Saturday, June 30, 2007

Chiho Aoshima...

Those of you who were able to see the Ecstasy: In and Out of Altered States show at the Geffen Contemporary last year may remember a few obvious highlights... The Mushrooms. The moving bench. The LSD Fountain (can that be legal?). The Golden Sphere (a la Woody Allen's "Orgasmatron"). The sprawling green light grid. And in retrospect those pieces do seem somehow spectacular, even thought the show itself left Sarah and I feeling empty and slightly cheated. One work we really enjoyed was Eija-Liisa Ahtila's beautifully understated splitscreen video, Talo/The House, about a woman becoming unglued from time and space. For me, the undisputed star of the show, the one piece that truly threw me into a deep hypnotic state (that haunts me to this day) is Chiho Aoshima's total immersion digital animation piece, City Glow. Something in the pacing and the soundtrack, the undulating cartoon colors, the buzzing insects, and the slow dollying through multiple imaginary city and country-scapes packs exactly the right psychedelic punch. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki will find much to enjoy.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Corrections: #3508

I hired some strippers to come to the nude beach and told them to work backwards.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Conservative Agenda (Domestica)...

"The careers of [Supreme Court Judges] Roberts and Alito have been embematic of the conservative ascendancy in American law. Both men joined the Reagan Administration, where Edwin Meese III, who was for a time the Attourney General, and others, were building a comprehensive critique of the Supreme Court. The conservative agenda has remained largely unchanged in the decades since: Expand executive power. End racial preferences intended to assist African-Americans. Speed executions. Welcome religion into the public sphere. And above all, reverse Roe v. Wade, and allow states to ban abortion."

Now you know.

( Image by Banksy, text from Jeffrey Toobin's Talk of the Town piece, "Five to Four" in June 25 "New Yorker")

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Sicko" leaves us in the waiting room...

Michael Moore's "Sicko" makes its points well. He has his folksy-like-a-fox methods and his manipulations and agendas, but we know that by now. He intentionally horrifies us, embarrasses our nation, and offers no solutions. He knows that with an election around the corner, any bridge he might build, any articulation out of the healthcare quagmire is going to be blown up by critics, thus rendering the larger ideas moot. Same scenario with "An Inconvenient Truth" - it seems that the function of this new type of socially conscious movie is to pose big questions and outrage the emotions to the point of activism. As Sarah points out, it's easy to make the green movement sexy, and to enlist the participation of the evil empire (i.e. corporations). But the healthcare system is broken precisely because it is beholden to so many tropes and contracts of big business. We're going to have to go it alone if we want to repair healthcare. Or move to Cuba.

I might add that Michael Moore seems to be encouraging people to download the film for free from the Internet. "I've already made my money," he says. And while I'm sure Bob and Harvey Weinstein feel differently, it's an encouraging gesture. That said, it may be better to see "Sicko" in theaters (or buy tickets and download at home if you must) in support of this kind of filmmaking.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Your ecstatic to-do list...

I went camping on the Kern River and was bit in a dreamy afternoon slumber by a spider, likely a black widow, judging by the bite, which looks exactly like a small archery target. I'm not dead yet, on the contrary, I am ready to live more.

It's important to be practical. Life demands it. But ultimately, it's more important to be impractical. People who are truly impractical understand fully what it is to be practical, they have digested, adopted, and diffused those attributes into their being. (Note how the word "impractical" contains the secret message: "I'm practical") People who never give the mastery of day-to-day living a second thought are not impractical, they are loaves of bread.

(TO DO in Post-It Notes" by illegal art)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Funt You...

So much bizarre street life lately. Too unusual to explain. You had to be there, as they say. Which brings up a point: How come when random strangeness occurs in real life you often turn around and wonder where the cameras are, but on Candid Camera they never did this? The dupe always took the ruse. What demon hath the late Monsieur Funt wrought? More puzzle pieces to ponder in the maze of Cinematic Culture...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Daisy says...

“Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.”
- The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The noble Akita...

Akitas are interesting dogs. The neighbor has got one and it often fills the night with its deep, forlorn howl. It's actually quite beautiful as it echoes through the canyons. Remember the OJ Simpson fiasco? It was the "low plaintive wail" of an Akita that opened the curtain to that melodrama. In Japan, small statues of the Akita are often sent to ill people to express a wish for their speedy recovery, and to parents of newborn children to symbolize health. The first Akita was brought to the USA by Helen Keller. American servicemen also brought Akitas to the US after World War II. I'm told that these dogs are the national symbol of Japan (like our eagle). Japanese mythology says that one faithful Akita waited still as a statue for seven years at his master's front door, waiting for him to return home from work (apparently the master had died on the job). This loyalty and steadfast virtue is of course the perfect symbol for Japanese identity. I like how they sneak "dying on the job" in there too. How Japanese can you get?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It is what it is...

I've noticed people using this phrase lately. It is used in the negative, meaning, "It's not good, but it is the sum total of the parts and powers that went into it. It exists." It seems to imply less than savory results achieved through dysfunctional or substandard means. Although technically correct, I've never heard it used to describe the condition of something spectacular or breathtaking.

("Tree" by Jason Evans)

Monday, June 18, 2007

"Holy Mountain"...

It will cause me to blush to admit it, but yes, I do consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the topic of mind-blowing psychedelic films from the swirly 60's and 70's. Which is why last night's Cinespia cemetery screening of Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Holy Mountain," the long-unavailable-and-100,000-light-years-beyond-trippy-made-with-John Lennon's-hard-earned-Beatle-cash classic was such a treat. I thought I'd seen it already, but I was confusing it with Jodorowsky's equally kaleidoscopic, but less enjoyable "El Topo." "Holy Mountain" is an astounding and ecstatic achievement, and perhaps the most independent film ever made, at least in terms of handing a director a seemingly unlimited budget to persue his most far out and unscripted visions. Yes indeed, the film is really a steaming pile of sausage-linked turd-dreams, but if you can't put the overblown gestures and serious silliness of that era in perspective by now, well it's really your problem not the film's. Some of you will know "Santa Sangre" as Jodorowsky's best known film, and it's a fine place to start getting to know him. But really, if and when "Holy Mountain" comes out on DVD, I would recommend you dust off your paisley dashiki, make yourself a bed of peacock feathers, drop some purple peyote beads, have lots of nude girls standing around, and let the film do the talking.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Global Hometown...

Have a look at Global Hometown, my old friend TK Maloy's spanking new online global diary of hometown stories. It's Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" for the 21st C. Submit your own story - it's free (and refreshingly free of any strings or creepy marketing agendas). Everyone comes from somewhere, why not build an archive dedicated to the roots of our global narrative? Go TK!

(Image by Ombilicus Mundi)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chandler makes the call...

"The overall picture, as the boys say, is of a degraded community whose idealism even is largely fake. The pretentiousness, the bogus enthusiasm, the constant drinking and drabbing, the incessant squabbling over money, the all-pervasive agent, the strutting of the big shots (and their usually utter incompetence to achieve anything they start out to do), the constant fear of losing all this fairy gold and being the nothing they have never ceased to be, the snide tricks, the whole damn mess is out of this world."

From a letter dated January 12, 1946 from Raymond Chandler to publisher Alfred A. Knopf. He's talking about Hollywood of course, but his words can be applied perfectly to so many modern initiatives.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Freud's Angel...

Here's a one-of-a-kind "Dear John" letter from Marilyn Monroe to John Huston turning down the role of Annie O. in "Freud" the movie. Interesting that she chose to defend some kind of psychic reality over the fantasy world with which she had become synonymous.

(from the great "Movies on the Mind" exhibit at the Motion Picture Academy)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Glorious Glendale...

People wince (and I laugh at myself) when I say, "I love LA!" But it's true, I do. There is a subtle and remarkable thing going on here beneath the hoopla and the cheese I've spoken about so many times in this blog over the months.

But today I'll openly admit, as we all know, that parts of this town are not only godforsaken, they are dead. And by dead I really mean deader than dead - blazing hot concrete shit troughs populated by staggering, open-mouthed, mealy-minded, consumer-addled corpses animated only by the need to defecate all the trans fats and pollutants out of their fat blow holes. Brand Street in Glendale (where I was today) would be a fairly good example of this malaise. I once got a ticket there for jaywalking by a smug midget cop who made me sit in the median between two lanes of opposing traffic while he wrote out the ticket, smirking in his gay black boots. The streets of Glendale are literally crawling with cops who have nothing better to do than uphold the conservative agenda of a sorry township. And it's a shame, because there are some beautiful parks in the area and some beautiful Armenian families who stay away from the city center in their side-street homes. But the main streets in Glendale are sad places where life it seems, is just a nuisance, just another threat to the sacred order of bad air and horribly bad architecture. OK, I feel better now.

(The Glendale Gardens, lovely)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Aye Aye, Captain...

If hearts or lungs were as undisciplined as minds we'd all die in childbirth.

Plato likened the natural state of the mind to a mutinied ship which had been taken over by stubborn sailors - each believing himself free, each taking his turn at the wheel, and each taking the ship in a new direction. The result: an erratic path of disconnected navigations. Plato urged us to quell the mutiny, to take back the ship from the wild sailors and the whim of the moment, and to steer consistently and coherently towards a chosen destination. This, in his opinion, was our job as humans.

(Two Johns in a rowboat, Sept. 1963)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Graceless Maze...

The strong sense that the answer hiding is right in front of you. If only you could get your head above the hedges for a second, you could see beyond all of these obstacles and distractions and know exactly where to focus your attention. But so far it's only a sense. What's the next move?

"Zfff! - What was that?"

"That was your life mate."

"Oh, that was quick. Do I get another?"

"No sorry, that was your lot."

- Basil Fawlty

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Our Litigious Planet...

Let's say you are wronged. What to do? You sue! And suing, though perhaps justified in many cases, gums up the fabric of society, and puts a lawyer's mentality at the root of our being by turning our every footstep into a potentially litigious matter. Things get awfully snide. Who wants to live in that world? What small measures can be taken to deflate this scourge on our planet?

A nice man at a party last night was talking to Sarah and I about how certain progressive internet business models work in terms of copyright lawsuits and file sharing. Basically, the company regularly puts aside a portion of its income into an escrow account where it accrues interest over time. When Joe Smith accidentally surfs across his college thesis film (on say, a You Tube like web site), he is, of course, the rightful owner of that work and entitled to any profits that may have been generated as a result of that usage. So, the progressive but technically wrong-doing company owns up to the error and says, yes, you are entitled to a small amount of money, which you will have to sue us in order to get. Or, if you do not choose to sue us, we will give you a slice of the profit sharing pie which continues to grow as does our revenue, end of story. In other words, doing nothing is better than suing - the more nothing, the more money you earn, without the nasty headache and cultural side effects of suing... Oh, I've explained this all pretty badly haven't I... Don't get an economics lesson at a party and try to spit it out sensibly the next morning...

(Swearymap from the good people at Twatlas)

Friday, June 08, 2007

A hill of beans...

Been drinking coffee now for a good solid month after many uncounted years of zero joe in my life. I am seeing all the tiny increments of addiction played out before and inside of me - elation, catharsis, racing thoughts, sweat, new outlook, jonesing, yearning, looking forward to morning, just 2 cups a day, fetishizing brands and beans, why do I feel sleepy?, I can't sleep, my skin prickles, we're out of coffee, my tongue tastes like dirt, Starbucks sucks, talking about coffee, I can't feel it, I should stop, I need it. Actually, I'm still at two cups a day, and I think I could maintain this level for a while. Who knows? This is why I stay away from crack.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sprawl is charming...

Do you know those dreams where you're walking through your home or apartment and you keep discovering rooms that you never knew existed? Well, Los Angeles is a lot like that. On a purely selfish level let me declare that sprawl is fascinating and not without its own peculiar charms. It may be ruinous, ugly, environmentally corrupt, etc., but it also makes for these insular pockets of life and architecture that one would only expect to find in dreams. My work has been taking me to Koreatown lately. There, the horseshoe-shaped mini-malls pile up like shells on a beach. The BBQ joints and Karaoke Bars are stacked two, sometimes three stories high. They are caked with pulsing lighting systems and incomprehensible ads. Some establishments are unbelievably slick and minimal, like sets from 2001: A Space Odyssey, others are completely jerry-rigged and held to gether with strands of Christmas lights. Never have fluorescent lights looked so good. OK, so K-town may not be a stroll through the Tueleries on a summer's eve, but it is no less engaging in its manipulation of the senses.

(Mysterious delicacies at the ban-chan bar at the Hankook Market)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Vive la Différence...

How much of what we call love, romantic love, is about "the match" and how much is about "the mismatch?" I'd say the mismatch, though hopefully a smaller slice of the pie, is in some ways more important. It will define the level and the kind of friction that exists between lovers. Within this tension lies the specific fuel, the magic juice that will propel a couple through time and space and all levels of experience. A 100% match goes nowhere. Total agreement stalls and stagnates.

Of course, the mismatch hides. It does not want to spark too much awareness for fear of unleashing it's potentially acidic and burning properties. But lovers who love can benefit from carefully pondering the nature of their own friction. Talking about it generally won't work. Too volatile. Like viewing a solar eclipse, the mismatch is best understood as a reflection rather than seen head on.

And by the way, I should add that nothing personal sparked this post. I believe that Sarah and I have a rare understanding of our differences and samenesses. I was researching old Apple ads and kept coming across the John and Yoko one (seen above), the ad that for many years loomed large over Hollywood on it's largest billboard. If we take John and Yoko as one unit and Apple Computers as another, we can intuit the many levels of friction and harmony that this bizarre but not entirely inane juxtaposition creates.

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher regard those who think alike than those who think differently." -Nietzsche

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A surprising continuity...

Given how humankind operates (and by that I'm refering to how the will of "the people" - aka the marketplace - eventually prevails, even if it means destroying, beyond memory, that which came before), frankly I'm shocked that so many religions have stayed as intact as they have over the centuries. And by intact, I am specifically refereing to the somber rituals and austere environs that so many houses of worship still manage to maintain.

When your local pizza parlor faces a slump, maybe they will install a plasma television or redecorate the place to look like a spacestation. When the art museum gets dusty, maybe they knock it over and put in a mini-mall. So why then haven't churches installed those comfy chairs like the ones at the movie theater? Why not beer service in the mosques, like at the ballpark? And can we do something about the cold, gloom and doom feeling of the room? Shag carpets and maybe a Jenny Holzer piece to stimulate the senses would certainly add modern flair. Listen, if the goal is to save souls, then does it matter how you do it? If our temples were as warm and cozy and chatty as the corner pub, well you might find that business was booming? Could it be that indeed, some things are sacred?

For a more eloquent take on this idea, read William Blake's short poem, "The Little Vagabond" here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Down the rabbit hole...

What kind of person are you? You think you know, but you may forget the whole package until you find yourself in less than favorable circumstances outside of your control. These conditions can bring out aspects of yourself you may not know exist (and you may not like). Better to meet these shadow personalities sooner than later. And best to be objective about them.

I deftly managed to drop my car keys down an elevator shaft in a parking lot in Downtown LA last Friday at 4:55PM while wearing wet gym clothes. My cell phone was locked in my car. Anyone who knows LA, knows that Downtown rolls up its sidewalks at 5PM and clears its windy streets to make way for the homeless, the night owls, the bar crawlers and hipsters. All the elevator technicians are long gone. So yes, I saw some pretty ugly sides of myself. And yes, after the third hour passed, I was able to be objective. When the sense of humor returns, all things are possible.

("ALICE" - A Large Ion Collider Experiment, is one of five experiments preparing to receive data from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN starting in 2008. ALICE is a nuclear physics experiment built to study the nature of the quark-gluon plasma.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Your drag is my drag...

I was at a party the other night, and the acoustics were so bad that my ears could only register the over-arching cacophony of voices in the room. Whenever someone would talk to me I would just stand there and nod, and say, I can't really hear what you're saying. Scintillating! It reminded me of those rediculous "conversations" you have on a cell phone where half the words drop out and the other half are on a slight delay so that you end up talking over one another with each utterance. Yesterday, we went to a wedding, which was great fun. Sarah and I only knew a few people so instead of talking politely to strangers we just drank loads of champagne, danced like teenagers, and started a spanking chain (it's something we do at weddings). It's a much more effective form of communication. I can't think of a better way to break the ice with a 65 year-old aunt done up like a tropical fish or a sullen uncle in a borrowed suit than to land a full-force kamakaze smack on their badoingus. Trust me, it's catching.

Free hearing test here.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Multiverse Theory...

NPR's Science Friday ("Sci-Fri") is a strangely enjoyable radio show, if only because it's such a damn charmingly nerdy and amateurish thing to stumble across. The host, Ira Flatow, is just scatterbrained and mush-mouthed enough to keep you on the edge of your carseat, and tuned in to the show's accident-waiting-to-happen-like qualities. Plus, you're bound to learn something in between the skids and the hiccups.

On last night's show, the guest, Paul Davies, was full of eye-opening notions. Who knew that a large cadre of cosmologists have been seriously toying with the idea of a "multiverse" in the last few years (not Davies, who thinks it's all poppyckock). Multiverse theory is, roughly, a more sophisticated version of the old "parallel universe" concept that gets bandied about in sci-fi novels. A multiverse is a vast collection of universes packed together into some larger structure (I imagine a pomegranate, or a colony of mussels attached to an underwater dock pylon) in which each universe has its own distinct set of physical laws. Very few of these universes are capable of supporting life as we know it, thus making our own all the more unique.

Personally, I'd say our universe is enough to grapple with, especially if the other ones aren't nearly as special as our own. I mean really, have you seen the way they arrange their molecules? Frankly, it's an eyesore.

Friday, June 01, 2007

God gave you dominion (but you wanted a Big Mac)...

Once again that Old Testament causes a ruckus. It says in there (Genesis 1:26) that God gave us dominion over the animals and the earth. Believe (in) it or not, that passage has enabled much of human progress over the millennia. Thing is, what kind of a crazy open word is "dominion" to use when talking about such major issues? Does dominion mean "these things are our possessions over which we have total command to do whatever we want" or does it mean "thoughtful stewardship"? Some of you clever types will say, "It means both," to which I say once you've chopped a cow into a hamburger, put it on your grill, topped it with Gorgonzolla, and devoured it with a crisp summer ale, you are propbably no longer eligible for the "thoughtful steward" moniker. Same goes for the earth. Animal rights people, environmentalists, and hard-nosed semanticists have been arguing over this word and its meanings for years. Oh God, You and Your "it's-up-to-you" routines... our free will must be endlessly entertaining.