmos, that's when I turn to the divine words of J.C.

Sure enough, a quick flip through the pages of the good book provides a grandiloquent answer to my query. As he is wont to do, in Part 2, Chapter 2, Campbell is yacking on about the Cosmogonic Cycle and the birth of philosophy. In doing so he gets on a jag about the three planes of being. The first plane is our waking state ("the hard, gross facts of an outer universe, illuminated by the light of the sun, and common to all"). The second plane of being is dreaming ("the fluid, subtle forms of a private interior world, self-luminous and of one substance with the dreamer"). The third plane is that of deep sleep ("dreamless, profoundly blissful, the realm of the unconscious, the room of the inner controller, the source and end of all.").

He goes on to talk about the famous Hindu chant: AUM. (That's "OM" to you and me out here in California.) We often consider that word to be monosyllabic, when in fact, it has three distinct parts. Again, here's J.C.: "The A represents the waking consciousness, the U dream consciousness, and the M deep sleep. The silence the surrounds these sounds is simply called 'The Fourth'." OK, interesting stuff, but remember I'm looking for micro/macro symmetry. You can sense it in all of this but I need it boxed-up and wrapped in ribbon. So, I keep reading, then this...

"The cosmogonic cycle is to be understood as the passage of universal consciousness from the deep sleep zone of the unmanifest, through dream, to the full day of waking then back again through dream to the timeless dark. As with the actual experience of every living being, so in the grandiose figure of the living cosmos: in the abyss of sleep the energies are refreshed, in the work of day they are exhausted; the life of the universe runs down and must be renewed."

Damn, he's good. In my search for micro/macro symmetry I was looking for something simple and visual I could easily point to. But Campbell, like any good magician, is great at pointing out the thing right in front of you that you can no longer see.

Speaking of which, the smog today is terrible. Here in LA we begin the year with sparkling clarity, then in the distance the mountains and sea are shrouded in fog and clouds, until finally, come summer, the entire city is draped in a cloak of bright, eye-stinging smog. I call it the smogonic cycle.

("Powers of 10" by Charles and Ray Eames)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Disaster Tourism...

Apparently a number of Americans and Europeans are using their hard-earned vacation time to take their families on pilgrimages to experience Katrina-torn New Orleans, tsunami-swept Sri Lanka, and the heroes of Ground Zero. The number one tourist attraction in Poland is Auschwitz. Is this excessively morbid or a sign of progress? What are these people looking for - redemption? a personalized experience of history? dark thrills? Schadenfreude? The Apocalypse? Hard to say.

If you follow the future-minded writings of Alvin and Heidi Toffler, you would probably see "Disaster Tourism" (a phrase coined just 14 hours ago by Todd Walker at an impromptu Sunday dinner chez Gazpachot) as a good thing. The Toffler's believe that this is a time of radical adjustment for the human race. We are experiencing a "powershift" from a technological society to an information society and with this change come "countless opportunities and new life trajectories." According to them, we'll be doing a lot of things we never did before. We might even catch ourselves mid action and say, why am I doing this? In a knowledge-based society, disaster tourism is a natural impulse, a desire to make the destructive path of history real.

In a more cynical mood, I might argue that people are numb from an endless barrage of chemicals, marketing, and manipulation from "forces they can neither understand nor govern." (C. Wright Mills)

We are drawn to the meaningless swatches of geography where "something big happened" like moths to a flame. Scale is important for only the largest of the large events can penetrate the cocoon of our numbness and alienation causing us not to feel so much as recall the concept of feeling.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Thanks Mom...

You carried all your crazy babies with style, grace, and most of all, love.

Happy Mothers Day.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

"La Nostalgie du Chateau"...

Living in Los Angeles, a horizontally built city (as opposed to New York, a vertically built city), one wonders why the majority of private land was parceled in to such narrow lots, why so many homes in Southern California are essentially built right on top of each other, the way they are in many parts of Long Island or New Jersey or a thousand other places on the East Coast. There's nothing but space out here, as any trans-national flight will confirm. We don't have to be packt like sardines in a crushd tin box. Could this have anything to do with money? I wonder... As Steve Martin (Navin Johnson) says in "The Jerk" after a sudden epiphany, "Oh I get it, its a PROFIT deal..."

Of course there are a million reasons why this happens. Besides all the financial reasons, it habituates people to live in close proximity, to accept ugly housing developments and planned communities as reasonable living conditions. There is an order and an obedience that comes with such arrangements, and that makes for good, hardworking breadwinners and consumers. In short, good Americans. No time for questions or dissent when your neighbors just got a new Lexus. Back to the grind Mr. and Mrs. Duracell.

Are there just too many of us? I don't even mean that in an environmental sense. I mean it in a more selfish, human comfort sense. Are there too many of us blindly scrambling for some misplaced sense of existence?

In his 18 page letter to George Bush this week, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, predicted the end of Western-style civilization noting that "[The West] has not been able to realize the ideals of humanity." Now I'm not going to get behind this guy, he seems like a loon, but this little point he makes might be one worth considering. I would argue that the West has pumped us so full of chemicals and confusion that we can hardly get our head above the treetops to consider such "lofty" notions as the ideals of humanity.

It may seem perverse, even feudal, but big sprawling estates with well-appointed mansions (such as Old Westbury Gardens, seen below) make me happy. At these places, I can engage fantasies of a less populated and frenetic world where benevolent land owners manage and sustain small, diverse communities on large pieces of property with organic farms and beautiful homes. In the fantasy, a radically depopulated US puts a moratorium on the technological revolution, our global policing, our urban sprawl, and rabid consumermania. I'm not talking about becoming the Waltons here. I'm imagining a modern embodiment of an Acadian ideal, taking the information and technology we have, and using these tools to improve the way we live on earth. Let's move away from the office parks and return to the land, the home, and our essential beings. In the fantasy, there is a subtle rekindling of innocence, a gradual re-virgination of the American experience, if you will, where our identity is not based on assholish and alienating national policies, but instead comes from a localized behavior we not only understand but can have some say in.

Despite the magnificent architecture, we didn't get it right in the past. Wealthy landlords were either corrupt or too involved in their businesses to sustain their mega-homes and the communities around them. We can try again though, even if they (and a tax hungry governement) pullled the rug out from their magnificent dining room tables.

I got a big house and it sits up on a hill
I got a big house and it sits up on a hill
It's dark just like a cave
Cause I could not pay the bill...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bring back the passenger blimp...

Airships. Blimps. Dirigibles. Zeppelins. What could be a more exciting and yet relaxing way to venture up the coast of California, or float from Barcelona to Nice, or through the Valley of the Kings, or along the Great Wall?

Airships are fuel efficient, low in emissions, quiet, safe, and aesthetically pleasing. I know what you're thinking. Hindenburg. But those days are long gone. Blimps no longer use flammable hydrogen to keep them aloft. American airships have been filled with helium since the 1920s and modern passenger-carrying airships are often, by law, prohibited from being filled with hydrogen. Safety is not the issue. It's public doubt. But passenger travel by airship was once the last word in luxury travel and could be again. For a taste of airship travel, have a look at this wonderful Hindenburg brochure.

Some terms: A blimp is typically an airship without a rigid framework. They use a pressure level in excess of the surrounding air pressure in order to retain their shape. Some metal framing may be used along the keel for added support. Today, a derigible or zeppelin (a brand that's become the generic, a la "Kleenex"), refers to an airship with a rigid framework that uses muliple non-pressurized gas cells to provide lift. The problem with these rigid ships is that they need expensive storage facilities and maintenance. On the flipside, you do get a world that looks more like this...

In war and peace, Germany has been the traditional leader in airship technology and they maintain that advantage today, even though the business ain't what it used to be. (But please stay away from their website, your computer will crash like a lead zeppelin).

In January of this year, Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik GmbH (ZLT) shareholders gave the airship company the green light to build a fourth Zeppelin NT 07. The 12-seat passenger airship is reported to take to the skies by spring 2008 to coincide with the annual start of Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei's (DZR) operating season. By then it will almost double DZR's present passenger capacity. In the meantime, the Reederei has to make do - as it has since summer 2005 - with only one NT 07 airship as one Zep NT 07 was sold to Japan earlier, the other is in South Africa since September searching for diamonds.

But where Germany sticks to tradition, others are thinking outside the sausage and positing wild new airship models. Such as this, this, and this. And who can wait for this monster?

Let’s hope this catches. The sky whales have been absent far too long.

I'd like to suggest to future airship investors that just because these machines can be used as floating billboards, doesn'’t mean they should. Once again, the folk at Zeppelin mostly get this right. They don't try to cloak their dirigibles behind a brand. Nor are they pimping every square inch of blimp for crass product placement. They understand that spare elegance, good design, and clean lines enhance the sky rather than polluting it with visual noise and kooky camouflage. I hate to sound stuffy, but, the ticket to getting blimps off the ground is by giving these much-maligned airships some dignity, not infantilizing them into cutesy balloons.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Black Rider...

Saw this play/opera with Sarah at the Ahmanson Theater last night. The Black Rider was written by William Burroughs, staged by Robert Wilson, with music by Tom Waits. It's based on an old German fable about a hopelessly "aimless" man who can't marry his love until he proves his skill as a hunter. Useless with a rifle, he makes a pact with Satan, who gives him some magic bullets that will ensure he hits his targets and brings home the bacon. Sounds promising. Right?

In fact, Act 1 is a stinker. A steady stream of freaked out tourists trickled out of the theater not knowing what to make of the stilted, abstract acting, the annoying and alienating German cabaret laugh-in-your-face mood, in short, the creepy Klaus Nomi-ness of it all. On the other hand you couldn't help but notice that they were obviously struggling to incorporate the conventions of more cuddly productions, hit all the right (i.e. bland, insidious) musical notes, cute little gags, etc. in order to please the masses. It was horrible. The self congratulatory leaflets in the loby proclaiming how "hip" the production clearly was, only added to the sadness.

The good news is that once the curtain goes up on the second act, you get the sense that they know they've cleared the house of any doubters and so they can really let loose. What was grating in the first act charms you in the second. The music is darker and more thoughtful. You realize how good, how physically talented, certain cast members are, particularly Matt McGrath in the lead. There are long "dream" scenes which take place without any dialogue. The spoon-fed storytelling evaporates and you are mostly watching a ballet of bodies in motion through a procession of beautiful scenes and scenery.

During the intermission we smelled a skunk. Literally. Or so we thought. It's not uncommon for skunks to wander around the city leaving their odor for all to ponder. But back in the theater, throughout most of the second act, we smelled it again. No, not skunk. Marijuana. Lots of it. I can hardly imagine that anyone in the theater would just light up, but maybe. I'm more inclined to think that the stuff (or some scented facsimile) was being pumped in through the ventilation system in order to enhance the pure psychedelia of the second act. I can't say I was affected by the smell, but after an hour of Robert Wilson's slow moving light scultures, Waits ambient grooves, and Burroughs sing-song sandbox poetry, who the hell can tell?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Could we be Heroes?

How many aspects of your character go unchallenged? How many teen-aged thoughts and conceptions still fill your head? Would you be better or worse without them? What are you clinging on to, and why? Big fat questions like these have been keeping me up at night lately. Some heckling homunculus at the back of my brain just loves to start shouting after, say, 1AM, on cue, like a barking dog.

I thought my pal JB would enjoy the Philip Roth interview I heard on Terry Gross' Fresh Air show yesterday. Roth is so strangely and completely convicted to his bleak notions of life and death, and I found the way he speaks, his sage inflexibility, fascinating in that superficial LA -driving-and-listening-to-the-radio way. But JB, who acknowledges Roth's greatness as a writer, was fairly non-plussed by the interview which he listened to with a gravity I'd not anticipated. Too grim, too spiritless he thought. That Roth has no poetry in his voice, no curiosity, or questions for the universe, no room for religion or even the possibility of even entertaining such "delusions" as he calls them, left JB mentally activated but also stuck with a lingering earfull of ugliness.

Why am I telling you this? Because my friend's sober reaction made me acutely aware of a part of my own system of delusions. Something might come of this.

You see, I had expected JB to share in my passing awe of Roth's outlandishness. But JB doesn't do awe or idols the way I do. He's really good at removing talented and high-achieving people from the pedestals we place them on, and relating to them on an equal footing. When you see someone this way (eye-to-eye instead of looking up their nostrils) the glow fades, the atmosphere is no longer warped, and fatal flaws and ugly truths can be extracted from the talent and the pixie dust. Is it a way of being able to say "no" to the good so that one day you might be able to say "yes" to the best? Is it a way of neutralizing the power of others? I'm not sure, but it's an important thing to be able to do as an adult: see people as people.

I guess I hold on to adolescent notions of heroes and idols. The act of looking up to people, fuels my imagination, and illuminates all sorts of interesting pathways I might take in order to achieve a similarly exalted status to the people I admire. I enjoy the buffer of fantasy this implies in dealing with the future. It appeals to my romantic nature and I can see that it's done me some good. I've taken risks I wouldn't dream of taking if I hadn't been egged on by my heroes. Somewhere in the processing plant of my perceptions, these people cease to be real people. They become externalized projections of the best of myself, calling to me from some imaginary, actualized future, like muses, or perhaps, sirens on the rocks?

But I am equally thrilled by the notion of living without heroes. Without external referents. Without buffers or dreamy tactics for evading the present. I can see the empowering effect such a choice has had on my friend. Of course, maybe I'm just idolizing again. Making someone else's grass as green as it can be. More stuff to keep me up at night.

There's a nice epigram by the Polish aphorist, Stanislaw Jerzy Lec. It goes...

"When smashing idols, save the pedestals... They may come in handy."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The "hybrids are expensive" scam...

Several times over the last few months, CNN along with other prominent news outlets, reporting on the insanely high gas prices around the country, have had the nerve to suggest that hybrid automobiles are not the solution to the problem because of their "high cost." Excuse me?

Here's what I'm talking about:

"We've selected five [autos]-- a luxury car, family sedan, sports car, crossover SUV and a subcompact -- that are smart buys and easy on fuel. For each category, we've also mentioned two alternatives. None of the top cars are hybrids. That's because, with their added cost, hybrids aren't really a good value from a purely economic standpoint." - from 05/09/06, article here.

And another...

"You might want to consider a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. If you do, you should make that choice for reasons other than saving money. A hybrid car or SUV will burn considerably less fuel than a non-hybrid version. It shuts down its gasoline engine whenever it stops, making it quieter and more relaxing to drive in city traffic. However, according to various calculations, hybrid cars are not cost effective, on a purely financial basis, because they add more in cost than they save in fuel, even when factoring in federal tax credits." - from 05/08/06, article here.

Just two examples. You'll find this rhetoric all over the place. The second one is from an article entitled: "How to shop for a fuel-efficient car" so the presumption is you're buying a new car, not looking for a used car or ways to enhance the mileage on your existing car.

OK. Am I missing something? According to various calculations, a car that uses less gas IS more fuel efficient. Period. According to the MSRP on a new Prius is $21,725. What extra cost? Last I checked, that's a good price for a new car. Toss in tax credits, never having to pay at meters (in certain cities) and it seems that a hybrid is an excellent idea to help beat the pump.

In other words: Are you buying a new car? Want to save on gas? Get a hybrid. Simple. No fuzzy math, no mysterious calculations. Meanwhile, CNN is brazenly pushing cars that cost well over $50K as cost effective, fuel efficient cars. Doth thou smell a rat?

AND, they keep repeating this nonsense in the hopes that people will buy into it. I've sent two strong letters to CNN calling out this glossy falsehood, and I've asked them for an explanation. So far nothing. Could it be that CNN and other news outlets have some vested interest in downplaying the role of hybrid vehicles in solving this oil crisis? Can someone please explain to me WTF is going on?

I don't drive a hybrid. I work at home and use my car sparingly. But if I were going to buy a new car you can bet it ain't going to be a $50k+ diesel Mercedes E320. That's the car CNN wants me to buy to save money and the environment. Of course, they are kind enough to include this disclaimer - "Unfortunately, due to environmental regulations, the diesel E320 is not available in all 50 states."

This just in: According to various calculations owning a second Hummer is a great way to save on fuel. If you drive alternating Hummers each day, you'll use half as much gas per week in each car! It must be true - Anderson Cooper told me so.

Monday, May 08, 2006

It's not happening...


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Freud at 150...

Never been in therapy, but l-o-v-e that unconscious! It's soo... deep!?
Happy Birthday Sigmund, may all your dreams come true.

In honor of the occasion, learn how to draw Dr. Freud here.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Olivo Barbieri's brilliant aerial photography is beyond words. Sublime stuff. People often think his pictures are models when in fact they are seeing the real deal, such as the Coliseum in Rome pictured above. Read about him here and see more of his work here.

Something happens to us when we are in the air. Flying not only gives us a refreshing bird's eye view on the world we inhabit, but, critically, it also removes us from our familiar land-lubbing context. We leave chunks of our identity behind on these precious little spots of earth we invest with so much. These places vanish behind us in a matter of airborne seconds. Since flying is usually associated with travel, the experience is also coupled with a sense of excitement, of breaching the unknown, of new potential. I read somewhere that our emotions are heightened at 30,000 ft. which might explain why you find yourself fighting back the tears on "Ice Age 2" or blubbering through a heavily edited version of "Thank You Not For Smoking." It also explains much of the bad celebrity behavior on airplanes we've read about over the years. All of this makes sense, since, flying is generally an experience where we relinquish our control, our lives, to the hands of a pilot whose name we can't remember.

I don't do drugs, but I will confess that the enhanced vision, the god-like perspective, the, um, high, from flying is something I relish with all the fervor of an Avenue D junky. "Everything seems perfect from far away. Come down now..." go the words to a popular Deathcab for Cutie song in what I assume is a cautionary lyric. Thing is, I am down on the ground, and I am always trying to find ways of getting back up there where everything seems perfect, breathtaking, the scenery always moving and changing, the mood always exultant, the air fresh. In the spirit of Charles Lindbergh, Antoine de St. Exupéry, Howard Hughes, Louis Blériot, Harriet Quimby, Amelia Erhardt, and so on, I champion the urge to fly and the aerialist perspective. Did I mention that I'm scared of heights? Vive le paradox. Conquering fears is a great hobby.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ode to Gray...

Do hairs go gray overnight? Is a healthy strand of hair (from split-end to follicle) drained of its pigment all at once, or, does an existing, pigmented hair start coming in gray at the root (so you could have a hair that is half your original color and half gray)? The latter seems to be true. With age, the pigment cells in the follicle gradually die off. As they do so, that strand will no longer contain as much color and will show up as silver, gray, or white as it grows. Eventually, all the pigment cells will die and the hair becomes completely white. There is much debate over the claims of people who say that their hair turned white overnight due to an intense shock or prolonged stress. Most scientists don't buy that an existing, pigmented hair can "die" and lose its color in a short period of time, though there are thousands of testimonies to the contrary.

"There is only one cure for gray hair... It is called the guillotine." PG Wodehouse

Henry Gray was born in either 1825 or 27 and he became an anatomist and teacher at St George's Hospital Medical School in London in the 1850s. In 1855 he approached his colleague Dr Henry Vandyke Carter with his idea to produce an Anatomy text book for medical students. The illustrated book is a medical reference, aimed at physicians. It is still published today and is usually referred to as Gray's Anatomy.

"Gray, dear friend, is all theory. But green the golden tree of life."
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Alex Grey is an artist specializing in spiritual and psychedelic art (or visionary art). I once climbed to the roof of his studio in NY during a spectacular thunderstorm (he was not there). He is also interesting to me because an online search for him lead me to the wonderful world of Stuckism, an interesting reaction to the postmodern conceptual art boom,consisting of Brits who dare do believe that artists can have souls and make figurative paintings.

And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
Alfred Tennyson

Martin Gray is an anthropologist and photographer specializing in the study of sacred sites and pilgrimage traditions around the world.

"When all candles bee out, all cats be gray." John Heywood

Spalding Gray (June 5, 1941 -– ca. January 10, 2004) was an actor, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Barrington, Rhode Island, he was best known for his performance monologues, which deal with events from his own life in a style characterised by humor, paranoia and acute self-consciousness. On March 7, 2004, the New York City medical examiner's office reported that at 3:00 Spalding Gray's body had been pulled from the East River. In light of a suicide attempt in 2002, and the fact that his mother had taken her own life in 1967, suicide was the suspected cause of death. It was reported that Gray was working on a new monologue at the time of his death, and that the subject matter of the piece - the Ireland car crash and his subsequent attempts to recover from his injuries - might have triggered his final bout of depression.

"All the American women had purple noses and gray lips and their faces were chalk white from terrible powder. I recognized that the U.S. could be my life's work."
Helena Rubinstein

Writer Francine du Plessix Gray is well-known for both fiction and non-fiction. She has been decorated by the French government as Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

"The choice in politics isn't usually between black and white. It'’s between two horrible shades of gray." Peter Thorneycroft

Obligatory Dorian Gray woodblock print here.

("Dorian Gray Dandy, #1" painting by Jarmo Mäkilä)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"United 93"

Life is full of strange combinations. Some, like say, chocolate milk and red wine, just don't work together, no matter what blender setting you use. I am happy to report that seeing United 93 last night with one Mr. Bruce Vilanch sitting behind us is a combo that actually, sort of, works. Which is to say, I was pretty much able to screen out his larger-than-life- off-duty-clown aura, and concentrate on the movie... something I wasn't sure I'd be able to muster when he first smooshed himself into a seat...

I'm not going to say too much about the film, though it brings up a thousand important conversations. It's a brutal and deeply affecting minute to minute replay. My heart was pounding so hard I feared long term repercussions. Sarah went to the ladies' room half-way through and had to force herself back into the theater. It's this peculiar, masochistic need for a 9-11 replay that intrigues me.

Let me try to say what I'm thinking mathematically: USA + 9-11 > USA - 9-11.

Without the tragedy, we the people are still asleep in our blissful American dream, collectively ignorant to the reality of the larger geo-political world. With the tragedy, we have undergone a cruel (and arguably necessary) collective awakening that will forever change not only the practical experience of being American, but the spiritual or mythic experience as well.

If you will: A young woman who has recently lost her virginity may be tempted to relive the before, the during, and the after, over and over in her imagination. Why? In order to process and understand the growth and the irreversible course of events that have taken place on her path to womanhood. I'm not drawing a direct equation here, so please spare me the hate mail. I'm just saying that the American narrative has been forever altered and it's natural that we should want to relive the event in question.

The movie does a good job of presenting the facts and shutting up. It's entirely up to us to decide how to reprocess these events with 4+ years remove. How we weave this horror into our national story is a collective effort, and I think Mr. Greengrass, for all of his ability to capture the raw brutality, has a subtle touch when it comes to leaving our reactions unmanipulated. I can hardly imagine the same can be said for Mr. Stone and his impending rehash.

Which comes first the actual event or the dramatization? I can't help but wonder if in the years to come a Google search for "United 93" will yield first a film or a doomed airplane. Today, the film holds the top slots which is in keeping with an American yearning for dramatization. Could our unconscious thirst for drama invite certain horrors into being?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mind Drains...

A friend of mine was talking about something that was a drain on the back of his mind. A bell rang. Sometimes a simple metaphor puts things in an entirely new light, which I suppose is what a metaphor is good for in the first place. How much of your rare vital energy, the stuff that could be applied to your present and future is being diverted to a dark stagnate pool in the back of your skull? Perhaps you're not even aware of it! Horrible! Maybe this cerebral tar pit has corroded tiny holes in your head that leak this crude oil out of your system entirely. Are you leaving a trail of sludge behind you everywhere you go? Do you need a skull stopper?

On the flipside, there are people who believe in trepanning. This practice entails drilling holes into your head in order to relieve pressure that builds up on the walls of the skull caused by an excess of cranial fluid. In this case, the "drain" sets the mind free. The open holes allow our consciousness to freely expand and interface with the external world. Read all about trepanation here.

Once again, there are two sides to every coin. The decision is yours: Are you gonna plug up that blow hole or are you gonna drill some new ones?

In the meantime, please enjoy this Johnny Hardstaff classic.

Monday, May 01, 2006

It's complicated...