Thursday, January 31, 2008
Exclusive: Debate Watch!
In a shocking move of perverse nonchalance, I've squeegied my way into a swank Democratic debate watching party at "Cinespace," a media savvy joint on Hollywood Blvd., a couple of blocks down from the actual debate at the Kodak Theater. I had my laptop on me, and so now I'm set up on blogger's row. My first question: Why do so many bloggers have such photogenic torsos and such gigantic derrieres? OK debate's on... may the best (man) win.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Lost ideas and "warm bath" theory...
Thoughts and ideas are constantly passing through our minds. We often flag the ones we like - Ooh. Must remember that one. But then, we don't write them down, and what's left is a vague memory of something that was important to us with no infomation to back it up. It's similar to that "tip of the tongue" feeling. Frustrating! Sometimes a way back to the thought is to focus on the feeling that the lost idea imparted. Maybe you liked the thought because you enjoyed the wash of chemicals it triggered to splash over your neural net. Along these lines, My "warm bath theory" says that some ideas are really just dreamy, hallucinatory byproducts of sophisticated, temporary psycho-sexual "environments" we design for our "selves," corrective biochemical sanctuaries for our beleaguered psyches to inhabit as we pass through time and space.
Monday, January 28, 2008
One thing I really hate is when a big idea arrives from your muse and sets your blood afire, keeps you up at night, and gets you ready to take on the world no matter what noise and garbage it throws at you. Actually, that's the part I love. The part I hate is the flip: After an hour, a day, a week or a month the idea suddenly stops sizzling - its newness ceases to beguile and it's once fierce claws retract from your psyche and it thuds to the floor like a bag of wet salt. Horrors! Nature's worst practical joke. How does anyone get anything done around here with that kind of dynamic swimming beneath the lilly pads.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
40 is the new 4...
Sarah and I off on an adventure today. I have no idea where - bring a bathing suit she says - she's the cruise director. Great. As long as I'm not cast in the Leo Klinghoffer role I'm happy to follow her lead!
("Floh: Baby Lotion 2000" by Tacita Dean)
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Are zee French rude?
Today, for no reason, I remember being a fun-loving, hairy, irreverent youngster living in Paris. My French was pretty bad and my head was in some strange places. I remember the thrill of non-conformity and also the sense of public humiliation I learned to quickly repress. I remember leaving that city, and only then realizing how uncomfortable I had been. But, it was a learning discomfort. A challenge to my smarmy core.
It's no secret that many Americans can be in for a rough ride when visiting France. Two possible reasons: our sense of commercial entitlement, and our lack of social formality. Yes, the French reaction to our natural behavior can appear rude, and in some cases they truly mean it. Generally, the French are a direct people who will rarely stifle their disapproval (Bof!). Mostly this "rudeness" is a declaration of astonishment that we have broken form and stained the fabric of their long-standing ways and means. It's a small country. There is an robust spectrum of codes that inform the national identity - there are ways of speaking, ways of behaving, ways of interacting - deeply etched patterns that define the culture. The individual expresses themselves, their opinions, within this balanced, almost unconscious structure. In other words vive la difference, but respect the margins. You MUST.
So Johnny USA saunters into a French store and wants some bread. It's good he hears. He wants that bread! But what Johnny doesn't know is this: "Most of the stores and businesses in France are owned and operated by the local people (entrepreneurship thrives in France). When you enter such a place of business, even though you think you are a customer, in their mind, you are a guest, and MUST behave as such. They get to choose whether they want to do business with you, depending on how you behave. So.... when you enter a store, you MUST say, "Good day Mister/Madame" ("Bonjour Monsieur," or "Bonjour Madame") NOT just "Bonjour." And when you leave the sore, you MUST say, "Thank you and Goodbye" ("Merci, Au Revoir Monsieur/ Madame") Anything less than that is considered rude and may potentially get you ignored or responded to in an abrupt manner." (from allexperts.com)
Americans don't like being told they MUST do anything. It's a threat to our rebellious nature, our rock and roll fantasy, our corporate bad boy image, our monster trucks, our casual cool. Marlon Brando taught US how to be rude in the 50s. It's our thing. And we're just not gonna take it from some guy in a kerchief and a beret.
Monday, January 21, 2008
"Every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display
qualities which he does not possess."
- Samuel Johnson
"part of his life?"
(photo by Darin Mickey)
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Tales of the tchotchkie tinkler...
Some lives are enormous energies locked in endless, self-imposed streams of menial tasks, unable to reverse a slow inward spiral, never quite imploding. It can be very beautiful. Or not.
(Button art by Lisa Kokin)
Friday, January 18, 2008
Leave behind curious and uplifting artifacts.
(Stacked wood sculpture by the great Alastair Heseltine.)
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
In the wake of Wes Andersen and the pop embrace of the handmade cinematic innocence of the magical realms of childhood, comes Red Bucket Films. Don't know much about them, but I applaud their resourcefulness and confidence. Theirs is an aesthetic that despite its preciousness, is harder to dismiss than most, since it taps something so fundamental in all of us. That said, I'm already dead bored of the hand drawn fonts and crude animations that are used slavishly to imply integrity and warmth in shows like Juno and Flight of the Conchords. Red Bucket is a reminder that we can trust our eye when it comes to knowing what's real and what's cooked up in a lab.
Red Bucket Films
Monday, January 14, 2008
It's a new year, so it's more than likely that you're taking a few risks. As you should! But remember us creative types live in a perpetual pressure cooker... The urge to break new ground and give in to our impulses can push us to extremes. Great! Or not. Some leaps of faith will end in a splat. (Or as Werner Herzog puts it, "crossing some boundaries leads only to peril.")
Are these falls avoidable? Probably not. Still, instead of attempting to widen the margins of your creative range, in a panic, can you dig into something more familiar in a profoundly new way? The art of throwing caution to the wind is a feat few us will ever master. But give it a shot if you must. The results can be very uplifting. (At least for a couple of seconds...)
("Leap into the Void" and outtake by Yves Klein, 1960)
Sunday, January 13, 2008
When we engage with an image, we are highly susceptible to the old "how did they do that?" bug. It's a kneejerk reaction that can obliterate many other important reactions. Of course, the imagemaker may want you to be aware of their technique, but that's rarely the whole shebang. Resisting the temptation to analyze process has important benefits. Accepting the creative conditions of a work, allowing them to unfold in less rational terms, will help you hone a rare skill: the art of leaving mysteries intact. I'm not saying that we should ditch our post-modern flair for deconstruction. I'm just saying that logic is often the kryptonite of the creative core.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The chameleon fixes its hue...
Just days away from forty, I'm realizing that my days of trying to fit myself into the cursed marketplace are over. I will have to do what I can do, and find meaningful ways to make a living from those skills. I lack the will to play along. Other voices are calling me.
But here and now, I simply can not stomach the small-minded, neurotic, power hungry, anti-life, desperation I encounter in so many places. Some will say that's infantile. Others will understand. And of course there are wonderful people I work with too, people who manage to sail the choppy seas of the marketplace without shaking every rivet loose from their well-armored hulls. Cheers to you beautiful people, you know who you are (I hope!).
I used to be a chameleon. A Peter Sellers for the marketplace to have and adapt and employ. Once, I could be anything for anyone, and as a result I have had some very interesting and fun and lucrative jobs. Today, I am honest about who I am, what I can do, what I want to do, what I think people want me to do, etc., and I've noticed that in many cases this honesty triggers a fear and disgust: What kind of game are you playing? How dare you bring your "self" to a meeting... My take? The marketplace is a sickness that makes the ungrounded and unvaccinated among us fearful of and repulsed by our own humanity. I don't want to spend the next forty years anywhere near that interpretation of life.
As my friend Shana says, "Go where the love is." I don't take that in the flaky hippie sense or the emotionally needy sense, to me it's a maxim that says work with people who are smart and love the work they do, love themselves, love the world, and can only operate as their true selves, not as an angry fearful construct. Rare stuff. You know it when you see it.
Friday, January 11, 2008
The Importance of Ernest...
Robert Capa, the James Nachtwey of his day, was a fearless combat photographer who occasionally ran into Hemingway in Paris. At first he thought the writer was a general. Hemingway had a public relations officer, a lieutenant as an aide, a cook, a driver, a photographer and a special liquor ration. The driver would guard whatever establishment his master was drinking in with a loaded rifle in his arms.
Robert Capa and Gerda Taro shows at ICP here. Sorry, just closed!
(Ernest Hemingway in WWI Army Portrait)
Thursday, January 10, 2008
They know not what they do...
I am always amazed by the rampant excusing of bad human behavior that goes on in social contexts. Given the choice, people will avoid confrontation. Shocked by the indifference and self-possession we see in certain individuals, we instead invoke "caring" personas and bond with others in whispered agreement, only to accommodate and perpetuate the actions we've all deemed distasteful. Is it possible that we secretly admire the ill-mannered because they give us that rare material that makes us feel righteous and alive? Do they provide a much needed contrast to our boring path of common sense ethics? As masters of repressed shame, do we unconsciously feed deep-seeded feelings of powerlessness by making allowances for those who dare to ruffle feathers?
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Does knowing that a coffee worker in Ethiopia makes less than fifty cents a day stop us from buying a 3 dollar cup of joe? Does living in a world of activism and consumer enlightenment inspire change or guilt? I guess it's up to us... voting with one's wallet is an easy way to be a buyer of conscience. Of course you've got to do the research, but what else are you doing with your computer that's so important? If being a concerned citizen doesn't come naturally, then you may have to force yourself. Otherwise, you are in no position to complain about the state of the world.
More java related guilt explored in Black Gold.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Sarah and I need children to take to the zoo. Can we borrow yours? Apparently, it's not an activity that adults can be seen enjoying without some shrieking toeheads in tow. I know, you have little use for the graceful underwater acrobatics of a 600 pound mammal. I know, penguins rarely invest in the right mutual fund. I know, snow monkeys are unreliable drinking buddies. You've made your case. Fine. But lend us your kids. Not the snotty, hyperactive ones who can't wait to get to FAO Schwarz. But the ones who harbor an innate curiosity, introspection, and rebellion. The tiny ones who wander silently in a grassy field, see the fluttering nature, and turn to you and say: "I put the butt in butterfly," stick their tongue out and then say nothing for an hour.
(Footage by Sarah Bay Williams)
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Illusion of the Beginning...
Noticed how in cinema, a dialect or a contrivance can be asserted early on then eased up on? In the hyper-cute Juno, for example, the film begins with scene after scene of fast, smarmy kid-lingo. It's almost unbearable. Then the film gives way to normal human-speak as the story takes over and leaves the stylistic flourishes behind. It's a seamless transition. The brain is distractible. Film is magic. The world is lead astray from the beginning. F is for Fake.
Friday, January 04, 2008
A miraculous manifestation...
Sarah and I had an action-packed, kid-friendly visit to NY for the holidays (see photo highlights over at her site). Thought I'd relay one bit of the paranormal for your Friday entertainment...
Back at Jimmy Spencer's Xmas party, my friend Kasper mentioned a place we should visit in Brooklyn. If we liked "crazy old man hangouts with loads of character and characters," this was the place.
So, we're in NY, wondering what to do after a quick tour of the Central Park Zoo and the Damien Hirst show at the Lever House (living and/or pickled animals, we're non-discriminatory). What about Kasper's joint in Brooklyn? What's it called? Montero's under the Brooklyn Bridge I recall with confidence. So Sarah pulls out her iPhone, and sure enough there's a Montero's under the Brooklyn Bridge. We take a long subway ride and a blisteringly cold hike through the streets at the water's edge. And sudenly we're under a neon sign: Montero's. It's got character and one or two characters alright (it's New Year's Day, most people are sleeping off the night before). We have a couple of drinks, watch some of the Twilight Zone Marathon, talk to the bartender, and buy two Montero's t-shirts for Kasper and his wife Christian as a way of saying thanks for the recommendation.
I think I've mentioned that my memory can be less than perfect here before. So, flash forward to us in LA. We give the shirt to Kasper, he smiles and says thanks. I see him wearing it the next day. I comment and he replies: You know, I have no idea what Montero's is. After some prodding he says that the place he recommended is called Marlow & Brothers. A restaurant near the Brooklyn Bridge.
So where did I get Montero's? I've never been to that part of Brooklyn, and I certainly have no prior knowledge of this remote hole in the wall. Somehow I conjured the wrong name, and in doing so, seem to have manifested an entire bar that met our precise imagined specifications. This kind of thing happens in the Twilight Zone all the time, but seldom in real life. I'm taking this New Year's gift to mean that in 2008 I am capable of conjuring many particular eventualities. I'm thinking long and hard what the right ones might be. And I wish the best to you all.