Friday, August 31, 2007

"To call a spade a spade"...

This phrase has always mystified me, I tend to use "Call it like you see it" instead, to mean the same thing: trust what you see, and communicate as such; also, be aware of, and then ignore, the "spin" that's always swirling about you. Apparently, the phrase dates back to 1542 and was a common heuristic intended to remind the English working classes to use their common sense. It probably refers to the farm tool not the house of cards, but these days, the latter makes more sense.

Have a great Labor Free weekend.

(deck of cards by the P22 Font Foundry)

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Power imbalances between the sexes are often defining historical factors of an era. Clearly, the "have-that-one-bathed-and-sent-to-my-tent" days are mostly behind us. That said, I'm not exactly sure what gender identities we're left with in the wake of our well-meaning attempts to create equality. It's like fiddling with hormones, or spices, or the color levels on your tv - once you start futzing...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not hollering for a return to previous inequalities. I'm just asking: Is "the modern condition" a euphemism for "confusion borne of tampering"?

("Ibi Dabo Tibi" from The Song of Songs by Eric Gill, 1925)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fidel and true...

If you're one of the people who believes that Castro is dead, you are not alone. The latest rumor mill seems to flow from either the back rooms of Wall Street, or celebrity blogger Perez Hilton - depending on which rumor mill rumors you believe (actually both of these are my go-to resources for breaking news).

Of course, for many of you this is old news. Castro died in 1981 (tainted shellfish), and was replaced by a look-alike CIA plant named Alexis Papagos. Remember?

Of course, some of you think he's alive, and that, in fact, the Cuban government started this rumor to test global and cyberspace reaction in preparation for the man's real death, which may or may not ever come (as far as we will ever know).

And supposedly the living or dead Castro predicts that a Clinton-Obama ticket is unbeatable.

Ah Fidel, you wily goat. Are you dead or are you alive? And does it really matter since your mas robusto years were almost half a century ago. Either way, you outlived all your old friends and foes - Kennedy, Che, Regan, Nikita, and Stanley. Kubrick that is who tapped into your rebel thunder and gave us the great war farce Dr. Strangelove.

And speaking of that movie, did you know that Strangelove syndrome, aka "alien hand syndrome" is really a real-rumored syndrome? Says so here. Must be true.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Up the spine...

Sometimes the body conspires against us, punishing us for our past overexertions, our moments of bravado, our wills to power, our warped self-images. And while the body can heal, it's creaks and squeaks come and go, we are ultimately voyeurs of our own physical deterioration.

But worse than the body conspiring against our "psychic self" is when our "psychic self" conspires against our body. Not sure what I mean by that? This here clip from the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant is an example that ought to make you squirm. Poor lass. Public speaking can go wrong in so many ways.

("La Poupee" by Hans Bellmer)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Suiting up...

It's time to tune in. One of these people will be our next leader. Which one? Hmmm...

One thing that's not going to win me over: Candidates who change their voice to "fit" their local venue. Obama, for example, was blacking it up so shamelessly at a New Orleans church the other day, I thought he was going to break into "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah." Hilary has a suthen twang that comes and goes the minute she crosses the Mason Dixon line. The Republicans seem less apt to pull a voice change, though I've heard notes of The 700 Club in Mitt Romney's oration.

My worst fear going into '08 is that Bush has changed the office forever with his go-for-broke super-agenda. He's like a cat that's sprayed in every corner of the American experience. The next president will necessarily have to spend valuable time spraying in every corner too, just to get rid of Bush's stink. The new president's agenda starts with a retread. That effort will not only distract attention from new and forgotten issues, but in covering Bush's tracks, the temptation could also be great to assume those very powers he abused.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Summer raspberries...

Sarah handing over some freshly picked Rubus strigosus.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fears of the powerful...

There must be a strong hand to hold them in check.
If not there will be anarchy.

(Chinese riot squad polishes guns)

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Enchanted and The Enhanced...

Los Angeles: The feeling that something about your onslaught of "sexy" isn't so... sexy. Actually something better. When people forget that their selective-messaging and insecurity-veiling costumes are also full-blown "characters" for the rest of us to gobble up visually, well, you do end up with some very strange, disembodied lives to gobble.

The older I get the harder it becomes to avoid vampire metaphors.

(photo by Joachim Lapotre)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Educated Poor...

A warm welcome to the world's latest socio-economic class: The educated poor. These are a proud, creative, and moody people with at least a bachelor's degree from a university (often masters and doctorates as well), who are, for one reason or another, unable to translate their eye-opening educations into meaningful and sustainable real-world employment. Instead, they work menial jobs or not at all, drifting through life in a personal fog of increasingly conflicting and irrelevant thoughts and ideals.

Blame the liberal arts curriculum. Blame the marketplace. Blame Gen X. Blame the blamers. Bottom line: a more highly educated poor population reflects the trend towards a more highly educated population in general. It also reflects a system that could give a shit.

I tend to look at the points of disconnect, the ignored spaces between established places, invisible realms where one can fall through the cracks. Despite a more highly educated population, we still live in a culture of obviousness, where concrete issues get the attention, where we address things we can see and point to, usually after the fact (naturally a war on terror would require a president who would through his words invoke the endlessly repeated footage of the twin towers coming down). Therefore, impending crises such as global warming are tough to sell because they are not "a gun pointed to our heads" (as Jonesie so aptly put it on his radio show yesterday). Similarly, the idea of a culture that fails to embrace many of it's educated members is a counter-intuitive idea that simply falls through the cracks.

So Johnny Dartmouth, until you find some ugly way to get yourself on the nightly news, you may as well keep shelving those Ding Dongs, and curl up with your books and your ideals to keep you warm at night. It's going to be a long winter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Curator of Birds...

A friend of mine is looking for a California Condor feather as part of her spiritual quest. She knows I've done some work for the LA Zoo and asked me to investigate where one might be acquired. So, I'm waiting to hear back from the Curator of Birds, and honestly, I can't stop thinking what an incredible job title that is... As a job, I'd probably prefer Curator of Large and Dangerous Mammals, but as a job title, it really doesn't pack the same poetry as Curator of Birds, does it? By the way, it's illegal to sell Condor feathers in the US, so don't even try.

(Parrots, not Condors, by John James Audubon)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Anton vs. the Nazis...

Well Anton Walbrook appreciation week continues with this rousing scene from Powell and Pressburger's fascinating 1941 WWII fantasy, The 49th Parallel. The film was commissioned by the British Ministry of Information as a way to raise (American) awareness of the Nazi threat. The film posits a fictitious (?) micro-invasion of French Canada by a handful of bumbling Nazis abandoned from their bombed-out submarine. Here, the stone cold uber-Nazi, Lieutenant Hirth, played by the wonderfully unlikable Eric Portman (who later did a stint as No. 2 on The Prisoner), reveals his identity and tries to win over a room full of pacifist Hutterites, who've graciously taken in this strange quartet of lost Germans.

Anton (who had recently changed his own name from Adolf) lets loose a slow burning charisma bomb here, seven years prior to his ultimate creation, Boris Lermontov, but with all the raw poise, stillness, and persuasive intonations intact. Talk about presidential material. This guy should be studied in presidential campaigning camp.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Remembering Wet...

On this sweltering August afternoon, I'd like to take a moment to remember WET, the LA based magazine of "gourmet bathing". It really did start off as one man's (Leonard Koren's) obsessive, visually innovative love letter to the simple pleasures of submerging one's self in water. But it became so much more - a cultural catch-all and barometer of "New Wave" values. It was much more of an emotionally driven "style press" rag than a serious tome dedicated to activism and clean living, like say, Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Catalog. The 70's and 80's were uncluttered enough to sustain both sorts of independent publications and find legions of followers in both camps. Of course you could argue that the Internet is a direct extension of these self-willed publishing ventures, and that this very blog, for example, is one of the millions of ornery and egotistical grandchildren spawned in the converging rivers of WET, RAW, EMIGRE, RAY GUN, DAZED & CONFUSED, I-D, COLORS, ISSUE, VISIONAIRE, ZEMBLA, BOMB, PURPLE, VERY, BIG, and so many others that escape this editor's melting melon...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

To make something little into something big...

Not even the best magician in the world can produce a rabbit out of a hat if there is not already a rabbit in the hat.
- Boris Lermontov

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Symphonies of the mind...

The imagery of dreams serves to obscure their raw emotional content, which could be psychologically shattering if experienced without the filter of symbolic visuals.

("Painters on Suspenders" by Eugene de Salignac)

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Parallel Tangent"

Sarah coined this phrase in the course of a complex conversation last night and it's a real mind-bender. It makes sense that two separate tangents could theoretically be parallel, but one parallel tangent, well that'd have to be a pretty special tangent.

(Moscow Metro Map)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Biology of purpose keeps my nose above the surface"

I know, I know, you keep asking yourself, "How did Brian Eno get in to making those torturously slow art video "paintings", the ones which you need to turn your tv sideways to watch?". Well, the answer, of course, is Foreigner. Yes, that Foreigner, the '70s arena rock band behind such hits as "Hot Blooded" and "Double Vision". Seems that while Eno was in the studio with the Talking Heads recording the "Fear of Music" album, a Foreigner roadie came over from a nearby studio hawking goods. "Who wants to buy a Panasonic industrial color video camera?" Mr. Eno's hand went up and the rest is history. Interesting to note, that he broke the camera almost instantly causing incredible color misrepresentations to occur. "A brilliant mistake!" he proclaimed.

Read more about Eno's Foreigner-inspired video art career here. And if you've got the time, check out 77 Million Paintings.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Astonish Me!"

To this day, Alexey Brodovitch stands as the archetype for a modern magazine creative director. His bold, immediate, clean, photo-driven aesthetic (seen most evidently in his work at Harper's Bazaar from 1934-58) cleared a viable (and often lucrative) path for a bevy of visionary designers and artists to barrel down and make their mark.

As a teacher and boss, Brodovitch was harsh, unrelenting, and inspiring. Now there's a conundrum: a tough Russian ex-soldier with a talent for making women's clothing and cutting-edge type "float" on the page. Nevertheless, his students and assistants (Avedon, Penn, Arbus, etc.) flourished under his guidance and heavily accented maxims: "Astonish me!" "If you look through the camera and don't see something you've never seen before, don't click the shutter!"

Brodovitch never had a theory of design. He went with his gut and believed in his eye. That said, he also took his vast knowledge existing European aesthetics and unleashed them into the feisty and furious waters of mid-century America - a creative vacuum waiting to be filled. He was the right man for the job, and one of the rare instances of design-gone-right we have to point to.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Was there something else I'm supposed to be doing?

"Down with a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation has been purchased with the guarantee that we will die of boredom."

- Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution Of Everyday Life (courtesy Adbusters)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Gettin' philasawphical wid da Lawbstas...

Cooking lobsters is something I really look forward to every summer. Besides the outrageously delicious meal they provide, it is the only time where I am actually confronted with (and let's face it responsible for) the killing that meat eating requires. I know that this idea is repugnant to many of you. But IF you eat meat, this is the price you pay. It's only right to experience that unpleasant reality for yourself. Believe me, I feel sick about putting those jolly green bottomfeeders into a boiling homemade fish stock and white wine concoction (never water, and btw, unlike the pic above, never more than 2 inches of liquid in the pot, you're steaming, not blanching these guys for crying out loud, cook covered 20 minutes exactly). But overcoming that sickness is part of the ritual.

Going out on a limb, I believe that the consumed lobster understands its fate. It's part of their religious myth - their "shellfish rapture" if you will - some will be plucked from their watery homes and brought to hellish dry places, deprived of water, refrigerated, and then cooked alive in some spicy liquid (I like a nice Riesling, but go ahead and use cheap cooking wine if you must). It is important that we try to make their sacrifice meaningful.

Perhaps eating meat can represent a bizarre form of interspecies love. Consuming a variety of animals, particularly seafood, puts us physically and symbolically in touch with other life forces, other biochemistries, other worlds and worldviews, thus breaching the cold taboo of the species gap. Eating meat wisely invites key animal attributes into our own blood, thus enabling us to achieve our own best destiny.

Then again, who knows. Perhaps one day we shall be plucked from our homes and boiled alive by giant lobsters. Or worse...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dangerous playmates (cont'd)...

The dangerous playmate is coveted and crowned for their natural ability, in private, to seize the moment, buck convention, voraciously spark the imagination, lift the spirits by sheer example, challenge the mind, and terrify the soul. But it ain't all serious. In fact, the most dangerous skill of all is the ability to inspire true,

Friday, August 10, 2007

Subterranean rivers...

You may never dip a toe in the underground waterways that roar through caves far beneath the surface of those you love. You may sense their powerful flow but not necessarily comprehend their makeup or direction. We must respect these hidden places and allow them to spark our curiosity and above all, our playfulness.

Love is often the art of becoming someone's dangerous plaything.

(After FN)

(read about the mysterious Blue Hole Wormhole here)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

You're special!

"A people is nature's detour to arrive at six or seven
great individuals - and then to get around them."
- F. Nietzsche

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Mama Gazpachot's Gazpacho...

It's summer, you want soup and you want it spicy and cool. Gazpacho(t) is your best bet. This recipe comes from the family vault - a specialty of Mama Gazpachot.

1 cucumber peeled
4 large ripe peeled tomatoes
1/2 medium Vidalia onion
1/2 large green pepper
1-3 cloves garlic (to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups V-8 or fresh tomato juice
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
0-10 drops Tabasco (to taste)

Using a Cuisinart:

Cut up cucumber, pepper, onion into 1 1/2 inch chunks

Combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper in a bowl

Insert blade, place 1/2 veggies, juice, oil & vinegar mix in Cuisinart

Pulse on and off, then let run until desired consistency. I prefer a refined chunkiness throughout, like a slightly course porridge.

pour into a large bowl

repeat with other half

Chill in fridge 4 hours

Spruce up surface with something - basil leaves, scallions, or best, a fresh boiled crawdaddy.

Serves 6

Monday, August 06, 2007

Travels underway...

Off and on entries for the next week...

A limerick in the meantime:

Those girls who frequent picture palaces
Have no use for this psychoanalysis,
And although Dr. Freud
Is extremely annoyed,
They cling to their longstanding fallicies!

(still from "Spirit of the Beehive")

Friday, August 03, 2007

An Aesthetic Agony...

This peculiar scene from Antonioni's "La Notte" is fun to watch on You Tube, but I'm not entirely sure that this would have been the director's prefered venue. Few of us will nod our heads, rub out our Galloise, and declare upper-middle class bourgeois post-war entertainment choices to be a sure sign of social decay. Some of us might seize upon the twisted, narcotic nature of erotic love as depicted by the contortionists. Many of us will simply wonder where all the stripping acrobats accompanied by cool jazz acts have gone.

But without the ability to understand Italian, you will miss the real subterfuge at the core of the scene. Essentially, Jeanne Moreau (Morose?) as the worldweary Lidia announces that she may in fact be having an idea. "It is forming over my head...right here..." "Will you tell me your idea?" asks the worldweary Marcello Mastroianni as the worldweary writer Giovanni..."No..." she replies and changes the subject. Later we learn what her idea was, and we understand, a little, why these people are so miserable. Why love becomes an impossibility as life lingers on...

My god, Post-war Europe was a mess. Yes, there was a future to be had, but spirits could simply not be rallied. The prospects of overcoming a pervasive continental malaise were grim. The overwhelming facts of the war, coupled with the industrial-economic pressure to rebuild and create a better tomorrow, left your average thinking being numb, exhausted, and ultimately indifferent. Happiness and horror were no longer valid options. Just autopilot: a ghostly haunting of your own life, and a vague memory of a soul. And perfect hair.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Who are you?

"Being a symbolic self is a full time job. The necessity to guard against the real self goes on day and night. During the day there is the symbolic acting out; during the night symbolic dreams protect against real feelings, even in one's sleep."
- Arthur Janov

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


“What is impressive about Antonioni’s films is not that they are good,” wrote film scholar Seymour Chatman, “but that they have been made at all.” It's an offensive comment, since "Blow-Up" and "The Passenger" are two of the greatest movies ever made as far as this blogging bowl of soup is concerned. (Why I was just talking about Blow-Up a a few days ago...)

What is impressive about reading the obits for these two masters is not the truckloads of flowery accolades, not even the heartfelt criticisms, but the salacious, bitchy snipes that everyone seems to have at the ready. For some reason, people love to weigh in with their REAL feelings about directors. Amusingly, perhaps the best example we have of this comes from Mr. Bergman himself. (Read his bilious dismissals here) "Infinitely boring...mind-numbingly boring...a hoax!" and on and on he goes, one cinematic visionary after another, shot out of the sky like a fat duck. I especially love the "boring" comment, since let's face it, Bergman wasn't exactly the Jean Claude van Damme of scintillation. I mean his films are poised, uplifting, funny, complex, brilliant, but man alive, can they drag their heels...