Sunday, December 31, 2006

Extra special...

Sorry to report that Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a kitsch, overrought stinker. The movie rights to the book were lusted after by Hollywood elite for decades. Kubrick wanted it, Ridley Scott and then Tim Burton held the rights for a while. Scorsese was interested. The film presents the ultimate director's challenge: how to make an audience stay with a lead character who has almost no redeeming qualities. Regardless of all this interest, Patrick Süskind, the reclusive author, held off. If he was holding out for quality, he must be feeling pretty bad. If he was holding out for the 10.5 million Euros he was paid for the film rights on the other hand, he's probably doing okay, sequestered in a dungeon somewhere until this bomb fades from public memory.

While I believe I could write a really good critique of the film, that's not why I've gathered you here today. No. Instead I wanted to point out what I believe is a fine litmus test for a good film. Extras. The extras in Perfume, of whom there are thousands, are so obviously desperate actors, each one grimacing and wincing and flashing their fake rotten teeth on cue for the camera in a way that only a desperate actor can do. It's unbearable. And it's amazing at how often directors flub this critical aspect - as if the background didn't matter... as if the human world in which a story exists can be dashed off willy nilly. I'm not calling for realism here. We all know that films are mega-contrivances. Realism is a bore. I'm calling for a supreme awareness of everything in the frame. A distinct and aesthetic approach to the context, dare I say it - mis en scene.

OK, so what's the gold standard here? Casablanca. The extras in this film are so good, so in tune with the background needs of that story, so appealing in their silent candle-lit conversations, wandering about Rick's Cafe, so sumptuously un-distracting and yet giving as they meander the souks and walkways of the city. I could watch them all day long. Go ahead try this little test out, you'll be surprised to see how often it separates the gems from the rotten tomatoes.

Happy New Year fellow citizens... I won't deny it, 2006 was a tough one for this spicy soup monger. Which is why I'm going to ask for all the good wishes I'm sending to you to be returned at once!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Finals Week...

The seven days between Christmas and New Years are always the first to be blotted away from my memory in the new year. In fact, this week is one that really should be remembered. It boldly steps out of the daily grind of the other 51 weeks in the calandar and brings with it tremendous turmoil and cleansing. The great tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004 is probably the best example of the death, destruction, and deck-clearing that goes on in this final week of the year. Saddam Hussein's execution is another good example.

But on a personal level, I find there is always something profound that occurs during this week. Family matters figure in heavily - the bellies are full, the hangovers are real, the frictions mount, old scabs are torn away so fresh blood can run amok. For me, on top of some minor family matters, I also lost someone this week. A best friend's mother who was very influential to me as a boy. She was a brightly burning uranium bar when it came to her powers of belief. It was incredible to have that example sear itself into me at a young and impressionable age. She was a very devout Christian, and at times she could be a slight bible thumper, but honestly, that was never really an issue. I respected her belief. What really mattered was the magnificent light and love that poured out of this woman. The kindness and spiritual challenges she offered to my family and me. I'm so sad to know she's gone, but I will say that if anyone was prepared to move on to another world it was her. I wish her family all the love and strength they deserve in this trying time. I'm sure she's busy right now keeping James Brown, Gerald Ford and Saddam Hussein on their toes.

On another note, if you're looking for a (nearly) great movie, Powell & Pressburger's Stairway to Heaven (aka A Matter of Life and Death) is definitely worth a look.

Friday, December 29, 2006

In weirdness is pleasure...

"BE WEIRD! The world sticks to the paved roads. The roads are paths paved by industry. The paths are trails widened by the marketplace. The trails are hacked by the Weird, who leave the paved road for the sake of curiosity and wonderment. Where the Weird go, the world follows." - Danny Thompson

I enjoyed this heartfelt sentiment by Mr. Thompson, a writer in Alabama. You can read more of his thoughts on being weird here.

Hopefully, in megalopolises like New York and Los Angeles, so-called "weirdness" is occasionally seen as an evolutionary node rather than an aberration. Being "different" (or gifted, or creative, or hyper-sensitive, or gay, or a genius, or a savant, or eccentric, or left-handed, and so on, etc.) in these mega-urban settings can mean being discovered at a younger age, and offered a selection of weirdness-enhancing channels and facilities.

But in Alabama, it wouldn't surprise me if weirdness wasn't always a welcome trait. If that's the case, I salute Mr. Thompson for sticking his neck out. I'd like to encourage him to keep going and allow his own weirdness to mutate further. After all, he gets it: A culture that nurtures its unique individuals leads to a richer society in which new ideas come into the mix. This system of inclusion is the womb of progress.

Weird is, of course, relative. It all depends on where you set your margins. Too often weird is confused with something we commonly call "sick". The film industry should probably take some responsibility for this. (Need an example?) As a general rule, I'd say that while weird is a necessary component of sick, sick is definitely not a necessary component of weird. Because of this confusion we can see why weird sometimes gets a bad wrap.

Conformity has its place, if, for example, you belong to a group of steel molecules holding up a bridge, or you are the laws of physics, or a nun. But for most people, it is one of the least inspiring, most depressing qualities I can think of.

("Pleasure" by Magritte, 1926)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Xmas Jazz...

The holidays have been filled with some magical moments. One was when Jimmy Spencer sauntered into Charlie O's on Christmas Eve in a silver suit and zig-zag tie. Another was when he got up on stage with the staggeringly great Karen Hernandez Trio to sing a couple numbers and proceeded to dedicate "Route 66" to our group (a gesture I can only assume was inspired by this earlier post). Wow... Then, imagine our collective thrill when Jimmy came over and introduced himself and gave us two copies of his new CD "Shades of Blue" (which is fantastic). Thank you Jimmy, Karen, and everyone else at Charlie O's... You really made our night!

Hopefully, there comes a moment in your life when you "get" jazz music. For me, those moments were a long time coming. I was a tried and true psychedelic-electro-ambient-prog-rock-head-up-his-ass-kid-in-a-band, and the "hyper" sounds of jazz were something we used to make fun of. I remember my great pal and bandmate, Ted Meyer, decked out in his Syd Barrett frippery, with hair up to the sky, stratocaster hanging by his side, scatting Mel Torme-style to the fifteen drunk punks who suffered through our faux-lysergic space-rock act in the seedy bars of Greenwich Village.

I believe it took the solid, subtle, chunky, funky, confidence, courtesy and style of Karen Hernandez and her amazing band mates to really open my eyes to the living sculpture that great jazz can be. She has an effortless and eternal command of the piano (never forced or studied or by-the-numbers) that opens divine passageways deep in the brain (and a few other chakra zones as well). Toss Jimmy Spencer into that mix and you've got the secret stew recipe that will always win the County Fair.

Admittedly, there's enough bad jazz regularly pumped into the world to make anyone give up the search for the truffles. So much indulgent noodling, aimless riffing, ego-driven solos, and bland arrangements that fail to capture what should be a beautiful conversation between wide-eared musicians. The best jazz finds individual talent hard at play with other individual talents. The worst is a yawn festival of spotlit showboating and dribbling notes.

Back to the holidays, I believe I have successfully replaced the old "guilt" visit to church on Christmas Eve with these excursions to live music venues in the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere in greater Los Angeles. I consider myself a religious person in that I spend plenty of moments trying to understand the nature of my soul and exactly how it wants to connect with the rest of the universe. I find churches and temples and mosques (while generally beautiful places) are often too political and too formulaic in their worshiping patterns to really engage me. There is something in live music, when it works, that gets much closer to what it is I'm looking for in a religious experience.

(Photo: "Jimmy belts one out..." by Paul Gachot)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

If you're going to be wrong...

... may as well go for it 100%.

What you see here is the image from January issue of Smithsonian Magazine I referred to a few days ago. To my eye, this is a really strange photograph... In particular, the partially cropped (but entirely evident) swastika tattoed on Mark Michaelson's left palm is what really got me. Why this photo? The hands seem so deliberately included, a detail which in no way connects to the content of the article - a story about mugshots.

Anyway, I wanted to report that, indeed, I'm wrong. At least in the case of Mr. Michaelson who kindly writes:

hi pablo, i haven't seen the smithsonian story yet but i heard they were
going to use this picture cropped somehow. i'm including a link to the
original. i am not a man of hate. i just love mugshots. 'mort lied' refers
to a guy named mort who didn't tell the truth. hope this helps explain.

The link is here.

Pretty amazing huh?! This shocking reveal happily returns Mr. Michaelson to the realms of a man with an interesting obsession and an apparent yearning for truth. My sincere apologies Mark. Sorry about the "menacing" comment too. Actually, I know a few girls who go for the intense John Malkovich meets Abbie Hoffman look you've got going. I'd be happy to make introductions.

With Mr. Michaelson in the clear, the story is not over yet... What exactly is the reason for The Smithsonian's bizarre cropping which, in this Photoshop junkies opinion, could simply not be an accident? Am I making mountains out of molehills? Swastikas out of Sharpie marks? Could this be another right wing conspiracy? Honestly, I don't know. I'll just have to wait and hear from the Smithsonian's in-no-way biased Board of Regents. Won't I?

(Mark Michaelson's book here.)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

New Year's Week...

Hey track star... Why not try a gradual acceleration into the New Year this time around? All this hitting the ground with your feet running on Jan 1st business is ripe for failure, especially when you consider the state most people are in on that day. Set your intentions today. Set the controls for anything goes. Grease the wheels. Get out your maps. Polish your sextant. Plot your course. Make note of where the stars are. Be ready for anything...

For now, your task is not to go in search for something directly as much as it is to find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against new discoveries. OK, I confess, that last sentence is a bastardization of a Rumi quote I stole from a Christmas Card. But the sentiment works. I'm open to stealing the ideas of great poets.

Be merry and wise.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tip of the hat, wag of the finger...

I want to (partially) tip my hat to Smithsonian Magazine for upping its own ante. It used to be solidly good in an overly bland, bright eyed and patriotic sort of way. (As toothless and pretty as National Geographic, another likeably gummy publication.)

But lately, the articles have had some bite, the writers have shown some opinions, and even covered some indisputably dangerous grounds. OK yes, you're still going to get that same damn picture of Lincoln's stovepipe topper thrown at you (yep, the one he wore to the Ford Theater that cool April 14th night). They've got a museum full of dusty old artifacts after all.

But in this month's issue (January '07), you're also going to get some fascinating (if not deeply penetrating) articles about things like the centuries old Basque/Spain conflict, or the bloody polo matches held at 12,000 ft. in the Shandur Pass region of Pakistan, or an ultra-modern maker of sundials that tell not only time but also place, or a funny riff on Samuel Johnson as the unintentional father of psychotherapy... And so on. I'm not saying this is the pinnacle of journalistic excellence, but I am saying that for a magazine you randomly flip through at the end of the day, with no expectations, they sure do go to some interesting places.

On the other hand, I can't help but notice an obsessive editorial focus on race and genealogy and human pecking orders running throughout. Perhaps this hierarchical mindset hovers in the air in Washington DC where the publication is headquartered. Even so, the notoriously unsqueamish Gazpachot was jarred by one especially creepy insert shot depicting the author of a new book on American mugshot photography. The man, Mark Michaelson, has a menacing enough face, but beyond that, you can plainly see a swastika tattooed on the palm of his hand. This detail could have easily been cropped out. In fact, it seems strangely cropped IN (and is that the red of a Nazi flag behind him?). There is no mention of it in the article. It is just alarmingly out of place even in the context of an article about vernacular mugshot photography. Why would they include this picture? Surely there are other shots of Mark Michaelson that exist. As a magazine editor myself, I can tell you that the chances of this being an oversight are extremely slim. Is this a (none too) subliminal anti-Semitic slur in a national magazine that seems to harp on bloodlines and provenance? Or is this a desperate attempt to provoke readers, to stir up controversy, and get the world to pay attention to a sleepy old magazine? Or am I nuts?

Coping with racism and cultures of hate is bad enough, but to think there might be people pushing this hot button for publicity and profit is repulsive in the extreme.

(poster from a closed Lincoln exhibition at the National Consitution Center)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sober advices...

Unless you're a teetotaler, you're probably going to be imbibing some booze over the next few days. You might be tempted to tipple a little more than usual because, well, it's the holidays. Go ahead. Enjoy yourself. But know that a headsplitting hangover is not going to make this season any jollier.
Trust me on that one.

The following holiday drinking tips are offered in the spirit of fun evenings and functional mornings. If you think you are Serge Gainsbourg, or if the word "dude" makes up a large portion of your vocabulary, then you're not going to like this.

Tip 1: Stay Clear. Alcohol is a toxin and the hangover is your body's way of saying, you put poison in me you jerk. Tests have shown that pure alcohol causes hangovers, so don't believe the hype about "hangover free" booze. But, it is also true that the darker alcohols (rums, cognacs, whiskeys, red wines) and sweet alcohols (champagnes, white wines) are chock full of tanins and other uniquely toxic impurities called congeners. These will add to your next day woes significantly. Vodka, sake, and a top shelf silver or blanco Tequila are your best bets. Anything aged in wood barrels is going to make your head throb.

Tip 2: Don't Mix. Everyone knows this one. If you're jumping from beer to gin to wine to ouzo to rum to malt liquor, not only are you going to suffer, but you were probably insufferable to begin with. Also, it probably goes without saying that a Long Island Iced Tea is not a thirst quenching beverage. Something called an Adios Motherfucker is probably best poured into a plastic plant. But not everyone thinks about mixing when they swig back a cup of eggnog (cognac and rum) or even a margarita (tequila and triple sec). Straight drinks are the way to go. Add juice if you want, but know that the sugar can speed up alcohol absorbtion, as well as encourage guzzling instead of sipping.

Tip 3: Don't buy the cheap stuff. You will always regret it. You're having a group of people over... who's going to complain about free booze? Right? Wrong! Don't let the politeness of others make you the object of their hangover scorn. Skyy vodka is not too expensive and is extremely pure. I also highly recommend a tequila called Partida Blanco. It's 100% blue agave, absolutely delicious, and clean as a whistle. Or, if purse strings are tight, you can always turn the cheap stuff into the good stuff.

Tip 4: Hydrate. Before you go out drink a quart of H20. Then for each alcoholic drink, have two glasses of water. Yes, you're going to spend a lot of time in the head, but that's a good opportunity to get the parsley out of your teeth and the lipstick off of your collar.

Tip 5: Vitamins. Before you go out load up on the B-complexes, the sublingual ones work best. Also take another daily multi. There's also a British tablet loaded with all sorts of anti-hangover vitamins called Berocca. Most of the world swears by it as a preventative and a cure. Not available in the US yet. Stock up on your travels.

Tip 6: Ignore all of this precious yuppie crap and be human. Indulge. Explore. Enjoy. Blow off steam. Laugh. Get Jiggy. Put your foot in your mouth. Start a fight. Hide under the covers. It's all part of the cycle. One day, you might catch yourself in time for a different outcome. Or not. We're all worm food.
Happy Holidays!

(SG, waiting for the next available Stairmaster at the gym)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Penguin Sweaters...

Looks like it's animal week here at Gazpachot. Again. What can I say, they seldom fail to spark the imagination.

Anyway, if you're alone for the holidays, and that fact is getting you down, way down, well my friend, I have an uplifting task for you. Put down the bottle of gin. Open the windows and turn off the gas. Great. Now, go get your knitting needles. And buck up, you've got work to do!

Ocean oil spills are one of the ugliest tricks us humans are capable of, especially when your consider the collateral damage to innocent lives. The toxic mess wreaks havoc on the entire ecosystem, often killing and injuring countless thousands of sea dependent creatures. In particular, Phillip Island Penguins, aka Little Penguins, who live along the coastal waters of Australia, get it bad. Their breeding grounds are typically lost in the spills, thus causing them to spread out, not mate, and loose precious group body heat. Oil gets all over their shiny feathers destroying the natural oils that keep them warm. They try to preen the sticky crude oil from their feathers, swallowing much of it, which is fatal.

So, how do you stop a penguin from freezing and eating toxic oil? You knit little sweaters for Little Penguins to wear while they are in Penguin Hospital of course. Little Penguins are the smallest of the penguin family, and they take a size extra small: about four inches across and nine inches tall with appropriate openings for the head and flippers. See here and here.

But before you start feeling too jolly about saving the planet, there's a twist to this wooly yarn. Unfortunately, it seems there are more lonely penguin sweater knitters than there are oil-covered penguins in the world. Thousands of tiny sweaters are sent to trouble spots each year with nary a penguin to don them. No matter, these places are stockpiling penguin "jumpers" for any future oil spills. In the meantime, how about knitting some sweaters for all the others who endure oil spills? Alaskan Salmon. The Fijian Pufferfish. Blue Whales. Kelp Beds. The list goes on... Use your imagination. Knitting a sweater for a Giant Sea Squid should get you through the first week of January, at the very least.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What hath we wrought?

White Tiger (Kenny) Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Eureka Springs, Ark.: In the United States, all living white tigers are the result of selective inbreeding to artificially create the genetic conditions that lead to white fur, ice-blue eyes and a pink nose. Kenny was born in the care of a breeder in Bentonville, Ark., on Feb. 3, 1999. As a result of inbreeding, Kenny is mentally retarded.

(Photo and text by Taryn Simon from her “American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” series, as exerpted from NYT Magazine)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Visions of Frere Jacques...

"Most people are on the world, not in it--have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them-- undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching, but separate."

John Muir

(Jacques, 2003 by Mona Kuhn)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Is Elephant Polo Bad?

Cartier recently hosted an elephant polo match in India. Even though the event was supposedly held to "highlight the plight" of endangered elephants, PETA was on hand to protest the "clear cruelty towards animals." Interesting show down.

I can certainly see the ruthless suits at Cartier drumming up the "save the elephants" angle at the last minute, once they realized their exotic publicity stunt might offend some tree huggers. Then again, I don't see PETA protesting regular equine polo matches. Are horses expendable? I can't imagine that the elephants WANT to play polo, but then again, I can't imagine that dishwashers WANT to jam their hands into sinks full of broken glass. My point is that these elephants are in captivity - they are not running wild. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that one of the (sad) conditions of captivity is that they might be put to work in exchange for being taken care of. But did the elephants ask to be taken captive you might ask? Of course not. Did the dishwasher ask to be born into a world of economies and vertically-stacked work forces? Of course not. We work within the structure we inherit until we, or others, can change it for the better.

I'm just not so sure that those elephants are going to be any better off if they are taken off the polo fields and set free in the bush. Is it possible that they enjoy having their faces painted and getting out there for a few chukkas? I think it's possible. More importantly, could we get an elephant on a vespa? That, remains to be seen.

(courtesy The Cool Hunter)

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Three years ago today, I met someone on the back of a blue whale. She lept at me, looking for "a light." As it turns out, that is exactly what she gave to me. Most sly this one... I'll confess that on December 16, 2003 I was a man t-h-i-s close to spiraling off into cold, cynnical waters. One day later, fate or chance or high winds brought my ship into her Bay - a living breathing place where whales and other aquatic life came to de-barnacle and rekindle salted spirits. Here in this shelter, I was invited to drop anchor, and partake in her mysterious sanctuary.

She is wise and wonderful beyond her years. Her presence fills you with sweet and stirring songs, written across your soul in indellible squid ink, to be sung with gusto back in stormy seas. I consider myself blessed to have met such a mermaid.

In three years time, her light and beauty and effortless creativity, have dazzled my molecules. She is the magnet that draws my scattered particles forward. The phosphoresence that illuminates a path through the waves. The grace of the cosmos. The needle in my compass. The spike that keeps my foot nailed to the earth (a feat worth footnoting). We make a good team. We are a work in progress. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Waging war on the California Dream...

What we talk about when we're talking about Americans, or at least what we've learned from the politicians, is to shoot towards the middle. Baseball and apple pie may have evolved into computer gaming and fast food addiction. No matter, we'll always find bland, mindless attributes to define our national identity and politicians, and marketers will use them to get that patriotic lump in our throat a quivering.

What we talk about when we talk about Californians is another matter altogether. Now that I've lived in this state for ten years, I feel that the probationary silent period has expired, and that I am fully qualified to speak my mind about some of the Golden State's shortcomings. I could come at this from many levels, but for today, my approach will be purely social/cultural with an elitist spin. Also more focused on Southern California. OK? OK.

When (Southern) California really hit the turbo on its branding blitz in the 1950s, America was flooded with the notion of a paradise lurking within our nation's borders. Paradise, at that time, was largely defined largely as a place where white males could freely ogle bikini-clad girls on a sun-drenched beaches. The only verticals to be found in paradise that could dare to compete with the endless blue skies and blood-orange sunsets were palm trees and surfboards pitched proudly in the sand as phallic totems... Beacons calling out to miserable snow-shoveling schmoes stationed along various points east.

And so they came. And so Southern California (because of it's highly desirable Csa climate) became filled with average Joes in search of the carrots that had been dangled in their face. And they were here: the girls, the surfboards, the sunsets, every day a perfect sunny and 80 degrees, an endless margaritaville.

The 50's became the 60's which became the 70's and the cocktail grew stronger as new drugs and attitudes where stirred into the mix. The mandate was to relax. Enjoy the ride. Don't think too hard. "Take it easy!" sang the Eagles, the ultimate spokesmen of the new California mellow mindset that was sweeping the nation into a shaggy smiley faced apathetic stupor. Averageness was celebrated as an ideal. Crappy buildings were built. Crappy movies were made. Crappy laws were passed. Crappy people got their way. Average people opened their mouths as wide as they could and allowed the crap to be shoveled in. After a while it didn't even taste like crap anymore.

Were their exceptions? Of course there were. Brilliant ones, in fact, but those exceptions must be saved for another conversation. Today, anyone who visits So-Cal for the first time has little trouble spotting the crap I'm alluding to. The spoils of crapdom are evident and abundant. Even lovable, when you spend enough time around them.

Fortunately, the tides are turning. There's just as much crap being produced as ever, but there is also an emerging class of people interested in something finer. Less crappy. These are people who see that Southern California gets a bad wrap because, honestly, it deserves one. People who see the instrinsic beauty of this place and don't need to reduce it to an album cover or a cartoon. People who can find other mythologies to tap into. People who do not want to resign themselves to crap.

I've made some wild oversimplifications today, and I stand by them, only because I support any initiative that challenges sorry notions of the California Dream. Let's redefine paradise as a place where visionary dreams and horrific realities meet in a hopeful human struggle for something better. A place where uninspired, average, least common denominator, bottom-line decision-making is relegated to the past. A place where new wildly unexpected and healthy stereotypes are born.

("Small Worlds" by the ever-awesome Andrew Schoultz)

Friday, December 15, 2006

The World Acccording to Köppen...

I know, I know, you've been having trouble getting the Köppen climate classification call letters straight as you designate seasonal weather patterns around the planet. Hey, stop beating yourself up, it happens to all of us at one time or another. Maybe you just need a refresher course. I wouldn't go by the map above either. Sure it's pretty, but it's waaay simplified and will only get you into trouble. Try the Köppen-Geiger map instead for a more granular look at global climates.

But don't expect perfection. Let's take the two-tiered Mediterranean or Chaparral biome for example. I mean, it's obvious that San Francisco is a Csb climate but is Los Angeles Csa or Csb? It has warm/hot summers, true, but... it's on the coast. Tough one. Me? I say Csa because as far as I'm concerned, it's more important to be able to locate places with hot, dry summers and mild semi-wet winters than places that are on the coast. Anyone can see that just by looking at a map. But officially, because of its coastal situation, LA is labeled "Csb". Which technically means we would have the same weather as San Francisco. Well, anyone who's arrived in San Francisco in July with only shorts and t-shirts will quickly curse Mr. Wladimir Köppen for lumping these very different climes together. For that error he should have been exiled to a Dwd.

Weather is often scoffed at as being empty conversational fodder, but I believe the climate you choose to inhabit is one of the single most influential factors a human can experience in terms of quality of life. Fed up with your igloo? Planning a mosquitoless vacation? Growing grapes? Trench foot got you down? Learn the Köppen system and you'll have little to complain about. Except the frequent errors in the Köppen system, that is.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

THE END is nice...

Wonderful dreams of massive tidal waves coming to shore last night. Seeing them miles out along the horizon as towering liquid mountains with wild frothy plumes of windblown whitecaps at the top. No dread, rather the sheer excitement that something divine was immanently upon us. Many gawkers at the shoreline, not panicking, not realizing that the waves would engulf them. I climb up a tall staircase built into a cliff, following a (white) girl who has tattooed her entire body (not her face or hands) a deep eggplant black. She covers her bikini with a black silk apron. She is a waitress in a posh restaurant called Paradise Gardens, an al fresco eatery with bright white marble floors and low green arches. I can see that smaller tidal waves are hitting the beach below in slow motion, people are bobbing in the frothy water, going under, but no screaming. Still a feeling of awe and positivity. There are two sheep with no eyes at my feet on a patch of grass. The sun is shining. The day is warm. I can smell the salt water. The end will be nice.

I see this as an overwhelmingly positive dream. The levels of dopamine in my system upon awaking were off the charts. It's obvious that there is some sexual energy here, but more importantly there is divine energy. It took me until this very moment to realize the Noah's Ark aspect. Especially the two blind sheep. Could I be telling myself to embrace my inner-Noah? To gather the innocent beasts, and the wild things, and prepare for an ending? A deluge? A massive cleansing? A new beginning? Or could this just be the old Judeo-Christian biblical foundations rearing their dramatic heads once again...

In the dull paradise gardens of Southern California, the soul yearns for extremes. For jolts and lightning bolts. For slates to be wiped clear and clean. As I go through a period of challenge and reinvention the dream seems to affirm my wobbly course and reminds me of the power of fearlessness in the face of some potentially terrifying circumstances. Either that, or it's time to take some scuba lessons.

(Hokusai, of course)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The dapper man who fell to earth...

You probably know someone who's got style. You probably know someone who's got talent. You probably know someone who's got that inexplicable something. But you don't know anybody who's got all three of these qualities in quantities that could disarm the army. Meet
Jimmy Spencer.

Mr. Spencer has been a shining fixture on the LA jazz scene for decades. His smooth vocals and commanding presence go deep, filling his listeners ears with a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is worldview that makes the old standards come completely to life. Holding that mic just so, formal in the geometric sense, radiating a form of spellbinding light, not from the visible spectrum (ultra blue?), Jimmy puts the warm back in cool.

In Los Angeles you might have seen Jimmy Spencer at The Beverly Hilton, The Ambassador Hotel, The Golden Galleon, The Lobster House. I remember him from Miceli's in Hollywood, one of the most charistmatic backdrops going. His spine-tingling ultra-minimal version of Route 66 haunts my dreams to this day. ("Get your kicks... Six, Six.") He's got a regular gig, excuse me, engagement, at Colombo's in Eagle Rock on Wednesday nights, and also on Thursday night's at Mr. B's in Burbank. I'm hoping he'll turn up at Charlie O's on Christmas Eve with his band, The Karen Hernandez Trio. That would make the yuletide bright.

(Jimmy Spencer, today, and at "The Smoke House" in 1979)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Obama, not Osama"...

"Will Sen. Barak Hussein Obama's name have an effect on his political game?" blare the CNN headlines...

I don't know who irks me more: CNN for reporting on this kind of infantile shite, or the very real people for whom such ridiculousness actually matters (or me, for posting the above picture). It doesn't help that Rush Limbaugh keeps referring to him as Obama Osama (see for yourself). Hey, our current prez is called "Bush" does that mean he's a pussy? Actually, I'll let CNN go on this one, since their report is fairly tongue in cheek, and actually calls attention to the dunderheaded man-on-the-street who sincerely believe that "Barak Obama is still out there somewhere, and is a major threat to our national security."

More troubling are the ranking US congress members who serve in leadership positions on massively influential intelligence committees, who when questioned, simply did not know basic information. Silvestre Reyes, the newly appointed head of the House Intelligence Committee was completely flummoxed when it came to stating whether al-Qaeda is a Suni or Shia run organization, and likewise whether Hezbollah is a Suni or Shia run organization. Hell, even I know that.

BBC reports: "The office of Mr. Reyes, when asked for comment, said only that he was acutely aware of al-Qaeda's desire to harm Americans and the House Intelligence Committee would keep its eye on the ball." Read all about it here.

We're doomed.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The fruits of others...

We've got a lemon tree but sometimes the lemons are too high to reach, so we simply run across the street and grab a few juicy ones from the tree in the front yard of the abandoned house that sits there. It's a quintessential California citronistic moment.

The folks at Fallen Fruit have taken to mapping the public domain fruit-bearing plantlife in various neighborhoods around the country. They started right here in fruity old Silverlake/Los Feliz. It's a great service. No one should get scurvy in this day and age. And when avocados are selling for $4 a pop at your local grocer, why wouldn't you grab the exact same item for free on your afternoon stroll?

The Fallen Fruits brigade explains:

"Free food is available at every time of the year on the streets of Los Angeles. According to the law, if a fruit tree grows on or over public property, the fruit is no longer the sole property of the owner. Fruit trees in particular are highly decorative, and often demand no greater care than any other landscape ornamental. Los Angeles is particularly rich in this respect: bananas, peaches, avocados, lemons, oranges, limes, kumquats, loquats, apples, plums, passion fruit, walnuts, pomegranates and guavas, just to name a few, grow year round in every neighborhood in the city. These fruits ripen at different seasons, so free food is available year round in Los Angeles."

A few other other So-Cal maps on the site, but not too many from elsewhere... I'd be curious to know where else such fantastic abundance lies...

Sunday, December 10, 2006



\ SWIG-lz; plur-\, noun:

1) The multiple microturns made when parallel parking in a tight space.
2) The rhythmic back and forth motion a woman's buttocks make when she walks.
3) Seemingly uncontrollable canine enthusiasm as expressed by full body wiggling, heavy panting, and tail thwacking.

(as coined by SBW, 12/9/06)

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Jellyfish of the mind...

Today the Gazpachot experiment is one year-old, and so it's only fitting that I tip my hat to the Portuguese Man-of-War that lives in the middle of my brain, sparking random ideas from that dark deep hole with its potent stinger cells... If I could deliver a cupcake with a candle in it, I certainly would.

There are few things more beautiful and relaxing than giant jellyfish gently bellowing their way through the ocean currents. It’s pure ballet what they’re doing out there, now, somewhere, mindlessly drifting with those absurdly murderous tentacles ruffling in tow.

It’s practically a cliche by now, we’ve witnessed their dreamy undulations many times on television, behind fingerprinted glass walls in aquariums, and elsewhere. Jellyfish don’t change their routine much. They don’t abide by trends or try to swim against the current. But they are timeless, alien symbols of the unconscious mind at play, guided along the currents of memory, paralyzing and consuming random passing morsels that might supply some energy, sustenance, or even meaning.

I was stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish when I was about 13. I was looking directly into the setting sun and I thought it was a coconut floating in the surf. I grabbed the beast with all the enthusiasm of a 13-year-old playing in the warm blue waters of the Caribbean. You can imagine how that went. They say the screams were heard in parts of southern Florida. Even so, or perhaps because of, I like to give jellyfish the attention they deserve. I enjoy their range: the anesthetic quality of their motion and the jolting potential of their sting.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Vespa Polo (and the Unocycle)...

That's right. You heard it here first. Polo on Vespas. But why? Polo is expensive, well out of the budget range of your average urban sportsman. Let's not even talk about sharing an apartment with a string of ponies. My solution is simple: Vespa polo.

Scooters (which include Vespas) are fuel efficient, relatively inexpensive, highly adaptable, and can turn on a dime (if the dime is larger than a manhole cover). And just about any swatch of unused grass in the urban jungle can be appropriated for a few quick chukkas. Three scooters to a team (to minimize collisions) and mallets made with flexible shafts so they will bend if they get caught in another scooter's mechanics. I expect some blood. A few casualties here and there. Hard sports demand heroics. And after the victors have taken their victory lap, all the good citizens who've gathered to watch you in the heat of gamesmanship, can run out and replace the divots and skid marks. Just like they do at Old Westbury!

I know, you're thinking about the image. That's Forrest Myers on his legendary "Unocycle" - a 1973 fully-functioning kinetic art object built from a 90cc Honda motorcycle, modified to hold a rider upright in an inner channel as the outer channel (the tire) revolves. Pretty cool. I'd allow this vehicle to participate in Vespa Polo, only if each side had one. Oh and, if one-wheeled vehicles are your thing, I would recommend that you have a look at this.

And, yes, I am aware that some Silicon Valley billionerds have already attempted to get Segway polo off the ground. As you will see from this exhilarating showcase, there's not gonna be much of a (**yawn**) future in that.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sweet Wisdom....

Sarah says send your emails in the morning, even if you write them at night. Even if you don't change a single word, the fact that the time stamp will say 8 or 9 AM plays very differently than if it says midnight or 1AM. Indeed, the world of impressions is full of such subtleties. By nature I'm more of a sugar in the raw type, but I do appreciate the refined stuff as long as its not reduced to pure confection.

(photo by John Rawlings)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


When pressed for an answer, a minor US writer once stated that his sexual fantasy involved having an enormous crate of pomegranates crushed over his copulating body by a large pneumatic machine. Thousands of exploding seeds plishing and plashing gush rivulets of deep staining tart crimson juice everywhich where as the wood crate snaps under mechanical submission.

I am happy to report that a smaller scale version of this experience is available to all. First, get a pomegranate. The skin is key. Is it soft and smooth? Put it back. You want one that feels as dry and leathery as a dead lizard or Clint Eastwood's cheek. The fruit should feel hard to the touch - no give. All of this is to spare you a permanent random pattern of blood red dots etched onto anything within a ten food radius of your consumption. OK ready? You might want to take of your clothes for this.

Take your pomegranate in your hands so that the top and bottom are facing towards the ceiling and floor respectively. Clasping your fingers, push your palms together with a good amount of force. You will feel the seeds begin to crush inside. Take care to monitor the pressure build up on the skin - if it starts bulging wildly, back off. Now, rotate the pomegranate 90 degrees and crush again. Rotate 45 degrees, crush, rotate 45 degrees, crush, and so on. If you're not covered in juice by this point, all systems are go - you chose your fruit well.

Now grab your pocketknife. Holding the fruit sideways, so the top and bottom are parallel to the floor, make a small incision, less than a centimeter, right in the center of the fruit, the part that is now facing the ceiling. Immediately lift the incision to your mouth. Squeeeeze long and hard like you were trying to suffocate a baseball. The juice will shoot down your throat like warm sweet wine. (Actually, I'm surprised they don't make wine from pomegranates.) Keep going. That shit is good for you so keep squeezing until your anti-oxidants can't take anymore.

(get all of Dali's "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate One Second Before Waking Up - Gala and the Tigers" right here)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Never Meta-Joke...

A man walks in to a bar...

The next day, he ducks.

("Rebar" by Chris Empey)

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Gift of Legacy...

Al Gore's eco-stump speech these days concludes with the following bit...

"The Scottish mountain climber W. H. Murray wrote: 'Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative ... there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too.'"

It's a good bit. I like its "all in" approach. Are you capable of starting or at least contributing to something that your children's children will notice as an improvement in their lives? When people say they've taken on a cause, what they really mean is that they are investing in an effect.

I wonder, could W.H. Murray be related to Bill?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Nice to Media!

"These days you don't exist until you exist in some form of media," says brother Ted this morning at breakfast. We were talking about My Space phenomenon, but the smae goes for any of the myriad of digital characters we inhabit in the 21st C. People work so hard to create these enhanced, imagined, virtual versions of themselves and then live their actual lives heavily boldtered and influenced by the character they've created online.

In short, life itself is not for living any more. Life without media enhancement is nowheresville. OK sure, eventually plain of life will become cool again, retro, like owning a turntable or a typewriter. "Oh wow, look, you just live in life, no media enrichment. Cool! What's that like?" All of this is happening very quickly, and I would argue that the species is modifying at an alarmingly exponential rate. Not to be an alarmist, just an observationalist.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A poke in the bird's eye...

You find something really great that fills you with enthusiasm and creative inspiration. Great! Lucky you... You hang that thing in your mind like a shiny new shirt on a hanger. Wow. You make a mental note to find the right way to incorporate this great new thing into your life, your work, your output. Time passes, and then someone else comes along and puts the great thing out there. They not only beat you to it, but they made a mockery of your personal attachment to the great thing. Poor you.

Anyhow, I was so excited to discover Olivo Barbieri and his tilt-shift lenses earlier this year. There was something in aerial photography that I thought was being missed, something mythical instead of informational, and he captured that missing aspect so well. I wrote him letters, dreamed up and jotted down projects I'd like to do with him, namely involving moving images that put the effect to good use. When nothing came of all that, I moved on.

So it is with mixed emotions that I present to you Thom Yorke's new video. I suppose I could be secretly lattered. But I'd much rather mope about it publicly. A piece of advice: If you happen to be born an Aquarius with a year lead on the creative zeitgeist, make sure you get yourself to a place where you can do something with that.

Read all about tilt-shift and the usurpers of so-called "Smallgantics" here and here.

Some really jaw droppingly beautiful tilt-shift samples (including the one above) found here at the bitter*girls. Wow wow wow! Still makes my belly tingle.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Setting GeoPolitical Boundaries 1.0 ...

The Caribbean island of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten is the smallest parcel of land on Earth shared by two countries. It is half French, half Dutch, or at least roughly. Frankly, the French got the bigger "half." Why is this? According to Wikipedia it goes like this...

France and the Netherlands agreed to divide the island on March 23, 1648. Two walkers were chosen, one by the French and the other by the Dutch. The men were stood back to back at one point on the western shore of the island. They were instructed to walk (no running!) the circumference of the island in opposite directions. The point where they eventually met on the eastern side of the island was set as the other point, and the thus the frontier line was drawn, dividing Saint Martin from Sint Maarten. Seemingly, the French walker walked more than the Dutch walker. (54km as opposed to 32km). Some say the French walker was stimulated with wine, while the Dutch walker was stimulated with beer. Some say the wine consumption yielded the larger territory, while some people (from the Dutch side) suspect the French walker was actually more of a runner.

So there you have it: either the Saint Martin French are conniving, speed-demon winos or the Sint Maarten Dutch are gullible, slow-poke beer-swillers. Which is true? You'll just have to visit the island with a pal and "walk" it yourself...

Oh and... in case you were hoping for a relaxing beach getaway... the picture is real. St. Martin has one of the world's shortest runways making these ultra-low landings necessary.