Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Dreamy losses...

First, sorry to see Ingmar Bergman go. So many great films. For me, the last five minutes of Wild Strawberries, with dreamy flashbacks and simple, final harp notes suggesting a sweet ending to a long life, is one of my most effecting (childhood) moments in cinema. He taught me about a kind of complex European formality at an age where I was more interested in letting it all hang out...

Secondly, while we're pondering a Christian type of ascension, I'd like to bring up Helium. Where do they get it? If it's lighter than air, does it malinger up in the atmosphere somewhere? Everytime a child's balloon needs filling, do they need to send up a rocket probe? Or does it just grow in those metal tanks? These are the kind of thoughts that keep me up at night.

Thirdly, when finally asleep, a vivid dream of stumbling upon George W. Bush sleeping on the ground next to a shrub, hiding, trying to get some shut-eye, while there's very clearly a nasty war going on. I'm trying to take his picture, but everytime I reach for the camera, he jumps up. Bill Clinton, appearing on cue, tells me I should let him sleep. In response, I pull out a magazine article that says Clinton's new book was the worst of the year. That shuts him up. He get's into an old red Volvo station wagon (Bergman ref?) and drives off. Bush sleeping in the bushes again. What can it mean?

Wait... Antonioni too? That's too much... so that's it. We've got Godard, Wenders, Herzog left from the old guard(s). Antonioni, I can't believe it.

(scene from Bergman's "Monika")

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Nobody loves you more than Kenny the Tiger!

Saturday, July 28, 2007


We went whirlibirding over Malibu in our friend Bruno's helicopter yesterday at sunset... It was beyond spectacular... These are the most incredible machines. (Thank you Mr. Sikorsky. Your chopper chops a dreamy flightpattern.) Above is Sarah heading out... her first time... Below is her jubilant return to Mother Earth.

(photos by Paul Gachot)

Friday, July 27, 2007

I can see your epidermis...

Go ahead, call them "Hooters for intellectuals" but I, for one, am fascinated by Venessa Beecroft's tableaux vivants. She takes those superwoman Helmut Newton poses and turns them into something much more vulnerable and complex. I'll admit, I also like that she was named Vanessa after her parents saw Miss Redgrave's performance in Blow Up. I guess I'm superficial like that.

(Venessa Beecroft's site is here)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fearful symmetry...

Do our actions in life simply mirror the contents of our consciousness, which is haunted by the ghosts of memories and emotions and dreams?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

DD's "Dangerous Memes" at TED...

This Daniel Dennett talk from the great TED conference is worth watching. He's not at his best, the time constraints seem to be throwing him off a little. That said, DD at his worst is still about one thousand times better than say, our president at his best. Forget his unremarkable comments on Islam. To me the core idea here is when he talks about our immunity in the West to all the pollutants we create and fling about the globe. And yet for many people in the world, these polluting "memes" are a huge deal. We should be very aware of this as we spread our culture. What kind of culture isn't polluting? DD really sidesteps that one.

(More DD talks here)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Making Movies in a Volcano...

I've had this idea for a while to make a documentary about radical psychological therapies. Any takers among you producer types? I've got a pretty good angle...

Monday, July 23, 2007

2HB: "The Fountain Pike"

"Himself, he never took too seriously—his work most seriously. He regarded the somewhat gaudy figure of Bogart, the star, with an amused cynicism; Bogart, the actor, he held in deep respect…In each of the fountains at Versailles there is a pike which keeps all the carp active; otherwise they would grow overfat and die. Bogie took rare delight in performing a similar duty in the fountains of Hollywood. Yet his victims seldom bore him any malice, and when they did, not for long. His shafts were fashioned only to stick into the outer layer of complacency, and not to penetrate through to the regions of the spirit where real injuries are done."

- John Huston, eulogizing his friend Humphrey "Little Shaft" Bogart.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

An ecstatic weariness...

“BOMJI. It is a term made of capital letters, recently coined. It literally refers to those people without a stable residence, practically living in the streets, wherever they can stretch their bones.”

- B. Mikhailov

Boris Mikhailov's "Look at Me I Look at Water, or a Perversion of Repose" is a one-of-a-kind photography book that will either find you slamming it shut in a state of profound distaste, or, preferably, drawing you in to an electrified state of horror and fascination. Face it, the average Westerner just doesn't have any points of reference when confronted with the barking mad, flea-bitten, deathly erotic, beautiful festering decay of the average Ukrainian soul on the street. But that shouldn't make us recoil. It should inspire us to re-tally our conceptions of possible human experiences. Mikhailov seems a 70-year-old teenager with a playful prankster's eye, a cruel charismatic egotism, and an unflinching taste for the peculiar ultra-vivid aliveness that human depravity and apathy have on film. For those of you unfamiliar with Mikhailov, I recommend spending some time with his work. To call him the Ukrainian Terry Richardson is an insult (unlike the way that Walter Matthau used to call himself the "Ukrainian Cary Grant"), and tells nothing of the harsh, unsettled realities so many people in the Ukraine face, but it will give some a superficial and safe point of entry to an alarmingly raw and foreign Slavic universe.

(Image from "Case Study" a related project to the "Look at Me.." book, by Boris Mikhailov, 1999)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The essence of Wit..

I was shocked to find out about the death of LA filmmaker/writer Theresa Duncan. Her blog, The Wit of the Staircase, was one of the few of these things I read regularly. It was sharp and unpredictable and capable of reaching poetic notes. Her descriptions of smells and perfumes were wildly inspired (Her description of Dzing! is how I found her). I was beginning to wonder why her site was not updating.

I don't know the circumstances of her death, other than what you can read
online - she killed herself July 10 or thereabouts, in NY, film project in jeopardy, left a long note, leaving her longtime soulmate, the artist Jeremy Blake, despondent, and now missing and believed dead himself, his clothes, passport, and wallet found at the water's edge in Rockaway Beach, after a report of a man swimming out to sea. It's an epically romantic end. Who can say if it's true. If some one you only know through the internet is said to be dead, then you morn the virtual loss.

I didn't know her, other than a few short emails, but like many, I was stuck on her ability to make you yearn for a world as vibrant and original as hers - A secret Lunar Society, a great home in Venice, a well turned phrase, a great picture choice, a coveted item, a sapphic celebrity crush, a flare for stylish elitism. Honestly, her sometimes haughty voice, like most haughty voices, seemed put on, and often made me wonder what (kind of pain) she was trying to cover up. Anyhow, I'll miss her passionate assertions and I hope she's found some peace.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Glass slipper...

You stretch your imagination to envision lives worth leading and you believe in these visions. But every now and then, the rubberband that tethers your imaginary futures to your actual self, snaps. Owww! Cinderella doesn't translate into "little burned ashes" for nothing, Senior Icarus...

(photo from Frank Darius' "Tunichtgut")

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Turn off, Tune out, Drop in...

Funny how this simple reversal of Timothy Leary's catch-phrase resonates so well today. How incredible to think that 40 years ago, the predominant youth sentiment was literally to opt-out of society, to refuse the age-old patterns in the quest for something better and truer. Was that generation ultimately misguided and lazy? Yes, to an extent. But still, their idealism and risks stand as milestones in an important (and often glazed over) debate: Just what are humans meant to do with their 80-odd years on this planet?

Psychedelia got a bum rap because people soured on the "trippiness" of it, the blaring superficial deepness, the drugs, and the obvious escapism of it all. But what was important about 60s psychedelia is precisely that it was a kind of self-inflicted mass dizziness - a heartfelt layman's attempt to stir up the stagnating consciousness of the day, using crude alterations in percetption and hypno-kinetic designs to get the ball rolling again. In order to let go of the existing order, people knew instinctively that they had to invite a sort of jostling amoebic disorder into their lives. Just as Dorothy needed a tornado to get her to Oz, so did we summon forth our most swirly state. Unfortunately, as consumer cultures are wont to do, the trend was identified, infantalized, marketed, and extinguished, long before any of psychedelia's ungluing effects could be put to good use.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Hey wow, I guess we really are a force of good in Iraq!
And boy, that photographer sure was lucky to be walking
by when this delightful moment was unfolding!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Have you been working out?

"Weight, in ounces,
of all the information
that passed through the
Internet last year: 0.00004"

- Harper's Index (August 07)

("3D Network of Internet traffic between 50 Countries" by Stephen G. Eick)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Eras on the verge...

Choose two eras you'd like to have really lived in,
as in been an essential part of the core zeitgeist...

Mine are - 1) London in the Swinging 60s with a bi-coastal jump overseas to NY & LA in the early 70s and 2) turn of the century Vienna/Paris. Both of these eras embody a maximum blossoming of pure creativity, thought, and eroticism in otherwise oppressively outmoded, but aesthetically rich, contexts. Both these eras were characterized by an overwhelmingly crackling sense of potential, of great new things to come. Both had appealing surfaces and explosive centers. Loose manners and tight fits. A person could do some visionary work in these "bridge" times. The fact that they mostly yielded smelly, inarticulate hippies and decayed urban environments on the one hand, and two splendid little World Wars on the other, is inconsequential.

Societies need to come undone. How exciting when the first shirt button pops!

("Peel & Schiele" by Paul Gachot)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bacall to arms...

Here's the crown jewel from a great movie. "The Big Sleep" just shouldn't work. It's a disaster. Even Raymond Chandler himself admited he couldn't work out the plot. And yet it does work. Somehow its cinematic chaos is strangely lifelike and its abundant charms keep it airborne.

If you're curious about the song "And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine," it was a hit the year the film was made (1944) by the hardboiled jazz bohemian Anita O'Day. Her rough and raw autobiography seems worth a read.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Another Green World?

Isn't it strange - a green explosion with unbridled bi-partisan and "A-List" support and a media blitz unlike any other in recent memory... Green stores, green cars, green movies, green homes, green business practices, and on and on. And through it all, who has been conspicuously and consistently missing?

The Green Party.

Wouldn't you think that this was their moment? Wouldn't you think that they would be able to iron out their differences, let go of the demons that have plagued them in the past, and come up with a wild card, but semi-plausible, presidential candidate and platform that at least champions the greening of America? Can't they ride the wave that's so clearly there? Even if there isn't a chance to win, there is a chance for the Greens to reassert themselves, if you will, to re-brand themselves, strategically. Wouldn't one of their main tasks at this moment be to step away from the fringe and take a position of accessible leadership?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The land of bypassed ideas...

Ideas are great arrows, but there has to be a bow.
And politics is the bow of idealism.
- Bill Moyers

("Predator Rock" by W. D. Hammond)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Earth Porn...

People are raving about the show Planet Earth on Discovery. It's one of these stunningly vivid nature documentaries that took five years to film. I checked it out. Beautiful, yep. I'm just not sure what planet they used, because it sure as hell ain't ours. Every single hi-def shot is a richly composed tilt or pan that artfully captures some dramatic "natural" incident in slow motion and crisp eye-popping colors. The vistas and the animals are only seen in their most extreme and dramatic moments. (How many weeks do you have to follow a skink around a rock pile with a thousand pounds of film equipment before it does a back flip?) The show is one snippet of "oooh ahhh" incredible stitched to another, a relentless curation of an imaginary world. I'm not sure what the producer's intention is, but I would imagine it has something to do with preserving this glimmering gem we (don't) inhabit. Think of it, you have millions of people living in crowded ugly cities, packed into their sardine tins, and plugged into this televised Earth pornography which seems to promise that all of this exalted and neverending natural stuff is truly out there, somewhere. Lucky us! (Also, very interesting to note the differences between the Discovery and BBC versions of Planet Earth. Not the same planet at all!).

The Cinematic Imagination is something we all have. It is a new part of our consciousness that has come to fore as a result of all the sophisticated media machines we have invented (and reprogrammed ourselves with) in the last hundred-and-seventy-odd years. It wants to be fed fantastical curations and recreations of objective reality. It craves story and character and plot and denouement. But like all nutritional systems, we must watch what we eat. We may crave ice cream, but what are the effects? We may crave images of synchronized whale dances behind a curtain of gossamer bubble nets, or exotic flowers exploding into bloom in stop-motion induced seconds, set to swirling strings and an eager choir, but what are the effects? Is it now the earth's job to perform for our cameras?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Aging gracefully...

For a younger person it is almost a sin—and certainly a danger—to be too much occupied with himself; but for the aging person it is a duty and a necessity to give serious attention to himself. After having lavished its light upon the world, the sun withdraws its rays in order to illumine itself.
- Carl Jung

(More Jack here)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Photo Godfather...

I'd like to thank my pal Hank for alerting me to the news of the great John Szarkowski's passing. (These days I get my news in five minute blasts of CNN while I'm waking up...) He was "a curator who almost single-handedly elevated photography’s status in the last half-century to that of a fine art, making his case in seminal writings and landmark exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, died in on Saturday in Pittsfield, Mass.
He was 81."

Times obit here.

(John Szarkowski, 1975 by Richard Avedon)

Monday, July 09, 2007

Accepting Disco Drab...

Wild horses couldn't drag me to see a Bob Fosse movie, it's just not in my make up. The above picture alone is enough to give me nightmares for a week. But when Sarah recommends a film, I listen, since her picks are always richly cinematic and chock full of life lessons. True to form, "All that Jazz" is a most provocative and entertaining slice of time travel. It's smart, fast, raw, confident, cynical, philosophical, and gaudy in the extreme. "A strange but potent cocktail of whiplash choreography, erotica, and open-heart surgery," said one reviewer. It certainly makes a perfect partner (and foil) to another great dance-film-not-about-dancing: Powell & Pressburger's "The Red Shoes."

What really struck me is how well it captures a certain type of "controlled looseness" that was very much in the air in New York City when I was a boy. A time when fascinating, terrifying, and complex humans rose above the din of marketing and consumption. A time just before the streets were done up in super-saturated colors and before the super-rich had co-opted every square inch of Manhattan. Let's call it PBPE - Pre Banana Rebuclic Era.

As a film, I can think of few psycho-drama portraits of dying egomaniacs that can match this one (The Passion of the Christ perhaps?) The bold stream-of-consciousness editing alone is reason enough to watch. And who knew they had thong bikinis in 1979? I thought those were strictly a late 80's early 90's phenomenon. Anyhow, while I can't say I identify with this world personally, I do feel that my country boy roots were well tainted by its aura in my urban adolescence. "All That Jazz" is a hidden gem plucked from the disco ball in your crazy aunt's basement.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Homo cinematicus...

It's the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it.
- Andy Warhol

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sphexy Beast...

I know, there are digger wasps and there are digger wasps, and surely you're not the kind that gets made a fool of by deep thinkers like Drs. Dennett and Hofstadter. Or are you?

The North American Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus) is a cosmopolitan predator that stings and paralyzes prey insects. Sphex is a robust sphecid, frequent on flowers and very active. Head and thorax have golden hair. Abdomen black with orange/red on first segment. When the time comes for egg laying, the wasp builds a burrow and seeks out a cricket which she stings in such a way as to paralyze but not kill it. She drags the cricket into the burrow, lays her eggs alongside, closes the burrow, then flies away, never to return. The eggs hatch and the wasp grubs feed off the paralyzed cricket. To the human mind, such an elaborately organized and seemingly purposeful routine conveys a convincing flavor of logic and thoughtfulness, until more details are examined.

For example, the Wasp's routine is to bring the paralyzed cricket to the burrow, leave it on the threshold, go inside to see that all is well, emerge, and then drag the cricket in. If the cricket is moved a few inches away while the wasp is inside making her preliminary inspection, the wasp, on emerging from the burrow, will bring the cricket back to the threshold, but not inside, and will then repeat the preparatory procedure of entering the burrow to see that everything is all right. If again the cricket is removed a few inchies while the wasp is inside, once again she will move the cricket up to the threshold and re-enter the burrow for a final check. The wasp never thinks of pulling the cricket straight in. On one occasion this procedure was repeated forty times, always with the same result.

Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter dubbed this "hidden" robotic behavior as Sphexishness, and they freaked lots of people out in the 60's, causing them to think that perhaps all of these desires and perceptions of free will were just an elaborate ruse - that, in fact, we too were sphexy beasts inhabiting a system where no one ever moves our cricket so as to keep the illusion of free will alive. (Sly hobgoblins rule the universe!)... Actually, these philosophers were saying quite the opposite, that people are much more complex than Sphex, and that we have the ability to spot futile behavior. Of course, most people were too busy exhibiting futile behavior to pick up on this...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Silo Fever...

Beefmasters of containment. All the silent elevator rides, the cellular crutches, all the crowds, all the brushing shoulders, the cars on the roads, the anonymous bruises, all the missed opportunities. When does the illusion of a privileged privacy stop? At what point do we stop buffering ourselves from life on earth with numbing repetitions, and how does that process begin? You think, take a risk! But I am reminded of the tentative rat I saw the other day, who took a risk by slowly crossing the street and was then slowly flattened by a passing SUV. Don't bet against fear and laziness. Or do. At your own private risk.

(More Bernd and Hilla Becher silos and towers here)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fresh snapper...

Playing with our new cameras on the beach in Malibu yesterday.
It was a really fun 4th.

("Sarah, country and modern, by the seashore" by Paul Gachot)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

National illnesses and corporate MFrs...

First, happy 4th of July. Our country's got some serious problems, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that they are SOLVABLE problems. We as a country need to realize our illnesses, find a doctor who can prescribe a clear course of healing, and be willing to make some changes. That last one is key - no more virtual wars without personal sacrifice, no more corporate posturing and obfuscation, no more living in an air-conditioned bubble. To simplify:Just a goal and a path that leads to it.

Second, Yes, there are times when a true, heartfelt expression of sorrow can help to remedy a situation. When we openly admit to our wrongdoing, and we humbly ask those harmed for their forgiveness, there are often good, healing chemicals called into play and ultimately our frail, shared humanity is embraced.

But when corporations say "sorry" for their misdeeds, NO healing takes place. They absolve themselves for their bad behavior and the negative reverberations of their power play further pollute the humanisphere. Too many corporations are too drunk on their image, their aggressive self-perpetuation, their trickle-up policies. I hold them accountable for so much that is wrong with the world. I'm completely sick of it. I'm mad as hell...

To simplify: Human need not corporate greed. Agreed? OK, back to your BBQ.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scribbled under...

I don't want to resist the rising tide of Internet fiefdoms and cultures, but there is an involuntary nausea that all this zealous colonization and instantaneous assertion brings about. On the one hand, it's impossible to ignore the chatter, while on the other, some deep genetic voice says, "unplug lest your own point of view be drawn asunder."

Is there value in stillness? The answer to that question can be found by posing another: Will you surrender to chaos?

("Rootzmap - Mapping the Internet" by Phillippe Bourcier)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Jobs of the damned (part 2)...

''When Russia and the United States speak along the same lines, it tends to have an effect and therefore I appreciate the Russians' attitude in the United Nations,'' Bush said. ''We're close on recognizing that we got to work together to send a common message.'' ... Bush called the Russian leader's latest missile defense idea ''very sincere'' and ''very innovative." ... Earlier, Bush and the Russian leader piled into a powerful speedboat navigated by Bush's father -- former President George H.W. Bush. Under a bright morning sunshine, Putin and the Bushes roamed close to the shoreline around the Bush family's oceanfront estate for about an hour and a half.

A sincere missile defence idea, a boat, a rod, and thou Vlad. Did I dream this?

(Source: NYTimes, photo by Brian Snyder)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Jobs of the damned...

Let's face it: many, many jobs are just plain wrong for their occupants, but they are afraid to let them go. In an expensive world where individual people live to serve massive economies, political agengas, and an unknowable legal system, the way you feel about your work, whether it meets your inner needs, doesn't really add up to much in the face of such a system, does it? Should that make you feel hopeless? Not on your life! This is all the more reason to seek out (or perhaps carve out) a niche that meets both your survival needs and your raison d'etre. America is a country that supports functional dreaming. Can you pull it off? How smart and driven and adaptable are you? Can you be responsible for your own vision of success? That's a good question to think abut, because there are many unseen factors stacked against you if you choose to hoe your own row. I'm reminded of all the people who boldly took the fuel crisis into their own hands and retrofitted diesel cars to run on vegetable oil. Now some state leaders say that those innovators are criminals, liable for lots and lots of unpaid taxes (read here). How sad is that? I guess if progress were easy we wouldn't be human.

("Mann's Chinese Spider Man" by Paul Gachot)